#RPGaDay 08

#RPGaDay 08

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 8th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2hrs or less?

My answer is: #RPGaDay 8 #RPG, any game can work, don’t feel restricted by setting or system. Use the opportunity

I am not trying to dismiss the question with my answer. The question is certainly a good one, since not every role-player is a veteran; also, not every veteran has the same opinion or experiences. From my experience, and from chatting with others, any game can definitely be run in a way that makes it great for a 2 hour or less session, even games renowned for having system mechanics that are quite time consuming.

I believe that whatever the duration of a gaming session, all the normal considerations for running and playing an RPG apply. When determining how time affects a gaming session, I have presented three key considerations with responses:

  1. How much time a group spends on mechanics, and in particular combat.

I have known gamers play rules lite games and spend a lot of time processing things, whilst other gamers quickly process more complex systems. There all sorts of ways to help a group learn a complex system, and play it easier. Whilst systems certainly matter, how they are implemented matters more.

I’ve known role-players that like to embrace the ritual of dice rolling, making the process longer. As well as groups were all the participants excitedly discuss possibilities before the roll, cheer/boo the results, and delight in chatting about the new implications.

  1. How flowing everybody normally is in regards to decision making and describing their actions; this includes the GM.

I don’t believe that a role-player needs to be very experienced to be able to quickly make decisions, or stay focused on a game. Whilst I appreciate gamer experience helps, as will familiarity with other participants’ gaming styles, I am highlighting that I’ve met a few novices who have grasped proceedings quickly.

Role-playing and flow-state is something I have been thinking about for a while, but I’ll go in to depth with this another time. This is a subject I have been researching for my role-playing guide for years.

  1. The amount of non-game conversation.

The dreaded RP issue of a game being plagued by people talking about random things. Whether it’s the usually referencing of films/TV, debates about rules/powers, etc. This is not necessarily a bad thing, after all having fun is surely the main goal of a game, but for most players I assume they also want to play the game. I’ve had many different groups, and groups that have changed its requirements over time, and I’ve even had ‘hardcore role-players’ want to mostly socialise on odd occasions. Ideally discuss ideas before a short session (see below); one never knows if players fancy a change, maybe just this once.

Interestingly, having a deadline can greatly help with regards to keeping the game focused. By discussing with my group that there was a time issue for that particular session, we were able to decide on plans, and then get promptly started. It’s not always fully worked, but having a deadline was still a positive aspect.


Options

A possibility is for the GM to design encounters that are almost guaranteed to be a lot of dialog. Keep mechanics to a minimum, especially if mechanics are normally a bit of time drain in your group, but not if that is what the players typically love. Part of the skill of GMing is to avoid be railroaded by your own ideas, you can always use what had been planned another time; any encounter can be tweaked and even used in a radically different way, so don’t worry about having wasted any preparation time.

Even if the session is in the midst of a campaign, then maybe for this particular short session there all sorts of possibilities:

  • If the GM has big time pressure, maybe let someone else run something.
  • Use the opportunity to try out something new. Many games include pre-generated character, and an introductory story, which is ideal for this sort of thing.
  • Use the opportunity to flesh out backstory, flashbacks to something that was skimmed over, maybe a dream sequence. All of these ideas can be cliché, but can work wonderfully if handled well (avoid being too epic, keep it personal).
  • For some games the session could maybe be used as a downtime/blue-book session. This will be a chance to work out things, maybe each player details characters connected to their PC.
  • Role-play different characters in the setting, maybe relatives or allies of the PCs. Maybe the relatives/allies have found vital information, but since the PCs are in a dungeon, or at sea, the chat is about what to about things. If rarely done this can be a nice way of foreshadowing things.
  • A lot of other ideas, I am sure you get my point 🙂

As there are plenty of posts by other role-players giving system recommendations, I went with my gut reaction to this question. I believe this question raises a deeper issue regarding how gaming styles, session plans, and system mechanics combine to influence what is considered ‘good’. I hope that by highlighting the above I have been helpful to a few people.

I’ve not called any system out, as per my blog mission statement and the guidelines for the RPGaDay event about keeping to positive answers:

 

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#RPGaDay 07

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 7th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

What was your most impactful RPG session?

My answer is: #RPGaDay 7, True Love at a fairy cake party for 8 players in Changeling #RPG #WoD

Another tough question; like many role-players I don’t normally try to rate/compare my games, but of course when asked I’ll still spend time pondering 😉 Years ago I ran a Changeling: The Dreaming campaign for roughly a year, often it had 8 players in attendance, and I don’t recall a session with less than 6. I mention this because everyone was very proactive whilst sharing the spotlight, it was a joy to GM, and often felt effortless to run, despite how many players and all the extra work I did (see below). This campaign had several sessions that could each fulfil the criteria of this question.

Despite being a slightly larger group, the game worked well. Feedback from the players during the campaign was that they felt constantly included, and motivated to play. Part of the trick I used was to write a revelation of a past life for each of the characters. Every few sessions I would give all the players a handout each, summarising another glimpse of their past lives via their dreams. This was tied in to events happening in the game, inspiring the characters to overcome great difficulty. This meant in addition to game events, each player also had an internal exploration. All of the characters had known each other in their past life, so the glimpses also worked as a way of expanding the relationships in the group.

Old World of Darkness, Trinity Universe, Exalted, Street Fighter

The session in mind was going to be a big IC celebration, and the players decided that this justified having an OOC fairy cake party. So at the start of the celebration session it was revealed that the collection of fairy cakes was more of a massive spread, like a birthday party, we even had jelly.

In addition to all the different character activities, two characters finally planned a big get together. During the many previous sessions, Limpet (Pooka) and Angel (Satyr) had teased and flirted with each other, and things had been building up.

During the previous two sessions they had started to get serious about each other. I offered regular game maintenance between sessions, as well as PBM aspects. The players of Limpet and Angel wanted to explain their character’s emotional state during a private mini-session. Once I knew what they both planned I was shocked, there was going to be emotional fireworks, and since both players seemed to have no idea that the other was doing this, I made sure to keep neutral.

At the start of the celebration session the players of Limpet and Angel both handed me a final note about how they planned on things. This was partly because there were potential game mechanics involved, and they didn’t want them getting in the way of very emotional dialog.


A quick explanation just for those not familiar with Changeling: The Dreaming. Changelings are divided in to different species (Kith), and each have birthrights and frailties.

  • Pooka have problems with telling the truth, but it’s not as simple as simply saying the opposite, and even when it is, which part is opposite and which is straightforward? They can make a dif 8 Willpower to overcome this, so not easy for many characters.
  • Satyr have Passion’s Curse. They can have wild mood swings, and can also have difficulties resisting temptations.

Angel was desperate for a real relationship. Whilst Limpet felt unloved by the world, since no one understood him, he was so insightful about others. Of course others found him to be too complex, whilst he thought he was simple, and this paradox plus his nature meant discussing anything about himself to be impossible.


So, at the celebration, Angel & Limpet finally had their chance to be honest with each other about their deep feelings. The following is what transpired:

  • The Satyr, Angel, believed she had learned how Limpet tended to speak, and how she could discuss her love for him. The player note stated she would spend WP to pass any frailty rolls, how Angel had been building up to this, it meant the world to her.
  • Meanwhile Limpet also had decided that was the moment, he wanted to know why Angel declared she had feelings for him, but then teased him and went off with other people!  The player note for Limpet stated he would spend WP to pass his initial frailty roll so he could speak like a ‘normal person’, to speak honestly, since he had been building up to this, it meant the world to him!

So Angel asks Limpet to speak with her, it’s important. At this stage, the two players had the spotlight. The rest of the players guessed at what would happen at this moment, and even the Sidhe and Redcap kept quiet. Limpet takes a deep breath and nods that he will go with Angel; he starts to psyche himself up for the difficulty of overcoming his nature. They step out on to a balcony of the wonderful mansion hosting the party, the sun is setting, the weather is perfect, the Redcap is not persecuting anything, the childe Pooka is busy, they look at each other, with their hearts are racing as this is the perfect moment.

The tension builds as seconds tick by, both are too nervous to speak. Finally Limpet declares love for Angel, the delivery is so earnest, Angel freaks out, confused, how could Limpet take the piss out of her!? He was like that with everyone, but she thought she was different, and she tells him this: “You take the piss when you mean the opposite, the more you do so, the more the seriousness. Yet you dismiss me now, you think so little of me?!” Limpet once again earnestly declares his love for Angel. Angel’s anger subsides, maybe he is being truthful, so she asks him this if this time he is being truthful. Limpet has Willpower issues, so the player opts for a dice roll, he succeeds and explains that he is being totally truthful. Angel starts crying, finally they have broken through the communication barrier, and Limpet’s elaborate piss-taking stunts. Limpet is relieved, there is someone for him, she has persevered and understands him. Angel’s emotional rollercoaster gets the better of her, she asks a lot of questions, Limpet is overwhelmed, his frail nature breaks through, he cannot help but take the piss, dismiss and lie about things. Angel runs away crying…

Moments later there is an outcry, the newly crowned High King David is missing. The Redcap takes the opportunity to persuade a young Pooka to get ice cream from the freezer, and then locks her in, whilst her Troll guardian is discussing playing spin the Eshu to find out which is the way to go. Limpet starts telling the Sidhe that are freaking out that he believes David has gone hiking.

The zany ending aside, maybe down to all the sugar that had been eaten, the 30 minute dialog between Angel and Limpet was at first a beautiful encounter, but in the end heart wrenching. The session stands out as being a great example of role-play build-up, delivery, emotional rollercoaster, as well as the fun nature of gaming; the fantastic amount of celebration food also helped to give the session an extra immersive feel. I also love how two players independently decided to implement their plan, at the same time, and how it almost worked out.

#RPGaDay 06

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 6th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!

My answer is: #RPGaDay 6, discuss with my group: 1) run the week like a convention, or 2) see link

As always whatever I run would be discussed with my group. Since we’ve gamed together for decades I guess the vote would either be:

  1. Running the week like a tabletop convention. I’d have a choice of different games that the players could then vote on what games to fill those slots. Ideal for mixing things up, enabling players to return to old campaigns, start something new and also a chance to try out the latest RPGs.
  2. I am currently playtesting my own game (Elemental Masters (rubbish working title)). I feel it would be best to take breaks from this so I could take on board any feedback, and then tweak designs as necessary. The other 50% of the time I’d go with my answer for day 1 of returning to a long running L5R campaign, but adding in Cryptomancer shards for: “Shadow in the Shardnet”.
  3. Run a multitude of different settings using GURPS. Maybe on the final day the different settings are all linked up.

RPG Reality

I currently only have one group, and we are all too busy. Sadly we wouldn’t have a week we could put aside, and even if we did I would still want to focus on writing and design. Still I appreciated the dream time that the question instigated.

Quick Nostalgia

Like many gamers in their youth, I gamed as much as I could. During the summer holiday of 1990 I played Cyberpunk 2020 practically every day during 10+ hour sessions, for most of the 6 week summer holiday. I had been playing a lot of D&D before then, and World of Darkness once it was released.

Some years later I had less time to due to work, but for a while I did play in many different groups and ran several groups.  So I was gaming 5 days out of 7, mostly classic World of Darkness, but also some Street Fighter, Palladium (Ninja and Superspies) and D&D.

By 2000 when I was working at KJC Games I didn’t get to game as much. I was not gaming in as many groups. I started going to gaming conventions, as well as helping a bit with the local convention TowerCon. I stopped going to tabletop conventions since I returned to playing LARP. More recently I’ve mostly been finalising years of designs.

https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2015/12/06/street-fighter-rpg-look-back/ and other links to old articles can be read via my RPG post summary page https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/role-playing-game-links/

#RPGaDay 05

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first. For the 5th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?

There are so many amazing game covers I contemplated picking, I’ve listed ones I nearly choose below. Since this question has no correct answer, choosing one was quite difficult. I went with:

#RPGaDay 5 Usagi Yojimbo, also the only game I’ve bought simply due to the cover.

Batjutsu RPG IP Covers

Since any RPG using existing intellectual property (IP) brings with it a lot of sentiment, be it: Star Wars, Trek, D.C, Marvel, Middle Earth, Babylon 5, Street Fighter, etc., could be thought of as having a bonus to any dice roll to help capture what the spirit of a game would be; I’d go as far as claiming that it’s an automatic success. This is why I think it puts any RPG cover for such an IP in to a special category. This is not to diminish some of the amazing front covers for any RPG using a big IP setting; I’m just saying that for me I already have an opinion of what the spirit is.

I had no idea what Usagi Yojimbo was when I bought it, so I am ignoring the fact the game used an existing IP; also it’s clearly not as famous as the IPs mentioned above 😉 I vaguely recall thinking it might be a bit like TMNT, but it looked less zany, more serious. Also my first introduction to Greg Stolze, whose varied great work I’ve enjoyed many times over the years.

I almost choose the stunning artwork used for Tales from the Loop. So many are saying it really captures the spirit of the game, but I have not played it yet so I thought in inappropriate to pick. Whilst the game is partly inspired by Stranger Things, but it does not use the title, so I think it is fair to not treat like the big IPs like Star Wars.

Tales from the Loop

Minimalist Front Cover Shout-Outs

It’s hard make a front cover whilst keeping details to a minimum. It makes sense to make epic fantasy/sci-fi pictures for an RPG, since the fan base is usually the sort of people that will plaster their walls with pictures of dragons and spaceships. So it is understandable that the majority of RPGs use an epic scene for their front cover, especially given how important drama is for any RPG.

Two games that deviate from this norm, that I also think use the front cover to capture the spirit of their game are:

  • Traveller’s text on a black background somehow works; maybe because it is a gripping short story, atop the black which represents deep space and vulnerability?
  • Code and Dagger (Cryptomancer) does a great job of encapsulating that game.

CodeDagger

Other Shout-Outs

There are so many other front covers that I nearly choose: Cyberpunk 2020, Warhammer 1st Ed, Shadowrun, L5R, Deadlands. Of special note to me is Aberrant, there is a lot going on in the picture that captures the drama of the setting, without it being too busy.

Batjutsu RPG covers

aberrant

Like many others I have spent too much time on pinterest if you’d like to look at more RPG artwork: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/batjutsu/

#RPGaDay 04

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first.

For the 4th day of #RPGaDay the question is:

Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

My tweet is: “#RPGaDay 4 Playtesting my own epic monstrosity, I added in #Cryptomancer shards #RPG.” I’ll not write about what I am up to here, if the playtests keep going well then I’ll write about things later.

Due to health reasons I’ve not done as much gaming as I’d like, but I plan on somewhat making up for that by the end of the year.

#RPGaDay 03

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first.

For the 3rd day of #RPGaDay the question is:

How do you find out about new RPGs?

I initially found this question to be uninspiring, since I use so many sources and I guess it will be the same answer for most. I then considered that the designers must have put a lot of thought in to this list of question, and were also given feedback, so I contemplated the question some more. The conclusion that makes the most sense to me is: some players are new, and maybe some experienced players rarely use the Net, therefore this question gives them useful information. I guess this is a good reminder to think a bit more before dismissing an enquiry.

My answer is:

#RPGaDay 3 Friends, RPG.net, Enworld.org, Facebook, Youtube, publisher sites, etc.

I hope someone is planning on collating the answers. Granted, I can blog a summary in September, but somebody with much bigger reach would likely be better suited. I might give it a bash and post on Enworld and RPGnet, etc.

#RPGaDay 02

If you are not familiar with #RPGaDay, then please read this page first.

For the 2nd day of #RPGaDay the question is:

What is an RPG you would like to see published?

The easy but silly answer is: my own work. Since I still have a lot of work to do, including programming, I feel that answer would be too pitiful. So I started pondering one of the many currently existing intellectual properties (IP).

Since there are so many IP possibilities I decided to read a few tweets, to check out the answers other people were giving. I was not worried about choosing a right or wrong answer for such a subjective query, I was just intrigued. Plus it’s not a case of A or B, after all many of the suggestions could become a fully licensed published RPG.

Given the multitude of game systems, I am not fussed about a setting needing its own dedicated system. Whilst I very much appreciate the influence of a system on its game, like any veteran group, house rules and preference are always the deciding factor. Personally I’d be inclined to use GURPS or Storyteller for most things, especially GURPS since it has a rich history of IP tie-ins.

I nearly went with Joe Abercrombie’s series The First Law. If you are not familiar then think a grim setting with rare but powerful magic, a bit like Conan at times, but with the politics and character depth more like Game of Thrones. Avoiding spoilers, the build up to some epic deadly magic was impressive, and the impact on characters was impressive! Characters merely armed with a determined fatalism and a simple weapon affecting major plots. Maybe base a campaign around tracking down rare magic to achieve some epic plan, which of course will likely kill them. Definitely check the books out, even if ‘dark grim’ is not a setting you are normally in to. I am currently running an epic level magic setting, hence me thinking of something different.

The Culture series is a science fiction series written by Iain M. Banks.

The Culture is a utopian, post-scarcity space communist society of humanoids, aliens, and very advanced artificial intelligence.

The setting has so much scope, from covert missions on primitive worlds, to galactic scale wars using dimensional weapons. It is probably the only alternate universe I’d like to live in. This morning I read a Goodreads by Charles Stross giving this response about living in a fictional setting. Stross’s wonderful Laundry Files series is definitely something to read, but not to live in; the Laundry Files already has RPG books.

Other cool settings I’d like are: a Stephen King-Verse, Mass Effect, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, etc. I would smile at seeing anyone of those games published, but I would be most impressed if the setting of Harry Potter was announced! So in the end I tweeted:

Since the Potterverse is one of the biggest book series of all time, an RPG would have the incredible potential to hook a massive amount of role-players, a gateway-RPG. Whilst I doubt it would dwarf D&D, I wouldn’t be surprised if within a few years it was the 2nd biggest RPG.

Trying to hook non-role-players has been attempted before, I don’t know of any that has the potential of a Potterverse. Even if 1% of 1% give it a try, that’s a lot of new RPers! An honourable mention of the old White Wolf idea attempt by releasing Street Fighter to hook video gamers. Street Fighter was a gloriously strange entity, in comparison Potterverse would be easy to adapt, and very easy to market. I’ve written about Street Fighter RPG here.

From the same Twitter link as above, a Rick and Morty RPG would be great. GURPS Casey & Andy exists. Rick and Morty is certainly a big deal, and fits the GURPS multi-world settings.

Some more #RPGaDay suggestions at Enworld