Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Wes Craven

Wes Craven has died, at age 76. He started with brutal real-world horrors, then his career really took off with A Nightmare On Elm Street, the classic version of the “nightmares can kill” story. As well as Freddy Krueger (who he revisited to interesting effect in the none-more-meta New Nightmare) he also gave us Ghostface when he directed the also pretty damn meta Scream, kicking off a run of self-aware slashers where the designated victims weren’t all too stupid to live.

The characters having nightmares is an idea revisited in many series, and the Elm Street films ran with the surrealist possibilities almost as much as a setting like Dreamlands or Pacesetter’s Sandman. And for characters knowingly subverting their roles in narratives, this is one of the things RPGs are great at.

See also The Serpent And The Rainbow for a bizarre modern adventure story, The People Under The Stairs for Little Fears fans, the straight-up thriller Red Eye for a perfect one-shot hook.

Monday, 31 August 2015

You have two cows...

The political and philosophical joke about what having two cows means under various systems has, inevitably, hit RPGs a few times. This one is happening now.

My own entry was an attempt to make a viable adventure hook about what the PCs might get up to relating to two cows...


“Our client has been working on a breeding program that will revolutionise farming in deprived areas, but a multinational agribusiness just confiscated his prize specimens. Let’s go steal two cows.”

Expect the Job to include a con at a cattle market, a smallish stampede at a convenient or inconvenient moment, and the Hitter having to do an impromptu rodeo ride with an angry bull.

I freely admit it’s basically a riff on The Hot Potato Job but the practicalities of stealing the targets would be fun.

#RPGaDay2015: the complete series

Some short and straightforward, some getting essay-ish:

1: Forthcoming game you’re most looking forward to
2: Kickstarted game most glad you backed
3: Favorite New Game of the Last 12 Months
4: Most Surprising Game
5: Most Recent RPG Purchase
6: Most Recent RPG Played
7: Favourite Free RPG
8: Favourite Appearance Of RPGs In the Media
9: Favourite media you wish was an RPG
10: Favourite RPG publisher
11: Favourite RPG writer
12: Favourite RPG Illustration
13: Favourite RPG Podcast
14: Favourite RPG Accessory
15: Longest Campaign Played
16: Longest Game Session Played
17: Favourite Fantasy RPG
18: Favourite SF RPG
19: Favourite Supers RPG
20: Favourite Horror RPG
21: Favourite RPG Setting
22: Perfect Gaming Environment
23: Perfect Game For You
24: Favourite House Rule
25: Favourite Revolutionary Game Mechanic
26: Favourite Inspiration For Your Game
27: Favourite idea for merging two games into one
28: Favourite Game You No Longer Play
29: Favourite RPG Website/Blog
30: Favourite RPG Playing Celebrity
31: Favourite Non-RPG Thing To Come Out Of RPGs

Thanks to Dave Chapman for bringing this all together.

#RPGaDay 31: Favourite non-RPG offshoot


31: Favourite Non-RPG Thing To Come Out Of RPGs

I could talk about friendships here, some of them very dear to me. Or all the good gamers have done for charity. Or my inspirations, or all the books, TV and other media inspired by gaming.

I suppose if I have to pick one... the couple who met through The Watch House and are now married with a child.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

#RPGaDay 30: Favourite RPG Playing Celebrity


30: Favourite RPG Playing Celebrity

Wil Wheaton, for the ambassadorship for RPGs and other games via Tabletop with Felicia Day and particular Titansgrave.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

#RPGaDay 29: Favourite RPG Website/Blog


29: Favourite RPG Website/Blog

Has to be RPG.net for the sheer amount of content and ideas on a daily basis.

Friday, 28 August 2015

#RPGaDay 28: Favourite Game You No Longer Play


28: Favourite Game You No Longer Play

I haven’t played or run TOON this century. Not because I wouldn’t be happy to do so, just because (a) it’s very much part of my youth, (b) takes a certain mood and (c) is well suited to running for an hour or less, while regular game sessions around here are three hours plus.

Hmm. Mental note for a future convention.

My favourite game that I’ve never played or run would be Orpheus. I’ve read the adventure series so I couldn’t fairly play when a friend ran it recently. (I could run a series that goes in a different direction, though... Hmm again...)

Edit: Dave’s video, guest answer from Cat Tobin. And, well, EEEEEEEEEEE!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Dungeon Scouts

I just heard about Dungeon Scouts, a program to get Girls scouts playing and running RPGs, after a boost by Jen Juneau following her article on DMing for an all-female D&D group.

Here in the UK, they would be Dungeon Guides! (Which sounds more like GMing.)

#RPGaDay 27: Favourite idea for merging two games into one


27: Favourite idea for merging two games into one

My favourite idea here is to steal something I like from one game and insert it into another. A plot hook, a rules mechanic, whatever. As mentioned under Favourite House Rule, my V20 game has the Humanity system from Requiem Second Edition bolted in, and also has some plot hooks borrowed from announcements about the unmade World Of Darkness MMO.

If I wanted to do a heavy and roughly equal merger, I’d probably go for a homebrew setting that resembles both rather than a straight-on crossover. For one thing, I run a lot of published and licensed settings, and I’m generally pretty careful about not crossing the streams there because Daleks popping up in Star Wars would bother me as a player. That’s fine in a clearly labelled one-shot or as the start of a premise but would bug me if they popped up in an ongoing game. It’s also usually easy enough to throw in the odd expy as long as it doesn’t conflict with the overall tone. A bait and switch in genre terms, like special guest Cthulhu in a non-occult-horror game, would really bug me.

And kitchen-sink settings that can take in other settings without so much as a ripple or a handwavy phlebotinum explanation help here too. When a costumed superhero turns up in a Buffy game, a wizard did it. Likewise, the film Warlock is clearly something that happened in the Buffyverse one weekend in the late 1980s.

Okay, a practical example: When running Adventure! as a modern super-spy game, I added Computers to the skill list, limited superhuman Knacks, and didn’t otherwise change character generation. But I used the gadget list from Spycraft first edition as a guideline to building PC gadgets in a much less rules-heavy manner, and picked up sourcebooks like its villain roster Most Wanted as inspiration too.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

#RPGaDay 26: Favourite Inspiration For Your Game


26: Favourite Inspiration For Your Game

1: The players. Listen to their ideas, brainstorm with them, get other players and GMs in as well.

2: The game materials. If you’re here to play X, play X. Look back at what excited you about it, and your players as well. And look at what you don’t like and want to change too. (Not applicable to homebrew settings and systems, of course. There, take advantage of the blank slate.)

3: Appropriate media. Soak it up. Reread the books. Watch relevant and relevant-ish movies and TV - the dark alleys and criminal conspiracies in Person Of Interest have informed my current Vampire game a lot. Listen to mood music even if you don’t use it at the table. Search for websites and forums and art. Absorb it to the point you can take a plot from somewhere else and rework it for your setting as second nature.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Dangerous Places

Interesting Places - initially for Night’s Black Agents but good for spies in general, or any globetrotting action-adventure game.

#RPGaDay 25: Favourite Revolutionary Game Mechanic


25: Favourite Revolutionary Game Mechanic

Listing these because they made the games involved stand out, and their effects can be seen in later games. (I already mentioned the use of Jenga in Dread but it hasn’t affected later games substantially.)

Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP): Karma. Want to succeed at something but think the dice will be against you? Spend Karma. If you succeed anyway, lose a token amount. If you fail, spend enough after the fact to bump up to success. Never pin all your ideas on a single roll and mess up again. Beautiful.

Ghostbusters: Dice pools. Grab a bunch of a common die type and roll them. The better you are, the more dice you have. Wild swingy results get evened out.

Adventure!: Dramatic Editing. Taking out-of-game bennies like Karma a big step further, to give the players a graded level of control over the narrative around their characters. The founding of great game-specific examples like Drama Points in Buffy and Flashbacks in Leverage.

Doctor Who (Vortex): Initiative based on action. Talking always goes first, then running, then doing anything else except fighting, then fighting.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Paris 1924 Olympics

I mentioned the 125th birthday of Duke Kahanamoku over on ye Whoblog, but wanted to note here that he took a swimming silver at the Paris Olympics in 1924 after previous gold medals, losing out to Johnny Weissmuller, aka Tarzan. This is also where Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams raced, inspiring Chariots Of Fire, And a few months earlier was the first Winter Olympics.

1924 is, of course, the kickoff year for Adventure! It sounds like some of our heroes should be in attendance.

How alien are your aliens?

An RPGnet forum thread on the psychology of non-human characters, No Humans In Funny Suits points out some good and not-so-good examples across gaming and related media.

Of course, ultimately all such characters will be played by humans... but its good to set out and think through some parameters for consistent characterisation.

Then again that’s true of human-type characters as well.

Uh, anyway, I had a point, can anyone see where I dropped it?

#RPGaDay 24: Favourite House Rule


24: Favourite House Rule

I updated Adventure! for present-day superspies by adding Computers to the skill list. I don’t really think of it as a house rule, though, as I started a series with it rather than coming to it after a few sessions. Likewise I’m pretty happy with my hack of D6 Star Wars from adding all the dice together to Shadowrun / Storyteller style counting success levels. It’s just that little bit faster, and makes partial successes more obvious. But again, I said that at the outset. At the moment I’m running V20 with the Humanity system from VTR Second Edition.

For a rule that came up directly during the game, I still have a soft spot for The Sign Of The Moose.