16 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #16

What RPG do you enjoy using as it is?

The last RPG I used as is, in a campaign setting, was Pathfinder...I didn't enjoy it.

The last RPG I used as is, in a one-shot, was Dungeon World...despite being driven by the Apocalypse engine, I did enjoy it.

But as I said in the last entry, I don't enjoy using many RPGs as they stand. I'll always try them at least once to see how they're "meant to work", but inevitably I feel the need to start tinkering.

RPGaDay2017 #15

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I have trouble playing anything straight (which is basically going to screw up my answer for #16 as well). When it comes to adapting games, I usually streamline things when I play them, forgetting a lot of rules unless they are really necessary to the specific situation being resolved...and even then I might just tweak the rules a bit to make things more story focused than mechanically focused.

I like the idea of using a central mechanism of play (which is why I liked the videos mentioned in my last post), and if I think one of the offshoot mechanisms of a game is just too unwieldy, I just shift everything back to that central concept.

I guess I enjoy adapting the various incarnations of D&D, because there is so much to adapt in them...so many mechanisms to strip out, so many fiddly bits to ignore. White Wolf's World of Darkness stuff is similar in this regard.

Other than that, I love adapting and modifying my own game systems. Running them a couple of times in a convention format with a few completely different groups of players, then tweaking them before going through the cycle again with a completely different group of players. The cycle iterates, and I never quite get it perfect, because my ideas of perfection continually evolve, but it's a fun journey.

So currently, I have the most enjoyment adapting The Law.

Core Mechanics

+Paul Stefko has started producing a series of podcasts/vlogs called "Core Mechanics".

The episodes are quick, simple, and provide a basic overview of fundamental systems in a range of games. At the time of writing, he's got five of these episodes available and I can't wait to see where he goes next.

It's similar to what I tried a few years ago here on the blog with my "Game Mechani(sm) of the Week" series, so it is i teresting to see someone else's take on the subject matter.

I suspect future episodes will focus on "Fate" and the "Powered by the Apocalypse" engine, but in that latter case it will be interesting to see whether he assumes the core mechanic as the dialogue of alternating MC-move/player-move in a narrative framework (kind of like the way he describes investigation in the Gumshoe games as a non-dice oriented phenomenon, as compared to the rolling of dice associated with other skills...which is considered a non-core idea)...or if he'll focus on the "roll 2d6, add modifiers, compare to chart of 6-or-below/7-9/10-or-above" which ends up heading in all sorts of directions depending on the specific move taken.

Anyway, go over and have a look. Subscribe. I want to see him do more of these... He might even get around to doing one of my games once the big games have been dealt with.

14 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #14

What RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

Another question that excludes a few examples while leaving a massive assortment of other options to choose from.

A lot of games designed as one-shots, or games that tell a single story repetitively aren't really good answers here, but it would be interesting to see systems like this challenged beyond their intended confines. I do prefer a well structured but robust system that can handle a variety of situations without breaking for this style of play.

Perhaps a better way to answer this might be to consider the games that I have successfully used for this style of play. The problem is that when I run long term games, I tend to throw away most of the system, only using the bits I need when I need them...that might be a magic system I like, or the inevitable combat mechanisms when things escalate to the point where they can't be avoided any longer. If a game can let things simmer nicely, then step up to the challenge when we need to do something funky, then that works for me.

One of the longest campaigns I've ever run was a globetrotting Werewolf the Apocalypse game...lasting through weekly sessions for almost two years... more than 20 years ago. I'd do it again, but maybe with a variety of shifter types.

Actually, now that I think about it further, I don't think the rule systems are the mediating factor for what makes a good long term play experience, I think it's more about the richness of setting. That doesn't necessarily mean high word count, but good touchstones that can prompt coherent story. The whole coherent bit is where I rule out Rifts, even if it does have a metric-buttload of sourcebooks. 

I've done long form Legend of the Five Rings, and would similarly do it again because I love the depth of the setting.

I'd love to play a long term Castle Falkenstein campaign...

...actually it's been so long since I've done a long term campaign of anything, that I'd probably be willing to play almost anything in that format.

13 August, 2017

Image Experimentation

I've been working on some imagery for the upcoming Dispatch Guide for The Law. Trying to offer some variation on the illustrations to show a slightly different flavour for these characters, while maintaining a sense of continuity with the existing setting. 
This particular member of dispatch, in one of the Towers of Law, working away at his computer is probably what I'll be working with.

I also worked on some more diverse imagery, using photo-manipulated stock, and while I really like the way they've turned out they don't quite fit the way I'm trying to take "The Law"...maybe I'll use them for a game about bounty hunters, or undercover agents in the Sprawl.

RPGaDay2017 #13

Describe a game experience that changed the way you play.

I've seen that quite a few people have been tripped up by this question. Mostly because they already answered this when they gave their response to the 7th Day with its question about impactful sessions.

So, if I'm going to answer it differently, I think that one of the experiences that really opened my eyes to the potential of play styles was the first convention I attended back in 1994 or 95. I've tried looking it up, but since the convention collapsed pre-2000, there isn't a lot of online evidence regarding its existence.

In my home groups, I was always the default GM, so I attended the convention in the hope that I'd get the chance to play. It didn't quite work out that way, but it did work out by showing me numerous styles of GMing and learning that even the "professionals" were often making it up as they went...in fact the most professional GMs and the ones with the games in highest demand were the ones who ad-libbed and played reactionary games rather than trying to lead their players through a story.

...but that's more about which experience changed the way I thought about being a GM.

For the experience regarding play, I think the Raven's Nest game was the biggest eye-opener. This was a game incorporating miniatures and live-action in the manner of a Braunstein. There weren't enough GMs to keep everyone occupied during this game, so a lot of it ended up being a case of players telling their own stories and interacting with each other until dramatic moments when a GM finally finished with one group of players and potentially came to ours. The big lesson here was that you didn't need a GM to have immersive fun. Sometimes they just got in the way.

12 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #12

Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

I seriously can't fault the people who are responding to this question with the groundbreaking artwork of Tony Diterlizzi in the Planescape books. The moment I opened one of the books in my local gaming shop (back in '94, I think the shop might have been "The Tin Soldier" or maybe "Napoleon's"), I knew I'd have to run a campaign there.

But lots of people have gone that way, so let's dig a little deeper.

The early Vampire the Masquerade stuff was really evocative, in the sense that you were seeing mean bad-ass brooding types, and this was an "awesome game where you could be a mean bad-ass too". Most of the other early World of Darkness stuff had that kind of vibe happening too... the illustrations in Werewolf were more primal and violent, the imagery from Mage was more heroic and surreal. I'm not going to get into the debate about whether the games themselves actually supported this style of play, because today's question is about the art... and whether you found that art inspiring.

Then there are the beautiful books that I really wanted to be inspired by, but they just felt like they were trying too hard. A specific case in point was Nobilis, I wanted to love it, and I know there are fanatical devotees of the game, but it just didn't do anything for me. Perhaps I'd already played Amber and Changeling: the Dreaming, and this just felt like a pretentious hybrid of those.

I was going to instantly dismiss any game that used predominantly photographical imagery, because most of them are licensed properties simply using screenshots from the TV-show/movie from which they derive. If I'm inspired by those images, they probably inspire because of their context, and they probably inspired me more when I saw them screened as a part of the show. I will make a notable exception for +Josh T Jordan's Heroine though. Even though I found the rules of the game to be a bit to abstract and simplistic for my tastes, flicking through the book made me want to tweak the rules a bit and play a session or two.