Sunday, December 24, 2017

12 for 12 #12

Whoo-hoo! The finish line! And I only had to play catch-up once.

Name an RPG, setting, or adventure you haven’t run or played before, but really want to try out in 2018. What particularly appeals about it?

I've got a trio of possibilities here and don't feel like picking just one. Deal with it.

Blue Rose couples a setting I really like (but never got to play in) with a system I've played a few times and really enjoyed. Green Ronin's AGE System is terrific for fast, cinematic style play. The Blue Rose setting is, to my eyes, the Star Trek of fantasy, namely one where the ostensible good guys are fairly enlightened and noble in intentions, but still flawed. Plus, it seems really suitable for swashbuckling intrigue in a fantasy millieu.

Godbound is basically OSR Exalted. I've always been fascinated by the themes of the latter game and setting, but really hated the game system and the directions the official world-building went in later editions. Godbound provides a much simpler (though to me an actually more evocative) system and a world that's painted in broad strokes, with plenty of room for the PCs to put their mark upon it. My one concern about GMing it is that the game is really set up to be run sandbox style, with a host of (magnificent) tools to assist in the process. Even so, I've never been comfortable with sandbox play. But maybe I just need the right sandbox.

Dungeon Fantasy (Powered by GURPS) may seem like an odd choice. I've certainly played GURPS before (though not since second edition), but DF is enough of a departure from what I played in the past that I'm counting it as something different. As to why I want to play it, I've always liked seeing when a third or later generation games (per my definitions here) shoehorn themselves into earlier styles of play. Part of this fascination is in seeing how designers play with the mechanics of their tried-and-true systems in order to fit the tropes of dungeon-crawling, and some of it is to see how the dungeon-crawling experience looks through their eyes. Also, I really like the idea of coupling a gritty tactical game system like DF to the dungeon-crawling experience. It means a very different style of resource management and encounter creation.

So, there you have it. Twelve questions, twelve answers. Thanks, Paul! I enjoyed it.

Friday, December 22, 2017

12 for 12 #11

Talk about a particular stand-out positive experience of playing (rather than running) an RPG in 2017. What was it? What was so good about it?

As I think I mentioned before, I can pretty much count the number of game sessions I played in during 2017 on one hand. So, there's not a lot to pick from. That said, I think the stand-out has to be a Savage Worlds dungeon crawl GMed by Shane Hensley at OwlCon last year. Shane and I have known each other for many years. In fact, he was the very first person to look at something I wrote and say, "Hey, this is great. Can I put it up on our website?" So he's my "first publisher." Despite our long association, we'd never had a chance to actually sit down and play a game, so when the chance came up at OwlCon, I jumped on it.

The game was a playtest of an adventure Shane's been working on to dispute the assertion that Savage Worlds isn't suitable for dungeon crawls. I played a warrior priestess and the adventure involved sea caves, fish men, and pirates. Apart from the general enjoyment of finally gaming with an old friend and the thrill of playing a game with its designer (always a hoot), there was one other rather memorable incident.

During a break in the game, I asked Shane to sign my copy of Savage Worlds Deluxe, and he happily did so, only to get a really distraught look on his face. He'd misspelled my name. And it's an out of print book that he doesn't even have extra copies of. He was embarrassed, I was amused (I'm used to people getting my name wrong). To make it up to me, he let me draw a magic item from his deck of stuff (one of his dungeon crawl mods to SW is a random deck of magic items, it's a pretty neat idea). As I was drawing, he casually mentioned there was one item in the deck he'd meant to leave out because it could seriously mess with the finale of the adventure, but it was too late now.

Guess what I drew?

It was basically a necklace of grenades.Little ceramic balls that explode on contact. It said to roll 1d4 for quantity. Four.

Sure enough, in the finale, they were super-useful, attacking the big bad and his wizard, and forcing them out of cover. And when my priestess found herself surrounded by said big bad and his minions, I waited for my turn, and then mimicked throwing the last two straight down at my feet.

The ensuing double explosion was noteworthy. And adventure-ending (and not just for my character). It seemed an appropriate punishment for getting my name wrong. :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

12 for 12 #10

Mobile phones and the internet in an RPG setting in the modern day world (perhaps with fantastic elements): discuss. What possibilities do they open up? What, if any, issues come with them when it comes to RPG scenarios?

The most obvious possibility is keeping the party in touch when they split up to do things, though to be honest, I've tended to use something like the magic earpieces from "Leverage" in order to keep people in touch anyway, so that really isn't much of a change-up. While it might seem counter-intuitive, the ability to stay constantly in communication can actually create tension under the right circumstances, particularly when it's suddenly cut off.

Facetime and other video chat programs are great for researchers, because the person who can actually read that weird inscription doesn't have to be present, so long as you can connect to them. Ditto copying obscure texts, etc., with your camera phone. Not to mention the amount one can look up with a smartphone and an internet connection.

Imagine a modern wizard, who keeps all of his grimoires on his iPad, accessing them through Good Reader.

Of course, the challenge to the GM is to make sure this technology doesn't turn into an "We Win!" button for the PCs. Any old hack can come up with ways to stymie technology. The trick is to do it so it seems logical and works with the story, rather than just being a petty "Rocks fall, everybody dies" moment. And this means that the GM is going to have to let the PCs have some wins with their tech, even times when it would be convenient to drop an EMP on them and fry their devices or have the 911 switchboard down.

I think the best way to handle it is to plan your adventures with the expectation that the heroes will have phones, etc. Either that, or set up some ground rules from the outset that make it difficult (like how in the Dresden Files, wizards fry any electronics more advanced than light switch. Make it so they lean into their tech so much that they have to scramble when it fails on them. Let the bad guys rely on it just as much as the heroes. Then, when they come up with ways to circumvent the bad guys' tech, take notes and use the same trick against them at a later stage.

Monday, December 18, 2017

12 For 12 #9

Looks like we're on the home stretch here.

You’re planning to run some science fiction, in a setting of your choice. Is there any particular technology you want to include because the possibilities intrigue you? Is there a standard piece of “future technology” you’d rather leave out?

I'm not going to get too far off in the weeds over "What is science fiction?", but I should note that I'm not counting Star Wars. With that out of the way, and knowing my tastes and interests, odds are I'm looking at Star Trek, as my tastes in SF are fairly generic and vanilla. In that case, I'm going to pick an era and run with it, so whatever tech is appropriate to that time period is what I'll use. Now, that said, technology gives us lots of cool stories to explore in Trek. "The Wrath of Khan" showed how a potential boon could be weaponized, but let's take the Genesis Device, use it as intended, and explore the consequences of newly habitable worlds in an area that might have previously served as a natural (lifeless) barrier between two hostile powers. Make the PC's ship the only Federation vessel permanently assigned to the area, attached to the Deep Space station coordinating the colonization efforts. Instant campaign