Thursday, 4 April 2019

Products of Your Imagination


Imagine that I had £80-£100 to spend on RPG books. Imagine that Runequest: Glorantha was oh so tempting.

But imagine.

Imagine that I own Heroquest: Glorantha.

Imagine that I also already owned Runequest. Runequests! Runequest 2. Runequest 3. Mongoose Runequest II. Runequest 6.

Imagine that I haven't played any of these Runequests in ages, and that when I have played d100 fantasy in the past few years it has been using OpenQuest and Magic World.

Imagine that this is a symptom of my changing tastes when it comes to the kind of games that I run. That I want to run. That I can *imagine* successfully running.

Imagine if you could sum this developing taste up as 'relatively rules-lite, mostly traditional, but curious about games such as Heroquest, Fate, PDQ etc.' Imagine that my preferred campaign mode is some kind of sandbox play.

Now, imagine that you share these tastes. How you would spend this money - even just some of this money - on RPGs to avoid adding another Runequest to your shelves, and please let me know.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The Procedural Adventure Game

I'd just like to direct you all to John B's post on what he means by the term Adventure Games, which captures a lot of what keeps drawing me back to classic D&D/OSR based games *even though* I'm not the greatest fan of some aspects of the mechanics. The procedures built into the game create a certain rhythm from which a story of adventure emerges *after the fact*. Of course, there is no reason why you can't 'proceduralise' other games which concentrate most of their mechanical energy not on 'the adventure' but on the regulating PC actions - as John B has done with Mythras. Anyway, here's a passage I particularly liked: 

"The "adventure" then is not the narrative the player-characters flow through towards an inevitable climax and resolution, but the procession of problems, challenges, etc. they face; the decisions and deliberations they make about what to do about each problem or challenge; and the procedures they enact as part of those decisions, and the consequences of all the above interacting with one another."

Monday, 25 March 2019

Lack of Play / Let's Play!

I'm playing in a very good game of Scum and Villainy online - we manage a session once every three weeks or so. But gaming at home has seriously stalled. I'm going to need to run something myself, soon. And I'll have to make the jump to running a game online.

I love GMing, but I have, until now, only run games for people who I already know. Running a game for a group of strangers is different. Running a game for a group of strangers who I'm not going to sit down at a physical table with and establish the rapport that will, hopefully, have them forgive my missteps, mistakes, the occasional bad session, etc. is another thing entirely.

But I should jump in to test the water, finally. I'll probably run Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e, because PCs start competent and robust and so we'll not end with a session 1 TPK, and because it is so spectacularly straightforward to run we won't end up digging through books looking for the correct procedure. If in doubt, roll 2d6 and interpret the results!
Who would be up for this? In order for it to work for me it'd be best to play on Monday evenings, probably starting about 8:30pm [edit: GMT]. I'd plump for an 'Allansian sandbox' campaign, but happy to go for other flavours, perhaps Stellar Adventures, in fact. I know that's a pretty empty pitch, but just gauging interest - if there are takers we could start next week, or in a fortnight. 

Leo Hartas' lovely colour map of Allansia

[Addendum: Click on the Advanced Fighting Fantasy 'label' to see actual play reports from previous games as well as my thoughts on how to best GM games using the system, and other miscellanea.] 

Monday, 4 March 2019

How To Resolve Everything That Comes Up

The older I get, the less tolerance I have for crunch, even if I do sometimes have flashbacks to teenage fantasies of having a table at which a game in which weapon length, height, weight, incremental fatigue, etc. were all incorporated into a smooth running game. I want quick systems that arbitrate the move from player choice to consequences - which for me is the crux of the gaminess of role-playing games.

Anyway, I recently came across a post (from last November) on The Borderlands entitled How To Resolve Everything That Comes Up, and basically, "yes". In fact, I've said it before, I think, somewhere, in different words, that the 2d6 Reaction Roll system is THE lost universal D&D arbitration system. I wasn't the first, of course. 

So: the players have made a choice and it is not clear what the outcome must be? Let the dice decide. Decide what would be the worst possible outcome, the best possible outcome, roll 2d6, add or subtract 1, 2 or in extreme circumstances 3 for all the factors reckoning into the disposition of the situation, do the same for PC actions (default to Ability Score modifiers) and interpret the result. 

One of the great joys of returning to Classic D&D and its variants a few years ago was using tools such as the reaction roll, random encounter tables, and morale rules and feeling much more like I was also playing the game, not simply running a game for other people. Creative interpretation of the results of simple dice rolls is one of the key skills, and prime pleasures, of Old School games mastering. 

Oh. I've kind of spoiled Steve's post. Head there anyway, he has it laid out in a well presented table!

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Life Among the Ruins

As a result of my boundless vanity, I occasionally check out from where the few hits of my blog come from. This doesn't take too long. The other day I noticed a few hits coming from a really interesting post by Joseph Manola titled "OSR aesthetics of ruin". It is a few years old, but I really recommend that you read it. I was busy cutting quotes from it to post here, but found that what I would have ended up doing was repeating almost all of it back to you. So read it! 

So what I will add is that the comments Jean-Francois Lebreton recommends the paintings of life in the ruins of Rome by Hubert Robert and... wow! This stuff amazing - ripe for providing the visuals of a great FRPG setting. And, from this pointer, I found that there is a whole style of painting called Capriccio -  "architectural fantasy, placing together buildings, archaeological ruins and other architectural elements in fictional and often fantastical combinations". I could see an entire OSR-game (or other game in which exploration was a key game 'mode') built around Capriccio.

View of the Port of Rippeta in Rome - Hubert Robert

A Capriccio of the Roman Forum - Giovanni Paolo Panini

Arches in ruins and Hecuba’s vengeance over Polymestor - Viviano Codazzi

And more, and more, and more. 

Friday, 15 February 2019

Monday, 4 February 2019

Bedtime Stories - playing Fate with the kids

Did our bedtime stories game go well? Well, the girls (7 and 9) seemed to enjoy it? R played May, daughter of the Witch Queen (R later said that May rarely used her full name; May Corpse-Death), and J played Pearl, warrior princess of the Crystal Castle.

I plumped for Fate Accelerated as the system as, despite being unfamiliar with *actually running* Fate, I figured that it would be the one of the best way to create characters for people who are not going to get to grips with the mechanical bits and bobs of chargen, or the constraints involved into fitting a character concept into the boxes of archetypes, classes, or even good old fashioned skill lists. Asking a kid questions such as "Who are you?" "Why do you get into trouble?" and "Tell me one more important thing about your character", to generate Aspects, followed by, "How does your character solve problems?" to assign scores to Approaches is about as total newbie friendly as it can get.

One thing that both of them instinctively got was Compels - in fact, they were always looking for ways in which their Aspects could complicate their plans (and so get them another Fate point to pile in front of themselves). This, of course, is just an extension and formalisation of their usual make-believe (role) play; without the background in rules-based games in which the goal is to mitigate weaknesses and maximise chances of success, 'making the game more fun' by suggesting that the Witch Queen might show up, or that the fact that Pearl is hot-headed and always getting into fights simply seemed obvious.     

They also seemed far more open to approaches to problem-solving / encounter resolution that perhaps wouldn't occur to more experienced gamers. For example, they met Sir Percival at the ford across the Rainbow River, who challenged Pearl to a contest of arms. Pearl managed to get a "success with style", which we worked out as granting the Boost "knocked back into the shallows". Rather than follow this up with another physical attack, J decided that Pearl would brow-beat Percival with a "don't you know who my mother is" speech and invoked the Boost which took Sir Percival out of the fight.

I played a bit fast and loose with the rules - in part because I didn't really know what I was doing and in part because I was running a 'bedtime story'. One thing that I'll have to reconcile if I'm running Fate for adults is my 'old school' instinct to run a non-combat/non-physical peril encounter without calling for the dice, and to make use of what a game like Fate offers and play out these scenes making use of the Aspects, Fate Points etc. An example of this was when May bumped into her mother, the Witch Queen, in the Bone Orchard, and ended up in a very teenage "you're not the boss of me!" argument. R came up with some great "attacks", and it seemed entirely appropriate to run this is a "combat", especially as to not do so would be to privilege physical combat as *the* game. It's even more clear to me now that Fate (and a few other games with some 'familial resemblance') would be great for running games in which there is nothing recognisable as combat or even peril in traditional RPG terms. 

Perhaps more importantly, I need to work on getting the "opposition" right mechanically - both in terms of Aspects and ratings on paper and the way in which they are played at the table. How do I represent Sir Percival? The Witch Queen? Bardon's Bandits? But perhaps more importantly; When do they create advantage? When do they concede? When do they use Fate Points? Things were probably *mechanically* a little too easy. This will come with practice.

But it was FUN. My wife told me later that she'd be listening from the other room and had been really impressed with how engaged and excited the girls had been. We'll definitely be playing again - there is  Dragon to meet, after all.