Tuesday, December 28, 2010

System thoughts

After posting a couple of posts ago about wanting to do a fantasy game I keep trying to get on that vibe. I've picked up Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon and also got a few other fantasy novels close to hand. I'm tempted to reread Song of Ice and Fire series as I really like those books but I'll forge ahead with some other fantasy stuff for now.

So reading stuff I've been thinking about systems...

  • High/Heroic Fantasy campaign - B/XD&D, Pendragon, Lord of the Rings Adventure guidebook, Savage Worlds, ASOIAF-RPG,
  • Planetary Romance/ Sword and Sorcery - Savage Worlds, Barbarians of Lemuria, OD&D Hack,
  • Sci-Fi - I was very inspired by Stars Without Numbers, I still have a soft spot for Traveller and Eclipse Phase too is firing up my imagination (still) and hanging in there is Starblazer Adventures and I have the Shadowrun game we have had shots at every now and then.
  •  A late entry into the sweepstakes is Super Heroes - We all nostalgically considered the old days of juvenile super heroing and thought this could be a blast too
    • I'm thinking MSH or Smallville but also looking at Mutant City blues, MnM and Saga-Marvel these last three not too seriously.      

So out of all that Stars without number, B/XD&D and Barbarians of Lemuria have my mind share right now. I'll go into each of these in more depth over the coming week.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sandbox and the old school

I got to reading this artical at geyhawkgrognard as I've been planing games and doing my research and hobby'ing away I'm firmed up my stance on Sandbox vs Storyline and really I think they are really arbitrary distinctions. More a continuum.

Ultimately what is the point of filling a sandbox with story lines that many or may not get investigated. While this style of development give long term playability and is good for a computer game I'm not so sure its necesary or even a good idea for an rpg.

As I get older (just celebrated 41) I'm finding its much harder to get people to the game table on a regular basis so filling a sandbox full to the brim with "stuff"tm is just unnecessary particularly as time is at a premium.   
So I'm starting to think the best approach is really broad strokes. Also I find players want to turn up, have their players meet in the tavern and the dark robbed figure says "venture forth for $$" and off they go. I'm oversimplifying but essentially the players I play with want to be up and gaming post haste. Honestly background - other then what is communicated in game - is often wasted on them.

So I'm leaning towards just-in-time campaign design. However I already know I actually like spending some of my time world building. Therefore I'll build the world but its going to be in relatively broad strokes only dipping down into the detail as I'm inspired to do so.

This serves the purpose of putting "story hooks" into the setting and they can be flesh out on the fly or by me during world building.

On the fly is good I think, mostly because emergent properties of play is a reality for the Players in a game so playing with in this framework is good cricket on my behalf.

Anyway there will be a "story" and the sandpit will also be there and if the players want to go off and do something other then the "scripted" adventure then I'll go with that too. The question is really "how" to do that.   

As and addendum to the above;
It occurred to me these approaches are related to top-down and bottom-up approaches to information management. Therefore if storyline development is the equivalent of top down information management then the sandbox approach is bottom-up and a synthesis style approach. This is interesting as these therefore by extension would inherit the pros and cons of each approach.

Investigating the Sword and Sorcery subgenre

I now want to investigate Sword and Sorcery genre. In the interest of full disclosure I want to come right out and say I already know I like Sword and Sorcery more then High Fantasy. I think I even know the reason for this preference. However as I stated before I'd like to have a traditional high fantasy campaign under my belt so hence the investigation. If not high fantasy maybe I can go with a more "gritty" small scale game - in terms of its central stories and go Sword and Sorcery?

 looks like Boon; Breckinridge Elkins 

I had a farther who was heavy into western movies. Daniel Boon to True Grit and across the pond to spaghetti-westerns. Read on to see how this ties in but essentially being brought up on this "mission" type genre has really influenced my fiction and gaming preferences. I have to also add this same man  - my father - was also a massive Trek Original Series fan and also Dr Who. So Sci-fi and westerns sort of blended in my house hold.  

Additionally I'd read the Scarlet Pimpernel by the age of nine and donated a copy to the school library so I was primed to like swashbuckling adventure. I followed that with Dracula and then Alexandre Dumas and Flashman novels and it was not long after that I moved onto fantasy novels. Not long after that... I moved onto RPG's.

One of my all time favorite novels is The True Game by Sheri S Tepper (and I'd read this before I read LotR but after the Hobbit) and this is closely followed by Dune, Lankmar and John Cater of Mars. Also to some extent Star Wars (which is to me a Science Fantasy and not a Science Fiction and hence has more in common with say LotR then the Foundation series to me - I like in general my sci-fi "harder" then is represented by Star wars) certainly had an impact at around the same time and even ET and Hawk the Slayer (yep me too). So I guess science fantasy had its influence on me via these exposures.   

When it comes to a discussion of what the genre is, I agree with this summation of Sword and Sorcery 

and also with Michael Moorcock when he says...

"Basically I see it as a good old-fashioned sword and sandal or cloak and dagger drama with strong supernatural elements. Captain Blood meets Cthulhu"

This is a great definition for us as role players - for many of us that definition is immediately accessible.

Id add that Sword and Sorcery is also often limited in it story scope it seems. By that I mean they're about a single character or a small group (~3), usually doing something pretty small scale. Less about heroically saving the world, more about saving themselves or a woman or possibly just about making money or living to see the morrow. You don't "tend" to have earth shattering "battles". Generally you have bar brawls, thievery and duels. You may get the "showdown" and that fight may be a good skirmish but it would not (generalizing again) be a pitched battle.

C.J. Cherryh writes Swords and sorcery is...
  1. ...based somewhere in something remotely like history
  2. ...when there are gods, or sorcery works
  3. ...when there is conflict, often involving no more than survival
  4. ...when the hero/heroine may or may not be on the wrong side of the law, and
  5. ...when there are subgenres:
    1. temples, snakes, and virgins
    2. the idiot emperor and the evil advisor
    3. the lovelorn princess wants a way out of town
    4. retrieve the magic item.
They are generally simple stories set in a usually mythic place involving a clever hero(ine) and a reward/good outcome. 

Reading this made me remember a post over on http://gmskarka.livejournal.com/288839.html this part in bold really stuck out...
Civilization must be protected from the Barbarians, and to do that, somebody has to pick up The Gun. However, if you pick up The Gun, you become a Barbarian. 
And then I remembered reading Howard was always inspired by the Western (and boxing stories) and later went on the write some e.g.
Breckinridge Elkins,
Pike Bearfield,
Grizzly Elkins,
and The Sonora Kid,

Now I love the Western genre (see above ..essentially I was weened on it) and I love Wuxia too [humm maybe I need to dig out Qin:Warring States that's a great game - essentially wire fu historical romance rpg with plenty of intrigue and battles if you haven't gotten into it yet go take a look] 
To me the Western is all about the frontier of civilization and this would work well in a Fantasy game too [Take a look a Colonial Gothic, Wich Hunter, and Deadlands as good games in this setting]. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Lets have a look at the sources and some of the rpg lessons its taught me.

Robert E. Howard's Kull, Conan, and Kane stories - Sort of the Conner stone like LotR is in High Fantasy.
  • Now I've read a lot of Conan. I love the world and I love the background elements but I don't really have a favorite Conan novel. I'm not really even that big of a fan of any of them. I'd give most of them two out of five stars. good read but ultimately not that great. Together though and for the little bits in the background well thats another story. His fantasy Earth that was really rings a bell in my mind for that I'm a fan. Possibly my favorite of all the novels is Red Nails. I like Kull and Kane more  

Fafhrd and Grey Mouser books by Fritz Leiber
  • Humor and Horror, I really liked the Grey Mouser. Most did I think. Between him and the Stainless Steel Rat you have the vast number of my early D&D characters. Witt (I hopped), cocky, rogues. However I find the magic to be often too prevalent for my taste. Or I should say the big workings of magic. I really like the city the other character in the piece. Lankmah inspired quite a few games I think and it will inspire me too.   

Elric of Melnibone (Elric)
  • I was probably too young when I read this. The ennui which permeates the Young Kingdoms just really grates on me. Elric is very much Thomas Covenants cuz' I think. I did like the world and read it just for that. It was a touch to loopy for me. I prefer 
The History of the Runestaff,
  • This is a really good romp although I'd probably say its closer to High Fantasy then any other book on this list. The Hero is noble, the plot and story interesting and the villains great to hate.

David Gemmell. and the Druss Stories
  • Read Druss on the recommendation of a non fantasy book reading friend when I was 15-16 yrs old and it was like wow good novel. I cant put my finger on just what makes it great to me. Other then it was really enjoyable and never really let up. Also the feeling that around every corner there was this really well imagined world was intriguing and left me wanting to know more.  So I think this left me with an appreciation for starting small and foreshadowing by using story-hooks. Don't explain everything leave it unexplained because that has a type of magic to it.
Richard Morgan
  • The Steel Remains; Even more the Gemmell this novel got inside my head and would not let go. It reminds me of Lin Cater only better. More on a par with Lord of Light by Zalazny although I think Zelazny even better then Morgan.
I'm also very influenced by Planetary Romance as well and I'll lump it in with the Sword and Sorcery genre discussion too. I'll do this because to me there is very little separating the two. I know there is in reality a large difference. However the tone and feel are really very close even though there is a difference in setting (pseudo Dark Ages vs pseudo Interplanetary Adventure)  

The funny thing is I have more love for the Planetary Romance genre as an imaginary genre then the canon works. I mean I love ERB and the whole Barsoom thing but its just not everything I wanted it to be.  Maybe that was because I read Planet of Adventure series as a collected set before I started on Barsoom? I'm not sure. For that matter I like the Pellucidar and Caspak series more then Barsoom. However I really dig the character of John Carter.[ohh just thought of a planet name for a campaign Kaladar maybe...]

But I also like Lin Cater's world of Lemuria which is essentially Earth after an Armageddon. What I like here and the take away is that for me fantasy world as the result of an aftermath is very appealing and interesting. In these books I find the most interesting character is Lemuria. [honestly these are very strangely written books].

I also loved the 1980's Flash Gordon TV cartoon series and I'd like to bring the fun and excitement of that experience into role playing.

Thrown into this mix Dune and Star Wars and you can see a predilection for science fantasy emerging. So with these influences in mind from the written page and otherwise I'd like to explore some game options. The next post [or two] will be a look at systems and also at the campaign(s). I'd like to create a sandpit type game with some strong story options sitting in wait like spiders in webs. 
Essentially I want to answer the question for myself do I go with;
  • High/Heroic Fantasy campaign
  • Planetary Romance/ Sword and Sorcery
Or stick with what I'm good at and do
  • Sci-Fi
Once I've answered these questions I plan to look at system selection and then I need to start planing the sand pit, themes and stories sitting in the setting.


    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    On Fantasy

    I'm still "out" on the whole fantasy thing. I do like fantasy - I want to be clear on that. But I don't like main stream "High Fantasy" which is what nearly everyone means when they say fantasy. So this leave me in a funny position when it comes to D&D. And really when you talk fantasy and high fantasy in particular your talking about every ones Uncle Underground old "D&D".

    Lets take it as a given, my Fantasy campaigns were less then fantastic, ehe (I have one exception I ran a good game of Runequest which morphed into Warhammer Fantasy but this is hardly High Fantasy).

    Oh sure I've run my fair share from OD&D, RedBox B/X, and AD&D1e, 3.5 and some 4thed but none stand out [not entirely true The campaign with Allen Ball and Kev as Dark Robe and Severlan was alrigth but]. Most were not more then a string of prepackaged adventures [the Dark Robe game included]. I really struggle as a DM in coping with the change in the game which each new level brings. As well other nuances of the game, like magic items, magic users even monsters. I really like what the Old school D&D movement says about making the game your own and making those tweaks to the game which give you the best result.   

    I would like to have a good fantasy campaign under my belt. I really would.  So naturally I'm looking at D&D and I'm considering source material and a sandbox game. 

    The first step, it seems to me is understanding what I do like in fantasy. So I've been analyzing what I can do to deliver a good fantasy game when innately I don't find "High fantasy" that attractive. Ultimately my answer may well be ... "do what your good at. Not all GM's can be good at everything and you run a damn fine Sci-fi or horror game so just stick with what your good at... (thanks go to S. John Ross for his Star Trek Narrator's Toolkit for Last Unicorn Games which had some great hobby advice in it. By the way I await his redux of Uresia: Grave of Heaven with excitement - I'd love to get my hands on the copy I lent to a "friend" though I'd settle for getting my hands on the "friend". Remember girls and boys never lone a book you cant afford to give).

    SO I need to make a determination between High-Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery and the sub-genres. 

    Starting with High-Fantasy fiction then; I've seen it defined but I'm going to provide a definition I feel I can work with. This is a swipe from Wilson and Alroy [(credited) Although I have moved their ten to five and vis-a-vis] and its close to other definitions, so very serviceable here. The most expansive definition makes everything after five optional.

    1. A targeted audience of adults or teens, not children
    2. A made-up world (or continent, or at least country)
    3. Made-up cultures, sometimes with made-up languages and religions
    4. Medieval technology, often with a feudal social structure 
    5. Earth men allowed, but no interstellar travel
    6. Magic, often practiced by wizards and the like
    7. Non-human races like elves and dwarves
    8. Monsters like trolls and mythical creatures like unicorns
    9. A pantheon of gods who meddle in human affairs
    10. Epic battles of good and evil

    Adults to consume the product. Check... I want it accessible to kids though (one of the reasons I think the Hobbit superior to Lord of the Rings [for me] is the sense of wonder it instills when I read it.). And I want to maybe some times involve by son now he is showing interest.

    A made-up world and made-up cultures; I like world building. Its a lot of fun and if your an artist and get get it down on a map it also looks cool. Like this one. Ohh how cool. But honestly can you really build a world with all the nuance of Earth... Are Earths societies and cultures and geography really so staid the author needs to "go elsewhere".

    Anyway I guess new maps and cultures engage the imagination and well that's both interesting engaging and fun for the reader. Replacing Earth with a faux-Earth is what I question. I prefer to have Earth/Fantasy-Earth as a counterpoint. I guess the assumption is that they do... However in a fantasy world that base line would not be there. I also know we cant get away from it. 

    Medieval technology level and a feudal social structure... is a really odd one in my mind. What about Renaissance level, Bronze Age, Stone age. Anarchy? A completely different social structure which naturally evolved? This is very rare in literature. Rpg's have tried. mostly with very limited success.

    I also don't really like the look of real historical plate mail ( I should say that most of it, nearly all of it, is of a fashion I cant connect with - some of it predominantly from Germany I can like). Essentially armour from around ~ 1375 and on wards starts to look unappealing and well begins to really require a horse. (this reminds me I have to talk about Dungeons vs other adventure locations - maybe next post) Fantasy plate mail with its heavy-metal zeitgeist is just funny to me. On the other hand a bare chested Conan or harness wearing John Cater. Just works for me (although grated in the books he is often actually in Chain mail weather permitting. And Chain mail, IS cool IMHO) At this level of metallurgy we are getting good firearms too... where are they in our fantasy. For some reason they "Break" fantasy. Although they are in RPG settings they lag behind in fantasy literature or at least in the novels I have bothered to pick up.      

    Medieval as a definition of time period is very broad as well. Oh you know just a short ten centuries 0.0. Yep form ~5th century to the 15th century. and apparently High Fantasy is "limited" to just Medieval interpretations. Will these worlds ever progress to a high technology Socioeconomic footing? There seems to be a defacto assumption they are static and will never develop technology above the Medieval - and remember Medieval philosophy and thought was very different from ours (is this because magic gets in the way of this development? Where did the recent idea of Steam punk come from?) ... Most rpg High-fantasy is really the same as walking down the main street, when comparing the way people think about things in this world. I can tell you attitudes on Earth to death and child labor have certainly changed. Not to mention that if your a woman ..well life is just very different now for a woman in terms of rights ...your no longer property for a start. Even for the average "citizen" i.e. voter in a Medieval world things are very different the modern concept of "nation" which we just live with was foreign.  Thank good we have had these changes. Its probably fair to have this reflected in our fantasy too. Only I want to understand the reasons for this in that unique world aside from Earths history. While we are at it are these worlds constantly in a state of flux - peace doesn't seem to exist. I'm ok with the adventures happening on the frontier and being lawless, rough and fraught with monsters of all type. Conversely the  homelands being settled and peaceful would be good too. But you very really see the peace or what the people are fighting for. Its just assumed.

    Earth men are allowed and are often the base "stock"/life form.  Fair enough it makes telling a tell a whole lot easier... but if we are doing this - i.e. bringing Men for eases sake why didnt we do that with Earth and make some type of alternate history?

    Magic. Lets face it Magic is cool. Wish fulfillment and teenage power fantasies still resonate in many a person and Magic in a novel give an outlet for these desires. If its linked tot he story and the plot all the better, less so if its just window dressing ... at lease that's my thinking. The True Game by Sheri S. Tepper    
    Plus for me I like the occult overtones of magic and the fact that magic has a "source". Its either from within us, or from around us like an old friend told me when I was a kid "It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." Or other explanations are also equally cool and frees the imagination. But I really like the dramatic elements provided by magical schools and practitioners of different types of magic not to mention priests and other religious orders who also seem to have access to magic in these settings (or certainly do in RPG's).  

    For me I get really stuck on number seven, mainly for races like hobbits and dwarves, they just don't do it for me. You see I'm not big on demi-humans - ok call me racist if you like but please acknowledge that I like "Talislanta" a truly inspired work of fantasy and a high-fantasy rpg I do like. Ratkin - now there is a race that do it for me way better then Hobbits/Halflings. Bloodguard there is another awesome race. (thank you Stephen Donaldson it doesn't absolve you of the travesty of Thomas Covenant aka "the waste of space" but that's one cool race/class).I even like Elves!

    On the other hand I love monsters ... but I like my monsters mean. I'm not sure I need Orc/Klingons in my fantasy. Human bandits, cultist and savages are more horrifying to me ... especially if they are eating flesh. I have a special hate/fear of cannibalism which I recognize as really primal and to me having the Orc which is essentially a brutish dark/green skinned human with or with out pig features, is watering down my monsters. Take note of something Dracula, Alien, Predator essentially solo monsters to begin with. In true American fashion more is better so we got the spin offs. But a Solo monster implied that our numbers meant nothing it was coming to keeeeeeell you weather you had your buddy with you or not. You couldn't run. You couldn't and you certainly couldn't out fight it. Whats more it left you so scared you couldn't even use your best weapon against it ... your intellect. shhh lay down and die in pools of your own fear stained excrement you pathetic food stuff.... See that's a monster. Grendel was a monster. The Minotaur was a monster. Jack the Ripper was a monster. But then so were those little tinny cute Compsognathus the "chick-sized" swarming-piranha-like-pack-dinosaurs [By the way fossil evidences now suggests Compsognathus was somewhat larger more on the order of scale of a Kobold Turkey]. Anyway Monsters should come in two varieties. Scary due to being unknown and deadly due to past behavior. If its not one of these its essentially a Race with a part in the socioeconomic life of the milieu.    

    So High fantasy books and my ratings and what I can take from them for a fantasy game... 

    * J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (set in Middle-earth).
    • I'm glad I read it. Its the connerstone of High Fantasy if not the originator (others gave birth to this field Lord Dunsany and E. R. Eddison to mention a couple) I re-read it recently and I was socked at how archaic and pompous Aragorn's dialog was. There are a number of things to admire in the world. The comprehensive history of Men and Elves but its odd to me the Hobbits have such a "dropped-freshly-into-it" feeling. I don't feel they are as well integrated. Really Peter Jackson's movies forever colour my perception of the book now - I think for worse - The films were great films ... I'm not sure they really reflect the books "tone" overly well. Dwaves still remain very much hairy, beer swilling endomoph stereotypes. I think H.C. Anderson's dwarves were better. I don't understand why dwarves mine so prodigiously - as opposed to men etc. The Elves are perfection and the other books which go into elf history and the history of Middle Earth are very interesting.  Spell casters in this world are also rare and powerful if we are to go purely from the ones noted in the novels. Either that or magic use is so subtle as to be relatively unnoticeable to the reader and hence not really the formulaic/hermetic type of spell use but something closer to glamor and fairy magic maybe. More dedicated Tolkien scholars could tell us I'm sure  
    * Terry Brooks's The Sword of Shannara and its sequels.
    • I like the sort of Little House on the Prairie feel I get from reading the very beginning of this novel. I have to say I did find this more enjoyable then LotR but I knew I was meant to like LotR more. What about it did I like more. I cant put my finder on it. Certainly the Tim and Greg Hildebrandt from the edition I read played a large part. Particularly Skull Kingdom. When your a teen a Skull shaped mountain is just super cool. I must remember if I go forward with a Fantasy game as I build what will be the sandpit I need to include places like that on the map. I think also at the time we were playing a lot of Divine Right and this and that game stuck together in my imagination. 
    * Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar Saga and others
    • I'm of mixed feelings on these novels. I again want to like them more then I really do. I think Silverthorne is his Empire Strikes back. I cant really think of anything I really want from this in terms of world building or fantasy gaming... I't maybe time for a re-read.
    * David Eddings' Belgariad and The Malloreon
    •  The Belgariad. What a fantastic would of stereotypes. I love the simplicity of this world and it really feels like a D&D trype of world to me. Admittedly magic is rare and very powerful (actually I think the only place its not is around a rpg table even then its powerful really).
    * Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series
    •  I've tried to get into this book three times and I cant get past the first few chapters. I'm told its great. Its one I would like to experience an its on my list to re-try.
    * Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea and its sequels
    • These I really do like although they feel more a kids novel to me.
     * George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series
    • Now this is where its at in my opinion. However these have as much in common with regular High Fantasy gaming as a historical museum does. I've heard it compared to the war of the roses and I dont really see the similarities I love that the characters don't seem to have script immunity. I like watching the struggle for power across Westeros and I like the unpredictable nature of  the story. The take out for me from these is to let the dice fall where they may. That unpredictability makes for powerful stories and an "edge" to the session you cant get any other way. 
    * Margaret Weis's and Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance series
    • So these are the closest to rpg'ing and yet ... the teen fic part I can manage with its the fitting it to D&D editing which I'm less happy with. Or should I say the disparity between parts of the books where this is done and then other parts where its not. I utterly hate how players picked up Raistlin Majere and used that character. I find him a bit of a caricature. However Lord Soth was a great villain and I like the dragon mythology even if the Dragon Lances themselves where a bit of an after thought (as I wrote this I was thinking what if they had the feel of a jedi's lightsaber and further more were polymorphic weapons which could assume the form of a rod/1h-sword/2-hsword/lance/ and could even act as a short ranged weapon by "lancing" out to hit a target at distance ... hum that's got to go in my notebooks too)  
     * Roger Zelazny's Amber series and Lord of Light
    • Like  George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series these are leagues away from your average fantasy game. However there are huge similarities between this and Planescape. I had the original audiobooks of Amber read by RZ himself. He did Corwin's dialogue like a hard boiled private eye which forever changed  my view of them. I think after that they maybe they have more in common with Lord of Light then is immediately apparent. 
    • Which is a great book in its own right. Possibly his best work. Its true trans humanist fiction written in 1967. I can see its influence in Empire of the Petal Throne and Jorune (at lest I think that I can not really sure if they credit inspiration or not) My Many Stalwart Heroes game was an effort to try and do this using FATE. My players find FATE hard - well any game where they have to visualize the character first. They find they grow into the character over time. Anyway as a result we put that game on hold. I had always through we could pick it up again and use Savage Worlds as the engine to power the game. I now think I could also try using Ubiquity a favorite game system of mine or use a retro-clone even try maybe the wonderful and elegant Stars with out Number as a engine. That game really appeals to me for its fantastic example of a great game in a self contained package. You could go with just that one book some dice and a few friends.   
    * Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series
    • This is a very mature attempt at fantasy and its not a Tolkien clone which is appreciated. I like many of the races and the world has lots of nice fantasy elements. I appropriate Thomas Covenan's confusion at binging in the predicament he is in. I really don't on the other hand appreciate the maudlin, self serving, petulant, sado-masochistic, coward that he is. Really a good anti-hero I guess because I hate him with a passion.      
    * Robin Hobb's The Farseer Trilogy
    • I wanted to like this book. But predictably didn't. I found much of the fever dream sequences of the recovering Fitz annoying and I also found the number of time she beat Fitz to a pulp to be repetitious the "magic" as also wee bit irritating to me. I also found the story to be quite straight forward and predictable. I think to myself that if  George R. R. Martin wrote this story Fitz is dead very early and we really have quite a different and potentially more exciting novel. ehe. 
    The other thing I want to acknowledge is there is a huge difference between a novel and a RPG. One is very structured and polished and to a large degree a private creation under your control. RPG's a unique in that they are an emergent entertainment involving the group. One thing I have learned is all the preplanned and meticulous campaign material a GM designs before a game and plonks down as background is as nothing to what happens at the game table. Table is really cannon. So Show dont tell and work what you like into your game sessions otherwise its just stuff sitting in your head and the unread player handout you spent time slaving over.   

    So those are the ones you know... next blog some of my influences in the form of novels, movies and possibly even games.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Game Master Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (GM-AD/AH)

    I've decided I want a place to talk rpg's and gaming and other musing. Mostly I want to track my sliding interest in all things *rpg* hobby related. To me that's the table-top game like D&D [which is one of my most least played versions of rpgs], MMO's, Board Games and Minis. I'm also interested in seeing how long I can keep to the practice of making updates here.

    I've run a lot of different table-top rpg games over the years.
    I started as a Traveller rpg player and quickly graduated to running that game. Gamaworld as a GM and then into a great AD&D1e game with my friends Kevin and James. We did a whole-heaping-steaming-stack-load of games together.

    From Stormbringer, Call of Cthulhu, Cyberpunk and even the hardly known but truly great game Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes (MSPE) which started my love of pulp rpg. I GMed maybe two thirds of these games.
    And yes this was in the 80's which was when I was a teen, although I got into rpg's in 1979. When I was ten was when I got D&D.
    My most successful game to-date was my Vampire: The Masquerade game. This was successful in large parts due to the willpower and humanity statistics in the game. We used this subsystem to make the characters act more like believable people - if you can say that about a Vampire. However I'm sure if  you're a role-player you can appreciate, often times the characters in a rolepaying game don't act at all like people in the real world do - they have none of the inhibitions, foibles or idiosyncrasies of a normal personality. Generally they are beyond heroic and iconic they are impervious. To emotion mainly but ultimately to connection with the game world and with us as participants in that story.

    I want to clarify I'm the first to make the PC's feel special, heroic and a "cut-above" but I want them to have soul.  Pendragon go it too. Same with Ars Magica. But its only a handful of games which give playing support for this type of drama. A lot of people without a drama or literary brackgorund would either not think about injecting weakness into their character portrayal or find it to ...difficult on some level to bring to the game table.  Just see how some people grapple with aspects in FATE for an example of this.

    This got me thinking... can you foster this at the game table with out subsystems to support it. As a whole I'm not in favor of subsystems but some "subsystems" start - at least I think they do - from advice on how to GM/Role-play.

    So I'm going to look at what I can do to foster this and other role-playing at my table.

    I should be interesting.

    I'm running Shadowrun every fortnight at the moment. a) I don't like fortnightly games I think weekly is better  and b) I dont really feel invested in Shadowrun - which is odd because it plays well with my group and we have fun with it. But I just don't connect with it as a world. Yes I do think Elves and Dwarves are silly... "Waiter there are demihuman's in my sci-fi" ...  but I like the magic system its just so cool and well guns ... I love gun games.

    What is really odd here is that I can "get" a superhero game which is in some ways even more kiddy the Shandowrun.

    That brings me around the hidden underlying topic the next post which is all about what games we play when the group cant get together which as luck would have it is more often then not.