Established Character Destiny

Friday, 18. February 2011

(Flickr / AZAdam) - Pere Lachaise Grave

I like having somewhat detailed characters within my games.    At least, starting with a little bit of details.  Background, family, connections, training and schooling, so on and so forth.  It doesn’t have to be incredibly long, but a couple of paragraphs works wonders in establishing some connection between the character and the player as well as making the involved.

Modern characters though, can take some serious time to put together, particular if you are thinking of doing anything over the equivalent of a level 1 character.  There is perks, feats, disadvantages and flaws and an entire other number of considerations that go into a character that can make them take some serious time in getting together.  As opposed to say, a an old school basic D&D character which you can put together in 5 or 10 minutes and get rolling.

Now of course, the downsides to being long and my thoughts…  Are we establishing a destiny for the character in the process?  Is it simply assumed that this character is going to be great or at least worth something simply because the time spent in the character creation?

The older characters you could simply crush without too much remorse and it would be a fast re roll to the them up to speed as the character concept is finished.  The characters had no real expectations of surviving (particularly at level 1) just as it might be in say actual combat for us standard mortals.

Newer characters of course, you have some pause.  Simply because of all the time invested, that you don’t pick them off on a casual basis.  Of course, maybe that’s just myself.  What are your thoughts on the matter?

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No D&D in… Prison?

Thursday, 27. January 2011

Alcaztraz (Flicker, Tim Pearce, Los Gatos)

This is an interesting one related to D&D. Hat tip to Geeks are Sexy for pointing it out. Well, “weird” may be more accurate but it’s still worth pointing out. The seventh circuit court of United States Court of Appeals has ruled that

“After concluding that the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (“D&D”) represented a threat to prison security, officials at Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution took action to eradicate D&D within the prison’s wall.”

Go ahead, read the link at Geeks if you don’t want to read the entire brief, then come back here and comment!
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MMO & RPG Crossover

Wednesday, 15. December 2010

WoW - Lich King

There are some interesting questions posed at Beyond the Black Gate regarding MMO and RPG crossover.  If you’re too lazy to go look, the specifics are regarding setting customization, rules customization, and character development driving the game.  The assertion is that MMO’s will get there eventually, simply because there is so much money involved. World of Warcraft is a good one to pick from since it’s currently the giant, however it doesn’t have all the distinguishing features of some of the other MMO’s.

Now admittedly some of these have already happened efficiently in games.  Neverwinter nights with it’s GM’ing tools did a pretty good job with rules and setting customization, within a limited frame of what the tool set could do.  NWN 2 improved on this in some ways and fell away in others, namely the ease of using the GM tool when it was released.  Rules tweaking.. not so much so.  Some of the physics and other mechanics of the game could be programmed however in Second Life from my understanding.

As far as MMO’s, City of Heroes/Villains has a pretty good generator for making custom adventures.  The tool offers a lot of flexibility in setting up an adventure from dialog to various combat scenarios as well as, however it doesn’t really allow for the setting “mood” changes that a GM can impart.  The genre is that of an action superhero game and its hard to shift that dynamic to anything else.  Moreso, the game has the standard MMO drivers to continue playing, which I will address below.

For rules customization there has been something that you could tweak spur of the moment.. but to instantly adopt something, you’d really have to look at some of the more “classless” games, such as EVE.    True, it’s impossible to implement anything at more than a newb level, but that’s possible to change.  Final fantasy was able to implement class games, but as mentioned it requires a lot of outside input to make it happen. 

Character development driving the game?  I think it’ll never happen. Never ever.  At least not in the sense of character development being “further developing the character in terms elements unrelated to pure advancement of power or other advantages.”  Play in MMO’s revolves around 3 concepts:  entertainment, social circles, and character advancement.  If you remove the MMO element?  Well, then you can put some character development in, but from what I’ve seen otherwise it is mutually exclusive.

I think at best that this is something that can be filled partway, but the real crossover of why people enjoy role playing games.. the same reasons that Al mentioned aren’t going to be fulfilled anytime soon.  I’m going to leverage that character development as one of the main tabletop advantages, and something that it will keep the crown for a long time.

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Art Styles in RPG’s

Tuesday, 14. December 2010

Art of HG Vol1 (DP9, S. Jackson Games)

As we look at any reference book for games, you see a continuous evolution of the rules, for better or for worse.  Along with this in most cases, is an evolution of art styles between one edition or another.   If you look further from one game to another, the styles are wildly divergent from intense black and whites, to anime, to themes that fight right into movies.  Does the art style of a particular game influence your style of play?

I think it definitely influences how consistently the game world is viewed from player to player.  Along with that, it sets a tone for the style of play within the game world itself.  This isn’t to say that it can’t be deviated from, but the set idea of the game comes from its artwork.  If it’s say, dark and gritty then it’s hard to get the mind out of the idea that the setting is in fact the same, even if it is in reality less serious.  Likewise if the art has a lighter feeling, it takes a little work to get into a darker mood.  White wolf and Heavy gear would probably be my 2 examples there, anime art always has a little bit of a cartoonish feel to me. 

Likewise, we can also look at art between editions.  D&D is the most obvious  in my case, so I’ll use that as an example.  It spans from the classical art in first and second edition, moving into a very Tolkien feeling in 3rd and 3.5, finally to a somewhat cartoon world of warcraft feeling in 4 and essentials.  I think this ties more into what the public acceptability of popular is.. but generally invokes the feeling of an epic fantasy from all of them.  The styling just dictates the flavor of epic fantasy.  I think the flavor in this case changes more from one setting to another.. looking at Greyhawk or Darksun or Ravenloft. It seems to me that affects my perception of the play style considerably more.

Does anyone else find there is something of an expectation based on the art styling?

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Zombie Apocalypse Survival

Wednesday, 8. December 2010

(Flickr / Darkpatator)

Faust was kind enough to include me as to a zombie survival topic, he’s got some sound logic as to his arguments however despite anything his group of survivors pull off; my initial jist of course is that given the situation, most Americans are outright screwed for a variety of reasons. My primary thinking of this is a couple reasons. 1) a gross lack of primitive skills 2) Generally poor physical conditioning and 3) little to no preparedness. Getting food is one of them (and a -very- important one at that.) but the problem goes far deeper than that really.

The system here in the states functions particularly efficiently because it’s become hyper specialized. Assuming you’re employed, most likely you are doing some rather specific sets of tasks, research or whatnot. That in turn generates income and if you’re like most other people you take that income and turn it around to buy food, gadgets and other things you need to survive or generally want. Such systems work rather well until you have systemic disruptions. What happens when the net goes down, the power goes out or the water stops working? Mostly.. we’re screwed essentially until it gets fixed. There is little redundancy for operating outside of the finely tuned system.
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Using Established Settings

Monday, 6. December 2010

Yay, star wars trilogy

Although I don’t watch a tremendous amount of television for movies for that matter, I’m always fascinated by the huge amounts of time that goes into making them.  Not only do you have to pen everything in, you have to create everything visually as well and then take your time filming it to get the shots you want.   It’s produces a well defined setting that looks like it would be great to play in… except for the fact that in most cases the settings are already encased in stone.  We can use books and TV for sake of the argument as well, since they’re more or less the same backdrop.

Star wars is a pretty good example to work with because everyone is familiar with the setting, most people like it for one reason or another and consequently a lot of people play it.  It has a predisposed timeline and major characters however.. events X, Y and Z will happen unless you’re playing away from something that is canon.  As a result any other action that goes on can never be within the first chair of action.  You’re lucky if you get into second, but most of the time you would be third or even fourth.  If you’re game for that, go ahead.  I want my players to have the flexibility to do nearly anything without inconveniences such as pre written story to adhere to. 

This is precisely why I love Knights of the Old Republic.  Nothing like a few thousand years of blank slate to play with, of course with the exception of whats already established in terms of planets, technology and setting.  You have virtually all of the advantages, and none of the hinderances from above.

This can go with pretty much any setting you might imagine of course; Willow, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia, Terminator, Blade runner all have very interesting settings that you can work with, except for the established timeline.  I think the consistency that film produces is some of the draw to these, everyone more or less sees the same thing with the exception of what details are you focusing on.  Eventually however you’re going to run into that while playing unless you set your campaign far enough ahead of or behind whats already going on.  Or, maybe just do a series of short adventures within the settings.

That is the angle that I generally try and work from - before or after the time lines or just do a short series of one off adventures that fall in-between or perhaps run parallel to the main movie plot.  I avoid using any of the main characters like the plague, unless they are pure background characters.  If I wanted fan fiction I’d write it!

Who else uses some of the established settings, and what are your work arounds?

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House Rules = Cars?

Wednesday, 10. November 2010

Everyone does it to a lesser or greater extent.  We take our systems and tweak them either adding our own rules, changing the stock ones, or removing unnecessary parts.  Hmm, this sounds an awful lot like something else we own.  Vehicles perhaps?  Games; like vehicles are designed to function in a particular fashion with parts changes affecting their performance.  Everyone knows what a “stock” car looks like and how the normal game plays.  It’s somewhat expected that when you’re running a game, that there are some default guidelines that make it what it is.  The question is of course how much can you change under the hood before its no longer stock?  I’ll answer these after I get some feedback of course..

Unfortunately unlike cars there are some other complications behind lots of house rules or rules changes.  Unlike cars, where you can normally just hop in and drive without too many problems rules changes have to be memorized.  They have to be taught and they have to be remembered as well to be put to use and of course there are always the rules lawyers there to protest and exploit.  I’d guess with cars of course, this is assuming you aren’t swapping the gas and brakes or moving the steering wheel to the other side or messing with the shifting pattern…   So what are the structural components that are usually avoid being changed when house rules come into play?

What are some of your standard or nonstandard house rules?

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Holidays in Games

Monday, 1. November 2010

Something I think that’s sorely lacking in a lot of game settings is proper holidays. Obviously in the case of modern settings, they are very easy to work with in that you can simply look up the holiday. Perhaps more importantly, you can look up the predecessor to the modern holiday, as Samhain is to Halloween or Saturnalia to Christmas. This gives some good historical backgrounds to work with and figure out possible rivalries of secret societies and a lot of other toys to work with.

In the case of other settings however you are at the mercy of your source books or your own creativity. They’re typically very sparse on the information only to give a general portfolio and maybe some favored performances of miracles even if that. If you are lucky it’s like D&D’s 3rd edition where you get a whole book about it, Deities and Demigods. Oh, wait – that was stats so you could battle gods. So essentially you are almost on your own for this, which is rather a shame. There are great possibilities for events and disruption on these days, so they can almost be an adventure within themselves.

A good start would be to come up with 1 or 2 major holidays or each of your major deities, and intersperse them appropriately throughout your game calender (You do have a game calender don’t you?) The harvest deities goes in the fall, rebirths in the spring and so on and so forth. That in most cases should give you a dozen or so to play with throughout the year. From there, it’s just a matter of figuring out what do with them. This certainly doesn’t mean everything should be celebrated or role played, but it definitely gives a good breakup of the normal adventuring patterns.

Celebrations typically require a lot of logistics and planning, so that could be an adventure in and of itself. Rival deities sniping at each other is another good possibility, with disruption of said events. Gods and Goddess’s displeasure is typically well known; so if the proper holidays aren’t celebrated.. your game world might be in for a rough year. This isn’t even bringing in cultists, religious wars or the other amounts of entertainment just a little added detail can bring.

Celebrations of course, give a good opportunity to have a little out of game fun as well. Since I’m all about having fun, appropriate cooking, desserts and drinks only enhance the experience when not taken to too much excess and can give a good additional flavor to your gaming.

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Mild Costuming

Friday, 15. October 2010

Typically costuming is a live action role play (Who are role playing) or society of creative anachronism thing (Who are attempting to stay in character.)  I believe we can use it outside of that however to add flavor and character without going to extremes.  This should prevent people from being too put off about it.  In addition, some of the items are quite useful outside of gaming as well so its hardly a wasted investment.

The first is simply to add a garment or to in order to set the mood while playing.  Simple pieces that have cross purposes for outside gaming are a good place to start.   The simplest ones that I can think of are hats and cloaks.  In a worst case scenario both are usable on Halloween at the very least, but on a more practical side they can easily be used elsewhere.  The key here is to look for something that is stylish without gross modification.  Swashbuckler type hats with the feather removed make a fairly handy and good looking fedora depending on how the hat is made.  Everyone (guys especially) should have a few fairly interesting hats since it seems the only thing in vogue nowadays is those stupid baseball hats.  Cloaks in addition to being very stylish easily double as a coat (their intended purpose) a blanket or a mat for picnics and the like.  I would recommend getting one that is closer to full round or 3/4 round for this purpose.  Another piece that comes to mind no so much for its versatility but simply because I would like to see the style come back is bracers.  They’re usually fairly cheap and are made in a large variety of styles.

The other option is to help enforce role play.  I’ve had generally good success with this, and I’ve heard most other people who have tried this have as well.  Typically it is done with hats as they’re the easiest to get on and off quickly.  The concept is when a player is wearing their hat any words that come out of their mouth are in character.  This makes it real easy to find out who is acting and when and generally simplifies the life of the storyteller.  Usually after a couple of creative missteps (“I say we rob the guy!” or  “Man, this guy is a dick!”) to NPC’s face they’ll be in character fairly stoutly with the hat on.  If your players are doing this, I suggest that a storyteller does this as well to maintain solidarity.

With a little investment you can easily have an item that is cross purpose and adds some nice flavor and mood to gaming.  I like to attempt to work off a model that investments are make life better outside of our hobbies as well and this is a good angle to work from.

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Justice for all?

Wednesday, 13. October 2010

It’s an interesting question to see how most storytellers implement justice for player characters. Players have a tendency of killing everything in sight that might or might not be an opponent, and then usually walking around like they own the place. When questioned about the carnage, a simple response of “We saved you all” or “They were the enemy.” tends to get them off mostly scott free, particularly if you’re in some sort of authoritarian society and are friend with those in power.

Likewise, a similiar situation exists if you’re running campaigns of forces of good versus forces of evil. Picking off the opposing side is usually the right thing to do. These are fun campaigns to play from time to time, but also can get stale relatively quick.

A more interesting problem is that of settings in semi-modern or modern setting with a good amount of forensics to determine who did what, and a government that wants things relatively calm. Do you have them argue it out in court cases, or simply on the run? They’re going to have to do a lot of work to stay ahead of authorities, particularly of they did a good job of stepping on toes.

Futuristic settings can vary wildly as well. In an outlaws type setting, nearly everyone is charged with something or another and virtually everyone friend and foe is on the run from someone. It’s a feature of the setting. In anything less than this, the players are going to have to work real hard to stay ahead of those that would seek to bring them to justice for havoc caused.

How do you handle such situations with your players?

(On a side note, I’ve been absolutely killed this week in between work and travel trying to keep up with everything.)

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