Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roleplay blog article round up

So I've been traveling around the blogosphere and this is what I've found.

25 plot seeds for Vampire.

Vampire NPC List Play Aid to help keep it all straight.

A really good summary of the main points of vampire, and some details on another person's vampire adventure rolled into one.

A vitae play aid print out.

Ammunition record sheets.

Good soundtracks for roleplaying.

And using music in Call of Cthulhu.

So there's some additional reading for you.

Game Translation Series

Building a campaign can be a lot of fun but, as I've realised, sometimes you can become so obsessed with the beautiful scene dressing of story, characters, and world building that you forget the little matter of what the players are meant to do and how you're hoping they play the game. There's nothing worse than dreaming up a game of political subtlety in a fantasy game and your players create a fleet of abrasive crossbowman ... except when you realise that you've woven your game in such a way that the players get punished when they're subtle or try to rely on social skills.

So what I'm going to do on Thursday is analyse various videogames (and occasionally published adventures or campaigns) to explore how elements of those particular games are woven to create certain experiences. I'll point out what mechanics, tropes, and abilities allow you to play a game of Thief or Assassin's Creed or Pandora Directive by examining which ones those videogames (and sometimes published adventures) do it.

Why not just focus on the published adventures?

Well, I'm glad you asked. Videogames give you a better idea of the experience of gameplay than reading several sheets of paper so you can more easily take a look at analysed games by viewing gameplay trailers, Let's Plays, or purchasing the game yourself and giving it a whirl. If I merely broke down published adventures, you'd have to run them yourselves to experience how they work and, even then, you wouldn't have the players' experience.

Besides, there are a lot more videogames than even roleplaying systems and they often have their little nuances and hidden mechanics that allow for that crafted experience that can vary quite a bit from game to game. Sure, different roleplaying systems also can bring in highly unique mechanics but it's simpler for my not all that rules-loving brain to grasp concepts I can see and use rather than ones written down.

Anyway, I'll list out the various articles I will do down here and link to them as I do them:

Tex Murphy
Dead Island
Assassin's Creed
Fallout 3
Alan Wake
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The Walking Dead
Sims 3
The Last Express
Blackwell Series
Metro 2033
The Suffering.
Silent Hill Series
Alone In The Dark: The New Nightmare
Forbidden Siren
Dragon Age 2
Half Life Series
Haunting Ground
Clocktower 3
Silent Hill: Downpour
Castlevania 64
In Cold Blood
Left 4 Dead Cold Fear
The Last of Us
Project Zero Series 
Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Beyond: Two Souls
The Cat Lady 
Gears of War
Blood Dragon
Tomb Raider (2013)
Deadly Premonitions
This War of Mine
Vampire: the Masquerade (Bloodlines)

Game Translation: Tex Murphy Series

In celebration of the Kickstarter bid to create a sequel of this wonderful series, I'll begin with the Tex Murphy series with a focus on Pandora Directive. You play Tex Murphy, an old-school private investigator in 2043 where nuclear radiation has turned half the population into mutants. You've been asked to locate a mysterious professor, Thomas Malloy, which leads him to deal with events involving a serial murderer known as the "Black Arrow Killer", the so-called Alien crash-landing at Roswell in 1947, and the ancient Mayan civilisation.

It's partially an interactive movie where you move around in first person mode to examine the scenery, pick up clues and solve puzzles; then it switches to movie clips in conversations where you get to pick one of three conversational options based on short attitude-based statements, show the person clues, or ask about clues or people.

You have total freedom of movement and can lie down, crouch, stand up, or stand tall, to aid in your search of the various locations. This allowed the designers to hide clues in drawers, under desks, besides bins, and on top of cupboards which gives a real feel of immersion.

This could be integrated into a campaign by requiring players to mention specifically where they're searching and how. You'd probably need a rough sketch of a floorplan and would need to give quite a bit of detail into how the room is set up - ideally described in an interesting and entertaining way. In Pandora Directive, when you look at an object, Tex describes it with a dry wit, and you could also include this so that when players say: "I search the bins" you say:

"The slightly charred inside of the bin is filled with the burnt out butts of cigars and cigarettes, more than anything else. Huh ... they're cuban. At least he had a hobby."


"Ugh gross! Icky roaches and used tissues. Not a whole lot more."

You don't have to mimic the searching player's character voice, as you'll never get the internal monologue right, but you could develop a campaign style or mood through the use of your descriptions.

In Pandora Directive, conversations are often entertaining and each character is richly drawn which really encourages you to keep talking or try out other dialogue options. There's also a big element of surprise in how the conversations progress and this keeps you engaged - whereas a lot of other games that try the same technique tend to have more boring dialogue with more filler. Avoid that.

Often times in campaigns, conversations with NPCs are allowed to go on for longer than usual with not a whole lot of movement. You can always spice it up by letting a secret slip, revealing an unexpected character trait, or saying something in a way that helps put the pieces together. You can also end it by having NPCs get a phone call or have something else to do to keep the plot moving. Leave them wanting more. It also prevents them from watering down the facts they got in that conversation with a whole bunch of waffle and helps them keep important details fresh in their mind.

Pandora Directive is an adventure game but the puzzles always make sense. It might be a ripped up letter that needs to be pieced together, jigsaw puzzles, photographs that need to be scanned for clues, combination locks, timing a run around an office corner to mop the floor and thus trip and knock out a security guard ... y'know, things like that.

As far as campaigns go, prop it when you got it, is the best advice for this. Puzzles can be irritating if there's nothing visual or tangible to play around with. A ripped up letter would be boring to piece together with dice rolls but can be a fun and easy exercise if you allow them to piece together with their hands, perhaps using sticky tape.

Pandora Directive also provided two difficulty settings, Entertainment and Game Players mode. On Entertainment Mode, you could access hints and bypass puzzles by expending some of your points which you couldn't do on Game Players Mode.

Rather than making the decision for them, it's a good idea to simply ask your players for their preferences. In Entertainment Mode you could either give them a points system to purchase hints or use a Clue Token system where they have to solve puzzles or clue trails on their own to get more Clue Tokens to spend on harder puzzles. Also ensure that you offer incentives to players who solved certain puzzles in an allotted time or within a certain number of moves - whether clue tokens or re-rolls or cookies. Anything really. Players like their rewards.

The other form of puzzles are the combination puzzles. Tex Murphy's are more intuitive than most but they still wouldn't work unless certain items were lampshaded by being pick-up-able while most items were not.

If you want combination puzzles, first poll your players. Some find them very groan-worthy and would much prefer to find their own unique solutions (you could then have your combination options within the past few rooms and nudge them to it if they can't think of anything). If they're keen, then you'll need to point out which items in various rooms they'll need to put in their inventory for later, especially if you're going to make some items puzzles in their own right (such as sneaking the pen from the guard). In a roleplaying game, players could theoretically pick up hundreds of things in any one room and might not think charcoal was a necessary thing to take unless you point them to it.

A campaign based around Pandora Directive, or including elements of it, would certainly appeal to Investigators with enough to keep Explorers and Communicators on the edge of their seats as well. It's not really an Action Hero or Tactician type of game though they might still enjoy playing with the old Noir detective tropes, especially if you did include a few car chases and gunfights to break the so-called 'monotony'.

If you'd like to take a look at the trailer to learn more about it, you can check it out here. If you'd like to read the sort of tropes that the Tex Murphy series used, you can find them here.

You can also find the games themselves, ready for purchase, over at Good Old Games. I'd recommend it. Even though it's an older game it's withstood the test of time well enough to still be worth playing even with jaded high graphics eyes.

Hmm, for the next Game Translation, you have a choice of these: Dead Island, Left for Dead, Fall Out 3, The Sims 3, Half Life 2, Prototype, Skyrim, Deus Ex, The Last Express, Realms of the Haunting, and pretty much any survival horror or horror game. Those should be enough choices for now. If no one picks anything by next week, it'll be Dead Island.

If you want to see the list of games I've done thus far (more useful if you're coming to this article later on), you can find the Game Translation series starter over here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Interview with a Vampire LARP ST: Christopher Bond (BondingChris)

Christopher Bond is the current Venue Storyteller in what was the Australian Camarilla and is now called Beyond the Sunset. This means that he runs a Live Action Roleplaying Game set in a global world where his players can scheme with those in Sydney, America, and many other countries. It's a unique experience and one that comes with a large number of demands, particularly since his player base could range from 10 to 28 on any given night and total strangers can sign up as players to his game.

Shannon: So tell us a little bit about your roleplaying background?

Chris: Well, I started when I was about 7 or 8. I got exposed to Baldur’s Gate over at my cousin’s house. He played it and after enjoying Age of Empires I wanted to have a go. I began my journey when my uncle bought me Baldur’s Gate 2. It took me by surprise how much I enjoyed it. The narrative was intense, the themes were dark and the protagonist was wonderful to control. During my final years of high school I began playing Dark Hersey. Aside from that, I explored the Black Isle PC games and other types of role playing games.

Shannon: You were a player in the Camarilla for a fair while, then you became a LARP Storyteller in Vampire: the Requiem. What inspired you to make the jump?

Chris: My characters had just died and the current ST was looking at becoming the National Storyteller. I figured I’d fill the void. I also felt that my characters had run their course. The story, for them at least, had ended. Whilst both had been tragically struck short, they’d gone down like I wanted them too. Rank with his ‘my horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse’ sort of deal and Aidan were killed in a way very fitting to how I played him. One in which there weren’t any punches pulled. I respect the player for finishing Aidan the way he did. It was cowardly and with only the interests of self-preservation in mind, just like kindred would really act. My respect for that player has only grown since taking the position of ST.

Shannon: What's the best part of storytelling a LARP?

Chris: Encouraging people to portray their story. Often when DMing a D&D game or similar it’s your own story which is the important one. STing is different; you watch others and create conflict for their story. It’s really exciting watching a character turn full circle and grow into something that they once hated. It particularly is excellent watching characters that - for lack of a better word - go from ‘evil’ to ‘good’ or at the very least, selfless.

Shannon: And the worst?

Chris: There are a few. It’s often a thankless job. If you do it to get your ego massaged then go ahead, but those massages are few and far between. The players' complaints can become a problem but you learn to deal with it. With players metagaming, well, you try to fix it but you can only lead a horse to water, you can’t stop it stealing water from your backpack. The writing - there’s SO MUCH TO WRITE! But all those pale compared to the enjoyment you get from running the game.

Shannon: What do you wish someone had told you about running a Vampire: the Requiem LARP, before you made the jump?

Chris: That players are … players. They each have a view of how the game should work and often, whether right or wrong (if such things exist when discussing a game) their view is different to yours. They can often over react and this brings larger problems to the foreground. Sometimes they act like children. But just like a father, I still love them. Even when they do things they shouldn’t or complain when we have to take them shopping.

Shannon: If you could change one thing about the game you're currently running, what would it be?

Chris: I’d love more players. I know. I just spent about half a page being grumpy about players but I love them for all their flaws. I love sharing this great experience and whilst I know everyone can’t get along, I’d love them to. I just crave watching new players get hooked, I love them entering into the political arena, finding the dark secrets of their covenants and clans. The shock at the feudal system and the need for respect in this world. The older player bringing characters with shock and awe style tactics, the memorizing of the Invictus protocols, the Lancea quotes, the Dragon logic, the Carthian idealism and the Crone worship. I love all of it and I want to share that rich world with as many people as I can.

Shannon: Well, thanks Chris. I think you've given us a bit of insight into the LARP world and that last paragraph really sums up the iconic Requiem experience for anyone who's curious, so we'll leave it there.

Next week, I'll start interviewing some players.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Giving Players A Choice of Campaigns

Since I've offered my players to choose from between a few different campaigns to try to find one that we all enjoy, I've been trying to figure out just HOW to give them that choice. A few brief descriptions is little better than a vague style guide and would end up being more of a choice of system than a choice of game. The two are linked but not identical.

So then I thought about videogame trailers which, obviously, I can't make because I'm not rich, a dab hand at computer modeling, and I don't have that much time on my hands, so I went with its poorer cousin: The Powerpoint. Now I can use a whole 20 - 40 sentences, brief and impactful, on around 20 slides with pictures to make those sentences interesting. Besides, the pictures themselves really enforce the style guide. Fantastic!

Only I then realised that while it gives a vague idea of what the story is about, it still doesn't cover what the gameplay is going to be like. There's been few games where I haven't enjoyed the story, even if the gameplay was a bit lacking. So I figured, why not make a few roleplay demos? For a few fortnights, I'll do up around six campaign demos and folks can keep playing through them until they've found one they like.

Each demo lasts one session, too, which cuts down on people wasting time because once the session ends ... it ends. Unless they select that campaign, they'll never see any further along and even then, they'll have to wait to replay up to that point and it'd doubtless be a little different by that point.

Of course, the downside is that if I do a really terrific job selling all of it, it'll be agony for them to choose but that could be fun as well.

The other downside is that confining myself to a single session to really epitomise and 'sell' the campaign is making me really think about it and try to cram as much into each session as I can. Not in that wonky "kitchen sink" way but in a more streamlined how-can-each-encounter-blend-into-the-next-in-a-kick-ass-way way. (Not the most streamlined sentence, I'll admit).

So some point soon I'll start writing up the various adventure writing processes and ideas and stuff because I need to talk to somebody about it and, well, you're it. Besides, it might be interesting to a few of you. I know I always like to sticky beak into other people's processes.

It's Lonely At The Top - ST Blues

Man, the trouble with being the Storyteller or Dungeon Master or whatever you like to call yourself is that most of it is like plotting a novel. Not the actual gameplay aspect (or your players will be bored as hell) but the actual NPC generation and the plot generation and the events and the encounters and the traps and the combat statistics and you just sit there and you dream big, and you tweak, and you come up with cool ways to showcase your player's talents and then.... keep it to yourself or maybe you blog about a little but you can't just sit down and talk folk through your mental reasoning because, let's face it, the players want to play and would get bored if you did. People who aren't playing the game have nothing invested in it and will be doubly bored and likely think it's a dumb idea because, well, most ideas are unless they're very simple or you have the full context.

To make matters worse, when you get to run it all those mechanics and cogs and wheels that you had in play, all the juggled balls, all the machinery behind the scenes, never gets seen. You never get to explain all those neat ideas that you had which didn't come up or the way you steered them ever so deftly to the answer. And even with the stuff they see, in three to five hours it's over ... or they've at least chewed through a lot of it.

Gah! It's sure lonely at the top.

Flashpoint: Shopping!

Well, we were all feeling a bit lazy so it was a gentle session. They arrived in Augustana but, due to the high tensions between Cheliax and Andoren, and the fact they lacked any signal flags, meant that a naval ship with an Iomedaean captain approached them to figure out who they were. It was all quickly sorted out and they were allowed to dock in the Shipbuilding district across from the Office of Privateering Actions where a small crowd of Andorens waited to greet the new freed slaves, as is their customs.

The ex-slaves were given small woven baskets with fresh loaves of bread, given little blessings like herbal U-shapes that were put on their wrists, liberty bells were rung, and they were also given little vouchers that were made from small, flat stones with images carved on them (the store sign images). Hallik went down in manacles, of course, though the Andorens were too polite to boo him openly (or rather he was too unknown).

Everyone went into the Office of Privateering Actions to be processed and given their temporary writ of citizenship and told of the offer to stay at the Pirate's Fallen Trousers Inn free for a week (it was pointed out that the name was gnomish, it's not a brothel, it's actually a family-friendly establishment) which is on the inland-facing side of the hill. They then split up.

Lhye went with Lieutenant Archer to Aegis Hill to drop off the prisoner and the scroll case, mostly to see Hallik off, but he was too easily goaded by the old ex-drill sergeant who manned the sally port and was soon seen off when he traded insults. Lhye then went shopping, spending a particular amount of time around the M.L. Cahill Book Store and purchasing Seventy Seven Stings (a Calistrian text) written in Varisian, and a very expensive recipe for Butterfish (based off the Elven magical recipes in the elf book) written in Elven. Lunjun also purchased here a map book and a Cartography Map of the Inner Seas. They were both curious about what made the Witch-Cults of Northern Avistan so expensive (250gp) but none of them could afford to buy it.

Lhye, Lunjun, and Lenny, all went to the Naval Armoury to sell their excess masterwood goods, though Lenny didn't like the price offered for her masterwork whip and decided to keep it instead. The Naval Armoury didn't pay in gold, but in 'cheques' that could be used to make purchases in most Andoren cities, or cashed in at the Abadaran temple, but of course they didn't want to mention that as they want more trade for Andoren, not overseas.

I used a cool little technique to provide them with the shops so that they could browse through the shops and what they specifically had, and at their specific prices, rather than having to constantly tell them what was there. It meant I only had to roleplay a short bit of what the store owners were like, and a bit of what the store was like, and they could otherwise keep themselves entertained browsing.

It involved 2 - 3 slips of card and I'll scan a picture of them tomorrow so you can take a real look. The first card has a picture of the shop. The second card had a description of the shop and the store owners / clerks. The third had a table containing the equipment and prices. I didn't bother listing anything out of the core book or the Pirates of the Inner Seas as it was assumed they could find all of that easily enough. That way they only had to fiddle with two books and the card they were looking at.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Gamification and Immersion Slides

Roleplaying is an interesting kettle of fish because there are often twin aims to the adventure design, particularly in the World of Darkness. On the one hand you have the temptation to create a realistic, immersive world with little need for suspension of disbelief. On the other hand you have the temptation to create strange and unusual situations for the PCs to beat using videogame, or metagame, logic.

The perfect example for this temptation involves ventilation shafts. On the one hand, they're flimsy, echoing metal tubes with often sharp edges at the connections that are rarely sized for a person. On the other hand, they're the perfect non-combat way to slip from room to room through the rooms that YOU want them to journey to (leading to funny situations where one room leads to another room, rather than the outside).

Another example is illegally accessing a crime scene. In the modern real world, CSI professionals will go over the evidence afterwards and if you've left trace evidence or witnesses behind (say, neighbours or folks driving by) then they'll get you for crime scene tampering at the very least. But if you make it super-rigid and realistic, then there can be no crime scene fun except through super powers like Astral Projection or a game where everyone is a police officer rigorously obeying the rules.

Every Storyteller and, indeed, Dungeon Master must make the decision of where upon the slide the game will sit. Generally, fantasy games like Pathfinder and D&D sit quite highly in the Gamification section with a lot of handwavium (though this is slowly being reduced with immersive factors like dungeon ecologies); while modern games like World of Darkness sit quite highly to the Immersion section with a lot of realistic quirks that cut off whole sections of the gaming experience. This isn't always the case, but it can be more generally expected.

I've realised this since my last Demon campaign was incredibly highly in the Realistic spectrum. I wanted them to investigate crimes, but the police were a credible threat and illegal actions had repercussions. I wanted them to question suspects, but the NPCs were played realistically and therefore there were a lot of ways to get them to clam up. I wanted them to explore, but getting in and out of secure buildings could be quite difficult, especially due to security cameras.

So what I've realised is that I should take more of a note of Videogames and videogame logic.

In a good videogame, the creators will take note of the genre, style, and story, and build them into the gaming options and vice versa. So if you want a Stealth game, you can hide in shadows, enemies soon get over searching for you, sedatives act fast, and vents suddenly become easy options for sneaking into high security buildings. If you want a High Action game, you should be able to drop down behind the enemy with protean claws out without having to worry about appearing on CNN and Youtube (except when the plot demands it).

This is one of the trickiest things. Just like a player can paint themselves into a corner by creating a character that just wouldn't do what they want to do, a Storyteller can create a campaign where characters wouldn't, or shouldn't, act in ways that support the alleged themes and styles of the game.

So, I've offered my players a choice of campaigns and I'm going to run example adventures of each until they find one that works for them. The unexpected benefit of this is that I can't just rely on thematic descriptions to distinguish them. I have to actually think about what the differences are between what the PCs get to actually do and what they're encouraged to act like.

The World of Darkness one has components of interviews and interrogations like Deus Ex (Empathy rolls like the social aug) and Noir (catching them in lies and jotting down details, timelines and leads all make things easier), stealth options like Deus Ex, often unexpected combat like Alan Wake (light + gunplay deals with most things), FEAR jump scares that don't need to be struck, and Tex Murphy-style puzzles and clue searches.

As an example of Gamification, the puzzles will be lamp shaded where possible by me re-creating them. If I want a Light Three Candles before the painting puzzle, I'll try to find an appropriate picture and place three candles in front of it. The players will instantly know it's important because not everything has a physical version of itself. Is this immersive? Yes. Realistic? No, not at all unless they have some kind of sixth sense for puzzles. But this is precisely what a lot of adventure games do. If you can play with it, it's probably important.

I tell you, with that painting-plus-candles puzzle, those candles will be lit (and likely in a special order if other clues are presented) way quicker and with less frustration than if I simply described them.

So what do you think? Where do you sit on those slides? And where do you WANT to sit?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tex Murphy!

It's times like these when I wish I had $10,000. If I did, I'd pledge it to start up the Project Fedora game and get a sweet chance to go to a murder mystery with none other than Tex Murphy himself! Or at least, the actor pretending to be Tex. Man, if I were upper middle class, I'd totally pay for both me and my fiance to go and snap up both of them. If only I earned $100,000 a year or more. Instead, I'm going to get a shotglass and some .pdfs but ... oh well. There's a lot of not being rich going around these days.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's that there's a kickstarter project to fund the new Tex Murphy game. If they meet their needed (and surprisingly low) amount, they'll put together a game in the old style and release it to a world that is hungry for it (or should be). Investigation, noir, a cool detective ... or rather an un-cool one. I wanted it to be made. I need it to be made. More importantly, in Australia the cost of a new game is $100 and since a copy of the game (electronically downloaded) is included for pledgers, there's really no point in NOT pledging if you plan to purchase it.

So, if you're like me and want to see it happen, or are just a bit curious, mosey on down to Kickstarter and take a look. Or just tweet, blog, or facebook about it. I wouldn't normally advertise on this blog but I just can't refuse a big, burly detective.

World Building 101

For all of you die hard DMs out there creating worlds and wanting realism, try the Climate Cookbook and Creating an Earthlike World for more details.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Campaign Traits: Guile, Confrontation, and Intellect

Okay, so I've recently cancelled my old Demon: the Fallen game and am trying to figure out where to go next. The last game became really difficult to run because no matter which direction I tried to take it, one PC would dig their heels in, another would over-think it, a third would love it, a fourth would rush into it, and a fifth would be bored. While this does occur in every campaign, this ended up being a big thing in the game and coupled with an unusually brutally realistic consequential game (what would REALLY happen if you did that?), it ended up having a lot of frowny faces around the table.

The players reassure me that they loved it but I ended up finding it too difficult to run.

So! To help us all be on the same page next time, I'm throwing a team / character development session next weekend. We'll also be going over a few campaign ideas and I'll be allowing the players to choose between them and have some customisation amongst it, too, which kinda throws the onus back on them. More on that for later.

For now, let's talk about the four campaigns. Three are Pathfinder, one is World of Darkness. I'll probably create a fifth World of Darkness zombie version, just because I'd love that. Yep, each campaign is based around something I'd love to run. So sue me.

Anywho, I'm also giving the players an idea of what each campaign would be like and what it's demands would be beyond the fluff and the atmospheric pictures. At the end, I give a list of six main points and then split 100% between three categories: Guile, Confrontation, and Intellect.

Guile is cunning, trickery, stealth, and thinking on your feet. It involves going with the flow. In crude skills terms, it's your Dexterity, your Wits, your Manipulation, your Stealth, Athletics, Persuasion, Subterfuge, and Computers. It favors a more conniving style of play.

Confrontation is your aggression, forcefulness, and stubborness. It involves halting or re-directing the flow. In crude skill terms, its your Presence, your Resolve, and your Strength, as well as your Brawl, Firearms, Weaponry, Intimidation, Drive (when ramming other cars) and that sort of thing. It favors a more macho style of play.

Intellect is reasoning, patience, consideration, study, and research. It involves understanding the flow and putting it into the bigger picture. It's self-directing (you choose where to take things). In crude skill terms, its your Intelligence and Wits, as well as your Academics, Occult, Science, and Empathy. It favors a more considered and thoughtful style of play - good note taking is a definite plus.

My pirate's campaign would be 40% Guile, 50% Confrontation, and 10% Intellect, for example. Cunning and cleverness certainly helps (especially to get the most rewards) but they can more often than not rely on simple Beat-Face-Economics. While there's space for researching and note-taking, it's not something they really need to worry about all that much.

So yeah, we'll see how things go. Hopefully that can help the players pull together a team that works within those sliders or, negotiate where those sliders should be.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Found Ship

Information given to the PCs about the ship found in Flashpoint:

The boat you found is about the size of a broken pinnace that has run aground against the sandy shore within the large, yawning sea cave. Those with Knowledge Engineering or Profession Sailing recognise that it's a purely fore-and-aft lateen rigged vessel (the triangular sails point forward and back along the ship rather than across the ship) which is unusual for a pinnace. It has a fore and main-mast.

Of course, ships designed primarily with Fore-And-Aft Rigging tend to be smaller, overall faster, and more maneuverable than Square Rigged ships, though this does come with some caveats such as a lower Maximum Speed. This is because wind coming directly from the Port (Left) or Starboard (Right) of the ship will create a powerful pushing force on the sail which is translated into fast forward motion though its smaller surface area means a lower maximum speed.

A ship rigged with Fore-And-Aft Sails will sail fastest when sailing perpendicular to the wind, a sailing point known as "Beam Reach". It can also handle going at other directions, including even Close-Hauled (with the wind coming almost from the direct front of the ship!).

The other unfortunate fact is that Fore-And-Aft Sails are not adjustable being as that they are tied directly to a static mast and a static deck while Square Sails can be pivoted or reefed. This off-sets some of the superb manouevrability of the smaller Fore-and-Aft-rigged ship and allows some brilliant maneuvers with a much larger (and much more heavily-armed) vessel.

So, that aside, this ship has a small, weak hull. It can't carry large trebuchets or other siege weapons without risk to the hull and cannot carry many canons, either. Your best bet is to use its superior speed and turning rate are used to completely outmaneuver one's opponent, dodge incoming fire, and board the enemy vessel early on in the battle.

It also has very little cargo space. Basically, just enough for food and water to last a few months. It has quite the shallow draught and should be able to sail over some Shoals without risk of hull ruptures which would tear apart others.

6 or fewer men can direct it though it becomes quite unwieldy. -4 to all checks to perform any ship-based actions such as turning, reefing sails, or similar tasks. 36 men and women and 10 cannons would bring it to its maximum fighting efficiency though it can carry 60 people.

It can carry up to 25 tons of cargo (including Cannon), which makes it largely unsuitable for trading.

Best Sailing Points: Beam Reach or Broad Beam Reach.

Of course, to gain the benefit of any of this, the ship will need to be repaired and hauled out to sea. Taking a look at it does beg the question, though, what is inside it and where is the crew? It appears to be in a relatively good condition, after all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Flashpoint: Clearing the island

The now touchy and overly sexualised witch / oracle smears charcoal bands across her arms and face and demands that the characters provide her with vengeance against those who have defiled her village and destroyed her friends. They are to investigate the village and figure out precisely what has caused such misery, and why. She shows them the path which will lead to the halfling village where they find a number of zombies and the plants that are responsible.

There are 6 zombies around the town that attack them and two yellow musk plants, one that has grown out of a halfling corpse and another that has grown up out of the corpse of a sailor. They figure out that the Yellow Musk plants, which are native to the Mwangi Expanse, must've been transported here by ship and so they go up to one of the limestone stacks and look around for a wreck. They find one with two more of those zombies wandering around at the badly broken bow of a ship. They attack and destroy them (Wellard sucked in combat and ended up being advised to stay back) and finally a draugr came rushing out at them. The barbarian took it down in a few mighty blows.

They drink the Witch's Brew which makes them spiteful and those who indulge in their spite gain a free re-roll versus poison. They also potentially take some more Wisdom damage. Lhye indulges by taking a piece of Hallik's hair and claiming that he can do terrible witchy stuff with it. Proteus offers Hallik his bedroll that night, only to crash out in it, leaving Hallik to get all the more horribly fatigued.

On the third day, the witch has braided kelp into her hair and wears nought but a sea weed skirt and a shell necklace. She demands the characters slay for her a stingray, a shark, and a squid, so that she could make an offering that may call a ship to this island to bring them freedom. Proteus freaks out about being bait but they kill the three easily enough in the coastal waters.

Of course, a meteorite crashes down and by the time they reach it, they note that two Akata have gotten loose. The meteorite appears to be made out of organically woven adamantine (which terrified the hell out of them, what can weave adamantine) and Archer heads off with the NPCs to check out a mast glimpsed in a sea cave; while the others track down the Akata. Lhye rolled a 20 on his Know Planes roll and knew a fair bit about them.

They track one of them to a hole that opened up on the cliffs well out of range of the sea spray, and Proteus crawled down into the hole - but couldn't find it. The two Akata then ambushed the others, striking Lhye and infecting Lunjun before being taken out - mostly by Lenny's might. Wow, barbarians are epic compared to everything else. Her damage outputs cannot be ignored. They kill the two (Lenny ends up having to chase one of them using the Pathfinder chase rules before cornering it on a cliff) and then return to reclaim their adamantine prize.

The adamantine turns black and sigils etched into it glow a smoking blue. While Lunjun recovers from his disease (with Lhye's helpful ministrations involving washing the wound out, and scrubbing it, with sea water over a few days), he uses his Linguistics skill to translate the queer mix between Thassilonian runes and Infernal cypher. The words were:

"A gift for those who seek to strike the prince. The next gift will speak more truly."

Links about Dungeon Thoughts

Well, Shimmin Beg did an article inspired by my own that I figure is pretty damn good so I'm linking it here for all of you to read in case you didn't catch it in the comments section.

Friday, May 11, 2012

25 Westcrown Noble Goals

So what are some of things that the nobility might want to do in Westcrown, other than the obvious increase the power of one's own House, marrying one's daughters / sons to important people, destroy enemies' house, and gain more money and power.

1. Find a cure for elven low fertility rates so that elves may be readily bred in captivity to ensure an easy access to slaves.
2. Create a moving, tragic opera through the judicious use of slave gnomes allowed to slowly Bleach in captivity.
3. Wipe out the homeless at any cost.
4. Cultivate a cult to Zon Kuthon amongst the prominent daughters about town.
5. Renew the White Plague (based off the Suicide Cult of Sifkesh).
6. Undermine the women's movement that's seeing an increase in Matriarchs or women in important roles, such as the Guard.
7. Degrade a rival's daughter.
8. Challenge an enemies' son to a duel.
9. Turn Westcrown into the art capital of Cheliax.10. Throw the most splendid gala / other event that will be the talk of the town.
11. Always set the Westcrown fashions, or at least be on the cutting edge.
12. Attract an important business venture to Westcrown.
13. Find some way to reopen the Pathfinder Lodge, or create a new one, in Westcrown.
14. Increase an allied family's standing by drawing attention toward their successes and away from their failures.
15. Find the perfect gift for the heir to an important House whose birthday is coming up.
16. Get out of debt.
17. Become famous amongst the common people.
18. Obtain a coveted official position (or perhaps a less coveted position such as leader of the dottari simply for its practical applications)
19. Curry favor with another country's merchants to try and get a monopoly on a particular type of good or service.
20. Expose an enemy as a traitor or a forger (whether true or not).
21. Seed doubts about a rival House member's parentage.
22. Hide several potential heirs in case something happens to your primary heir.
23. Get a doppelganger to infiltrate another family, cause trouble, and feed back to you information.
24. Unearth several Thrune informants so that you can send misinformation back to the throne.
25. Cause the Council of Thieves to come onto the Thrune radar as an enemy so that power bloc is no longer an issue.

As always, if you have any further ideas, please leave them in the Comments below so everyone can benefit.

25 Westcrown Nobility Secrets

So there I am, looking for little seeds to pop in with the Westcrown nobility and I'm not finding all that much so I think to myself, maybe I should just do up a list of my own? So here we are, a bunch of ways to hopefully spice up any political campaign in Westcrown.

1. Incestuous siblings.

2. Hidden half-breed child.

3. Having an affair with a disguised devil.

4. Bellflower Network sympathiser.

5. Regular at a tiefling brothel.

6. Sold their son and daughter's souls for power (still own their own soul).

7. Has a contract out on an official's life.

8. Responsible for the murder of his wife's first husband.

9. Secret worshipper of a chaotic deity.

10. Milani cleric (goddess of revolutionaries).

11. Hunts shadows at night.

12. Member of a sporting club that hunts criminals (especially Tieflings) released in Rego Dospera.

13. Family once conspired against House Thrune during the revolution.

14. Demonologist.

15. Secretly spreading diseases through sex in tribute to Urgathoa.

16. Member of the Council of Thieves.

17. Forged deeds to a recently purchased 'house' after the owners refused to sell.

18. Hellknight informer.

19. Thrune spy.

20. Andoren infiltrator.

21. Staunch Kuthite (mostly due to squick factor).

22. Actually a vampire / doppelganger.

23. Actually a paladin.

24. Banished a loved one due to some indiscretion.

25. Murdered one's own spouse.

Anyone got any others they're willing to throw into the mix?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

50 Westcrown Noble Weaknesses

Everyone has to have a weakness, right? I figured I might as well compile a list (and share it) so that I've always got something in mind when PCs start poking around the Westcrown nobility (or other nobility), looking for something to use against them.

1. Addicted to pesh.
2. Alcoholic / Binge drinker.
3. Will do anything for sex.
4. Compulsively agrees with men.
5. Submissive toward pretty women.
6. Servile around authority.
7. Easily goaded.
8. Suspicious of everyone.
9. Gossipy to a fault.
10. Honest to a fault.
11. Utterly racist.
12. Misogynist (or the female variant).
13. Chauvinist (underestimating the opposite gender).
14. Phobias (fear of something).
15. Manias (excited by something).
16. Philias (sexually aroused by something).
17. Various -ists (look down upon people of a certain category).
18. Other insanities.
19. Loves / hates public attention.
20. Far, far too curious.
21. Overly ambitious.
22. Always tries to make a failure into a success.
23. Perfectionist.
24. Gullible.
25. Cowardly.
26. Always trying to prove himself.
27. Mistrusts magical (and therefore magical items).
28. Dhampyr (healing magic harms).
29. Lusts after exotic races.
30. Going senile.
31. Always keeps his word.
32. Will sacrifice much if he believes his honor is besmirched.
33. Over-extends his power.
34. Aims to intimidate.
35. Insults others readily.
36. Relies on one primary ability (knowledge of the law, dueling skills).
37. Inability to empathise (or see another's point of view).
38. Makes overly convoluted plans.
39. Expects blind obedience (thus surprised by treachery).
40. Too paranoid to involve allies.
41. Jealous of her lover's attention.
42. Prone to angry outbursts.
43. Will do anything for enough gold.
44. Grows obsessed over obtaining beautiful / powerful items.
45. Very passive aggressive.
46. Spends money too freely.
47. Miserly to the point of under-paying subordinates.
48. Needs to boast about his prowess / skills / accomplishments.
49. Lets down his guard around artists / servants / lovers.
50. Uses brutality rather than rewards to inspire her subordinates.

Well, there's 50 of them. You guys got any more you'd care to add? The bigger the list, the better!

Campaign Mastery blog

At the risk of linking you to a cooler, way more professional looking blog, check out the Campaign Master blog over here.

Character Creation Risks: A PC that doesn't, or won't, fit

Hey-ho, sorry for not doing the expected posts but I spent an entire day (until 10pm, no less) at a course on Tuesday and a proper, full day (with following exhaustion) on Wednesday. I will be doing a post soon enough on the last Pathfinder game and at some point will also write up some ideas on how to get a working party but for now I'm going to talk about the tricky nature of creating a character that is a) cool; b) liked by the other players (if not PCs); and c) will actually let you do what you want to do.

That latter part is actually quite tricky indeed.

Over the years I've seen many accidental design clashes where one aspect of the character denies the player's ability to do what they wanted to do.

One player designed a character to eventually become the ship's captain and give him the personality of a highly chaotic, smarter-than-he-acts, guy who seems quite crazy, unfocused and unpredictable.

Another player wanted to play an investigative, exploratory game and create a hideous Nosferatu who would've had to hide in Obfuscate during many of the other character's social encounters and whose primary focus was on talking to his contacts on the phone and spying on the enemy vampires in Obfuscate. A neat character concept, but when I challenged the player by asking: "But what would you do during the sessions?" the player was stumped because unless the other players created similar characters, everything he'd do would be in downtimes.

We're all guilty of it.

In part, I think it's because of a few assumptions we make as players which is, namely, that being a player is easy. It's effortless (or should be) and if we really wanted to spend time thinking about the game, especially about the mechanics of it, or how it works or doesn't work, then we'd be Storytellers and Game Masters. The reasons for this assumption varies from a desire to let the actual Game Master have more control over their work, to the possibility that our efforts will be meaningless due to the type of Game Master or other players we have to deal with, to the fact that for many of us it's a plug-and-play hobby.

Heck, sometimes just throwing some dots on the sheet and coming up with a personality works brilliantly. The party has a strange alchemy where they all get along (or don't, in equally entertaining fashion) and the character we built just works for us. Sometimes, if the character doesn't work the way we intended, that can be equally fantastic as we explore new sides of the world or the game that we didn't know existed. That sense of surprise and adventure can be absolutely great.

The trouble comes when we have our hearts set on something and then paint ourselves into a corner. Or when the character's entire make up has them completely uninspired by the plots, the hooks, the NPCs, the PCs, and everything else, and thus digs in its heels and bogs the game down.

Some players have the knack of tweaking their character to make it fit with their desires if at first it doesn't work. Others wouldn't dream of tweaking their characters once they've been played and are determined to be 'true to character'. Others try to tweak, but find that the character has a mind of its own (much as author's sometimes find) and that the character keeps reverting to type.

So, sure, you can ditch the character and try again, but what are some ways to get around the hazards on the first try?

Well, ask yourself some essential questions to either generate a character, or ask them once the character has already BEEN generated:

1. What is this game about and what are its genre conventions and demands on characters?

2. What do I want to do in that sort of game? What parts of it interest me? What doesn't?

3. What is everyone else doing and what niche do I want? This is easier in Pathfinder than in World of Darkness, but no less significant. There's nothing worse than having nothing to do because everyone else can do it better.

4. Is this niche something I can actually explore in this game? Being a mounted fighter won't help much in an Underdark campaign.

5. What kind of person would somewhat fit all of these answers? Or, alternatively with an already created character: Can this character's personality, goals, motivations, and skills mesh with these answers?

6. And most importantly, if it doesn't, what will the effects be and am I all good with that? Will the other players and the Game Master be okay with that? How can I work around any sticking points?

So, going with that Nosferatu idea:

1. The game is a defined milieu. There's abominations lurking in the shadows, strange tainted reservoirs that have utterly eroded most vampire's humanity / sanity, and stranger things are afoot. There's a palpable sense of mystery here and the Nosferatu fits in with that paranoia and conspiracy vibe, though it favors that over the more exploratory elements.

2. The tainted vampires belong to a previous LARP game ran (mostly NPCs but also some old PCs) so there's an interest in what they're doing now that this character very much suits. The player has also been keen on investigative games, recently, and this character works well with that. It's also kind of an oWoD Nosferatu vibe (information gatherer) rather than a nWoD one, but that really works here too.

3. Who knows, but this is where it starts to bog down. The other players would need to play rather particular characters, and show an interest in spying on the other vampires, in order for this character to get much mileage during the sessions.

4. It's certainly possible to explore it, though there may be resistance from other PCs, and certainly will be resistance here during the occasions when the other PCs talk to the NPCs. It may become frustrating to constantly twiddle your thumbs and be silent when they deal with humans. There may be ways around this, depending on the type of deformities, and because the thicker atmosphere has strained the masquerade enough that people are pointedly trying to maintain it just to retain faith in the world.

5. Yes, so long as there are other things that he can do during the socialising with humans bits.

6. It would be worth checking with the other players, and ensuring their characters don't clash entirely with that, because if they're mostly planning on surfing from party to party and staying in the light surrounded by people, then this could be a problem. There's certainly ways around the sticking point, such as if he poked around their places looking for clues and reading their appointment books using sleight of hand while the person spoke to the others. The Nosferatu's player would also have to accept not being able to speak, or perhaps tweaking the deformities so that while they ARE still grossly deformed, it's in a very human way.

So there you have it. A few questions and some extra fore-thought and a lot of issues can be easily dealt with in the creation stage. After all, almost any concept can be used with a bit of work so long as the right motives are in place.

Hell, I'm playing a prissy noblewoman shlocking around Ustalav with a tiefling and a paladin, but she has a sorcerer bloodline ability that prevents her shoes from getting dirty; she's more intelligent than she acts; and her curiosity is one of her biggest drives which keeps leading her to do things she wouldn't otherwise do. Without the right motives, there'd be a good chance I'd spend all the time sitting on my horse calling out encouragement and casting spells from the road (and twiddling my thumbs). So where there's a will, there's a way.

What advice do you guys have?

Monday, May 7, 2012

WoD To Do With Clan Daeva, Part 1

Ahh, the delicious Daeva. Those lusty guys built for rape both mental and physical (super fast, super strong, and super enchanting). They are sheer physical perfection mixed in with a magnetic beauty that can capture anyone's attention. Their passions are stunted as with all vampires but are strong enough that a Daeva can convince themselves that they feel just as strongly as any mortal. It's just that their passions are more refined, yeah, and a little more slanted toward spite or rage or jealousy, sure, but that's just because of the depth of their emotion and the terrible cage of the danse macarbe. It's not that they're as dead as any other vampire, feeling emotions through the lens of the Beast, oh no.... But I digress.

Theme: Roses have thorns; Beauty really is only skin deep.

Mood: Intoxication; desperation; manic need; base urges; melancholia; devotion.

15 Plot Hooks:

1. When a PC uses Majesty on a human friend (or what passes for one) or friendly face they've regularly encountered, they never expected to accidentally hit upon some desperate need within them. The NPC begins stalking them, hoping to find that note of inspiration once more, irrevocably changing the nature of their relationship forever unless the PC uses some fancy footwork to get out of it.

2. What would an obsessed ghoul, doped on blood, actually be like around someone who's always the center of attention? What would jealousy actually do to someone? Take a look at their ghoul, or even regular human retainers, and see how far you can take it. Perhaps a legal retainer tries to become like the vampire, dressing like her, divorcing her husband and dumping her children with her mother-in-law. Perhaps a ghoul falls into depression and despondancy, only ever satisfied and capable when in the direct attention of the regnant.

3. Word on the street is that there's a man cruising the nightclubs who's capable of making even a vampire feel truly alive. No heartbeat or anything tawdry like that, just that eager truth of emotion that the living experience. What would a Daeva do to catch him? What is he exactly? And most dangerous of all, what would happen to a Daeva who experiences the death of their soul and emotion again ... and again.

4. A lazy Daeva is tired of the dangers of an unlife spent fifteen minutes late and the risks of tempting sunrises and other such issues just because of slothfulness. She wishes to change her vice, but can a vampire truly change? The Ordo Dracul have an idea, and so do the Crone, but will she survive those tribulations? Will she want to? And can the PCs help?

5. Someone is going around the city, purchasing vice from Daeva and peddling it on the streets. It sounds good in theory as the sinful pull is removed, but the Daeva find themselves more bland and dead inside, finding it hard to be interested in anything. It's only a temporary situation, but who is it purchasing vice, how, and what's going to happen to his human buyers?

6. The Daeva Priscus offers her favor to any kindred who can throw the most exquisite gathering. Of course, she's not telling them what her preferences are, or what the rating scale is, so it's up to the PCs to do some research to figure out what she wants and how to give it to her ... if they're willing to pay the price on their morality.

7. An Invictus Daeva rolls into town and though she seems oh so friendly, where she goes, friendships shatter and alliances crack, but she's always there with a shoulder to cry on and she seems so genuine with not a bad word to say about anyone. The Invictus, too, vouch for her and they ... seem strangely immune.

8. Daeva gossip can be damning. If the PCs are clever, they can learn a lot simply by visiting the various gossips around town, which does mean going to a variety of different joints and placating a variety of strange personalities.

9. A werewolf serial killer is seducing and then butchering Daeva across the city and those he can't seduce he stalks and kills. Their bodies (as they're generally neonates) are found in the exact same way each time though the brutal markings can easily be seen through the rot and mark the man as something other than human. Can the PCs stop him before he hits the next Striking Looks or person with Majesty down?

10. A nightclub singer has the most enchanting voice. She can move even the coldest vampire to feel true feeling, yet she has an uncanny knack for noticing kindred and somehow escaping. Some Daeva are starting to think she's a ghost, as she's even fled into windowless rooms before and somehow disappeared.

11. A nasty, and rather crazy, Daeva is desperate to be haunted. Only then would he truly feel needed and loved and he's trying to figure out how to groom a pretty girl into stalking him and then how to kill her in such a way that she will anchor herself to him and be with him forever more. Can, or will, the PCs help him? And what will come of their efforts?

12. A Nosferatu diabolist is running about town, targeting Daeva to try to combat his lack of feeling and beauty, as he's so sure that he can glean some of their beauty if only he consumes the right one the right way. Soon people will love him. Soon, everyone will....

13. A Daeva Carthian rejects the clan as a bunch of silly addicts dressing up their urges as being more 'human' and has started scoffing at the clan publicly. The other clans are encouraging her but if she continues on this way, someone will have to rectify the situation. Do the PCs want to help or hurt her? And what will the ramifications be?

14. The Prince has decided to celebrate 100 years of praxis and he wants Clan Daeva to do something spectacular to impress him. If they succeed, they will enjoy Clan Ascendancy for a year despite their numbers, but if they fail, their clan will be a laughing stock for decades to come.

15. See if you can get a Daeva player to accept the idea of 'love at first sight' (or bite) and work in the sort of NPC that their character might get along with. See what shenanigans follow. Feel free to keep the NPC vanilla or add some form of supernatural (or Hunter) spice to mix things up a bit.

So there you have it. A bundle of (hopefully) cool plot ideas involving Clan Daeva. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

DMPC versus NPC Tag-Alongs

So we've all heard how much players hate DMPCs (Dungeon Master Player Character), which is where a Game Master either introduces their own PC because they'd like to also play - or they introduce a tag-along NPC that steals the limelight and so is called as much. Of course, not every NPC that tags along is a DMPC. At least, I sure hope not because this ship-based campaign needs more NPCs than PCs in order for them to move any reasonably sized ship. So, how do you do it? Well, it's important to hold the distinction between an NPC and a PC.

The PCs are the protagonists. They make the decisions that move the plot. They decide where they're going and what they're doing. They get the limelight. They get the best loot. They strike the killing blow (ensure that NPCs who assist in combat never kill the big bad monster, or any monster the PCs are keen to kill, by always giving the monster 1 more hit point after taking into account NPC damage).

The NPCs tag alongs are the minor characters. They certainly influence the plot. They can complain, whine, or encourage certain courses of action, but they can't dictate it and they shouldn't expect to dictate it (unless you want the PCs to want to ditch them). They should have their own goals and motivations and you can even track how much they like the various PCs Dragon Age-style by adding ticks to the PCs who've gifted them nice loot, paid attention to them, or agreed with their sorts of ideas.

They can expect to get paid, or get a smaller proportion of the loot, but they never get to decide which loot to take unless they're not a tagalong and, in fact, are a quest giving NPC who's come along with them for a single adventure. Then they get to demand the agreed upon piece of loot and, either fight the PCs for it or take it and leave. The PCs, of course, may decide that the NPC should get more, or even equal, shares of the loot but it's THEIR decision. Gratitude on the part of the NPC is endearing. If your NPC isn't like this, create a different one who is. And always ALWAYS ensure you drop enough loot for your players to develop their characters by being generous without ending up with only +1 swords at level 10 (and thus getting curb stomped and repeatedly killed). The more NPCs you have along, the more loot needs to be dropped.

NPCs can leave the group, but just like in Dragon Age, they should generally find excuses not to unless the PCs treat them so badly it'd be stupid for them to stay. Of course, their general demeanor and personality can evolve through mistreatment and this often proves the best medicine to players who want to abuse an NPC. The bright and bubbly NPC who slowly becomes a miserable curmudgeon, always desperate to drown their sorrows, can sober Players and make them re-think their actions.

If the PCs are in trouble, can you send in the cavalry?

Absolutely. But always make die rolls for the NPCs. Make it seem realistic. Have the rogue NPC sneak in and pick the locks, not sneak attack the guardsman three levels above them and kill him. Or, of course, you could ask the players if they mind you using a cinematical for the cavalry so the excitement occurs right where it belongs ... when the PCs are doing stuff. Put the option in their hands and they might like to see what the NPCs can do. And, of course, once the cavalry have done their bit and the PCs have had a chance to heal or escape their bonds, the onus should be handed back to the PCs. The NPCs should ask for more orders from the PCs, in other words, though they can give further information that they've found on the way in.

Also, remember to keep meta-game knowledge separate from the NPC. Would Joe Bloggs, the rogue, really figure out that plot with his paltry Intelligence 10? They can give hints or happen to make a joke that is strikingly close to the truth to get the PCs thinking, but they shouldn't be all-knowing. This can be hard as a DM as you know everything, but try to keep it to what the NPC SHOULD know.

DMPCs are generally bossy, demanding, require equal loot like a PC, have equal time in the spotlight, and benefit from all sorts of meta-game knowledge. They know that trolls hate fire because the DM does and automatically cast fireball. The DM becomes attached to them and starts hand waving traps that would've killed them or monsters never attack them even when they should. This isn't cool. The Players are just as attached to their PCs.

If you really care about the NPC and want to bring them back, make them fantastic NPCs who the players really care about. Then, when they die fair and square, give them the resources to raise the NPC from the dead over and above their usual loot (perhaps as a boon from a cleric if they don't have anyone who could cast it). Don't force their hand but let them know that, should they choose (perhaps with a Knowledge Religion roll) that they have this long to raise that dead NPC.

If they don't want to do it, satisfy yourself by daydreaming about the NPC's epic tales that could've followed or write a fanfiction about it. Otherwise, accept it, just as a player must accept the death of the PC they may have worked for years on.

Oh, and word to the wise, NEVER convert an old Player Character you once played into an NPC. You can use inspiration from them but never make the same thing. You will automatically be attached to them and be quite insulted if the players hate that character. After all, even if he was a beloved party member last time, this particular party composition and the different rules of what a PC and an NPC should be like, may change the outcome.

So, have you guys got any advice on the difference between an NPC and a DMPC? Or have you got any examples of where it's worked or not worked?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

More links from my favorites bar

There's a nice collection of horror Roleplaying Articles over on Dice of Doom's blog....

The Werewolf: the Forsaken 'Detroit Rock City' Actual Play that's a lot like a novel.

Limyaael talks about what's trite, what's cool, and what's been done in her various Fantasy Rants that focus on literature but can apply to all forms of media (including roleplay).

Runeslinger talks about chases and escapes....

Finding ship models for roleplaying games....

A cool site for when you want to double check some Pathfinder mechanic but don't have the books on hand....

There's also Life Aboard for shipboard information.

And, of course, the Writer's Forensics blog. Remember, all writer's guides to places, cultures, character design, world building, or sciences are potentially usable in Roleplaying Games. I know I've certainly benefited from them!

So hopefully, that should be an interesting collection of random links for you.

Ta ta for now!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Horror in Pathfinder

Well, I've been trawling the Pathfinder Campaign Setting threads and found a really cool thread on horror, especially in Pathfinder, over here.

On that note, here's an article on running horror....

A document on d20 Silent Hill.....

And a document on d20 Resident Evil....

Flashpoint: Island of Piccolo

Well, I'm going to swap WoD: to Do to Mondays as it's a more natural fit for me to do these blog articles the day after my Flashpoint game. Well, two of my players (he who plays Lunjun Siva and she who plays Lenny) couldn't attend the game so I made it more of a social game as there were lots of tidbits I wanted to give that would doubtless drive the CE barbarian nuts if she had to sit through it all. She's not the most patient of creatures. So, they ended up heading towards the interior of Piccolo Island, where they could see smoke lazily drifting up from a chimney.

At first they tried to scare the halflings into remaining behind through tales of witches wanting to eat small children (Wellard was cross with him for being meant to the poor halflings) but Hallik's comments that they might as well position the halflings into a big HELP sign meant for Chelish ships if they're to leave them behind on the beach. So they all went together.

It's funny, the halflings are playing up the whole 'we're just like children' act and the PCs are all completely falling for it. Lovable scamps.

They came across a Mongrelman beating a drum and a bony Chelish woman dancing around an unburnt fire in a small clearing around her cottage. Proteus rolled a 1 on his Diplomacy check and was completely and obviously flabbergasted by the Mongrelman's existence and appearance. Luckily, the Mongrelman was too laid back and chilled to care. They thought they were in for a fight, in truth, and weren't expecting the witch to call to them: "Welcome to Merrymead!" as it was the 2nd of Calistril. They introduce themselves, the witch introducing herself as 'the witch from Piccolo Island' and the Mongrelman as 'my husband'.

She revealed that Lhye was, in fact, a Witch, just as she was and that she could teach him how to gain new spells by having their familiars commune. Originally he familiar was out of sight, watching, but eventually it proudly appeared when called by Lunjun and when he scritched it, Lhye's cat was quite irritated and meowed loudly for attention.

The witch convinced them all to try her witch's brew (she also had too barrels of rum, gifts from pirates who had gained her favor) that was blessed by the Gods. In this case, by Cayden Caillean. They took a -4 to Wisdom but were given a desire to unburden themselves (and thus gain a reroll versus Charms and Compulsions for passing this) though it was an untargeted desire.

So, some memorable moments:

Hallik, grimly: "So, my story is a harsh one. People don't realise the trials and tribulations of being a nobleman. The rigors of training, the Scion Academy, the pressures of success ... and the overbearing nanny - tall, thin, gangly and retributive."
Proteus, rapt: "Go on."
Lhye, interrupting: "You should hear my story."
Proteus, dismissive: "Shhhh."
Lhye, irritated glare.

Lhye, to Hallik as he drunkenly tosses sand but forgets to cast the spell: "Sleep!"
Hallik gets several facefuls of sand over the various conversations.

Hallik, drunkenly (after Proteus has gotten him talking about how scary his Grandfather is): "You should fear my grandfather. He's more powerful than you can know. Did you know he once slaughtered an entire family, everyone but his son, because he thought his daughter-in-law had slept with a tiefling? She'd just given birth as well. My father was sent into exile."
Lhye: "Your father was exiled?"
Hallik: "Why, yes. He'd done it all, taken a deal from a hag, all to have a son, a male heir to House Dromage."
Lhye, taunting: "Did he cut off your horns?"
Hallik, offended. "No! I'm no tiefling."
Lhye: "But you said you only had a sister."
Hallik, more quietly: "No, the tiefling died later. He was killed."
Lhye: "But if your father went into exile, how could you be his son if you're not the tiefling?"
Hallik: "Because I ... I'm Sidonai's son, just not his wife's."
Lhye: "So you're a bastard."
Hallik glares.

Lhye, to Hallik: "You keep whining about how your grandfather will get us. He never will."
Hallik: "You're recognisable, you know that? He'll come for you or your family. He'll send someone to Riddleport for you."
Lhye, to Hallik: "For your sake, you'd better hope he doesn't or else heaven help me, no prison walls will save you."
Lhye, to Proteus: "We have to go to Riddleport! You need to get me there."

Lhye, playful: "Arexia, why haven't you told us about your history? Everyone else has talked about their past but why haven't you?"
Arexia, opens mouth and points to lack of tongue.
Shocked looks all round.
Archer: "You C#@!"
Soon devolves into Arexia getting Lhye onto his hands and knees before she promptly sits upon his back like an empress.

NSFW Lhye's History:
Lhye: "I grew up in the Hive in Riddleport...."
Proteus: "What? A bee hive?"
Lhye: "No, it's a name. I grew up in a Calistrian temple full of beautiful men and women...."
Proteus: "A brothel?"
Lhye, cheerily: "Well, yes. My mother is wonderful, beautiful. Some nights she would come into my room and tell me the most fantastic stories."
Archer: "Did she clean her face first?"
Lhye: "Too far! You should be careful what you say to a Calistrian. My mother was very clean."

Lhye: "Men used to come from far and wide to see my mother."
Hallik: "Was she a tiefling? I've heard of Chelish fools sailing over to Riddleport to meet with a tiefling prostitute. What was her name?"
Lhye, scowling: "Why would I tell you that?"
Hallik: "Wait, is your mother called Lavender Lil?"
Lhye, pulls back eyelids to pointedly reveal lavender eyes.

I have fewer quotes from Proteus because he is, somehow, more fluid in conversation and it's harder to remember just what he said. Funnily enough, he instigated all of Lhye and Hallik's memorable conversations. I'll need to remember his lines in the next session. Archer was mostly quiet and watchful. The reserved Andoren.

All in all, a fun session. I'll post up the Harrow readings they got in a later article as this one went too long already.