Friday, August 31, 2012

Skill Under The Spotlight: Academics

For all of those players wondering how to get the most out of Academics and all those Storytellers wondering how to build in uses of the skill, here it is. For those who aren't in the know, or who are wondering how the Academics skill might translate into their own games, Academic covers subjects like History, Social Sciences, Law, Accounting, Psychology (neuropsychology and psychiatry both fall under science / medicine), Liberal arts, Literature, and Philosophy. All of these can be taken as specialties as can any of the uses mentioned below. The higher your level of academics, the more likely I am to allow you certain uses or abilities as a rote or to expand upon the information you can gain. Obviously in the skill uses listed below there are alternative skills that could be used. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive or constraining list but rather to help you brainstorm options available to you.

Find alternate sources / methods to use in researching a subject when the player is stumped (Wits + Academics)
Locate appropriate libraries for the subject matter (Intelligence + Academics)
Write an academic article (Intelligence + Academics)
Research old newspaper archives (Resolve + Academics)
Write a report (Manipulation + Academics)
Convince people that certain facts are wrong (Manipulation + Academics)
Debunk supernatural incidents with scientific theory (Manipulation + Academics)
Navigate money trails to locate a person through their credit card records (Wits + Academics)
Detect fraud by examining money trails (Wits + Academics)
Notice architectural faults which suggest hidden rooms or other designs (Wits + Academics)
Pinpoint flaws in an argument (Wits + Academics)
Recommend historical military or quasi-military tactics (Wits or Intelligence + Academics depending on time constraints).
Date an antique or determine if its fake (Intelligence + Academics)
Analyse a psychological issue (Wits + Academics)
Perform Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or other structured forms of talking therapy (Manipulation or Presence + Academics -- social skills could also be used here)
Perform an oral presentation on an academic subject (Presence + Academics)
Teach an academic subject (Presence + Academics)
Favorably impress someone in an academic field (Presence or Intelligence + Academics)
Comprehend an occult text - this doesn't cover separating occult fact from occult fiction (Intelligence + Occult)
Perform academic research (Resolve + Academics)
Finance - handling budgets (Intelligence or Resolve + Academics)
Test authenticity of documents or objects (Intelligence + Academics)
Document verification - knowing who to contact or what markings to look for (Wits + Academics)
Survive being lambasted by a heavyweight academic (Composure + Academics)
Listen and pay attention to a long-winded but informative speech (Resolve + Academics)
Recall a particular academic fact (Intelligence + Academics)
Find maps, blueprints, or floorplans (Intelligence + Academics)
Gain access to maps, blueprints, or floorplans from government departments (Manipulation + Academics - Bureacratic Navigator merit helps)
Locating online databases of magazine articles (Resolve + Academics)

The reason why I place Psychology under Academics rather than Medicine is because I don't believe that medical training - the understanding of biological processes and medical techniques - lends itself necessarily to good therapeutic practice outside of psychiatry and pharmaceutical drugs. You don't need to know about the nervous system to use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I can personally appreciate putting Psychology under Science as some of the techniques really have easily testable hypothesis (Behaviourism I'm looking at you) but I'm leery of putting it under Medicine because while doctors can be good counsellors and therapists it really isn't a guarantee nor does an understanding of biology help very much when it comes to helping someone cope or pull through from depression.

Of course, Your Mileage May Vary.

By the way you can find the core article with all of the other likely links over here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vampire LARP Interview: Nick Wittman

Nick Wittman is a Vampire: the Requiem Storyteller with Australia's Beyond the Sunset LARP (the national affiliate of an international World of Darkness LARP game). He took up the position after less than a year's experience, having attended his first Vampire game with a friend in June, 2011. A few months ago, he leapt into the Requiem Storyteller's shoes so he's certainly had an interesting experience.

Shannon: "So what's it like jumping into the Storyteller position so soon after you started playing?"

Nick: "It's daunting to say the least. This is one of the smallest domains in Australia so we only recently had need for a Domain Storyteller so I'm lucky in that we have the Storyteller and Co-Ordinator groups learning at the same time to help me with that. But to need to learn all the back-end of it while I am still learning the actual rules as a player is interesting."

Shannon: "What have been the main hurdles for you so far?"

Nick: "The main hurdles have been the fact that the other, older, more experienced players are still in the mindset of me as a new player, as am I. So it's difficult with the whole, 'My word goes because I'm ST' type thing."

Shannon: "Yeah, it can be hard to lay down the law when you're newer to a game then they are. Do you have any advice for anyone else who finds themselves in a similar position?"

Nick: "Remember that you are right and if all else fails and the players aren't happy with your ruling, don't be afraid to ask your DST for a ruling and be ready to make compromises. Other than that, just keep on top of the current addenda. A lot of players will be keeping up to date on that so if you aren't that puts you at a disadvantage."

Shannon: "So how many sessions have you run so far? And out of them, what's been some of the most enjoyable moments?"

Nick: "I have so far run four sessions. The most enjoyable session so far would have had to have been my second one. I had a player playing the leader of the plot at the time and my plot nearly started a war between two clans and two cities. To have my plot influencing stuff at that scale so early on was a blast. Oh and she got to flip a table In Character and Out Of Character. Which she was very happy about."

Shannon: "What are some of the lowlights? Moments that you found difficult? Areas of the LARP that didn't come so easily to you?"

Nick: "In the combat heavy plot I've been running so far, there have been a few character deaths and you can really see how it affects some characters when other characters die. For example, my own characters In Character brother is one of the characters killed by my plot so there is a bit of hardship there."

Shannon: "Do you do anything special when a character dies? Perhaps hold an out-of-character remembrance or something?"

Nick: "I generally just buy them a drink or two at after game drinks."

Shannon: "Always a good bet. I tend to give mine apology cookies or cupcakes though I tend to rarely kill off characters. Do you have any advice for Storytellers who are about to come into the role soon after starting as a player?"

Nick: "Keep confident. Make sure you go over the common powers of your genre often. For example, I knew I didn't know much about Majesty in Requiem, so before my first few games I re-read them to make sure I knew what was going on. Know your time line for the game, when NPC's are coming in, etc. and know your goals for the night."

Shannon: "Okay, there we have it. All good pointers, Nick. I know that I had to read the primary game manuals every three months when I was running a LARP game for the Camarilla. I also had to study the addenda and contemplate what those things meant. Thanks for the interview!"

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Game Translation: Blackwell Series

Well, I said I'd do Metro 2033 but I had a request to do the Blackwell series so that's what I'm going to do. The Blackwell series is made up of four indie adventure games that follow a woman from the Blackwell family who is a medium who must help ghosts move on with the assistance of a wise cracking spirit guide (a more together ghost) called Joey. I bought all four games during the big Steam sales, started playing a week ago and am partway through number three already. That might not sound like a quick turn around for some of you but I don't actually play videogames for many hours out of the week.

The four point-and-click adventure games are: The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, Blackwell Convergence and Blackwell Deception. As I said, I've only finished the first two and am halfway through the third game so I can't really talk about the last one.

Okay, so the major aspect of the Blackwell series that is worth duplicating is its premise. A single character (generally Rosangela Blackwell) must help ghosts move on by helping them remember who they are and that they're dead and her only assistance is a ghost who can't touch anything but can blow a slight breeze and pass through solid objects. Unfortunately, that ghost also can't range far from his medium. In the second game, the ghost became a playable character.

So how do you run this?

Well, you're best off keeping the game down to one or two players for a number of reasons. A small game allows for a more personal experience. The investigations would probably become too simply - or too complex - if you had multiple people trying to question the ghost. It just seems weird for four people to turn up to gently move a single ghost on. And that if you want to let someone play the spirit guide, you'll have a hard time giving him anything to do if you have a range of breathing characters with a range of skills who could find ways to bypass the spirit guide's spot light time.

You could have one or two medium characters and either make the spirit guide an NPC (Non-Player Character) or you could allow one of the players to be that spirit guide. A really interesting way to do it would be to make the medium the NPC and have the spirit guide advise them and try to find their own ways around certain situations but be aware that this will suit a more cerebral player over a dice rolling player because, well, the spirit guide can't do all that much.

I suppose you could give the spirit guide greater powers such as allowing him to drop the temperature in a room down to freezing, use telekinesis on objects, or manifest in front of people, and if you have the right sort of player and apply some restrictions on the powers so that they don't become super powers, it would probably work out. However, let's focus for a moment on how to make it fun for someone to play an incorporeal ghost while the other person plays the medium.

Firstly, encourage the spirit guide's player to make the ghost pretty interesting and entertaining to play. Joey is a wise cracking, somewhat cynical, and very playful ghost who likes to make a lot of chauvinistic comments although there's no sign (thus far) that he actually thinks that women are inferior. It's just that he likes to refer to them with phrases like 'baby doll' and tease his medium whenever he can. This ensures that simply playing that ghost can be fun and also opens up other opportunities for them to interact with the scene while the medium gets to actually talk to people. So what if the ghost oggles the pretty witness? If it entertains the players and is in-character, then that's great and works a lot better than if the ghost is a mopey fellow that rarely gets to do anything at all. If anyone is to be the 'straight guy' of the duo than it really should be the medium so that the ghost can play off of them and nab the limelight through humor.

Secondly, ensure there are spots where the spirit guide can excel. Ghosts who won't acknowledge the medium or who confuse her for someone else so that the spirit guide has to interact them for the story to progress. Animals that bark at the ghost or run away in fright. Papers that are out of view for the medium but which the ghost can just float around to take a look. Conversations that can be eavesdropped on from close distance by the ghost while the medium is waiting just within range (if doing this, take the ghost player aside so that they can report it in character and therefore feel all the more useful). Distractions caused by static-filled radios or televisions whenever the spirit guide comes near. Tiny objects that can be blown in a puff of air. And also remember that no one else can see the spirit guide so they can advise the medium regularly: "Say this" or "Do that".

Thirdly, give the spirit guide a better understanding of ghosts, mediums, and other important tidbits. Preferably by taking the player aside and explaining that this is how this game will work and these are what spirits are like so that they can make educated guesses on how best to deal with them.

Sometimes even Joey can be chivalrous.

Remember that you'll need to put in extra effort to keep the spirit guide relevant. Because of this it's also worth-while double checking with the player if they actually want to play this. Some players can take it and run with it - especially those with tactical minds - and will find plenty of ways to stay relevant and gain a real sense of accomplishment. Others (dare I say most) will find themselves easily frustrated and often stumped while the player of the medium gets to do most everything.

It's also a good idea to get the medium's player on side to come up with ways for the spirit guide to be relevant. Sure, the medium *could* grab the note and run off with it but why not just let the spirit guide take a look at it? I'd suggest that to support this, and the real teamwork vibe of the Blackwell series, that you award bonus experience according to times they worked as a team or bounced off each other as well as times they came up with ways the *other character* could be useful.

After saying all that, though, you could end up having a fantastic game where a player gets to run around as a ghost. It's just all in the pre-campaign prep work.

Okay, that aside, what else would you need?

Well, it'd help to have ghosts that you can't kill and which, ideally, the medium can't even touch. This isn't meant to be like the hit tv show Supernatural where you can swing an iron pike through a ghost and discorporate it. The ghosts are non-violent. At worst, they can be summoned via ouija boards to plead in the ears of the living until the living choose to die rather than hear it any longer. True, that's a pretty big 'at worst' but it's a far cry from murderous ghosts.

The gameplay here revolves around locating the ghost, figuring out who they are, learning more about their background, and finding some clever way to help them remember what happened to them so that they can regain their mental clarity and cross over to the other side. During these investigations many other things may come to light such as normal, mortal crimes like murder or robbery.

The main part of the puzzle here is finding the connections between clues so that you can ask people the right question. This may involve noticing a ghost's picture on the wall, tracking down their neighbors, or locating cash to bribe somebody. It's less about literal puzzles or finding the right object to solve the right dilemma and so the actual gameplay can actually be duplicated far more easily in a pen and paper roleplaying game than is generally the case with adventure games.

A campaign based around the Blackwell Series, or including elements of it, should appeal to Investigators who would enjoy all of the background searches and piecing together the different clues to form a picture of the past. Communicators will likely enjoy the focus on the human element and may like to also look at stories following a day in the life of a medium where they just try to get by without being heckled by their ghost too badly. Explorers would be more keen to explore the world of ghosts and would probably be hopeful to explore some aspect of the underworld. You'd need to ensure they have ample opportunities to visit strange places and break into locations to keep them happy.

Tacticians could do quite well for themselves when it comes to using the corporeal and incorporeal investigators to their best effect. Action Heroes are unlikely to get the high adrenaline excitement they generally crave and may get quite bored with the slower pace.

There's no trailer for any of these games although you could look up the Actual Plays on Youtube. If you'd like to read the sort of tropes that the Blackwell series used, you can find them here.

For the next Game Translation, you have a choice of these: Left for Dead, Half Life 2, Metro 2033, Skyrim, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Dracula: Origins, Realms of the Haunting, Dragon Age 2, and pretty much any survival horror or horror game. If no one picks anything by next week, it'll be Metro 2033.

If you want to see the list of games I've done thus far, you can find the Game Translation series starter over here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Elements of a Frustrating End.

A lot of people disliked Mass Effect’s ending (pictured left) but to be honest I didn’t mind it. Most of the complaints were structured around how the ending clips were really quite similar to each other, which is so often the case in videogame endings. I was just happy it wasn’t a ten second clip that barely gives you time to catch your breath before dumping you into the ending credits. Anyway, enough on the choice of videogame picture.

The trick with endings is that they generally depend on your audience and their needs and perceptions. For each rule of thumb I provide below, there’ll doubtless be an exception to the rule. In truth, there may be many exceptions because pen-and-paper roleplaying games are quite fluid and players prefer an ending that gives a big case of mood whiplash rather than be strapped into a pre-plotted ending that they must sit back and watch.

On the other hand, you might pre-plot an ending and if you do such a good job with it the players may well be happy to watch it unfold and hope their dice rolls are good enough to nudge it to a better conclusion. This is more often the case in either fantasy dungeons, where the player contract states ‘go there and kill the Big Bad’ so forcing them to ‘kill it’ is fine, and investigative horror games, where the players expect to follow the clue trail to a big encounter that is played for maximum effect. But still, you might get player acceptance of a pre-set ending in the most sandy of sand boxes if it’s truly something special. The problem is that you won’t know if it’s truly something special until it happens and, odds are, if the players think it’s truly something special than they probably also think it meshed quite well with their own choices even if their choices changed nothing.

Anyway, so endings are frustrating when they are....

....Pre-Set. A pre-set ending is an ending that can’t be changed unless the players go to ridiculous extremes to knock it off the rails (which normally results in their death or an early end to the adventure). It’s distinct from a default ending that is kept in reserve in case the players somehow follow the path the way you had intended without deviating too much. In a pre-set adventure, even if the players truly wish to talk down an enemy, throw police at them, or try to assassinate them, the enemy will be immune because they can only be killed in the rooftop garden of the Pizzaz Restaurant after the mayor has been killed and the city is in an uproar. If the players have put efforts into stopping him before now that have all been foiled by Storyteller handwavium than the players will be justifiably annoyed when they have to deal with further consequences that should, by rights, not exist.

....Punitive. It’s one thing if the genre is known for its unhappy endings or the players have a flair for the tragic, but generally players want the game to end on an empowering, if not upbeat, ending. What they generally don’t want to see is all of their efforts swept aside for an ending that has a huge scale of consequences, unremitting bleakness, and a motto to the story that says that all of their deeds were pointless, or worse, counter to what they were hoping to achieve. If you do want to go with a punitive ending, ensure that the mood is obvious from the out-set so that they know that this is about the story and not about player actions. Perhaps consider having a single ray of hope, even if it’s only that one character’s dog survives. If you do want a punitive ending because you think your players are idiots, then it may be time to close up shop until you find new players. Trying to hurt them proves nothing.

....Boring. You don’t build up the tension. You don’t throw counter-strategies at the player characters. The enemies are hopelessly underpowered or are used in such stereotypical ways that the players can predict them from a mile away. Without that rising tension, the ending might as well be the beginning or perhaps even cut off.

....Matches nothing that came before it. So this has been a socio-political campaign where the players have been cautious to never let things fall into combat and are expecting to finally manage to outwit the prince to climb into the various primogen positions but the Storyteller forces the final tactics to fail by exploiting holes in the plan (all plans have SOME holes) so that there had to be a violent show down. Err, what? If the players want to have a political coup using social tactics than drive up the tension by exploiting the holes on a political level that forces them to be all the more cunning for the final thrust. Players generally rejoice at the chance to do something different.

....Show the Power of the Game Master. They make it to the arch villain’s lair only to find a room plagued with traps with an enemy who is ‘technically’ within their Challenge Rating but who has been built with the characters’ specific weaknesses in mind and has a load of underlings prepared which will turn the whole thing into a meat grinding Total Party Kill where your only option is to end it shortly after everyone dies or have them beat a hasty retreat and return with new party members again ... and again ... and again.

It’s not clever to find ways to kill players. It’s really not. You know their sheets. You know their abilities. You know their tactics. You don’t need anyone to approve the abilities you give your monsters. Heck, you can bend or outright break the rules and they wouldn’t know. Your antagonists don’t need to slowly grind their way through the game to get those traps or even roll to ensure they work properly. They just exist because you decided they should exist. You have so much power you could literally click your fingers and declare a character dead for no other reason than because you said so. So please, focus on what is enjoyable for everyone and not what makes you feel epic.

You’re the god of the game world. What could be more epic than that?

The main Endings article (and all the various links) can be found over here.

Flashpoint: Dirty Clothes and Refitted Ships

Well, I had another look at the ship included in the module I was running and realised that by the current standards of ship-based warfare in my campaign it really doesn’t pass muster. I mean, come on, the equivalent of a small pinnace as a pirate ship capable of transporting enough troops to raid coastal villages and attacking ships? It wouldn’t even make a good slaver vessel as it is so tiny. True, back in the early days it might work out but not when you’re using Napoleanic vessels. So I upgraded it to the warrior mouse of the olden days – a Sloop of War. Same set up inside, just 90ft by 25ft rather than 25ft by 40ft like it used to be.

Anyway, so Lunjun had been disrobed in the lower deck so his clothing was clean but for his undergarments so he just throws out the undergarments, washes, and is thereafter fine. heads off into the market place to look for expensive ink to write out his new spells into his old spell book and runs into a typical Absalom-looking fellow who’s overheard his interest in spell items and has an offer for him. In long, drawn out, winding dialogue he tells him that the Aspis Consortium would like a foreigner like Lunjun, and a spell-minded one, to break into a Diobel Consortium warehouse and remove a crate that had the Absalom merchant’s name on it. Apparently, he had a falling out over a business deal and now he can’t get access to it.

There’s also a number of Mwangi artefacts in the warehouse where it’s kept and Lunjun is able to take whatever he pleases or even copy down the spells carved into some of the steles kept there. He also mentions that one artefact is a pair of gloves made out of an elf woman’s hands that allows the wearer to become a female elf (which sounds like evil magic to Lunjun’s ears). He gives Lunjun a bird whistle and tells him that there’ll be a wagon just down the road in a laneway and that they’ll pull it up at the appointed spot when Lunjun blows the whistle. He doesn’t set a time limit or tell him when or even give him a method of contacting him.


What he does offer is the bonus of additional gratitude from Aspis Consortium and a suggested but unnamed ‘bonus’ if Lunjun were to achieve this without deaths. Ideally, to achieve it without being noticed at all. Lunjun accepts the task and asks for assistance finding a mage shop to purchase his inks (the Absalom man obliges) and then heads off to discuss it with the crew to see if they’ll actually accept it after all. During later discussions (without the Captain as Archer’s player was away), they decided that it would be a worth-while idea but that, as none of them are stealthy, they’ll need to approach it from a more espionage angle of pretending to be employees and forging transfer notices and other such details.

While Lunjun went to the markets, Proteus and Lhye went to get some replacement clothes as their own clothing stunk quite badly. Proteus walks around in a loin cloth (as an aquatic seeming fellow he can get away with that) while Lhye simply smells badly. They arrive at a hospice made out of the boards of old ships (giving the building a slight curve) and find that people are being cared for by a father-daughter team of ‘healers’ rather than clerics. They have no healing magic.
Lhye asks what God they serve. The daughter states that the hospice was dedicated to a Saint Illeantha, a saint of Iomedae who had beaten back the 14th Invasion Force sent from the War Wound with the assistance of her army. She then goes quiet, thinking she may have offended the tiefling by talking about the death of the demons or perhaps offending him by thinking he would be offeneded....

Proteus simply says, “He doesn’t care about dead demons.”

The daughter says, “I didn’t mean to imply....”

Lhye and Proteus offer their magical services. The daughter expresses scepticism and asks what God he serves – thinking he might be either a pilgrim from some particularly benevolent God or, more likely, that this might be some sort of ruse prior to some demand for compensation. At this, Lhye’s familiar hops up onto a desk and puffs out its chest, indicating that it is indeed the God.

Lhye simply says, “Some Gods are more mysterious than others.” Implying himself.
So Lhye used his Healing Hex to heal all of the wounds in the hospice (as he can heal everyone once per day) and Proteus uses his Resistance cantrip to help boost the Fortitude Saves of the number of people who are ill from a minor plague of Chelish Influenze (modelled from the Spanish flu). Have Lhye and Proteus caught it? They’ll see in future.

The patients are pathetically grateful. One man, Kellepov, is a man with gray-tinged skin who reveals himself to be an attaché to the Nidalese Embassy in Absalom who had been brutally injured in an ambush of thieves who had killed his men and taken his gold. I indicated that he had gas gangrene – as it’s not a real disease in Pathfinder I have it aesthetically occasionally represent the hit point damage of fouled wounds for NPCs and therefore can be healed by Cure Light Wounds. Kellepov offered his assistance if ever Lhye needed it and returned to find his way back to Absalom.

The people, having heard that Lhye and Proteus need assistance with their clothing and their ship, enquire about which ship it might be. As most of those 1000 people who live in Diobel are either merchants, fishermen, dock workers, carpenters, sailors, or pirates, they are in quite a position to help. Especially once they figure out that the two men are quite happy to heal the others who have limped here in the queues or even wander the city and visit homes to do so. Proteus even casts Mending on peg legs and crutches to remove splinters and return it to fineness as, of course, neither of them can heal an amputation.

While they’re doing this, the grateful citizens and those who want to rub it in the Absalom church’s face and encourage these two men’s return, track down the ship known as ‘The Excrement’. They find Lenny there and offer their services and Lenny immediately impresses that she’s in charge (with Intimidate) and sets them to work. Not knowing what to ask the carpenters to do when they offer to create internal compartments, she simply tells them to give her a compartment of her own and set it up like a military ship.

The men and women set to swabbing the decks, pumping out the bilge, scrubbing out the filth of the lower deck, carving out new wooden compartments to fix in place, and even offer to move the deck house (that is central on the ship) back to the rear of the ship for better aerodynamics and aesthetic appeal (though it is, of course, a greater effort of work). So the ship is undergoing a major refit.

As Captain Archer’s player isn’t here, we’re treating it that he went off to haggle for re-fits and purchase stock and what-not and will return later.

When Proteus, Lhye, and Lunjun meet once more and return to the docks, Proteus immediately recognises what has happened to their ship (he has an appropriate trait) but the others can’t see their ship anyway. They fear that their ship has been stolen away and someone else has stolen their berth.

“Did anyone pay Lenny to remain with the ship?” asks Proteus, poking the wound.

They worry for a bit and then Proteus encourages Lhye to become the most frightening figure out there – by appearing as Lenny – and throwing his weight around with this new and irritating ship captain who took their berth. So Lhye does so, using Disguise Self, and heads up the gangplank flanked by the other two which leads to the repairmen looking quite confused as they thought Lenny was in the afterdeck that was currently being built.

Lhye calls out in Lenny’s voice, “Who is the captain here?” or something similar.
Lenny, irritated to hear her own voice, comes over to the door, opens it, and punches Lhye in the face, knocking him out cold. Lenny then chuckles to see that its Lhye and the big misunderstanding causes her much mirth. Proteus, shocked at the turn of events, is quite funny with his “Oh dear” face and his humming and hawing.

He then gives Lenny a gold piece for her troubles, as Lunjun feeds Lhye one of the Cure Light Wounds potions (Lhye still had injuries from the night before so it was still a useful use of it), and Proteus gives him a gold piece and purchases a pie and a cup of tea from the stall woman who had mysteriously set up shop outside their ship. He asks her about any sore or aching shoulders, she reports a sore tooth, and he escorts her over to Lhye for healing (which Lhye does automatically as he’s given his cup of tea – he’s become such the healbot!) while Lhye is still unsteady on his feet.

They talked about their various options with the Aspis Consortium’s offer and have largely decided to accept it but will figure out just what they’ll do and how they’ll deal with it once Archer returns. They also discuss possible flags with an artist who obviously has piratical or black market connections (or possibly both).

Be interesting to see Archer not recognise his ship. The surprises there aren’t over yet! I vote no one even tells his player yet.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Call of Cthulhu LARP

Last Saturday there was a game of Call of Cthulhu at the local game store that was focused on being an introductory session for new players to LARP. In the end about three out of the ten players were non-LARPers, which is a good beginning, I think, though kept it from being a true beginner's LARP. It was set to start at 10 but ended up starting at 12 as most everyone had forgotten or slept in (it had been organised a couple month's prior).

It was a pretty cool LARP. They put some statuettes around as prop artefacts for an old man's wake. The man had allegedly died of 'tropical fever' but it had been a closed casket funeral and his medical records were 'sealed'. This led to some suspicions toward the man's assistant and physician (the physician was smoking quite a lot of marijuana at this stage - perhaps out of stress of some terrible secret?)

I played the old man's late widow, a young and scheming woman I modeled off a more pragmatic Cersei who decided early on that the best thing I could do was be innocent. I mean, I hadn't done anything wrong so what did I have to fear? I'd been married to him for eight years. I was still young and could marry another rich old man. I think I played her brighter than she was intended, but oh well. I was wearing a woollen cardigan so played her more like a pretty rural girl made rich than an air head.

My character had been having it off with the assistant so I avoided him politely to keep any rumors from coming up about us. Instead, I made a point of befriending my disaffected 'grandson' who loathed his father (a man who loathed me) so that he might assist me later on or perhaps give me a head's up. I even tried to conspire with my son-in-law (I was playing a twenty-six-year-old) to figure out who might have caused my husband's suspicious death.

My son-in-law was trying to attack my reputation behind my back but I didn't much care once the shutters came down. I just went into Final Girl mode and barricaded ourselves in the room and lockpicked the armoury and slipped a handgun prop into the pants (luckily I had the perfect woolly jacket to cover it while still giving me access) and loaded it from the ammunition box. Later, I took out two of the Desert Eagles (still with revolver hidden) and gave one to my son-in-law as he was less suspicious (and if he shot me, the cops would be all over him).

At one time I'd given the other gun to the lawyer but he lost some sanity (still don't know why) and ended up leaving the gun on a table to grab the sacrificial knife to attempt a tracheotomy on the dope smoking physician (who had passed out then went into a seizure to the three poisoning attempts on him). I picked it up again and my son-in-laws' when they laid it down because I was suspicious on the others.

Unfortunately, the assistant got his hand on one when it was laid down (I think it was the son-in-law's gun) and he gave a small pistol (unloaded) to the son-in-law. The assistant then took up a larger automatic gun and with both in hand proceeded to hold up the room. The cook (who'd hated me) came forward with her cleaver. Then my husband entered the room - still alive! He has a knife and a gun in hand and he makes us drop our weapons.

I lower my gun to the ground and crouch down and slip that revolver I'd been hiding in my hand (I love when moments come together like that) and as my Dexterity was higher I went first on Initiative and shot my old lover (he had two guns!) and ducked under a table. The psychic dove in under me and ended up being my meat shield when he got attacked. My grandson-in-law charged across the room and knocked down and killed the assistant. My son-in-law tried to shoot one with his mini revolver only to find it empty. The lawyer went to try and smash the skull. The cook killed the priest in one hit. The allegedly dead husband (now with glowing eyes) wished to sacrifice us and tried to get us to kill ourselves but kept picking the ones who were to strong-willed to be taken out.

In short, it was an epic fight. I especially loved the 'Tell us what you're going to do in reverse Initiative order then watch it play out in Initiative order'. Especially since I came first. It was also cool because you could take a step per rank of Initiative down from your Initiative onwards. It kind of keeps you engaged through other people's turns as you pick your position. It also allows you to duck back into cover or noticing them following you around a table so you go the other way.

I really loved the game and its inspired me to make one of my own. Of course, my plans are typically high-faluting. I've been working on a Horrors of the Home Front rules system and game so I might make something in that as it's pretty roll-lite and can even be played largely roll-less. You have the Speak French ability? Well, you can read this then. I can create props and put the proviso 'speak French to turn it over and read translation' on the things and let the LARP self-manage itself a bit more.

Anyway, just wanted to say that it was epic. I totally need to interview that storyteller for you guys at a later point to get more pointers.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dozens of Uses for WoD Skills

So as promised this is the first (or rather, the lynchpin) article on the topic of just what you can use all of those World of Darkness skills on. Remember that even if you don't play the World of Darkness there's a good chance that any similar skills can be used in similar ways. Heck, the list of 'what Athletics is for' can also simply open your mind to ways around certain obstacles.

It can also be helpful for Storytellers (or various Game Masters) to have a handy list of possible ways the players could use their character's skills to interact with the game. That way you can always build it into the gameplay or even nudge them along the first time by highlighting an unexpected use.

So without further ado, here is the list of that which shall one day become links:



Animal Ken

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Non-Combatants in LARP in Combat Plot

So you joined a political LARP with full intention of playing a political or social character. Generally, things are going pretty well for you. You have the Disciplines you need to dig up information. You have the skills necessary to justify your schmoozing and ensure your downtimes* land you with all the right retainers and allies to ensure that you can do the favors for people that will land you with the boons (or favours) that you require to move up the status tree and gain some juicy respect from those around you.

But oh look, there's a heavily combat-focused section of the game coming up where there's going to be a lot of rewards (political and otherwise) for those who help resolve this rather violent plot. What do you do?

Well first, pull out your character sheet. Since I'm not currently looking at it, I can only give you an overview of some basic ideas you could use. You do have your character sheet so your best bet is to actively look at your own stats and come up with general things you are good at and then more specific things that relate to the goal. I find the old brainstorming technique of writing down anything that comes to mind without editing it to be a good one. When you review it you can pick out the ones that actually make sense. Getting friends in on the action can also help you see your attributes in a whole new light.

On that note, I have old articles from my Troupe Vampire forum that break down a whole range of things you can do with any particular skill. I think I'll start up a blog series on Friday on it. It'll focus on World of Darkness but a lot of those same attributes (Computer, for example) are in other modern games and others (Athletics, for example) also exist in one form or another in fantasy games.

So on a more general note, here are some basic things you could do.

Infiltration. The combatants may not be so good at stealth. If you're quick and stealthy, you may be able to scout out the area and report back what you've learned. Social infiltration might also work as well, particularly if the issue involves cultists, a hellfire club, or some other group of individuals who might be prone to recruiting. A little trickier for vampires who are more obvious simply because they sleep during the day but still possible in some cases. Just always have an exit strategy in case you're spotted.

Masquerade Duty. This one won't get you much credit in the court but the important people will know what you've done so long as you tell them and they're the ones most likely to appreciate it. Tap into your Police Allies. Give your newspaper Retainers a call. Have your hackers trawl the Internet for any Youtube posts. Ensure that word of the fight doesn't get out. The combatants should be able to use guns or swords to save their own lives without getting hammered by the unwashed masses. Help them.

Driving / Sentry Duty. Good at driving? Maybe you can wait in the Getaway Car and be ready to head off at a moment's notice. Try to have some method of communicating with the combatants, however, so that you can also play the role of sentry and let them know if reinforcements are coming or if the police have arrived on the scene.

Occult Research. Vampires should be well aware that it is no good shooting at a monster that is better damaged by stage and by sword. You'll need to think quickly here, however, as the combatants might not give you much time to do your research. Talk to everyone in the court, no matter how high or low their status, and piece together all of the occult information you can find - especially occult information related to the threat but don't throw away anything as irrelevant at this stage. It may also help to get the Prince or Primogen's backing on this one (though sometimes it's actually better now to - use your political sense).

Fellow occultists may be tight-lipped, knowing how some people mis-use such information, so try to lure them in with promises to keep them informed (and do so) and offer information in turn. If you have a solid reputation than you'll get more out of them so it's a good idea to groom your fellow occultists before this happens. Perhaps get them involved in the occult research (more downtimes equals more results). Then submit all of the gathered information along with your downtimes so the Storyteller has an idea how much work you've put into it.

Even if you're not an occult researcher, you could still gather the information from occultists and give them possible research avenues. If you're polite and respectful about it, they'll likely be happy to get involved so long as you give credit where credit is due. In truth, often times people can get a bit confused about how their characters can help so the players themselves might be grateful that you're helping them get in on the action.

Investigation. Follow the mundane routes. Think about what a private investigator, police officer, or spy might want to know about the threat and how they might gather this information. Who are the cultists? What are they armed with? Do they have sentries? How many? How do they change over? What are their routes? What are their bank account details? What are their names? Do their wives know what they're doing when they're out at night? What are their motives? Obviously this is more useful when people are involved than when non-sentient monsters are, you can still use investigation to track sightings of mythical beasts, figure out the general abilities of a monster through forensic analysis of its kills, or tracking it back to its den.

Keep Your Promises. Never forget the importance of this one. Political games may be all about back-biting and betrayals but don't betray someone just for the sake of doing it. In general, you'll only get to do it once so make it a good one or don't do it at all. This won't be the only combat-focused plot you encounter so be sure that you don't arbitrarily burn bridges by forgetting to give the Ordo Dracul a sample or by spreading that Top Secret information that the Mekhet Priscus gave you under the proviso that you tell no one. If you're the driver or sentry, don't drive off if your character gets bored.

Be assured that if you screw around with the people who helped you, they will remember and they won't help you next time. If you do plan to screw someone over, don't make a promise. Give them a vague assurance or change the subject. That way, while they'll still be cross, you can still say "I never promised I'd do that". It'll only be a partially burnt bridge then and you can always shore it up later with an actual promise to deliver the goods so long as you're known to keep your promises.

*Downtimes are common in persistent game worlds where the time that passes in the real world matches the time that passes in the game world to ensure that multiple venues remain synchronized in time. They allow you to summarise what your character is doing in the intervening time and the Storyteller then makes a few rolls for you and summarises the results of your actions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Game Translation: KGB

KGB is an old game from way back in 1992. I purchased the re-release, Conspiracy, that had Ronald Sutherland voicing the main character's dead father and drip feeding the odd bit of advice. The game is set in the final days of the Soviet Union and follows Maksim Rukov (a name I've pilfered for several roleplaying characters) as he undertakes missions for the KGB and learns details of the conspiracy that killed both of his parents in a car accident and left his uncle a cripple.

This is a difficult game with a real time clock and correct / wrong answers in long (but interesting) conversation trees that can end with you dead if you don't pick all of the right ones which generally takes trial and error. You can also make errors that make the game impossible to progress beyond a certain point hours before that point. You can't choose to rewind your game very far (though there is a limited rewind function) and may well need to start off at the very beginning. Unlike in The Last Express, the game won't indicate where that point of failure even occurred so you just need to try things a little differently.

Having said that, the game certainly makes up for that with richly drawn characters, a compelling (if difficult to unweave) plot, intriguing conversational answers, and a sort of real world consequentialism that makes it a thrill to lose (at least if you're me) just to see the other side of things.

So just what can you take from this game?

Well, strangely enough, that high consequences can be fun. Its old school willingness to kill you, or maim you, or send you to the gulag, or put you on a desk shift, for obeying orders at the wrong time (or disobeying them at the wrong time) makes a change from the modern hand holding and "See that light switch over there? Flick it ... not now buuuut now."

Call of Cthulhu gamers are well aware of the joys that can come from having your soul horribly sucked out into a painting because you were fool enough to open a wardrobe and look at it. Sure, you still get the obligatory save to avoid it but oftentimes an accidental mistake you couldn't foresee ends in a roll to see if the dice gods are on your side. If they're not, you're doomed.

The other joy of the lack of obvious sign posting is that you end up having to really pay attention to the conversations (which are beautifully written) and while the word choices might not actually help you find your way through (people are realistically unknowable in how they might respond) it adds a certain degree of discovery. "Oh, that's how he reacts!" "Oh, maybe I should have just attacked him!"

The trick here is to have such lovingly drawn characters and then breathe life into them through clever dialogue and witty repartee. How to gain those skills if you don't already have them? Well, that's a topic for a future series of articles. Suffice to say that knowing your NPC's personality, paying attention to how other people speak, and practising the roles all help.

Of course, one of the tricks to roleplaying this sort of game is that you can't just assume the characters will "go to the gulag" or will "fail the fight" because dice gods and player reactions are unpredictable and you shouldn't make those assumptions. If you know the NPC really well, even if you intended that he couldn't be talked down doesn't mean that the characters might stumble across just the right approach. If they probably should succeed, then let them. This sort of game should be hard enough that all of their successes will shine all the more.

This is a game of high consequences. Leave a corpse on the sidewalk and cops might come along. Get spotted in a room behind someone's pub and get your knees broken. A lot of players get used to such issues being hand waved just a little, but this is the sort of game where players should have to figure out just how to remove the blood spatter from the alley walls after slitting the enemy's throat. Give them a bit of time.

That metaphor makes my foot hurt.

With high consequence games, however, remember that roleplaying isn't a visual medium. Players are trying to absorb a lot of your verbally described situations and scenarios and therefore might not necessarily make connections (or remember them) even though it would be very obvious to their characters. Be fair to them in this regard and don't penalise the players by withholding or burying information their characters should be well aware of. It might be as simple as adding a single descriptive note at the end of the scene, such as "You leave the bloodsoaked alley...." So long as they hear those words, if they decide to walk away anyway and go back into the hotel right next to that alley then they should be aware of the risks.

Also bear in mind that a High Consequences game shouldn't fall into the "All Answers Are Wrong" framework. There's always the chance that no one will pass through that alley. There's the chance that dropping the corpse out of the hotel window and then throwing it into the river is the best thing to do. If the corpse washes up immediately and is traced back than a sense of futility will set in. In a roleplaying game, you should certainly give them options and make it possible for them to stumble along through.

If you cleave too closely to KGB's obscure path of success model then the players will get fed up and leave and none of your adventures will be successful. The players can't reload an earlier save. They can't rewind a couple scenes. They're trapped with the consequences so do make them a little more obvious even if only by obeying the rule of common sense rather than the rule of 'nudge, nudge, try this'.

So, how to evoke this game the best? I'd suggest creating a wide open sandbox game with a small conspiracy (preferably mind mapped earlier by you so you kow the connections) whose members, allies, and rivals are constantly active over time (create a timeline) whereby the characters are given only one or two primary leads and must piece together clues, leads, and locate witnesses without any real guidance from the Storyteller. In other words, no helpful coincidences or narrative nudging. Its just them and the game world and they have to find their own ways through.

A campaign based around the KGB, or including elements of it, should appeal to Investigators who are happy to jot down vital information so that no clue or lead is forgotten (because they're definitely necessary). The necessity to pay absolute attention to what is said is likely to confuse Communicators but they're the ones most likely to enjoy seeing the full range of possible human reaction. Explorers would enjoy seeing the well drawn locations of a foreign country and may even enjoy the trial and error approach so long as the consequences are kept unique and interesting.

Tacticians are likely to get quite frustrated because the game has multiple failure paths and chances for success requires a person to stay on their toes. They may enjoy it if they have a couple good Investigators to help ensure they have all of the information they need. Still, they're likely to be frustrated by any accidental and unforeseen Call of Cthulhu style failures.

Action Heroes may well be all right with the failure conditions, per se, as loss can roll right off their backs. The constant attention to the clues to find the paths and the need to be very aware of how combat often leads to further consequences that needs to be painstakingly pre-judged and dealt with will probably annoy them. Having to find bleach to scrub the bloody from an alleyway after a murder may interest them the first time due to the novelty but after that it gets old fast.

If you'd like to take a look at the trailer to learn more about this game, you're out of luck because it doesn't have one that I can find. If you'd like to read the sort of tropes that KGB used, you can find them here.

For the next Game Translation, you have a choice of these: Left for Dead, Half Life 2, Metro 2033, Skyrim, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Dracula: Origins, Realms of the Haunting, Dragon Age 2, and pretty much any survival horror or horror game. If no one picks anything by next week, it'll be Metro 2033.

If you want to see the list of games I've done thus far, you can find the Game Translation series starter over here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Elements of a Satisfying Conclusion.

Silent Hill 2 (pictured left) had one of the most satisfying endings videogames have to offer. Most videogames rush through endings in 5 to 10 seconds that aren't enough time to let you enjoy your successes and instead leave you thinking: "Is that it?". Silent Hill 2's endings gave you time to savor it and the endings were also influenced by subtle, long-lasting, and meaningful actions such as how often you stare at the picture of your dead wife, or the knife in your inventory, or how long you spend time with Maria (your false wife). This gave the endings greater credibility as they were influenced by how you played. All of the endings very much fit within the tragic framework of the game. The best you could hope for was a bittersweet ending.

So let's break down the elements of a satisfying conclusion in a pen and paper game as they aren't far off from that. Bear in mind that an adventure, or campaign, can end with none of these elements and still be all right. This is all about the ideal ending in the ideal world. Also be aware that sandbox games don't tend to have 'endings' as such although they may still have 'concluding points' to certain arcs that may still benefit from what is mentioned below.

A good ending is...

...created by the characters' actions. While you can get a lot of mileage out of a pre-written ending that is little affected by the players (like the Big Bad at the end of the dungeon) it's always more thrilling when the player's actions are meaningful. In that aforementioned dungeon, if the characters stealth it through than have a thought about how that might affect the encounter. Perhaps a surprise round? A chance to ambush it? A chance to overhear its confusion at the loss of all of its minions or its fears at being hunted by an invisible monster? If they use stealth and tactics to make their way through and it is perfectly aware of them and unaffected by their choices than it undermines the value of those choices.

...relevant. So you've spent most of the adventure chasing the criminals who killed your wife before the story gets side-tracked to be about a tangentially related (but more powerful enemy) vampire who has been blood addicting police officers around town. If you find such a tangent developing, your best bet isn't to slam the characters back onto the right path or to dry up leads to the vampire. Your best bet is to adjust the storyline so that the vampire becomes more relevant to their original plot line - perhaps the wife killing criminals are all ghouls or even hunters who have been stalking the vampire.

...captures the mood of the piece. While you can certainly contrast a desperate and tragic mood with an up beat and exciting mood, it is hard to pull off. Perhaps the denouement (the bit after the End where they get their rewards and tie up the loose ends) could use a mood shift but otherwise it can give a bit of mood whiplash. While it may be enjoyable in its own right, it won't have the sense of pacing and progress that it would if the tension were amped up within the original mood.

...follows a dangerous low point. The characters have some wins and losses under their belt but right now things are at their lowest ebb. Their lives are at real risk. The police are on their heels. The monster is about to release the fatal disease and now is the time the characters must act. Perhaps for a moment they thought all was lost until they realised that the enemy can be defeated by salt water and they're surrounded by an ocean. A touch of despair followed by a tonne of hope can really bring out the excitement in an adventure. Just don't let it go on for too long or else futility sets in. more engaging than any earlier point. If you begin an adventure with the Titanic crashing and their frantic attempts to escape than you've got your work cut out for you to create an appropriate ending out of a local fishing village wife threatening them with a knife. You're luckier in a roleplaying game because danger and tension aren't the most memorable weapons in your armoury like on a movie ... human emotion is. If you can get them to care about the situation, you will arrest their attention in a way that car chases and explosions never could. Take that fish wife, for example. If the players relate to her and talk her down and care about the situation than they will talk about her long after the Titanic has slipped from their memory.

...provides worth-while rewards. I don't just mean experience points although a convenient level up can be nice as well. Rewards can be acknowledgement from society, respect from a rival, congratulations from respected figures, land, title, a grateful and safe loved one, social change, a return to normality, promises of future favors, or even the tragic and terrible corruption and death of the characters. Hey, different strokes for different folks. Some players just want to see their characters crash and burn.

...provides a little wind down time. Let the characters high five and laugh with relief. Let the married couple reunite. Let the mother tuck her safe children into bed. Let them roleplay their success (or their horrible failure, death and self-destruction) so that they get to bask in the ending. On that note, don't let it get too drawn out or else they may end on a boring note rather than a fun one. If necessary, end the game a little early or at least call a break so people can bask in the glory out of character for a few minutes before jumping into the next adventure or arc.

So there you are. Obviously other elements matter, and all the basics of a good adventure count as well, but these are the main ones I can think of. Can you think of any more?

The main Endings article (and all the various links) can be found over here.

Flashpoint: Death Hold

Well, we finally got out Monday game back on and it was certainly an interesting one. I chose those with the highest Constitution (Lhye and Archer) to awaken and made it so that everyone had managed to come back to 1 hit point, regardless of what they were on earlier (which was certainly below 1).

Lhye and Archer awoke stiff-limbed and sore in a lower deck that stank of spilled bowels, stale water, and broken rum barrels. They were surrounded by the corpses of those infected by the Lacedon who were slowly mutating, their skin coming loose from their bodies (not falling off, but loosening) and bony spines growing up beneath it in certain parts like fins. Lhye could see this (Darkvision) but Archer couldn't.

Archer was crumpled up in the most uncomfortable position and had been in that position for seven hours. Lhye was on his back with a leg hooked up onto a barrel with his cat familiar sitting on it (giving him a dead leg). They heard a noise and assumed it was each other. Archer asked "Who's there?" and Lhye, thinking he might be a lacedon, came over to 'help' with a Cure Light Wounds Hex that would either kill him (if he were undead) or help him. As Archer was perfectly alive, he felt much better briefly before his body flared up into pins and needles now that the numbness had died down. Archer had his hold out pistol and uniform (which in this game represents his armor) but Lhye had nothing but his cat.

Lhye went over to Lenny who was slung out across two hammocks and unbloodied (though without armor, she wore her under clothes which were breeches and a long-sleeved shirt to keep the chain shirt from chafing), and healed her but it took her a little time to disentangle himself.

Lhye noticed a man crouched in the corner of the lower deck, clutching a broken off piece of bloodied plank, and wanted to cast Light but lacked the Firefly (love Pathfinder for including the material components) and so cast Dancing Lights instead (no material component). So Lenny looked up and saw this horned figure standing over her surrounded by four points of candle flame ... then saw the lavender eyes and remembered it was Lhye and not an actual devil.

Lhye called out a threat to the crouching man (can't remember what it was now) and the man decided to take his chances and 'charged' (wasn't an actual charge as it was difficult ground, it was more stumbling forward but he made his Acrobatics roll) towards him. Lenny tried to strike him but missed but the man's wild swing also missed. Archer went to trip him, the man struck out at him and hit a terrific blow that shattered the wooden plank, and Archer slammed him into the back of the knee and dropped him to the ground. Lhye followed up by casting his Slumber Hex on the man. Archer noted that the man's clothing were too high quality for a regular soldier. He must have been an officer.

Then Lhye went to awaken the last two with his Healing Hex, giving them both a disturbing start due to the gloom and the lavender eyes. All this time the Admiral (the cat) remained on the water barrel and out of the muck. Proteus immediately looked to his monkey, who peeked around the edge of the doorway to forward hold but fled through a broken plank between the bilge and this deck (the missing plank was in the attacking sailor's hands) and it clung to the gap. Proteus calmed it down but it was only after the monkey bit his finger to ascertain that yes, he was bleeding and wasn't a monster, did the monkey climb out and hug him and nibble on his ears.

Lhye went around healing all of the transforming Lacedon, killing each one, and noted that five had already been quietly killed, likely by that other man who had cork screwed the wooden plank's edge through their eyes and into their brains. Lhye knew that the man would be awake by now but was pretending to sleep but Lhye was all right with this for now.

Archer checked up the companionway but found there was a heavy weight against the hatch and while it could be budged, it would be noisy. Archer and Proteus then went into the galley at the rear of the ship and found the ship's old knives which they then passed around. Proteus sent his monkey up the chimney and through his empathic connection sensed apprehension, nervousness, anxiety, curiosity, then excitement, followed by more nervousness and then satisfaction. The monkey scrambled down and produced ... a piece of bread! Proteus happily shared it with the monkey. The monkey's transit also dropped a page of Lunjun's spell book - Mage Armor - which Lunjun then set as all of his first level spells.

Lhye noticed that the so-called Sleeping Man had tried to move while he wasn't looking and he told the man: "We're not undead so how about you try to help us rather than attack us?"

The man opened his eyes and said: "I wasn't trying to attack you. I was trying to get away." Then he rose to his feet. "I'm Marxus. First Mate under the old Captain." He stood very officer-like with his hands clasped behind his back.

Lunjun went and took up some granite from the ballast so he could get the ground mica needed to cast his Mage Armor spells. Lenny pulled a few manacles from the wall and Marxus smashed a few more deck boards which he stripped and packed the long hunks through the manacles to create a banded club (Craft Improvised Weapon) and gave one to Lenny and kept one for himself.

Then Marxus suggested they all position themselves around the companionway in an ambush because his efforts were noisy and would've been heard. Archer suggested Lhye disguise himself to look like a Lacedon form of himself. Lenny slung herself across two hammocks with a knee on a barrel to help herself spring off of them. Marxus lay down behind the companionway ladder. Archer crouched in the galley behind the companionway with his holdout pistol in hand. Lhye stood in full view with the Dancing Lights around him. Proteus crouched behind a few barrels and Lunjun ducked around the corner in the forward hold.

The Lacedon pulled free the thing before the hatchway and expressed surprise that the tiefling became undead, which Lhye agreed was surprising. Lhye did a really stand up job of being quite dodgy and Lacedon-seeming and the enemy came down the companionway only to be shot by Archer and have his head knocked in by Lenny (who sprang off her hammocks).

Then Archer hurried up the companionway and got clawed by one of the final Lacedon. He grabbed the thing and jerked it back down on top of himself and landed on the deck. Proteus then hit it with his Silent Scream spell (can't remember its actual name) and it fell truly dead.

Then they heard a splash off the top deck as the final one fled. Proteus tried to follow it but dropped off the wrong side of the ship and then when he came around the right side he didn't spot it in the dark water. Coming up they found all of their equipment (barried one of Lunjun's spells ripped out of the book), all the sails reefed so that it was gently moving forward, and the anchor up (as the Lacedon had been waiting for their new crew to emerge).

Marxus then located the charts and they limped their way back to Diobel with a crew of four (as two had no Profession Sailor one manned the wheel with Knowledge Nature and the other manned the navigation equipment and later cast the lead to check they weren't going to run aground). Proteus and Marxus threw the corpses overboard. They hired a tug (at a great price) and a pilot to lead them into the docks only to find a Keleshite Slaver on the docks, eager to purchase from them. He'd heard rumors a slaver vessel was docking (as it took them awhile to get in) as the ship stunk of death and excrement.

There followed a conversation where slaves were referred to as 'labour' and where a deal was made to purchase 15 eager sailors and 5 veteran sailors for 250gp which seemed to be fair but one couldn't be too sure until they saw the slaves. Archer planned to set them free once purchased and hoped they would still elect to sail the ship. Lunjun did most of the actual negotiation as he actually spoke the Keleshite language.

Now they're at the docks and they all smell really bad in muck-covered clothing.

They're planning to kill the whore house Reincarnater and steal all of his gold, re-fit the ship, fill it with crew, and track down their old ship before returning to Augustana to get a teleport to Riddleport.

Monday, August 20, 2012

RSS Feed

Okay, so apparently people can automatically use RSS feeds here but what link do I need to use if I want to join one of those blogging circle things? Just the regular link?

Dystopic Episode One: Awakening

So, I ran Demon a few nights ago starting from their last moments in the pit. Only Lakrimiel has Legacy 3 so I began by describing his last moments in the pit as he's the only one who'll remember a real sensation of it afterwards. I mention the bleak emptiness of the pit, the sensation of screaming, begging humanity so close yet so distant that are assumed to be ghosts and might well be all that is left of humankind - the ghostly remnants. He remembers a promise that he would be freed and feels himself torn loose into a place of a kaleidoscopic of colours that takes him awhile to realise are shapes (he has been without vision for so long) and then there's coldness.

Then I went around the table and described coldness, an icy crust over their eye lids, twitching muscles, and alien yet familiar reflections in frosted glass. When they try to move I describe how not only are their bodies cold and weak but they are foreign to them, even as they are familiar. It is as though they've never had a chance to read the user's manual and must act on instinct and guess work. There are tubes inserted into their limbs, which they pull free, and a few of them find the internal switch (again crusted over with ice) to open the cryo-statis door tubes from the inside.

There are eight cryo-stasis pods although only five are active, eight metal lockers (five of which have labels such as: Nomad 6, Tokyo, London, Miami, and Leningrad), a central table that has a stack of five lunch boxes, and walls of lab cupboards. By the door is a key pad and intercom.

Kurosawa stumbles out of her pod and crawls over to the locker marked Tokyo to get dressed inside of it and hide from the others. Darren Keswick pukes on himself and falls to the floor in a shivering lump and doesn't move for a short while. Rush'nir remains standing within the locker with the door open, trying to take it all in, before going down on hands and knees to crawl over to the central table.

Nomad 6 (because even the player hasn't thought to give himself a name - human or fallen) stumbles, falls, and struggles over to the locker and puts on Leningrad's clothing before finding that Nomad 6's shoes and clothing fit much better (he's the most muscular). Rush'nir then picks up his own discarded Leningrad clothing while Nomad 6 goes over to the lunch boxes to test the food (vanilla custard and strawberry jelly). Rush'nir watches him to see if he falls over dead from poisoning or is drugged. Nomad 6 just feels better because the food is very nourishing.

Lakrimiel staggers out at this stage, dresses himself from the Miami locker, and also eats his food. There's minimal conversation at this stage and what is spoken is quite hoarse until after they've eaten.

Can't remember who, I think it was Rush'nir, gives Darren clothing from London's locker. Darren pulls it on with trembling hands (still a bit pukey, though its only bile as he hasn't eaten in awhile). Someone also gives Kurosawa her lunch box by leaving it beside her locker.

They introduce themselves by location (except for Rush'nir) and Nomad 6 has to make a roll to see if he knows what country 'Leningrad' is from (he fails - cue jokes from the other nationalities about Americans and geography). Nomad 6 makes a point of rolling with that trait from then on and his character also exposes himself to a bit of mocking by pointedly being proudly ignorant of geography and making comments like: "That's in Mexico, right?" when he could instead fall silent.

To be fair he is a smuggler from a post-apocalyptic Fall Out-esque meets Cyberpunk America so he isn't well positioned to know geography like the better educated people. Funnily enough, he's expert with geography when it comes to his own country (great Survival) rather than book learning world maps but they don't yet know it.

Nomad 6 tries to talk to someone over the Intercom but is so rude the rather mechanical sounding woman (who says she modeled her English on Londoners) refuses to speak to him any longer and he has to ask questions through the other people. They assume she's an A.I. but she claims otherwise and says that she's an Annunaki (Malefactor) which the others accept.

She tells them that they woke up half an hour early because the devices are set to Daylight Savings Time while the rest of the facility does not (or was it vice versa?). Their liaison and commanding officer will be arriving shortly to speak to them. A woman called Nice.

Nice turns out to be a Frenchwoman Namaru (Devil) of the Luciferans who is a brisk and no-nonsense type who introduces them to the fact they are all Fallen (the Legacy 1's were pretty sure but hadn't had time to really reconcile themselves to that fact) and that they had all agreed to join the Promethean Project which is a mega-faction that encompasses members from all factions who wish to assist humanity to find the way forward by pruning cruel and evil elements from selected societies, undermining certain societies (or elements within), and assisting others.

Rush'nir simply wanted to return to his group and Nice informed him that he's thought dead as he was attacked twenty years ago. He still wishes to meet with them and she tells him that he'll find it hard to track down a secret society driven even further into hiding after twenty years though if he still wishes to do so after the three day probationary period than he may.

Lakrimiel asks if the Fallen here were responsible for the deaths of their hosts and Nice emphatically states that they take a firm position of only selecting the dead or the soul gone since if they murdered the hosts when the Fallen finds out, and they WILL find out, then there's always some degree of unpleasant feeling which is unnecessary when they have as many Fiends on staff as the Promethean Project does.

She informs them that groups of Fallen are summoned at the same time and placed within hosts to form teams to edit societies for the greater good to help give humanity the space it needs to develop adequate integrated societies where supernaturals and humanity may live in peace. She tells them that they must remain with the Project for three days and after that point they may make their own decisions.

She points out their various team roles. Kurosawa is an elite hacker / infiltrator. Rush'nir is a top-notch assassin. Nomad 6 is a crack pilot and smuggler. Lakrimiel is an occult investigator with an understanding of several supernatural societies. Darren is a ... cop? Darren was a bit bemused by his own position amongst them. He didn't have nearly the epic backstory (which is kind of the point) and is the only 'normal' one (despite his high levels of experience points).

She then introduces them to their Den Mother and Trainer, Canterbury, a rather motherly Rabisu that later tells them she is a Ravener who's not much of a believer but is willing to take her chances with the project. She's decorating cupcakes (as was I, out of game) and many of them sampled her wares. Then she gathered up their primary equipment in satchels from the bay by the exit doors and gave it to them.

She then took them out of the compound into the walled off yard and gave Rush'nir permission to parkour his way around the place. He went up onto the roof (using his super speed Fallen revelatory form) and saw that they were surrounded by badlands. Using his exceptionally designed Masks' visual capabilities, he scanned the surroundings.

At this point, Kurosawa hacked into his mask shortly after an unknown man did (the man put an image of himself on the inside of the lenses before dropping off with a mild disruption). Kurosawa was far less disruptive and simply viewed what Rush'nir could see.

The player of Rush'nir was actually quite amused by the whole thing, as were a few other players, because I know nothing of computer programming or hacking and merrily used hacker tropes and phrases like 'walled off' and 'rooms' and other house-based metaphors that do have a place in this sort of pulpy game but aren't actually how hacking works in real life. I remain unrepentant.

Canterbury showed them to the hangar so Nomad 6 could get re-acquainted with his drop ship and shows them the stealth jet, old Red Cross doctor's helicopter, three exoskeletons (think Aliens) and one combat exoskeleton with a flamer that Nomad 6 asked if he could learn to drive. Canterbury said he could if he joined them.

Darren decided to stretch his wings and, with permission from Canterbury, unfurled his wings and halo and flew up to Rush'nir. We were going with apocalyptic form pieces adding to the human hole, largely, rather than being a completely demonic appearance that overlayed everything else from the get-go like we did in the last campaign. Of course, each demon may vary in this regard with some being more visibly demonic / angelic than others. Of course, humans susceptible to Revelations will still be affected by apocalyptic form even if they can't put their finger on the changes.

Rush'nir spotted a car being attacked by three zombies and got Darren to carry him over to the rescue (which Darren did). Nomad 6 lifted the chopper out of the bay (with permission) and flew to assist but by the time they arrived Darren had dropped Rush'nir to the ground (Rush'nir used Fundament to slow his descent) and the two sniped the zombies down.

Kurosawa dropped the ladder from the drop ship. Remirez used Portals to open all of the car doors (exceptional success!) and Rush'nir assisted the mother who was clutching her small daughter onto the ladder and into the helicopter. The two were quite bewildered, though humans are subject to lessened revelations when they've experienced the supernatural so strongly (i.e. zombies) so they were more in awe than gobsmacked.

The mother could only speak Spanish and told her daughter that they were going to heaven now, but Lakrimiel disabused them of the notion and simply said that they had been rescued by angels.

The team then discussed what to do and where to go while Darren flew after them, enjoying the chance to stretch his wings. In the end, they got permission to have the jamming signals pulled off the drop ship so the G.P.S. started working again and Nomad 6 quickly figured out the location of the nearest major town and they headed in that direction to drop off the mother and small child.

Next session will be landfall.....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ways To Be Involved In A Political LARP

(From a page of unedited advice given to my Vampire Troupe Players)

Tired of Being Overlooked?

Don't you hate how sometimes you can walk into a LARP session and feel invisible? No one has any reason to talk to you and, to make matters worse, you have nothing to say to them either. When people consider where to go and what to do, they don't even consider your skill set as a viable alternative to whatever hard way they're planning? Here's some tips on how to steal your percent of the limelight back!

Host a gathering!
This oft-overlooked opportunity will allow you to reveal something of your character in choice of location (make it a signature place), choice of entertainments, music, decorations, and even the NPCs you choose to invite (as a player you may specify up to 4 NPCs to attend your gathering). It also gives you a chance to bring out some conversational points such as that skeletal throne you've been sitting on or that lovely array of technology that you have covering each wall in an attempt to thumb your nose at the elders. Also, remember, you can choose a mood and theme for your celebration, and I'll abite by it when creating the various plot points for the event, so you can pick a mood and a theme that sits close to your character's heart or which you think would simply be more entertaining. You can also host a gathering that will show off your talents - a car race, a dance off, a shooting gallery! That's one subtle way of letting other people know what YOU can do.

Making a McGuffin real!
Have a mortal boyfriend who doesn't know not to call you? Want to point out that you're a busy businesswoman or a conniving con artist or a dope dealer? Look no further! Accept an IC phone call and then walk away to a private spot to talk. Just make sure that your half of the conversation is interesting enough to attract Auspex-using eavesdroppers.

Prop It Up
Suitcases, backpacks, and handbags that you are very cautious about leaving behind can also draw the attention of other players. Just make sure that you put an interesting clue in there and give the other players the chance to learn a bit more about your character if they do manage to secretly get a glimpse inside.

Use Downtimes wisely
Use your downtimes to gather information on other kindred so that you have conversational pieces. Knowing who to talk taxation law with, who to discuss the peculiar habits of junkies with, and who to chat about wine grapes with, can really make you a conversational expert! Also, who knows what you just might find out?

Talk About Yourself
Yes, vampires ought to be highly secretive creatures but it's no fun having an excellent back story no on ever gets to hear about. Drop an anecdote about the rolling hills or Ireland or that junkie that puked all over your back seat and let the good times roll! When in doubt, you can always see if you can get someone else to give you an anecdote about themselves.

Start a Conversation
Nothing in common? Excellent! You'll get to learn something different this way. Ask a random question like: "What do you think about?" and insert anything at the end of it. Or: "Did you know that...?" and give out a fun fact. It's also a nice way to reveal your age when you say: "Did you know that cars have ways of keeping the passengers cool now? They're calling it air conditioning! Incredible."

Do Something IC Stupid
Get unnecessarily jealous, fall in love, covet thy neighbour's wristwatch, insult someone you dislike ... just make sure you have an IC reason firmly in mind. If your character wouldn't do it, don't, but if your character would chat up that scorching Daeva, why not?

Either boast about your achievements or pay something else to do it for you. People won't come to you and request your assistance or gaze up at you with admiration unless they know what you can do.

The First One's For Free
Do something for free for someone, just to get the ball rolling, and make them used to your assistance. This can also handily get the word out that you can actually do what you say you can do.

Reinforce Status
Yeah, you may hate authority but that doesn't mean you can ignore status - those with higher status are generally given it because they ARE capable and COULD make your life a living hell. Also, if you happen to attain higher status, make sure people respect your level because even if all of the others are just authoritarian schmucks sitting on golden thrones, you've obviously earned yours!

Bring Something Along to Show and Tell
Perhaps a fancy new car to boast about or some strange rock or perhaps tarot cards so you can do a reading. The sky's the limit!

So there you go. That should keep you busy. Get out there and have fun!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dystopic Demon Tonight

Well, I'm running my rather odd near future espionage thriller Demon the Fallen (nWoD rules and mostly nWoD creatures) for the first time today and it'll be interesting to see where it goes. It's going to be a bit pulpy but I'm sure I'll get my horror kicks here and there though probably not today's session which is more of an Introduction to the Game. Wish me luck!

My current array of characters includes (host information below):

A Miami occultist / private investigator who makes a point to steal rare books.

A Tokyo stealth infiltrator / hacker who worked for a mega-corporation.

A London detective / SWAT officer from a benevolent tyranny.

A Russian wall running assassin who's been out of commission for the past twenty years.

An American pilot / driver who smuggles goods out of the walled cities and across zombified U.S.A. (and back again).

An interesting set, no? I've encouraged them to each have their own niche and have given them a fair whack of experience points (95 exp) with a strong encouragement towards merits and skills. I only allowed 10 exp for demonic merits and lores, etc. They also gained 7 merit points (to be spent on NWoD merits) for the 7 flaw points they all grabbed.

I foresee it will be a wild ride.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Roll X To Win

There I was reading Dan H's blog article on his Parkour Murder Simulator, or rather, on inventing rules to allow a person to play an assassin and something he said really got me thinking. The article says it better but the basic premise is that "D&D doesn't have a skill for Fighting and therefore games based around Stealth shouldn't have a skill for stealth."

Okay, World of Darkness may at first appearance seem to have a Fighting skill but that isn't true. You may roll Brawl but a single success doesn't win you the battle. You have to whittle away their hit points. You get to use Fighting Styles. They get to damage you back. Even in old World of Darkness, combat wasn't as simple as rolling Brawl versus Dodge and he with the higher successes wins.

The trouble with most stealth games is that they're actually poorly supported. There's a single skill with a flimsily applied modifier system for certain specific situations (darkness, concealment, etc.). If you are playing a game that is all about stealth kills, it'd be better to make it a bit more exciting and dramatic than bringing it down to a single roll that either succeeds totally or not at all.

The other thing he mentioned was that, on the other hand, some things should be automatic and therefore shouldn't require a roll. A sailor shouldn't have to roll to climb every single rope they come across while a high school student probably should.

When I'm Storytelling / Dungeon Mastering, I deal with this by allowing players to do certain things automatically when they're tooled in that direction. Oh, so you have several merits based on perception on your nWoD Demon? I'll make others roll for it but you get some of this information for free.

One of the issues I'm having with a character in the next Demon campaign is that he's, well, basically fulfilling the role of an assassin from Assassin's Creed. We have a decent house rule for Stealth Kills that keeps things more involved and less cheesy than a single die roll (one success on three rolls: Dexterity + Stealth, Dexterity + Athletics or Medicine, and Dexterity + Weaponry). But what about when he's running up and down buildings? I don't want him to fall mid-jump every so often because he failed to get a success. True, I could let him do it automatically but doing that too often kind of takes the fun out of having such high skills.

For now I'll probably simply have a failure mean that he has to roll again. If successful than rather than make the jump he drops and grabs the ledge and has to climb back up and try again. At least that way he's not guaranteed to occasionally lose his host due to random happenstance.

I guess I'll have to wait for Dan H's next article on the subject and hope I can steal some grand ideas from it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Game Translation: The Last Express

I must admit that I am biased because I fell in love with the game from the very first time I laid eyes on its trailer on a PC Format CD. Years later I managed to track it down from a friend and very recently I have managed to purchase my own copy from There was just something about the clever artwork, the blend of action and intrigue, the fantastic music, and the fact it was set aboard the Orient Express, no less, that made it one of the top three videogames I have spent years searching for (alongside Realms of the Haunting and The Pandora Directive from the Tex Murphy series).

I must say that I wasn't disappointed.

Now I recognise that the game has its faults but many of them also come from what makes it truly great. There's a real sense of being in a living environment and I'm the type of player who can spend hours flitting down corridors and searching for opportunities to eavesdrop, over and above trying to simply get to the next plot point. I peeked everywhere and thus found most of the clues. I took advantage of every distraction of the conductors to try to sneak into the compartments. I played it the way it was intended to be played and thus it was very good.

Having said that, I'm also the type of player who squees over death scenes because they were something new. So I was quite hard to frustrate. After all, I'm the player that enjoyed KGB (also known as Conspiracy) which was a very difficult game that saw no reason NOT to let you continue playing for hours after a breaking point which wouldn't allow you to progress past a certain point. Until you reached that point, you wouldn't even know. The Last Express, at least, rewinds you to the point of failure.

Anyway, so how to evoke The Last Express in your game?

In truth, I think it very much is like a roleplaying game so I'm going to spend more time pointing out ways where running a game like The Last Express can improve or damage your game.

In the videogame, you get plunked down in media res in a situation that you know little about and must learn what your character knows through the actions others take in the game. The game would've gone down much more smoothly with a briefing but the game, like some Storytellers, didn't much see the need to do so. The benefit to this is that there's all the more of an aura of discovery. The drawback is that you must spend time discovering the very basic details of, for example, why you wouldn't approach the conductors about your friends' murder rather than focusing on matters like the conspiracy.

Going back to the conductor, there's a very good reason not to alert him. The train would most certainly stop at the next station and call the police who would then do the investigation for you. This wouldn't be very exciting and there's a good chance that the bad guys wouldn't be detected.

So there's your out of character reason. However, players might not realise that this would be the standard practice and might approach a conductor believing they would become allies in this situation. You could always go with it, but if you're tending towards a very realistic approach then you need to let your players know what their characters should. The authorities aren't going to be sympathetic to their investigation.

Ensuring that the characters have adequate motivation can also be tricky. Robert Cath has a checkered past due to his involvement with the I.R.A. that will land him into trouble if he's caught. His friend has been killed and he's not exactly the most authority loving individual. It would've helped if we had known about this as players because it would have affected our attempted choice of actions.

This is all the more important in a roleplaying game because in a videogame we can't make Robert Cath drag a conductor into the compartment but a player character can most certainly do so. Therefore, you need to make sure that you and the players are on the same page by taking a good, hard look at their character choices. It might even help to give the players a short quiz. "In this situation, what would your character do?"

Robert Cath also gets a convenient cover when, while wearing Tyler's jacket, people confuse him with his friend (which can be tricky to manipulate without player buy in at the very start of the game) and it ends up being easier to simply go with those assumptions.

Another aspect of the game is that it keeps to its own timetable. Time passes, regardless of your actions or inactions. You could spend a great deal of time simply sitting in the dining car and doing nothing, overhearing the occasional conversation that takes place around you. Of course, if you haven't accomplished what you need to by a certain time than you lose that opportunity. This adds a level of realism but also has caused incredible frustration to some players as they have fewer options. At least in a roleplaying game, players can try an alternative path if they have enough imagination.

I do think that allowing time to pass is an important aspect of the game and well worth the use in a roleplaying game. Of course, time isn't linear in roleplaying games. It can't be. It could take five minutes for you and the players to establish their positions and the full description of a location so you can't simply use a stop watch. Well, I suppose you could but you'll need to remember to keep hitting the pause button. An hour glass could also be used if you put it on its side when time wasn't flowing or let it run backwards if you forget to do so. That can certainly raise the tension in a game with a time limit - like the Orient Express which will eventually reach its final destination (or not).

The other benefit of having a time frame is that you can have a timetable as a Storyteller aid. First bells for breakfast at this time. Lunch at this time. Pull into Blah station at this time. When the right time comes, something happens regardless of the players' actions which can remind them that time is pushing on and, again, add to the tension.

"Oh, I have the gold. Last night I hugged the gold to sleep."

You can also have it that a fight will occur at some point in the Dining Car between, say, 5.00PM and 6.00PM. If the players enter the Dining Car at any point during that time the fight happens. If they don't, it still happens but they miss seeing it but must hear about it later. This again adds to a real sense of the world being bigger than them and, again, can raise tension.

Such timetables can also help you handle a large set of NPCs as you can prepare for their likely actions in advance. Just be aware that such a timetable should be kept flexible as the players may intervene in unpredictable and unlikely ways and thus change all of the NPC reactions from that point onward.

Be aware, though, that players will rebel against this if you don't give them suitable warning. If its something the players would want to deal with, throw them a few clues or try to steer them in that direction. Perhaps a conductor suggests that they look stressed and perhaps should have a cup of tea in the Dining Car to calm down. They don't have to go but if they do, they get to witness the fight. If they don't, well, they'll know you played fair by them and it was their own fault they didn't go.

If its a major plot point, move heaven and earth to get them to the right place or shift the plot point in time or location unless the players are being really dense.

This is also why an hour glass can be so helpful. The players can see it sitting there in the middle of the table and know when time is running or when its 'paused' for out of character conversation. You can also enlist their assistance to ensure that the sands don't run unless time is continuing and this can cut down on the 'It can't be four o'clock yet, we've been busy doing blah'.

The other thing you'll need to sort out is if you'll be dealing with accelerated time or not (other than at obvious points such as if they're all sleeping). You could have it that two in-game hours pass for every out of game hour or you could simply declare that an hour means an hour. Be aware that the more condensed time is, the more reminders you need to give the players. Point out that their pocket watch says blah or that the clock catches their eye and tells them it is blah. Provide them with the itinerary so they can tell the time by the stations they pass.

If you don't accelerate time, figure out how you will keep the players occupied. You'll need more things for them to do. More interesting NPC conversations. More clues. More of everything, really. Either that or bring the deadline closer to the start. Perhaps rather than having the end occur at Constantinople it occurs at a far earlier stop.

A campaign based around the The Last Express, or including elements of it, should appeal to Investigators who can slowly piece together a mystery through conversations and written clues (ideally through hand outs). Conspiracies involving multiple individuals also really allows Communicators to shine though they may sometimes forget to pay attention to the plot. Explorers would get a kick out of poking through other people's luggage and would especially enjoy any time granted for them to get out of the train (or other location) to take a peek at exotic locations even if only briefly.

Tacticians won't have much to do as the violence is generally sudden. Having said that, if they tend toward an Investigator style than they could be incredibly successful and you will have a lot on your plate to keep them from quickly solving the plots through directing party members to distract key NPCs or decipher plots while the others infiltrate compartments.

Action Heroes could enjoy it so long as you are sure to punctuate it with the odd gunplay, the chance to clamber over the train or fight on top of it, and perhaps with the odd chance to disarm bombs or other exciting actions. The trick here, however, is that the other party members will likely try to downplay all action in order to stay clandestine. The trick will be to either keep those characters otherwise occupied so they can't interfere or perhaps have some sort of out of character arrangement that you're willing to go along with violent actions so long as a dose of subtley is maintained. For example, you can fight in a compartment but don't fire a gun. Things like that.

If you'd like to take a look at the trailer to learn more about this game, you can check it out here. If you'd like to read the sort of tropes that The Last Express used, you can find them here.

For the next Game Translation, you have a choice of these: Left for Dead, Half Life 2, Metro 2033, Skyrim, KGB, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Dracula: Origins, Realms of the Haunting, Dragon Age 2, and pretty much any survival horror or horror game. If no one picks anything by next week, it'll be either Metro 2033 or KGB. I've not decided yet.

If you want to see the list of games I've done thus far, you can find the Game Translation series starter over here.