Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Elder Scrolls: Mage Spells

The Mage's Guild can teach the first dot in a magic discipline (each tome).   You may choose to charge 5xp per dot in a magic school (which includes a free spell) and then 2xp per spell.  Spell tomes also have a standard price in gold.  Novice spells are 50gp.  Apprentice spells are 100gp.  Adept spells are 350gp.  Expert spells are 700gp.  Mastery spells are 1400gp.

Spell Choices have been taken from the Mage: the Awakening book series.  If the details of the spell are in brackets than it's a made up spell.  If there are initials within brackets, it means it's not from the core Mage book.  Check this link to find out where they're from.  You can also add the ranking of the spell to each dice roll (i.e. you add +1 for a Novice spell and +3 for an Adept spell).

  • Novice: Spark - Presence + Science (send a flash of flame 10 yards away, good for setting things alight) OR Shock - Intelligence + Science (cast in a grapple to use electricity to give you a bonus equal to spell successes on your opposed grapple check to get away - reflexive action) OR Frostbite (touch attack to provide a penalty equal to your successes to opponent's speed) OR Alter Conductivity - Intelligence + Science 
  • Apprentice: Call Lightning - Strength + Athletics (M:tA - edited to work at anytime outdoors) OR Decay - Resolve + Intimidate OR Forensic Invisibility - Composure + Stealth  OR Telekinetic Push - Presence + Intimidation (GotU) OR Harm Spirit - Presence + Athletics (as the M:tA spell but harms incorporeal beings including both ghosts and spirits).
  • Adept: Cloak of Decay - Resolve + Smithing (Adamantine Arrow) OR Enervation (Presence + Folklore OR Rotting Flesh - Strength + Intimidation OR Cutting Scream - Stamina + Expression (AA)
  • Expert: Bag of Winds - Dexterity + Science (L:tA) OR Firebolt - Dexterity + Athletics (AA) OR Kinetic Ripple - Stamina + Athletics (AA) OR Thunderbolt - Stamina + Athletics.
  • Mastery: Invisible Fire - Wits + Science (FC) OR Earthquake - Resolve + Athletics.
  1.  Nightsight - Wits + Survival  OR Shadow Sculpting - Wits + Science OR Corpse Mask - Intelligence + Subterfuge  OR Influence Sound - Intelligence + Science.
  2. Apprentice: Kinetic Blow - Strength + Athletics OR One Mind, Two Thoughts - Intelligence + Investigation OR Animate Shadows (Wits + Science) OR Floating Step - Resolve + Athletics (GoG).
  3. Adept: Light Mastery - Composure + Science OR Personal Invisibility (Wits + Stealth) OR Burst of Speed - Wits + Athletics OR Containment - Wits + Smithing (Mysteries)
  4. Expert: Shadow Flesh - Stamina + Occult (ToTM) or Suppress Own / Other's Life - Manipulation + Subterfuge OR Gravity Shift - Wits + Folklore (AA) OR Augment the Mind (Intelligence + Empathy).
  5. Mastery: Sensory Deprivation - Manipulation + Intimidation (ToTM) OR Control Gravity - Intelligence + Science OR Nullify Gravity - Intelligence + Science
  1. Find The Hidden Hoard - Wits + Smithing OR Discern Composition - Intelligence + Science OR Speak With Dead - Wits + Folklore OR Aura Perception - Wits + Empathy.
  2. Apprentice: Final Sight - Manipulation + Folklore OR Soul Jar - Presence + Enchanting (draw soul into an appropriate soul gem for later use in enchantment) OR Alter Aura - Composure + Subterfuge OR Magic Shield - Resolve + Folklore. 
  3. Adept: Ghost Gate - Resolve + Occult OR  Find the Hidden Hoard - Wits + Crafts OR Voice From Afar - Manipulation + Expression OR Dispel Magic - Intelligence + Folklore.
  4. Expert: Devouring the Living (Manipulation + Intimidation - Stamina) OR Quell the Spark - Resolve + Folklore OR Price of Hubris - Composure + Folklore (Banisher) .
  5. Mastery: Transform Energy - Resolve + Science OR Create Sunlight - Intelligence + Science OR Annihilate Spells - Resolve + Folklore (Banishers) OR Supernal Dispellation - Resolve + Occult.
  1. Alter Voice* - Manipulation + Subterfuge (transform your voice to sound like another person's - lasts for minutes equal to successes) OR Invisible Writing - Dexterity + Folklore (masks or reveals - with a clash of wills - the written word so that no one can read it except for specified individuals - lasts for months equal to successes) OR Animal Minion - Presence + Animal Ken  OR Emotional Urging - Manipulation + Empathy.
  2. Apprentice Level: Invisible Object - Manipulation + Subterfuge OR Image of Striking Beauty - Presence + Expression (SL) OR Scent of Nature - Wits + Animal Ken (GoG) OR Incognito Presence - Wits + Subterfuge.
  3. Adept: Perfect Mask - Manipulation + Stealth (GotV) OR Inspire - Manipulation _ Expression (GotV) OR Memory Hole - Composure + Empathy OR Diplomat's Protection - Wits + Expression (SL).
  4. Expert: Disinhibiting Sympathy: Manipulation + Expression (GoG) OR Eternal Now - Wits + Subterfuge (Mysteries) OR Imposter - Intelligence + Subterfuge OR Telepathy: Wits + Empathy OR Love Spell - Presence + Socizalize (ToTM)
  5. Mastery: Breach the Vault of Memory - Manipulation + Subterfuge OR Dream Traveler - Manipulation + Folklore OR Psychic Repogramming - Manipulation + Persuasion OR Possession - Manipulation + Persuasion. 
  1. Novice: Summon Familiar - Manipulation + Folklore (summon a spectral image of a wolf, use dog statistics from World of Darkness book, lasts 60 seconds) OR Bound Sword - Intelligence + Weaponry (summon a translucent sword that can strike both solid and incorporeal creatures just as well as each other - lasts for 120 seconds or until sheathed) OR Autonomous Servant - Intelligence + Investigation OR Lighten Anchor - Wits + Folklore (ToTM). 
  2. Apprentice: Ghost Summons - Presence + Persuasion (see Mage: the Awakening, contains Control Ghost as well) OR Shadow Forged - Wits + Smithing (AA) OR Quicken Corpse - Presence + Persuasion OR Animate Object - Presence + Folklore (S&S). 
  3. Adept: Self Repairing Zombie (AA) OR The Metal Dead - (GoG) OR Summon the Dead  OR Stone Servitor - Intelligence + Smithing (ToTM) OR Phantasmal Weapon - Intelligence + Smithing.
  4. Expert: Revenant - Manipulation + Persuasion OR Fiery Servant - Stamina + Intimidation (L:tA) OR The Golem - Intelligence + Smithing (MT) OR Marionette - Intelligence + Subterfuge.
  5. Mastery: Summon Chthonian - (Summoners) or Forge Tulpa - Wits + Folklore OR Universal Bane - Intelligence + Folklore (Banisher).

  1. Cleanse the Body - Stamina + Alchemy OR Control Base Life - Manipulation + Animal Ken  OR Soul Marks - Intelligence + Empathy OR Heal Flora & Fauna - Intelligence + Folklore.
  2. Apprentice: Healing the Dead Mind - Manipulation + Empathy (Mysteries) OR Self-Healing - Stamina + Athletics OR Self-Purging - Stamina + Folklore OR
  3. Adept: Simulate Basic Needs - Stamina + Survival (GoG) OR Banish Plague - Wits + Survival OR Chemical Imbalance - Manipulation + Alchemy (ToTM) OR Healing Heart - Composure + Survival OR Inflict Agony - Strength + Intimidation (SotT)
  4. Expert: Metabolic Suspension - Stamina + Survival (Mysteries) OR Accelerate Healing - Stamina + Alchemy (AA) OR Contagion - Intelligence + Alchemy OR Enfeeblement - Strength + Intimidation
  5. Mastery: Regeneration - Intelligence + Medicine OR Vital Balance - Intelligence + Alchemy (GoG) OR Hone Form - Intelligence + Alchemy.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Adelaide Vampire: the Requiem LARP

So I went and announced it a few days ago on various other forums and Facebook pages and I didn't even think to announce it here.  The first one shot is ready and waiting.  You can read more about it here or you can just mosey on over to Eventbrite and buy a ticket if you have $16 handy and can make it to Adelaide on the 22nd November.

There's been a lot of effort to get us to this point and now we're here I see just how much more work I have ahead of me.  More delicious, wondrous and thoroughly entertaining work.  I can't wait to highlight what worked, what didn't, and to give some ideas and thoughts to those planning on creating their own future LARPs using a largely Elysium-based setting and rules but with some Adventure Game-style skills and puzzles.

I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Game Translation: Outlast

While everyone's opinion on what makes a game scary and tense will naturally vary, in my experience this has to be the scariest game I've ever played.  The mixture of vulnerability in the protagonist - highlighted by little touches like seeing his hands and hearing his whimpers - combines with events that feel unscripted and a seemingly randomised enemy pathing system, made the whole thing very intense.

Since I love horror games I thought I'd let it stew in my head awhile before discussing it which is why it has taken me so long to get to this point.

The game has a pretty simple premise.  Miles Upshur is a freelance investigative journalist who heads over to Mount Massive Asylum in Lake County, Colorado, due to an anonymous tip off from someone calling themselves the Whistleblower.  After finding his way inside, he gets a glimpse of the devastation and is soon eager to get out again.   Driven by the hope of unlocking the electronic EXIT doors, Miles must make his way through the asylum, hiding from the tortured inmates and piecing together the truth behind the asylum while trying to hold together the shreds of his sanity.

The game has some pretty simple mechanics.  You can clamber over low obstacles (i.e. desks), squeeze through narrow gaps (i.e. barricades), run away, shut doors, open drawers, climb ladders, hide under beds or tables, sneak into lockers, slither along ledges, and hoist oneself up into large ventilation ducts.  The only other action you can directly control is whether you rely on your own vision or use your night vision camera that lets you see in the darkness but which drains your batteries.

I list it all out because it points out one of the main difficulties between translating any movement-oriented stealth game and that's the little detail of timing.  It's tense running through a corridor only a few steps ahead from the bad guy and anxiously leaping up toward a vent.  It's nerve-wracking when you crouch beside an open door, wondering whether you should walk out into the darkness or not.

Making a series of dice rolls that all use the same Athletics or Stealth skill is not tense.  So we can't rely on that.

So here's how I would do it.  I would run this game with a single player.  If I had a number of willing players, I would just run the game several times and then have a chill out session where people could discuss their favourite moments.

I would also keep reinforcing the light rather than the darkness and shadows.  It's generally easy to remember what is well-lit and seen than what is unseen so by trying to force myself to think in terms of the unseen or hidden areas, I'd find it easier to remember that some parts of the room can't be seen without a camera.  Naturally light should be more restricted in reality ... the dark should be darker.  One lamp won't cast enough ambient light throughout a large room to provide much to go by.  How else can the PC sneak through and survive?

Naturally I'd use some kind of timer to represent battery power so that the player has a key decision to make - will they use the night vision camera or rely primarily on their sense of hearing?  Yes, batteries last for several hours or more in the real world but perhaps some supernatural aura drains the batteries in this place?

I also wouldn't pause the timer for descriptions.  Yes, I might take 15 seconds on a description, a full minute when answering questions, but it also takes longer for the PC to creep across a room than "I crouch-walk to the door".  Such a rule would also mean that we'd both have to keep things short, snappy and to the point.  If you're a chatty and verbiose GM, use this as a reminder to keep your own descriptions short and tense.  Any lengthy description will make the player cranky as you're eating into their battery time.

I would allow the player to use the environment to their best advantage but I wouldn't encourage it (unless they're a tactician type, in which case, welcome to how the game will need to run).  Why can't they make a barricade of their own?  Yes, there'll be noise and it won't last forever but it could work out if used in the right situation.  If I'm dumb enough to include a hammer, I'll just restrict the nails.   

Definitely do some prep-work on this.  You'll want a map (that you never show them), an idea of what the unchangeable boundaries are (can they break any of the windows?) and some idea of whereabouts the various threats are so that the players believe that the consequences are affected by their decisions and not simply GM whim. 

On the other hand, don't include a running list of all usable equipment in every room.  Just give a broad description of the room and let the PC decide what to do.  They can ask if there's a hammer in that tool shed.  You can decide on the fly if it would work best to do so.  You *don't* want to slow things down to painfully peruse a list.

Horrifying fates worse than death linger longer than mere death.

I'd avoid any form of combat stat.  The player should build a PC who wouldn't fight.  Just as you don't bring a pacifist into a D&D dungeon crawl, so should you not play a brawler in this one.  After all, the only reason why Miles survived for as long as he did was because he didn't fight everyone.  The enemies outnumber you.  Even if you only take one punch per bad guy (unlikely), you will eventually get a concussion and die.

You might want to include a few chips they can use on action scenes whenever they like that they can spend to get a room-length away from a bad guy or out of reach.  This could be used for those moments  like when Miles is creeping across a ledge in front of a prison cell and is grabbed by a patient before pulling loose.

Finally you should avoid making many rolls in general even though you might have a stealth or movement stat.  While combat rolls imply some form of decision making (all-out attack, dodge, move, types of blows which all have their own modifiers), movement and stealth stats are normally a single entity which is re-rolled over and over.  There's no decision to make in those instances. 

Therefore rely on decisions.  Left or right?  Up or down?  Under the table or in the locker?  Then you should make a roll to see where the bad guy checks.  If you use 1d6 you could increase the odds of being discovered depending on whether they've been spotted by that bad guy in a similar hiding place before, if the bad guy is more thorough or if the hiding place is closest to the door.  Once discovered, the PC should have a chance to run.

The main running mechanic could depend on player memory.  Remind your player at the start of the game that human memory becomes very unreliable during high stress situations so they won't get to pick their way via a map while they are running in terror for their very life.  Instead you'll throw out descriptions of what they can see as they're running and they need to choose.  Left or right?  Up or down?  Pass the room with the bookcases or enter?

The PC's health also shouldn't be worn down with randomised damage.  Each enemy should deal a precise amount of damage (1, 2 and 3).  The PC could then have 3 health points and three "lives".  Once they lose one set of health points, something terrible happens to them that they later escape and they then return to the action with another 3 health points and one life less.  Check your players boundaries before you decide on the "something terrible".  In some cases your PC might be able to deal with generalised torture, others are happy with amputation or even (in very rare cases) sexual assault.  Once the third life is "taken", it's game over.  The player doesn't get to see the ending.

Anyway, a campaign based around Outlast or including elements of it, should appeal to -

Explorers who love the horror genre will be the ideal candidates for this type of thing as they will poke into each and every room even when the safest path is directly from Point A to Point B.  They may even trigger events simply to see what will happen.  They're generally harder to scare but can help create truly terrifying tales.

Communicators will find the non-sadistic patients to be interesting figures and will want to have the chance to talk to them.  If they really enjoy horror, you can get a lot of mileage out of this.

Action Heroes will hate it.  Yes, there's room for adrenaline junkies but there's no opportunities for awesome moments.  The most Miles ever does is push someone away from him.  That's hardly an epic chance to shine for your average Action Hero.

Tacticians will potentially enjoy it but will likely feel the confines of the genre to be too confining.  They will want to find ways to crush enemy patients, lock them in rooms or otherwise neutralise them as threats.  They could make an interesting solo player but expect to be more flexible with them lest they grow frustrated.

Investigators would enjoy the slow discovery but they will want plenty of clues and handouts.  If you haven't read any Trail of Cthulhu or Call of Cthulhu BRP adventures, I'd recommend doing so first.  Give them actual physical representations of what they find to keep them keen.

So if you want to check out the trailer, you can find it here. If you want to read up on the TV Tropes you can find them here.

For the next Game Translation (which will be in a fortnight's time), you have a choice of these: Wastelanders 2, Wolfenstein, Vampire: the Masquerade (Bloodlines) or Deadly Premonitions.  If no one picks anything by next fortnight, it will be Deadly Premonitions.

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Real World Inspiration for Your Fantasy Games

These real world locations and these would make fantastic inspirational settings for both fantasy and world trotting adventures.  These are some really marvelous places I would never have dreamt up on my own and it's not so hard to look up more information on these ones.  The deepest pool, in particular, would make a great part of a dungeon.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Player Advice: Character Coercion

One of the tricks of playing a character in a fantastic environment is that there are quite often some form of mental coercion spell or skill that should, by rights, be able to change your PC's mind about something.  While this seems easy in theory - albeit a bit annoying to lose some PC control - it actually can be quite troublesome.  We're not designed to switch gears emotionally so rapidly and consciously in reaction to a die roll.  We've no experience of it.  So it can be hard to figure out what to do about it.

Now while many games have an unwritten rule that PCs shouldn't use emotional/mental control spells or coercive skills on each other, some games really need to have it on the table.  This is especially the case in games like Vampire: the Requiem (even more so the new Blood & Smoke version) as there are a lot of ways to coerce each other and the setting pretty much calls for it.

So what to do?

For starters, make sure the entire group is on the same page in regards to it.  If players enter a game knowing that they are subject to certain powers and/or skills, even by other players, then that reduces a lot of headache.

On an individual note, players should put some thought into their character's specific reaction to certain mind or emotional controls to figure out how they might roleplay it.  If a magical spell could send a normally stoic individual into a beserk rage, then it's helpful to know *how* that *particular PC* might enter a beserk rage and what that might look like.  With that extra bit of mental preparation, you'll be far less likely to sit their slack-jawed and confused as you hurriedly try to figure out what your PC might do (which has happened to me several times).

NOTE: Even with player agreement be aware that generally most players are more amenable to the idea of powers being used rather than skill rolls as another PC's dialogue might be so ludicrously ineffective that it really breaks character consistency to be affected by it.  After all, a player could couple an exceptional success on a seduction roll with the phrase: "Sit on my lap, Darl."  Something that isn't very effective for most personality types.  If players can roll social skills against each other you should ensure that the player on the receiving end gets to dictate effective dialogue / tactics.  Therefore the PC-Thug-Coercer who wants to seduce the high society girl has to choose whether he's willing to stoop to the expensive dinner and philosophical discussion that would be necessary to seduce her.  Effective social manipulation depends on playing to the target's personality, after all, and not to the user's.

Friday, October 3, 2014

LARP OOC Conversations

Regrettably this isn't something I have a lot of advice for but I figured it might bring up some conversation and perhaps it's a topic I can re-visit with loads of really good answers from my next big LARP campaign.  Basically the problem is this: you get a group of players (generally the most experienced ones) who've likely had a big and tiring week and in the middle of game they drop character and start chatting about their general day-to-day lives so rather than driving the LARP (as again they're most often the very influential ones) they are a big immersion-breaking clot.

Naturally part of the problem can be traced back to the players not having enough to do in-character but alas this isn't always the case.  Often someone simply thought of a cool story and then that reminded another player of an interesting thought which led to a comparison with another event/movie/videogame and then everyone's wrapped up in the chatter.

I've noted that my literal presence often tames such conversations even without having to make friendly shooing motions or even reminders, but once the GM is over in the corner all bets are off.  In my last LARP, which was quite small by the end of it, everyone dropped OOC the moment I'd left even if I was taking a loo break and they were in the thick of discussions.  I'd pop back, they'd pick up their IC roles pretty seamlessly and we'd get back on with it.  They hadn't waited for a rules check or anything but my absence had become a bit of a Tea Break indicator even if I'd specifically designated another player (any player) to try to keep them IC.

Not a terrible thing, to be sure, as in this case all players dropped in and out-of-character at will and without any real interruption, but still an amusing peculiarity of my LARP's customs.

But anyway ... ever been to a LARP where OOC conversations would tie up a number of players?  What helped?  What didn't?  What does one do?  Leave all of your ideas in the comments box below!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Zombie LARP

Zombie LARP looks brilliant (though alas it seems to have ceased over the past couple years) and I just thought I'd write a post about how brilliant it is.  Even better is that it's beautiful website contains some really good descriptions of prior events with links to other players' anecdotal stories about prior events which are really thrilling in their own way.  If you're curious about how an adventure LARP can go, especially a boffer LARP, I whole-heartedly recommend taking a look.

Also, their zombie training video and wicked slideshow.