Tuesday, December 29, 2015

LARP Bleed -- Accept It

If I could change one thing about the LARP scene, it would be the belief that experiencing negative bleed (i.e. empathising with your character's negative feelings to the point where you experience them yourself) is a "bad" thing or somehow a sign of a poor roleplayer.  Bleed is the flipside to immersion. People have feelings during the game and sometimes these will be painful and sometimes they will persist beyond a few days.  It happens.

Of course acknowledging this means acknowledging that sometimes, as a player, you are going to do things that will cause another player pain.  We're all decent people.  We don't want to knowingly hurt another player.  So we claim that anyone who feels a painful emotional reaction to our actions is a sore loser or a bad roleplayer so that we can feel better in assuming that the majority of people can engage in the game without any pain whatsoever, no matter what we do.

It's not an evil temptation (nor the only reason behind it -- most cultures with issues with bleed also have issues with displaying emotion or seeking reassurance) but it is one that divides us and allows for a steady build up in resentment.

After all, while allowing another player to hurt your feelings through fictional actions against a fictional character is often a taboo, being the victim of unfair circumstances is a perfectly valid way of seeking sympathy.  Therefore the hurt player has a real incentive to find someone to blame, some great unfairness behind it all, so that they can vent their feelings without being stigmatised.

"Oh, it's not that I'm feeling things, it's that the guy over there actually screwed me over in some unfair way, and the GM's probably in cahoots with it."

Unfairness is something that can net you sympathy card and even if the other players see through your self-deception, they're not necessarily going to call you on it and you never need to admit that the actions were justified and understandable but painful to experience. 

NOTE: Yes, sometimes there is some sort of OOC unfairness going on but sometimes it's just a person looking for sympathy who can't get it any other way.

No one's shocked when someone gets upset or angry over what happens on fictional television series, novels and movies.  Yet those fictional events are not your fault.  You didn't make the bad call that got your character killed.  Your friend didn't write the death scene that took out your favourite NPC.  You weren't the one sitting in the hot seat while a dozen other people mercilessly point out all of your flaws and mistakes for a full hour in a bid to drop your status and increase their own.

These things are going to be more intense because you're there.  The threat of such consequences will also add a thrill to the game, ensuring the successes are all the brighter, so there's no need to get rid of them.  It's simply important to accept that the odds of being a person who is incredibly immersed in the experience yet whose emotions switch off the moment something bad happens or someone says END SESSION is incredibly unlikely.

The emotions are there and they will persist until resolved.

Does this mean that bleed is an excuse to be a dick?

Hell no!

However I have found those who own their emotions and accept that sometimes you'll feel bad when bad things happen can actually move through it more readily and with far less (even no) resentment towards those who have caused it.   Rather than having to create victimhood narratives to get a shred of sympathy, they can instead turn to the players of antagonists in the game, and to their allies, and go: "Wow.  That hurt.  It really hurt.  I love this game and you guys are all awesome … but wow.  Feeling so much more bleed right now than I thought I would."

This then allows the players of their antagonists to give them a hug, metaphorical or otherwise, and talk them through it and maybe provide some perspective.  Nothing kills OOC blame on a player of an antagonistic character like when that very same player provides much needed comfort and reassurance.

Does this mean that there are no ways to reduce player bleed or strengthen the IC / OOC barrier?  Sure there are!  Heck, acknowledging bleed strengthens the IC / OOC barrier just like the example where one's characters are at war while the players help each other out.

Unfortunately most methods to reduce bleed will reduce *all* bleed.  You can't get tonnes of the good without the risk of the bad because the more immersion, engagement and attachment you have the worse you'll feel toward loss and humiliation -- except by removing the threat or reducing the extent of that loss / humiliation (i.e. cooperative PvE game where no loss is permanent).

NOTE: GMs also can feel Bleed as not only are they seeing the big picture, empathising with all players involved in order to figure out what they want next but they can also be partially responsible for what they're seeing.  Seeing your players in pain because of a decision you made, even if the ramifications of that decision were completely unforeseen, can also cause a GM pain.  While GMs often provide support to their players who are experiencing negative bleed, they typically don't have anyone they can talk to either due to secrecy reasons or a desire to prevent their views from clouding the situation and making things worse.  So give your GM a cookie or a Thank You card as a concrete sign of your favour!  If they're any good, they deserve it.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Paradise Island Character Generation Q&A

Posting this here as not only is it an easy link but some of you guys from overseas might be legitimately interested in how I do it as well.  Caution, though, this is a long one.

Advanced Warning: Grand Adventure!  Strange Mysteries!  Long dead civilisations!  This is not a game of gothic horror and terrible tragedy.  It is far more Magnum P.I. and Tomb Raider than a game of withering moral decay and inscrutable elders.  This is a low-powered primarily cooperative cross-genre campaign which departs from canon in many places. 

The game set on a tropical island where tensions between a few wealthy western resorts and the nearby slum city are at an all-time high.  It is a low-powered game where all supernatural characters enter with a base sheet while hunters gain extra dots in skills, attributes and merits and where the asymmetry between the power levels of certain character types is embraced as just another layer to the setting.  While PvP will certainly exist, it should be kept reasonably low level with social interplays, love triangles and petty rivalries taking the place of high level murder, treachery and annihilation of one's opponents.
Due to the very specific feel of this setting, there will be a few additional restrictions on character generation.  In part this is because in a game of potentially only 2 - 3 creatures of your type, you don't need to dilute the special nature of your species with further divisions such as covenant affiliations.  In part it is also to keep the asymmetry of the game from reaching staggering proportions -- which is why you can't start with a skill above three OR ever purchase the fifth dot in any supernatural power.


What creatures can I play?

Vampires and their ghouls (Blood & Smoke).  Werewolf: the Forsaken.  Geist: Sin Eaters (referred to as necromancers in this game).  Mage: the Awakening.  Changeling: the Lost. Demon: the Fallen (nWoD conversion).  Demon: the Descent.  Hunter: the Vigil (limitations apply).

I want to play a villain!  Can I?

Full PvP is possible, but villainous characters and treachery are likely to be short-lived as there are just too many routes to discovery and too little incentive to meekly accept a monster as an ally.  Bear in mind that many players who adore playing the villain often find the inevitable and often untimely and unceremonious defeat of their character rather aggravating.  No enemy that runs up against a dozen characters and deals with them on a day-to-day basis is likely to last long.  Creating an unassailable villain that cannot be dealt with by an entire group of PCs is not only highly unlikely in a cross-genre game but also incredibly boring and frustrating for everyone concerned.  You can portray a villainous NPC, however, whenever I need cast for them.

What about competitive PvP?

Go for it.  Portraying a bitchy character, rivalry for an NPC's affection, competition for authority or clashing over territory adds all kinds of zest.  Even relatively benevolent and friendly rivalries are great entertainment.  You could make one-sided deals, do little dodgy experiments such as coaxing a vampire to drink a coke, or otherwise make your own entertainment.  All of that is great stuff.  There's also nothing to say you can't be a bit suspicious of another supernatural type so long as you accept that they'll be sticking around.  Murder, frequent violence (primarily against non-regenerating targets like changelings, demons and humans), major theft from other party members and treachery will probably end with you dead or exiled. 

I've read the various character type documents.  Why so many restrictions?

Most games let you use pretty much everything in one game line.  This game lets you use most things in several game lines.  In a way, it's less restrictive than most.  Also while a certain amount of asymmetry between character types is expected, all characters need to feel relevant and for this game to really shine there's a certain style that needs to be followed during character generation.

Can I play a vanilla human?  No endowments?

It's one thing to play a less *powerful* character, it's another thing entirely to *only* have skills and attributes to fall back on -- especially if you're also playing someone with no extraordinary knowledge and skills to back them up.  You'll find your character swiftly becomes completely redundant because unfortunately a pure mortal (unless it's a set up for a sudden transformation later on) isn't going to offer anything that a supernatural can't since skills start to take a back seat when super powers can duplicate many of a skill's effects.  If you want to play ordinary human beings then I recommend joining as Cast because while a single mortal will find it hard to stay relevant each and every session, a dozen mortals will always have *something* to do and can create a myriad of meaningful stories that will allow you to explore being perfectly normal in an abnormal world.  And I can always use new cast!

So I want to play a supernatural who is also a military / scientific / law enforcement official with this really epic backstory….?

Sorry, let me stop you there.  Unless you're human, you need a mundane backstory.  The more ordinary your character's human history, the more incredible and fabulous the transformation into a supernatural will feel.  Finally your character is no longer ordinary!  Finally they are something special.  It's one of the few perks humans get and, more importantly, an epic back story means your character's colourful past will overshadow their present and potentially that of everyone else in the game.  Naturally changelings get a little more leeway during their durance but that's largely because much of their durance history is both blurry and fake.  After all, a changeling could *think* they were a fantastic physicist or epic engineer in Arcadia but what are the odds the Keeper bothers with real physics anyway when one can substitute math for magic.

So if the epic jobs are out, what's left?

Massage therapist.  Fire stick juggler.  Crèche worker and children's entertainer. Concierge.  Receptionist.  Swimming instructor.  Tour guide.  Tourists of various stripes.  Bartender.  Mechanic.  Taxi driver.  Gift shop clerk.  Tiki hut cleaner.  Artist.  Electrician.  Construction worker.  Cook.  Dancer.  Surfer.  Parent working two jobs.  Fisherman.  Boat pilot.  Charity fundraiser.  You get the idea.

What nationalities can we belong to?

The resort island is off the coast of Indonesia but was considered a little too far out of the way during the first tourism boom of the seventies and so after a decade it became really run down.  There's no one native to the island but there are second generation (and a few third generation kids) from those imported to work the tourism angle and then later a few cheap factories during the eighties when tourism slumped.  While rich tourists can be of any nationality, they will be mostly Indonesian, Singaporean, Malaysian, Chinese, Australian, and Japanese with French, German and UK visitors representing Europe and only a small proportion of Americans.  Some research into the cultural habits and demographics of your nationality would be good.  The poorer workers living here are primarily Indonesian and Chinese, who are incredibly reliant on the tourism trade and factories here as they can't afford to move.  You can read more about tourism over here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism_in_Indonesia

How much experience points do I get?

Nada.  None.  Zip.  You're all meant to be very basic characters.  Hunters will get free dots in a few different fields but everyone else gets base sheets.
Can I have mortal relatives or friends?

Sure!  Buy them as a contact to reflect your connection to them.

Can I have servants or bodyguards as retainers?

Nope.  Focus needs to be on the PCs.  You can still have staff portrayed through your resources and can buy favoured ones as contacts but anyone you want to have a lot of connection to should be a PC.

VAMPIRE: What if I have a ghoul?

You won't know how to do that.  Unless you convince another player to be your ghoul and then we can have them be created by your sire as a gift so that you don't know how to make new ones straight away.

VAMPIRE: Can I blood bond someone to gain their loyalty?

You won't know about that property of your blood and the hunters may have some pretty white lies to tell you about that.  This is probably for the best.  Knowing your friend can wrap you around their finger forever with a few drops of blood is the best way to generate paranoia towards your character.  Something for later seasons, perhaps.

Can I have a supernatural mentor?

Nope.  That's what the hunters get to be.  All sires will be dead or missing.  No werewolves to teach you the ropes.  No changeling freehold to join.  The supernatural population of sentient creatures (i.e. playable races) will be almost entirely PC.

Why would we listen to hunters?

Simple, I'm only referring to them as hunters because they're from the Hunter: the Vigil book.  You'll know them as human experts in the supernatural who can help you understand what's become of you.  Until very recently, you thought of yourself as a human (for most of you, anyway) so you shouldn't have an in-built fear of other human beings.  Don't worry.  It's no longer a sin for werewolves or changelings to reveal themselves to mortals anymore.  In fact, where possible I'm removing the morality traits from every creature.  I might do something different with Harmony.  I haven't decided yet.

How fresh are we anyway?

All of you will be less than a month old as a supernatural (hunters excepted) with a preference for characters being between a week to a few hours after their change.  Changelings will be able to regain their old lives and will only have been missing for less than six months (no fetch) of real time though years may have passed in Arcadia.  We'll include everyone's preludes during the workshop process to ensure that people have some encounters with each other before their change as well.

Can I have been a ghoul / wolfblooded and get knowledge that way?

No.  No prior supernatural knowledge for your characters that would help them out.  Naturally minor encounters that fit the change can have occurred but you mustn't give your characters too much context.  A necromancer (i.e. sin eater) might have had to avoid graveyards and ghost tours pre-death due to a creepy feeling they always got.  A werewolf might have been sure they were being haunted shortly before their First Change because of spirit activity.  However no one mentored you in what happened beforehand and you don't get to know anything fancy.  You learn in-game.

Can I know pop culture references?

You sure can.  In fact, I absolutely and 100% encourage basing your knowledge off television and mythology where you can.  I might even change up the canon a little bit to make certain things true.

VAMPIRE: Won't I be forced out of sessions that happen during the daytime?

No, vampires will be given daylight rings by the Loyalists of Thule which allows them to spend a blood to stay awake and safe during the daytime.  They won't have access to any blood buff or disciplines during this time, but can still remain the tanks of the operation through quick healing and the fact they take bashing from most sources.

Can I enhance humans with my powers?
Yes.  Ghouldom is the only exception as it would wipe out their endowments, but you won't know how to do that, so it's fine.

VAMPIRE: Can I Embrace a mortal human?

You won't know how to do that so it'll probably end badly.  So please don't.  Unless the PC has entered into play to be your childe.  Then that could be amusing.

WEREWOLF: What about lunacy?  Will that affect the hunters?

Nope.  Lunacy will still be there, but won't affect anyone with a supernatural template or the Sleepwalker merit, which all of the hunters will have for free.

WEREWOLF: Won't pack separate me from the other supernaturals?

Other supernaturals and mortals can join your pack.  However they can't add to your Totem Spirit though they can reap some of the benefits.  Your totem spirit will be more of an adorable ally, though, rather than a heavy hitter.

WEREWOLF: Will I start with any renown?
Nope.  The first three dots will still be free but you'll need to earn it in-game, just like with everyone else.  It should be fun!  Don't worry I'm not depriving you of your free stuff just because "realism".  I'm doing it because it's a fun element of being a werewolf and will make it my mission to ensure that your pre-selected free dots are activated / earned in-game within the first month.

MAGE: Will I start with any rotes?

Yes, and no.  You won't enter play with them but you'll still get the six free dots to assign that you'll then need to learn in-game.  Let me know what rotes you want and I'll ensure they get to you in the first grimoire you find.  You'll need to find other grimoires to learn more rotes or spend considerable time researching them.  Again I'm happy to be guided by what you, the player, want to find but I'll also sprinkle around a few scrolls and the like to be gathered up and enjoyed that will discuss other rotes which may also provide greater knowledge of the island's secrets.

HUNTER: Will I get to pick my conspiracy?

You are all Loyalists of Thule.  You are also all ex-agents of other conspiracies.  At least other Loyalists think you are.  Is it true or not?  Who knows where your loyalties currently lie?  You can have been a member of the Cheiron Group, Lucifuge, or VASCU agent.  Alternatively you could be a pure Loyalist of Thule and take Relics as an endowment (typically belonging to another group who won't be included here).  Alternatively you can pick certain psychic merits and even low-rank rotes to fashion your own Endowments as a long-standing Loyalist so long as they fit an aesthetic and are no more powerful than Castigations.  No cheese.  This isn't a cheesy game. 

WEREWOLF: Does this mean I can't enter the Hisil much because no one can follow me?
You can turn loci into temporary verges to allow non-humans to cross.  You can then roll Intimidation so that all Hard to Ride mortals (i.e. hunters) won't be possessed by any spirits so long as they remain relatively near you.

CHANGELING: Can others enter the Hedge with me without getting torn to shreds?

Depends on the region of the Hedge you're hoping to enter.  Mostly they'll be fine and in the places where they wouldn't be you would also be under more threat than usual.  Luckily there'll be hedge fruit or trifles that can help you through.  You'll also have the Mirror Realm to worry about and that will sure be fun.

Will we still have rules booklets?

Yes, but it'll be doubly important to know what your powers do even if you don't know the mechanics behind them.  There'll be an in-game tutorial as part of your prelude and training by the Loyalists of Thule but from that point on it's up to you.  Since you won't have much in the way of experience points, you won't have so many powers to worry about though.

Can I buy five dots in a fighting style?

While tempting this would go against the idea of playing an ordinary person thrust into an extraordinary world. Unless you're a hunter, then you can go for it though I'd recommend prioritising ranged over melee since you'll be awful squishy.  Well, until the mages get enough Arcanum to cast a shield over you.  Then you'll only be as squishy as the mages.

What if I want to be a lone wolf and avoid others out of suspicion?

A logical reaction to the situation, but it's a LARP so you'll need to create a LARP character.  If changelings can justify joining Freeholds and vampires can justify going to court gatherings despite all the risks at either, I think you can justify hanging out with a bunch of randoms and clinging to them out of fear and confusion.  This is the character generation phase so "But it's what my character would do!" won't rub.  Create a new character.  One who'll give you a reason to attend the LARP.  Be suspicious, sure, but attend the gatherings and get involved or else you'll find yourself on the outside.  Those in the know (i.e. hunters) will have their hands too full to devote themselves full-time to encouraging your character to stick around.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Link to 650 Urban Adventure Story Seeds

Sometimes while running your urban adventures you just need a story seed to kick off something amazing.  Something that can be cast aside if the players aren't interested.  Something that could even just be local colour.  This is a .pdf of 650 somethings.  Take a look over here!  Many of them can even work for a modern game, not just a fantasy one.  Enjoy these many somethings!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Potential Two New LARPs

I'm already in the planning stages for the next two campaigns once Dark Before Dawn ends because that's how I spend my six week holidays as LARP GM.  For those not in the know, I'm not running any LARP games or dealing with a downtime period between my December and January sessions.

I'm not committing to these two campaigns at this stage but I thought I'd at least mention them to you guys.  If these campaigns run, they will be on the same weekend each month - one Saturday and one Sunday so that I have more weekends free for other purposes if necessary.


One of these campaigns is a low-powered cross-genre game set on a tropical resort island where you can play a vampire, geist, mage, demon (Fallen), demon (Descent), Hunter (Loyalist of Thule but several endowments available) or changeling using base character sheets.  As the point of the game is to explore being a brand new supernatural with no knowledge of your supernatural heritage, supernatural characters need to be brand new as supernaturals and with ordinary human histories (i.e. bartenders rather than soldiers and no skill or fighting style above three). 

This LARP isn't suited for players whose needs include high-powered play, clear lines of competition between groups, tragic descents into personal horror, or canonical World of Darkness reactions toward humans and other supernaturals (i.e. issues with vampires and werewolves getting along or involving humans like the Thule agents in supernatural business).

This game is designed for exploration, low-powered adventure and colourful characters with a group of between 10 - 25 players.  There will be tabletop sections (i.e. RtRs) but little to no plans for forum play at this stage.


The second campaign is a rules-lite psychological and investigative horror game set in a small town where you play an ordinary human being living in a strange place where everyone knows the first siren means you must run for cover, the second siren means you're almost out of luck and the third siren means you're already dead and you just don't know it yet.  A town where you don't go outside when there's fog.  A town where the phone rings and mysterious voices urge you to do things that really are for the best -- no matter what they say.

This town takes a lot of inspiration from a number of survival horrors and will run as a series of investigative mysteries and adventure-style games in the style of Call of Cthulhu LARPs though the world itself is a home-brew version of this one with technology and even fashion ranging from between the 1920s to the 1960s.  Since it is a psychological horror game, there will be a number of triggering subjects encountered during the game and a full list will be provided closer to the date.  The town itself and the main NPCs will be created by the players alongside the GM at a full day workshop. 

This game is primarily mystery-oriented with an investigative backbone and will run with a group of between 6 - 14 players.  There will be a few tabletop sessions due to the rules-lite nature of the LARP though there will be a strong online component so it is important that all players be willing to post on the forums.


For those of you who are already members of the Adelaide Roleplaying Community Inc. and who can actually play, let me know which, if either, LARP you would consider playing after the Dark Before Dawn campaign has concluded.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

WoTR: Reaching Drezen

(Dragon Age: Inquisition)
I know I've posted up the various settlements surrounding Drezen before but now that Alphy has literally marched a bunch of people through it, I thought it would be worth lining up where the various NPCs following him ended up and how the various folks in these little towns will react to him and his companions.  If you're going to conquer the Worldwound and be all epic, you're going to want to feel epic and the best way to do that is to have the world around you react to your choices.  Yes, this is another article that belongs to an earlier point but I messed up the Scheduled Post arrangements so here we are.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Troubles as a LARP GM at the Nurse Cassandra Sessions

As with all of the Cassandra sessions, I felt like I missed a lot and saw very little.  Part of the problem is that in such a large space whenever I headed over to a small cluster of people, they'd all break conversation and look at me in case I had anything GM-like to say which made me feel less comfortable eavesdropping. 

The volume also left much to be desired, but unfortunately, part of that was just the problem with the audio-visual equipment.  You can click THIS LINK to see more about what I've learned thus far about audio-visual equipment from earlier Cassandra sessions.  Trust me, if you're planning to use it in a LARP you will want to know what to worry about.  Three sessions and I still haven't gotten it quite right!

My text slides were just fine (slightly long time-wise for me but fine for others) and adding sub-titles to the video clips worked out great.  Unfortunately they were all too quiet (the last more than most) compared to the surrounding music so although Nurse Cassandra was meant to arrive before or after them to dispense the Emotion Cards and otherwise be creepy, I had to instead crouch OOC by the volume controls and turn it up once the video clips were going, then let the following song be loud as I did my Cassandra thing post-clip.  Then I had to remember to go over and turn it down.  Now my video editing program does allow me to turn up the volume on certain clips but sitting at home in front of the computer they didn't seem to be all that different.  Always road test your clips at the volume they'll be playing at during the game.

The clips also weren't quite spaced far enough apart, but since we started half an hour late because of a last minute Windows Update that took forever (remember to switch off auto-updates) and the player with the backup laptop had already said they would be late, I was already skipping through some of the blank spaces to condense the recordings to fit.  There were basically five sets of text slides followed by video clips, which was a bit much (I know!) but in truth the number of them seemed a bit fine.  Their duration was okay, too, it was more of a spacing thing.

Of course out of the few players I've polled so far, one player thought the timing was perfect as they'd keep flicking up just as she'd run out of stuff to do, another player thought they were too tightly packed at the beginning and another too tightly packed at the end.  Since they were all roughly as separate as each other, I'd have to say that it's simply a matter of when you have the most to do.  If you're busier at the start, they're intrusive.  If you're busier at the end, they're intrusive.

Thankfully as it's a campaign LARP, it's not a deal breaker, but if this were a one shot I'd really either use fewer or have it something the characters can trigger in small groups as they please, such as if they have access to a laptop that plays it small and they can just turn them on and off as they please.  Probably the latter, so it's not intrusive and people can interact with them at their leisure whenever they've got some downtime or run out of stuff to do.

Anyway, the other problem I had as a GM is that since the players are so spread out, I can only catch snippets of their roleplay and seem to spend so much time simply moving across the space that I just never can pull together a meaningful storyline of any of the characters.  Since I was only called on as a GM about a dozen times in the space of three and a half hours, you'd think I would have witnessed far more than I did.  Luckily my players have made a big point of telling me anecdotes.

So as you'll notice over in the write up at THIS LINK, many of the points are briefly described because I didn't really see them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

WoTR: Trouble in Kenabres (earlier segment)

Well this will be totally out of chronological order, but it's worth posting up anyway as it might be of value to those dealing with any brief returns to Kenabres during the campaign.

Once they are successful, Alphy Hernaste likely won't be able to stop himself from gloating but the gathering is then attacked by individuals calling themselves the Children of Mendev.  This band of tieflings lack the power to be a credible threat but they are desperate to free themselves and people like them from the thread of the Third Crusade's deparations.  Little do they know but Prelate Hulrun (LN Inquisitor 13) has mellowed to the extent that he would only lock tieflings and suspected cultists into a ghetto rather than burn them alive without trial.

Still the attack causes his generals to reconsider their standing as there is no point in holding reprobates, at best, and cultists at worst - wasting their dwindling food supplies over winter.  If Alphy doesn't think of it himself, Nestrin Alodae will recommend that he takes the ghetto with him.  Prelate Hulrun declares at this that they cannot waste food on fools.  In truth his declaration here is more rooted in a desire to justify protecting Kenabres' own damaged stores of food for the right people rather than a desire to see Drezen wither and starve.  He has also written off Drezen as a lost cause due to its leadership.

A Sense Motive DC 25 check will reveal each individual's thoughts.  Nestrin Alodae feels that these are the last days of the world and wishes only to shepherd people into the light and fears losing their souls in senseless bloodshed against their own number.  Prelate Hulrun Shappock has vague fears that he never arrived in Iomedae's lands but that too many other souls will be consigned to the Abyss by his poor decision making -- he is torn by his indecision and his own shame causes him to throw his weight behind black and white thinking in the hopes of finding a rock to cling to.  General Dyre is uncertain whether Kenabres will survive the winter without resort to cannibalism if the stores aren't adequately protected.  General Marcovina is angry that resources are sent on a morale stunt like Drezen when they could be better used on Kenabres.  Eterrius Sunnestier is confident that all will be well with the world.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Side Quests in Mendev / Worldwound

Here's a few bits and bobs that I've run with my solo player with a different character to his Mythic Monk prior to the introduction of our second player.  It gives me a chance to play with grittier low level themes where there's no real expectation of levelling up to awesome ... basically, the typical state of affairs for your average NPC.  His level 3 Ranger is an ex-paladin who lost his faith after one too many brushes with the Worldwound (he completed several tours) prior to the Wardstone's collapse and has only returned to Mendev via the River Kingdoms because he believes the Wardstone collapse to be the end of the world and he wants to make his stand.

Thus far he's mainly followed one of the main Crusader Roads from Egede, recruiting a half dozen tieflings who'd been begging for a job from the side of the road (as the best way to avoid being killed by locals is joining a squad) and losing a few of his own mercenaries after their first taste of demonic behaviour.

Most of this was roleplaying with him dealing with his squad and seeing the signs of demonic attacks on villagers and even an army (three Vrocks teleported into the middle of them while Brimoraks provided some fireball support before all teleporting away).  It was all body bits and superstition and looting the dead.  He also saw some conmen trying to sell false cold iron weaponry and superstitious demon wards that didn't work (but which some of the sellers genuinely thought would be effective).

Later he met a Chelish "heal hex" witch who thought himself a paladin and who had way more loot than his level since he'd gutted his house financially, won back his soul through loopholes (ancestral contract) and tricked his evil relatives into getting themselves executed by accident.  Basically a brush with a saint whose personality was a little more ordinary than his triple-carts made him seem.  He hired on the ranger's squad for the distance from Egede to Kenabres and eventually gave him a holy merciful demonbane longsword that has turned the ranger from ordinary level three to a paper tiger.

Journeying with the fellow that is now referred to as the Chelish Saint since he can cure everyone once per day (and has been doing so) gave him a sterling reputation which he promptly sullied by telling a bunch of generals to go to hell, basically, when they invited him into their tent to win him over to their side.  He still wasn't pleased that they raised Lord Hulrun who had inspired so many witch burnings in his time.

Actual mini-quests he has accomplished / will accomplish include:

  1. A Riddleport-style town cooped up within walls and full of shell shocked veterans and peasants too poor to leave the country and too scared to stay had a few of the insubordination demons called Thoxel demons were infiltrating brothels as prostitutes and bartenders to sow dissent.
  2. The Pathfinder Society Adventure "Scars of the Third Crusade" where he is paid by Pathfinders to solve the murders before their own people hang.
  3. The false conspiracy rumours in Bedis that turn out to be nothing.  A bit of a breather episode to contrast some of the things he's been dealing with and the rather ordinary lives of those in Bedis.
  4. Brave Brak Gloomaxe of the Divine Beetles Squad hires him on for a short while in Valas' Gift for general guard duty.  Slowly he hears of a strange and bizarre culture and only later does he realise that it's, in fact, a Marid and not a succubi he needs to worry about.  Also mild intrigue between a Pharasmin cleric and an ex-lake pirate from Brevoy.  Also contrast this village with the previous one he'd visited before the slaughter that occurred during the wardstone collapse.
  5. A week spent on Bridgepoint in Fort Portmanteau where he fills in for an ailing fighter and battles a few bored demons and must avoid being tempted to follow them into either the Death Woods or the Worldwound.
  6. The ruined temple that once housed a half-Nabasu on the road to Drezen is now a one-storey watchtower temple dedicated to Shelyn but they are struggling against several Hala demons who are harassing the troops below and themselves at night.
  7. Vilareth Ford is currently being held by only a few squads when he crosses here and perhaps spends a night or two.  He may aim to help clear out the crypts but will definitely be turned back partway through (another higher level party can clear it later).  He can leave with one of the squads escorting merchants down Canyon Road.
  8. Keeper's Canyon involves an ambush on the troops in the main streets from a few Brimoraks eager to cause some damage followed by a single angry Vrock.  The point is to rout the protagonist into the ruins where he can meet the few people who are still living in this city and to take a look around the old ruins of the signs of death and terror that occasionally still lives within this place.  A good place for low level random encounters and general hauntings.
  9. The Singing Stones Fort needs help taking out a few Hala demons and Quasits that like to lurk in the air and report back to their various commanders.  They offer wood coins for demon heads brought back to them that can be traded with the Army for services.

Lessons from Audio-Visual Equipment in a LARP

LARPs are interesting beasts.  Creating audio-visual clips for a LARP is an equally interesting experience.  For my previous three big note LARPs I have used such clips projected onto a wall and my upcoming big session will use the same.  During one of these sessions, it was a typical news reel player before the game to give context.  During the other two sessions it was part of a campaign game and there was a constant image projected against the wall that went black in favour of white writing every so often.  There was also music that played along with it the entire time as part of the "movie."

My mistakes the first time around were two-fold. 

As there was no auditory cue for the shift from image to text, many of the text sections weren't seen which was doubly problematic because certain numbers were actually cues for certain player characters to become possessed.  So when you create such "clips" for your game it's important to make sure that any important shifts also have an auditory cue.  In the second session I fixed it by having the music shift from instrumental to lyric-based which drew attention to the screen.

I also made the written sections flash past too quickly.  It turns out that reading at a computer screen is far easier and quicker than reading on a projection screen.  Even my speed reading had a bit of trouble at times.  I've found that five seconds for one line and around 20 seconds for six lines works out much better, though erring on the side of more time rather than less is a good idea as it still seemed a little quick in the second session.

In my upcoming game I'm including actual short movie clips with subtitles for the hard of hearing, and for those inevitable times when half the players are talking among themselves (or talking about what's on the clip) which would make it harder for the other half to hear.  With subtitles, players don't necessarily have to shush other players unless their character would do so. 

Since it's such a large space, players who grow bored by the clips (3-4 minutes of writing from Cassandra than a 3-4 minute movie clip from another character's point of view) can always move elsewhere to continue their action.  These movie clips also start after the first hour and there are five of them - one for every half hour - which may prove too many.  I'll see how it goes.  These break points also signal me to bring new elements into the game which will create some pretty rapid pacing which may not be a bad thing with my players who are typically more into so-called brute force plots where there's plenty to do.

Since these new elements involve Emotion Cards that unlock sections of their real memories, inspiring new roleplay, it shouldn't be too bad since it's at least a social opportunity rather than an six to eight minute combination of clips and then BLAM!

Personally I think it's best to err on the side of shorter clips but as this is part of a campaign LARP, the players will doubtless be more forgiving than if it were a one shot for multiple reasons.  For one, players are typically more forgiving of a game that has had only six weeks of lead time rather than six months and when that lead time is the result of a campaign's pace rather than procrastination.  Secondly, players reprise their roles for later sessions so such clips actually give them more to play with (potentially) and remove a smaller percentage of overall game time than in a one shot.

Whether this means they actually enjoy these clips, or find them too long, is yet to be determined.  Odds are personal preference will come into play but so long as the majority don't mind them and a few wouldn't mind them being a big shorter (rather than loathing them), I'll be happy.

Finally, I'm bringing two laptops because you always need a back up, just in case.  And two USB devices.  You never can tell when things will go wrong. 

Have you used audiovisual elements involving clips in your tabletop or LARP games?  How'd it go for you?