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Author: Paul B

Ideal Role Playing Session Needs…

Ideal Role Playing Session Needs…

dice-trayRPGaDay Day #9 asks: Beyond the game, what’s involved in an ideal session? And I’d respond preparation.

The level of prep varies wildly, but it matters at all levels and on both sides. Both the GM and the players owe it to one another to come prepared to the table to deliver their best game.

A player who isn’t in the zone or the committed to the game will make it a chore for everyone. Being prepared means that the player gets in touch with the GM well in advance and says they’ll have a problem attending – or perhaps that they will attend but they can’t promise their best game. A GM can work with that, adjusting the session accordingly, focussing away from the player, or maybe pulling out something different for that week.

A GM needs to know the adventure, have all the table kit packed and ready, and be there on time (as should everyone). They should come to the table ready to play, have all they need organised and get moving ASAP. The real world can get in the way, but if you prepare a day or two in advance then that tough day won’t matter so much.

Whoever organised the venue needs to confirm availability. Someone needs to sort out the food and drink. All the standard stuff. Preparation makes an average game night (or day) the good experience it should be.

For my part, convention games have taken this a step further of late. An ideal session should have some bling. A nice world map, a few close-up tactical overviews, character sheets and cards, a dice tray and plenty of dice, a thematically appropriate dice bag – all the trimmings that will make the experience memorable for all involved. Convention games often serve as a player’s first pass on a new system, so a well prepared GM can create a truly memorable experience and help to expand the interests of the hobby.


RPGaDay 2016

Hardcover, Softcover, Digital

Hardcover, Softcover, Digital

RPGaDay Day #8 asks: Hardcover, softcover, digital? What is your preference?

If you look for the most significant impact on my gaming habits this year, you need to look no further than Symbaroum. A beautiful hardcover book filled with glorious illustrations with a dark and brooding cover image. The internal presentation of this book simply caught my imagination and hasn’t let go – resulting in all the content over on The Iron Pact. Every time I look at the book, I find something new. Sometimes, just a word, other times some detailing in an illustration.

However, I can’t really handle hardcover books in bed. For bedtime reading, assuming it isn’t a more reasonably sized paperback novel, I opt for digital. The tablet hitting my face might hurt almost as much, but the cover I use has a sort of handle on it… so, it should give me an additional moment to react.

Digital games have been a revelation. They make games and game design so accessible. It means I can get on a train and read a game book without any plan because I maintain a reading pile in Google Drive. If I need to reference a rule when I’m writing, the core book will be a few clicks away, as i have most of my current gaming needs in physical and digital format. Sometimes, I go digital first, then physical. Other times, physical leads to a collapse to purchase digital when the game or adventure wins me over.

In terms of game design, I wouldn’t have written The Cthulhu Hack without access to a burgeoning indie game design market. With marketplace portals like RPGNow, I can create something and throw it out there. If it’s good, it’ll sell; if not, it’ll sink. So far, The Cthulhu Hack has sold – which has been very gratifying.

Softcover only tends to grace my home when I make a purchase from Lulu. Like the digital marketplace, Lulu and other print-on-demand services make game design and game play more accessible. If you have a vanity project, you can get copies made. You might find a great fan produced PDF and make a copy for personal use. Quick, simple, and generally cheap if you want for a decent discount code.

Did I just manage to answer this question without actually making a choice?

OK – hardcover. For the impact in the last year, with Symbaroum specifically, hardcover every time.

RPGaDay 2016

The Effects of RPGs on Me

The Effects of RPGs on Me

wpid-20130202_093901.jpgRPGaDay Day #7 asks: What aspect of RPGs has had the biggest effect on you?

There existence has impacted me significantly, as without them and my interest in them, I would never have got into writing in the way I have.

I spent about 10 years running play-by-mail games in the late 80s and early 90s. I appreciate that it didn’t make me a better writer in a grammatical sense, but it did get me into the business of just writing for the fun.

I like writing. I can happily sit down and write almost anything. If I know that someone else will see it, well – that’s when the doubts might to creep in; but, that’s just me. I have self-criticality seeping out of my pores.

Without that early exposure to roleplaying, I likely wouldn’t have much of a reader either. Tackling the complexity of a roleplaying rule set has likely honed my analytical approach. I pick text apart. I don’t mean in terms of spelling and grammar, but in terms of shapes, associations, processes and the presentation of information.

And I still love roleplaying for the same reasons. I like reading them. I like running them. I like picking through them with a fine-toothed comb. It’s all good.

Oh… and I really struggled on the question for Day #6: Most amazing thing a game group did for their community? I genuinely have no recollection of any group involvement with the community, beyond the gaming community itself. Not that individual members haven’t got involved in their own way, but I don’t think the charitable actions had anything to do with the group!

RPGaDay 2016

Stories About Your Character

Stories About Your Character

Star-Trek-RPG-FASARPGaDay Day #5 asks: What story does your group tell about your character?

I have eternally made Dwarves Italian after a couple of entertaining games run in my ongoing Dragon Age campaign, does that count?

I honestly can’t say that this applies to me because I don’t recall anyone ever talking to me about my character. Maybe I don’t run in the same sort of circles or something?

Is this actually a thing?

I probably talk more about my own characters, rather than people talking about them. Even then, those moments of recollection only really come when I’m writing this sort of thing.

I have memorable characters and memorable moments.

I have Matt Houston, from by first ever Call of Cthulhu campaign, lying in a hospital bed, bereft of an eye, an ear, half his left arm and half his right leg. A private investigator with a number of investigations into the Mythos under his belt, his slow decline led him into cultism and his final act was to mutter a spell intended to summon an avatar of Azathoth. Curtain closed at the point, so I can’t tell you what happened next.

Or Commodore James Andrew Garth, who was demoted to Captain and assigned to the USS Lexington, running afoul of the Gorn in a crossover between the FASA RPG and the tactical starship combat game. The Lexington got destroyed – that’s all I really remember – but it happened with a lot of excitement, some dreadful command decisions and a final act that was either a ramming action or a slow fiery death in the atmosphere of the nearest planet.

Does anyone talk about those moments?

I shouldn’t think so.

RPGaDay 2016

Impressive Character Act

Impressive Character Act

TimeWatch-coverRPGaDay Day #4 asks: Most impressive thing another’s character did?

Wow. While I have enjoyed the whole business of RPGaDay for the last few years, I find this business of player focus distressing, because I’m not a player (well, distressing might be a bit extreme, but it’s the first word that sprang to mind). Oddly, when I run games I don’t necessarily remember what the players did, well or otherwise. It was either a great game or not. And then I’ll ruminate on whether it had anything to do with me.

Most impressive thing?

I ran a game of TimeWatch – by Kevin Kulp, published by Pelgrane Press – a couple of years ago where the time agent discovered that someone planned to kill Queen Elizabeth I with a nuclear device, hidden inside a statue. They had a reasonable idea who might be involved, but they needed to intercept a message, which they knew had been delivered some time back.

So, they had to jump back to intercept the message to read the content – or possibly influence the content.

The first attempt by the agent failed because they got distracted. A second attempt had to account for the presence of the agent the first time around and the fact the failure took place in an alleyway, which he couldn’t now enter. Alas, this also failed. Non-plussed, the player managed to come up with a way for the agent to return a third time, avoiding the first and second instance of their presence, intercepting the messenger and getting a swipe at the villain enemy time traveler who had actually been responsible for the second failure.

It was neat watching the players squirm their way through the paradox potential and for the character to come out with a viable plan that worked in the end.

Of course, now that I’ve written this out it feels like an impressive thing a player did rather than a character. Maybe I’ll need to go back and correct myself and come up with a better response.

RPGaDay 2016

Proudest Character Moment

Proudest Character Moment

PARANOIA-the-UnderplexRPGaDay Day #3 asks: Character moment you are proudest of?

I’m going to go weird and wild here because my proudest character moment is a setting.

The Underplex

In 2004 (or thereabouts), I got the chance to help with the text of PARANOIA XP. I got the job of working through the skills and service groups, contributing original text and some conversions across about 25 pages, which was nice. It also got me a place amidst the Traitor Recycling Studio.

In the Mandatory Fun Pack, which accompanied the GM Screen, I added a single line in one of the tables that referenced The Underplex. Offhand and nothing more, it later became my first solo writing project – a 48-page setting supplement of what lies beneath the underground Alpha Complex.

That’s the character I’m proudest of. I had the chance to take this thing that I created and flesh it out – drawing on some of the material published in the past about ‘dungeons’ beneath the realm of Friend Computer and taking it further.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was mine.

RPGaDay 2016

Book Pile: August 2016

Book Pile: August 2016

Beyond-the-Gates-of-AntaresThis past weekend provided some solid gains in the roleplaying department – and explain why I never post much in the thread about resisting purchases.

I got a dinged copy of 13th Age from Games Lore because I have heard so many positive things and had two good games. I couldn’t not buy it for £20 including postage. It almost seemed rude.

I have played this twice with Guy Milner – who runs a great game with fantastic bursts of compelling enthusiasm. I love Pelgrane for all the GUMSHOE goodness. And I have read so much good stuff. If nothing else, I would hope to find ways to adopt and adapt elements to other games I run. Failing that, it looks nice!

When it arrived on Friday, I also got Lone Wolf: Heroes of Magnamund come through from Cubicle 7, the second physical reward from Lone Wolf. It looks gorgeous, but I would never expect anything less.

I used the PDF for one of the games I ran at Seven Hills, so the physical book has been slow coming – and the whole KS remains glacial. I like the book and I enjoyed running the stuff out of the PDF – because it makes for a much more interesting group game when everyone isn’t a Kai initiate in the Lone Wolf vein.

Out of the box, Lone Wolf offers a very basic game – for a very reasonable price; but, you need a bit more to make it feel like anything more than a one-off or an introductory game for younger players. Having used Heroes to run a game, I feel it makes all the difference.

On Saturday, at Britcon Day #1 with All Rolled Up, I picked up The Force Awakens Beginner Game for the Star Wars game from Fantasy Flight.

I spotted this going for just over £20 – and it comes with the fancy dice that sell separately for £8 or more. I had noticed it the week before somewhere else, but £5 higher. I’m an idiot for buying new stuff, but I still have a budget!

I wanted to see what they might have tweaked for the setting of the new film… and when I get a chance to read it I’ll find out! I have enjoyed all the games I have run with this system. I continue to love the dice mechanic that drives the crunch and story alike. I know that this divides people, but I definitely lean toward the like it side – and this has BB-8 in it.

Finally, on Sunday, at Britcon Day #2, I had my eye on a wargame called Beyond the Gates of Antares, written by Rick Priestley (who wrote the original version of Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader, back in the Olden Days of Yore) and published by Warlord Games. They had a stall directly across from us and the book just stared at me the whole weekend.

This is a wargame, written with a variant of Warlord’s Bolt Action system. However, I love the original WH40K setting and Rick has a great rep in my opinion. The game had a thickish background section and a narrative scenario section – and a supplement… and I just had a good feeling about it.

Last time I had a ‘good feeling’ about something I picked up The Black Hack and I picked up Symbaroum – and both of those good feelings panned out pretty well.

I have a mind to pillage the background – and elements of the rules – to run as a roleplaying thing later in the year. I might even consider running this with my own 214 system, but we’ll see how the reading goes.

When I can get round to it…