Sunday, October 27, 2013

Props, Profiles, and Profits(?)

3 for 1 Sale.


I've used props infrequently in my games through the years. When I do use one there tends to be a really compelling reason leading me to put forth the extra effort. I once wrote a very schizophrenic poem with weird spacing that was actually a map (and the content of the very Post Modern poem hinted at which branches of the cave should be taken). The map was of a hidden region in the second layer of Pandemonium and ripped quite literally from the the diary of a madman. If I can find it, I'll post it over on the G+ Map-Making in Games page. But that's not really the point. The point is thus: should I bother to make/use a prop, it's kind of a big deal. RPGs are, to my mind, primarily an exercise in words.

Which brings me to the crux of what is quickly becoming a full-on scattered-ass rant; the best prop I've ever used is a simple 50¢ notebook. If you are running an investigative scenario, buy one for each of your players.

Tiny Notebook Still Life #1, Actual Prop w/ GIMP
As we (GMs) all know, player note-taking is usually infrequent at best. Vital knowledge is rarely ever committed to paper (but for some reason the name of that random barkeep from the first session usually is *sigh*). 

I gave these tiny notepads to my players for a stupid-supers game (ala The Tick and Mystery Men); they wrote it all down. The players seemed to actually enjoy noting down the ridiculous clues and facts of the case at hand. We've all watched enough police procedurals to know that all detectives write down important things in tiny notebooks. Oddly enough, when given tiny notebooks and a crime to solve, players will also write everything down.


+Zak Smith (who is noted for rolling strange dice with interesting people) invented the RPG Person Profile, which is an excellent idea. My profile is accessible from the My RPG Nerd Profile link at the top right of my blog.


The layout of my for-money nerd game publishing debut piece, "Wretched Grasp w/ Bonus Mini-Adventure Wretched Beginnings" is coming along swimmingly. I'm in the early stages of laying the thing out. If I can stop obsessing over unimportant design minutia, I should have it for sale before too long. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Too Many Creeps b/w You Can't Be Funky

Inspiration can/should spring forth from the strangest places.

I've got a strange place I'd like you to visit: click here.

The strangely sinister funk you've just experienced, did it release any creative juices?

I'll tell you (well type at you) what it sparked for me:

"The streets was always mean. Now they're vicious. It's something new, something hard to see. Some people just ain't quite human no more; ya feel me?

"It's like a disease, man; takes out your soul.  Make's ya not able to create nothing new. Just sort of mimic life, ya know. They go through the motions 'til they get a chance to strike. Act like folk but without any thinking, any feeling, but when they get that chance... BAM! You one of them now.

"You gotta test 'em man. Ask 'em how they feel. Make a mother fucker write a poem. Make 'em sing. Make 'em dance. Them that's gone, can't; They just can't. I guess you can't be funky, if you ain't got no soul.

"Ya gotta know, man. Gotta know."

So, what kind of weird stuff inspires you?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Some Scattered Thoughts

What I've Been Doing:

I've poured a great deal of work into three smaller scale projects for the past few weeks: a Sans System Bestiary Entry with a bonus Adventure, a Modern Fantasy Investigative Scenario set at an 80s Music Festival, a Fantasy Adventure with Queer Theory themes, and (because one can never have too many irons in a fire) I've written up a very rules light Story Game System, Quick Fiction (<--working title).

I've got rough drafts done on the Bestiary Entry for the Wretched Grasp and its companion adventure "Wretched Beginnings", both are very weird fantasy. I'm quite pleased with the way this one's shaping up thus far. The adventure itself is designed to serve as an introductory session to kick off a campaign and draw together diverse Player Characters. The implied campaign following "Wretched Beginnings" is unusual and proving to be a very fertile ground for inspiration, at least for me.

Concept Art for Wretched Grasp
Moving on, Quick Fiction is essentially designed. It just needs a great deal of editing, feedback, and play-testing. (Oh, is that all?) When Quick Fic.'s done, I'm thinking of giving it away with other products. So buying an adventure from me, also gives you the means to run it. (Not that anyone buying adventures from an obscure RPG blogger is unlikely  to have a RPG or two on hand... meh.)

On the other two projects, if I can ever stop making fun of the small-time cock rock band Mouth Muscle in the Modern Fantasy Adventure, "Rewind! Fastforward! Awaken!", progress on writing the rest of it may commence. "Fleeing the Feathered Dandy" the Queer Theory Adventure (very, very unsure of the title) is going well. I like the premise, though it is harsh and probably a bit too true-to-life for many people. The crux of the plot on this one may be escape, but escapism it ain't. There'll be a list of pseudo-Greek sounding names in it. That might be something useful if homosexuality and religious lynch-mobs make you uncomfortable.

A Brief Rant and Some Questions:

When I was a child, I watched a ton of John Wayne movies. I'm quite certain that the image of his characters, self-reliant and standing tall, has affected much of who I am as a person and a game designer. (Just like my youthful infatuation with Thoreau sometimes affects my sentence structure [so, many, commas.]) Sir Havart the Unbent, for example, is kind of an estoc-wielding John Wayne character that never was, and the Southern Marches draws heavily from the US Western frontier. The tall, proud, defiant, wild-but-reasonable archetype got further entrenched in my psyche by Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein. Even when Tolkien, Weis, Hickman dominated my RPG conceptualizations, figures that could've been played by John Wayne and wouldn't have felt out of place in Galt's Gulch were important and recurring.

So that's what I've been up to, now for some homework questions:

What childhood experiences still heavily influence your RPG experiences? Do you see certain archetypical characters repeating themselves through your home-brews? Where did they come from?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rapier Wit, Taken Too Literally

Social Conflict is a polarizing issue in the already polarized world of Roleplaying Games. (Nerds love to argue; we really do.) Even I have waffled quite a bit and still remain a bit ambivalent on the subject. Both arguments make a certain amount of sense.

The Arguments In Essentia :

Pro Social Conflict type Mechanics - Not everyone can swing a sword or cast fireballs, but there's a system in place to let them pretend to do so efficiently. Not everyone can be quick witted and debonaire; why wouldn't there be some mechanics to simulate that for them?

Anti Social Conflict type Mechanics - Why on earth would you let dice dictate how a conversation goes? Aren't we supposed to be getting creative together? Dice controlling or contradicting Dialogue seems to be completely counter to the idea of player agency.

My Thoughts and Practices :
Personally, I find the vast majority of in character conversations to not really require dice. If your character is offering the innkeeper a compelling reason to let them stay at a discounted rate, I'll probably just let it happen (unless the innkeeper was particularly miserly). However, should one of my players say, "I wanna talk him down to like three silver," I would likely respond with "Allright. How're you gonna try that?"

I wouldn't be looking for a the exact argument verbatim. Had the player wanted to get into it, he/she would have just done so.  Once I got an idea of what they were going for, I'd let the heart of the argument rest as a bonus or penalty and roll them bones.

That's all well and good, but not every system has mechanic that works well for social shit. Therefore, I've (barely) developed a little bolt-on mechanical system: Social Weapons and Armor.

The Nuts and Bolts :

Basically take whatever skill/task/noncombat resolution your system has and let the "attacking" party choose a "weapon" and the "defending" party choose some "armor". (Hooray! Extended Metaphors!)

In the example above, the player would be the attacker and the innkeeper the defender. (Most of the time, that's how it's gonna be. Players usually do [and should] take the active role in things.)

Each attack type is cancelled out by a defense type. Should the social attack not be countered by the appropriate defense, then the player gets a small bonus to his/her roll. If the character has a high Charm, Prettyness, Charisma, or Whatever score drop in another bonus. If he/she has some skill in Persuade, Sexxy, Seduction, or Whatever let him/her choose two attacks or defenses to try simultaneously.

This can be used to simulate an attempt at seduction, a plea for help to an unwilling person, or even two parties arguing a case before a judge/baron/visier/king/etc. One party setting up an "attack", the other the "defense". (If it's unclear who is attacking or defending, the defensive position is the one closest to the status quo or requiring the least action/change.)

Additionally, Social Weapons and Armor, could be a pretty good way to represent political maneuvering/chicanery in pretty much any setting/system. A few checks here and there could help determine what type of support one turns up with when the Great Senate is called to session.

Charm - Being beguiling and seductive or simply affable and friendly.
Wary - Having Exceptional distrust and caution when it comes to people.

Authority - Citing one's own or borrowing somebody else's authority (whether political, muscled, academic, etc.). Remember, having a knife/gun in your fist is it's own type of Authority.
Irreverent - Not giving a good godsdamn 'bout nobody's stupid shit!

Facts - Throwing down logical and material arguments.
Educated - Being well-informed and smart enough to counter with your own facts and reasoning, or simply being clever enough to shift the facts to fit your worldview.

Pandering - Playing to sensibilities of the subject(s). Of course, these sensibilities need to be known.
False Front - Not actually having the sensibilities one seems to have.

Morality - Appealing to the moral feelings and sense of decency in the subject(s).
Dogmatic - Having a completely inflexible moral code that disregards situational ethics.

How to actually use it :

Let's take Lamentations of the Flame Prince Weird Fantasy Role-Playing as an example. It's skill system pretty much implies you've got an X in 6 chance to do something/anything. Add in your Charisma bonus (+1 = another 1 in 6), see if your argument attack/weapon is canceled by the defense/armor (no? 1 in 6 goes to 2 in 6), and roll them bone.

If you're using a d20 system, I'd probably give it a +1 or +2 depending on how apropos the "Weapon" was to the situation at hand, assuming it wasn't countered of course. Using a pool system? Roll a bonus die.

Anyway, I'll let you figure out the details. It should be pretty simple to bolt this idea on to pretty much any rpg system. Expanding the list of  "Weapons and Armor (Nouns and Adjectives)" wouldn't be difficult, either.

So ya, good gaming and enjoy the now crunchier arguments.

Post Scriptum : It occurred to me, while writing this, that it'd be pretty easy to turn this into a duelling subsystem as well. Somebody do that, please, and don't forget to share it with the rest of the class.

Additionally, I'm working on a few modules/adventures and a Sans System Bestiary format Monster (with a bonus Micro-Adventure!) which I intend to sell for money. (Plus, I'll be a father sometime soonish. I understand babies are a bit of a time suck.) Hence, this blog is about to slow waaaayyyy the hell down. I'll still probably kick a real article out every now an again, but expect a lot of journalish, this-is-what-I'm-doing type posts for a while.

Word Out, Homies.