July 9, 2008: 8:42 pm: Cons, GMing, Playing

Last year I apparently never actually posted any sort of post-convention report for The Black Road, so this time around I’m going to do it before I forget.

Further details on the games I mention below can be found here.

Slot 1: Sons of Liberty
GM: Jack Gulick

Since this slot took place on the afternoon of the 4th of July, it was particularly appropriate that we were playing a session of Josh Roby’s Sons of Liberty. It’s a game which is described as “a roleplaying game where the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen play Dynasty Warriors during the American Revolution.”

None of us had played Sons of Liberty before (except perhaps the GM), and that may have effected some of the decisions we made while setting up our characters. I played Thomas Payne (who flies around on an ornithopter), and the other players chose Abigail Adams, Rachel and Grace Martin, The Marquis de Lafayette and John Stark. The actual adventure itself was created using a madlibs style form that resulted in some pretty odd objectives.

As for the system itself, I think the problem I (and some of the other players) had with it was that the card game aspect often got in the way of the storytelling. In order to play the most advantageous combinations of cards (something all of the Patriot players must strive to do in order to defeat the Tories) we had to come up with some rather contorted actions to match those cards, which led to ignoring the things that our characters might actually have done in a given situation.

Despite that, I think everyone had a good time, and the over-the-top Revolutionary War setting certainly was fun.

Slot 2: Nine Princes in Spaaace: Star Patrol vs. The Moon Baron
GM: Carolyn Lachance

This was the second installment of a game that takes the Amber archetypes, sets them in the world of serials (such as the original Flash Gordon films), and uses Spirit of the Century as the system.

I played Rick Random, the eternal sidekick, who was actually shockingly competent in a variety of useful skills. He also said, “Golly!” a lot.

More so than the last time we played, I think SotC got in the way, mainly because the GM was so disenchanted with the idea of actually playing through the combats that we mostly avoided them. This resulted in the game being rather short.

Slot 3: Fortune’s Fool: Jumping at Shadows
GM: me

This was the third installment of my pirate zeppelin game, which uses Spirit of the Century as a system. Or at least it did this year. If I run another round of this game next year, I’m probably going to switch to something else, as I’m apparently just not cut out to run SotC. I think the idea of Aspects is great, and I don’t have a problem with being a player in a SotC game, but there’s just too much crunch hidden under there for me to be able to run it effectively.

The session itself involved pirates, airships, ninjas, the Royal Air Navy, clockwork armor, and a giant steam-powered robot! It seemed like everyone had a good time, which is the point, really, though I wasn’t entirely happy with my efforts.

Slot 4: Roanoke: The Other Side of Fear is Freedom
GM: Jennifer Jackson

An interesting take on the fate of the Roanoke colony, using Clint Krause’s Wushu-inspired Roanoke system. The players go into things knowing that the colony is doomed, with the only question being the manner of its end.

In this game I played Cecily Barton, a 14-year old girl who was in an arranged marriage with a much older man, and was also pregnant by him. She wasn’t entirely happy about this. The other characters included the son of one of the colony’s leaders, a transported criminal, and two natives.

I enjoyed the fiction we created, but wasn’t entirely enamored of the Roanoke system, perhaps in part because sections of it seemed under-explained in the rulebook. Still, we managed to save the majority of the colonists, thanks to the brave sacrifice of Ezekiel Finch. Apparently even criminals can be redeemed in the end. My character didn’t even end up being burned for being a witch, which was good, since she in fact wasn’t one. She did, however, get to hit a demon with a stick.

Slot 5: Nine Princes in High School
GM: Jack Gulick

It was the third or fourth time I’d played in this game where Teenagers from Outer Space meets Amber, and it was as silly as ever, despite the amount of meetings and office supplies that ended up being involved in things. I once again played Caine, leader of the Pirate Club, who triumphed despite having his ship burned. By “triumphed” I mean that he got a new one, as he wasn’t really much help with the actual plot. Fortunately, there wasn’t very much plot anyway.

That was my con for this year. It was great seeing both those folks that I only see at TBR and those who I see more frequently, and I hope everyone will be back for TBR 2009. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of The Black Road, and likely my fourth year as con chair.

March 22, 2008: 7:50 pm: Cons, Game systems, GMing, Playing

No posts for almost two months? Argh!

Let’s see, right now I’m basically just playing in one monthly D&D 3.5 campaign (which has been going on for a few years now), with an occasional session of a D&D-like fantasy homebrew. To paraphrase someone else, you game with the gamers you have, not the gamers you wish you had.

Last weekend was Ambercon U.S., and it was the third year in a row of my not attending. Somehow it seems like longer. I think it’s probably unlikely that I’ll be going again, but it’s not impossible.

The Black Road 2007 is now about three-and-a-half months away (registration is still open), and so far it’s looking like this year we’ve got enough GMs that I’ll only need to run two games. Which is kind of a shame, since I’d like to run three! The ones I’m likely to actually run are another installment of Fortune’s Fool (my pirate zeppelin game using Spirit of the Century), and a game of Best Friends (the details/setting of which I still haven’t decided on). The one I’m unlikely to run, despite wanting to, is a session of In A Wicked Age.

That’s the status of my gaming at the moment.

January 27, 2008: 3:20 pm: Game theory (or close enough), GMing

Over on Knife Fight, Vincent “Lumpley” Baker offered some advice for how to change the way a group plays to a method that resembles the set-up that’s used for towns in Dogs in the Vineyard. It’s pretty cool stuff, and I’m going to reproduce it here so that you can see for yourself without having to join Knife Fight.


November 24, 2007: 11:36 am: GMing, Playing

There are a couple of fine blog posts here and here that were originally aimed at urban fantasy authors, and then expanded a bit to include authors in general. I’m posting them because they also look damned useful for designing both PCs and NPCs for RPGs.

June 21, 2007: 8:32 pm: Cons, GMing

Self, if you decide to run two games at next year’s The Black Road, don’t pick two systems you’ve never run or even played before, and most definitely don’t have one of those systems still be in development. Coming up with good game ideas is hard enough without having to also learn two sets of rules and figure out how to teach them.

[For those who might be wondering, this year I’m running a pirate zeppelin game using Spirit of the Century rules and also running a game of Afraid.]

February 12, 2007: 8:45 pm: Game theory (or close enough), GMing

Better late than never (my link, I mean, not her post), I give you Mo’s Relationship Web Builder:

So I thunk this tool up a while back, and am looking to develop it further. It combines the Blood, Violence, Sex, Money ties that Brand tells me are from Sorcerer Soul into a process not unlike Dogs Town creation. I tested it out on Dave Cleaver, and he came up with something kinda nifty. For now it can be used to create a web in any game that has no explicit tools to build such a thing. Maybe at some point I’ll actually build it in to one of my games.

You can get some really interesting relationship maps by following the steps she lays out, and be sure to read the comments for even more ideas (and maybe offer some of your own).

And you should probably read the rest of her posts while you’re there.

January 2, 2007: 8:24 pm: GMing, Playing

A Story Games thread that might be of interest, particularly to Amber GMs (since it’s a situation that seems to happen a lot in Amber games):

Keeping players together when their protagonists diverge

June 14, 2006: 9:07 pm: Cons, GMing

Every time I’m going to run games at a convention, I tell myself that this time I will start working on it earlier, so I’m not left trying to do everything at the last minute.

I’ve yet to pull this off.

Now I’m coming up on TBR, where I’ll be running a game of The Roach and a swashbuckling pirate adventure game of my own devising. Fortunately, there’s not a whole lot of prep for the former game other than familiarizing myself with the rules well enough that I can explain them to others, but the latter game needs world building, a plot, and pregenerated characters, none of which are finished yet.

The good news is that it’s still a couple of weeks until the con, which means I may be panicking early enough to be able to get it all done with time to spare.

Next time though, things are going to be different….

March 22, 2006: 10:47 pm: GMing

Joshua BishopRoby has an interesting piece up about how to deal with some of the problems that arise during an open-ended game:

For a lot of gamers, “roleplaying game” is synonymous with open-endedness, a developing experience that can go on and on indefinitely, accreting details and significance and personal resonance. While the open-ended nature of roleplaying games does have some distinct advantages, especially in terms of investment and immersion, those advantages come at a cost. Somebody has to keep the flywheel moving, and that is not always the easiest thing to accomplish.

There are some good insights and ideas in there, and it’s worth reading if you’re running (or planning to run) a long-term campaign.

March 20, 2006: 9:41 pm: Game theory (or close enough), GMing

Starting with only Ron’s definition of Situation and material from The Cheap and Cheesy Adventure Generator, Vincent does a great step-by-step explanation of creating situation.

Dynamic interaction between specific characters and small-scale setting elements; Situations are divided into scenes. A component of Exploration, considered to be the “central node” linking Character and Setting, and which changes according to System. See also Kicker, Bang, and Challenge.
from Ron Edwards’ Provisional Glossary

There’s the definition, and here’s what we’ve got to work with:

* Locations: The secret central shrine of a temple to forgotten gods. (Magical)
* Characters: A hermit priestess, practicing obscure deprivations. (Wilderness)
* Threats: An order of magician-monks who punish blasphemers. (Magical)
* Threats: Field-vipers, wild dogs, loose bulls, and a variety of spiders. (Countryside)

How do you take these things and make a situation out of them? I’ll walk you through it.

It’s well worth a read, and, unlike some of the stuff Vincent posts, it’s immediately useful for people who aren’t especially into rpg theory or game design. Check it out.

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