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.

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.

January 31, 2007: 10:17 pm: Cons, Playing

There’s an interesting thread over on Story Games (and yes, I do realize how many of my posts are related to Story Games) about playing games at cons with people you know versus playing with people you don’t know.

Personally, when I play prefer a mix, as I’m more at ease socially if there are at least one or two people that I know, but playing with people I’ve never met (or only know from online) means getting to experience new styles of playing and new perspectives on games. When I GM I prefer the balance to lean more toward people I know, as I’m more comfortable running a game if I’m at least somewhat familiar with the players.

The thread’s also got interesting points about getting to know the people you’re playing with, so it’s well worth a read.

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

October 2, 2006: 10:25 pm: Miscellaneous, Playing

Since this seems to have now migrated from LJ into the rest of the blogosphere, I guess I’ll give it a shot.

Name 12 characters you have played in RPGs, before looking at the questions that follow. List your characters numbered 1 to 12, with the name of the RPG you played them in. Once you’ve picked your 12 characters, look at the questions and answer accordingly. (No peeking until you’ve picked your characters!) Put your answers behind a cut.

  1. Jerrym (Amber Diceless RPG)
  2. Captain Wesley Hobart (ADRPG variant)
  3. Alishish “The Damned” Rajish (fantasy heartbreaker)
  4. Alexander Kovalev (GURPS Fatherland)
  5. Greunthard (GURPS Discworld)
  6. Marcellus Hamlin (D&D 3.5)
  7. Brother Virgil (Dogs in the Vineyard)
  8. Amir bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Nasir bin Safwan Al-Majid (aka The Mad Arab) (ADRPG variant)
  9. Alvaro Lopez (ADRPG variant)
  10. Tony Chen (aka Fat Chen) (ADRPG variant)
  11. Garrinton (Timemaster/GURPS hybrid)
  12. Benedict Pons (ADRPG variant)


December 6, 2005: 9:48 pm: Cons, GMing, Playing

Over on The Forge, Pôl Jackson posted about the games he played in and ran at this year’s Ambercon NW, and then came to this conclusion:

And it took writing all of that just to realize: I need to start playing on purpose. I can’t just show up to a game half-prepared and expect that fun will somehow happen to me, as if by magic. Over the last year, my tastes have changed, and my expectations have changed. I need to be proactive about the games I sign up for. Make sure I know the rules. Make sure I’m hooked into the story. Make sure I show up to the game in the right frame of mind to play. I am responsible for my own fun.

Specifically, here are some things I think that I should do for next year’s AmberCon NW.
* When signing up for a “variant” game, I’ll e-mail the GM first and get the skinny on what the game is really like.
* I’ll come to the hotel a day early. Better yet, two days early. Soak up the atmosphere and have my vacation before Amber Boot Camp begins.
* In traditional Amber games, I’ll be more aggressive about suggesting events that could involve my character. Both before the game (“how can my character hook into the action more?”) and during the game (“could I be in this scene?”). Write a kicker. GMs will like it!
* When running a non-Amber game, I need to find out which players have played that system before. If most haven’t, then this should be a “demo” game, with different expectations (with a goal of “learning the game” rather than “running a full session”).
* Playing a new game? I need to buy the book and read the rules beforehand! The less time spent struggling with the rules, the more time can be spent playing.

I think that’s all great advice for pretty much anyone who attends an Ambercon, and I plan on trying to keep it in mind myself the next time I go to one.

October 24, 2005: 8:27 pm: GMing, Playing

FindPlay is a new service set up by Clinton R. Nixon (co-owner of The Forge and talented game designer) that let’s you locate other role-players in your area who share your interests. Currently it’s got a few limitations (like not working for places Google Maps doesn’t cover), but hopefully Clinton will get those worked out eventually. For now, just go and sign up. I did, though of course I didn’t find any other RPers in my area.

August 28, 2005: 2:02 pm: Game theory (or close enough), GMing, Playing

Over on The Forge, there’s a great Actual Play thread about a Dogs in the Vineyard session that took place at GenCon. The actions of one of the characters apparently crossed a line for one of the players, and the discussion gradually develops into talking about how to deal with such situations.

May 8, 2005: 8:37 pm: Game systems, Playing

As I mentioned before, I was lucky enough to play in a Dogs in the Vineyard game last weekend. We were GMed by Michael Croft, with Ginger, Jennifer, Kevin, Deb and I as the players, and I’m pretty sure everyone had a darned good time. It was an interesting mix of Dogs experience, with Michael having played (but not GMed), Ginger having GMed (but not played), my having read the rules through a couple of times (but never played), Jennifer having given much of the rulebook a quick read, and then Kevin and Deb not having had much exposure to the game at all.

Since about half of us knew the system to some extent, it didn’t take too long to get started. My character was Brother Virgil, a reformed gunfighter who’d found the King of Life and was trying to learn not to settle every argument with the gun. Having the game start off with everyone going through their initiations is definitely the way to go, both for getting to know the characters and getting to know the conflict resolution system. At the suggestion of one of the players, Michael let some of the PCs be a part of each other’s initial conflicts. That worked out pretty well, and helped to get the relationships within the group of Dogs going.

We ended up playing Saddle Ridge, the town the GM had created, over two sessions (and still not finishing it), both because it was a big town with lots of deal with, and because we were overly shy about getting into conflicts during the first half of things. When the NPCs got coy about whatever was troubling them, we’d do the usual PC/NPC dance, instead of pushing things to conflict. I think this was just something that most of us had learned to do as players in lots of other RPGs, and it took us some time to get out of those habits, though by the second half of the weekend the dice were hitting the table on a regular basis. That really got the pace of the game going, and the system made every conflict, whether it involved talking, fighting, or both, a lot of fun to play through.

There are probably more details I could talk about, but those’d come to mind easier if I hadn’t waited a week to write this. I guess I’ll know better next time, and at least take better notes. Ginger has posted about the game and about our mix of characters, so you can check those out if you’d like to know more.

Now that I’ve had a chance to actually play DitV, I can tell you that all of the hype is true. Get this game, and get your friends to play it. You’ll be really glad you did.

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