Tuesday, April 20, 2010

World of Dorkness

See, we're dorks playing ourselves in World of Darkness... OK, the joke's been done, but it's still an appropriate title for this post.

We had our first of what will probably be two sessions of Liz' New World of Darkness game, and it went about as I'd expected. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it except me, and I enjoyed quite a bit of it, but was unable to generate a great deal of interest in the play itself. I enjoyed the character generation, and I was a bit surprised at how much I liked the system, having mostly stayed away from White Wolf games over the years. The humor at the table was quite strong and I laughed myself silly at a lot of the table talk. I just couldn't get into my character.

Which, of course, is pretty strange given that I was playing myself. As I explained to Liz after the game, rather than dispensing with the layer of separation between self and character, it seemed to instead add another layer. Instead of just playing myself, I was myself, playing a character, that was supposed to be myself. This was taken to yet another level by the nature of the scenario which caused us to lose our memory of our identity.

So just as I was getting used to playing myself, now I was myself, playing a character, that was myself, but without a sense of identity! No one else seemed to have a great deal of difficulty with this concept, but I was a bit flummoxed trying to determine what that would actually mean. I didn't know my name, but did I remember my alma mater, or what town I was born in? I had so many questions that I didn't really know where to begin, so I simply sat back for a bit and watched what everyone else did, only really taking part once things shifted to action.

I think I would have had an easier time adapting if I'd been playing a fictional character put into that situation rather than myself, because there would have been less "background" to worry about in terms of what I knew and what I didn't.

That said, I think I will enjoy the second session much more, as I'm no longer playing myself, but playing myself as a changeling. I think that should prove more interesting.

If you're curious, you can get a description of the play itself from Liz' writeup here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Diaspora In Play

Diaspora went well, if not quite as well as I'd hoped. While I've been familiar with Fate for what seems like ages now, I had yet to actually play a game using it, so it was a little rough getting up to speed with the mechanics.

Also, we quickly stumbled across some glaring holes in some of our character designs. Namely that having at least one social skill is a good idea, as well as having either a defense skill or good armor. I should have probably suggested that we stop and tweak characters mid-session once we realized the problems, but it didn't even occur to me to do so until after the game was over. If we come back to these characters in the future I will definitely allow rebuilds of the skill pyramids at the very least.

The adventure itself went fairly well. I tried to structure it around the abilities of the player characters and I was at least partly successful in getting everyone involved.

We started with a social conflict involving the crew trying to get their cargo out of impound while others tried to have it confiscated. We stumbled a bit with this, but I knew that was going to happen. I wanted to start out with the mechanics so that we could hopefully get the hang of them with a situation that wasn't crucial to the main scenario. The group ended up handling the situation fairly easily, despite all the questions with the rules, and we then moved on to the main part of the adventure.

Basically, the crew found themselves stuck in a quarantine as a pandemic broke out in the world they were on. Liz' character was able to identify the disease and propose a cure, and determined that the cure would be greatly accelerated with the proper technology. Unfortunately, the use of that technology was prohibited by the theocratic government of the planet. This eventually led to a second social conflict in which the players managed to convince the relevant government officials to approve the temporary use of the technology.

This kept Liz and Jonathan's characters fairly involved due to their skill sets, and kept Josh fairly involved due to his character's background and beliefs, not helping the others, but instead arguing that they didn't have the right to interfere with the religion of the people of the planet. This led to some interesting in-character discussions as to the proper course of action.

Unfortunately, I don't think I did as good a job at keeping Seth's character involved. I had planned to give him some opportunities to bring his mechanical skills into play once approval had been made, as he worked to alter some of the necessary equipment. We touched on that in passing, but I failed to make as big a deal out of it as I had originally intended.

We ended with a quick combat as some fundamentalists attempted to remove the "foreign infidels" that were daring to interfere. The players managed to pull things off, although Jonathan's character was seriously wounded in the process. From a game perspective I missed a real opportunity to make things interesting as Seth came up with a really cool course of action for his character to take, but I failed to make sure that it actually influenced the course of the battle. Part of that was simply my own unfamiliarity with the rules, and part simply because it was getting late.

There was still lots of praise for the character design. People seem to really want to play these characters again and I think that says a lot about the strength of the underlying game. I expect this one will come around again. Next up for Magpie Gaming Night is Liz' New World of Darkness game, so I get to take a break from GMing for at least a couple of sessions and just play!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Dresden Files

The Dresden Files RPG is up for pre-order. I'm more of a Fate fanboi than a Dresden fanboi, but I still placed my order. A bit pricey for the complete set (two volumes at a total of $89.98), but you can buy them individually if you want. They're essentially divided into a player's book (Your Story) and a GM's guide (Our World), with the first containing the rules and the second background and monster stats.

The pre-order comes with pdfs for immediate download. I've been skimming over them, and they're very pretty. The game is written with the conceit that it's actually being written by the young werewolves from the books and are filled with sticky notes and hi-lights from Dresden, Bob, and Billy. If you've read the series then it might help to realize that the game is Billy's modern day attempt at re-creating Stoker's Dracula: an expose of the weaknesses of various supernatural creatures masquerading as fiction.

This will definitely be making an appearance at Magpie Gaming Night in the future (assuming that I don't totally botch Diaspora to the point that no one wants to try Fate again...)

Caveat: this blurb is based totally on Evil Hat's pre-order page and my having skimmed maybe two dozen pages of the pdfs. I hate reading pdfs, so a more extensive review will probably have to wait for the arrival of the print versions some time in late June or early July.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Magpie Gaming Night

It's time for an update as to how RPG Night is going. We're now calling it Magpie Gaming Night, to differentiate it from other gaming groups meeting to play RPGs. I believe Liz came up with the name based on my self-described magpie gaming tendencies. I got the term from the D6 Generation, which I believe got it from somewhere else. Basically it refers to the tendency to be attracted to anything new and shiny, which perfectly describes my gaming habits, and was one of the primary motivators behind establishing RPG Night.

I've already described the 3:16 game and the Dogs In The Vineyard game that we ran as our first two games. We've now started a Diaspora game. We met to create characters on the 22nd and had a really good time generating the cluster and characters. Seth wasn't able to make it, but we added Josh to the group, and Seth should be there for the actual adventure.

You can check out the results of our session in our thread on the NWARPG Forums. This Monday we'll be running an actual adventure using what we created. I suspect we'll finish the adventure in a single session, but I'm usually wrong about this stuff, so it may take two sessions.

After that, Liz has an idea for a game set in the New World of Darkness where we play ourselves. I'm a bit leery of this idea as I've got a real "been there, done that" vibe when it comes to playing myself in an RPG, but I'm trying to keep an open mind. Liz seems really enthusiastic about the idea, and that's always good to see in a GM, so I expect we'll have a good game

Jonathan also feels he's about ready to run Mouse Guard for us. He's been running a game of it with another group. He was really pleased with how his first session went. He had reservations about his second, but it sounds like they still had fun. I've been looking forward to trying this game for a while now.

If he's not quite ready to run that after Liz' game, then I'll probably run something. I'll certainly be itching to run something after it if Liz' and Jonathan's games are run back to back.

I've got a number of potential games I'm considering. Since we'll have had a mix of sci-fi, western, and modern day up to that point, I'm leaning towards a medieval fantasy game. Third Edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WHFRP), Chronica Feudalis, and Reign are all strong contenders. I think I actually like the system from Chronica Feudalis the best, but the setting is the least inspiring of the three, which is ironic considering my normally strong interest in history (the setting is 12th Century Europe).

I really want to explore the mechanics of both WHFRP and Reign. I think Reign might be more interesting to the group as a whole due to the Company mechanics that focus on the organizations the characters belong to, but I also think it would require more than just a one-shot to explore those mechanics.

Then again, there's always Burning Wheel or possibly The Mountain Witch. Fortunately, I have some time to narrow down my options.

After Jonathan does Mouse Guard, we may try to run a Burning Empires game. Jonathan picked up a water damaged copy of the book on sale from Castle House Games, which makes the logistics of running it much more practical, and some of the core concepts are shared with Mouse Guard, which should smooth the learning curve a little. It would definitely be a bigger commitment than any of the other games we'll have played up to that point, since we'd likely play a full Phase rather than just a one-shot, which would probably take around a half dozen sessions according to the book, plus a session of world building.

We've also started talking about maybe doing a campaign on the Mondays between Magpie Gaming Night, and if we do that, that might be the best way to do Burning Empires. I don't know if I can do a weekly RPG night yet, so that's still just an idea.

Overall, we're still going strong, and I'm very happy that we got this thing off the ground.

I See What You Did There...

I recently acquired a copy of the new Doctor Who RPG. I still have my copy of the old FASA Doctor Who RPG, and while the system was a bit clunky in places, I always really liked the freedom it gave you within the Doctor Who universe. One of my biggest concerns with the new edition was that it appeared that they were sticking strictly to the current series where Doctor Who is the only Time Lord left, therefore you either play as the Doctor or with no Time Lord at all.

Skimming the book did not initially alleviate my concerns. There's lots of talk at the beginning of the players guide about different options for play, which basically include playing with the Doctor or playing without a Time Lord, just like I'd heard before getting it.

I highly suspect that the reason for this is that the terms of the licensing agreement prevent the designers from overtly including the option to play other Time Lords. The book barely mentions previous incarnations of the show prior to the most recent one. The BBC obviously wants to focus on the show that they have on the air today, and not the past.

Fortunately, the designers snuck in the ability to play other Time Lords anyway. They did this by including Time Lord as a trait in the traits section rather than as a unique ability for The Doctor. They even split the trait into two: Time Lord and Experienced Time Lord. This allows you to create either beginning Time Lords like Romana, or more experienced ones like The Doctor, without having to houserule anything. It's all right there in the rules already, just not explicitly presented as an option.

I've only skimmed the rest of the rules so far, so can't give an overall impression of the game yet, but thought I should point this out since it was probably my biggest concern with the new game.

I'm currently re-reading parts of Diaspora preparing for Monday's game, and am also trying to finish up reading Reign, so it will probably be some time before I get around to digging into the new Doctor Who in more depth.