Oct 292012
 

If you’re playing a game and the characters are acting up, then the leader of the party should be the one to bring them back into line, or if they’re ring-leading the horse play, then a game event or NPC could get them back in check without too much problem. Quite often around a gaming table though, it’s not the characters that need corralling but the players themselves. This thankless task falls to someone who already has plenty to do: the GM.

This will be the first post in a series about the various jobs you should be prepared to shoulder should you choose to become a GM. Instead of letting all these responsibilities put you off though, I’m going to be offering a few tips on how best to cope with them so they don’t become problems.

First then, what do I mean by crowd control? Well for me it’s all about keeping your player’s attention focused on the game. They did after all turn up to your table to role play, and although there is always going to be an out of game social element to your sessions, you will need to keep it under control if you want everyone to have fun and enjoy the story you’re weaving for them. At the start of the session, you have an opportunity to give your players a chance to get a lot of this out of the way.

Say you want your game to kick off at half seven, then you need to get your players around the table by seven at the latest. As you’re handing out character sheets, instigate a bit of social banter; check how people have been doing since the last game, if they’ve seen any cool movies, or anything else you can think of. Let everyone get involved and don’t interrupt them to begin your pre-game talk for a good 15-20 minutes, depending on how well the group know each other and would like to spend catching up.  This gets a lot of random table talk out of the way before you remind people where they left it the session before. As an additional tip, asking your players what they remember about where the game was left is a great way of getting them focused quickly and making them put their ‘player’ hats on.

This is a good start, but if your group know each other well and shares the same interests away from the table – and the same sense of humour – then there will almost certainly be a few more breaks as they get reminded of fun stuff that they’ve come across between games, and decide to share it. If this happens when your dealing with a group split, then just ask them to keep the noise down. In an ideal world, they would stay in character throughout, but there are times when that’s just not possible. The fact that they’re taking this opportunity to chat OOC is a good thing – as long it doesn’t get too rowdy – so don’t step on it too hard.

I can almost guarantee you that there will still be times when random chat interrupts game play. Just remember, you don’t always need to pull your players up on this. Often it will happen without breaking the narrative flow and if you’re lucky, could even add a little something. What you need to do is keep a check on how long these digressions last. A minutes interruption and then straight back into the action isn’t too bad, but make sure that your players know that you’d rather it didn’t happen too often. A simple, ‘…and back to the game’ will usually suffice in keeping your players focused. If they keep drifting away, even for only a minute or two at a time, offer a short break so they can get some stuff out of their system.

We role play in the back room of a pub, and there will be times when it’s convenient to take a break so people can grab fresh drinks or head outside for a smoke. Time these when people are starting to get a bit distracted, and you can let your players chat without getting in the way of you setting a scene, and once they return to the table, a quick catch up should bring them back into the mood to game. If you’re not lucky enough to have a bar where your game, an excuse to stretch your legs should suffice.

Then there are the times when you just can’t shut them up. In my experience, this comes down to a couple of causes, and both are better dealt with outside of the actual game session. First though, try to keep everyone focused until the end of the session. Letting them know that there’s something awesome just around the corner can help with this, but I  have found that in extreme cases, a little bit of passive aggression can occasionally work. This isn’t fun, so keep it for dire circumstances: Just stop talking. Don’t get involved in the banter, and hold off with GMing until everyone goes quite. I can’t stress enough how much it sucks to do this, as you will effectively be ignoring some players until the chatty ones realise what’s happening. Do this once, and only once. I stress again, it sucks.

If you make it to the end of a session, preferably without resorting to the above tactic, then it’s time to deal with the root cause of the distractions. The two most common are player fatigue/boredom or one disruptive player. If you have one chap – or chapette – who keeps taking people on tangential conversations, have a quite word after a game and check if they’re having fun. If they are, ask them politely if they can keep themselves a wee bit more focused when you’re running the game. Feel free to pander to their ego a little here and say that they’re influencing a lot of people around the table, and if they focused their energies on driving the plot forward, then everyone else should follow. If they’re having trouble concentrating, find out why. If it’s an out of game issue, I trust you all to deal with those as you see fit; this is an RPG blog after all. If the problem comes from the game try and work out a solution to keep everyone happy and focused on the role playing, and for that, see below on how to to deal with a problem that could concern everyone.

If the whole group is losing interest, find out why as everyone is packing up for the evening. Just ask them where they’d like to see the game go, and what about it that they’re enjoying. You don’t even need to mention that you’ve noticed the problems of their attentions shifting, just make it a lighthearted chat about the game. Then decide what you can/will change to help engage your players a bit more, and see how it goes next week. If none of these help, then you may need to just sit your players down and talk to them about what’s going on. It could be something as simple as your players having fun with chatting about stuff, and not realising that it’s a distraction to your smooth running of the game, and once they know what’s happening, will reign it in. If it’s a bigger problem, and they’re just not enjoying the pacing/style of the game they’re in, listen to what they have to say, and do not feel offended. People get into role playing for different reasons, and if you can all come to a solution that suits everyone, then put the effort in to make it work.

I hope some of this helps out GMs who may have problems with their players attention drifting, and feel free to share your own tips or problems below.

Oct 222012
 

I’m going to be running a longish campaign again soon, for the first time in over a year, and as such it’s been on my mind quite a lot (for other things that have been occupying mental space, take a look at some thoughts on a card game I’m designing).When deciding on how I will GM the game, I tend to take quite a few cues from the type of game I would like to play. This is tempered somewhat by the players’ expectations and the fact that I’m running the game for people I may not know very well, but it’s more about what I enjoy as a  player. So, what do I like, and what don’t I like?

Well, I dislike a railroaded game any longer than a simple adventure that lasts one or two sessions. If you’re working on a narrow time frame – and I have for games that have been run at events etc – then those confines mean that you will have to keep your players on the straight and narrow. One good trick for this, and it works if you totally commit to the pretense, is to keep them going where you want them, but fake a little bit of despair. As if the group has pushed you off plot and then you have to come up with something killer to bring it all back together. I know it’s a bit dishonest, but the players will love thinking that in a short game, that’s probably been played with other groups in the past, they’ve broken the boundaries and made the game their own.

Just enough to point them in right direction…

For a longer game, what I love is a sense of a huge open world. Actually, that’s not quite right; the sense of a huge open adventure comes a little closer. I’ve played games where we’ve barely left one or two city districts, and been very happy knowing that there was still countless things to do, people to interact with, and places we could go. This feeling was helped by a GM who made it clear that player actions would guide the plot to a conclusion. So this is what I want to do in my next game, a sprawling adventure where consequences of actions will drive the plot forward. However, I’m running for a gaming society that meets one night a week, and the game will be finished by the next summer; that means that a pure sandbox is out of the question.

That’s not a bad thing, as I think that sandbox games aren’t always the best way to run games. Sure they offer a world of possibilities, but they can also mean a lack of resolution or an ending that fits with the expectations of the players who have had an awesome adventure. Not everyone wants to carry on playing until they become a warlord, ruling the local area with a band of mercenaries at their disposal. Some people just want to know that the threat to their way of life has been dealt with and that they can now reap the rewards for dealing with the problem. To make this work for me, I draw your attention back to the header at the top of this article.

My game will be set in a huge and sprawling metropolis, and after the first couple of sessions – during which I will be leading the players a little, just to get them used to the setting and system – I hope that my players will take advantage and explore The City. They will find plenty to do, and an awful lot of places to go and people to talk to. As they’re walking around they will stumble across a few hooks and seeds that I’ve planted around the place. Which ones they take a swipe at will let me know the way they expect the story to go, and from there I will be able to see a way to get them moving towards the end.

What I don’t want is for the players to see what’s that far ahead of them. Instead I want them to enjoy the freedom to make decisions and live with the consequences. My solution is make sure that the players know that just over there, whenever they’re ready to take a look, there’s something cool that should help them out. As long as it’s done with a hint of subtlety, there should be no feeling of railroading, instead just the plot moving forward. As an example – and not one I will be doing, in case any of players end up reading this – the characters could be quite happily planning a job of their own, researching how to use explosives maybe? They get put in contact with a guy, who likes where they’re coming from, but needs a little something doing before he’s free to lend a hand. It’s nothing major, but for the sake of them helping him out, he’ll waive his usual fee. This job could easily lead onto the main plot, giving plenty of opportunities to drop in other important NPCs and give the players a heads up on larger developments.

If that seems to obvious, then who’s to say that the job they’re planning won’t have it’s own seeds littered about it. With a well planned plot, and a setting you know inside and out, there are many ways to let the players know where they could go next. After all, it’s fun to play in a sandbox, but if you see a sign that promises  some great toys to make the playing even more fun, you’d take a look at where it was pointing, wouldn’t you?

Oct 202012
 

As my readers probably know, I’ve recently hit a big milestone, and offered something to the whole gaming community online. For anyone who asked, I would write a background and description of one NPC of their choice. So far I’ve had a great response, but I could’t have done it without the support of a few other RPG bloggers. They will be listed below in no particular order, but you should all go over and pay them a visit.

G*M*S magazine, my site’s sponsor, has been good enough to tweet to his whole audience about the offer, so you should all go over there right now, and thank him by downloading his podcast. They’re always golden, and worth listening to if you have any interest in RPGs, board games, or how to make them.

Tenkar’s Tavern took the time (apologies for the heavy alliteration there) to promote my idea too. They’re one of the best known, and in my opinion, consistently  awesome OSR blogs out there. Sure, there are others, but this is the one you should be checking out. And I say this as someone who makes no claim to be part of the OSR movement, but loves awesome blogs.

Hero Press also gave me great coverage. This a perfect example of a catch all blog, with cool video links and trailers, some great inspirational images, and some top notch RPG commentary too. Add it to your reader, you won’t want to miss a thing that gets posted on this site.

Cirsova was nice enough to talk about me too, and even share the NPC that I created for them. The blog is one built around world design, and not only is it a great read, but contains some lovely inspiration for any other people out there wanting to do the same.

I hope my readers take the time to explore those sites, and if any other bloggers out there want an NPC, I will happily link to your site.

Oct 172012
 

Big thank you to everyone who got involved in this, for a final roll call and what it has meant for the blog, click here. And if you do want an NPC, check back next November, when I do it all again. For now though the offer is closed…

That’s right, yesterday we passed the 10,000 page views mark. This is great news for a blog that’s only just over four months old, and as such I couldn’t help but celebrate. I was wondering how best to do it, and after a while realised that best thing to do would be to offer something to the community that has made me feel so welcome.

Since I started writing on here, the RPG community online has been amazing. I’ve gotten to make friends, and contacts, from all over the place. I’ve even got sponsorship from a truly top notch Chap. People have been so open in sharing what they know, and what they’ve been working on. I have a folder on my desk top with over thirty free RPGs in it that people just put out there for anyone to play. In other posts I’ve spoken about designing a card game of my own, that when it’s complete will be available to download for free. That’s not quite enough though, and still some ways off.

So what I’m offering, is a free NPC that I will write up for you, for anyone who comments on this blog post. I was originally thinking of something like asking you to click the Facebook ‘Like’ button for this blog to grab your free NPC, but if you like it, the button’s right there on the home page and you should click it anyway. Instead, all you need to do is write something below. If you don’t mind what you get, just a quick, ‘hello, can I have my free thingy’ will be enough, but if you want something genre specific, tell me what you have in mind. The only thing I won’t be doing is stats for any systems.

There are simply too many out there and I do not know them all. I will make it clear in the description and background what they’re good and/or bad at, and trust the people who know the systems better than I to work the numbers out. So, if you want a spacefaring pirate, a child in a Steampunk game, or anything else at all, just let me know, and I’ll get right on it. Closing date for this offer will be one month from today, so the 17th of November. I will endeavour to reply as speedily as possible, but depending on demand, it could take a wee bit longer. Oh, and if you like your NPC, and this idea in general, then please send your friends here. The kind nature and sharing of cool stuff that people find out there is what keeps this community so interesting.

Kind regards, and massive thank yous to everyone. Shorty

Oct 152012
 

Today I’m going to talk about the new game that I’ve been working on recently. This is me trying to give something back to the awesome RPG community and it will take the shape of a card game about Steampunk explorers, searching for fame and riches in a Neo-Victorian world. In the past I have talked about writing up an adventure, and although this is ongoing it is very much on the back-burner right now. the problem comes from the style that I use to run games, and how hard it is to translate that to a written adventure that can be used by others. It’s a bit complicated, and is probably deserving of its own blog at some point in the future. The short story is that it’s very hard to write down an adventure when nine out ten events that happened in it were because of player choices that I had did nothing to create or influence.

So, instead I thought I’d try my hand at another thing I love: card games. To be specific, card games with a board game feel. Think Elder Sign, or the new Blood Bowl game, both by Fantasy Flight. What else do I like? Steampunk! It has long been a fascination for me, going back many years. If I was any good at crafting clothes and items, I would have made so many that you would never have seen me not wearing a Steampunk inspired outfit. Sadly, I’m rubbish at such things, so instead I created fiction, in the style of role playing games and adventures, and occasional short prose pieces. When I was thinking about what I wanted in a card game, Steampunk jumped straight to my mind.

I also love horror, but if I want those two things to cross paths, I already have my favourite RPG, Unhallowed Metropolis by Atomic Overmind, if I want to play a game like that. So to do attempt something different, I went for the Victorian theme of exploration and adventure. This was heavily inspired by Mark Hodder’s books, where he takes a Steampunk look at one the period’s greatest explorers, Sir Richard Burton. So, I knew what I wanted from a game, the next problem was to make it happen.

I suppose I had better explain the blog title a bit, before we go any further. I saw the deck of cards having too components, one of which would be the explorations and adventures that the characters would go on. My first thought was to have them in one deck, along with the other card, and when played, the explorer leaves London and goes off around the world. This was quickly dismissed as the random element of card draw could leave someone with no adventures for an entire game. Thus was born the ‘Adventure’ deck. A bunch of cool things to do, such as be the first to find the Source of the Nile, or to venture into Macedonia, and meet the Metal Men that reside there. At this point I knew I would need two decks, so the only option was to give the second deck the working title of ‘Excitement’. I’m sure all the geeks out there have spotted where I got that nugget of inspiration from. [Link NSFW]

Next came a few weeks of card design, and thinking of what to put on the cards. The lovely people at Reddit helped out with some basic character ideas, more than a couple of which made it into the six I’m currently using for play-testing. There were also gadgets galore to help out the intrepid Explorers in the field, Retainers with their own skills to accompany them, and even an occasional Valet; something no self respecting gentle-person should be seen without. I didn’t like the idea of exploring in a vacuum though, so as well as extra cards to help out an Explorer – finding a ancient map, or having a rare beast just walk into camp one morning – there are plenty of cards that can be played to derail a fellow Explorer’s quest. Sending in a mob of angry natives, or just having the weather turn against you at an inopportune moment.

With all that sorted, and some basic cards formatted – including having them backed with an ‘E’ or ‘A’ respectively, it was time to play test. At point of writing, I have only had one opportunity to do so, and big thanks go out to my very good friend Gav. He invited me around to his house, I got to meet his daughter for the first time since she acquired the power of speech, and was given a couple of snifters of very fine rum indeed. And we also got to play the game, tentatively entitled ‘Excitement and Adventure’.

The game basically works with each player taking on the role of an Explorer, and investing their time and money into winning a wager about who can get the most ‘Renown’ by going off and having grand adventures, and living to tell the tale. The characters all being members of an Explorers society who agreed the terms of the wager, then went at it with gusto. I will spend more time later discussing the mechanics in detail, but for now, there’s a few things I learnt from this one and only play test.

  1. The game takes too long. We were playing for well over two hours before I called it on account of the lateness of the hour. For the record, Gav kicked my ass.
  2. One entire mechanic needed to be ditched. It never came up, and if it it had, would have made the game even more drawn out.
  3. I need to think of new adventures for the characters to go on. The Adventure deck needs bulking up after the rule change.
  4. It’s totally possible to go off on an adventure with far too many Retainers and Gadgets. This needed changing.
  5. I need a few more play tests before I release this into the wilds of an open play test.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I’m hoping to rope a few more friends into playing the game with me over the coming days and weeks, and will occasionally update on here, if anything interesting enough happens. If any of my readers has any cool suggestions of adventures for the Explorers to go and have, the comments box is just below here.

Oct 122012
 

First off I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has been checking out this blog for the last four months. It has become bigger than I had hoped and I love being part of this community. I have gotten a ton of killer games on the back of it, and even made a few friends. If you want to carry on the love, there’s even a Facebook ‘Like’ button down there on the right. Go ahead and click it, why don’t you.

This article isn’t about me however, but about a very cool blog that has become one that I sometimes have to stop myself commenting on in case the lovely person who runs it thinks that I’m stalking them. It just so happens that she writes in a very open style, about things I want to read, and invites comments about things I want to talk about. Head on over and check the page out and you’ll see what I mean. 

Not only is it a damned fine read, but she has a ton of useful stiff over there too. My favourites have been her game translations. She takes a video game and mines it for plot hooks, characters and general atmosphere, then shares it with everyone. Meaning I have a lot less work to do if i want to steal ideas. So, ST Wild, thanks for some great reads, and I hope you’ll be around for a long time.

And just so people know, I’ve been working on my own card/board game design recently, so expect some regular updates soon. Especially because I did my first full play test recently. I got my ass kicked, and I’m the designer of the game. is that a good thing?

Oct 092012
 

Today my gaming society gets together and each GM gives a pitch for a full academic year long game that they want to run, and hope to get enough interest to make it happen. We’ve sadly had a body drop out for personal reasons, so with the field shrunk I should be fine to run my post-cyberpunk game set in Warren EllisTransmetropolitan universe, using the Cyberpunk 2020 rules. below is a little bit of prose that I’ve been working on as a teaser for prospective players. It basically gives a tiny bit of background about the characters’ origins and the world they will be playing in. What I haven’t done is go into detail about the style of game play – as I want that to be decided upon by the players as a committee - and the types of character they can play. The beauty of starting a campaign this way is that the players will be every-man characters, meaning they will get the chance to play pretty much anything they want, within the scope of the game. Which basically limits them to ‘human’.

I know most of you won’t be at the meeting tonight, but feel free to read it anyway, and as always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments box below.

You all had your reasons to take a spin on the roulette wheel of cryogenics. Those reasons are your own, but with the money out of your account and a detailed form filled in you were hopeful for what the future would hold. In the future, they would rebuild you. they could even make you a better you. Never liked the way your chin looked? Fine, take that picture of the person you always wished you would be and clip it to the form. Maybe even just a younger version of yourself, giving you the chance to live your life again, to avoid some mistakes, or just make sure that this time, your youth wasn’t wasted on someone young.

And then it happened. Your clock ran out. Luckily you were close enough to a hospital and had your will prepared, and after the postmortem was carried out, your head was detached and inexpertly flash frozen and sealed in its container, your paperwork stuck to the side in a clear plastic envelope. Your hopes and dreams, and your brain, thoroughly damaged by the flawed freezing procedure was placed on a shelf with dozens, hundreds of others. People like you, who threw a coin into the wishing well that is the future.

And then the day came. A day of wonder that could only happen in a future so far removed from what you could understand of the present, that to you it was just so much science fiction. They rebuild you, all of you, from the flawed respiratory system that has been the cause of countless childhood deaths by choking on food, to the human eye, a camera so complex as to stagger belief, yet made out of such simple materials as jelly and water. And as the last layers of epidermis form, and hair – wet from the chemical solution your second birth takes place in – starts to colour, the signals are bundled up from your old brain, and prepared to jump start your new head meat. You come around in fear for your life, already starting to swallow the liquid as the glass fronted door of the chamber opens automatically. Your body is unceremoniously dropped to the floor. A cold floor. hard tiles with someone else’s biological matter still staining them.

You enter the future alone, unsure what you’re doing there, and within seconds you’re vomiting onto the tiles like so many before you. It takes the assistant five minutes to notice the process has been completed, and by the time he walks into the room to look down at your naked vomit stained form – thinking about what he would do to you if the activities in this room weren’t recorded – you’ve gone into a mild shock. A grey and brown dressing gown is dropped around your shoulders as you’re asked questions to jog your memory. You answer as well as you can whilst pulling it around yourself, using the edges to wipe yourself clean as you speak, your mind beginning to come to terms with what’s happened. You’re told there’s a taxi waiting outside to take you to a hostel, that your money will be refunded in line with inflation, but without interest. They would never be able to work that out…

All these things make sense to you. Words and concepts that make you feel secure. ‘Just how different could the world be’, you think as you close your eyes and breath out as the front door is opened for you, ready to breathe in the future. Eyes closed tightly, waiting to open to allow you to take in the sites so few people from your time would ever get to experience.

The sights, smells, and sounds are now only remembered as a cacophony. The werewolf having sex with a Chinese business man. The child with half the skin on her face apparently scraped off sat watching a TV screen in the sidewalk. You think the show was called ‘Sex Puppets’, but that can’t be right. The guy with a floating digital camera behind his head talking to a women eating what was clearly the cooked arm of an Afro-Caribbean child. The adverts for Ebola-Cola, for a U.S. President called the Beast, for an enclave where feudal japan is lived and relived while people from outside watch on. The police dog talking to a drug dealer.

You don’t remember the taxi journey at all. You barely remember the first month at the hostel apart from the beatings as every penny you had was taken from you by the gangs of veteran revivals who have banded together to pray on the weak. You were lucky you recovered quickly, before you were put out on the street for business. You found a few other lost souls, all wearing someone else’s cast off clothing who no longer whimpered themselves to sleep every night. With nothing else to do, you shared stories of the time you came from, fighting back the influence of this future that seems so wrong. The only thing you seem to have in common is the time you came from. But that association is enough to keep the gangs away, to give you breathing space to take stock, and maybe, just maybe, find your place in this future.

Oct 082012
 

A few months back I looked at a console game through the eyes of a table top role player, and I must admit, the game didn’t come out too well. Sure it got rave reviews all over the rest of the internet, but in this little corner, not so much. Today I place that role playing eye firmly on another Xbox game that I’ve been playing recently: Borderlands 2. This will not be an in-depth review about its merits as a first person shooter, but more a little look at how it works when seen as a traditional role playing game. For a bit of background, it’s worth knowing that I played and loved the first game, and most of the time have been playing both of them split screen with my girlfriend.

The first bad thing about the Borderlands franchise as an RPG is the almost total lack of interaction your character has with the rest of the world that doesn’t involve shooting it in the face with a mind blowing variety of boom sticks. The most they seem to talk in the second installment is a few little quips when employing their special abilities - maybe half a dozen different lines which get old pretty quickly considering how often they get used – and little back and fourths between player characters as one heals another. This kinda sucks, but when I think back to some other games, it really isn’t that big a deal. Sure, Deus Ex, Mass Effect and the Dragon Age games give you conversation trees a-plenty, but sometimes you really don’t want to hear the voice they’ve given your character as it may very well be a voice that you would never associate with the way you imagine it.

What it does to make up for that is give the NPCs some killer interactions with the player characters and each other. If you find an Echo recorder and pick it up, try and pay attention to what’s being said; it is usually tangential to the plot, but even so, they’re well written and bloody hilarious. There are little bits on the player character backgrounds, as well as history of the world and NPC back stories too. Actual conversations are also worth paying attention to. Usually the only verbal interactions available are when collecting a job, and turning it in. This will almost always have a bit of monologue from the quest giver, and once again, even though you don’t need  to hear it, take the time to listen. They really do give life to the characters and contain some of the funniest writing I’ve heard in a video game.

Don’t get me wrong, the characterization for almost every NPC is pretty one dimensional. The bad-guy is bad, and every time he has something to say, it reinforces his stature as ‘evil-boss’ for the game. I would drop a few examples here, but I’m trying my best to keep this review spoiler free, and some of his best lines lead to some great reveals in the plot that I really don’t want to spoil for anyone. Handsome Jack isn’t the only bad guy in the piece, and all of the others are just as hammy when it comes to their lines and how they are delivered. Put it this way though, if you load the game up, take a look at the awesome stylized graphics and expected some subtlety to the characterization, you may not have very realistic expectations.

That is one of the strongest points about this game though; its writing and how well it all slots together to give a consistent feel to the world and the plot. Any GM knows that you can run a dark game and still throw in occasional bits of humour and not ruin the mood. The ‘GM’ for this game is running it for pure comedy, but knows just the right amount of ‘dark’ to slide in on occasion to keep everyone engaged with the plot and stop being nothing but a yuck-fest.

What else makes it a good RPG? Character advancement. The skill trees are pretty varied, and it’s easy to think of  leveling up getting you some hit points, an advancement in a skill and/or a feat. All of which are perfectly in fitting with your character, while also giving you the freedom to try out a few different things without ever worrying about stepping on another character’s toes. As an example, playing a Siren I can be kick ass with a sniper rifle, but will still never get in the way of the Assassin being the best at it.

My final point is a mild spoiler for people who have never played the first game, and maybe even a little bit spoilerific for the second. You get to meet the characters who played the vault hunters in the first game. In thus game they’re pure NPCs, and the writers have done what every good GM should take a swing at at least once in the same situation. If you have returning players to the same campaign world, but years after the last plot’s resolution, and bringing in all new characters, then what do you do with the old ones? Write them into the world. Make them a little bit epic, give them their own followers and show that their actions have had long lasting consequences on the setting. To me this is one of the best examples of how the game works as an RPG, a thought given to the consequences of the player actions that tie in with the larger setting, and it’s something that a lot of GMs can learn from.

As before, I invite people to make their own comments below, either on the game itself, or thoughts on how I viewed it.

Oct 052012
 

For people following this blog, you will know that I’ve already touched on the subject of horror role playing, with tips for GMs, players, a nifty little location you can use, and even some thoughts on why playing a adolescent PC happens so often in horror games. Today, in honour of this months RPG Blog Carnival – hosted by the delightfully lovely people at Troll in the Corner Games – I’m going to offer a last couple of tips, one aimed at GMs, but the first at people who will be playing a horror game. Unlike my earlier articles that were full things to do, this more about what you shouldn’t do, or at least, keep to an absolute minimum.

To all the players out there who live to get into character: please, keep a lid on the hamminess when you’re in a horror game. I know, it’s very tempting to get totally into the scares, and the GM will want that, but when you push it to B-movie screaming and hand waving it really pulls everyone out of the mood the GM is trying to create. The horror that can happen around a gaming table is a lot more palpable if everyone is drawn into slowly and quietly, so every noise they catch at the limits of their hearing is something that could be watching. Waiting

If you want to really play up your terror in a way that will keep this sense of dread going, withdraw from what’s going on a little. Think about what you would do in the same situation; would you be the foolish person who runs around screaming and attracting attention, or would you hunker down and try to get out? Maybe the only way out is mentally? There’s a reason characters lose sanity in horror games, they can’t cope with the new and terrifying reality they’re encountering, so they create a safe place in their minds, and hide there. Now just think of the effect this will have on the other players, as they watch you crumble slowly and eerily away from the person you used to be…

For the GMs now, and this is based on a mistake I’ve made myself in the past. Sitting and watching a scary movie is a very different experience than having a bunch of friends role playing around a table. Sure, you can take a bit of inspiration from movie lighting and sound effects, but what will scare one or two people in a darkened room, won’t always have the same effect on a group of people trying to enjoy a story. So, that cool thing in a horror flick that had you jumping out of your skin? Don’t force it into a role playing game. Take cues from it, but I promise you, the returns you get will be nothing like you expect.

You also run the risk of going over old ground. if you’ve seen the horror flick in question, there’s a good chance the payers have too. Although fear of the known is possible – I prefer the unknown, but that’s just me – familiarity will bore right through that. As will the players then breaking off to talk about their favourite bits of the film it has just become obvious you have stolen from.

I hope that was some help to everyone, but don’t forget to keep checking back with the Troll in the Corner, for more blogs on how to bring the scary to your horror RPGs.

Oct 022012
 

Just a quick post today about the fact there’s now a Facebook page for this blog. This was done on the realization - with some help from a friend – that not everyone who comes to by blog gets here by subscription or RSS at the moment. Instead they spot me talking about my blog online, and decide to take a look at what I’m talking about. The Facebook page will allow me to reach out to a few extra people who could miss some of my posts and help keep everyone in the loop.

It’s also there for anyone who wants to talk about the topics covered by my blog, who may not want to post in the comments section. I’ll also be checking on it almost daily if people have any questions about the blog or anything else to do with role playing that they think I might be able to answer.

So, if you like the blog, and want to keep up to date on what’s happening about it, click the link and admit to the world that you like it! All the cool kids are doing it, and you may even make some of them as new friends.