Nov 012013

“What? Two posts in one day? What madness is this?”, I imagine all of my regular readers exclaiming as they read this post. Well there’s good reason for it. Firstly, I’m on holiday so can blog a bit more until Monday, and secondly, I had such a good time with a certain project, that I have decided to run it again this year, and picked the entire month of November for it to run through.

You see, around about this time last year, I had hit a particular milestone, and decided to celebrate by doing something for anyone who had taken the time to check out my fledgling blog. I offered anyone who posted a comment a free NPC for the game of their choice.

I’m doing that again starting from today, and it’s just as simple. You don’t need to subscribe, like the Facebook page, or even follow me on Twitter. All you need to do is write up a basic idea of what type of NPC you want, and I’ll do the rest. It could be as simple as a Steampunk fighter, as detailed as a young women with engineering fluid pumping through her heart who longs to travel the galaxy while hunting for her long lost brother.

I will take whatever you have to offer and write up a prose description of said character, adding in some plot hooks and a physical description for good measure. I won’t be able to work out stats and what have you, as I cannot promise to be familiar with all systems, but I will do my research and make sure that the character makes sense in whatever game world you have in mind.

Last year I managed to get 33 NPCs done in a month, and later collated them all together and put the final product up on Drivethru for less than a buck. This time I hope to get even more, and to do that I’m going to need lots of help. So please share this post with anyone who might be interested, and if you have a blog, feel free to put the character I make for you up, with a link back here so other people can find it. I will be adding all new NPCs the original document too, so if you’ve already paid for it, you will get a whole bunch more, and if you haven’t then you there’s even more incentive.

So get to it, and let me know what you want.

Sep 162013

That line is totally stolen from Cogs, Cakes and Swordsticks… but I really liked it as it reminds me of a very simple trick from Unhallowed Metropolis that I have used in the past and that can work in several games. It’s basically a great opportunity for GMs, and something for players to be weary of. In its simplest usage, it works great for any game that has a form of animate dead, be they walkers, shambling corpses, zombies or animates.

550px-Grinning-ZombieA victim goes down in the middle of a combat from what should have been a fatal wound, but is forgotten about in the clean-up. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve declared someone out of the combat due to a severe wound that rendered them immobile but not dead, and then forgotten about them myself. The players do it almost as much. This leaves you with a fairly regular stock of soon to be zombies that will look very familiar to the characters, and will probably stop them from being so blasé about what they leave behind.

This works just as well for BBEGs too, and we don’t have to stretch out memories too far for a great example. Professor Moriarty and Holmes were both seen going down a waterfall together after a fight, but no bodies were ever found. This has given countless writers and film & TV producers all the excuse they needed to write their own stories about the World’s Greatest Detective (sorry Batman).

It would be easy to do this for your own bad guys, but I would advise caution and restraint. If you make the vanishing of the antagonist a little bit too obvious, the players will not rest until they figure out what’s happened. I’ve been a player just as much as I have a GM and I know what we’re like when we have a thread to pull on; the whole damned sweater will unravel before we’re through. As a GM, this kind of thing can be frustrating, especially if it doesn’t lead anywhere and will just involve double the effort on your part for little pay off for the players.

Handle it well though, with a natural seeming disappearance of the body, and hopefully you should be able to have some fun. When it comes to it, my favourite tactic is to have the BBEG seem like he was little more than a capable lieutenant. When he’s dealt with there should be a trail of evidence leading elsewhere, to a bigger badder threat that needs to be dealt with. These days – after a hugely successful caped crusader film (I still love you Batman) – it’s best described as pulling a Ra’s Al Ghul, so you should still be weary of your players spotting this one coming.

Players should also be free to play around this one, again trying hard to not push their luck or be accused of power gaming. If you;re unlucky enough to have a character die, then see if you can arrange it so that none of the other players get a chance to examine the body. Either it gets left behind in a hurry, or vanished from sight in a ruck, and the rest of the group have to flee before something equally bad happens to them. If you have a very generous GM, who has a flair for the dramatic, then you might just be able to turn up, battered and bruised with interesting scars, in a later scene.

If you manage to convince your GM to let this one go, you’d better make the story of your survival pretty darned interesting!

Sep 092013

Bill the Butcher

Having spoken in the past about ways of making your big bad evil guy (BBEG) a bit more three dimensional, it occurred to me while re-watching Gangs of New York that the thing that made William Cutting such an interesting – and maybe even sympathetic – character, was that he was, in almost all things, honest. I think that this can be trait often overlooked when creating your own BBEG, as they are more often the type to lie and scheme to get things done. Lets take a look at Cutting and see if we can’t apply some of this to our own RPG villains in a way that will make them more rounded and interesting to interact with for your players.

First of all, yes I used the word sympathetic to describe a man of sheer and unrelenting brutality with absolutely no empathy; basically the worst type of psychopath. This might not seem to make much sense, but once you get to root of his motivations – no matter how flawed and antagonistic they are – you see that he is acting with nothing but a steely determination. This is something that is often praised in real life, and it could be said that he just happened to be born and live in the wrong time. In no way am I excusing his rampant racism  – and if you’ve read other posts by me or follow me on social media, you’ll know I’m against prejudice in any form – but it seems like he would have been made perfectly at home with his attitudes if he had born in a southern American state about one hundred years earlier.

With his obvious charisma and leadership chops, plus his ability to intimidate others, he would have been a political powerhouse, able to operate almost completely within the law if he had been born in a different time and place. Sadly for the Butcher, this was not to be the case, so the life of a criminal kingpin was his best option. And it’s a life he’s ideally suited to. When he tells someone that he will cut their ears of if they disturb him, the people around him know that this is no idle threat. The Butcher never wastes a word, so you better believe that whoever is rude enough to interrupt a game of cards is going to have to buy smaller hats for the foreseeable future.

Some of his more brutal moments from the film also fit well with this honesty, and make you wonder if some of the other characters are actually as noble as they seem to be portrayed. Amsterdam’s plan to kill the Butcher from a distance after wheedling his way into his trust comes across as decidedly dishonest compared to Bill’s killing of Priest Vallon. Priest was challenged to an open combat, with rules of engagement and in full view of the local population so that no one would be in any doubt over who had prevailed. True, the Butcher did use a bit of trickery to deliver the final blow, but even vikings were proud of men and women who could over come an obstacle by trickery if it was easier than going at it in a head long rush and winding up dead. And when Priest was lying before him, the fight was stopped and the final wound administered quickly and efficiently, with all due honour shown to a respected enemy. Amsterdam, the movie’s hero, has no such respect for his enemy, and would see him dead without a chance to defend himself.

Later in the film, when Bill kills Mad Eye Mood… sorry Monk, in the street when his back was turned, it again looks like Bill is the bad guy. He totally is, but once again, he is nothing but honest in how he operates. He goes to Monk in broad daylight, carrying weapons and calls him out. Monk appeals to Bill’s sense of fair play and citizenship, inviting him in to talk rather than fight. And for some reason, then turns his back on the Butcher. At no point does Bill agree to talk or go quietly, he lets Monk have his say, then when opportunity presents itself, does what he set out to do, and walks away satisfied. Far from the actions of a hero to be sure, but he never claimed to be one, and set out his intentions as plain as day.

Now, using this in an RPG means having a BBEG that’s in a position of power to get away with doing all of these thoroughly unpleasant things and having a support structure in place to stop them from feeling the negative effects. If you have such a villain in place, then try this out, see how unsettling it is when they tell the Protagonists pretty much exactly what they’re going to do, and then do it. Make it brutal and shocking, almost hyperbolic even, and watch the players squirm as they now realise that any threat offered by the BBEG is more than idle words designed to intimidate, but a promise of future unpleasantness.

Jul 222013

I understand that it is widely known, understood, and lamented in games mastering circles that plans do not survive first contact with players. True, it makes for an interesting game, keeps us on our toes, and means we rarely run the risk of being thought of as predictable, because we’re often just making it up as we go along, but it can be a little tiresome at times. After many years as a GM, this is something I have not only come to accept though, but to look forward to. At it’s absolute worst, it can be highly frustrating, and today I want to talk about one facet of this issue that has struck me twice in succession; never knowing who the players are going to trust.

When I create NPCs, I don’t just make up a bunch of antagonists. At the start of any campaign, it’s quite nice to know that there’s at least one person who has the best interest of the player characters at heart, and might just be able to keep them out of trouble for a while. This isn’t some catch all plot device to steer them away from mistakes; they are more than entitled to make as many as they would like. This is the person who gets them an early contract, maybe even gets put on retainer by their boss to help keep them supplied. Not every trip down to Guns & Ammo needs to be part of the adventure, so having a valet or some such to nip down and pick up things that could eat up adventuring time should be a good thing.

Since I also like creating interesting NPCs just for the fun of it, I tend to make them more than just two dimensional caricatures, but instead give them a reason to be involved in the plot for more than because someone higher up tells them to be. This has in the past been because of a desire to find answers about a missing relative – that the PCs have some information on already – or the need to get a particular voting block on side in time for a Presidential Primary. On both of these occasions, the NPCs in question went above and beyond the call of duty in assisting the player characters in any way they could.

So of course, the players thought they must be up to something, and promptly began to suspect their every action as having sinister undertones. *sigh*

Not the end of the world though, as I got to role play out some rather righteous indignation, and storm off – figuratively, as I was still the GM – when the players continued to call into question the motives of one of the these NPCs. While admittedly fun, it can get in the way, and cause massive delays to the game, which sucks when you GM on a yearly schedule. What is there that can be done about this situation then?

Well, the simplest seems to be to stop using friendly NPCs and let the players flounder around without help, as that is exactly what they deserve. Yeah, read that back and realise just how petty it sounds, so we won’t be doing that will we? We’ve all (hopefully) moved away from a generally antagonistic relationship between players and GMs by now. What we can do though is cut down how important these friendly and helpful NPCs are, and it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. But as I mentioned earlier, that could mean missing out on some great opportunities to role play while GMing, and also run the risk of these characters being the two dimensional puppets we were hoping to avoid.

Instead, I think it could be time to subvert the players expectations, by giving them almost exactly what they expect. Let the NPC get mad, let them storm off with the players feeling proud of themselves for getting one up on their presumed enemy. An enemy who will now be looking for ways to strike back at them, but subtly. Let the NPC maintain the charade of a good working relationship after apologising for leaving in a bad mood, and continue to have them help out wherever possible. But things start happening a little later than the players would like, and substandard help is all that is now provided. The players will soon complain again, that much is a certainty but now the NPC just meekly apologises, biding their time.

They have been inside the machine of the player character’s organisation, and could jam any number of spanners into the works, all while being the most contrite bugger in the world. And when enough damage has been done, and the PCs really need some help to get their arses out of the fire, the friendly NPC who wanted to help is nowhere to be seen.

That’s just one idea of course, and I imagine that this has happened to a lot of the readers of this blog, so why don’t you share those stories below, either from a Gm stand point, or what any payers out there might think about this.

May 132013

So, in my last weekly game, we lost a character. I have written recently about death in Role Playing Games, and I’d like to think I managed to fulfill my own short criteria. The character bowed out with a greivous head wound in a high pitched battle with the US secret service, as government operatives were torturing a prime suspect in an abandoned night club, and a Senator was fleeing the scene on a pleasure boat.

For people who don’t know this, the Cyberpunk 2020 combat system is actually pretty brutal. I have changed a couple of bits of it to give it a slightly more cinematic feel, but it still has the possibility to drop a heroic character with a single round from a handgun. Although I am always happier when the combat is more interesting than that. We’d already seen it happen once, but due to the very high tech medical aid that’s available the character in question got better, and was only out of action for a few days. Still injured when they got back into the fray, so they had some negative modifiers, but future science is almost as good as magic when it comes to healing, or at least, that’s how I see it.

Not actually Diesel, but close enough...

Not actually Diesel, but close enough…

This time, the dice gods were not happy, and the first attempt at healing actually made things worse, meaning that the second attempt failed, and what with time passing, there was sadly nothing to be done.  Diesel died. He died well, and it has created some already kick ass role playing with some of the remaining characters. Mainly talking about Ed Winchester here, but others have really brought their “A” game to the table with regard to role playing.

What a lot of you might not know is that my game is almost over. I had a fixed time frame to run this game, and I expected it to last me until June, and that’s coming up fast. The party – or what’s left of it – have been given an option to get closure on their plot, and the choice about how they want to see it resolved. There’s more than one power block in play, and the characters could end up siding with either, or going it on their own. But what to do with the ex-Diesel?

This close to the end, it seems a bit of a waste of time and effort to create a whole new character, and the player has admitted that she doesn’t really see the point of it. I tend to agree, so instead, I have picked one the main antagonists from the campaign, and since he was at death’s door when they found him, he was no real threat, giving the player free reign for some challenging role playing. All I need to do is drop in a few bits of information that Christ had been keeping from everyone that are crucial in bringing the storyline to its apoplectic finale.

And this is the crux of this article: What do you do when a player character bites the big one? Does your answer change depending on system, or even on when the character dies in the story arc? DO they come back as level one – if the game supports such a thing – or of comparable power to the current characters? Do you feel comfortable handing control of an important NPC to player whose character had been happy to see them die? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on this, and the comments box is just down there.

Apr 082013

Everyone in their gaming life has had that one awful game, the one that totally ruins the system and setting for you, even if the fault is with neither of them. Today I will talk about my own, and hopefully steer any budding GMs who happen by this page, the hell away from making the same mistake as one certain GM did. I don’t want to name names here, so for the sake of anonymity, the GM in question will henceforth be known as ‘Betty’.

werewolf-rpgBetty made a mistake that it’s all too easy to do when you’re starting out in a game. She fell head over heals in love with a game based on her experiences with it while playing one particular character. The games was Werewolf the Something, and she had created a kick-ass Garou we shall name ‘Philip’. (Creating random names is not my strong suit as a GM.)

Betty had a marvelous time playing Philip, for the whole month that game lasted. It was meant to go on longer, but the GM and all the players were a tad unreliable, and after a month the whole thing just fell apart. It happens, and there really was no one to blame. I was only aware of this game after it had collapsed, and after listening to young Betty wax lyrical for some time about how awesome a game it was, and how sorry she was that she never got to get any further under the skin of Philip, a few of our mutual friends suggested she pick up a rule book, and take a shot at running it herself. One thing you want – if not need - from a new GM is a certain level of enthusiasm. Betty had this in spades, and due to her infectious enthusiasm, it wasn’t long before about half a dozen of us were looking forward to playing it too.

At this point I already had some experience in the World of Darkness, having spent around a year playing in a live action game of Vampire, the thing-a-me-jig, and it is there that I acquired my now permanently in place nick-name. So, I had a vague idea of what to expect, but there were still surprises to be had. What shouldn’t have been a surprise was how short a time it took for the player characters to meet a certain wolf named Philip.

Click for image source

Click for image source

I couldn’t tell you the mission we were to be involved in, all the fine details of that game have faded from memory, replaced by one very tragic fact. Betty loved Philip a hell of a lot more than she loved the game. And by game, I mean the system, the setting, and the actual sessions she was running for her players. We first met Philip about one round into the opening fight scene. I have since been led to believe that it is possible to run a game of Werewolf without there being fights in every other scene, but at the time I would have found that hard to believe.

As a player group we were holding our own, but getting a bit bruised. Then, out of nowhere, sprang Philip, and we watched in dumb amazement as he tore his way through the enemies leaving behind him a fine red mist and enough hair on the floor to cover 17 barbershops. I don’t think we were quite as grateful as we were supposed to be though, as a very big deal was then made about cool it was that he’d saved our lives, and that he was going to help us get to where we needed to be. When we got there, some high ranking elder wolf told us that the mission we were to go on was obviously too dangerous for us, so it would be best if Philip tagged along.

Now, if Werewolf the Roleplaying is not a game you are familiar with, it will be difficult to get across how much a pain in the arse this was. Imagine a similar situation in a D&D style game. All the player characters are half way to picking up that fabled second level, and the GM thrusts a level 9 fighter into the mix and says that it’s because we’re not good enough. That my friends, is not cool.

Any time a GM feels the need to pull the players out of fire, it shows that they might not have done such a good job of setting up the game – I’m going through something similar myself in my Tuesday night game, so I’ll report back on that later – but this was a very different problem indeed. There might even be an actual term for this kind of thing, but at its root, we go back to the article title; Player characters make for terrible NPCs. Betty didn’t want to run a game, she wanted to carry on playing Philip, and when that happens, you need to rethink your motivation for picking up a whole fistful of dice.

If this has happened to you; please, back away from the character sheet. Put it in a clear plastic envelope and restrict yourself to sharing stories about how rad they were. True, this will still be a bit annoying, but it is a far better solution than alienating your players.

As a post script to that session, I turned up the following week, hoping it wouldn’t be that bad again, to find that only one other player had shown up at all. And it was worse. Betty didn’t even bother rolling for the other characters who were without players, instead letting Philip do just about anything that needed to be done. One week later, I was reliably informed that no one turned up to her game. Poor Betty. I hope her and Philip were happy being alone together…

Mar 252013

Fans of the blog, thank you by the way, will know that I like delving into the historical on occasion. It’s fun to do, and allows me the opportunity to take advantage of the three years I spent studying history at university. There aren’t that many other chances I get, to be honest, so I really look forward to writing on the subject whenever the mood takes me. What I usually do is go into a bit more detail on a specific weapon or fighting style, and add a few tips about how to integrate them into a role playing game. If you know the kind of games I like to run and play though, you’ll know that combat is never a huge part of what I like about the hobby. instead I tend to veer more towards social interactions and intrigue. With that in mind, I have for you, some small snippets that could make for a more rounded social environment from periods of history that interest me, starting this week with the Victorians.

Although historically based games tend to take part in alternate history, one that largely does away with prejudice based on gender or race, the fact of the matter is that the Victorians were a very polite bunch of people, and even more so when it came to how women were addressed. This becomes obvious in one simple gesture, and is probably the best for summing up the gentlemanly attitudes towards the fairer sex; if a Lady stands, then no man should sit. This will be used often during meals, with the men getting to their feet if a woman walks into the room, or if a woman stands up to leave. It is a simple little thing, but gets across quite nicely how social convention becomes so ingrained into every day life. I could now go on at length about how obnoxious most men were about women in their modes of address and general feelings, but since most games are set in a world where this is not the case, I instead invite you to do some reading of your own.

This next one might very well be known to any readers who like the BBC TV show Qi as much as I do, but I discovered this one independently, and as such was actually pretty proud of myself for getting a question on that show correct. The best example I know of it, if you want to see it in action is the rather wonderful HBO show Deadwood. A man asks  young child, “How do you do?”, and the boy responds with a slight nod and the same question, but with a slightly different emphasis: “How do you do?”. This might not seem like much, but again highlights just how polite people were that the correct response to someone asking about you is instead to inquire as to their situation. It is a question that will be asked repeatedly in a character’s life, and knowing the basics just adds a layer of immersion that feels very satisfying.

This of course is the standard response, but it leads quite nicely to the basic concept of respecting one’s elders. I know this is seen as a bit hokey these days, but I like it – and not just because I’m getting on a bit myself – and it was very important to the Victorians. If one was perambulating along the pavement and someone your senior was also making use of the walkway, then it was a given that you would move to the right and allow them to pass. (As an aside, how much better would it be if we all just agreed to move to the right when two people were walking towards each other, instead of all that bimbling back and forth?) Although this was also expected from people of lower social classes if their ‘betters’ were walking towards them, age was to be universally respected.

I could go on at length here, but would rather suggest a few things that one should be very careful to avoid doing while out and about. if you are the guest in someone’s house, then they deserve the utmost respect, as does the house itself. What with a lack of electronic communication in the Victorian era, a lot of social interactions take place in person, and quite often at the domicile of one person involved in the conversation. There’s a whole list of things you should know about how a calling card is delivered, but space here is limited. When you do end up round at someone else’s place of residence, all due care should be made to avoid offending your gracious host.

So be careful to not touch or alter anything in the house; this includes touching and moving ornaments in the sitting room, opening or touching a piano if it is already open, or opening the curtains in the sitting room. Importantly, one should never stride around an empty room if you are waiting for the person you are calling on to enter it. Instead, stand respectably near the middle of the room, or near the fireplace. If someone has taken the time to visit you, then you must at all times give them your attention. This is another that strikes home I think, as visiting a friend who spends half his time on a smart phone is more than slightly annoying.

One final point, as I know my word count could sky-rocket on this subject. If you are inviting someone to attend you at any entertainment, then the written invitation should be composed in the third person. A strange one, but taking the time to compose such a letter should be time well spent, and creates an artificial distance between the two persons, and since the social mores of the time were tightly focused on keeping a distance between unmarried men and women, I can see the point.

I hope that some of that was useful for you, and I think I’ll take a shot at some medieval etiquette next. It was more than just the code of chivalry you know.

Feb 192013

Thank you dear readers for the taking the time to read this little blog I write. Without a readership, I’m just talking to myself, and that’s plain crazy. Some of you may be curious why I do write this blog, as at no point in the last seven months have I gone into any details about why I decided to share my thoughts with anyone with an inclination to read them. I’m going to rectify that this week, and also fill you all in on some other little things I’ve got going on too, basically because over the last seven months, my life has changed quite a bit.

To begin with then, I’m a gamer. I often use his to describe myself more than any other word. ‘Geek’ night also cover it, but I’m geeky about a variety of things, such as comic books, history and extreme metal, but my biggest passion is for role playing games (with a side order of card/board/computer games too). So when I decided I wanted to write about something, it made sense to concentrate on the thing I identify with the most. Why then do I identify as a gamer?

For those who don’t know me personally – and based on the daily views I get, I think it’s safe to say my readership has grown beyond my friends – I’m a short, (They call me Shorty for a reason) skinny, bespectacled individual who was often an outsider growing up. This lends itself well to slightly more cerebral pursuits as I had less distractions growing up. I don’t think I had what I would think of as close friends until I was about fifteen and discovered war gaming and the social scene built up around it. Since then – with a few noteworthy exceptions – all of my close friends have been involved in the hobby in one way or another. Almost every girlfriend I’ve had has been a gamer in some way too. Without gaming, I’m not sure if I would be the socially aware man I am today, as it wasn’t until I met large groups of fellow gamers that I had to learn how to behave around large groups at all.

That last bit by the way, is a big screw you to all the people who think that gamers are socially awkward by default. It turns out that in a society that numbers 60+, there are no more than a small handful of us who have any sort of social failings; probably no more than you’d get in any group of that size. No, we’re all fairly well balanced people, who just happen to enjoy role playing.

So that’s why I chose gaming as the thing I wanted to talk about. As to why I felt the need to write a blog in the first place? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned for the next thrilling installment for that.

I did promise an announcement though, and this one comes straight off the back of me writing a gaming blog. Some months ago I offered a free NPC to any one of my readers who wanted one; all they needed to do was give me a very basic idea of what they needed, and then I let my creative juices flow. For the last week I’ve been going back to those NPCs and doing a bit of re-writing. I’ve removed any reference to any intellectual property and made each and every one of them system neutral. Then I tidied up some language and grammar issues, and reformatted the lot into one pdf. i even added a new one, as I’ve been thinking a lot about playing a certain type of character for the last couple of weeks, and wanted to share.

That entire document of 16 pages is now available from DriveThruRPG for the low low price of $0.99. Of course, you can just grab them all for free by scrolling through the comments of the aforementioned article, but you’ll have to put up with spelling errors and some rambling thoughts between them. And you won’t get the shiny new NPC either. This is in fact my first of (hopefully) many more pdfs that I’ll have for sale at next to nothing on DriveThru. An experiment into how easy it is to get stuff up there, which will eventually lead on to a monthly product line of system neutral adventures.

I’m sure all GMs have ideas floating around about games they’d like to run, or even short adventures they have completed and would love to share. Well, I’m going to share them, and as each one goes live, I’ll let you all know where you can find it. See you tomorrow for the continuing saga, and another announcement about another project I’m involved in.

Dec 172012

This post is about an argument I’m having with myself. In a previous game, I’ve insisted on there being absolutely no Out-Of-Character (OOC) between any of the players/characters. This worked very well indeed and without it, I don’t think the game could have survived as long as it did. I’m thinking about how best to implement this in other games I’m going to run, or if I should. Or if I even need to. So, expect Pros, Cons, and examples and by the end, me pleading for other input, as I would love to know what other people think about this concept.

What do I mean by this rule? Well, simply put it means that any information possessed by a player in my game, is also known by the character. I find it safe to use this as a blanket statement, even though it’s not true. Does the character know the player’s mobile number? Of course not, I’m only talking about things in relation to the game.

The main reasons for this rule is to protect all the players and characters from people who choose to abuse trusts and play the game in what could be considered a less than fun way for everyone. A scenario that has happened in other live action games that lead to this rule being put in place, runs as follows: player one tells player two about this great idea they have to screw someone over. The conversation takes place away from the table, at a bar in a purely social situation, not even on the same day the game is going to run. Player two thinks it’s a killer idea, and they both have a laugh about it. Player one then uses his plan to dick over player two. When player two tries to prevent this plan from coming to fruition, player one bitches to an ST that player two is acting on out of character information and that they shouldn’t be able to do what they can to keep their character alive.

Now, a good Story-Teller should be able to sort this out, but in the middle of a frenetic game, it can be hard to King Solomon your way out of it in a way that keeps everyone happy. So, we drop one simple rule; if you tell anything to another player about your character, then you have also told their character. Get drunk and let something slip; same deal. It’s your best friend, and you’d happily trust them with your progeny? Same. Deal. With no OOC it means that everyone is on the same page, and there is no way to cheat your way into an advantage.

The game it worked in last time though, was a bit different from most other games I’ve run. I’ve spoken before about the live action Vampire game that me and my mate ran. One of the things that made it so much fun, was the intrigue and power plays between the players characters. Sure, NPCs were constantly trying their hands too, but the real struggle came from ‘blue on blue’ role playing, or PvP if you prefer. For this to work effectively, the players had to be careful about revealing their machinations – going so far as to keep certain things from the story tellers even – or at least revealing them to other characters. Now, outside of a PvP style game – and don’t get me wrong, there was also a ton of cooperation involved – I wonder if this level of secrecy is really justified. Would it matter what people were getting up to, if everyone was working on the same team for the same goals? Would it make the players suspicious if I instituted this rule?

In my experience, even a team of characters who all have the same driving goal, will on occasion butt heads over personal motivations for actions, and if this means a little bit of going behind the players backs then having this rule in place would protect everyone. If it’s in place right from the beginning, then if one player character suddenly gets turned against the rest, it won’t look as obvious as dropping it in after they’ve joined the dark side.

Pretty good reasons to have it in so far then, but not still not enough for me to push forward with it. On now to a very strong reason why it shouldn’t be included: Player Diaries. I love these things, as you will know from some previous posts from me, both about my own write-ups, and those of the players in my current game. All the write-ups I get are written in character and available to be read by all the players. I think this is great fun as it gives all the players a chance to look at their current situation from a few different angles, and they’re also usually just a blast to read. The no OOC rule would do away with these write-ups, or at least make them available only to myself and the player who wrote them, and that takes away a lot of the fun of writing them in the first place.

So, there you have it, some good reasons to do it, some questions as to whether or not it’s necessary in the first place, and some reasons to just not bother. What do you, my loyal and attractive readers think? Please sound off below with any ideas you may have.

Nov 182012

Just over a month ago, I rolled past the 10,000 hit mark on this blog, and if you missed it, I offered anyone of my readers an NPC that I would write for them. Just a description and a background, but no stats, and let them use it in their games.

Well, over the course of the month, 34 of you wonderful people took me up on my offer, meaning there are now 34 more free range organic Shortymonster official NPCs in the world. You can check them out by clicking this link and scrolling down through them. For now that is. I’m about to start work on getting them down onto a pdf document – with images and everything – each character tagged for its primary genre, and others that it could work in with a little tweak. Some of them are setting specific, so I will also be tagging those too.

This wouldn’t have been as successful without some support from stars of the RPG online community, a few of them I have already thanked here. A couple of others are also worth mentioning, so check them out too.

The Tower of Archmage has opened up the chance to contribute to one of their latest design ideas on their blog. With the NPC I created for them being one of several star port merchants, if you have any other ideas, head on over and get in touch.

The Dragon’s Flagon is another blog with a distinctly OSR feel to it. That being said, those amongst you like myself who find themselves somewhere between old school and new school can still take a lot from his writing.

So, was this a good idea? I ruddy loved it! It was a great way to stretch some creative muscles, and I’ve heard back from a lot of people that they loved the ideas I gave them. Not only did the NPCs have a bit of background information about them, I also tried to include at least one hook in each too, as a little bit of inspiration for plots. I actually found out this morning that a friend of mine has taken the NPC I created for him and used it to get a lot of his plot ideas tied together. I had so much in fact, that I think I will do this again.

That means that each November will be free NPC month here at Shortymonster. The same deal as before; you don’t have to ‘Like’ my Facebook page, or subscribe to the blog, just drop a comment bellow the article in question, with as much or as little info as you think I’ll need, and I’ll write something up for you.

In terms of what it did for the blog – and I can’t stress enough that it wasn’t just this – A little over a month ago I had 10,000 views in just over four months of blogging. As I write this, that number is over 18,000. That’s a hell of a climb in one month.

Once more then, thanks to everyone who has helped out with this, either through sharing my offer with your own readers, asking for an NPC for me to write, or just heading on over to see what all the fuss was about. I’ll keep on blogging as long you lot keep on reading, and once a year – to let you know how much I appreciate you all – I’ll do this all over again.