Monday, September 27, 2010

"I really want to game that show!"

I've found that after I see a film, or a TV show that I find cool, I immediately want to game that show.

Now, those who have been around have heard of licenced settings, and probably have already experienced the problems with those. I have been thinking along those lines again after having seen a couple of episodes of a show called Leverage. Let me think out loud for a moment, and maybe I have something new to say.

To begin with, let's talk about Leverage for a moment.

In Leverage we have, just like the good old Mission Impossible, a setup where somebody have been harmed by a bad guy and the Leverage team agrees to help them out. Then there's the briefing when we get to hear about the bad guy and how he can be approached. Roles get distributed amongst the experts in the team and they get rolling.

Now. Try to imagine that happening at a game table.

In order to make that work, you'd have to have players capable of from an outline of a villains personality concoct a plan to fleece him of his ill gotten gain. Likely? No.

Sure, if you have a team that must include someone who hacks computers, one who's a master at close combat and one actor it means that the plan will use those skills. Apart from that, sewing together a plan and then pull it off is another matter entirely.

This brings me to the problem with gaming a film or a tv show. You can probably never get it to flow that smoothly unless you have very capable players and have some Director behind the GM screen. So much of that which happens roll along fairly narrow paths. The amount of information available must be just right, and everyone must act in the most logical way. All the time.

If there's a way to make this happen by rules, social contact or something else then I far so far not seen it. I guess I will keep watching films and tv shows and dream of those moments of perfect drama and suspense.

Good web based feed reader, anyone?

I have been using bloglines to keep up with all the good blogs out there. But, now they are closing down. Since that means I have to find an alternative I am out looking at the alternatives.

Anyone have any suggestions?

It has to be web based, handle all the Atom and RSS that the rpg blogs produce, and it has to not be google reader!

Let me know.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An interesting take on character classes/types in T&T

I just read a post at The Grand Tapestry, linking to this. That is one seriously interesting take on Types in T&T! When gaining a level you can "shift tracks" within a type. In old D&D and T&T there's fairly few classes, but they contain a lot. A fighter can be both a "paladin" and a "barbarian", basically they are the same class but different takes on the Fighting Man. Now, imagine that to be spelled out that way, and levelling up means broadening your scope as a Fighter?

Personally I think this ties in quite nicely with this post and others by The Fighter, eh... Paladin I mean.

Are you getting better at killing things, is that what experience means? The Old Way shows us the path of flexibility. Me like.

I might be zeroed out by gaming hiatus and an autumn cold, but some guys write some really good posts out there!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So that was how a con feels like

I'm back home again after the con. To summarize things:

1. Make sure you have a map of the convention area, and a handout to give out at registration about what is going on where.

2. Place your con so it's easy to get there, to get to an ATM and to some source of food.

3. Make sure you know who is there as a dealer, speaker or panel attendee and help them out.

It's not that hard to run a convention, is it?

In the end all the gaming I did was the Blood and Mud WWII skirmish. It was fun, even if analysis paralysis made it far longer a game than intended. Maybe I should have had more coffee. Do stupid things faster, right?

Me and James Raggi and Tomas Arfert sat and chatted a lot. We talked about some personalities in the OSR, experiences of players not-getting-it-at-all. fun was had. Naturally we also analyzed the intricacies of system, play and text in old and new school, some of my old issues. There's a lot of fun stuff coming from both Tomas and James, but I'm not telling you yet what it is.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Convention experience so far

So, my first gaming con in Sweden for ages, how is it? Well, it's in a small suburb os Stockholm at the end of a road, without any signs showing the way. It's well hidden, and it takes forever to get there.

Game wise it seems like the board game crowed are here in force. There are piles of "German" games for pick up play, and some miniatures games. Strangely enough, Magic is almost totally absent. It used to be everywhere.

I met James Raggi, and had a nice little char with him. Apparently the goods was not flying off his table, but I can see why. This was not a place where people buy stuff. He will probably post of his experiences later. We did chat about the wonders of travelling and how showers seem to be different all over Sweden. I guess you didn't knew that, did you? It was fun to finally see someone in this OSR crowd in the flesh.

Then I managed to talk old school design with the Swedish rpg designer and illustrator Tomas Arfert (page in Swedish). Very illuminating to talk about OSR stuff with someone who have done design in this new country of mine. He felt some ideas hadn't really found root here yet. It seems like some peole don't read the net, or something...

I did play some game as well. A miniatures game about WWII skirmishing was there, and I was drafted as one of three German commanders. It was great fun, but we procrastinated like crazy so it took forever to conquer Calais.

I hav eyet to decide if I will go back tomorrow. Nobody looked interested in playing T&T, but I did have someone ask me about my nice T&T shirt. Good work, Jeff!

Now I feel very tired. I hope this post isn't to incomprehensible.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What is D&D to you? What is roleplaying?

James asks, over at Grognardia, what image pops up in your mind.

This is my answer:

Even back when I abhorred D&D, preferring BRP, I still thought that cover was the epitome of fantasy roleplaying. I still love it.

(Image from The Acaeum)

Convention weekend

So, for the first time in ages I'm going to a convention this weekend. This is not one of my usual haunts, so I have idea what to expect. Apparently LotFP will be there, so I'll pass by and say hi. Maybe I'll even get to play a game or two of some sort, even though I'm not pre-registered for anything. I'll bring my trusty T&T book so find me if you want to play T&T.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An update on psionics

Some of you might be waiting with baited breath for news on my psionics project. No? Well. I'm going to tell you anyway.

I've rewritten all the old powers and rescaled a bunch of them. I've been thinking about what it would make sense to include, while at the same time keep the flavour of the original rules. Some of those powers are quite out there. Still waffling on a few of those.

In the old rules there are different procedures for attacking different targets with Attack Modes. This is quite involved, and I wonder how much can be slashed while keeping the flavour. I guess most of it can be simplified. I've already tossed out the point based system. For some that might be heresy and mean I have already left the original far behind. So be it. I think one reason psionics aren't more popular is that they are just too fiddly. I want it to be strange, but not cumbersome. Now psi combat is based on d20, AC and roll for damage. I think it finally makes sense. You be the judge.

Lately I have felt a bit sluggish, and it seems like everyone around me have a fever, flu or a cold right now. Not exactly a catalyst for your creativity that.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

More thoughts about experience

I read these two posts about how different designers have handled the idea of experience point awards. On this blog I have expressed my great enthusiasm for the idea of gaining xp for gold. To be more precise I think the Arnesonian way to award for gold spent is even better, but still it's xp for gold. The posts by the Paladin made me think again of how to award the behaviour you want to promote in your game.

In Rolemaster you get XP for a bunch of things, a little like in The Fantasy Trip. Looking back at the rules now I realize we must have glossed over much of that when me and my friends played MERP/RM. You get XP for miles travelled, Spells cast, Saves, Damage taken, enemies killed and a few more. If someone doubts that rules for experience strongly influence style of play, let me tell you how weird that last one can get. We had more than one fight become quite a farce when at the end the opponent looked haggard enough to get killed in the next good blow. Suddenly everyone charged in, pushing friend and foe aside to get in that killing blow. It might be realistic but it sure wasn't fun. It was the first one to go.

You have probably all read about how old school play is more about exploring the unknown, right? How about that idea of XP per mile travelled? Is it feasible? Jeff Rients wrote about it, and his take was very interesting I think. Jeff's take is a little more sophisticated than just XP/mile. It have been sloshing around in my brain since I first read it, and I want to write something that uses that idea.

Another cool idea is that you probably learn more from your mistakes than from what you already know. In Tunnels & Trolls you get experience when doing Saving Rolls, failed or not. I always liked that, and have more than once seen people try wild things beacuse "The worst thing that could happen is I get some experience, right?". Me like. Imagine a game where you only get experience when you fail!

Now imagine this

* XP targets for points in the adventure which necessitate some curiosity and exploration or are somehow more majestic than usual.
* XP everytime you fail relative to the margin of failure (multiplied by level, maybe)
* A flat bonus for every crit done or received
* xp for gold, spent on hedonistic pursuits

I want to play that game!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Outcast, me?

It seems like a lot of people have found my blog lately searching about whether metalheads are outcasts.

No need to feel marginalized my gamers friends. Others do fine.

What was that again? Me? In those earphones? Why, metal of course!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Do you have roleplaying in your game?

You might remember me talking about Diplomacy a while ago as the origins of roleplaying. Once again the question pop up about rules supporting roleplay. Today I read what Roger had to say about D&D being a role playing game or not. Naturally, it made me think of Diplomacy again.

When you look at the rules of diplomacy, they don't tell you to speka in funny voices. Neither do the rules of D&D, or T&T or any other first generation rpg. They are directions to facilitate play of the game by giving room for personal touches, while steering it along some common ground. Roleplaying just happens.

Roleplaying is an emerging quality of play. Those qualities are often the most valuable in a game. Some games have rules for X, which just happens to make most gamers do Y, since it's natural in that context. Sometimes you design for it, sometimes you don't.

I've realized one thing about those games which work really hard to facilitate a certain style of play. They often have a lot of space in them, like places of rest where you can find out what is natural in that context. Even there roleplaying is an emergent quality. Even when you have rules for social interactions and narrative control there's space in the rules. That's the rules that support roleplaying.

At least that's what my tired brain just found fascinating. Tell me about it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The birth of roleplaying

I guess everyone have listened to Clyde talking to David Wesely by now?If you haven't you should. Dave was the guy who together with Dave Arneson invented roleplaying, if you didn't know that.

One thing I found interesting was how Maj. Wesely told Clyde and us about how they played wargames back in the sixties. It wasn't unheard of for them to have players do things like scout ahead of a battle and talk to peasants about enemy troop movements. The fact that miniature games back then had such sketchy and crappy rules made in necessary to fudge things and make rulings on the fly, which made it very easy to "step outside the rules" and do things not immediately related to the lead figure battle.

Everyone have heard about how D&D grew out of wargaming culture, and sometimes that's taken as an excuse for us johnny-come-latelies who don't always "get" the old style of play. Wesely shows us how that probably don't always mean what we think it does. Diplomacy is probably worth studying if you want to know how the early Blackmoor games were run. Dave Arneson was a Diplomacy fan, and listening to this interview I can see how that must have influenced the early roleplaying. Go listen to that podcast!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Unisystem experiences and "unbalanced" games

Earlier this year, I was trying to expand my vistas by playing with some new people. This also meant playing some new games. We used the Unisystem from  Eden Studios, Inc. To summarize I guess you could say that it didn't work that well. Some of it was the people, and some of it was the game system. Some guys you just don't game well with, that's just how it is. I'm going to talk a little more about the game system, since I think there might be something interesting to learn from that part of the experience.

I need to say from the start that I hate Buffy, Angel and all those shows. While it might have coloured my perception of Unisystem, I think there's more to it.

There are three classes of characters in Buffy/Angel (the edition we used of Unisystem) and I think they were called White Hat, Supporting character and something else I have forgotten. The idea being, of course, that this would be a way to model the different kind of characters in the TV shows, and how they had roles to play in the drama. I played a character in one of the lesser classes, Supporting character. You make a character by spending points on stats, skills, and special abilities. In addition to that the different classes also get different pools of Drama Points, to be used to influence the narrative in different ways. Since the list of skills is fairly short you probably want to focus on a few things to stand out as someone who can seriously contribute. It was here that my first beef with the game showed up. 

We had one guy playing a White Hat, who managed to buy roughly the same skills that I did. We had different concepts, but since the list was fairly short and the others had specialized in many of the other abilities it was to be expected. So, that shouldn't be a problem, but these two characters were of different classes, which meant I was always trumped.

The Unisystem buffs around will now probably tell me that the characters should have different roles. The big thing is of course Drama Points. Using these the Supporting characters are able to step into the spotlight and do their thing. Different classes of characters are not to be played the same. It's explicitly said that some characters are to be more in focus than the others.

Now compare this to the old school scorn for "game balance". 

The thing is I still think game balance is a bogus goal. My problem wasn't really that my character was of lesser importance and that some other player had an "unbalanced" character. I had much more problem with having less possibility to shine, to be in the spotlight. Maybe I could even call some of it niche protection.

No matter how much you fiddle with your rules to make it balanced, you will not be able to make sure I get as much attention from the GM as that other guy. Well, it might not be entirely true. It can be done, and the most extravagant I know of is Burning Empires, where you have a quota of scenes.

Non the less. I think that what very often is the case when people holler about game balance is time in the spotlight.

A game system should be able to generate characters that are distinctly different from each other, and not only in the backgrounds and psychology but also in the hard numbers on the sheet. If you have that support from the game, any character should be able to contribute in any given adventure. Spotlight is much more intangible, and thus harder to know how to handle. But, a game with fairly simple rules don't have to be the only thing needed. Much can be said about Unisystem, but it wasn't the complicated and convoluted rules that kept me sidelined. 

I have myself been GM in games where there's this one guy who never steps up, so I think it's not always easy to handle from the other side of the screen as well. In the space between game balance, rules and support for distinct and interesting characters there are many opportunities to stumble and fall. Take a moment to think about it, and maybe you see some possibilities for improvement as GM, as a designer or a player. I'm not all sure about the lesson of all this, but there's food for thought.

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