Friday, August 28, 2009

No posts during the weekend

I'll be away for the week end and there will probably be no postings until Monday. Then I'll be back, talking about Call of Cthulhu and railroad tracks in CoC campaigns.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Using city maps in gaming

I just read this post over at A character for every game, and it got me thinking. I used to love fantasy cities, but after trying to use some of them in my games I started to wonder how I should use them. My main problem was the city maps. I've read so often how people have gushed over gorgeous maps and how they see their campaigns unfold just by looking at that map. I think I'm missing something.

Say you just purchased, or made your own, fantasy city. It will probably be a list of factions and powerful individuals to interact with, a list of shops, temples and other establishments of the city. The latter list might be so detailed that it contains hundreds of entries and their location, proprietor and kind of business they do. Also, you probably have a map.

I have a hard time using this map. If you have a big colourful map with a lot of houses on, neatly marked where different establishments are located, how do you use it in play? Do you lay it out on the table and the players point where they go, and you read of what they see from the listing of businesses I mentioned above? Do you keep the map and just give rough descriptions of the neighbourhoods based on the businesses listed there? Frankly, most of these ways of using a city map seem kind of cumbersome to me. I'd love to hear how people who have managed big city campaign does it!

The first time I wondered about things like this was when I managed to get hold of the first Lankhmar supplement to AD&D. The map was really good looking, and it also had these small city block pieces you were supposed to slot into the blank spaces in the city quarters. While I liked the idea of an ever changing labyrinth of a city, I never figured out how to use them. When would I show the players a map? When was it time to start describing alley by alley? As you maybe can tell, I've been playing mostly in different locales where I know how to run things. Running character based games is hard work, but I can do it. Running dungeon based games (in the broadest possibly sense), I can do that. But I feel I need to up my ante, and also dive into my love of city based fantasy like the one written by Fritz Leiber. So, please chime in and tell me how you use city maps in your games!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Green Devil Face #3 have arrived!

I have gotten my copy of GDF #3 now! Seeing my own weird ideas in print is both nice and a very odd feeling. Thanks for publishing my submissions, Jim!

Should it be that someone feel they have a hard time grasping the Hypercube of Doom, then I can only say that I had one hell of a hard time trying to describe it! The nature of it makes it very hard to illustrate in the two dimensional surface of the zine. If I manage to make something up I'll post it here.

Go grab your own copy, and submit some stuff!

Call of Cthulhu - what are the rules used for?

Having ended a campaign I tend to think back a bit not only on the regular war stories, but also on the mechanics of the game. I have written about CoC before, and this is another musing an a little point after some real play. YMMV. CoC is an interesting game, based as it is on the very old and classic Runequest from the seventies. Just like D&D you roll your stats with a couple of d6, and they even look a lot the same. You have a Profession and you have skills. Already this is diverging from OD&D, since even if you were fooled into thinking that the Profession was something like a Class, that Skills things is something new. Now, since skills is the basis of everything you do you might sometimes actually wonder what those stats you rolled was actually supposed to be used for, right? This is were I found something interesting in real play.

As you might now, a few of the stats in CoC are used, multiplied by five to make a percentage, as the Luck, Know and Idea rolls. Up until now I have never much considered those. They sit on the character sheet not looking conspicuous at all. I did find out though, that our Keeper used them repeatedly in play and I seem to remember from reading the rules a few years back that thy are supposed to be used just like that. Since almost everything is based on a skill roll I started to wonder if those couldn't be transformed into skills as well, and the rest of the stats be done away with? Considering the age of CoC, I guess this must have been considered before. Even though I am a fan of the game, I haven't been playing it much at home and when you mostly play at conventions the rules often tend to fade to the back. If there have been a discussion about such an elimination of stats, I've missed it. It is intriguing, though.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Beyond the Mountains of Madness - a few thoughts about a CoC campaign

So, after playing very intensively we managed to play through all of the campaign before the whole crazy mess of Worldcon and moving started. The way it played, and the way it is written got me thinking.

The very first thing we noticed when making characters, is that there are recommendations for suitable skills for the investigators. Also notable is the fact that the most important people in the Antarctic expedition are all NPCs. The latter is important, since it means it will almost certainly mean that the important decisions during the expedition will all be taken by the Keeper, as a NPC, not the players. Our Keeper decided that since this meant he would have to be talking to himself, it would be both silly and boring. Naturally that meant that some key personnel had to be Player Characters instead. Having taken care of that the reason for the first problem becomes obvious. This campaign have a story, a way it is supposed to unfold. Now, I'm not saying that has to be a bad thing. Most CoC scenarios are written so that it begins with a relative/friend/acquaintance of some sort call on the investigators to come and help out with something. That of course means that there is something going on, already defined, and the players are supposed to follow the trail to the end and confront the problem. I can hardly imagine investigative roleplaying being handled any other way. Still, we managed to both ride the rails and do some serious detours.

We had to go to Antarctica, and we had to investigate the mountains. Had we not done that it would not have been an adventure. While it might be fun to have a wide open space to explore once in a while, I've found that those campaigns tend to be quite meandering and without focus without the right kind of players. Having a clear set goal isn't always bad. What did make the campaign interesting was how we were all playing characters that knew nothing about the mythos. We came to the icy waste to make scientific discoveries, and while some terrible things happened, and having been slowly lulled into the feel of a scientific expedition with all the mundane tasks of such a journey, we still decided to look at it as a scientific mystery to be solved. Finally our characters could no longer deny that things were a foot of vast importance. But our first way to handle things was still to collect data and try to talk to the mysterious creatures we encountered! Having the expedition leaders out of the equation we all had our own plan for what we wanted to accomplish, and that became a new drive for our investigation. I think my conclusion is that if you make the personal goals of your character the main focus you can still play what is a very railroady campaign, and still feel like you do your own thing. Probably it will derail things and open it up into something potentially even more interesting. It was quite an experience, and my character went silently totally insane and had she survived she would have created the most elaborate mental cover up possibly denying the journey ever happened. Instead she blew herself and two traitors up with dynamite. What a way to go.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

[RPG Blog Carnival] My convention experiences - where to go for inspiration

Have you heard of RPG Blog Carnival? I hadn't either, but I actually participated in it one month! Someone had posted something interesting and I used it as inspiration for a post of my own. Oddly enough I forgot about it afterwards, and not everyone had tagged things so it was easy to find either. I'll try to be very clear. In short, the idea is to post themed posts, and they will be collected in a closing post by the host of that month. For the month of August the host is Chgowiz, and since I follow his blog I actually noticed it from the start. This time the theme is conventions, ren fairs and carnivals. Here we go.

I used to be a fairly regular visitor to conventions when I was younger. Around the year I had a few regular stops, and looking forward to the next one was part of the gaming calendar. Back then I lived in Sweden (regular readers know I have been living in Canada, but now I'm actually once again in Sweden), where none of the gaming conventions are trade shows with booths and game companies attending. I have never been to a game convention that is in any way oriented around commerce and selling stuff. It's all by the fans, for the fans. I went there with my friends to play with my friends, and try new stuff in tournaments and events. It did happen that tournaments started off with teams that had to few players show up, and I liked to join a few of those. But, it was never anything I used as a way to meet and talk to other gamers. I now see it as lost opportunities for broadening the mind. After many years like that, I got out of the loop. We did go back once (many years later) and visited two conventions, but then our children were born and nothing much came out of that experiment. Even though I married a gamer we haven't really been to game conventions together.

My Canadian experiences of conventions are almost all about science fiction conventions, not gaming cons. The latest one was of course the World Con, Anticipation, in Montréal this August. Apart from not knowing much about where to find Canadian game convetions, they also have the benefit of being easier to attend with children. Often when I come home from those conventions, where I also didn't go to meet people really, I came home with a sense of having explored something new and gotten new ideas. For very obvious reasons I also many times felt like I should try my hand at writing some fiction myself. That never happened. But, I found it interesting now after Anticipation to compare these two experiences. Maybe I could use that kind of enthusiasm I got from sf cons for gaming? Being a DM is creative work, and hearing people talk about fiction is of course a little like hearing somebody talk about their really engaging campaign. Also, every kind of panel on writing is usable. One clear example is a panel I listened to at Ad Astra this year, about how to write engaging combat scenes. Some of the advice was definitely usable from a gaming perspective. Nothing is new with the idea of bringing in ideas from something other than the usual places, but this struck me as a very suitable and for me untapped resource. It will be interesting to see what I can do with that, and maybe it can give somebody else who reads this an idea or two. Enjoy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Back in the saddle - The Eye have moved north

So have I then managed to move across the pond. Having been the Crazy Canuck, I'm now going to be the Stupendous Swede. Well, maybe I wont, since around here many of my friends are crazily tall, and many have big beards. Anyway, I will now try to get my regular blogging going again. Many thanks to the faithful who have waited for updates. I guess I'll see in the stats within a few days if there are any. I will thank you in advance and hope you are out there!

Hopefully I will have some things to say about having concluded a big mega campaign for Call of Cthulhu, and maybe I will have some new campaign to start up and write about. Also, I have been thinking of making a regular T&T feature some week day. As usual I will probably look at things from the viewpoint of my favourite old school game, but it would be nice to know if anyone would be at all interested in regular pontifications on T&T. I visited my old game club yesterday, and will maybe write some about my gaming there as well. I do long for some classic ancients miniature games. Those have been sorely missed in Canada. There will be a little bit of everything old and new, like usual. First off will be a post for the RPG Blog Carnival. Hang around, there will be more!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back from Montreal, and now time for moving!

So now I'm back from Worldcon, and I had a really good time there. Maybe I can turn some of the experiences into blog posts about gaming, we'll see. Sadly, this does not mean I will be back to blogging full time. I will now pack up my home, where I have lived and collected games. All that packing is done because I'll be heading back to live in Europe again. James Raggi and I will try to bring you North American coloured impressions of Northern Europe, with dice. I can't wait until this is all done and I can relax. Maybe I'll post something to blow off some steam, but don't count on it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Travel Plans ahead - Worldcon in Montreal

I am in the midst of pulling up all the tent poles and moving across the pond. That takes a lot of time, and limits my energy for blogging. The last few days we have been pushing 10 hour game sessions to finish our Call of Cthulhu campaign, and last night we left the Mountains of Madness for the last time. I'll try to summarize some impressions later. A lot of things are about to end, but thankfully not the world.

Now I am going to go to Montreal and the Worldcon that's taking place there the next days. That means I will probably be a bit slow in posting stuff the next few days. If you see me, feel free to say hi.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Indie RPG Awards voting for 2008 is on

I just saw a link on that the Indie RPG Awards for 2008 is open for voting. Apparently I missed that there was a period when you could have suggested games for the award. For those who cheer every time some game from the OSR get screen time should be pleased to know that Mutant Future is nominated! Personally I'm happy I'm not eligible to vote, since both John Wick and Greg Stolze have games nominated. How do you pick between those two guys? Who knows, this might actually make me take a close look at Mutant Future.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Roads go ever ever on..

I just posted about the end of the first chapter of my campaign of T&T. It felt a bit sad, but also satisfying to close the book. What would come of this? Today I was down at one of our FLGSs, and peeked in on the AD&D2 game there which I due to time conflicts couldn't participate in. Playing were two of my T&T players, and the DM was another. I sat in and listened a bit, chuckling and participating in the groans or sounds of merriment when someone fumbled or rolled a natural twenty. As I walked around the table, peeking at the character sheets I noticed that one of "my players" had graph paper in front of her. It was a lull in the action and I asked what she was mapping. Guess if it made me happy so hear her say that she wasn't mapping the adventure they were playing, but she was cleaning up the map of her own T&T dungeon! Hearing that made me feel like becoming a parent for the second time this summer!

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