Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Hils Rise Wild - some impressions

Last Saturday we played The Hills Rise Wild for Call of Cthulhu. Now after the fact I'm wondering why I decided to play that scenario? Let me put it this way.

In the scenario, the text describes how the players are introduced to the events and then sketches out a trip into the wilderness and then on day three, it say "this is when the scenario start for real" (paraphrased). There's a problem there.

As written, this assumes that it takes two days to travel to where the scenario start. When we ran it my players checked the capabilities of their car and we looked at the maps of New England I had printed out. It turned out the actual travel time, unless you stop and ask the locals every mile, is one hour. Have I missed something, or have the author only assumed that the investigators stop every mile? Nothing in the background and the introduction suggest that. I guess you could me a sloppy Keeper, but this was something I did not foresee.

I'm going to suggest something.

When you write a scenario which needs a trek through the wilderness, you need a map and a preferably hex grid on it. Discrete units of travel, like hexes, makes it possible to easily measure how far you get in a certain time. Also, if there are to be things happening while travelling, make a list of encounters and/or a random list.

Nothing really broke down, but if the author had intended the scenario to be a slowly building event, there should be in the adventure and not glossed over. I thought the stuff that was in there, but when actually trying to run it I improvised most of it.

Now, why didn't I see this coming? Maybe it takes some training to see what is a good scenario and I think that this kind of scenario, wilderness hex crawl for lack of a better word, is not something I'm very comfortable with.

Monday, November 28, 2011

An interesting way to start a sandbox

I have been listening to podcasts again. Yeah, I do that a lot. Me and my spouse cover different ones. She listens to 'casts about book of fiction and science news while I enjoys listening to people talk about ways to explore and invent imaginary worlds. Yeah. Solid stuff.

I did pick up a nice idea from the Happy Jacks podcast which I now have listened to a new episode of. Blame none but me if you think the following is stupid, though, it's my interpretation of an off hand remark made on the show.

For me the idea of a sandbox hinges upon the very proactive players. Frankly, I have seen few that would fit the bill. So, how about a way to show them the possibilities and wet their appetites before letting them loose? I'm thinking like this. How about you start your sandbox campaign with a pilot? You know how they do tv-shows, when they have a longer pilot episode where the main players gets introduced and suitable arenas of conflicts are delineated? I'm thinking that maybe that is a good way to start a sandbox campaign.

The way I would do that, would be a short but quite scripted episode where I expose the players through a simple plot (yes a predetermined one), to the things they then can poke and prod to their hearts delight. That way you would show how a story could look like in this world, and who the powers are they might want to topple, or play nice with. Naturally this would be strict by scenes, with time limits and also by cut scenes. Very focused and railroady.

Then I'd let the loose.

I wonder if that would fly?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alignment and brain damage - a new deal?

I was listening to the Happy Jacks podcast, and in a midst the jolly bantering someone suggested (not very seriously, I gather) the alignment one step beyond "chaotic good" namely "chaotic better".

I could dig that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

CoC character generation

So, this weekend we generated some character for CoC. I will be running The Hills Rise Wild when we next meet. It will be interesting.

I decided to include as much cool stuff from Trail as I had earlier been pondering. Drives, Pillars of Sanity and all core clues from Occupational Skills of 30% or above. I also added in a starting max of 85% and the Trigger Event from Unknown Armies. I think it will fit well.

We now have a lady reporter, a private eye and a businessman and gentleman scholar. It will be interesting...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hexcrawling Call of Cthulhu

This coming Saturday I'm supposed to be running a Call of Cthulhu game. I guess it goes without saying that if you plan on playing in that game, the rest might be less fun to read before the game.

Since I like Arkham, and I own the sourcebook, I had planned to run the scenario The Hills Rise Wild from that book. But, some parts of it I'm not very sure on how to handle.

Basically, the scenario is about finding pieces of a crashed meteorite. While searching in the rural outback the investigators will find this cabin where a homicidal maniac keeps his family in thrall, and plans to do the Investigators in as soon as he can.

The problem I'm having is the part where the players are supposed to be driving around in the rural outback, talking to farmers and searching the area for hints of a crashed meteorite. How do you make that part fun?

Looking at the scenario I think it's quite likely that rolling a few rolls for reactions, rolling a few rolls for search skills and then suddenly start to flesh out a cabin and some individuals living there, will be a dead give away that seems people are special and probably the main focus of the adventure. In CoC that means scary stuff to run away from. It will be a very short session if they do.

Improvising some odd rural folk and their quaint tales I can manage, and probably also describing the increasing decrepitude of the area and buildings. But, how to make the search in the fields interesting?

Anyone have any experience running that scenario, or have any hints on how to make a rural trek and meteorite search more engaging, so as to not bore the players until they get to meet some crazies?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Whos's the big kid on the block?

I guess many of you have read the news about Pathfinder outselling D&D? Personally I find the entries lower on the scale more interesting. Is really Dragon Age and Shadowrun that popular! Boggles my mind.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Playing Lady Blackbird

Last Saturday, I ran Lady Blackbird with a couple of friends. It was fun and everyone laughed a lot. Still, it was not as I had hoped it would be.

For those of you who doesn't know, Lady Blackbird is both a scenario and a game system. John Harper designed it, and distributes in freely on the web (see the link above). It's a pdf with a setup, some sketchy setting information and five characters with a rules summary. This means that all the time when you play Lady Blackbird, the character will be the same, and it will start the same way and diverge from there.

So, what did I like? Well, the game system if easy enough and the character are all fun an easily triggers ideas for play. Also, all characters have relations to each other and other forces in the world. It's a good setup.

So, what did I not like? Well, the game system really demands you to invent stuff. You should go out of your way to really, really grab xp at every opportunity. You should also look for opportunities to reinvent the character and take the meagre stuff on your sheet and develop it, though play. You think this all sounds like positives? Yeah, kind of. But, it also mean you have to have proactive players. You have to be able to design and add to the setting as a player. This is not for everyone. Actually, I think the old saying that a good GM can make anything fly is wrong. Good players, can make anything fun! Mine weren't too bad, actually.

What am I complaining about then? Maybe I'm just teasing, to make a bland post more dramatic? Anyway.

It went well, like I said. But, it took quite long in the session until people actually remembered their keys, and that they gained xp for them! Also, I tried to follow the GM advice and ask questions and follow along, and not try to steer the action. Those times I tried to force the issue by pointed questions about how people felt about being treated "like that", they more often than not shrugged and let it pass. But, it shall be said that they did create more trouble for themselves after a while anyway. I just wished they had responded like I wanted them too! Yeah, I know. They did well.

Now I want to run this game again, to see if it will differ as wildly as it seem to have done, in podcasts and forum posts. Interesting game.
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