GM Brainstorm – I Dreamed a Dream of LARPS Gone By…

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I was going to throw up a simple Monster for this week’s entry: a simple fall fairy character called the “Pumpkin Patch,” inspired by Patch, one Robin Goodfellow’s* entourage. It was going to be okay, but not great.. one of those things that you reflect upon and go, “I could write a better one in my sleep.”

*Robin Goodfellow: For those who don’t know, Robin Goodfellow is an alias for the English fairy known as Puck, and NOT the name of a ’70s folk singer.

And the weird thing is, I DID. Last night I had a dream about running a LARP game. Which is strange, in that I’ve:

  1. Run very few games.
  2. Never run a LARP gamescared drool
  3. Never PLAYED a LARP Game.

I’ve been told by a friend that I’d take to a LARP like a duck to a cracker buffet. It’s mostly due to a lack of opportunity, but maybe on some subconscious level, I’m holding out for “Dresden Lives” to be released. This I know the basics, and this is an attempt to whip up a quick one-shot game using the Fate Accelerated Rules. The original dream involved Transformers of the non-Michael Bay variety, but I think the idea still stands without them.

However, I’m past my deadline for a game project I’m actually getting PAID to do, so rather than post the entire game, I only have time to post a proposal for adapting FAE to LARPing. More on the setting later.

LARP RULES – Each player is given a character sheet, a name tag, a writing utensil & notecards and three Fate Points. They are also given ribbons to represent damage.

Green – tied around permanent Flaws/Errors. (i.e. a robot with a missing leg might have a green ribbon around their leg; a robot that is processing slow has a ribbon around his head.)

Red – Tied around consequences. Once a consequence is repaired, remove the ribbon.

Rolling off: Instead of using Fate dice or cards, one alternative is to use Rock, Paper Scissors (RPS). If so, this is how it works:

OVERCOME / PASSIVE RESISTANCE
To make a roll against passive resistance, ask for a GM, Assistant GM, or any nearby player. Your result:

Tie – Both people throw the same sign. Treat this as you rolled 0, and add your Approach.

You Win – Treat it as if you rolled a +2. Also, throw RPS again: if you lose or tie, stop, but if win, you gain an additional +1 (total +3,) and may throw RPS a third time –if you win again, you get a total of +4. You cannot roll higher than +4. Add your approach.

You Lose – Treat it as if you rolled a -2. You may also throw RPS again: if you win or tie, stop, but if lose, you suffer an additional -1 (total -3,) and must throw RPS a third time –if you lose again, you get a total of -4. Add your approach.

VERSUS A PLAYER / ACTIVE RESISTANCE

Tie – Both people throw the same sign. Treat this as if both people rolled 0- add your Approach, and see who was higher.

One Person Wins – Treat it as if the winner rolled a +2, while the loser rolled a 0. Also, throw RPS again: if the winner loses or ties on the second roll, stop, but if they win a second time, they gain an additional +1 (total +3,) and may throw RPS a third time –if they win a third time, they get a total of +4. You cannot get more than +4. Both players take that result, add their approaches, and see who comes out higher.

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Skeleton Crew RPG – Now OPEN!

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You heard me, playtesting for the Skeleton Crew rpg is now open! Click here, send us a comment, and receive a free copy of the rulebook, in all of it’s gruesome glory.

In the meanwhile, this week I’m sharing with you our feedback sheet- mostly for those who are helping with the playtest, but also in case anyone out there wants to use it as a basis for their own feedback forms. Likewise, we’re not above suggestions: is there a vital question we missed? Let us know!

zomb whoa

SKELETON CREW FEEDBACK FORM

Part 1: Getting to Know YOU

Name (Or, if you prefer, Internet Handle or “Anonymous”):

Email (Or put Anonymous):

Gender(s) (Optional):

Your Age Range: 8-12     13-17     18-24     25-34     35-44     45-54     55-64     65+

How many years have you spent playing RPGs? (If this was your first, put “0”):

Have you ever run games as a Games Master (GM) or Dungeon Master (DM)? If yes, for roughly how many years?:

How many different RPG rules system have you played? (i.e. Fate, D&D, Apocalypse World)? What are some of your favorites?

Have you played any other Fate games before? If so, which one(s), and what was your reaction to them?:

PART 2 – Exposure

How thoroughly did you read the Skeleton Crew rulebook? Pick an option below, or write your own:
Didn’t read it, but my GM did.    I skimmed through it.     I read all of it/ nearly all of it at least once.            I went over it with a fine-tooth comb.

How thoroughly did you get to play the Skeleton Crew game? Pick an option below, or write your own:
Have yet to play it.          I played 1-2 games.         I have played 3+ games, or a short campaign.     I could play it in my sleep!

If you have played any Skeleton Crew games, were you the GM for any of them? If so, how many?

Part 3 – Breakdown

As a reminder, the sections of the Skeleton Crew Rulebook are:

Introduction
Chapter 1 – Team Creation – Character Creation, Skills, Intrinsic Magic, Team Creation, Team Spirit, Fate Core Review
Chapter 2 – Basic Mortal States – Human, Undead, Dhampir, Vampire, Zombie, Wight, Mummy, Construct, Ghost, Fey, Other Races
Chapter 3 – Basic Professions – Slayer, Researcher, Priest, Mystic, Paranormal Exterminator, Survivor, Other Professions.
Chapter 4 – Magic – Elements, Drawback Aspects, Weaponized Magic, Specialized Magic, Derived Magic, Sorcerors (different types,) Exorcists, Miracles & Prayers, Liches, Magic Stunts, FancyMancy List
Chapter 5 – Shapeshifting – Werebeasts
Chapter 6 – Gear – Gear as Aspects, Implied Gear, Gear as Stunts, Multi-fuction Gear, Gear as Extras, Flexi-stunts, Evil Lairs, Vehicles, Power Suits, Building Gear, Building from Scratch, Mad Scientist
Chapter 7 – Companions – Constant Companions, Medium, Temporary Companions, Summoners
Chapter 8 – Testing Fate – Round 0,  Final Round, Recovery, Random Elements, Stuntmaker
GM Section – Chapter 9 – The Team – Guiding Character Creation, Team Spirit
Chapter 10 – The City – World Aspects, Public Reaction, New Manchester, Friends & Foes, Allies, Nemesis Organizations, Good Guys, Faces & Places, Completing the Puzzle, Random Mancunians, Urban Legends
Chapter 11 – The Mission – Dispensing Missions, Adventure Generator, Comedy, Horror, Tragedy, Death.
Chapter 12 – Bestiary – Immunities – Threats, Obstacles, Oddities
Chapter 13 – 101 Story Ideas
Chapter 14 – Sample Sdventure – Panic at the Pizzeria
Chapter 15 – Reference Charts

Length: Which parts of the rulebook, if any, felt too long, superfluous, or distracting? How would you fix it?

Length: Which parts of the rulebook, if any, felt too short or incomplete? How would you fix it?

Length: Which parts of the rulebook, if any, felt like the perfect length?

Complexity: Did you find any part of the book too confusing? If so, did you have trouble with the concept, or the phrasing?

Complexity: Did you find any part of the book too simple? If, what improvements would you like to see?

Complexity: If you had any trouble with the rules, do you believe that reprinting the Fate Core rules (making SC a standalone rulebook instead of an expansion), would make it easier to understand?

Originality: Compared to other rulebooks you’ve seen, did the content feel:
Unoriginal (Seen it Before)          Somewhat Original (Satisfactory)              Groundbreaking!             Other:

Tone: Did you feel the rulebook was too serious, too silly, or just right? What overall feel did it give you?

Art: Did the artwork match the tone of the book? Would you change anything about the art size or frequency?

Overall: What were some of your favorite parts of the book?

Overall: What parts of the book did you like the least / felt needed the most revision? How would you fix it?

Overall: Is there anything you would recommend adding to the book?

Editing: Are there any large editing / formatting issues that bothered you?*

*If doing a thorough, line by line edit, please submit as a separate document, or add your notes to the word document version of the playtest with the “Mark Changes” button marked.

PART 4 – MARKETING

How would you rate this product overall? (1 worst, 5 best)
1              2              3              4              5

What age ranges would you recommend this product for?
Your Age Range: 8-12     13-17     18-24     25-34     35-44     45-54     55+

Describe who you think the target audience for this product is. Would you consider yourself a part of that group?

For each of the following categories, add the price that seems best to you:

Low (Bargain / Sale Price) Normal Highest You’d Pay
PDF
SOFTCOVER (B&W)
HARDCOVER (B&W or COLOR)

Would you recommend reprinting the Fate Core rules (making SC a standalone rulebook instead of an expansion)? If so, given that the size would increase to 400-600 pages, please record which prices you’d pay for the expanded book.

Low (Bargain / Sale Price) Normal Highest You’d Pay Too Much!
PDF
SOFTCOVER (B&W)
HARDCOVER (B&W or COLOR)

In which format would you most likely purchase this rulebook?
PDF        Soft Cover           Hardcover           Would not Buy

Would you recommend this product to others? Y / N / Other

If you answered yes to the above, we’d appreciate it if you give us a quote. In the space below, describe the game, as if you were convincing one of your friends to join you. (Complete sentences would be fantastic.)

How did you hear about this game?

PART 5 – Kickstarter

If/when this game appears on Kickstarter, what additional content/merchandise would you like to see as additional patron levels / stretch goals?

If we hired guest star writers to write stretch goal content, which authors would excite you the most? Do you know any game authors that would make a good “fit” for this rulebook?

Would you be interested in creating additional stretch goal content? If so, briefly list your gaming / writing experience.

We feel that Fate Core is a perfect fit for Skeleton Crew. However, are there any other rpg systems out there that you would recommend as a basis for future TA games?

Would you be interested in receiving notices for other Tangent Artist Tabletop games and kickstarters?
Yes         No          Only the RPG related ones

GMProv Part 3 – Verily, And More (Or “Yes And”)

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For this installment of “Improv for GMs,” I wanted to tackle something that is less of a trick and more of a philosophy. When I first learned about improv in middle magic zip it scaryschool, one of the golden rules was “No Negation.” Negation is not just the act of responding to a question with no, it’s an entire frame of mind. However, it was a decade before I learned of that rule’s opposite: “Always say ‘Yes And.’” (If this sounds familiar to you, they made fun of it on “Arrested Development.”) First, a small shameless plug:


As a part of BrigadeCon, I’m hosting a game of Skeleton Crew RPG live online at 6pm EST, Sat Nov 15th. Spots still available!

Also, the Skeleton Crew RPG is finished, and is now open for playtesting! Sign up here to get your free copy! [/ Shameless plug]


“Yes And” is a rule, but to demonstrate it, I’m going to walk you through an exercise I stole from a Second City book, appropriately named “Yes And.” This is how the game works:

> All the players sit in a circle and pretend they are a part of a company developing a new product.

>Each player takes a turn adding a new idea about the product.  They can focus on any angle of the product’s development and promotion (ex. features, construction, packaging, advertising, etc.)

> Every statement must start with “Yes, And…”

>No statement can repeat what anyone else said.

>NO Statement can contradict any statement made by another player.
Unacceptable: Player A says “Yes, and the t-shirts are red.” Player B says “Yes, and the t-shirts are blue instead.”
Acceptable: Player A says “Yes, and the t-shirts are red.” Player B says “Yes, and they ALSO COME in blue.”
>Play ends when everyone has had at least one turn. (If it’s a small group, wait until each player has contributed 2-3 times, or until everyone’s bored).

I encourage students that the ideas can be as simple as “Yes, and the t-shirt’s made of cotton,” or as far-fetched as, “yes, and the t-shirt lets you travel back in time and kill your enemies before they were born.” Nothing is wrong, so long as it doesn’t repeat or negate a previous statement.

In this game, we see what the “Yes And” mindset accomplishes:

Yes – It affirms the creative elements of others. The statement does not try to edit or undo anything already established.

And – It doesn’t just affirm what others do, it requires you to add something that others can build on, creating a mutual created world.

Now that you got the jist, let me clarify Negation a little further. Here’s a hypothetical scene I love to propose in improv classes:

Imagine two improvers starting a scene. They are not assigned characters or a situation, and are supposed to create the scene from scratch. Person A turns to person B, grabs them by the hand, and says, “C’mon, Grandma, let’s go to the zoo?”

The question: What’s the WORST possible thing Person B can answer?

Inevitably someone will answer, “No, I don’t want to go to the zoo.”  I tell them that’s the second worst answer they can give. The number one worst answer would be: “I’m not your grandma.”

The second worst answer negates the action- this results in a boring scene that goes nowhere, and establishes a competitive relationship between the players- subconsciously, if their idea isn’t taken, they lose.

The worst answer negates not just the action, but the universe- if a player makes a statement (i.e. “you’re my grandma,”) that is establishing a FACT. To negate a fact is the same as saying “I don’t exist in the same universe as you,” or, alternatively, “your universe isn’t good enough for me.” This creates a disconnect between players, and an adversarial relationship- on a subconscious level, you’re not just competing, you’re playing two separate games.

Practical Applications: When Would I Ever Use This?

Brainstorm! – The most direct version of this is when brainstorming a new concept. When doing panels on collaborative fiction, I always advise people, write down EVERY idea, and don’t shoot anyone else down. It might seem like a bad idea to you, but everyone else might love it; or, what seems like a weak on idea on its own might be fantastic when coupled with an idea that comes later. If you start a brainstorm by saying “no, that’s stupid” to everyone else, the “storm” will fizzle in no time, with only the most aggressive and swaggering people contributing. Here are further examples:

Brainstorm: Campaign – Use this when setting up a campaign setting with the players. This is especially true of Fate games, which encourage collaborative world and character building. If you have a playful group, you might even play a round of the “Yes And” game, just to warm everyone up.

Brainstorm: Establishing Facts – Even after the campaign is started, don’t be afraid to have the players held shape the world. If a player wants to try a magical ritual that is only loosely defined in a rulebook, before you tell them what’s required for the ritual, ask them; they might come up with something that’s not just fun, but sets a precedent for how magic works in the universe. Once again, Fate has a great precedence for letting players establish scene aspects whenever you come to a new setting- this is a great way to ease players into making small facts, without giving them the reins or throwing them in the deep end.

Brainstorm: Atomic Robo – I have yet to have the pleasure of trying it out in the flesh, but the Fate Core game Atomic Robo actually has a mechanic built around Brainstorming, as the various scientists deduct the origins of a threat and concoct a plan to defeat it. As written, the Brainstorming system is a little competitive, but for a twist, why not make it that the final solution has to be built on the ideas of ALL members present?

Adventures – The Yes And is also really important to keep in mind when running adventures. Whenever a player asks for permission to attempt something off of the beaten path, ask yourself: is my response negating the idea or Building on it? That’s not say that everything a player wants falls into their laps without a catch (some would reclassify this as “Yes, But,”); however, remember that the perfect story in your head isn’t a game, it’s a novel. A game requires collaborators, who are writing the story with you.

Lost in Translation – Muddling Messages

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LOST IN TRANSLATION

This week, I’m going to focus on translation. Certain rpgs, like Skeleton Crew (open playtesting starting soon!), require characters to translate a message from one language to another. If the researcher was perfect, you could just hand over the “translated” message in English exactly as you wrote it. However, perfection is boring, and PCs are seldom as skilled as they think they are.  So, what are some ways you can mangle the message, but still make it feel like a translation?research barron

Answer: Google Translate! Of course this requires an internet connection, and copy/paste is lot easier on a keyboard. However, with a little bit of goofing around, you can get great results.

The Message: As a test, I wanted something that had a few complex words; more important, if the words are put in the wrong order, it could mean the difference between life and death for a character. So, I borrowed a line from the classic movie, The Court Jester (which stars Danny Kaye, the mom from Mary Poppins, and a hot Angela Lansbury… yeah, you read that sentence right.) Here it is:

The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon, but the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.

MANGLING METHOD #1

The first way to mangle the phrase is to post the phrase in English, translate it into another language, and then retranslate the translated phrase back into English. For example:

In Spanish, that translates as:

El pellet con el veneno está en la jarra con el dragón, pero la vasija con la mano del mortero tiene el brebaje que es cierto.

If you paste the Spanish into the first box and translate it back into English, you get:

The pellet with the poison is in the jar with the dragon, but the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.

Now that you got the idea, I’ll just skip to the end result for different languages. I was really amazed how many translations came back perfectly (some even having the “Brew that is True” rhyme.) However, here are few more of the interesting results:

Urdu: Poison in the flagon with the dragon, the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true with the tablet.

Catalan – The pellet with the poison is in the jar with the dragon, but go with the pestle has the brew that is true .. (Not that different, but I found the fact that it added advice interesting)

Georgian – Precipitation venom in a flagon dragon, but the vessel with the pestle has the brew, that’s true .. (Interesting punctuation swap there).

Gujarati – Flagon with the dragon’s venom, but with the pestle has the brew that is true pellet with the ship .. (Where’d the ship come from?)

Haitian Creole – Lead is poisonous and in the flagon with the dragon, but the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true ..

Hungarian – The poison pellets in the pitcher of the dragon, but the ship breaks the brew that is true .. (Fluid sounding, but not quite right)

Igbo – The pellet with the poison from the flagon dragon, and utensils and pestle to make a beer that is true .. (Utensils and beer?)

Irish – The brew is truly the pellet with the poison in the flagon with the dragon but the vessel with the pestle .. (Right words, wrong order!)

Persian – The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle is the missing dragon tail that is true .. (This is flipped too! Bwah ha ha!)

Japanese – Poison of dragons, pellets of container and flagon with a pestle is have the brewing is true .. (The rhythm is almost a haiku.)

Korean – The pellet with the dragon the neck of the bottle of poison in a narrow; the pestle has the brew that corresponds to the vessel. (To contrast with Japanese, this feels like it came from a text book.)

Latvian – TheGranulu with poison years in the bottle with the dragon; thekuģis with the pestle has the brew that is true .. (The second part’s perfect, but the first part leaves you unsure what IS poisoned.)

Maori – Knead with the poison in the bottle against the dragon; the vessel to crush the silica is a true ..

Marathi – Flagon with the dragon of the poison in the paper; The vessel has a beam that is true drink ..

Slovenian – ThePeleta sthe otrov u carafe with a dragon, or the cup with a pestle to cook the Truth ..

Finnish – ThePelletti kanssathe poison nthe bottle of wine kanssathe dragon, muttathe alusthe pestle onthe drink that is true ..

Mongolian -Poisonous dragon, but the pestle in a pot Flagon Rolling distillation is that true ..

Somali – Size is toxic in raisins demonic But container with tuntid brew has to be true .. (Almost Post-Modern sounding.)

Tamil – The pellet with the poison dragon, but the truth is that God’s brew flagon is shipping ..

Turkish – the dragon Amath Zehirth rammer ileth ship in unity ileth Vials The pellet doğrudurth to brew ..

 

Which to use? That depends on how mean you are and what you want to achieve:

German, French, Russian – I didn’t put these on the list above, because the result was near perfect. You might lose some of the poetry, but keeps all of the meaning. If you want to make it less fluid but equally clear, try Japanese or Korean.
(Above paragraph in Korean, retranslated): German, French, Russian – because the result was near perfect, I did not put the following in the list above. You lose some of the city, but you can keep all the implications. If you want to make less fluid, however, equally clear, consider Japanese or Korean.

Finnish, Slovenian & Turkish- These one resulted in a few properly translated words and a lot of nonsense ones. This gives the translator a lot of doubt, but they know where the doubt lies. It feels like you were given half of the puzzle. Finnish seems to go extremely wonky when you have a lot of “the”s in the sentence.
(Above paragraph in Finnish, retranslated): Finnish, Slovenian and Turkish, which together resulted in very few translated words share a lot of nonsense about them. This antaathe the translator a lot of doubts, but they know missäthe doubt lies. It seems as if you had puoletthe puzzle.

Marathi, Mongolian & Maori – These resulted in real words, but a nonsense sentence. The narrator is unsure about what to trust, and what to dismiss. It hints at a story, but the true meaning eludes you.
(Above paragraph in Marathi, retranslated): Marathi, Mongolian and Maori – the real untranslated results, but only a foolish statement. Feature dismiss faith CEO, Chief Executive Officer and is unsure about. It hints at a story, but only one true meaning eludes.

Irish & Persian – These are deceptive, in that they sound like they are fully formed (and poetically beautiful), but the information might come out skewed. This feels like the perfect result to give a researcher who is overconfident- it sounds right, until they make their fatal error.
(Above paragraph in Persian, retranslated): Irish and Persian – this is deceptive, in that they sound like they are fully formed (and beautiful poetic), but may come out skewed data. It feels so good to be a researcher’s right, it sounds overconfident-, either to his fatal error.

MANGLING METHOD #2

So, what can we do to mix it up even more? What if we went through a few other languages before we return back to English?

SO, Let’s try English – > Chinese, Chinese – > Russian, Russian -> English

End result: Poison in a bottle with a dragon, but with pestle container particles with BREW’s true.

Good, let’s add in Norwegian & Arabic too into the chain:

Poison in a bottle with a dragon, but the container stump particles with the right mixture.

MANGLING METHOD #3

Now, what happens if you mess with the translation itself? For example, what if you add a random letter to every forth word in the translation?

Norwegian translation (normal) Pelleten med giften sin i flagon med dragen, men fartøyet med stampe har brygg som er sant.

Norwegian (with added letters in bold): Pelleten med giftren sin i flargon med dragen, mein fartøyet med stamper har brygg sqom er sant.

Result: The pellet with giftren her in flargon with the dragon, mein vessel with tubs have brew sqom is true.

You end up with a most of it being genuine, some of it sounding like it could mean something (“mein vessel,”) and some that is clearly messed up (mmm… sqom.)

Adding random letters helps with language that use the same alphabet, but you can also use mess with languages with different alphabets.  For example, in the following Russian, I copy/pasted the “д” symbol in every few words.

Russian (with added д s): Осаддок сthe ядом-х в бутылди с драконом, но содсуд с пестиком имеет варевдо, что истинно.

You get: Osaddok sthe poison’s in butyldi with the dragon, but sodsud pestle has varevdo that is true.

Or, instead of messing with letters, why not mess with the spacing? In Traditional Chinese, hit the Enter button after every character, putting each character on its own line.

So: 与毒在

Becomes:


This turns a clear translation into:

Chinese Traditional (with spaces): Versus Poison In Versus Dragon Of Liqueur Pot, But Versus Pestle Allow Device In Of Stars Grain Tool There is BREW This Are Really A.

To me, this sounds like a great way of faking hieroglyphs or translations other pictographic languages; each word has its own strong, individual meaning, but fails to connect to the others in a coherent sentence.

MANGLING METHOD #4

  1. Translate from English into One language. Copy it.
  2. Next, Paste it into the first box. Instead of using Detect Language but tell it that it’s a language SIMILAR to real one, and translate it to English.

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Chinese text translated as if it were Japanese gives you: Azukadoku Jae given 龙的 Sake壶, however Azukakine container medium basis granulocytes androgynous BREW 这是 true basis.

Japanese translated as Chinese: There ド poison fu ra ra Oligo Oligo nn nn To で na ku pestle で container To Paint Ritz ッ Suites ga really で thou ru Niang who made wo ~ te I ma si.

Spanish translated as Italian: El pellet está en el veneno the jarra with el dragón, but the vasija with the hand holding the mortero brebaje el que es cierto.

Latin as Italian – Cum lagena in blood cell veneni cum dracone, Has Ceruisam stack vas verum.

Norweigan as Danish- The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon; fartøyet with tamping has brygg which is interesting.

Croatian as Slovenian – ThePeleta sthe otrov u carafe with a dragon, or the cup with a pestle to cook the Truth ..

Marathi as Hindi – Cya in to Batli poison dragon co Daruchi official documents; The drink contains Musla Naukela This is true ..

Nepali as Hindi – The vessel with the pestle with Dskko Ajidagar saturate with poison pill Sacho flagon that the solution g ma ..

Have some methods of your own? Share them below!