Up to the Test – 5 Tricks to Tweaking Your Playtest

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Next month, Tangent Artists will be going back to GenCon. Two years ago, we had a great time showcase our WIP at the First Exposure Playtest hall, and we were so pleased by the experience that we had to sign up with them again.  We’ll be getting four slots to show off our two new games, Penny-A-Pitch and Eco-Schism.

When we first went, we had thought of it as a way to showcase and network.  If there’s only thing that disappointed us about last First Exposure, it’s that we didn’t really get much exposure; we’re used to conventions, when you spend 8 hours giving 30 second pitches to hundreds of people. Rather, it’s an intense 2-hour session with the exact number of people you need to make the game work. In our hubris, we went to a playtest hall expecting to get very little feedback, only publicity. O, how wrong we were.

As we prepare for our next session, I thought I’d share with you what few nuggets I’ve learned about running playtests (mostly from mistakes).

1. Know Your Pitch

When you sign up with the First Exposure Playtest Hall, they ask you to submit a short pitch and a long pitch. The long pitch is a short paragraph, tiny enough to fit in a tweet. The short pitch is a sentence. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being the “booth babe” at a convention for ten years, it’s streamline your pitch and have it memorized. Most strangers tune you out after less than a minute, so you have only one or two sentences to get them interested; this is called the elevator pitch.

 

As for our two new games, here’s the two versions:

Penny-a-Pitch – Short: A game of Midway Moguls.
Long: A light worker placement game of Midway Moguls. Mama Maxie is retiring, and whoever buys her Ferris Wheel will literally run the show. Can you sucker enough rubes to make the cash, while still keeping Maxie happy?

Eco-schism – A game of weak links in the Food Chain.
Long Adds: The Alien Mothership is asking your genetics department to rebuild the extinct ecosystem of planet Earth; but you’re not satisfied being just another cog in the machine. Prove that your “improved” fauna can dominate the food chain!

You’ll notice that the short version of Penny-a-Pitch leaves out the “light worker placement” addendum. Why? Because in a one-sentence pitch, any discussion of games and mechanics is irrelevant. You might be able to stick “card” or “board”, but focus on the flavor, not the gears.

2. What’s the Point?

This one was taken from Mark Rosewater’s podcast series, “Ten Things Every Game Needs.” If someone is going to play your game, the most important thing to convey is “how do you win?” Despite the fact that it’s the last thing that occurs in a game, there’s a reason they always stick it near the beginning of a rulebook (for the other reason, see #3.)

Why is this important? Because the playtesters need to be focused on what they are supposed to achieve. It gives them a mission, an objective, and something to be excited about. If the testers are confused about how to win, they’ll fail to see the point in anything else.

Also, if you’re playing with the group, and you’re the only one who knows how to win, you likely will. (See #4).

3. Don’t Frontload the Rules

When playing games on their own, most players don’t read all of the rules until after they’ve started. Similarly, you should not explain 100% of the rules when the game starts; just get them the win condition and enough to get through turn one or two.

4a. Do Play Yourself

Lead by example. Add yourself to the test; you can lead by example, show the rules in action

You can, of course, hover around and try to orchestrate from beyond, but this can come off as bossy. Sure, this frees you up to go around and explain cards that people have in their hands, but if the cards aren’t clear without your explanation, it’s probably not clear enough.

4b. Don’t Play to Win

I remember joining in one designer’s game test, during which the designer blew the other tester and myself out of the water. “Don’t feel bad,” they said with a chuckle after an easy win, “I’ve played it a lot.” I can’t tell you how much of a turn-off it was. I didn’t want to play again or buy it, I just felt frustrated.

If the game is composed of several rounds (like poker), it’s definitely fine to win a hand or two to show the other players how it’s done. However, your role as the play test leader is this: to explore the frontiers.

When a new option is made available, if other people aren’t exploring it, do it yourself. If everybody is choosing option A, try option B; even if B is a bad choice, they’ll learn from your mistake what the pros and cons are. They’ll see, “it’s bad for a player to do X now, but it might be useful to do X when Y is in play.”

Don’t stick with one strategy, take the “sampler” approach; be the jack of all, master of none. That way, if a player spreads around like you, they might tie. If they narrow their energies towards a specific strategy, they have a decent chance of pulling ahead of you; that way, even if they lose the overall game, they’ll feel accomplished that “at least they had more X than you.”

5. Make it Clean!

Try to make the game look as pretty as you can. Start your first few tests one index cards, but then upgrade to something more streamlined.

Cards: this trick I learned from the DC Metro group, “Break My Game” (click the link for their Meet-up page). Type up your cards, print them on simple paper, and add them to card sleeves. To give the cards thickness, add a playing card behind them (you can buy one or two card decks from the dollar store for 99 cents). Voila! Now you have something slick, stiff, and shuffleable! If you can afford card sleeves of different colors, you can easily sort your cards into different deck types without having to print on both sides of the paper.

One thing I’ve learned on my own: buy colored paper. It’s a lot cheaper to print black text on colored paper than to print color on white paper.

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Also, if you have the time, include art. It doesn’t have to be fancy, either; simple and iconic is easier to print, and easier to keep consistent. I recommend the site game-icons.net, which has thousands of images you can use for your prototypes. All of them are free to use, and come in a default, clean black and white (although you can play with the slider to add color and/or a border).


Hope that’s inspired you a bit for your tests. If you’re going to GenCon, I hope to see you there! Until next time, Game On!

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Starting Your First Kickstarters

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A friend asked for some handy tips for their first starter. This has inspired me to share a few things that we at Tangent Artists have learned from our experience:

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If I could give you one tip, this would be it:

  • Keep in mind that your production cost (the amount you need to make a minimum order with the printer) and the “funded goal” are not the same thing. Digital products are the easiest to factor, in that they are almost pure profit; a $10 digital backer means you’re $10 closer to your fund goal and, after expenses (taxes, KS’s cut), have $9 towards the production cost. If you’re dealing with physical products, don’t forget that they give you a false “boost” towards your KS funded goal. For example, a $40 backer with a $15 product and a $15 S&H (don’t forgot to include shipping from the printer to you and back out to backer) means you’re $40 closer to the funded goal, but only $21 closer to your production goal. In this sense, it’s better to have two-hundred $5 digital backers than fifty $20 physical backers (although, reaching two-hundred people might be harder). I’ve read plenty of horror stories about people who reached $20,000 goal for a $20,000 printing cost, only to end up going several thousand dollars in the red; they reached 20k, but after S&H, KS’s cut, and taxes, it ends up costing 25K or more.

Other Tips:

  • You can build and share the KS page before you launch it. This lets you get feedback from peers, but also lets you start promoting it in advance. Sadly, you won’t have the final link itself until the launch date, so it’s good to have a private promo page (ex. your website or blog) that you can promote. This way, you can update push people to go to your promo page for both the “preview” link, and then change the link later to an active “KS” link after you launch.
  • KS must approve all pages before you can launch it.. Once you’ve had feedback and are happy with the page, submit it for approval. This can take a few days, so do it at least 7 days before you need it. Once approved, it will give you the option of waiting before you launch, so you can let it sit on it for a while.
  • Backers will shun KS accounts that have never backed KS projects before; they believe you have to give to the community before you can take. Go find a dozen projects you like and support them, even if it’s for a tiny amount. If you’re a company, have a company account and have all of the members back their personal KS through the company, and you’ll build it up faster.
  • Have one “manager” setting up the page, levels and handling the KS updates. You can’t just let it sit for 30 days alone.
  • People like graphics. Have a video. Make sure it has a GREAT opening slide- this the first thing they see when the load the page, and when you share it on social media. Make sure you’re updating your progress with visual aid trackers.
  • If the person managing the page is a different person than the person doing the graphics, prepare all of the graphics for all of the different levels ahead of time. It might seem strange, but we needed our “funded” and three of our “stretch goal” graphics on day two.
  • Set your initial goal as low as you can go afford (assuming it’s not putting you in the negative). People are more likely to back something that is funded than something that is not.
  • Always have a cheap ($1 – $5) level. Even if it has no tangible rewards (thanks, glory, good karma), it allows people to tag you and follow your updates easier, and lets family and friends who have no interest in the product show their support.
  • Have different levels, but don’t overdo it. 3-6 is fine. More than 10 is a mouthful, unless there’s a specific reason why. More levels is also tricky in case you need to send messages out- KS lets you message all backers, or all backers in a specific group (ex. group A); however, if you’re messaging groups A-C but not D, you have to send it to groups A, B, and C individually; thus, if you have 20 levels and you’re sending it to 19 of them, you might be copy-pasting the message 19 times.
  • Have a slightly higher level with recognition; sometimes people will pay $24-50 just to have recognition on the finished product.
  • Have at least one large shoot the moon level. Don’t expect it to be taken, but you never know.
  • KS has strict rules about selling in bulk to merchants; I’ve seen some projects do it, but I would research the rules carefully first to make sure you’re not violating anything.
  • If you’re dealing with a digital product, calculate the longest estimated amount of time you need to deliver it. Then put the delivery date as DOUBLE that date. If it’s a physical product, QUADRUPLE it. That may seem like a stretch, but those dates come on you fast.
  • With stretch goals, digital rewards are your friend! If going with physical products, don’t be afraid to add it as an optional thing they can BUY by pledging extra. Again, a lot of people go crazy adding free physical rewards, which raises their production cost and shrinks the profit.
  • If you are adding an optional stretch bonus product, this can be handled by having the backers over pay and then respond to the survey which add-on product they want. However, MAKE SURE the survey has the optional bubble, “we didn’t pledge anything else, no add-ons,”; alternatively, allow for write-ins. We learned that the hard way, and you can only send out one survey.
  • Limit it to 30 days; you don’t want it to linger.
  • This is a rough estimate, but about 75% of your backers will be pledge on days 1-10, and the last 2 days. In between, don’t be scared by the lull. Be sure to still send updates every few days, and keep promoting outside. If it’s a game, I recommend G+ (there’s LOTS of gamers on G+).
  • Plan a lot more stretch goals than you need. A LOT. The levels these are best planned around price breaks for the printer (ex. cheaper to print at 5k, 10k and 50k). If there are no price breaks, you can set at anything you like. If I could turn back time, I would have spaced them further apart. We had ours set at a fixed increment (about .5K or 1K apart). Although it doesn’t look as clean, I would have spaced it at rising increments. Maybe use the Fibonacci thing (.5k, 1k, 1.5k, 2.5k or 4K), so it’s less than double. The hard part is judging the right amount. Too far and you lose momentum, too small and you flood the backers with too many goals- if you’re forced to do more than you had planned for, you risk creating subpar stretch goals, or hastily adding new physical products that might cost more than you originally estimated.
  • If you have multiple projects in mind, and your KS is starting to go into stretch goals, resist the pressure to merge the two together. There’s no shame in doing a smaller KS first and doing a second one later. If you have a successful KS under your belt, they’re more likely to back you later. Better still, when you do a KS in the future, you have all of the backer info, so it’s easy to promote.

Here are some other tips passed on from Evil Hat’s Kickstarter Guru, Fred Hicks:

  • Launch it on a Mon. night / Tuesday morning. Most office workers do all of their web surfing on Tuesday morning (after they finished Mon’s work).
  • If you’re KSing a physical product, don’t plan to make money from the KS itself; instead, set the selling “price” of the basic ks level (for a backer buying one unit) to be 2x the cost of the unit (including other costs), and then order double the number of product from your printer. Thus, if your KS sells 500 units, you order and ship out 500 units to backers, and have 500 units sitting in your garage that are already paid for; anytime you sell one of those extra units, it’s 100% profit.

That’s all for now. Hope it helps!

Skeleton Crew: Paranormal Investigation Generator

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Long time no see, brave gamers! For this entry, I thought I’d follow through on an old post I started way back on Jan, 2015: PARANORMAL INVESTIGATION TOOL – FOLLOW THE BREAD CRUMBS. This is a clue generator to help you create supernatural murder mysteries on the go; it’s ideal for FATE, but I’m sure it will be just as handy for Monster of the Week and other narrative game systems.

I was originally going to save some of it a secret for the final release; however, I thought I’d treat people to the whole thing in one go. Let us know what you think!

BREAD CRUMBS – PARANORMAL MURDER MYSTERY GENERATOR

axe creepyThe goal of the “Bread Crumbs” system is not to create a full adventure for you- like any Fate Core game, it requires some creativity of your group’s part. Rather, it’s here to help generate clues and ideas. It’s really up to you, the GM and the players, to string together the relevant bits into a narrative.

Will this fashion a masterpiece of mystery, the likes of Agatha Christie? Nope. But it’s great for your average, “villain of the week” style one shot adventure.

QUICK (AND THE DEAD) MISSION BUILDER
Part 1: The Set-up

>Before you start, make sure you create characters

>Create Urban Legends – have each player and the GM create at least one each (although, if a player’s feeling creative, don’t put a maximum.) Some of these (or all of them) may not show in the story, but it’s nice to get ideas before you start. See page XX for rules.

> Generate a Location. Go to the scene of the crime and investigate.

> As soon as you get there, start creating supporting characters. Make sure you include a Face character or two for every organization and location. (Don’t just have a random police officer be the first responder, have Carl the Chubby Beat-Cop.) These people seem incidental now, but they could end up your suspects, eye witnesses, allies, enemies, and potentially future victims.

Part 2: Initial Investigations

Your experts will take time to investigate the scene: by default, this will be using Investigate, but a character may have a stunt that makes an exception to this. If they succeed, they discover a clue aspect. This comes in one of three types: General, Sensory Clues or Corpse.

If the investigator has no particular strength, randomly generate which clue you find. However, if a character has a particular expertise, you may pick an appropriate table and roll on that (ex. a psychic might roll on the Ethereal Sensory clues; a werewolf might roll on the Smells chart).

Likewise, if the party rolls too many of one type (ex. all general or sensory), feel free to pick a different sub-chart to focus on (ex. corpse).

Succeed at a Cost – If a character wants to succeed at a cost, they might discover one clue at the cost of marring it or another clue; ex. you find a hidden symbol by tromping through the footprints; you pull the murder weapon out of the tree and, in your excitement, smudge any finger prints on it; you find a suspicious diamond earring, only to drop it down the sewer and loose it forever.

The group will likely find three clues, or one per investigator, whichever is greater.

Part 3: Further Investigations

Once the initial investigations of the crime scene itself have yielded all they can, follow through with what the players want to do. Maybe they want to canvas the neighborhood, or follow up with the victim’s apartment. Feel free to generate more clues, or come up with your own based on what you’ve got so far.

If the players are lost, feed them a lead: have a supervisor give them a suggestion; maybe a forensic scientist can analyze the mud sample more thoroughly and give you a general location; recommend they see a guest lecturer about the ancient symbol drawn on the site; stake out similar locations in case it happens again. Reward player pro-activity with more information.

When providing answers, draw connections threads between the events and aspects that are proposed (including the Urban Myths). If the trail grows cold, have the crime reoccur, or introduce someone who knows more than you (a hired assassin coming for you; a new witness; a rival to the enemy.) A good source of info is your prime suspect; in order to clear themselves, they are likely to reveal secrets that others are hiding.

Part 3.

The twist – just when everything’s going smoothly, add in a plot twist.

When in doubt, remember the Urban Legends… maybe your Mexican Standoff with the Romanian Mafia gets interrupted by Elvis and his Alien abductors.

The Reveal – The mystery is exposed. Maybe it was a creature you still know very little about, or maybe it was really Carl the Chubby Cop the whole time.

When the clues conflict:

Two agencies at work- maybe rivals who are after the same thing.

Have a forensic expert call with a test correction (changing a result after the fact)

Bad guy’s dropping fake evidence to throw you off.

Someone other than the murderer tampered with the crime scene (maybe they attempted to help, or robbed the victim); they can reveal info, but they are unlikely to volunteer it without being pressured (were doing something illicit at the time; didn’t want to be implicated in the murder.)

 

Clues

Whenever they search, they always find SOMETHING, even if it doesn’t seem important. A bent fender. A phone message from Crystal. A bar napkin. Even if they lead nowhere now, some player might make a connection you never thought of.

MAIN TREES

Roll 1dF

– Corpse Clues – 3 Types:

0 Sensory – Come in two types: Natural (with 5 subtypes: Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, and Taste) and Ethereal (with 5 subtypes: EMPATHY, PATTERNS, ALLEGORY, SYMBOLS, AURAS)

+ General Evidence

 

 

CORPSE CLUES

Murder Weapon Chart

Roll to see what type of weapon you find at the murder site (we recommend you let the players pick a specific sub-type).


– –
Non-gun projectile – arrow, crossbow bolt, harpoon, dart, lollipop, thorn, throwing star

– 0 Burn weapon – laser (gun, rifle, surgical), electricity (super-taser, lightning rod, cattle prod), fire (flamethrower, Molotov cocktail, heat ray)

– + Gun – normal (modern bullet or pellets), or strange (round ball shot, silver / gold bullet, cannonball)

0 – Magic – voodoo doll, monkey’s paw, dispelled circle (if victim was magical)

0 0 Blunt Wound – -Club, War Hammer, shovel, hammer, wrench, pipe, bat, rock, brick

0 + Large Puncture – Sword, Spear, Axe

+ – Small Puncture – Dagger, Twisty Knife, Ninja Star, Wooden Stake, Flint dagger, kunai, ice skate

+ 0 Lacerations – Claws, Knives, Teeth, Machines, scythes, sickles

+ + Poison – weapon (dart; blade; syringe); contact poison (lips; fingers); biological (thorn; quill; bite; spray); ingested (drink; food; gas)


Damage Chart

The victim is wounded, and no murder weapon is in sight. While it will take an autopsy to verify it, you have an idea. Roll to see what type of wound you find at the murder site (we recommend you let the players pick a specific sub-type).

– – Suspected Weapon – For on the Murder Weapon chart- initial investigation suggests that it was made with that kind of weapon, but all evidence of the weapon was taken from the scene. Until you find the missing murder weapon itself, you can’t be sure!

– 0 Body torn to bit / lacerated – The body was torn. This might mean: a violent fight against someone armed with a blade; a wild animal attack; a slow torture by a sadist or interrogator.

– + Eaten – the victim shows traces of bite marks. This might mean: eaten by a creature or were-creature; a hungry undead creature such as a zombie, ghoul, or vampire. Alternatively, the victim might have died from other causes, and was found later by scavengers.

0 – Clothing torn – The victim’s body shows multiple cuts, but the victim’s clothing shows a disproportionate amount of distressing. This could mean: the target with taunted or threatened psychologically; the attacker did not have the ability or permission to directly attack the victim; the victim was a werecreature, or went feral; the victim was wearing old and worn clothing (ex. Homeless)

0 0 Part removed – part of the body is missing, or was found separated from the rest of the body. This might mean: beheaded, as with vampires; body part taken for a ritual (ex. Eyes, entrails, liver, heart); blood or fluids drained (ex. vampire, chupacabra, aliens, mummy, liche); item collected for a spell ingredient or totem (ex. Teeth, hand, ears, fingers / toes).

0 + Blunt force / broken body– The victim died from force impact, such as a cracked skull or snapped neck. This might mean: attacker had great strength; the death was an accident, or an attempt to look like an accident; the victim was attacked with a blunt weapon; the attacker was made of a hard substance (ex. Golem, robot); the victim was hit by a vehicle or large machine.

+ – Impaled – the victim was impaled by something sharp which is not present at the scene. This might be: a long weapon (ex. Sword, spear, spike, stake); from an attack or collision with an object nearby (ex. Tree branch, railing, pipe.)

+ 0 Burns – ritual, branding, rope burns, rug burns,

+ + No Air – The victim was killed through lack of access to air, such suffocation, strangulation, asphyxiation, or drowning. This might be caused by: strangled by a rope, hands, or tentacle; drowned in the harbor, sewer or pool; locked in an airtight room

 

Cause of Death Unknown Chart

The victim seemed to have died of “Natural” Causes- i.e. the underlying cause of death is primarily attributed to an illness or an internal malfunction of the body not directly influenced by external forces. (This of course, makes you even more suspicious).

When you roll a “Cause of Death Unknown,” don’t roll on the chart immediately- it will take time for the coroner to pin down the cause. You’ll get an update in a few scenes.

 

– – Undetermined – Despite the best of forensics and alchemy, they are unable to pin down a specific cause of death. If more than one victim is examined, a trend might be found!

– 0 Heart Failure / Attack- heart is unable to pump blood sufficiently.

– + Disease of the Elderly – the victim seemed to die of a disease normally common amongst the elderly, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension or Alzheimer’s disease.

0 – Stroke – the victim seemed to die of a stroke; this is either eitherischemic, due to lack of blood flow (such as blockage, like a clot), and hemorrhagic, due to internal bleeding (such as a brain aneurysm).

0 0 Disease / Infection – the victim seemed to die of a common illness, such as strep, scarlet fever, or complications from influenza.

0 + Organ Failure – the victim seemed to die of the failure of an organ: ex. Kidney, liver, pancreas (diabetes); lung failure (collapse; asthma).

+ – Allergic Reaction/ Anaphylaxis the victim died of an allergic reaction to something common, such as insect venom or bites; foods (nuts, peanuts, sesame), pollen, shellfish, wheat, eggs; poison plant (ivy, oak, sumac).

+ 0 Psychogenic death a.k.a. scared to death – Given the archaic term “voodoo death,” psuchogenic death is the phenomenon of sudden death as brought about by a strong emotional shock, such as fear. The anomaly is recognized as “psychosomatic” in that death is caused by an emotional response—often fear—to some suggested outside force. Within 12-24 hours from initial shock, their physical condition would deteriorate in response to psychological distress.

+ + No Will To Live – as unusual as it seemed, the victim seemed to have lost the will to live, and faded away. In less scientific terms, this would be called “pining away,” or dying “of a broken heart.”

 

SENSORY CLUES
We remind you give any clues given in a, “___ is ___, a bit like ____” format. (Ex. “The smell is sweet, a bit like almonds.”) That way, the investigators have someone concrete (“it is sweet”) to build a foundation on, and something vague (“like almonds”) that is vague and open to interpretation.

A good way to do this with your group is let them fill in the second half.

The smell is sweet, and a little fruity. What does it remind you of?”

Natural vs. Ethereal
Sensory clues are broken into two types, natural and ethereal. Natural sensory clues are the tangible things we and those consciously observe: sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. Natural clues tend to be based on details and the small picture. Ethereal clues are observed with second sight, an ability granted to those who are psychically or magically inclined. They tend to deal with the big picture, and can glimpse at events in the past and future.

For more on Natural vs. Ethereal, see page XX.

 

Senses Natural

Roll 2dF

– – Sight

– 0 Sound

– + Touch

0 –0+ Pick one!

+ – Smell

+ 0 Taste

+ + Strange Feeling – Roll on the Ethereal Chart.

 

 

SIGHT
The location itself appears to you be ______, much like a _______

– – Disarray – The location is in shambles. You might mean: there was a great struggle; someone was looking frantically for something; the attack was made in hot blood; the attacker was a beastlike in its savagery; one or both parties panicked.

– 0 Neat – The location is startlingly neat and tidy. You might mean: the victim was subdued without a fight; the murderer was someone the victim knew; the murderer is a master of stealth (vampire, ghost, ninja); attack was calculated and made in cold-blood; the attacker wasn’t looking for something / wasn’t a robbery; attacker was OCD and cleaned up after.

– + Phony – You can’t prove it yet, but your gut tells you something about the placement of the body and articles feels fake, staged, altered, or unnatural. This might be: a phony suicide letter or “dying message”; a half-hearted robbery; objects / evidence that looks planted; a “random” attack with perfect timing; an assailing “stranger” who knew too much; suggestion of a frame job; not the actual site of the attack.

0 – Hidden / Blind spots – The murder occurred in a spot that is secluded, dark, or obscured from others. This might mean: the murderer is a creature of the night / has night vision; the murderer is hurt by sunlight; the murderer is an ambush hunter; the murderer lured the victim into the location; the victim agreed to go into the secluded place (trusted murderer, doing a shady activity.)

0 0 In Full View – The murder happened in spot that was well light, exposed to the elements, and where others could easily see it. They might mean: there are witnesses to the event; the victim did not trust the attacker; it was unplanned (ex. crime of passion.; attacker stupid or overconfident; staged / the victim wanted the murder to be witness; ranged attack; supposed to look like an accident.

0 + Secrets Revealed – upon investigation, you find a secret way in, possibly utilized by the murderer. This might be: a hidden door; a grate leading to the sewer; a passage behind a portrait.

+ – Snap Shot – Something in the area let you catch a blurry picture of an unknown person at the scene, possibly the murderer. This might be from: the victim’s last selfie; traffic camera; ATM camera; satellite image; security camera.

+ 0 All in the Details – You find a near microscopic piece of evidence that other eyes would miss. Roll on the Sensory table to see what you find (reroll additional Sight results). It’s not much now beyond a simple smell or touch, but it’ll be more defined when the lab gets to analyze it.

+ + Seen This Before – The sight seems strangely familiar to you. This might be: you have been to this spot before; you’ve seen an identical attack before (perhaps an unsolved case!); you recognize the victim from somewhere (maybe searching the mug shots will help).

 

SMELLS

The smell is ______, a bit like _________.

– – Muskyperfumes, aftershave, cologne; animals (wet dog; skunk; cat pee; rodents); strong incenses and oils (sandlewood, patchouli, frankinsense, myrrh); tree sap; hogweed

– 0 Putrid rotten eggs (eggs, sulfur, brimstone, gas); decayed flesh; rotten wood; sour milk; bodily fluids; B.O.; poo gas; fishy (fish; poisons likes zinc phosphide, aluminum phosphide, nickel carbonyl)

– + Clean: camphor (trees, smokeless gunpowder, mothballs, old embalming fluid, turpentine, vapor rubs); eucalyptus (bug spray); mint, spearmint, peppermint (menthol, gum, candies, air freshener, cleaning products, toothpaste); pine; fresh linen; ocean breeze; lavender; dryer sheets; citrus (fruit, oil, wood polish).

0 – Floral perfume, cologne, lotion; flowers (violets, lavender, roses, rosewater); green tea; fruit.

0 0 Sweet / cloying – fudge, vanilla, almond (cyanide, marzipan), cookies, formaldehyde, rotten fruit

0 + Pungent: ammonia (cleaning agent; smokeless gunpowder; urine); pepper (pepper spray); cinnamon; garlicky (phosphorous, arsenic); onion (tear gas); mustard (mustard gas); strong alcohol (whisky, bourbon; vodka; tequila; scotch).

+ – Caustic – common Chemicals (shoe polish); aerosol (hair spray; bug spray; cooking spray); new car; poisonous (bug spray, pesticide); oil / fuel (gasoline, kerosene; lamp oil; motor oil; engine grease); acidic (hydrochloric acid, vinegar, lemon); basic (bleach, detergent, soap, disinfectant, chlorine, rubbing alcohol; methanol; quicklime; paint thinner);

+ 0 Metallic – ozone; melted / burnt metal (copper; fireworks; magnesium flare; smoking gun); burnt oil, melted plastic

+ + Smoky / Earthy – candles; tobacco; gunpowder (fireworks, guns); wood; burnt meat / flesh; incense; burnt rope, burnt hair; black tea; flash paper; struck flint; damp leaves, mud, clay, brine, minerals, rust, grass, coffee, mushrooms, mulch / fertilizer, leather, shag tobacco, seawood

 

TOUCH

The touch is ______, a bit like _________.

– – Gooey – mucus, goo, adhesive, glue, tar, syrup (honey, maple, soda), plant sap, insect / spider silk, congealed blood

– 0 Slick – oil (gun oil, lighter fluid, cooking oil, baby oil), grease, makeup, butter, snot, sweat, slimy scales (fish), ice, mold, lubricants, lotion

– + Rough – grit, sand, salt, dust, wool, sandpaper / tar paper, sharkskin, bark, hair stubble, plaster, gravel, asphalt, concrete, burlap, rock

0 – Sharp – fragments (glass, porcelain, metal shavings), splinters, shrapnel, thorns (also pine needles, nettles, burrs, prickly, cactus pins, hulls), children’s toys, toothpick, quills (bird, hedgehodges), needles

0 0 Soft / Smooth– moss / mold, sponge, wax, fabric (silk, cotton, satin, velvet, fleece), petals, natural (fur, suede, down, hair), dirt / clay, marshmallow, river stone

Bookmark – split?

0 + Rubbery – rubber, skin / leather, plastic, mummified / jerked flesh, leaves, latex (prosthetics / make-up, rubber gloves), dried goo (see Gooey)

+ – Cool – Ice, Liquid (water, rain, alcohol), metal, long dead, from cold place (freezer, ground, teleport), menthol (balm), stone, local anesthetic

+ 0 Hot – burnt (fire, electricity, steam, acid, hot sauce, magic), recently used machine (gun, engine, phone), living or recently dead human/animal, burned rubber, hot drinks (coffee, tea, cider), from hot place (indoors, oven, shower, warm car, teleport), chemical agents (hot pads, pocket warmer, MRE), electric

+ + Unearthly – Roll again for another touch. Also, whenever you touch the surface with your bare skin, you get a strange feeling or impulse. Roll on of the Ethereal chart for the sensation.

 

SOUND

An eye witness or a sound recording device (ex. Victim was leaving a voice mail) picked up a sound that is best described as _________, which might suggest _____________.

– – Growl – The sound was a growl, roar, or similar bestial noise. This might mean: the attacker or victim was some form of animal or were-creature; the victim or the attacker was overcome by instinct or emotion; the roar of a motorcycle or sports car.

– 0 Screech – The sound was a high-pitched screeching sound. This might mean: the victim was startled and screamed; the attacker or victim was some form of animal or were-creature that would make a screech, like a bat, bird, or jungle cat; sound of tearing metal or a screechy hinge; the squeal of a tire on a speeding vehicle; the attacker is a ghost, wraith, banshee or similar ethereal being.

– + Hiss – The sound involved a hissing sound, as if one or more voices were whispering. This might mean: the victim and attacker spoke first, perhaps at close proximity; one of the people involved was involved in something secretive; the victim or attacker was communicating with someone else who left the scene before the attack; the victim or attacker was communicating with someone over a phone or communication device; the attacker creepily talks to themselves; someone summoning the hissing wind; the attacker or victim was a snake creature or were-snake; someone shot silent projectiles, such as arrows or bullets through a silencer.

0 – Zap – The sound can best be described as a “zap.” This might mean: one of the people was a magic user or magical being; either party used a Taser or was electrocuted; an electrical device nearby malfunctioned, possibly due to magical feedback or sabotage; a powerful scientific device was used, like a teleporter.

0 0 Loud Voice – The sound is described as one or more voices loudly talking or yelling- it might even have caught a word or two (a name, a place.) This might mean: the victim and attacker spoke first, perhaps at a wide distance; both of the people were having normal, conversations which they didn’t need to keep secret; someone was inebriated or had little ability to control their volume; the victim and attacker were having a heated argument, or had a heated argument with a third person who left the scene before the attack; the victim or attacker was communicating with someone over a phone or communication device; someone was loudly invoking magical spells; the victim was loudly calling for helping or begging for mercy; the attack was part of a ritual that involved loud chanting.

0 + Bang – The sound is described as one or more loud “bangs.” This might mean: someone used a gun; someone used a firecracker, explosive device or exploding spell; a car backfiring; a large drum was used in a ritual; a roll of thunder; the victim was trying to alert people, but was unable to cry out.

+ – Cracking – The sound is described as a cracking, crackling or clacking sound. This might mean: there was fire or rain present at the scene (naturally or through magic); if the victim had their bones broken, they might have been done one at a time, to torture them; someone was a walking skeleton / wight, or was adorned with clacking dry bones; someone broke through wood, such as a wooden door or opened a wooden crate; a radio or walkie-talkie was only picking up static.

+ 0 Whirring – The sound could best be described as a whirring sound. This might mean: an engine or bicycle was present at the scene; someone at the scene was a robot; someone used a centripetal weapon, such as a bola, chain, meteor hammer or lasso; a powerful piece of machinery was used at the scene, as a weapon or a demonstration.

+ + Roll 1dF Again:

– Singing – The sound is best described as melodious, as if someone or something was singing or playing music. This might mean: the attacker was a siren, banshee, or fairy being, luring the victim; the victim was singing and attacked by surprise; the attacker was part animal that sings (ex. Bird); recorded music was played at the scene, possibly to cover up the sound of the attack; the attack was part of a ritual that involved singing.

0 Moan – The sound can best be described as moaning. This could mean: the attacker was a zombie, mummy or similar mindless humanoid; the victim was still alive and partially conscious after the attack; the victim attempted to cry out, but was drugged or gagged.

+ Laughter – The sound can best be described as laughter. This might mean: the attacker was a siren or fairy being, luring the victim; the victim was happy and attacked by surprise; the attacker was part animal that laughs (ex. Hyena, jackal); the attacking was a sadist, psychotic, mindless, or hypnotized; the attacker was a creepy doll (brrr).

 

TASTE (For the daring)

The taste is ______, a bit like _________.

– – Sweet – fudge, vanilla, almond, cookies, fruit, sweet metal (lead, arsenic), berries (strawberries, nightshade), syrup (soda, maple), mixed drinks, rum

– 0 Sour – citrus, sour candies, wine, sour milk / butter, acid, vinegar, batteries.

– + Bitter – soap, bitter almonds (cyanide), roots, leafy greens (spinach, grass, ivy), hard liquor, beer, coffee, tea, quinine

0 – Salty – Blood, salt, sweat, seaweed, brine, sea food, butter, soy, gunpowder / saltpeter, jerky.

0 0 Umami / Savory- meat (bacon), fish, vegetables, green tea, onion, ketchup / tomato, Worchester sauce

0 + Spicy – ginger, black pepper, red peppers (jalapeno, cayenne, pepper spray), horseradish, garlicky (onions), mint / menthol, onions (tear gas)

+ – Metallic – metal (copper, iron, zinc), canned goods (soup, soda cans), blood, electricity, medicine, absinthe.

+ 0 Chemical – plastic, petroleum (jelly, kerosene, gasoline), medicinal (cough syrup, aspirin, mouth wash, strong alcohol), poisonous (bug spray, pesticide)

++ Smoky – burned food, candles, tobacco, fuel, wood, burnt meat / flesh, incense, burnt rope

 

Ethereal (Sixth Sense)

Ethereal clues are discovered by the mystically inclined, such as ghosts, mediums, psychics, and spell casters. They are less tethered to the normal flow of time; a clue that appears “fresh” to you might be tied to an event that is a hundred years old, or even two days in the future!

Roll 2dF

– – EMPATHY

– 0 PATTERNS

– + ALLEGORY

0 –0+ Pick one!

+ – SYMBOLS

+ 0 AURAS

+ + Grounded Feeling – Roll on the Natural Chart.

 

 

EMPATHY

Through magical, psychic or scientific means (or just going with your gut), you can sense the emotional and paranormal energy gathered at the scene. You can definitely feel the ______, which might also include _______.

– – Murderer’s Presence – You feel the strong presence of the murderer- this is the true murder site, and perpetrator was here in the flesh. This may mean: murder was done up close; murderer & victim talked first.

– 0 Remote Presence – The presence of the murderer is strangely absent from this place. This may mean: the murderer used sympathetic magic (voodoo, summoned assassin); victim was wounded and staggered here; body was dropped off after death; it was a trap laid for the victim.

– + Positive Feeling –you sense that the victim or the perpetrator felt a strong positive emotion before or after the death. Examples include: love, delight, confidence, eagerness, serenity, sacrifice, release.

0 – Negative Feeling – In addition to the fear of the victim, you sense that the victim or the perpetrator felt another strong, negative emotion before or after the death. Examples include: hate, envy, jealousy, regret, despair, betrayal.

0 0 Emotionless – Other than the fear of the victim, there is a noticeable lack of emotion at from the crime sense, suggesting the murderer felt nothing or wasn’t there. This might mean: killer wasn’t present (see “Remote Presense”); the murderer was unliving (undead, demonic, robot, golem); the murderer felt no emotion (hypnotized, sociopathic).

0 + Hot on the Trail – You get readings of a vague compass direction (i.e. South; North East) from the murder site. This may mean: If sympathetic magic was used, the location of the voodoo practitioner, or the location of the summoner or puppet master; the escape route of the murderer; the path of the victim’s entrance.

+ – Echoes of the Past (Or Future!) – You are sensing latent energy of the same type found here, implying this is not the first time this kind of attack has happened! This might mean: this site has had identical murders in the near or distant past; similar attacks have happened of late in the same city; you have encountered an identical attack once before (perhaps an unsolved case!) Alternatively, you might be feeling the ripples of a future event; the killer will strike again!

+ 0 Heat of the Moment – You receive a few chaotic glimpses of the scene itself, and what the victim experience- the more you see, the more traumatic it is for you!  Roll again for another clue (Sensory or Extrasensory) – this was a sensation you felt at the time, or an item you glimpsed at the crime scene (which the murderer had or stole). You get one clue for free, but may take choose to take a Minor Consequence to gain a second clue, or may choose to take a Moderate Consequence to uncover three.

+ + Overwhelming Power – You sense an abundance of magical or paranormal energy at the site. Either the victim or the murderer had access to great power. This might mean: the victim or the murderer was a magic user, psychic, or highly magical/energy-based being (demon, eudemon, ghost, mummy king, elemental, alien, vampire lord).

 

Metaphors / Allegories

You get a generally feeling about the site and the relationship of the victim or the killer shared with someone else or the world in general. You can’t quite put it into words that the “muggles” would understand, but you can express it as a metaphor.

You’re reminded of (pick one):

– – David and Goliath; 800 pound gorilla

– 0 Daniel in the Lion’s Den; The Fox and the Sick Lion

– + Cain and Abel; The Scorpion and the Frog

0 – Samson and Delilah; Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

0 0 Maiden and the Dragon / Unicorn; Beauty and the Beast

0 + A Stranger in a Strange Land; City Mouse & Country Mouse

+ – Deal with the Devil; Tiger by the Tail

+ 0 The Lion and the Unicorn; The Lion, the Bear, and the Fox

+ + Echo and Narcissus; Nightingale and the Mechanical Nightingale

 

SYMBOLS

You get a generally feeling about the site and the relationship of the victim or the killer shared with someone else or the world in general. You can’t quite put it into words that the “muggles” would understand, but you can express it as a symbol.

Alternatively, the symbol you see might be very succinct (ex. The killer is wearing a tree amulet; the killer is a walking tree), but your predictions are seldom that literal.

– – The Tree – Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge; Yggdrassil; sin, forbidden knowledge; growth; nature; life

– 0 The Eye – the evil eye; eye of warning; awakening; enlightenment; paranoia; angels, daemons, otherworldly beings

– + The Egg – birth; the world; hidden potential; beginnings; generations; hidden / sleeping threat;

0 – The Word – intellect; divinity; creation; power over nature; binding; names

0 0 – The Key – a secret; a traveler; a prisoner; a release; a prize;

0 + The Candle – a revelation; a mortal life; holiness amongst darkness; intelligence; masculinity; brevity; shadows; the sun

+ – The Cup – femininity; purity; sacrifice; thirst; generosity; immortality; obsession; hoarding; water; moon and stars

+ 0 The Bident / Trident – a choice; a parallel world; a schism; sin and virtue; the sea; the devil; the letter Y; war

+ + The Hourglass – death; the end of an era; change; a time table; desperation; plague

 

PATTERNS

Extrasensory people have trouble seeing all of the details, but they are good at noticing patterns. You might notice physical clues that fail to follow a normal pattern (ex. only nine fingers; someone with two wedding bands).

You also believe in coincidence, and that the universe has way of broadcasting when a number is important; if a victim has seven bills and seven coins in their wallet, has seven buttons on their shirt, and seven unheard voices, then something out there is telling you that the number seven, or will be, of great importance!

When you roll a “pattern,” create one or more mundane items (picked or randomly generated) that occur with that number. You might even pick an object that should be one number, but is a different number instead (ex. the victim has one or three pennies over his eyes instead of 2).

You feel one or more things about the location or victim related to the _________________

– – Pattern of 1 / The Circle – One – significance: one killer, or part of a coven of equals; the killer seeking to become the last; apex predator. Alternatively, it might deal with a circle; significance: a summoning circle; a warding circle; the sun; oreboros; all in one; absolute power; divine right; holiness; endless cycle.

– 0 Pattern of 2 / Ying and Yang – Two – significance: two killers; killed in a dual; first victim of two; a double-cross. Yin and Yang – significance: Two things in balance; seeking balance; imbalance; a need; an ancient fight.

– + Pattern of 3 / Triskellion – Three – significance: a triumvirate unbalanced; bad things coming in threes; two parents and a child; love triangle. Triskellion: constant motion; youth, adult, old age; birth, life, death; past, present, future.

0 – Pattern of 4 / Cross – Four – significance: four corners; four directions; four killers; four humors (ex. four bodily fluids). Cross: four seasons; four elements; four horsemen; elemental power without soul.

0 0 Pattern of 5 / Five-point Star – Five – significance: five elements; balance of material and spiritual; Five-point Star: symbol of man; fall of man, temptation (Upside-down); base power without spirit

0 + Pattern of (six point star) – wards or protection; seals (ex. sealed demons, djinns); four elements in balance. Inverted: Broken seal; number of the beast.

+ – Pattern of 7 (seven star) – seven plagues; seven days; seven virtues; seven seas; generations; seven heavens. Inverted: seven sins; divine wrath; end of a bloodline; seven hells

+ 0 Pattern of 8 (eight point star, seal of the prophets) – hexagon – the I Ching, the paths to enlightment; four elements in harmony; (compass rose) the Earth; the universe; the eight winds; Lemniscate (infinity symbol); infinity.

+ + Pattern of 9+ – Pick a number equal or greater than nine. This might include nine: the number of the hermit; the nine enemies of Egypt; cat’s nine lives; ten: the holy number of the Pythagorans; the wheel of fortune; the Kabbalist Tree of Life; twelve: the zodiac (Western; Eastern); the hanged man; the twelve Imams; thirteen: unluck; the last supper; the tarot card Death; the Aztec goddess Tlazolteotl, goddess of sin; the thirteen witches of Salem.


AURAS
It is a common belief that objects, especially living creatures, emit a subtle aura. When the light is right (not too bright, but not in complete darkness), a mystically inclined person can perceive this aura and process it as “colors.” Objects don’t generally an aura by themselves, but may contain some of the lingering energy from someone who handled them.
Thus, if the clue is the color “orange,” pick whether this is the color of the victim, a specific object at the scene, or the lingering aura of the attacker; this means that person or object handler is likely “orange” (creative, passionate, childlike). There’s also a chance that the attacker or the true murder site was bright orange, but don’t count on it being TOO literal.


Unfortunately, the aura is not a very good way to verify the murderer (even if it does tip you off to the suspect, it’s worthless in a court of law!) Harder still, the auras of people will change with their emotional state; the serial killer might have a blue aura 90% of the time, and then change to orange right before he attacks.

Box: If I can’t ID the killer, Then what good is it? – Use the aura to plan the behavior of the victim or the killer. A white killer might be very religious; an orange killer might be obsessed with their own cleverness; a straight-laced respectable victim with a red aura might have been indulging their carnal passions at night, leading you to a new location, and thus a new lead.

– – Violet Peace, idealism, spiritual wisdom, cosmic consciousness, connection to spiritual / divine; aloofness, flightiness, denial & self-denial, sacrifice. Body part: top of the head. Element: Thought.

– 0 Purple / Indigo Divinity, truth, vision, clarity, mysticism, intuition; authority sense of superiority, controlling, imagination. Body part: third eye chakra (forehead). Element: Light.

– + Blue will, purpose, communication, structure, potential, connections, business, Expression (particularly verbal); sadness. Body part: throat. Element: Sound.

0 – Green unconditional love, forgiveness, generosity, compassion, self-love, growth, fear, jealousy. Body part: heart chakra. Element: Air.

0 0 Yellow mental alertness, analytical, power, strength, flexibility, change, growth, confidence, dynamism, egocentric, emotionless. Body part: solar plexus. Element: Fire.

0 + Orange emotion, sensuality, inner child, life/death, creativity, illogical, lacking discipline. Body part: sacral chakra (naval). Element: Water.

+ – Red, passion, reproduction, grounding, survival, material concerns, stubborn, self-importance. Body part: the root chakra (pelvis). Element: Earth.

+ 0 BLACK – Darkness, treachery, mystery, passivity, disintegration, softness. Body part: Yin, Everywhere and nowhere (state of nothingness).

+ + WHITE – Light, openness, strength, clarity, activity, creation. Body part: Yang, Everywhere.


GENERAL EVIDENCE
You have found the following at the scene. Roll 2dF:

– – Weapon – You find a full weapon, or a trace of one (a bullet, a shell casing). This is possibly the murder weapon; alternatively, it could be a weapon the victim was using to defend themselves; cursed item that drew the killer to them; a rare historical piece that wasn’t stolen. Roll once on the murder weapon chart and pick an item there.

– 0 Spiritual – The victim or the crime scene has objects or symbols of spiritual significance; bears strange markings or tattoos (old, recent, or drawn post-mortem); magical circle drawn at the scene; victim wearing religious or spiritual clothing or jewelry; carrying religious icon or totem; holy water or salt. For more ideas, roll on the symbol chart (under sensory: ethereal clues).

– + Something Common is Missing – The member is robbed; alternatively, it might be something else on the victim is missing (victim is shaved; missing eyebrows; missing all IDs; member has no phone.) For more options, roll on the common object and treat it as missing.

0 – Common object – coins (pennies on the eyes?); a handkerchief; a receipt; a memo; a wrapper; a cigarette butt; a newspaper; a bar napkin (maybe with a number?); a key (locker, car, mailbox, safe deposit box); an umbrella; ID; debit / credit card; briefcase; a shoe; a glove; a cross or crucifix; a book; a time piece or jewelry; a common tool (screw driver, flashlight); the victim’s car or rental; a change of clothes; a towel.

0 0 Uncommon object – you find an object that seems out of place at the scene; something to do with a niche job (pool cleaning gear; pet grooming; microscope; ballet slippers; stethoscope; casino chip; ice-cream scoop); an old document (photo, scroll, book, record); a rare object (piece or art; uncommon element; collector’s item; celebrity’s autograph); expensive item (jewelry; thousands in bonds; briefcase full of money).

0 + Biological – Feather; Scale; Fanged Tooth / Nail; Skin-like Membrane; Thick Hair (Pick a Color); Tuft of Fur (Pick a Color); Flake of Skin; Dried Blood; Fresh Blood; Mucous

+ – Environmental Clue – Dirt / Mud; Grass / Grass Stains; Clay; Dust / Sand; Sea-water / Salt; soaked shoes / pants.

+ 0 Powder / Solid Substance – Gun powder / powder burn; Drugs; rust; baby powder; makeup powder; chalk; dirt; clay.

+ + Liquid – Blood; Ether / chloroform (Note: Chloroform Inflames or “burns” the skin); Alcohol; Dark fluid – Ichor / bile; Ink / dye / paint; Makeup (powder, greasepaint, lipstick, nose wax, spirit gum.)

TA TABLETOP 2016 COMING ATTRACTIONS – GUILD GUIDES

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The next few posts on this blog will be about updating everyone on upcoming Tangent Artists’ games and game accessories products. Last week, we shared pics of the Fate Accompli cards (which will go out the kickstarter backers first; after that, we’ll be selling them online!)

This week, we’re taking a look at the Guild Guides!

Q. What are the Guild Guilds?

A. The Guild Guides are a collection of humorous standalone books. Each book is inspired by a classic type of fantasy adventurer; our first guide was “The Handbook for Saucy Bards,” followed by “The Cleric’s Guide to Smiting.” In the next few months, we’ll be releasing, “The Rogue’s Guide: Steal This Tome.”

Q. Are they for gamers, or can anyone enjoy them?

A. Yes!

Q. That wasn’t a “yes or no” question.

A. Too bad!

Q. So, is it for gamers or not?

A. The books contain useful, system agnostic references for fantasy gamers; for example, a bard wanting to execute a Cutting Remark will find three convenient d20 charts for classic insults. Likewise, a gamer designing a cleric might enjoy our guide to blunt weapons, and the rogue’s book will contain a number of popular scams to run during your games. These are great for players running that specific class, or for GMs.

However, our goal is to make content that is entertaining to everyone: current gamers, gamers who are between campaign, and even people who’ve never played a roleplaying game. They’re kind of like “coffee table” books.

Q. Who wrote the books?

A. Each book is “written” by one of the characters in the Tangent Artist’s comic CRIT! (don’t worry, they’re still funny even if you don’t read the comics… though you should). Miles Rayner wrote the Bard Book himself, and is proud to let everyone know it. Morfindel the cleric is not the most verbose of characters, so he borrows a lot from his old textbooks, complete with his notes scribbled in the margins. Bart also steals heavily from a local watchman manual for the rogue book (which seems appropriate), although his comments in the margins are a lot less polite.

Q. What’s in the Bard Book and the Cleric’s Guide?

A. The bard’s book has such wonderful resources as: “an Elf, a Dwarf, and a Halfling walk into a Bar” jokes, simple rhymes for faking songs, and how to insult the Unfriendly (and Friendly) races of the fantasy world.

The cleric’s book includes: evil sigil bingo, fill-in-the-blank eulogies, and a guide to religious holidays (which you can use to get off work).

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Coming Soon!

Q. What can we expect in the new Rogue’s Book?

A. Lots of fun content, including:

  • “What Type of Rogue Am I?” Personality Test
  • d20 charts for alibis and fake names
  • Scams
  • Guide to identifying rare metals and gems
  • List of Poisons
  • The original short story by Monica Marier, “Lipstick and Rogue”
  • And much more!

Q. What’s next?

A. By the end of the year, we hope to have digital versions of the three books available for eReaders- watch this spot for updates on when and where you’ll be able to download them.

If that weren’t enough, we’ve already started work on the Ranger’s book. The ranger book will be “written” by the CRIT’S cranky lead, Linus Weedwacker; expect it sometime in 2016-2017! We already have a few ideas on what will come after that, but we’d love to hear your suggestions. Warriors? Wizards? You decide!

New Year, New Accessories!

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It’s been a long time since the last update, but, boy… do we have news! Tangent Artists is proud to announce that the Fate Accompli cards have been printed and laminated!

Here’s shot of the final product:

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Also, a few shots of some good friends giving them a “crash-test.”

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More to come soon, regarding the Fate Accompli cards, and other TA Tabletop products.

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL: COMEDY AND TRAGEDY IN GAMING

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The other night, I had a chance to watch a live performance; it was a group of actors and impersonators that specialize in political satire. I did care not for it, but I will not mention the name, as the performers themselves were very talented and hard working, and I don’t want my bad review to reflect on the actors in any way.

My girlfriend (scratch that- as of this week, my fiancee) asked me why I did not enjoy all of it.*  “You like Colbert Report and Daily Show,” she said, “why not this?” It took a bit of analyzing, but I finally put my finger on why this particular show didn’t appeal to me:

*It didn’t really matter what answers I gave her; she still accused me of being an old fart.

1. Most of the jokes avoided the issues of philosophies of the characters. They went into Huckabee being religious, and the fact that politicians lie, but didn’t seem to go any further than skin deep; Trump has funny hair, Obama has big ears, Hilary has a vacant stare; the democrats distract, the republicans are crazy, etc. At best, this is light frivolousness; at worst, this is superficial muckracking.

2. It was bi-partisan in nature, doing its best to rib on both the left and the right; given the fact that they are in DC, this can be seen as a savvy move, as they are less likely to alienate half of their audience. However, I couldn’t help but feel like one almost canceled out the other. It didn’t feel like a cry from the moderate middle against the extremes, or a call for compromise; it just seemed to devoid of any legs, drifting aimlessly from one borrowed viewpoint to another without committing to anything.

In contrast, the Daily Show often takes intense issues and philosophies and boils them to their core; more often than not, you’re not laughing at the people being lampooned as much as the ideals. It some instances, the Daily Show follows the old movie adage, “show, don’t tell” – you don’t say that someone’s a hypocrite, you show a story about WHY they’re a hypocrite. The audience learns about an issue they never knew, or an important figure they were ignorant of.

On the Colbert Report, the opposite was the case; Colbert’s cold-hearted host character would often be forced to change his rigid views to match a forever progressive world; his struggle to learn and adapt, filled with tears and revelation, made the new events fresh and humanistic.

In the aforementioned live comedy show, most of the characters just walked onto the stage, did a few jokes, and left, like a bad stand-up routine; nothing changed, no one made any real human connection. However, there were a few exceptions; one of my favorite pieces involved President Barack Obama lamenting about getting pulled into war with Syria, and finding solace from a commiserating George W Bush, who was also pulled into the Middle East. They were transformed from thin caricatures to real people that shared a bond.


 

With this in mind, I would like to propose a tweaked definition of

Cret_Comedy_and_Tragedy

Why so serious?

comedy and tragedy, based around this concept:

1. Comedy – in which the characters learn to be better people.

2. Tragedy – in which the characters are given the opportunity to learn to become better people, but do not.


 

COMEDY BREAKDOWN

By this definition, a comedy is about flawed individuals who fib, fumble and fail to get what they want, and generally learn the life lessons necessary to become better human beings. The liar turns honest. The overly righteous person learns to relax. The stuttering lover learns courage.

An old benchmark for “is it a Shakespearean comedy?” is, “did someone get married at the end?” With this model, that still works; isn’t marriage about two individuals learning to be a functional union?

Bad Comedy

Bad comedy, we can surmise, is the opposite:

A badly written comedy is one in which none of the characters learn to be better people.

If a comedy is 100% custard pies and meaningless car crashes, you don’t have a story (at least, not one worth telling). If the heroes don’t improve and/or the villains aren’t taught a lesson, the experience was a frilly waste of time.

That’s not to say that EVERY character needs to learn. There are plenty of Jack Sparrows and supporting characters that stumble around, making sure others get their better future; and like Jack Sparrow, many of them do have their own brief moments of improvement and enlightenment (even if they are conveniently forgotten when the sequel roles around.) In the cases of the Marx Brothers’ films, the clowns make up 70% of the movie, but even they help the lovers get together and rattle the villain’s brains. For a classic example, in Moliere’s The Misanthrope, the title character and his on-again/off-again betrothed come close to amending their ways, but don’t; their best friends, however, learn, grow and get married.

TRAGEDY BREAKDOWN

Just like a comedy is about people learning, a strong tragedy is about about people failing to learn. Othello fails to learn that he should trust his wife more than his old war buddy; Hamlet fails to learn that bloodshed only leads to further bloodshed; Juliet fails to learn that the cute bad boy really won’t change, etc.

A good tragedy is all about the little brass ring of hope and enlightenment, and watching the characters reach for it; but it is just out of reach, or more painful still, they pull their hand back at the last moment.

Bad Tragedy

Thus, here is my take on a poorly written tragedy:

A badly written tragedy is one in which the characters are never given the opportunity to learn.

Just as a bad comedy contains a lot of whimsy with no change, a bad tragedy doesn’t give the character a chance to change; if there is no brass ring or lesson to learn, then there’s no missed opportunity for redemption; rather, the characters are being railroaded towards disaster without any real choice or control.* They aren’t characters making tragic decisions, they’re just cardboard stand-ins that the author couldn’t bother to give any life; alternatively, they are decent human beings who are have bad things happen to them for seemingly no reason (I haven’t seen it, but I’ve been told the Michael Keaton film “Birdman” was guilty of this).

*I suppose the lesson the characters could learn is, “life is like being railroaded towards disaster without any real choice or control,” but that’s a pretty ham-handed way of showing it. Macbeth, for example, toys with the themes of fate and destiny, but still gives the characters the ability to affect their fates (or at the very least, the illusion of choice).

I’m not a fan of many modern tragedies, in that many of them don’t seem offer any chance of redemption. It’s like watching a bunch of kids hanging on to a playground roundabout that’s going faster and faster; there’s no mystery about what will happen next, the kids will all fly off. In a good comedy, the audience is curious about what clever tricks will be employed to bring the plot line to a satisfactory conclusion; in a bad tragedy, the only unknown factors are when and in which order the characters will fly off to their doom, and that’s not quite enough to engage me as an audience member.

WAIT, WHAT ABOUT SATIRE?

Satire is slightly different, in that it is a comedy in which the main characters MAY learn, but are not required to; in this way, the plot line may more closely parallel a tragedy*. Rather, it the audience that learns the lesson. However, like the Daily Show, some of the best satires have an ordinary, Everyman character (like John Stewart) who can react to the craziness and arrogance around him, and who can learn (or pretend to learn) alongside us.

*For example, Chekhov considered many of his tragic plays, like the Cherry Orchard or Uncle Vanya, “comedies,” despite the fact that they are, well, NOT FUNNY**. They really are about foolish people who bring about doom; in this sense, they are satires about a dying way of life, with a clear message for the audience to pick up upon.

**Maybe they’re funny by Russian standards.


 

GET ON WITH THE GAMING THING!

What is this literary rant doing on a gaming blog? A few things:

1. When crafting any story or campaign, it’s a good idea to know how to craft a story.

2. Several games have popped up in the last year that focus upon storytelling, particularly about tragedies. Such examples include in Fiasco by Jason Morningstar, A Tragedy in Five Acts by Michelle Lyons-McFarland, and The Play’s the Thing by Mark Truman. I haven’t had the pleasure of playing any of the three, but I hope to before this time next year.

3. For your one shot games, I propose a simple thing you can tack on at the end. I give you:


 

THE EPILOGUE!

I’ve run several one-shot games before at gaming conventions, and at the end of the long drawn out fight with the baddie, I always felt bad whenever I dropped the suspension of disbelief like a fire-curtain and said, “That was it! Thanks for playing! Bye!”

I now propose the following: after any one-shot game, hand each player a blank post-card. The players will take a minute or two to write down what happens to their character after the story is done. Their fate might be as dramatic as “turning a new leaf,” or “to walk the earth like Caine”; it might be as simple as “taking a nap” or “getting shawarma.” After the players have written them, have them share if they like. If you want, the GM can even write one for a villain or major NPC.

Why do this?: It eases the players back to the outside world (in that they are thinking of their character from the outside), but ends on a powerful note; they have full control over the character’s fate. Did they learn? Did they fail to learn? Did they gain what they sought, or are they saving that nugget for another day?

More importantly, it turns the random rolls of the dice into a full story, with a solid end.


On that note, readers, I want to wish you a Happy New Year. Until next year, GAME ON!

Fate Accelerated: I Don’t Like Spam!

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I like Fate Accelerated. I really do. Hell, I’ve made two Fate World settings using it, and will likely make my third setting FAE too. That being said, it’s not perfect.

Sidenote: If it’s not perfect, why do I play it? To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “[Fate] is the worst form of [RPG], except for all the others.”

The best part of FAE is that there is always another way to skin a cat; if a party’s sorcerer has to leave the game early because they have work in the morning, you’re not suddenly stuck with a group incapable of overcoming the magic door down the hall; through cleverness, careful study, or barbaric vandalism, they will find a way.

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Yum. I think. Conflicted.

The evil flip-side to this is that whenever you want to encourage a player to approach a problem from one of their lesser approaches, someone will insist that they can use their strongest approach; this frequently called “spamming.”  While they mean well, these sophisters will turn every turn into a drawn out negotiation, which can kill the mood and drag the evening out. Of course, the GM could always say “No, you have to use this approach,” but that’s against the spirit of FAE, and saying “No” leads to an unfriendly atmosphere (one of my very first entries discussed how much a GM should say “yes.”)

Evil Hat’s Zen Master of Fate Rob Donogue has proposed some ways to get around this on his blog, The Walking Mind, but I thought I’d try one or two ideas of my own:

Option 1: the Permission Aspect

If a player wants to use an approach that doesn’t seem obvious Require a “Permission aspect” first. This will likely be a situation aspect. If they already have a character aspect, require that they invoke it (which gives them the ability to use the approach AND the invoke bonus).

Ex. Chartok, Marna, and Phil all want to attack the a vicious ingredient in Kitchen Arena, the Monstercheese. Chartok’s player wants to charge straight in using Forceful, while Marna’s player wants to use Clever, and Phil’s player wants to use Sneaky. The GM sees no trouble with Chartok using the Forceful approach to make a raw attack, but feels that using Clever or Sneaky is less justified in this instance. The GM requests they get permission aspects first: a rational person like Marna wouldn’t charge in blindly, but if zhe spends an exchange looking for a weapon first (create an advantage for a Giant Cheese Machete), zhe could attack with Clever during any later exchanges. Similarly, a sneaky attack from Phil out of nowhere seems forced, but if Phil’s player spends a fate point to invoke his aspect “Born in Shadows,” the GM will let him use Sneaky to attack (and also gets the +2 invoke bonus). The GM is feeling generous, and decides these invokes are enough to let them use those approaches for the rest of the scene, or until it no longer makes sense (ex. Marna loses the Cheese Machete; Phil uses Flashy to draw attention to himself.)

If the player has a weapon that’s also a stunt, which is tied to a specific approach (ex. The Bow in in Masters of Umdaar using Quick), then the character can always use that weapon to attack; however, they can only use it whenever it seems right for the weapon (ex. Can’t use the bow in close combat), and only if they possess the weapon (ex. They haven’t been disarmed).

Option 2: Critical Hit

If players don’t like the stick, give them the carrot! Whenever a character makes an attempt with an Approach that is Fair +1 or lower and succeeds, automatically treat the result as success with style. Thus, they have a lower chance of success, but a higher gain should they pull it off. A GM might offer this all the time, but it seems better to me as a bargaining chip.

Player: I don’t want to use Forceful to attack, I want to use Quick, it’s higher!
GM: Okay, but if you hit with Forceful, I’ll give you a Critical Hit bonus…


 

Which option sounds better to you? Tell us what you think!

Until next week, GAME ON!

 


Image Citation:

Spam image courtesy of Father.Jack from Coventry, UK, Transferred from Flickr by User:Fæ. Used with permission through Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Neither licensor nor the Spam corporation endorses this blog or its use.