RPGaDAY – Round-up!

Standard

 

RPG-a-Day 2018 (1)

This is long overdue (been very busy playing the lead in a local production of Sweeney Todd), so I thought I’d finish Week 3 & 4 in a single post.

Day 15: Describe a tricky RPG Experience that you enjoyed:
The trickiest I can think of is when I ran a playtest of Dungeon Tours, LTD at TCEP, and while I was setting up, I caught the attention of a younger kid. I’d guess barely nine or ten. He was curious about everything, couldn’t sit still, and constantly jabbering away about everything – you know, all of the same annoying traits that I definitely possessed as a kid. I felt having him in the game might impact the experience for other adult players, but I really hate not being included in things myself. So, while I didn’t ENCOURAGE him to join, I didn’t discourage him neither, and he jumped in.

He was a little distracting while he was in, but we yes-anded none the less. About 90 minutes in, he wandered off to another con room. We carried on without him (we treated his character as an aspect that could be invoked). An hour later, he came back in, took a look at the board.

Me: (filling him in) He’s falling for it so far.
Kid: Oh. Good!

The kid runs off again, glad to know his team is doing great.

I wish I could say the kid made amazing contributions and that it was the best, most original gaming experience of my life. Rather, I think those that stuck around had fun, and I hope the kid had some too.


DAY 16: Plans for your Next Game

Well, the next game I’m RELEASING is “Dungeon Tours, LTD” (coming soon to Kickstarter.

https://tatabletop.com/dungeon-tours-ltd/

However, the next new game that I want to release is based on +Richard Williams‘s theatre experience: basically, a super-loose, rules light LARP / RPG inspired by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” with bits of “The Tempest” and “As You Like It” thrown in.

Basically, the plan is to have the players create a brand new, improvised Shakespeare fantasy-pastoral comedy. I have about 75% of the rule book done, and can’t wait to playtest it.

dtl cover_web

And now, a preview of the cover!


Day 17: What is the best compliment you’ve received while gaming?

I react to compliments by squirming, and so I generally don’t remember specific things that have been said.

I guess the best general compliment I can think of is how amazingly supportive the Fate Community has been of my first work, Masters of Umdaar. People continue to say the warmest things about it, and I blush every time. The one that gets me the most is that they call it a great “gateway” into Fate or RPGs in general. Also, players will commonly say, “It reminds me of [a movie or show],” citing one of the very stories that inspired it.

I’m flattered to be part of the team that brought it into existence.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/155458/Masters-of-Umdaar-o-A-World-of-Adventure-for-Fate-Core


18. What art inspires your game?
This is a little bit of a shameless plug, but I’m going to have to go with my sister, Monica Marier, who is also the lead artist for our group Tangent Artists. To explain why, a little context: a few years ago, I pitched to Monica the idea of doing a comic about life and love in a superhero world. It didn’t really appeal to her, but she did love a group of supporting characters I had mentioned. It wasn’t the normal heroes, it was the weird, creepy undead “other” team that handled the oddball cases; they were the Skeleton Crew, who were like the Doom Patrol meets Hellboy. She is a trained artist with a decade of experience doing comics and illustrations, but this was her first real “creepy” comic. It turns out she’s a natural for it. Her creations are dark and inspiring, to the point that I always wanted to jump in deeper and learn more and more about this crazy world.
Eventually, this lead to me wanting to do an RPG set in the Skeleton Crew universe. (It’s not coming any time soon, I’m afraid, but it’s comings. It’s one of those “Magnus Opuses” that sits on the backburner until the perfect time.)
But some day, I’ll create something so fantastic that she’ll want to do the art for it; and thus, hopefully the cycle will continue.

http://tangentartists.com/skeletoncrew.html


19. What music enhances your game?
I typically don’t music when I PLAY a game. I do know that what I wrote Uranium Chef, my favorite Spotify playlist consisted of Background music from “Iron Chef America,” “Flash Gordon,” and the newest “Tron” movie. It helped remind to keep tension, but with various moods; there’s a difference between slow-building tension and the last-minute rush.
Typically, I have trouble writing over music that has a large among of lyrics; thus, techno music, Celtic instrumentals, and songs in other languages (ex. Gipsy Kings) tend to dominate my writing playlists.


20. What game mechanic inspires your play the most?
The game mechanic that I’ve latched on to the most is Fate Core’s “aspect” mechanic. You could play Fate without aspects, but you’d essentially have a weak, generic RPG that you’ve likely seen a hundred times before.
What aspects do is bridge the gap between the abstract world of language and concepts, and the tactile, grounded world of mechanics. Other games can achieve this, of course, with intense mods, new charts, or add-on supplemental guides, but Fate can achieve the same result in SECONDS.
Now, I’m a little behind on my Fate mechanics (I haven’t read Dresden Accelerated, Fate Adversary, or Fate Horror yet), but I feel that fate aspects are ideal for two types of scenarios:
a. The Improvised Weapon / Destructible Environment – Aspects let players improvise their way through a scene, turning random props on the wall into weapons, or swinging off chandeliers like swashbucklers. It creates rich, exciting, and cinematic environment. I often advise to new Fate GMs, “every room should be a playground.”
b. Additive – Aspects work particularly well when they are used to represent a creative process, as the character’s creative actions literally create something on the table (or at least a notecard describing this thing.) This is why I was inspired to make Uranium Chef an actual game (which involves creating meals), as well as our soon to be released Dungeon Tours, Ltd, which involves creating fake monsters and traps for your dungeon.


21. What dice mechanic appeals to you?
This isn’t a dice mechanic from an RPG, but it still stuck with me none-the-less.
It was actually from an old, Sci-Fi football boardgame that I bought on clearance; I think it was called Battleball. It came with a lot of dice and cheap minis, so I thought, “why not?”
But there were some brilliant ideas in it. Each type of player had a specific die: the big blockers had a 1D6s, the medium sized guys various from 1D8s to 1D12, while the fast runners had 1D20s. These dice determined speed AND combat.
When moving, you roll, and the move up to the number of spaces – (i.e. higher die is better).
When in combat, you roll, and the player with the LOWER score wins (i.e. lower die is better).
It is such a beautifully elegant system. You don’t need stats, charts, or algorithms – it merely takes the simple dice type and fills it with personality and a sort of specialization.


22. What non-dice system appeals to you?
I have yet to play it, but I would LOVE to play Dread one of these days. The Jenga – ahem*sorry, NOT Jenga*ahem. The DREAD block tower is such a brilliant design that I can’t wait to try it out sometime.


23. What game do you hope to play again?

At some point, I want to play Dungeon World again. I ran in once for my friends, but never felt I really got the hang of it. I felt like I was always one round away from having something “click,” but it never did.


24. What RPG do you think deserves greater recognition?

An unsung game that I wish was back in the limelight is Teenagers from Outer-Space. As a youth, I bought the rulebook (specifically with the amazing art of the 1997 edition, reminiscent of Rumiko Takahashi’s “Urusei Yatsura / Lum” series). I’ve never had a chance to run it, but it seems the perfect mix of low-stakes cartoonish silliness combined with the infinite possibilities of sci-fi. If I had a million bucks to relaunch and/or reprint any old RPG, this would be it.


25. Name a game that had an impact on you in the last year.

Last November, I had the pleasure of playtesting Paul Stefko’s game Chromeshoe, a cyberpunk setting for Gumshoe. I had be curious about Gumshoe for a while, and this was my friend real exposure. It reminds me a lot of Fate 2.0 (in that it is very collaborative and player focused, but more bookkeeping than Fate Core or FAE). I have a dream project that I suspected Gumshoe would be a good fit for, and playing it only confirmed my suspicion.

Find out more about Paul’s work and how to support it at his patreon
https://www.patreon.com/PaulStefko


26. Your gaming ambition for the next year.

HAHAHAHAHAHA. Man, this could be a lengthy answer. Some projects I hope to accomplish:

Kickstart “Dungeon Tours, LTD.”; finish and publish “Haunted Grove”; Start work on Umdaar Sequel. This does not include any boardgame projects, which I am equally ambitious / psychotic about.


27. Share a great stream / actual play
I don’t listen to many, but I have heard a little of Rag-Nerd-rok when I discovered they have a whole lot of Fate and Umdaar sessions.

http://ragnerdrok.com/

(Edit as of 11/2018: And I just learned Stumpt ran a series of actual plays for “Uranium Chef.” There are a few small errors regarding how to play Fate, it’s far too entertaining for me to care.)

 


28. Share whose inspiring gaming excellence you’re grateful for.
(That is a sentence that’s hard to decipher.)

I haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but this last year, I was really impressed with the new RPG “Bluebeard’s Bride,” designed by Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, Marissa Kelly, and Sarah Richardson. I really am glad that the community is seeing more non-male authors, and works that explore different narratives. (For example, Bluebeard’s Bride is definitely reminiscent of Women’s Gothic Literature.)


29. Friendship you’ve made;
In the last year, I’ve definitely enjoyed talking on G+ with +Don Bisdorf, +Jon Freeman, and +Brie Sheldon. I don’t know if they consider me friends, but I’m grateful for the company.


30. Learned about playing your character
Not. A. Thing. Ignorance is bliss.


31. Why take part in RPGaDay?
I wanted to challenge myself with a daily deadline and see if I could keep it. (Didn’t quite meet the daily quota, but I made it by the wire for all 31). I used to do NaNoWriMo, and I enjoy a writing challenge with a deadline. My work doesn’t tend to be as good, but writing on a time-table is a kind of muscle; it needs exercise to keep it in shape.

Well, that was all 31! Hope you enjoyed!

Advertisements

Dungeons – The Logistical Nightmare!

Standard

The kickstarter for the Dungeon Tours Limited is soon approaching. In the meantime, we’ll explore some of the origins behind the game.

But first, what is Dungeon Tours Limited?


miles_parchment-title-2Dungeon Tours Limited is an upcoming tabletop RPG from Tangent Artists. In it, players take on the roles of semi-retired adventurers in a fantasy world. Your days of delving into dungeons are almost over. However, there’s been a recent trend of young nobles going “dungeoning”; and you have a client lined up who is willing to pay crazy money to join your party on your next adventure.

But there’s a problem: the noble twit won’t last three seconds in a real dungeon. So, you’re going to have to fake it. You have three days to find a cave, fill it with foam spikes and papier-mache dragons, and guide the client through. Can you reach the end without the twit uncovering the truth?


Like many RPGs settings, we owe some inspiration to Dungeons & Dragons. One night, our group was going over some of the ridiculous pre-made adventures of 1st edition. You probably know the type: adventures with ancient tombs, teeming with living, breathing monsters, buried miles below the earth . Immediately, we some logistical flaws:

  • How did the 100 foot dragon get into a dungeon with only 10 foot wide corridors?
  • If there’s a live manticore down there, who’s feeding it? Who’s cleaning its cage?
  • If a tiny chamber has an ogre trapped in, unable to get out, waiting hundreds of years between skirmishes, how does he keep himself entertained? Sudoku?

This got me thinking; wouldn’t it be fun to flip the script? Instead of having the GM create the dungeon for the players, what if the players were the dungeon makers? This lead to:

Dungeon Tours 0.0

In this version, the players play monstrous humanoids (orcs, goblins, drow, etc.) working hard on a real dungeon. They’re been hired by a warlord to keep the lair safe from adventurers.

This was purely a thought experiment, with no actual rules were created. I was even unsure whether this would be better was an RPG or a boardgame.

However, I quickly stumbled upon a two-prong problem:

  • If the players wanted the adventurers to die, there must be some easier way to do it than through dumb monsters and convoluted traps.
  • If the players succeed in killing the PCs the first 3rd of the game, the remaining 2/3rds of the dungeon is wasted.

The solution: to develop a game that had to walk a tight-rope. Rather than trying an extreme goal that can be reached through extreme means (ex. kill all invaders), it had to be a balancing act. It must be have a certain amount of X, but not TOO much X.

Dungeon Tours 0.1 – Today

This is where the idea of a fake tour first took place. It’s had certain mechanics that I’ve tried and set aside (ex. the idea of a Scare-o-meter that must be hit just right –  not to much, not too little). However, the fundamental idea of creating fake threats has been in there since the beginning.

Fun Fact: It was the “build a project” backbone of DTL that would later provide the framework for Evil Hat’s Uranium Chef. It’s funny that they’re released in opposite order.

That’s all we have time for this week. Expect more previews as we get closer to the DTL launch date.

What are the best / worst features to show up in your dungeons?

GMprov – It’s a Set-Up

Standard

This week, I’m going to focus on another rules of improv: Establish the Scene.

Whenever you’re writing a play or a book, you have months to build up the proper setting and mood. You can take your sweet time to refine the language, and use flowery language to establish the mood. Ol’ Poe describes his chamber “the bleak December / and Each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.” (Beautiful, ain’t it?)

When you’re running an improv scene, the average time you have door opento establish the scene is roughly 34 pictoseconds. When you’re GMing a rambunctious group, you might have about the same.

To set up the scene successfully, you need to establish with lightning speed, in order of priority:

  1. Who is everyone?
  2. What’s the conflict?
  3. Where are you?

You would think that the “where” would go first, but if you have to choose only one detail to give, the players are more likely going to need to know that the assassin darting through the crowd was the woman with the scar across her forehead, and will care less about the fresco on the temple ceiling.  When in doubt, people are fascinated by people, not things (which is why no talking cartoon animal ever looks 100% like the animal it was based off of.)  When you’re running Improv scenes, it is important that the player not only establish their own identity, but also the identity of the other person, and their connection.  This may seem like a lot to establish, but a skilled performer can set it up with a single sentence. Examples:

 “Young lady, you are not going to school dressed like THAT!”  Relationship: younger daughter (probably teen) and parent.

“Ladies and Gentleman of the board, as the CEO of Enerdine corporation…” Relationship: CEO, the board members.

“Excuse me officer, I’m sorry to bother you, but my wife and I are lost…” Relationship: Wife & Spouse (husband, her wife) and a stranger, who is a police officer.

Of course, the players have probably set up THEIR characters already, so you just need to set up the NPC characters. Young or old? Knowledgable or naive? In charge, or a mere pawn?

Also, remember that the player’s relationship with another person may vary drastically based on their reputation and goals. In their minds, they might be world-saving heroes, but others might see them as smelly, rampaging mercenaries. For a pop culture example, remember Indiana Jones: we see him as a gruff, heroic adventurer, but his students see him as a stuffy archeology professor, and the natives of the countries he’s see him as an infamous grave robber.

Next, mark sure you set up the conflict. Who wants what, and how badly? I talked about this a lot in the Chair/Bus Stop blog a few months back, but in a nutshell; every scene always ends with one of three possibilities:

  1. Both people get what they want.
  2. One side gets what they want; the other side can go no further to get what they want at this time.
  3. No one gets what they want, and no one can go any further to get what they want at this time.

Setting: This is the least priority, but not by much. It is vitally important that players get a few facts and a feeling about the world they inhabit. In Fate Core, these show up as situation aspects. If I have one flaw as a GM (note: I have WAY more than one), it’s that I have a habit of spamming a scene with way too many situation aspects. But how can I not? There are so many fun things to include: the space, the objects, the mood, the emotional tension.  Heck, I love situation aspects so much I built the Dungeon Tours game, which is built around players creating fun settings.

CHEAT SHEET

Character Creation Tip

Set-up Check list:
Who – are they talking to?
What – is the relationship?
When – Day or night? Is the clock ticking? Is the person rushed, and has no time for your foolishness? Alternatively, are you racing a ticking clock, and this person taking their sweet time?
Where – Location? Someone’s home turf? Tangible Factors? Intangible factors?
Why – Why are you two talking? What motivates each party? Why are you here?

Relationship – Quick Trick
Not sure what relationship to set up? When in doubt, a stranger is a mirror to viewer.

  • An honest person will see others as honest.
  • A lying crook who looks after themselves will assume others are crooks.

A great example is the movie The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade is surrounded by lying murderers who use threats, bribes and seductions to get him to reveal what he knows about the statue, and to give it up. He insists he doesn’t have it and knows nothing, and they assume that he’s lying to drive up the price; because if they were in his place, that’s what THEY’D do. They don’t even consider that he might actually be telling the truth, and that he DOESN’T have it. He’s not as big of a crook as they are (though, not by much.)

NEXT WEEK:

QUESTIONS: Does and don’ts!

Feedback to Back – Part 2

Standard

It’s been Nearly a month after GenCon, but I am determined to finish my synopsis of the play testing. So, I’ll skip to the good parts.

Dungeon Tours – So far, at most of my games, the average age of players was 20ish, and the gamers were pretty green. Even before I started my game of Dungeon Tours, a caper / construction game set in a Fantasy-Adventure world, I could tell this would be different. The average age around the table was older than me, and some had probably GMed before I even knew what an rpg WAS. When picking characters, they opted out of picking the silver-tongued Bard (though I reminded them it was a game about running cons.) One gentlemen in particular, sighting opposite of me, worried me the most. Pre-game time, I barely got a NAME out of him.
The second the game started, I realized that my fears were unfounded. The stern-faced individual (we’ll call him the Rogue, after his character), immediately livened up, and took gentle charge of the operation. The party immediately jumped into it, and quickly founded a loathe/hate relationship with the drunken noble serving as sucker client. The built a piratical adventure, featuring everything from fake musical puzzles, real graverobbing, fake trapdoors (that they might have forgotten to make “fake,”) and using a cannon as a tactic in contract negotiations.

dungeon map

No doubt, the star of the show was the taxidermied bear-boar composite fake monster, who was named “The Jeff.” I asked for an illustration, and they did not disappoint.

the jeff

  Feedback: Most of the feedback, it seemed, could be handled by GMing it better, it appears. I had forgotten one of my own rules, and as such, the board was littered with free invokes, making the game far too easy. The players, all of whom were new to Fate, were unsure of where my new rules started and where the old rules began. In the future, I’ll try to distinguish, “you’re testing THIS” before set-up.
Masters of Umdaar – for those who don’t know, this was a game I’d been working on since last spring or so. We signed up for GenCon, including 2 sessions, and then, to make a long story short, Umdaar was picked up by EvilHat as a supplement in the Fate Adventures and Worlds Patreon.

Premise: Masters of Umdaar is a pulp sci-fantasy, in the strain of John Carter of Mars, He-Man, Krull, Flash Gordon, and other corny but thrilling adventures. The game features a lot of random elements, including a random generator to create the adversarial race. This chart was originally a d6 chart, but I took the trouble converting it to 4dF chart. It was spick, it was span…

…it was on the laptop, back in the hotel. Dag. So, I took my buddy & GMing-guru’s advice, and I had them pick random animals out of a bag- I had brought with me an extensive collection of plastic toy dinosaurs, fantasy army-men, and other toys that I had purchased at Toys R Us and the Dollar Tree. One session had them facing off against a Mutoats (four-armed, mutant goatmen), the next group against the sneaky Centauripedes (insectoids that were Humanoids from the waste up, and centipedes from the waist down.) The final arena also featured such random threats as Megarats, cyborg Rozebras, and Lazerwolves (with robotic lazers on their tails, of course.) To keep the game under 2 hours, I had them on the rails for the whole adventure, (heck, the tunnel didn’t even have any forks), but they both tackled it in completely different ways. I never noticed how well Fate Core & FAE lends itself to cinematic adventures: If a player wants to overturn a fiery basin, climb a random chain, or swashbuckle from the ceiling, Fate makes it fast and easy.
Feedback: All seemed very positive. I’d love to test out a game without the “rails” given the chance.

SKELETON CREW – This was our last game of GenCon. After this game, we’ve got a 10 hour trek home, before I start a brand new job the next morning. I love GMing, but we’re all ready to go home. During set-up, Vince Salzillo, head of Double Exposure, comes over and says, “I’ve got some great guests lined up for you.” We don’t doubt that he’s got a good group, but I just nod, smile, and thank him. It would seem that the Vince-man does not exaggerate.

The event starts up, and Vince starts the game selection process. It’s on the far end of the hall, so us playtesters only hear every third word. Suddenly, I hear him drop my name, and he points in my direction. He asks me to wave, but being the goofball I am, I start waiving both arms, a la one of those fan-blown figures outside of a car lot. He then announces to the room who will be joining the game: Rob Donague and Fred Hicks of Evil Hat. I drop to the floor (only half of it acting.) Let us be brief and say that my thoughts were no longer on going home.

The group testing at the table was probably the perfect mix you could hope for for a playtest: two people (a couple) that had played rpgs, but never Fate; a young gentleman who had played it a litter (who was also a super-helpful aide for Double-Exposure, taking a much earned break); and two pros (Fred & Rob, who kinda invented the system.)  I introduced the system basics, and passed around the character sheets. The couple picked Peek-a-boo and Weston Peese respectively (and she even spoke in a little pre-schooler’s voice), and the aide took on the geeky hero-in his own mind Zomboy. Fred asked for a simple character (it’d been a long con,) and took on the role of Caomh Culainn, the Wight Berserker, while Rob gave the Mad Scientist Doc Turnell lots of life and even more melodramatic volume.

What was tested?: Our tweaks to the Fate Core system aren’t too elaborate, especially in a simple pick-up game. Our skill mode didn’t seem to cause too much confusion (one exception, noted later), and players seemed to really enjoy the “Round 0” effect, which lets players set up the conflict before punches are thrown.  Steve and I were both really pleased by the Team Spirit teamwork system, which we had only conceived of the night before. Previously, players had interpersonal aspects and a team concept- but that was the first time we had merged it onto a Team-Character Sheet. Rob and the Aide picked the interpersonal aspect of “Former Enemies,” which meant the Rob would constantly bellyache how the Doc (in his more megalomaniacal days), had been thwarted by the idiotic Zomboy… to which the aide would play Zomboy as a dumber and dumber still (it was a vicious cycle).  We had hoped to test “The Final Round,” but with a 2 hour playtest, we had to concede the fight before I would have liked.

Feedback – Rob had a question with one of the skills (Engineering) which I later got a chance to clear up… hopefully the full rulebook explains it better than I can. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the dry-erase Fate Game Aids. Learning from Dungeon Tours, I tried to make very clear from the beginning what they were being tested on, and several players seemed interested enough to sign up as playtesters.

Speaking of which, guinea pigs players are now allowed to sign up for the Skeleton Crew RPG beta test. Submit a form, and receive a FREE copy of the BETA test next month!

https://tatabletop.com/skeleton-crew-playtest-sign-up-sheet/

Dungeon Tours Ltd. – 101

Standard

What is Dungeon Tours Ltd. ?

Dungeon Crit-044 walkTours Ltd. is a work-in-progress roleplaying game. It uses the Fate Accelerated game system, but only barely- it’s more about the story telling, with a few dice thrown in to add some craziness.

Origin: The basis for  Dungeon Tours Ltd. comes from fantasy board games and video games that let players take on the role of the bad guys- instead of having one GM, there are multiple players controlling the monsters, traps, and curses that befall the hapless heroes. We started wondering: could you do an rpg with the same villainous premise? The problem became instantly clear- it’s way too easy to make the dungeon impossible to survive. The solution was to make it a Goldilocks situation- the dungeon would have to be hard, but not too hard.

The Premise: Players take on the role of retired Adventurers, who are hired to guide bored nobles through grim dungeons. However, real dungeons are scarce and fraught with danger- so why not lead the dumb noble through a fake dungeon of your design? Your job: find a dank cave, fill it with bogus threats, and convince the noble that it’s the real deal. Can you finish the build on time? Can you fool the noble long enough to get paid?

Play: We’ve run a few test games, and so far, it’s been a huge success. It plays like a mix of Dungeons & Dragons, Leverage, and Trading Places.  Sessions last an average of 2-4 hours. Players that are new to Fate Accelerated, or Roleplaying in general, seem to have no problem jumping in.

Beta Testing: Will open soon. Contact us if you’re interested in joining!