Letting People Down

I’ve often bemoaned the fact that real-life has an increasing tendency to interfere with roleplaying; gone are the times when I could RP more than a couple of times a week, my gaming activities now have to be fit around other important activities with Tetris-like precision and, as is often the case with Tetris, all it takes is a single piece out of shape to mess up your entire game.

Nowhere is this more obvious than having to bow out of games, especially if it is last minute, this has happened a fair few times when I’ve been in the GM-ing seat as people’s work rotas change last minute or people are working on zero hour contracts, but recently I’ve also had to pull out of a couple of games with less notice that I would like. Most recently was a game run by Ian F. White, part of his Lady Yoko’s wedding saga, a loose grouping of games involving a shifting cast of protagonists, I’d played in one of these games before and greatly enjoyed it, however, I’ve had to pull out of the last session since I was asked to work late to cover the Christmas rush.

Tvader real lifehis is one of the annoying things about real-life priorities, with Christmas just round the corner and with the spectre of redundancy looming early next year (although I’m trying to stay positive about that, seeing as a chance to re-train and focus on doing something I actually enjoy), I can’t really afford to turn down extra money at the moment so I’ve had to pull out of the game, much as it galls me to do so since I don’t like letting people down, especially at the last minute.

Contrast this with my student days where I was playing in at least one game a night (often more at weekends) whereas now free time to just relax and game is a precious commodity. In an attempt to minimise the amount of pulling out of games I have to do, I’m going to start limiting myself to only signing up for games that run on weekends or when I know I’ve got time off work, it might mean that I get to play a bit less but hopefully it’ll minimise the amount of people I have to let down in this manner due to real-life priorities.

5 tips for Getting an Epic Death Scene

If you’ve ever gamed with me then you’ll know that my characters die in RPGs… a lot, probably more so in LARP and one-shots than in campaign tabletop games, although that might simply be down to the fact that I tend to play in less campaign games (although this is slowly changing); I certainly don’t go out of my way to get characters killed or place my PCs in ridiculous situations (unless that is part of that specific character’s MO of course), but death is always a possible outcome in RPGs, after all, if there is no chance of failure and consequences then it lessens the feeling of elation when you succeed at a task.

skull dice

That said, I’ve recently had a PC die in the Thousand Thrones 2E WFRP (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay) campaign that TheRogueDM is running for us; you can see the video of the session below:

In the campaign I played a young woman by the name of Ariadne who had been raised by her father like a son and went by the name Aidan of Carcasonne (although unfortunately I never really got a chance to reveal this in the game), masquerading as a man since only men can be knights in Bretonnia according to the book, she ventured out in the world as young Bretonnian nobles do to explore new lands and gain knowledge of new people. Being strong in her faith to the Lady of the Lake, Aidan was drawn to investigate the rumours of the God Sigmar being reborn in the body of a young boy, making the acquaintance of Gerhard a follower of Ulric and Weiss, a quiet but learned young monk, along the way.

To cut a long story short we ended up travelling with Karl, the supposed Scion of Sigmar in an attempt to get himself recognised by the Emperor and the Grand Theogonist at Altdorf, one player down and with both Gehard and Aiden injured from the previous session, when one of the Scions own men betrayed him we attempted to help save him and almost succeeded, but at the last second I was cut down by a dagger blow (the crit hit system is brutal in WFRP 2E) and died of blood loss.

Now some people find character death a little emotional or traumatic, but I find that, as long as you have a good death scene or go out in a memorable way that fits your character then it tends to make things more satisfying, so below are my five tips for getting an epic death scene.

1. Don’t be scared of death.
I cannot over-emphasise this enough, if your character is permanently scared of death or dying then they will never accomplish anything, you don’t have to actively court death or continually do ridiculously risky stuff but don’t become paranoid about potential risks to your character.

paranoia

2. Work out what your character’s shtick is and do it as much as possible.
It’s generally good practice for each of your characters to have a shtick or unique thing about them, this makes it easier to hook your roleplaying onto that and really focus on what is important to the character; if you want your character to have a dramatic death scene where they’re shown in their best light doing what they do, then you need to make sure they’re doing it as much as possible.

For example: My Bretonnian Knight was very much about fighting evil and protecting the weak, so I took every opportunity to be at the forefront of combat and attempt to save those in need; this meant that when my character eventually died it was whilst trying to save a child from the clutches of villainous mutants.

3. Make some arrangements regarding your death.
It seems logical that people whose occupations involve potential death on a regular basis would at least talk with their companions about it, after all, if a character dies then he relies on his companions to bury his body and recover his personal effects; having a conversation like this with other characters gives you an opportunity to add some additional interest to fairly mundane personal effects by giving them a bit of history, it also allows you to emphasise what is important to your character. Make sure you don’t overdo this though, no-one wants to be sat listening to a three hour monologue about your grandfather’s pocket watch.

For example: At the start of the last episode, already being injured, Aiden asked Gerhard to return her ancestral blade to the Bretonnian duchy of Carcasonne and her father should she die; this reinforced that martial power was important to the character and also allowed me to reveal some details about her father and life before the game in a more conversational manner.

4. Leave a legacy.
If you’ve followed the earlier steps then your character should have made an impression on your fellow PCs (for good or ill), this will help avoid the scenario that we see in too many TV shows where a character dies and is mourned for an episode and then never mentioned again; another good way to do this is to leave something behind or bequeath something to your fellows, whether this is a weapon or an item, telling another PC that you want them to have an item when and if you die serves as a good reminder of your previous character.

For example: Gerhard now carries Aiden’s sword, until it is returned to Carcasonne, he always has the option of using it, serving as a reminder that the group lost a comrade along the way.

5. When a character death does happen, accept it and move on.
If the unfortunate does happen and you lose a character then some people can find it quite difficult, especially if the character was a long-running or particularly treasured one; contrary to popular belief, most GMs (in my experience) also don’t take particular glee in killed off good characters, but the risk of dying is an inherent part of most RPGs. In my opinion one of the best ways to show a GM that you are fine with the character dying (and to help yourself) is to chat a bit after the fateful session about what your previous character accomplished (without dwelling on what they didn’t) and then focus on getting yourself excited about what you want to play next.

So there are five tips on how to make sure that you get an epic death scene, I’m sure there are more tips out that but these five should help you ensure that your character at least gets a memorable death scene; I’ve had a fair few characters that have died in various games and the only ones I really regret are the ones who had a boring death or that died due to sheer bad luck. It can be a bit gutting to lose a character before you have a chance to really fully explore them, but at least having a satisfactory end scene can help make it a bit easier to draw a line under that character and move on to the next.

Committing to a System

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I find certain new systems a little difficult to get into, it takes me a while to pick them up, whilst some older systems (like the OWOD system) are very firmly lodged in my mind; now this might not seem like much of a problem but it can be frustrating, since you tend to hit that point of fully understanding and mastering a new system fairly near the end of a campaign (or at least I do). As someone who hasn’t really tended to run a lot of consecutive games using the same system, by the time I swing around to running the same system again I normally have to brush up on the rules again, whereas with OWOD I went through a period in my student days where I was running and playing in many different games all using that system, so I really had a chance to get into it and learn how it worked.

So why am I rambling about this? Well I’m currently running a Star Wars campaign (you can see the videos of that by clicking here), I’m loving the system but, like most games it takes a little bit of mastering; myself and my players are starting to use the intricacies of the system a little more (we are running session 8 of the game in a couple of weeks), but again I fear we’re only going to hit that sweet spot where we’re all up to speed and really comfortable with the system a little further down the line. This seems a shame, and so I’ve decided that, rather than my normal behaviour, running a single game using the system and then moving on to something else, that when my current Edge of the Empire campaign game finishes (although that won’t be for some time yet) I’m going to follow it by running another Star Wars game. I may decide to run Age of Rebellion or Force and Destiny instead of Edge of Empire since these games use the same rules system, but I definitely want to master the system more.

Positive/Negative Language

This is not something I’ve thought about a lot on a conscious level until recently; generally whenever I am trying to sell my players on the virtues of a new system I prefer to point out the positives of adopting the new system rather than the negatives of the old. I’ve never consciously made that as a decision, it just always seemed like a logical thing to do; for example, recently I approached my group about bring our Star Wars campaign under the umbrella of the Tides of Change Star Wars RP club.

For those of you who may not be aware, Tides of Change is a roleplay club where GMs run a series of loosely linked campaigns using the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG; GMs share rumours between games creating the feel of a larger universe, it also uses an innovative mechanic where in each game Tide Changes (plot twists) are proposed and the members of the club then vote on them in a facebook poll. The one with the most votes becomes the twist that occurs in the game.

Tides of Changes is chaired by Andre Martinez.

I didn’t want to spring such a change on my players so we had a series of votes in our campaign facebook group and discussions about what moving our campaign into Tides of Change would mean; I pointed out the positives of this, some of which included:

  • Being part of a larger game universe.
  • Use of the very interesting variant mechanics proposed by the group.
  • Support from a larger community.
  • Exposure to a wider audience.

At no point did I cast any aspersions on our current way of running things or say that there was anything wrong with our current method of gaming, partly because there wasn’t, but also I find that if you tend to portray things with a focus on the negative then people tend to respond negatively to them, whereas if you point out the positives then their reaction often (not always) mirrors this approach.

Contrast for instance if someone comes up to you at work and says “you’re doing this wrong”, you’re more likely to respond negatively in a knee-jerk fashion than if someone says “it might be better if you do this.”

I actively noticed this recently on a LARP Facebook group I belong to where people were setting out guidelines/dos and don’ts for the event, and I as I read them I noticed that I was becoming progressively more disenchanted with the idea of actually attending; I realised as I went through that this was due in part to the negative language being used, everything was “don’t do this” and “don’t do that”, the assumption seeming to be that people would behave like idiots, and this rankled me somewhat (although I am aware their are idiots out there).

It’s definitely something worth keeping in mind though whenever you’re trying to sell players a new game or campaign setting, focus on the positive points of whatever you’re trying to get across to them rather than the negatives of other things.

Characters and handouts for BrigadeCon 2015 Game

As some of you may be aware, I’m running a couple of games for #BrigadeCon2015; one of these games is a Fate Accelerated game set in Brian Engard’s Wild Blue campaign world, a sort of weird-fantasy western with superpowers thrown in for good measure.

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BrigadeCon 2015

 

To those of you who aren’t aware BrigadeCon is an online tabletop RPG convention that was started last year by the Youtube RPG Brigade and has been continued this year by a talented team of organisers. You can find details on the convention by clicking on the link below:

http://brigadecon.org/

Basically the Con is 24 hours of online gaming (normally using Google Hangouts), panels and giveaways; last year was great fun with people from different timezones getting together and gaming.

So what am I doing for Brigade Con 2015?

Well last year I ran a couple of panels for the convention whereas this year I’m going to be running two games, you can find details below:


 

The Thing from the Hillssun-birds-people-cartoon-girl-guns-smoke-west-hat-coat-glow-red-steel-2
(Fate Accelerated, Wild Blue Setting)
“Just a few generations ago, the people of what would be called the Blue Lands came in search of wealth and fleeing religious persecution. When they arrived, they found a land steeped in magic, valuable resources… and the Folk, inhuman and amazing magical beings. Unfortunately a war erupted for the Blue Lands, and the settlers won – pushing the Folk far to the west of this vast continent and establishing a kingdom in the Blue Lands.

The Blue Lands is now wealthy and wondrous, taking full advantage of the miracle mineral Cobalt, and the Skywood trees that grow lighter as they go older… even floating into the sky! But too, now are Powers: men and women born in the generations since arrival with gifts of superhuman talents and abilities unknown, and the numbers keep growing…

In order to negate potential dangers of Power abuse resulted in the creation of the Queen’s Wardens, the law-enforcement organization of Major Powers answering only to Queen Aurora V and no limit to their remit to defend the Blue Lands. With vengeful Folk, sky pirates, bandits, noble intrigues, monsters and more… get ready pardner.”

Word has reached the Wardens that something is killing the calves of Emerson Kleebergers herd in the ranching town of Edge Hill, threatening to stop the precious flow of food to Cobalt City; at his wits end Kleeburger has dispatched a message to the Queen begging her to send someone to investigate.


 

EdwardWaltonWilcox-Circus_in_the_Field-2009_bitumen_on_panel_24x36in.Why so Serious?

(NWOD werewolf using simplified rules system)

“There’s something wrong in your territory, there have been a rash of strange death, each victim dying with a rictus grin etched on their features; the deaths started when Bobos Circus of the Fantastic moved into the area, but strangely none of the mortal authorities seem to have made the connection, leaving it to the supernatural guardians of the small town of Strangehaven to track down and hunt the cause of this laughing plague.”

This game is a NWOD werewolf game where the players will portray members of the Uratha pack who claim the sleepy American town of Strangehaven as their territory; the game is for 3-4 players and uses a simplified version of the NWOD system more suited to one-offs, there will be a selection of pre-genned characters available as the pack finds themselves with a deadly mystery on their hands. Can they determine it’s cause and end the strange plague or will the small town die laughing?

Picture by Edward Walton Wilson, used for non-profit purposes, no challenge intended to any copyrights.

Tabletop Rambling: GMing Voices in Your Head

Whenever anyone prepares to run an RPG there are various questions and worries that go through your mind, this is short video about that:

Why I love the idea of the new (2014) Star Wars continuity

Galactic_Empire_emblem.svgNow before you start cursing me or flexing your force-grip hands let me explain:

For me Star Wars has always been about the films (yes even the fairly poor prequel films), I’ve never really dived into the Expanded Universe stuff and nor have I played the million or so Star Wars computer games that have been created over the years; however I really enjoy the films and have always been interested in the RP potential of the Star Wars setting (in-fact I think WEG D6 Star Wars was the third or fourth game I played), collecting various different versions of the Star Wars RPG over the years. Lately this has culminated in me getting copies of Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion from Fantasy Flight Games; I was lucky enough to play in an excellent one-off game run by Runeslinger that really fired my enthusiasm for the game and, like a lot of GMs, if a game makes me enthusiastic then I want to run it.

After a bit of shuffling of my schedule I was able to fit in an Edge of Empire game and we’ll be starting that shortly; one thing that became obvious during the character creation session (and that I had not considered before) was that there were certainly some of the players who had a greater knowledge of the Expanded Universe of Star Wars than myself and I’ve sometimes found people who have invested time in acquiring such knowledge can be a bit precious about perceived errors or things that contradict it.

So what does this have to do with the 2014 continuity?

Well, around about the time they announced that they were making a sequel series of films, Disney (new owners of Lucasfilm) announced that the films would not be beholden to anything established by the previous Expanded Universe and that only certain sources would now be considered as canon, the EU being re-classified as Star Wars Legends (Wookiepedia, the Star Wars wiki handily has a ‘canon’ and ‘legends’ tabs for most entries). This announcement was widely met with disbelief and anger from many fans who had been hopefully the films would tell some of the great stories from the EU, at the time it didn’t really bother me one way or the other as someone who wasn’t really up on the EU, when they came out I’d no doubt go and watch the new films but that was as far as it went.

However, as I started putting together the Edge of the Empire game and getting ideas from the players and was considering what to do regarding this vast stock of Expanded Universe lore that some of players knew very well and that I had no intention or inclination of frantically studying to try and bring myself up to speed, it occurred to me that Disney/Lucasfilm had handed me the solution to my problem – I would use the new continuity.

Of course I’m not entirely going to avoid the EU since there are some great aspects of it that I’m sure will add to my game, however the baseline of the setting has been set using the new canon, this means that players with a huge stock of knowledge about the EU won’t have an unfair advantage, should hopefully cut down contradictions and it means all of the information they need is easily available in one place; basically if it’s on a ‘canon’ tab on Wookiepedia then it is assumed to be the truth in our game setting.

As far as I’m concerned the new continuity gives new GMs and players the opportunity to pick up a Star Wars RPG and run games without having to digest a vast amount of accumulated lore, it frees us up to tell our own stories in the Star Wars universe without having to constantly having to justify our ignorance of the Expanded Universe.

Pre-genned Character Backgrounds for C:tL

You may have seen my recent post about the pre-genned characters that are going to be used in my one-off C:tL game in a couple of weeks (if not you can find it here); this evening I’ve finished writing out the backgrounds for each of the characters and have posted them out to the players (who have already selected which characters they are going to be).

You can read the backgrounds using the following links:

  • Blaze BG

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByVpAo4rxDGudnlaUFkxMll3UHM/view?usp=sharing

  • Bones BG

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByVpAo4rxDGuWW1yRDVZUWxRdUk/view?usp=sharing

  • Hare BG

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByVpAo4rxDGuRlpKV3V6Q2t3Mlk/view?usp=sharing

  • Sway BG

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByVpAo4rxDGuZDhGUjNRbjd4SW8/view?usp=sharing

  • Wolf BG

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByVpAo4rxDGuOGItYjl0ZEpxMWM/view?usp=sharing

Discussing Fronts with James Chambers

In this video I discuss Fronts (an excellent tool for GM organisation and plot planning pioneered in the Powered by the Apocalypse series of game with James Chambers.