[RPG] Using Scrivener for RPG Prep

I’ve recently been using a piece of software called Scrivener whilst writing my NaNoWriMo novel over the course of this month (you can find the website for Scrivener here for both PC an Mac) and have been very much enjoying using the software, at it’s most basic Scrivener allows you to break your novel, manuscript or whatever into a series of discrete chunks, these can then be annotated and assembled in any way you see fit and output in a variety of formats. Whilst writing my novel i’ve been very much enjoying the program’s corkboard facility where you can click on a chapter and see all of the sections that make it up, from here you can make notes on them and drag and drop to re-arrange the order that they appear in; as so often when I use a new program on my computer one of my first thoughts was ‘how can I use this for RPGs?’
The answer in this case, i’m happy to report, is ‘very easily’, since Scrivener is a content manager it could easily be used to divide up the notes for a RP session into sections and re-order them as necessary, Scrivener also allows you convert websites to pdfs and tuck them away in a research folder for reference as you write as well as adding other files, this might be handy for people who make use of pdf rulebooks or character sheets during a game. They could easily be put in an appropriate folder and referenced when needed since another great thing about the program is that when you save the file, your position in files also seems to be saved so that you can pick up where you left off later on, this is an absolute godsend when working through large or complex documents and you have to sign off or end your session halfway through.
Another aspect of the program that would be of potential use for the budding RPG planner/GM is that there are a number of template documents set up within the software, of course most of these are based around the needs of authors but many could also be applicable to RPG session planners; two that spring to mind are the location and character documents which give you a prepared blank document with headings to fill in. For example the place template has the following headings:
  • Role in story
  • Description
  • Plots involved in
  • Thematic Relevance
And the character template has the following headings:
  • Role in story
  • Physical description
  • Personality
  • Plots involved in
  • Relationship with other characters
These could easily be used to detail important locations and NPCs in a session and, since the templates themselves are saved as accessible documents within the project file they could easily be duplicated or changed to suit the particular needs of your campaign.
A project created in Scrivener can be set to automatically make a backup at regular intervals (I currently have my novel backed up to my Dropbox account so that if the worst happened and my computer blew up i’d still be able to get at it once i’d re-gained access to the internet) with the backups being essentially Zip files with all of your documents and materials stored in them. You can also compile a document into a variety of formats; i’ve only really experimented with the formats suitable for novels at the moment, but if you wanted to distribute your setting either during or after you’ve finished your game then you could easily compile it into a single PDF file from within the Scrivener software.
Over the next few days i’m going to be moving the notes for the Numenera game that i’m running online via Google+ Hangouts (you can find a link to the actual play videos here) onto a Scrivener file to see how useful it is during play and whether it will eclipse Tiddlywikis as my RPG information management tool of choice.
Scrivener costs $40 USD and is available for a 30 day free trial; as one of the sponsors of NaNoWriMo they are offering a special trial edition for participants (available here); all participants can get a 20% discount if they choose to buy the final product and, if they complete the November target of a 50000 word novel, can get a 50% discount off the final product.

Keeping Track of Aspects for our Serpents Fall Game

I’m always looking for ways to improve our online Serpents Fall game (and indeed any game that I run), it occurred to me recently that part of the reason that players might not be as on the ball with Self-compels and using Aspects may be (in part or in full) due to them being unaware of the Aspects that are actually available for them to use.

It’s my intention, starting from next session to have a document (probably in the same Google Drive where the character sheets are stored) that lists all of the player Aspects and also any scene/NPC Aspects that the player characters are aware of available so that they can simply flick to the document in order to see what Aspects are available for use.

At the moment the document will look something like this:

* * *

Aspects Available

SCENE ASPECTS

NPC ASPECTS

CHARACTER ASPECTS

  • Ozuchi Komodo
    • Last of the Komodo Tribe
    • Those Stygian Shaman will stop at nothing
    • Medicine man
    • Easily assimilates local culture
    • Stygian
    • One day I will return to Stygia and unite my people as the prophecy foretold

  • Horesh Komani
    • Initiate sorceror death-priest
    • Uncomfortable with living energies
    • Destined for sorcerous greatness
    • Skilled with ceremonial obsidian death knives
    • Khemrian
    • It is my destiny to become the most powerful death-priest in Khemria

  • Gunnar Kron
    • Raiding party warrior
    • Murderous reputation
    • Experience raider
    • Warriors instincts
    • Norsican
    • I will redeem my past
  • Captain Benito
    • Cursed pirate captain
    • Cursed to never again sail the seas
    • Lemurian Heritage
    • Stick to the code
    • Member of the Scarlet Brotherhood
    • One day I will take back my rightful place as the Pirate King

* * *

It is also my intent to discuss with the players re-wording their Aspects slightly to make them into phrases that could more comfortably form part of a normal sentence, some of them already fulfil this criteria but I think there’s room to make them a little bit more descriptive now that we’re all a little more comfortable with how Aspects work.

Serpents Fall – Overhauling Spirits & Sorcery

Following on from our first Serpents Fall game on G+, one of the aspects of the game that I wasn’t particularly taken with was sorcery; it worked okay but whenever something involving spirits occurred it pretty much split the party into sorcerors and non-sorcerors with the two not really meeting until the matter was resolved.
After looking at an excellent conversion of a pulp hero by Garth Rose on Google+ I decided to make an attempt at using his rules to model the spirits and sorcery within my game.
* * *

Amended Rules
Spirits
It does not require any special Stunt or ability to perceive spirits any longer (unless they are specifically hiding themselves using their powers), all people can perceive and interact with spirits.
Sorcery

In order to use sorcery the character must have an appropriate High Concept or other Aspect that includes knowledge of sorcery.
There are a number of Sorcery Stunts (as shown below).
Bind Spirits: When in contact with a spirit the sorceror may engage them mentally (as per the Stunt – Mental Contact), instead of inflicting stress the sorceror may ask the spirit to perform one task (lasting no more than a few hours) for every two levels his roll beats the spirits; if the task is utterly against the spirits nature the GM can pay a fate point to veto the task and take the stress instead. If the sorceror loses then he takes the appropriate amount of stress himself due to psychic feedback.
If a spirit is Taken Out by psychic damage, the sorceror can bind it to a task for a year and a day (although if they want to take is as a companion then they will need to buy it as a new Stunt).
Mental Contact: The sorceror can make a Clever roll to make contact with someone (resisted by the same Approach) in the same zone; if the sorcerors roll is higher then he may ask (and receive honest answers) to 1 question per every two points that his roll beats his opponent or inflict levels of stress equal to the number of points his roll beat the opponent. If the sorceror loses then he takes the appropriate amount of stress himself due to psychic feedback (the opponent may only take information from the sorceror’s mind if they are also a sorceror).
Sorcerors receive +2 to attack/defend against mental contact.
Being Taken Out by psychic damage generally means one’s mind is completely open to one’s opponent.  Post-hypnotic suggestions, compulsions, altered memories, and the like are all possible.
Unearthly Knowledge: Once per session, the sorceror can get the answer to a question he would have no earthly way of knowing the answer to.  This is generally accompanied by watching birds, or even having a raven land on his shoulder – it probably won’t work indoors, unless maybe the spirits are really restless. 
* * *

Please note: Credit for the original work on these rules goes to Garth Rose, i’ve simply tweaked them a bit and done some small adaptions for use with Fate Accelerated.

Reflecting on the first Serpents Fall session

Well we made our first attempt at running an introductory session of Serpents Fall (our G+ Fate Accelerate Fantasy game) last night; i’ve just sent off messages to all of the players in it asking for feedback and thought i’d put my own views in this blog.
You can find a link to the video footage here.
For me the game was something of a mixed bag, consisting of both positives and negatives; since I was on a bit of a downer following the amount of work that myself and the players had put into the campaign setting only to have the first session so dogged by technical hitches I thought that i’d list some of the positive and negative points in an attempt to cheer myself up:
Positives
  • Everyone seemed to enjoy the session.
  • Character genning was fairly quick and I really loved how the players all grabbed hold of the story based idea of the Fate Accelerated rules system.
  • Was good to do some tabletop with friends whom I don’t get chance to game with (in that format).
  • The player characters seemed to gel as a party with the first flickers of IC banter and relationships forming.
  • We managed to carry out a small introductory (since not all players are familiar with the Fate Accelerated rules) combat that went off fairly well.
  • The scene is now set for the next main session.
  • All of the players seemed willing and keen to do another session.


Negatives
  • Almost constant technical problems meant that we had people dropping out and jumping back in, I got booted from the hangout twice meaning that we ended up having to film it in three segments.
  • Due to the tech problems the game felt a little dis-jointed since we had to keep re-capping for people who had dropped out and re-joined.

In Summary

Despite feeling a little down about the campaign when I originally sat down to start writing this post, looking at the list of positives and negatives there are far more positives from the game than their were negatives, indeed the only negative points seem to stem from the technical issues that we had.
Writing this post has cheered me up no end and made me far more optimistic about the potential of Serpents Fall as a long running campaign; I’m now going to wait for the players to get back to me with their feedback and see where we go from there, our next session is scheduled for a couple of weeks time – hopefully we’ll have a bit better luck on the technical side of things and we can just jump straight into the game 🙂


Serpents Fall (Fate Fantasy Campaign) – Character Sheet – Amended

I have made some additional space on my character sheet and added an additional Aspect (Character Goal) to the sheet, this will be an Aspect reflecting what a character’s driving passion or endgame is – once the goal is achieved the Aspect can be changed.

Serpents Fall (Fate Fantasy Campaign) – Character Sheet

After some prompting from one of my future players, i’ve knocked up the character sheet below for my Serpents Fall game.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3N7nFBlEi_7RGcySmQwN2F3V00/edit?usp=sharing

Serpents Fall (Fate Fantasy Campaign) – Finished Handouts

Below are links to the two handouts that I have been working on for the G+ Fate Fantasy game that I am going to be running soon:
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Ages of the Known World

This contains the rough history of the world through the various ages up to a brief summary of the present day.

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Character Generation & Nation Handout

This handout contains a brief summary of character generation for the game in addition to a page of suggested general Stunts as well as a write-up of each nation and additional relevant suggestions.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3N7nFBlEi_7MWlwb282MjFYREU/edit?usp=sharing

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Latest (unfinished) version of player handout for Serpent's Fall Fate Accelerated Fantasy Campaign

This is the latest version of my player handout for my Serpent’s Fall Fate Accelerated Fantasy campaign (beginning soon); please note that this is in no way finished yet nor do I make any claims to own the artwork used in it – this handout is for non-profit purposes only and no challenge is intended to any copyrights.

Fate Fantasy Game : Player Handout – The Ages of the Known World

I’ve been working on a brief history handout for my players about the campaign world for our Fate Swords and Sorcery game; thought i’d post in on here for people to have a look.

Working on map for Fantasy Campaign

I’ve been working on a rough outline map for our forthcoming G+ hangout Fantasy FATE game (although hopefully we’ll soon come up with a snappier name); map is based around an image of Pangea with some additional islands added by myself (unfortunately only had access to MSPaint at the time so until I get to my own computer the quality isn’t great).
I used some of the continental line to suggest borders and erased others, given that the players seemed to like the idea of large nations this map has potentially 6 nations (including the Sword Isles, although I envision them as more of a loose coalition of buccaneers and raiders)- the plan is to fill in the details of the nations with the players input.