And Diary XIV
Last time I talked about life as a DM for hire was only July, but hotdamn have these last two months been full of stuff!
Insomnia 65 shortly after Gen Con, three games a day in which I had to shout over the e-sports stage about a hundred feet away with whooping and cheering Overwatch fans and the commentators talking over the action, it’s a hard life but ultimately worth it. Not only are the games booking out, but extra games are having to be laid on, and we’re in the process of inducting another GM to help ease the burden and get a few more people to the tables.
Huge thanks to the photographer who sent me some of pictures he took mid-game, some of your work will end up on a roller banner at some point in the future:
Following a short break in Machynlleth it was straight back to the library, and this week just gone, Staffordshire, specifically a charity event with the Staffordshire Wargaming Guild in support of PWSA for Prader Willi’s syndrome, and military charity SSAFA. I was invited by Harriet who I met very briefly at UKGE in June, and while my communication was slow over the busy summer, I went, I ran a couple of games, I did so far faster than I intended because my players proved to be ruthlessly efficient. Also, I apparently won some dice in the raffle! Thanks everyone, hopefully see you all again.
Ok, so, the future. I am most definitely up to something, for a start I have another Hallowe’en game in the wonderful surroundings of Whittington Castle, and the interest has already been so incredibly high that I’ve added a second day of play! The first event on the 30th of October, the second on the 1st of November (with obvious exception for Hallowe’en itself it being GeekOut Shrewsbury’s Bad Costume Party). In my last horror spectacular I killed everyone in the first hour… this time around, they’ll wish I had.
I’m not offering links for the event because at this point they look set to sell out some time this Saturday.
Finally, I’ve been up to something… I’ve been up to something for about three months, maybe longer, and I still can’t talk about it in full but much of it will be a continuation of the DMing 101 series from when I first started here many, many years ago, and requires learning how to turn all of this long winded rambling into vocal rambling, I ranted about this the other day, but now I can show you that it’ll look something like this.
Hoooo doesn’t love owlbears? They’re fuzzy balls of fluff topped with the best spiky bits from nature, but how to best use them without just dumping them into a random forest encounter? This week’s Dungeon Situational I offer up a few different ways to use these adorable hybrid beasties that may give you some ideas of your own… (more…)
“Slightly fatigued with Mary-Sues” of Liverpool writes:
Whenever I start up a game, or try to join an RP online (Star Trek or otherwise), almost every other player seems to want to break the boundaries of class or race to make their character ‘the exception to the rule’. I don’t mean multiclassing (which of course also happens) but more like “Yeah I’m a Vulcan, but this Vulcan has emotions”, or “I’m a high elf who’s actually a dark elf”, or “I’m a paladin, but I’m a pirate bard warmonger. Oh yeah, they deity I’m devoted to is the lawful good pantheon head”. Even stuff like “Oh we’re doing normal D&D? Cool, then I’d like to play a half-orc, half-Aasimar barbarian, and my character path is that I’m the son of a divine being and my powers will slowly develop as time goes on”.
The question is: do you experience this as well? Does it piss you off? Do you find that characters like that are actually interesting?
Also how do you deal with it? Do you kill one of their legs and raise it from the dead? (I know it happens, don’t try and tell me it doesn’t!)
And final question – do you find that characters that are rolled within the worldly norms (Sun elf bladesinger in forgotten realms/good old fashioned Barbarian etc) actually work better and give people more of a chance to be exceptional by playing the story rather than trying to force it at creation stage?
The exiled drow rejected by the society he knew and unable to be accepted by the society he chooses to fight for is not an unheard of cliche, it might well be that there was a time when one could hardly move through a game shop without stumbling across a Drizzt Do’Urden or variation thereof, and while the hobby is supposed to be about imagination, and while heroes are supposed to be exceptional examples of their kind… yeah, yeah, there is a definite trend towards “I’m an X but Y” where in the written lore the two variables are – not mutually exclusive, but outlandish and absurd.
Now there’s nothing wrong with playing a quirky character, and there’s nothing wrong with playing an outcast, happy people with cushy lives don’t go out adventuring… unless they do, you have to play the guy who got bored with life and took up the sword and fireballs at some point.
For example, you can be the pirate paladin, hells, I’ve literally just done it, an enforcer of the honour amongst thieves, share your loot, say nothing to the cops, and if you don’t play nice with your other underhanded brethren expect to be smote in your sleep (I can do that, my god said I could). But there is a balance to be struck between quirky and different and wacky and outlandish. Fantasy is supposed to be outlandish, so is sci-fi to an extent, but there is a difference between a Ferengi whose bad at business and decides to join Star Fleet, and a Ferengi who hates greed and money grubbing behaviour and lives like a peasant out of choice, that Ferengi would be stoned to death, like the guy who decided to roll that character. That character would be a pariah, that character should be a pariah, and that’s how the world would treat them, and that player would have to come to terms with that before they sit down or have a miserable time at the table.
Giving your character a place in the world, ties to nations, loyalty to factions, all offer potential for characters to be part of the world, opening avenues of role play and adventure, not to mention having allies may prove essential if a character is a loner and outcast. A character with family is – of course – asking for more trouble than the half-klingon-half-tiefling warlock of Salvatore, but it’s more dramatic and awesome trouble than it is painful and contrived awesome. It is more epic to have to leap to your death to save your estranged brother than it is to have everyone in every town you enter ask what the hell you are.
Hybrid characters are relatively easy to dismiss as a concept, you can play the pure biology card: “the pairing doesn’t work, no offspring can come of the union” or in the case of divinely or fiend-touched bloodlines, one lineage dominates, but if your player can present you with a well-reasoned, well balanced race that fits the world then by all means let it through… but let’s be honest here, it sounds like that’s not the kind of player we’re talking about here.
I for one have been lucky, I only rarely have to deal with such characters and they are usually only in single-game adventures, the kind that you want the obscene and ridiculous concepts so you can squeeze as much ridiculousness out of three hours as possible, however, might I suggest requesting from players that they either:
- Follow guidelines to character creation, such as making membership to a faction mandatory, like Star Fleet, or a Ravnica guild as examples, or excluding certain races. It may seem harsh at first but given justification you’d be surprised how many players can get behind “the plan”.
- Have new players pitch two or three character concepts. Clearly you’re dealing with some excessively creative people… maybe too creative… and giving them that brief will let them explore a few ideas, while allowing you to pick a selection that you think will gel together best.
- Talk to the players once they’ve given their characters, and impress upon them the hard life they face as their chosen character, and ask if they’re willing to face that played out in game.
If, after all of the above, they still can’t play your way, clearly, yours is not the group for them.
And for the record, it was both legs, and it was one time! He was fine! He was walking around on them for months of game time with surprisingly little issue. He just spent a lot on replacing leg-wear.
If you have a question… ask it! I might even answer in this ridiculously long and rambling format. I’m not promising to turn this into a series, but when if it happens, it happens, and I’m perfectly fine with it. Other people have made a series of “Dear Dungeon Master” letters, but don’t let that stop you coming to me… this is fun!
Ok, we started Kickstarter Highlights to shine a light on smaller or lesser known projects that we wanted to see shine, or managed by people we love, but occasionally we like to talk about projects that we love that really don’t need the help. Case in point, Critical Role, the series that broke MCM London, a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors who play Dungeons & Dragons live on the internet for a few hours every week and draw massive viewership and crowds, and have been partially responsible to the exponential boom in popularity of the hobby!
I’ve talked about them before. They’re a good – if inaccurate – representation of the hobby, vastly more entertaining to watch as it’s being played by actual performers, voice actors who know about taking turns when talking so that there’s no cross-talking, who can totally immerse themselves in their character so deeply that we can more clearly envision the action, and who get visibly emotional about the narrative, reacting appropriately to every moment of drama and capable of deftly improvising moments of their own.
So it makes sense for a bunch of actors with characters that they love and live, with connections in the industry who also love D&D, to club together and make a cartoon! One to go alongside the comics written by Matt Colville, and all of the other products, the books, the art, the live appearances… you get the idea they’re doing well.
The project will be supported by the studio Titmouse Inc, famous for shows like Metalocalypse, Venture Bros., Tigtone that I put on my to-do list lately, and Avatar: The Last Airbender, alongside a host of other major projects, so the animation will be in excellent hands. The cast will be played by themselves, with Matt Mercer serving the bulk of the NPCs… or rather those characters who are not the protagonists.
The test will be how well a D&D style narrative can be translated into a linear format, as it rarely crosses well into other formats – at least those that endeavour to capture the spirit of tabletop RP. As this project is dedicating itself more to existent characters and a well developed and explored world, things could be very different.
So, to the campaign itself. The target is $750,000 to fund the actual animation to a high standard, with a projected release of late 2020. Backer rewards do not include access to a digital stream or download of the final result, rather heavily implying that the final product will be available for everyone to enjoy, likely via their (newly independent of Geek & Sundry) YouTube channel and probably Twitch as it is their principle platform.
The rewards backers receive are instead encouraged to pledge for loot, some digital downloads of music uniquely composed for Critical Role, including a piece written and (partially) performed by the cast. Dice, sticker packs, art prints, cuddly toys, accessories for roleplay and memorabilia, and of course the upper echelons include personalised artwork by Titmouse, producer credits, and when you hit a five figure sum you get a studio tour and more.
Those upper echelon rewards? All gone. I would not be surprised to find a lot of D&D executives towards the top of that list, and possibly Matt Colville himself. The campaign? When I started writing it was at about $2.1 million, it’s now approaching $2.4M, and the campaign started less than five hours ago. IGN managed to squeeze out an article last night a few minutes after the project passed $1M, and I won’t be publishing this for another ten hours, who knows how much money might have poured into the pot. Stretch goals are disappearing, and the twenty-two minute animated short will be treble the length before I go to bed, and will be a feature length film by morning unless pledges slow down.
Sam Riegel and Travis Willingham have apparently been talking to producers for a while, and the attachment of the hobby still makes studios reluctant to engage with projects, presumably offers may have been made with limitations or changes. Crowd funding may lack security for the consumer… fairly certain the same group have ripped me off twice now… but it does put creativity in the hands of those passionate about a project. The CR team have proven time and time again that they are capable of producing high quality content. Here’s to another one.
Oh… there goes $2.5 million!
Side note…! Hot damn, 514% funding on Lasers and Liches!! Go check out this awesome project blending sci-fi and D&D, and adds bonus dinosaurs, perfect for anyone wanting to RP their way through Kung Fury or a Shadowrun Rave. You still have a week to get involved, and there are still stretch goals left to reach.
~Text message from Tim~
What do you mean it was made by a “different Chris”?
Now I know I’m late to the party, as it’s been about a year or so now since this leviathan board game entered circulation, but as I do not own a copy, and it has taken us a while to get a few games in with the copy in my gaming circles, only now do I think I’ve played enough to offer an opinion.
This has been one of the biggest titles of 2017, a roleplay mashed with a strategy game with the difficulty level turned up to Dark Souls. Wildly differing characters, varied scenarios, depth of environment enough to fool you into believing that you’re role-playing into something almost Pathfinder-like, but the entire game runs itself, kind of… but let’s get to that later. (more…)
Among the many weapons in the DMs arsenal, often we overlook the idea of curses. Monsters and traps aplenty, puzzles and challenges, sure, but a curse is something wholly other. Disease is frequently too random, we rarely use disease because it is not something earned through foolish action, but a curse can be laid upon a player who does something foolish, or stumbles across something terrible.
These curses broadly use Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition rules, but can easily be adjusted for other systems and settings.
So often board games strive to emulate the rich depth of gameplay enjoyed by role-playing games. Often the result is a thin facsimile or an unwieldy brute of a game, and rarely does role-play enter into the equation, but here we have at least one game in which role play is the whole point. In Role Quest by Hercules Game Studios you assume secret characters, place them opposite one another in locations and situations, and act them out. It is down to your opposing players to guess who you were. Sounds fine. Until you add curses. Speaking in rhyme, singing, impersonating someone, some new complication to add to your efforts.
Best of all the game is limited to two rounds, and a time limit is set on each and every role-play, meaning that it’s a quick game that plunges you straight into a narrative, it’s over quickly to move on to something else, or to get another round in. Locations offer new options to alter the tactics of the game, treasures help twist the flow of the game, and there is a fixed point scoring system, but ultimately it’s a game of improvisational acting skills and character playing that’s great for people who don’t think they’re good at that sort of thing.
I think this is also one I ought to add to the GeekOut Shrewsbury library.
As I write this, the game has surpassed it’s funding goal of £4,500 in the last half hour or so with twenty one days (ending August 9th) left to go to achieve some stretch goals. So let’s take a look at what Hercules Games are going to funding…
There’s very little more to say about the game itself, especially now it’s past the finishing line, so let’s take a look at what Hercules Game Studios can do with just a little more money.
£5,000 At goal + 500 we see our first new location, The Guild. With only three locations, that could prove an essential for replayability.
£5,500 The City Guard is introduced as a new possible character, a classic for every fantasy setting.
£6,000 The Temple is added as another new location, which should also help boost the diversity of the game.
£7,000 A timer for every copy of the game to help keep things moving without the need for breaking out the clock on your phone. Of course supporting apps are ever more popular these days but they can often be poor compromise to having an actual timer to slam onto the table. But I digress.
With a fairly tight cluster of stretch goals and so much time left after hitting the 100% mark, Role-Quest might need to add more goals, and fast. Perhaps more characters and locations, but with a game this simple there is definite scope for expansions. At least one expansion has already been created (more info in the pledge rewards below) but I can think of several directions this game could take with very little thought.
So what do you get for your money?
Pledge £4 or more
Wizard Pledge: For each Wizard pledge, Alex, Phoebos or a guest will roleplay a personality of your choice on video after the end of the campaign (the personality must be appropriate for all audiences)
Interestingly there is no option for a £1 “tip jar”, I like that the most basic option still gives something back. Also, not included here is a retailer specific pledge, but go check out the campaign if you’re a stockist.
Pledge £15 or more
Innkeeper Pledge: One copy of Role Quest: the card game of legendary role-playing
Pledge £18 or more
Blacksmith Pledge: One copy of Role Quest: the card game of legendary role-playing and the mini expansion.
The expansion will be NSFW and for ages 18+, which I feel is a somewhat necessary addition to this game, not because I think the game will need it, but because for the type of people I play with, I will need it.
Pledge £29 or more
Mayor Pledge: Two copies of Role Quest: the card game of legendary role-playing and two copies of the mini expansion.
This may seem odd, but by the time you incorporate shipping – at least within the UK, US, and Germany – you’ve saved a total of £5, and more if shipping elsewhere in the world. It does become worth it to share the burden of your pledge for the sake of £2.50 each.
Pledge £59 or more
Necromancer Pledge: Necromancer’s don’t just play ordinary board games, they get a personalised card with their face and the Role Quest Role-Player’s handbook. Includes: Role Quest base game, NSFW Mini Expansion (ages 18+), Personalised Character Card, Role Quest Role-Player’s Handbook.
Currently about half of these remain, 22 out of 50. If you want a personal and unique touch added to your game then it may be worth looking into this option. I might not go for the whole thing, but I may be tempted by that Role-Player’s Handbook if it’s available separately after the pledges are completed. I’m a sucker for role-playing accessories, and this looks like a quick and easy way to create or adapt characters. The book can help turn Role Quest from a basic board game and turn it into something one might use to actually enact small role-playing games, or incorporate it into existing campaigns to create in-game impact.
I actually ran across the game at UKGE. I was plainly suckered in by the wheel-spin (I won a sticker, I am perfectly find with this) but I talked to the designers and was immediately quite interested. A means of creating short and punchy RP scenarios to play out short vignettes or to draw people into the concept of role-play is right within my wheelhouse. I sincerely wish Hercules Game Studios the best of luck, not just with Role-Quest, but in their future endeavours too.
In the mean time, check out the Kickstarter today.
I was recently a guest in a podcast. It’s nice to be asked, and Roll On The Adventure piqued my interest.
In the podcast, the panel create, playtest, discuss, and publish a quick role playing system. It’s a great little quick-fire collaborative effort with bad singing and excellent
Dave is a figure of no small renown in the role-playing event circuit, Dimitris is a published designer and gamer, and Chris – in addition to being a prolific player – will be joining me to host a panel at Amecon this year. The first arc of the series created a game called Temporal Stereotype Zoo, a game about time travel, kidnap and/or abduction, and stereotypes throughout history.
The call for this series was for player-vs-player action, and Dimitris suggested going down the fantasy route to keep things classical, Dave suggested players taking control of an entire fa (more…)
I’ve expressed an interest in diceless role-playing games for a few years now, but I’ve yet to be involved in a game that is completely without some influence of chance, even the odd playing card based game which wasn’t wholly without dice. Is It A Plane!? by Psychic Cactus Games is something rather different… actually something very different. Now funding on Kickstarter is a role-play about interpretation, and is going to be a must have for those who are quick on the draw. (more…)