2/28/2009

How I play the game

This is a re posting. I am still too busy to do a real post, but someday soon real life will no longer interfere with my blogging life. I wrote this post originally as my first post for the RPG Bloggers network and then foolishly backdated it by accident, so I'm pretty sure a lot of people haven't read it. The post sums my play style and general philosophy of role playing.

To me, world and campaign building are the meat and potatoes of role playing. I am a homebrewer through and through. I hardly use any published material, as a matter of fact the amount of RPG books that I own can fit neatly on one small shelf. On the other hand the amount of homebrewed material that I have wouldn't fit neatly into a large room. Creating worlds and campaigns is what I do best, and its what I love most about gaming.

I have used many game systems over the years, but I find myself becoming more indifferent to the system with age. I've always found that you can argue the virtues of a game system until the cows come home, but the system isn't worth shit without great adventures, cool campaigns and an awesome world to host them in. You can always change the game system you're playing, but you can't turn off the suck from a terrible campaign. For me play trumps system any day.

I like to build my gaming worlds with as little detail as possible to begin with, usually just a map and jot notes about the overall concept. I like to be able to sum up the entire world in three paragraphs (I've also found three paragraphs to be the maximum mental retention for the average player... I'm being facetious, but only slightly). This allows for evolution during play and gives plenty of freedom for my players to rock out with their characters.

For campaigns I create the meta plot first and just let the players do what they want, working out the details as we go. I have found that allowing my players ambitions in the game to be more important than my own ambitions in the game, always results in an awesome campaign. This doesn't mean that I don't spin a good yarn when we play, it just means that I let them "play" their characters the way they want, and I facilitate their experience in the game world... and sometimes punish their stupidity, which is also quite fun.

My in game play style is what I would call organized improvisation. I prep minimally and leave lots of space for development as we play. I know the world and the campaign, but I don't know where the players will end up over the course of a game session. This might terrify some gamemasters, but I love it. I'm playing the game too, and improvising keeps me on my toes and playing right there with the PC's.

That's how I play the game, what about you?

2/22/2009

Awesome Pic of the Week

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, my real life has been busy so of course my blogging life has suffered. I should be back to blogging sometime this week with new posts on a regular basis and a few new features.

This weeks awesome picture comes from the master himself, Frank Frazetta, arguably the best fantasy/science fiction artist of all time. If you are unaware of Franks art, and it is almost unimaginable to me that anyone would be, you NEED to check it out. This is the man who created the archetypal image of conan, and almost every fantasy artist that has followed after him has been influenced by his style.

So without further ado this weeks awesome pic, Dark Kingdom by Frank Frazetta.

All I can say is I want all my characters to look this badass, and be doing whatever it is he is doing.

What do you think?

2/11/2009

I am preparing several new posts for the site and they will be up in a few days. In the meantime, just for fun I am re-posting the first post I wrote here at rule of the dice. Just so everyone knows, I am an old school gamer who started with OD&D and I still love a good old school megadungeon from time to time. This is just for fun, if you happen to take offense to it you can go here instead.

The top ten ways to know you're an old school gamer

10. You still think Elves should be a class.

9. You always make at least three characters per session.

8. You have at least one story of someone whose D&D books were burned by overzealous Christian parents.

7. You bought the wilderness survival guide, unfortunately.

6. The only threefold model you understand is this one.

5. You think everyone needs more orc’s in their game.

4. Gnome Illusionists.

3. You don’t understand why everyone hates THAC0.

2. You were there for the release of the original Dark Dungeons Chick Tract.

1. You skip straight to the dungeon.

2/05/2009

If you talk about alien abductions, shape changing pan dimensional beings and the secret cabal of the Illuminati in real life you probably need a psychiatrist. In real life conspiracy theories are ridiculous, but for role playing games they're great. Using conspiracies in a game add depth and a sense of mystery to a campaign.

Imagine playing a modern game where the Illuminati were the sinister group conspiracy theorists believe, and they were really trying to bring about a new world order. Throw in some David Icke pan dimensional reptilians and you have the makings of a great campaign.

Its fairly easy to translate conspiracies to any game world from our own world. Take the DaVinci Code, for example. Every scholar worth their salt knows the Da Vinci Code conspiracy is nonsense, but it does make for an excellent story, as Dan Brown's bank account can surely attest. But the premise is easily translated into a campaign. What if that famous prophet wasn't really what he's claimed to be, and the vast power structure of your worlds religion is based on a lie. Now the PC's have just discovered the scrolls that reveal the truth and are lost in the depths of the conspiracy trying to find their way out. Throw in some pan dimensional reptilians and BAM, adventure gold, trust me you'll understand in 2012.

There are thousands of wacky conspiracy theories out there to plunder for great adventure material. We all want to believe... just don't believe too much.

Do you use conspiracies in your games?

2/04/2009

Down and dirty NPC creation

Lets face it most NPC's are fodder for the hero machine. You will be lucky if your players remember your NPC names, let alone the details of their lives and interests. So because of this I find it best to create as little as possible in the beginning and fill in the details as you go. I call this down and dirty NPC creation and its served me well for years.

Before you even start creating an NPC you should first consider these three things:

1. Remember that no one gives a rats ass about your pet NPC's

That's right no one cares that Sir Fightsalot has an awesome back story and all sorts of cool skills and powers. As I said before, you will be lucky if your players remember your NPC name.

2. Speaking of names

Give your NPC's great names. There are many awesome name resources on the internet, so there is no excuse for creating lame ass names (except maybe ignorance). If you want the players to remember your NPC's they have to have great names... or really stupid ones.

3. The best NPC's evolve with the game

Leave room for the NPC to evolve with the game world and in the campaign. If you create everything all at once and the PC's don't care in any way about the NPC, the only thing you have succeeded in creating is wasted time.

Now you've considered the above and categorized the NPC you can start the creation process. I have always found the simple journalistic five W's (and one H) to be the best formula for the initial creation. You don't need much more than a few sentences for each, just enough information for the NPC to make sense.

Who - Who is this dude or dudette and whats their name?

What - What is their motivation and what part do they play in the campaign?

Where - Where are they from?

When - When did or does the NPC become relevant to the campaign?

Why - Why is the NPC relevant to the campaign?

How - How are you going to fit this character into the campaign?

You can expand and detail more as the NPC is used over the course of the game. As for stats, just write a bunch up one day when you're bored and assign them as needed. Thats it, simple down and dirty NPC creation.

How do you create NPC's for your campaigns?

2/03/2009

Awesome Pic of the Week

This weeks awesome pick of the week is from a warhammer concept drawing. I don't know the name of the artist but its from the wild elves concept art on the Games Workshop site. Warhammer has some of the coolest art in gaming, I might even be so bold as to say they might have the best art in gaming. The art is dark and really portrays a gritty world, and if you've ever played the Warhammer RPG you'll know that the game is very dark and gritty.

So here is the awesome pic of the week:

To me this picture is what a crazy fantasy battle should look like. Wild Elves on horses fighting beastmen, while giants and walking trees look on, its pretty awesome. This would be a great scene to reenact in a game, an awesome epic battle in the forest. It makes me want to play warhammer again.

What ideas come to you when see this pic?

2/02/2009

I have a love/hate relationship with magic systems in role playing games. I haven't had to worry about using a magic system in my last few campaigns because we were playing in a very low magic world. The campaign I am currently working on is going to be a standard fantasy world where magic is relatively prevalent, and this raises the irritating question of what kind of magic system do I want to use.

The game system I'm using is going to be a stripped down d20 (no feats or powers, or 4e generally) with a mingling of old school AD&D thrown in for colour. I would love to have my own game system up and running, but time and wanting to actually play are outweighing that project so it can simmer on the back burner for a while longer.

You might be wondering why I'm not using D&D's magic system, and the answer would be, I fucking hate D&D's magic system, and always have. I might lose old school cred (I don't think I have any anyways) for that statement, but who cares. D&D's magic system will not fit what I'm looking for, and unfortunately I don't think anything will. I need a completely original system, and that's where you come in.

I need help designing a magic system, obviously. If you have any cool or insightful ideas I would love to read them. If you help me I can offer lots of gratitude and praise, but not much else. But you will have the satisfaction of knowing that a fellow GM thinks your idea is awesome and is going to use it in his game.

I have four criteria that I want the magic system to meet:

1. The magic must make sense.
I know this sounds silly, it is magic after all, but knowing how magic works and why is very important. Who can use magic, and what is its relationship to the world and the worlds physics etc... these all have to make sense and be translatable into game terms.

2. Magic has to be more than just spells.
What is the philosophy of magic and why is it used. I don't want a magic system that is only a series of progressive spells and nothing more, it has to be more meaningful than that.

3. Magic is magic.
Magic is undifferentiated. Priest, wizards, shaman and everyone else have access to the same powers, but for different reasons.

4. Magic has to be awesome.
That's all, it just has to be awesome.

If you want to help me out leave a comment. Please help me by doing my work for me... seriously, I will think you're awesome forever.