Monday, November 30, 2009

Reading Materials 1

So I am reading the Free Council book for Mage: the Awakening.

Its nice read for one of White Wolf's splat books. I admit it: I'm addicted to such splat books. Organization and political books fascinate me in RPGs. The Mage order books are fairly inspirational.

But the Free Council book is awesome in its Character inspirations and ideas for Chronicles. Several ideas come pounding at after reading it.

Great book. Glad I bought it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The BARONY: An Odd Change of Pace

So. A odd occurrence happened.

I just recently have been 'installed' as a GM in a Pathfinder game. My opinions on d20 aside, I decided to take a different tack with this game. I steered the game as far as I could in very MEDIEVAL direction. A attempt to put the realism first in a fantasy game. In other words, I was certain it wouldn't work with my players. So I'm going to just share what I did, what the setting looks like and, well, show what I think made the character creation successful.
Character Creation
I went gone ahead designed the group template:
"You've hit the big time. The Baroness has knighted you, making you minor nobles and members of the Order of the Emerald Stallion. Now, you're working directly for Baroness Lady Sotira Greenhall. As her vassals, you obey the word of Marshal Yahma and help keep the peace.

"The large Barony of Greenhall can grant rewards to its loyal servants, from land to titles to households with servants. The game covers the missions of the Emerald Stallion, from their week to week adventures."

Thats right. Its a story about a group of Knights (the TITLE, not the Class). Minor nobles. Hell, if I could I might've tried to get my players to try diving into Houses of Blooded, since its been inspiring me thus far. But I don't have them too attracted to that yet. But I can try to bend d20 back until it feels like it.

Anyway, its a sandbox game. There is a 'big bad' and the players seem to be interested in following some sort of plot. During Character Creation I wanted each of them to have some random elements in their characters, yet not to have to do all the work that is involved with creating d20 characters. I used stat arrays, had them roll for hit points, roll for random traits, etc.

Then I had them each detail 3 NPCs, just with a Name and a Relationship. Since there were four players, the next step worked out. I had each of them define three true things about the NPCs the other players had created. Essentially building a social network around them. Its an idea mostly fostered by John Wick and his work. The last thing I did was use a mechanic I call Karma points but really stole from John Wick again.
The point was to reward players for doing what I liked and wanted, and to punish them for doing anything that I didn't like. Karma let me do that. And the players picked up on their importance. All of them also tried to add to the setting, which was great. It allowed them to create truly great character backgrounds. Enough for me to totally mess them. You know, make the game fun.
Then I improvised the first game with some goblins- essentially a test run for their characters. Altogether, they all walked away happy and entertained and wanting more. Yep. I did what I was supposed to.
The Barony of Greenhall is a vassal state under a greater political body, the Inland Empire. Its ruled by the Baroness, whose been in office for a little over a year. As part of a shakedown, she has added new knights to the rolls to change things up. The players work out of Crossroads, the City of Curses. Over the last year, most of the criminal elements in the Barony have united under the banner of the Bandit Queen.
Here is a map of the city of Crossroads for you:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mage: Equinox: The Characters

Campaigns and Chronicles are meaningless without characters. For Equinox, I have two players with two characters. I'm going to go into each of them, without rules explanation, just their bits of flavor. These are Mage: the Awakening characters, so a lack of setting knowledge may or may not make it harder for you to understand.

The Esteemed NYU Professor of Chemistry

Name: Xavier Cohen
Path: Moros
Age: 38

Xavier is the one teacher that the students under him dislike and hate. It isn't out of disrespect or the way he teaches- it is more out of a fear of him. He has worked at the University for almost a decade, his one favorite student and friend turning out to be Marte.

Xavier is a Orthodox Jew- not that he is religious. He doesn't attend services much anymore. His wife also is on the University staff as a Librarian. And his young son dislikes science and even his father a bit.

His Awakening occurred during a normal day. He received an odd skull from a mysterious stranger, which drew his curiosity. When he left for the night, to go check on his grandmother's estate, a ancient small home in the East Village. En route, he came across a graveyard decorated with symbols similar to the one on the skull he had received.

The curiosity got to him.

Xavier went to a grave that matched the skull's symbol. And he then he stepped into the dead plains of Stygia.

The Up and Coming Politician
Name: Marte Garcia
Path: Obrimos
Age: 26

Marte was raised by Catholic nuns. He was a foundling, and Sister Rosemary was probably the only adult the child ever trusted. He was betrayed by people who should know better. Priests. Foster parents. People. Authorities.

Although he's Catholic, Marte really isn't that religious. He learned more about morality from the Mob than he did from Catholicism. He went to NYU and got a MBA. He even dabbled in stocks and investments. But he decided that perhaps he could change the way things functioned. Become the authority and change the hierarchy. So he has started to enter politics and became a city councilman.

His Awakening was like Xavier's. He got a present from a mysterious stranger. A large chess piece- the white King. But instead of a cross atop its head, it had a upside down pentacle on it. Attached was a invitation to a nightclub in SoHo. It was called the Fifth Sun.

So he went. Out of curiosity, if you will.

Once there, the DJ had a black queen with her. She invited him into a backroom. It was covered hundreds of sigils and signs. And clouds. And angels. And light. His senses ignited as he stepped into the skies of the Aether.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mage: Equinox Notes 2: Seasons

One of the things I once used to great effect in a game I ran was the idea of 'Seasons'. Like TV shows here in America, I'd try to break my campaign/chronicle down to a limited amount of adventures. I'd try to ahead of time decide the number of adventures- or episodes for the sake of analogy. I considered it a great creative boon for writing long plots. If you know its going to only last ten adventures, then you can go ahead and try foreshadowing in adventures two and three.

The other advantage of the use of Seasons is that it allowed me to End the Campaign on a note. I always approached the end of a Season with a finale- meant to cut off the campaign and end it nicely. When I've run games that didn't use the Seasons idea, they kinda just lingered and died. The story was still there, but it had faded away, and never really was resolved like it could be. Unfortunately, this style sometimes can conflict with the idea of a the super-long serial type game.

As for Equinox, I think its 'Season' might consist of 15 episodes. The goal being to reach a stellar conclusion at the end of 15 episodes will be a great goal. Hopefully by then I'll have obtained the inspiration for another game.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mage: The Equinox Notes Part 1

So I've sent out some emails and got some notes down for the upcoming Mage game. Among the things I've noted and tossed out is the Group Template. I first learned of it from the guys at Fear the Boot.

Listen to me, like I know them or something. Ha. Anyway, back to the Group Template.

I love the idea of the Group Template. Its a great concept, where the entire party in the game share a common history and relationship. It avoids the age-old tavern meet between strangers. I like it because it makes the roleplaying easier.

I've only gotten it to work right, and that involved the right players and the right amount of control over character creation. It was my Werewolf game, the Robot Lords. Games where I've been a player and not a GM, I've been unable to get the idea across. Not the same group of players as the Werewolf group mind you. But in the latest pathfinder game one of the other players told me that he 'wondered what was the point' of that. Yep. Backstory of a character to him was pointless.

As a GM and Storyteller, I can't and don't think that way. I love character backstory and always try to use it best I can. It helps write the story for me. So to encourage group unity and get some ideas rolling, I always have tried to use a Group Template.

How it works:
The Group Template, to work its best, needs to be the first step in character creation. Now, character creation needs, no SHOULD be done in group. I've tried to iterate this many, many, many times to my own players: GROUP character creation. Learn what group you belong to and why your characters get along.

Quick Aside on that: Character Creation should be shared if possible, mostly to share ideas. Sometimes other players can actually HELP you get a backstory figured out with questions and the like.

First make a group concept. Is the group a paramilitary squad? A order of knights? A cabal of wizards? Are they all dedicated to the pursuit and elimination of the same villain? Have they all died and come back the same way? What is the binding trait among them?

This can be simple or complex. No wrong answer.

After you know the group concept, go ahead and try to define the shared history between your characters. What has the group done and experienced together? Have they already faced a dozen battles together or did they all share the same lab table when they were created?


I'll post more thoughts on this later. Current theme ideas for the game:

Chronicle/Cabal Ideas:
Day and Night
Impending Doom
New York City (manhattan)

See ya

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Werewolf's End

The werewolf game has reached its end. When a game goes on hiatus, in my view, its the death knell of the campaign. I don't want it to be shelved, but reasons beyond my control force my hand.

So the next game idea has come up. I'm down to 2 players (which I've run games for before) and we've decided to try out Mage: The Awakening. I've never run a Mage game before (old or new World of Darkness). Nor have any of my players played in one. So it balances out. Unlike my Werewolf game, I'm keeping completely to the new World of Darkness, ignoring the entirety of the old setting. In werewolf, I had to rework alot of the rules to fit. With Mage, I can leap in without too much heavy rules revision.

John Wick had suggested once a reward rule I think I might try out. He called it 'pushes', and I think it can be easily translated into the storytelling system. Now, the point of the 'pushes' is to reward the players and characters. Whenever they do something kewl, or just something you want to reward, you give them a 'push'. They in turn, can use a push to change dice results. Yeah, this system can tweak out the 'balance' of the game.

Muh. Give the players a bit of power and let them guide the direction of the story I say. Makes writing everything easier. Pushes and other things also help keep the players from dying left and right.

Well. Time to research New York City for ideas...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Campaign Notes 1

I've started a new blog to record some ideas of mine and post them on the web. These ideas pertain to my campaigns and stories. Its my little thought-design-diary.

Hopefully my players won't find it.

The Robot Lords is a odd creation for a RPG game. For me, anyway. The game uses a bit of World of Darkness from all over. The players are Werewolves ported straight from Werewolf: the Apocalypse; the rules set is a amalgamated mesh of old World of Darkness and the new World of Darkness. In addition, the game is set in Chicago, 2004. Its focus in on a CyberPunkish look at Werewolves, and to see if they can handle the Machine without losing the Wolf inside.

A hiatus in the game, about a month or so of not playing it, motivated me to try a new tack for when it came back up to run again. I've decided to skip the timeline of the game ahead by a year. This is clearly a habit of some shows, but for me it felt necessary. The skip benefits the pace of the game, and lets my players not feel pressured to remember everything that has happened in the game thus far.

My style benefits from such skips. I've noticed this, and I like to make my stories and plots last years, not merely a two week period during the summer. My previous successful Eberron campaign, The Finders, made it clear to me that I do better at improvisation. I think that the idea of plotting out a beginning and a ending is the best parts for a adventure. I rather ignore the middle portion, and let the players figure it out on their own. It forces their creativity, and the challenge of making stuff on the spot thats reasonable and moves the story toward the ending, that satisfies me.

I have yet to run the game. I suspect it'll be a good time to run it again.