A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

D&D: playing catchup

I've been lax in my posting about my ongoing D&D campaign. I'm lazy.

Sessions 9, 10, and 11 have passed. I'll at least summarize.

In session 9, the party had just left Moore's Creek with a small group of slaves. They were playing impostor as Athurn, a henchman of the Lathien family. They were to get another "package" on their way back to Drugen, which turned out to be a pair of cowled people, one of whom did not speak, the other spoke in a harsh accent. They traveled through the cold night and arrived at Drugen before dawn. Shortly after getting through the gate, Jerry's character, Father Kreuz, who has a particular passion for Orcs, noticed an orc-like smell from these two cowled individuals. With his mace in one hand, he reached over and tugged the hood off of one, and oh hey! an orc! Battle was suddenly joined in the dark and quiet streets of Drugen, and the snow was turned red with blood. The two orcs, one a cleric sort, the other his guard, proved to be tough, but the party dispatched them and took off toward the Lathien estate, with their semi-freed slaves tow, avoiding the town watch. They made it to the Lathien's walled compound, and sought to gain entrance. Employing the Athurn impersonation again, the tried to bluff their way into the compound but were had. In the ensuing fight and flight, some of the slaves that they were escorting were killed, while the two shifty ones escaped into the night.

Afterward, the party decided to try to track down the Orcs, wondering how and why orcs were being arranged to be smuggled into Drugen. They went back to Moore's Creek, fighting a bugbear ambush along the way. They made contact with Velder and started asking their questions. Velder wanted them to help him, in exchange for their information. One of his rivals, Palmer, was bringing gemstones into the town from elsewhere, and Velder wanted to know where they were coming from. The party saw that Palmer had some dealings with mercenary guards of some food warehouses, and so they got jobs with the mercenary company guarding these food warehouses. After a time, they were told that a wagon caravan was leaving in the night, and they were to make sure that it was not followed. They were given very specific instructions to stop along the trail one mile outside of Moore's Creek, and to wait there for two hours to make sure that no one followed, and then to go back to Moore's Creek, and absolutely not to follow the wagons further from there.

Naturally, the party decided to follow the wagons to see where they were headed. They soon saw that the wagons were headed into territory of the Red Hand orcs, some miles away from Moore's Creek. As they followed the wagontrail, they saw the site of an old battlefield. They noticed that there had been recent excavation, and it looked like someone was digging up mass graves, and extracting the bones. While some of the party picked over the excavation sites, the thief scouted ahead along the wagon trail, and where it entered thick woods, he spied some orcish sentries mounted on wargs. Under the cover of darkness, the party decided to stake out the excavation and the road, hiding within the treeline to watch both. Soon a group came out of the woods and onto the battlefield, and began to continue digging and putting bones into hand carts. The thief snuck closer, trying to see whether these were men or orcs, but he was seen by a guard, and he had his answer, half a dozen orcs mounted on wargs charged after him, while some of the diggers dropped their shovels and ran after as well. The party lured them into an impromptu ambush and soon overcame them. After, as night turned to day, they set off into the forest to see where the wagons had gone, and where these orcs had come from. After some distance, they saw ahead a clearing in the forest, and within the clearing, a large structure, still being constructed, but mostly finished. At its front, up some stairs was a large doorway, and before it, some empty wagons and some orc guards, as well as a large bell mounted from a frame with a mallet beside it.

They decided to attack, but wanted to keep the guards from sounding the bell in alarm. They had in their possession a scroll of silence and a scroll of arcane lock. There was a long distance from the cover of the trees up to the orcs and the bell. They formulated a plan to have some of the party, with the livery of the mercenary guards, approach the from the trees while two of the party snuck up from the opposite direction. Once their sneaks were in position to silence the bell and lock the main door, they attacked. Their plan went off well, and the alarm was not raised, as far as they could tell, with the bell silenced. They fought the orcs and overcame them, though one of the orcs proved especially tough. They looted the dead, and prepared to move into this structure, apparently a temple or fortress of Orcus.


The players officially named one of their strategies "The Striker Sandwich". They've had a goodly amount of success putting their two strikers onto a single opponent in order to quickly drop that opponent. It is not without its drawbacks though. The strikers are not built to absorb a lot of punishment, and the thief took a short dirt nap while they worked on dropping the toughest of the orcs.

I've noticed a difference between the stats for monsters in the Monster Manual, and monster stats generated via the formula from the DMG, with this monster math cruncher. I've found that I like the stats from the DMG formula better sometimes than the stats in the MM, because sometimes the MM stats seem bizarrely under powered.

The hardest thing about monsters on the fly, instead of straight out of the MM is their powerz. Players and monsters both get to do cool stuff, like big heavy-hitting attacks, or pushing opponents around, or buffing people, etc. And while I say that this is the hardest thing about original monsters, I have been having a great deal of success with simply plagiarizing from the Player Handbook. If I have a level 5 "soldier" monster, I just flip through the fighter powerz in the PHB and start stealing! Sometimes I come up with stuff just on the fly too, which is pretty easy. All I need to know is how many dice of damage its going to do, or how far it can push someone, or what have you. The rest is largely cool effect/flavor text.

Next week, Session 12. We'll see how things going inside the Temple of Orcus.

RPG Nostalgia

I don't know why I ended up on this kick, but I am.

Over the weekend I pulled out my old Lone Wolf books. They are "Choose your own adventure" style books written by Joe Dever. These were among my first forays into Role Playing and the Fantasy Genre. I remember getting my hands on them sometime around 1990. They're being republished currently by Mongoose Publishing, and Project Aon is publishing all of the books free online. Go check it out.

Also over the weekend, I dug up some Ultima IV on the intarwebs. Specifically, here, where is it freely available, and updated for modern systems, and with a graphics overhaul. I played this first on my Commodore 64, with a monochrome amber monitor, back in 1987 or 1988 probably. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I never finished the game, instead spending all of my time wandering the world, killing monsters and cheating blind herb salespeople. I barely scratched the surface of the game, really. I'm going to finish it this time.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I have a better plan

I'm no economist, but here's my plan for this economic crisis.

Lets let those big investment banks burn.
Edit - I had to fix my terribly flawed math.

Let's take that $700,000,000,000 in American Taxpayer dollars, and turn around and give each american $2,000. We'll still have some money left over!

I'm paying off some bills. How about you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


It is entertaining, but also annoying that I am so easily distracted by fun games.

Case in point - during a slow spot at work I ended up surfing stuff related to Paranoia, and Lone Wolf. Sadly, I would have to quit my day job if I were to run any more games than I am running now.

I'll just have to let these queue up!

Now that is a tough question





Monday, September 22, 2008


So I still feel sortof off of the blogging tip.

In part, I've somehow reached a point where I'm not sure what things are blog-worthy and what are not. In the past, my blog has been somewhat wide open. You've gotten everything from "I saw blah movie! it rocked!" to looooooong posts about gaming, to random updates about what's going on in my life. I've been writing as much for me as for you. I admit it: I enjoy going back a few months and reading about what I was up to. I'm a little narcissistic.

Big news is that Krissi is pregnant. We found out a bit ago, and she's just now entering the second trimester. Its exciting and scary stuff. We've been living it up as DINKs, with little responsibility outside of our bills and jobs and such. Having a kid will certainly mean that we cannot, for instance, spend the entire weekend ignoring all of our household chores and just be plugged in or reading a book or what have you. But I don't mean to sound negative. Its exciting, just different and new.

We went on a cruise for Krissi's 30th birthday. It was a 3 day cruise, and we had a great time. We saw Nassau, which we'd not been to before. The aquariums at the Atlantis resort were fantastic. We spent a great deal of time relaxing, reading, and taking it easy, which was excellent. We were SO tired though afterward. Even though I think we got a descent amount of sleep, and were not super busy on the cruise, the travel wore us out.

Rock Band 2 is out, and we picked it up and have been playing it. When we got back into town, the Williamsii and the Youngers came over and we played a ton of songs and had a great time. Love that game.

I've been playing Spore, and enjoying it. I got a little frustrated with the space stage, but I did a little research and am going to take another stab at it.

Been reading the George R. R. Martin books, and am almost finished with #3. I like them.

A lot of my attention has been going to into my RPG stuff as well. Working on a cure for the blues in my D&D game. Also doing some tweaking and stuff with my TSOY Thieves game.

Running: I'll get back to you on that.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Overly Complicated

So our most recent game of D&D had some difficulties, which I'll try to deconstruct here.

Since I know that at least two of my players read this, let me first make very clear that I'm not shifting blame to my players, or trying to be especially defensive. I'm just attempting to deconstruct things in the hope that I can work out what happened, why it happened, and how to avoid it or do it right in the future.

The problem, I believe, was that they players got frustrated with the lack of success or progress in their attempts to follow the plot. In a very broad sense, I think that I lost sight of what they were after, and I got way too tangential.

The players are following a thread in the game in which a family called the Lathiens seem to be somehow connected to a wicked cult of Orcus. The players have been trying to follow this down.

So far, they've sortof saved the neck of a fellow who was being hunted by the Lathiens, and they send that guy to Illyes. They discovered that a guy named Athurn was acting on the Lathiens behalf when he kidnapped a farm family. They ended up fighting and ultimately killing Athurn, and then did some sneaky stuff and intercepted a shipment of slaves destined for the Lathiens. They also ended up intercepting two orcs who were apparently being smuggled in to Drugen on the behalf of the Lathiens. However, this was where things got a little difficult. The players tried to sneak/beguile their way into the Lathien compound. As a DM, I had two choices, I could either start saying "yes", or roll dice. I went with rolling dice. Sometimes I like to keep things random, instead of just being the Ultimate Decider in stuff. In this case, the dice were not kind, and their ruse was foiled. The guards were onto them, the players fled, and the guards chased them. They fled from Drugen, and that was where we left off from the previous session.

In the future, I'm going to make a point to have some discussion at the end of a session if I don't have any idea what the players are going to get up to on the next session, so that I can prepare more. Last session, when they'd fled Drugen, we did not do any real discussion after, and so I didn't know what direction they were going to go. I don't feel that this has anything really to do with the problems of this past session, as I don't mind winging it, but I prefer to have some inkling as to which direction the players are headed.

After the session in which they'd fled Drugen, some of the players expressed some concern about having "broken" the adventure. I tried to explain that this is not the case, that they can't break it, cause its not written yet. I get the feeling sometimes that there is some conscious or unconscious reservations on the part of the players about not being on a tightly written adventure. And perhaps that ties in to some of the problems that we run into, or maybe I'm misreading my players. Put more plainly, when I tell my players "You are not on rails. THe story is not written yet. I'm responding to what you're doing.", they tell me something to the effect of "But its a giant sandbox and nothing is happening and we're bored!"

So, in my opinion, the problem was that I'd created plot that was too complicated, or too tangential, or my players are too easily frustrated, or all three.

I analogized that I'd blindfolded them, and placed them inside a home, and told them that there are three exits, and to find their way out. They felt along and found a door, went through it and were in a room, felt around and found another door, and when that door was not the exit, they threw up their hands in frustration. So either there were too many rooms in my analogy house, or they just gave up too quickly. Either way, like I said, I'm not trying to pass blame for a mediocre-at-best game session, instead just puzzle out what went wrong.

So lets assume that my players are blameless, and that I am responsible for fixing the problem. Going with that mindset, I need to simplify my plot and conspiracies, or at least make them more direct and less tangential.

In further detail, what happened previously was that after being chased out of Drugen, the players were still interested in the Orcus/Lathien thread, and figured that they had two routes to pursuing it, one being through the Lathiens, which they were at a loss on. They were completely unsure about how to get at the Lathiens. They figured that they could also pursue it via the orcs. The previous session had them picking up two orcs, that they later battled with in the streets of Drugen. They'd picked up the orcs via Velder (via Athurn, via the Lathiens). They decided to go back to Moore's Creek and talk to Velder and see if they could get onto the track of the orcs. I threw in a fight against some bugbears because, well, it IS D&D. They made it to Moore's Creek and tracked down Velder with only a small amount of trouble. As I recall, Velder was happy to give over some information, but not quite all. The party parted with some cash, and wanted to get in touch with the people that set Velder up with the orcs.

At this point, on a lark, I decided that Velder had some stuff that he needed doing, as opposed to simply wanting to get some cash for his info. Why? I like trying to create a world that lives and breathes around the players. I'm not interested in all of my NPCs simply being "quest givers", and entirely one dimensional. I like to try to give my major NPCs at least a couple of motivations and such. Anyway, I think that this was the beginning of our trouble.

Velder tells the group that one of his rivals in town, Palmer, is getting some gems from somewhere that he is using as payment and such. Velder wants to know where Palmer is getting the gems, and figures that the party isnt associated with his people, and could find out more than his own people can.

The party starts to track Palmer, trying to figure out an 'in'. Palmer goes to a number of warehouses and seems to conduct some business there. Also, Andrew's thief goes and breaks into Palmer's place to do some snooping. He finds a list of names with numbers beside them. One of the names is that of a mercenary company captain. This particular mercenary company guards the food stores for Moore's Creek. After a little more snooping, Andrew and Jason's characters ended up deciding to take jobs with the Merc company, guarding one of the warehouses, hoping to get an 'in'. The shift passed uneventfually, and shortly afterward, we wound down.

Now, without trying to show all my cards, my plan involved a link between Palmer, the gems, the food warehouses and its mercenary guards. The party was doing a fine job of trying to slowly pursue this, and all of their actions were moving them closer toward their goal. However, I think that my players felt that they were just floundering, and that I was letting them flounder.

So, I think that I need to have less convoluted plots. My players aren't stupid. They are however expecting more immediate rewards, I believe. I need to keep things to one or two levels of complication. If all of the cats in town are vanishing, it needs to be because a Nasty Monster is eating them, or it needs to be because a wizards apprentice is snatching them to give to his Nasty Monster, but it does not need to be... a wizards apprentice snatching them because his wizard master blackmails him into doing so because an orcish chief holds mystical power over the wizard and feeds the cats to his Nasty Monster. etc.

I also need to be more careful about getting too tangential. I need to remember that side quests are stand-alone, minor quests that are really pretty much optional. I need to keep my players goals in focus. Their goal in Moore's Creek was to find out how to get to the nasty orcses. Instead, I had them guarding food warehouses in the middle of the night to try to figure out where some gems are coming from. Simpler quests. Everything should work toward the goal, instead of going off in all different directions. I'll cite Lord of the Rings: everything in the books was done with focus on the main goal, that of returning the One Ring to Mount Doom.

So I need to find a balance. Crafting stories and adventures and plots that are memorable, and can hold a few surprises, but not ones that make my someone's brain hurt, or that start to read like the entire set of Robert Jordan books.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Approaches to Games

By "Games" I mean tabletop role playing games. But you assumed that, I bet.

It occurred to me that there are at least two ways that people approach a session or sessions of a role playing game.

There's "Beer and Pretzels", which needs very little explanation. Most games of D&D are this, heck - most role playing games are this.

"Serious Drama", Unlike the Beer and Pretzels approach, Serious Drama approaches role playing like people approach art or opera. This is "Serious Stuff". Not for kids or the faint of heart. In fact, one might not even want to refer to this as a "game". I'll pick on my own kind here when I say that folks in a Serious Drama game are likely to be elitist, aloof, a little snotty, and very particular about what goes on in the "game". LARPing and games like Vampire and some Indie RPGs can easily fall into this group.

I'm breaking these down because I noticed something recently on a gaming forum. Folks were discussing games in which "One person does something while everyone else twiddles their thumbs". I could be wrong on this, but I think that you'll find two things, that are sorta one, but I'll call them two.

One: You tend to only get this much in Serious Drama games. The rest of them let the players run around as a team or group, and often their goals are not so wildly divergent that they end up all over the map.

Two: The only games that this would be tolerated in anyway are Serious Drama games. Your average D&D player is going to get bored and start playing Yatzee after about 5 minutes of Watching Someone Else Do Stuff. And I don't blame them. Watching other people play games while you wait around is boring.

Let me pause for a second and note that I'm not trying to say that you have to involve everyone at the table, every second of the game. I feel compelled to throw in the word "FUN", all caps. The whole point of the first form, the Beer and Pretzels gaming, is fun. You guys could theoretically be playing a game of Talisman or watching Lord of the Rings, and having a great time too. While Serious Drama is a little different. Its not that you can't have fun, or that its not supposed to be fun, but its more serious than that. It means to be. It requires more investment, more time and focus, and those that favor that type of game would probably argue that the reward is greater.

I think people will tend to be in one of the two pools, and while you'll find some exceptions, I think that finding people who can hop between those two types of games are somewhat uncommon.

Sarah Palin

Please please please please no.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Few Things That Are Cool

1. Spore

I've had my eye on this for some time now. I think it is pretty cool so far. I know there is some uproar about the draconian DRM licensing stuff, and I hope that EA will fix that. There's also some discussion about it being "boring". I dunno about that. I can only speak for myself, and only time will tell, and other cliche's, but I'm enjoying it so far!

2. Metallica - Death Magnetic

I love this album. I'm a big fan of Metallica. I love the old stuff, and I enjoy alot of the "newer" stuff. This album is hard like the old stuff, and I've totally been rocking out to it.

3. True Blood

That's the show on HBO that premiered this past Sunday. I like it alot! I'll stay tuned!

Friday, September 5, 2008

More on Stakes in TSOY

(As a followup to my previous post on our recent Shadow of Yesterday game)

For simplicity sake, here are some ways that stakes can work in tsoy:

win/lose: "If you win this dice roll, your action is a success. If you lose, its not and you fail." I generally think that these kind of stakes are boring and try to avoid them.

win/complicated win: "If you win the dice roll, your action goes off without a hitch. If you lose, you still did what you wanted to do, but it just got complicated - more guards just came in, or you realized that its a trap and they were waiting on you, or your sword/lockpick/gun/tools break during the process, etc" I love this kind of stakes, and usually try for this kind of thing. I think that it is important to note that these stakes are actually toying with the facts in the game, beyond "Am I successful or not?".

Its worth noting that Role Playing games are all about using dice to determine facts - Dungeons and Dragons does it - you roll your d20 to hit the orc, pick the lock, jump the wall, etc. Did you succeed at your task, or fail, you ask. The dice answer.

TSOY has taken this a step further, and that's one of the reasons that I love the game so much. Dice checks are usually very binary, the answer is either Yes or No. TSOY changes that, and lets you talk about what "yes" or "no" means.

I recently got to play with Inspectres, and read through Houses of the Blooded. Both systems use mechanics that turn over some narrative control of the game to the players. The players get to say "This happens." Which is totally cool.

I have always run TSOY in a somewhat traditional fashion. I, the GM, know what is happening in the story, and through the game I share that with the players. I have a cast of good guys and bad guys, I have a plot, I know where the McGuffin is, and what it does. The players are along for the ride, to interact with the story that I've created. The difference with this game was that I pitched that out the window. Kindof by accident. I mentioned in my previous post that we did some stakes like: "Win - Stephan walks right into you, Lose - he went into hiding somewhere that is going to be damn tough to reach." This makes me froth at the mouth a little because I let the players decide how the game goes. Right now, brewing in my head are stakes like "We arrive at the keep of our dear Uncle Bob, how's he doing these days? We'll roll our Socialize skill. On a win - he's doing just dandy and there's going to be a huge gala held here in just two days, woo! On a loss - he just died from an assassins dagger, like - two minutes ago. The keep is in an uproar!"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thieves of Highwater Street: Sibling Rivalry

I had the pleasure of running one of the coolest sessions of Shadow of Yesterday ever.

After a very long wait, we picked back up with the Thieves Guild themed game of Shadow of Yesterday with Michael and Kelly. This time, we had those two, Jason, Michael's wife Beth, Doug and Sonya.

Beth had not played with us before, and was new or pretty new to role playing games. Doug and Sonya were new introductions to me. Both have played role playing games, and Doug had played or run a FUDGE game once before.

In order to simplify things, speed things up, and give us some good story hooks, I created character backgrounds for everyone, and let everyone get familiarized with them.

Each character had a few secrets from the other characters. We are not doing any sort of PvP, but there's certainly some subterfuge and conspiracy at play. We discussed handling these secrets in a Cards Up or Cards Down fashion. Cards Up indicates that we as players are all In The Know. Like the audience in a book or movie, we already know the juicy secrets. This style is better suited to casual, easygoing and friendly play. Cards Down indicates that we keep all the dirty secrets until they come out in play. As a group, we decided on Cards Up. During our quick Spilling Of Secrets, Michael mentioned that his character Thomas had a crippled father, and because of that, he worked for the Guild, to keep his family fed. Doug spoke up and asked if he could add to the background info, and asked if his character could have, on orders, been the one who broke Thomas' father's back. Oh Hell Yes.

I began by outlining that the players formed part of the Highwater Street Crewe. Not all of it though, as there are "bit players", or cronies who do stuff off screen as well. The crewe had a few things that needed to be accomplished. They still needed to turn up the missing courier and gems that their boss, Malek, wanted. They also needed to make sure that they were collecting "protection money" from the businesses around Highwater. I explained that they had a short list of establishments that had not or would not hand over money. They started at the Golden Drink gambling den, looking to secure some cash from the owner. He told them that he had little cash, and that his business had dried up in recent days. They asked as to why, and he told them that his customers had instead been buying some kind of narcotic off of some hooligans up the street, and he pointed them out. Now, Doug was aware that his character had a brother who had recently arrived in Highwater. This brother had falled in with some street punks who were selling a narcotic. Doug asked if his brother was among them. Yes. He took off up the street to get his confrontation on. He got into a physical altercation with his little brother and the two toughs with him, and we went to dice. Simple stakes, Doug won. He intimidated an agreement out of his brother to leave the dope alone and get lost, and his brother took off.

They headed on down the street, debating whether to look into the missing gem courier, or into the businesses that they needed money from. They passed by a group of city militia harassing two young men. The goody-two-shoes Lieutenant was with the guards, as well as the tough-but-corrupt watch Sergeant. The two young men were familiar to the characters, one of them being an errand boy for the Guild. Kelly's character, who has a bone to pick with the city militia, along with Beth's character, marched up to the guardsmen and started in sarcastically on the Sergeant. Soon, they could see that the watch was going to let the young men go, and Kelly's exchange with the guardsmen began to get dangerous. Beth's character chilled things out by getting them out of the confrontation, once they saw that the young men would be released.

Soon they passed the business of a dock hauler, one of the businesses that had not paid up. They debating how to deal with them, considering some options, before deciding that they needed to make an example of someone, and preferably a somewhat easier target than a bunch of haulers. They settled on a well-to-do seamstress shop just up the street. When they walked up to the shop, they recognized a young man sitting outside the shop os one of the Brickdown Street Crewe, a rival crewe to the north, and headed by the son of the Underboss. He told the characters that this seamstress shop belonged to the Brickdown Crewe now, and that Underboss Malek had given it to them. There was much consternation and discussion about this. Soon, Sonya's character went in to the shop to talk to the owner. The owner became concerned about the prospect of being caught in the middle of a Guild dispute, but Sonya's character assured her that it would be handled without any problem, and said that she would need to be giving her Guild payments to them instead of the Brickdown crewe. Headed by Michael's character, the rest of our crewe soon ran the lone Brickdown fellow off. He threatened a bit, and left.

The crewe decided that they wanted to do some hunting for the gem courier, and sought out the other gambling hall in Highwater, the Lady's Dice, and things began to pick up. Up until this point, we'd only rolled dice once or twice over the entire evening. I was having a blast narrating and playing the NPCs, and the players seemed to be having a fine time doing what it was that they were doing. At the Lady's Dice, Kelly's character did some socializing, and Sonya's character went and talked to one of the bouncers. She had taken Secret of Contacts, and decided that this bouncer was a contact of hers, a good buddy. He came clean that they'd underpaid a little, but he'd not seen this gem courier. Sonya asked if he hung out with the bouncers at the other places, and if he might be able to coax any information out of them. A light came on above my head, and I said sure - that we could go to dice for it. If Sonya won, then the bartender left work after a few hours, went and hung out with his buddies, asked them about the gem courier and got a lead. If she lost, his buddies had no information for him. This was solid gold. Tons of gift dice came out, and she handily won the contest. Her bouncer friend informed her that the gem courier who'd been thrown out into the gutter in front of the Golden Drink gambling hall, had been rolled by some punk kids.

Doug immediately expressed concern over whether his brother had been involved in this, and there was much speculation around the table. The crewe decided to go off in search of the brother, Stephan. They weren't sure where he'd be hiding, so they decided to start checking at the homes of relatives. They went by an Uncle's place, and Doug's character asked his uncle if he'd seen Stephan. The uncle replied "no", and I told Doug that we'd need to go to dice. The uncle was lying, and the dice would tell us whether he was fooled by it or not. The dice came up a tie, and Doug decided to bring down the pain. Thanks to lucky rolling on my part, and unlucky rollng on Doug's part, he finally Gave, and his character left, frustrated.

The crewe regrouped in the street, and debated their next move. They still wanted to find Stephan, and Jason proposed a dice roll to try to get some word as to where Stephan was hiding. Jason went for big stakes, and proposed that if he won, Stephan walked right into them. Wanting to meet his stakes scope, I said fine, and that if he lost, Stephan had gone and sought shelter with their rivals, the Brickdown crewe. Gift dice flew at Jason, and he won handily.

They grabbed Stephan and the guy with him, and began trying to get information out of him. We went to dice, and they learned the names of three street punks who'd done the rolling.

Quick note:

Stakes in TSOY have always been awesome. Letting stakes decide truths in the game, and the direction that the story and narration goes? AWESOME.

This was a fairly quick writeup, and I may post more about it later.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Houses of the Blooded

Houses of the Blooded is a new indie RPG that pimps itself as "anti-D&D". It goes on to say that while D&D is a game about bad asses that roam the land without any real bond or connection or tie, and often with little regard for law, Houses of the Blooded is a game about people who are bound to and connected to the land, and for whom laws are everything.

Oh - you can get the PDF for five bucks here.

Here's my brief rundown on it, with my thoughts.

The players take the role of "Blooded Ven". Blooded = nobles, ven = the race of people that populate this corner of the world. The game is part Role Playing Game, and part Domain and Resource Management game. And while you could almost call them two separate games, they're totally linked together.

On the role playing side of things, its a heavily narrativist system that uses pools of d6's, and wagers in order to get to narrate facts about the events at hand. It uses Aspects, which may be familiar to you if you've read Spirit of the Century or FATE. The characters are all land owning nobles, and there are definite rules to live by, or in some cases, flaunt. Think rules like the rules in Vampire the Masquerade/Requiem. The players can expect to go to social events and practice their charm and subterfuge and intrigue on other NPCs and players. I happen to be currently reading George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series, and I cannot help but make comparisons. Words are dangerous, and Insults can quickly get you involved in Duels.

The domain management side of things plays in a way that reminds me of Birthright - an old school D&D game about nobles. You start with some land, and some details about that land, and you can select some vassals. Each Season, you have a number of Domain Actions that you can perform, depending on your lands and your vassals. Also, vassals can perform some domain actions for you. You can improve your lands and infrastructure, explore new areas, deal with troublesome bandits in your lands, produce goods, trade those goods, create fantastic works of art, hire new vassals, etc. I have a weak spot for domain management games, and so I've already been hungrily eyeing this portion of the game.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A game about superheroes

Got a few things to post about. I'll get to them each in turn.

First, we got to hang out with the Williamsii over the Labor Day weekend, which was great. We played Marvel Ultimate Alliance on the Xbox360 which was a lot of fun.

But I need to direct some feedback to the many console game developers that read this blog.

Why do your "Action RPG" games contain a large element of play that can be defined as: "Smashing boxes"?

I'm not saying that this is the first or only game in which I've had to do silly and contrived things during gameplay, but this one and its predecessor just have a whole lot of crates and lockers and walls and things that need to be smashed. Its great that people keep money in them, and occasionally items, but I hope that you understand that while your game is fun, our banter goes like this:

"These crates will rue the day that they aligned themselves with Doctor Doom!", or

"So our mission is to save the computer that this database is on, right? Do we just have to smash ever piece of furniture in the base except for the main computer, right?"

Here's my point: Next time - be a little more creative, and have us to less crate smashing. Its dumb.