#RPGaDay2019 30th August: ‘Connection’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 30: Connection

When it comes to a character generation I’m a firm believer in the requirement that each character have a connection to the rest of the group. I absolutely hate the random party that came together by pure chance or strangers that met in a tavern. It’s just a bad way to start a campaign and I’ve seen too many flounder because the group have no reason to stay together. My exception to this are games with limited run lengths such as one shots. For those it makes sense that a single event might bring people together without requiring that they stay together afterwards.

As for forming those connections between characters I use the session 0 approach, otherwise known as talk to your players. For some campaigns I’ll make use of a more formal approach such as those outlined in Fate or Smallville but most of the time I leave it more vague. We’ll discuss the campaign setting, what we’re after and most importantly how it is going to open. That provides a clear demarcation point, allowing us to set up the events that have led to this moment in time and explain why everybody is willing to work together.
 

#RPGaDay2019 29th August: ‘Evolve’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 29: Evolve

The way I approach gaming has definitely changed over the years and I hope that it continues to evolve in the future. When I first started I was very focused on the numbers. Bonuses, weapon stats, combining x and y to get something better than z. I suspect a lot of that came from my wargaming background, where working out the best combos was an essential part of putting together an army. The second driver was that I got into RPGs at the point in my life where I found myself with disposable income for the first time. As a player I avoided adventure books but was more than happy to scour eBay for the other various sourcebooks that were available for Torg, my gateway game into the hobby.

Since those early days how I game has changed. I rarely play now, preferring instead to GM and most recently I’ve been exploring design and publishing. My preference for games has shifted towards more lightweight systems but not so far as to be heavily into storygames. Mechanics still appeal to me, its just that these days I prefer for them to flow better with the story as opposed to being something that pulls me out of it. In contrast to many gamers I seem to have drifted away from online games, despite them being a big focus for me previously so it is interesting to hear about how that side of the hobby continues to evolve and push the boundaries of how what a game is.

#RPGaDay2019 28th August: ‘Love’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 28: Love

I don’t tend to proactively include love stories in games that I’m running. A large part of that is because I want to avoid the ‘hero gets the girl’ trope that’s in too many action/adventure stories. If I’m running a game that’s meant to be action focused then that is what I will bring to the table.

The exception is when a player brings it to the table, at which point I will actively promote it. During the last Legend of the Five Rings campaign I ran three of the five characters had love interests. One was blissfully married and ended up sacrificing his honour to return home to his family while the other two were in a complex mess of political betrothals and lost loves that culminated with one being compelled (aided by a little bit of brainwashing) to sabotage the wedding ceremony of the other. It was one of the highlights of the campaign and prompted some incredible RP.

Looking back I wish more players were interested in those story beats as I would happily run more relationship based games. While I’ve only played it once Smallville is one of my favourite games and relationships form the core of the system. It’s a game where who you are doing something for is more important than how you are doing it and it leads to some amazing stories that most systems are just incapable of telling.

#RPGaDay2019 27th August: ‘Suspense’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 27: Suspense

Suspense is a vital component of horror and supernatural games but in my experience it is difficult to achieve. My most successful attempts to build it have, in some ways, been through deception. I’ll drop hints and clues that foreshadow something ominous, let the tension build and then end the session. The deception? Most of the time I have no idea what I’m actually building towards and the vast majority of the elements have been improvised on the spot. Between sessions I’ll work through what has been introduced and work out what they might actually mean but even that isn’t fixed until its on the table. If the players start speculating and come up with something awesome I’ll use that but tweak it slightly to work with the larger story as in my experience most players gloss over or forget anything that hasn’t been mentioned for a few sessions.

#RPGaDay2019 26th August: ‘Idea’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 26: Idea

Project Cassandra started life as a hack of Lady Blackbird but the idea for it actually came from The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. It’s a Cold War, third person tactical shooter and prequel to the typical XCOM games. It’s highly stylised and over the course of the game you gain access to a range of advanced technology that include things such as levitation, cloaking and even mind control. Playing the game it struck me that many of the abilities could easily be explained as psychic talents. It was a simple leap to go from that to secret government projects to develop psychics given they actually existed! MK-Ultra and the Stargate Project may have never yielded any results but what if they had?

The idea to focus on saving the life of the President was also inspired by Lady Blackbird. While you can play in the expanded setting of that game the published rules have a clearly defined and singular goal – escape the clutches of the Imperial forces and deliver the titular character to her secret lover. I wanted the same for Project Cassandra – a clear, single purpose adventure that could be run as a one-shot or mini-campaign. While the game could be expanded out into any number of ‘psychic operatives complete secret missions’ I felt that would spoil the central conceit. It’s worked well in playtesting and I’ve yet to feel the need to push out into a full blown campaign format.

#RPGaDay2019 25th August: ‘Calamity’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 25: Calamity

My first attempt at GMing was an absolute calamity. We were playing the Serenity RPG and so many things went wrong, in part because I tried it as part of an overnight GUGathon event and we didn’t start until close to midnight. Some players were drunk, others fell asleep during character creation. When we finally did get to playing one character pulled a gun on the rest of the group when they discovered that they had all been scammed and sold the same deeds to the spaceship. The spaceship that I’d included as a way to bring the group together, not start a fight!

Not surprisingly that session was canned and when we restarted the campaign a few months later it was with new characters and without a few of the original players. While we had fun the campaign was cursed and we played only half a dozen sessions over a two year period. It did have one of my favourite sessions though, with the crew getting high from fungal spores that had contaminated their cargo and having to stop one PC from opening the airlock because he wanted to step outside and clear his head!

#RPGaDay2019 24th August: ‘Triumph’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 24: Triumph

My first paid sale of an adventure outline felt like an immense triumph. To date my gross sales across everything I’ve released totals ~$30 and all of that has gone back into the hobby. I’m producing material on a budget of basically zero and then putting it together in a fairly ad-hoc manner, often on my phone. I then compile it into a single document with some basic layout, using skills that I’ve taught myself. That even a few people choose to pay for that material is immensely satisfying and helps keep me going. Long term I would love to start producing material regularly and even shadow launched a Patreon prior to the changes in the payout structure. I still don’t know what to do with it though. My current thoughts are to use it for releasing small amounts of Demon Hunters material but I don’t know if there is a market for it, especially given one of the creators of the game is already doing that.

All of the material I’ve published to date can be found on drivethruRPG or itch.io as free or Pay What You Want downloads.