Unfortunately, every so often a game can fall flat. It may be a lack of player engagement, a bad system or a poorly prepared GM. Back in July I wrote in to HappyJacks RPG (season 22 episode 8) with a pseudo-horror story of GM mediocrity. That experience inspired my essential rules for con game prep (a topic for a follow-up post) but the discussion on the podcast has also inspired a mini-game!
My tale of bad GMing culminated peaked with the fact that I had spent much of the game building dice towers, going so far as to purposefully buy extra dice during the lunch break. Dave from MonkeyFun Studios took it upon himself to create a simple dice game that could be played at the table without disrupting the rest of the group. That game is DICE the Stacking and the simple rules can be found on the MonkeyFun website.
You can find MonkeyFun studios full range of games, such as Spirit of ’77 and Bedlam Hall, on their website and at drivethruRPG.
Gaming settings are awash with post-apocalyptic environments, everything from zombies to alien invasions to natural catastrophe. Decaying city ruins are a core feature of many of these settings with the creators typically drawing inspiration from historical examples of cities ruined by war. Thankfully cities that have simply been abandoned to nature are rare in the real world, though there is one notable and chilling exception. Chernobyl, Ukraine. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation radiates 30km from the station and covers not only the city itself but the surrounding villages. Since the evacuation of residents within the zone 28 years ago the city and it’s buildings have been left to decay with minimal human interference. While film crews have recorded the decay of the city in the past a recent documentary for CBS News captured the city using drones for the first time. Postcards from Pripyat collects together some of the footage and combines with it a haunting soundtrack, the result needs to be seen to be believed:
Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl from Danny Cooke on Vimeo.
When it comes to running campaigns I have to admit that for a long time I’ve had a problem when it comes to scale. Simply put as a GM I tend to think big and long term, with multi-part story arcs that will take dozens of sessions to complete. Part of that stems from my introduction to tabletop gaming, brand new to RPGs I joined a new Torg campaign run by an awesome GM. The campaign followed the official storyline that was published when the game first came out and while I only played in it for the first year it ran for over four years right up until the final confrontation with the Gaunt Man himself. When I left the game I did so to start GMing for the first time, with my first campaign returning to what I knew, the very Torg adventures I’d played in the year before. While that campaign did reach a conclusion it wasn’t the one I’d hoped for, though it was epic in nature.
Since then I can think of only a handful of campaigns which have wrapped up satisfactorily and of those that haven’t most have fallen apart after 6-10 sessions due to players conflicts. Almost every time those campaigns have fallen apart with little of the world and larger campaign revealed to the players. The most recent example of this is the Legends of the Five Rings campaign I was running, while the game had completed a short self contained adventure (the first part of which is detailed here) the adventure ended with the party learning only that the events had been orchestrated by an outside faction. They never learnt who or why and more importantly they never got the chance to stop them.
So with my current Dresden Files campaign I’m taking a different approach, that of Go Achievable and running it as a series of discrete adventures each for around 3 sessions in length. Most importantly I’m aiming to make each adventure almost entirely self contained, so should it fall apart there shouldn’t be dozens of hanging plot threads left. The most difficult bit though is trying to be concious of the pace of the game, knowing that I need to reach a conclusion within a short time period.
It’s a bit of a challenge at the moment but hopefully it’ll work out in the long run.
I don’t really have anything I can say here other than that you should watch this.
While fan made movies and short series have existed as long as people have had the ability to shoot them the combination of high speed internet and readily available special effects packages have allowed amateurs to create and share content in ways that have never before been possible. The sci-fi genre is one of the best examples of this, with some of the best fan made productions showcasing special effects that would have required dedicated production studios only 10 years ago. Every so often I get around to catching up with interesting or intriguing pieces, a few of which I wanted to share here.
First up we have the fan made human Revolution – Deus Ex based on the most recent Deus Ex game featuring the unwilling cybernetically enhanced Adam Jenson:
Next is The Gable 5 featuring Eliza Dushku (of Buffy and Dollhouse fame amongst others) focusing on the ordeals a woman is put through as a subject in a secret neurological experiment. While a standalone short there’s the potential that the episode could be followed up with a webseries exploring the experiment in greater detail:
Finally we have Prospect, a short film following a girl and her father as they explore an alien jungle. I’ve linked to the Verge article for this one as in addition to embedding the film itself the article provides an interesting insight into the development of the film and the choices that were made during its production.
While full on cybernetics are still further away than many would like there is little doubt that we’re slowly incorporating cyberpunk style technologies into our everyday world. The internet, smart phones, wearable computing, drones…
Case in point is this latest creation, an automated mini drone designed not for recording video but to taser people with 80,000 volts!
Perhaps most interesting here is not that the technology has been developed but the ethical questions that have been raised. Few of these are new and most have been predicted for some time now but it does make you wander how people will respond now that the possibilities are real.
I’m going to dispense from the usual campaign overview for this weeks Inspirational Artwork as really I don’t think there is anything that needs saying about this image beyond:
It’s a samurai riding a frikking T-Rex!