My #RPGStruck4

The latest gaming tag to do the rounds on Twitter is that of #RPGStruck4, where people post up images for 4 games that define them, my own post for it was this:

and while most people have been posting without explanation I wanted to briefly dig into why these four games are personally significant.

  1. Torg – Long after it had gone out of print this was my introduction to tabletop gaming. I’d LARPed before, I’d participated in freeform play by posts but had never rolled dice or filled in a traditional character sheet. As an introduction to ttRPGs I couldn’t have asked for more. I was hooked and before long was itching to run my own game, largely thanks to how well Snap, our amazing GM, had run that first campaign.
  2. Serenity – My first foray into GMing was… disastrous. A massive Firefly fan I’d eagerly picked up the game on its release and dived into learning the system which was very different from what I’d experienced up to that point. I’d prepped heavily, with a focus squarely on all the wrong things and the first session was a catalogue of errors. Somehow it didn’t put me off running games and Cortex quickly cemented itself into one of my go to systems, which neatly leads me on to…
  3. Demon Hunters – As is evidenced by the plethora of posts about it you could say I’m a bit of a fan. While I knew of The Gamers it was the original Demon Hunters that made me a true fan of Dead Gentlemen Productions. It’s my go to light hearted setting, perfect for both one off sessions between campaigns as well as campaigns themselves. The setting can handle over the top chaotic slapstick as or serious urban fantasy (I tend to drift toward the former) and the writing is just as fun, to the extent that it’s almost as good to read as it is run. The second edition builds on the first with a new system, refreshed lore and brand new comic book look based on the short lived webcomic. Oh and a few adventures by yours truly.
  4. Legend of the Five Rings – When it comes to games with hefty reputations few can compete with the world of Rokugan and it’s samurai society. The setting clearly defines not only the role of PCs within that society but sets out clear expectations for their behaviour and consequences for going against those very expectations. Framed by the tenets of Bushido and an honourable ideal it’s a world where doing the right thing almost always has consequences, in stark contrast to the kill, loot, profit style espoused by many D&D games. It’s not only a world that I love returning to but once that has influenced my wider thinking on the positioning of PCs within wider settings and idea of lasting consequences.
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The Aether Knight

Following some final tweaking the first character sheet template is now complete as is the first release, the Aether Knight. Rarely encountered on the mortal planes Aether Knights serve as guardians of the veil between worlds and, in their natural form, neutral in the eternal fight between Good and Evil. Unfortunately as so often is the case their purpose can be tainted by those willing to shed blood to fuel illicit magics. Dragged into the moral realms they are used as nigh unstoppable assassins and hunters, bound to a mission until it is completed or they are destroyed.

Aether Knights represent a significant challenge for Chapters even at the highest level and are designed to be employed by the DM as opponents that must be out-thought rather than out-fought. With their invulnerability to physical weaponry, high number of conditions and ability to bypass mild conditions when using their sword they are an opponent that no group should take lightly.

Next up, adjusting the template for minions and mobs.

Downlaod the Aether Knight for free from this link

Demon Hunters: Character Sheet Version 2

Version 2 of the Demon Hunters character sheet is pretty much complete and works out most of the issues with the original. It has all of the elements and is visually clearer with stunts moved to the right hand side of the sheet.

The spacing is much better but still not perfect. Looking at the page as a whole the columns on the left hand half would benefit from being reduced slightly in width while the text would also benefit from the alignment of the paragraphs.

The contents of the preview are for the first creature, the Aether Knight. As with the sheet it’s at a nearly there stage, I’m happy with the overall contents but need to tweak a few of the elements.

Layout and Design: Character Template for Demon Hunters

template-v1One of the things I’ve been slowly working on recently has been a single page character sheet for Demon Hunters inspired by the work of Hyvemynd with their Fate Accelerated Fantasy characters. I’ve been doing a little here and there, interspaced with having to learn more about how scribus works, mostly through trial and error. I’m never going to be a layout professional but I hope that once I’ve created a template then I’ll be able to start releasing more material on a semi-regular basis. Yes, in addition to the adventure starters I have underway. And the larger adventures. And Project Cassandra, which no, I’ve not forgotten about.

The first draft of the template is pretty much done, using only filler aspects and text for now. I’m happy with it but know there are issues. Firstly the space on the right needs to be used better, right now too much of it is comprised of text frames. Second I’ve yet to add boxes for conditions. Third, general spacing especially for stunts.

Overall though it works. This draft is designed for full characters but it should be easier to remove elements for minions and mobs than to add them back in.

NPC vs NPC – narration and the unexpected

Earlier this week a panel on the latest (and excellent) Up to Four Players webcomic got me thinking about NPC vs NPC actions, specifically during combat. A short discussion over twitter inspired Eran to put out the following today:

That article got the wheels turning a bit further though. In general, when it comes to NPC actions I try to minimise the amount of time involving a second NPC. I hand wave rolls, narrate overall outcomes rather than detailed actions and actively try to avoid lengthy discussions.

Primarily this comes from wanting to minimise the amount of time where the players are sitting waiting. Nobody likes to sit and listen to the GM monologue, especially when they’re trying to portray multiple individuals (doubly so when, like me, you’re bad at accents so NPCs rarely have distinct voices). I also want to avoid having to reference multiple character sheets/abilities, especially with games that are more complex than the Savage Worlds system used in the comic.

The second reason is that of narrative. As a GM I want to keep the PCs front and centre, not being overshadowed by a minor companion who just happened to roll well that session. I speak here from experience. The first campaign I ran was Torg, using published adventures. During one particular section, the group had encountered an over the top superhero who was meant to obtain what they were after while in the Nile Empire. During their daring escape in a plane they came under attack from fighter planes and throughout the resulting combat their NPC companion was useless. Right up until he rolled amazingly and stole the final kill from the PCs.

If it had been a PC in that position, of constantly missing then rolling big right when it mattered it would have been an amazing moment. Instead it felt, to me, like a let down. As a new GM I wasn’t at the point of knowing when to fudge the rolls (a debate in and of itself) so instead I worked to minimise the chance of that occurring again by avoiding NPC vs NPC rolls.

The Up to Four Players strip got me thinking though – do I sometimes take things to far. In trying to keep the PCs in the spotlight is it to the detriment of the game. Gone are the unexpected moment, such as where a weak and feable King gets the upper hand against the expert assassin or a trusted ally is unexpectedly convinced to take up arms against the PCs. Dice add randomness to the game, not only for the players but for the GM as well and maybe it is time I started to add that back in to my games.

So long as it doesn’t take too long.

The Undesirables: Character sheets

While the first five members of The Undesirables came together pretty smoothly I’ve hit something of a roadblock with the final member, a middle Eastern blood mage. Neither the aspects nor the stunts seem to be coming together so instead of struggling along with it I spent some time putting the character sheets and backgrounds for the other PCs together.

Ultimately these will be updated for inclusion in the final adventure but that’s a long way off. Short term my plan is to put together a starter and bundle them together so they are available for all. Until then you can download just the characters here: The_Undesirables

The Undesirables: Frankenstein’s Monster

CC00_NE_Supernatural_ScientistExperimentingWithCapturedZombieInLab_5-5x7-25_GMB_smallThe mad genius of Victor Frankenstein needs no introduction. In crafting the creature that would become his tormentor he exceeded all but the gods in giving form to artificial life. In the years since Victor’s death the Creature has walked the earth, slowly learning to control the rage that has threatened to consume it time after time. It is alone. Unique, but flawed. Patient.

Many have hunted the Creature, in the name of God and of Science and of Power but none have come close to understanding its motives. That it desires purpose. Arriving in London under the guise of a circus freak it quickly learned of Mina and her team of outcasts. A meeting was arranged and an agreement reached. The Creature would join the team and aid in combating the pervasive rise of mad technology ushered in by the steam age. In return Mina would redirect the Brotherhood, Chapters re-assigned to inconsequential locales or sent on wild goose chases. All know that the status quo cannot be maintained for long, the Creature is too well known to stay hidden forever and the longer it associates with the team the greater the risk that all involved will be compromised.

Approaches

Disciplines

Forceful d8

Mystic arts d4

Sneaky d6

Covert ops d4

Quick d8

Social engineering d8

Careful d6

Combat & tactics d6

Clever d10

R&D d10

Flashy d4

Faith: 4

Concept: Monstrous creation of an infamous scientist

Trouble: Barely restrained rage

Discipline 1: An intellect surpassing my creator

Discipline 2: Harbouring hidden hopes for humanity

Discipline 3: They may hunt me but they will never break me

 

Stunt 1: Because I am the brawns as well as the brains I gain +1 when I forcefully use Combat & Tactics

Stunt 2: Because I was built to surpass the frailness of mere humans I gain 1 extra moderate condition

Stunt 3: Because I have learned to live in the shadows of civilisation I gain +2 to sneakily overcome attempts to spot my hulking frame

Vulnerability: Because my inhuman visage is impossibly terrifying I automatically inflict the minor condition of “horrified” on all mortals who see me if they have never encountered the supernatural before.