Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dispatches From KantCon

I've run my five games this weekend. They all went swimmingly and the players heaped praise 'pon me. I gamed with some utterly delightful and clever players. I had a few people who were in more than one game of mine, but nobody was in more than two of my games. Lots of variation in terms of age and gender. 

My KantCon takes this year: 

*I think my best session was Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I seemed to mentally gel most with the scenario, and the players were super into it. I even got one of them curious in checking the game out, and another warm to the idea of old-style D&D rule systems. 

*I don't think I had a weak session this year, but I would say my weakest was probably Stars Without Number, the newly revised edition. I didn't have as good of a handle on the revised rules as I thought, and some of the changes and terminology threw me a little. What probably also didn't help was the module I was using being system neutral and containing no stats of any kind. I always second guess myself with that kind of thing. I also let the action get bogged down in a couple of parts and I regret that. The players still liked and and they were super thrilled with the way the scenario turned out. Like I said, I don't think it was a weak session, just the weakest. 

*Savage RIFTS is so much better to run than standard Palladium RIFTS it isn't even funny. You still get the general feel of RIFTS, but goddamn is it a smoother ride, and it just works better. Case in point: a Glitterboy and a Wildernes Scout in the same party, and yet both of them were able to contribute meaningfully. The characters seem a little bit more on par with one another in combat than the eye-popping disparity that exists in the original rules. 

*All of Their Strengths is fucking fun and I adore it. I had pregens but the players really wanted to make their own crazy-ass Hybrids. I think the half-werewolf/half-reaper was a fantastic character. He drove around in a souped-up super-car called the Pale Rider. Fuck. 

*Captain Valdez ended up sacrificing himself, along with the new Captain, in my Starships & Spacemen game... looks like I need to level up the First Officer for next year's continuation. 

*Less excited about the vendors this year. I didn't really find any special treasures or weird and rare "gotta have it" books. That's... actually probably for the better. 

Tomorrow I'm waitlisted for a game of Dread (the Jenga game, not the splatterpunk Raphael Chandler game) and I've got a spot in a Savage Worlds sci-fi game of some sort. I'm really pretty tired, but I at least want to go to the con for a little bit. The Savage Worlds game has a waitlist behind me, so if I end up heading home or just lounging around, I won't be leaving the dude short of players. 

I love KantCon. I'm sad it's almost over... I'm already starting to think about what I want to run at next year's convention. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

What I've Been Doing

1. I joined a game of Beyond the Supernatural that is being turned into a podcast. 

2. I joined an online game of Fudge that takes places in a cartoon multiverse. I'm playing Rick Sanchez, because I can do a really good impersonation. 

3. In one week I will be at KantCon, running Starships and Spacemen 2nd Edition, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Savage RIFTS, Stars Without Number Revised Edition, and All of Their Strengths. 

4. I'm reading Monster of the Week because I want that to be my next mid-length GM outing. 

What I haven't been doing, sadly, is reading Eldritch Cock, because I was trapped in the fetid swamp that is the state of Florida over Free RPG Day. 

Carry on, bloggers. I mostly lurk these days, but I assure you I'm still reading. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Joining the Narrative Bourgeois

For the past month or so, I've been doing a short weekly commute to my hometown to run All of Their Strengths, a delightful little indie game meant to emulate stories of badass supernatural hybrids in the vein (ha!) of Blade, Underworld, and Devil May Cry.

This game is incredibly narrative driven, to the point where the players don't really roll dice. (Well, they do, but not for things their characters are doing.) The game is based on an economy of described actions, described counters, and dice that the GM essentially wagers against the players.

Aside from an awkward and failed attempt at running Fate Core two years ago, I've never run a narrative-based game before. Rather, I've never run a game whose mechanics were narrative-driven, rather than the narrative arising out of the game play. It had some rough spots, but I did find my legs.

The main problem, aside from some vagueness in the rules as written, was getting into the proper mindset. This group of players, hailing from a mostly Pathfinder background, I had trouble accepting that NPCs don't have stats. (Unless their are Dooms, in which case they have only two stats, Danger and Dread, and goddamn if that alliteration didn't make it difficult for me to mentally keep track of which stat did what.) For one thing, our traditionally-minded-mindset had us thinking of Dooms in terms of things that must be defeated by removing dice, dice being somewhat analogous to hit points or health or whatever. This is wrong. Any un-thwarted action in this game succeeds. You can, in fact, kill an elder vampire with a UV grenade (they're a thing in AoTS, just roll with it) if the GM doesn't thwart that action. No hit points, no Fortitude, just narrative logic.

I had brief aspirations of trying to convert this into a more traditional roleplaying game via Fudge, but in the end, I've come to enjoy the system...even if it is a little rough.

The scenario was based on the idea for the one I'm running at KantCon in about a month. (Yessssss!) I'll have to condense it, as I only have a four hour time slot as opposed to 4-5 weekly gaming sessions, but I feel like the tires have been kicked thoroughly enough that I've got a handle on this game.

There's a lot of improv... the system actually doesn't work well with a lot of prep. Hey, I used to do impromptu speaking competitively...right up my alley.

So... who's the OSR Gatekeeper these days? I need to know who to surrender my OSR Membership Card to now that I've sullied myself.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Slaying the Beast (With Apologies to Grendel)

You know, I really wanted to like Beast: the Primordial.

Like, I really wanted to like it. It was a fresh departure from White Wolf's usual setup... a creature type that wasn't a retread from NWoD or OWoD, more flexibility for character concepts, built to plug right in to the rest of the CoD or happy to stand completely alone, mechanical incentive for cooperation among PCs*... very sexy package. (Plus that eerie faded purple color scheme in the artwork.)

Sadly, Beast just has too much shit going on. It feels like multiple games crammed into one book, vying for attention. You have the PCs, who are reincarnations (?) of mythical monsters, able to access a weird semi-dream world. They can build lairs in the semi-dream world, though they're more conceptual places than actual physical locales. You have Heroes (capital H), individuals who act as a sort of natural defense to the predations of the monsters (although they end up pretty much becoming monsters themselves, because White Wolf.)  You have monsters who lose their shit enough that they merge with their spirit monster and become real flesh-and-blood monsters who exist in the real world, but I guess not in the dream world. You have the internal struggle of the PCs between feeding their monstrous hunger so they don't lose their shit and not filling up enough that the monster goes to sleep and they're stuck as regular humans (who still read as monsters to the Heroes.) Powers work differently depending on how 'hungry' the character's beastly aspect is.

It just ends up being too much. When I was well into my third page of typing up a cheat sheet with all the basic things that any Beast can do, independent of their monster type powers, I found myself wondering why I couldn't seem to actually condense all of this stuff into something more digestible.

Then, once again, I tried to hurl my mind against the Chronicles of Darkness spirit possession/manifestation flowchart before throwing my hands up and saying fuck it.

I've tried a few "back of the napkin" ideas for a "Beast-lite" type of game. As usually, I mostly end up spinning my tires and debating every tiny design decision with myself.

I'll probably be offloading my book online at some point. I'll still have it on PDF if I ever change my mind (I got the combo), but I just find the game too inaccessible and needlessly arcane.

*Given how stand-offish and mutually antagonistic the PC types usually are, especially in OWoD, this is actually kind of a big deal for a White Wolf game. Normally mutual survival is incentive enough for PCs to cooperate, but whatevs.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Fillin' Up Those Con Tables

I compulsively check Warhorn to see the status of my KantCon games. Registration has been open for two weeks.

-Starships & Spacemen is half full

-Lamentations of the Flame Princess has only a single soul signed up, but I imagine it'll be full before July. Any LotFP game run by anyone at KantCon fills up and usually has a waiting list.

-Stars Without Number is full up!

-No takers for All of Their Strengths, but the convention is still 3 months away. if only it were that easy to fill my own table here at home. I've got two games I'm playing in and an invitation to a third, but I am, to borrow John's term, a Forever DM.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Odds and Ends

Various gaming and gaming-related goings-on in my current existence:

*Christian over at The Tolling of the Great Black Bell has started up his 'zine again. It might be the only thing I get in the mail that I actually enjoy opening. Who doesn't want a 'zine with drooling mutants amidst the endless credit card offers and mail from the AARP. (Which I totally don't understand, because I'm only 36)

*Event registration for KantCon opened up yesterday. My Stars Without Number game is already half full, and I've got two signed up for Starships & Spacemen, including a player who has been in several of the sessions over the last couple of years. I have no doubt that I will fill my tables; I do every year. 

*In addition to John's D&D 2018 game and my friend's Savage Worlds take on Dark*Matter, I'm going to have the chance to play in a colleague's Zweihander game. I'm pretty hype. The only reason I can even consider embarking on this much gaming is because I'm only seven and a half weeks away from the end of the school year.

*I've started watching "Paranormal Survivor" on Netflix. I don't actually believe in ghosts (or anything supernatural for that matter), but the stories are cool and kind of make me want to do a retread of Orpheus. (White Wolf's take on ghostbusters, released back in like 2003 I think) Of course, I have a pretty low tolerance for the WoD system anymore, so it'd have to be a different rule set.

*I succumbed to nostalgia and bought the rest of the Palladium Robotech books, since they lost the license and the books are now officially out of print. I managed to snag them just before scalpers started posting them used on various online retail sites with jacked up prices. Am I likely to ever run Robotech? Probs not. However, I'm a nostalgia whore and pine for the days of my idyllic childhood in the 1980's, so there you go.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Double Header

I'm doing a lot of gaming this weekend.

I'm not DMing at all, which is my heart's desire, but by Jove I'll take what I can get.

Tonight I'm playing in my friend Josh's Savage Worlds game, which I think is best described as Dark*Matter, but with a sort of Shadowrun-esque "near future urban fantasy" vibe. I'm making my character on an index card after I finish typing this, because I'm suddenly super into games where you can fit your character on an index card.

Tomorrow I'm playing in John's game using his "D&D 2018" rule set. It's good to be back with the old group, even if the composition has changed a bit since 2015 or '16 or whenever I departed.

If I could somehow throw together a one shot on Sunday, it would be my first all gaming weekend in many years, but I'm afraid those halcyon times are gone and past.