Sunday, April 19, 2015

Trying to Wrap My Head Around Bliss Stage

I recently purchased Bliss Stage and Polaris, two decidedly indie and unabashedly narrative-focused rpgs from Ben Lehman. I feel like this strips me of any scraps of OSR street cred I may have had at any point since I started blogging.

Anyway, they were both PWYW, so I paid one American dollar each, with the notion that if I like them, I will buy physical copies of them. (Yes, I love my PDFs, but physical books, I just can't quit you.)If I don't like them, I will simply delete them, effectively just having given a vending machine trip to Mr. Lehman for sharing his ideas with me.

I have no idea what to do with these games. Like, even though I have read through the rules of Bliss Stage one and a half times, I have really no idea how the game works beyond a very basic conceptual level. It uses Fudge dice, though, so that's hittin'. (I have some crusty old Fudge dice from back in the day, as well as some slick but overpriced Fate dice I bought with the core book.)

I'm not sure that anyone I game with presently would like this. I've had groups in other times and places that would've been all over this, but I'd be very surprised if I ever got the chance to run this. Even my players who assure me that they'll play anything that I run...

My brain is already thinking about ways to repurpose this game, much the way that Thou Art But a Warrior repurposed Polaris. This is presently not a good thing, because I'd like very much to finish BXWoD and think of a good Fate setting.

I'd be remiss if I didn't pay Bliss Stage this compliment, though: Just as Icons is the only superhero rpg I've ever encountered that feels like a comic book (or rather an animated series based on a comic book), Bliss Stage is the only rpg I've ever encountered that feels like the mecha anime I loved back in the day, whereas games like Mekton Z just felt like we were playing "Battletech with Purple Hair" or somesuch.

No real word on Polaris, yet, as I've naught but skimmed it. Bliss Stage has my attention.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Deadlands: Happy Trails

Brought Deadlands to a conclusion tonight. Denver ended up a magical dead zone, with no spells functioning and supernatural creatures losing all power. Rachel and her husband fled to Chicago, Sebastian went away to train. We intend to pick it up in a 20's altered-Noir setting with wise old Sebastian being all Yoda and the grandchild of Rachel and Arthur.

And if none of that makes any sense, it's fine... just know that we had a satisfying and surprising conclusion to the campaign.

Oh, and I got them to agree to try Fate Core. Here goes nothing....

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sunken Tower of Tsenophal Initial Design

(If, by some chance, you are planning to attend the Nuke Con game day in June and plan to play in my game, do yourself a favor and don't read this. I mean, I can't stop you, but you'll possibly spoil your own experience.)

Some things I have decided about The Sunken Tower of Tsenophal:

-The true nature of Tsenophal will not be revealed.
-Possessing the Heart of Tsenophal allows you to break the scenario. If you get the Heart, you win. (Sort of)
-Possessing the Heart of Tsenophal dooms your character. (But hey, it's a one shot)
-The Heart will not be at the "end" of the dungeon. 
-Some of the pregen characters have goals that have nothing to do with the Heart.

More as I think them up.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Sunken Tower of Tsenophal

"He who holds the Heart of Tsenophal shall rule Igoroth the rest of his days."
                                                                                             -The Prophecies of Ikras, Canto II, Verse 437

Tsenophal was a god. Tsenophal was a demon. Tsenophal was an archmage of unthinkable power. Tsenophal was but a man, a messianic cult leader. Tsenophal was a golem that descended from the heavens. Tsenophal never existed. Read a dozen texts of old and you will find a dozen accounts of what Tsenophal was, but all agree on one thing: the tower where Tsenophal resided stood upon a silver mountain, and that mountain collapsed into a valley that flooded with water that seemed to come from the very stones.

Ages later, an earthquake has caused the flooded valley to partially drain, leaving the structure exposed. The Ikrasites claim that the time of prophecy has come. The King of Igoroth has declared the Ikrasite religion heretical and the prophecies blasphemous.

In these turbulent times, men dream of the Heart of Tsenophal, and the promise of power to come with it.


When I don't know what to run at a convention, I come up with a title. I then make myself build something around that title. I did it with the Temple of Zirugar several years ago, and that turned into a module trilogy run across multiple games at the same convention. The Sunken Tower of Tsenophal entered my head today, and the rest follows. It's what I'm going to run at the Nuke-Con game day in June. So be it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rethinking Fate

I was not kind to Fate Core the first time I read through it, comparing it unfavorably to Fate 2 from years back. Something in the back of my brain tugged at me, telling me I hadn't given the game a fair shake.

I started another read through of Fate, and I find that I'm liking it a lot more this time. It may be because I experienced some of the aspects of the system while playing Icons and found that they added to the game in ways I enjoyed and hadn't anticipated. It may be because I am a fickle bastard when it comes to gaming. All I know is that I think I might be willing to give it a shot, if I can wrap my brain around how it actually runs.

See, Icons has some Fate-esque narrative stuff draped over a rules-lite but solid system. With Fate, the narrative stuff is placed squarely in the lead. Whereas everyone has a Coordination stat in Icons, Fate characters don't have anything about their attributes in the fashion of a typical rpg. Your character would only have something about his or her strength, for instance, if it factored into one of their aspects. Maybe you're The Strongest Dude in the World or a Spaghetti-Armed Weakling. Compare this to World of Darkness or D&D, where every single character has a strength score.

I seem to understand the concept of a game that eschews a standard attribute format in lieu of highlighting what's important about a character, but I keep trying to imagine how I'd run it and coming up short. It's hard to create test characters to run, since part of the character creation is game/world/setting creation.

Another aspect of Fate that I was hung up on was the narrative collaboration bit. Fate encourages group say not only in game setup, but also to a lesser extent in play. I thought this was absolutely not my jam, but I had so much fun co-creating an Icons universe with Meghan and James that I'm willing to give the concept another shot.

 I can see players, especially less experienced ones, having difficulty with the kind of off-the-cuff thinking that Fate encourages. I had a similar experience when I tried to run Mage: the Ascension for a group of Vampire and Werewolf players back in college. They had trouble with the freeform Sphere system in Mage, having been accustomed to the clearly defined Disciplines and Gifts of VtM and WtA. Still, I'd like to give it a try. I have no idea when... perhaps between this Deadlands campaign and the next. Perhaps after my Icons game. (Though first it has to come back from hiatus...) So many games, so little time...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Getting a (Night)Life

So enamored was I by NightLife that I ordered the magic supplement. So enamored am I by the magic supplement that I ordered two more supplements for it.

With a few minor tweaks, NightLife seems to be the game I was looking for to replace WoD... all that time coming up with alternatives. Alas. I still have a mind to finish those projects because I invested so much time in them, and because NightLife looks good on paper...who knows if I'll actually like the way it plays.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Con Season

Although I still have six weeks to go until my students break for summer, conventions are already on my mind. I plan to attend a game day and two conventions this summer: Nuke-Con's Aftershock: Yellow Cake, KantCon, and BritishFest. I intend to run games at all three of them, for such is my love of GMing.

My question is this: What should I run? I'm thinking about this for my lineup:

Yellow Cake- Something quick and simple with minis, as the Nuke-Con game days seem more geared toward boardgames and the like. (People run RPGs there, and I've run RPGs there, but they seem to be in the minority.)

KantCon- Starships & Spacemen (which I've run there the last two years in a row), something from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (because I've run LotFP modules there three years in a row), and something new that I have never done before.

BritishFest- I feel the need to run either a British RPG or something with a British setting. Last year I did Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and one of TSR's UK modules... might do those again. (Not the same ones, mind you)

Now I just need to hammer out what I will run specifically... suggestions are welcome.

Man, I can't wait.