Wednesday, August 27, 2014

PC Conflict

In my RIFTS game, we have the following characters:

-A good aligned human Ley Line Walker (that's basically a wizard for you non-Rifters.)
-A good aligned D-Bee who uses weapons and armor created by biowizardry (another type of magic.)
-An evil aligned D-Bee whose species hates magic. 
-A selfish aligned* D-Bee whose species hates... well, every other species.

As you can imagine, there are intra-party conflicts. Not only between one another in terms of goals, life-view, etc, but in terms of how they react to the setting and the NPCs.

I have to say that my Rifts group is one of the few groups I've GMed for who manage to do these three things well:

1. Play up their character even when it brings them into direct conflict with other players,
2. Play out that conflict realistically rather than escalating it to immediately into PC vs. PC combat
3. Keeping PC conflict from going OOC.

The players don't ignore or compromise their characters' beliefs, personalities, etc and they manage an attitude of "I don't like you, but we're in this together and we can't survive it without the group."

*The player has refused to pick an alignment, but his character acts in a pretty consistently self-centered fashion, so I've mentally assigned him this alignment.

What about you, dear readers? What are your good experiences with PC-vs-PC conflict? I mean, I could fill an entire blog with the bad experiences I've had as both player and GM, but let's talk about the times when the players made it something that adds to the game and makes it more interesting.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Most Unexpected

So, my wife took me out of the equation and ordered up the PHB for 5th edition. It arrived over the weekend.

I've read the first seven chapters, and so far there is a lot to like.

Some initial impressions:

-There is a palpable design shift from the "Everything is Core" attitude of 4e to an "Everything is Optional" point of view. Multiclassing and feats are presented as optional rather than integral. Also, feats replace ability score improvements, so you can actually have PCs who like feats use them and players who aren't get something else instead. 

-I like what they've done with the paths that classes can take. You can create a great deal of versatility within a single class instead of having to have a million classes.

-The new art style is hit or miss  for me, but I'll give it this: characters have weapons that look like they could actually be physically wielded in combat. Also, armor isn't covered with vestigial buckles, spikes with spikes on the spikes, and twelve daggers strapped to each limb.

-I love the beautiful simplicity of advantage/disadvantage and its various uses.

-The attitude of "many worlds, many campaign settings" that the book espouses. They use a lot of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance examples, but they also mention "your DM's world " a lot.

-Ability scores are capped at 20 for PCs, and the maximum possible score for anything is 30. (gods and monsters included, apparently) 

-I like that task resolution is based primarily on ability scores, with skills as a modifier.

-Backgrounds are neat.

Obviously, it's a brand new release and this could turn into splatbook hell, but I'm pretty optimistic. I'd play this at a convention. I might even run it once in awhile.

One final disclaimer: I'm not to the magic spells yet. That could make or break my opinion.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

On (Not) Embracing Your Fate

I just finished Fate Core. It took me three tries and three months, but I finally sat down and read it in its entirety.

Do not like.

I recall really liking an oooooold draft of Fate I have from like 2004, but this...

I don't know. It's like the Twitter of RPGs. Everything has a goddamn hashtag.

This storm has Really Strong Winds.
This knight Has a Duty to Uphold. 

Like, does all this stuff have to be tagged and explicit?

In all seriousness, it's just a little too narrative for me. They discourage character death unless it's "dramatically appropriate" and talk about setting up "scenes." Just... no, not my thing.

Unless the System Toolkit has some major changes to it, I think I'd just stick to Fudge, maaaaaybe with swiping the base idea of the aspects but using them more along the lines of character race/class in Donjon.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

When You Got It Good

I frickin' love my campaigns, my players, and their characters.

That is all.

Friday, August 1, 2014

RIFTS Session 4, Deadlands Un-Canceled, Percolating Sorcerer, Etc.

Ran RIFTS again tonight.
Yes, I make fun of RIFTS.
I make fun of KS.
I make fun of Palladium and I think their rules are shit.

...and yet, I love running this campaign, and it isn't even in an ironic fashion.

Exploring ghost haunted post-apocalyptic ruins full of mutants and horrible monsters is fun. I creeped Scott the fuck out when he cast See the Invisible. (Pro-tip: Don't cast StI in ghost-infested ruins.)

Yes, I have house rules.

Thing is, though, that if you just keep the mindset that RIFTS= AD&D + Heavy Metal, you'll be alright.

(Also scaling Mega-Damage-to-SDC from 100:1 to 10:1 helps. Lots.)

Tonight's session also had no combat. Yeah, it's the same RIFTS we're talking about.

In other news, my two DL players have decided to attend only one day of LocalCon and asked me to run the Friday DL game as scheduled. Game on.

Finally, Sorcerer.

I like it. Yes, the presentation is murky and oft-times arrogant, but shove all that aside and the game itself is something I'd give a go. Thing is, I want to add vampires and other supernatural stuff to it, which I'm not sure exactly how to do yet and probably misses some point of the game or something.
Really dig the actual sorcery system, though. Dig dig dig it.

Other stuff I want to blog about when it isn't like four in the morning: 5e, the most fucked up vampire game I have ever read, the FUDGE game I've been slooooowly working on for months and months and months.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In Which I Read Sorcerer

Alright, so here's the deal.

I've been reading Sorcerer, the game by Ron Edwards. Specifically, a version that he has annotated.

Anyone who's read this blog knows that indie games aren't my thing: for one, many of them focus on such utterly specific play experiences that I'm just not interested. (Gray Ranks, The Mountain Witch- which aren't Edwards's work, but I digress) For another, I don't necessarily see "telling a story" as the point/objective of roleplaying games, and a lot of indie games are designed specifically to be exercises in collaborative storytelling.

If you're not into telling a story, or telling that particular story, the game seems an airy thing of no substance. You get some gamers together to play The Mountain Witch.  They don't want to go up the mountain. They want to go overthrow the local daimyo.
Well, you can't. This game is about a bunch of ronin who go to kill the Mountain Witch.
I'm not saying that's any better or worse than a Pathfinder Adventure Path, for what that's worth.

So, what attracts me to this game, Sorcerer?
Two things:

1. The PCs are classic sorcerers: they summon, bind, and deal with demons in order to gain power. Lately I've been mentally turned off to the wizard-is-a-guy-who-shoots-fireballs type of thing. Also, as I've stated in prior years on this blog, I like magic systems that are a little bit dangerous to the user of magic .

2. The cover. I bought OpenQuest for it's cover. I bought my first issue of the RIFTER, #54, because of its cover. The cover to the annotated Sorcerer is beautiful.

The rules are actually pretty light, though they trip overthemselves sometimes in the explanation. It involves dice pools, which usually I don't like. I'm still digesting the combat, but I think I have the sorcery system down.

The game wraps itself unnecessarily in the personal philosophy of its author; I don't think doing it Ron's way is as essential to Sorcerer as he presents it to be. You could rock this as a rules lite alternative to something White Wolf-esque, although I find myself compelled by this aspect of it: The author is all about letting the action get driven 100% by the players, without any prep from the GM. Beyond some help making the characters, the GM isn't supposed to prep. Each character gets a "Kicker" (a needlessly slangy term for an immediate, life-screwing problem) and then let the players go. 

Oh, and one more area where the author and I can come together: Don't roll the dice unless it matters. This is something I've started edging toward in various things I run; something I'd like to continue to move towards, actually. I have a post brewing with my thoughts on this, but it will have to wait for now.

I'm not quite finished with the book, and my opinion on it isn't fully formed yet. This is definitely note the sort of thing I play, not because of the subject material, but because of the presentation and how the game operates. I find I have the itch to try it out.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

RIFTS Madhaven, Session 3, Deadlands: The Ties That Bind Session 3

The session went pretty well. The PCs explored some old, mostly ruined buildings. Some of the searching was fruitful, some wasn't. Right now the party is just kind of wandering, but having now encountered a ley line walker who makes his home at the top of a surprisingly intact skyscraper, they may have a patron/enemy.

Sadly, our Juicer has to step away from the game for awhile. We'll be looking for a replacement for the time being.

I'm still running the game as sort of a hybrid dungeon/hex crawl. There are multiple factions within the ruins and they will act organically regardless of the PCs and what they do. Of course, the PCs have the chance to affect whatever they choose to get involved in.

The Deadlands game was fairly unfocused for most of the session. We only had two players and I'm guessing that's what we're pretty much at. I'm making the game a little more political and occult focused than most DL games. The PCs have a base of operations, a list of problems, and a list of resources. Rachel Larimer and her faithful servant Sebastian are set up in the troubled town of Creede, Colorado, where they must protect the Larimer family interests from opponents both mundane and mystical. The players seem to dig the setup, so I'm going to run with it.

Ravenloft/Masque of the Red Death is on hiatus for a few weeks due to scheduling conflicts.

Sadly, the end of summer approaches. As I start my fifth year of teaching and my final year of grad school, I'll have to be scaling back my gaming activities. For the next few weeks, I'll have to wring as much gaming goodness out of this setup as humanly possible.