Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Creative Inspiration: Music 2

So again it comes time to come up with an adventure for the game in a few days. The well has run dry and the mind is running on empty. Break out your music collection and hit the random button. Here are a few more ideas.

Game: Aces and Eights
Song: My Journey to the Sky by Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Well a lot of people did go to the west to bring the light of the lord to the savages, so I guess a religious themed song for a western game isn't bad inspiration (though how I ended up with it in my collection I'm not entirely sure. Have to look into that one.)
Father Brown has left the confines of civilization after the passing of his parents due to cholera. He has nothing in the east, so he heads west. He hopes to find a small town near some of the natives and bring enlightenment to them and to the townsfolk. Finding the town of Walson's Creek he sets up a small church, and manages to gather a few people into his congregation, but unfortunately he isn't welcomed by all. A gang has taken a dislike to him and his godly ways, and are trying to drive him out of town. It escalates from making him dive out of the way of their horses into the mud to attempts to burn down his half completed church while he sleeps in a back room. Father Brown is at his wits end, and the PCs feel sorry for him and attempt to assist him. The good father refuses to let anyone help him, believing god will bring them to their senses, but the players know he'll end up dead before that happens.

Game: Serenity
Song: Forgive and Forget by Blondie
While on planetfall on one of the outer planets, Kolstein the headman of a small city the players have ended up in has taken a shine to one of the female members of the party. He's rich. He's powerful. He's a complete pig, but is used to getting what he wants. He harasses the crew and wants to buy her to add her to his harem. Obviously the crew say no, but this man isn't taking no for an answer. Force is displayed as the players try to get to their ship. When the players leave the planet little do they know they have a stowaway on board, one of Kolstein's lieutenants. This stowaway has instructions to sabotage the ship, dispose of the crew and ensure the safety of the object of Kolstein's affections. And Kolstein himself is only an hour or so behind the players ship in another ship he has acquired. Looks like it's until death do us part.
This would obviously work well with a gender reversal, or same gender affection dependant on the make up of the players party and your groups playing style.

So there you go, two more five minute plot outlines courtesy of the shuffle button. Obviously your music library will be different than mine (you may know exactly where that Sister Rosetta Tharpe song came from) so the inspiration will be different, but the principle is the same. Spin the disk and banish that writers block.

Hmm, I think I'll actually use that Forgive and Forget one next time I run a sci-fi game. Or western.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Game Master Techniques: In Medias Res

As GMs we have a large bag of tricks at our disposal to run our games, but often the game starts with the traditional get offered a job, accept and then go along with it premise. Sometimes the players don't always play along and your best laid plans can fall apart without them getting to the action. Sometimes you just want to cut through all the preamble and get right into the good stuff. Sometimes you want to start, like many books and movies, right in the middle of things or In Medias Res.

In Medias Res is a Latin term meaning into the middle of things, and it does exactly what it says on the tin. Instead of starting at the beginning, start in the middle (or even the end.)

As mentioned it's a common enough technique in books and movies. Star Wars (the original one) has the famous opening of the star destroyer attacking Princess Leia's ship. Memento begins with what could be considered the ending (note people narrating stuff to another and recalling a story isn't In Medias Res.) Master and Commander takes the technique to the extreme and only gives you the middle of the story full stop, with the film not resolving the entire plot and starting just as a naval battle breaks out.

So how can this be used by a GM? I'm sure most of us have already used it on several occasions  sometimes without really realizing it. Simply begin in the middle.

Players are a savvy lot, and like to think they're in control (GMs who let the players actually be in control raise your hand. No, didn't think so.) As a result they will want to know how they ended up in the situation they are in. There are three usual ways of dealing with this

  1. Fill in the backstory with narrative
  2. Flashback and let the players control the actions leading up to this by running the game in a different order to the usual linear gameplay
  3. Make finding that out the entire point of the adventure
Option 1 is the least satisfying for the players as it removes their sense of control and their freedom of choice.  Some players may well welcome the skipping of the boring lead up to adventure, but others may not like it. You need to figure out what works with your group before deciding upon this idea.

Option 2 is one I like. You can still run your adventure relatively normally, just the scenes are out of order. The main issue with this one is that unless your players are extremely co-operatives in setting things themselves to allow for the later scene to come true you may find yourself having to railroad some of the choices and paths. Of course the point of the adventure could well be that the future cannot be changed, even if you know of it, in which case creative GMing and running of the world is quite justified.

Option 3 isn't one you can use often. For example the players wake up in a sticky situation with no memory of how they got to be there. They're clones waking up from having memories injected and don't know they're clones. They've been arrested for crimes they don't recall committing and perhaps have been set up and drugged. Obviously there is a limit to how many times this can be pulled off, generally only once per campaign unless it's a long one. In fact often times this can be used as the initial adventure of a campaign where the point is to resolve what happened before.

I've used all these options before on various ways to various degrees of success. 

The fill in the backstory with a narrative can be unsatisfying for a player, however West End Games made this work for adventure after adventure when they published their Star Wars Roleplaying Game. The way they solved it was to give out a script at the beginning of each adventure and have each player read a part. This would explain how they got to where they are, and usually would launch straight into the adventure. A famous one I recall was the end of the script running straight into their automated shuttle being flown at high speed straight towards the oceans of Mon Calamari with no chance of survival unless they acted immediately.

The out of sequence gaming one I've used a few times. One of the best ones I pulled off was in a Legend of the Five Rings campaign where I started one of the players off in the middle of a duel. In L5R a duel is conducted by each side taking turns to announce if they'll continue to focus, or try and strike. Each focus increases the difficulty of the hit, whereas a strike announcement will allow the other side to take first hit. The trick is to increase the target number to where you think the opponent will not be able to hit before then flinching. 

Anyway I opened the game by asking the player whether he wanted to Focus or Strike and only giving him a sentence of what he sees around him. After he declared then I'd jump the game back in time and start the adventure. After each scene I'd jump back to the duel, give a bit more description of what is happening in the here and now, declare the opponent is focusing, ask the player for their option (it was focus as it always is in the early stages of a duel) and then skip back in time again. Each previous scene would advance things towards what is happening with the duel occurring and generally alter the players perception of the person they were facing. I would try and change the perceptions continuously until it got to the point where the past caught up to the present and the duel was resolved. The end of the duel marked the end of the session with a follow up the following week. I got good compliments from my players for that one.

I've always wanted to try this one as well with the players starting off defending themselves against an accusation in court, and each time the players took the stand they would give their answers to the prosecution's questions by playing out the scene. I'll have to give that a try some time.

Finally for option 3 I ran a Cyberpunk campaign once with the players waking up in a police prisoner transport after having been arrested for the murder of the mayor of Night City. The transport then crashed and the players were able to flee. None of them knew each other beforehand, and I had them do their characters up separately. The campaign was then based around figuring out what happened before (they were obviously drugged, but there was video and eyewitness evidence to the crime) and clearing their name.

So next time you write an adventure, just skip to the chase and start In Medias Res.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Never Unprepared - The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep

I've recently finished reading through Phil Vecchione's, Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep, and now that I'm finished, it's review time.

Never Unprepared is 134 pages long in what appears to be a large digest format (I only have the PDF version, not the print copy.) This short length of the book, plus the easy writing style, make it very accessible and easy for even a busy GM to read and get something out of. Additionally since the pages are in a smaller format, it's easy to read on a smartphone or small screen tablet.
Screenshot taken from DriveThruRPG for illustration purposes
First off lets go over what this book is not. This book is not a plan to tell you how to do your session prep. It will not say you should do X and Y before a game, and will not solve all the problems that you have in getting preparation done before your game.

So, what is it? I've never seen one before, no one has, but I'm guessing it's a white hole. Sorry, been watching too much Red Dwarf lately (if you've never seen the series it's a BBC sitcom set on a deep space mining vessel, and the early seasons are really good.)

So, what is it? Well Never Unprepared is a book that takes some project management principles (don't worry, it's not scarey) and attempts to apply them to the art of game mastering. Effectively treating the approach to game prep the same way one would a project plan for a large project. Yes this may sound daunting, but don't worry it's all distilled down in the book. The aim of the book is to provide you with a means of developing your own method of gaming prep that is repeatable and honed to suit your gaming needs and your GMing strengths and weaknesses.So the book doesn't tell you how to prep your games, it tells you how to go about working out how is best for you to prep for your games.

I'm going to borrow from the index now to guide you through the book contents.
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • How to Use This Book
  • Understanding Prep
    • Prep is Not a Four Letter Word
    • The Phases of Prep
    • Brainstorming
    • Selection
    • Conceptualization
    • Documentation
    • Review
  • Prep Toolbox
    • Tools for Prep
    • Mastering your Creative Cycle
  • Evolving Your Style
    • Your Personal Prep Templates
    • The Prep-Lite Approach
    • Prep in the Real World
  • Conclusion
  • References and Inspiration
  • Index
The core content of the book is explaining the five phases of prep that Phil has identified over his years of GMing. Brainstorming, Selection, Conceptualization, Documentation and Review. Each of the sections on that particular area of prep goes into details on what would be contained in that phase, some common pitfalls to avoid, and a quiz to rate your effectiveness at the particular phase. Additionally there are a load of hints and tips along the way on how you may be able to accomplish this phase without telling you how to do it (in other words it doesn't dictate a methodology.)

For example the section on brainstorming suggests just throwing ideas down on paper that seem vaguely interesting. Don't think about them in great detail, don't analyze whether or not they'd be useful or how you can use them, just basic thoughts. Deciding if they're good comes in the Selection phase, and fleshing them out in Conceptualization. Some hints on capturing your brainstorming, such as always having a note application on your smartphone, or a small notebook tucked in your pocket.

There is advice on how you can improve what you do in each section, and how to spot when you are doing too much. For instance are you really good at coming up with evocative location descriptions on the fly? Then you really shouldn't be wasting your time writing it out in more than a bullet point or two to keep a focus.

Yes some of the advice in the book may see obvious to many, but sometimes you still need someone to point it out to you to make it stick in your mind.

It's hard to pick out specifics that are good, and what is bad, but there is so much useful ideas in the book that I'll end up taking on a lot of them and most won't even be conscious. From that perspective you can get more out of the book that you think. In many ways it's a self help book to give you the push towards thinking in a more efficient way about the approach you take to gaming prep.

 Conclusion: Is this a book worth reading for any GM? If you find you're not ready in time for your games, or that the gaming prep is taking too much of your time and you consider it sometimes to be time wasted, then definitely buy this book. In fact I'd recommend buying it anyway as even the most experienced Game Masters will likely find something in there that is useful to them. Myself, I'm taking the templates concepts and applying them into my notes, it's already improved things. And since reading the book, I now use Evernote on my smartphone constantly to enter ideas and carry a small notebook in my jacket pocket.

So go over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy today. It's not that expensive and it could well help.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Legend of the Five Rings: Quickstart Rules

For those who are interested in the world of Legend of the Five Rings, but don't want to spend money on it, the other year Alderac released a quickstart PDF for Free RPG Day. This PDF is available from their site and is a great introduction to the game and how it differs from most traditional western fantasy games.

The PDF consists of a short intro story, an overview of the game rules (this is actually the majority of the basic rules of the game, so not much more is needed), the adventure Legacy of Disaster and a large cast of pre-generated characters for the players to choose from for the game.

Quick to pick up and run this is an excellent introduction to the L5R world. Give it a go, even if it is only for an evening.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gameline Overview: Eclipse Phase

For those of you who don't know, Eclipse Phase is a transhuman roleplaying game published by Posthuman Studios.

Eclipse Phase is set 10 years after the rise of the Titans, artificial intelligences created by man who warred on humanity. Within a year the Titans has appeared, engaged in war using every possible weapon at their disposal, and then force uploaded the minds of millions of humans before disappearing with the minds they stole. Earth is a ruin, devastated by nuclear attacks and still plagued by semi-sentient nano-plague swarms. Humanity is an endangered species, less than half a billion people survived the fall and all of those off of Earth.

Players take on the role of agents for Firewall, an organization created to protect against existential threats, that is threats that could destroy what is left of humanity. However humanity is no longer exactly what someone from our time would recognize. While some people are still proud to be human mark 1 (normal biological baseline human,) a large percentage of the population has reached beyond the regular boundaries of the flesh to become more.

Some spend their time with their consciousness uploaded into the bodies of giant whales that swim through the upper reaches of the sun's corona, while others simply exists as digital uploads of their original consciousness jumping from computer system to system. You can be a vacuum resistant octopoid technician or a human who has been extensively cybernetically or genetically altered. One thing is constant though, real death is generally a thing of the past with people having their consciousness backed up in case of accidents.

It is this later point that makes for an interest gaming setting for the players, death is not necessarily the end of the characters. Taken to the possible extent this can allow for sacrificial roleplaying or taking on greater odds than a PC would normally stand up to.

Your mind is software. Program it.
Your body is a shell. Change it.
Death is a disease. Cure it.
Extinction is approaching. Fight it.

It is a complex setting, but one that is well worth exploring. To date the main publications consist of the following.

  • Eclipse Phase Rulebook. The main rulebook for the game
  • Rimward. A sourcebook on the outer solar system
  • Panoptican. A sourcebook exploring surveillance  uplifted animals, space habitats and other smaller aspects of the setting
  • Gatecrashing. Exploring the mysterious Pandora Gates that were left behind, possibly, by the Titans that provide wormhole travel to other worlds
  • Sunward. Sourcebook on the inner solar system
These books are all available in hardcopy format from Amazon, FLGS etc. PDFs are for sale on DriveThruRPG.

One interesting thing about the books, and often talking about, is that almost everything for Eclipse Phase has been released under the Creative Commons license. What this means is that the PDFs and the game itself, is freely available to be downloaded and distributed by anyone as long as they are not charging for it. The PDFs are often uploaded onto torrent sites by Posthuman themselves, and they can be downloaded from the page of one of their writers Rob Boyle here

This seems to be working for them. I know I originally downloaded the PDFs to read, and have since purchased the books. So if you like the game, please think about purchasing it to support them and give us new material in the future.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

GM Resources: Time Life Old West Series

As a GM you often find yourself in need of information. Setting information is very important for creating a living breathing world through your narrative. Many games are set in fantasy or science-fiction settings, and as a result these gamelines often release an entire range of setting specific books on aspects of the setting. Culture, geography, technology, language, everyday life etc are all part of what is released in these books.

Sometimes we play games set in historical era such as the 1920s for Call of Cthulhu, feudal Japan for Bushido, Roman Empire for various games and the good Old West of American history. Oft times these gamelines don't concentrate so much on the details of the setting other than locations, mainly due to the fact that since these are historical settings those details can often be gleaned from history books better than an RPG sourcebook could provide. These details are different from creative inspiration as they provide more of a backdrop than plot hooks.

This of course then raises the question, "what is the best book(s) for me to read to understand this setting?" Ask 20 GMs and you may get 15 different answers, dependant on your historical era of choice. As a GM I am always on the outlook for books that will help me improve the details of my games and breathe life into the world. I have a large range of history books covering 1920s (old travel guides are fabulous, but for another time), ancient Egypt, US Civil War, World War II and more books than fit on a shelf on feudal Japan and samurai.

One era I've been looking for for a while, but not had much luck finding anything on, is the era of the American Old West. Sure I can find western movies a dime a dozen at the second hand stores, and wild west fiction is easily discovered, but actual history books on what it was like I've found more difficult. So imagine my joy when I found locally for sale an almost complete set (bar one book) of the Time Life Old West series for $65.

For those not aware, this series was published by Time Life books in the 1970s and consisted of a 26 volume set of hardback books. I'm not sure how they were originally sold, but I think it was a subscription series books (I think that's how the Time Life series went, please correct me if I'm wrong.) These are great books, and because they were produced in huge quantities getting a set of them is relatively cheap (they go in the US for approximately $4-8 a book.)
Each book in the series covers a different topic in great detail. The complete book listing consists of
  • The Cowboys
  • The Indians
  • The Trailblazers
  • The Soldiers
  • The Railroaders
  • The Forty-Niners
  • The Pioneers
  • The Gunfighters
  • The Expressmen
  • The Townsmen
  • The Great Chiefs
  • The Rivermen
  • The Texans
  • The Loggers
  • The Chroniclers
  • The Spanish West
  • The Miners
  • The Canadians
  • The Frontiersmen
  • The Alaskans
  • The Ranchers
  • The Mexican War
  • The Women
  • The Scouts
  • The Gamblers
  • The End and the Myth
Additionally a master index book was produced, which I don't have, that goes for the $20-$30 range and is rarer.

The books are, as mentioned before, are hardback books. The covers are brown leather embossed with an appropriate motif including bull horns and ropes, with a period art colour inset depicting the topic. Incidentally the hardcover original edition of Kenzer Co's Aces & Eights main book is based on these books from the cover design, embossing on the faux leather and the internal layout and structure. Each one is 240 pages long and the interior is glossy paper full of period photos, artworks and photographs of relevant authentic equipment taken from museums and private collections.

Each book goes into great detail on it's specific topic. For instance the book on The Gamblers details the people that would become gamblers, details on dice and dice making, the various games of both chance and skill that were played by both the white man and the native Americans, cheating and the consequences, gambling halls and locations and a wealth of other information. The book on The Pioneers explains the routes to the west (Oregon Trail, California Trail etc), what motivated men to make the move from civilization, the wagon trains, inventory of a typical pioneer wagon, the wagons themselves and extreme detail on what life on the road was like for the pioneers and what they did once they reached their destinations.

If you have any interest in running a game set in the old west, you owe it to yourself to pick up these books. They are the best bang for the buck you will ever spend to get a resource to be used for any western game.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Unboxing: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition

A couple of weeks ago I did a successful and popular unboxing for Second City for Legend of the Five Rings. In a local sale last week I picked up a copy of Fantasy Flight's Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition box set and thought that even though it's a couple of years old, I'll still do an unboxing for it. Like the Second City one, this is not a review.

So the box for WFRP 3rd edition is huge. While deeper than the Second City one at 30 x 23.5 x 11.5 cm, it actually weighs a few grams lighter at just under 3kg. It's still a heavy box though.
 Upon opening you are presented with the top of the stack and a catalog for Fantasy Flight Games
So the contents break down as follows.

  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Rulebook: The main game rulebook (96 pages) 
  • Tome of Mysteries: A book dealing with magic and related rules (48 pages)
  • Tome of Blessings: A book dealing with religion, gods and priests and associated rules (48 pages)
  • Tome of Adventure: A GMs book dealing with topics like campaign play, creatures and NPCs, tracking games and includes a 28 page introductory adventure (96 pages)

  •  3 sheets of heavy card tokens. These break down into
    • 48 tracking token: triangular tokens that come in four different colours
    • 6 stance rings: rings that your character base fits into to tell if you're cautious or reckless
    • 6 activation tokens: to indicate if you've taken a turn or not I believe
    • 2 large standups: monster figure standins for a troll and an ogre
    • 47 medium standups: card standins for players, NPCs and creatures
    • 39 fatigue and stress tokens
    • 40 puzzle-fit stance pieces: used for tracking various items during the game
    • 5 puzzle fit centre pieces: used as the hub for the puzzle pieces (don't ask me, I haven't read the rules through completely yet)

  •  5 wrapped sets of cards in three different sizes. These consist of
    • 154 action cards (small cards)
    • 70 wound cards (small cards)
    • 45 talent cards (medium cards)
    • 30 condition cards (small cards)
    • 30 insanity cards (small cards)
    • 30 career ability cards (medium cards)
    • 19 miscast cards (small cards)
    • 12 location cards (large cards)
    • 1 item card (not sure, but I think it's a small one)

  • 30 double sided career cards/sheets
  • 1 pad of paper double sided character sheets
  • 4 party sheets

  •  3 character boxes: since there are many components that a character may use in any game, boxes are provided for players to keep them all together until the next game. A good idea if you use the components in your game

  •  36 custom dice
  • 12 plastic bases

So you get a fair amount for your money. Even though this looks like you're unpacking the latest version of Arkham Horror, this is an RPG and a quick glance through the rulebook supports this. I look forward to reading it and giving it a run through.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Game Overview: Aces and Eights

Many kids grew up wanting to stride manfully down the main road in a dusty western town, six shooter on their hip and duster blowing in the wind. Saloons, shootouts, three days of growth on the chin and wide brimmed hats are just a day in the life of a Hollywood cowboy. As with many of these dreams, there is a role-playing game to fit into that gap.

Over the years there have been many Old West RPGs. Boot Hill, Dust Devils, Six Gun and Shady Gulch to name a few. Most came and went in short time periods, just like the western cinema revival that threatens to reappear every few years but never quite turns up.

One of the more recent entries, and certainly one of the more comprehensive ones, is Aces and Eights by Kenzer Co. A more deluxe take on the old west, set by default in a fictional version of the American west the Aces and Eights line brought high production values to the western RPG.

Aces & Eights is a modular system that allows the GM and players to use as many or as few rules as they like. The combat system is quite involved but seems pretty realistic and good at conveying the western gunfight. It uses a transparent shot clock placed over a silhouette of the target to assist in the targeting and location determination, a more refined version of a similar idea used in the older game Millennium's End.

A quick review of the game lines gives us the following.

Aces and Eights Core Rulebook. Available in both a deluxe faux leather hardback and a softback version. The hardback version has embossing on it in the same manner, and much the same style, as the old Time Life Old West series of books (keep an eye out for a post on the usefulness of these as a GM resource at another time.) 398 pages plus a couple of transparent shotclocks.

Players Guidebook. A cut down version of the main rule book containing rules for player use and removing a few GM details and the setting information. 218 pages plus a couple more shotclocks.

Fool's Gold. An adventure around a gold claim and a bandit gang. 32 pages plus cover/maps.

Trouble on the Sequoyah Star. A large adventure set mainly on the Sequoyah Star passenger train. The pack includes a 48 page adventure, 16 pages of NPCs, in the standard Aces and Eights full page format, 11 full colour card stock pages of maps of the train with miniature grids printed on them, plus the cover which also includes a couple of maps.

Shootist's Guide. A 32 page booklet including rules and stats for creatures and animals and expanded rules for horses and mules. 30 pages of new silhouettes for human targets in various poses, also hiding behind obstacles and mounted. 14 pages of animal silhouettes. Plus an additional shotclock.

Judas Crossing. A 112 page book on a town in the Shattered Frontier, Judas Crossing with maps, details of the town, information on the various factions in and around the town and information on NPCs and how to obtain the correct NPC for the correct situation.

Rustlers and Townsfolk. A huge book of NPCs in 3 hole punch format, full page, for every walk of life that you could need in running an Aces & Eights game.

Rustlers and Townsfolk: Judas Crossing Edition. A large book of NPCs in the 3 hole punch full page per NPC format detailing over 100 of the individuals that reside in and around the town of Judas Crossing.

An excellent game for scratching that wild west itch that we all get from time to time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Call of Kickstarter

So in the last couple of days a couple of Cthulhu related Kickstarters have finished, and one is still going with 9 days to go at time of writing.

First up we have the reprint of Horror on the Orient Express. This was a Kickstarter by Chaosium to raise funds for a new edition of the classic campaign. Chaosium originally asked for $20,000, and ended up getting over 1000% funding at $207,804. I'm ashamed to say I ended up in for more than I initially planned at $150 (Conductor, Canada for those interested.) There was a lot of confusion originally with the shipping charges being messed up, descriptions not being clear and stretch goals that were incomprehensible to some. Things did get ironed out slowly over time and it ended as a huge success for them. Note to RPG companies in the future though, never start a Kickstarter during GenCon, you won't have the time to devote to it that you'll need.

Next up was Tremulus. Not related to Call of Cthulhu but a Lovecraftian hack over the Apocalypse World engine. Not something I'm hugely familiar with but it sounded interesting to me. Generate your games as you go, different game each time and it becomes more of a storytelling game than a traditional RPG with less work on the gamemaster. Originally asking for $5,000, they came in at 1254% funded with $62,723. Only $20 from me this time, PDFs only. Seemed a lot to add $40 more to get a paper copy shipped to Canada and it may be something I don't play, just read and go "hey this is cool, I should run this some day."

Lastly is the Cthulhu Playing Cards. A Cthulhu themed set of Bicycle playing cards. Traditional, interesting and with some decent art. They were asking for $7,500 and at time of writing had $66,302 with 9 days left. They'll do fine. Not even a little bit of wrangling with Chaosium over trademarks could slow them down.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Using the 36 Dramatic Situations

A couple of days ago I posted the list of the 36 dramatic situations, but what I didn't do was show any examples of them in use. I thought today I'd just walk through a couple of examples with a few game systems  on the inspiration that the results would give me.

Game: Babylon 5
Roll 1 - 5: Pursuit

The fugitive doesn't have to be fleeing a misunderstood conflict here, but it's an option.

Scenario A: A rogue telepath has come to Babylon 5 in search of the underground railroad that can smuggle him away from the every watching eyes of the Psi-Corp. Of course, where there are telepaths involved the Psi Cops won't be far behind and are willing to turn the entire station upside down and everyone's lives to recover the telepath or stop them. The characters are hired to help the pursued, or are command staff on the station caught up in the entire drama. Optional extra: the telepath accidentally scanned someone and knows some dark secret that could bring down governments/expose dirty secrets/provide an unfair advantage to one of any number of corporations (maybe InterPlanetary eXpeditions is after them as well.)

Scenario B: It is the characters being pursued rather than getting caught up in a pursuit. On a previous mission they killed a Narn in the course of their actions. Now the Narn's brother has declared a Blood Oath against them and will not stop until the characters are dead. He hasn't found them yet, but they hear someone is looking for them and has a bad attitude.

Game: Aces and Eights (or any western RPG)
Roll 4 - 5: Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones

Scenario: The players are sheriffs or deputies of a small town when they hear about a local land baron forming a grudge against the owner of the local hotel. The grudge is not justified and the baron is obviously in the wrong. Things escalate to the point where the barons men are sent to town on the instruction to kill the hotel owner, however in order to keep the players out of the way they have first kidnapped the wife or child of one of the characters. Now they need to decide what they're willing to sacrifice for law and order, their family or the law.

Game: Star Trek
Roll 2-5: Abduction

Scenario: A member of the crew has been abducted from the ship by a newly encountered alien race that a treaty for a valuable resource (dilithium?) has just been signed with. It turns out that this is a normal part of their culture after a treaty, to take a hostage from each side to help secure the treaty and they fully expect the Federation representatives to randomly take one of their people involved as well. It is up to the players to resolve the situation without breaking the treaty.