Thursday, 29 December 2016

Bethany & Eric (backstory)

I've been horribly quiet recently, for which I apologise. I've been burnt out and tired: the fibromyalgia diagnosis was a bigger stress than I initially realised and coming to terms with it has been harder and is taking longer than I'd expected, and RPGaDay took more out of me than usual as a result.

But I'm working on getting back to normal! And to begin that, here's the tale of Bethany and Eric, which I've been meaning to write up for a very long time (stats for various games may follow).

~~~

The house was small and dank. It would have been dark, but the hole in the wall where the door had been let in the light. It wasn't as if there was anything worth stealing that hadn't already been stolen, and they'd needed the wood for the fire.

Nothing worth stealing? There was one thing, something Bethany's siblings's grumbled to find in the blankets they shared, but no one else knew about. Even if they did, with the battered scabbard and nicked blade it wouldn't be worth much - indeed, the only reason Bethany still had her grandfather's sword was her mother had told her father it had already been sold and had been able to find a convincing sum from the small amount she could earn. An uncharacteristic rebellion from the mousey woman, but important to her daughter. Their father wasn't a bad man, but years of struggle had taken its toil on his temper and ability to control it. He frightened Bethany.

They lived in the room that made up the first floor of the building, Bethany, her siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and a mess of cousins. It was a confusion, at times: Bethany shared her name with an aunt and a cousin, and her sister Lydia, who shared hers with their mother and 2 living cousins, had been heard to grumble they were so poor they couldn't even afford their own names.

To keep food on the table, everyone who could, worked; those who couldn't, begged. This day, Bethany, all of 15, would be doing so in tandem with her 12 year old brother Eric. She knew most of her other siblings would complain to be paired up with him - he wasn't strong and they didn't want to have to defend him if anything came. But Bethany didn't mind. She liked his calm and quiet, and knew he could talk himself out of most problems they were likely to face. But the biggest reason was that he reminded her of their grandfather.

As soon as their father was clear of the street, she ducked back to the area cordoned off as the sleeping area and retrieved the sword, wrapped it in rags and strapped it to her leg - a limp would help bring in some money, and she always felt better having it nearby. Back out, she dusted Eric's ash-grey hair and led him to one of her favourite places - a park their grandfather had taken them to before he'd died. She found herself a good spot near the entrance and let Eric get to work. 

This was the other reason she liked to work with him. People responded to that appearance of vulnerability and she didn't have to do anywhere near as much work. She stretched back and enjoyed the sun on her skin.

And that's when she spotted the smoke, coming from the direction of their home and billowing higher. She made sure Eric was close, but then the flames started to flicker and she knew there wasn't much time - and even less chance for the slums. Most people were standing around in confusion, and she knew then they needed to move before panic set in. She caught Eric's hand and dragged him away, ignoring his kicks and protests. She knew the others would get out or they wouldn't. She knew she couldn't help them. But she could help herself, and she could keep Eric safe.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween Fiction - RIP



The sun is warm against my back, the grass prickly-dry and the ground leaving dust-prints on my dress. My fingers caress the stone: cool and so smooth it feels wet. I trace the sharp letters: no ‘dearly beloved of…’; just your name, your dates, RIP. Your mother chose it. I would have given you poetry. I would have given you everything.

RIP.

Is this epitaph meant for me? To wad platitudes against the gaping hole? To stem the sorrow bleeding from my soul by pretending to know you rest gently?

This is a peaceful place to rest. Trees and hedges mask the main road that’s not that busy, really, except when school ends. The sky, today, is vivid blue with a scattering of cirrus clouds – the ones you said were angel hair. The intermittent breeze has fallen still.

 A pair of racing squirrels break my reverie. I lean back and listen to the bird song – melodic warbles and a cawing crow. The breeze returns, picks up discarded leaves and that crisp packet someone left and I lean back and ponder: is it for you?

The epitaph. Not a wish for peace in repose, but a command.

The breeze is stronger now – strong enough to send a shiver from my neck, and suddenly the peace and stillness feels oppressive, feels eternal like I will be alone forevermore.

Is that it? We’re not trying to comfort ourselves with those words, but demanding that you lie still and do not rise like some vampire to feed on our grief, keep us trapped in some twilight-life; not dead, but unable to live without you.

Here. Have my grief. Have my sorrow. Have my tears. Please, rest easy. Let me live. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 31: Best advice you were ever given for a game of your choice

I can't think of an answer for this, which is frustrating as it's the last day and I want to go out on a bang.

So, little bits of advice - not necessarily the best, just the bits I remember - from a host of games and in no particular order.

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - "Yes, thigh-high stilletto boots with stakes for heels would be very cool, but could you actually walk in them?"

2. Aberrant - "Think bigger."

3. Ravenloft - "You need a big gothic tragedy for the players to interact with, and individual gothic story arc for each player to travel through." (ie, you aren't going to change the world, but you might be able to change yourself.)

4. Deadlands - "I like the character development we're building. I don't want this to be a party of individuals."

5. Cyberpunk - "Someone's always got a bigger gun." "If you get into a gun fight, it's your own fault." "Why make guns illegal when bullets can be really expensive?"

6. World of Darkness - "Share the storetelling." "It's all about being a teenager, really. Werewolves = uncontrollable anger, Vampires = numb deadness, Hunter = believing you're unique and special."

7. Exalted - "What does it look like?" "If you can imagine it, you can probably do it. Just not yet."

8. ShadowRun - "Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to do."

9. Midnight - "You aren't the heroes. You won't survive if you forget that."

 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 30: Ideal game room, if money's no object

Wasn't this a question last year? I would love the hi-tech room briefly described there, but I think the cosy room is the one I can better expand.

So: big, comfy, flumpfy sofas and cushions for the players; a comfy chair for the GM, with a table the right height for whatever tools they need. A ceiling fan. Blankets. So far, so combining my lounge with my friends' conservatory. Possibly why this appeals to me so much.
A kitty to get in the way
There's more, though, to move into the 'money no object' realm. Mostly, I want a huge library with floor to ceiling bookshelves, andthose cool library ladders that whizz along rails, and a spiral staircase to the game area, which would nested in a top corner of the library on a mezzanine overlooking the main library. And there would be at least one secret passage opened only by pulling on the correct fake book. Maybe that's where the hi-tech game room would be hidden...

 

Monday, 29 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 29: If you can game anywhere in the world, where would you game?

The thing is, I prefer to game indoors so it kinda doesn't matter where in the world I am! Gaming outside - if it's windy, dice and character sheets go everywhere. If it's sunny, I sweat and burn. If it's rainy, character sheets get wet. If it's hot/humid, I get ill... Basically, when it comes to weather I'm fussy! So indoors - ideally with heating/ceiling fan - is better for me. And if you're indoors, it doesn't matter where in the world before. As I and many others have said before, it's the people who make it.

There's a lot of places I'd like to visit - Canada, Iceland and New Zealand probably being current top options - and lots of places I'd like to visit and game - like Australia (if Mark Knights can find me space at his table) and Canada (there's a few friends I miss a lot who live there).

The other thing is, I live in a beautiful part of the world with a temporate climate that (just about) suits me, so really, home is where I want to be.



Husbit answers: "Vin Diesel's house. Obviously with Vin Diesel, or that'd be a bit weird." Can't really argue with that.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 28: Thing you'd be most surprised a friend hadn't seen/read

It's a long running joke in our group that Bells hasn't seen any films that don't have superheroes in them, so I'm no longer surprised when he hasn't seen something.

Other people, though... Labyrinth is the best film ever and I will jelly wrestle anyone who says otherwise (except my brother, cos that'd be a bit weird and I just have to accept he's wrong). It has some nice techniques for building a campaign, too: there's a motley assortment of main characters (Ludo is my favourite, though the one I'd be least likely to play); there's a good motivation for the plot; there's foreshadowing; there's a powerful end where at least two of the characters (Sarah and Hoggle) have grown and learnt about themselves. Oh, and puzzles and traps and dancing and bargaining and a little bit of fighting.

And the fireys. 

Books? Discworld. It's such a common feature of most bookshelves I see, it surprises me when people haven't read any. Similarly, if someone tells me they've never read anything by Ursula K LeGuin, I sit and blink: I grew up breathing her words.

And Swallows and Amazons... I've been craving re-reading those (Dad's keeping his eyes out for ours, but they may have been charity shopped already :-/) and it turns out surprisingly few of my friends have read them - and then a films come out!

Erm... I really ought to twist this back to roleplay but tired and should go to bed instead...

 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 27: Most unusual circumstance or location in which you've gamed

I have friends who've gamed on beaches and in castles; I've larped in the woods. There used to be a particular student flat in my uni town, a ground floor flat with a leaky cellar that was used by many (though never me, sadly) for horror games, particularly Cthulu.
The castle with this view, in fact. *rainbow not always included.
The most unusual place I've roleplayed was on the coach to Warhammer World the day I met Husbit - the way I met Husbit. The journey is a good few hours and none of my friends were coming so I was bored. Behind me, I could hear some of the regulars from the store a town over, who were sharing our coach, playing some corrupt version of D&D. Even if I hadn't been bored, I'd have probably tried to join them. Luckily enough, they let me. And Husbit (who wasn't Husbit at the time, just Al) wasn't playing in the tournament that was the purpose of the trip and popped round to see how I was doing and we had the same phone in the same colour and he was so goddamn cute...

So yeah. The most unusual circumstance was the process of falling in love. Or lust, at least. Either way, worked out well for me ;-)

 

Friday, 26 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 26: What hobbies go well with roleplay?

This is it! This is the question I've been looking forward to most this year! It's a topic I'd been mentally preparing a post for before I saw the list of questions, and when I saw it decided to hold off until today.

Ok, it's not exactly the theme I was preparing to explore. I've been having some stupid body issues, and that was the angle I was going to come from: addressing my body issues by dressing them up as looking at exercise supporting roleplay. To be honest, I still want to, because having body issues is ridiculous and I don't want them and I think it will help me deal with them to be honest about them (opening up to Husbit has already helped hugely, especially as he didn't dismiss them and tell me I was being silly for having them but accepted this new part of my neurotic side because he's shiny and understands me better than I realise most of the time). But RPGaDay isn't the time to talk about body issues so that'll wait for another day and instead I'll share some of the compatible hobby thoughts I've been percolating.

Aerial
I'd love to tell you aerial circus complements roleplay, but it isn't the best fit. Oh, I adore it and it's amazing and I genuinely believe everyone who's physically capable (even if they don't necessarily realise it) should give it a go (even though I know it isn't for everyone and it breaks my heart a tiny bit whenever I convince someone to try and they fall into that category), but it doesn't exactly complement roleplay.

I thought it would. Acrobatics is a skill common to many systems, and characters are always tumbling around and doing crazy stuff, but all it's really taught me is how much harder a lot of things our characters make look easy is - most of the exact skills I'm learning aren't things I'm going to use in a game. Although it was my geeky friend Mazz who first dragged me along, and he plays in Matt's ShadowRun game. He told me about one game where they were dangling in a liftshaft and needed to pick some electrics to save themselves, and Matt said how?, seeing as they needed their hands to hold onto the cable. So Mazz described how he'd wrap his foot in the cable to lock it in place, then cross the free leg over the locked leg, bend his knees and lean back (I don't think I have footage of me doing this move - cross-legged release - because my knees have a tendency to bend sideways if I'm not very careful so it's not a move I do often). Matt, surprised, looked at him and asked him if his character would know how to do it. No, Mazz conceded; but the former acrobat party-member would! So circus has some use...

Story
I read a lot - most roleplayers I know read a lot, and those who don't tend to watch films or tv dramas or play computer games with storyline. A lot of us write, too, either as GM's preparing for games or as players writing up games, or for the sheer joy of writing - or for the sheer need of it. A lot of GM's, particularly, seem fond of people watching, which is a similar story-forming habit. Surprisingly few drama students, though. Think I was the only one in my year...

I think a lot of us can't help it: we are addicted to story, and roleplay is just another way of getting our fix. Not true of all (maybe even most) roleplayers, but enough that it's significant.

I feel like the benefit of books/film to roleplay is so obvious it'd patronising to point out, but just in case it's not so obvious: we can learn about character, about comic timing, about suspense, about drama by absorbing story in many places, both from the good and the bad.

Travel Skills
Image used without permission from here.
I don't enjoy climbing. I've tried - a lot of my circus friends climb and my younger siblings enjoy it - but I can't get into it. Still, the little bit I've done has given me an appreciation of what it feels like to climb - of how to spot suitable holds, or navigate and overhang or traverse - and that comes in handy in a game.

There is a pretty amazing facility not far from me, that offers more than just climbing - yoga, cafe, cheerleading, circus... and Parkour. I've only been once, but I really enjoyed it. Reckon I could really get into it, but that was last autumn, about when my latest bout of fatigue kicked in and ripped my mornings away from me. 

Parkour is great though - running up a wall makes you feel invincible. And that type of running around a city or town, well, it's something I've done in most settings at some time.

And horse riding is a very common method of travel, particularly in fantasy and Western settings, but how many of us actually understand the skill and stamina it takes to ride?

Hobby Skills


Taji is an artist - there's a beautiful in-game reason why she took up art. One of the side effects is that I'm adding doodles to the notes I'm making for that game (Exalted). I've never been any good at art - my Dad and a lot of my Mum's family are fantastic at it, so I guess I assumed it would come naturally to me. I never realised how much work they'd put in! When I wasn't immediately good, I lost interest, but every few years the bug rises in me again, and I dig out my sketchbooks and add to what's there. Sometimes I'm even halfway happy with what I draw.

I'm have friends who make drawing and art look easy - the image on the left was sketched by Antipixi (Chris Drake) for me at the NAF Championship Blood Bowl tournament a few years ago, and he's done similar sketches for other people and as certificate prizes at other tournaments - he's so quick and precise it's exciting to watch. Paul and Rich can both draw, and both have created exciting props for Pathfinder - Paul sculpted an entire town, while Rich has made us runes and many beautiful maps, letters and newspapers. It really adds something to the game.

Mostly I'd like to be able to create my own character portraits; I love the ones Abbie does for me, but I'd like to be able to do something on my own better than that outline of Ursella and Tempest above (3rd ed D&D halfling druid and her panther companion. With a name like Ursella, Tempest should probably have been a bear, but cats are cool).

Scuba diving doesn't come up often, but I suspect if I dived more than that one exciting holiday in Egypt I'd find ways to bring it into games - and it has the advantage of its own sign language. I suspect parachuting is similar, but I ain't jumping out of no plane, fool!

And music! Like art, it's something my Mum's family make look easy so, again, I'd assumed I wouldn't have to work at it... Also, I wanted to learn the flute because she played the flute, but I should have quit and switched to violin after that afternoon I borrowed my brother's and discovered a more natural relationship with the instrument. (My Granny's 90 this month and we're having a get-together that includes instructions to bring whatever instruments you have, so I may talk nicely to my violin-playing cousin - if he's there - about him showing me the ropes properly...) I really want to play Ylva one day, but it'd be nice to understand music better first.

Rich plays guitar and piano and has a good understanding of music theory, which helps him pick good background/theme music for games; Husbit used to DJ and watches a lot of films so has similar abilities.

Martial arts
I don't have a picture for this, and I'm too lazy to create one.

Combat is a large part of a lot of games, so having some experience in what it actually feels like to fight is useful and can add flavour to the fight. I think it's even more true if your experience is in some form of trained fighting. I did ju-jitsu for a bit (and aikido for an even briefer while before that), which helps me describe locks, grapples and throws when I fight. I've attended archery sessions, which is coming in useful with Taji (most of my characters who shoot end up with crossbows, which I've only used once or twice so don't really understand. I've never fired a gun that wasn't loaded with nerf or paint). I've only fought with swords in LARP (or wooden blades against siblings...), so I'd love to try fencing and/or some form of reenactment (I know there's active Vikings around me), but it's that old triangle of time, money and energy. But I think for something we spend so much time simulating, it certainly makes sense to spend some time experiencing!

In summary...
Anything your character does often is worth trying out! 

 

Thursday, 25 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 25: What makes for a good character?

I think, for this one, I'm going to hark back to what I said on day 13: the best characters have ties to the game world and to other characters - ideally both party and NPC.

There's more, of course. Depth and layers and flaws and strengths and loves and hates.

My favourite characters tend to be those with an innocent exterior hiding a steel-strong core - Kella, Plays, Svetlana and Solomon fall into this category, and Kamaya was intended to. They also all enjoy the company of others - they're gregarious and will try to befriend someone rather than murderise them. But then, I also loved Kismet and 'Mathilde', who were definitely less friendly - downright nasty, in fact. Or at least, completely uninterested in the feelings of others but living in the world on their own terms, which was interesting. And Chrissie, of course, is far from innocent on the exterior, and, though friendly, doesn't make friends with all and sundry, the way Svetlana and Kella do/did. She's a lot more conflicted. And I'm really enjoying Taji who's different again - she has a hard outer edge to her in an inversion of my usual preferences. My favourite characters do have one thing in common, now I think of it: a deep connection to the world and other characters, even if that's (as with Mathilde, whose ultimate dream was to destroy the world) a nihilistic connection.

But most of all, a good character is one the player connects with, and enjoys playing.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 24: What is the game you are most likely to give others?

Hmmm...

I don't have a single answer to this. 

The thing is, games are subjective. The reason Husbit didn't join our Aberrant game is that he doesn't enjoy superhero-type games - but he does love horror, particularly gothic horror - particularly Ravenloft. He also doesn't love the mix of high fantasy and dirty sci fi that makes up ShadowRun, would rather play either separately; I know a lot of people who feel they shouldn't mix. But I love the game so would want to share it.

I think it makes sense to pick a game that's easy, because if I'm giving someone a generic game rather than something handpicked for that individual it's because they're new to gaming and I want to ease them into it. So what to pick? 

I started on Buffy and it's pretty straightforward, so for anyone who loves the show - or at least likes the idea of it but maybe is too young to know it - I might give them that.

I nearly started on WFRP: friends of mine wanted to play but no one wanted to GM so they gave me a copy and asked me to, and I wrote a little scenario involving a goblin attack in a cave (which is probably actually in the book...), but they never got around to organising the game (and never asked for the book back, which is the story of how I earned my first roleplay book). It is simple enough, and if you've played Fantasy you'll be familiar with the world - only now they've trashed that and rebuilt some Age of Sigmar thing I don't know about. So maybe I wouldn't give that one to a beginner any more.

Oh, I don't know. I'm not very good at this. I'm a player, not a GM, and this sounds like a question for a GM :-/

 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 23: Best 'worst luck' story

On Day 16, I'd asked some friends for stories and two that I was saving for today: "Dddddrop the boat!" "Or dropped a feast".

Both are Svetlana stories. Both involve rolling 1's at inopportune moments. I think the first was a stealth check, and the second an attempt to fight...

Some cool loot had been received, including this awesome boat that folds up small enough to fit in a bag of holding but expands nig enough to be a nice yacht for a small party, or bigger to a full war ship sort of size. I am very proud of that boat. And then we had to go south to the border of our land where orcs were ganging up and causing trouble. 

So we were sneaking around these woods with orc raiding parties strewn throughout. And then the one came up. I tripped, fell, and the boat came tumbling out of the bag, expanding and landing on the orcs! So we had a big fight, but it ended ok. In fact, we ended up convincing a weedy orc scribe that he was chosen of his god (go Alexei's charisma and illusion-type skills) and that he should challenge the current leader - Alexei supported him with ranged healing so he won. And brought the orcs to peacefully join our new barony (I think Black Shark Enterprises would be pleased).

Then we got more loot, including a rather shiny rod that creates a pavilion filled with feasting tables and food. So of course, when we got involved in a fight soon after and I rolled a one, that landed. Again, it started out seeming bad, but ended up being helpful as we made better use of the cover than the opponents did.

A bit worried what will happen next time I roll a one, seeing as my latest acquisition of pride is a rod of wonder.

Monday, 22 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 22: 'Random' event that keeps occurring

I think this is probably intended to be when you roll for random encounters and keep getting the same encounter, but that's not the way we play. But I can't very well dib out two days in a row, specially seeing as I only gave half my answer a few days ago (I meant to add Moss to the list of fictional people to join our game).

So instead, I'm going to tell you about burning poor quarters! 

It started in a game of WFRP, as I recall, in the midst of a fight going badly in a Thieves' Guild headquarters or something similar. A wooden building, anyway, in the middle of an area of town where the buildings were made of cheap wood and crowded too close together. To try and turn the fight in our favour or something, Rich kicked over the brazier in the corner of the room. Of the wooden building. We won the fight and legged it, to see flames escaping behind us, licking the frame. Licking the buildings beside and over the road and... to begin with, I at least, was having a bit of a 'cool guys don't look at explosions' moment until we realised that the entire frickin' poor quarter was going to burn down and actually kill most of the inhabitants... At least I think that was impressed on us. It's the kind of brutal realisation that GM was fond of giving us...

And then in Pathfinder I missed a week and came back to discover they - Alexei and Chester - had burnt down another poor quarter...

It was shortly after we'd been made barons by, at the time, Regent Noleski, and our party was on a diplomatic tour to introduce ourselves to the neighbouring nations. We justified my absence by saying Svetlana - and representatives of other new groups of barons - had stayed in New Stetvon to learn about baroning. The others went off to Mivon. Rich gave them a few throwaway details to add flavour to the city state, and they picked up on one of these and followed it, Rich making things up on the fly. They decided there was a vampire problem in they city, and they were the ones to solve it, so they tracked down where the suspected vampires were, found an alchemist to give them alchemist's fire, and bombed the place. Ezekiel (nearly as creepy as Alexei) warned them to use only a tiny drop, so of course they threw in the whole vial... and watched the poor quarter burn. As they like to say, "At least we killed some vampires!" (and behind them, Rich slowly shakes his head). And then Svetlana caught up with them in Pitax and genuinely believes it was coincidence they were in town at the same time - lucky coincidence, because they helped save so many lives!

 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 21: Funniest misinterpretation of a rule?

I can't think of a response to this. I mean, we misinterpret rules (and argue about them) all the time, but I can't say it's ever been an amusing mistake. Or even one that stands out... I can think of ways we've twisted rules to comedic affect when the dice have gone against someone, but really that's for Tuesday. And we adapt rules, but my favourite of those is the mischief dice we introduced to Aberrant and I talked about that last year.

I'm actually stumped. This isn't like me! You normally can't make me shut up!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

#RPGaDay2016 - Day 20: Most challenging but rewarding system learnt

I... I don't know! I don't know that many systems, really, and if the game is good I generally don't notice the system after the first few sessions.

There is a particular aspect of Exalted I really like that I'm not familiar with an equivalent in another system, which is the social combat. In martial combat, you have a 'tick' wheel that effectively measures initiative. When it reaches your turn, you announce your action, role the dice (with bonuses for good descriptions) - your attack against their defense - then move your token round the wheel the number of 'ticks' your action takes. Social combat is the same: you get to your turn, you declare your action, roll (with bonuses for good description) your social attack against their social defense.

It's simple. It gives me a frame on which to hang an argument, and the back and forwards nature, rather than a single roll, means I can recover from saying something stupid. It's also given me the confidence to play with arguments. I like being backed up by the dice, but I'm getting more confident to run without them in other games. So this has been a really powerful mechanic for me.