Wednesday, 15 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 15 - Describe a tricky RPG experience that you enjoyed

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Two episodes came to mind for this. The first is a Deadlands session I'll be writing up soon, with fear and phobia and great interaction between Solomon, Carson and Tesla. I shan't say too much, except to remind you Solomon's "worst nightmare" is that she's a were-puma and, in that form, slaughters innocent people (this being far away from her pacifistic nature), and that in Deadlands, your worst nightmare, your biggest fear, has a habit of finding you...

The second was a single scene in Aberrant, recounted here (when I was still writing the game in third person). Chrissie's relationship with her parents had never been particularly good: they never showed her much affection, growing up, and she rebelled against their materialism, their plans for her, their lack of interest in her, and this was the first time she'd seen them since her Eruption.

They started out simply ignoring her, but her attempts to talk to her mother ended up with her mother denying their very relationship. It cut my character deeply - I really felt it. The atmosphere in the room was intense as we played the scene.

Afterwards, my GM apologised to me, for being so mean, but I loved it.

What about you? What tricky experience have you had? Mine were emotional, but perhaps you have something more practical. Let me know below!

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 14 - Describe a failure that became amazing

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I've been thinking a lot about this. The one that keeps coming to mind is one I've talked about before, in one form or another, and is part of why my Exalted game is still on my mind, even though we haven't played for months.

It's when Taji and Kito, recently given leadership of a small unit in the Teppet Legion, are sent with that unit to find out why a previously loyal and prosperous farming community in the northern threshold were no longer sending their tithe to the Realm, or responding to them at all. Although full of doubts about the Realm's Anathema propaganda, Taji had no such ambivalence when it came to her duty, her faith in the Scarlet Empress, her faith in her powers of persuasion, or her faith in the sway and power of the Realm, which is why she insisted they approach in full colours, despite her more circumspect brother's protestations.

It was the worst kind of failure. Unbeknownst to her (though foreshadowed in a previous session) the rest of the unit had secret orders, including "kill them all if they don't submit" (Taji and Kito's grant of leadership being very much tokenistic at this stage, possibly given to curry favour with House Cathak, or possibly to keep an eye on them after they'd openly befriended an Anathema). Taji marched up to the gates and demanded entry, which was denied. Stunned, she demanded again, in the Name of the Realm! They refused, a fight broke out, Taji and Kito tried to get their troops under control (and failed) and tried not to kill anyone themselves, but ended up doing so as they were fighting for their lives.

Eventually, the twins were separated, which was when Taji found the Anathema. At first, she thought he was joining in with the slaughter just for the fun of it, but she quickly realised he was laying to rest one of those he'd sworn to protect: a child killed by one of her side (out of character, I suspect his presence was the reason the rest of the unit were under instruction to kill everyone).

It was a really intense moment in the story, leading to some exciting roleplay since as the twins deal with their incredible guilt over this incident, particularly as they come to work with the Anathema they found there. Taji blames herself absolutely, believing this would not have happened if she'd listened to her brother (probably the first time her self-confidence has suffered a real knockback). She would do anything to make things right with the Anathema. Kito, on the other hand, is more wary of him, afraid that he might yet kill them. It makes for an interesting dynamic, especially as the game continued and the relationships between the twins and the Anathema developed. The devastation of the village was an absolute disaster, but has led to some amazing roleplay.

Possibly this prompt meant to inspire a story of a time a failed dice roll led to something cool, and that's certainly happened, but this stands out everytime.

Taking part? What's your story? Share a link or tell me below!

Monday, 13 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 13 - Describe how your play has evolved

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When I first saw this question, my firstthought was "my play hasn't changed that much" - the first games I played in were immersive, ongoing campaigns where I was complimented for my commitment to the world and the layers I brought to the character. I love acting and storytelling, but am not very good at taking on a character written by someone else or at editing a story by myself, so roleplay suits me.

There have been changes: uni was the peak of my roleplay experience in terms of number of games: as well as long term campaigns, I played in one-off games and short campaigns, and had the time, energy and opportunity to be playing in multiple sessions a week. It was amazing and I miss it. These days, I play weekly most of the time, alternating between 2 groups each alternating between a range of long term campaigns. It's pretty good, but inevitably sessions are cancelled from time to time as real life gets in the way, and when you're effectively playing that game fortnightly, it can feel a little sad (don't get me wrong: the biggest reason I'm not playing more frequently across a week is that circus is going really well and I love that. I guess I wish I and my gaming buddies had longer weekends).

Other changes have been the amount of notes I take - I used to take very few, able to rely on my memory with pretty good accuracy. As I've got older (and the fibro fog more persistent) this hasn't been possible, and I've needed to take notes. I used to be in awe of the players who could detailed notes while still fully engaged in the game: now I am that player: that's where most of the detail for my game write-ups posted here comes from. Blogging the games is new too, and something I really enjoy (even if it takes me a while to get started).

The biggest way my play has evolved is in the type of characters I play. While I've always played occasionally outside it, especially when I was at uni I settled into a comfortable habit of playing kind characters, often healers, who wear their innocence like a kind of mental shield and are generally insatiably curious. Kella of the Final Fantasy-inspired game, Kirri from the uni LARP ('Aberddu Adventures'), Plays from Werewolf, Svetlana from Pathfinder and most recently Ragna from Mage are key examples of this archetype. Compassion over conviction, to look at it from an Exalted point of view (although Kella, at least, had very strong conviction). They're young - generally late-teens, certainly not more than human-equivalent early 20's - they're kind, they often have a little magic and a slight trickster side them (Plays was technically a Theurge, but we decided it must have been a very thin crescent to explain her Ragabash tendencies), but their biggest feature is that child-like nature. They can all, with varying degrees of success, be mature and serious, but they at least come across as very innocent. It's a true part of their nature, but for Kella and Svetlana in particular it is more of a shield than the extent of them, and Ragna's learning to apply the same. For Plays and Kirri, they didn't have as strong a mature side and were dominated by their innocence.

I deliberately moved away from this with Chrissie, as mentioned the other day on "how gaming has changed you", and worked to play someone firmer, someone who doesn't pry (however innocently) into the lives of others; someone who's a clear leader. That flowed into Taji - she regained a lot of the curiosity (what can I say? I enjoy playing curious characters. It's a good way to explore the game world), but lost some of the kindness (I'm hoping to start building it into her; the game's at a point where I think she has enough people around her who matter enough to her who are kind and compassionate to justify it), and is definitely not innocent (well, until it comes to love and sex, at least). I'm enjoying playing these characters, and have found I enjoy playing that maturity more frequently more than I expected. It's given me more confidence to explore different character traits, though I also draw from experience of characters that didn't work so well, or characters that I haven't enjoyed playing alongside: I will always, now, try to play a character who can be a good team player (though not necessarily making that their defining feature, anymore), but I'm also quite happy to take the lead. I enjoy mothering other characters - I can see this being my next progression!

What about you? Don't forget to add a link to your response below.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 12 - Wildest Character Concept

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As with yesterday's 'Wildest character name', turns out I'm not much of one for out-there concepts. Kismet, whom I mentioned yesterday, would be an exception, and I like my assassin-ballerina, knitting Amazon hunter, and the fake psychic. I've played the first in a one-off Cyberpunk session, but her lack of trust makes me think she'd be a better NPC than PC.

I think the wildest concept I've played with was the living ship, Yggdrasil. This was an airship into which we brought a giant spruce pine, which we then awakened, pouring our mythic chips into the spell, creating a sentient, sorcerous airship. When it talks aloud, the figurehead leans back to look at us and the mast's pine needles shine and shimmer. 

Are you taking part? Add a link to your response in the comments!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 11 - Wildest Character Name

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One of the things I love about Exalted is the character names. Bells is very good at these: Cathak Kito "Resplendent Blade Resonating Eternal" and "Quiver of Arrows Tipped with the Sun" (which is actually short for something even longer); I'm less so: Cathak Taji "Dawn's Dancing Butterfly" and Amaryllis "Blazing Shield of the Sun".

It turns out, I'm not particularly one for 'wild' names. I like Kismet as a name: it suited the character (a wild, bipolar young woman who'd grown up in the Dockyard, learning from books with no concept of which were fact and which fiction, and little regard for the lives of others - you can read more about her here).

I think the 'wildest' name has to be my werewolf, Plays in Shadows. A homid, she was born and raised on a hippie commune as "Starlight Moonbeam Acorn Rainbow", which I think shows why she generally went by her Garou name!

Taking part? Share a link to your response below!

Friday, 10 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 10 - How has gaming changed you?

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Years ago, I wrote up 4 characters for Deadlands. The one I was most interested in playing was Solomon Blackbird, a mediator rather than a fighter. I didn't play her, but picked the gunslinger Lizbeth Hunter for the first game instead.

I knew I wanted to play more persuasive characters, though, and I wanted more confidence to do that sort of thing in the real world, so I statted a skald (barbarian/bard cross and a fan-made Pathfinder class), Ylva, but the rest of the group didn't want me to play her because a lot of her boosts wouldn't help them by nature of the skaldic magic, which was fair enough but frustrating.

We started playing Aberrant, and I decided Chrissie was going to have leadership qualities I lack, to help me learn them. It paid off; I felt more confident playing her (helped by the smaller group, I'm sure, and specifically the other people in it). Then I started playing Taji, who is pretty much confidence personified and has no doubt (or very occasional doubt only) in her ability to lead.

And it's really paid off. I was becoming frustrated in the other group, with the 'interlude' to Pathfinder which I'd expected to be relatively low power and short-lived becoming something as epic as the other game, the important game (which I have no problem with, but I didn't like being led to expect one type of game only for the rug to be pulled from under me), and the main game having gone from a diplomacy-based game to one that was very combat heavy, where the player characters don't really interact with each other, and where the newest player was dominating at, it felt, the expense of my stage time (mine and the assassin's, really). We're going back to Pathfinder soon, and I had the confidence to lay out my concerns for both iterations with the GM without worrying I would hurt his feelings. He agreed with me and understood - he's promised to keep the oracle and paladin from dominating, to give me and the assassin time to shine, and to make sure I actually get time with the NPC's even if it frustrates the paladin. He even sought my reassurance he's a better GM now, something I was more than happy to give (he reads a lot of advice, and practices, and all that). He wasn't a bad GM before, just let dominant players dominate the game until it stopped being fun for me, but I contributed to that by not having the confidence to tell him. I have it now, and the confidence to tell the other two to shut up at the table. One of them won't mind (he lives with me; he's watched my confidence growing), but the other might not like it very much!

And it's not the gaming table. I'm confident to tell people at work when they're wrong without lots of hedging (though more diplomatically than "You're wrong"), and able to hold the conversation long enough to explain. My department closes next year, so I'm hoping this new confidence will help me find a new position somewhere engaging.

What about you? If you're taking part this year, please leave a link below!

Thursday, 9 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 9 - How has a game surprised you?

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Another tricky one, for me. I feel like there's two ways to answer this: by considering a game system, or a game session.

For the first... My first gaming group were pretty scathing of D&D. The Shadowrun's GM was particularly disapproving of how powerful you could end up, so I was surprised by how powerful it was possible to end up in Shadowrun! They also didn't like that you could reach a point where a headshot wouldn't just kill you, which seemed unrealistic to them (though that could happen in Shadowrun, too, and actually in real life). When I finally started playing D&D systems, I discovered a lot of what I'd been told wasn't strictly true (at least not in the versions I've played), though have to agree with the general feeling that alignment is more trouble than it's worth, being too subjective and leading to too many arguments. So I was surprised to enjoy D&D more than I expected - to begin with. Coming from a Shadowrun/World of Darkness background, I found the levelling and classes system to be too restrictive. I think it's why I usually gravitate to playing rogues: they're the class that's offered me the most flexibility. You can be a thief, a diplomat, an assassin, a sniper, an academic, a general do-gooder... And then the combat! It's so slow, and only having a single d20 means that 5% of the time you are guaranteed to fail badly, no matter how good you are. We went back for a one-off Pathfinder session after having played Savage Worlds Deadlands for long enough that we were all taken by surprise at how clunky the combat was, and how drastically it slowed the game, making it harder to enjoy the plot (until the GM made the last few combats more cinematic than rolled).

So D&D surprised me by both being less bad than I expected, and also worse.

For the second, I'm struggling to choose. Campaigns often end up in unexpected places: when we started Pathfinder, I had no expectation of ending up married to the King; when I played a game based on Final Fantasy X as a White Mage from Besaid, I had no idea I'd end up a Summoner. But these are things that grew out of play, so it's not exactly fair to call them surprises. For that, I think I need to look at individual sessions, rather than the campaign as a whole.

Vienna exploding around us in Aberrant was certainly a surprise. When you're a superhero, you often think you can't fail, which Adam felt like he had for a long time after (Chrissie, more practical, tried to reassure him it wasn't his fault, but his ego never quite believed her). There's been a lot of twists and turns in Exalted, too, but I keep talking about Exalted at the moment, so I'll leave those for today (also, most of them haven't been written up yet). Tark's death was a horrid surprise that really got under my skin - I think it was the first time I really, truly felt with my character, which was horrid and thrilling and exciting.

I don't know. I don't feel like I have a good answer to this one. Looking forward to seeing yours - don't forget to add a link in the comments :-D

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 8 - How can we get more people playing?

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This is a very hard question to answer. I think, talk about our games and our love for them in public. I know I've had people express interest as a result of that - usually people with a background in either writing or acting or both, so maybe we should start targeting these groups?

The next step is to actually get a game together the interested new people can join, which is where I always fall down.

Finally, when someone new does join your game, make sure they feel welcome and included. Lead by example at the table, demonstrating the way your group tends to play, but make sure they have time and space to take part and don't end up an observer to your glory. Help them out a bit if they get stuck, but (here's the trick!) without being patronising. Ask their opinion after, ideally without that starry-eyed wonder that I know tends to take me over when I get to talk about my games. Ask what their character did that they enjoyed doing; ask what they'd like to explore next time.

If you're taking part this year, please leave a link to your response below. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 7 - How can a GM make the stakes seem important?

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This is a hard question to answer. A lot of the games I've played over the years, the stakes have been world-saving, which makes them pretty important! But the stakes should matter even when they aren't so big.

I guess some of it comes down to the degree the players have invested themselves in the world. It's pretty easy to have even minor stakes feel important to me: give an NPC I care about a good, in-character reason for caring, and my character will too - and "care about" can mean my character loathes them; there's a lot Svetlana would happily do if it meant undermining Irrevetti's power. While Lacy had to point out to other party members that saving his friend's friend would help us achieve our meta-goal of saving the world, for Solomon it was enough that someone she admires asked for her help.

Another trick is to look at the character - both the character sheet, and the way it's played. In Deadlands, my partner knew Carson would offer himself as the one who'll die when we attempt to bring the Flood to Lost Angels because the character has the "Big Damn Hero" flaw (or whatever it's actually called), and the player remembers it too. Likewise, Solomon would do whatever he needed her to to assist, because she's Loyal. Taji is overconfident and very competitive, so give her  a challenge or imply she can't do something and she'll go out of her way to prove you wrong: the stakes aren't particularly high, necessarily ("bet I can dig faster than you!"), but they'll matter to her (this also works on Bells's Mage character, Howard, who is also overconfident and dislikes admitting he can't do something). My new Exalted character Amaryllis, whom you haven't met yet, has very high Compassion, which means give her a bit of a sob story and it becomes important.

Make it personal. NPC's are the easiest way for me, but not all players are interested in NPC's, so maybe have a beloved item nicked from one of them, or rumours of an item of power another would benefit from. Feels a bit boring to me, but works for many other people.

Remind players of clocks ticking - that plague village they visited a while back, has anyone been back to see if it's still spreading? That Quantum lake that covers Vienna, when did you last visit? It occurs to you you haven't seen Tark for a while. A newspaper headline announces the progress of the army marching this way (I love in-game newspapers for delivering plot hooks and clock reminders). You turn on the radio to hear Theresa's parents pleading for her safe return. You did remember to write back to Marcy, right?

If you're taking part this year, don't forget to link to your response in the comments below!

Monday, 6 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 6 - How can players make the world seem real?

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This is one where I'm especially looking forward to what other people have to say - it's something I want to be good at, as a player, so I'm hoping to pick up tips.

For me, at the moment, I think it probably boils down to the way you interact with the world. You can accept the quest, slaughter your way through the undead-filled dungeon, retrieve the macguffin, and return to receive your reward. So far, so computer game. Or, you can explore how you know the quest-giver, what you know about them. You can befriend them (and not just because a quest-giver is a useful person to have on your list of contacts). Then in the dungeon, as you slaughter you can investigate why it's so filled with undead (which might lead to more adventure hooks). If appropriate, you can make the macguffin more personal to you, too. So, if you're rescuing someone, talk to them, find out about how they ended up kidnapped, find out where they're from. Return to the quest-giver and don't just receive the reward (or argue with the quest-giver in the hopes of receiving a bigger reward just for the sake of it - that's one character interaction I see often and find boring), but recount tales of your heroism, or otherwise continue the interaction you started before you left.

In our Mage game, Howard and Ragna stole an RV and driving from Los Angeles to Chicago (to get holy water to fight vampires). Howard is LA born and bred, while Ragna is from Norway originally and has only seen LA in the US. Ragna's the better driver, but doesn't have a valid US licence. That didn't seem as important in a stolen RV, so they were driving in shifts. It was late evening, early night, and Howard's shift was ending. He pulled over on the side of the road at a safe spot, to stop for the night. It was eerie - tall pines grey in the gloaming, darkening fast as heavy clouds came over. The headlights picked up silver threads of rain.

A sudden thud against the RV woke Ragna with a start - she looked round to see Howard even more startled. Even his cat, Marcel, seemed disconcerted. Another rattling thud shook the truck. The storm didn't bother her, but Howard's fear spread through Ragna: she'd never seen him show any signs of it before. His face was white with it now and she wondered what he'd seen. She peered through the windows, but couldn't make anything out in the blackness beyond the pelting rain.

The next rattling was accompanied by an unearthly howling, which snapped Howard into action: he leapt back into the driver's seat and Ragna buckled in beside him, trying to calm her companion as she brought up a google maps route to the nearest official truck stop. Once there, he stepped outside and smoked an entire packet of cigarettes.

It was just a storm, but Howard had no idea what a storm was like outside a city. Ragna knew very well, but was infected by his fear. Our GM afterwards said he'd half-intended to have us attacked by werewolves, but the way we engaged with and expressed the experience meant he changed his mind.

So that's my advice: get curious about the world. React to it. Use the scenery. Make friends with the NPC's. Believe in it.

If you're taking part this year, I'd love it if you'd include a link to your reponse in the comments below. Look forward to hearing from you! 

Sunday, 5 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 5 - Favourite Recurring NPC

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As yesterday, I've thought back over the various NPC's who've recurred in the games I've loved. I kinda wanted to pick a villain. Irrevetti, is the one who stands out because I hate him, and I'm loving it! He mostly recurs through being mentioned rather than us interacting with him, though, and I want to pick someone we spend in-game time with.

Irrevetti is a major villain in our Pathfinder game. The GM, Rich, created a bunch of NPC's and gave life to others from the book - to the point I'm not always sure which are which. From there, he expanded it to give Bells and I a full superteam of NPC's, as well as family, friends, mentors and rivals in Aberrant. I was really tempted to pick either Holly or Alastair from that game, for the maternal relationship Chrissie has with them both (most complicated with Alastair), but in my opinion it was Exalted where all the effort he's put into NPC building and development really came together. Again, some of them are named in the setting and many more are his creations - including some (Lawrence) who were created on the fly in response to things we chose to do (hire a child to help us not fall foul of curious and changing laws in a new city).

Meredith is wonderful. A First Age Solar living in seclusion, a Twilight, a formidable sorceror and crafter, she's scatty, she swears a lot, and my character idolises her more than a little. 'Gruncle' Cathak Chow, who raised the twins, last seen when he saved their lives in a part of the story not yet told. Captain Ling, another character who was created on the cuff and we liked so much (because she kept the young twins safe) she was used as a reason to get us to go somewhere dangerous...

But I'm going to pick the Undying Fury of Creation. If you've followed the story, you'll have met him very briefly in the 'non-canon' section. He's another being from the First Age, and carries his emotional baggage far more clearly than Meredith. A powerful Lunar, his bond with his Solar mate was such that her death tore him apart and he's never quite recovered. As mortals, Taji and Kito caused him great harm, such that Taji feels she owes him her death - that her death can come at no hands but his (though she still puts herself in thoughtless, reckless danger). As Exalts, he's saved her life on more than one occasion. Their relationship is complicated, emotionally intense, and very rewarding.

If you're taking part in the challenge, don't forget to leave a link to your response in the comments :)

Saturday, 4 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 4 - Most Memorable NPC

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There's a lot of NPC's in my current stable of games who are definitely memorable, but hard to say which will prove to be most memorable (though The Emissary's theme song does make him stand out somewhat). Instead of picking any of them, I've reached back through the games I've played, trying to remember NPC's who stand out, and I think I'm going to choose Tark from the ShadowRun game I've recently started writing up. It was a close call between him and Drazen, or possibly Jaz, as it's a good 15 years or more since I played, but I still remember the 3 fondly. I've picked Tark, though, because his death shook me up.

The game had been running for a while when I joined, so the NPC's were already embedded. My character, Kamaya, was a speedfreak adept, making her very similar to Drazen. Tark was a shaman. I think I was the only magic player character, and they were the two magic NPC's who most frequently assisted on runs. Drazen was pretty callous, with a disregard for human life, and it ended up rubbing off on Kamaya (because I was young and impressionable and forgot she'd started out disliking killing), and Tark, with Wolf as his Totem, followed his pack, so most runs were pretty bloody.

It's no spoiler to tell you about Tark's death; it happened long after my notes finish.

Several of the trio's early runs were against Ares, until they ended up with a bit of a reputation as being the runners you wanted on your team if that's who your target was. Of course, this got them onto Ares radar, though I was too young and naive to realise it was a risk. Tark went missing for a while - I assumed he was on some kind of shamanic retreat, so had Kamaya react accordingly and not worry about him. Until he showed up, walking up the stairs of the restaurant/club she'd just bought (I was working to retire the character because she'd become so powerful). Ares had taken him and inserted a cranial bomb that they'd detonate if they didn't come with him.

He refused to let them come with him, and Kamaya was too shocked to argue.

His brains splattered the walls. 

I learnt a lot about the game world, and gaming, and even GM'ing (if I had a young, inexperienced player in the group, I hope I'd give a better indication that she might want to be more suspicious!) Part of me still misses Tark. He was a good mentor for Kamaya, sweet natured beneath it all. 

If you're taking part, don't forget to add a link to your response in the comments :) 

Friday, 3 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 3 - What gives a game staying power?

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The most important thing to keep me engaged in and committed to a game is my character. I need to be playing someone I'm interested in and can relate to on some level. Recently I've done this well with Solomon in Deadlands, Taji in Exalted (which surprised me) and Svetlana in Pathfinder (which didn't), and badly with Jvala in Pathfinder (I ended up talking to the GM about it: he hadn't realised I was playing my last choice of character from the 4 I'd toyed with, because vocal members of the group vetoed my preferences, and it explained a lot about how I was struggling to engage. He offered to let me switch my character, but we're pretty near the end of their story so I think it's easier to stick with her and save the 2 I really want to play for longer games. We're going back to that game soon so we can finish it and get back to our main Pathfinder story and I can play Svetlana again!)

I like to have a storyline to follow. In Exalted, Taji and Kito are working towards ridding Creation of the Realm, the Wyld, the Shadowlands, and restore the Solar Deliberative, to return Creation to the idealised version of the First Age they hold (or at least, that's Taji's goal), but it doesn't need to be epic and world-saving (though I think all the games I'm currently playing in are...). The games I'm no  longer in I remember most fondly are the ones that had an ending, rather than drifting into the ether as people ran out of time or interest or whatever.

I like to feel that the game world exists independently of my character, though I also like to feel that she's part of the world, and I think that relates to the storyline thing.

Having good relationships with other player characters is wonderful for me. Returning again to Exalted, that incredibly tight bond Taji shares with her twin brother is wonderful - even if she takes him for granted more than I'd like to admit. Similarly (and with the same player), the close friendship cemented by their psychic link that ties Adam and Chrissie is something I enjoy playing - we'll be coming back to Aberrant soon and out of game I know some of Adam's recent decisions will really hurt Chrissie when they come to light, and I'm really looking forward to playing that! Our Mage characters aren't as close, but there's still a connection that feels real; it feels like they'd ask each other for help and advice and support each other and work together, whereas I sometimes struggle to see why our Pathfinder characters (Svetlana or Jvala's group) work together at all.

I also like to have connections with NPC's: a love interest as Svetlana has with Noleski or Taji with (hey, did I give this spoiler yet?) or Chrissie and Steve; family as Svetlana and her mother, Ragna and her mormor, Chrissie and Holly (her effective step-daughter), Chrissie and her parents (in a less positive light); mentor/mentee as Taji and the Emissary or Azure Titan or Meredith or ..., or Solomon would like to build with Lacy (if he ever stays still long enough!); or just close friends, like Chrissie and Jean; or rivals or enemies, like Svetlana and Irrevetti. I think that goes back to feeling tied to the world, invested in it.

If you're taking part, don't forget to add a link to your response in the comments :) 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 2 - What do you look for in an RPG?

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When I first saw this question, I was sure I'd have no answer, but turns out I have a pretty good idea what I look for!

In terms of the system, I much prefer free xp expenditure over anything level based, but there are exceptions: the WFRP career paths make sense to me, and the Savage Worlds method feels more like that than D&D, for instance, and gives you plenty of choice and freedom to personalise. I don't like games like D&D that restrict you to a class; I like something allowing more freeform in character generation and progression.

Combat needs to be simple, but should still feel epic/dirty/dangerous as appropriate to the setting. Savage Worlds does this fairly well, though lacks a degree of epic in my experience. I like White Wolf games, but I've played a lot over the years so combat may well be less simple than I think, and it's just that I'm used to it. It's a long time since I played Buffy or ShadowRun, but I think they were both pretty good. It certainly shouldn't feel like fighting is the focus or even necessary, to really appeal to me.

I love rolling handfuls of dice - probably part of why I keep coming back to White Wolf and why I'm more keen to return to ShadowRun than Cyberpunk (though also, I really like the ShadowRun setting) - but I am intrigued by diceless systems.

It's harder for me to pinpoint what appeals to me in a setting. I'm pretty eclectic, enjoying high powered games, and low level, struggle-to-survive settings equally (while the Pathfinder campaign I write up here has been exciting, that's been down to the character and the story more than the setting, but I really liked the world of Midnight and like to explore there again some day). I love science fiction, though I get to play it less often, and I love fantasy and fantastical settings - and I love combining science and fantasy (like Exalted or ShadowRun). If I'm playing in the real world, or something that feels like the real world, I generally prefer some kind of supernatural twist - such as supplied by World of Darkness, or John Silence (whose Kickstarter will finish less than 3 hours after this goes live).

I think that's a clue to what I want from a setting: I want to be transported away from my life. Whether that means to the far future, or to a fantasy plane with magic and elves, or to be given superpowers doesn't matter so much as it not being mundane.

If you're taking part, don't forget to add a link to your response in the comments :)

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 1 - What do you love about RPG's?

It's that time of year again! 

As with previous years, I'm hoping to write in advance and was going to schedule to go live each day at noon British Summer Time but have decided to go with midnight instead, with any other posts I manage to write this month going live in the evenings. I'm also going to try to stay on point and not ramble!

If you're taking part, share a link to your response in the comments :)

RPGaDAY2018 graphic

So, what do I love about RPG's? Considering I've been playing them for around half my life, you might think this would be easy to answer. Turns out, not so much. I think it boils down to 2 things: socialising and escapism. 

On the first, I love to spend time with my friends, and roleplay gives a great excuse to do that. I've also made friends I wouldn't have otherwise, and talking about games on social media has given me a wider network of people to gossip and socialise with, and exposed me to wider world views (some of which I've found challenging).

But also, I love to socialise in character, whether with player characters or NPC's. It fulfils my need for companionship in a compressed manner, especially valuable at the moment where I'm working from home a lot and end up feeling stir crazy from lack of interaction and face to face communication. Getting together with a few friends at the weekend and pretending to spend time with many more people than that seems to be really helping me cope.

For the second, escapism, well, that preceding paragraph actually applies, because it's escapist socialising, I guess. It's also my adoration of story (per Sir Pterry's 'Pan narrans' classification of humans), of course, and I think the fact I have more control in games than in real life (even if my characters don't). That's fun for me.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Exalted - Hunting Beastmen pt 2

This is the story of our Exalted game, told from the point of view of my character, Cathak Taji. Click here for the index.
The next evening, Raging Tiger sent us after a party of beastmen to see what we could do - he'd be nearby in case we got into trouble. There were about 20 of them with a wolf-like appearance, settling at a campfire, cooking meat and squabbling over scraps. Something about them seemed to disappoint Raging Tiger.

Kito and I quickly planned our attack. I don't think either Rey or Tiger expected us to open with a flurry of Obsidian Butterflies through their tents, and a Blazing Raptor straight into their campfire. The beastmen certainly didn't, but none tried to flee and Kito stepped in front of me to take the blows as they charged.

The fight was fierce and bloody; we were victorious, but Kito was severely hurt. Raging Tiger carried him away with Rey in support, telling me it wouldn't be safe to follow. Unnerved but trusting them, I explored the camp, finding a few furs but no clues as to where the beastmen had come from or where they were heading. When the others returned, Kito was healed. Completely healed, no scars remained anywhere, not even the ones he'd picked up as a child. Weirder, his hair and skin had gone white, his eyes blue, paler than anyone from the North.

We continued on, a strange group. Time started to blur. We'd run into the occasional small band of beastmen, all easily dealt with.

After 2, maybe 3 weeks, Kito got Raging Tiger to tell us a bit more about the Children of Luna and the rules the existance of the beastmen breach. Luna doesn't have a strict code, but chooses those who've survived hardship, telling them they're chosen and now her warrior, and there's a duty of stewardship over the land that comes with this. It was this stewardship our quarry had breached: they were lording it over their creations and using them to encroach Raging Ti2ger's territory. We worried again about the military camp where we were based, but he reassured us he didn't mind as long as we didn't overhunt the area. He valued self-sufficiency and wouldn't be a hero, not wanting the people he'd helped to fall back into the same danger once he'd moved on. The way he said it, it sounded like there was a story there, but when we asked more, he gave us the same line we'd heard many time from the Emissary so many times: "another time, perhaps". He repeated that when we tried to ask about how he got chosen by Luna, then told us to sleep. We'd reached the mountains we'd need to climb to reach to the valley where we'd find the other Lunar.

It was a hard climb, steep with few handholds. The first rest point was about 100m up; just as I was pulling myself onto the ledge, there was a terrible rumbling, clamourous clanging from below me. Ray and Raging Tiger were already on the ledge: my eyes widened to realise it was Kito who'd fallen, and I screamed the kind of scream that froze my entire body. Raging Tiger swooped into a giant bird to carry him to us: we couldn't get into his armour, which meant we couldn't see how hurt he was, but at least meant he was alive. Tiger strapped him to his back as we continued; he was just about conscious by the time we made camp, and halfway through the next night's travel he was fine.

And eventually we looked out over the valley. It was beautiful, utterly idyllic, and without Tiger we'd never have found it. A small town of old buildings surrounded a stepped pyramid being reclaimed by the local vegetation, more akin to a jungle than a tundra. There was no snow, either, and the climate was warm and humid. We guessed the place to be at least 2,000 years old: it was clearly First Age, so possibly even older. Armed beastmen and unarmed people walked the streets. Tiger explained the pyramid at the heart was likely a powerful manse, judging by the effect. At Kito's question, he said it was likely the hearthstone was with the rogue Lunar, assuming there was a stone. At our surprised expressions, he explained not all manses have stones; some are built to a specific purpose instead.

We observed the town for a while. The normal people seemed to act as a serving class. Of the 60 or so beastmen, not all were combatants. One stood out from the rest, a pure bipedal snow leopard, of which the others were cruder, more human-looking simulcrams. This individual was smaller and compact than Raging Tiger's first appearance and carried a longsword. Concern passed over the face of our new friend: this wasn't our quarry, who's Aspect was Raven, but one of their followers. He was confident he could take on Raven, but not so sure about Leopard. As nervous as this made him, it worried us more. He suggested we - Rey, Kito and I - shoot at the beastmen and keep them occupied while he fought the Lunar. Shoot and move on, he reiterated. Kito and I cast Invulnerable Skin of Bronze, and we were ready.

The Leopard leapt to intercept Tiger as he walked brazenly into the town, yanking a di-klave from its arm. Slightly more than half the beastmen followed into the fight, so Rey joined Tiger while Kito and I ranged the jungle the other side of the river, shooting into the remainder until we had their attention. I stayed in the trees, shooting and moving to make it harder for them to pinpoint me, but one small group reached Kito and he had to switch to his blades - Rey joined him as more hurtled toward the melee. 

I saw 4 of the beastmen creeping into a hut and thought they were hiding from the fight until I saw them leave again with a cart-sized ballista! I took aim as they set it up, but they fired before I loosed. A ball of glowing blue energy expanded... exploded... killed them all! I swung my bow, seeking a new target.

Shoot and move. Shoot and move.

A group made a break for the temple, the pyramid. I killed one, but the other 5 ran inside. I looked around: only 3 remained. One threw a javelin at Kito - I shot it, and hid again. A glance showed me it was still standing, so I fired again as I wormed my way into a spot with vantage on the temple. This shot went through his side and embedded on a wall beyond, dripping heart's blood as he slumped to the floor. As I turned my attention back to the temple, I saw Kito running across the rooftops and fall into a building - before I could leave my hiding place, he'd recovered and continued on his path. I continued to mark the temple doors. 

Raging Tiger continued a blur against the Leopard while the last beastmen fell to Kito's swirling blades. It was then we noticed the humans milling around, armed with scythes, pitchforks and other utensils. Only one held a shortsword, and awkwardly at that. Kito investigated the ballista while Ray defeated the farmers. I kept my bow trained on the temple doors, waiting for the beastmen to come out with whatever threat they had in mind, but the corner of my eye saw the other, the Leopard, heading towards it, and Tiger's aura flaring as he spent Essence in response: a silver light building until it exploded out in a blinding flash, revealing a join-the-dots tiger roaring behind. The Leopard's blade span away as she fell in half.

The temple doors swung open. I saw fleeting black movement within and feathers falling out, and Tiger was there.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Aberrant - The Eruption

Told from the point of view of my character, Chrissie Walker aka Lisa 'The Phoenix' Moore, the Aberrant story index is here.
Forget what you read in the news profiles and on Wikipedia, I promised you the true story of how Hyperdrive and I Erupted.
It was 23rd March 1998, not a few days later. I had the day off and my brother and I were working towards some form of reconciliation; I'd come to his office to meet him for lunch. His idea, but now I can feel Benedict's fingers all over it. Especially seeing as Adam showed up as I was waiting, with a package from Benedict for Pete.

As my brother came down the stairs, a group of masked, armed men burst through the doors. All of us in the lobby area were swiftly tied up and put in a room. More hostages were led in soon after. 

It didn't take Adam long to free himself and then me. We manage to take out the two guards by surprising them, and tied them securely before untying the other hostages. Adam took the guns, surprised I wasn't prepared to carry one. We snuck back into the lobby. Seeing a clear route, we hurried the hostages out of the room to hide them in the lift shafts: there was space for them all below where the lift would settle, and it seemed very unlikely they'd be found by the intruders - who we suspected to be part of a group known as EM Tek.

The package from Benedict was sheets of paper covered in gibberish writing, that served as cover for a useful toolkit. As Adam slung it across his back, I saw him rubbing his forehead as if nursing as headache as bad as the one that had been bothering me all day. Neither of us were going to back down, though: there were too many people in danger in the building. 

We left the hostages. Pete joined us as we carefully climbed the stairs, but after we were shot at and he was nearly hit, he admitted he couldn't cope, he was too afraid, so we took him back to the lift shaft to look after everyone there. The stairs seemed too dangerous, so we used rope and other items in the toolkit to allow us to navigate the lift shaft and ventilation shafts as we made our way around the building, doing our best John McClane impressions until we reached the top floor. A helicopter circled overhead: we found marker pens and wrote in as large font as we could manage, backwards, to get their attention. They circled closer, and we could make out a return message that, with a bit of pointing, we realised was a radio frequency. As luck would have it, there was a radio in the toolkit.

The helicopter was from MI5. They didn't know much more than we did, but were excited to have us inside and active, even as civilians. We continued to explore the building, running into the occasional patrol. We avoided those we could, but ended in a fight with one and Adam shot a man. I raced over as he fell, but there was nothing I could do for him. We hid the body and continued - Adam a little shaken (to be honest, I was a little shaken: I saw death regularly, as a nurse in A&E, but I'd never seen a friend cause the death, even though he hadn't meant to).

The building should have been a busy office block; the empty rooms were eerie.

We took water and snacks from vending machines back to the lift shafts. It didn't seem to matter how much I drank, my head still felt like it was splitting in two.

We eventually made our way to the server room, and this is where we found what the bad guys were up to, hacking the server. We knocked out the few people here, and (with the help of the MI5 guy on the radio) shut down what they'd been doing - which was when the rest of the bad guys stormed in, shooting. 

We fled, running awkwardly and in fear, the stresses of the day building to a crescendo, our heads pounding like we were about to give birth to Athena, and it was all too much when...

When something happened, like the universe arriving within. I felt myself rise as though bathed in phoenix fire - as though the heart of a phoenix as the flames flooded the building, green flames healing everyone, even the guy Adam had shot and we'd left for dead. Storm clouds gathered outside. Adam was going through something similar, his newfound power shoving foes backwards, away from us and crushing - imploding - the weapons held by bad guys throughout the building (as red flames flickered from me to melt them beyond recognition once he was done).

The release was phenomenol.

As I sank back to the floor, a man stepped from the shadows, introducing himself as Montgomery...

We awoke in a strange holding cell. Montgomery returned to us and explained it was now 15th April. He told us about the arrival of Novas and that we'd Erupted before the others, before the explosion of the space ship, but that we should keep that very quiet.

An uneasy truce arose between us.

His facilities were good, but we were prisoners there, and we never felt any regret for deserting and rejoining Benedict at the first opportunity (just some disappointment and minor betrayal when, years later, I learnt they were friends and Benedict had been behind our kidnapping). 

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Shadowrun - Before the Arcology

This is the first installment of the write up of notes from the first RPG I ever played where we weren't playing ourselves in our local area. I'm typing them as they are, which means they may not be fully coherent (I wrote them a long time ago and they don't include much explanation of terms from the game nor any explanation of who the characters are - and I don't remember now!) If you're familiar with my write ups, you'll know they're usually first person: these aren't. Index here.

1st run in Seattle. Darius Delmar contacted Kamaya & she met the Johnson in a pub with Ryan, Drazen, Razer-boy & Tark. They carried out a small run against Ares, getting a decker (Jaz) in & out, with time for her to recover some data. This data was used to set up a run for Tark, Ryan & Maya, as they call her. A bugs nest was discovered on Ares property, which they helped expose with Kent Ludbecker and his orc cameraman, Wayne. Insider trading earnt the Seattle Yaks, and consequently them, a lot of cred. The mission led to them developing goup karma.
After that was a run against a Yak-owned building. The team - Ryn, Lucifer & a heavily-cybered troll - did not meet her expectations, and she almost turned the job down. Instead, she let them provide a distraction whilst she, Tark and Jaz snuck in, aided by their contacts amongst the SeattleYaks (not fans of the Yaks being targetted). The troll died; Ryn and Luce were heavily injured. Jaz took control of the building; Tark turned Maya invisible and she snuck around, stole computers and successfully extracted 3 scientists. No one was killed: the people she came across were stunned instead. When Maya discovered the warehouse built new BTL chips, she trashed the machinery before returning. Calling in a final favour from Honzo, Tark saved the lives of Ryn and Luce, though admitted Luce was the killer of Honzo's nephew.

Her next run was a data rescue. Keneda, Ryan, Ryn and Tark helped, mostly with invisibility spells from the shaman and data recording from Keneda and Ryan. Maya's job was to knock the people officially there unconscious.

One of Tark's fellow wolf-shaman, Ranark, wanted help. Whilst setting up this run, Tark & Maya set up a magic group, allowing Maya to initiate. Ranark wanted them to rescue his ex from the new Renraku arcology. Ryan, Ranark & Diane Grayson, the target, got out safely, but Tark and Maya were trapped. The cat-shaman, brought to cast a bulletproof shield, was killed. Maya surrendered, forcing Tark to do the same. They were marched around, weapons taken, watched astrally & physically, and interrogated amidst some confusion.


And that seems a good place to break for now. Although this was short (less than the first of the 4 sides of A4), the rest takes place in the Arcology (with more detail in the action, but no better clue as to who anyone is...)

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Deadlands - Professor Vandergriff

This is a chapter in our Deadlands game, told from the perspective of my character, Solomon Blackbird. For the story so far, check out the index.
We walk away from the Chamber, dejected. Carson takes the telescope - he's spotted something that turns out to be a pillar of black smoke, thick and oily. It looks to be a couple of miles away, and with no better plan we head that way.

"It looks like smoke from a ghost rock boiler." None of us are going to argue with Tesla's expertise in that area.

It's pretty close now, so we creep cautiously up a hill to see  a man sat by the device belching out the smoke, with coffee brewing over a campfire, a rifle over his knee, and more guns on his belt... Chin, Carson and I huddle down to discuss what we're going to, only to look up to see Tesla walking up to him, bold as you like. The guy leaps up and points his rifle at Tesla before sidling over to a large hole beside th device, the boiler, and shouting into it before returning to the fire, still wary, still pointing the gun at Tesla, but at least not firing.

Chin heads to the other side of the hole, which we now notice has cables or pipes or something running from the machine into it. Tesla seems completely oblivious to any danger. I turn to Carson.

"I could go down, pretend to be looking after him?"

"That's not a bad idea. I'll stay here - signal me, and I'll be right there."

I run down the hill, calling for Tesla who ignores me - unlike the guard, who shouts "Wait!" in a worried Texan accent, then heads back to the hole and yells "BOSS!" I stay still, waiting. Despite his clear anxiety, I don't think he's about to start shooting wildly, but I'd still like to not look like a threat.

A head pops out of the hole. Dirty face, unbrushed and unwashed hair, and wild eyes, but a friendly voice. A weird scientist, who quickly recognises Tesla as the same and the two start chattering away. I signal Carson down as the scientist climbs out the hole; he saunters over, and Chin appears soon after. Professor Vandergriff introduces himself, then his guard as Fred - the guard goes to correct him, but Vandergriff, oblivious, continues talking and he shuts up. We introduce ourselves (though Carson uses the name "Elijah Cross"). The professor's got the same accent as Carson, Boston. I spot his signet ring and interrupt the others:

"What's over the mantle of the London Lodge?"

He responds by asking us the same question, which makes me a little uneasy, but Carson answers and he relaxes immediately. We tell him, then, about the glyphs, and he knows about them! There's one right here, in fact. 
We follow him into his hole. It's well-lit and littered with chicken carcasses. He'd learnt about the glyphs from the natives, knows they trigger earthquakes and has been experimenting. Before we can stop him, he grabs a chicken and smears its blood over the glyph, triggering a violent, terrifying quake. He wipes the glyph dow afterwards and tells us where he's found others - there's a lot more than we ever thought.

I'm finding it harder and harder to concentrate. It might be bright down here, but it's enclosed and stinks of chicken blood. I could feel my stomach tightening even before the tremors. I try to focus as we try to explain about using the glyphs to stop Grimme because a pawn of the Devil, the Reckoners, whatever, but creep my way back towards the entrance, waiting where I can breathe the fresh air but still see the others in case they need me.

Carson wants to bleed on this glyph while we're here, which Vandergriff finds exciting (I'd think callously, morbidly, if I wasn't used to how absorbed Tesla gets. I recognise this intense, focussed excitement). He pulls out a notebook and scribbles notes as Carson's blood makes the glyph glow, thickening the surrounding shadow - which reaches out and grabs Carson, pulling him in! Other shadows form and attack. Hearing the commotion, Fred pokes his head down then disappears. Chin's punches travel straight through the shadows, so he draws the Bless├Ęd Blade we used on the Sin Eater and slashes with that. The shadows around Tesla take him to the ground - I clamp down on my fears and get to him. As I search for his healing prod, Fred jumps down the hole and throws some kind of grenade canister, but the lid isn't secure and comes off before reaching the shadows, covering us in some kind of goo. Chin reaches Tesla and, cupping his palms over various heathen pressure points, gets upright at least - just in time for Fred to try throwing another grenade, which lands at his feet and ensnares all of us but Carson, still by the glyph, and Tesla, hobbling away. Fortunately, Carson's dealt with all the shadows around him and the ones by us are no match for his spells. The professor explains to Tesla where to find the reagent that will free the rest of us; although it feels like it, it doesn't take him long to find it.

Being back on the surface is a huge relief. Coffee's brewed; we rest and heal. The experience has left Vandergriff very animated. We talk more about our quest and our progress - he warns us that if someone (Grimme, Raven...) finds out what we're up to, they may try to undo our work, and offers to destroy his tunnel to protect this one. The glyph on the Isle of Ghost Tears seems pretty safe, but the Cave of the Wailing Horror is known to Tam and his men, and the one on Whateley Isle may already have been destroyed. We should probably spread out where we activate glyphs, to try to protect them.

We spend the night in their camp, and return to Shannonsberg in the morning. There's a Good Intentions message waiting for us in the copy of the Tombstone Epitaph we pick up:
Our Fellowship of Travellers will meet at the Fallen Angels Saloon in Perdition next Friday at precisely midnight. Your presence is requested by SQH.
It's Friday, 16th January 1880, so that gives us a week to get there. We leave at once.

After the frustration of the 37th Chamber and some general grumpiness in the group as we couldn't agree what we wanted to do, this was a very enjoyable interlude for me. We got some good roleplay going, with Tesla walking oblivious to potential danger and the heroic-flawed Carson and loyal-flawed Solomon trying to save him from himself. I think Chin's player was frustrated by the fight: I took control of 'Fred' and Husbit said to pick a couple of mad science powers I thought might help and I could use them as grenades - only I messed up both rolls and would have got the party killed if Carson were a less powerful huxter. I didn't mind so much: Solomon's useless in most combat, which I don't mind playing as/with when the rest of the party are on board and work to protect the useless character, but I've realised it doesn't suit this group so well and would have more regrets if I wasn't so fond of the character in other ways (turns out she's not particularly good at anything useful to the party, except storytelling, which is very valuable in the game, but she has a great backstory I like to explore, and she cares about the rest of the party, and I think that's important too). Fortunately, to combat (ha!) my uselessness in a fight, Husbit as GM will ensure there's at least occasionally an NPC for me to control who can help out. Then it just comes down to something I've found with Svetlana: my remarkable ability to roll botches in combat situations!