Friday 31 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 31 - Share why you take part in RPG-A-DAY

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Because it's fun. Because I like talking about roleplaying games and roleplaying, and I like the prompts that take me in different directions than I might otherwise travel. Because it's good motivation to blog regularly. Because I like seeing what other people have to say, and learning from them. Because I like finding new people to follow on social media (well, G+). Because I enjoy that feeling of community. Because it's about looking at the best of our hobby, reminding people we can be better than the worst.

Thanks Dave Chapman for running it again this year. Looking forward to 2019!

Thursday 30 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 30 - Share something you learnt about playing your character

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The character I'm going to talk about is Ragna, from Mage: The Ascension (20th Anniversary Edition). The game started at the end of 2017 or the start of 2018, when we took a break from Exalted, and we came to the end of the first arc a couple of weeks ago (opening up the gaming slot to a different Exalted game, set in the First Age - a sort of alternative history to the game I had been playing in, in that some of the characters are recognisable but the plot doesn't necessarily match the history of Taji and Kito's world).

She's a new character, and those first few months are generally where you learn the most about playing a character, so this question feels well-timed to me. 

So, what have I learnt?

She's a lot more innocent than I originally wrote. I knew I didn't want her to be the cut-throat, achieve-at-all-cost wannabe actress stereotype, which has ended with her being innocent in a sweet and earnest way. She has the 'martyr' demeanour, which combined with her sweetness means she will try to do everything she's asked because she wants to please people, but she never gets upset or passive aggressive about it. If someone points out she doesn't need to take so much on (usually her grandmother) she'll chew her bottom lip and fret because she doesn't want to let anyone down - including the person telling her to take less on.

She's quite quiet, especially around authority - almost mute around authority, in fact. This is in character because she's completely intimidated and often afraid, and out of character because Taji's the dominant, talking one in Exalted, and Chrissie often takes the lead in Aberrant, and I wanted to make sure Bells could take on that role in this game, especially where Howard (his character) has the 'overconfident' flaw. She will talk to authority, or powerful-seeming characters if he's not around, but if he is she'll stand slightly further back, as if hoping they won't notice her.

Despite this, she has a backbone of steel and will stand up for what she believes in. She is often afraid, but will still try to shield her mind from the Warden of Los Angeles to protect a secret she promised she'd keep, for instance. She'll still agree - offer - to do the things she believes are the right things to do, even when they scare her. After the confidence of Taji and the relative indestructableness of Chrissie (mega stamina how much?), I've enjoyed playing someone who is in danger, understands she's in danger, and does her best anyway.

She's not afraid to ask questions, or ask for help when she needs to, especially from her mentor. This is in contrast to Howard, who's almost desperate to prove himself capable and competent so will do everything he can to solve a problem by himself. It makes sense given their family histories: he's estranged from his pushy, overbearing parents who didn't understand him, while she's close with her family (even if they're the other side of the world) and was raised with love and respect and freedom in her decisions about her future (even if her parents weren't enamoured with the idea of her trying to become a film star, they were prepared to support her decision - although they found out about her decision after she was already in LA, which I think shows that determination and backbone that's hidden by her quietness and desire to please).

The biggest surprise was in realising she'd been in LA for 2 year or so without managing to make any friends. She's nice - sweet - but her determination to make it as an actress followed by her awakening as a Mage never gave her the time. She makes friends as the game progresses, but still doesn't have many.

What about you? Let me know below!

Wednesday 29 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 29 - Share a friendship you have because of RPG's

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As I was thinking about how to answer this, I realised that almost all of my friendships come about, directly or indirectly, from RPG's. There's a few people I'm still friends with from school, and I've made friends because of work, and I'm in touch with a few people from uni I met outside the Wargames and Roleplay Society, but nearly everyone else can be traced back to RPG's.

Yes, even my aerial friends.

See, the guy who first dragged me to circus I met when stuck on a coach and heard a game being run behind me. The guy running it is the guy I now call Husbit; the guy who dragged me to circus was one of the other players. While we were going to the same event, I probably wouldn't have bothered getting to know them if it wasn't for the game, which means I wouldn't even have my aerial friends if it wasn't for RPG's. Everyone I know locally that I wasn't at school with or have worked with I have met as a result of games: if you're on that list and don't think that's how we met, then it'll be because the person who introduced us, or who first took me to the place we met, is someone I know because of games.

Part of me feels a little weird about that.

Given that, though, how can I chose just one friendship to share? Instead...

I've talked about how I met Husbit for RPGaDay before (here and here). We're expecting a baby this year (code named Ziggy), due the day before our 15th anniversary (which means Christmas Day is within the "on time" window...). I'm very, very excited to be bringing a new player character into the world. I've got all of these plans and dreams about how I'm going to introduce them to storytelling and gaming. 

The parent-child relationship isn't the same as a friendship, but as Ziggy kicks and squirms inside me I feel closer and closer to them, more and more bonded. And they wouldn't be there if it wasn't for games.

Taking part this year? Share a link to your response below!

Tuesday 28 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 28 - Share whose inspiring gaming excellence you're grateful for

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This question feels like favouritism to me, which makes it really hard to answer. Maybe if I watched actual plays or something I'd be able to pick someone I've never interacted with, physically or digitally, beyond their media, but I don't so it needs to be someone I know, which makes it feel like favouritism which I don't like.

So I'm going to choose Tom.

Tom was another player in the Buffy game that was my intro to roleplay. He took me to one side after a session and asked if I wanted to join his ShadowRun game,because he thought I "got it" and would be a good fit. I was really enjoying Buffy, so quickly accepted.

He could be a tough GM - he'd been to the same university I ended up at, several years earlier, but was still known by reputation. "Star Wars Tom was your first GM and you didn't give up?!" He'd run Star Wars games to which people would bring 2, even 3 characters to each session, and still sometimes end up having to create a new character when the others all died. By the time he was running ShadowRun for me, he'd mellowed somewhat: there were still player deaths, but nothing quite on the scale of the stories I later heard.

There were several NPC's I suspect some people would term GMPC's, but they never bothered me: they never stole the show, but rather gave an extra edge of believability to the world, and he encouraged us to interact with them and befriend them in a way that helped some of the players more used to only thinking about the combat side of the game suddenly discover the roleplay aspect too, helping bring their characters to life. I guess it says a lot about the depth he gave them that of the characters I remember details about, at least half were NPC's.

I'm grateful to him because he's the one who nurtured me and encouraged me as a young player. When he introduced adult themes to the game, he made sure to give me (the youngest player) an out without interrupting the flow of the game. He (and several other players) made sure I knew they had my back when a newer player made inappropriate jokes. They didn't ostracise him, either, but made sure he knew his comments weren't ok while encouraging him to grow up (which he did). To be able to do that for him while keeping me feeling supported is an impressive skill.

The game contained an on-going plot, but focussed on characters getting through the here and now, and strongly influenced the way I like to play now (though maybe I loved it so much because it matched the way I didn't yet know I preferred).

So yeah, I'll pick Tom, because I think without that ShadowRun game I wouldn't still be gaming, or at least not as frequently and enthusiastically.

What about you? Share a link to your response below.

Monday 27 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 27 - Share a great stream/actual play

I don't watch/listen to streams, so I'm going to pick two blogs whose authors talk about their games: Sophie Lagace's The Reef and Mark Knight's RPG Knights. Both blogs do more than just game write-ups, but of the blogs I read, these two probably most consistently include stories from their gaming tables.

They're very different, though. Like me, Mark plays more of the more traditional games (Pathfinder, Conan,Traveller): GM and (usually) dice. Unlike me, he usually takes the position of GM. I think this is part of why I like his blog - he writes from a more technical point of view than I do, weighing up what works and doesn't in the systems, settings and scenarios, and I feel like I learn a lot from this. (He also includes actual play videos; I just don't make time to watch them.)

Sophie, on the other hand, plays and playtests more modern, GM-less games. These don't appeal to me as much (though if the right group of friends asked I'd give it a go) and I don't know as much about how they work or the terminology, but I still really enjoy reading what she has to say. She makes me feel like maybe I do want a go at a GM-less system.

What about you? What streams/actual plays/blogs/podcasts do you recommend?

Sunday 26 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 26 - Your gaming ambition for the next year

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It's pretty exciting. We're returning to Pathfinder to finish the storylines there. I've really missed playing Svetlana and am looking forward to reaching her promised "happily ever after".

I mentioned yesterday that I'm now playing some First Age Exalted, with the plan to head back to Aberrant, and from there, back to the other Exalted, the one with Taji and Kito, and then back to the Mage game that's just gone on break, with the idea that we'll alternate between these games to their natural conclusions, playing each for a few months at a time rather than years like we have been. I'm really looking forward to getting into this First Age Exalted game properly, and as for where we are in Aberrant, well, there's so much happening! I really want to know if Adam's "hallucination" means Benedict is alive, which would be really interesting. I'm also looking forward to the fallout of Adam's decision to leave his family in someone else's care while he's in prison, especially with Chrissie's trust issues, and out of character knowing Adam's thinking of leaving his family anyway - that's going to be interesting to deal with! We'll have a new player, too; the other player from the First Age game. I'm looking forward to seeing what character he comes up with and how he'll fit in.

But my biggest ambition for the next year is to carry on as normally as possible once this little parasite's arrived.

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What're your gaming ambitions for the next 12 months? Let me know below!

Saturday 25 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 25 - Name a game that has had an impact on you in the last year

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That was easy!

Guess I should expand a little on why I've chosen Exalted...

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll have seen my write-ups of the game. If you're interested, the index is here. Where I've written up to so far happen over a year ago, but hopefully you can see some of what I love about the game in what you've read.

It's intensely character driven, with our characters at the heart of it. The "destined hero" story can be pretty boring to me when I read it or see it in films, but in Exalted I'm loving it - partly because of the slow reveal of the extent of our importance and ancestry and so on, but mostly because I'm sharing the limelight with another player I relish playing alongside, with a pair of interesting, well-connected and well-rounded characters. Despite - hell, because of - our ancestry and destiny, the ally-PC's don't give us an easy time, although they will help us out. They also feel rounded and realistic, and we've built close bonds with several of them (I have suspicions on the motivations of some, which makes it even more interesting).

Some time after where I've written to so far, Taji and Kito do manage to Exalt, becoming Solars and learning more about their ancestry (which raises a lot more questions they aren't in an easy position to get an answer to). Kito has an emotional arc involving a young lady he falls for prior to Exaltation, which relationship he feels he has to end subsequently, due to knowing he has a Lunar mate out there somewhere, while Taji has to deal with confused feelings towards one NPC for similar reasons - and because attraction isn't something she knows how to deal with! They've met some very dangerous beings, both as potential foes and potential allies. They've been afraid for their lives and each other's, saved the lives of others, and made difficult decisions. They've learnt about themselves, grown up - grown apart and closer.

Having played the characters from the days before their 8th birthday to their early 20's, I feel very intensely about them and their fate beyond even what I normally feel for characters I've played for a while. I had this with Kella, too; I think it's the bond with the other characters and the story that means the game has such an impact on me. 

We took a break within the last 12 months to play Mage*, and the place we paused the game was so beautiful and so right, with the arm of her love around Taji's shoulder - and an ominous note promising more danger arriving in the morning.

 And you? What game's had an impact on you this year?


*We've just finished the first arc of Mage, which means we'll be playing some First Age Exalted for a bit (gotta claim the city of Sperimin) before returning to Aberrant (with a new player from the First Age Exalted game), and then we'll be returning to whatever Exalted age it is we play in normally which I'm really excited about! And we'll alternate between these games as we spiral them towards their various conclusions.

Friday 24 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 24 - What makes you want to GM?

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Today's official question - which RPG do you think deserves greater recognition? - wasn't one I could answer. Most (all?) of the RPG's I play are widely known already, and while I read about a lot of less-known games, it's hard to judge them from what others say without experiencing them myself, and there are so many that I wouldn't know how to pick just one anyway. I had a look through the alternate questions (here), and thought it might be interesting to talk about why I'd like to GM, even though I never do.

I have run a few games a few times in the past, and done so badly - many different versions of badly. I've railroaded. I've allowed players to completely derail what I had in mind for the theme etc, and then floundered. I've failed to rein in dominant players to support quieter ones. I've never managed to create a compelling game world. Eventually, I got frustrated and, with so many friends wanting to run games, I stopped bothering.

But there's ideas floating through my head.

The thing that makes me want to GM is that, having paid attention to the way other people run games, and watched other people grow as GM's, I reckon I could be a good GM for new players. I've got an idea for a Buffy game, set in an adapted version of the upper school I went to. It would be fairly guided, though I'm more confident to react if the players don't follow my clues. It would just be an introduction, a one-shot, but I have most of the town mapped in my head if anyone wanted to carry it on, and, using what I've learnt from people running games for me, I hope I'd be able to encourage character-driven play that they'd enjoy.

That's what makes me want to GM more than anything: encouraging more people into this wonderful hobby.

What about you? Which RPG's deserve greater recognition? What makes you want to GM? Let me know!

Thursday 23 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day23 - Which game do you hope to play again?

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This is a tough one, because a lot of the games I've played before and loved were very specific to the group and the way we played. For instance, I'm told the way my Awesome Uni WoD game went, we played Werewolf far more and Vampire far less politically than they're "meant" to be played, but I enjoyed both. I've played (and enjoyed) political Vampire since, but most people I know who are interested in playing Werewolf want to play fighty-smashy games with little interest in inter-player pack dynamics or how that pack fits into wider Garou society and how all of that impacts on the fight against the Wyrm.

I'd like to play Hunter again - or even run it. Of the 3 World of Darkness systems that made up the Awesome Uni WoD game, that was the one I ended with the least emotional attachment to, which meant I spent years not especially interested in it, but now feel more free to shape it to my will than the others because I feel like I have slightly less to live up to.

I want to play Shadowrun again. There's a very good Shadowrun GM locally, currently running other games, who'd like to run Shadowrun again. Problem is, he doesn't have as much time as he did, what with having a new baby and all, and I don't think I'd want to play with several members of his normal groups, and I'm told he can fall into the trap of only seeing one way out of a scenario and penalising players who try to take a different route (though I think his side of it was rather different). Also, Shadowrun's another game where I've got a fairly specific idea what I want, which makes it much harder on the GM (and I've tried running it, disasterously, which means I'm not prepared to try again until I have some real GM experience).

Heading back to my uni days again, my uni had an unusually high proportion of women in the Wargames and RolePlay Society, which meant someone organised a huge, female-only game of 7th Sea. It unfortunately only lasted one session and the only thing I remember is that my character was called "Crow's-Nest Jen". I'd like to try the system/setting again, as it sounds fun. 

The question specifically says "hope", which makes me a little reluctant to include my next pick: Dockyards, a setting created by my friend Monty and which I talked about for Day 11 of the very first #RPGaDay (here). I like interesting dystopian settings, and this fits the bill! The action taking place on a floating island enhances the sense of place, to me, and I can picture areas vividly. However, the chances of me actually getting to play again are so slim it's a wish rather than a hope. Still, if Monty does decide to do more with it, I'd love to write some accompanying fiction...

What about you? How did you answer today's question? What games have you loved and now miss? Tell me or add a link below!

Wednesday 22 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 22 - Which non-dice system appeals to you?

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Despite what I said yesterday, I'd like to try diceless. I'm anxious about it, though, because it's new to me and I don't like change and all that. I don't think I know anyone locally who plays already, which makes it harder - I'm told diceless makes it easier to play online via Skype or Hangouts or whatever, but for me a huge part of roleplay is the act of sitting in a room with friends so that doesn't appeal (also, time/energy-poor means I devote to what I already have). I want to play with a GM who already knows what they're doing, or at least has the interest and confidence to fake it and guide me, and I don't think I've got that locally yet.
Anyway, excuses for why I haven't tried already out of the way, I really am intrigued by the Amber system. I own Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, which makes use of it, and it's a setting that interests me with its flexibility and possibilities, given the huge number of worlds you can reach. The magic system particularly excites me, with spells being pre-created from component spell parts and then stored mentally, but needing maintenance, and once used they need to be rebuilt. It's similar to the wizard in D&D, in that they're one-use, but the way it's dressed up makes that make sense to me in a way it never does in D&D. The rules are actually quite straightforward, as best I can tell - but my lack of confidence means I really do want a go as a player before I try running the setting myself. Trip to Australia, maybe...
What about you? This is another where I'm really interested in hearing what everyone else has to say because I know so little!

Tuesday 21 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 21 - Which dice mechanic appeals to you?

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ALL OF THE DICE! They're mine! Mine! Mwahahahah!


By which I mean, dice mechanics that allow me to satisfy my inner magpie and give me an excuse to own more dice. It's undeniably part of why I like White Wolf and Shadowrun.

pile of d10's (not my full collection, just the ones currently in use for White Wolf games)
D10's! Nearly enough...

I don't remember the details of the Shadowrun system well, but I remember the exploding dice. My character had had her mono-filament whip taken from her, and couldn't afford a new one (or possibly it happened while we were trapped in the Arcology so there was no access to buy one). We killed someone, and I immediately asked whether he had a mono-whip. I think maybe I'd asked this often enough to have annoyed the GM slightly, because this time he responded "yeah, sure. Target number 36." I reached 40. It was one of those moments where he was a little annoyed I'd got my preferred weapon back, but entertained and impressed at the same time, and I've never forgotten the excitement of reaching such a high number on a d6.

I like systems where botching doesn't happen a set statistical amount of the time: it annoys me in D20 that now matter how good you are, you will fail 5% of the time. Savage Worlds gives you a wild die to roll as well as your skill die, and the chance of failing on your skill die reduces as you improve because you increase the size of that die - and you need a failure (a 1) on both the skill die and the wild die before you get a critical failure ("which is when I get to unleash funnies" says Husbit, grinning manically). And White Wolf, where 1's can cancel out successes, and it's only when the 1's outnumber the successes you have real problems (although in Exalted I think it's only when there are no successes that 1's matter, andI can't remember for Aberrant). Which means you're more likely to screw up when you're inexperienced than when you're experienced, but you can screw up far more epically later, because that experience comes in the form of more dice to roll. If you're only rolling a couple of dice, you physically can't screw up as badly as you can when you're rolling 10. That feels satisfying, somehow.

Oh, there was one D20 mechanic I came across once I liked! A friend at uni wanted to run a game for some other friends of his who'd never played an RPG before, and asked me to play as well to help them out. It was Space Munchkin, and I played a force sensitive cat person (curiosity meaning I could keep the story moving). One of the force sensitive powers was 'force nudge', which meant after rolling the D20 I could use a single finger to 'nudge' the die so another, adjacent face was topmost.

Mostly, though, I like to roll lots of dice at a time. I giggle as I count them into my hands.

What about you? Let me know below!

Monday 20 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 20 - Which game mechanic inspires your play the most?

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This is a weird question for me to try to answer. I'm not sure any game mechanic does inspire my play! Maybe if I played more of the newer, story-based games, but I still mostly play older-style stuff, like White Wolf etc (just in a character driven manner).

The best I can go with is merits/flaws, advantages/disadvantages, edges/hindrances or whatever you want to call them. I love these, especially the flaws - and not just for the extra character points, though that's what drew me in initially. These days, I like them for their own sakes. 

Take Amaryllis 'Blazing Shield of the Sun', my new First Age Solar Exalt for the game I've gatecrashed. When we generated Taji and Kito, we didn't look at the merits and flaws: we were playing children, so let them grow naturally via roleplay and are rewarded when we play up to our self-created flaws by the opportunities that come out of them rather than with xp. With Amaryllis, my GM said I could 'earn' up to 7 bonus points by taking flaws, though I could take as many points of flaws as I wanted. I ended up with 8, because there were two flaws that really stood out to me.

For the first, Solar Exalts have this curse that means when they're exposed to certain triggers they have to make virtue rolls and mark successes on a track which, when full, causes them to go off the rails a bit. The track usually has 10 boxes, but with this particular flaw, you can reduce the number of boxes by the number of points of the flaw you take, up to 5. I wanted all 5. Her particular version - a compassion limit that means she'll take the most direct route to stop innocent suffering, even if it's not the most sensible, safe or even reasonable - sounds like it'll be really good fun to play.

The second, I was inspired by The Emissary in our other Exalted game, and the way his life changed when Kito and Taji arrived. The flaw, 'ward' means the character has someone they look after who periodically gets into trouble they need saving from. I laughed as I read it, and pointed out that The Emissary must have acquired this when he met us. Yep, agreed the GM, the full 5 points, twice. I took the flaw at 3 points, feeling this was a good balance between risking the ward's antics taking over a game I'm kinda a bit-part in, and still getting to experience that feeling of responsibility. It works well with the other flaw, too: her great compassion meant that when she found the young, traumatised child, rather than do the sensible thing and find someone who was good parenting, she took Mara in herself and swore to protect her.

Along with her high compassion and low temperance (other Exalted mechanics), this has given me a quick in-road to a character joining an established game, making it easier to settle in to her faster.

What about you? Is there a game mechanic that inspires you? Let me know!

Sunday 19 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 19 - What music enhances your game?

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Just listen to the open few bars of that. I'll explain in a bit.

My GM's have used music to inspire sessions or set scenes for pretty much as long as I've been gaming. I remember being in a room in the Renraku Arcology in the Shadowrun game right back at the start, with all these dolls who turned their heads to me and sung my name in creepy voices "Kamayaaa, Kamayaaa", a scene presaged when the GM started the session by playing the intro to a metal track he enjoyed. I'm not sure which song it was, but the intro was a bunch of kids singing about how they were going to get you...

The game most inspired by music was the World of Darkness campaign I played in at uni. I will always think of that game when I hear "The Final Countdown" by Europe, and The Pixies "Where is My Mind?" is the song for Malkav for me, but it's REM's "End of the World" where the GM took the most effort. He went through the song, making sure each line showed up somewhere in the Werewolf, Vampire or Hunter game. I'll never forget the NPC hunter we met as he paddled into Hudson Bay in a small dinghy to face down the Godzilla-monsters (Mokolé in their archid forms): we were nervous for him, but Lenny Bruce was not afraid.

There's been plenty of others, but not many other uses of music that have stuck with me so directly. 

Which brings me back to the video at the top. This is The Emissary's theme song, the mysterious NPC from our Exalted game - the Anathema Taji and Kito first befriended that caused them so much trouble (though not as much trouble as their presence causes him...)

The fifth paragraph of this episode is the pertinent one. Rich had established the character's theme song by having it play whenever we saw him give the laws, something we witnessed a few times at a great distance as we settled into Nexus. We then got on with the various troublemaking we liked to get up to, eventually detouring to the White Tower - the tallest building in the city and one which would give us a good view. As we stood on the path debating how to gain access, we heard the opening bars of the track and turned to the GM, eyes and mouths wide with horror. We'd completely forgotten this was where The Emissary lived, and sure enough, he was walking towards us...

For me, it was hands down the best use of music I've ever experienced in a game.

What about you? How has music enhanced your gaming? Let me know below!

Saturday 18 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 18 - What art inspires your game?

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I'm going to take a broader definition of "art" than I think's intended, as I can't think of any specific painting, drawing, or sculpture that's been used for inspiration. Films and short stories, on the other hand!

In Deadlands, we've spent a lot of time in Shan Fan, a city of Chinese, rather than European, immigrants and their descendents. Which means lots of martial artists, both mundane and with the "chi" arcane edge. There's a neat hindrance in The Flood book called "the cup overfloweth" which characters with the chi edge can take, and it makes their powers really obvious, in the style of the sorcerors in Big Trouble in Little China, which I've never seen all the way through, but Husbit's made sure I've seen enough to know what he's referencing. 

In Aberrant, there was a fight scene between Adam and some bad guys (the first fight of the rampage that landed him in jail) that was intentionally choreographed after a fight scene in the first Kingsman film (only with super powers rather than guns).

In Exalted, we had a whole training sequences inspired by various Jackie Chan films (the one I remember most vividly involved giant pottery jars we had to fill and empty with tea cups, but I'm not sure which film it was and my google-fu is failing me).

I mentioned short stories above. Husbit and I own a lot of short story anthologies, which can be great for inspiring adventure. There's something for any genre; here's a few collections I think are worth looking at:
  • Cyberpunk: Stories of Hardware, Software, Wetware, Evolution, and Revolution - which does what it says on the tin
  • The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women - a collection of stories by women and non-binary individuals of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, so giving a huge range of voices and viewpoints (The Mammoth Book of... books are often good and cover pretty much all common RPG settings)
  • Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M R James and The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers - both pre-date Lovecraft and I'd say should be compulsory reading for anyone wanting to run Cthulu-type games
  • The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton has some really creepy ideas for a ghostly, horror or supernatural game
  • There's a great collection of Ambrose Bierce's ghost and horror stories, that includes a few of his American Civil War stories which makes it great for Weird West settings like Deadlands (but the book is on a random shelf upstairs and I can't remember or successfully google the title)

As I was mentally prepping this post, there were also novels to mention! Jim Butcher's Dresden Files have influenced our GM as he prepared his setting for Mage; I've not read the books, but he has leant me the first so as soon as I manage to finish rereading Snow Crash I'll get onto them. I've heard good things for years.

But the book that's inspired me is Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier. One of the male characters in that is the son of a fey lord or king or prince, who has gone around impregnating human women in the hopes of having a son to inherit, but until this character has only had daughters. This fascinated me - this idea that only a male heir was worthy, and wondering what happened to all the daughters. And that's basically where Svetlana comes from.

Friday 17 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 17 - Describe the best compliment you've had while gaming

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Firstly, this question makes me realise how rarely I compliment others in games. I mean, really compliment them. I'll say when I like something they've done, or think they've got a clever solution, or whatever, and implicitly I'll compliment a GM by the extent of my engagement, but I don't often give good compliments. I'll look at what other people say for today and try to learn how to do this from that.

Anyway, the best compliment I've received. I certainly felt complimented when I was invited to the Awesome World of Darkness Game I played in at uni - its players were so fond of it it felt like a really big deal to be invited, and it was a wonderful game.

When I was invited from Buffy to Shadowrun, the Shadowrun GM complimented me for the details I gave when designing my character, but I was a voracious reader and they were the sort of detail I'd expect to see. The character was very clear in my mind. It was a great compliment because it encouraged me to consider my characters' backgrounds and appearances, shaping the way I like to play.

The best compliment - the one that really stays with me - was for the same character, from the same GM, and had the same long-term impact in that it affected how I play.

I talked about Tark's death on Day 4, and on Day 9 commented that this was the first time I really felt with my character, so it might not surprise you that this is where that best compliment was received.

Kamaya's best friend's head exploded in front of her. She knew it was Ares, knew she should take steps to get herself and her other friends safe, knew she should start plotting revenge, but instead got drunk. I was 17, maybe 18, and hadn't ever really been drunk, not the way she was getting, and had never wanted to be drunk the way she did, but I knew how she felt in that moment.

The compliment wasn't just in what the GM said, which I forget but was along the lines of how impressed he was that I was doing this in character rather than doing what was smart from a player point of view, but also in his face as I described her actions, which I remember precisely - the surprise and pride, I guess, in his normally cheerful or passive expression.

Yeah, I've never forgotten that. It's made it a lot easier to want to react in character rather than sensibly in subsequent games, which has led to more character-driven games, and more interesting stories.

What about you? How did you respond to today's question? Share a link below!

Thursday 16 August 2018

#RPGaDay2018: Day 16 - Describe your plans for your next game

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The boring answer to this prompt is: 
  • arrive on time for once
  • gossip as we get settled
  • try to progress the plot (as we're playing towards a goal that, when we meet it, we'll be returning to Aberrant, and we're all looking forward to that a lot)
  • try not to roll quite as many botches as I've managed the past few weeks... (it'd be really nice to succeed a few rolls!)
So rather than talk about my next gaming session, I'm going to talk about plans for the next game after that's done. As mentioned, we're returning to Aberrant, but we're also returning to Pathfinder, so I'll start there.

We're returning to the 'Interlude' characters, who're currently working their way through some version of the Star Stone Trial, very different to the one in the book (rather more epic in scope). They're nearly done, my GM reassures me; I've not particularly enjoyed the character, although I think the concept is interesting, and we felt a bit adrift in the trial, really not knowing what to do most of the time. Their arc should conclude not long after they get back, and we get to return to our main characters! I've really missed Svetlana, so I'm looking forward to getting into her skin again. I'll need to read through my notes on where we got to, which is one advantage of this blog.

Then Aberrant! Chrissie's just been called to the jail where Adam's being held because he's behaving weirdly. What Chrissie doesn't know is that Adam's been hallucinating, including that their mentor Benedict is alive and calling to him from beneath the quantum lake that was Vienna, where they'd assumed he'd died. Hallucinating... or are the strange conditions of the jail allowing Benedict to contact him? Tune in next time to find out... (or, y'know, whenever we get started and however soon after that I get around to writing it up).

One cool thing about the Aberrant game is that Bells and Rich have been playing First Age Exalted with another friend, Ash, but that game is being put on hold so we can play Pathfinder. It would be trickier to integrate Ash into the Pathfinder game at this stage (and also possibly the group), but having gatecrashed their game and found I got on well with Ash, we're going to bring him into our Aberrant game instead. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with, and how the GM will introduce him.

What about you? What plans are you ruminating over? Tell me, or link to your response, below.

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!