Saturday 31 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019: Days 26-31

Monday 26th - "Idea"
Like an awful lot of people, I'd love to write a novel one day. Now, I know that when you run a game, it's bad form to have an idea for the story and prevent the players deviating from that (if that's your plan, write the book instead); however, I think there's something to be said for using games as a place to try out ideas, or seeds of ideas, for stories you want to write, and I think this is something players can do as well as GM's. As long as it doesn't detract from other people's enjoyment, I think there's a lot to be said for this method of testing ideas and concepts. Having the feedback from the interaction of others can be incredibly useful and spark new ideas that you  wouldn't necessarily have come to just writing by yourself (though I should write down when I'm inspired in a game as I tend to forget otherwise).

I'd like to try writing a novel with friends this way, in a sort of pseudo-RPG setting, where "dramatically appropriate" rules and where no one person is the GM but rather we're all co-creators of a world discussing how things may progress, probably all running a few characters but able to make suggestions to each other... 

Tuesday 27th - "Suspense"
Initially, I thought I hadn't played in many games where there was a sense of suspense, but then I thought about the current Aberrant game and Bill's death and the Protos mystery, then our repeated failures to take down the Patchwork Man in Deadlands, which hopefully will keep building to a satisfying conclusion, and the suspense of waiting to find out what's happened to Svetlana et al in Pathfinder (just knowing they're missing from our other characters' experience in the world). I've got other examples, too, but they're the easiest to express. Guess I've been left in suspense more often than I thought!

Wednesday 28th - "Love"
I love a love story! The first was in a horror game run at uni, where we played US university (college?) students on holiday who end up sucked into another world and my character ended up in a relationship with one of the other characters (based on that "fear is an aphrodisiac" concept) - the other player involved in that is now married to the other woman who played with us (the other man and I are not married). It was a short game, maybe only one session, but great fun and very effective.

Next was Kella and Reisha, which I've written about in previous years.

Then fast forward and no more romances until Svetlana and Noleski. I created a character for a Cyberpunk game and her girlfriend (to be an important NPC), but we never got to play and I can't find the character sheets anywhere (I wanted to write them up on this blog). Anyway, from Pathfinder I moved into Aberrant and deliberately created a commitment-phobe - but plot and character development saw her enter a relationship that has become steadily more frayed. I've never had the chance to roleplay a failing relationship before, so this is fun (if they just talked it might be salvageable, but if they do ever have that talk it's likely that's the end of it so they keep skirting it). Our Exalted game went on break with Taji finally entering the relationship she was hoping for, and that was a wonderful moment. I really enjoy that character and her love for her brother and now her lunar mate. And in Mage, my character has again fallen into a relationship that is certainly interesting, Ragna being sweet and incredibly naive and her girlfriend being... rather less so.

Thursday 29th - "Evolve"
If my memory serves, in a previous year we were asked how our play style had evolved and I claimed mine hadn't, really. I've subsequently realised I was wrong. There's certain aspects that stay true: I enjoy character-driven play over dungeon hack or even story driven (though character and story driven play are highly compatible) and that's always been the case, but the types of characters I get the most out of playing have changed - less, now, the innocent healers and more leaders or mother hens or prickly characters who still want the best for the team. I still prefer range if there's fighting to be done (though Chrissie'll happily get in the thick of it to throw a few punches), and still prefer the parts of the game outside the battleground (though the White Wolf/Savage Worlds games don't fill me with dread when it comes to combat the way Pathfinder does, because the combat systems are much quicker). I feel I'm getting better at making things up on the fly if I need to (though it's something I need to work on, particularly in Mage). I hope I give and continue to give other players (especially the GM) plenty to work with.

Friday 30th - "Connection"
"Emotional bleed" is a phrase I learnt a few years ago that stuck with me because I love to be so connected to my characters that I feel that emotional bleed, feel their emotions as strongly as my own. I appreciate it's not for everyone, but for me it's what makes a moment memorable.

Saturday 31st - "Last" 
This prompt is hard. I can't talk about the last game I'll ever play, or the last group I'll ever play with, like I did with "First" because I hope that's many, many years away. I don't want to talke about the most recent game I played, because it's not the last in that arc...

Oh, that makes me think! The last game in the most recent Exalted arc ended in one of my favourite endings, with Taji's lunar mate wrapping his arm around her and her leaning against him, surrounded by their friends at an outdoor celebratory party. So which are other favourite last sessions? Two come to mind, both long running campaigns at uni.

The first was Werewolf: The Apocalypse. The Galliard, the Philodox, the Ahroun, the Ragabash all died in the great battle. Only the Theurges, my Child of Gaia and Mel's Black Fury, survived. The world was different now, the changing breeds no more: Mel's character was now a full time human, and mine a full time wolf. They remained friends, though, meeting at a particular location (a lake between the woodlands and the town, as I recall), and generations after, her descendants and mine continued the tradition.

The second was Final Fantasy Noir. Kella had fallen pregnant while the party climbed Mount Gagazet, but (believing she was destined to die) she'd told no one. Reisha had died before she learnt she could survive, so he never learnt about their baby. Until after Zet was born, when Kella relaxed on the Besaid shore with her sister and her sister's twins (fathered by Rax, another party member), and a distant SPLASH caught her eye. It was Reisha, returned to life by Phoenix, with whom Reisha had a strong connection that was never quite explained. It was perfect and made me cry. 

Sunday 25 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019: Days 19-25

Monday 19th - "Scary"
I've played a few games where the hairs on the back of my neck have stood up and I've needed to take a moment to calm down after. The first was in the Renraku Arcology, and the most recent the Deadlands Asylum. Both sent real shivers down my spine, but I'll relate the Arcology one here, as it happened after the point I had notes.

Kamaya made it back into the Arcology to try and rescue her friends. They were still holed up in more or less the same place, waiting out the situation. She got bored and wanted to find out what was going on, so crept off through the ceiling vents. At one point she ended up in a toy shop, where a wall of dolls turned their glowing eyes on her and, in a chorus of sing-song voices, called her by name to come and play. The image was so vivid in my head it still gives me the shivers.

Tuesday 20th - "Noble"
This one's easy! Svetlana is the first character I've played who earned herself entry to the world of nobility, first by right of conquest - "reclaiming" part of the stolen lands for Brevoy - then earning more titles by hard work as an adventuring, and finally marrying the king.

Really looking forward to getting back to her (though on the other hand, I'm so distracted by Ziggy during our games at the moment that part of me is worried, because I want to give her more attention than I'll be able to.)

Wednesday 21st - "Vast"
One of the things I love about our Exalted game is how vast it feels, yet also how much it feels like we can affect things, like we have choice and agency and will shape the world for the future. It's an interesting balance and one I believe the players need to take some responsibility for in order to maintain it. I know how hard GM's work to breathe life into worlds. Players should respect that by acting responsibly with what the GM gives them. Which of course doesn't mean they can't have fun - "responsible" and "fun" are not synonyms - but the best games come, I think, when the GM and players work in tandem to create and believe in the characters and world, and I think that's happened in our Exalted game and the vastness - in time as well as space - of our version of Creation.

Thursday 22nd - "Lost"
I lost the first RPG group I was a part of. They were mostly guys a few years older than me, and one of them decided (pretty much without consulting me) that we were dating, and I was pretty naive for 18 and went along with it, and then he broke up with me and made out that I'd broken his heart and I know one person in the group I really admired absolutely accepted that without question (they'd been friends for many, many years so I have no anger towards her, but I miss her), and I found it easier to melt away than face it, and then I met Husbit, and then I went off to uni and made more friends both times, and it just became easier.

I regret it, though. I feel the loss of those friends. They got me through hellish teenage years and introduced me to something that remains one of my favourite hobbies.

Friday 23rd - "Surprise"
In Exalted, there's a bit coming up where I took my GM by surprise, to the point he paused us and excitedly and rapidly typed a bunch of notes. It was a pretty thrilling moment, to make the GM stop and think again about how things will unfurl. I don't want to give too much away (the things to look for are the next message my character sends to the Emissary, which he made a point of ensuring was noted, and what Taji insists be done after Hak has intervened), so instead I'm going to talk about the time a different player surprised a different GM in a game I wasn't even in, a moment that has passed into legend among certain of my friends. (The player was Ben, the friend who had me join his Space Munchkin game to introduce some of his non-RPG friends to RPG's.)

They were playing some superhero game, and Ben's character was the descendant of Arthur, King of the Britons. Had the sword Excalibur and everything. The game was set in the US, though, and the characters were ostensibly American. The game had been going on for some time when, for reasons lost in the mists of storytelling, the party ended up flung back in time to the American War of Independence. They were recruited by an American general and one job was as lookout, waiting for the news that the British were on their way then lighting lanterns to pass the message on. Ben was on duty the night an out of breath rider arrived, bearing the warning. 

"Ok," says Ben, and sends the weary man to get a rest.

"What are you going to do?" Asks the GM.





"Did you miss the bit on my character sheet where it says 'King of the Britons'?"

The GM never quite forgave himself for not seeing it coming (but made sure the repercussions were felt when the players returned to their own time. 

Saturday 24th - "Triumph"
We have a house rule in our Pathfinder group that if you roll a 20 for a critical and a 20 to confirm, you roll again and if it's a third 20 then it's an auto-kill. It's only happened once, and I was the one rolling. I roll a statistically improbable amount of 1's so it felt an even bigger triumph.

We'd got into a fight and were being badly beaten. There were 3 significant NPC foes and we'd gone in overconfidently (players, overconfident? Never! I hear you cry)  

Sunday 25th - "Calamity" 
It used to bother me when calamity befell my characters, but now I appreciate it as a method of enhancing storytelling. Sometimes, I want to know that things will come out ok for the characters in the long run (Svetlana, for instance), but often I'm happy letting it drive the story onward. I think a lot of this comes from that episode in Exalted I'll be writing up when I get time, the one I already mentioned briefly under "surprise".

Sunday 18 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019: Days 12-18

Monday 12th - "Friendship"
Friendships are vital for good gaming, and I've made loads of new friends that way too, and I've talked on that theme before so I'm going to talk about in character friendships instead, because those are also fantastic.
The big ones have been (more or less in chronological order): Kamaya with NPC's Drazen and Tark; Kella with PC's Kyann, Rax, and especially Reisha; Plays in Shadows and the other PC's making up her pack; Svetlana and the NPC's I created for her backstory; Chrissie and Adam; Taji and Kito, and Taji and an NPC you'll be meeting very soon in the Exalted storyline. 

We're currently playing Aberrant so I think the friendship between Chrissie and Adam is a good one to discuss! We've been joined by another player (one of those friends I've made through gaming) whose character, Morgan, is important to the team but, coming in later, isn't as close  to the other player characters as they are to each other. Chrissie and Adam's friendship is a little strained by the events leading up to and following Adam's incarceration but was forged in strong fires. They had almost polar opposite upbringings, have slightly different morals stemming from differences in their pre-nova lives, were forced together by circumstance (and Benedict...) and have done their best to save the world (or at least make it a better place) many times.

Tuesday 13th - "Mystery"
Running a mystery game is hard. You need to leave breadcrumbs that will seem way to obvious to you, yet your players either will completely misinterpret or won't pick up at all, then you have to figure out how to guide them out of the rabbit holes without making it too obvious, because if it takes too long or feels too hard, the players won't have fun. I've always wanted to play in a mystery campaign, but have no idea where to start to run one.

Back to Aberrant (and friendship). We're currently playing a mystery scenario. Chrissie had a friend in her backstory, Bill, who's recently been killed! Investigating, Chrissie found clues he'd left that only she could find, leading to the word "Protos". We've now spent several sessions trying to figure out what on earth is so important about "Protos" that Bill went to such effort to hide it in such a way only Chrissie could find it. We've definitely gone down several wrong paths and the GM has helped us out by rephrasing things or giving us new ways to find information. We've finally tracked down the people behind the word, but still don't know what it all means...

 Wednesday 14th - "Guide"
There's a real joy to be had in being a guide bringing new people to table top roleplay. My best experience in this role was at uni, where a friend of mine on my course and also in the roleplay society wanted to introduce some other friends of his to gaming. He ran Space Munchkin, and invited me along to show them what it was all about, and act as a cattalyst to keep things moving. I played a cat person wiht force powers and incontrollable curiosity - the other players were soon having their characters grab my tail to yank me away from any red button or hatch labelled "do not open". It was great fun to play someone that reckless, and it was great fun to see them enjoying something they'd never done before.

Thursday 15th - "Door"
I love welcoming new players to roleplay. I think it's a fantastic hobby that gives benefits in normal life. You hear about hobby gatekeepers, but I think it's important and wonderful to hold the door open to everyone who's interested.

Friday 16th - "Dream"
I start a new job in a few weeks, and I'm anxious about it because it'll mean less time with Ziggy. Less time for my hobbies, too, but missing Ziggy is my biggest anxiety. The dream, then, is to have a job that pays enough to meet our outgoings and lead a comfortable lifestyle but that also has minimal (and flexible) hours. This was, I believe, a promise of automation that we haven't seen (there's a rant I could go off on...).

I was chatting about it with my regular GM. If I won big enough on the lottery, I'd love to be able to pay my friends to play with me (and especially the GM, because I think they put the most work into a game). He, in turn, would set up an office and employ us all to help develop the game he's working on. With an ice cream machine and mandatory naps.

I kinda hope he does win the lottery!

Saturday 17th - "One"
I was really struggling with this prompt and asked Husbit's help. He suggested one on one sessions, mentioning the Deadlands one he ran at the Asylum, which was effectively 4 one on one sessions, rotating between the players. He did a really good job of bringing personal horror into it and amping up the dread. I think this is something easier to do one on one, as the GM can really focus on that one player, and the player isn't distracted by other players' responses.

My most recent one on one session was in Aberrant, where I'd missed a session so played through the time separately later. I feel like I got a lot more done in that one session than in the normal group, which again goes to the way players are like cats: easier individually, but a nightmare to herd.

Sunday 18th - "Plenty" 
The one thing I have plenty of for roleplay is dice! I've played diceless and there's other diceless systems that interest me, but I do love rolling great handfuls of dice.

Sunday 11 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019: Days 5-11

Monday 5th - "Space"
I'm going to borrow from Autocratik and talk about our gaming space. We had a decent-sized wooden table with benches rather than chairs that had a homemade 6' by 4' gaming table over the top, complete with static grass. It made a decent table through several flats, but when we moved to this house, the previous owners left their table - longer and with actual chairs. It's in the dining room, an extension of the kitchen (so very convenient for coffees). The previous owners originally wanted a conservatory, but found it too hot in the summer and cold in the winter, so made it into a permanent structure instead. In keeping with their intention, though, the room has large skylights and windows, so feels light and airy. We've got a couple of bookshelves in there, to store dice and books for current games (the other books are in the Kallax in the study), and the toy cars for Gaslands, which Husbit's got really into recently.
I prefer to play sitting on sofas and the floor, but I'm outnumbered in this group, and the space is good.
Tuesday 6th - "Ancient"
I love settings with ancient tech, no longer understood. I'd very much like to play Numenera one day, but my experience in this comes a little from the Final Fantasy-themed game I played in at uni and largely from the Exalted game where I play Taji. I really enjoy whenever we find something ancient and try to learn about it in that game - made a little easier by a certain NPC (or two... or three) who remember those days.

A good example was the recent Exalted post "Our First Command", where we found some old tech stolen from the tombs of ancient Solars (and where I rolled a triple botch and accidentally triggered a defective Thousand Forged Dragon, destroying all the evidence and some of the loot we'd found). The next post is one I'm really excited about, because it will introduce one of my favourite NPC's, and one of those who remembers the First Age when all this tech that seems so magical to Taji and Kito was considered as commonplace as a mobile phone today...
Wednesday 7th - "Familiar"
I like the idea of having a familiar, but have never played a character with one. Animal companions once or twice, but never yet a familiar. I'm torn between whether I'd want a cat, a kestrel (or similar raptor), or a crow (or other corvid) - or maybe a rat or a ferret or a snake or a spider... It's definitely on my list to do one day, in the right game (maybe this one). 
Thursday 8th - "Obscure"
The most obvious way to take this, to me, was to discuss an obscure game I've played, but I can't think of one, so instead I've gone to the verb meaning.
Generally, I dislike it when one player obscures the truth from others, but there's times it's great fun on both sides. I generally enjoy it more when it's some dark secret from the character's background but also when it's something coming from gameplay - as long as it isn't the character working against the others and as long as it comes out quickly. I get anxious with hidden secrets, even benign ones. Husbit loves them. His character Alexei in Pathfinder has a lot going on (though I swear half the time he and the GM are just passing notes that say "this is a secret note"). Another character in our other Pathfinder game has some secrets that are starting to come to light, but these were more character secrets than player secrets, and came from backstory.

I did once have great fun being the player with the secret, when Svetlana was sneaking around with the group's patron, the king of Brevoy. We resolved it quickly, but I finally understood why Husbit enjoys obscuring secrets so much.

Friday 9th - "Critical"
I'm sure I've said it before, but the thing I consider most critical to a good game is playing with people who want the same thing as you. In my case, that's lots of character-driven story so those people also need to be people I'm comfortable getting vulnerable with. It's part of why the Exalted game is so dear to me: there's a large world to explore, but the story is made by the way the player characters, Taji and Kito, interact  with each other and the vast stable of NPC's. I think the closeness of the twins helps - I also really enjoyed a Pathfinder one-off where we played mentor and mentee in a similarly close way - and the life the GM has breathed into the NPC's is the icing on the very yummy cake.

Saturday 10th - "Focus"
I feel like I'm being told off! I don't have AD(H)D but my brain often sprints off after the proverbial squirrel regardless. It therefore seems most apt to discuss the things that send us shooting off topic the fastest! I'm sure all groups have them, key words, phrases, or concepts that derail play until the rabbit hole is cleared. Ours include:
  • certain in-jokes (Did it move? Classic Paul! Boats do a lot of damage...)
  • ridiculous conspiracy theories (flat Earth gets a little attention, but our ire is reserved for anti-vaxxers. Flat Earth is just silly, the way they produce experiments and refuse to accept the results, but anti-vaxx isn't just dangerous for those involved, but also those around them, such as those Ziggy's age, or those with compromised immune systems, or those with allergies that mean they can't be vaccinated, or anyone else who relies on herd immunity)
  • the ridiculousness of the US healthcare system. We live somewhere that (currently) has free healthcare and it seems crazy to us that a country with the economic success of the US doesn't offer the same. It particularly came up in our Mage game, when we got shot and had to work out if we could afford to go to hospital... We were so shocked by what we read that we keep coming back to it
  • Books, films, TV shows that mirror things in game - or just that have got one of us hooked recently and we want to share our new obsession
Of course, it's Ziggy who most often derails things now! 

Sunday 11th - "Examine" 
This wasn't a game I was in, but one Husbit ran for our friends while I was away at uni. A Ravenloft game, with lots of gothic horror and personal tragedy. They'd finished a dungeon hack-style encounter and had emerged, blinking, into the sunshine. Husbit described the scene: the fields, the clear sky, the fields, their horses happily eating the grass and still tied to the tree, the kestrel sitting in the tree watching.

There followed an in character conversation that lasted around an hour debating what to do with this kestrel. Was it food?, a threat?, a spy?.. Husbit has told this story with two punchlines. The kestrel was due to be the ranger's animal companion... the kestrel was an incidental bit of scenery with no significance.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

#RPGaDay2019 - Days 1-4

1st - "First"
My first gaming group were some of the staff from my local Games Workshop and their friends. I'm struggling to remember who was actually in the group: Andy, because he was GM; Tom, because from there he invited me to the Shadowrun game that was how I became completely hooked; their housemate Paul. I think there were others, but I can't remember except I was the only girl in the group and the last to join.

It felt a real honour to have been invited. We played ourselves in a game of Buffy set in our local area. We had a Watcher but no slayer (what with her being off in Sunnydale). We'd all ended up dragged into this supernatural world by dint of things we'd seen or experienced. Andy, as GM, occasionally played himself but was keen not to be dragged into the game properly so played himself as an obstacle: we had to keep things secret from those not involved, and that included him. We played in their living room; they lived round the corner from the local firestation and I can't remember if we ever managed it or only wanted to steal a fire engine and fill it with holy water to go on a rampage...

They were good guys who helped me through the worst of being a teenager.

2nd - "Unique"
There's certain themes my characters will nearly always have one or more of: child-like innocence, kindness, an affinity for fire, a preference for ranged weaponry. My Ravnos 'Mathilde' was an exception. She was cruel, a bully, a trickster - completely against my self-image or my desires, but still great fun to play (with the right group). Definitely unique amongst my characters - the nettle among the daisies.

3rd - "Engage"
The death of G+ has changed the way I engage with the international roleplay community, making it a lot harder to do. I'm really sad about that. The alternative social networks don't work for me, for different reasons, and I feel the loss of that community.

I'm staying in touch with the blogs I remembered to bookmark, and am hoping this blog is still enjoyed by those who can still find it.

4th - "Share"
Speaking of the blogs I remembered to bookmark, you can see them down the side! What did I miss? Let me know! :)

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Quick Life Update

It's August already, and I only noticed because I poked Instagram and spotted an update from Dave Chapman referencing this year's #RPGaDay, and I was only on Instagram because I'm job hunting and a prospective employer mentioned she'd looked me up and seen my account there, and I realised I hadn't updated it in ages.

So starting with RPGaDay - I intend to take part. Now I've seen the graphic, I'm intrigued by the prompts (though find the graphic itself less clear than the previous format. More fun, but less clear). Between the Cat and Ziggy, I have less opportunities to spend time on my laptop so I think I'm going to write up as many as I can when I get the opportunity and post them to go live on Sundays in a "weekly round up" style.

Kitty's still doing ok. She's not eating as well as she was immediately after the steroid injection but is still eating better than before it. Her front right leg is now almost completely useless to her and the muscle is wasting away, but the limp that was developing in her left back leg has fixed itself. We assume she'd strained it compensating for her front leg. She's doing a very good job of getting around, albeit more slowly. She still comes up at around 6am and jumps on the bed, miaowing for cuddles. 

The job hunt is because I'm in gardening leave. I did 6 months maternity and went back to work for a few days, then gardening leave started. My department's been sold to an offshore company, who sensibly enough want to bring it to their continent and I didn't want to follow. Husbit has also been made redundant, but was always going to leave his job to be primary parent so this way we got an unexpected payout. My job was under threat before I fell pregnant and the dates confirmed before I left for maternity leave, so it's not unexpected. What's frustrating is that this time last year I was looking around at what was out there, and there were loads of jobs in my industry that were lower responsibility than I'd had and for nearly 50% more income, so I wasn't worried. Those jobs have all now dried up and I'm anxious. I'm also struggling to prove myself in technical tests. I spent 4 years or so being told how good I am at programming and I'd finally internalised that, and now the feedback I'm getting over and over again is that my technical tests aren't up to standard. I have, fortunately, managed to get an interview despite that (showing personality counts for something), but it's really knocked my confidence. It also means I'm going to be on a wage barely above what I was on before, which is not enough to cover our bills so that's super stressful. I'm going to have to work hard to prove myself and get a pay rise (wherever I end up)  before my redundancy payout runs out. (The recruiter sounded annoyed when I mentioned I had to give notice or I'd lose the payout. I didn't like to mention I don't really want to start before the gardening leave naturally comes to an end because I don't want to miss Ziggy more than I have to, and I'm still breastfeeding. I'm prepared to if I have to, but I don't like it.) I don't want to whine about it, but writing my worries is one of the ways I deal with them. Which leads on to the thought that I'd love to write a novel and get it published, and necessity may help my enthusiasm cut through my self-doubt (and my reluctance to edit).

Ziggy continues to do well. He's got 6 teeth cut through, with several other little bumps. He can walk while holding on - even a few steps holding with only one hand! He can run with both hands (and climb stairs the same way). The last couple of days, he's started crawling! He doesn't get very far, tending to use it as a way to get closer to something he's already sitting near. He's currently playing with blocks and watching Hey, Duggee (the only kids' show we don't find annoying. One episode is about the right length for his attention and gives us a 7minute break). I'd like to do a proper post soon, showing him swimming and at circus and bouncing and all the other things he enjoys.

In summary, life is more stressful than I like right now, but not insurmountably so, and I'm still getting great pleasure out of the things I love.