Monday, October 29, 2012

My biggest RPG headache

The problem

My regular gaming group has six players who fairly consistently can attend gaming sessions every other week.  Our group plays D&D 4E, and will continue to do so for about another six months until we reach level 21, at which time I've told them I will no longer run that game.  Having six players is about the maximum any gaming group can withstand, just on pure interpersonal dynamics and making sure people are constantly engaged.
Recently, one of the core six players invited a friend from work to sit in on a game.  It happened to be at a time when the group was facing some encounters with diverse opposition, so you had six PC's and maybe four distinct monsters, meaning you had ten different elements going off at different initiatives (I've since learned to dial that way down, favoring solo monsters or homogeneous groups).  In the wake of that particular session, the whole group (myself included) was pretty antipathetic towards having another regular player, and we had to have a difficult conversation with the core player about dis-inviting him.
Unfortunately the next gaming session we were short-handed on players, and had to consider bringing in our regular "substitute," who is the school-age son of one of the other core players.  That didn't look good.

So, what do I need?

  1. A game that can accommodate a large number of players, maybe as many as seven at times.
  2. A game that doesn't require a lot of gaming continuity in terms of playing, since several players have irregular schedules
  3. A game that doesn't require a ton of prep time. 
  4. A game that's fun and enjoyable, both in terms of genre and mechanics
The solution(s)?

I mentioned earlier a "Western Marches" style game, the name taken from the sandbox-style D&D campaign of the same name that managed to handle a large and inconsistent group of players thanks to some pretty intentional formatting.  Fantasy is obviously a popular genre with the group, and there's only about three dozen RPG's out there.  But the prep time for that could be overwhelming.

Another fantasy option might be to do a troupe-style game like Ars Magica, again based in a region, but more narrativist in nature.

A superhero RPG has the benefit of fielding a large group, being "episodic" in style, and isn't that hard to put together, especially with a fairly stripped-down system like Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  The downside?  Superheroes only appeal to a fraction of my group, and I'm not sure how the game might play out long-term.

A final option is a sci-fi campaign where the PC's makeup the crew of a ship, letting people cycle in and out within the confines of a large starship.  What's the downside?  Most ships have a command figure, and it might be possible to run adventures where the captain is not available, but otherwise whoever that player should be one of those people who might be there for most of the sessions.

What do you think?  Suggestions welcome.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Atomo, the Atomic Monster from Beneath the Earth!

For Monstrous Monday, an homage to a comic book staple using the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying rules

Original Art by Rob Baldwin (that's me!), copyright 2012

Atomo, the Atomic Monster from Beneath the Earth!

Affiliations Solo d10, Buddy d8, Team d6

Colossal Terror
Nom Nom Nom
Somebody's Tool

Power Sets

Godlike Strength d12
Godlike Durability d12
Gigantic Size d12
Tunneling d8
Mental Defense d8
SFX: Invulnerability, as MHR
SFX: Multiattack (powerful slam)
SFX: Engulf.  Take a dice from the doom pool to create a "swallowed" complication for any opponent.  Opponent may still attack, but only Atomo.  Have the hero overcome the Doom Pool to recover.
Limit: primitive mind.  Step up damage die for all emotional attacks

Menace d10

While Atomo's origins remain a mystery, he (or it) has appeared as a frequent tool of various supervillains intent on large-scale destruction.  Almost mindless, Atomo is usually unleashed upon an unsuspecting city until beaten or at least driven off by a team of superheroes.  Atomo is virtually indestructible, but can be easily frustrated to the point of retreat.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

EOW 2012 Review

EOW (End of the World) is my annual mini-convention I participate in with my friends, and it was this past weekend.  It's basically three days of gaming, with a different GM running a session each day using the same generic rules system but different genres.  It's a fun weekend, and here's the review of how it went.

Day One (Friday): Star Trek
GM: Me
Story: in the TNG era, the crew of an aging Reliant-class ship are contacted by a Romulan intelligence agent about a sector the Empire ceded to the Federation several years ago.  Two centuries ago, a Romulan ship was destroyed there under mysterious circumstances, and now a colony may be at risk.  The crew discovers a planet-sized being that can siphon energy from any source.
Liked: it's my scenario so I don't want to sound like I'm tooting my own horn, but afterwards one player said that the session "really felt like a Next Generation episode."
Disliked: I waited until the last minute when it came to making up the pre-gen characters, and they were missing some details as a result.  It went short, but that really wasn't a problem for the group.

Day Two (Saturday): WWII/Sci-fi
GM: Ed
Story: the crew of a WWII bomber flies through a wormhole and ends up on a primitive, alien world.  They have to use their modern technology to help survive and support their new friends.
Liked: despite its Jon Carter-esque plot, the story and the weird alien world showed a lot of originality.
Disliked: The GM didn't have any PC's to hand out to players whose characters had died (a common occurrence in this system, and it happened to me) so I ended up sitting out the last 90 minutes of play.

Day Three (Sunday): Traveller
GM: Brian
Story: the crew of a transport vessel are thrown parsecs away from civilization in a mis-jump.  They must both survive, then negotiate with a high-tech race of mutants in order to get home.  This was actually the "home game" session in that it was part of the ongoing campaign most of the group is doing.
Liked: again, a solid story, and most of the players had a chance to participate.
Disliked: a little railroading was necessary to get the PC's to the story, but most of the players understood that it needed to happen.  The PC's were also given a tremendous technological asset that could have long-range implications in the game that the other campaign's GM's will need to manage.

Other notes:
EOW is always a good time away from the normal stresses of our lives to hang out with friends, watch movies and TV, and of course do some gaming.  The group has been doing this for over 20 years, and they have the routine down pretty well.  If there is one problem, it is that the group is almost too successful because this year there were nine participants.  With one GM, that means that in each game there were eight players, which is right up to the maximum threshold in my opinion.  Rumor has it that next year could see that number go as high as eleven, which is well above what works in an RPG setting.  We are discussing now the possibility of splitting the group during gaming sessions, although that idea has its own pitfalls and challenges.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Quick 4E Game Algorithm

Four players and three encounters, three hours.
For each additional player, add 1/2 hour to the final total (e.g. six players would make it 4.5 hours)

Over at Strange Vistas