Saturday, March 19, 2016

When Players are too smart

I painted these miniatures a long time ago and they've never seen the light of a gaming table until last night, when they got to play the role of "douchebag fratboys of the zombie apocalypse."

I wanted to write about smart gamers, and why GM's sometimes get frustrated by them.  I think sometimes GM's, myself included, anticipate player activity based on what the GM thinks would make for a cool scene.  For example, the party ran across four police officers (post-apocalypse) clearly attempting to abduct a young girl to sell her into slavery (it's not a nice world).  The GM thought we would get riled up and start blasting the evil police and rescue the girl.  One player wanted to do that.  I didn't.  I figured that four armed law enforcement NPC's could do some serious damage to five regular civilians with improvised weapons.  So I my PC buy the girl using some contraband the PC's had acquired.  Hollywood heroic?  No.  Maybe Walking Dead, but mostly it was "be smart and survive" because I didn't figure the games objective was to kill every evil guy in the city.  It was about surviving with a shred of humanity.

Later, when the PC's encountered these frat boys and swung an invite back to their home base, we didn't decide to go all Harry Hart at the end of Kingsman (obscure pop culture reference).  Instead we had the PC's spike their booze, waited for them all to pass out, and then killed them all when they were unconscious. Not heroic, not good "cinema action" but damnably effective.

I run into the same problem with my EOW group.  Smart players with military backgrounds who know how to tactically move around and handle situations in a way that isn't very sexy but very effective.  I feel like this is something that I have to let go, expectations I mean.  Because we aren't making a movie, we're playing a game.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Night Recap: the Force is startled!

The latest campaign in my gaming group launched, in this case a Star Wars (West End Games) campaign run by John.  It takes place around Episode VII, so it is the First Order as bad guys.

My daughter is playing a young female bounty hunter, so I'm playing the Wookie First Mate.  I'm her dad's old partner who is now showing his "niece" the ropes.  As "Uncle Gar" I decided I wouldn't speak in character, but instead would growl and write what I was saying on a notepad so Basha, my daughter's PC, could communicate it to the other players.  Here's a quick pic of the pad, partway through the session:

It was a lot of fun because sometimes my daughter would go "I don't get that joke" or "I totally agree" but then not tell the other players what I had "said."

The other PC's are a Brash Pilot, a Smuggler, a Scout, and a Failed Jedi.  The game is off to a good start as the bunch of us escape a First Order gulag and the bounty-hunting pair decides to team up with the Resistance PC's to hunt down First Order bad guys and collect the bounties.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Friday night game recap: Airships!

The other Rob took over my D&D game once I had wrapped up my Grimfest storyline, and last Friday ran his first session.  I'm playing Maarku, a human barbarian/gladiator who had fought his way out of the slave pits to freedom.

The group is approached by an ambassador from the Windsong Islands to ask if we could travel there to help the recently-widowed Majestrix consolidate her claim to the throne.  Opposing her are rebels called the Sea Vipers and a neighboring country controlled by a council of mages.  The big reveal for the session was the existence of airships, flying craft powered by magically-controlled air elementals.

The group knows a plot hook when we see one, so we headed off to the Windsong Islands.  We were attacked by pirates, met the Majestrix, and tried to find clues to the mysterious island where a pearl that allows someone to scry at great distance (and presumably help the Majestrix defeat her enemies) can be found.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

On why I may NOT be running Fragged Empire

Fragged Empire has been getting a lot of talk around my FLGS and my gaming group, and may become the new Hot Sexy of Sci-Fi RPG's, and for good reason.  It's got an interesting, rich backstory that is pretty easily conveyed to new people without sounding too derivative of existing sci-fi franchises.  Basically the PC's are one of four genetically modified servitor races trying to crawl out of the rubble of an interstellar war that wiped out the masters of both sides.  It touts itself as having strong themes of exploration, resource management, and cultural conflict.

It also looks a lot like D&D in Space.  Or more accurately Murderhobo D&D in Space.  First, there are four races: the Corp, who are basically human despite the fact that there are no more humans in the galaxy; the Kaldor who are Space Elves but with four pointed ears instead of two and even have dark, evil counterparts; the Legion who look like orcs but act like dwarves; and the Nephilim, which are the mutable "didn't find what you like?  Just make something up" race.  Maybe I am being less-than-generous here.  It's probably impossible to create a militaristic sci-fi race that doesn't evoke notions of Klingons or Romulans either.  These are just cultural touchstones for Americans in particular, and using familiarity as a way to short-cut having to explain complicated things like a whole galaxy to an audience.

But my biggest reason is essentially the in-game economy.  Now I don't mean the financial economics specifically, although they are related.  Most games have sort of "do this thing and you'll get this benefit" element.  Fight things and get XP, which are used to become a better combatant.  Solve this mystery and you'll become more skilled at solving mysteries.  Roleplay your character a certain way and plot progression will be easier.  It is the incentive/reward component element of a game mechanic, and it often reflects the core ethos of the game, at least in terms of the what the designers intended.

Fragged Empire's core ethos is acquisition through exploration and combat, with the benefit being an increase in your ability to explore and fight.  It's not quite the "roll the kobold for loose change" economy, it is more of a "roll the dead genetically modified creature for xenotech" thing.  It's reflected everywhere in the mechanics, up to and including having an outfit and weapon slot for your PC, because of course you will need armor and a gun in this game.  It touts itself as a sandbox-oriented game, but actually internally reinforces the idea of quests which will garner you rewards.

This isn't a badwrongfun thing per se.  This economy works on many levels, not the least of which is breeding familiarity with established gaming groups.  Fragged Empire actually looks like a very good RPG, and it goes into the "I'll likely run it one day," which is a sparsely-occupied column in my gaming repertoire.  It is just that I've been running games featuring that economy a lot the last few years, and I'm ready for something different.  I'm tired of picaresque "protagonists" and maybe just want, you know, heroes.

Strike Force Kickstarter

A new edition of Strike Force with new information and a physical book too?  You know I'm all over this.  And you can too by clicking here.

For those who haven't read my many blog posts about the original sourcebook, it was a journal of a Champions II campaign run by Aaron Allston for years.  It included PC's and NPC's, a timeline of the campaign, and some invaluable advice for running a campaign, especially a long one.

The new book isn't just a reprint of the old one, but rather features new information regarding the campaign based on notes from its participants.  Best part?  Aaron Allston's estate is getting a portion of the proceeds.

This has been fully funded, so I'll let you know when the book arrives.

Over at Strange Vistas