Horror Game Consent Checklist (Google Forms)

Horror Options

If you’re interested in what I offered for my campaign, this is the form.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScPomok3F8ppIwbKDerOP23N8ZZLOx2w1gOFwyrixKVOA-3DA/viewform is the long link, of course.  I’m not sure if there’s a way to send the form so that you can amend it for your own campaign, but if you’re interested, let me know!

Undisciplined: (FAE) The first two dreams.

Dreams evolve.

One of the ways I like to set the mood is to start out with a dream, and it also allows me to pass on information and potential hooks for a character. As they develop I am showing my understanding of the character, too, so we can correct that as necessary.

Continue reading “Undisciplined: (FAE) The first two dreams.”

Undisciplined: A Horror Game (FAE) — Introduction

100% of early respondents wanted “post-apocalypse with monsters.”

I haven’t really messed with Fate Accelerated Edition all that much, because in general I feel like rolling skills seems to be more of a focus of my players than how they do those skills, and FAE is all adverb.  Not that I’m adverse to adverbs, of course, but while “LY” plays in my head on a regular basis, I just hadn’t felt like I had a game world, players, and story concept that really applied.

Then I offered to run a horror game. I mean, I was cajoled into it? No, wait, I wanted to run a horror game for my horror wife1, and somehow other folks got involved. I think they just wanted to game.  So I had to find a system, and I thought about it. I wanted something different than Pathfinder or any of the Dungeons and Dragons varieties, and this was a good foothold in the door, plus it met my other standards:

  • We roll dice. (Sorry, ADRPG2.)
  • Character creation is fun and cooperative.
  • Minimum resource management is required. 3
  • It encourages (and rewards) the use of more description in one’s actions. 4

Continue reading “Undisciplined: A Horror Game (FAE) — Introduction”

Undertale-Inspired Anti-AD&D

In 2017 I had planned on introducing some teenagers to some gaming via AD&D and familiarity with Undertale.  Of course, I hadn’t actually been thinking of them as teenagers who would, ahem, see an option for a flirt skill and decide to greet the King by tweaking his nipples.  Ah, “Seducto,” you derailed the entire game and I am only glad you got what you deserved by asking me to run a personalized haunted house adventure later.

Here are the character sheets in PDF, though, in case anyone’s amused:

Innkeeper

Pirate

Scientist

Counsel

Quitting Dungeons and Dragons (revisited)

The end of a decade long campaign, the start of… something different.

Ten years ago we wrestled our children to the tabletop, explaining that they would get to “stay up until midnight” for New Year’s Eve if they would join us in playing a game.  They got dice which they’d had a little bit of experience with before, but most of our games were “story games” with us in the front seat describing what happens to those in the back seat during long drives back and forth to Colorado Springs.

Our daughter created Jazzie, an elf.  Jazzie was tall, very tall, with dark black hair and skin, and she clothed herself in the wilderness.  Our son was told he could play a Paladin, as we weren’t going to have any PvP in the game.  He created X, a Paladin who never revealed his face.  My wife created Iota, a dwarven cleric of the Greek Pantheon, whose pleas to the various Gods were balanced by her role as a dwarf “not of this world.”

The story took them into dungeons, mines, castles, forests, and a grey seaside town bereft of the sounds of children.  Jazzie’s reputation of her player rolling a ridiculous number of natural 20s made her a legend where the local dwarves feared her. X’s tales of his family were as evil as he was good, and then some.

A couple of years before my son said he didn’t want to play a Paladin anymore, and we discussed a lot of options. This year was the battle between the party and two of his sisters, the twin serpent mages, Xylene and Xylena.  Having captured their sister Xantha to lure X into their lair, they began a ritual to change X.

Iota, grasped by divine providence, changed the runes.  X changed… into something even he was not expecting.  He thrust his new blood-red sword through Iota in order to kill Xylene.  He and Xantha went back to kill Xylena, because “leaving even one of them alive is more dangerous than killing them.”

Iota just didn’t want her friend to have to kill his own sister.

With this in mind, the party will split.  Jazzie will return to her forest. Iota will travel and learn more of this strange world she’s been set in, and X… X may end up being the start of a new party.

 

Except.

Continue reading “Quitting Dungeons and Dragons (revisited)”

Quitting Dungeons and Dragons

Someone asked me recently what it would take for me to “quit D&D.”  By which they mean the AD&D system, not ‘gaming in general,’ because I would get quite surly about that nonsense.  I have been ruminating about it for a while, and I was surprised at how much my initial reaction was against the idea.

There’s a lot of my sense of culture and belonging linked more to gaming than it ever was to a location-of-origin, or religious upbringing, or any other anchors that people normally use for their self-labelling.  That means I get a lot of the baggage of being “a gamer,” too. The stereotypes that make us laugh and cringe are the stereotypes of “my people.”  (The song of my people starts, “This one time in a game…” with the chorus of, “Let me tell you about my character…”)

When I say I’m a third generation gamer, that’s third generation D&D.  I’m still “stuck in the age of THAC0,” in a lot of ways, and yes, I realised that I haven’t supported (monetarily) anything Dungeons & Dragons specific since that really bad interaction with 4th Edition.  (It had a lot of really, really neat ideas, but the OS was not backwards-compatible.)  I have adopted a little bit of absorbed 5th edition items just because, well, I’m on the internet, but it’s still worked into my mental structure.

My games have been mostly horror, and where killing things is almost never a source of xp for decades. We joke about “detect racism” being a spell in my games, but it hasn’t been hard to detect.  (“Just add Tiefling!”)  This is purposeful: if I want to play the kind of game where you kill everything that moves and loot everything you can carry, I’ll play Moria.   Black Lives Matter, and we don’t mean Drow.

Last year at BigBadCon I ran an AD&D adventure I’d written for a friend, about “Sun Scouts” who deliver the cookies the dark side espouses.  We mostly play AD&D amongst ourselves and our friends. (I want to keep them as friends, so we haven’t really pushed playing Amber.)  Our “family game” is AD&D.  There’s a lot of truth in the statement that we don’t play D&D because we aren’t playing “the rules” but let’s be honest, the DNA is there.

We do play other games, and even outside the sunk cost fallacy I am not suggesting abandoning the campaigns I’m in because there’s so much more involved — there’s the camaraderie, the history, the friend-group culture. I’m getting a lot more out of the gaming than the system.  The system isn’t even in the top ten considerations.

…but, I may stop playing D&D.  There’s been a lot of good reasons why. For me it will probably look like no longer running new games of it, of cautioning my friends and fellow adventurers about why they might consider the same, and maybe I’ll start focusing on writing scenarios for other games.

I mean, Nightlife is still– yeah, 40 years in the past.  [snort]

How to Get Started in a Game Jam

I have only peripheral experience with this, but for the “Big Bad Game Jam 2019” someone on the Discord suggested they were intimidated and tips or resources to start.  I didn’t have time immediately to respond, but I knew people would say, “Just do it,” and I was irritated that “just do it,” isn’t advice.

The jam’s make-up is intended to be the preserves of folk tales and fables.  This was the advice I originally crafted in response:

  1. Have an idea. In this case, it sounds like maybe you should have a favourite tale that’s always seemed gameable to you. For example, the Italian tale (I’ve been told), “The Colony of Cats,” is about a young girl who is a servant to a household of cats. Because they are so hard to please, they go through servants quickly, and they have the option to reward or punish her. That sounds like total game material to me!
  2. Find a mentor, or someone to bounce ideas off of, who might be able to help you focus the game, ask questions that need to be asked, or just tell you, “that sounds awesome,” or “ehhh, I’m not feeling it.”
  3. Create your anchor statement. This is the thing you want to do with the game, and it means whenever you’re stuck, you’re going to ask, “how does this attach to my anchor?” In “The Colony of Cats” it could be, “I want players to be a young girl in a cat’s world, for a period of one year, doing chores for cats.” So my 12 page essay on runic magic 1 probably doesn’t fit in here.
  4.  Figure out how they drop the anchor. So, while it can be fun to brainstorm some ideas for cat chores, besides cleaning litter boxes, fixing mouse mousse, and bottle-feeding kittens, is that where the fun for the player is? Probably not. So what makes interesting play here? Something like, “How does she interact with the cats for reward/punishment?” Maybe the game is a series of interactions with cats, and there’s a resolution method to decide how the girl does it. What if it isn’t a girl? What if it’s a boy in drag because his sister got rewarded in gold one year? 2 What qualities do I want the girl to have and measure against the cats? Do I use dice? Card draws? Maybe each mini-scenario has a set of key words the girl has to utter in her interview with them?
  5. Have fun … if it stops being fun, it isn’t the right game.

Because this is my space and I can, I do want to add a couple more words to the theories here.  First off, Jason Pitre on Twitter introduced the same day the, “RPG Design Worksheets” that seem to follow a similar structure.  I would probably just send people to that because it’s a great concept (of course – it significantly matches mine! [grin]) and while not everything may be applicable, it’s still a good starter/structure.

I didn’t make a lot of fuss about item #2, finding a mentor, which was actually the first thought I had.  I included it after much thought about the onus that placed on both parties, the one having to find someone, and the one of being the mentor to someone… but I have, personally, learned that designing in a vacuum is its own issue. Sometimes you need someone else to point out the trees in the forest, because darn it, you’re so used to stepping around them they no longer register.  (And that one? Over there? It needs to be trimmed before that entire branch falls on your sister. 3)

(Ahem.)

On item #5, this is another thing I learned the hard way. I have run too many games that became chores — sometimes because a situation went sour with the players, or I wasn’t really prepared, or something went wonky and I didn’t recover well, or I was tired, or whatever the excuse was, I need to remember that if I’m not having fun, why would I expect the players to be enjoying themselves? I don’t know how common this is, but really, “having fun” even if the subject matter is serious is what you’re generally going for in gaming.  I don’t get involved because I want to suffer or having a miserable time.

Even if I am an Amber DRPG player. [snicker]

Kickstarter Results 10/31/2018

I have backed 209 projects on Kickstarter, as of this afternoon. Of them, 18 have either failed or I had to cancel for various reasons, and I feel like only 5 are in the, “Probably write them off,” phase. That’s a pretty darn good return, if you ask me. (Of the “write them off,” one is a deck of cards, three are well-known RPG projects, and one is a set of kids’ books, totalling $60.00.) As that’s about $6400 of projects (including shipping) (or about $30.62 a piece) that’s basically 2 bad calls.

 

Maybe three, because there was one other I received that I ended up not liking. But then, there were two things I ordered additional stuff from on BackerKit, so maybe it all washes out.

 

(It’s a lot of money, but it’s also been a lot of years, and a lot of it was gifts for other people, for which I have a separate budget.)

How to Give Feedback

The secret to getting helpful feedback is to give people clear, helpful, non-leading prompts. 

The secret to getting helpful feedback is to give people clear, helpful, non-leading prompts.  This goes for pretty much every kind of feedback you need, from employers, that dinner you just had, that hot fanfic you just wrote, or, because I’m writing it here, RPGs.

Here are some of the things I want to hear when I’m requesting feedback:

  • The BEST thing about the character creation was __
  • The most challenging thing about understanding the rules was __
  • One thing that [your game here] could do differently—especially when it comes to [this part]—is __
  • If [your rules here] could figure out how to ___, it would be tremendously helpful and would make the game more awesome.
  • In the future, I see myself playing your game in [this situation] __ (like a convention, or a long-term campaign)
  • I’m impressed by the way [your game here] handles problems/themes like __
  • To prepare to run the game, a few things I’d recommend that the GM learn / practice / get more experience with would be: __, __, and __
  • If somebody asked me to describe your game’s personality in three words, I’d say: __, __, and __
  • If somebody asked me, “What does [your game here] bring to the genre,” I’d say: __
  • This part of [your game here] didn’t make any sense to me: __

This is a lot better than just saying, “What feedback do you have?”  It gives you a place to start, and if someone just asks you that question, think about answering these questions anyway.