OSR? More like TANS!

Yes, I might just have dice older than you. That doesn’t make me wistful, just a hoarder.

Yes, I might just have dice older than you. That doesn’t make me wistful, just a hoarder.

So, if I’ve got it right, “OSR” can stand for a lot of stuff. “Old School Revival” or “Old School Roleplaying,” indicating these folks who pretty much just want to hit it and level up1)Insert Obligatory Anita Blake joke here.
. I don’t mean to sound facetious, because that’s a lot of what my kids like in our home game, too… I don’t let them have that unless they talk to people first.  (And no, my son has to be a Paladin until he understands that TPKs started by a PC are only cool when everyone’s agreed.  We’ve got some rules around here.)

Yes, yes, I understand that there is a feel of it that may be saturated with nostalgia.  I see it as trying to link to the feeling of a group where everyone understands the rules, is ready to mince the fine details in fun, and we’re likely going to go kick some monster butt.

Continue reading “OSR? More like TANS!”

References   [ + ]

1. Insert Obligatory Anita Blake joke here.

Character A-Z (Chaska)

Chaska, answering an altogether arbitrary abecedarian account.

(In background, Chaska was an Amberite character, born in the Tir.  Her height changed slowly over the month with the phases of the moon, she started as (if I remember right) a 120 point character with a 100 Psyche, and she didn’t wholly understand day to day things, like causality.  Over the years, she took over a magical tower in Thelbane and has grown to be, in *our* Amber universe, probably the foremost seer – in many ways more of a plot element than a character now.)

Continue reading “Character A-Z (Chaska)”

A Habitual Location

While your average RPG includes a genre which generally narrows down a few actual places your PCs are going to visit, I was thinking about places my characters have made their own. Maybe it’s a favourite bar, or a group hangout, or the island upon which they keep getting stranded, but there are places they belong more than others. 

Damascus’ place, the place that is indubitably hers, is an abandoned carnival under “a soft, sequined, showbiz moon,”1)XTC: Chalkhills and Children from Oranges and Lemons where there’s paper lanterns a-light with soft orange glows in the perpetual twilight. There’s a faint leftover scent of popcorn and cotton candy 2)Might be why the “May Daye” scent works so well for me… and the rides are manned by the occasional spectral figure. There’s one of those rides that gives you a view of the whole carnival in the shape of a pirate ship.

Ikraam’s place is a luxuriously appointed parlour with religious iconography in the beautifully stained glass window that is the focus of the room. It’s a room of sensual overindulgence, textures and rich colours, and her black armour is polished and kept next to the door, along with a rack of well-cared for weaponry.  She has a particular couch she lounges on, with places for her hands and feet that are starting to wear down, but it’s comfortable and hers.  The rest belongs to the Church, but this couch fits her.

Beryl and Thorn live in a converted coliseum.  Half is reserved for Beryl’s worship and magical workshop, and the other half is Thorn’s blacksmithy and collection of treasure chests. He just likes the designs. The coliseum used to have a blue dragon as a gladiatorial challenger, but its hide now decorates Thorn’s bedroom. (It did kill him during a competition, so he is forgiven for carrying a grudge.)  Alas, they’ve been gone long enough “on adventure” that Beryl’s family is entertaining selling the place.

References   [ + ]

1. XTC: Chalkhills and Children from Oranges and Lemons
2. Might be why the “May Daye” scent works so well for me…

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I blame the paracingulate sulcus1)http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00712/full – Common brain areas engaged in false belief reasoning and visual perspective taking: a meta-analysis of functional brain imaging studies.  

Well, you know, at least in part.

There are several schools of thought on the deception of the brain when it comes to discerning reality, and one of them is that in general, we can’t.  Not just on a philosophical level (Are we someone else’s dream? Are we plugged into machines that are sending virtual worlds into our head? Is this all just a game?) but the idea that what we experience virtually (through gaming, or stories, or dreams) is the same as reality when it comes to the brain.  The mnemonic characteristics (the way we remember something) depends strongly on perceptual details in order to tell whether it’s an imagined memory or a matter of experience.

Let’s take a step to the side now, and look at our consumption of media. The shows we watch want to manipulate you. They want you to feel happy, and sad, and in the case of most news and commercial broadcasts, scared.  The general average for how much information we get via our senses 2)http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/07/humans-have-a-lot-more-than-five-senses/ – pretty good breakdown of human senses is that sight is (unless there is some sort of impairment) the most significant part of it, and thus we watch the lives of others go by.  We might also be listening to it – the music of a scene can help us anticipate what is going to happen, or what we should be feeling. Generally we can tell that a movie is a movie.

On the other hand if we take a console game, now we’ve got more senses involved. We’ve got touch, we’re adding proprioception 3)This sense gives you the ability to tell where your body parts are,  relative to other body parts., pressure, time, and often some virtual grasp of equilibrioception4)The sense of balance and movement in terms of acceleration, gravity, and directional changes., at the least.  A console game is even more involving. It might make it harder for us to determine which parts of it are real, right?

One more step, and let’s look at gaming.  LARP, especially, has us living the experience. We’re involved with all of our senses.  Even at the table, we’re experiencing the lives of other people. It is an intimate experience, involved and intense as we are adventuring, possibly living more than we do behind our desktops, changing or saving the world(s), being bigger than life, out on the edge… heroes, villains, and very few of us spend our hours in the hobby simply being mundane.

So, with all of this in mind, we’re passionate about what we love.  We’re primed and programmed to be involved on a primal level. When you don’t like something I like, you’re this close to invalidating my intense experiences. Ever get your hackles up because someone called you a liar when you weren’t, and you suffered because you weren’t?

If you liked Second Edition AD&D, I’m calling you a liar.

Only as an example.5)An example with more than a grain of truth to it. [snicker] All of the investment you’ve made into a system is significant.  I won’t defend my system preferences to the death, exactly, but when you start talking smack about Nightlife, it might be to first blood.

Why am I blaming the paracingulate sulcus? Well, as we’re learning6)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3969513/ – Did I turn off the gas? Reality monitoring of everyday actions it has a pretty interesting role in the discernment of reality.  Gamers might just be born that way…wouldn’t that be amusing?

References   [ + ]

1. http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00712/full – Common brain areas engaged in false belief reasoning and visual perspective taking: a meta-analysis of functional brain imaging studies
2. http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/07/humans-have-a-lot-more-than-five-senses/ – pretty good breakdown of human senses
3. This sense gives you the ability to tell where your body parts are,  relative to other body parts.
4. The sense of balance and movement in terms of acceleration, gravity, and directional changes.
5. An example with more than a grain of truth to it. [snicker]
6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3969513/ – Did I turn off the gas? Reality monitoring of everyday actions

Dirty Jobs: A Dragon’s Horde

[inspired by letting Netflix’d episodes of Dirty Jobs run while I fall asleep]

“It ain’t so easy as to just kill the dragon and bring up mules for its loot,” the foreman said, making another note on his clipboard.  “It’s complicated.  There’s a whole process.”

He looked up.  “So first off, you have yer adventurer, right? Stabs the dragon in a weak spot, dragon keels over. Now, you’re running on a time schedule. First, you have harvesters. They take the dragon’s bits, right? They’re going to butcher the dragon, separate its alchemical resources and hide from its meat. Meat’s only good for so long, because dragons, they’re resistant to fire even on the inside, right? So you can’t smoke it. You can dry it out, but that takes time because they’re also still resistant to magic. No easy spells taking the water out, right?  Endangered species advocates on your case for killing their particular type of dragon? Ties everything up in the courts.  You can call most of the beast itself a waste, if that happens.”

He shifted to watch some cranes being lowered into the excavated tomb. “So, the next part of that is the Jeweler’s Guild.  Part of yer dues as adventurers. Depending on your registered skills, you get anywhere from forty to sixty-five percent of the haul. Most of the jewels get stuck in the hide, and the coins, they settle to the bottom, tarnished from proximity to the dragon’s exhausts.  You have to assess the value of the gems, send the odd ones to the sages, and get a general amnesty on curses.  That might put you back a few coins for the priesthood of yer choice. Just sayin’.”

He looked up at the cranes again.

“No, no, no,” he shouted, waving his arms.  “Articulation is not the same as balance.  You’ll pull the whole thing–” he sighed as a couple of wizards conjured earth elementals to hold the cranes in place.

“Where was I?  Same thing for the non-cash loot. Depends on the kind of dragon what you might find in the horde.  Some are real collectors, so you need experts to evaluate it, get you a good deal. Can take years. And if you find some kind of powerful artifact? Decades.  Might have political or philosophical issues.”  He shrugs.  “Sometimes, disruptions in local ecology – did the dragon have minions? Is someone else going to make a claim in the stake?”

And of course, you can’t forget to mention excavation and storage costs, guard costs, materials…” he shakes his head.  “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great windfall for the local economy, but there’s a lot of pieces the paladins just don’t get. Sometimes, well, it’s cheaper to feed the poor things a cow once a week than deal with the hazardous materials disposal. Petrified dragon fewmets can sell, sure, but when they’re fresh and mushy? Ick.”

Favourite Games of Mine (part two of five)

“As Above, So Below” (ACNW)

I had been having a very bad time at the convention so far, because the other game I’d run (“Hook, Line, and Stinker”) a throne-war-ish adventure based on a king that refused to die… hung up on a door.  It wasn’t a real door. It was an obstacle. The idea was that there was no reason to go through the door. My home group? They went through the wall instead.1)This may be why I like Braum in League of Legends. Maybe.  I was expecting the same kind of ingenuity out of other Amber players.

…who kept banging at the door.

Now, with more experience, I know that I should have let them open the door and get somewhere, but… I was young, and foolish, and needed the mone–nevermind.

I was really dreading the session because I’d done so much work developing a system for it and the characters, and I had so many neat ideas I was just waiting to ignore.  (I had a system that based on various combinations of elements and attributes created archetypes and thus challenges. Someday I should write it up. [scribbles note])

The idea of the game was that something terrible had happened in Amber, and the children were kept below, in Rebma, for their safety.  Rebma itself was sealed…

…until that day.

What really made this session pop is that everyone went for it…we were in this beautiful synchronization that has actually defined my personal in-game measure of immersion.  There was one player who asked, “What direction is  Cabra from here?” and half the people turned their heads, and the other half pointed, all the same direction.  “That way.” I don’t remember saying anything about it… we just knew. 2)That ‘we’ jumps out as important to me, that we were on the same wavelength…

At one point some of the players decided it was an exploration adventure, and the guy leading decided he was the cleric of the group.  He had managed to meditate and open a set of magically warded doors, so when he made it to the temple, he puts his hands up and begins to solemnly trance. I inform him there are, indeed, handles. 3)Today I would have gone with it, that that was indeed how to open the doors, but then it made us laugh.

Other favourite memories? Two children of Fiona, who see a woman indicated as “the Keeper of the Waters of Dream,” with red hair addressing them as, “Children–” only to be punched in the face.  The quiet seer saying, “That’s…not…Gerard,” in the small voice That People Listen To…

And finally, the guy who was First Ranked in Strength, having to let all the ‘clever’ folk figure out the puzzles, slams the Boss Fight in an arena, going hand-to-glowing-cloud (this was pre-Night Vale) in a smack-down of tentacles and evil ichor. All in all, a fun run, and one of the best I’d had at the con.



References   [ + ]

1. This may be why I like Braum in League of Legends. Maybe.
2. That ‘we’ jumps out as important to me, that we were on the same wavelength…
3. Today I would have gone with it, that that was indeed how to open the doors, but then it made us laugh.

“It is an elaborate system of wish fulfillment…”

In #NOTALLROLEPLAYERS: A HISTORY OF RAPEY DUNGEON MASTERS, there is a sentence describing roleplaying that I’d like to highlight:

It is an elaborate system of wish fulfillment, in which scrawny, socially awkward teenagers can become bruising hulks who wield massive great axes and slay dragons sing[l]e-handedly.

Continue reading ““It is an elaborate system of wish fulfillment…””

Riding Piggyback

I’ve been musing about Illegal Gods system design lately. Yes, in part because I’m supposed to be putting my word count in back at the Portal Doctor, but also because there’s a couple of upcoming opportunities to work with people who know how to design games, and I kind of want to take advantage of that.

I’ve (of course) thought about simply designing it as a piggyback on someone else’s system. There are, for example, a lot of different space-happy Fate1)I have finally grown out of wanting to acronymize it. As long as it isn’t confused with FATAL, I suppose we’re OK. designs. In my head, Illegal Gods is a space opera. The reason it’s got a space setting is because of the Spiders, and the dream that sparked it, and the entheogens’ science-fiction aspect. The problem is, I also want to have border runs on frontier planets with Uixtochihuatl helping you mine the salt mines, and fighting ice pirates 2)What do you mean you’ve never seen The Ice Pirates? Didn’t you have a bad movie night at your house?(okay, maybe not those) along with political and psychic battles.

Wow, that sounds like fun, right? Sure, I could presumably do most of that with something like the Serenity RPG. But then we have the aspects of the gods to consider. It’s not enough to be a soul-jockey taking over a huli jing, but having to share headspace with Ares who is trying to craft a war between the psionic ambassador of Cottman Four and the colony of Acheron on LV-426.

Ahem.

Yes, we used BESM for the original story pieces. It was convenient and allowed us to stat up a lot of the various neat things we wanted to do, but it wasn’t quite enough. That’s kind of the problem; I can get almost as far as I want with a lot of different systems, but I can’t go all the way. 3) Anyone making comparisons between this statement and my dating life gets smacked.The thing with Fate is that if I do it that way, the “Trouble” aspect could simply be the Deity aspect. It fits the scenario well, and even if the “Trouble” is you’re an atheist, that can be used for and against you.  On the other hand, if I’m working with Hellsing House as a Fate game, am I really using the system right to do both types of games?

 

References   [ + ]

1. I have finally grown out of wanting to acronymize it. As long as it isn’t confused with FATAL, I suppose we’re OK.
2. What do you mean you’ve never seen The Ice Pirates? Didn’t you have a bad movie night at your house?
3. Anyone making comparisons between this statement and my dating life gets smacked.