Sunday, March 30, 2008

A video blog?

I'd like to review games in English, like the Gamer Geek does. Because my native language is German and you here that when I speak English, why not make the bug a feature and call it "Ze German GameMeister" or something? Okay, I am not really German, but Austrian is a little bit to specific for all those English speakers out there, right?

Update: Actually in the mean time. Ze Austrian DungeonMaster has gotten a very strong meaning.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

An RPG that pretends to be a board game

While there has been some examples of boardgames that have a strong RPG component all those examplaes I know are taking over the tactical/wargamy component of RPGs. My challenge would be to create a narrative board game. The most ovious influence would be PtA.
Actually the basic set up is quite easy: provide focus for a generic setting by having
  • a board that probably can be put together different (for example single rooms)
  • cards for character concepts
  • even better: cards for character traits (following Spirit of the Century's aspects)
  • give antagonist controll to the players: instead of a GM you maybe pass a Nemesis card who has to be the "enemy"
  • have the players not only create their characters, but also the antagonists
So I would go for a specific setting (e.g. daily soaps or a space ship).

Friday, March 21, 2008

Captain, My Captain - Season Preview

After the first pilot, which actually was more or a less a teaser, I can already set up a rough sketch for a 5 episode season...

1x01 Legacy of the Freedom Wars

spotlight episodes

1x05 The Captain Election (and the return of the true captain)

Obviously we will have 3 spotlight episodes.

It is the player's choice when to set them, but I have some ideas based on their issues from the pilot:
Tali - Issue: "Who am I? Purpose?" She will encounter her alien mother, who is the evil leader of a cult or a space city or maybe a superspy. This can question if there is a purpose when you are willing to sacrifice the good of other people/ the masses.
Her life has purpose shifting the lifes of billions, but what has she become?

Waine - "want to be accepted by everyone for the genius I am": He gets the nomination for a major science price by a good organization. But to be able to achieve most, he would have to sacrifice his good name. A possible scenario would be that he could let someone steal a medication he invented to save millions of people but not get the fame for it or that it is used only in a corporate environment, humans perish, but he will be famous for doing it. (It would be more melodramatic if it was a clone that can heal instead of just a medication.)

Algernon: Actually his "humans are meaningless" would lead to a similar episode, where he a mob of really lowly scum (maybe refugees) come on board of the ship and maybe he has to adopt a kid or something similar. The kid could be affected by some sort of fast ageing that i goes through all phases of life in one episode. And in the end it is dead and all was in vain.

Obviously everything can change because of player input, but it is good to have a basic idea at hand, that builds on the issue.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Dark Eye / Das Schwarze Auge

I posted this on the forum, but because it is quite long, I copy and paste it here.

The fun part is that the rulebooks from the very beginning on introduced a "sticking to the rules is bad" mindset. Rule Zero deluxe. So while you have all these rules, nearly every writer for TDE will tell you, that they don't use them, because after all it is about RolEplaying and maybe they will even go so far to proudly explain that their last 3 session there was no single die rolled.
Still I got the impression that in the creation of 4th edition every freelance writer got to write a really small part of the rules all for themselves. Then all this stuff was meshed together. So even if you as writer for TDE actually love to write MarySueNPC adventures, fluff and metaplot (as it is your job most of the time), when you get the chance to contribute writing for the new upcoming 4th edition (and therefore designing rules), even if it is only the 2 pages on rules for Wish spells, you want to come up with some very clever and unique way to shine with your design. So you come up with something really complex and well thought out. But then there is a dozen of other unique snowflake designers who have a similar mindset and all their stuff is put together and sold as a ruleset...
The last paragraph is pure speculation, but that is the feeling I get from the rules, the imprint and reading a few interviews with TDE writers.

A good example is the player who told me that TDE was a better game, because when facing enemies his group would think instead of fight, because nobody was in the mood to play through one of these endless fights.
You know, a thinking man's game instead of on for rules lawyering power gamers...

The anti power game message was that strong since first edition, that I (as a 9 year old) completely understood that you should _never_ give any of the magic items in the rulebook out in the game. I never did. We enjoyed it anyways to play out dialogues in the taverns for hours. Really. I guess Ulrich Kiesow would have been proud of us.

Still I think that the background on gods and archdemons is really cool. Maybe too postmodern for a medival mindset, but it really rocks that the banned and hunted gods of the lizards and dragons are most probably the same as the human gods in the end and that the difference between god and archdemon is are mostly in the eye of the beholder.
I also fall for the forgotten ages shtick with TDE, which is quite an achievement as nowadays-after having seen it dozens of times in other games/stories-I should get totally bored by it.

Generally the mysteries of the setting are the place where the game shines. I don't know exactly how they pull that off as there are for sure some cliches recycled.

So some parts of the background is really good and next to that all the region sourcebooks of the 4th edition have no rules in it (just some npc statblocks in the end) and are more than able to compete with Green Ronin's Freeport - if you can read German.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My RPG Calender 2008

While looking for a useful widget to put a real calendar here, i just add my RPGing of 2008 manually. Later on I guess, I will also add meetings with people for the sole purpose of setting something up.
The star rating indicates how much fun I had subjectively. ***** is for a future event that will kill me, because it is so good. ;) Fun obviously depends on lots of factors. Even with the greatest GM if the interaction with other players does not work out, I won't have lots of fun. Or if another player has all focus in a specific game session, it may be egoistic but I won't enjoy it so much. Also short sessions around 2 hours, most of the time can't build up to the highest fun level.
Also if I GM it could be awful and totally boring for the players and the stars here would just represent that I as GM had fun.




1st Call of Ctulhu: Leprecon One Shot - 4,5 hours - 6 players and GM Mike Mason ***
11th Primetime Adventures: Gilgamesh Pilot - 3 hours - 3 players and me as Director ****

24th Primtime Adventures: Captain, My Captain 1: Failjumps - 3 hours - Jorg;And,Ser,Vla,Dan **

15th Captain, My Captain 2: The Black Hole Navigator - 3 hours - 3 players and me as Director ***
28th D&D3.5 1: To the Goblin mines - 4 hours - Tom;Man,Dan,Jor ***

5th Captain, My Captain 3: Under Zebulon - 4 hours - 3 players and S.G. as Director ***
9th D&D3.5 2: Prisoners in the mines - 2,5 hours - 3 players and T.H. as GM *
19th Captain, My Captain 4: The Holodeck Cure - 3 hours - 3 players and V.F. as Director ***
23rd Captain, My Captain 5: Neither Love Nor Gas - 4,5 hours - 3 players and me as Director ***
26th Savage Worlds: Trial chargen and combat - 3,5 players and V.F. as GM **

16th D&D3.5 3: Nylo's fire powers - 2 hours - 3 players and T.H. as GM *
18th Savage Worlds: Hungary 1820 - 4 hours - 4 players and V.F. as GM **
29th D&D3.5 4: The city is burning! - 2,5 hours - 3 players and T.H. as GM ***

6th D&D3.5 5: City Business - 2,5 hours - 3 players and T.H. as GM ***
17th Savage Worlds: Luftenwelter 1: The Abduction of Lydia - 6 hours - Ser;Dan,Vla,Jor ****
20th Luftenwelter 2: A Pirate's Farewell - 3,5 hours - Ser;Dan,Vla,Jor ****
29th Luftenwelter 3: The Caravan & the Bear - 2,5 hours - Ser;Vla,Jor ***

11th Luftenwelter 4: The Ambush - 3 hours - Ser;Vla,Jor ***
19th d20systemless 1: The Castle Rock Conspiracy - 3 hours - Tom;Jor,Man,Ami ***
26th d20systemless 2: Getting away with knowledge ****

2nd d20systemless 3: An evening in the internet café ****
3rd Luftenwelter 5: The missing guards ***
09th Synnibarr: Dusk on the volcanic island - 3,5 hours - Jor;And,Vla,Ser **
10th Luftenwelter 6: Shieldbreakers in the treasury ***
21st Serenity/Firefly: Character Generation - 1 hour - Ser;Jor,Dan
23rd Serenity/Firefly: Motherload **
24th d20systemless: Bloodbath 4: Escape and the Captain ***
30th Serenity/Firefly: Motherload II ***

4th Luftenwelter 7: On a pirate ship - 2 hours - Ser;Vla,Jor,Dan ***
6th D&D3.5: Nyrondria 6: The druid sleeps with the horses - 2,5 hours - Tom;Ami,Man,Jor,Dan ***
13th Luftenwelter 8: Drinks & Desini (formerly "Finding Desini")- 4,5 hours - Ser;Vla,Jor,Dan ****
25th Luftenwelter 9: The Escape Debacle - 3,5 hours - Ser;Vla,Jor,Dan ***
29th Luftenwelter 10: Talking to Pirates - 2,5 hours - Ser;Vla,Jor,Dan **

8th Luftenwelter 11: The Schnitzeljagd - 3,5 hours - Ser;Vla,Jor,Dan ****
15th Nyrondria 7: The Ambushes of Anros - 3 hours - Tom;Man,Dan,Jor
16th Luftenwelter 12: Snakes vs. Pirates - 4 hours - Ser;Vla,Jor,Dan

So in the end I played 35 times (+ one creation session I have in the calendar).
I am quite sure I will add some nice pie charts here soon. :)

My RPG Calendar 2009

Sunday, March 16, 2008

PtA Pilot: The Character Sheets

So these are the 3 character sheets from the pilot of "Gilgamesh (Space Putty)" / "Captain, My Captain".
We mixed up the edges and concept a little bit (so there was no concept) and the screen presence was 2 for everyone as it was the pilot. Missing information is put in [ ].

Waine Thumps
Concept: [Dougie Houser/Bones]
Edges: doctor and Dougie Houser [maybe "teen genius" would work here]
Connections: evil twin
Personal set: Lab
Nemesis: my assistant (ssy[?])
Issue: want to be accepted by everyone for the genius I am
[Fanmail after pilot: 2]

Concept: [shape changing alien half breed]
Edges: Counsellor and shape changing alien
Connections: Ships AI Clara
Personal set: Holodeck
Nemesis: Father (human) cook
Issue: Who am I? Purpose?
[Fanmail after pilot: 0]

Algernon Muñez
Concept: [mechanic]
Edges: Gear Head, Greasy and Griny and Former Child Prodigy Chess Player
Connections: Janine, the almost autistic janitor
Personal set: Workshop
Nemesis: Clara the AI
Issue: "humans are useless"
Fanmail after pilot: 1]

I am quite sure the players will change their characters in case they are reused. After all this is what the pilot is good for.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Captain, My Captain - Episode 1?

While waking up I came up with some ideas for the first episode of the potential show.
I don't know if this is too much preparation as Director for Primetime Adventures, but it is worth a try.

As we remember the pilot ended with the Headquarter giving over command to the veterans (see last entry). Actually we had the captain been abducted to get rid of an hierarchy, so obviously this can only be a temporary set up.
The question is: why should the cook and looser assistant been allowed to take over? Obviously there has to be more to them as it seems. (Add: they are the nemesises of 2 of the characters.)

As we decided they are veterans from the Freedom Wars. And it is quite possible that the captain was one too.

As I want to have some planet exploration in the next epsiode, it would make sense that the new commanders head to one.

So why not have some mystery from their past being there. As the players failed to put a tracking device on the Federation's ship there has to be some hint on the whereabout of the captain there. I guess the question the new powers in charge ask is: why would someone abduct the captain?

Could be that he is the only one to have access to a super dangerous weapon there - out of the Freedom Wars.
I introduced the Federation to have higher technology than the humans, but also that there was not known too much much about them. The later makes it a little bit hard to pull off my favorite interpretation of the moment: Earth was a colony of the Federation till the Freedom Wars.
But it could be that after in a Propaganda move, the humans tried to unedacte their children about them. This seems highly unlikely. So I guess, I will just retcon the sentence about them being unknown out.

So how about this: the captain - back then a young genius - notice the parallels to our very own Dougie? - build this ultimate weapon with his crew and this way humans were able to blackmail themselves out of the Federation. The weapon is still stored on this storm planet.
So if the Federation (or a hardline military branch/commander of it) tries to get in charge of this doomsday device, having the captain would be really useful.

But how come the young genius ends up being commander of a small exploration ship? And his assistents turn in even bigger loosers - an old assistent and a cook?
I can imagine the weapon makes you go mad and the creators just stared to long at it. It is something like a post traumatic stress disorder maybe. They saved the earth, but the best you could do to them was send them off in regions where they could not harm anyone...
Still the captain is the hero/mentor of at least some characters, so still must be quite nice. While the nemesises turned more psycho.
To add some spice the veterans don't like to talk about the war. So nobody knows it was really them, saving Earth.

But there is still one hard question: how come the Headquarter does not send a fleet to stay in control of the situation? This is actually very simple to solve: space travel is quite slow and the Federation took the captain near the planet.
How come there is not a whole fleet around the weapon? Maybe the Headquarter does not even know where the weapon is, but only the veterans? They made a secret out of it.
But that creates the question why the Headquarter puts them in charge. We don't have to know for sure... YET.

Still the protagonists' ship has to be there before the Federation. So the Federation probably does not know where the weapon is and has to get this information out of the captain first - if they are really interested in it and not in something completely different. (I have pictures in my head of a planet where protagonists find gigantic statues of the Captain and maybe those are worshipped by the locals.)

The veterans have the fear that the Federation has the weapons and head straight there. It can't be an coincident that they are near this planet, can it? To make it more of a cliché it could also be a trick by the Headquartes to find out where the weapon is, as the veterans burried it (see the pirate metaphor?) .

The two veterans have to stay the evil guys in the end. It could rock if you know that they achieved a lot and are heroes to be treated as such, but are just to fucked up to come along with. They sacrificied their sanity for the humans after all...

How it really plays out I want to keep open anyways. Even if the Federation with the captain arrives in the last act should dependend on if the players like the direction it is going.

The first scene will probably involve the new commander haven just taken the ship to VENTURUS, and pointing the protagonists toward this ship wrack from 20 years ago down in the sand storms. If they don't want to go, they could tell that this is the best place to find a hint on the captain and that the Federation will come with him here soon most probably to pick up this very dangerous thing.
There has to a plot device that stops them from telling too much too early.

The weapon should be intelligent - a character. You should get mad by looking at it and maybe it should be able to heal some minor character. It got a little bit strange for being alone for 20 years, but should be definitely bigger than human. Maybe a giant glowing mole? We won't see it anyways...

Furter complications could be: barbaric stone people, the storm itself and maybe children of the weapon.

And then there is still the video crytal with the shape changer spying...

Addendum - 21st March 2008 - 12:34

Some more thougts: obviously I do not want to enter a new post everytime I have some more ideas for this episode, so I add it straight here.

The first scene takes already place above the planet VENTURUS. This takes a little bit of power away from the players, but a soon as they notice they don't have a signal from the Federation ship, it should be okay for them.
Their new commanders tell that it is most probable that the Federation took the captain to come here, because there is something on this planet under the clouds what only them and the captain know.
The commanders set up a landing mission to a ship wreck down there where a safe has to be retrieved. They can't destroy the weapon in there because it could cause a catastrophe.

This weapon is the Heart of Change and if it is blown up it will turn everyone in a thousand light years distance mad. With it the captain blackmailed the Federation in the Freedom Wars. The only problem is that whoever stays near it too long turns mad even if the Heart is not blown up.

Inside the 1 km long shipwreck and around it in caves live psycho crew members left there 20 years ago and there incest offspring. (Potential inspiration Borges' immortals and the splatter hillbilly crowd...)
Inside the ship you can find pictures of the captain and his old crew.

Addendum - 26st March 2008 - 07:50

The Heart of Change should be renamed H.E.A.R.T. (Hyper Energy Anti Rationality Transmitter) . The ship is known as the RETALIATION.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Primetime Adventures Game Report

So we played a spontenous oneshot this evening. We started 10 to 7 and finished 3 hours later.
After discussing on playing something contemporary and 2 of the 4 players coming up with old women as heroes, the other 2 of us vetoed and instead we went for a classic scifi space exploration series. The twist that the ship's captain had between abducted was instantly proposed and excepted.
From that point it was quite fast decided that the player characters would play the doctor, the gearhead and the alien. Further fleshing out brought us a Dougie Houser like doctor and the alien ended up as a shapechanging counsellour with the human cook of the ship as father...
We had it much harder with the name of the series and ended up with the working title "Gilgamesh (Space Putty)".
It seemed to have a Star Trek vibe (which I personaly imagined as Original Series like)

As the director I decided the Pilot Episode would be about the abduction of the captain and the first scene jumped right into that:

1st Scene
The 3 characters are on the bridge with their captain, a mustached Kirk variant in his early 50ies, when suddenly a discus shaped ship appears. The ship's captain, a green skinned woman with little horns and a German accent, tells that the Galactic Federation has decided to take the captain as a hostage.
The same second the captain is frozen in a blue stasis field.
At this point the players reacted the way they were used to from other RPGs. The proposed actions, and I told them that they could just resolve everything they way the wanted, as long as it was not the the conflict of the scene.
The heroes did not achieve anything in the beginning. In the end they got an ultimatum by the green woman to hand over the captain in 30 minutes. Here we had the conflict.
The councellor tried to talk them out of it and failed. Therefore the ultimatum was shortened to 15 minutes. We had not set proper stakes for what would happen in case the character failed. Actually this is not even in the rule book, but proofed to be quite useful to do as we noticed later on.
Then we tried to find the other characters' conflict together by discussing about it, as I was a little clueless myself. In the end we were able to set up that the technician would be able to find out something about the aliens if he succeded. The young doctor would depend on the failure of the gearhead to keep his self consciousness.
They all failed which could have been my fault for spending a little bit too much Budget.

2nd scene
The alien's player decided to go for a flashback: the captain's last brithday party. This was short and sweet: only this character was completely in action. Everyone else was in the scene but not involved. His nemesis (cook father) defined the conflict as he would try to blame failure of the cake on his son/daughter.
The cook's plan failed. The cook was sent off for some time by the captain. And most probably has hard feelings for his child - most fittingly for a nemesis.

Here I remembered the rules wrong, as I let the player build the whole scene till I as producer took over for the conflict. Actually the player was only supposed to decide on Focus, Agenda and Location. But it worked out quite nice and honestly I would have been a little bit overwhelmed doing it alone as I was still struggling with the rules.
What we learned was that if players' want an action based series, they maybe should not base their scenes at a captain's birthday party. ;-) Actually: I could have forced action in there, but the intrique part was more interesting to explore anyways.

3rd scene
A character scene by the player of the gearhead - with his contact.
Another case where the players' were obviously experimenting with the different focus possible by this rule set.
The gearhead and his contact where playing chess. The contact is a young autistic girl. She is somewhat of a genius in a not yet defined way, but mostly just a young girl. In the beginning the agenda was not completely clear here (I have to admit I did not really explain that part to the players). But especially in the beginning it seems fine to have scenes mostly for the color (and obviously to introduce characters which this and the scene before did).
The other characters would walk in. The doctor's player was the first to come up with a conflict. He was kind of jealous for the gearhead. This was already introduced in the first scene. In this case it was because the later one had a friend.
I introduced my idea for the conflict of the central character: the girl had a crush on the gearhead and wanted to tell him that she loved him. As the player created the stakes he actually only wanted to have a possibility for their friendship to grow stronger, but this now created a risk. If he failed it would take him in a direction he totally would not like, as she was probably pissed at him not wanting a love relationship. (I guess the direction that he falls for her would be a little bit too mean, but possible if the player agreed). This kind of shows that you can be pretty mean to your players if I wanted him to loose the conflict (despite seeing the look on the player's face), he would have lost. But in the end he would have probably just used another scene or even his spotlight episode to fix it.
This left the shapechanger and we agreed together that he was inside the room as a simple object. If he failed he would be seen as spying on them. I don't remember if the shapechanger could get anything positive for himself out of the conflict. I am quite sure it was mostly about learning something about humans and himself.

The conflict played out that the gearhead won, the doctor won and the shapechanger lost.
So the gearhead was able to convince his friend that she just misinterpreted her own feelings, while the doctor was able to pull out of the love thingy he watched, that maybe he was not loved himself by anyone at the moment, but that there was something positive possible - even for him.

I to finish the scene I created a cliffhanger: while we were not really able to put the alien in the scene without removing the focus from the others, I decided that someone collected the CCTV crystal to use it later against the spy. This sounded quite cool: As the scene comes to an end and everyone leaves the camera pulls back and we notice that we have seen all this from a screen. There is a shadowy hand that stops the recording and ejects the memory crystal which shows the shapechanger turning from a desk lamp back into something humanoid.

4th and last scene
Finally a plot scene again, as we run out of time. The aliens beam on board of the ship - they actually look like mermaids - to take along the captain.
The conflict is mainly who is able to find a way to track the aliens and/or look cool despite loosing, as it is already decided that the captain disappears. In the end everyone failed, although one of these failures was not revealed to the players and will play out in the long term (as the player wished).

I also added a cliffhanger which sounded really stupid in the beginning, but with creative input of the players it turned into somethin amazing: The AI tells the characters that the Headquarter contacted them: because of the situation martial law has been declared on the ship. The veterans from the Freedom Wars (20 years ago) as the only one with military ranks will be given command. These are the nemeses of 2 of the characters: the cook and the scientific assistent.

We had to finish after maybe 2,5 hours of playing (not counting the 30 to 40 minutes of show and character creation). Obviously we did not have time to play until all the budget was used, but learned a lot and created the sketch of a show I am excited about.

In the end we realised that is really best to ask: what does my character win if he wins the conflict and what does he loose, if he looses the conflict?
I also think that you can easily play PtA with only 2 players and on director.

Note: I think, "Captain, my Captain" would be a good title for the series. This was proposed by one of the players, but taken as more of a joke.

One problem we had was the fact that one of the player's wanted to make her successes dependend on those of another player. You can't really pull that off. But this even makes sense as the success should be something the protagonist achieves and not something he watches...
I think the problem was that the player had imagined a rivalry with the gearhead in the classical Bones-Spock way, but everytime the gearhead achieved something interpersonal this was hard to pull off. The problem is probably that the Gearhead is in no way like Spock. But maybe our Dougie Howser will someday realise that actually he has the Spock position in this relationship...

One more thing: the players only started to understand the fan mail concept in the end. I think in the future the Audience Pool won't be overloaded any longer.