November 5, 2004

Game Dream 21: Ultimate Roleplaying

Doc's Blog ... Confessions of a Game Addict: Game Dream 21: Ultimate Roleplaying

Doc asks:

"If there existed a system such as Larry Niven's Dream Park, where a game could be populated by people, holograms, and assorted other technological feats to improve player immersion, would you prefer it to pen and paper RPGing? Would having the entire world visible improve the game for you, or rob it of some of its magic?"

I agree with Arref on this one. It would take a far greater technology than we have or will have in the future to reproduce the places I've been.

Its why, for so many years, games from Infocom beat the pants off of RPGs that used graphics. Because imagination was far more powerful than anything 640k of memory can make...or a thousand times that.

Would I visit such a place? Sure, who wouldn't want to go to Dream Park? But replace RPGing in a face to face or imaginative mode? No, I don't see it happening. Or at least, it wouldn't for me.

Posted by Jvstin at 5:33 PM

October 16, 2004

Game Dream 18: Mock Review

Doc's Game Dream (yeah, yeah, I'm behind on these) this time around is a
"Mock Review":

Do a mock review of a game that doesn't exist, but you think really ought to. Readers are encouraged to let the author of the review know if this game exists in another form somewhere.

The Kohan

By Borgesian Press

Based on the popular Strategy Computer Games.

Players take on the role of a Kohan, a powerful race of immortals who once ruled the world, but were devastated by a series of massive cataclysms. As an immortal you have reawakened to a new world, unlike the one you once knew. Now you must come to grips with your past, your present, and your future.

Enter Khaldun, a breathtaking world of magical splendor, rife with wonders both frightening and fantastic. A world where you will encounter terrifying beasts, discover forgotten ruins left by ancient cultures, cast awe-inspiring magical spells, and ultimately, lead your people to their salvation. But salvation will not come easily. Every land that you journey through shelters both danger and hope. Your enemies lay in wait, watching you, ready to pounce at the moment of your greatest weakness.

The struggle, long and arduous.

The rewards, beyond compare.

The whole of Khaldun is counting on your strength to bring the world back from the brink of eternal chaos...or are you part of the Ceyah, and the Shadow, and you are one of those dark ones who have been corrupted, seeking to plunge the world into a dark realm of your own making and whim?

I loved this game. It reminded me a bit of Fireborn, of Amber, and most especially, Exalted. The rules for both diceless and D20 rules were a nice touch, and it will make the game appeal across a large base.

Highly Recommended

Posted by Jvstin at 8:39 AM

September 17, 2004

Game Dream 14: He's Dead, Jim

Doc's Blog ... Confessions of a Game Addict: Game Dream 14: He's Dead, Jim!

The Dream this week talks of death in RPG games:

Many "traditional" RPGs incorporate the possibility of the irrevocable death/disabling injury of a player character into their basic mechanics, yet often skirt the issue of what happens to the game in such a case, instead encouraging the GM to "fudge" the results if the GM doesn't want a given PC or PCs to die.

How has your gaming group, current or previous, handled character deaths due to system-legitimate causes, i.e. combat or traps (assuming no intent on the part of another GM/player to kill a given PC or PCs)? Which methods worked well, and which didn't?


What happens when the game systems says that a PC dies?

In a game like Amber, that doesn't happen too often. In an environment that is diceless, a character death is a decision made by the GM (or, best) between the GM and the player.

Other systems are different. And I will discuss other systems, instead. Sometimes, the critical hit IS on the PC, the PC misses her saving throw.

What do I do? How do I handle it?

Well, I am not a fan of mindless or needless character death. A good death scene is one thing...but an arbitrary, dice-forced one is not one i usually like.

I've done many things--I've denied the dice, I've done critical hits, grave maiming of characters. I've had characters become captured, instead of outright killed.

And yes, at least once I can remember, a character did die...but it was a noble, Horatius at the Bridge sort of affair which saved everyone else's neck.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:33 PM

September 3, 2004

Game Dream 12: Companions

Doc's Blog this week tackles companions.

Are henchmen, hirelings, or companions used in your campaign? How are they treated by the player characters? Whose voice do they use?

I've already mentioned I don't do voices that well, so I am going to restrict myself to email games and campaigns.

Companions are everywhere, if you look. My former girlfriend, TGFKAB, mentioned that my game had a "Doctor Who" feel to it. Why? Oftentimes, I will pair a PC with an NPC or two who are companions to the "Doctor". It just has that sort of dynamic sometimes, in SB, since everyone is all over the map.

Players sometimes bring these Companions to the table--William and his Musketeers, Kennard and his assistant. But othertimes, I will introduce and have assistants for PCs to face the adventures with. Thus, Braem has Tannis by her side...Priya has Ostegos...Alais has Percy (although he is more of a partner than a lower-ranked Companion). I just seem to like the motif and the dynamics.

Other Hirelings and Henchmen in my games include people like Michael, the head of Castle Amber's Kitchens...and the infamous Lord Henden, the Chamberlain of the Castle. He has had a rough time in nearly every game I've had him appear in, ranging from hellhounds to a PC sorcerer giving him grief.

But he is so much fun and he helps give color and contrast to the PCs.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:56 PM

August 15, 2004

Game Dream 9: Positive Reinforcement

Doc asks this week:

What is the most positive thing you have gained from your gaming experiences? How have games helped you with personal growth? How do you feel about your children (if any, now or in the future) eventually playing role playing games?

I'm with Ginger mainly on this one...
Amber, too for that matter...

Personal Growth is something I'm not good at and I am not good in defining.

But I can point to the people I've met and become friends with thanks to my gaming. Bridgette, Arref, Deb, Jim, Ginger, Amber, Liz and others too many to count.

I've friends on three continents and several disparate timezones. I would never have gone to California, and I wouldn't be in Minnesota now if it wasn't for gaming.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:43 AM

August 1, 2004

Game Dream 7: Wot, Guyva

Doc asks this week

To what degree do your characters, or the characters of your group members, adopt accents to represent either dialects or backstory within the game? What's the strangest / most unique accent pattern you've come across while gaming?

I can't speak well at all.

I barely manage to make characters sound different in a FTF game, so accents and such are something which is often beyond my limited and poor skills.

Now, in the written medium, I do much better. I can fake accents and unusual speaking patterns very well. The classic examples are in a Grand Affair, where Iolaus speaks in meter and rhyme, and Delwin, somewhat unfamiliar with Thari, can sometimes be unsure about words and phrases.

I enjoy writing the two of them on that basis. And I've been known to pepper in special phrases and such for other characters, based on their background.

Posted by Jvstin at 11:55 AM

July 25, 2004

Game Dream 6: The Con Game

This Game Dream from Doc deals with Conventions:

Have you attended a game or media (i.e. comic book / SF) convention? If not, what's kept you from doing so? If so, how was your experience, and what can you share with others to nudge their decision one way or the other?

My first con was a Star Trek convention, that I attended with my brother (who sometimes comments here as "Sneakel"). That was at the Ambassador Hotel in NYC. I still remember it, since running to the bathroom and using the stairs, I had a close encounter with George Takei (one of the two GOH, along with Marina Sirtis).

Lots of fun, that one.

My first Ambercon was, curiously enough, the same year as Arref's. That was the year two friends and I drove from Northern NJ to Pittsburgh to meet Arref and his wife, and then we travelled together to Detroit.

Nervous? Confused? Shy? Yes to all three--just ask people like Liz. But did I have fun? Yes, oh yes.

Several years later, I decided that if I could GM FTF games and PBEM games, why couldn't I do it at ACUS? And so in 2000, I GMed at ACUS for the first time, nervous as all out.

I had even more fun. At subsequent ACUS conventions, I've GMed as well as played. I joined a continuing campaign (Rites of Passage) and even had a Trilogy of my own linked games (Ad Amber Per Astra).

This year, I expanded from going to ACUS to going to the wonderful The Black Road, hosted by Deb and Jenn. I GMed 3 out of 5 slots, and met new people in a intimate and fun setting. Money willing, I WILL be back.

ACUS conventions have been great for meeting and connecting with people I normally only see via their words.

Posted by Jvstin at 8:03 PM

Game Dream 5: Cooperative Storytelling

Doc's Fifth Game Dream talks about Cooperative Storytelling:

To what level (if any) do the groups you usually play with encourage communal creation of the game world? Are the players spectators, or do they actually have a say in the plot (moreso that just guiding it by the actions of their characters)?

In campaigns, the plot can hit my characters over the head, characters can alter and change things as per their abilities, verve and wit, and in the case of proactive and fully engaged PCs, make their own plot.

Let me give you some examples:

Oliver, being a new PC to SB, has gotten into the game with a plotline hitting him over the head and making him a stranger in a very strange land. He's still reacting and working through this. But even here, Michael has been very good about suggestions, intimations and such, instead of mechanically responding to what is happening.

Brieanne is at the ball, after the wreckage of the flow of the ball thanks to the Declaration of Rebman Independence. She has taken active measures, in its wake, to awaken and liven up the ball, not content for the GM or anyone else to do it for her. So, together, the next phase of the ball is working out thanks to PC action.

Jayson is making his own plot at this point. He has goals, plans, ideas and is putting them into motion. In fact, a side effect from a previous idea of his caused me to extend it into a game-arching metaplot because it was too good not to use. Being a long established PC, Jayson and his player are confident in making their own bliss in SB...and it does dovetail and play nicely with other Players and the Major Plot, rather than being an exercise in "Baldur's Gate"

In one-shots at cons, plot is somewhat more rigid--but I am always amenable to things not following a certain script. The fact that I wound up with PvP combat in two of the games (and thus major change from envisioned events) is indication that I don't force things down a particular track. The fact that JP Brannan's character wanted to revolt against the PCs changed the plot of DMF severely--but it also made for a juicy and interesting experience.

I like it when players are confident enough with me and comfortable enough to not want to merely react to my turns in a mechanical manner.

Posted by Jvstin at 7:52 PM

July 10, 2004

Game Dream 4: Dude, read this book

Game Dream 4: Dude, Read This Book!
What is the role, if any, that movies and books play in your campaigns? When entering a new genre, how important do you feel seeing (or reading) a good genre example becomes? Have you ever been assigned a "mood" book to read by the GM, or gone to a group movie viewing? How do you feel about game-based fiction, whether "pulp" novels or movie attempts?

I'm with Arref on the fact that books are a big part of why I AM a GM.

I am continually inspired by books. I've taken ideas from books, ranging from characters to plot ideas, to locales.

I've had GMs point me to books, and I've been enthusiastic in pointing out books to players, sometimes after the fact, to get them into the mindset needed to play a particular con scenario, or if some bit from my campaign has been borrowed.

I do try to avoid too-zealous borrowing in the sense of stealing an author's world and characters entire--the author has to eat, too. I'm much more likely to mine deeper in "abandonware" books than living literary universes.

So, for example, while I wouldn't steal very explicitly from, say, Anne Bishop's Three Worlds (although I took the idea of linked worlds and made it part of Cadmus' background in Rites of Passage), I wouldn't mind taking more directly from, say, the Well Favored Man and its sequels (although I have not done so as yet).

But some more concrete examples:

Ghosts of the Past:
I took the idea of the River and what the PCs find alongside it is from Sean Russell's The One Kingdom. The River's sudden irruption, and how it fit into that Amber, though, was and is my own inspiration.

Ad Amber per Amber:
I took the casino space station and the chase across the universe from Eric Nylund's sadly-out-of-print A Game of Universe.

Tynan MacCarter:
A NPC in a couple of games and sometimes used as a PC, I threw both a Niven style Ringworld and a Bear style "Way" into his background to give him a technophilic grounding.

Iolaus Diotrephes:
My Grand Affair character, I think his rhyme-and-meter speech comes from the Cretans that speak in epic verse in Fritz Leiber's THE BIG TIME. They weren't big on the rhyme, though.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:38 AM

July 5, 2004

Game Dream 3:Is it Me or is it Memorex?

Doc's Third Game Dream asks us our motivations.

Some people play RPGs to enjoy a viewpoint or way of acting that they just couldn't do in real life. Others seem to play characters whose motivations are more their own. And some folks do all of the above and everything in between :) What character of yours was most like you "in real life"? Which of your characters is the least like you? Which did you find more fun to play, and why?

I've said it before in several other places and milieus. I do have a "Mary Jane" character, a character who is very much like me in temperment and personality.

That would be the Prince Hadrian of DuMarque. While he's a Trump Artist (and I can't draw),his personality, his "good guy" nature, and his reactions to things are basically what I would do in a given situation, given his suite of powers. He is currently an NPC in Strange Bedfellows, and makes frequent con appearances--most recently as a PC in Amber DiTullio's In Her Shoes at TBR.

Hadrian is not me (he's better looking for one thing) but he comes close.

Most of my PCs have shards and aspects of me, so finding a character who is truly unlike me is pretty hard. I don't play characters diametrically opposite me, they all contain a seed of me somewhere.

To give some examples--

Lorius is my intellectual character, intelligence made manifest. I don't have his acid tongue, though.

Marcus is my jack of all trades, representing the fact I have many interests. He also echoes my loyalty to friends and family, as witness his close bond to his sister and his willingness to help cousins at the drop of a hat. He also has my curiosity.

Delwin echoes knowledge, hidden talents, interests in Egypt, the night sky, and, um, given GA, dominant sexuality

Iolaus represents my fish out of water, as witness my sojourn in California, and new residence in Minnesota. Stranger in a Strange Land, but up to the task and the challenges and adventures of same. He also strongly resonates with my Greco-Roman interests.

Scipio is probably the most unlike character I have, in the end. Charming, urbane, sophisticated, witty, and a ladies man. Romantic but promiscuous, a serial monogamist if there ever was one. I wish I was half as charming as he thinks he is.

I do find that I prefer the characters more like me, but sometimes I do want to play something at degrees from my own personality. Sometimes I need the parallax.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:22 PM

Game Dream 2: Deal with the Devil

Doc's Second Game Dream is working with the enemy...

One of my favorite plot complications that I like to introduce as a GM is to create an environment where the players are forced to deal with unsavory characters that they would otherwise destroy. From either a player or GM/ST point of view, what is your most vivid recollection of this occuring in your games?

Gods, lots of choices for this one.

I'm going to delve back to my D&D games for this one, because its the most poignant of all such. I was GMing a game where the PCs, scions and champions of the kingdom of Aragorn. (yes, and I had a city by the name of Dunedain...)

Anyway, the characters wound up getting contacted by the first born son of the local evil overlord. His father was even more mad and insane than usual, and the son was concerned that his father was going to dabble with powers that would not give them suzerainty over their enemies--but rather destroy everyone and everything.

So, the Black Prince (yes, I was going for a historical reference) tried to forge an alliance with the PCs. The PCs watched him like a hawk, not only because they didn't trust him, but because they wanted to see him in action, because they had tangled in HIS plots more than once.

BP and the Player Characters managed to reach the remote, icy citadel where the experiment was taking placed, and subsequently destroyed the Chaos Orb. The BP managed to skate away and avoid taking any of the rap for disrupting his father's plans, just making the PCs even more hated and disliked by the Overlord.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:10 PM

June 20, 2004

Game Dream 1: Voice

Confessions of a Game Addict has decided to take up the mantle of Ginger's Game WISH, rebranding it as "Game Dream"

The First Game Dream is about Voice.

When Role Playing Games are discussed, the subject of first-person versus third-person character narratives sometimes surfaces. When you play a character, do you assume first-person, using your voice as his or hers, or do you use third person, simply describing what he or she is doing? Do you switch between first and third person, or try to adhere to one? When other players are in character, does the use of first or third person affect your immersion in the game?

I am going to extend my answer a bit and respond from a GM point of view as well as a player POV.

As a player, I tend to run in the third person in email. I think its because most of the Gms that I play with tend toward writing in the same third person point of view. I have written some stories and fiction from the first person point of view.

In FTF games, I tend toward first person rather than third person gaming, since I feel an even greater emotional bond to my character's POV when I am emboding them in a first person point of view.

Now, as a GM in email, I usually tend toward the second person in forms of address when characters are alone. "You head toward the exit to the Church, hoping that the evil priests do not notice your lack of piety." When characters are in groups, I revert to a third person POV.

Posted by Jvstin at 9:44 AM