Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review

I'm going to basically steal the format for this post from Age of Ravens, because it's been ages since I've blogged anything and, well, I'm out of practice.

2015 was certainly a jam-packed rollercoaster of a year, filled with new experiences and all kinds of terrible, terrible life choices. But hey, at least I didn't buy any 4e shit this year, so that's a fucking win right there.

I think my last post was in early november? I'm still sitting on 2 APs for IKRPG, and chances are I'll have yet another one to edit and post after tonight when I run my now-traditional kill me right goddamn now tabletop gaming marathon. Last year it was D&D 5th edition. This year I'll be running Bad Moon Rising in IKRPG, because a) my good friend Susan has been GMing this system for about 2 years now and has only played it...once? Twice?

also b) because IKRPG is all I apparently know how to buy anymore.

In any case, let's get onto the Year in Review.

New RPGs:

Um...Did I play anything new this year? Oh yeah!

  • Night Witches
  • Lasers and Feelings
  • Through the Breach: Malifaux RPG
  • Runequest

Well. That was a brief list. Seems like I pretty much stuck to my guns for most of the year, really barely getting into anything new until the latter portion of the year (stupid personal reasons). All of these new systems were quite entertaining and enjoyable, but I think the game that I look back most fondly on would have to be Through the Breach, seeing as it was the sophomore outing as GM for one of my other friends (and Susan's husband), and I'm always a fan of a RPG system where I don't have to roll dice.

What I Ran:

This year I believe I focused mostly on running my weekly game of IKRPG, with occasional weekend or one-shot forays into other gaming avenues. To be honest, I don't recall running a good amount of gaming this year, and that makes me unspeakably sad.

  • IKRPG: Completed a solid season of murder-hoboing in Western Immoren, and got started on the following one as well. Just good times all around.

  • Scrolls and Swords: I think I just got one session of this in this year, which makes me a little sad, because if I'm recalling correctly, I was down one of my core players that day. So yes. Sad. In better news, I'm hoping to rectify that sometime soon because every time I run Scrolls and Swords my listener base increases significantly!
  • Savage Worlds: I think I ran two games of this. Maybe three? It was a duet-style campaign set in Sword Art Online's super kawaii MMORPG animu universe, and apparently my GMing style is not very conducive to a single player. Perhaps I'd do better with some kind of prewritten game in with that small of a captive audience. Like, you know, the Great Pendragon Campaign.
  • Lasers and Feelings: In terms of awarding myself some kind of trophy for running a table with the most number of gamers at once, I'll have to hand it off to my recent unrecorded session of Lasers and Feelings, which I believe players? Three of which were on Skype? Good times with it, though, I definitely feel like the Lasers and Feelings mechanics are more suited to the oddball style stories I end up creating for the 'everything and the kitchen sink' universe of Spacemyspacebook.
My 2016 Projections:

Well, to start things off, I'm going back to fucking GenCon, bay bee, because that shit is fun like no other! This year, I'm hoping to actually run some games (I'll probably focus on accessory-lite systems) so that players can look at me like I'm some kind of gamer who has his shit together and didn't only post like 24 blog entries in a single calendar year. Currently in my head to run at GenCon:

Savage Fallout: I'm somewhat on the fence regarding Savage Worlds. I've played in it, I've GMed a little bit of it, I'll need to GM more of it to get into any kind of shape to run the system for players who actually know its ins and outs. That said, with Fallout 4's release this November, the iron is already super hot and ready to strike, and honestly with my utter disappointment with the design direction of contemporary Fallouts I'm hoping I can inject some of the pure, exploratory-slash-madcap entertainment I remember experiencing playing the original CRPGs.

BRP Diablo: Yet another purist approach, because while Diablo III is an entertaining and addictive iteration of a beloved series and II is inarguably the best game of the franchise, there was really nothing like starting a new game of original Diablo, watching that intro cinematic, hearing about the butcher, descending into the Cathedral, and suddenly really needing to pee because holy shit that game creeped me out. Newer iterations have set even starting players up as unmitigated badasses, with very little acknowledgement for the underlying themes of the game series: mortality, terror and madness. I feel like a return to form would be the best way to communicate this with tabletop RPGs, and perhaps this year at GenCon I'll discover if I'm right.

???: I'm thinking I should run three games this year in Indianapolis. Originally I had thought to run IKRPG, but there is a lot to cart around with that system, from minis to tiles to maps. I'm leaning towards running something else BRP, but that may overload me on just one system, and I really feel like 2016 is the year for me to branch out. Well, if anything, I've got a shit ton of core books to pore through.

In Summation:

2015 I felt like I was in some kind of a holding pattern; perhaps 2016 will be the year I can break free from that line of thinking. In any case, if I just stick to my guns and keep not buying 4e stuff, I'll be doing pretty damned well.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Sixth Annual Painting Challenge.

Well looks like I'll be participating in the annual Miniatures painting challenge. Of course with the numbers I'm putting up I'm slightly embarrassed. Most people are dropping in upper hundreds of points, I'm throwing in 280 unpainted points...I totally thought I'd have more.

Painting Challenge List 280pts:

55 pts: Legion of Everblight Battlebox
  • 5 pts: Lylyth1
  • 25 pts: Blighted Ogrun Warspears
  • 20 pts: Shredder 4x
  • 5 pts: Carnivean
45 pts: Protectorate of Menoth Battlebox

  • 5 pts: Kreoss1
  • 25 pts: Knights Exemplar
  • 5 pts: Repenter
  • 5 pts: Crusader
  • 5 pts: Vanquisher

45 pts: Circle Orboros Battlebox

  • 5 pts: Kaya1
  • 25 pts: Warpborn Skinwalkers
  • 5 pts: Argus
  • 5 pts: Winter Argus
  • 5 pts: Feral Warpwolf

30 pts: Sam Machorne and the Devil Dogs
15 pts: Stormblade WA
15 pts: Swamp Gobber River Raiders
10 pts: Cygnar Hunter Light Warjack 2x
10 pts: Stormblade UA
10 pts: Saeryn & Rhyas, Talons of Everblight
5 pts: Sorscha1
5 pts: Haley1
5 pts: Journeyman Warcaster (female)
5 pts: Stryker1
5 pts: Squire
5 pts: Sergeant Nicolas Verendrye
5 pts: Gatorman Witch Doctor
5 pts: Captain Arlan Strangewayes
5 pts: Ilnerik Sivanshin

Of course, because of the nature of the painting challenge, you don't get points for models you've already begun to I've got even more partially painted models that won't net me any points at all. Getting them done will at least give me some peace of mind...sigh...

Pro-Bono Peace of Mind List 310pts:

60 pts: Arcane Tempest Gunmages 2x
50 pts: Long Gunners
30 pts: Stormblades
30 pts: Croe's Cutthroats
30 pts: Field Mechaniks
25 pts: Man-o-War Shocktroopers
10 pts: Long Gunner UA
5 pts: Brun Cragback
5 pts: Centurion/Avenger/Hammersmith
5 pts: Ironclad/Defender/Cyclone
5 pts: Ironclad
5 pts: Stormclad
5 pts: Lancer
5 pts: Charger
5 pts: Hunter
5 pts: Allison Jakes
5 pts: Caine1
5 pts: Journeyman Warcaster (female)
5 pts: Kara Sloan
5 pts: Stryker2
5 pts: Savio Montero Acosta
5 pts: Captain Jonas Murdoch

Pray for me.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Actual Play: Scrolls and Swords III

This Week's Intrepid Party
My god, it's been almost five months since the last Scrolls and Swords episode. This time, I rolled the dice awesomely again and generated yet another exciting adventure to tie into our returning characters, while offering new players the opportunity to shine a bit in the system.

Once again I'm pretty astounded at the ability of everyone at the gaming table to pretty much pick up the bare bones of a game and create something really engaging and entertaining from a 4d6 roll on a static table, and we really had some standout roleplaying from our vets. Excitingly enough, we also had a bit of a newbie at the table with us, our friend Clint deemed to join in the fun and really rock out some exciting decisions during the game's climax.

I'm definitely a little rusty at running games, and now that I've got a bunch more free time I'm super excited to finally be getting back to running IKRPG next week, so expect more constant updates with Actual Plays on the blog real soon!

...and another hex is filled in!
Scrolls and Swords III: Almost Ready for a Reboot

You can download the episode here (right click, Save As).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Collating and Preparing

Once again, I take my sweet time getting back to blogging though, to be fair, it'll be another month or so before I have anything of substance to post. In a week I leave for Japan and thank fucking god for that, I need this vacation. That said, I've been listening to my good friend Susan's Actual Plays of IKRPG over at her blog, and what kind of GM would I be if that didn't inspire me to start planning out what I'll be doing for my next IKRPG arc.

That, of course, spirals back into the fact that I've been meaning to collect all of the IKRPG actual plays I've posted into a single page, easily accessible to any who wish to listen to them back-to-back, so you'll notice at the top of this page there is now an AP: IKRPG header, which will take you to that page. Obviously, as this is merely a playlist, I won't have the individual session rundowns I do for each upload, but one must sacrifice verbosity for function, occasionally.

In any case, this is more of a heads-up than anything else, to let you all know that I'm not quite dead, just resting, and raring to pick up with the Immoren Liberation Front.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

GenCon 2015: Undercity Demo

Well, this past weekend, or rather two weekends ago because I contracted the GenCon cold and cannot relate what my life was like last week (or if I was even alive to live it) I went to fucking GenCon, for the first, and definitely not the last time. I played some games, one of which I'll blog about and pimp outrageously because the makers are super cool dudes who didn't make me hate a d20 system for once, but today's highlight (if you can't see pictures for some reason) is all about Privateer Press' The Undercity, a dungeon-crawly board game with watered-dow- you know what, I don't like calling Undercity's mechanics watered-down. Distilled. Undercity is a dungeon-crawl board game that's like a hybrid between the original HeroQuest (or any of it's spiritual-successor bastard spawn) and a finely distilled version of the core IKRPG ruleset.

I had the opportunity to play one 'mission' on the boardgame, and below are my thoughts, carefully separated into three categories to increase reading comprehension in this internet age.

What I Liked:

It's a HeroQuest-inspired IKRPG-lite board game that features a leveling system and persistent characters over a campaign that is touted to last (overall) for 14 hours (Thanks to TechRaptor for the paraphrase, and inspiration to write this blog post). Miniatures of a quality akin to the Iron Kingdoms Unleashed Starter Set are included, and to a greater amount than that box, so that's again, something to love. Some of the minis are either reposes or mods of existing WarmaHordes miniatures, and I don't see any reason why they can't be included as proxies for existing characters (Milo Boggs for Gorman Di Wulfe, Random...ogrun...for Ogrun Bokur, Croe's Cutthroats for....Croe's Cutthroats, Cephalyx for Cephalx. You Get what I'm saying here.)

On one hand when I first saw these all I could think of is that PP was being exceptionally lazy in designing original models, now I see how I can be cheap right back and include said models in my Warmahordes games. So there's that bit of silver lining.

Delving a bit deeper into the actual mechanics of the game, I enjoyed the round-table aspect of play, with enemy AI-esque things happening during and after each player's turn, in the sort of constant 'menace' that creates a decent enough facsimile of a GM. Essentially, each enemy is gambitized (think FFXII) into performing various actions on a player's turn, priority is given to either green or red foes, various foe 'action' cards dictate which enemies activate when, etc, etc. Like I said, it's a decent enough stand-in as an expy-GM, and it's refreshing to have a dungeon-crawl boardgame that eschews that usually-necessary antagonist-player in favor of full-on table cooperation (a la recent D&D boardgames - Drizzt, Ashardalon, Ravenloft).

The distillation of the standard IKRPG mechanics is also handled elegantly (rather than clunkily), and Privateer Press has indeed trimmed some of the fat that threatens to bloat standard IKRPG sessions, in a series of new definitions for existing terminology that is somewhat confusing for the first five minutes, but is easily incorporated afterwards. Statistics are boiled down from 13 main and derived values to 6, and the revamped Feat system is a fantastic hybrid between the original feat mechanic and character abilities from the RPG.

I didn't get a chance to experience the level system or the side-quest options in the demo, but I'm hoping those add depth in terms of loot and XP, and perhaps offer some kind of replayability to the boardgame.

What I Disliked:

That said, the changes made to the mechanical system are still jarring, even for a short time, and players more immersed in the RPG system might have a harder time adapting, specifically the 'always-right' rules lawyers who seem to enjoy bickering rules for the sake of bickering. I can see some stalling at the table when revised rules are rolled out and play grinds to a halt while someone reaches for a core book while the GM flips frantically to the index of the boardgame rules.

Another sticking point for me is the overall drabness of the finished product. The miniatures I already expected to be flat colors, and it's interesting to me to see that PP actually incorporated the base colors of miniatures into gameplay mechanics (and I cannot wait to see some of the finished painted models some PP-forumites are probably already mocking up), but after being blessed with the Unleashed starter box's absolute wealth of play tiles, I was hoping for something more expansive than just 36 tiles of grey, tan, and white cobblestone. Supposedly this monotony is broken up somewhat by modular individual tiles, but nothing in the online rules looks as visually engaging as WotC's efforts in their randomly-generated dungeon tiles. For a brief game, I can see this being all right, but seeing the same tiles repeated endlessly over the course of a 14 hour campaign...things might get tedious.

Lastly, and this is more of a minor issue, when I joined in the Demo I'm pretty sure I was joined by absolute novices to the IKRPG rules, and the only character left to play was the tank. This may have been an intentional choice by the guy running the demo, to leave the tank open for himself to potentially take over or for a drop-in to be able to easily pick up the mechanics after everyone had already gotten the basic gameplay spiel, but it seems like the more 'interesting' characters have highly-involved and specialized rules that might serve as a minor barrier to new players. The goblin comes with a steamjack, the alchemist has a limited number of bombs, and the gunmage player must adapt to the rune-shot mechanics. The troll fighter, though? Hit all the stuff. The disparity in important rules means there are a few places where a 'veteran' player of the game can help out a newbie who chooses a more difficult character to pick up.

What Concerns Me:

Grind concerns me. That may not make much sense at the outset, but just realize, Privateer Press attempted to create a boardgame from the IK franchise already, and it was called Grind, and it was a 2-player football/soccer-esque warjack game and...kind of tanked. Now, I love the concept of Grind. If it was approved as official lore of the IKRPG, I'd support that in an instant, because underground robot full-contact sporting leagues are basically the definition of awesome. However, it was a slog of a system, only 2 player, and just kind of meh. The main selling point of it nowadays is that you basically get free warjacks with the purchase.

This concerns me because I believe Undercity is a good product that has the capability of being fantastic...if Privateer Press supports it after release with further adventures/villains/tiles/PCs. As it stands, it seems very bare-bones for the advertised play time, and I think that the folks at boardgamegeek are going to have a hell of a fun time coming up with homebrew scenarios to keep things interesting.

The modularity, but not random tile placement means that every mission replay, at least aesthetically, is going to be identical. Sure, you might get a random different enemy on one particular draw, but overall most mission replays are going to feel similar. This means that, potentially, this is a fire-and-forget campaign, similar to Privateer's published scenarios, which are really one-time use for any game group (with the exception of the Noble's Tourney, which my friend Susan has utilized...three times? Is it three times now, Susan?).

All this really boils down to is my concern that Undercity will undersell, and Privateer won't want to drop any more money developing it further, leaving it to stagnate.

Undercity is a really promising product, and if it were published by Fantasy Flight games I'd say it would be destined for utter success and lots of cool expansions. My experience with Privateer Press boardgames (not RPGs or Wargames, just boardgames) means my usual IKRPG fervor is tempered by my buyer's remorse regarding Grind.

None of that is really important, though. What's really important is the question of 'hey Dave, are you actually going to throw money down on this?'

The answer to that is yes, and I would have probably even bought it at GenCon, had I ample space in my return luggage. Hashtag sadface.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Session 13

Well here it is, finally. The end of an era, or at least a campaign arc of thirteen (really 14) episodes that managed to last for what, like 20+ weeks?

I entered into these finale sessions, completely abandoning a final twist that would have probably broken what was left of my players' spirits, instead deciding that after beating them down so continuously for session after session, it was time to give them something badass to do. It was time to roll out an iconic set-piece, and it was past time for the players to take a little vengeance on everyone who thought they were better than the Immoren Liberation Front.

I will say that I definitely enjoyed these last two sessions, enough that I am super pumped to get back into the setting (after finally reading through Unleashed, of course) and coming up with plot lines related to things that each of the players revealed to me throughout our story arc. I will say that I am exceptionally pleased that Privateer Press is about to release a bunch of new minis, as a fair few of them are Hordes specific, even Minions specific (so Gobbers and such. Sweet.)

I think, in terms of plotting out what will be happening in what I've been secretly dubbing Season 3 of IKRPG (Yeah, I know, this was Season 2 because Season 1 was the one that Susan was running. And now I need to look for that.) Anyway. Words. Plotting. I'm thinking of making season 3 a super open-world aspect for my players. They've set up these great relationships and conflicts, so I'm going to give them a state of the world every few sessions, but basically just let them run buck-wild through everything they want. There will obviously be places they just plain don't want to go, and that's fine, but meh, I suppose that's life. There's plenty more trouble for them to get into.

Final thoughts before I consider recording a GM aftermath for Unabashed Gaming...I think four players is pretty ideal. Though I kind of wish I could bring someone new into the game every arc. That would be cool.

Eh, whatev's.

Session 13: The Siege of Fellig

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Session 12

The penultimate episode of Season 1, and the players are in for a rollercoaster ride of red hot chile proportions....or something.

Session 12: The 180 Turnabout

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Savage Worlds: SAO Session 1 (After-Action Reflection)

Well, so much for hypothetical New Year's resolutions, it's been basically ages since I've last updated this blog. Yeesh. In any case, at least I haven't completely dropped off the planet in terms of gaming, despite my IKRPG campaign having wrapped up a few weeks back (I know, I know, I'm late getting the episodes up.)

Well, in the meantime, as for the next round of Crit This! my buddy Scott will be running a Call of Catthulhu game, I've started running a duet game with my girlfriend, using the Savage Worlds ruleset, per her request, and running a story set in Alfheim Online, rather than Sword Art Online, as we didn't want the stakes to be life and death in this first foray into 1 GM/1 Player gaming.

In either case enough preface, onto the actual reflection.

Knowing at least a few things about my girlfriend's tastes, I was able to predict a few of the starting parameters, specifically her starting race and the type of game she'd want to be playing. However, whenever running a duet it is specifically suggested that you have an introductory talk regarding the minutia of your campaign, detailing length, adversity, levity, combat, social aspects, exploration, etc.

We decided on a short-run for the initial setting, nothing long or arduous, but with the potential to extend if the desire is there to do so. Combat was set for one every three or so sessions, so as to not get caught up in the grind of mechanics (something I'll touch on in a little bit.) At the same time, we agreed that there was the possibility for some out-of-ALO roleplaying, so there was established some 'real world' lore, so I could potentially make something from them.

To begin, I've never really run anything like this type of game, mechanics have definitely taken a backseat to player choice and verbal interaction, and I've taken the suggestion of an RPGnet blogger, essentially focusing on moral choices rather than mortal choices (paraphrasing mine). At the same time, this isn't really a standard RPG setting or game, in that there's no great evil to wrong, it's really just a way for my player (and her character) to unwind at the end of the day. Therefore, I've taken an offhand comment of hers and started to run with it fully.

Basically, I'm planning to run this game like a serialized anime. Drama and interpersonal relations are higher on the priority list than death duels, and instead of high-octane action set pieces, I'm instead constantly thinking about how to fit various anime tropes into the mix. As an anime enthusiast, there's a lot of ingrained knowledge that I've assimilated already that's absolutely ripe for use, but I still get the sense that I'm going to need to prep just as much (if not more) for these games than many of my others, which I've basically jumped into on a wing and a prayer.

The first session had the PC, Mueda, full-dive into the world of ALO where she met with the classmate who first invited her into the virtual MMO. During a quick tutorial of the flight system (and to get my player re-accustomed to the mechanics of Savage Worlds, specifically Wild Dice and Bennies), I threw in an ad-hoc midair collision with a spur-of-the-moment character, my first reactionary trope of the game, the stereotypical otouto (younger brother character), who almost immediately began looking at Mueda as his onee-sama. This was reinforced by a few fantastic Fly rolls, further solidifying the balance between the two characters.

As noted in the introduction, I'd pretty much guessed that Cecilia would choose to play as a Cait-Sith, the anthropomorphic feline race in ALO who basically auto-acquire animal companions, so I'd set up her first mission as a simple foray into a nearby forest to find her new furry buddy. The cool/terrifying aspect of a setting like ALO, which has a lore wiki that can be described as barebones at best, is that there's a lot of room to simply make shit up. So, a few probing questions into the forest and Mueda had found her animal friend, a cat/owl hybrid she promptly fed a live squirrel to and named 'Hedwig.'

Hey, Harry Potter's pretty popular, you know? The only problem is I now have to draw a cat/owl hybrid, and it's been ages since I last sketched anything seriously.

In any case, along with Mueda's search for her Hedwig, she had also been offered a side-quest by a friendly PC blacksmith to acquire some calyculcum, a crafting material collected from the UV-calcified remains of Cockatrice eggs. There was a little bit of hilarious pseudo-danger as Mueda's young friend stumbled upon the Cockatrice nest accidentally while chasing after his own soon-to-be animal companion, a snake/lizard hybrid he (I) still has yet to name, which culminated in sort of roundabout merry-go-round chase between Cockatrice, snake/lizard, and the younger brother character, Raimura.

Everything worked out well in the end for everyone, of course. Mueda got her Hedwig, Raimura got his snake-lizard, and the PC Blacksmith got her calyculcum.

And a date with Mueda. Yeah, in exchange for the rare-ish material, the smith, Michida, who is a lady, offered my player anything she'd like (within reason of course), and Mueda asked to apprentice with her, and to go on a date.

Which we'll talk about in the next reflection.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Session 11

Well, here we are a few weeks later. I suppose it's only to be expected, these two sessions are kind of examples of a GM taking an idea too far and running with it. In two weeks we've basically passed two days of sessions, because I was too focused on creating consequences for characters instead of moving plot. This could partially be because we haven't been at a full table for more than a month now, but one should place the blame where it belongs, on the vengeful GM.

It's not a bad stance to take, really, but in these two games I violated my stance of 'moderation in everything.'

Hopefully they're still interesting to listen to.

Episode 11: More and More Trouble

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Session 10

Originally posted as a two-parter, episode 10 is the beginning of where I really let myself fall into the trap of just creating consequences for characters, instead of introducing consequences during the normal phase of just going through the plot.

But I suppose that's a pitfall of off-the-cuff GMing, stuff tends to be a bit slipshod.

Episode 10: Trouble

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Actual Play: Scrolls and Swords II

Well, we certainly had a fantastic time this week with our Scrolls and Swords game. Luckily my dice rolls ended up generating a pretty solid follow-up story to the cliffhanger we found ourselves on at the end of Session One, and everyone at the table seemed to really enjoy the openness of the system, with the ability to do anything with justification and proper dice rolls.

I'm really looking forward to whenever we can run the next session, as I've got some pretty badass character sheets mocked up for the system, which I'd actually like to tweak some using hand-drawing rather than quick and cheap photoshops.

There are still a few random tables I think I'll create as well; it seems that the openness of character creation is a bit intimidating to players who just want to random-roll their character generation.

While considering that, I was also pondering about character improvement through sessions, and realized that I don't really like the idea of 'experience points' for Scrolls and Swords, partly because it's so basic a system that I can't really fathom the process of making it more complicated with leveling mechanics, partially because I'm somewhat intrigued by "experience" actually meaning that; players find themselves with more familiarity with the setting and characters of the world.

Speaking of the world...Updated Map!
There's also the thematic purpose of not really having character advancement; in most Saturday Morning-esque cartoon series, characters don't undergo dramatic increases of power between episodes, they always seem to have what they need to overcome the adversity in each plot.

If anything, I'll simply allow players to change their number between sessions, and possibly give them another 'item from their adventures' if they happen to pick up something interesting in any particular game.

Scrolls and Swords II: Eclectic Boogaloo

You can download the episode here (right click, Save As).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

IKRPG: Personal Piledrivers

In any gaming system, one is bound to experience a certain number of ruling mistakes. Even being an experienced Rules Minion, I still (on occasion) misread a rule, or house rule an established mechanic without realizing that the patches I'm placing on top of a RPG system may be covering perfectly tailored and tested mechanics.

I've decided to keep a running list of piledrivers I heap upon my games, in the hopes that anyone encountering them may not suffer through the utterly broken rolls that have occasionally plagued my games.

Combat Caster + Gunmage

Oh man is this a huge one. My good friend Scott created an Iosan Gunmage for his very first character, and let me tell you did it kick freaking ass. I mean, how could it not, combining Combat Casting with Rune Shot: Accuracy and Rune Shot: Brutal, where you're rolling four dice for attack and damage, and dropping the lowest die from each?

That just felt broken, and it wasn't until I actually read the Privateer Press forums that I realized it totally was. Combat Casting, in the way it's written, is only to be applied to magical attacks using one's ARC stat- meaning that Gun Mages, who cast the spells on their bullets and then attack using their firearms (and thus their POI and not their ARC), are unable to use Combat Casting for their rune shots. Scott didn't like me much after I revealed that little gem to him.

Sigh...being a Rules Minion was never an easy job.

Addendum 4/23: I've just realized that Combat caster only affects the Attack roll, not the damage roll. I'm sure all of my spellcasters in my game will be absolutely thrilled to hear this.

Quick Actions and Aiming

Onto one of my own personal piledrivers, this caused me no small consternation after I'd discovered that I'd been doing things incorrectly for multiple game sessions. It effectively dropped my RAT by two points for every round after that first round of combat, and even then I'd still lose the bonus if I had to, say, draw a weapon or send a Drive to a steamjack (something I never managed to do...sigh).

I still managed to turn a fair few enemies into mincemeat, but it just wasn't as super overpowered as it used to be. Ah well.

Heroic Dodge Before Calculating ARM

Oh man this was a HUGE one, but luckily it didn't last more than one or two sessions. You see, in IKRPG Core, the verbiage used for Heroic Dodge indicates that the 'feat point is spent after a damage roll is made,' but also states that a character suffers 'half the damage from an attack.'

What is confusing about this is that:

- Damage rolls, as defined by the IKRPG Core, are [dice roll] plus the POW (or P+S) of an attack, and the formula does not mention ARM.
- Damage, however, is the amount of hit point loss suffered after armor is applied to a Damage Roll.

Now, to a studious reader who is paying attention, obviously everything is perfectly spelled out.

1) Your character gets hit by an attack, the GM rolls for damage and gets a disconcertingly high number.
2) You declare that you are using Heroic Dodge and spend a feat point.
3) The GM calculates the damage he rolled and subtracts your character's ARM stat from the total damage roll. He then applies the effect of Heroic Dodge to the difference, halving the hit point damage your character suffers, rounding up.

What we were doing instead was halving the damage roll, so that when it came time to compare the roll to our ARM stats, we were suffering zero damage per hit.

The game got much more deadly all of a sudden.

Feat: Boost Untrained Skill

Well, here's one that I just this past week fully read the rules on and oh shit it is going to make a serious difference in how my players breeze through my games.

You see, in IKRPG, you generate skill bonuses from a combination of a base statistic and a skill rank. You also gain Feat Points at the start of every session and every time you do something cool (essentially), so they are a constantly renewing resource. One of the most common out-of-combat utilizations for Feat Points is to boost non-attack skill rolls.

My group has not only been boosting non-attack untrained skill rolls, but also non-attack STATISTIC rolls. Holy shit is that a no-no.

As stated by the rules, you cannot spend a feat point to boost skills in which you have no ranks. There is no verbiage to even indicate that spending feat points to boost Attribute rolls is even slightly viable.

Well folks, it was good while it lasted.

Back Strike = Free Strike?

Finally we get to a pretty embarrassing piledriver, and the last for this particular iteration of this post. Luckily we only did this for one session, and to be fair if we weren't I imagine our party would have been TPK'd by the warjacks our GM was sending at us, but yes, we managed to confuse back strikes with free strikes, therefore using positioning to gain unfair and unearned boosted damage rolls.

This was quickly remedied in future games and has not come up since.

Well, that's it for my current recollection of Iron Kingdoms RPG piledrivers. I'm sure I'll experience even more in the future, and hopefully be able to add more to this blog post sometime soon.


Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Session 9

Well, there was quite a bit more action (not fighting, just plot movement) this session than last, but I remain firmly seated on the fence regarding the shorter runtime for the game. It has its pros and cons, but it does seem like there are fewer things the group is actually able to accomplish per session; that lends itself to being both pro and con all on its own.

What I did heartily enjoy about this session was the result of a certain mindset I find myself actually needing to force myself to present at the table; one in which I actually say yes to players occasionally.

Of course, there are circumstances where players will indeed act recklessly, and in those situations you need to punish the players most harshly for their trespasses: there is a good example of this in the tail end of our game, in fact. There was no hit point damage, or potential for death, but when the use of sound and setting gives players a hint of their own mortality, and you gift them a moment of 'oh shit,' such are the joys of being a GM.

I did have a combat encounter planned for this session, however the extra week of prep time will allow me to further elaborate upon a concept that came to me late before last night's session, and thus I would have been unable to fully capitalize upon it. Now, though, it is on. It is so on.

IKRPG Session 9: A Deal is a Deal

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 8

Well, session 8 is a thing that happened, and beyond the plot progression, which was minor, I have a few talking points. Let's just say that events occurred this game, events that were scripted in a less than stellar fashion, and the end result was a slapdash mishmash of roleplaying, roadblocks, and gaming woes.

The first new development here is the introduction of a new player character, who wanted to give the IKRPG a test run. It's always a difficulty introducing someone fresh into a game that's been running for awhile; it's much like a person unfamiliar with a television show just jumping into the newest season with not even a basic knowledge of who/what/when/where/how/why. They're just sort of left wondering what's going on with little to do. Aside from that, there's also the difficulty with introducing a tenuous player, because if they decide not to return to the gaming table (as this one did), you need to find a way to A) get them into the party with as little hassle as possible and B) keep their inclusion as minor as possible, so that if they decide not to return there isn't a massive amount of plot threads just left dangling. It's a fine line, and difficult to walk, and kind of just feels undercooked when it's done wrong, which is pretty much the only way to do it.

Aside from the new player, we also had an experiment with allowing a player to generate plot points due to their weekly interlude. I won't discuss the minutia of this player-input, or my personal reactions to it; all I'm really willing to say is that if you're planning on telling a player they can create some sort of event that will happen in the next gaming session, make sure you know that player and you know how to turn that event into something actually meaningful. I'm of two minds towards how I reacted to this development, despite using it to perform a call-back to another player's interaction with the setting in an earlier game, and I still have a bit to think about regarding exactly how I'm going to move forward from here with it.

Lastly, I'd like to talk about breadcrumbs and plot trails. Usually, I find myself throwing very few clues towards where I want my plots to go, because my players tend to cleverly bungle their ways into my main plot lines in ways that create more and more; however, in this situation I tried to be more sly about my plot crumbs and ended up dead-ending the players' investigations. They have a conspiracy, but no actual way in which to pursue it, and we left our session with them starting across a table at a plot-forwarding NPC with no way of actually getting him to move the plot forward.

This is what comes from games with slipshod preparation. Sigh.

IKRPG Session 8: Old Friends

Monday, April 13, 2015

BRP/Magic World: Sword Art Online

Well, my girlfriend and I just finished the second season of Sword Art Online, and it got me thinking about running a tabletop RPG reminiscent of this game, either in name or some sort of expy-version thereof, but with my most recent forays into the RPG scene being basically from the aspect of Iron Kingdoms, I wanted to dredge up the mechanics of Basic Roleplaying again, seeing as how I've invested a serious amount of my sourcebook income into Chaosium's line of rpgs.

I'm also writing this as a sort of mental exercise for myself, both to increase my postings on my blog, and to keep myself from spending money uselessly signing up for a MMO somewhere and not really enjoying my time playing it, and thus wasting creative energy.

Regardless, I really like the concept of bringing in the actual source as intact as possible because, to reiterate the plot in as spoiler-free a manner as possible, in SAO, when you kill another player character, their actual player suffers a significant electrical jolt to their brain, causing immediate death. This sidesteps one of the standard player mentalities of 'kill everything in sight' by imposing a moral quandary into the more bloodthirsty aspects of the tabletop RPG hobby. Essentially, Player Killers are literally player killers, as their in-game homicides are actual, real-world homicides.

Somewhat breaking from the original source material, however, is the aspect of multiple MMO universes portrayed somewhat later in the anime, and I do quite like the idea of players switching between 'games' occasionally, keeping their attributes but losing their skills, equipage, and money. This does, however, mean that there probably needs to be some sort of leveling system for statistics as well as skills, which is somewhat of a break from the standard Chaosium formula.

But I think I can mitigate that though a hybridization of the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition ruleset with the standard Magic World ruleset, basically running the game where statistics are listed as a derivative of 100, then half that, then 1/5 of that to give a core number that can be used to generate stats. Adding a skill checkbox next to statistic's d100 number means that they can be increased using the standard BRP character advancement rules, but also ensures that characters can't get ridiculously overpowered without more home-brewing. We'll talk more about advancement later.

I think what I like best about BRP is that I can create a list of skills to just put on a character sheet and have players assign starting numbers to them, while keeping the d100 ruleset together. This will probably necessitate looking a number of gamefaqs pages and SAO wikias trying to find a unified list of non-combat skills, but I also think I should probably keep some of the standard BRP/MW skills intact, as the translations for some of the SAO skills in the PSP games are what might be seen as pedestrian. I suppose if I were to keep them it might add to the authenticity and aesthetics of the final system itself, but for now I think utilizing more descriptive and enlightening language creates a more approachable hybrid for rpg veterans and converts from the games/anime. Of course, I'm talking about this as if it's going to be the next big thing, and in all likelihood it'll just become a google document sitting on my drive until I delete my account in x number of years.

What really might require some more intense thought in creating the system is the implementation of Sword Skills from the source material. There are some great write-ups regarding this on the wikias for the various games, and I'll probably trudge through those when I'm less caffeinated and more able to focus on a single stream of consciousness, but from what I'm gathering currently there are regular Sword Skills, which are kind of like special techniques, and Original Sword skills, which are more complex forms of chained Sword Skills, created by individual users (at least in the handheld versions of the game). These I'm thinking can be introduced through the use of Power Points from the BRP system, where x skills cost x power points, and PPs regenerate either through the use of items or over time. Of course the recovery through items basically means that currency and economics needs to play a part of the game world itself, thus necessitating another blog post and me looking through the BRP yellow book for rules on Power Points themselves. Where I start getting into trouble, in my own mind, is when I begin thinking about creating rules for players to create their own Sword Skills and original sword skills, mechanically assigning power points to various effects a Sword Skill may grant.

And, of course, one can't talk about Sword Skills without discussing the combat system of the game (and source material) itself. The big mechanic, aside from Sword Skills (I refuse to abbreviate those words) is the Switch mechanic, where one player parries an enemy attack, allowing a second player to 'switch' in and perform an unopposed attack. This sort of emphasizes team-play, which is cool in concept, I'm just curious about its execution in-game. Off-hand, I'm thinking of hybridizing Pendragon mechanics alongside BRP mechanics, essentially creating a situation where players need to split their skill (I need to look at the BRP rules regarding multiple actions in combat, those may be more forgiving) to engage multiple enemies, and therefore Switching would only really happen in the case of one-on-one combats, probably against bosses.

Again, this can be further mitigated by bosses who can perform multiple attacks in a single round, thereby possibly negating the switch mechanic.

Standard combat would, of course, become more Pendragonny, where players and their opponents would compete with their rolls to see who is the more effective combatant, and that would determine who would roll damage, akin to the Call of Cthulhu 7e ruleset.

The biggest break from the source I'm seeing, however, is that hit points become much more of an issue. With BRP rules, even using the Combine, not Average mechanics, means that players will have fewer hit points than usual. I think this might be where armor comes in and starts saving the day, allowing what I'm thinking will be a standard reduction in damage due to an ARM figure, a la Pendragon or IKRPG. Boss monsters, on the other hand, I'm debating on, perhaps they'll have insane amounts of hit points, or they'll have a set lower number, and each time it disappears the boss goes into Yellow or Red mode, resetting their hit points and changing their tactics, as per the anime.

In any case, there's quite a lot to think about here, and I'm really just stoked I was able to pound out a blog post regarding a fantastic anime and the game system I'll probably never create based on it. But hey, if I do, i'll probably run something with it, just for the funsies.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 7

Another week, another IKRPG session. Here we find our party journeying back to Corvis after the successful completion of their eminently great works, and starting to discover just how much trouble they are in.

This session I fell victim to a trap that I tend to find myself actively trying to prevent, which is combat for combat's sake. It's a regretful hold-over from when I used to run D&D 4th edition, and I've been trying to stamp it out for years of GMing, now.

At least it gave me opportunity to break out the minis from Iron Kingdoms Unleashed; it'll be difficult for me to run something in that system for quite some time, due to the over-saturation of the Iron Kingdoms RPG that I currently find myself in.

Next session I'll be experimenting with a shorter-form, basically attempting to get a full session of gaming done in 2.5 hours instead of the usual 3-3.5.

Eh, it's something to find out.

IKRPG Session 7: To Fellig!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 6

"Gatormen!" by Cribs
Oh boy, yet another successful session of IKRPG. Last night the party pulled out some serious retribution (no relation to Scyrah) on their Khadoran jailers, and there were explosions and deaths and lots and lots of gatormen.

Despite prepping a goodly amount of content for this game, I found the most common situation a GM can end up seeing, which is one where your players cling to one thing you design and ignore just about everything else. I suppose everything worked out well in the end, and of course we ended up discovering yet another piledriver that, as a group, we've been exploiting quite maliciously for just about our entire IKRPG careers.

I've got some great plans for what comes next, and am really looking forward to taking a bit more time to prep actually dangerous (as in life-threatening) situations for the players, now that I know a bit more about their strengths and weaknesses.

Most specifically, until our Rhulic warcaster learns Khadoran, he will be unable to bond with a Khadoran warjack. Fun times.

IKRPG Session 6: The Fall of Northguard

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 5

"Swamp (MPS Lands)" by AdamPaquette

And, of course, this one comes just a single week late, but I'm happy to announce that we are almost caught up with where the players are at. This session was spent pretty much entirely in the Bloodsmeath Marsh and the Blindwater Lake, as the party finally completes the research aspect of their mission from Padri Duranti, to witness the Gatormen ceremony on the night of the equinox.

Unfortunately, they run their mouths a little bit with regards to their plans towards a certain Khador outpost to the north, and in order to enlist the assistance of the primitives of the Blindwater Congregation, they get a bit...dirty I think is the best way to put it.

I feel like I should add some kind of disclaimer to this week's episode. There are depictions of gore. Nothing on the level of a torture porn film, but definitely talk about...anatomy. If you're extremely squeamish, I hope you'll be alright listening. If you're not squeamish, enjoy!

IKRPG Session 5: Dangerous Friends

Monday, March 16, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 4

Welcome back to my IKRPG Actual Plays. It's been a few weeks since my last upload (apologies), so here to make it up to you is Episode 4, where the players leave the relative safety of Cygnaran civilization to rough it out in the Khadoran boonies.

We had a lot of good player-side plotting at the table this session, and I'm super proud of everyone for getting into the swing of things and really starting to create their own mini-objectives alongside the primary plot hooks. I can honestly say here that at least an hour of game-time this session was completely devoted to an at-table decision by the players, and I have to say it is always a joy to see it when your guys (or gals) at the table really take the initiative.

That said, my players are really down on Khador, like, they really hate them a whole bunch. I'm still trying to think of a way to make them feel terrible for that. We'll see how much pathos I can inject into the next session. But, until then, enjoy Episode 4!

Scott - Gork
Aidan - 'Doge'
Russell - Tiberio
Joseph - Rhulo

Session 4: Giggity Giggity

Monday, February 23, 2015

Up Next...

"Robobrains!" by LudvikSKP

So this past Saturday I finished up the first arc of a campaign my friends and I dubbed Spacemyspacebook, what was supposed to be a lighthearted romp through a somewhat comical futuristic spacefaring society ended up taking a series of turns toward grimdark, and the finale was definitely of that sort. Examining my GM style as it has progressed really makes me realize that yes, I tend to make things dark. And gritty. There is occasionally humor, but the humor mostly comes from players' lighthearted interactions with the depressing and overwhelming things I throw at them.

The Spacemyspacebook game was also my first test of the HeroQuest 2e ruleset, and despite my enjoyment of its flexibility, there was a consensus around the table regarding its potential for min-maxing and vagueness regarding applicable skills. I may also have been partially at fault there, as I tend to offer everyone a chance to do something in my games, and HeroQuest is really a system that focuses on giving individual characters the spotlight.

In any case, running through what was essentially session 3 of FATE made me realize that FATE is a super complicated system, prep-wise, and I need at least the better part of a year before I jump back into the saddle with it. I also need to make some kind of FATE 'primer' for my players, so they actually know what they're supposed to do beyond just rolling skills and spending FPs to reroll or boost.

In the meantime, my Iron Kingdoms Thursday game shows little sign of slowing in interest or impetus, the players are having a wonderful time overcoming my small hurdles and jumping head-first into larger plot complications. It's even inspired me to continue with the painting of the 200 or so points of various Warmahordes models I have sitting around either unassembled or partially assembled, and I've fallen back into my true love of miniatures, which turns out is basing. Who knew?

What I really need to do is think of what to do next.

I'm thinking Savage Fallout, as I had a great time running a few sessions with players in that ruleset/setting, and I know the Fallout world like the inside of my eyelids, and I recall drawing some really kickass isometric map segments for that game.

In the meantime, either Susan or Scott are going to take the reigns of Saturday games for the time being, until I have enough material to run either Fate or Savage Worlds.

Of course, now looking through my library of 'tags' I can see a bunch of games that I should be plotting or running...c'est la vie, I suppose.

Also, whatever happened to Prehistory Fantasy? Like all of you, I have no goddamn idea.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 3

Well, I seem to have gotten this week's game out on time. Huzzah for me! Another solid session tonight, though I did weaken and break one of the cardinal rules I'd laid out for myself in the IKRPG, and that's to have more than one session pass between major combats. This game, we started with some good roleplaying, followed by a pretty long and drawn-out combat, but at least the players were enjoying themselves.

I do have to say, though, that when I receive compliments about what happens during a session or campaign, it is rarely a grateful expression towards a combat experience, so that's another incentive to either figure out a way to shorten the fight scenes or find a way to make them as engaging as the entwining plotlines that the players are creating with me.

In any case, the party has left Merin behind and is moving forward to a plot point that intrigues everyone, which is the great Gatorman ceremony. They really seem to want to 'do well' in it, which is good, because I haven't exactly plotted out how I want it to go, and their roleplaying and intentions have been building it up significantly, so when we reconvene in two weeks (I know, I'm sporadic, but I'm gonna be in Southern California next week, and gods know I have good reasons to be there and good people to see.

In any case, look forward to the next session; with any luck, I'll be able to make it entirely role-playing and non-combat, but with serious tension and player satisfaction.


IKRPG Session 3: Luxury Cruise

p.s. I'm also debating uploading an mp3 of my players chatting about the various conspiracies that are combining and conflicting in the background. They've woven a story that is both intriguing and believable, and hell yes I'm going to steal some of the plot threads they've created out of their own perceptions. I'm just not going to tell them which guesses they have were right all along, and which ones were better than the ideas I had myself.

I will never tell them that last one.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 2

Back again, and once again a week(ish) late posting last episode of IKRPG: Ord. What we're experiencing, mostly, in this session is a combat in the Khadoran Embassy, followed by that time-honored gaming tradition of new parties where they look at anything not riveted or welded to the ground, trying to pick it up, and carting it off.

It seems like the group had a decent enough time with the session, despite most of it being combat; as GM, I'm definitely in favor of keeping these combat-intensive sessions few and far between; even if spacing them out doesn't give the players a constant learning experience when it comes to the battle mechanics (not Battle Mechaniks, totally different thing, there.) of IKRPG.

What I'm mostly enjoying about this last session is that, despite handing my party a serious advantage in any future combat they may figure into, it's also technically handing them a serious liability. I'm finding in my now-thirties, that I'm able to look beyond the superficial acquisition of 'desirables' and really focusing on the cost behind such choices. My players are absolutely obsessed with shinies (shinys? shiny's? ...iunno), and they seem to either not notice or not care that they are digging themselves into holes that they may not be fully capable of getting out of.

Of course, the point in putting your players into holes is to emphasize the direness of their choices to them, and of the consequences of their actions, and so the best thing a GM can do at any time of their day when they aren't consumed with work or sleep or loved ones is to imagine how they can create situations that will make their game groups lives both terrible and exciting.

I should probably figure out a blog post to do on that one.


IKRPG Session 2: The Red Scare

Friday, January 30, 2015

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Episode 1

Well, finally catching up here. Last night (a Thursday), I once again brought my good friends and players into the Iron Kingdoms, this time to play a full-party game in the city of Merin, in Ord.

Scott returned as Gork, newly modified as an Intellectual Gobber Investigator/Pistoleer, but still retaining his penchant for stealing other people's drinks from their tables in crowded taverns.

Aidan returned, but due to events from her prelude Stershan was forced to change his name to Belisar . He remains Trollkin Gunmage/Soldier, and still manages to kick all kinds of ass. Good times.

Returning his appearance in the Fools Rush In system test is Russell, playing Rhulio the Dwarf Warcaster/Field Mechanic from...Rhul. He's as good at naming characters as Abed, apparently. Thus far, Rhulio is an abrasive tee-totaler.

Lastly, new to the IKRPG table is Joseph, playing Tiberio Antelero, Ordic Arcanist/Explorer, a respected author of exotic travelogues, penny dreadfuls, and bodice rippers.

They meet with Tiberio's patron, Padri Duranti, in the Broken Drum for a job offer, but soon are embroiled in a confounding series of violent eruptions by Merin's Khadoran population. Soon the party discovers that they are in a race against time to resolve a plot for bloody vengeance, pitted against an elderly and disfigured one-armed man whose deadly grudge against the Northern Empire may be all-too justified.

IKRPG Session 1: The Evils of Drink

Actual Play: IKRPG Campaign Prelude (Stershan and Gork)

Well, a few weeks late with this one, the Actual Play was recorded two Thursdays ago, but I suppose I need to post this one before I post the second one.

Ever since my good friend and GM Susan over at EpicMiniPainting ran a nice, lengthy IKRPG campaign, I've wanted to run my own, bringing more and more people into the world of Caen and, specifically, into the region of Western Immoren.

This session I had some players cancel, but two were able to make it in, and so I had the distinct pleasure of running a prelude for my buddies Scott and Aidan, who were more than thrilled to come back after I'd previously run Fools Rush In, which also featured them in the pre-gen party.

All the action in this session takes place in the 'officially' Cygnaran city of Fellig that has been long-since cut off from the Cygnar mainland by Khador's southward expansion.

Scott is playing Gork, a Gobber black marketeer and drink-stealer from Merin, while Aidan is playing Stershan, a Trollkin gunmage deserter from the Cygnaran Army who is also the only survivor of his platoon of Arcane Tempest Gunmages.

They become involved with an Ordic military officer who is troubled by his mistress' seeming recent coolness, and hires the gobber and trollkin to follow her and see if she has been 'stepping out' with any other men.

Is everything as it seems? Find out in today's episode of Crit This! Presents...

IKRPG Session 0: For the Love of a Good Woman

Mechanical Errors:

2:18:00ish Gunmages do indeed cast their Rune Shot spells immediately before firing their weapons: they do not need to keep a list of imbued Rune Shots. They do, however, still need to make their bullets beforehand.

2:28:00ish Combat actions in IKRPG are Move, Attack, Quick action. There is no specific order in which you can take them; this is in contrast to the wargame, where one moves then attacks.

2:48:20ish Stat rolls cannot be boosted, only trained skills can be boosted with Feat Points.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Itemized Expenses in RPGs

We've all suffered from under the thumb of GMs who have made us account for every copper spent, every arrow shot, every ration consumed (every half-elf prostitute back-alley murdered, GTA-style), and I'm sure a lot of people are exhausted of the concept of all-consuming accounting when what players most want to do at the table is have their characters shoot arrows into shady fantasy hookers while making it rain and eating the D&D equivalent of filet mignon and then seamlessly move on to ever more glorious acts of simulated sociopathy.

As a player, I tend to agree with the above. As much as I treasure Chargen, I feel that when I sit at a table in front of a GM, the only time I should have to break out the calculator app on my phone is during new character generation or, very occasionally, after a milestone level up is achieved. Having to deal with the minutiae of everyday expenses is tedious enough in the real world, and on those few occasions I actually have the bravery to look at an itemized credit card account statement I feel like the child that is eternally decomposing inside my now-adult psyche just sloughed off another layer of ability to feel pure, unadulterated joy.

That said- and it may come as a surprise to people- but there are players out there that might seek to take advantage of the fact that very few tables tend to enforce even the barest sense of bookkeeping at the table. They purchase expensive weapons in low-money campaigns and fire hails of bullets cast from silvered plutonium. Their materiel expenses per-round can rival a city's yearly operating costs, and they get away with it, too, either in the name of narrative or because we, as GMs, just don't really care to call them on it.

Whether or not this constitutes a problem to you depends on the type of GM you are, and there are all types out there.

Lately, I've become more of a stickler GM. I've begun to sweat the small things, and I've started calling out situations in games where established rules would make some player actions impossible, according to the mechanics of the game.

I'm not saying this to start some kind of discussion over whether or not games are meant to be run RAW (rules as written) or RAI (rules as interpreted). I'm pretty sure those are the proper acronyms...

Actually, quite the opposite. I'm thinking of attempting to figure out a way to ease the burden of bookkeeping so that a middle-ground can be reached. I am reminded of the Pendragon system- possibly due to the fact that I am playing in a weekly Pendragon game- where every year, an accounting phase occurs, called the Winter Phase. It is organized, there are sheets, and charts, and everything else needed to accommodate this potentially-tedious game phase. I am thinking of pirating that line of thinking for my own purposes; definitely not to the extent of the manner that Pendragon does, though.

Rather, what comes to mind is the creation of a sort of itemized expense sheet. Form-fillable, consisting of the monthly cost of room and board, equipment upkeep (included ammunition expenses), and miscellaneous expenses (too many potential draws on income to list here, but also good ways for players to inform as to what they end up doing in their downtime).

This would also be an appropriate location to put in miscellaneous income, for those characters that might have professional skills, in order to offset the drain their expenses come from. This would create a final tally, whereby players know exactly how much surplus money they have each month for carousing, or splurging on equipment; it also means that if their expenses result in a deficit, it shows how much reward/loot money from in-game plot quests they actually accrue.

This would create a simple form that would only need to be updated in the event of a significant character upgrade (in either equipage or status), but would also give the player some sense of bargaining in systems where they were unfamiliar with the value of their currency.

For example, in the IKRPG, an average room in an inn costs 1gc for the night, and each meal at that inn costs 1gc. This may seem high or low or inconsequential (depending on how one is doling out monetary rewards in-game), but it informs that a player living at this level would expect to be paying 120gc for room and board each month in an average living situation. Now, imagine that player's GM were to offer them a job that would take them more than two weeks to conceivably accomplish, but only pay them, say 150gc for it. That might seem like a decent offer, until one realizes that 150gc is to be split between a party of four players.

Suddenly players actually know what their time is worth, GMs know what kind of rewards are actually appropriate towards their players' party, and as such they know what kind of jobs, and the danger associated with those jobs, is likely to be on offer to them.

Just some food for thought. Appropriately enough, I'll be broaching this topic to my IKRPG players hopefully this week, and perhaps we'll see how they take it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Actual Play: Scrolls and Swords

Scrolls and Swords RPG (larger)

Well, after getting linked by my good bro Larkins at the Esoteric Order of Roleplayers, how could I resist actually posting the thing that he, himself, posted?

Indeed, this game, called Scrolls and Swords, was the result of a last-minute decision to play a RPG the day after my birthday, when I had no prior campaign or core game, or one-shot scenario planned. Thus, I found Scrolls and Swords during a rousing game of Scrabble with the family (that I seriously underrepresented at, due to my serious reading of the above rulesheet, and trying to come up with interesting and hilarious takes on classic D&D monsters.)

I actually had a really great time prepping for this game, which involved ten minutes of learning the rules (so easy), and another hour and a half drawing up a hex map, of which the players experienced three locations, but I was happy to hear that Jade was particularly tickled by the concept of the Smorgasfjords, so we will likely be returning to my Scrolls and Swords world soon!

There is much more to fill in on the map, and I have some great character sheets to upload during later sessions, along with potentially more hexes filled in on the above map!

Players: Jade, Russell, Scott

GM: David Schimpff


You can download the episode here (right click, Save As).