Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who Is This Guy, Anyway?

Now that I have been writing here for a while, I have built up an audience of, what, 10 people?  Well, it is worth it so far.  But, it occurs to me that few if any of you have any idea what my "credentials" are.  I have a history in the hobby, that makes me thoroughly qualified to fake my way through these posts.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why LARP Is Not For Me

I have tried LARP.  It is not for me.  It is a great medium for other people, and I have several dear friends who love it.  But, I just cannot get into it.

There is a trend among tabletop gamers to really look down on LARPers as "weird" and "socially deviant."  I find this baffling, given that we are all gamers.  Not only do we pretty much look the same to outsiders, most LARPers are also tabletop players.  So, this post is not one of those.  Instead, it is a look at some of the things that make LARP different from tabletop, and how those things are a turn-off for me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Genre Mashup - War of the Worlds + War of the Ring

I have gotten very tired in recent years of typical fantasy, most especially epic fantasy.  (That is the main reason I avoided Game of Thrones.)  And, yet, I cannot shake the awesome appeal of so many fantasy elements.  I've been scratching the itch by mashing up fantasy with other genres.  Seven Kingdoms is a mashup of fantasy and supers.

Today, I'll talk about mashing up fantasy with an alien invasion.  Yes, this was in part inspired by going to see Cowboys vs. Aliens this weekend.  But, it also was a setting concept I toyed with many years ago.

Friday, August 26, 2011

7K - Setting Primer for the Seven Kingdoms

I noticed that I do not actually have a good overview of the Seven Kingdoms setting. The one that does exist at the beginning of the blog is outdated and incorrect. I do think that I need a single post that I can point people to for a quick introductory lesson. Here it is:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Problem with Elves

(Which is not the same as The Problem with Elvis, just so you know.)

Most fantasy settings have elves.  Or, if they don't, they have some other race that is very long-lived and intellectual.  For me, such beings have always been a real stumbling block when developing a setting.  How can the fallen Empire be a time of misty legends when you have people walking around who were there?  Also, how weird is it when you meet up with your new companions at the tavern at first level, only to realize that the elf in the party knew your grandfather when he was a boy?  And why is it that someone who spent five times as long on their apprenticeship as you knows pretty much exactly the same things?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

7K - Wealth of Nations

Character gear has been something of a bug for me lately.  Back when pretty much every system just gave your character a load of cash and a big price list, I was okay with that being the way things were done.  But I have seen some systems lately that approach it very differently.  For my Seven Kingdoms game, I want to try something fairly radical.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

7K - Another reboot?

Yeah, I've walked down this road before.  I'm becoming less and less happy with sticking to d20 as a system for this campaign.  I'm just feeling like the real strengths of the system aren't things I'm looking to leverage, and the drawbacks of the system are definitely cropping up as stumbling blocks.

So, the question of the moment is, should I scrap what I've done and start over with a new system?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Feedback requested

Well, it seems that I need to learn to read the instructions on this thing better.  I screwed up the scheduling on a couple posts last week.  So, they may or may not be coming later.

I say may not, because I need some feedback here from you loyal readers.  I've noticed that I've gotten pretty much zero feedback on my Seven Kingdoms stuff.  More importantly, I noticed while trying to get caught up on the RPGBA feed that I tend to skip everyone else's posts regarding "here's my new system/setting!"

I'm thinking that live-blogging the development of an RPG is a lot like Greg Stolze's patron model.  If you already have people who are interested in what you have to say, it can really work.  If you're still making your bones, people aren't likely to be interested in watching you flail about.  That's especially true when, like me, you can't drop a new post on the subject every day.  People just aren't likely to remember what else you're doing to see how all the pieces fit together.

So, the feedback I'm looking for is whether or not I should even continue posting Seven Kingdoms stuff.  Please don't worry about hurting my feelings.  I recognize there's a difference between "I'm not interested in reading about you trying to pull this game together" and "Your game sucks."

I'm still planning on working out the game.  When I get it all together, I may be releasing it as a PDF.  Of course, part of this is also spawned from the fact that one of the missing posts from last week is that I'm no longer convinced that d20 is the right system, even with the tweaks I'm making.  I'm actually considering creating a franken-system out of all the bits I highlight in my "System Wank" series.  If I'm going to re-boot the whole system (again), I don't want to drag it out on the blog.  Unless you guys want to see me drag it out.

I'll just wrap this up with a blatant begging for comments.  Even if you're just saying, "meh, whatever," I'd still like to hear it.  Given the number of readers I have, trust me, every vote counts.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Murder by Numbers

Poison is an ancient tool of the subtler forms of warfare.  It is also a key device in literature, from Romeo and Juliet to the Count of Monte Cristo.  And yet, it is rarely handled well in RPGs.  I talked about it a bit on RPG Circus last night week, and just wanted to expand on it a bit here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

System Wank - Ads and Disads

Lots of systems out there feature various ways to make your character better, along with various ways to represent flaws.  Most of them function essentially the same way.  I want to call out the system that completely changed the way I thought about them, and in some ways how I thought about RPGs in general.

FATE, first seen by most of us in Spirit of the Century, approaches the whole issue from a decidedly different angle.  Advantages and disadvantages both serve one single purpose: grabbing the spotlight.  One way lets you shine by winning, the other by failing.  Unifying the mechanics as Aspects is undeniably brilliant.

About that time again

Regular readers may have noticed that I've missed posting the last couple of days.  A combination of busy days at work and a series of posts that are stuck in fragment form right now have created a bit of a logjam.  Mea culpa, mea culpa.  Consider this the obligatory "I swear I'll get back on track and have fewer excuses" post.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

7K - Heraldry of the Seven Kingdoms

Most home brew settings ignore the element of heraldry.  The reason for this is simple: Most of us don't have the artistic chops to draw it out.  However, the symbology of a nation can be very important, and allow for rapid identification.  Having the players suddenly surrounded by "a sea of blue tabards" can let them know that they are either safe, or in very deep trouble, depending on their relationship with the King's Men.

Here are the colors and a few important symbols of the Seven Kingdoms.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fluff vs Crunch

It is very common these days to divide RPG material into fluff, text that focuses on the description and story, and crunch, text that focuses on the mechanics and action. When developing the game, it is important to separate the two as cleanly as possible. When actually playing the game, though, the two need to be brought together.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ennies Awards

So, on the last episode of RPG Circus, we made a slate of Ennies predictions.  Given the results this weekend, I thought I'd do a wrap-up and see how accurate I was.  Also, sincere congratulations to all the winners.  It was definitely a tough field out there this year.

Out of the 42 awards given, I called 24 correctly.  Though, as a note, I gave myself half credit if I picked the right product, but the wrong medal (e.g., I picked it for Gold, but it took Silver).  I did not totally wash out of any category, and was perfect on 5 of the 21 categories.  All in all, not too shabby.

Friday, August 5, 2011

System Wank - Initiative

Last week, Rob Donoghue posted a summary of a few different types of initiative systems as part of his musings on his new system.  Which reminded me of the next mechanic for my System Wank series: the best initiative system I ever used.

(In retrospect, I totally should have ripped off that Best Thing I Ever Ate show from Food Network.)

The 7th Sea game introduced me to a number of really interesting mechanics.  An argument can certainly be made that Wick, Wilson, et al., did more to bring indie ideas into a mainstream game than actually creating novel mechanics.  (Of course, the same can be said about Da Vinci's exhaustive encyclopedia of inventions, and look where that got him.)  But, so far as I know, their initiative system is unique.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

You say you want a resolution.... part 5

When taking an action in an RPG, there are five stages: intent, declaration, resolution, effect, and description.  We've already covered intent, declaration, resolution, and effect.  The action ends when someone, most often the GM, describes what just happened.

Harkening back to the discussion on declaration (and foreshadowing the discussion on fluff vs. crunch), there is a difference between the effect and the description of that effect.  Boiling it down, the effect works on the mechanical level, and the description works on the character level.  The description is also important to tie the whole action together, much like the summary section at the end of a paper.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New and Improved Goblins

I was listening to a podcast last week (I can't recall which one) and the subject of flying mounts for small creatures came up.  I had a sudden flash of inspiration, that I want to capture here.  Conveniently enough, it ties in with this month's RPG Blog Carnival topic, which is animals in RPGs.

As a result of Tolkien's influence, we often see goblins riding worgs, or some other kind of large wolf.  What if we extended that connection to other types of animals?  Goblins riding giant bats or even wyverns?  Goblins using trained rats or spiders?  There is a lot of potential here, I think.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

You say you want a resolution.... part 4

When taking an action in an RPG, there are five stages: intent, declaration, resolution, effect, and description.  We've already covered intent, declaration, and resolution.  Now we get to the effect.

The effect is usually pretty simple, and predetermined by the system.  If you hit with an attack, you deal damage.  If you succeed with a perception check, you find something.  However, there are some nuances here that both separate one style of gaming from another, and are areas where a good GM can introduce extra layers of awesome.

Monday, August 1, 2011

System Wank - Attributes

The next in my "System Wank" series, in which I highlight mechanics in various games that I've really liked.  Today, I want to point out one of the better collections of character attributes I've played with.  I point you to: The New World of Darkness!