Tag Archives: rpg

Dragoman

So after some unfortunate shuffling of the deck chairs in our 7th Sea game, we brought in two new players.  One of them, a very serious and historically minded type comes to me and says, “I want to play this?  I don’t see it as a background though.”  “No problem,” I say.  “Let’s see what we can do.”

The background in question was the Dragoman, an envoy and diplomat in the Ottoman Court.  With the preview of the Crescent Empire book beginning to circulate through the kickstarter channels, I figure this is a timely addition.  Especially since that background isn’t included.  Probably because of the focus on language, one of many things this edition of 7th Sea shuffles into the background.

Actually, creating a new background wasn’t difficult at all.  We took two comparable backgrounds, the Courtier and the Consigliere (Vodacce), and smashed them together.  Then there was some jockeying about what Advantages (besides Linguist) to include.  In the end, we settled on 6 points of Advantages as there is precedence for this.  In the end, the hardest part was coming up with a Quirk!  So I turned to the Facebook fan group for that.  In the end, I think it turned out pretty well, and makes a great background for a Crescent agent adventuring in Théah.

Dragonman

Crescent Empire Background

You are a bridge between cultures; an interpreter, mediator, diplomat, and guide in foreign matters in the court of the Empress.

Quirk: Earn a Hero Point when you solve a problem using knowledge from a culture other than your own.

Advantages: Linguist, Friend at Court, Honest Misunderstanding

Skills: Convince, Empathy, Notice, Scholarship, Tempt

The End of an Era

First, a little musical accompaniment.

On Monday, May 15th, I ran my last game for the Lewisville Public Library.  It’s been a place I’ve visited almost every 1st and 3rd Monday for around 10 years.  I started out with a group of 4 running 50 Fathoms with Savage Worlds once a month.  At its height, probably about 5 years ago, we were averaging 12 players each session and running a game every Monday night.

 

Over the course of the last decade, scores of players have come and gone.  I’ve seen some kids start out in middle school, only to leave for college.  It’s been amazing.

During my tenure, those players have explored the worlds of 50 Fathoms, Castle Ravenloft, Athas (Dark Sun), 17th Century France (twice!), the Weird West of Deadlands, the Sword and Sandals world of Aros, the pirate-infested seas of Théah, a mysterious monster-filled island, an abandoned carnival haunted by evil clowns, Pinebox, Texas and East Texas University, the world of Warhammer 40k, the dungeons beneath Hogwarts, and the forelorn peaks of Moldavia and the Palace of the Vampire Queen.  I may be forgetting a few.  Most of these were played under Savage Worlds, but we also explored Ubiquity, Rogue Trader, Cthulhu Dark,  7th Sea, 4th edition and B/X Dungeons and Dragons for a time.

Since we are right on their doorstep, Reaper Miniatures came out three years in a row to run miniature painting workshops.  Each one was well attended by an enthusiastic bunch of teens who got a look into a different side of the hobby.

It’s not something I’ve done alone.  All along I’ve had the assistance of my close friend and co-GM, Joe, who was given the terrible task of being the unbiased, heartless tactical brains of many of the monstrosities the kids faced.  I’ve also had other GMs take part in the program, running games on my off nights.  Despite what you might think, none of those other GMs ever stuck around.  I don’t know if it was the stress of having to run a large group of relatively green (and sometimes rules-adverse) players or just the drudgery of having to show up.  For whatever reason, they didn’t get it.  If they understood the mission of the program, they never fell in love with it the way Joe and I did.

We outlasted THREE youth librarians who were wonderful ambassadors and understood what we were doing and gave us all the space we needed to do it.  They were always eager to print something up at the last minute, provide some prize support for some crazy contest, or invest in materials for the program.  See, we had a policy: come as you are; no materials or experience necessary.  You could play our games from the time you turned 11 til you graduated high school and never buy your own dice or rulebook.  We had everything covered.  And chances are, after the second year of the program, the Lewisville Public Library was footing the bill.

And they weren’t the only ones!  During our decade-long run, we’ve enjoyed support in the form of encouragement and materials from Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Triple Ace Games, Reaper Miniatures, and 12 to Midnight!  Even when I thought they’d be too busy, these people gave up their time and efforts to help us pull off some big project or contest.  These guys and gals are fantastic folks – if you aren’t supporting these companies, you should be!

Another highlight was presenting with Youth Librarian Elizabeth Hanisian at the 2011 Texas Library Association meeting in San Antonio as part of a panel on gaming in the library, then running a Savage Worlds demo for those who attended.  While the attendees were supposed to sample a little bit of everything being demoed, we became a lot of people’s last stop as their valiant musketeers carefully made their way through an old tenement crawling with monstrosities.

But things began to wind down in 2010 with the birth of my daughter.  Then, in 2012, just days before the birth of my son, we moved from Lewisville to Dallas proper, turning my 5 minute commute to a 40+ minute grind through rush out traffic.  In 2014, my co-GM was married and moved west of Fort Worth, making his commute (already an hour and change) all but impossible.  Then my parents’ health took a turn that required more attention.  So when the previous Youth Librarian Liaison told me she was leaving to pursue a teaching career, I knew it was time to call it a night.   After all, if you couldn’t tell from the activity around here, the kindergarten school schedule is brutal!

So Monday was our last game session.  We had a full group: 10 kids and 1 adult (a dad who used to game), and of those we had two whole families playing.  They put an end to an Unseelie unicorn, captured the head of an anarchist cell in Paris, and learned the identity of perhaps the most dangerous sorcerer in France!  And thanks to a convenient Christmas Sale at Triple Ace Games, I was able to put a hardcover copy of All For One: Regime Diabolique into the hands of a very excited 12 year old girl (she won 1st place in our adventure writing contest – and no, I wasn’t one of the judges) and told her the rest of the adventure was in her hands.

I’m not sure how many of these kids will still be rolling dice at the table in six years, but that really isn’t the point.  The point has always been to give a group of teens the kind of gaming experience I wish I had been able to have at their age.  Back when I was futzing around with world building for D&D but had no real idea how to run a game or manage a campaign.  Joe felt the same way, and we led by example.  We always encouraged, always looked for ways for the kids to contribute, and always tried to introduce them to different aspects of the hobby.  We showed them miniature painting, skirmish level wargaming, adventure design and world building.  We rewarded ever step.

Do I think some of these kids will become life long gamers?  I know at least one will.  That at least one person will fall in love with the hobby and build on it because of something we built.  And that makes all the hard work, all the late Monday commutes, all the collaborative sessions, all the investment worth it.

To all of you who helped, contributed, or managed a game for our program, THANK YOU!  To those of you who sat at the table, rolled dice and helped us tell some amazing stories, BRAVO! We hope you enjoyed every minute as much as we did.  To all of you who I’ve spoken with on this subject over the past decade, who was inspired to take a turn at running games for kids at the public library, ROCK ON!  To anyone who is reading this and thinking, damn that sounds like something I should do, DO IT!  It’s a labor of love that pays off if you have patience and drive to nurture it and grow it.

It has been a fantastic and fun 10 years.  But that era must now give way to something new.

riding_off_into_the_sunset

New Year’s (Gaming) Resolutions, 2017 edition

Looking back at my 2016 Resolutions, I don’t feel very accomplished.  In fact, I’m not sure I managed any of these well or consistently enough to check them off the list.  So this year, I’m attempting a much more modest list of resolutions.

Less tactics, more theater of the mind

I can trace a definite change in my style of play before and after working for the RPGA on the Living Greyhawk campaign and Dungeons and Dragons 3e.  The two games I ran prior to 3e were 7th Sea and Dragonlance 5th Age (SAGA).  Neither of these are heavy on tactics or power-creep.  After a few years of D&D 3/3.5 and nearly a decade of Savage Worlds, I feel like I’ve gotten as far away from that as possible.  Witch Hunter reeled me back in a bit, but playing B/X D&D with the kids at the library really revealed how cumbersome these games really are!  I’d really like to get back to focusing on cool stories at the tabletop instead of worrying about creating adequate challenges for the heroes.  It’s one of the many reasons I’m excited to try out the new edition of 7th Sea for more than just a one-shot.  Will it bring me back to pre-3e fighting form?  I’ll let you know in 6 months.

Prep less, improvise more

I’m not sure I was ever really a “prep-lite” GM, but looking at my session and development notes for Witch Hunter, I can see where things got a bit out of hand here and there.  Last year I would tell you that prepping a historical game can be a lot more work than your typical fantasy RPG, but I’m not entirely sure that isn’t a load of crap.  So this year I am purposefully going to experiment with some “prep-lite” GMing techniques and see what happens.  I’m really hoping I learn a few new tricks that I can take back to my Witch Hunter game so I spend more time being a cool dad and less chasing details online and frantically scribbling away in the notebook.

Villains that do things, not skulk in the shadows

Prepping for 7th Sea, I’ve come to the horrible realization that sooooo many of my villains have been Orcus on his Throne.  That is, they hide in the shadows as the heroes dance around them like tops bobbing about the ripples they create.  There have been one or two instances where a villain was front and center.  These ALWAYS resulted in memorable game sessions.  My Witch Hunter game is no exception, with a dozen minor villains circling a shadowy uber-villain who is never seen and seldom heard from.  No surprise that when the players are planning their next step, the big bad isn’t remotely included in their plans.  So this year, I resolve to put my villains front and center.  Let them act with abandon.  Let the heroes cut them down…if they can.  But let’s give them some screen time, too.

Try new things as a GM

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m planning on trying out new techniques for both our 7th Sea and my Regime Diabolique games, including using Index Cards, the 3x3x3 method, and a handful of other tricks I’ve read about but never employed.

Go to a con…and PLAY

I haven’t actually been a PLAYER in an RPG for a few years, and DFW and Austin has no shortage of good cons.   I’ve been meaning to go to NTRPGCon for years now.  All part of the process of becoming a better GM this year.

Kult: Divinity Lost Quick Start

kult DL

It’s been awhile since we talked about the new edition of Kult.  Well the developers threw us a curve ball over the holidays and released a Quick Start game for everyone, not just the Kickstarter backers.  It’s our first real look at the new engine that will power this brilliant, dark setting.

Not all responses have been positive.  Most of the negative comes from folks who already reviled the move to a Powered by the Apocalypse engine, so keep that in perspective.  Personally, I have my own hangups about that system, but I’ll keep an open mind until I’ve had a chance to look over what they’ve done.  And as a first look, I think its safe to assume the full body of rules are still under development/translation.  The final version will not satisfy everyone, but for anyone who has enjoyed the setting since its release in the 1990’s, it’s enough to have Kult taking up oxygen again.  It’s easy enough to adapt to any of dozens of RPG flavors, and the presentation of the new edition looks top notch.

I didn’t back the kickstarter, mostly because it launched around the same time as 7th Sea and I just don’t see my group signing up to play Kult on a regular basis.  But I’m still looking forward to the final product and it’s high on my 2017 list.  And I’m eager to look over the QSR once the madness of the holidays settles down.

One more thing, over on RPG.net, Adramelech has posted a form fillable character sheet based on the one in the QSR.  I’ve reposted the link here for convenience.

 

High Seas Holidays

The votes are in, and my group of players have almost unanimously elected to go with a high seas adventure game with strong involvement of secret societies.  And with that, prep for our 7th Sea game can really begin in earnest.  Not that I haven’t been brainstorming and scribbling down ideas for awhile now, but this gives me a definite direction with which to steer the ship, so to speak.

With the holidays upon us, I am sneaking in whatever time I can manage to do a bit of prep for the forthcoming 7th Sea campaign.  It’s coming along nicely.  I feel I have quite a few resources collected that will make my work easier when we dive in around mid-January.  And since it’s the holidays, I want to share some of the fruits of my labor with you.

So first up, a 7th Sea Ship Name resource.  Along with a reformatted version of Finn’s Companion #3 (any of you old hands remember that one?), I’ve included a list of authentic ship names from the 17th Century British and Dutch navies, along with pirate vessels of ill repute.  So you can either grab a name from antiquity or mix and match something new for your players to grapple with.  This should be of help to anyone running a historical (or semi-historical) nautical game.  I’m going to add this resource on the Downloads page as well.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

“So we wake up in a barn…with Isaac Newton.”
— Heather

That’s the quote that wrapped up last Friday’s Witch Hunter game.  It marked the end of a pretty tense adventure that found our heroes on the losing side of a blossoming Hell Point in northern France and the forces of a Duke Unchained who had been summoned there.  Things probably would have been more tense had we not played in nearly two months, what with conflicting schedules.  Still, in the end, it felt like a satisfactory “season finale.”

And that’s what its going to be.  The last Witch Hunter game until at least July.

Maybe it’s the two month hiatus, the kids’ schedules, or the fact that we’ve been at this campaign for three years.  But my Witch Hunter take is feeling a bit dried up.  It’s been coming.  I felt it back in the early part of the year.  There are still plenty of stories to tell, and I really want to see how they shake out.  But I feel like, as a GM, I’m at the line between phoning it in and running an inspired game.  And my players deserve the latter.

So a month ago I proposed a finite break from Witch Hunter to try out one of a couple of new games sitting on the shelf.  By a very thin margin, we settled on the new 7th Sea.

I’m excited about the change for a whole host of reasons.  For one, as I’ve stated here and elsewhere, I really feel parts of the new 7th Sea are outside of my comfort zone as a GM: the way the core mechanic is structured, the removal of roadblocks, and just the sheer level of improvisation the game really steers towards.  And while I’m very familiar with the world of Théah, I feel like the game is going to be a real challenge to run.

It also makes a great opportunity to shake some old habits.  After all, what’s the point of taking a break from an old game if you are going to do everything the same way you did before?  I’m looking to push myself in new directions and new challenges as much as recharge my creative batteries.

The biggest change I’m making is with prep!  Since my D&D 3e days, my prep has become steadily more heavy.  If you look at my adventure notes, they can get quite elaborate sometimes.  I look back at my games pre-3e and see that most of my session plans took maybe a page or two.  Post-3e, I average about 4-5 pages of prep for 2 sessions worth of play (mostly due to over prepping).

Because of the game’s emphasis on improvisation, I’m going to try something new: the Index Card method.  I’ve shied away from this method in the past because putting 5 pages of historical detail on index cards just doesn’t seem very practical.  In fact, the Index Card approach is almost the polar opposite of how I prep.  What fun!  Let’s give it a whirl!

Another technique I’m hoping to try out is Floyd Wesel’s 3x3x3 method.  In short, rather than request a detailed character background from the players, or have them fill out a questionnaire, I’m going to ask them to provide a number of contacts, allies, and rivals for their heroes.  Nothing too taxing: a name and a sentence or two should do.  Coupled with 7th Sea’s Story mechanic, these should provide plenty of grist for the mill.

So there you have it.  The next couple of months are going to be full of experimentation.  Hopefully, I can bring some of it back to our Witch Hunter game when we resume later in the year.  Hopefully I’ll learn some tricks to improve the game experience and make myself a better GM.  And you can bet I’ll be discussing all of it here.

In other news, for those of you who haven’t wandered through the downloads section lately, advanced prep work for 7th Sea is already well underway.  You’ll find an updated version of the Ship Manifest (with a corrected “death spiral”) and a Villain character sheet (both a simple and advanced version).  I’m working on a few more cheat sheets and references for the game which I hope to have in place before we launch in January.

So hey, that’s what I’ve got.  How about you?  Have you ever done a total audit of your GMing and prep style?  What did you learn about yourself?  What did you keep and what did you pitch?  Share your story in the comments section, please.

Villain Archetypes for 7th Sea

 

This is something I started working on as a shorthand method for creating interesting villains on the fly.  The idea was based somewhat on D&D 3/3.5’s monster templates.  Find the archetype that fits your concept of the villain, and you now have a handful of related Advantages you can apply as desired.  Not every villain who fits an archetype will have all the recommended Advantages, nor are they limited to just those Advantages.  But now the GM has a condensed list of “go-to” abilities for creating villains on the fly, or just as an idea generator.

These archetypes don’t address Arcana or Stats, as those will need to be personalized to the villain.

I hope you find them useful.

Villainous Archetypes

Villainous Archetypes are meant to be broad pictures of a villainous character. They are tools meant to speed up the design of a villain. Find the one that best fits your concept of the villain and then apply the recommended Advantages.

Archetype Recommended Advantages
The Betrayer Come Hither (2), Disarming Smile (2), Opportunist (3), We’re Not So Different (5)
The Bureaucrat Friend at Court (2), Indomitable Will (2), Lyceum (4), Opportunist (3), University
The Fallen Hero Connection (2), Fencer, Perfect Balance (2), Quick Reflexes (3), Reputation (2)
The Fanatic Fascinate (2), Indomitable Will (2), Leadership (2), Quick Reflexes (3), Together We Are Strong (5), Trusted Companion (4)
The Fop Connection (2), Friend at Court (2), Inspire Generosity (2), Leadership (2), Reputation (2), Specialist (4)
The Mad Scientist Specialist (4), Spark of Genius (5), Tenure (3), University (4)
The Mastermind Connection (2), Duelist Academy (5), Friend at Court (2), Hard to Kill (4), Indomitable Will (2), Leadership (2), Quick Reflexes (3), Staredown (2), The Devil’s Own Luck (5), Time Sense (1)
The Pirate Bar Fighter (3), Direction Sense (1), Fencer (3), I’m Taking You With Me (5), Perfect Balance (2), Sea Legs (1), Slip Free (2)
The Priest Fascinate (2), Indomitable Will (2), Leadership (2), Lyceum (4), Ordained (3), Tenure (3), University (4)
The Weakling Dead Eye (3), Disarming Smile (2), Psst! Over Here (2), Reputation (Contradictory) (2), Small (1), Sniper (3), We’re Not So Different (5)
The Zealot I’m Taking You With Me (5), Indomitable Will (2), Quick Reflexes (3), Reputation (2), Specialist (4), Staredown (2), Trusted Companion (4), We’re Not So Different (5)