Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not a 5e playtest post (yet)

Both Vornheim and Risk Legacy are on the Diana Jones Award shortlist. The secret committee behind the best award in game-stuff are doing a good job this year.

Friday, May 25, 2012

How to tell the difference between me and Monte Cook

Monte Cook has 'fessed up to not liking character creation. I love it. And, as a true apostle of my own preferences, I can explain where Mr. Cook is looking at the matter all wrong.

His very first point is a mistake, one that's pretty common: What if I make a character who can't work in the adventure and/or the campaign?

Then you and/or your GM are dumb.

Look, if there's a concept you really really really want to play, you need to tell your GM about it. Talk about what you want to do and how it fits within the GM's plans. And if there's an adventure and/or campaign that your GM really really really wants to run, they need to make that clear from the very beginning.


The GM's job is to help the players have fun. So if you want to play a diplomat, the GM's job is to let you be diplomatic -- or to warn you off before that diplomat gets made. And the former is better than the latter. A PC is somebody's way of saying "I want to play this kind of game." The GM needs to listen to that statement and adjust their game appropriately.

Yes, yes, sometimes you just want to run Call Of Cthulhu and have horrible blasphemous whatnots all wrapped up in investigation-heavy mysteries. That's fine. Make it clear to your players, and if they really really really want to play characters that don't fit your plans, run something else instead. When your ideas are so very precious that they outweigh everyone else's fun, it's time to write up your RPG scenario and self-publish it, rather than inflict it on people who didn't ask for it.

So that's step one to help Monte have fun. The other crucial thing is contained his very last point: What if I make a character and then get locked into a bunch of mechanics that don't do what I want to do?

Then you and/or your GM are dumb again.

Mechanics are just words and numbers on a piece of paper. If some of those words and numbers aren't providing you with the play experience you want, change them. This is not a difficult concept. When I'm running a new campaign or new system, I let players change their character mechanics through at least the first 3 sessions. They gotta do it with me and they don't get to ignore the rulebook, but if you made a character that doesn't work the way you wanted, it's easy to fix.

Honestly, I let players tinker with their mechanics pretty much whenever. As long as what they gain is balanced by what they lose, why should I mind? Look at the Champions mechanic/tradition of the "radiation accident." Apply this wisdom to your own games.

There's step two for Monte. And some of his other points are excellent. More games should include pregens, both for the convenience of lazy/inexperienced players and to give you some idea as to the designers' assumptions. And all games should include fast character generation options -- I like spending 2 hours refining every last iota of my PC, but not many other people do. I cheerfully admit that I'm insane.

Insane, but right.

C'mon, kids. You should be able to play Character X if that's what you really want. Maybe the GM needs to loosen up about their campaign idea, and maybe the rules need to be bent. Don't be a jerk, don't be selfish, remember that other people need to have fun -- otherwise, play what you damn well please.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Still Life: An Opera

And now for something completely different -- an entry for the English National Opera's mini-opera contest. They want the scripts posted to blogs, and this is the blog I've got handy, so here you go. One thing I've learned about writing a libretto is that singers don't do well with contractions, so this reads a little more stiffly than a play script would.


The Conductor (soprano)
Hillary, our protagonist (alto)
Benjamin (baritone)
The Minister, a part of the Chorus (tenor)

Hillary stands Down Center and the conductor is somewhat to her right. They remain stationary until the end. The rest of the cast will be in constant smooth motion crossing from Stage Left to Stage Right, returning to Stage Left backstage -- the metaphor here is train travel. Benjamin will drop out of this motion with his first line; the Minister will pause briefly to perform his lines.

As this is a compressed journey through a person's entire life, costuming and props can be minimal. As Hillary and Benjamin "age," members of the Chorus can give them appropriate new accessories. Such changes should be evenly paced, like one year flowing into the next. The Conductor does not change.

CONDUCTOR: All aboard!

HILLARY: So bright! Too fast! He hit me!

C: Tickets please.

H: I'm already bored. Are we there yet?

C: Do not disturb the other passengers.

BENJAMIN: (to Hillary) You are bossy.

H: You have cooties.

B: You are so weird!

H: And you are mean!

CHORUS: You two are driving us crazy!!!

CONDUCTOR: Next stop.

H: The journey scares me. I don't know where I'm bound. Everything I had is lost just as it is found.

B: Very deep.

H: What a creep.

B: And you are a clever one. What is a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?

H: Waiting for a man with a better opening line.

C: Kindly secure your baggage.

H: I look and I look and I think it will be you.

B: Me?

H: Could be.


H and B together: We do! (to each other) I will never leave you...

C: Make room! Make room!

CHORUS: Juice! Sweets! Tell me a story! Toys! Games! Tell me you love me! (continues in background until the Conductor's next line, becoming quieter but more cacaphonous as H and B sing)

H: What were we thinking?

B: As I recall, it was not "thinking" at all.

H: At least we will never be lonely.

B: Or bored.

H: Or have any money.

B: I will always have you.

H: This is true.

CONDUCTOR: We will now be accelerating.

H: So strange to just be us. We have done so much.

B: We have many things yet to do.

H: True.

B: Work.

H: Travel.

B: The grandchildren. (B leaves stage, not to return)

H: And plenty of time with you...

C: Be prepared for sudden stops.

H: No. No! Nooooo...

MINISTER: Ashes to ashes.

CHORUS: Dust to dust. (Minister and chorus leave stage, not to return)

H: We only just met. You called me bossy, I called you mean. And then it was wonderful. Now I am lost. Alone. Cold.

C: Prepare for your final stop.

H: The trip just started. I am not ready. My bones ache, my mind fills with fog -- but I cannot believe the ride will end.

C: You have reached the end of the line.

H: Is this a one-way ticket?

C: One-way is the only kind. No refunds. (Both exit Stage Left. Curtain.)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Calling All Anklebiters

According to the irrepressible Zak Smith, we're coming up on International Anklebiter Illustration Day. You should go read the original post, of course, but here's a quick summary:

1) Find a young person.
2) Offer them $2 to draw two RPG-related pictures.
2a) The first one can be whatever you want.
2b) The second MUST be a displacer beast.
3) Put the results online on May 29.

Seems like a great idea. Make it happen.

Friday, May 4, 2012



The joy of recapping was leeched (leached?) away by the mundanities of life.

My latest foray into the old DMG underwhelmed me, plus the excellent Hill Cantons blog has been covering the exact same territory with a great deal of verve.

I'd rather read Glen Cook's Garrett novels that think about RPGs right now.

...I work at a college. I'm a grad student. My wife's in college. My older kid's in college. My younger kid's in high school. Things are always pretty meh around here at the end of the semester.

Maybe we'll go see The Avengers and cheer up.