Google+ Followers

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Books I find inspirational for RPGs

Here's my list of non-RPG books that have influence how I play RPGs. I tried to mention the authors whenever they're known and whenever I can remember them.

Bulgarian folk tales, as well as Persian tales, Japanese, Hindu, Turkish, Russian and assorted other Fairy Tales. Tales of 1001 nights and Brother Grimm's stories deserve special mention, but I've also got the (translated) German tales they based their work on. They immediately reminded me of the Sea Tales book I had read earlier (most of them seemed to originate from the Northern countries).
"The little Mermaid" and everything else by Hans Anderson
Greek legends and myths, The Illiad and Odissey aren't all there is!
The Last Battle of Sandokan, The Last Flibustier, by Emilio Salgari. Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
Les Trois Musquetaires by Alexandre Dumas (and petty much anything swashbuckling I was able to get my hands on, if it's well-written)
Lord of Light, Amber and pretty much everything by Roger Zelazny. If I don't own it, I've probably at least read it. Same applies for the original REH stories.
Most stories of Jin Yong, if you can find a translation.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong
Many other mythological stories, including some currently designated as "religious". Mahabharata and Ramayana are among my favourites. I actually didn't know they're religious stories for some people when I found them on my mother's shelves.
The Hobbit, and the Silmarilion by JRRT. I like Lord of the Rings much less.
Pretty much anything by H.L.Oldie, but I'm especially fond of their (this is the pen name of two Ukrainian guys) Greek cycle, the Hindu cycle, and the space stories of Luciano Borgotta. If you're seeing a patter, it's because it's there!
Wiedzmin/The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski (and his next book, which is historical fantasy).
It's hard being a god by the Strugatsky brothers, if I have to single out any of their books. Because it shows how outside help might not be the best for you.
The Grey Mouser and Fafhrd's stories by Leiber, Fritz.
The magic of Volkhavar by Tanith Lee.
The Long War series by Christian Cameron.
The Fencing Teacher and the Captain Alatriste series by Arturo-Perez Reverte.
The Waylender and White Wolf seried by Davidn Gemmell are totally worth reading, too.
"The erotic side of folklore", can't remember the authors (and it's in Bulgarian anyway). But if you think nothing that has to do with sex has a place in a game, consider finding a book like this one and reading it!
Blood and Violence in Early Modern France, by Carroll, Stuart.
The Clash of Civilisations, but mostly by what I consider the author to be getting wrong.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
My manual of Roman law, but I'm sure you can use any manual of Roman Law.
The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker
The Art of Fighting Without Fighting by Geoff Thompson
Street E&E by Marc Macyoung
Balisong Iron Butterfly by Cacoy Boy Hernandez
Chinese boxing, masters and methods
Homo Ludens, by Johan Huizinga (1938)!
Paradoxes of the Defence and Brief Instructions Upon My Paradoxes of the Defence, by Silver, George.
The Flower of Battle, by Fiore dei Liberi
The Mabinogion and the sagas, if you find them. Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory. Beowulf.
For A Fistful Of Dollars, although it's a movie.

And then, there are gamebooks, which deserve special entry because they're stories with systems (at least, most of the good ones).
Fabled Lands, Bloodsword, Way of the Tiger, Talisman of Death, Virtual Reality are all series you might be familiar with.
"The Shadows of the Darkness" by Georgi Mindizov (pen name Bob Queen) is a title you're much less likely to know. However, it introduced a system of styles that "trumped" each other. "The Dragon Road", by the same author (different pen name), had sandbox elements like those I saw much later in Fabled Lands.
So, yeah, the gamebooks from back then introduced me to a lot of mechanical and setting concepts I saw in RPGs much later, up to and including stats as resource pools.

I might edit this post at some point, but fear not, I shall not remove anything!

So, here are my inspirations. What inspires you?
Let me offer you something, dear readers. If you ever write a post on this topic, post a link in the comments and I'd include it in the body of this post (along with your pen name for the blog). The only condition would be for you to post a link to this post as well. Although if I find your list interesting, I might add your link even if you don't post one.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

H+I: France 1625 Act 1 Session 2: Uneasy marriages (possibly NSFW this time!!!)

As expected, we did have a second session of H+I with our new GM. She’s still nervous, for no actual reason (I’ve seen worse GMing from people with years of experience).
So, back to the party where we left… Catherine was indeed trying to drug the guy. And she pulled it off on top of that, distracting him and getting him to drink.
Not long after, he was feeling out of focus, and she outright invited him on the top floor. For maximum fun, Jean-Pierre and Isabelle joined them.
Unlike him, however, we actually had fun… Catherine just tired him out until he went asleep, then pocketed some letters he had on himself. We failed epically to break the code ourselves, after we were over with our good times, but the Cardinal probably has better people for that.
If not, well, it’s not our fault.
Anyway… we left, then Catherine remained. When he was awaking, she started to dress, and left with a “You Spanish guys know how to turn make us feel like women!” He had probably assumed there was more he should be sorry for forgetting…
When we got down, we went to actually get some sleep. All was peaceful. Well, Catherine had some fun ruining the self-esteem of the court lady I've mentioned already in the previous page of this journal. I mean, most girls dislike NOT being the centre of attention, but this one has been snubbed recently by a prospective suitor. And then Catherine stole another one away.
And when she came down from upstairs, she stole the next one. She can be mean, as I'm sure to have mentioned before.
Seems like it was too much for her, so the court lady started drinking more than she could stand. Soon after, her prospective suitor – Catherine’s young noble “student” from the countryside – had had to carry her away. Or so I hear. He was back alarmingly soon. I hear he just covered her with a blanket, or something. The fool.
But anyway, all was quiet - until morning, that is. Then there was the hue and cry, for someone had also killed the second of my last night’s opponent. Too bad. The alchemist was much more fun than him.
Well, theoretically, he could have had a heart attack. It’s just the flaw in my character of not believing the best about whatever has happened. Said flaw even has a name. “Life experience”.
Being a man of the cloth, I immediately assumed my duties and started praying for him. Mme La Marquise called for one of her many acquaintances – I swear, she’s got a lot of those! – and he arrived in a hurry.
That’s how we got acquainted with some traveling Spanish-born doctor. While I was praying, he arrived and asked to kneel and look at the body. I bade him to say a prayer first, and keep his looking within the realms of the good mores, and he agreed.
Besides, he had that look of questionable morals, furiously defended honour and willingness to hurt people for it, which marked him as one of the ours, despite being from a foreign country. The Grey Cardinal might well hire him some day, I suspect. Gold, steel, and flesh speak all languages, I’ve found, and Richelieu’s got the gold.
Hopefully, or some day, I might be called to dispense the steel, ‘cause this guy doesn’t look like one that stays aside from politics. Ah well, we’re going to see. Plenty is to each day its own evil!
So, he busied himself with looking for clues. Curious idea, having a doctor to see a body – I hear the heretics over the Channel have been using it. But they’re, well, heretics. For a reason.
Either way, he announced it was a poison, with some kind of spike introducing it. Which lead to a young girl of good family fainting. The same flaw in my character says she just wanted attention. But either way, she got plenty of that.
Next thing I knew, Catherine was slapping her "student" in the face. He rose – not willing to discuss the matter, I guess – and left. I intercepted him, and took him back to her.
“How did you offend the lady, monsieur? I’d suggest an apology!”
“I have no idea what I’ve done to offend her!”
“If this wasn’t Catherine, I’d have some ideas. As it is, why don’t you go back to ask? I admit to being curious, and I'd rather not let a possible breech of etiquette just to pass.”
Obviously, he had expressed a desire to marry a certain court lady. And in the course of teaching him how to get close to her, Catherine had decided he’s too good for the gal.
An opinion, I should add, that Mme La Marquise obviously shared. Because she joined us at the table and upon hearing the story, slapped him as well. Poor boy.
I took him aside, saving him from their ministrations, and gave him a glass, and a man speech, explaining him why they had a point.
“I expected you’d be in favour of marriage, as a man of the cloth?”
“As a man of the cloth, I’d remind you you should marry an woman you can live with to the end of your days. Seems like they don’t think this to be the case. As a man of society: she’s below your station. And as a man to a man: you ain’t got one of those reasons compelling you to marry her in the next few months. Wait and see whether you’re not going to change your mind, because divorce is hard to obtain even for kings!”
Ah well. I’m kinda known for unorthodox sermons, but that one tops them all, I believe.
So I left him to drink and think, and went to find a teacher of fencing. Because I love fencing, and I could use some more practice. Due to the hue and cry, I had missed my appointment in the Cardinal’s Guards hopelessly.
In the meantime, the doctor – who asked me if I knew someone that knows more than him about different poisons – went to see a friend of his, an apothecary I believe. He had received tips to look for some foreign pets there, and went to track them, having ascertained that the poison was…some exotic seasnake. If talking to a Church superior, I'd say it's a creature of the Devil, and the fact that it's living in the seas of un-Christian countries wouldn't do much to prove me wrong. (If talking to anyone else, it's a rare poisonous snake  (Enhydrina schistosa). I'd have used a viper instead).

And then, I came back. The young noble was shooting at birds in the park, calming his nerves. Catherine mentioned he probably needed to blow off some steam, so I went to see him.
“Are you drunk enough to have fun, monsieur?”
I lead him to one of my parishioners – a widow that I knew didn’t mind some action – and let him to her ministrations. He was feeling reluctant – the stupid – claiming this might anger his “beloved”.
“Only if she ever learns, monsieur!” I didn’t add “and you’d better forget her”, but knowing Catherine and Mme La Marquise? It would have been good advice. Just not one I expected him to want hearing, at least at this point.
Then I went to receive some confessions, and to give spiritual advice to my flock.
Meanwhile, Catherine had grown bored with the gal that fainted basking in all the attention to her health. So just as we arrived, she mentioned fainting might be the result of mood swings. And mood swings could be the result of an woman being in a delicate situation…
I looked immediately at the court lady, and yes, she looked worried, too! Ah well, probably she had risked said condition recently. The guy deserved to know that little fact.
He did react well, meaning he stopped worrying about his own “transgression”. So I called this a good day’s work in enlightening the flock!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Are goodness and honour their own reward?

I just posted on the Big Purple, detailing how I see my honourable PCs. Because some people seem to think that being good should be just as optimal a choice. Obviously, the GM is looking to make a narrative point otherwise...
(For those that don't know me, I seldom if ever am trying to make a narrative point. Following the events as they develop is good enough in my book).
So, here goes the post.
"KK, this is possibly the greatest mismatch between our gaming styles, though far from the only one!
It seems you're expecting good choices to be an equally useful option, including tactically.
I'm wondering, if we assume this to be true, why all those people would say that the path to evil is easy, while the path to goodness is hard?

Hence, I'm expecting that the universe is being as uncaring as it actually is (as an aside, any GM I'd call "good" provides an uncaring universe, barring some narrative games that request otherwise). In this case, being good and/or honourable means taking the suboptimal option!
(I'm going to mostly use combat examples, because immediate consequences for failing to win are obvious).
What does being good and honourable entail?
It means you don't poison the wells of your enemies with slow poison, so they only find out after everybody has had some water. Although that would be solving the issue with an invasion with minimum expenditure of resources.
It means you don't just wait for your enemy to fall sick and then shoot him in his bed, because you're better than killing the defenceless. Although that means risking that the next fight might not go your way.
It means you don't hire thugs to break the hands of a good shooter that you need to duel the next morning. Neither do you run, for it is beneath you! Although this might mean him shooting you, you stand there, and try to aim faster and better than him. Or, if you're taking turns, when he shoots wide of you, you don't return the favour by shooting him in the heart. Because it would remove a political rival, but it would mean shooting a defenceless man who just spared your life.

But the more convenient option, in all of these cases, is to poison the wells, to kill him in his bed, to hire the thugs, and to use the fact that he didn't shoot at you to kill him.
So, yes, good isn't optimal. It's wasting resources, skipping opportunities, and taking the hard path to victory generally.

Why bother? Because you don't want to stoop to the level of the guys you're fighting. But you also know well that honour is something you do for yourself, not for others. So you put yourself at disadvantage, and fucking well hope the opponent would actually use it!
Because it means the opponent is beneath you, and if you win, the better man won. If he also doesn't, whoever wins, two honourable men had to fight and one of them died because of their differences - but nobody could claim being more honourable than the other. So, despite winning, you'd know you have killed another honourable man.
If he takes the unfair advantage you gave him, it would be so much easier being in peace with yourself afterwards!
That is, if you win. Because honour is something you do for yourself, you also don't expect it to grant an advantage - except with other honourable persons, and only a social one. But because honour and goodness are also the harder path to take, you know you stand a sizeable chance of dying for your ideals, in that very instant!
And you take that risk, or you don't and play as dirty as the next guy. That says nothing in particular about you.
Until you face someone that never tried cheating, even after you did. Then, after you defeat him, you might want to consider whether the better man won this time.
It would have been so easy if you haven't used your tricks, long ago.

But that's my point. Being good and honourable often puts you at tactical disadvantage while giving you a psychological bonus after the fight (to the Self roll, if you were using Unknown Armies... and if not, you should import the stress meters anyway). OTOH, being the meanest bastard out there means you've got better chances to win.
Pick one, and stick to it, because you aren't getting both. Doesn't work like that, neither in life, nor in my games.
And if you want to call that "my narrative choice", then I can only shrug. I've got enough reasons to believe that it's how things work in reality (and yes, that's not a concern for some players - more ou, either). But even if it was a narrative choice, it's still one I like. And I don't see it as an inferior one. In fact, I prefer it, because I see it as being by far a superior choice narratively as well - but that superiority is probably just my bias speaking. So I'm willing to settle for them being equal, but different options."

Yeah, I know this is just something I posted on But I put some energy and emotion in it, unlike most of my posts, and it would help explain my approach to many games (that is, to all games, unless the ones that I have to play/run differently).
Besides, it might be a good starting point for a discussion.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Mythopoetic games and ramblings on the quality free stuff on the Net

Here's a simple link.
It looks like there are some great games on this page. A Maori game sure sounds like fun! A Middle Ages game where you need to gather info before acting? Sign me up!
That said, a lot depends on execution...

Does anyone has experience with these games? Or do I have to run Danse Macabre in order to see for myself?

Either way, I keep being amazed how much quality free stuff one can find on Internet. I could probably run a new game every 3 months for the rest of my life, and never go out of quality free resources.
Creative Commons seems to be coming as the new standard, and faster than I expected. I can't say I'd be disappointed. And of course, just like Eclipse Phase, I'd still buy the authors' stuff, if I want them to keep making games.

Sorry, there wasn't a real point to this post, aside from sharing a link and rambling. I'd try to be more specific next time!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Fates Worse Than Death: Two-shot of the 2000s

So, for those of you who know me, I've been running a series of one-shots featuring the games of different decades. So far, we've played Backswords and Bucklers, ZeFRS, Unknown Armies, and yesterday, it was time for Fates Worse than Death (by Vajra Games).
It's a neo-cyberpunk setting (a.k.a. postcyberpunk according to TVTropes). Guns are regulated, while characters aren't, for the most part, lone operators, but have different social networks to help them deal with life and cope with consequences.
The Runner (guy who transports messages and stuff) Jack was hired by an Animalist to run and fetch a disk from "a boy in a wheelchair" in an abandoned building. He got paid handsomely for speed.
He ran.In fact, he ran so fast, he was only hearing rapidly approaching motorcycles.
He bothered to check the door of the abandoned building, which probably saved his life. Drake contact poison is nasty, and it was smeared all over the handle. And there seemed to be spikes all over the door, in the usual places where one would push or kick it down.
He also noticed the empty cans on a cord alarm and managed not to trigger it, so it was only when he called on the guy in the wheelchair that he turned to look at him. With 3 eyes. Well, 2 biologic eyes, and 1 barrel of a home-made illegal gun.
After he described who he works for, he was given a disk and advised to hurry. And so he did.
Meaning, he was already getting out of the place, when 3 motorcycles stopped on the street. And now we switched to another PC.
Because I didn't have an idea whether what was on the disk the Cracker handed him was actually useful. And from this depended the 3rd PC's introduction.

Earlier, the Thief...
... was approached by an Animalist. He wanted him to go to some lady's flat, and steal any notes possible, including ones thrown away.
The player is suspicious, so she looked at me and asked:
"What the hell for?"
"Do you care?"
"Not really. What's in it for me?"
They settled on 185$ for this.
And yes, that's a whole lot. However, the operation is supported by more than one gang... No, Animalists aren't actually one of them, they're just using one of them for the "face", and a Sexologist gal. Talk about contradictory signals for anyone that tries to puzzle that out!
Anyway, money aren't really an issue, and this Animalist ain't got the patience to bargain.

Of course, when Lucios the Thief went to check, things rapidly went pear-shaped. Granted, the guard dog in the yard failed an willpower check and ate the offered steak, but then triggered the alarm on the door, and only fast reflexes prevented him from both being electrocuted and poisoned.
A spark of brilliance allowed him to rapidly disarm the alarm, but the signal has already been given. Expect private security within minutes.
Lucios ran up, disarmed the other alarm on the lady's door in another flash of brilliance, snatched all documents and whatever the containers had, and ran. She outran the private security guards - not the best, since people at the central assumed a "false positive" because it was interrupted, therefore, not such a hard task outrunning them - then jumped through a window, triggering yet another alarm (yes, this is a secure building!). Of course, now it didn't matter, since the guards were already there, and the new ones weren't going to get there fast enough.
The guard landed less successfully than Lucios and sprained an ankle. Lucios ran away successfully.
 And now I knew what was in the disk. This was the flat of the IT specialist protecting some servers. I had already established that the Cracker would be able to get in, and after getting some info, was noticed and located. The three motorcycle guys were, well, "clean-up team". Which is as nasty as it sounds. Due to the Thief's success, it was successful, but due to attracting attention, they didn't have the full info. Had Lucios acquired nothing, he would have had mostly useless info.
But now, we're at the Black Med guy.
So, the Black Med was approached by an indie gal. She went to ask for his help with a patient. Said patient had issues with his lower body, meaning paralysis.
If you see a trend, it's because it's there.
He had a bad day, though, and so decided it was Drake halluxinogenic poison, administered by a Drake, and probably a tendon being cut in the process. When a Drake was summoned to give an antidote, he quickly corrected him - the injury wasn't clean enough to be made by a piece of glass, the preferred delivery system for Drakes. It looked more like some thicker blade had gone through armour, and partially stopped by it. Besides, as he pointed out, their hallucinogenic stuff wears off in less time than the time that had passed.
The patient confirmed, it was a Bowie that went through his armour. But mostly, he was rambling about spiders...and nets. And flames. And Colin. But well, everybody is scared by Colin, right?
The two specialists confirmed it was some halucinogenic drug with really long effects. The paralysis was a side-effect, one almost on the level of losing part of your brain... which, as we all know, is quite possible with one of the nastier drugs the Drug Lords produce. Anyway, said side-effect also explains why the gal, which they identified as sexologist,didn't just heal him her way. The condition for Sexologist powers to work couldn't be met!
The Black Med shrugged, and said "give him a stimulant to counteract weakness, or he doesn't stand much of a chance". Then he left.
At the peak of the stimulant, there was only very limited mobility being achieved. I leave it to you to work out what happened to this guy.
So, back at the building with our Runner. Now I knew the team had orders to capture alive and question, if possible.
Two of the three went in, one pointed a SMG to our Runner. "Show me your pockets, now!"
The guy tried to slip the disc in the back of his pants before doing so. Unfortunately, the guy noticed it, and started raising the SMG towards his head.
The Runner jumped aside, narrowly missing a short burst, then jumped over a fence. The motorcycle guy tried jumping it with his machine, but had a really bad day, and his second wheel caught on it.
He tumbled, and while he was on the ground, the Runner was all over him like smell on French cheese.
It was a relatively light wound only, on the gut but not reaching vital organs, and the Cleaner pulled out his own knife, since the SMG had been dropped. And he wanted to cut this guy to ribbons.
The Runner didn't lose hope for not achieving insta-win in his attack. Soon later, he managed to stick his knife in the other's neck, too, slowing him even more. Shallow wounds are still painful, and if he haven't missed the jugular, that would have been a short one.
There followed a series of attacks, dodges, and misses due to attacking from too far away. As always, knife fights are fast, even if there are many rolls.
At roughly this point, they heard a single gunshot. It was followed by two bursts.
Yes, the Cracker was no more. The funny thing was, he had shot one of the Cleaners lethally. So, two armed to the teeth pro-mercenaries achieved a heroic win against a guy in a wheelchair, after he had fired his only bullet. And they gave only one victim in the process.
The Runner left himself open, then twisted away from the strike, and charged his opponent, aiming for the face. He actually popped him an eye, but amazingly, the other one kept swinging.
I had to remind them about the first UFC, when a guy lost his eye to a forbidden gouging, but didn't release his hold and broke the other's arm. He's now got a glass eye, and is, or was, president of the Japanese federation of BJJ. So, eye attacks aren't a guaranteed win - actually, nothing is, AFAICT.
However, it impaired him greatly, so the guy Runner just got to the SMG, jumped, rolled, and used a burst. From almost point-blank, since the guy had tried intercepting him and stabbing him in the back before he gets to the weapon.
That was it, the guy fell down, bleeding. The Runner, well, ran away with an expensive (and fully illegal) SMG. He had to play cat and mouse with the last guy, but he knew the area better than him.
Amazingly, he made the wrong turn, and came up against an opponent with a motorcycle and a SMG. Reacting a split-second earlier, he threw himself away, and was only hit by one bullet. It wasn't such a nasty wound.
The second time, the Runner won the game, and found the Animalist still there.
"I want extra! You didn't mention crazy guys with motorcycles!"
"If you had been faster, you wouldn't have met them at all. I'm already paying you handsomely!"
He gave him the disk, but kept the SMG.

At this point, we were interrupted by phone calls, and a couple of the players had to leave and meet an appointment they had scheduled for later in the evening. So we never got them to meet whoever was behind the drug. After all, it was in development, and even its unfinished form was used as a poison by an, ahem, associate gang that did some dirty work.
However, the players unanimously liked the setting, and required that the game be extended to a two-shot format instead of a one-shot. We'll see.
Maybe due to the shorter time, or due to the dice, but it's the first of our one-shots where no PC died. Actually, I'm hoping the new players are just learning how to deal with the usual challenges, meaning "above their level".
So, next week is for the second part of this. And the one after that is for the One-shot of the 2010s.
After that, one of the players wants to try his hand at GMing, and we're starting a campaign. It's likely to be either Tenra Bansho Zero, ot FWtD!

All in all, I'm quite happy with the game.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

[Honor+Intrigue] What almost happened this time...

Continuing from last week....

A session almost happened. Except the GM had flu. We have added another player, though.
We've now got a doctor, former pirate and apothecary (and someone please tell me whether the the Doctor career covers drugs, herbs and medicines, or do you need Apothecary for that. My guess is that you need it).
Of course, he's using Drake's style.

In other news, I'm using the time from skipping the session in order to to prepare for my one-shot of the 2000s. As the vote went, I'm going to run Fates Worse Than Death.
Except I'm going to use Synergy v2 (Blue Planet's system), because most of the players wouldn't learn the "native" system of FTWD for a one-shot. Although we're considering a campaign, and it would probably use the original system. Or I might hack RQ6 for that, or Fantasy Dice, or EABA v2, or CORPS v2, if they're out by this time.
The only thing I can guarantee is, FTWD wouldn't fit well with a "narrative" kind of system. But then, a system is actually easier to improvise. What I really like is the setting!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Behind the scenes of my wuxia forum game

During the Northern and Southern Dynasties, in Henan...
An woman of rare beauty stares at an ancient painting, while her hair is hiding half her face. It shows so many things, one can discover almost anything in it! And everything seems moving in some way, although it really isn't. It's just a painting, after all, albeit one made with exquisite skill.
She's terribly interested in the wounded crane, for its gracious posture makes it so hard to notice the scar marring its feathers, and their total lack at one wing.
She's also terribly interested in the jumping leopard. Speed that can defeat a tiger, despite a tiger being much bigger, lots of power is concentrated in his-or hers?-supple movements. There's also the obvious grace of the predator.
But her eyes keep being averted to the snake. Poison that can kill an elephant, and constricting snares that can strangle almost anything... hidden power that even a tiger is afraid of!
The trouble is, all those animals use their energy in different ways. Although she can almost feel them, she can't emulate them at once...not yet, anyway. But where you start, matters a lot. And sometimes, you only have the time to learn imitating one set. Life is so unpredictable!
She's touching a scar on her face, under the loose hair, and breathing deeply while making her choice...

Sorry, guys, if that's not clear. It's just something that happens because of the characters' actions. Hint, I'm looking for the Chinese translation of "Face-Smasher" for one of them!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Highlights of the one-shot with Unknown Armies: 2012

So, this week was time for my RPGs of the 90ies. The group picked UA, and everybody had fun (me including, because they didn't turn it into a comedy of absurd failures this time. Talking with the main perpetrator helped).
Highlights of the session:
A WoWmancer calls for the group's help. "The Shaman in WoW told me you three can help me!"
They're not buying it, so he spends 5 minor charges - well, 30 hours of WoW are nothing to him - and shows them how he can get a menu that doesn't exist, asking a question that's not allowed by the game. His friend, the (kendo-obssessed) Otaku, falls the Unnatural check and starts staring blankly.
"Jimmy can do what???"
When they reach his time limit, though, he asks them to do what they think is best, and starts playing. It's time for his raid.
The cop shoots his laptop.
He fails the Self check, of course, and stares blankly at the ruined machine for about half an hour. Slapping him didn't help.
Also, missing a raid is violating Taboo for him. Ooops! Well, the PCs didn't know what an Adept is, so they were completely clueless IC and OOC.

Same kendo-obsessed otaku with a katana jumps up to the window of the first floor, pulls himself up and tries peeking inside. Someone inside wraps a cord around his neck, and pulls him up. Then he throws him on the nearby table, and puts something against his ribs. Iron.
(What the players don't know: it's an avatar of He Who Fights With Monsters. And he's waiting in the home of The Slut's avatar to assassinate her, as he sees her as dangerous for her dabbling into demon summoning. Well, he was right, she had managed to send Shatterer against a personal enemy, an WoWmancer who wanted to free some people from her influence!)
"What are you doing?"
"I'm practicing parcour?"
"Parcour, running, leaping, climbing obstacles."
"Why the hell?"
"I want to be a ninja!"
That, the avatar can understand.
"Do you know what a ninja is, boy?"
"Yessir! It's a killer!"
Ooops. You don't say that to an avatar of He Who Fights With Monsters! So far, he wasn't treating this as a fight... because there's been no opposition.
"So, you want to be a killer, boy?"
"Yessir! I hope to be a good one some day..."
OOOPS. The cord around his neck tightens, and he's thrown against the wall. He slams his back, and the man puts a gun in his mouth.
"Whaddoyaknow about killing, boy? Want me to show you?"
In answer, the otaku kicks him in the nuts, and he doubles up. Then the PC pulls out his katana.
I was expecting him to cut off his hand, or otherwise disarm him. But no. He cuts, and it's to the bone... of his left hand.
The Avatar gets angry. And he shifts to improve his attack.
This, in itself, provokes an Unnatural check. And he fails.
"Fight, Flight, or Freeze?"
OOOPS times 3.
He cuts the avatar again. Single-mindedly (if the avatar of He Who Fights With Monsters is anything, it's single-minded...), his opponent doesn't care. Instead, he shoots him.
And he deals maximum damage for his gun, collapsing a lung immediately. Fight is over.
"Tell me who sent you", the gun points at his head. "And I'm just gonna shoot you down. Or, I can shoot you there".
The gun goes down, pointing under his belt.
"Fuck you!"
The avatar makes good on his promise, then runs.

Moments later...
Outside, he runs into the other two PCs that the WoWmancer had summoned to help him survive the onslaught of The Slut. The cop tries to arrest him, while he's pretending to be a victim. She doesn't buy it.
Due to having a Gun-Bunny skill, he pulls his gun fast enough to point it at her head, before she squeezes the trigger.
Then the Catholic exorcist PC pulls her gun. The guy tries to repeat with his other hand, but loses the opposed roll this time.
"I'm shooting".
The Exorcist rolls 01. I blink, and describe his instant death.
Conveniently, she passes both the Violence and the Self checks. So, when the actual cop approaches her with "are you all right", she can answer with a firm "I'm fine".
After the session, I realised that the Exorcist has killed He Who Fights With Monsters... and is very much a monster himself.
You can call that applied exorcism!

Later, but at the same time...
Meanwhile, the WoWmancer is looking for a new laptop, after the cop had shot the previous one. One of the Slut's sycophants ambushes him and tries shooting him down...and manages to shoot himself in the leg. The WoWmancer, having no charges for having missed his guild's raid, runs away with a laptop. He then promptly finds a hole and starts playing.

Even later...
The PCs went to a hiding place for a couple of days, helping the WoWmancer to hide himself. They intended to talk to her to get her off the guy.
Before they can talk to her, however, the Slut solved their issues by rolling a critical failure while trying to send another Shatterer after Jimmy. Instead, it comes after her.
A single roll later, she's out, shredded by broken glass. It finishes her off.
I roll against her hardened Self notches. There was nobody she felt close to.
Hence, her death breaks the spiral of murders a Shatterer represents. I find that a worthy death.

Of course, like most UA one-shots, I had to explain to the players what has been going on. They very much approved.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

H+I: France 1625 Act 1 Session 1: Uneasy marriages

Finally, at long last, we started our H+I campaign. The delay was due to the GM having family issues, which is fully understandable. Besides, that's her first time GMing a game. (She gets rather nervous because each of the players has more experience GMing and playing than her. We're actually playing mostly separate scenes, with each player that's not present with a PC slipping her advice when she seems lost).
Jean-Pierre is a priest slash don Juan slash duelist slash spy with the "Lust" motivation. Add to that that he's got the double life of also being a Richelieu agent, has an enemy (the Horned Noble, as we call him, parce que notre MdJ a pensé à tout sauf le nom), and is prone to falling in love with the wrong person... Yeah. If you can say "abusing clerical powers", he's in there somewhere (well, he sticks /it/ to women of acceptable age only). Well, at least you can say he's a learned guy: he did pay attention in that seminary! The emphasis the French style puts on footwork serves him well for when he runs away, and his natural grace is a natural match for it.
Baronesse Catherine de Saint Michel is driven by ambition, hampered by her lustful disadvantage, but she mostly manages to turn it to her advantage with attractiveness, good looks, and manipulation. And when it fails, she's deadly with a knife, being trained in the Italian style! Due to it, she's also stronger than the average man... such is life.
And did I mention she's a spy for Richelieu? Yeah. The group might well cross arms with D'Artagnan at some point.
We're also expecting XX, an unidentified female character, to join us at some point, and XY, a knighted Portuguese, to join. But that's not in this session, and swashbuckling is about small groups anyway. YMMV.
Jean-Pierre's first scene was a tad earlier. He was running away from the stick-wielding servants of Isabelle de Levine's husband. Said husband was puffing behind, and JP was entertaining the thought of running on a downward street so we could see the horn-bearer tumbling nearby. His shape was better suited for tumbling than for running, anyway.
However, the downward street lead to a more crowded street, and lacking pants at the moment - he was carrying them, at least - he didn't want to scandalise people. Sure, he had a cloak, but for a priest to show his private parts? Unthinkable, he decided!
So, he ran in a narrow street instead, and let his cloak dangling on the ground, waiting for an attack. Which didn't take long. However, he kept them at bay with his rapier, and pulled the cloak after noticing one of them had stepped on it...
The guy was too heavy, and didn't lose his balance as much as JP wanted. However, his reach advantage provided him the defence he needed again, and he stabbed one of them in the shoulder.
The third one decided to withdraw (GM call, not a continued Bladework against pawns- was he squeamish about blood or what? I forgot asking), so JP took initiative and scratched his initial on the chest of the last guy, cutting the shirt and just a drop of blood. The guy looked in amazement and realized the smart thing to do wasn't to wield a stick.
Meanwhile, the husband had reached there, but was too out of breath. JP, already pant-ful, gave him some advice on getting a better dress in order to become more attractive to ladies, then turned to leave.
Le cocu had no better ideas than to try and pull his gun from his belt. Alas, he fumbled that, being - yes, you guessed it - too fat. And so JP turned, and with the tip of his rapier which he put in the trigger's circle, drew it for him.
Then he handed it to the unhappy fatty.
"Your weapon, monsieur!"
The man grasped it by the barrel and looked at it in amazement. JP turned and left, only putting his weapon in its sheet after turning behind a corner. The guy didn't even try to shoot him. He had probably had enough.
The next morning, he was sorry for stabbing the guy in the shoulder, and went to have breakfast. Luckily, there was a doctor drinking in the corner. I approached him and paid him to go to De Levine's estate, and take care of the guy. Hey, I didn't want this sin on my conscience! Oh, and btw, if you see either the husband or Isabelle de Levine? Send them my congratulations. They would know.
The doctor, however, kept drinking and only promised to do that after he gets in shape. I looked at him and remembered being young and inexperienced, than sat back.
"I know why a man drinks alone. What's her name?"
It was the daughter of a banker. He wanted to marry her; the banker wanted to marry her off to someone with a title. I wished him good luck, and went away.
I had an appointment with a banker. He didn't know it yet, but he was going to learn.
Meanwhile, Catherine had managed to attract the attention of a marquise, who was kinda like her older version. Both loved intrigues, too - so they were having brunch at th ungodly early hour of 10-11 a.m.
The marquise explained having a relative who stands to get a large inheritance, and was very much into a court lady. The problem? Currently, he was just a country bumpkin who had yet to receive his inheritance. Ergo, she wasn't much into him. Couldn't you help the boy, dear?
Of course Catherine would. They planned to have him introduced to her on a hunt the afternoon, so she went to change in more appropriate clothes. Well, outdoor activities weren't exactly her prime - quite the opposite, indeed - but she wasn't going to be there for the hunt anyway.
Changing took a couple hours, of course. And this was when I arrived. Mme la marquise needed to make her confessions as well, from time to time, so we knew each other, Biblically.
...Earlier, I had already visited the banker. He slipped when I told him I'm there to talk about the sacraments, mentioning something about giving money to the church. I gave him a lecture on the sacraments, of course, reminding him - without saying so - what "Tier Etat" really means, and that we're not on equal footing there.
"So, let's talk about the sacrament of marriage...I hear your daughter, Josephine, is of age, and I hear there's a candidate for her hand. A very good young man."
"Very good indeed", he admitted.
"And such a talented doctor..."
Seemed like some small and impoverished noble had made an offer as well. I explained to the guy why that wouldn't be the wise choice. That a doctor is the person who takes care of you when you're sick, or injured.
"I can hire as many doctors as I can!"
"But sometimes, monsieur", I leaned forward so he could see the rapier, "Minutes are all you've got. What good are titles and money? Think of your soul, and how easily it can leave the body in these troubled days! It would be a tragedy to die without receiving the last sacrament!"
He got the hint - hah, hint - and we summoned the daughter. She expressed a strong desire to become Ms. Doctor's Wife. I looked at the banker.
"So, it's settled?"
Indeed it was. And Josephine was such a nice girl! Since beauty leads to sin, she surely had some sins she needed to confess, too... and I knew who could help with that.
And that's how I went to see my favourite marquise to obtain an invitation to a party I had heard about. She was in the company of Catherine, and the two of them were just lovely.
I took it on my shoulders to provide some entertainment, describing the puffing, almost tumbling fatty in as comical light as I could. At the end, they were both chickling. After I explained he's so fat he can't pull a gun from his belt, Catherine attested it wasn't the only thing he can't find in his belt. We trusted her information.
Then I explained that I'd like to meet him in public and inquire about the health of his servant - adding that I had provided a medical practitioner. Mme la Marquise not only invited me...she also invited him! Seems like it was above his station as well. But she liked the idea of some entertainment. And she had a confession to make, as soon as Catherine departed for some hunt.
Can't tell if she had less sins when I left, but she seemed more relaxed.
I just passed to see the doctor - he actually assured me the servant was going to be fine, but I decided to ask the fatty anyway - and he was having a party all his own, having just received a letter. I told him that God has helped him, and he had made a fine choice. After he realised it was me he had to thank for his happiness, he hugged me and tried to get me drunk.
No way, I had a fat cocu to tease! But I wished him a good time...
With that, I went on the party.
Meanwhile, Catherine managed to get the guy talking. It was easy - smile, pretend to be scared of falcons, and ask for help. Give a cold shoulder to the local jerk who showers you with compliments, while accepting them graciously, as something that's only to be expected. She even got him to admit his infatuation for the court lady - at which she rolled her eyes inwardly, and promised him help, as long as he obeys. The guy promised that.
All in an afternoon's work for her.
So, we met at the party. After kissing Mme la marquise's hand, JP went to check on his prey.
Why did I abuse this buffoon? Because he had a nice wife he didn't deserve? Because he had a station far above his abilities? Because I simply had nothing but scorn for him? Because showing off on him was an easy way to become more popular, at the cost of making him a life-long enemy...which he already was?
Pick at least one. You're unlikely to be wrong.

So, I went to see him, and it seems he went red just by seeing me. He decided to try and play the station card, refusing to talk with someone not of noble blood. I countered with the Church card, asking him whether he believes himself above all men of cloth, and trumped this. So, I inquired about his servant's health - and for that matter, hope your wife doesn't feel too bored?
He threw his wine in my face.
"Let God forgive you, because it's not in my nature", I answered. "You owe me satisfaction, monsieur!"
I found a second - someone I had practiced the sword with - and we went outside to settle it right now. Yes, duels are forbidden. So what?
Besides, half the party-goers came to see - I felt the hand of Mme La Marquise behind it, but maybe I was wrong - and so, we had multiple noble witnesses.
Before the fight, Isabelle came to ask me to spare the buffoon's life. I explained that I didn't mean killing him, and she seemed happy. I even struck myself an appointment for later tonight, because she had some confessing to do.
Back in the circle. I let him rush me, and he failed. As a counter, I cut off a button off his shirt.
He went even redder, which was funny.
Then he attacked clumsily enough that he tripped and almost fell. I used this moment to disarm him.
Then I slipped my blade in the basket hilt of his rapier, and handed it to him again.
"And here I thought I'd only have to hand you guns... your sword, monsieur!"
At this point, everybody was laughing their asses off - well, hidden behind hands, handkerchiefs, or whatever - so he tried to body-tackle me. Though my sword was between us.
I actually had to remove it, so he didn't impale himself, and jump back. Then I handed the sword again.
"This might help you, monsieur!"
He took it, swung it, and fell, almost impaling himself again - what was with this guy?
I jumped out of his range, than lunged back, and used my rapier on the most convenient target.
His ass was sticking up as a pinchsion, so I pinned it lightly, drawing a drop of blood.
"Ha! Blood! I guess I've received my satisfaction, monsieur!"
People were cheering me at this point. His second grabbed him by the collar, and dragged him away.
Well, I expected him to try something. But at this point? I was basking in my popularity!
At this point, I made a tour of the room. I was accepted unexpectedly well - or expectedly well, given that most people were talking about my duel. Isabelle, of all people, was hanging at my arm, since I haven't actually hurt her husband. She was just a grateful wife, quoi!
Yeah, sure, nobody doubts that...well, nobody doubts that within my hearing distance. Good enough. And I managed to talk her into visiting my confessional room later. Before, after, or together with Mme La Marquise, their choice (I think they actually chose "together", but it's yet to happen in-game).

I even managed to have a talk with a colonel of the Cardinal's Guards. He was young, I had managed to gather he has bought his place with connections, and he was impressed enough with my performance that he seemed ready to offer me a place with the guards.
At the same time, both me and Catherine received letters. There was a Spanish spy at the party. We were to follow him, and take note who he's talking with.
(That wasn't in the GM's notes. We decided two spies at a party should get to do some spying in their first party in the game. Besides, the GM seemed stuck for plot hooks, so we spent some Hero points and gave her some).
He was talking with the second of my former opponent. Quickly interrogating Isabelle, I realised he was a self-imposed outcast, and people said he was into alchemy and the occult.
So I went to him, had Isabelle introducing us, and struck a conversation about the occult. He mentioned staying within what the Church allows, and I calmed him.
"If you know how to ask, the Church can actually allow almost anything. Never got anything refused, at least".
At this point, I think I began making a friend.
Meanwhile, the Spanish, Alfredo (or Amando, need to check my notes again) kept giving us elusive answers. Catherine tried to chat him up about his country, and to get him to describe it better - and of course, just to get him to drink.
And I suspect she's planning to use some sleeping powder on his drinks...However, at this point, the GM had to leave. We'll know more after the next session, when we expect at least XY to join us. Maybe he's got an invitation as well?

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Organisations are people, too!

I found out that I agree very much with Mike Talsorian's take on organisations. (Or he agrees with me, but him being the more famous guy, I guess I'm the one agreeing with his views. Whatever, that's besides the point).
So, I think more Referee/GMs/Wulin Sages/MCs/Whatever, should use organisations. I also happen to think that they could be used better than for nameless, faceless opposition. It's just that the name of the opposition in a cyberpunk world might be the same as the brand of the clothes you're wearing.

For clarity, read the current Mike Talsorian's rant.

"MetaCharacters: The Referee as a Player
One of the things that bugs me about being a referee is that I'm often a babysitter, not a player. As Referee, my NPCs should be my main method of expression-the characters I play in the game, but since they are cast in opposition to the players, they become faceless threats (like level bosses in a video game), rather than interesting characters to play.
Let's take a corporation, for example. As a Referee, your typical corporation is an amorphous mйlange of bad guys, stuff, offices and plans. But there's no sense of the corporation as an ENTITY. It has no personal goals-no real direction. Which makes it a really boring villain. An exciting villain has goals. He has weaknesses. He has master plans. He knows when he's been hurt and exacts revenge. In short, a good villain. But Corporations in the Cyberpunk world are rarely, if ever, more than one dimensional.
But it's not really true. Four and a half years working at Microsoft has taught me one lesson I never knew-Corporations ARE entities. Microsoft has a body-that's all of us 'softies working in the trenches. It has hands; the various VP's running the divisions. It has a brain-two in fact--Bill G. and his right hand man Steve "I wonder if he's gonna keel over at the company meeting this year" Ballmer . And it has weapons, armor and tools-its hardware, software products, lawyers. Heck, Microsoft even has its own language, which took me most of a year to learn, even "drinking from the firehose" as I had to.
So what if WE treated the corporations of Cyberpunk not as faceless enemies, but as real live NPC's? What if we gave them a brain, hands, parts of the body, weapons and defenses-just like an integrated "real person?" What if it had a Lifepath-a character sheet even? I call this the Meta Character. The meta-character represents a character built out of an entire section of the world. A meta-character is no longer just a faceless amalgamation of bits, but a living organism that protects itself while moving towards distinct goals. It thinks smart, acts smart, because if it doesn't, it loses "body parts" and "dies."
MetaCharacters have a:
- Brain: This is the main controller of the MetaCharacter. The brain directs the goals for the MC, based on his or her own personal goals. The Lifepath of the Brain can integrate into the Lifepath of the MetaCharacter, but the MetaCharacter goes on even if the Brain changes. However, since taking out the Brain will seriously cripple the MetaCharacter, there will be more of a reason to defend the Brain and make it hard to get to-no more player characters tackling Saburo Arasaka one on one, anymore than you're going to face down Steve Ballmer over a bug in your copy of Word.
- Hands: These are agents of the MetaCharacter. They direct and control it's weapons and defenses. They may have their own agendas, but these are always sublimated to the goals of the Brain. Hands have their own styles; ways of doing things. One hand is usually more dominant than the other, just like people are "handed."
- Body: These are the assets of the MetaCharacter. In a corporation, this could be buildings or facilities. The body could also encompass special types of projects or vehicles.
- Weapons and Defenses: These are the ways the MetaCharacter can defend itself or attack new opposition. For example, having a personal army is a good way to defend your corporation. All those Arasaka guards? They're all Defenses. Militech's tanks? Weapons. Since the MetaCharacter has an actual list of Defenses and Weapons, it's less likely that it will spend them in a random, unplanned way, because, like a real character, the resource are limited.
Let's try this on the obvious level-our aforementioned Corporation. Let's call it Megatechnix. It's brain is going to be it's founder, Dr. Roberto Lanzing. As Brain, his goals are to dominate the world's market for consumer electronics and to make enough money to forget his upbringing as the son of a once high level Corp thrown out onto the Street in a layoff (the Lifepath)
Its hands are it's two Vice Presidents; Ms. Jax Staley, the sociopathic Operations VP who controls Megatechnix's Marketing division, and Dr. Klaus Hammersmith, who runs the R&D Group. Jax's goal is to supplant Dr.Lanzing and move Megatechnix into military hardware; however, they share the goal of dominating consumer electronics first. Hammersmith's agenda is to combine all the functions of cellphones, digital media and wireless into a single handheld device. He doesn't care about personal power, but he will support Lanzing's goals becaue this will get his dreamed of device built. The body of Megatechnix is incorporated in its Corporate Headquarters in the SanDiego Zone of New Night City; the body includes three main Projects controlled by the Brain and its two Hands, 100 million dollars in capital, and a secret research lab in the Nevada Wasteland. If these are destroyed, Megatechnix will also "die." To defend the "body", Megatechnix's Defenses are a horde of robotic soldiers and factory workers controlled by Dr. Hammersmith's advanced telemetry programs, plus ten super powerful ninjas who carry out Jax's black operations against the Corp's enemies.
Now Megatechnix is more than a faceless enemy, It has several goals, several weak spots that it will defend rabidly, and a specific way of defending itself. This will drive much of it's actions against players-if the 100 million in capitol is threatened, odds are Dr.Lansing will act first, because money is key to his well being. But if the labs are threatened, Hammersmith may drive the reactions, protecting them, with the robot workers. Thwart Jax in her quest to get military contracts and he's more likely to send her ninja after you. In each case, the Referee plays the corporation as a character, not just a target. He gets to really invest Megatechnix with personality, reactions and ambitions. And if he sees Megatechnix's starting to lose "body" points on the character sheet, he may elect to strike back, find a way to heal back by curtailing operations, or even enlist other "friends" to help in an operation.
Now let's go a bit further down the scale. The MetaCharacter this time is the Totentanz, a bar in the lower levels of New Night City. Its brain is One Scar Max, a shadowy broker of information. Its Lifepath shows that it was inherited from an old war buddy of One Scar who died in a turf dispute with a rival owner. Its hands are Rafela Chance, the bartender, and Silent Bill, a gambler who watches the bar when Max is out. Its weapons are an integrated laser system with four remote lasers that can attack one corner of the bar. Its other weapon is an AV4 delivery van with a chin mounted machinegun.
The Totentanz has far fewer "body points" than Megatechnix. So you can expect that the AV4 will NOT be showing up all the time, and neither will One Scar. Threats will be dealt with in the bar, but anything that threatens the bar itself will be dealt with using maximum force. Already, you can probably see that you're going to need some motivations for this MetaCharacter-what are One Scar's goals for the Totentanz and how do Rafela and Silent Bill support them? What are their goals? Since Totentanz hasn't got much in the body and weapons area, you can already surmise that One Scar's going to be trying really hard to increase these areas-maybe by recruiting some regulars to help defend the place, or by adding a few new side businesses (maybe a takeout service or a gambling op in the back room) to generate more "body." In short order, the Totentanz will evolve from being a place you layer storylines onto, into a character which generates its own storylines from its needs and fears. And that make it fun for the Referee to play.
Looking at a group of NPCs as MetaCharacters can change how you relate to your Cyberpunk gaming, by giving those characters some solid motivations and adding a real "global" threat to how the MetaCharacter deals with the world. They have things that really scare them-stuff that motivates them despite the actions of the players. It's an interesting way to look at the art of being a Referee, and a great way to get back the excitement of playing a character in your game, rather than providing cannon fodder for your players.
maxmike says check it out sometime."

Amusingly, I found that I've agreed with it years ago. Well, actually, I wrote about it in an column, although that was just a few months ago.
So, yes. Organisations can be the BBEG that you face down in the end.
It also means that an organisation can be cut down by the players. Many Referees forget that, and they really shouldn't!
Granted, just like taking down the BBEG, nobody's saying that taking them down should be easy. Just that it could happen. Or at least the ability of a corporation or other organisation to operate in a given field or region can become subject to penalties.
Then you have the organisation in a death spiral. Just like what you do to a BBEG, hopefully!

Friday, 8 March 2013

 Here's something I'm re-posting from G+ again. Hope the original poster wouldn't mind.

Happy International Women's Day!

Please Observe the Following:

If today, you get the urge to make a post about how amazing you are towards women by creating special rules that dictate how you draw, write, interact with, or game with women, you're missing the point.

Drawing a woman in "reasonable" armor does not further equality, it furthers a particular artistic aesthetic that some women (but certainly not all) are interested in. It does nothing to further equality other than give you happy feels in your tummy, and appeal to those people.

Making specific rules at your table to cater to what you've determined are sensitive issues for women does not further equality - it strengthens negative stereotypes. If you want to make rules that deal with your player's feelings, don't say it's 'for women'. Again, not all women are sensitive, not all women are sensitive in the same ways, and not all women need or want special rules at the table.

Lastly, please avoid getting smug about your recognition of "privilege". No one wants to hear how you've recognized you're an asshole because life is so much better for you than for women. That does nothing to further equality.

So today, if you truly want to celebrate women, don't demean them, don't force them into stereotypes, don't assume that any one person or any one group of people can assume what all (or even a majority) of women need. Realize that women, just like men, are all different people with different needs, different wants, different aesthetic desires, different bodies, different emotions, different sensitivities, and different reactions.

Today, if you truly want to support International Women's Day, show us some of the amazing things that women have done that you love, not what you've done to make the world a safer place for poor, wittle old me.


Since I very much agree with this, today's special awards for our session go to:
Mihi (no, she's not Japanese, or anything other than Bulgarian, that's how we shorten her name), who played a gay male ZeFRS PC (named Sevrin) quite convincingly. Alas, he had fallen for the party's womaniser, another PC who loved him back almost obsessively... but purely as a friend.
Sevrin got over it, and helped said PC hook up with a woman, because the womanizer was actually quite shy, not being used to talking to people (ZeFRS disadvantages lead to some interesting PCs when they combine, and in this case the player was combining having a soft spot for a pretty face, and being shy. Both are disadvantages under the system).

Maria, who brought flowers for International Women's Day to everybody in the group, and a player who was missing from the session.
She played a cultist of a doomsday cult. She had been sent to assassinate another PC, who got the Hunted disadvantage (and she opted for a pre-generated PC, the cultist being one of my offers).
She managed to do it, too, with lethal efficiency. This was the only PC casualty. Actually, he was the only casualty in the session, period, which is slightly unusual for an S&S session...
Then she pulled away the womaniser PC, who had been drugged by lotus powder, and lead the way to the bath. She didn't mind the rest of the party, her orders were just to kill a specific person. Which she had achieved. And walking around in the drug dens had managed to get them to feel closer, I guess.  And she had promised to Sevrin she'd help his friend get over his shyness.
Well, they weren't being so courteous, but there's a lot to be said for direct words.

And of course, the most merit should be awarded to my wife, who was baby-sitting our daughter (together with my mother for company). This way, I was able to go and run said session. Well, I sure came home as early as possible!
I'm sure if she could attend it, this session would have been more lively. But she decided to stay and devote herself to her other hobby, crafting.

 As an additional note, I really need to write an Actual Play of this session.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Are some preferences incompatible?

There was this debate on G+, where Elliot Willen mentioned that some people don't like that according to some theories, some preferences are always going to clash.
However, this is a fact of life. If I only eat meat-based meals, and you're a vegan... we're not going to share many meals from the same bowl. Sure, I can eat a vegan meal once in a while, but that would be a once-in-a-blue-moon event.

Back to RPGs, yes, some motives for playing always clash. Simple example, imagine someone who wants to create a setting along with everybody else, trying to play a game where the GM believes setting-building is his or her task and only the GM's task.
Conversely, imagine a GM that believes players should add stuff to the setting. And now imagine a player that wants to only explore and change the setting from the PC's perspective! Is the GM likely to think the player is "leaving the whole work to him/her"? I'd say it's likely.

Now, can these people achieve a compromise? Sure. Well, maybe. But the point is, it would be a compromise. No game I know that allows for collaborative setting-building allows only the GM and some of the players to add to the setting. It's either all players, or none of them.

And I see virtually no chance at compromise if the parties can't articulate their respective desires... that, or they should have someone else identifying them for them.

So yes, some preferences always clash. If you play to make Monthy Python jokes, and someone else plays to "visit another place"? I don't see how you could even achieve a compromise. Maybe it's just me, though.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

GM Preparation: Canned or Home-made?

I just read this post on Zak S' blog (which is very much NSFW, even if only for the name).
Edit: As I understood it, he's challenging people to compare which one is cheaper and more satisfying to the group-preparing to run a module, or preparing the session by themselves. Then he invites them to post the results.
Now, Zak called me after this post was published, and explained he meant nothing of the sort. He merely invites people to do both and compare the experiences, not to look for the "superior way"! Therefore, it was my misunderstanding that sparked the following post.

Even so - I still think it's worth trying both. Especially if you're using modules, I invite you to participate in said experiment.
(Personally, I'm sorry, but I simply can't join. I need more time to prepare a game from a module! Yes, tried that long ago, the difference is about 300% more time when using a module. Therefore, I couldn't compare the two, as one would be in unequal position. If I was to use the same time I use weekly in order to preparing for running a session from a module, I wouldn't get to run the module for about 4 weeks!)

Really, guys (and gals, and whatever other word you might like being called) - screw modules!
No, wait, that's a fate too good for them. Rather, forget modules!
You can do better by yourself. You really can. And it's going to feel a lot more entertaining, because it would be tailored to your specific group.

Does it mean I see no value whatsoever in modules? That would be wrong.
Modules can be used as a short-hand way to showcase a setting. You can use them to show typical NPCs, typical conflicts and themes in a setting. So, I like having one, max 2 modules, as addition to the setting's book (provided they aren't some railroad schemes - I learn nothing out of those).
And of course, I don't mind them provided they aren't taking too much space. In Fates Worse Than Death, the book itself has 2 modules, and I don't mind. But the book itself has a great setting, and it's 485 pages setting+system combined!  If the book had less than 200 pages? I would have minded even 1 module.
In short, there are some uses for a module. But making running your games dependent on having/purchasing a module? Come on, people, you can do better than that!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Robin Laws and player typology

Recently read Black Vulmea's post on his blog about Robin Laws. And since I've read the same sentiment expressed in different places, I kinda decided to post my comments.

When reading Laws' typology, it''s important to remember that parts of your "main trait"'s description aren't going to apply to you.
That's normal. The description of Tactician in Robin Laws' book is like the description of Tactician, if somehow you got a Tactician 100%, (Method Actor+Butt-Kicker+Storyteller+Power Gamer+Specialist+Casual Gamer)=0% player.
Tactician is more about approaching any situation as a problem to be solved using the principles of tactics - resource management, looking for weak spots to maximise your efforts, creating temporary advantages, and so on, and so forth. These all apply to relationships as well as dice games as well as battles, as you probably noticed. Yes, many Tacticians would prefer battlefield problems, but they might apply the same skills to emotional manipulation, or to constructing a narrative.

The same applies to the other archetypes.
Let me give you an example: It says I'm a Tactician, too. It's true. I also think battlefield solutions are best left for last resort (unless I'm playing someone who just likes fighting and wars).
It also says I'm a Method actor, which is my second highest, and therefore don't care whether the system supports me. That's... flat-out wrong as anyone knowing me can attest. But that's because I'm not just a Method actor.
So, all of the "archetypes" in Laws' book have characteristics, but they only apply in as much as they don't clash with another one. Otherwise, it would be impossible to combine them, as they're often in direct opposition.
How do you determine which one would apply? Well, look at the whole range. Than make an educated guess. If you doubt about something, ask the person whose reaction you're trying to guess. And if you're sure about your guesses, ask for confirmation.
In my experience, some time thinking how a given person's trait pay off well when you're starting a game. Or they might be totally useless. But something that works more often than not is still better IME than having something that only works some of the time. And for me, Robin Laws' book works more often than not.

Enough rambling for a first post.