Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Winter War Journal 2012 (Day Two)

Warning . . . I'm not sure how lucid I am today.  Sinuses started acting up at work and I'm on nighttime cold medicine at the moment.  You have been warned!

Tuesday morning I started the day with the Deathwatch game that I signed up for.  I had mentioned to my regular Deathwatch GM that there was a Deathwatch game, so he signed up for the event as well.  At least I think that was the sequence of events.

Our GM was familiar with the 40K universe, and ran Dark Heresy, but this was his first shot at running Deathwatch.  Now, it's true that Deathwatch and Dark Heresy run on the same underlying RPG "engine," but to torture the analogy a bit more, Deathwatch has a lot more horsepower.

After some discussion with the GM, he decided it was best to ignore squad modes and solo modes, especially since he was fairly new to the game and because we had at least one person at the table that had no experience with any version of the 40K RPG rules.  I had a lot of fun, but I missed my squad mode once in a while.

The GM was going to run with a lot of terrain and a whole city set up for us to explore.  Unfortunately he didn't have the room in the roleplaying room that we were in, so we went with a simple battle mat and minis.  Which is amusing, because our weekly Deathwatch game doesn't use minis.

While I am a huge,  huge proponent of gaming without minis if it is possible, it was kind of interesting to get to actually play Deathwatch with minis.  That having been said, I don't think they were strictly needed for the scenario we played.

I was playing Dark Angel in this session.  If you know about 40K, and that I usually play a Space Wolf, you will get why this amused me.  I was fairly quiet, spoke only in very short sentences, and was especially secretive.  About as far away from Rangar Then, my Space Wolf Devastator as I could get.

I was especially proud of the fact that I burned two fate points trying to figure out if a suit of armor that belonged to a dead Space Marine was from the Dark Angels, without alerting anyone else as to what I was trying to figure out.

Recap of my Dark Angel's session:  Failed to throw a grenade through a window, had a hard time killing an ork with a power sword, tried to interrogate someone into learning my language, killed a chain axe and a Berserker of Khorne, and was killed in the line of duty when our Devastator Marine blew up the Bloodthirster with a missile.  Even with the abbreviated set of rules, but I did miss my outgoing, over the top Space Wolf.

For the next session, I had the honor of sitting with Loquacious and helping out at the Gopher booth.  I got to be (oddly enough) a gopher and get stuff so as to not leave the shop unattended.  Lo was horribly beset by a lot of "friendly fire" ribbing about a wide variety of topics.  The booth appear to be steady, but not mobbed  (a few would form, from time to time, but the actual buying process was pretty painless).  Despite this, this year was really good for the store, so either the company made the time and effort pass without note, or fewer people were buying bigger ticket items, or both.

Any way you slice it, though, things went well.  I didn't really look much at the other vendors this year, so I can only say that I hope they did well, even the guy that has made it a Winter War tradition to hardly ever be open once he arrives at the show.

Manning the shop was followed with an expedition to Hooters.  The company was good, and the conversation was hilarious, but the service was slow to non-existent and the food was lacking.  I'm told they had a deficiency in staffing that night, so I guess one cannot judge a Hooters by it's aberrant night, but we had some pretty disgusting shrimp, an uncooked chicken sandwich, and my own sandwich seemed to be lacking the medium wing sauce that it was suppose to be marinated in.

It was a close call getting back in time for my last slot, a Call of Cthulhu game.  I'll let all of you in on a little secret that I didn't share at the table.  One of the guys was a "Cthulhu virgin," but he wasn't the only one.  Since I had the nice 30th Anniversary bound rules with me, I guess everyone assumed I had played before, so I didn't disabuse anyone of the notion.

I've read all through the rules, and CoC was one of those games that I've always wanted to play, and was on my gaming "bucket list" to play, but it didn't happen until last Saturday at Winter War.  It was worth the wait, as the session was great.

I know there is an incredibly small readership for my humble effort here, and I don't know if the GMs/Authors of the scenario routinely re-run their adventures, so I'm not going to spoil anything.  I will say that I really enjoyed playing my sanity damage, and was pleased to actually come up with something in the course of roleplaying my mental damage that caused others in the party to make yet another SAN check.

I was also really stupid and forgot to get a picture of the prop for the adventure, which would have been great.  Ah well.

Suffice to say, I was not disappointed with my first Call of Cthulhu session, and I'll specifically be looking for my GM again next year, if I don't end up booking myself solid with games that I'm running myself.  Great GM and a really fun table of guys playing.

Also, as an interesting side note, at least for myself.  The rulebook the GM used was published more than a decade before my version of the rules, and we had virtually no real problem with how the rules worked in the game.  I'll give up a few clunky mechanics and a little bit of intuitive game design to embrace a set of rules that is pretty recognizable all the way back to the start.

Tomorrow, if everything goes as planned, the grand finale that is day three of the War Journal.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter War Journal 2012 (Day One)

This last weekend was our local convention here in Champaign-Urbana land, Winter War!  I'm starting to feel a bit guilty, because this is the second year in a row that I haven't run anything at the convention.  I've already started planning a few things I might run for next year's convention.  But before we get to that, let us review what we did this year for Winter War, shall we?

The day started a bit early.  In fact, the day started after about three and a half hours of sleep since our Pathfinder session went a bit late the night before  (or at least our group therapy session after the session went long).  

First thing on the agenda:  become part of the Gopher Swarm that was going to take the best game store in Champaign-Urbana and reassemble it at Winter War.  As it turns out, the Gopher Swarm and our Gopher Lords have become a bit too efficient at this.

Why are we too efficient?  Because we actually got everything packed and moved to the convention hall before we could set up.  Since we were early, I'm going to count this as erasing the fact that I overslept last year for the initial Winter War Gopher Swarm.  

Once time caught up with our super fast Gopher Swarm, we began to assemble the home away from home on site.  I was throwing the RPG stuff up on shelves . . . so . . . many . . . boxes . . . of . . . books.  However, the RPG stuff was just a fraction of the Gopher Leviathan, and I had miniatures games and board games on either side of me flying past me at Gopher Swarm speed.

Eventually I disengaged from the Gopher Swarm  (I form the left knee of Gophertron!) and went off to play in my first event, a Pathfinder RPG event run by Mike Bohlman showcasing the setting that bySwarm has been developing for use with the Pathfinder RPG.

I won't give away too much, but setting, from what we saw of it in the adventure, has a nice twist on fantasy compared to what is currently out there on the market.  I had a lot of fun failing at things I should have been able to do  (horrible, horrible dice rolls, I had).  

Unlike other years at the con, I only had one event Friday night.  At first I kind of regretted not filling that Friday evening slot, but then the three and a half hours of sleep the night before caught up with me.

I hear some of my fellow Gophers had a blast in GamerCurmudgeon's "We Be Goblins" game, and I am bummed I couldn't see it first hand, but then again, I'm not quite as spry as I once was.  Perhaps next year I'll hibernate for a week before the con and just stay up all weekend.

More to come as the War Journal rolls on.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Shackled City Pathfinder RPG Post Game Report, January 27th, 2012

Wow was that an interesting session last night.

I'm playing in my friend's Shackled City Pathfinder game.  If you have been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that I've gone from being an avid Pathfinder player to being at least a bit disappointed overall.  I won't go back through all of the arguments, but I will freely admit that at least some of this is due to changing gaming tastes after being exposed to a wider range of systems.

My character in the game was an Oracle of Life that I imagined as a cross between Alan Moore and John the Baptist.  He's an Oracle that worships Ilmater, but he's really bad at properly expressing doctrine, so it comes out all garbled, and on top of that, he tends to be a little intense.  As such, despite his high charisma, he's only got ranks in intimidate.

Disclaimer:  I'm playing in this game because there are a lot of guys in the game that I have played with before.  I'm also playing because I don't get a chance to play with the GM, whose been a long time friend of mine.  Because a lot of us wanted to get the chance to play together, our campaign has grown a bit.  Fighter, paladin, druid (x2), bard, gunslinger, ranger, and oracle is our current lineup.

General observation, and I apologize to the whole group if this doesn't ring true, but I have to say I think our Thursday game tends to "table talk" a bit too much.  It makes it harder for the GM to present information, it makes it harder to remember what we are doing, and it complicates the other player's ability to process information and make decisions.

It's probably a bit of a natural issue with having eight players, and I want to stress that I'm just as guilty as anyone, and if and when the my buddy the GM reads this, I want to stress that I'm sorry and I've been trying to curtail my own excessive table talk.  I really should know better, from the other side of the screen.

The other issues we have at the moment is that because some of us have come and gone since the original inception of the campaign, and the needs of the party have changed a bit, there are only a few "charter members" of the adventuring company, and the ties to the setting and each other have gotten a bit strained.  Again, I'm just as guilty as anyone, since I've left and come back and switched characters to boot.  Since some of us left and came back due to circumstances we couldn't really control, it's not so much a matter of "fault" as it is circumstance.

Now, after reading the above, you might think that issues dominated the night, but we actually had a lot of fun.  In town we found out that the nobles have hired questionable enforcers and massively raised taxes, and the masses are holding rallies to protest how the "man" is keeping them down.  Hm.  That sounds familiar.

Anyway, the rally unfortunately switched from "down with the man" to "kill half-orcs" because most of the noble hired mercenaries are half-orcs.  Stopping the race riot, our bard (who looks pretty half-orcish himself) cast calm emotions on the crowds to stop the bad things from happening.  Then an air elemental attacked the guy that was the original speaker at the rally, and we sprung into action to save him.

So far so good.

After the speaker slunk off in gaseous form, the air elemental was banished, and the people started to disperse, a troop of half-orc mercenary guards arrived.  They tell us that there are fires, but I kind of lost that thread of the conversation at first.  Our druid didn't, and took off for the part of town that was on fire, where the orphanage was.  Let me point this out again . . . most of us missed or ignored that there was potentially an orphanage on fire.  Whoops.

The paladin notes that the duly appointed guards that are threatening to arrest us are evil.  The bard attempts to charm the leader.  I attempt to intimidate him to leaving us alone.  The paladin goes full defensive in case they attack and doesn't draw his weapon.  The lizard folk gets in the guards faces, and they attack him.  Crap.

There was kind of a blur all around the train wreck.  The whole she bang of half-orcs get entangled and held in place.  The archer fires on them.  They keep trying to shoot at us and spear us with long spears.  The bard remembers that he has a cloudkill scroll.  The cloudkill spell starts spreading so one of the druids conjures an air elemental to hold the clouldkill spell over the guards . . .

Point the first:  we stopped a group of people from rioting to kill half-orc guards, then proceed to kill a huge chunk of them ourselves.

Point the second:  I'm an oracle of life.  I'm new to the city and relatively new to the adventuring party. I just see thirty people die horribly.  My character is teetering on the edge of sanity.

So the bard convinces the mayors forces that the air elemental we were fighting were responsible for killing the guards, which was more believable because apparently fire elementals were causing the fires in the other part of town.  Where the other druid was.  By himself.

So he died.

Plus the orphans died.

And then there was the whole mass slaughter we just went through.  My oracle of life decided, after we took care of the fire elementals and saved what was left of that part of town, that he was going to "retire," and by "retire" I mean, "live on the street like a homeless guy and mumble to himself for the rest of his life."

Honestly, I didn't want to retire another character, but I seriously didn't see any other reaction for an already slightly touched oracle in the situation.

I really think the guard situation could have been avoided, and I think several events kind of dovetailed to take us further down the line.  We all spent way too much time pondering why it happened, and either justifying it or trying to figure out if there was something else we could have done, but I think what it boils down to is that, while none of us were really horrible alone, with a lot of us acting as loose canons and not "reading" each other well, we just really misfired.

Hopefully we didn't break our GM too much.  We're brainstorming some things to reset and get back on track, and I sincerely hope the whole group enjoys the campaign moving forward and we figure out a good way to move on, since the group is a really good group of guys.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Earth 52 Campaign Post Game (January 25th, 2012)

Last night was the latest installment of the Earth 52 campaign.  Hooray!  The team was on their way to confront Circe and rescue the Greek pantheon of deities.  There may have also been a little bit of Apokolips influence as well.

Before the action started, since I spent a little more time planning, I tried to throw some complications at the PCs.  I didn't want random complications, so I tried to find some that would tie into some plot elements that I want to come up later in the campaign.

For example, Paradox is having the SEC look into his accounts, Beorn is getting some more clues into his origins, and Fahrenheit is still having some complications tied to his youth among the super villain youth of Zandia.  Oh, and Marathon's ex-wife is driving him crazy.  Lots of fun.

Myrmidon decided to visit the Aereopagus and start looking more the "Myrmidon" part, and picked up a new sword and shield.  We're still dialing in exactly how it will work.  We decided back when Myrmidon gained the "I Don't Know How to Take You" power that either makes people attack him or surrender to him that the power was an experiment, and we took it back to source and started over.

So, fully loaded with complications, the group finds out that parademons are infesting the domains of the Greek gods, thus cluing the group in to possible Darkseid involvement.  There was some discussion about checking out the domains first, possibly skirmishing with some parademon fodder, but Myrmidon was really focused on avenging his mother and taking Circe down.

Circe's domain is concealed from view, but the PCs have found it before.  There was a "normal" island, a magic dead island, and a high magic island.  The PCs headed for the "normal" island, and found the couple that helped to raise Myrmidon, and Myrmidon started to recall his youth a bit more.  

The next phase of the adventure, the group decided to split up.  You see, on the dead magic island, Necromancer, Myrmidon, and Beorn would loose their powers.  I told them if they did head to the island, they would get another hero point for the complication, but the group decided to send the non-magical team members to the dead magic island and the magic types would confront Circe.

I loaded up Circe with two easily removable devices, but oddly, no one tried to disarm her.  One created a close burst reaction damage effect to anyone that hit her, and the other was a scepter that gave her ranks in the luck advantage since she was leeching off of the fate of the gods.  She also had a plethora of beastiamorph minions, with avians, dogs, and serpents.  

On the dead magic island, the other group found a nasty PL 15 straight forward robot guardian.  Eventually they would also find the thread of fate that determines Zeus' fate, and a big old Kirby door with a Kirby machine behind it.  Long story short, as the great Kenson has put it, the robot was defeated with a "lateral win."  While Fahrenheit blasted at it, and Paradox shrunk down and tried to burst out of it, Marathon picked it up with his move object and flew off with it, dumping him in the ocean.

After Marathon did this  (with Paradox still inside the robot, at least until he phased out), Fahrenheit, through random dumb luck, managed to open the Kirby door, and found Zeus' Thread of Fate, and since all of his trophies back home had been stolen, he decided to claim Zeus' thread as a belt, at least for a while.  

Glorious Godfrey boom tubed away from Circe at the beginning of the fight.  Godfrey had been impersonating Hermes to lure gods to the magic dead island, allowing them to be trapped and to have their powers sucked out of them and into the big old Kirby machine.  Beorn and Necromancer took on the minions, and Myrmidon drove straight on towards Circe.

Interestingly, the minions were much more effective than might have been expected, especially since "Team Magic" are all among the PL 14 members of the team.  I used the advice on the number and relative power of the minions from the Gamemaster's Guide, and it seemed to work pretty well for the fight.  Beorn and Necromancer both used extra effort to gain takedown and start plowing through the minions.  

Myrmidon almost took out a minion that got in his way, but then he remembered that the minions were servants against their will.  He was still pretty set on lethal damage to Circe.  Normally I do like the game to stay pretty "Bronze Age" in morality, but I have to say that "Greek" DC character seem to get pushed into killing a bit more than the standard characters, and I did have Circe kill Myrmidon's mother, and he is Ares son.  We'll see how this incident colors future sessions, but it made for some interesting moments.

Myrmidon got fairly messed up by Circe  (although she couldn't manage her affliction on him, the blast worked much better).  While she took some solid hits, he was badly wounded from going one on one with her and eventually resorted to calling on his last boon from Neron, asking to be healthy and holding Circe's devices.

This twist of fate did turn the tide of battle, and Myrmidon killed Circe.  Plus, Myrmidon owing this victory to his boon plays nicely into . . . future events.  Oh, and Necromancer forgot about Circe's teleportation trap and got trapped in her ring.  

Eventually the group revived the gods, shut down the machine, and Zeus decided that instead of getting back "most" of their powers and going to war with Darkseid, they would use the collected godly power to destroy Olympus and the Aereopagus with Darkseid and his forces still on them, meaning it could take the gods centuries to come back into their powers.

Oh, and Necromancer and Myrmidon both seriously borrowed some future complications.  Last time that happened, Necromancer gained Solomon Grundy's eternal hatred.  This should be fun.

Oh, and Fahrenheit is completely beside himself that the gods didn't reclaim their powers so that he could call in a favor from Zeus to smite Damian Wayne.  Yes, not only does the group have an easier time cutting a deal with Neron than with Lex Luthor, Fahrenheit also was willing to risk invasion from Apokolips in order to have the gods help him bully a ten year old.  Good times.

One interesting thing that Marathon noted last night is that since they have some more powerful members in the group and they assumed the Justice League's mantle, every fight seems to be escalating in importance, and how he'd like a breather.  I'm kind of glad that this pacing is coming through, because it's deliberate.  Not only does it kind of hearken to the Morrison/Waid era on JLA  (yeah, Morrison did something right, I'll admit it), but it does drive home that age old super hero truism of "with great power comes great responsibility."  

I'm hoping everyone is enjoying the campaign.  I'm having lots of fun running it.  Easily one of my favorite campaigns that I've run from the GM's side of things.  

And . . . ahem . . . now that one of my players pointed out that the pre-order is looming tantalizingly on Green Ronin's site, maybe, just maybe, I'll have Heroes and Villains Volume Two for the next game session . . . 

Perchance to dream!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Earth 52 Pre-Game Show . . . In the Mood and Up to Speed

I never properly recapped the various session leading up to tomorrow night's game, so for anyone that cares and is following along at home, I'll try to give the short version . . . which will get fairly long, but hey, it's about three sessions of recap!

1.  The New Guard stepped up and talked to the mysterious Justice League Trust about officially assuming the mantle of the Justice League, so they've got the run of the Hall of Justice and the Watchtower.  Myrmidon promptly goes on a tour of teleporter locations, decides Batman is a jerk because of the Batcave's defenses, and brings home two lonely Kryptonian robots that miss Kal-El.  Then he convinces some scientists at Cadmus that half-Kryptonian puppies might cheer the robots up.

2.  Marathon's ex-wife and daughter started living at the HQ.  Marathon's daughter's favorite super heroes are Necromancer and Beorn.  Marathon's ex-wife's favorite super heroes are Myrmidon and Paradox.

3.  The group found out that Cheetah formed her own Secret Society of Super Villains with her master plan being the destruction of the Fortress of Solitude, Paradise Island, and the Batcave, and plundering them for trophies.  To this end, she used a magic charm on Luthor to enthrall him.  When the heroes foiled some of her plans, she got desperate and decided the best way into the Fortress of Solitude was to summon the Cyborg Superman and enthrall him the way she did Luthor, but part two of the plan didn't work out, and Cyborg Superman showed up at the Fortress uncontrolled by Cheetah.

4.  The Justice League New Guard over the course of fighting Cheetah's Secret Society defeated Toy Man, Doctor Psycho, Giganta, Riddler, Scarecrow, Black Manta, Felix Faust, Solomon Grundy, and managed to talk Bizarro out of a fight as well.  Not all at once.

5.  About Solomon Grundy.  Fahrenheit brilliantly convinced Grundy that he was Grundy's new friend, but inadvertently made Grundy think that Necromancer has something to do with his eternal curse, so the next time he rises from the grave, he's coming straight for Necromancer.

6.  Bad blood continues between Geo-Force and Marathon, as Geo-Force showed up at Arkham Asylum during a JLNG mission and tried to claim turf.  This eventually culminated in the Outsiders  (Geo-Force, Katana, Black Lightning, and the Creeper) going along to the Fortress of Solitude and Geo-Force pushing his powers too far to prove a point, and destroying the whole thing, and disappearing in the bargain.

Superman never thought to get earthquake insurance . . .

7.  That fight at Arkham?  The Fatal Five showed up, apparently hired by the Time Trapper in the far distant future to steal the team's little contained universal globes that Tim Hunter helped them make to manage their Hypertime issues.

8.  At the Fortress of Solitude?  Yeah, Cyborg Superman decided the best way to get back at Superman in his absence would be to free someone that would revel in destroying everything Kal-El stood for, and so he freed General Zod and his henchmen.  Thankfully, in the ensuing fight, Black Lightning proved to be the most useful Outsider ever by smacking the Cyborg with a nasty affliction that put him at -5 on all of his checks until he was down and out.

9.  Paradox stole a few chunks of Kryptonite from Luthor's battle suit.  The red K made Ursa super amorous, and she stripped down Paradox's costume.  Thankfully his, ahem, density saved him from turning blue and looking like Doctor Manhattan.  The green K eventually softened up Zod and Ursa as well.

10.  In a strange turn of events, the New Guard actually manage to take out Non without using any of the Kryptonite.  The other Kryptonians were sucked into the Phantom Zone when everyone realized that the Phantom Zone generator was still operating after the Fortress was destroyed.  Plus Geo-Force disappeared without a trace, so now the JLNG is wondering if he's trapped in the Phantom Zone with Zod's criminal band.

11.  Myrmidon died, but still hasn't found out (in character) that he's immortal, because as he was having a chat with Charon about how the Olympian gods went missing, Necromancer managed to bring him back to life.   Necromancer totally doesn't feel guilty because Myrmidon died due to having Cyborg Superman fall on him after Necromancer's blast threw him out of the Fortress of Solitude.  Nope.  Not guilty at all.  He also figured that if you raise someone from the dead, it's the same as not killing them in the first place.

12.  At one point during the fight, Fahrenheit decided to switch on all of the Kryptonian equipment in the Fortress and try to trick Zod's forces into following him into the Phantom Zone projector room.  He managed to open up Superman's endangered alien animal habitat, and was nearly trampled by the mass of escaping animals.  Venusian bunnies proved to be especially poorly suited to resisting Fahrenheit's heat aura, and he inadvertently turned the poor bunny from exotic fauna to carbon with one failed Toughness check.

13.  Myrmidon and Necromancer went to Olympus and the Aereopagus to find out what's going one, learned that the gods went missing one by one, and that all signs lead to the mysterious trio of islands that they think are Circe's base of operations.  And Myrmidon picked up another pet, an imp named Skreej.

That is pretty much the short form of the last several sessions.  The whole team is ready to be off to Circe's presumed domain to figure out what's going on with the gods, and this time, it's personal  (at least for Myrmidon).

Nuts and Bolts

Not only am I loving this campaign for the story, but I have to say, I'm pretty happy with how M&M 3e has been handling the mechanics.  There are still some grey areas that I think could have been cleared up involving some powers and effects, but I ran a combat with 6 PCs, 4 allies, and 4 heavy hitter bad guys, and while it took most of the four hour session, it was an epic fight.

People moved, and did things and got punted out of the Fortress and tried off the wall stunts.  It didn't seem like a grind fest, it seemed like an over the top comic book brawl, and I was pretty happy with that.

Inspirational Viewing

To keep the fires kindled, I think I'm going to watch Superman/Batman Apocalypse for the billionth time on Netflix tonight.  Had this been after payday, I may have sprung for the Wonder Woman animated DTV movie, or a season of Justice League.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mission Statement . . . Again

I'll let you in on a secret.  My reasons for blogging have changed a bit over the course of the blog.  Way, way back when I was still on Livejournal, I started blogging so that I could vent some of my frustration from the online communities I was a part of, thus making my actual posting time a bit more pleasurable because I had already vented the most vehement of my opinions.

After years of venting about the Forgotten Realms, WOTC, 4th Edition, Pathfinder, Pathfinder Society, online communities, game design in general and game designers in particular, and reading others venting in complaining, I started to wonder:  How many of us enjoy our hobby?

It also helped lot that GopherDave really helped me put into perspective why I gamed and what I liked about it, and helped me to grasp that trying to force myself to like games that I felt I "had" to like wasn't doing me any favors.

Around that time I decided to start specifically blogging about gaming sessions with the emphasis on why I enjoy gaming.  Gaming is a great hobby with a lot of great people.  I love the creative outlet and the social interaction, and I'm psyched to get to game in a wide variety of systems next weekend at Winter War.

That's not to say that I didn't want to say anything negative, or constructive about games or game design or gaming trends, just that I always wanted to focus on the idea that the point of gaming is to have fun playing games, not to theorize how games should be played without actually playing them.

I've had a few bumpy patches, from a campaign meltdown to some personal issues that cut into my gaming time for a while, but I'm running a game and playing in two right now.  I've also cut down on my reading of comics that are currently produced.  I still love comic books as a theory, but not so much as an ongoing product.

With all of that firmly in mind, I decided along with getting back to being better organized for my games, I needed to get back to some discipline in my blogging.  I've been thinking about what kind of schedule I needed to set up, but sometimes the simplest schedules are the best.

So, from this point on, I'm planning on having at least some kind of summary of the game I've played on the day after I play the game.

Right now, that means the following:

Alternate Wednesdays:  DC Adventures Summaries

Alternate Fridays:  Pathfinder Shackled City Player Summary

Alternate Fridays:  Deathwatch Player Summary

And with that firmly stated, it's likely I'm going to break that schedule the first week out, because I don't think I'm going to get a Pathfinder report worked up with Winter War coming up next weekend.

If I break a schedule before I finish making it, does that create some kind of temporal paradox?

Anyway, random musings about table top games, video games, sci fi and fantasy pop culture, and comics when the mood strikes me.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

At the Intersection of I Need to Get Organized and I Need an Emergency Dice Kit . . .

A few days ago, upon seeing a few sets of dice sitting next to the bed, on my dresser, and on my bookcase, my wife commented that I needed to put an emergency dice kit in my car with whatever dice I might need for whatever game so I didn't have to keep picking up cheap dice when I forget my dice.

Now, in my defense, I don't forget my dice that often.  Usually it happens when we are playing a game that is out of the ordinary from our normal session, so I don't pack up what I normally pack up.  It also happens from time to time when I'm playing, but rushing out the door for one reason or another.

Given that my wife loves sales and loves hardware stores, she found some storage bins on clearance, and bought me three of them.  So I decided to actually make up an emergency dice kit, as well as assessing what I would need in a "normal" dice kit for the nights I play and the nights I GM.

Up there is the aforementioned emergency dice kit.  Up in the top tray are folded up copies of my current PCs  (7th level Oracle and a Rank 3 Devastator Marine).  The counters I threw in because, hey, who knows when you will need counters to keep track of something.  I have three pens, three pencils, a notepad, a full set of polyhedrals, a bunch of extra d6s, and a full set of d10s.

The plan is to put these in the car and only touch the thing when I go up in level or rank or something significant happens to print out a secondary character sheet for the PC in question.  Even if I fall a little behind, I know there have been times when it would have been much better to have an old, one level lower version of a PC to use for game night than to not have your character at all.

Now, up there is my regular player game night kit.  Yes, I have a d100 for my Deathwatch game.  I also have a whole lot of polyhedral sets in there.  While I will tell everyone that those are for other players that might have forgotten their dice for the evening, it's mainly so that if I get upset with a set of dice I can put them in time out and use their friends for a while.

I also have the mini for my Oracle in the Pathfinder game, pens and pencils, extra d6s and d10s, and some large size mini bases.  Why do I have those?  In case we end up needed something to mark a summoned creature, or to put underneath a medium mini that gets boosted in size for one reason or another.

Up there is my GM night dice kit.  I carry my books and screen and everything in its own tub on game night, so this will be going inside that when I pack up.  I have pens, pencils, several d20s  (I'm only running DC Adventures/Mutants and Masterminds in a regular campaign right now).  I've got several sets of polyhedrals in there.  I have those mainly in case I run a Savage Worlds one shot.  I have the d10s in there so I can keep dreaming of the Rogue Trader game that doesn't exist yet.

The counters are wound markers for my Mutants and Masterminds game.  I'm using the alternate lethal wounds rules from the Gamemaster's Guide, so I have counters for hero points, non-lethal wounds, and lethal wounds.  All of those counters also come in handy, again, if I end up running a Savage Worlds one shot.  In fact, I was a little disappointed that I couldn't massage the removable slats enough to allow for a deck of playing cards to fit in the case.

And regarding my previous post about doing proper prep time . . . I sat down, looked for stats online for the people I needed, found most of what I needed, printed out pages, and wrote a nice, neat outline complete with logical hero point potential rewards, and an outline that I'm sure won't do near as much good as it could because the players will come up with a completely different wild tangent, but at least it will give me a solid jumping off point . . . ;)

Friday, January 6, 2012

I Need To Get Organized . . .

There have been times in my gaming career that I've been very . . . overly prepared for a plethora of contingencies.  This is not one of those times.  Due to real life getting really chaotic, my level of preparedness, in general, has gone out the window.

In the past, when I felt like I wasn't quite able to live up to my own standards for prep work and planning, I had a tendency to feel like I was short changing my players, and and when coupled with other issues going on in "real life," this would tend to make me withdraw from gaming, especially GMing.

I've had some really good friends tell me not to withdraw like that, that I need my outlet, and that they enjoy my games and my company, and I am flattered by this.  And while I appreciate the compliment, I also recognize that, yes, I do need my creative outlet and my nights to cut loose gaming wise to stay sane.

Since I'm only running the DC Adventures game right now, this means that the brunt of my rushed GMing is falling on the DC group, and I feel bad for that.  Don't get me wrong, the group is still an absolute blast, but I'll try to elucidate my concerns about my own shortcomings.

Believe it or not, I actually do have an outline for the overall campaign, I have a series of events that will happen at various points, and I know how they tie into one another.  I've also added events to the outline as the players have made certain choices or shown interest in various types of stories or villains.

In other words, I'm trying to create a very loose structure that, under the right circumstances, tightens up quite a bit and makes other events make sense in the broad view.  This has been working pretty well, but of late, I've been relying on my broad outline and what I know is around the corner a bit more than finding out what direction the players are going and fleshing that out as much as I can before they get there.  It has made the game feel a bit more rapid and gonzo than my originally planned pace.

In my more organized days, this meant that the PCs would turn in a certain direction, I'd flesh out the direction they were moving in, give them some foreshadowing, then show them what was hiding behind the door they walked up upon.  Lately I've been pacing things more along the lines of the PCs turning in a given direction, and the door bursting open with the next plot thread assaulting them with minimal preamble.

If the grand, overall campaign arc I had in mind would have taken, say, 52 sessions to play out  (to pull a number out of the Anti-Monitor's ass here), my abbreviations would have probably contracted the campaign down to about 48 sessions or so at this point, if that makes any sense.

Basically, because I didn't want to loose my players and the feeling of immediacy for the overall campaign, especially after missing a few sessions, I have stuff that was going to happen eventually happening much sooner and with NPCs screaming exposition at the top of their lungs while attempting to kill the PCs to create momentum.  I'm not thrilled with my own approach when it comes to this, and I really would like to get my pacing back under control.

That having been said, the game is still a lot of fun, and I really want to see what the players add to the campaign and I really want to keep telling what's left of the story hooks I've cooked up.  Life is starting to slowly stabilize again, and I'm feeling that urge to build up the connective tissues between events more convincingly.  I'm hoping all of my players are still enjoying the ride, because I really look forward to the game every other week.

This forced "off the cuff" GMing, however, has either taught me or reminded me of some things that I may have forgotten along the way in recent years.

1.  I don't really need fancy tools to get the job done.  I like having stats for people in Hero Lab, for instance, but just printing out stats on a piece of paper so I don't have to look through a rulebook is just as effective and much friendlier in terms of prep time.

2.  Prep time is better used creating an outline and a story than it is dwelling in minutia.  I used to really worry about custom building things that didn't explicitly exist in the books, but unless something is truly special, re-skinning the "Large Robot" in the rulebook is more than enough to convey the stats for Toyman's life sized transformers.

3.  Pacing is king.  You can have the most brilliant idea for a campaign ever, but if you blurt out half the the out campaign secrets in one or two sessions with little work being done by the PCs to uncover them, or you give out a disproportionate amount of the plot for the amount of effort going on, no one is going to care half as much as they would if they really had to scrabble to figure out the little plot twist that keeps them going for the next two sessions.

4.  Sometimes the GMs job is to be mister negative.  Some GMs have no problem with this, and some GMs are way too good at it, but the GM is suppose to provide structure, and sometimes structure means, "no, you can't do that," although it helps if you can say, "you can't do that, but you can do this."

The side effect of all of this GM soul searching coupled with my renewed desire to get organized is that I have that little buzzing at the base of my GM skull telling me that somewhere, sometime, I need to take on another campaign to run.  I had to listen really hard, because at first it sounded like the buzzing wanted me to cobble together a Star Wars game under Savage Worlds or something, but now I'm thinking the buzzing is saying something that sounds suspiciously like Rogue Trader.

But despite the buzzing, I've already got 3 game nights, no prospect for a good night to run it, and a wife who loves me enough to cut off body parts if I get too ambitious.  So for now planning a campaign that won't happen is a "downtime" hobby for when I need a break from planning the campaign I am running.

I also do want to get back into a semblance of a schedule on this here blog, as well, but I've got to think about what that schedule would look like.  In the mean time, I may post a bit later about my thoughts on character development from the player's side of the screen, through the eyes of my ever so cuddly and lovable Space Wolf, Ranger Then.