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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year

Well, that's the end of 2016, or almost (7 hours away in my 'hood). It was one hell of a year.  Intense ups and downs, all the fucking way. But all things considered, I'm definitely ending the year in a stronger personal position than when I started.

To all my readers and faithful fans, I wish you a very happy new year, and let's hope 2016 is the year where Old School RPG gaming takes it to a whole other level.  I just got us started a bit early with Dark Albion.

As for next year, what do I have planned?

First, watch for Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos, to come out sometime in the first quarter of next year.
Second, I'm going to be doing a special something with another well-known OSR game designer, a product for one of his settings.

Third, yet another very well-known OSR game designer (not the same dude as above) is slated to do something for one of my settings.

After that? Who knows. Sooner or later, I'll be making a book for my epic gonzo DCC campaign, but I don't know if that'll be done, or even started, next year.

In any case, I'm not planning to go anywhere, the Great Architect willing, and I'm sure I'll be doing a lot to entertain, outrage, and astound y'all next year.


Currently Smoking; Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

RPGPundit Reviews: Far Away Land

This is a review of the RPG "Far Away Land", the "tome of awesome" version, print edition. It was written by Dirk Stanley, published by Simian Circle Games.

This particular edition is a lovely little hardcover, about 290 pages long (note: I have no idea if it's the "standard" hardcover or the "premium" hardcover; but if this is the standard I can't imagine what the "premium" could possibly add to it). It has an appealing cover with a black border and a centered image of a mordor-like mountain with either a carving, statue or body of some giant skeleton on it.

The cover is full colour, and made in a cartoonish style that is somewhat reminiscent of "Adventure Time". The interior art is full-color, plentiful, and also in that same style.

So here's the thing: this is a beautiful looking little game (well, at 290 pages, being a compilation edition of various products, 'little' is a bit of an understatement), which purports to be about "strange and bizarre" gaming in a "quirky and weird and strange and sportive" world. It sounds at first glance to be right up my alley.  The cutesy-poo "Adventure Time"-esque imagery might have the effect of leading one to underestimate it, potentially as being more simplistic and childish than it actually is (much like the great Adventure Time show itself), but a cursory glance makes it clear that this is a product that's not made for kids, but is rather a detailed RPG for experienced gamers.

Now, will it prove to be as much to my liking as the aesthetics and overall theme promise? Well, I'm not so sure of that. The introduction makes it clear that the game operates on two levels: the "micro level" of adventuring in the standard Fantasy RPG style, but then there's also a "macro level" where "players take on the roles of gods or historians and participate in a narrative building exercise in which they create their worlds from scratch".
Guess which of those two parts I'm highly dubious about?

Now, there's not enough in that description to seal the deal as to calling this a Storygame; it will depend on the execution.  We will have to see if this is more like an RPG kingdom-scale game, or more of a toxic Forge-theory wankjob.

Things start out OK, with what looks like a fairly standard RPG system.  It works entirely on D6s, with each stat representing how many dice are rolled, but only the highest roll counting. So, in short, a dice pool, but the least annoying of dice pools. Bonuses and penalties represent dice added or subtracted from the pool. Rolls are made against difficulty numbers or sometimes as opposed checks. If you roll more than one 6 in your pool, every additional 6 rolled represents a +1 to the result rolled. In the case of ties, the PC wins, but in an opposed check between two PCs, the defender or non-aggressor of the conflict wins.

Character creation is quite simple, with only three core attributes: Brute, Dexterity, and Wits. Stats are assigned either 2, 2, and 2; or 3, 2, and 1. Characters have hit points, which start at 10 + Brute. Armor absorbs damage.  Characters also have Action points, which start at 3 + Dex.  In combat different actions cost different amounts of action points. In a round, a melee or ranged attack costs 3 action points, moving costs 2, drawing a weapon costs 1, using magic or a special power costs 4, etc.

There's also a Luck attribute; it starts off at 2.  Nothing storygamey here; you can spend a luck point to add a d6 to your dice pool.

Skills in the system are called boons, and character choose them from a list (though you could also theoretically come up with a new one not on the list).  Melee combat is a boon, for example; as is Ranged, or Sneaking or Arcane (the magic skill), as well as things like knowledge, riding or piloting vehicles. Each +1 in a boon gives you one extra die when rolling a check where that boon would be relevant.

There's also flaws, with a list of sample flaws to choose from.  These are negative character traits. Actions where a flaw is relevant generate a penalty of -1 to -3 dice from the pool.

Characters who choose the Arcane boon start the game with 2 or 3 spells.

The experience system is a mix of level-based and point-based.  You get XP, which you can then spend to get or increase boons or increase stats or flaws; or they can increase in level (which gives them a package of bonuses to luck, hit points, damage, and action points). XP is given for showing, roleplay, meeting goals, being awesome, or being funny.

The spell system is quite simple; it's based on a Wits + Arcane roll, but this is only necessary if the spell is opposed by a target, in which case they roll Wit(+Arcane, if they have it) to avoid the effect. Magic users can cast their LV+3 spells per day.  Spells have levels, and a magic user can learn any spell equal or less than his level. Spells range from levels 1 to 10. All of them have very simple concise descriptions, and most of them are similar to D&D magic-user or cleric spells.

Combat is quite straightforward, using the aforementioned action points to rule how much a person can do in a round, and with most combat checks being opposed actions.  Damage is based on the weapon used plus the margin of success from the opposed roll. Characters who reach negative hit points will die at a negative value higher than their current level. Most NPCs die at 0hp, however.  There's also an optional rule where a GM may allow a character to survive beyond their hp threshold but at the cost of taking a serious permanent 'battle scar', which will usually manifest as a new flaw.

There is also an optional rule for 'combat achievements', where exceptional actions in combat (usually high rolls or slaying several opponents) will grant bonuses to die rolls or XP.

Likewise, there's 'optional' rules to govern a number of combat situations, like trying to bluff in combat, grappling rules, mounted combat, surprise attacks, etc.; as well as non-weapon combat conditions like exhaustion, poison, falling, etc.

All in all, the mechanics thus far are fairly exemplary for a rules-lite type of fantasy game.

The gear section is pretty standard, and includes rules on the generation of magic items.  Some of the items are fairly standard, but a lot of the magic items are fairly gonzo; again in that Adventure Time kind of way. I thought the Boots of Stomping were amusing, personally.

There's a section on NPCs, which includes a set of tables for random NPC goals, as well as an outline of some standard types of NPCs with their boons and interests. After this, there's a listing of special powers and abilities, and how to handle them. There's a whole variety of these, mostly useful to cover the special powers of different kinds of monsters (the undead, for example).

At this point, we've covered only the first section of the book, some 70 pages or so.  This is the core of the rules, but the "Tome of Awesome" edition still has another 200+ pages of material!

The next section of the book was (I fathom) the original first sourcebook of the game: "Creatures Volume 1".  Just as it sounds, it's the monster manual for the game.  It has four main parts: first, a selection of some 68 monsters or so. Each is given a brief and simple statblock that's quite practical. Each also has a color illustration in the same cartoony style as the rest of the book.  A few of these monsters are pretty mundane: cyclops, dwarves, elves, or elementals, for example. But there's also quite a lot of truly gonzo monsters truly representative of the system; this includes evil warrior nuns, clown plants (literally animated plants with clown heads), riding cows, piranha men, giant floating robot heads, and (my personal favorites) murderous clones of Abraham Lincoln.

The second part is on dragons, and gives more extensive rules on them, along with several slightly goofy examples of gonzo dragons.
The third part gives you details as to how to generate your own creatures. This part is fairly easy to understand and to apply.

The last part adds rules for travel rates, weather rules, and treasure/rewards.  It's not a bad section but it lacks any kind of meaningful treasure tables, which is a pity.
The whole section ends with a truly gruesome (albeit still cartoony) illustration of an adventurer being ripped apart by a gang of vicious carnivorous purple hares.

Next, we get to the Companion Rules. It was yet another sourcebook collected into this omnibus edition, and is described as a set of mini-games that can be incorporated as rules into Far Away Land.

The first part of it is "gods of Far Away Land". In this mini-game the players take on the role of Gods and build a working map of their world. Each player takes on a deity, and describe the personality and attitude of their god. One player acts as the 'librarian' and keeps track of the other players and their doings.

The players take turns creating parts of the world. Each player details a type of area they want to create (i.e. forest, ocean, etc.), and then throws two coins or other small objects onto the map. Where the objects land determines the rough boundary of the area (if one of the objects falls off, the god only creates a tiny area the size of the remaining object). The player god then names and describes the area. When coins land on areas already determined the overlapping area becomes some kind of combination; the example given is that if Mountains intersect with Ocean, the overlapping area becomes a series of fjords.

This is followed by the "Architects" part, where the players build cities, relics, monuments, dungeons, roads, etc. This works in a way similar to the former but apparently without the use of coins. It also adds a rule that on a round, a player may choose to destroy an existing location (turning it into a ruin) or altering it in some other way.

Then, on a similar vein, we have the "Historians" mini-game. Players here take on the roles of historians and create stories/histories of Far Away Land's past. Each historian has his areas of expertise, and ranks these. If two historians chose the same area of expertise, the one who has ranked that area higher can alter the history created in that area by a lesser-ranked historian. Certain events (like battles) can be worked out by rolling dice.

So all of these mini-games are very clearly not in and of themselves RPG play, but rather a gameified world-building system. They wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but they're not some kind of Storygaming per se. They're abstracted out of the context of actual gameplay, happening presumably to create the world before starting a campaign, or a region of the world before starting a new campaign period.
I don't think "world-design by committee" is a great way to handle things, personally, but it also doesn't ruin the game in any way. A GM can choose to completely ignore these various rules, and it doesn't affect the rest of gameplay in the least.

The section entitled "end of Far Away Land" has a number of rules and guidelines that arrange what in D&D would be called the "domain level" rules, where very advanced PCs can set up their own fiefdoms, build structures, manage resources, engage in taxation, maintain the happiness of their populations, manage battles or large-scale events.  Now, none of this is at an "ACKS" level of sophistication, on the contrary, everything is managed very simply and sometimes in a very abstract way. The most sophisticated part is the Mass Combat Rules, which go on for about 7 pages and provide a good level of detail for large-scale battles.

After this, on a far less serious note, there's the Training Montage rules, where a player describes a set of scenes depicting a 'Rocky' style training montage for the purposes of acquiring new skills or abilities. The system is based on the other players voting/judging just how good the 'montage' was. Having a musical track for the montage is optional.

There's also an 'adventure builder' chapter, which starts off as fairly typical (which is to say mostly needless) advice for GMs on how to build an adventure. But there's also a list of 'adventure ideas', each of which gets detailed and includes several variations of the general idea. This is slightly more useful. The chapter ends on a 'mini-scenario builder'.

The "settlement builder" lets you decide or randomly-determine a settlement, with a series of simple six-entry tables. And lastly for the book, a list of 125 'rumors', many of which make adventure ideas.

So far so good. Now we get to the last sourcebook section: "Tales of Awesome".  This is the Setting Book detailing the multiverse of Far Away Land.  It is, to say the least, highly gonzo in a slightly odd cutesy-poo sort of way you'd expect from the artistic style of the book, and amusingly has some similarities to my own DCC "Last Sun" setting which I've detailed often on my blog and will someday no doubt be a published book (the similarities are probably due to a common source of inspiration in Adventure Time; no idea if this book was also influenced by the Kabbalah, which was another inspiration for me).  There is a multiverse, which includes all possible worlds; this multiverse was created from the death of the former universe (a theme somewhat reminiscent to my Last Sun setting).  This multiverse exists within the Void (yup, got that too), which originally had two primordial beings that united to create an entity called "Orton the Omnihare" (...ok, I don't have that one). Orton the Ominhare created a bunch of entities called the Cosmic Wanderers who filled the multiverse with places and things; most of the Cosmic Wanderers have now ceased to be, and you can now sometimes see some of their incredible husks in certain places.

There are nine dimensional spheres in the multiverse (there are 10 in Last Sun), and each have their own nature/quality.  These include the Bolgosphere (ruled by Bolgo Cats), the Abyssmalsphere (where demons come from), the God Lands (where the immortals worshiped as Gods come from), and the Materiosphere (where Far Away Land and other material planes are found).  There's quite a bit of creative descriptions of each sphere, a couple of paragraphs apiece.

What follows is a more specific and relatively detailed overview of the history of "Far Away Land" itself. The stories tell of a series of different eras in the setting, a lot of it fairly standard fantasy-world fare. There was an age of magic, and then a mage war.  There was an age of iron, and then an alien invasion. This was followed by a conquest by a race of evil robots. The aftermath of these events, some 2000 years ago, left the world looking like the weird gonzo mishmash it is today. Add a resurgence of magic and eleven different undead apocalypses, and we get to the present situation of things.

The cosmology of Far Away Land involves the aforementioned Omnihare and the Cosmic Wanderers; one of whom created the Gods. He also created the Immortals of the God Lands, apparently these are two rival groups.  The former were the ones who created the worlds of the materiosphere, as well as other places. As you can imagine, these Children of the Cosmic Wanderer are a weird bunch, and some descriptions and illustrations are provided. The Immortals of the God Lands and some other minor entities also get brief descriptions.

Next it's time for place descriptions, and we get two continents detailed, along with hex-maps! The bad news is that the hex-maps are continent sized and occupy a half-page each in a half-sized book, so they're basically impossible to make out. At the very end of the book there are several pages of full-page hex maps of much smaller areas, so that's something at least.

All of the places that are detailed in this section are fairly briefly described, but all have both little details of interest and a fairly clear notion of potential adventuring purposes. There's the mountains made by the Dwarf god Mort, the city of Cage where the Glorious Cube is found, the Dead Swamps of Keltor, the city of "Londol" which is apparently London that had been teleported to Far Away Land long ago, the deliciously-named Murdertime Islands, and many many more places.

Perhaps at least equally useful (or at least equally interesting), you have the section on 'heroes and villains of Far Away Land'.  You have here half- or full-page bios of a variety of interesting and usually quite weird characters, including Fuegar the simian warrior, Grabble the Ogra (who's an ogre mexican wrestler), Jen Arcool the famous founder of the Londol Adventurer's Guild, The Linkon (who is Abraham Lincoln, and the unwilling source of the murderous "Noknil" lincoln-clones), Ramdous the guardian entity that appears like a hooded humanoid figure with a six-sided dice for a head, Richard Awesome, and many more.

There's also a section on religion and cults, where we get a list of similar breakdowns of faiths and sects. There's 16 different entries, most of which are half a page or more in length.  There's the worshipers of the Glorious Cube ("Cubikism"), the Cult of the Last Human (which seeks out a prophesied human child who they believe will lead humanity to conquer the entire world), the cult of the Leviathog (who is a Cthulhu-imitation), The Dwarf God Mort, The Old Man cult (a human religion who believe that god is an old man who lives in the sky, and spends most of his time asleep), the Agnun cult of the Robo-Bear, and various others.

The Languages section includes a fantasy alphabet ("quintabeth"), and a list of other languages of Far Away Land, including "Earth" (the language spoken by humans), Dubstep, and Groont.

The book ends with the aforementioned really great full-page and two-page hexmaps of specific areas of Far Away Land. There's also an index and some character sheets.

So, final thoughts: I had some trepidation going into the product.  While a lot of the thematics I'd seen about it appealed to me, I figured it might be one of those products storygamers are fond of making these days, meant to look like an old-school product but actually the furthest thing from one.  As it turns out, my concerns were unfounded. Far Away Land is every bit chalk-full of old-school spirit.  Its world-building mini-games do not interfere with this at all, because they are completely divorced from the process of actual play; you can use them as a totally separate exercise, to create parts of the setting, but when you get to actual play, the game is 100% regular as an RPG.

More than that, it's terribly imaginative, and really fun.  It serves in many ways as a rules-light counter-point to Dungeon Crawl Classics: a lot of the same gonzo insanity as that game, but if anything Far Away Land is more open in embracing its gonzo potential; and at the same time its rules are much more streamlined.  If I was playing a years-long campaign, I'd go with DCC (and indeed, I have!), but for a shorter campaign or one-shot, Far Away Land would be terribly fun.


Currently Smoking:  Italian Redbark + H&H's Beverwyck

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday: The New Star Wars Villains are SJWs

This week on Everyjoe, I present an argument for how the new villains in Star Wars are all whiny, fairness-obsessed millennials, and why I think this was done on purpose.

That's right, the Pseudo-Activists are basically the Sith. 

As always, please check it out, retweet, etc. etc. 


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Monday, 28 December 2015

How To Handle PC Interaction With the World in a Regular RPG

A PC is in an alley, facing some thugs, he has no weapons, he says "I look around for a piece of wood" (or at least, my player would say that, some other idiot's player would say "can there be a piece of wood there?", trying to make a demand on the world instead of interact with it; but that's largely semantics).

Here is what I (or any proper GM) would do; and keep in mind that in this very simple scenario, the whole process would probably be nearly instantaneous:
1) consider the nature of the world of the setting, and the specific place in particular that the PC is. That is, what region of the world he's in, the nature of the city in that region, the nature of the neighbourhood in that city, the nature of the alley in particular. Is wood something people use? Is it likely to be found just dropped there in an alley? If so, will it be wood that is just the right size for him to potentially use as a weapon; or would it be too large, small, or brittle to be worth anything?

2) based on that, the possible answers are that either yes there is wood there, no there isn't, or there might be wood there.

3) the ONLY thing that matters is not whether the players want it, not whether it advances the 'story' (because NO ONE involved should be trying to 'make a story' here), or any other reason except "does it fit the reality of the world?"; that's it, the only consideration.

4) if I decide that there is definitely wood there, because in this city in this world there would always be wood in every alley (like say that they mostly use wood-burning stoves here and it's winter and the wood is likely to be piled in alleys in this city), or that the odds are sufficiently enormous anyways that I don't need to question it further, I say "Yes".

If I decide that there is really way too slim a chance of there being the right type of wood (right size and strength for what the player wants), because wtf would a piece of wood be doing in an urban alleyway? Then I say "no".

If I decide that there's a chance large enough to bother with that wood could be there (wood in alleys in this place is common but not an absolute certainty) but far from an absolute certainty; that is, quite a few alleys in this city might have wood of the right size and strength but by no means all of them will, then I will either make a judgment on it based on my own immediate sensing of the world, or I will determine a % chance and roll it (so, say wood is not usually used to heat or cook with here, but in this area of the city there is a lot of construction going on; so there might be a 2/6 chance of wood being there).

Note of course that as a decent GM, I could also choose to immediately respond, with the gist of the PC's plan in mind, that there's definitely a rock there, or a barrel lid, or whatever else might certainly be there. If the general concept of what the Player is actually looking for is understood, there's no point in playing "20 questions" if it can be avoided.  You can say "no, but there's a stone/broken bottle/piece of chain", or conversely you can say "no, and you can't really see anything at all there you could use as an improvised weapon".

Note, again, how in NO CASE is the decision based on what the Player's whims are, what my whims are (in the sense of whether I like player 1 more than player 2 or whether I think the player's idea of using a stick to fend them off is cool or lame or anything else), or some kind of idiotic quixotic notion of story-creation.  All of those thing would be anti-immersive.

The stick is there or not because in this virtual reality it either is there or it's not.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Brebbia no.7

Sunday, 27 December 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Indie Game Writer

Indie Game writer (Lennon-McCartney-Pundit)

Hey Mr.Edwards, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, you couldn't tell to look...
It's based on a premise no one wants to play,
But we'll call it "art", cause I want to be an Indie Game writer,
Indie Game Writer.

It's an dirty game about my dirty mind,
"Unwashed" "normal" gamers wouldn't understand.
With enough perversion it is bound to fail,
But I'll get some cred, cause I want to be an Indie Game writer,
Indie Game Writer.

It's an "ashcan" version, and the rules all suck,
But I'll be writing more if I make a buck.
If I just get mentioned on Vince Baker's blog,
I don't need real success, I just want to be an Indie Game Writer,
Indie Game Writer.

If you say its bullshit, well you may be right,
But you'll be banned on overnight,
If I had real talent I would not be here,
But I'm just a fake, so I've got to be an Indie Game Writer,
Indie Game Writer.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Perique

(Originally posted October 22, 2008)

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Doctor Who Season Wrap-Up

So, I finally got to see a Doctor Who ep in a timely fashion and I figured I should mention my thoughts on the Doctor Who Christmas Special and this season as a whole.

In any case, spoilers forthcoming.

I found myself dreading this Christmas Special. Mainly because until now this season had been so good.  It didn't have that many Truly Excellent episodes as some other seasons may have had (the penultimate episode being perhaps the one exception), but virtually ALL the episodes were well above average, a few were really good, and none at all were awful.

It was the most consistently good solid season in the entire history of new-Who.

So when I hear they're bringing back the character that made Rose seem like a non-mary-sue by comparison, I figured that was the end of the good run.

Lo and behold, though, I was wrong.

Somehow, the Capaldi magic managed to make this the only River Song episode I found decently good since the Library.  Come to think of it, maybe it was a Matt Smith problem (either in how the actors' chemistry worked or in how Moffat was writing for Smith vs. before and after); because River was a decent character with her one appearance in Tennant's run, and decent in what I PRAY will be her final appearance in the series, in Capaldi's run.

I really pray this is the end of her; yes, because I never really liked the character, but also because it was actually done right. It all fits. He gives her the sonic screwdriver, and her next stop is the Library, bringing everything around full-circle.  It was a non-unbearable story. It even redefine the relationship into something that made a shitload of a lot more sense than the whole way it was made to be seen in the Smith era.

Anyways, pleasantly surprised at this. What did you think?


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake

Friday, 25 December 2015

Pictures From Uruguay: Special Edition

No, these pictures aren't of a city under siege, they're just Christmas in Montevideo.  From my rooftop patio, you can see fireworks in every direction from around the stroke of midnight.

Note that the pictures really don't do it justice.  You get a barrage of fireworks, some incredibly close, exploding all around you.

As you might have guessed, this is not from some sanctioned city-hall light show.  Here, everyone buys fireworks and launches them from their roof, their balcony, or just the street. It's insane.

And the whole light-show repeats itself all over again, a week later, on New Year's.


Currently Smoking:  Mastro de Paja Bent Billiard + Gawith's Spring

Thursday, 24 December 2015

DCC Campaign Update: The Dark Ones Revealed (also, Sky-Nazis!)

We had left off with the PCs (along with the young Ancient girl, Alice) just about to enter an Ancient Emergency Shelter which apparently had been refurbished some time in the past 100000 years into a kind of Victorian Mansion (by what would turn out to be yet another new race of elves, the Posh Elves). They arrived just in time for a dinner party, and for a massive thunderstorm. It turns out that at the high altitudes of the floating islands at this level, such storms were so powerful that survival itself would be nearly impossible, meaning they were trapped inside the creepy mansion full of weirdos.

Then all this happened:

-The human weaver became a wizard. He also had turned out to be something of a 'social justice warrior'. Making him a Social Justice Warrior Wizard Weaver.

-The human butler's name is Jeeves; of course.

-There is a sudden surprise as a beam of light descends, and takes away the Cleric Ack'basha, "Ropework" the Wizard, and the other newb that didn't become a lv.1 character.  Before they were teleported, a voice rang out calling to Ack'basha, saying something like "The Supreme Council of the Presbyterian Church requires your presence!"  And just like that, the characters belonging to players not available to show up this session were gone.

-The remaining PCs were introduced to Lady Norrington, who is basically an elven version of this:

-which means that they're in a gonzo fantasy ancient high-tech version of this:

-They met quite the ensemble of Posh Elves besides: Lady Norrington's nephew Freddy, niece Lucy, her friends the Colonel and Sir Anthony Dashwood (who works for 'the ministry'), local respectables The Doctor (no, not THAT doctor) and The Vicar, the seeress Madame Theodora, and the famous elderly detective-elf named Mrs. Maplebury.  There are also a few other humans besides Jeeves: Lucy the maid, Jack the weird keeper of the botany lab, Pierre the cook, and Ted, a gunslinger from a nearby floating island called Cimmaron (with a six-shooter and ten gallon hat). The latter is apparently dating Lucy, the social gall of which has set Lady Norrington into conniptions of shock.
(posting this here because it's true, awesome, and vaguely topical in a way that probably won't come up on this blog anytime again soon)

-When inquiring to just what a 'vicar' is, the PCs learn that it's like a posh elven version of a cleric; except that they can't actually cast spells and don't really believe in god.
 "Oh, so its pretty much like the Church of England; gotcha".

-The Brahmin quickly decides he doesn't like Ted the gunslinger, and while the rest are exchanging pleasantries, he's exchanging death threats.

-Madame Theodora claims that "someone will die tonight, it is foretold"! The Brahmin answers "I just said I'm going to kill this guy."  "Exactly! It is foretold!"

-The Social Justice Warrior Weaver Wizard doesn't much care for the gruff, handlebar-mustache-wearing Colonel:
"You're discriminating!"
"Why thank you!"
"Is that mustache even real?!"
"Why of course it is you rapscallion! I won it in the last war!"

-The Dwarf Wizard: "The Brahmin is a holy man"
Alice: "HE'S a holy man?!"
Dwarf Wizard: "Yes; well, Ack'basha is more of a holy man"

-The Social Justice Warrior Wizard Weaver goes to the bathroom hoping to go ethereal to snoop around; he discovers that there's an old magical teleportation pentagram there.  For some reason, in this campaign, most teleportation spells happen in bathrooms.
When he goes ethereal, he sees that the pentagram, which appeared to be inert, was actually radiating a strange dark light. Of course, he steps into the circle, and gets sucked down into the circle by shadowy tentacles!

-When the Social Justice Warrior Wizard Weaver appears to have vanished, Mrs. Maplebury claims to deduce that the Weaver was a spy for something called the "Sky-Nazis".

-The Colonel happens to think that Mr.Sky-Hitler has some fairly good ideas.

-The PCs learn that the posh elves are the ruinous distant descendants of the once mighty empire of the Pythian Knights.  Once they governed half the World of the Last Sun from the skies, but now they've retreated into their floating islands and their dusty towers.

-Alice reveals that she's an Ancient.  After some initial disbelief, Lady Norrington is convinced. She explains that long before the time of the Pythian Knights the elves were the servants of the ancients, charged with keeping this island and others like it maintained, as emergency safe-spaces for the Ancients. But the Ancients vanished, presumably destroyed by the Dark Ones.  Even so, Lady Norrington insists, this manor and all the lands of the Posh Elves actually belong to the Ancients, and if this child is the last of the Ancients then she would be the rightful owner of all of Lady Norrington's wealth and estates.  This does not go over well with Freddy, Lucy, or just about anyone else.

-Sir Anthony asks to use the communication room to contact the Ministry about this new development. The Brahmin decides that's a bad idea, and plans to kill him; but when they get to the comm room they find that the storm has cut out communications. The tower is completely cut off!

-"I say, why are you here?"
"I was going to um.. do something."
"that something wasn't going to be killing Sir Anthony, was it?"

-"Why couldn't we have crashed on a floating island full of drunks?"
"Oh, you mean Sky-Dublin?"

-"Pierre", the "french" chef, turns out to speak in a very thick German accent.

-Suddenly, the maid's bloodcurdling scream alerts everyone to the fact that Lady Norrington has been murdered! With a wrench, in the library.

-Mrs. Maplebury takes charge of the murder investigation; she starts off by interviewing everyone, one at a time. It is at this point that the Brahmin realizes the elderly elf-woman has the hots for him.

-"Hey, where's the Ancient girl?"
"I thought she was with you?"
"Goddamnit, we had ONE job..!!"

-As it turns out, Alice was in the drawing room with the ladies, but when the PCs go to find them, they discover the ladies unconscious, and Alice missing!  The Brahmin kicks Theodora the Seeress awake, to which she quickly states "ah! I knew you were going to do that!"

-The PCs figure out that Pierre, the fake chef and Sky-Nazi spy, had kidnapped Alice; they manage to catch him in the tower's hangar bay, capturing him and saving the girl.

-They tie up Pierre and ask Freddy to keep an eye on him, but Freddy freely admits that, being 'a bit of a thickie', he'd probably just end up having Pierre escape on him. So the Brahmin just decapitates Pierre.

-the Social Justice Warrior Wizard Weaver shows up again, with a strange black hole in the middle of his body!

-Jack, the crazy groundskeeper, insists that the Dark Ones are here.  He also reveals that he was a former adventurer much like the PCs, until he was left a ruin of a man, with broken hands barely useful for gardening.

-"Why do we have a pirate now?"
"Ar, I'm not a pirate, I be from the North"
"I think a lot of pirates must be from the north..."

-"I tell ye, it was the Dark Ones what took him! They changed him! They touched him in ways no man should know!"
"well, that part sounds about right."

-The Brahmin finally can't stand Madame Theodora claiming that totally obvious statements are accurate prophecies on her part, and runs her through with a vibro-sword. With her last words, she calls on her 'masters' to avenge her.

-Meanwhile, the Dwarf Wizard (who was off on his own) gets suddenly kidnapped by a group of small hideous creatures with little red hats, that look a bit like dwarves, but all wrong, and give off an aura that in every way feels like they Should Not Be.

-They introduce themselves to the Dwarf Wizard as the Dark Ones, the beings who destroyed his civilization, were responsible for the loss of the Ancients, drove G.O.D. mad, and generally fucked up the whole planet.  Though he, being a dwarf, knows them by their dwarvish term: "Gnome".

(learn the dark terrible truth about gnomes here).

-Their leader introduces himself as "Ooglesnuffler Poundmangler, Dark Lord of the Black Emptiness".
(this name generated courtesy of the random Gnome leader name chart, in Gnomemurdered)

-(Cue one of my players totally losing his shit with amazement at realizing that the Dark Ones, which he'd been assuming would turn out to be Cthulhu-esque entities all this time, actually turn out to be Gnomes)

-"All of your friends' goals will come to naught"
"To be fair, my friends are really just making it up as they go along"

-The Dwarf Wizard finds out that the only reason he's still alive is because there is something deeply wrong with him, and this intrigues the Gnomes.

-"He is like us, and yet not like us.. we shall have to discover the source of this... bring out The Probe!"

-"you all hear a third bloodcurdling scream in the distance..."

-"When, when will we finally reach the limits of what can be discovered by Probing in this campaign??!"

-The probing reveals that Dwarf Wizard had an ancestor that at some point had been mutated by the Dark Ones/Gnomes, and the mutation had lain dormant through his lineage until it was activated by the massive radiation in the reactor of the Ancient's living complex.  The Dwarf Wizard is not happy to hear that now he's as highly explosive as any other gnome, and will blow up if he falls or runs into a hard surface at sufficiently high speed.
(this and other Gnome Lore available in Gnomemurdered)

-As expected, Gnomes show up, and start to Murder everyone.

-The SJW Wizard Weaver realizes his torso is a Gate to the Gnomish void-realm. It snaps his mind.

-The majority of the Posh Elves are as useless as most other elves in this setting, and die very quickly.  A couple of the less useless ones, plus the cowboy and the Brahmin fight very bravely, but in the end they're all slain. The Brahmin finally found something he couldn't manage to kill.

-The Dwarf Wizard wakes up; for reasons he doesn't understand (but that are no doubt not in any way good) the Gnomes spared him.  For reasons he doesn't understand, they also replaced his hands with lobster claws.
(this and other Gnome mutations available in Gnomemurdered!)

-The Dwarf Wizard comes down to the scene of the slaughter and finds Alice missing, the SJW wizard insane, and the Brahmin dead.  He starts to brutally kick the Brahmin's corpse, having apparently hated the vicious bully the whole time. Unfortunately, he hurts his foot. Even in death the Brahmin can cause damage.

-There were a few survivors among the Posh Elves: the vicar, the doctor, Sir Anthony, Freddy (who is now Lord Norrington), Betty the human maid, and Mrs. Maplebury.  Mrs. Maplebury immediately claims that it was Jack who had killed Lady Norrington, now that there's no way to confirm or deny it. She also claims that the SJW Weaver Wizard is a Sky-Nazi spy.

-But the SJW Weaver Wizard is no longer interested in social justice. Instead, driven insane by the truth of being a living portable hole into the Gnomish netherworld, he now only calls himself "The Weaver", and decides he's going to kill just about everyone he can.

-The Weaver corners the Vicar and tries to kill him with his chill touch, but the Vicar's Agnostic Hymns may or may not be responsible for his spells not being cast successfully.  Unfortunately for the Vicar, they don't work so well at protecting him from the Vibro-sword the Weaver took from the Brahmin's corpse.

-When asked why he killed the vicar, he claims the Vicar had molested him.

-As everyone hunkers down to get some sleep, the Weaver sneaks into Lord Freddy Norrington's master bedroom and murders him too, trying to use the ropework spell to make it look like Freddy had accidentally killed himself in an act of auto-erotic asphyxiation.

-Sir Anthony, seeing where things are going, sneaks away in the early morning as soon as the storm breaks.  He will turn out to be the only NPC survivor of Lady Norrington's Dinner Party.

-when day breaks, the survivors at Norrington Manor are surprised by the arrival of a trio of adventurers (though really they shouldn't be, since that always happen right after a PC dies).  Actually, it's two adventurers and a replacement butler.

-The Dwarf Wizard checks out the hangar bay of the tower, finding several hovercars and a pegasus (the latter probably belonging to the dead cowboy).

-While checking out his new Pegasus, the Dwarf Wizard sees something approaching in the distance. Something that looks like... zeppelins. It's the Sky-Nazis!!

-the Dwarf Wizard, very sensibly, wants to high-tail it out of there. But the Weaver, being completely insane at this point, and having just finished murdering Betty and Mrs. Maplebury, totally wants to stay and meet the Sky-Nazis. Again, because he's insane.

-"how do we even know they're Sky-Nazis?"
"Well, the Zeppelins have swastikas on them"
"Are they sky-swastikas?"
"No, that would just be silly!"

-The Sky-Nazis blow up the front entrance, and demand to know where Pierre is, and more importantly where the Ancient girl is. The Dwarf Wizard wisely hid himself, but when the Sky-Nazis find out that apparently Pierre is dead and the Gnomes kidnapped the Ancient girl, and especially when the Weaver just casually mentions that the Gnomes came and left (with Alice) through a gate that appears in his torso, they decide to take the Weaver to be interrogated (presumably via torture) by the "Sky-obergrupenfuhrer".

-"those Sky-Nazis are really rude!"
"dude, they're SKY-NAZIS, what the fuck did you expect?!"

-The Dwarf-Wizard now plans to get the fuck out while the getting is good, but the sound of hovercar-sirens makes it clear that the getting has just stopped being good.

-The Dwarf-wizard is presented with Chief Inspector Elephant, of "the Yard", who is here to arrest him on suspicion of having something to do with the murder of the entire main branch of the Norrington peerage.

-"Oh man.. is Ack'basha's player going to be pissed when he gets back and hears about all this..."

So, the session ends on a sort of triple-cliffhanger worthy of a season-ender: one of the PCs has been nicked by the Yard, another is a prisoner of the Sky-Nazis, the last surviving Ancient is now a prisoner of the Dark Ones (who turned out to be Gnomes) and we still don't know what the fuck the "Council of the Presbyterian Church" is.

Also, it was pointed out to me that the Sky-Nazis were only the second-worst villains in this adventure. Third-worst if you count the PCs themselves.

Stay tuned for more DCC fun in a couple of weeks, and happy new year!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + Brebbia no.8

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Pictures From Uruguay

I'm hard at work on the Far Away Land review, so here are a few more pictures from Uruguay:

This is a local neighbourhood 'fancy' restaurant. It's closed just there for siesta time. Not every party of Montevideo still does that, but here in the cordon it's almost impossible to find any place open (and I don't just mean restaurants, I mean corner stores, laundromats, even pharmacies) from around 3pm-6pm.

Here's a closer view of some architectural details of a very common style of building in this part of Montevideo.

Churches here have lovely styles, often more traditional than what you'll find in North American cities; and their interiors are always stunning.  Maybe sometime I'll get some pictures of the inside of the cathedral.

Finally, some people! Well, a couple of people and a lot of doggies!  These are dog-walkers, obviously, and they do good business here. Like in Paris, Montevideanos love their dogs, and so many seem to have one.  Unfortunately until very recently they cared very little about picking up after their dogs on the sidewalk. It's only in the last three years or so that some effort has gone into changing that attitude, and the sidewalks are somewhat improved for it.

Anyways, that's it for today.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Monday, 21 December 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: A Rare Moment of Swine Honesty

Brand Robins, famous Forge Swine, being utterly serious, on how to be in the In-Crowd at Storygames:

"I'm the one whose ass you have to kiss. In addition to my ass you should kiss Ron, Vincent, John Harper, both Matt (Snyder
and Wilson), Mike Holmes, and Paul Csegengisy's asses.
The games you have to have played (not be playing, as they're old now) are Dogs in the Vineyard, Sorcerer (but you had a
hard time with it until Ron helped you out), Prime Time Adventures, Red Box Hack, and Burning Wheel. If you also got Dust
Devils down at a con after someone hit you with a situation that really cooked, that's good too. You should now be playing
some combination of Grey Ranks, Spirit of the Century, Burning Empires, and 3:16. You should have tried In A Wicked Age and
Poisoned, but had trouble with both until Vincent or John Harper helped you. You should have tried Beast Hunters and
Breaking the Ice, but be secretly uncomfortable with the intimacy of one on one play.
Publishing a game is good. It is better if it is not d20 or OGL derived, as those aren't really real games, but at least they get
you publishing experience. Its even better than that if you sell from the Forge Booth for at least one Gen Con.
Make sure to use the words narativism, authorial, conflict resolution, and story now as often as possible -- and often not in
the same way between uses. Be sure to make at least three posts a year in which you define the one true way to play a
story game, and then make sure that when you are called on it you say that you aren't saying its the only way (while
insinuating its the only good way).
You should talk occasional shit about White Wolf, AEG, Steve Jackson and all "traditional games" about which you are vague
enough to not be pinned into a specific corner. A few years ago you could have also talked shit about Wizards, but D&D 4th
is still hot, so wait until everyone figures out skill challenges and then see if you should praise or talk shit about it based on
what John Harper, Rob Donoghue, and Anna Kreider say about it."

I guess he wrote this when he thought none of the great unwashed were looking.

Now watch him come along and try to claim that he was joking. But let's face it, this is absolute truth. This is how these people think.


(Originally posted September 22, 2008)

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Traveller Campaign Update: Kung-fu Dog-Monks Edition

So, as the campaign nears its climax, the PC found themselves in the Traveller equivalent of this place

Only instead of Lando Calrissian and those weird pig-guys, it was full of Vargr Space-Pirates!

The chief Pirate is none other than the dread Captain Ivan, the most dangerous space pirate in all the Vargr Reaches!

(note: he looks a lot less adorable in the actual campaign)

At first, the PCs didn't know if Captain Ivan was friend or foe; and a couple of them had crossed him in their pre-campaign prior history.  But it became clear pretty fast who the real bad guys were when a gang of crazy shaolin wolf-monks showed up with Ancient Tech and started blowing the floating castle all to shit!

The crazy Vargr Monks had been sent by the Master to kill whichever PC was carrying Grandfather's consciousness. Unfortunately, that PC decided to reveal himself at the very start of the battle; also unfortunately, he wasn't wearing armor. So they popped something like 400 caps in his ass. Luckily, Grandfather took over and did the Traveller equivalent of this:

With a mix of Ancient Disintegrator Guns and good old fashioned Frag Grenades, the PCs and the Space Dog-Pirates managed to team up and kill off the superpowered Shaolin Dog-Monks.

Unfortunately, Grandfather's host was dead.

Fortunately, Grandfather was alive, and using his immense psychic force to keep the dead PC going through sheer Will, hopefully long enough to be able to find and kill off The Master.

Both Grandfather and Captain Ivan are now certain that the Master's secret base is on a distant planet controlled by a rival Pirate gang, the Corsairs. Now, Ivan has done a lot of things in his long career as a Pirate-Warlord, but killing a god isn't one of them, and he's totally on board. So he takes his capital ship, The Terrible, and escorts the PCs into enemy territory to hunt down the Master.

When they get to the planet in question, they find a small operation of Vargr pirates who've enslaved a large population of primitive slug-men.

(you can't help but feel pathos for these guys)

The PCs play it cool, infiltrating the Vargr base as electronics merchants (it helps they still have an old shipment of electronics in their ship), and they end up learning from the Slugmen that there's a dark place deep in the ocean "where the Gods once were".

So the PCs do some scanning with the ship and end up finding a deep hole in the ocean, realizing that the Master lives in a secret base under the sea:

(This is the PC's first idea of what the secret Ancient base might look like; actual appearance may vary)

So it's time to suit up and dive, deep into the watery abyss, for their final confrontation with the Master.

Next time: the final chapter.


Currently Smoking:  Raleigh Volcano + Argento Latakia

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Final Word on The Attempted Murder of Immersion by the Narrative-Control Crowd

There's been a lot of bullshit flung around by the Swine in this series of posts.  The latest is the claim that I'm being "absolutist".
In what universe is it more "absolutist" to offer 3 options than to only offer 2?
How is me saying "A GM should have the freedom to say no" more absolutist than a gang of pseudo-intellectual cunts saying "The GM is FORBIDDEN from saying No, he must say yes or roll the dice"??

THEY are the ones who want a powerless GM that is given no authority to act without express player permission. They are the ones who say you are "literally brain damaged" if you don't play their way.  They are the absolutists in this.

And in pages and pages of bitching at me, and complaining about what I said, and feigning outrage, and pretending to be ordinary people who just happened on this blog and yet strongly disagree with me while expressing explicit Forge propaganda slogans, and all the other cavalcade of nonsense and distraction, there's one thing the Swine have NOT done all this time.  They have yet to show a single scenario where you can have narrative-control mechanics and NOT lose Immersion as the cost.

That's the core of my point in all these entries, and yet they have never been able to actually address it.

All arguments against what I've written that weren't just insult or incoherence amount to one of the following:
a) "Immersion is not the goal of RPG play" - except it very clearly is, to change that you need to change the definition of RPG and suddenly you're not talking about the same thing anymore at all. So if your only defense is changing the very definition of an RPG, you are not refuting my point, you are just saying "ok, yes, the Pundit is RIGHT, and Narrative-control mechanics always remove at least some immersion, but we've arbitrarily decided that Immersion should be removed as a goal for RPGs, even though that would mean they'd not be RPGs anymore".

b) "you are presenting a worst-case scenario/distrust players/etc" -I have clearly shown I am not, I've presented increasingly 'Best Case Scenarios' and shown how the argument still stands regardless

c) "you are a mean terrible person/hate Storygames" -both true, but in no way address the point.

d) "you've put up a strawman" - In what way is this a Strawman? If I show that in every single instance that you put ice in a pot of boiling water the ice will melt, that's not a strawman, that's just proving a consistent truth.  It's not in any way a 'strawman' to point out that every single time you jump into "player control space" you must, by definition, be jumping out of "immersion space". It's just a law of nature.

You will note that NONE of these arguments have even ATTEMPTED to explain how you could have player-based narrative-control and still retain the same level of Immersion as if you didn't. Because everyone knows that's not possible.

And they won't. Otherwise they'd have done it already instead of pussyfooting around while trying to claim that I'm discussing exceptional cases rather than the core fact


Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja Bent Apple + Gawith's Squadron Leader

Friday, 18 December 2015

A Serious Message About Holiday-Season Partying

I know we've all been having a lot of fun mocking the Swine but I wanted to pause here and give a more serious public service announcement.

It's the holiday season, and plenty of you are probably having workplace Christmas parties and later family get-togethers.  And I want to talk to you about drinking & driving.

The other night, I was having a get-together with some friends, and there'd been a lot of drinking going on.  Sometime late in the evening, I realized that I'd had too much too drink. We all had.

So I did something I'd never done before: I made the choice to say no to my friends who wanted to drive home in their car, and instead I took a bus to get home.

So, I got home safe, and it was a pleasant surprise to have done so, considering that never in my fucking life had I driven a bus!

I still don't know where I got it from. It's taking up three parking spots in front of The Abbey.

Anyways, please make sure to share this story, and have a happy holidays.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake

Thursday, 17 December 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Amber: Girl Power

So, on Saturday I ran my second full session of Amber, and it continues to be a hoot. Eventually Sun Boy will no doubt post the particulars of it on the Amber Forum's Campaign Report Thread, so I won't bother you guys with a play-by-play of it all. Suffice it to say that the game has already reached the level of "great", and continues to reaffirm my position that Amber is easily the greatest RPG ever made.

An interesting addition to the gaming group means that we currently have gone up to 8 players (a number that I would never dare to have for any other RPG). And our newest player is also our second girl in the group; Daniella who is playing Lorelei, daughter of Llewella, who was raised in Rebma and the other cousins don't know very well.

Those of you who had been following the campaign report thread have already heard from the first session report that Diana (played by Jimena, our other female player) had quickly shown herself to be the most vicious of the new generation; now she's got competition in the form of Lorelei. Between the two, they've got pretty well every male PC shitting their pants with fear.
In this Amber campaign at least, the female is definitely deadlier than the male. Diana (daughter of Bleys, and first in Psyche) has shown no qualms about her status as one of the redheads of Amber, feeling it her right to push people around with her Psyche with impunity, manipulating minds and menacing anyone who doesn't do things her way. Subtlety is not her strong suit, but she makes up for that with boldness and her aunt Fiona has quickly come to see her as a protege and a chip off the old block.

Lorelei, on the other hand, has been a bit more subtle when the occasion merits subtlety, but has been unfraid to show off her notable powers of sorcery, and to manipulate the men around her for advantage. She's made good use of her outsider status, of her connection on her father's side to the Amberite noble house of Karm, and to some as of yet unexplained past apparent alliance between her mother and Benedict. She's already pushed around a couple of the guys with her sorcery, and has worked to subvert Jong's character's authority over his father's shadow, Avalon.

Its interesting, because of the two players, one had never played any RPG before this, and the other had a rather limited play experience (having been a player a few years back in my Port Blacksand campaign, and having played a couple of sessions of Paranoia XP), but both of them took to the social interactions and Machiavellian maneuverings of Amber like fish to water.
I have yet to meet a gamer girl who didn't love Amber upon trying it out, and what's more I've noticed that there's something about women that seems to, in a very general and broad sense, tend to be naturally good at Amber.
I suppose that it has something to do with male and female roles: Amber has a lot of political scheming and maneuvering, which guys tend to do ok at; but as far as family-interactions go, in Amber its not really all that productive to go around physically pushing people around; instead, in amber you push people around socially. You manipulate them, you exclude or include them, you insult them backhandedly, and you show them up. And I think that maybe there's something about the "training" girls tend to get in this during childhood and adolescence that lends them to doing well against guys in Amber: boys might grow up in the schoolyard with bullies and gangs, but girls' life in the schoolyard is a whole other sort of viciousness, a social viciousness that having some experience with ends up becoming an advantage in Amber competitive play.

Anyways, if you really want to empower girl gamers, I think that there's few games that do this in quite as natural and easy a way as Amber does. Of course, female characters are the equal of male characters statistically (as in most other RPGs designed any time after the very earliest periods of gaming), but what really makes the difference is the social aspects of the game. If you want to talk about a non-pushy sort of feminism in RPGs, you need look no further than Amber.


(Originally posted July 7, 2008)

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

How Tommy's Narrative-control Gamma-ray-eating Hulk Ruined Playtime

So, with Everyjoe Tuesday out of the way, it's back to bitch-slapping the gang of assholes who have gotten all foaming at the mouth that I would dare to suggest their GM-ruining agenda is a shitty idea.

Someone trying to be clever about the recent arguments regarding player usurpation of the GM's role as world-creator, the absurd grotesquerie of the 'say yes or roll the dice' rule, and general disdain for both Immersion and setting as anything other than a meaningless backdrop for 'story creation' decided to postulate this supposed 'gotcha' question:  "If shared narrative control destroys immersion, then how do kids play pretend together without a GM?"

Answer: Usually EXTREMELY BADLY.
Case in point: my make-believe world of Dark Albion has lasted for coming on 6 years of weekly play.
Little Billy Johnson's make-believe world of "Star War Ninja Turtle Iron Man Avengers of the Galaxy" lasted about ten minutes before his little friends started arguing about how Tommy's Hulk didn't kill Darth Vader because Hulk can't shoot lasers from his hands, no matter how much Tommy says that he can now because he ate more gamma rays while no one else was looking.

Most of the 10 minutes was them remaking scenes from the movies/shows with very limited creativity anyways.
The conflict being unresolvable, they forgot about the game and decided to watch spongebob.

Billy will continue to be dissatisfied by his early collective pretend-world experiences until he discovers the OSR, where he will become a semi-well known blogger talking about a golden age he never actually knew; but will also get to finally play the long and fruitful campaigns in fascinating living worlds like he always wanted to (but had neither the rules nor the right people to do it with) as a kid.

 Tommy will eventually discover Storygames and have far fewer friends than Billy, and still won't ever participate in a game that lives past its second session. Almost everyone who knows him online or in person will think Tommy is a massive cunt.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Gawith's Balkan Flake

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday: Why the Left Needs You to be Helpless

Today's Everyjoe article talks about the intellectual structure of the modern Regressive Left.  Namely, how it's based on the idea that no one can help themselves. Thus, they need you to be helpless.

And if you have the unmitigated gall to actually take responsibility for your own destiny, you are a dangerous enemy who needs to be crushed.

As usual, please share, retweet, +1, like, and comment. Thanks!


Currently Smoking: Castello 4K Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Monday, 14 December 2015

An Answer to Tom, About why Narrative Control is Insidious

In the comments section of one of this series where I point out what's so awful about player control of narrative in RPGs, someone named Tom felt I was being too harsh about the possible consequences of granting some 'say yes or roll the dice' type authority to players. After all, he reasons, it is not much more of a step than asking things that players have always done like asking "I talk to the goblins. What happens?"  or house rules where there was a 1% chance of Divine Intervention when a cleric prayed.  It was Tom's position that surely a little Player-agency, outside of their character, could do no harm. Right?

This is my response:
'Say yes or roll the dice' is taken in practice by the Storygamers to be an absolute law. In fact, most Forge games don't even require it explicitly because they make it clear that the GM is bound by the rules and not allowed to change them.  There is a whole culture of strongly discouraging GM authority, including any kind of discretion in what to allow or not allow.  Think about it: you can't downplay the radical extremism of "say yes or roll the dice" as a statement or else there'd just be no need to even say it; it's not "say yes or roll the dice or don't and just say no or whatever". It's TAKING AWAY the option of "no", or else it would be nothing at all. You can say yes, or you can roll the dice, but you can't say no. If that wasn't the intention of this mentality there wouldn't be any need to express anything!

And "say yes or roll the dice" is NOTHING like the cases you described above. It is much more about Players getting to change the reality of hte world itself, not on their characters getting to do things.

In a regular RPG, something like having a Player ask "Could my character pick the lock?" is obviously fine. It is something the CHARACTER is trying to do; whether he succeeds or not will be based on the character's abilities.

Asking something like "is there a book on botany in the library?" is also a fine question to ask; but it's a great example of where the danger of player-agency over the world begins to rear its ugly head.
The mentality of "say yes or roll the dice" would there demand that the GM not have a concept of that question beforehand (that is to say, not decide beforehand, when he's creating his universe, that a book on botany exists in the library or doesn't exist) and instead just MAKE one be there because the player asked for it (or alternately, not get to pick himself but make the player or himself roll for it). Obviously no GM ever goes through every library in every place in his setting and writes out every book, so what does it matter, right?  The point is, a GOOD GM, one who is turning the setting into a living world, will not have a list of all 10000+ books in the great library, but he WILL already know, the moment the question is asked, whether there's a book on botany in it or not. Because he will use his own sense of the Living World to judge: based on history, on culture, on what he knows to be true about his world. In a living world, there already either is or is not a botany book on those shelves.

So this is already a problem, because proper Emulation doesn't involve world editing. The library is a REAL place, not the blind backdrop for a story. An RPG world is a LIVING WORLD, not just a fuzzy pseudo-reality to suit some narrative. So in that living world, in that living library, there already either IS or IS NOT a book on botany. The Player asking whether there is one does not affect this virtual truth in any way shape or form, any more than you, in real life, asking a librarian at the Toronto Public Library if she has a book on botany would magically make there suddenly be one when there was not one before.  Take away consistency, and the world becomes less true, less alive, and Immersion becomes much more difficult.

But the third and worst (and most typical kind) of narrative-control move is to ask something like "Can my sword actually turn out to have been forged here, by the very blacksmith I'm talking to now, and it was his favorite work?" or "Could I spend a 'story point' to make it that I have the antidote in my pocket because, in fact, I knew all along that the dukes plan was to poison me, and all this time when it looked like I was a complete idiot falling into his trap I was just faking it?" or "could it be that actually the dowager had a change of heart and had written a new will before she died leaving everything to me?"

This sort of bullshit is the mainstay of the demands of narrative-control: the ability to directly cut & paste the virtual reality, to edit whatever one wants.  It takes the player COMPLETELY OUT of his character and puts him into the role of an author writing the story. It DEVASTATES the setting, which is no longer in any way a Living World, it's just a Potemkin Village, a totally fake backdrop, irrelevant to anything but story-creation.
ANYTHING can then be changed, at anyone's convenience, for the sake of the story. Nothing is real, and thus nothing is actually worth doing. Why the fuck go kill the orcs, if it all gets resolved by spending a story point anyways?! (of course, the Forgists' answer to that question is that they want RPGs to not be about game PLAY at all, but rather about deep and sophisticated story-creation; not about going to kill orcs, but about addressing the deep themes surrounding orc-killing.  That's why they have games like the one where you play holocaust victims, or child-soldiers in the Warsaw Uprising, and the point is never ever to win or even to survive, it's just to play out the misery of the character's deaths and 'tell the story' not really of the characters, but of that misery).

Narrative-control is an insidious trap for players, because at first, it makes it sound like you as a player will get more power, and that you'll be able to use that power to give your character the stuff you want for him (either literal stuff like more items or treasure, or the more ephemeral stuff of him getting to be as awesome as you hope he'll be). But it's always a trick, that's not what the Storygamers give a fuck about after all; they know that what narrative control really does is make the triumph or disaster of your PCs totally IRRELEVANT. If the whole world is an illusion, there's no satisfaction in triumphing because there never was anything to triumph against, no true risk of failure.

So the draw for Players to join in this revolt against GM authority is that it will be more awesome for their characters, but the end result is that actually their characters will stop mattering completely, and the game will stop being an RPG and become a storygame, where the goal isn't about caring about your character but telling a larger 'narrative', one where it really doesn't matter if your character wins or loses in it. He won't matter to you anymore, because the world is fake and because you aren't in your character, you're just a guy making up some shit for a little while.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Brebbia no.7