Thursday, February 24, 2011

Session Roundup #5

This week's games were largely, intentionally or not, one-shots and video games. First, we've got the Over the Edge one shot that Shieldhaven ran for a couple of out of town friends, and the Dresden Files one shot that Samhaine ran for his overarching review of FATE rules. Further, Haven's finished his playthrough of Overlord, and I'm doing another playthrough of Bioshock 2. And if I wanted to get really granular, I could talk some about Tsuro, Entanglement and the concept of games within games. We'll see where I get before I decide to fuck off for the day.

Saturday: Over the Edge.

So, for this session, Stands-in-Fire and I were playing our previous OTE characters-- he's the last surviving descendant of Ramses II turned Crime Scene Investigator, and I'm a Telepathic Evo Shandor-styles architectural engineer reincarnated from an ancient, extraplanar city. We're both currently burned CIA Agents. We fight Crime!

Usually, we have The Monkey King and Wombat with us, but since they've absconded for some fuckin' insane place, no such luck. Fortunately, we had S. and J., hitherto referred to as the Hammer, and the Elf, playing an Impression Sensitive lady from a random Corporation in Tulsa, and a pit-fighting also CIA agent dude with a hat and one hell of a beard. So that was awesome.

I'll skip a lot of the set-up and story, though I am sad of that, because it's really awesome and paranoid and spooky. Have I mentioned that I really, really love OTE? It's super Rules Light, which sometimes I like and sometimes I don't, but in this case, the rules for say, combat create the right feel to me, and are a lot of fun. So I'll focus on combat and some highlights.

We got in the first fight of the session in visiting this wealthy dude on a yacht, who frequented an unorthodox casino called the Winds of Change-- some Satanists showed up to kidnap him while we were having a very pleasant chat, in which he agreed to let us come to the Casino with as his guests. Guns being illegal in Al-Amarja, the island setting of the game, he completely denied owning the 45s that he handed to myself and Frank, and we proceeded to charge up and deal with the Satanists. They were working over his bodyguard real good, so I grabbed their attention telepathically, which mostly meant that they decided to come and start beating me with their lead pipes, instead of the bodyguard.

This is called Tanking, kids. Don't try it at home. Thank goodness I had a couple of hit points.

Fortunately, it also worked like it was supposed to-- everyone else was able to wail on the assholes with impunity, including Frank blowing holes in one of 'em by shooting him in the face.

Word to the wise-- in OTE, Guns are Brutal. This will continue to be important throughout this session. We had been staying away from using guns for the legal implications, but the real reason to do so is that Guns are awesome-- as long as you have them, and the bad guys don't. If the bad guys have them, you wind up lying there bleeding to death in the bottom of a boat...

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The thugs with lead pipes having failed to knock the gun out of my hand, I shoot the nearest thug in the belly with my gun, dropping him, mostly. The last one decides to take off, and I take off after him, after he's been stunned by a heavy piece of machinery thrown by the Elf from the deck. He gets away from my attempts to bash his head unconscious on the dock, and eventual lying on the ground being kicked, and I manage to get the skinny on who sent him and where he's going from his mind. Turns out, his boss is a dame named Nikki, who we know is CIA from the team that was sent to Al-Amarja before ours. Huh. Leaving the detail of who Nikki is exactly out of it, I give the rich dude the info on who was attacking him, and we agree to meet later. I need a nap, and everyone needs snazzier clothes.

Figuring out how much to heal and when is a bit of a pain, and I'm still not sure if there's anything more I ought to have done in the few hours between the fight and us going out to the Winds of Change to heal more. As it was, I was at a little over half health, (14 of 21 points) when I donned my stereotypical spy-bodyguard chick togs and we headed out.

The Casino bit was really cool, and involved a Rumblestiltzkin, "what's-my-name?" puzzle about the Casino's enigmatic owner. Of course, she has a bauble that makes her immune to telepathy, but I wasn't going to even try to read her anyway. The setting and Haven's style of running games (here's a problem-- what do you do?) work together quite well to instill total paranoia on such matters, and I don't want my brains fried or et. Hammer wound up solving the puzzle with her psychometry, which was super cool, actually. We collected the session McGuffin, a large and red-glassy gem of a sort familiar to me and Frank at least, and headed back to the Island.

The second fight was a full-on speed-boat gun battle as we headed back from the casino, after having achieved the session objective, more or less. Gun battles SUCK for both sides, but in a kind of awesome way. Also, I need kevlar, because I got shot all to hell. Well, after blowing up someone's head with telepathy after trying to get them to drive their boat into another of the attackers' boats. But I digress.

Kevlar is as illegal as guns in Al-Amarja, as the Peace Force are the only ones who are supposed to have guns-- so if you've got kevlar, you obviously mean to fight the Peace Force, amirite?


However, being ex-CIA, we don't really cotton to that sort of thing-- at least, the smart ones don't. Which is why I was lying bleeding on the bottom of a boat, and Frank was Just Fine. Anyway, why I like guns-will-fuck-you-up here:

What you're doing is pretty much an 'explain how you're attacking' combat system, and the d6 contests feel very fair. Guns multiply results like woah, and speed up combat a lot. So you and the other team have tools in the form of warm bodies to be targets for these guns. You've got to hurry up and take out the other guys before you get taken out yourself, which is nicely tense. We did manage to survive, and I was healed up at the end. Hammer's character went back home after a couple of days, giving us the plot mcGuffin, and the Elf's character signed on with a security company. Everyone wins!

Tuesday: Dresden Files

We're pretty much playing this so that Samhaine can do a more detailed review of the FATE system for his blog, but that's all right by me. Also, you can read Shieldhaven's write up of the session here, if you haven't already.

My character is pretty much a mashup of Dexter Morgan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Batman, with a dash of Il Duce from Boondock Saints tossed in, in a 5'2" half-black, half-mexican body. She's a normal human, mostly because I know absolutely nothing about the Dresden Files setting, and that was... curiously the right choice. I mean, I never play just normal, no powers characters, so this was actually a major change for me.

Really curiously-- I liked it.

Now, my character is pretty much a sociopath-- she's got the Dexter-style compulsion, but the Buffy/Batman fixation on killing monsters and just monsters. The toggle switch here is whether any given creature in front of her looks to her like a monster. Now, she also has another potential off-switch here in the form of one of her aspects-- "Double or Nothing" This means that any given monster can potentially re-direct her wrath by giving her a better, more monstrous target. Also, if there's likely to be a lot of a thing around, she can be talked into letting something live to learn more about it, and kill it better later. Further, Shieldhaven's character took "Violence is My Last Resort" as an aspect, to potentially give him a lever to calm down myself and Wombat's character, as we're the loose cannons of the party. This worked to great effect to avoid any real combat this session. Stands-in-Fire played a Malvora White-Court Vampire-- basically, psychically feeds on fear. These guys are the primary cause of Gertrudis (my char's) Double or Nothing aspect-- she hates their guts, but they were willing to offer her a sweet deal, working for them and killing worse monsters. Stands-in-Fire's dude, Will, is pretty much the least offensive incarnation of a Malvora-- seriously, he's a horror novelist. So that wound up working really nicely.

We wound up skipping the City Creation bit to play in 2000's ATL, which was the cause for numerous jokes-- both the ATL part and the 2000 part. I mean... remember AOL and Altavista and Bluelight and Napster? I knew you did. :D Also, my character got to make a lot of jokes about riding MARTA to meet the rest of the team. Funtimes.

So, what I like about FATE are the skills and the aspects, much for the same reason I like skill challenges in 4e. It's pretty much this:

1) identify what you want to do
2) identify a skill that should help you do it
3) describe how you want to apply said skill
4) roll
5) succeed or fail in some specific way based on 1 & 3.

Numbers and role play, gets me every time. Incidentally, I like a lot of OTE for the same reason. It's very neat to focus on what your character is all about based on these aspects... it's a very good set of tools for figuring out how one should respond to pretty much any situation. In Gertrudis's case, the answer is probably, "smother it with ether and burn it alive."

So, the quick summation of our game is that a local Malvora had summoned some Goblins from the Nevernever to spread fear that he could feed upon. We were chasing the goblins, who spoke in completely awesome rhyme, and in the final confrontation with them, Shieldhaven's wizard convinced Wombat and me to back off from jumping the critters so we could solve this diplomatically. This was mostly okay for two reasons, one gameist and one simulationist:

Gameist: As a normal human who had not bought many stunts, I had 10 refresh. Seriously, I can buy off a compel here. Even if the GM had decided to compel all 3 possible aspects (Buffy the Serial Killer, Are You A Monster?, and The Marked Condition-- guess what all of those do!?), I could have afforded to just keep buying them off, as I hadn't needed them for anything else. Also, since Shieldhaven's character was a Wizard, he only had 3 refresh, and he might concievably need them for something before we were done.

Simulationist: Again, Double or Nothing. As soon as the goblins let us know that they'd been summoned by someone else, that person became my Preferred Prey, and I'd be happy just sending the Goblins elsewhere if it meant I'd get my pound of flesh-- or ash, whatever (another aspect is, "Are you better than Fire?")-- from this Malvora. And he's a rogue Malvora, my favorite enemy. I do love killing wise guys, I do.

In a storyboarded denouement (it was getting late as shit), Will beat this dude in a social challenge before the local Court, bringing him down in disgrace. I like to think that Gertrudis then went to his house, etherized him, then poured gasoline all over his place and set it on fire with him tied up inside. At least, that's what she would liked to do, though probably wasn't permitted.

To skim through the rest of the week's gaming, Bioshock 2 on Medium is a lot harder than I was prepared for, because frankly, I suck at Shooters. Oh well. I'm still having fun. I need to not play Entanglement so much, and I really like Tsuro-- the multiplayer board version-- we're going to be using an altered version of it in Dust to Dust. Speaking of which, patch notes tonight!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Taking the compel.

I will cover this more in this week's Roundup, but I wanted to take a moment to say that so far, I really like the FATE system.

Also, I find that lately, when I make characters, since I am mostly making female human characters (modern games), I almost always build a mixed-race girl of some kind. Which I suppose makes sense, as I am a mixed race modern girl. But my last two are Black and Sindhi (Over the Edge) and Black and Mexican (Dresden Files). Which would be curious if I were a (not-mixed) white person, but... well, whatever.

Anyway, Over The Edge and Dresden Files, if you hadn't guessed, will be the subjects of this week's Roundup, and are both games that I am seriously looking forward to playing more of.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Session Roundup #4

A day late due to patch day again, but nu, better late than never!

So this past week saw some Arcana Evolved, and also rolling up characters with Shieldhaven, Wombat, and (eventually) Stands-In-Fire for Samhaine's Dresden Files one shot. AE was first, while down in the ATL for a LARP BBQ (mmm... acronyms), where Kings' Gate Matters were wrapped up, and Dust to Dust char. creation stuff was discussed at length. That wasn't really a game, that was... well, I shouldn't really call it foreplay, but you know...

*ahem*, anyway.

So AE.

It was a pretty straightforward session... we fought more !*^@&!%^! Winter Wolves, captured one, quizzed him, and had our Faen Akashic do some object loresight on that wolf's collar. This got the attention of something called a Winterspawn, who apparently was the Liege Lord of an Ice Devil that we killed the hell out of some time ago, who scried on us for a while. Then he teleported a thing that looked like a dead corpse frozen in a battle-mech of ice armor at us, and was apparently annoyed that we fucking smashed it into a thousand pieces. I say we, but I really mean Shieldhaven's Warmain and his awesome hammer, enchanted with Ghost Touch. I didn't bother to use any other spell slots than that, because with Ghost Touch and his earlier attack, not to mention the damage the other tanks dealt, there wasn't any reason to do so. The math may or may not work out on whether I did more damage spending the 5th level spell slot on Ghost Touch than on some other blast you to hell spell, like Attack From Within, but eh. It was pretty cool either way.

The Winterspawn wasn't really down with us taking out his minion, and in response to me mouthing off at his scrying-bubble after failing to dispel it, he telepathically contacted me to explain why he and his buddies wanted to cover the world in winter, freezing everyone. We knew this, mostly (there's a Primordial Evil that they can trap forever this way-- btw, sorry about your planet)-- but dislike the methods (Hey! All my stuff's here! And what about meee!?), and so I argued, Honeythorn Gump style (What good is a world locked in a season of death?), and we agreed to disagree (I'm right and going to keep on doing what I'm doing and hope we don't meet again, nyah vs. I'm betting my friends are going to want to come and probably try to kill you and all your friends, nyah. Not that I said that), and I reported the chat to the party. We were all quite perturbed.

Dresden Files Char. creation was... interesting. So, you create concepts, like in say, Spirit of the Century, based on what you think you might want to do. My concept was initially Dexter Morgan as a small half black, half mexican girl, and it eventually sort of became half Dexter, half, well, That Other Serial Killer who targets monsters. This is a character that I would normally consider completely unplayable, but. I'm gonna go ahead and blame Wombat and Samhaine for this one. We play the game on next Tuesday; Samhaine will be writing a review of the system thereafter, and I shall link it whereupon.

In the meantime, the Monkey King and Four Color have been Continuing the Conversation on humans as default race et al in gaming, and on player investment. You should go give a little looksee. Basically, what it's all done is make me want to read Eclipse Phase and play Noumenon.

Fortunately, Shieldhaven is considering what game to start running next, and Noumenon is on the list, though Mage or Westmarches E6 are my top choices.

Over The Edge with some Guest Stars this weekend, and I'll do a new Games I'm Playing post when Shieldhaven chooses our next adventure. And hopefully I'll have gotten to play some more Fallout: New Vegas in the interim.

Btw... does it make me a bad person, wanting to play this so badly? I mean it looks like...

Never mind what it looks like. But I still want to play it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Session Roundup #3

The only gaming this week would have been the run of my game, in which we finished up an encounter that had been called in the previous session on account of snow.

It was a pretty darn elaborate set-up, and I tried a lot of fiddly moving parts for it. There was a big stage with a dias about 3 feet up, and large stone pillars. Two members of the party (The Rogue and the Avenger, my trouble twins) had been sucked into performing as the "Hero" Wizard who had built the dungeon and his sidekick, while the rest of the party were stuck in the audience. They could affect various things by making skill checks to interact with the Shadow Attendants who worked as stagehands.

In the meantime, the two actors made skill checks to carry out tasks narrated by a booming, invisible voice, in sort of a 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' way. Successes gave them bonuses to successive checks, or affected the outcome of the play. Also, I had given them stage swords, which (though they weren't entirely aware of it), ignored the Insubstantial quality. This would be important later.

Or, pretty immediately, as they were attacked by shadowy-wererat minions pretty quickly. Yes, that means dire rats with the Insubstantial quality (though they did not regenerate). Fun! They dispatched them all right, and then were sucked into a plot where the Hero-Wizard was dragged off and forced to become engaged to a Shadow-Actor "Rat Queen," much to the Dismay of her "Royal Vizier".

According to the narrator, the Wizard had crafted a magic wedding-ring, which turned the Queen into a beautiful Eladrin woman, causing her to scream and faint dead away, and the Vizier (an Elite) to be pissed as all hell.

Roll for initiative.

The rest of the party then Diplomacied a Shadow Stagehand to take them to the greenroom, so they could "join the play".

Okay, so the setup.

First of all, many thanks to Shieldhaven for writing up the statblocks for me, as I was creating this stuff at the very last minute. Also, everything I've described so far happened in the previous session, more than a month ago. Yippee!

Anyway. There were more stage weapons available at the sides of the stage, which would solve the Insubstantial problem for the weapon users. The implement users however had a real problem. My solution was to have three spotlights, which moved around the stage, which allowed magic to do full damage. Also, I decided (though this could just be the case) that insubstantial meant that the minions just didn't take damage from normal weapons. Bad times.

The problem was getting the players to figure this out. Some really amazing Arcana checks hinted at it strongly, and one of the wererats was a standard Leader, who also had to stand in the spotlight to use any of his abilities The Vizier alone didn't have this problem. It wound up not mattering for the Vizier, for a couple of reasons.

At each quarter of health, the Vizier summoned 8 or so wererat minions and 2 standards-- a skirmisher and a Leader. So that was fun. The Vizier managed to do his first summon just before the rest of the party made it to the stage, which created some problems with the rats having advantage of position, and the newcomers not having stage weapons yet.

For starters, the Rogue used a sneaky trick, concentrating on a magic necklace in her possession, and changed into the fainted Rat Queen, bluffing the Vizier into believing that she was really said Queen. His insight bonus being all right, but not awesome, he fell for it hook, line and sinker. They managed to interrupt combat, and convince him to send the Real Rat Queen off for questioning with two of the standards, and to dismiss the minions. It also gave the Cleric time to filch some stage weapons for all the magic users. Once that was done, they got back in a fight and beat him down pretty hard, which piffed his bloodied summon of minions, and brought down the curtain on the first act.

Now, Minions that can't be killed are a pain in the ass-- since no one in the party figured out the spotlights in time to use them. However, I made a punt when the party entered the stage that wound up sort of invalidating, quite by accident, my previous mechanic.

So when the party came on stage, they wanted to wear costumes, which were available, though I had no idea what should be. I rolled on a random list of dungeon dressing for inspiration. The Invoker got a fiery gown (from rolling 'matches'), the Artificer got a cloud (from rolling 'pillow'), and the Cleric got a sort of faunish, leafy thing (from rolling 'pipes'). Once they were on stage, their costumes made them seem like elementals, and I decided that damage sources that worked with their costumes would ignore insubstantial.

Yeah, so the invoker can deal full fire damage, and the Artificer with the Lightning Spheres cam do full thunder/lightning. So... yeah.

After a short rest, they went back out for the second act, which involved fighting the Rat Queen-- a level 4 (I think) Solo. She got off one attack and a summon of a bunch of minions before the Rogue changed back to herself and convinced her, through bluffing hard, that really, all she wanted to do really was marry her, and the Vizier was a traitor. The Rat Queen's insight being even worse than the Vizier's, I gave them a round of skill checks to extract themselves from the battle. Yeah, everyone rolled like, 25s on each skill they used. Fully. So the end of the play had the Wizard-Hero properly marry the queen, and granted them a magic item of rat summoning pipes. It also gave them enough xp to level them to 4th.

Went pretty well, for being 2 sessions with a month in between, and the party really liked being able to get out of combat with a skill check. I do not have the crazy skill-check fu that Stands-In-Fire has, so I'm sure there were ways to make it a bit smoother. But once again, I do so love using skills in 4e.

Apart from that I've mostly been playing Fallout: New Vegas or watching Shieldhaven play Overlord, which are good times both. Sadly, since I am a sniveling, console-monkey weakling, I have to be content with the slim playlist offered by New Vegas radio and the few other stations offered by the game, and the damn bug that replays, "Ain't That a Kick In the Head?" all the time, when I'd rather hear "Mad About the Boy" or the one about the Ranger with the Big Bar on His Hip.

Tonight is another DtD Update, which is cool, as people seem to dig getting LARP rules/website patch notes. Who knew! Software Development Practices are awesome!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Go through the motions of exploring the familiar.

In my last post, I mentioned This Post of Shieldhaven's, and now Wombat's gone and responded here. So now, I must needs venture my opinions on the topic.

I have an odd position in the groups I game with, in that I'm generally the only Person of Color(tm; also, unless you count the Angry Cuban in our AE games). Incidentally, until having the conversation with Wombat (who is white, but a jew), I was also the only person who generally felt that the presence of humans was okay, sure, but not necessary in a game world.

So, how this conversation even started:

Shieldhaven was talking about the new races he'd created during his late night maundering, and mentioned that, in order to have people actually pick his classes, perhaps he should strip a game with them in down to just humans and the new races. To which my question was, "Er... why include humans?"

Now, as implied above, I realise that my question and feelings on the matter are solidly in the minority. Anyone who knows me even a little will not be shocked by this. Shieldhaven felt, at base, that giving the players something understandable and familiar-- i.e., humans-- was important, so as not to lose them. I marked that the new races-- the Veytikka in particular-- were written in such a way that they kind of did not make sense unless you had another, baseline race to compare them to. The Beruch as well, and the Rindari have not been written yet, but-- they were all designed to be minorities. And while this was not, from talking about it, a conscious decision on Shieldhaven's part, it was... curious to me.

And here is where I will dispense (for the moment), with the issue of player investment and whether or not players will buy into a game setting where there's no human baseline. I, personally, would like to play a race in the context of what they're like internally, _without_ comparing them to a human genero-culture. As is pointed out in both of the posts I mention, there's sort of a problem with humans-- they typically wind up with their racial trait being, "generic". Of course we know what humans are like-- we are humans, aren't we?

Thing is, as game designers are themselves human, apart from some physiological details, and a pointed attempt to make the things that they feel, do, or care about completely unrelatable, any new race is going to be some variety of "like humans, but..."

Take the Veytikka. They have certain physiological features (claws, snout-like faces) that make them inhuman and change the way they interact with their environment, but as far as their attitudes and actions go, they're actually pretty darn human, but...

...They eat carrion. They're well designed for it, and for them it is the right and proper thing to do. Thing is, a human culture could just as well do that, out of some philosophical inclination, and then we get into trickier issues of intra-species race. Apart from that, the racial culture is given as tribal, and they are suited to some specific classes, like most D&D races. They're statted to fit into 3e and 4e D&D, so they'll be further colored by the rather familiar expectations of the classes they choose. Tl;dr, the text already explains the ways that Veyttika differ from humans in the context of the player's own person and culture, so why would there need to be humans in play to underscore the difference?

As part of my objection to the philosophical part of the "people need a familiar race to be the point of reference" is actually the "point of reference" part. Because I am human, I will automatically be thinking of how this race is different from a human. It bothers me, to then have to, in play, be ever conscious of my character in the context of, "I am different from this other group, which is normal."

I realise that this does not address the issue of turning off players through an excess of difference, but I feel that that aspect of the question is dealt with at length and better elsewhere, and I'd like to deal with the aspects so avoided, which are, frankly, relevant to me. Let it also be said that I don't blame anyone for choosing not to deal with stickier issues and assumptions when it comes to race in gaming, but... well, I think that it's just possible that part of the reason for my preferences in story telling and roles therein might have something to do with my own background, and the same for other folks. This doesn't say anything about myself or anyone else as people, but is objectively interesting to me.

Let me use another example, which has about an equal chance of refuting or supporting my point: the 4e race, Wilden.

Wilden are supposed to be a new race just out of the feywild, terribly curious and eager to learn about new cultures and races. They're a tablua rasa, looking for things to ape so they can learn how to be actual people. They have a hatred of abominations, but apart from that... well, they're plant people.

And let me tell you, they're hard as hell to play, esp in the party I'm in.

I picked one up in Chessenta as a power gaming option-- I wanted to play a Protection Shaman, and they had the best stat options, and were also something I've never played before. Now, I am in a party with two humans and an Orc-- fighter, avenger, and rogue. Given that my racial MO seems to be, "try to be like the others you're around," how do you suppose I play my character?

Answer: Well, like a bear shaman. Because that's what I'm actually doing, leaves or no leaves. The role of the Shaman is much stronger than the role implied by my race, except in the (hasn't actually happened yet) incidence where I need to use a racial power. And the same is true for humans, actually-- except in AE, where humans are marginalised as compared to Giants, I generally see human players playing the trope for their class. Only Grish, the Orc, plays a racial trope to any extent, and even that is second to his outstanding thievery. Well, and Ullentarni the Dragonborn, but that's because his racial story was supported by the game, and the circumstances in which we encountered him. For the rest of us, race doesn't actually matter, or much inform how we play.

So... what does all of that mean for the presentation of a game, before and during play?

First of all, I have the strong temptation to strip stats from races, and give them basically the human stat choice. If including humans in the game, I'd be further inclined to write specific racial abilities for them which were something other than, "I'm so generic, I can do anything with my generic self," depending on the setting. That is to say-- If other races have specific, geographically or otherwise bound cultures, it makes more sense in a given setting to have the humans be so too, than otherwise. In my game, I get around it by having most races be pretty much ubiquitous-- only races of a fey or outsider sort of origin are in any way concentrated, or have cultural norms outside of the norms for their region. I did not go so far as to change up races that much, mostly because my game is at least partially about teaching 4e to its players. But I think next time, I might, so as to make the race choice more purely about preference, vs. optimization.

And I'm tempted, especially if offering a setting where it makes sense to do so or I am offering all-new races, to just not have humans in the game. Now, it's at this point that the Player Investment issues come to the fore. We'll go ahead and take it as read that players dislike having high barriers to entry, and/or having to do a lot of reading in order to play a game, or understand their characters, unless doing said research was their idea in the first place. So let's think about how to address this.

1) First of all, sticking to a well known system, OR a system where everyone is expecting to do reading because it is all new. Personally, I prefer the former, partly because I like D&D so well and well... I am used to it. This could, however, work okay in a system where the expectation of newness is working for you. Nonetheless, I think that changing as little as possible about a system that the players (assuming all the players are familiar with said system) know, and explaining early on the conciets of the setting, you'll probably have a better chance of not throwing them off. In particular, I would not introduce any new classes, but have everyone stick to existing stuff.

2) Keep written material to a minimum. At most, I'd keep the info about the size of any racial write-up in a character creation book. If the setting is such that it demands it, include info about how the race fits into the world, how they behave amongst themselves, and what, if any, prejudices and assumptions they have about the rest of the world. This is the part where you're pretty much highlighting what makes them different from humans, what sorts of stories they are likely to have as a race. In all other ways, it should be clear, or at least safely assumed, that they are just like any other people.

3) Support the races in-world. Once you're in the game, the structures and social constructs of the world should reflect the people who live in it, and the GM's job is to convey this to the players in as seamless a manner as possible. Players are likely to look to NPCs for clues on whether a thing is common or unusual, good or bad if they have no other guide, and a couple of lines of dialogue can speak volumes about how the players should feel about a given situation or people. It's all right for there to be minorities and marginalized groups, or majorities that are not generic, but it's important for the world itself to convey that that actually means.

The example I can think of at the moment is actually pretty problematic-- Karnath, in the Eberron setting, specifically as run by Wombat. This is a place where Undead Soldiers are the norm, and the whole country supports that construct pretty completely. If we, the players, had been playing all Karnathi, the world did a very good job of playing this particular social construct up as normal, and we'd have had to do some twisting to not be at least tolerant of it. As it was, we all played people from elsewhere, at least one of whom had character reasons for objecting strongly. My character, being from a country that had formerly allied with Karnath (and which no longer exists), didn't really have an opinion one way or the other until very late, though she had some very strong in-game pressure to find the Karnathi Military Structure pretty darn appalling. I am marginally curious as to what would happen if we _had_ all been playing people who were raised to accept this situation as normal.

Permit me, for a moment, to refer to a thing that I mentioned earlier, about my problems with a culture that can only be viewed through the lens of a somebody else. That can be done well, and the ways in which it is done, interestingly, change the "point of reference" race/culture. Let's look at the Veytikka, for example. In a world where this race is common and reasonably accepted, it'd make a certain amount of sense for some non-Veytikka races to say, be all right with having established places to dispose of their dead, for Veytikka to come and clear away, in a symbiotic sort of way. Or to have some shady characters try to scoop up all the dead things before the Veytikka can get to them, and try to sell them back at a profit, controlling their food supply. It all depends on where you want to go with them, and if you're having the Veytikka be hunters who kill and eat their food raw, or if they say, disdain hunting and prefer finding as a cultural Thing.

But anyway, there is a certain point to be made there about the usefulness of humans-- it is easier to change them, and the way they see things or act, to accommodate their relationships to other races, than it is to do the same for races where one's understanding of them is learned. When we're talking about human vs. non-human, that's pretty much all of them.

I'll save this topic as it relates to non-European-based cultures amongst humans in Sci-fi/Fantasy/Gaming for another post, as this one has gotten really quite rambly and long.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Session Roundup #2

Although a day late, as yesterday was the first round of Majour Updates for That Heap Big Thing, and I had neither time nor brain to spend on else. Anyway, we didn't have any tabletop last week, but rather had an In-Play Party and One Day for Eclipse.

So, I play Pallas Harper Kell, a space-samurai thug for the Imperium of Man, whose cousin is a muckety-muck soldier trapped in a muckety-muck noble's body. She's a good time. She also is a naive, a-type personality, quite by accident.

Anyway, a little on In-Play parties and One days vs. regular LARP events. In-Play parties are interesting, and not technically canon, except that they are. Things that happen there don't, or aren't supposed to, have plot consequences, though they make have profound character consequences. At this one, my character spent most of the night curled in a ball, utterly embarrassed, and completely smashed.

One of the most important aspects of in-play parties-- the presence of alcohol.

So... this was my first Eclipse one-day, an MJQ event. It was cool, took place in a bar, and still had combat. It didn't have a field battle, which is one of the typical features of most larp events (a heap-big battle that involves some element of strategy or boss-level difficulty), but that wasn't really expected. Mostly, there were a ton of politics, and some really neat twisting of situations so that characters who are good friends are-- in a very subtle and sidelong way-- finding themselves at cross purposes. Thusly, they must needs scramble to fix that. I was not involved in any of that directly, but Shieldhaven was. It's a thing that Eclipse has begun to do really quite well, and that I hope to see more of in the future.

Also, Stands-in-Fire and another friend, Miss L, are well on their way to becoming psionic space-demon fighting ninjas. For realz.


On another note, writing patch notes for a LARP website was the best idea ever, and I feel very good about it.

Finally, mostly because I am fading, Shieldhaven wrote a post today about the very topic I have neglected to maunder upon for some time, and once I've slept, done some various chores, and run my game tomorrow, I shall speak more on't.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Raison D'etre

In case you were wondering what I've been up to recently that I have been so lax in yammering on with promised yammers, this is it.

That is to say, the Dust to Dust website and rulebook are finally live. I don't care who you are or where you live, but you should Go and See.

A full and formal post of joy is here, at Shieldhaven's blog.

It is awesome, all awesome, and you can be a part of the awesome too.