Good deaths at LARP camp

I’ve been busy teaching children to die well with make-believe swords. More importantly, I’ve been busy showing them that “winning” a sword fight doesn’t make you the most interesting or coolest character in the scene. Relatedly, I died a lot.

Near the end of our adventure game, shortly after I had led the campers in an oath to continue my mission (defending the land from dragons), I died to the big bad. It was a scripted death. It was also, if I may toot my own horn, a good one. I was lucky enough to have not one but several people come and pay their respects afterwards. I think a few of our campers have realized that they can have a good time and make good scenes with each other, improvising a good scene rather than struggling to win.

I’ll be very pleased if that sticks.

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Whoops: The Campening

Sorry folks, I’m away at camp! I will have posts for you next week, but definitely not this one.

Exemplars & Eidolons: Post-Mortem

It turns out that Exemplars & Eidolons was almost exactly as awesome as I thought it would be. It also turns out that I failed to sufficiently anticipate the bottleneck that I would create by not printing out more materials for my players to use while making their characters. So much for “less than half an hour.”

To be fair, most of character creation was finished faster than that. The dice-rolling and number generating side of things, and the decisions that people had to make about equipment and such, were really quick. Choosing their gifts, with the limited information that I gave them, was really quick too.

What took time was copying information about their gifts onto their character sheets, and coming up with facts about their characters. The first of those has a pretty obvious solution; I can give out more pre-printed materials after people have chosen their gifts, instead of being the only person with access to the full text of the gift entries in the book. The second seems a little trickier.

The game suggests that players write three facts about their characters. As the text puts it in the one page cheat sheet, “One fact should be about their past life and how they obtained their skills. Another should be about the family or social ties they have, and the third should be about some special trait or personal quality.” It took a little convincing from me for them to say ridiculous and awesome things about themselves. I also had to tell them that these were intended to give them more hooks or ways to interface with the world, instead of being intended to shut them away from it.

Maybe it’s because first level characters in Exemplars & Eidolons don’t look like all that much on paper, but I don’t think they really believed how badass I was encouraging them to be. The truth is, if I were only looking at the numbers on the sheet without having read the rule book, I might think that most E&E characters were doomed to suffer ignominious deaths at the hand of a few goblins with pointy sticks. In point of fact, I think just about any E&E character would totally wreck those goblins, probably on their own… but it’s tough to embrace that when you look at your character and don’t *believe* it.

So how am I going to make that side of things go faster? To some extent there’s no way for me to rush the creativity of my players. If they can’t come up with anything they like, they can’t come up with anything they like. I’ve certainly had that problem today, getting 720 and 530 words into two different tries for a flash fiction piece and liking neither of them. But I think I should write three examples of different kinds of facts for each of the prompts and include them in the additional materials that I print up. I can also include my little reminders about how people should make their facts more badass than not, and how they should create further engagement with the world if at all possible. Maybe I’m deviating from the original intent, but I don’t want players to hobble themselves because they decided to make their fact about “some special trait” be ‘dies their hair green’ when other people are throwing around things like ‘walked barefoot through the Valley of Knives both ways, in the middle of winter.’

And, if all else fails, they can write their facts while we play. Heck, that might be the best possible option. If I prep some adventures right now so that I can start game the moment people have the relevant numbers, and start with the characters already undertaking some task, I’m pretty sure a bunch of improv trained LARP campers can come up with some personal character details.

Oh, yeah, the session was awesome. I’ll probably talk more about it later, but suffice to say that improvising and flying by the seat of your pants is really easy in this system. It’s great, and fighting spooky snake sorcerers in a dark and creepy space is scary.

Exemplars & Eidolons: Quick + Dirty OSR

There’s a tradition at the overnight LARP camp where I work, one that has been carefully nurtured by my friend Zach, of playing RPGs when you’re not busy LARPing. Zach has run a wide variety of games at camp, but in the past few years he’s used Old School Renaissance games almost exclusively. I think I’ve finally discovered why.

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Good News & Current Projects

I’m settling back in to the East coast, my body is on the mend, and I’m waiting to find out whether or not I’m about to get sick again.  So far so good!

I don’t have a new fiction post for you today, or a new review, but I can tell you all about a fun thing that I’m doing for The Wayfinder Experience (a large scale improv theater summer camp… aka LARP camp for kids). I wrote a game at the beginning of this year that loosely uses the setting of the stories Trouble Close Behind, Bloody Expanse, and Hot Mess, and which follows the events of Bloody Expanse by seeing what happens to the town of Shepherd’s Brook many years later. Read on for more details!

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Godseat, a Wayfinder Adventure

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I should note, I have no idea whether or not this game will actually be chosen for use by Wayfinder.  In fact, I still have to finish writing it and submitting it.  I think it’s a pretty cool concept, and it experiments further with some of the player vs. player mechanics that I explored in the 2014 Staff game (along with my excellent co-writers, you rock).  In the interest of not spoiling you for anything, I’ll refrain from telling you too much about the flow of game.  Instead, this post will give you a brief overview of the setting and what the game is all about.

A Brief History

There are many gods and godlings, but there is only one Most-High.  The Most-High reigns over all from the Godseat, the Throne of Supremacy, the Seat of Knowledge, the Bringer of Good Tidings and Ill News.  Whichever being sits upon the Godseat is acknowledged as the ruler of all, but no one being can sit upon the Throne forever.  The prayers of faithful worshippers, and their propitiations, may sometimes elevate a new being to the Godseat, replacing the previous Most-High and beginning a new reign.  There are some times, perhaps once or twice a decade, when the cycles of the moon and the stars and the seasons coincide just so, when the prayers and rituals of worshippers take on special power in the area around the Godseat; these times are known as the Nights of Ascension.

Long ago, before the Years of Ruin, Continue reading

Adventurer’s Rest, WFE Intro Game 2014

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I mentioned previously that I would be working at The Wayfinder Experience, and just last week I finished up my first time working there as Story staff, running the game Adventurer’s Rest.  I had a marvelous time, though I was frazzled for the first half of the week and teetered between mild euphoria and continued anxiety for the other half.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and I think I’d be far better prepared for the incipient chaos and drain on my personal energy the second time around.

Now that the game has actually finished, I’ve got some good stories to share with you.  I’ll even spill the beans and let you know how the game worked and came into being, though I do hope that you won’t read it all if you want to be able to play it at some point in the future.  It turns out that, despite my certainty that game would be a mess, the players had a great time both getting into character and running around with swords.  After the fact, I could see several obvious mistakes that Thom and I had made when it came to balancing the game, but I think that things both went well and still have a great deal of potential for future sessions.

First, an introduction: the game of Adventurer’s Rest was designed to offer several things that I remember being rare in many other adventure games.  Most obviously, I wanted to make it possible for nearly every single player to use magic items and magical artifacts with special abilities.  Second, I intended it to show off just how completely overpowered specific class options are, in a tremendously underplayed class.  You see, Artisans at WFE rarely get much attention, since most people would rather be almost anything else (i.e. Warriors, Wizards, Rogues, or Clerics).  Artisans create talismans that are able to empower people, but they generally require very careful forethought and good situational awareness in order to be effective.  With those things, an Artisan can take on just about anyone… but without those things, an Artisan is likely to be steamrolled by nearly anyone else in the system.  I hoped that Adventurer’s Rest would encourage players to respect the class a bit more.

Finally, I wanted to give people an opportunity to play a newer version of something like the Techna game that I remembered playing for my first intro game at Omega in 1999.  There’s something very special about introducing the option of joining the villain’s team and working against the people that you had thought were your allies.  On further reflection, it seems clear that the Techna game that I played had been better balanced than Adventurer’s Rest (possibly because it had been run more times).  It’s also now clear to me that I’d like to have a chance to play Adventurer’s Rest at a camp where I can tell the villains to go wild without fear of ruining the players’ experience.  There are certain things that are difficult to allow when you’re running an intro camp and you need to design the game around introductory expectations rather than simply allowing the fiction to run its course.

Here’s a much overdue page break.  After this, I’ll start telling you more about the game’s inner workings.

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