Building Engagement in RPGs, Quick Thoughts

This pulls lessons from all over, but especially from Apocalypse World.

Roleplaying games are a conversation. Like any conversation, they’re at their best when the people in them are engaged and present, not distracted. Playing an RPG means sharing a collaboratively created world and holding that mutual fiction in your mind; thus, the conversation suffers when people disengage.

So how can we keep each other engaged, and avoid Continue reading

Why Roll Dice? Two Misconceptions

Maybe some of you have seen something like this before:

Player: “I want to see what’s behind this bookshelf. I hit it with my axe. I get a 3 on my attack roll.”
Storyteller: “Well… that doesn’t seem very effective. The bookshelf doesn’t move.”
Player: “Okay, I swing at it again. 5.”
Storyteller: “…”
Player: “Not good enough? I try again. 1.”
Storyteller: *Sigh* “The bookshelf falls on you. You take 6 damage.”

These rolls are boring, and this scene is a clear failure in my eyes. Not on the part of the PC, who can’t get a break with that bookshelf, but on the part of the storyteller and the player. It plays into two misconceptions that crop up in RPGs, either of which can Continue reading

Binary Success and Failure in RPGs, Quick Thoughts

Many popular RPG systems measure success (or failure) as a simple binary. For example, by a strict reading of D&D 5e’s rules, either your character is successfully sneaky or they’re not: there’s no middle ground. There’s no benefit for being exceptionally stealthy, and there’s no real penalty for being exceptionally not-stealthy. Thus, there’re no degrees of success or failure. Every test is pass or fail.

This streamlines resolution of tests, and has the benefit of being fast and simple. But it also misses Continue reading

News, and presenting on That Cat Series

You know the one I’m talking about, Warriors: The Prophecies Begin. Yesterday was the class presentation, which means that I’m now done with it. Finally. Things were sadly rushed, so we didn’t get as much time to talk about the series in finer detail as I would have liked, but I think we got our point across. The series is mediocre, but effective at getting large quantities of unchallenging words in front of children.

This did mean that I was distracted and didn’t post here yesterday. That pattern of not posting is likely to continue this upcoming week (and maybe the week after) as I focus on my final paper and visiting with family. I’ll be back soon, and will likely post more things at random rather than according to a prescribed schedule. I have some sweet role-playing setting tidbits to share with you too, so stay tuned!

Depth-Based Adventure Sites

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Originally posted on Monster Darlings:
Many of us know the joy of describing a complex dungeon and watching our friends studiously attempt to chart it out on graph paper, in many cases distorted by the “picture-telephone effect.”  And mapping out a dungeon can be serious fun for a DM.  But sometimes, adventurers want to explore…

Fiction Experiment 2/17/2016

The following tidbit is the result of me trying to come up with what it might feel like to fly on a magical skyship in the setting that Mattias, Wendell, Frisbee and I came up with last Sunday.  It’s a setting that we’re hoping to use for RPGs, and at some point soon you’ll be able to enjoy it along with us!  More about that later.

For now, have fun with this…

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Zombies in the Vineyard: a DitV hack

Dogs in the Vineyard is an indie RPG created by Vincent Baker; it has an unusual set of dice mechanics for its conflict resolution, and as part of that it encourages players to take turns shaping the game’s narrative.  While it certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I have had a lot of fun with it.

It’s also highly moddable, much like other Vincent Baker games (Apocalypse World being a prime example).  While the DitV sourcebook describes a Wild West setting full of civil and religious strife, I’ve heard or seen others using the system to play in mafia-based story lines, Star Wars settings, feudal Japan, or even The Matrix.  And Baker hacked his own system to tell horror stories, in Afraid in the Vineyard.

So of course someone decided to modify things a little further to turn it into a storytelling system that would allow you to play in a classic zombie movie.  Sadly, while they’ve playtested their zombie hack, the ruleset that I was able to find online is nowhere near final.

I’m going to cobble something together from those notes as best as I can, and when I’ve done that I’ll share the result with you.  If you’re already familiar with DitV and Afraid, maybe you’ll enjoy taking a look too?

A Glance at Shadowrun’s 5th Edition

I’m busy getting ready to run the seventh iteration of my Call of Cthulhu scenario, Temple in the Sands, and I probably won’t have anything for you this Wednesday due to traveling.  But last weekend I had the chance to play a game of Shadowrun again, something I don’t often have an opportunity to do.  I had a good time, but I think I realized why it was that I play it so infrequently; Shadowrun looks like a chore and a half to run when compared with all the other RPGs that I play.

Shadowrun reminds me a bit of a glamorous ass.  You know what I’m talking about: one of those people with so much style, and with so many good stories told about them, that you forget just how frustrating they can be in person.  If you spend enough time hanging around them the aggravation (mostly) disappears into the background noise, but there’s a lot of settling in and acclimatizing that you have to do first.  And every so often (usually right in the middle of something that is pretty cool) you get a reminder of why you thought the person was an ass in the first place.  But because it’s so glamorous, because it’s practically oozing cool, I keep wanting to come back to it like the sucker I am.  I can explain, I swear. Continue reading

Dungeon-Starter: The Duke’s Men

Happy New Year!

Here’s an abbreviated dungeon-starter for Dungeon World, building somewhat on the material that I came up with for The Duke’s Men.  Agenda, Goals, and Dungeon Moves are at the top as per usual.  This is mostly focused on cultists and such, as the game itself was, but the basic storyline offered in my previous post could easily be altered to deal with any number of different kinds of threats.

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“Roleplaying” Games and the Misused RPG Label

Zeeblee

I have written a few reviews for digital roleplaying games (RPGs), but in many cases I find the label is completely inappropriate.  When I think of a “roleplaying” game, I think of a game in which I take control and can make important narrative choices.  But most digital RPGs don’t let you make narrative choices at all.  For that reason I would say that the label of RPG has come to be associated with a mechanic which is common to most RPGs, but isn’t the attribute that makes them RPGs.  The mechanic in question is that of leveling up, and I hate it*.

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