Links & Resources

Human Time Line, Inc.

Don’t want to shell out for the Pyramid subscription so you can check out the latest acid trip from Ken Hite? Try David Atwell’s Alternative and Future History.

Links & Resources

Via Ginger

The Fantastic in Art and Fiction

Links & Resources

One of those times I wish it was easy to cross-post to several of my blogs

Entrances to Hell in the UK, updated fairly frequently, and complete with site history, maps, and photos.
Great stuff and a fun read, worthwhile at the least for Nobilis and Unknown Armies.

Game Design Nobilis

Pondering the flow

So, we’ve had a few players cross-over from one Nobilis game group to the other now, and someone asked one of the ‘crossers’ which one of the groups stayed on track better.
His answer, to say the least, surprised me a bit, so I set about the Saturday session with the goal of getting the thing in focus a bit better. The result (as summarized elsewhere):

Nobilis seemed to be focused and on track and yet somehow ?off?.

That’s just how it seemed to me, at any rate. Wasn’t really sure if anyone else saw it that way.
Dave chimed in:

Re Nobilis, I thought the session went well, too, but I agree that it was “off.” May be because folks are scattered here and there, and not necessarily pulling toward a common goal. Or maybe not.

There’s a magic formula there, somewhere, with the Nobilis stuff. People are all addressing the story but…
Hmm… I’m not feeling like everyone’s gears are engaged? Everyone’s addressing the problems at hand but not always involved at the same time.
Case in point: as much as I liked the scene with the Wyrd sisters from from last game, the scene where everything really felt ‘right’ was Sian visiting Meon.
Could this be because it was a personal project… er… rather, a personally-devised solution to a problem? I think maybe so — it felt much more player-determined, which is a point at which a game like Nobilis or Amber really seems to start to hum, I think… when the players have their own projects to work on, or are coming up with their own solutions and actions.
The scenes that have, thus far, worked really well, since the split of the group into two (in no particular order):
– Lust and Crime disposing of the Excrucian weapons.
– Sian and Justice in general.
– Sian and Meon in general.
– Death traveling back in time (by Gating along the ‘path’ of his own lifeline) to collect his former ‘tribe’ as warriors.
– Donner and Cities making a private arrangement of mutual benefit.
Things that haven’t really clicked:
– Most anything where someone said ‘I need you to do this’, especially when the ‘how to do it’ part is defined at all… giving them leeway to solve the problem in whatever way they feel like always seems to work better (though that still comes in second place to the scenes that are completely self-determined.
So I’m not sure that ‘common goals’ are really what’s missing… just need to get to that point where everyone’s engaged in their private idaho’s, I guess. This isn’t new ground or discovery for me (or anyone else reading this, I suspect) — it’s just something I need to remind myself of from time to time.

Game Design


Halloween tomorrow night — some folks are coming over and I think I’ll run a one-shot for something or other. I’m concidering using
(1) Genre Division’s Ghost Stories. Very cool game and nice easy rules to learn.

Short version of the rules: Roll 2d6. Try to roll low. Let me know if you roll a 2 or 12. Compare against your skill+attribute for the attempt and tell me if you went under it or over it, and by how much. Or just tell me the roll and I’ll figure it out. If you don’t have a skill, roll anyway.

(2) Unknown Armies: should be fun just to make up a character, but that might be more work than folks want to do (though it really isn’t much). The advantage I have with Ghost Stories is that I already about 12 pregen characters to choose from.

Short version of the rules: Roll percentile dice. Try to roll under your target number, but as close to it as you can. Let me know if you roll under 01’s or double anything (11’s, 22’s, 33’s, etc), whether the number makes the roll or not. If you don’t have the needed skill, roll anyway.

We’ll see. We’ll see.

Links & Resources


After this post, this page will ping as

Game Design

I’m never want to run a game where I can’t use this story somehow

A one-year-old boy has been bitten 30 times by a group of more than a dozen other babies at a nursery in Croatia.
Frane Simic was covered in a series of deep bite wounds all over his body, including his face, attacked after the class nanny stepped out of the room to change another baby’s nappy.

Dr Sime Vuckov, head of the hospital in Rijeka which treated the boy, was found later in an abandoned parking lot nearby, staring into the middle distance. “Biting between young children is not uncommon,” he said, possibly taking a deep, deep pull from a bottle of unlabeled Chechnyan vodka and wiping beads of sweat from his forehead. “But I’ve just… I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Police have launched an inquiry into the biting frenzy but admit they are clueless as to the babies’ reasons for attacking.
“Right now, we’ve narrowed it down to two basic possibilities,” said Olga Shevchenko, Senior Officer of Demonic Infant Activities, in a prepared statement. “One,” she said, extending an index finger that had been partially bitten off during an investigation in late 2001, “the child is some kind of living dimensional vortex who will eventually mature into his native power and destroy the majority of the coastal countries along the Aegean Sea in a bid for power – the other children were merely acting instinctively to destroy the evil they intuitively sensed, or Two: the child was the newest inductee into a secretive toddler cabal and was proving his loyalty to the group. We see that sort of thing all the time.”
“I don’t know,” one caregiver at the school commented, holding a hand-rolled cigarette to his lips with a shaking hand, “you expect this kind of thing in… Herzegovina or Montenegro, you know? Not here.” He shook his head, as though trying to will the memory of the incident away. “Not in Croatia.”


Updated shedule

Current schedule, through November
Oct 25, Saturday: Chrysalis C (Presuming Dave and Margie can get away in the later afternoon.)
Oct 27, Monday: Chrysalis A
Oct 31, Friday: Halloween
Nov 1, Saturday: Cry Havoc
Nov 2, Sunday: OA
Nov 3, Monday: OA
Nov 7, Friday: DnD
Nov 8, Saturday: Chrysalis C
Nov 9, OA
Nov 10, Monday: Chrysalis A
Nov 14, Friday: OA Ends (?!?)
Nov 15, Saturday: Cry Havoc
Nov 16, Sunday: Spycraft
Nov 21, Friday: DnD? (don’t know if Robert and Lori can make it. Margie can’t)
Nov 22, Saturday: Chrysalis C
Nov 24, Monday: Chrysalis A
Nov 27, Thursday: Thanksgiving

Game Design

‘The Golden What?’

Things go awry in discussing a one-shot JL supers game with Randy on the phone.
[Warning, mention of sexual paraphenalia follows.]

Game Design

Piece of Cake

Perverse Access Memory: WISH 69: Non-RPG Games for Gamers

Recommend three non-RPG games for RPGers. Why do you recommend these three?


Of gods, guest stars, plots, and naming conventions

Sunday, we had our first ‘guest star’ in the ongoing Nobilis game.
Hmm, before I get into that, though, let’s lay a little background out.

Game Design

Sharing the burden

Perverse Access Memory: WISH 68: Multiple-GM Games

Have you ever played in or GMed a game with more than one GM? What was your experience with it? What were the strengths and weaknesses of having multiple GMs? Was it positive or negative? Would you do it again? If you?ve never tried it as a GM or player, would you like to? Why or why not?

Links & Resources

Book Sale

Okay, I’ve added more stuff to my “sell” list. The complete list of game books is below:
[Normally I wouldn’t list the prices I’m asking, but some folks said they wanted first dibs, so if you’re reading this and you want something listed below, email me and I’ll take it off Amazon and send it to you some other way. You get the ‘blog reader’ discount of the 15% I’d have given to Amazon anyway :)]

Links & Resources

Spring Summer Fall cleaning

I’ve been dumping some of my unused RPG books on Amazon in the last week or so.
I’ve still got Creature Collection, Relics & Rituals, Hunter: The Reckoning, Revised Core Rulebook (Star Wars), and The Transporter DVD out there, but things have moved off the shelf pretty well, which I’m pleased about: I’ve sent off copies of Mage, d6 Star Wars 2nd Edition, Deadlands, and Kingdoms of Kalamar to (presumably) happy buyers. Silver Age Sentinels d20 is heading out the door today.
Next up on the block? There’s more than a few video tapes and DVDs I’m interested in getting rid of (here’s a clue: I’ve had Good Morning Vietnam for five years and it’s still in the shrinkwrap), and a few more game books that are crying out for new owners (Aberrant, Tales of the Jedi, Deadlands: Quick and the Dead, et cetera) — I need to take a notebook down to the bookshelves and make a serious list.
I’m never going to get those eight shelves (two columns of four) reduced to merely four, but at least I won’t have 30 books down there that I read once and never used.
Somebody else will 🙂

Game Design


Arrowflight‘s magic system is…
Well, it reminds me of something.

I attempt to create a Wall of Earth spell from the Elementalist “Wall” template. To make it a literal wall, I have to add at least an Armor Value of 1. That adds 1 to the base difficulty of 2. But that’s only an AV of 1 — no tougher than heavy cloth. If I want my wall to be as hard as, say, plate mail, I’ll need an AV of 9. Each level of AV increases the difficulty by 1, so now I’m at a difficulty of 11 — that’s not going to work. So, I add a requirement for a two-handed motion (rather than the default single hand motion) for -2 difficulty, a short incantation (rather than the default single word) for another -2 difficulty, and a rare focus item — let’s say, the heart of an earth elemental — for a -3 difficulty. Now my spell has a difficulty of 4?

Dunno. It is a LOT like the spell-creation system I designed for Hocus Pocus, Mumbo Jumbo. Dunno.
Maybe that’s what I get for writing stuff like that out and then posting it for free.

Game Design

Stories in gaming

Perverse Access Memory: WISH 67: Storytelling

How do you tell stories in your games? Are there character stories, overarching stories, and/or other kinds of stories? Could you tell a coherent story from games you’ve GMed or played in? Does it matter to you? Why or why not?

Game Design Nobilis

Weeknight relaxation.

Ran the ‘Chrysalis A’ group last night (the first time with the full group), and got things rolling with the patented “throw sixteen problems at them at once and let them sort that out… by the time they do, the group dynamic will have gelled.”
One notable quote from the game last night that I want to make sure to mention related to a task set them by the Boss. During the events a few sessions ago, a big cave complex under the town collapsed, killing quite a number of town inhabitants in sinkholes and the like — they are supposed to replenish the population by bringing in 30,000 new people from… well, wherever, so long as they aren’t simply ‘made’.
The comment, following about ten minutes of theorizing about ‘How’ (involving everything from kidnapping to disaster recovery to time-travel), was this: “Let’s back up and decide who we want to get. We know we can get whoever we want once we decide who that is, so let’s not worry about that part.”
That’s one of the great Nobilis secrets: it’s not the how that matters, it’s the why and the who. I’m really pleased that this fact was spontaneously voiced by the players. Yay.
There is a great deal of good to be said for scheduling a regular game on a weeknight. It encourages people to focus (in theory – in practice, I seem to be immune), it feels a bit more intimate, and (for me, anyway) it refreshes you and seems to shorten up the week somehow (since you get a chance for a little playtime in the middle of work, basically).
The downsides are mostly having to figure out where everything you need the next morning ended up during the game session the night before.

Game Design

Kinda Cool

Grey Ghost Press is going to use the Fatigue Rules I wrote up for Fudge (and Swift) a few years ago — incorporating it as part of the magic system in their upcoming Deryni RPG.
I’m pleased about this — I’m not a big Fudge-gamer (through I’ve picked at it off and on for years — since ’93, actually), but I have tremendous respect for the author of the original rules and I remember many Saturday afternoons in high school spent reading the Deryni books — I loved the juxtaposition of the weird, almost psionic-type ‘magic’ and the strictly orthodox religion, (although I’m much less enamored with the writing now than I once was).
Anyway, I always liked the way the author worked mental fatigue into the stories as the real limiter on the power of the Deryni, and I’m tickled that that element of the story will be represented by a system I came up with.


Good grief

Just for reference, this is the game schedule for Casa del Testerman for the next two months.
It is… not to put it too bluntly… fucking insane, due mostly to an effort to wrap up several long-running campaigns in the next two months.


Weekend review 3

Sunday: Finished up the second serial in Dave’s In Deo Confidemus :: Spycraft campaign in a blaze of gunfire (mostly not ours, surprise surprise) and a couple of fine moments for [self-centered] my own character[/self-centered], the most married man in the entire intelligence community, ever.
(Crap, Dylan still needs to call his wife.)


Weekend review 2

Saturday: First half of the second session of the second story-arc in Nobilis (which of course would be designated Session 8C… don’t ask). Four players who have never gamed with each other as a gestalt (or, in some cases, at all), so I’m really still working on getting the group to gel and build some momentum. Folks are still finding their sea-legs, I think. I hope.
To aid this, I’ve hit on the simple solution of taking two fairly complicated plots (1. political wrangling over key ‘geographic spiritual resources’ and 2. a plot to frame the familia for treason) and starting them up simultaneously while the familia is still making introductions. Not satisfied with stopping there, I’ve also introduced a few key NPCs that should loom large in the story for some time and made notes about the far-reaching consequences of some player actions.
Things are coming along well, mostly: I’m a little unhappy with my own ability to keep gametime even (it *felt* about right to me, but I’m not sure if it did to everyone else), but I’m pleased with the group and the dynamics that are being introduced. I’m looking forward to these initial plots (esp. the frame-job) concluding and where some of the loose threads might lead — also, I have some characters who are really designed to tell a strongly internal, personal story and I’m looking forward to exploring that some more.
Favorite bit: Jurai of the Cammora’s introduction and explaining his desire to meet everyone ‘just say Hellooooo.’
Also… tumescence in it’s creepiest form EVER. Bwuuahh ha haaa.

Actual Play

Weekend review 1

Friday: DnD. Talked about what we might like to do as a sequel game with a smaller group of players. Beat the crap out of everyone (killed the party thief, in fact), for which they earned a measely 2k in xp. To get big xp at that level of power, you have to pull out the world-shattering stuff.


Making the lower levels not matter

While talking about something else, Bryant mentioned something called the “No Myth meme”, which sounds vaguely interesting, especially when combined with task resolution:

The No Myth meme rejects preplotting altogether; a No Myth GM doesn?t know anything about the world other than what the players have seen; a failed task resolution check doesn?t mean the players have failed, it means there?s an additional obstacle in the way of reaching whatever objective the players have chosen. And that?s a reasonable approach.

This gives me something of an insight into how one would logically be able to run certain kinds of games in d20, even with low-level characters: if failure (one a skill check, for instance) actually just results in the situation become one level more complicated, then you have a framework in which a 1st level character can play in any sort of game at all — some situations may be (or become) too complex to be worth the effort of resolving, but you don’t have to worry about a situation where simple low-level skill scores make it impossible to succeed at certain tasks.
GM: “The door’s locked.”
Player: “I pick the lock. I did that last time I was through here.”
GM: “Let’s have a roll.”
Player: [rolls] “Ulp… umm… how about a 5? Total.”
GM: “Well, it was easy enough the last time you worked this door, but this time you get over-eager and snap the lockpicks off in the lock. How will you approach the problem now?”
Granted, I’m not sure this can apply in ‘opposed’ situations (sneaking versus someone else’s listen, or, more obviously, combat), but in most other cases it should be pretty doable.
I can certainly see applications for this in some genres. Pulp is a good example, as is any sort of fantasy setting with lots of intrigue, and of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that it works really well in a Spycraft campaign. I can think of any number of situations in, say, Alias where, by failing, the protagonist simply causes the situation to become more complicated.
Sneak in and steal something.
Snag fingerprint to get into door.
> Take too long in the lab (blew the first search roll).
>> Have to talk your way past guard who, since you took so long, noticed you leaving the area.
Eventually, you get to a point where, if you’ve screwed up quite a bit, you find yourself strapped to a chair and getting dosed on sodium pentathol, but really that’s just another level of complication to deal with.
(Or, in a 1st-level Amber campaign, Corwin just built up so many complications in his first assault on Amber that he ended up blinded and stuck in a dungeon cell. 🙂


Reminder: mention to Dave

OGL, D20 compatible CROSSGEN Campaign setting?

Links & Resources


Hi-res, printable Monopoly money. It’s uses in various board and rp games should not require explanation.

Game Design

“Release the crazed vampire bears that throw blasts of energy!”

Evil Animal Minion Generator.

(via, I am given to understand, the hidden Djinn)
Game Design

Lately, I’ve been pissing people off.
No, I can’t point at anything specific for this statement, but I’m vaguely (disquietingly) aware that I’m rubbing folks the wrong way. It’s not intentional — I make a comment here and there that are simply a truth (or a truthful retelling) and I end up with someone less happy with me than they were previously. Maybe I’m just not guarding my words as well as I have in the past — that’s certainly possible.
Why mention it here? Mostly because it’s got to do with gaming. I ended a game recently due to similar problems, and I’m due to wrap up two others within about 7 sessions each (though those two are largely going away simply because they’ve gone on long enough).
It might be that I’m stretched thin creatively (and if so, spread twice as thin on patience), but I don’t know if that’s true. In my experience, going back to the well for more inspiration doesn’t dry it up, it digs it deeper.
Maybe I’m just ready for new things. The DnD game is about two years old this month (and I was talking about ending it over a year and a half ago in March of 2002), the OA game apparently started around February of 2002, Cryhavoc’s about a year and a half…
I think I’m just ready for other things. The stuff I’m really enjoying right now are the new things. That’s not a coincidence: anyone is going to be more energized about new projects than about stuff they’ve been involved in since Millenium Bug was a serious threat.
What’s that got to do with my mood? Well, that frustration is starting to build up to the point where it’s overflowing into other things. The fact that it’s having that kind of effect is enough to annoy me even more.

Game Design

West Wing… of the Castle

Monday Mashup #9: West Wing
Bryant’s comment:

I think the most interesting thing about West Wing is watching the relatively inexperienced crowd deal with power.

Game Design

Beach Patrol! — Season in the Sun

Population: One: Monday Mashup #8: Beach Boys

Without pushing in any particular direction, I?d say there?s potential for romantic scenarios, ecological scenarios, fun-oriented scenarios, or even auto racing scenarios.

Game Design

Shogun Supers

Population: One: Monday Mashup #7: Shogun

If I was going to boil Shogun down to a sentence of summation, I?d say it was about a man plunged into a culture he considers barbaric, and how he learns to understand it.