Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Have a Bad Reputation

A long time ago, I once played a game called, The Atlantean Trilogy. It was a product by Bard Games. It was vaguely D&D-like, but it had it’s own unique twists. One of these items was a little rule where each player would have a renown percentage. Players would start off with a value from one to four percent. The idea is that each adventure would give the characters one or two additional points. When players would meet someone, the game master could make a rule to see if the NPCs had ever heard of the players’ characters before.  Overall, I’ve always thought it was a great idea.

Sadly, it was just a little rule. I’m not sure how well it worked. A player could get numbers over one hundred percent. The reasoning was that there were penalties for being outside your home region. Think of it as your legendary figure of England and some people have heard about you in Japan. You could even get a really high renown score by doing something infamous. Basically you did something bad and now everyone knows about it. Needless to say, it had a few flaws in it.

Even with it’s flaws, I’ve often wondered if it or something similar could be used with other games? After all it was a fairly general rule that had no other system specifics attached to it. It also allowed for you to give a reward to your players without actually giving them a monetary reward.

If one wanted to apply something like it to a game, you may need to think a bit like a game designer for a bit. Do you want it to be some sort or number stat or ability score? There are good reasons for going that route. There are distinct values or levels of renown that you can track. You can use the number to influence die roll modifies. Do you want it to be some sort of trait that you have or don’t have? There are good reasons go that route as well.

In general, I like the idea of an attribute. Now it can be used as a comparison value at the very least. I am thinking of having both a fame and infamy stats. Fame for all the heroic things and infamy for all the non-good things. What I like about this is that both the good and bad can follow you around.

Since I’m currently playing Pathfinder, We need a way to make the rules work under those rules. Here is what I currently have. Each player gets 1d4 worth of fame or infamy points. They can split it up between the two stats. It make it more d20-like for every divide the points by five that’s now the modifier to a DC of 10 + target’s WIS or CHR bonus + target’s fame/infamy modifier. The DC can go higher if they are in foreign land. You can make one roll for fame and one for Infamy. Depending on the situation the players could get  a +2 bonus to Diplomacy, Intimidate, or other interpersonal skills. I think this has the desired effect of allowing a person’s fame or infamy effect people without getting too powerful.

This concept is still a work in progress but I would sure love to hear what people think about it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Creating a One-Shot Adventure

You are an experienced game master. You have created many adventures. You’ve decided that there is a situation that calls for a one-shot adventure. Should be easy to do right? Your skills at creating adventures should allow you to create a one-shot adventure right? Well, it has been my experience that this is both true and false. It’s true that many of the skills you will need for a one-shot adventure are skills that you already posses. It’s false because there are additional things you may need to take into account to create a wonderful one-shot adventure.  

Like almost everything we do, we have to look at our audience. For whom is this adventure for? Is it for first time gamers? Is it for a game convention? Is it just for a filler session? Is it just to see how a high level adventure might work? By knowing your audience, you tailor the adventure to their needs and yours? Let’s look at some questions you should ask. You will have different answers based on your group.

Have they played Role-Playing Games before?
Is this a new game for the players?
Is this a new genre for the players?
Do you expect to see the players again?
Do you think they might want to convert a one-shot into a campaign?
Is this mostly a filler session?
Is there any rules testing going on?
Have you run this game before?
Have you run this genre before?
Have you run adventures in the character level before?

The answers to this question will determine if you need to provide or take into account any of the following items.

Pre-generated Characters
For many one-shot games, you will have to provide some sort of pre-generated characters. This is done for many reasons even if the players don’t use them. For most new players, you are going to want them to use a pre-generated character. Even if they really want to create one of their own. You will have to explain to them that this is for a single adventure that afterwards, they will be better able to create a character. Even for those with years of experience at gaming, a pre-generated character might not be a bad option if it’s a genre or game that they may not have played before. As a game master, your pre-generated characters usually need to be of the general archetypes for the game setting or genre. Unless your adventure require it, you should not create pre-generated characters that are obscure. I know I’ve played in a few convention games where that’s happened. The sad thing, it was hard for anyone at the table to get a handle on things. If a system has skills, skills selected should reflect the adventure your going to run. So the rouge pre-generated character should have trap-finding skills if they are going into a tomb with many traps for example.

Straight Forward Adventure
Unless it suppose to be some sort of murder mystery or the like, the adventure shouldn’t be hard to follow. Remember, this is a one-shot game. You may be under time constraints, so you are going to want to make sure that there are few if any red herrings in the adventure. The players should be able to grasp the thrust of the adventure and generally know the goals of said adventure. If it’s too complex or misleading, your players are going to be frustrated and so are you. If you have to run a mystery, please try to make sure there are multiple ways to get the same clues. You don’t want the players to be stuck because there is only one way to get a vital clue. This may seem like railroading. It is in some ways. The trick here is to railroad them without having them think you are railroading them.

Have Skill Be Used
Along with a straight forward adventure, if a character has special skill or power make that there is an chance to use it in the adventure if possible. More than a normal adventure each character needs some spotlight time. Unless it suppose to be an adventure with just normal people, players are going to want to use things that make them special. This doesn’t mean that you have to deal with all the special skills or powers of each player. It does mean that you should pick one per player and have a place in the adventure where the player can use if they want.

Rule Cheat Sheets
Rule cheat sheets are important for those players that have never played the game in question before. They should be able to use the cheat sheet to get a rough idea of how things work. Just remember that not every rule needs to be put down. If your cheat sheet is 10 pages long, I think your doing something wrong. Unless it needs to be, it should only be a front and back side of page. It should cover if possible basic skill usage, basic combat, healing, and any rule that is use all the time. You may find that even your veteran players like these sheets for reference.

Special Character Sheets
If your game is at a convention, you might want to make the character sheets look a little something special. While some game masters might want the sheets back, I think it’s a nice touch to have a sheet that the player gets to keep. It provides them a simple memento of your adventure. If you have done your job well, the players will be happy and remember your adventure every time they look at your sheet in the future.

So, while most of your skills you have will convert to a one-shot by knowing your audience, you will be able to tailor the adventure to the needs of that audience. So until next time, good luck and good gaming.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Using The One-shot Game

If you been around gaming for any time at all, you most likely used a one-shot game. The funny thing is we sometimes don’t like to do one-shot games at all. I’ve always wondered why we don’t use them as often as we probably should. I think it sometimes comes down to that we don’t know when we would want to use a one-shot game. Let’s look at some examples of why we would want to use a one-shot.

The Classic type is the fill-in game. Sometimes only a few of the normal party can meet to play. Many times, you might try to fill in the party with NPCs or just run the adventure with the players at hand. Sometimes however, this just is not right. In these cases if you have a one-shot game you can play, then at the very least your players and you can have a fun session without affecting the adventure you have had written nor the players that could not attend. That’s the big thing about a one-shot, it normally has little effect beyond the one-shot.

A more useful one-shot, is rules testing. This can be either seeing if some rules changes you have in mind for you game are going to work or playing a game system you have never played before. In either case, the idea is too see if the rules work. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun, it just means that your primary objective is the rules. One of the things about testing a new game is that sometimes what you think will be a one-shot the players may want to make a longer game. Depending on your wants, this can be good thing. After all you will have player interested in playing a new system. If they want to continue playing it then you something that really hit a nerve. The only down side? You may not have enough material to transition from one-shot to full campaign.

Another good use of the one-shot is to allow everyone to take a break. It might even allow you to be a player if someone else wants to be a Game Master for a one-shot. As a matter of fact, one-shots are useful here because they can be used as a proving ground for new game masters. I don’t think I know many game masters that only like to game master. Most of them love to play. As a matter of fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that most game masters do it because they can’t find anyone else the wants to do the job.

Finally, there is the convention game. This is likely the most common place your going to find a one-shot game. After all you going to get a group of players together that most likely have never meet before. They are going to play a session which is going to end and it’s unlikely that they will ever play those character again.

As you can see, there are many reasons you may want to actually run a one-shot. In future articles, we will discuss how you can create a one-shot.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Jeff Uurtamo Joins RPG Blog 2!

The big announcement I promised is finally here! It's been hard to keep it under wraps, but today sees Jeff Uurtamo joining the RPG Blog 2 family! You may know Jeff either from his work on the Bone Scroll, as the producer and co-host of our RPG Circus Podcast. He's one of the gamers whose opinion I've come to respect very much over the last couple years.

It can be tough to go at it alone, which is why I can't tell you how happy I am to have Jeff on board. I'll let him give a little bit of a gaming background below. Please join me in giving me him a big RPG Blog 2 welcome!

Greeting and Salutations! My name is Jeff (aka Bonemaster). Many years ago, I sat down and was watching my brother play what I soon find out was Dungeons & Dragons. I asked if I could play and the rest as they say was history. The for the next 25 or so years, I've played a variety of Role-Playing Games. If it was written in the 1990's there is a chance that I've played or at the very least heard about it. Even my short four year tour in the US Navy didn't stop me from playing Role-Playing Games. As a matter of fact, I meet many gamers in the military.

Of course not everything I did is based around gaming. I hold a BA in Computer Information Science, Master's in Geographical Information Science, and is a few credit hours short of a BA degree in Anthropology. I have held a variety of jobs including armed security guard, on-site computer repairman, alarm station monitor, contract archaeologist, network administrator, Linux system administrator, Windows system administrator(although he doesn't like to talk about that),database administrator, and system programmer. I currently employed as database administrator on a non-IT developed project.

A few years ago, I was having a tough time find players or games to play. I decided to start writing a RPG blog. To that end, The Bone Scroll was invented. Blogging was fun, but the thing they don't tell you about blogging is that it can eat a lot of time. I was starting to find that I didn't have to time to write as much as I though I needed to for my blog. Part of that was I had started a podcast, RPG Circus with two other bloggers. I really enjoyed podcasting. It wasn't bettter than blogging but it was different. With the variety of other changes going on, I soon discovered that I did have all the time I needed. I started to look at options as I wanted to continue blogging. To that end, Zach and I decided that it would be great if I joined the RPG Blog 2 staff as a writer. I'm glad to be hear and I look forward writing articles for your amusement and consideration.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

OpenQuest & RuneQuest Thoughts

I find myself once again toying around with OpenQuest.  I like feeling of the rules, but it's sort of a weird game for me because I have very little experience with RuneQuest.  I've read Mongoose RuneQuest II, and I've poked around older editions, too.  I think the simplicity of OpenQuest is a big draw for me, but I'm wanting to make sure I don't miss out on any of the good bits from other RuneQuest kindred.  The games seem pretty compatible, really, so part of the fun is scrounging around other RuneQuest books to see if there's anything I want to add on.

I'll be honest: as an American growing up when and where I did, RQ wasn't exactly on the list of most-played games. Rifts, D&D, Palladium Fantasy, and Traveller dominated, and I'm not sorry for it.  But it is nice to explore, even from an angle, a game with so much history built up behind it.  I feel like a tourist in a lot of the discussions I read, but maybe this is the time RQ, courtesy of OpenQuest, finally clicks into place.  As soon as I get the funds, I need to snag a print copy or the latest download at RPGNow. I understand there's been a couple of changes in the Final Edition of OQ.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Amazing Art Of Theodor Kittelsen

We covered him briefly in my art history classes, but I had never really checked out the work of Theodor Kittelsen. Wow.

Kittelsen did a lot of paintings and drawing for fairy tales, but much of his work has a "weird fantasy" vibe that is perfectly creepy and more than just a bit unnverving.  Check out some of my favorites of his:

The Water Spirit

Creeping, Crawling, Rustling, Bustling

Pesta on the Stairs

The Sea Troll

Much of his art looks like it would fit in perfectly in James Raggi's game, and I mean that as a high compliment. Best of all, Kittelsen's is public domain, so you don't have to have any qualms about using it. His art seems pitch-perfect for a lot of eerie fantasy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The New Year And Obsidian Portal

One of my resolutions in the New Year (aside from playing more) is to really work on organizing my Middle Isles Campaign into a usable, informational format. So I'm back on Obsidian Portal, and am working hard on my campaign site. I've got the wife helping with some of the graphics, and it's going pretty well so far. Stop by and see what you think, and if you're looking to get organized in 2011, why not work on Obsidian Portal along with me?