Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gaming resolution / Stop being a bad GM

Whilst it doesn't look as though I'll be running, or even playing, anything soon, I have resolved to do things differently the next time I do.
I plan on asking the players what would they like to play, and how would they like to play it.
Revolutionary, I know.
It's like a whole new paradigm of thinking. Well, it kind of is for me, as I got into GMing because the guy running the Vampire: the Masquerade game I was playing in really was doing it wrong.
This has bred in me a habit of just 'doing stuff' to the player characters, hoping it'll work and getting frustrated if it doesn't. I've never really stopped to ask the players what kind of game they'd like to play or how they'd like to play it.
Which I guess is kind of basic error, one that I presume (hope) other GM's make.
If they don't, then I really am crap...

I used to try to get players to write up detailed character backgrounds, but going forward I think I'm going to ask about what style of game they would want to play instead. I'm presuming that by this point we've all agreed on the system and setting, and we're now designing characters.
What I think I should now be asking includes:
- What kind of conflict do you want to face? Physical combat, physical obstacles, political intrigue, social challenges, a mixture of two or more, something else?
- What is your character's ultimate goal / win scenario?
- What is stopping your character from achieving this goal?
- How do you all work together as a team?
- What would help you to really enjoy this game?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ben and holly / Changeling: The Lost

Possibly a niche observation here, but I am drawing comparisons between the Hedge in Changeling and the opening credits to Ben and holly's little kingdom

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Paranoid android / gaming apps

I have just invested in an android phone, from which I am posting this entry, and am wondering what gaming apps there are out there.
I've installed a pathfinder spells app, a couple of dice rollers (one of which is nwod specific) and now I'm struggling to find anything else.
Any suggestions?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Scoring your game / Consistent look and feel part II

To continue my earlier post on what 'my' World of Darkness 'looks' like, here's what it 'sounds' like.
Not all of these are songs, artists or bands that i've played in the background on game night, but they've all been in my mind (or playing) whilst i've been writing scenarios or plotting out sessions.
I've been sat on this post for a while, so I'm going to just add bits to it as I think of them.

The Mars Volta / Televators - This video is absolutely wonderful. It sort of reminds me of the original 'Knights of Pendragon' comic book series that Marvel UK ran in the early 90's. It also inspires me to run Werewolf games, or Mage games, or anything that deals with nature spirits invading the mindset of the urban sprawl / fighting back against the encroaches of man.

Superstition / The Kills
Greg Dulli / Early Today (and later that night)
Tom Waits / Small Change, Potter's Field, Alice, Low side of the road, What's he building? Little drop of poison
Death in Vegas / Aisha - I think I ran an entire Vampire: The Masquerade chronicle with this going through my head. Probably most fitting for a Hunter: The Vigil / Slasher or Promethean: The Created game, although it arguably lends itself to a Werewolf: The Foresaken, Changeling: The Lost or Vampire: The Requiem game as well. Or The Esoterrorists, Fear Itself, god, anything really. In fact, this song is just so inspirational to me, I feel like an artificial constructed life form hunting down innocent prey with murder and pity in my eyes every time I listen to it.

Baader Meinhoff / Baader Meinhoff (album)
The Twilight Singers / My Time (has come), Number Nine, Live With Me
Eels / Last Stop: This Town, The Other Shoe, Souljacker

Snow Patrol / Set the fire to the third bar

Spiritualized / Lord can you hear me
The Gutter Twins / The Stations, Idle Hands
Elbow / Grounds for Divorce - To my mind, a great deal of bars in the World of Darkness look like this

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Books for sale update / Potential future gaming purchases

So far I have managed to sell on my collection of 4th Ed D&D books. One of the guys from my old gaming group almost bit my hand off, which suggests to me that I under priced them significantly. Oh well, mates rates, I guess.
He's already paid me the money, and the books are still on my shelf. Awesome.

Of the remaining books, I have listed them in my Storefront at Amazon UK, and am awaiting sale. If anybody wants to buy them directly from me, and avoid such niggles as P&P and Amazon getting a percentage of the sale, then drop me a line.

So, what do I plan to do with this potential incoming cash? It looks as though i'm spending some of it on my wife, putting some aside for a friends stag do later this year and, obviously, buying more gaming books.

I have decided that I am definitely buying Pathfinder, and am considering the 4th Edition of Shadowrun.
I'd love to hear any further game book suggestions.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Esoterrorists / Rules lite proof of concept

I've been rehearsing this review in my head for days. A more forward thinking person would have made notes, but that's not me, so you'll have to manoeuvre your way past numerous half remembered jokes and observations to reach the core of this review. 


I think I started at the wrong end with Gumshoe. The Esoterrorists is a Gumshoe game, written by Robin Laws and published by Pelgrane Press. The Gumshoe system, as I have observed in other posts, is an investigative system designed to support procedural investigation games - CSI games, Mentalist games, Miss Marple games etc. 
The system has two mechanics - Investigation based skills and General skills. Investigation skills always work, never fail and exist to push the plot ever forward. General skills include most 'doing things' skills such as those used to fix a car or kill a man dead. General skills require a dice roll to use, and there is a chance of failure. 

So why did I start at the wrong end? What does that mean? 
I first read Trail of Cthulhu, which is 247 pages long and has a fairly fleshed out rules system. I then read Fear Itself, which is 90 pages long, and I was disappointed to see that a large chunk of the rules text was word for word the same as ToC. 
Now I own The Esoterrorists, which weighs in at a massive 87 pages, and features a bare bones setting and system. 
I looks as though each subsequent release of a Gumshoe powered game has expanded and developed the rules and presentation somewhat, adding value and discussion to the original framework. 

I see it as a proof of concept. The Esoterrorists gives you exactly the right amount of setting and system to springboard a game. All you need from there on in is some imagination and an eye for mystery construction. 

What I like about it:
  • It's an easy system to learn
  • It's a new idea
  • The setting is simple, adaptable and universally understood - you investigate the paranormal for a secret society. You're like a more casual Men in Black or an X-Files team with better funding
  • The drive is to solve the mystery, not necessarily blow shit up (although that option remains open)
  • The book is cheap and short
  • Everything is adaptable, given a basic level of imagination
You could do a lot with this game. A better GM than myself could tell a really gripping story using The Esoterrorists. I could run a fair to middling game, getting better with practice. 

What I don't like about it
  • The system doesn't go into as much detail as later Gumshoe books
  • It's short - Whilst this is also good, as it makes it an easy buy, the fact that you can get 2.5x the word count for 2x the cost if you buy ToC makes The Esoterrorists  a bad deal on word count
  • The setting id a bit too sparse at times
Trail of Cthulhu, in addition to featuring more rules and setting material than The Esoterrorists, also goes into how to write a crime mystery, with hints, tips and discussions on how to construct a story based on clues and deductive reasoning. The Esoterrorists does not do this. It gives the GM some basic advice - keep the investigation moving. always keep moving forward etc. ToC tells you how to plot out the story, at which stages the larger clue should be discovered, how to shuffles scenes and clues around, stuff like that.
This is a terrible miss from the Esoterrorists, one which makes baby Jesus cry. 

As I said, though, The Esoterrorists is a 'proof of concept' game.  It's a new system and setting coming from a small publisher, and serves to test the waters before they dive in with further publications.
This, I think, is why it's such a light book. Why write, layout and publish 200+ pages if it's not going to sell? 
What this book gives you is a new way to run a game, and it is a new way. It's not a rework, or a hack, or 'inspired by', it's genuinely new, creative thinking. 
It gives you a setting framework that you can hang a good number of games on. It gives you a simple, effective rules system that allows for a story to flourish without bogging the session down searching pages and cross referencing source books. 

I would describe The Esoterrorists as 'Lean'. It's ready for action, which is a great thing for a new system - Up and running on the day of purchase. You definatly can't say that about D&D.