Friday, April 27, 2012

Give in to your poor impulse control / Pathfinder Goblin game

This week at Geek Club both the regular GMs were AWOL, so I ran a one shot Goblin only Pathfinder game.
After getting the Goblins of Golarion book for Christmas I statted up a Goblin version of every applicable class from the Core Rules (so no Paladins, Wizards or Monks [yes, I know you can technically have a Lawful Goblin. It's just highly unlikely]), and sketched out a rough 'plot'.
I realised last night that I put more time into the prep for it than we actually spent playing it.
Not that I'm bothered. I enjoyed the intellectual exercise of statting the characters.
I went with a set score range of 9, 11, 11, 13, 15, 17, reasoning that this split is slightly more interesting than even numbers.
This produced two types of Goblin; all-rounders and specialists.
Any class that likes a high Dex score came out well, specifically the Ranger (bow user) and Rogue.
The classes with a reliance on Str and Cha - Barbarian, Fighter, Bard, Sorcerer - came out as ... Ok. Their highest stat scores went into their racially deficient attributes, building a Goblin that was generally good at couple of things, but not brilliant at their main shtick.
The Cleric and Druid, two classes that rely on Wisdom, were able to enjoy a high Wis score, but were hit hard by the -2 to Str and Cha.
In retrospect, I can see why Goblins of Golarion states that Goblin Rogues are the most common, and that Barbarians don't last long at all.
But that's still to come.

On the night I had four players: Adam, Chris, Jon and Ni. They chose the Fighter, Barbarian, Bard and Sorcerer respectively.

The set up was pretty simple. It's been a hard winter, and the food store is running low. If fresh meat isn't found soon, the tribe will have to eat the turnips. Or the children. Whichever.

I gave them two choices for food:
On the other side of the hills is a big human town, and sometimes they use hated horses to pull carts along the track through the hills.
At the base of the hills is a human place where they build fences around tall grass and keep moocows.

They chose the farm.
Events proceeded along these lines.
The Fighter braced the front farmhouse door shut with wood from the log pile.
The Sorcerer used Burning Hands to set light to the door and fire wood.
The Barbarian and Bard tried barricading the back door with hay, but were startled by a dog barking.
The Bard began using Mage Hand to catch chickens so he could eat them.
The Sorcerer decided to check out the barn.
The Fighter tried to throw a burning log onto the roof, fumbled, and took for points of damage.
The farmers forced their way out the partially barricaded back door, and were instantly sent to Sleep by the Bard, who correctly surmised that they wanted to take the chickens off him.
The Bard, Fighter and Barbarian then spent about three rounds failing to Coup de Grace the helpless farmers.
Some more chickens were killed as well.
Meanwhile, the Sorcerer had discovered that the barn was full of moocows, and jumped into the middle of them with manifested Aberrant Bloodline claws, doing a massive 1d3-2 damage.
Once the two farmers were dead, the Fighter went off to find the dog, the Barbarian went to investigate the sudden, terrified mooing coming from the barn, and the Bard raided the hen house.
By this time the cows in the barn were terrified, stirred up by the smoke and the smelly Goblin ineffectually clawing them and Acid Splashing them. Which is an excellent time for the Barbarian to throw open the doors.
The cows stampede.
The Barbarian survives through sheer luck, rolling a crit on the first cow, knocking its legs out and creating a bovine wall to shelter behind as the rest of the herd trample past/over.
Meanwhile the Fighter has survived a drawn out battle with the ferocious Jack Russell chained up behind a farm building and the Bard continues to loot eggs.
I decide that the night is wearing on, and throw in a CR4 Bison and tell them the Bull is loose. I realise too late that it's got a +10 to hit and does 2d6+12 damage. Damage and attack rolls are fudged to ensure things are not a complete forgone conclusion.
The Barbarian survives the first attack, and is joined by the Sorcerer and Fighter.
Meanwhile, back in the hen house, the Bard faces up against that rarest of fowl, a Dire Rooster. It has baleful eyes and a comb of blood red.
The Fighter is dropped to minus hit points in his first turn of combat with the Bull. The Sorcerer makes it to two rounds and the Barbarian is killed the round after.
The Bard rolls well against the Dire Rooster, which rolls horrendously, and emerges from the hen house to find a farmyard strewn with dead and dying cows, chickens and Goblins.
He eats well, and sings a song about chickens.

The attached picture was drawn by Ni during the session. It's pretty ace.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wheaton's Law: Don't be a dick / Alert the monopolies commission

My Roleplay group are on a recruitment drive at the moment, so I've 'designed' some amateurish flyers advertising our club.
The aim is to ask local gaming shops to put them up on boards, in windows and maybe have a pile on their counters.

The key point is to ask, and to understand that the shops are under no obligation to help out.

However, I am ... Disappointed by the reaction of the first shop I went into.
Their answer was a definite 'no'.
Their reason: we would be in direct competition with them, because they'd recently started a game night of their own. On a different night.

We play on a Tuesday night.
They play on a Wednesday night.
We play 8pm to 11pm.
They play 6pm to 9pm.
We have a room that will seat 30, for free, in a licenced pub.
They have a room that will seat 20, at a surcharge, in non-licenced premises that does have a 'tuck shop'.

I'm not convinced that we pose a legitimate business competition, being a non-profit, loosely organised group that does not trade in goods or services.

So, my personal opinion is that this guy is being a dick.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Building a geek / My five games

To steal an idea from Character Generation, here are the five RPGs that made me the colossal geek I am today...

Cyberpunk 2020
I've no idea what edition it was, and I've barely played it since, but Cyberpunk was the first RPG I played. I got snowed in at a friends house one February night, and a Cyberpunk cops one shot was the only entertainment on offer.
I had no idea what I was doing. It made no sense. I tried to 'make a cop'. This was acceptable. I bought a pair of bongo drums and was suddenly told 'now you're getting it'.
I wasn't sure that I was.
I still have no idea what happened. I can presume that a law was broken, and we started shooting. I could handle shooting. I understood 'kill him before he kills you'.
What I didn't understand was that I couldn't shoot through the solid concrete wall that I was using as cover. Before having at least two limbs blown off, I did manage to shoot through the wall, through a car door and through his armour. I did the smallest possible amount of damage the system allowed. It's entirely possible the GM just fudged that to give the newbie a break.
Then I got detonated.

From that point I was hooked.
I didn't quite understand what had just happened, but I did grasp the concept that this RPG thing allowed you to do literally anything you could imagine.
Mind. Blown.

Ars Magica
I played a few more games with this group - Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia - but the one that stuck was Ars Magica. Again, I totally didn't get it. I may have only 'gotten it' sometime in the last two years (16 years and two editions later), but it fired me up some more.
Three different classes of characters under my control.
Mid fantasy setting.
Stuff I could learn about without buying the book (Latin, history, folklore, however this did turn out to be my ArM undoing. I worried too much about authenticity).
My first characters were based on Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin, a Merinita magus, Hobbes, Moorish were-tiger companion, and Spiff, a daring grog.
Yeah, I didn't get it. There's a theme running through this.
But I loved Ars Magica. I was enraged that the Tremere were a vampire clan in V:tM. I hated that the Order of Hermes was reduced to just one of nine Traditions in M:tAs.
Yet I've never successfully played it or run it. I always get bogged down in historical accuracy and my fear of the finer points of the rules.
I hope to change that.

Vampire: the Masquerade revised
It's with V:tM rev that I became a GM. I hated the game I was playing, basically because the Storyteller was focussing entirely upon the story, at the expense of the rules and player expectations.
Rules were only ever used to tell us we couldn't do something, not to tell us how we could do something. They were applied inconsistently and unfairly.
It really pissed me off.
So I bought the Revised Edition and a shed load of supplements and set out to show him how a game of Vampire should be run.
Not that I did a brilliant job. I did ok, for a novice Storyteller. I got better.
I think.

Song of Steel LARP club
Ok, not a table top RPG, a Live-Action one instead. I played the pilot game in February 1998 (i think it was then) and finally left in early 2003. In the five years I was there I spent three on the Plot team, writing and running adventures, two months as Club Secretary (I was shit, and quit) and a year as Head of the Rules Team. It was the rules position that broke me, and I was totally burned out after it.
Positives, though. I spent three years exploring various adventure ideas, and towards the end had a good idea of what I was good at, what worked and what didn't, through trial and error. Which means I fucked up a lot, but learnt a little from each mistake. My major error was over reaching, and the best adventures I ran were simple, low resource ones.

World of Darkness Storytelling System
This is what I'm best at. When White Wolf rebooted, I completely ditched all of my old Storyteller games and fully embraced the new WoD.
Yes, I regret giving my 100+ books to charity, mostly because the shop that got them probably didn't know what they had, because it was a rash decision, because there were some gems that I should have kept.
But I totally get nWoD. It's second nature to me. I don't have to think about the rules or the setting, I just kind of default to it. It frees me up to enjoy the game and what the players are doing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What would Rick Grimes do? / Being the good guy

I'm playing a Fire Dept EMT in a d20 Modern zombie holocaust game at the moment, and I'm trying to play him good. Lawful Good, to be exact.

It's really hard.
I'm trying to play my Character, Henry Fallon, as someone who will do what's right, not what's convenient or safest. I see him as someone who runs into burning buildings and pulls people out because it's the right thing to do, and it's his job.
Walking to the game last night I got to thinking about playing good characters, and how often I do it.
Not very, seems to be the answer.

I'd consciously decided to play someone solid, reliable, moral and, well, good, this time around, and was wondering why I don't do it that often.
I remembered the Chaotic Good Bard I'd played in a Forgotten Realms game some ten years ago (that long?). He was active and immense fun, but also vain, self interested and a glory hunter. He did good things, but mostly just because it would get him chicks.
It's not hard playing that kind of 'Good'. It's basically win-win with little effort.

Back in the days when I LARPed, the last character I played before I quit was a Priest of Truth, Brother Cornelius Woodrow. He focused on protective spells and had vowed to always tell the truth. He constantly strived to be open and honest and fair. He was constantly frustrated by the inherent selfishness of the world, by the little lies we habitually tell, by shortsightedness.
I had a cracking headache, without fail, after playing him.
Thing is, he was a fun character, or a character who liked fun. He was game for a laugh. He was useful, and a team player.
Yet I didn't enjoy playing him, because RPGs don't often reward selfless altruism. Paladins are seen as boring. Good guys are automatically suspect.

It seems as though most RPG characters default to a Neutral position. Not Evil, not Good, just reactionary beings that do whatever they want as the mood strikes them with no long term plan or consistent intentions beyond their own benefit.

Thing is, I do love me a morally and ethically absent character. I'm just as guilty. I enjoy the freedom and release of acting upon desire and whimsy alone.
I have fond memories of my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Halfling who gleefully murdered old women and threw children to Skaven because it was what was required at the time for his continued survival and/or entertainment (he was, ultimately, trying to save a city from a Skaven siege and chaos infiltration from the sewers. That makes it alright, yeah?).
I loved my LARP evil necromancer, Hans Karlos, a sadistic, traitorous maniac who betrayed two kingdoms, his friends and allies, to save his own skin. Good times.

After my game finished last night, I sat in on the Serenity game running alongside us and played the ships cook, who is clearly an ex-assassin with the ability and conviction to wipe out a ships crew with ease.<br>
God, I loved it...

I find playing a good, honest character hard work, yet can drop into a dodgy fuck's role in a heartbeat.
Is that normal?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cheating for fun and profit / Not everyone is created equal

I just remembered something important - NPCs, especially important ones, do not need to be legal starting characters.

They just need to make sense, be memorable and serve a function (other than "wank all over the players").