Archive for the ‘myplay’ Category

h1

My entry into D&D and roleplaying

May 31, 2014

Been reading around, with all the D&D 5E hype going on, and also poking at the ongoing OSR stuff about.  I think it’s really interesting how many folks “suddenly” claim they’ve always played the way detailed in the Quick Primer for Old School Gaming since it’s come out… but few really wrote about that before.   I figured it might be good to drop a post about my experiences getting into D&D and what that was like.

Rumors

My first actual hearing about roleplaying games was ads in comic books.  The ads for D&D, Robotech, Teenager Mutant Ninja Turtles – all of that sounded pretty awesome.  I saw 2 seconds of gaming in ET or things like Cloak and Dagger – but none of it really showed you what roleplaying actually looked like or how it worked.  The “ZOMG SATANIC WORSHIP” panic wave didn’t get to me until years later, so that wasn’t really a forbidden fruit thing for me either.   There was folks with swords, dragons, and spaceships.  I wanted in.

Blue Box Holmes: I don’t get it

One of my older cousins gave me the Blue Box Holmes game.  I never got a chance to ask him how to play it, but I tried to figure it out on my own.  Despite having a rather sizable vocabulary and getting into advanced placement classes, I couldn’t figure out how to play the game AT ALL.   So, it got put aside, though I’d try to figure it out every so often and just walk away more pissed off.

Red Box: Yes, sorta

Red Box is where I actually feel I started getting into D&D.  The rules were clear enough, the choose-your-own-adventure in the game made things a lot easier to understand.  But that doesn’t mean it was entirely clear – especially for someone who had only really played boardgames before.   I had gotten together a bunch of kids at school and tried to run it during lunch… and discovered several problems:

1) 45 minutes is not enough time to make characters when everyone has to pick equipment

2) No one (myself included) really had any idea what a reasonable amount of time to run a session should look like

3) The cover shows a guy fighting a dragon, alone.  The game has a new party getting mauled by 3 giant rats… pretty regularly.

4) The book doesn’t really detail how you need to operate to make rulings on the fly, for people who’ve only played games where your options are limited to what kind of “moves” are listed in your boardgame.

So, yes, I’d try this repeatedly, and get various aborted attempts.  I at least got as far as to seeing there could be something interesting in this, but since everyone kept dying right away, I assumed I was simply “playing it wrong” somehow.  (I managed a better entry through TMNT and Robotech, both of which are more forgiving in fights and better model the genre expectations they present.)

“You’re playing it wrong! You’re not doing the thing that no one told you about!”

Later, I’d find out that not only is avoiding most fights the way to go, doing things beyond “attack” and having a DM who would make rulings that favor that is the way to go.  Mind you, this is what the Old School Primer was for me, but it actually highlights a terrible flaw in the written rules of D&D in that regard – “If you don’t like the rules, change them” isn’t the same as “Players should actively try to find creative solutions/stunts and the GM is expected to make rulings on them as a core point of play and here’s a page or two of examples”.

This also sits on top of the fact that so much of D&D’s legacy rules actually expected players to have multiple characters, each.  The high lethality, the randomized stat rolls, the low number of spells for casters, the caster/fighter power difference at higher levels – all of that disappears as problems when everyone has several characters.

Telling me how to play the game is part of design

So, over the years, one stance I remain firm on is that you actually have to tell people HOW to play your game.

To be sure, now it’s a lot easier because anyone can go online and watch some play-throughs on Youtube or other sites, but why should people HAVE to go somewhere besides the game you’ve sold them to get the basic gist of how to play?

Missing key parts like this is broken and it’s always been a point of contention when people basically argue, “It’s not broken, it works just fine (when I add all these procedures that aren’t in the book actually)!”  I mean, I could sell you a car without an engine and tell you it’s fine when you put an engine in… but…

D&D, OSR, etc.

As it’s always been, the question I’m wondering as I look through a lot of the discussions is how many folks are talking from their own play experiences, and then, how many recognize when/where they apply fudging/drift?   Because the game you’re playing might be awesome, but if it’s really awesome because you’re doing XYZ on top of what it gave you… the text rules aren’t necessarily going to give me or anyone else the same awesome experience.

What’s going to be a particular challenge for D&D 5E is if you’re going to take these judgement based rulings as a core part of play, is what advice/procedures do you put on it?  If they’re not there, you can basically take us back 25 years to young me trying to figure out why everyone dies in the first 10 minutes fighting rats, despite being badass adventurers…   And having folks walk away.

Advertisements
h1

Tenra Bansho Zero: Asura God Dii-Go

February 7, 2014

Tonight’s game the players faced the epic Asura – half of the Earth Spirit Dii-Go.  They managed to finish it just before it dished out it’s second uber attack.  

Asura God Dii-Go

Half of the Oni Earth Spirit – Dii Go, driven mad with pain and anger, which has been chained and trapped by the Shinto Priesthood and used to power their orbital strike powers.

Long ago, the Shinto Priesthood, through immense tech and magic, managed to capture half of Dii-Go’s spirit and trapped it into a 108,000 Soul Mirror Reactor. It has been used to fire massive beams upon Tenra at various points in history…turning it further and further into an entity of pure rage… an Asura.

Upon entering the giant satellite chamber, one can see nearly a cocoon of red steel chains, pulsating, breathing with rage. They spin quicker and quicker and spin away to reveal the chained form of the Asura half of Dii-Go – a massive, stone Oni, whose eyes burn with red light and do not stop flowing tears of blood.

Fate- Goal – Destroy everything.

Stats

Vitality 54

Rolls 15 Dice (half of a god, chained up. Normally much higher.). Has a skill of 5 with any Body, Agility, Senses, or Spirit roll. As an asura, it cannot be reasoned with, and is in pure blinding rage.

The Broken God

Whenever Dii Go hits a PC, it does damage equal to their Karma divided by 5 (round down). It doesn’t matter if Dii Go gets 1 success over or 15 successes, the damage is always based on the target’s karma.

Assume NPCs take 15 points of damage if there are any helping.

Aura of Rage

Before anyone gets to act, Dii Go’s rage simply inflicts 5 points of damage on everyone. This happens at the beginning of every round thereafter. This damage cannot be blocked, or avoided. It affects anything living or having a mind of any sort.

During the battle, Asura Dii Go has the Shinto satellite raining down beams upon the planet.

Hope or Hate?

Players attempting to attack or counterattack Asura Dii Go cannot use their normal Skill ranks, they must use a rank equal to the highest Fate that would apply. So, if a player had “Free the Oni” as a Fate 3, they would use it as a Skill 3 roll. This does not affect the power levels or abilities available based on skill – it only affects the rolls.

Yes, a player may have a higher Fate than skill and thereby benefit from this effect.

Unforgiveness

Let the players know the following:

Every time Dii Go makes a roll, offensively or defensively, I’m going to count up each success. It’s getting more powerful and more dangerous as time goes on. Something terrible will happen when it reaches 36 successes. Something even worse when it hits 72 successes. At 108 successes, you will lose this battle, and the consequences are unthinkable. Don’t let that happen. You may want to call for a Moment of Truth at some point.

36 – Arahabaki

At 36 successes, randomly roll to see which PC or major allied NPC is targeted by Arahabaki. There is no dodging, the target takes 3,000 points of damage. If they have a Dead box and take the damage that way, their body is incinerated completely, but they exist as a corporeal spirit to finish the fight and they are henceforth an Ayakashi (re-stat next time you play and they should have a Fate about it). If they die via losing all their Vitality before this fight is over, their spirit shatters and they are truly lost.

72- Ultimate Amatsu Mikaboshi

The cascade of orbitals strikes cease, and a single beam fires down, getting larger and larger and larger.

The whole continent cracks in half and begins to sink in.

108 – Asura Freed

The chains restraining Dii Go snap apart, and it forgets the small worries that is the PCs. It rips itself out of the satellite and flings itself, horn first, towards the planet below. It accelerates through the atmosphere, faster and faster and strikes an ocean. Tsunamis hit every coast.

Dark Dii Go is now a creature with stats at 108 that rampages across the globe as it will.

Stopping it will be a whole campaign unto itself, and Tenra will be devastated for centuries to come.

Defeating Dii Go

Once beaten down to zero Vitality, the Deity can be sealed away, and the PCs can unlock the psychic dampeners before leaving the satellite – Dii Go’s rage will kill anyone who gets too close to the satellite and it will be left as a terrible reminder of human desires for destruction.

Alternatively, if someone finds a way to cleanse/fix Dii Go and return it to the world, the Oni ALL find their Resonance skills instantly raised by 1 rank (to a max of 5) and the oni-blooded or those who have cut off their horns instantly grow full Oni Horns as well.

The reunited Dii Go’s horn will light up and fire a signal beam into space, to summon Alu…

h1

Tenra Bansho Zero – The Oni Draining Shiki

January 27, 2014

Ayakashi Shiki Wei Yu

A massive Shiki created by the Shinto Priesthood  – that has the power to literally drain sha from Oni for miles around and channel it into the sky (to a massive Shinto satellite in high orbit, which has a 108,000 Soul Mirror Reactor to contain the portion of Dii-Go they’ve captured to power their orbital weapon…).

It appears as 3 parts – a massive 20 meter tall sword, which is dropped by Shinto airship into the ground, a floating mirror above the top of the handle, and an extremely long chain from the handle to a possessed oni with massive horns- Wei Yu.   A sword, a mirror, a jewel (heartgem).

Combat Stat: 14 Unarmed 4, Melee 3, Ranged 3, Evade 3

Vitality 30, Soul (unlimited)

Sha Beam:  Damage +10, ROF: special

The mirror collects sha energy, fires a massive beam that can hit pretty much everyone in a 180 degree radius by sweeping across the landscape.

Giant Sha Blade: Damage +10

Weakness: Sha/Resonance Attacks

Takes double damage from Sha or Resonance based attacks – as an open channel/collector for Sha, it’s not good at defending against it.

Unique Cheap Dice Trick: Sha Drain

Why go through this much effort to make this thing?  The Shinto wanted to drain the Oni, specifically, of their Sha while keeping the rest of their machinery and shiki untouched.  By using a possessed Oni who once had powerful Resonance, they can create a terrible means of tapping into the Oni web of Resonance and do a targeted “draining”.

This works identical to the Ayakashi Fear Rank 5 Ability, except it affects only Oni.  It is a Spirit 7/Willpower 2 equivalent.

Visible streams of Sha energy pull forth from across the land, blasting directly out of each and every Oni’s chest within range.  The energy collects at the mirror which faces skyward and fires up the energy to a Shinto satellite far above.  Oni who are drained feel agonizing pain and are unable to move.  The very young or weak are affected and in pain simply by the thing’s presence within miles of them even before it uses it’s power.

Design Thoughts

The best stuff in TBZ is the setting edges where something is insinuated or hinted at.  The fact that it is rumored that some Ayakashi are just Shiki that have gone out of control gave me the idea of looking at Ayakashi powers for some kind of super-Shiki created by the Shinto.  Mechanically, it’s powerful but doesn’t have a lot of complexity going on, which is fine because it’s basically a First Act threat – it’s powerful enough to be scary but it’s just an opener.

It’s biggest threat is the Sha Drain, and even that has relatively low numbers – it shouldn’t incapacitate any of the PCs for more than a turn or two, just enough to scare them, and more importantly, it’s the threat of knowing all your oni friends and family back at the village are laying on the ground clutching themselves in agonizing pain as their own hearts are being used to rip forth Sha and the remaining half of Dii-Go.

Initially I DID try to build it using Ayakashi point system, but then I stopped, scrapped that and just went with simple numbers – it was a lot less work, and worked just fine.  The players poured in Kiai to kill it after it pulled out the Sha Drain, which was fine – it’s not designed to last as much as point out to the players that the Shinto Priesthood means business.

h1

Tenra Bansho Zero Actual Play over at Thoughtcrime Games

November 27, 2013

Anyone interested in hearing about the TBZ game we’re doing, I’ll be guest posting over at Quinn Murphy’s site, Thoughtcrime Games.  We’re looking at getting more POC gamers talking about their experiences and what’s fun in the hobby.

h1

Tenra Bansho Zero – Design Tricks

November 12, 2013

Got to play my first game of TBZ and had a great time.  TBZ manages to take a lot of smart design and combine it to hit the core premise of anime-action game.  Here’s kind of a run down of what it does and why it works.

Flags (Fates)

Fates are the ideas or themes that your character’s story or conflict will revolve around.    “Fate” itself is kind of a not great word for this, since we tend to think of fate as an immutable thing that MUST happen, whereas mechanically, these are more like either relationships, goals and drives for your character, and less like a destiny thrust upon you.

That said, if I want to know what’s interesting about your character and where to frame the scenes around?  I look at your Fates – which ones you’ve added, and which ones you’ve raised up.

Like any Flag mechanics, this helps the group get RIGHT to the action of what’s interesting for the players instead of futzing around.

Creative Springboards (Emotion Matrix)

Anytime you meet a major NPC, you roll on the Emotion Matrix to get an initial “vibe” or relationship between the characters.  This skips past the whole “let’s feel each other out as characters” and gives players and the GM a great starting direction and momentum to work with.

What keeps this from being random and out of place is that if it seems like a bad fit, the GM or any player can easily spend points to bounce that result around a bit – to pick something more suitable and probably more entertaining.   Assuming you end up with less new major characters as the scenario plays out, the Emotion Matrix falls to the background, having successfully “boosted” the initial play into some fun directions.

Fan Mail (Aiki)

Aiki tokens can be rewarded anytime anyone does anything cool or fun that they add to the game.

These form the basis of the resource economy in this game, and there’s only two ways to earn them – either great input that other people enjoy OR accepting input from other players (there’s places where you can bribe other players and give them Aiki for adding certain aspects to their characters – new Fates, or, bumping them around the Emotion Matrix).

Hardcore “Trying to win” gamers will note that Aiki becomes Kiai points, which become bonus dice, which basically can allow you to win ANY conflict if you amass and spend enough.  What those folks may miss is the key point: difficulty is not the issue, entertainment is.  And, if you want those Aiki to do just that, you will have to entertain the HELL out of the group.

Director Stance

Director Stance allows a player to create or input on things in the game world beyond/outside of their character.  In TBZ, it does this in a pretty clever fashion – you have limited ways of doing this but they’re also potent.

You can spend Aiki to:

– Bring a character into a scene

– Bribe another player to add an extra Fate to their character

– Bribe another player to take a different result on the Emotion Matrix

You can spend Kiai to:

– Bounce yourself around on the Emotion Matrix

Beyond pulling characters into scenes, this is amazingly powerful because it allows players to a) suggest and shape each other’s characters in ways they find interesting and b) change the nature of initial relationships among the characters, and often, which direction the story can go.

You’ll notice the amount of player control from Flags, to the Emotion Matrix to Director Stance means that things like trying to pre-plan what will happen exactly is going to fail – your super villain might end up being “True Love” on the Emotion Matrix or all the players might choose Fates to ally with them…  Although TBZ appears traditional in having a GM/player setup, the fact that players can easily take the wheel of the overall direction of play means the classic “branching path” adventure set up will not work at all.

h1

Primetime Adventures Podcast

July 23, 2013

My friends Jono & Sushu made a podcast about our favorite rpg – Primetime Adventures.  We’ve played a LOT of PTA in the last 3 years, and they do a great job of talking about what makes the game awesome while keeping it accessible.

There’s a lot of good talk about how to frame good conflicts, and how a lot of it is about a) finding what the real issue at hand is, and b) making the mechanical conflicts relevant to that while leaving the character vs. issues part in the players’ hands.

It’s about 45 minutes.  Go check it out!

h1

Path of the Nokwazi – continuing play

March 1, 2013

We’ve hit our second session of our African Fantasy Riddle of Steel game.

Spiritual Attributes

Players are starting to really get into their SAs at this point. Looking for opportunities to work them all in and looking at changing some of them to meet who their character is or who they want their character to be. This is pretty much the heart of the game, so I’m glad everyone’s starting to click with it.

They’ve also begun spending down the SAs to make improvements to their characters, which is a crucial point – having to pick when and how to spend down dice which creates a flow to every character – a story arc of being down and out vs. being “powered up” with the extra dice.

Combat Strategies

One of the reasons I really like Riddle of Steel is that it does have a level of system mastery in the tactics of combat. It helps to know the rules and what you’re trying to do. This session involved a competition which involved wrestling crocodiles and then having a mock battle with wooden weapons – the players choose competitors who were quite skilled, and I played them smart.

We started using special Maneuvers and range became a key issue, and everyone started really thinking about “Do I want to spend those 2 dice to do this thing, or play it safer? And is it really safer to give this guy another chance to take a swing at me?” and all that kind of thinking. I’m pretty excited, because next time we play, I’m guessing the players are going to have thought a bit more about their strategies and turn up the heat.

I had to do a lot of work to clean up the maneuvers from the book as most of them were pretty badly designed so it’s good to see them running smooth in play. I’m sure we’ll find some bumps though.

Setting and prep

Prep has been pretty light – we’re running 90-ish minute games which means I simply need small situations and maybe 3-8 NPCs. Prep is about 30 minutes or less with most of it being pondering what’s better choices to use rather than stat juggling.

I’ve been running it as “each session = new place” but I might play around with the idea of a larger area (a nation, whatever) so I can start reusing some ideas or NPCs. If anything, I’ve been pretty light and weak on NPC characterization because it’s been “Hey, let’s all learn how the rules work, hey, let’s get right to the conflict” but one of the strengths of using SAs is NPC motivations become the source of conflict.

The other thing which has been a lot of fun is the “magic roll”. We’ve set the default setting to “magic exists, it’s just rare and people have a lot more beliefs about it than happen to be real” – so when players encounter something that might be magical, they roll a die and then we find out if it actually IS magical right then and there.

The surprise of the night was Bafana slamming a crocodile into submission and demanding to know where the Father of Crocodiles dwelled and having the defeated beast speak!

These are things I can’t prep for and make things pretty damn amazing.