Posted in Gaming Advice, General Writing

Hosting a Murder

Every year good friends of mine from my gaming group host a Murder Mystery party around Halloween. They are fun affairs where you get to act like someone else, play a preassigned role, meet new people, and try to figure out which one of you is not who they claim to be. Here’s a hint, everyone.

It’s been years since I have hosted something like this myself, but I figured I have had enough experience to write a little bit about them, and talk about some tips to doing them well.

Please note even though I am referring to these dinner parties as “Hosting a Murder” not all of them actually involve someone dying or having died. It can be about a Curse, a Prophesy, a Secret Cult or many other things depending on what the plot is.

(Pictures in this Blog Post from Paramount’s 1985 movie CLUE.  If you haven’t seen it.  Do yourself a favor and watch this gem.)

 

Why Host a Murder

So you’ve been thinking about hosting one of these murder mystery parties but never pulled the trigger. Let me help. Murder mystery parties have a lot of fun side effects. First off, if you are an RPG gamer (which you are reading this blog you most likely are) a party like this is a good way to feel out slightly geeky coworkers or friends who don’t fully know your nerd side. You might find your friend really enjoyed playing a character or your coworker has a history with RPGs. Many a new member of a gaming group was found via a murder mystery.

Hosting a murder allows you to merge different friend groups seamlessly.  Invite your work friends and your gamer friends. It also gives you an excuse to invite your child’s best friend’s parents to a social function that doesn’t involve your kids.

Hosting an event like this around Halloween is an excuse to dress up in costume, be it a character in the mystery or just because it’s Halloween. Saying ‘costumes are encouraged’ lets your guests decide their comfort level without forcing them into a theme. I also find that being in a costume(be it their character or just batman or a hotdog), helps guests that don’t normally role-play, more easily shed their personality and take on the character they are assigned.

 

Clue 2 Continue reading “Hosting a Murder”

Posted in General Writing

Grey Matter – Alien Invasions in RPGS

Welcome back to My20sided life. It has been awhile. A friend of mine, Marc Plourde, over at https://inspstrikes.blogspot.com/, did a twitter poll awhile back asking if he should start back up his blog. He was a regular blogger for some time. I had read his stuff long before I started my own. Upon seeing the poll, however, I told him, if he started blogging again I would too. This led us to start chatting about what to blog about and possible collaborations. So we are going to try to push each other, feed off each other’s ideas, and create a blog dialogue if you will. Let’s see how this works out.

So last week Marc posted a Blog about Gideon IV, a world he was using for an Alien Invasion Cypher game. He had some neat ideas about making the game a bit more Survival Horror, and less plucky resistance. Well, Alien Invasion has been something on my mind in the RPG sense for some time. Something I have never gotten to the table. So, sit back, and I’ll tell you MY tale.

Back in the Mid ’90s when I was a freshman in High School I was introduced to two things that consumed a huge portion of my free time. One was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, the other was a Computer game called X-Com: UFO Defense. (1994 Micropose)   X-Com was a complicated Computer where you controlled an organization trying to find out what the aliens were doing and stop an invasion. In the meat of the game, you controlled soldiers on a tactical map trying to find and kill/capture aliens that were terrorizing the populous or that wandered out of UFOs that you had shot down. The soldiers had names (you could rename them whatever you wanted) had their own stats and were persistent from mission to mission, unless you got them killed. Their deaths were permanent. The similarities between the soldiers in this game and an adventuring party in AD&D were not lost on teenage me. I kept thinking about the stories of these poor soldiers and how I convert X-Com to an RPG to bring to my high school friends.

xcom

My ideas of an X-Com style RPG never came to pass back then, however, with the Cypher System I have had a renewed interest in making this game a reality. I have written quite a bit that I wanted to give you all a taste of. Once I get my hands on CSR2 I might try to make my ideas of an Alien Invasion setting I call “Grey Matter” into a reality. Continue reading “Grey Matter – Alien Invasions in RPGS”

Posted in General Writing, GM Prep, Rants

The Voyages of the USS Schrödinger: A Star Trek Adventures Post Mortem

So, it’s an interesting revelation that I stopped making posts to this blog about the same time as I started running a Star Trek: Adventures game. Now STA is not solely to blame, we did have an exchange student at the time as well as my job went through some drastic changes as we were sold to another company, but a lot of my free creative time was taken up by coming up with Star Trek Adventures, Adventures…

So now after 2 Seasons and over 30 sessions, we are taking a break from The Final Frontier.With that much mileage under my belt, I figured I should relay my thoughts. These are my personal thoughts after my experiences. Your experience will vary.

A Universe to Explore

Star Trek is a vast property with endless possibilities. Star Trek Adventures does a great job opening the universe up to you. It provides all the tools you need to come up with great adventures, your own stories as well as your own unique crew to inhabit them. I was never a big Star Trek fanboy. I watched the first few seasons of Next Generation in my youth but didn’t stick with it. I didn’t dislike Star Trek, I saw all the movies, it just wasn’t that big a thing for me. So, going in and running a game I was behind the curve. It became clear almost everyone at the table knew more of the universe than I. But a did a lot of research. Memory Alpha is your friend, I got lost in their linking wiki more than a few times.

It was neat creating stories for Star Trek. It was different than any other RPG I’ve run. Instead of creating a big bad, a dungeon, and a good versus evil plot, I leaned more towards moral ambiguity. I put the players in charged situations and forced them to make hard choices, and those choices had consequences. A lot of the 2nd season was about the consequences of their actions in the first season. But designing adventures like this meant “action” took a back seat. Sure, there was combat, but it wasn’t the main focus. The players would actively try to get out of fights rather than in them. (Which is the Star Fleet way… Negotiate first) However, coming up with ideas got quite difficult after a while. You see with Star Trek Adventures there is very little player contribution to the story I found (At least for the A plot) You had to come up with the problem, the NPCs involved, all of their motivations, as well as if/then scenarios on possible player actions. Not to mention I had to come up with a series of relevant facts about anything I introduced for I needed to make sure I had something to tell the players if they spent momentum on finding more information. It was a lot, especially for someone who didn’t know the universe like the back of his hand.

Continue reading “The Voyages of the USS Schrödinger: A Star Trek Adventures Post Mortem”

Posted in Fan Friday, General Writing

Fan Friday – PAX Unplugged – Post Mortem

So I went to PAX Unplugged back in November.  Being my first PAX I was excited, being the first ever PAX Unplugged I had no idea what to expect.  There were a couple other firsts for me there too.  My first time to Philadelphia, and the first time I had gone to a convention with my family in tow.

Let me first say that Philadelphia is a fascinating city with a lot of history.  My family and I went up a day early to do all of the touristy stuff we could.  We visited Founders Hall and saw the Liberty Bell along with a ton of other old buildings and museums.    Our family enjoyed our time there immensely.

WP_20171116_11_00_35_Pro
Look the Bell is broken

 

 

The Con itself was an interesting beast.  The convention floor was a decent size, about a third of the size of GenCon’s Dealer Hall.  However, They broke the floor up quite a bit.  Only a third of the space was actual dealers while another third was full of empty tables for you to grab a game and go play, the final third was used for the tournament tables and the main show stage.

Early on the first day, I was a bit underwhelmed… This was a PAX? It was tiny compared to GenCon.  The Dealer space was taken up with a lot of cool vendors selling stuff I’d seen at GenCon along with what they had new since then, and a lot of catch-all board game booths selling every board game under the sun.

I’m a fan of board games, but mainly when I gather 5-6 friends together I’d like to play an RPG instead.   I must say I’ve been spoiled by GenCon, it’s the only gaming con I’ve attended in about fifteen years.(gosh I’m getting old) That being said I’ve gotten used to how they do things:  Register online to run events, then register to attend them.  With Unplugged you can register to run RPG  events ahead of time but you have to wait in a line early in the day to try to get a slot at one of the RPG games. It seemed like a huge hassle for not a sure thing. I may be wrong it might of went smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves, but how the Enforcer explained the process too me made me just want to steer clear.  Hopefully, they have a better fleshed out RPG running/Playing system next time.  This was their first year, there were some kinks, and I am sure they will learn from them and only get better.

What the Con seemed to be about though was playing board games with friends.  That is where the Con thrived.  The Con had a massive collection of Checkout and Play games, and in the evening the convention hall was full of people at every table playing games.  This is great if you came with a group of friends you could grab a game and start playing.  You could learn a new game or visit an old favorite.  It was neat seeing a lot of people playing games into the wee hours.  However with my wife back at the hotel putting our little one to bed, our exchange student and I were relegated to playing small 2 player games, it seemed rather daunting to try and saddle up to another table with people, especially since most games were already in progress.

WP_20171118_009
The Line to the Acquisitions Incorporated Live Game

 

Of course, you had the panels, the Acquisitions Incorporated games, the Q&A’s and others which seem to be a staple of the Con.  I was happy to have a chance to meet a few of the Rollplay crew as well as see the Acquisitions Incorporated game live, though the people watching from the comfort of their homes had a much better view.

Overall I would say the Con was a success.  The city alone was such a delight and worth the drive up.  The panels were fun, the dealer hall underwhelming but the atmosphere was great.  I’ll probably attend again, possibly even next year, but I can’t see it becoming a yearly “must go” on my schedule like GenCon.

Posted in General Writing

Blog Update

So my blog has been quiet for the last month.  Let me tell you what has been going on.

I had more Star Trek content planned but the play session got changed last minute which caused me to have to hold the content because some of my players actually read my blog.   And with the crazy holiday times, we haven’t been able to make up that game.  But we will soon and more Star Trek Content will be forthcoming.

I’m venturing into D&D5E.  Yes, I’m like the last holdout whose never played the latest edition of the hobbies staple.  I month or so ago a cousin of mine who lives close by, asked me if I played D&D.  He’d apparently gotten into watching Critical Roll and thought this whole Role-playing thing sounded cool, and he wanted to give it a try.   Initially, I was going to run him through some Numenera instead.  I already had committed to Star Trek so I didn’t think I had the time to learn a new system and make up two separate campaigns for two systems that require quite a bit of prep.  Numenera rules I know like the back my hand and can come up with ideas quite easily and run with minimal work.   Then, however, something caught my eye.  I started watching Roll20 Presents: Tomb of Annihilation. A hex crawl adventure in the Jungles of Chult.  As a teenager looking at a map of Faerun I was always interested in what lies inside the unexplored (then) Island of Chult.  Dinosaurs lost civilizations, and ancient Mysteries all sounded like a great place to adventure.  My GM at the time just told me. “You’ll die in 5 minutes” and that was that.   I never got to go.  Now, however, Chris Perkins has written this wonderful adventure that expands on the mysteries of Chult and fleshes the place out into a full and interesting campaign.  Adam Koebel and his gang at Roll20 create interesting characters and have great fun in their delve into the danger field jungle, and they sell me on learning 5E and taking my cousin and a few others though dino-filled land in search of a way to stop the death curse.  We had our first Session last Thursday and so far everyone is having a blast.  Even if the DM had to take pity on a player and prevent a session 1 player death.  ( Seriously we had 3 death saves roll in the first session for 2 separate characters. None above a 10, and one and actual 1)

 

Another thing I did over the last month was, attend PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia.  I’ll have more on my thoughts on this Convention later in the week.

 

On the life front the Company I work for Decided to offload the division I work for, so they sold it.  I get to keep my job with the new company, saints be praised, but the whole transition has been a massive ordeal.   I actually start at that new company the day this post goes live.    This transition has sapped my desire to sit at a computer in write when I get home.  Instead, I’ve been watching TV, relaxing, and playing a bit of Star Realms with our Exchange Student.  But alas I need to get back to writing and my commitment to this blog.  My apologies readers I will try to be more consistent.

Posted in General Writing, GM Prep, Masks

X-Pelled: Issue 2 Part 2

This is a continuation of Issue 2 of my Masks: A New Generation Game Check out Issue 1 and Part 1 of Issue 2 if you have missed them.

When we last left the group they were hanging out of the rooftop having lunch, and Star Chyld was failing to convince the group he was seeing an evil version of Mobius around.   That was until Marc Hopper was thrown through a window below them followed closely by Fabien storming out the door.

Fabian is clearly pissed at him and the words he uses conveys that.  The “Heroes” stand and watch.  So Marc creates a bunch of illusions of himself and Fabian gets really angry and starts shooting lighting and attacking each one. (Note to Marvel fans.  Since I accidentally created a drug that replicates the powers of Fabian Cortez I decided I had to change his powers. Sorry)  Mobius runs to get a teacher while the rest of the party watches from above.  However once Fabian strikes the real Marc Hopper knocking him into a tree and unconscious, the party jumps into action, quickly detaining the furious Fabian.

I decided it was time for the facility to get involved so as they take Marc and Fabien to the infirmary an assembly is called.  Cythor decided to split off from the team while sitting down he received a text message from his father “outside 1 hour”.  While everyone is getting settled Slip-Stream slips in and sits next to Mobius.  This I did mainly to stir the pot and see what happens.  Slip-Stream talked about the fight and how she had already put in a request to be removed from Fabian’s team because he is a jerk.  Mobius sexual preference didn’t come up (you have to let some plot-lines percolate) but the players were sure waiting for the shoe to drop. Continue reading “X-Pelled: Issue 2 Part 2”

Posted in Fan Friday, General Writing

Fan Friday: Tales from the Loop – First Impressions

 

Tales of the loop is an RPG from Miodiphious and the Free League.  It is set in the 80’s that wasn’t and uses the Mutant Year Zero ruleset as it’s framework.  Being someone that has quite enjoyed the Mutant Year Zero Rules, and movies like the Goonies and the show Stranger Things, which the game tries to evoke the wonder and magic of, I quickly backed this project when it showed up on Kickstarter.  I must say I am quite surprised by the finished product and not at all disappointed.

Mutant: Year Zero’s ruleset is and interesting game where you build D6 dice pools for actions and require a 6 on a die to succeed. If you fail the first roll, you can always push yourself and roll again with potentially additional consequences added to the situation whether you succeed this second roll or not.   In Tales from the Loop, you always take a condition if you reroll, like Angry or Afraid.  This aspect reminded me of Masks: A New Generations.  There is one exception to this rule, however, and that is a mechanic called luck.  Luck is a free reroll, and how many you get per session is determined by your age. If you Ten you get 5 if you are fifteen you get 0.

Another thing I wasn’t expecting in the game is there are no combat rules, there is no initiative, and your players cannot die. This may turn some people off but I found it refreshing and really fit the setting.  Your kids can still get into combat with an angry robot or a strange dinosaur, but you play kids you are not really going toe to toe with these things, instead, you basically must overcome them, like a quick descriptive skill challenge.  If you players understand that they can have a lot of fun with it.

I found in the quick session I ran it played a lot like a Powered by the Apocalypse game, which was super cool.   The game wants to make sure that you intermix the mundane life of being a kid in the 80’s with all the strange and fantastical stuff they are seeing.  So, dealing with your bully of an older brother, your parents fighting and the kid next door you’ve had a crush on since 2nd grade all play a part in the game as well.  It keeps the game grounded (while your parents might ground you when they find out you snuck into that ‘abandoned bunker’)

Character creation is quick and has a few neat world building and party connections elements thrown in.  It would help to have a few more character types for your players to choose from; as listed there are quite a few that are a stretch to see hanging out together after school. (Hick, Jock, Computer Geek…)

I grew up in the 80’s watching the 80’s adventure movies so this game really punches my nostalgia button, but I am not sure how it will play out for the younger crowd.  The rules I think would be really great for kids to learn and play and have a lot of fun, but I am would think the 80’s tech (Walkman, Arcades, large home computers) would be quite foreign ideas so the tone would be quite different.

Overall though, I think Tales from the Loop is going to be one of my new “Go-To” Games, also a game that I’ll probably use to introduce a few people to the great world of Role-playing.