Posted in Gaming Advice, Rants

GMing Better: Failing Heroically

Games of late have given GMs a lot of new tools; rules that allow us to interfere with the narrative.  Whether it’s a GM Intrusion or a Despair dice roll we now have a codified reason to declare the player’s dropped his sword, slipped in the mud, accidentally insulted the princess, and ran out of ammo.  Lately, I have seen a lot of GM’s go mad with this power.  Myself included.

Recently I was talking with the GM of a Worlds in Peril game I was in and we were talking about these new mechanics.   He told me that he always tries to make sure to describe complications in a Heroic way. In the movies Captain America’s shield doesn’t accidentally fall off his back as he’s running for cover in an ‘oops’ kind of way; instead it gets blasted out of his hand by an enemy he didn’t notice, this causes him to dive after it, grab it and launch it at this new enemy.

This line of thinking open my eyes.  Too many times I would hold up 2XP in a Cypher Game and describe how the character “misjudges the weight of the grenade she’s about to throw, it hits the door jam and bounces back landing a few feet away from another PC,” only for that player to instead Hand Me an XP denying the intrusion.  I realize now that it wasn’t that the complication was bad per say, instead the problem the player had was with how I narrated it.  I made their Heroic character seem inept, or unheroic.  The Intrusion description did not fit with how the Player saw their character.  Intrusions are great in the way that players can buy them off if they don’t like how it paints their character, but in other systems, the player isn’t so lucky, so be mindful.

If I instead described: “you grab the grenade, yank out the pin, wind up, and as you are in the processes of throwing it down the hallway a sudden hail of blaster fire erupts from the far end of the hall, knocking the grenade from your hand, you watch in horror as it hits the ground and rolls next to Roselyn,” the odds are better the player will take that intrusion.   The PC wasn’t made to look like a fool, instead, something unexpected happened and caused the same result.

When you are describing the complication that is about the befall your player, make sure you take the character in mind.  Don’t have the sneaky thief accidentally knock over a metal candlestick, instead have a cat unexpectedly round the corner and hiss at the intruder. Same result but the catalyst doesn’t make the PC look bad.

There are of course exceptions.  The generally pacifistic hacker who doesn’t use guns is, of course, going to have the safety on the first time they go to fire the strange new weapon they are handed and odds are they don’t know where the safety is to turn it off.   That’s a humous beat that fits the character, and can lead to some great inter-party exchanges.  That same Hacker however isn’t going to fail to get the computer up and running because he forgot what he changed the password to.

So in closing, I will say:  When you as a GM are interfering with the narrative of the game, know your players and make sure your descriptions aren’t at odds with how they see their characters.  Do that too many times and you’ll have disgruntled players. Instead, if you can, make them seem more heroic.

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 GM Prep, Masks, Role-playing Sessions

X-Pelled – Issue 2 (part 1)

After the over-preparing I did for Issue 1 of Masks, I decided to go the opposite direction for Issue 2.  I had a vague Idea where I was taking the story line so I only had 4 Small Bullet Points for Issue 2, they were:

  • Shinobi Shaw meets with Cythor  and Star Chyld
  • Fabian gets in trouble at school Hurts Marc Hopper -Drug (RUSH) is involved.
  • Star Chyld still having visions of Mobious
  • Beast – Obsidian Scene.

 

I started the session once again talking about the cover of the Issue.  I knew Fabian was going to be an antagonist and Dr. Eternity was going to be involved as well.  I decided to go out on a limb. A dramatic cover was going to have a member of the cast on the ground in another team members arms while Fabian stands over and Dr. Eternity over them all.  I figured the Nova was the best bet his powers rely on him taking conditions and he still had a few leftover from the last session.  So Star Chyld was on the Ground being held by Obsidian.  It was a great image the players loved it, now I had to figure out how to get there.

I started with the last bullet point first.  Obsidian is a transformed someone who doesn’t fit in and can never look like everyone else.  Beast was supposed to be Obsidian’s mentor but I hadn’t had a scene with them yet.  So we started there.  Beast was asking about the team leadership and how Obsidian was fitting in.  Obsidian being a teen was playing aloof, noncommunicative and uninterested in what Beast had to say.  Obsidian basically ended with “I’m here because I won’t be accepted anywhere else.  I either make it work or I have nothing.”   Not what Beast wanted to hear.  I didn’t have Beast push the issue instead I just let the scene end.

The next major scene took place at Star Chyld’s locker. I let the players frame the scene.  Star Chyld was trying to show off the new handheld (Guessing Nintendo Switch) he picked up with his dad’s credit card, trying to prove that he’s cool.  This is where I had an idea.  The players early on talked about wanting to embrace the cliqued teen angst and drama of the High School setting, so I decided to go After School special and see what happens.  In the locker, another player notices a strange envelope, inside was 5 tabs of RUSH, the postage stamp type drug we established in Issue 1.   In Issue 1 Star Chyld took the drug so I wasn’t sure what they would do in response.  They all got conspiratorial, Star claimed it wasn’t his no idea how it got there and they were going to hide it and get rid of it.  The Delinquent, Cythor said he’d take care of it, and as he grabbed the envelope, Fabian Showed up grabbed the new Handheld Star Chyld had and acted impressed.  I was trying to convey that Fabian was a jerk yes but still just a high schooler trying to impress and maybe in a strange way make friends.  The group wasn’t having it, however, and unpleasantly told Fabian to take a hike.  Before he left he whispered to Cythor “Hey if you want to cut class and take a couple of those let me know”  indicating he saw Cythor pocket the RUSH.

Continue reading “X-Pelled – Issue 2 (part 1)”

Posted in Gaming Advice, Set Piece

Set Piece: Hold the Bridge

Olin, Hildr and Frode stood stalwart as the undead army approached.  They had set their traps, prepared all they could but it was a long time till morning.  They knew that the only way to keep the Illustrious City of Silasthorp from falling was for the three of them to hold the Bridge.

“Well Olin,” Hildr began as she grabbed her axe from her belt and turned toward the hardened warrior.  “We may feast in the halls of Valhalla before this night is through”

“Odin owns us all,” Olin replied.  The three then shouted the known refrain in unison as the undead army was upon them.

 

Introduction:

Whether it is the rickety rope bridge in The Temple of Doom, a strategic bridge to war effort like in Saving Private Ryan, or the last place you have to stop the Balrog a la Fellowship of the Ring,  a Bridge encounter is always a classic Set Piece.  One of the more exciting ways to use a bridge as a chokepoint, a place to hold from an overwhelming force. So let’s give that a go.

Scene:

Evil must be stopped and this Bridge is the last place for your heroes to make their stand.  Have they had time to prepare or are they desperate?  There is hope however, they only have to hold out for so long. Wherever the scene is, be sure to describe the bridge itself in great detail make sure you include features for the players and the enemies to exploit narratively. How’s it lit? is the railing weak in areas? Are their pot holes? Is there cover? This is going to be longer encounter be prepared with a few ‘intrusions’ that could alter the landscape and shake things up. Don’t be afraid to choreograph them in your description maybe your players get the idea to trigger events first for their benefit.

Continue reading “Set Piece: Hold the Bridge”

Posted in GM Prep, Masks, Role-playing Sessions

X-Pelled – Session 1 GM Prep and Reflection

X-Pelled is my Masks: A New Generation Game in an original Marvel timeline where the players are playing students at Jean Grey’s school of Higher Learning.  To learn more about the cast and the start of the game check out my previous article:

Prepping for a Season of Masks: A New Generation. As Marvel X – kids…

 

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please excuse my horrible design skills 🙂

 

I started my GM prep with two things going to happen.  One they were going to start the Session in the middle of a Danger Room Battle, and two they were going to a Dance Club (seeded into the Episode 0 Play) and a Sentinel was going to attach the Club while they were there. (ok maybe 3 things were going to happen)

In my group’s Worlds in Peril game Kingpin was horrifically killed by a slightly insane Hyperion.  With Fisk gone I figured this would leave a power vacuum in organized crime in NY.   So I figured I would come up with two groups to fight over that Vacuum and have the PCs running afoul of them.  Quick easy Meta Plot.    The problem is what two groups would work. Well, this is the Mutant side of Marvel, so the Hellfire Club makes a lot of sense.  The problem is these X-Men are teens so the Hellfire Club may just be too big and adult.  The party wanted to lean into the Teen drama so I wanted to try the teen outcasts angle as one group.   You know; someone trying to pull the group away from the righteous protectors of man, mutant propaganda the X school will be filling their heads with.  So looking through the interwebs I stumbled across a group called the Fallen Angels.  A great idea for a drug dealing, nightclub owning burgeoning crime syndicate.  Former X-students and general riff-raff who just want to have fun and live it up in NYC.  What about that wouldn’t appeal to Teen-Age mutants. Continue reading “X-Pelled – Session 1 GM Prep and Reflection”

Posted in Dark Souls Cypher Hack

Dark Soulsian Cypher: Breaking the Rules

I’ve been quite intrigued by the lore and dark style of the Dark Souls Video Games.   Games where death is a big theme, every item you find has a rich and interesting history, and the world is full of grim characters with rich history and monsters and Big Bads are unique and have large stories to tell.   I have wondered how to incorporate the feel of this type game into an RPG.   I know I am not the only one.  Andreas Walters of Metal Weave Games was having the same thoughts I was and Kickstarted a Monster/Setting book in the Dark Soulsian Vein called “Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom.”  As I wait patiently for the setting to be delivered to me from Metal Weave’s talented group of writers, artists, and designers I have mulled over rules for a Dark Soulsian RPG.

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Art of the fairy queen by Vincent Yau

Now, what do you need from a Dark Souls RPG?  Well, the game is known for its tactile precision combat.  To be honest, that is best handled with a Video Game, I don’t want a miniature heavy RPG I want the FEEL for Dark Soul’s World not of its fighting mechanics.  So we are taking that off the table.  Sure I plan on fights to be hard and punishing and death of the players to be a common occurrence, but I don’t want all the bookkeeping needed for that type of fighting.

But what engine should I use?  To be honest the first one that came to mind was Cypher System.  I am quite familiar with the ins and outs of the system, and there are certain aspects of the system I thought I could hack for quite interesting results.

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Continue reading “Dark Soulsian Cypher: Breaking the Rules”

Posted in Fan Friday

Fan Friday – GenCon

The Best Four Days in Gaming.   Yup, I’m a fan.  I’ve been going to the con for 4 years now, a relative newb compared to many.  But it is a great experience every year.  Held nowadays in Indianapolis (rather than Lake Geneva (where the GEN in the name GenCon comes from)) in the late summer Gen Con is a gaming treat.   Thousands upon thousands of gamers gather for fun and the love of the hobby.  Gen Con is a place to make friends, meet your on-line friends, play your favorite games and discover new games.

The first year I went I made it a point to try and play new things, I discovered 7th Sea, Spy Craft, and Dark Heresy.  I picked up Monte Cooks brand new game Numenera, and Fantasy Flights new Star Wars game Edge of the Empire.  I hung out with old friends, stayed up way too late and probably drunk a bit too much a night or two.  It was a blast.

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Since then I’ve involved myself more in the hobby than ever before. Bolstered by on-line communities and the friends I made that are as passionate as I.

The second year I tried my hand at GMing.  I joined the ranks of Monte Cook Games’ Numenera GMs and enjoyed the heck out of it.  GMing at a con is a great Experience.  If you’re a GM but the thought of GMing at a Con scares you, let me say, Con GMing is easier than GMing your home game.  At a Con, the people are there to have fun and learn.  Everyone is usually super chill and actually listens to the story you are crafting and want to be active participants.  No lengthy side topics or distracting phones or laptops.  Your players are there to have fun.  GMing at Gen Con is invigorating.   I have GMed at every GenCon since then.

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Last year I tried something else new LARPing.  Yup.  People that LARP seem to enjoy the heck out of it, and who am I to judge.  So I figured it was time to see what all the fuss is about.  So I gave it a try and had a blast.  The game I was in was Science Fiction in theme.  There were about 12 of us.  We were passengers on a spaceship.  A ship that suffered a catastrophic failure/accident/malfunction.  A ship that wouldn’t have enough resources for all of its passengers to reach its destination alive.  It was a game of hard choices, intrigue, self-sacrifice, and gut-wrenching betrayals.   It was a game that left me Emotionally drained.  But it was a game quite a few of us were talking about till the wee hours of the morning over quite a few beers.  It was a great time.  Something I want to do again.  This year I have my eye on a Cthulhu LARP or two if I can get one to fit in my schedule.

So it’s not too late to grab a badge for the GenCon 50, a plane ticket to Indy, or find a place to stay.  You won’t be sorry you went.  You’ll have a great time, and you might even see me there.  Heck, I might even buy you a beer.

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