What Do You Want to Play?

Theron at My Dice Are Older Than You brought the perennial question out of RPG.net and into the wild: “What do you want to play?”

That sword cuts two ways for me. I want to play in a game where I feel the GM is working with we players and neither aiming to grind us down nor controlling our actions to suit his desires. I want to play with a group with a collective sense of humor that walks the line of keeping it lighthearted without straying into absurdity. I want to play a game that celebrates “the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism,” to make this cross-topical.

In terms of content, I think any of these would make me happy:

  • A Spelljammer-esque sandbox campaign in which the party has come into ownership of their own vessel and a letter of marque from one of the sides in the next Inhuman War. So we can make money and do adventure-some things.
  • A Mage: The Ascension campaign because I still have yet to actually play that game. I won’t say any campaign at all, because I am not down with the “Technocratic Science Heroes Bring Progress to the Backwards Traditionalists” interpretation, but I like to pretend I would be up for most frameworks.
  • A station-based science fiction campaign, something like Babylon 5 or Star Trek: Deep Space 9, where the bulk of the action happens at a crossroads of species and cultures, but there’s also the opportunity for travel to distant locales. Probably more Deep Space 9 than Babylon 5 in all honesty, then.
  • A reality cops game in the manner of the Thursday Next novels, although maybe with a more strongly woven background mythos. Ooh. Imagine it were done with the organization rules in Angel! And pull background information from Collegio Januari, maybe . . . I should stop, probably. Or at least stash that idea for later.

What are you jonesing to play that you aren’t currently?

[Broken Spokes] Character Creation Redux

Last week, I thought we were going to dive into kicking off Broken Spokes. In actuality, we spent most of the evening finishing off character creation, primarily equipment and the players tweaking the bits of their characters about which they’d had second thoughts between the first creation session and now.

As it turns out, they were both concerned about their characters’ gear. That’s a fair point, but one I tend to gloss over as a GM because equipment lists put me to sleep. I’d rather just assume they have everything they would reasonably have and leave it at that. Not so with these two guys.

In a lot of ways, it was helpful and educational to follow them through the gear load-out process, picking up tidbits like:

  • GURPS Lite lacks automatic fire rules. We had to do some detective work with Basic Set: Characters, since I had neglected to bring Campaigns, thinking that the combat rules in Lite were all I needed for the evening. (This turns out to be a standing point of contention about the fourth edition of GURPS Lite, I found while browsing the discussion forum at Steve Jackson Games’ website.)
  • Ammunition matters. This week I’m bringing GURPS High-Tech so Laban can have his choice of things to propel at qlippothic horrors at high velocities.
  • For some folks, it’s not enough to say “You have everything a person like your character could reasonably be expected to have, on their person or back at home.” It’s enough for me, but I am learning to respect others’ desire for fully detailed inventories of pockets, backpacks, vehicle storage compartments and basements. I exaggerate for humor, but really, Wayne’s cat burglar has to keep all that stuff somewhere.

Broken Spokes

Maybe it’s just the people with whom I play, but it’s been a real struggle to get this Cabal game going. It’s been at least a month and a half since we made characters. The cast consists of a half-demon with raven aspects and a burglar bonded with some kind of astral entity from the Vault of Lost Things. Due to various family and work commitments, we haven’t been able to get together since March, at least. It’s been more than a little frustrating, in all honesty.

The good news is it gave me plenty of time to think about the background for this campaign and how I want to blend Cabal with the Madness Dossier mini-setting from GURPS Horror in a campaign framework named Broken Spokes. To that end, I decided to use Uncle Bear’s Ten Foot Wiki as my documentation tool. I’ll get into the details of that in a future post, but for now suffice to say it’s changed how I write and I haven’t yet decided if I like this way better than sitting down with a fresh notebook page or a plain word processor file.

The wiki model certainly makes it easy to leap from topic to topic. Whenever a proper noun comes up, I put it in double brackets, which turns it into a link. That link either leads to a piece of information I’ve already written, or it’s the means by which I create the information. This is great because it supports stream of consciousness creation. The drawback, which I only realized this weekend when I thought about the characters the players created, is it makes it really easy to get away from what’s important.

Background information is well and good, but it never has the same level of importance to players as it does to the person who wrote it. The thing I want to do differently with Broken Spokes, which I pretty spectacularly failed to achieve in the past even when I tried, as in Mage: The Suppressed Transmission and Paragons of Freedom, is actually use the hooks the players give me. It’s an obstacle I have yet to beat. I hope that if I do it right this time, GMing will feel less like inventing a new adventure each week and more like just rolling with what the players want to do, because they’re interested and emotionally invested in something they created themselves, rather than being presented with an obscured, but already full canvas by a self-satisfied GM.

I’ve got some good hooks, too. The half-demon is ripe with potential as a plausibly deniable agent for the infernal hierarchy — just the existence of which gave me a startling number of ideas for how they fit into the cosmology of Cabal. And the cat burglar’s Vault of Lost Things, well, I can’t get into that right now, but it’s a very exciting concept to play with in conjunction with material pulled from Madness Dossier. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

[Pathfinder Society] Building My Bard and Skeleton Moon

As part of following through on my plan to get into the biweekly Pathfinder Society game at Quarterstaff, I delayed and delayed making a character until that very afternoon. I’d known since flipping through the book back in early January that I wanted my character to be a bard, because I hadn’t played that class yet and it seemed like Pathfinder had given them some interesting tricks. Fortunately, one of the regular GMs, Neil, had gone so far as to put together a character building worksheet, including possible attribute spreads using Pathfinder Society’s point-buy system, so most of my work was done for me.

I had some points of confusion, in places you would expect: where Pathfinder differs from Dungeons & Dragons, I second-guessed a bit, trying to find the spot in the text where it would explicitly say how something worked. This particularly tripped me up with skills, since in Pathfinder, there are significantly fewer skill points to spread around. Until Annick pointed out that +3 bonus a character gets for putting a rank in a class skill filled in the “gap” left by only being able to put one point in a skill, compared to Dungeons & Dragons‘ method of giving you lots of skill points and a higher rank cap than character level, I didn’t get how that worked out at all. Continue reading

[Earthdawn Campaign] Character Creation

My character creation worksheet in progress. This will all get sorted out on a character sheet before the first session.

Thursday was the long-awaited character creation session for Laban’s nascent Earthdawn campaign. Armed with the hearty BLT with smoked gouda from Martone’s Market — my grinder of choice when the Thursday night game group was going strong in 2008 — I felt like I was ready to participate in character creation as the enthusiastic newcomer to the Earthdawn system. I would soon learn of two linked mistakes I had made.

The first I should have twigged to early. Laban dug out his Earthdawn books and, on flipping through them, I might have realized that the world didn’t really match the one he had described via email in the run-up to Thursday, particularly in terms of the player character races. As it turned out, Laban’s using the Earthdawn system to run a campaign in a brand new world of his devising. Whoops. I clearly missed that part of the email.

Continue reading

New Character, New GM

Sunday afternoon, I went to a character creation session for a horror campaign meant, in part, as a playtest of the new edition of GURPS Horror. It’s set in postwar Berlin, with the characters being members of a shadowy extra-governmental agency intent on keeping the worst of Nazi scientists from being recruited by either the Americans or the Russians. There will be, I’m told, Things Man Was Not Meant to Know.

So naturally I made a weird science engineer. The details have yet to be fully worked out, but this is what I’m seeing: Joe — or maybe Frank; whatever I choose, it’ll be a good, hearty American name, as he’s the first generation of his family born in America and they wanted him to assimilate as quickly as possible — started out in Brooklyn, became an auto mechanic, taking night classes on the side. On joining up after Pearl Harbor and going through basic training, he was assigned to the Engineering Corps. From there, bad luck put him in what became a clean-up crew for the oddest phenomena and mad science experiments in which either side of the war engaged.

Being a clear-eyed rational American, naturally Joe — or Frank — is certain every phenomena is ultimately explicable. So part of the reason he works for this shadowy agency — and, in part, why they picked him — is he’s compelled to dig to the bottom of the pseudoscience these Nazi loons promulgated. In a game of eldritch horror, this can only end badly. But at least it’ll be a good chance to test out whatever madness rules this new edition of GURPS Horror has.

I only just met the GM last week, after answering an ad on the local game store’s online bulletin board. He seems an okay fellow. It’s hard to tell from only two meetings, but I’m optimistic. The real truth will come from play. I think our play styles can mesh, but he’s more crunch and accuracy-oriented than I typically like to play. As long as the action keeps moving forward, I think things will be okay.