Wednesday, August 25, 2021

A Day To Remember

I woke up this morning to a link shared by one of my close friends and fellow gamers to this youtube video by The OG GM's Adventures discussing his latest entry into the RPGaDay 2021.

In it he tackles the prompt 'Translate' by mentioning the Goblin Slayer RPG translation and the fact that he not only feels he doesn't need one but also, paraphrasing 'Do we need any IP made into a full game or can they just make a system-agnostic sourcebook/sourcebook for an existing generic system?'

This seems like the perfect subject to address today for my 44th Anniversary in the TRPG Gaming Hobby! That's right guys, gals, non-binary pals, and all entities across the multiverse - I have been gaming since August 25th, 1977! Woohoo! What a long, strange trip it's been as the Grateful Dead might say.



Barkley celebrates his own way. 


On to the subject at hand...

The OG GM says that we don't really need a whole, $75 dollar RPG to run most IPs. They don't need their own game but rather Sourcebooks, not unlike those that go along with GURPS.

For those less familiar, GURPS is a generic rules system with numerous Sourcebooks that can be 'plugged in' to support using the basic system with a variety of different genres, settings, and IPs. There is a GURPS Japan for running in the Feudal/Medieval periods of Japan and a GURPS Lensman for running games in the universe of E.E. 'Doc' Smith's Space Opera hero. 

When you think about it, do we need an entire Goblin Slayer RPG, a Dragon Prince RPG, or a Delicious in Dungeon (Dungeon Meshi) RPG - which I am working on in my spare time - Muwahahaha! Spare time! That's hilarious. - when they (game designers and publishers) could just put out less expensive Sourcebooks so you could play these IP settings using Dungeons and Dragons, Savage Worlds, or some generic game system or other?

A good question and one that relies largely on preference and taste. Certainly if a publisher put out a Goblin Slayer Sourcebook for D&D I'd buy it but it wouldn't be what I want. I don't like D&D...or Savage Worlds or GURPS or most other generic games for that matter. It would only be useful to me in the source material it provides. I would still have to find or make a system with which to run the game. 

What I would much rather have - and I feel this is the point that OG GM misses - is a game tailor made to emulate the IP in question. I don't like the idea of forcing a square peg of Star Trek or Star Wars into a round shaped Savage World hole. It almost never works out well. I would go out on a limb as to say it can never work as well as a set of mechanics built around the IP for the end goal of creating a game that truly feels like it fits the particulars of the setting.

I am currently in love with the ALIEN RPG system from Free League Publishing and think it would be awesome to adapt it or at least parts of it to Ghostbusters. On the other hand I haven't thought about adapting it to Superheroes or Cowboys. What makes the game special IMHO isn't the same as what makes those other genres special.

Finally, I totally understand not wanting to shell out $75 dollars for a new RPG when you already have a bunch of RPGs in your library. Of course, I hope you don't have just one or two in your library. You would need to have at least a dozen or so to be thinking/feeling this way I'd imagine. Otherwise, you are greatly limiting yourself. That is just my opinion of course. I am into variety and the idea that there is yet another new RPG coming out always interests me. It interests me even more when it's based on something I like. 

If WotC announces a new supplement for D&D I barely pay it any mind (that's being gracious actually). If its announced that there is a Anime-themed supplement for Cortex, I will likely give the page a read. If Dicebreaker says, 'River Horse Publishing, makers of the Labyrinth Adventure Game is doing a Dark Crystal Tabletop RPG' I am immediately putting money aside. That bad boy is mine. 

Basically, I want more game options not less. Sure it would be nice if games were less expensive these days but that's why I don't buy everything. I buy what interests me. Funny enough, there are many IP based games that do.

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Barking Alien









End of Days

I'm done with the RPGaDay Challenge for this year. As noted previously, it just isn't holding my attention or inspiring me to write on the blog; whereas other things are and so that is where my energy will be directed. 



I'm a little bummed about my decision not to continue with it but it is the right decision, so in the end I feel good about my choice. 

Like I said, I have other more engaging things on my mind.

Please tune in later today to find out what one of those things is. 

Until then,

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Barking Alien






Sunday, August 22, 2021

What Has My Attention

I am quite behind on my RPGaDay 2021 posts, largely (but not completely) because I've been absolutely exhausted lately.

It has been an August of ups and downs business wise. A lot of my clients are away on vacation, while others often find themselves in need of last minute schedule changes or additions. As my job mainly takes place outside, the heat and humidity this Summer has really been rough and I've been feeling pretty drained. Today I slept a good three hours in the middle of the day. I am told this is called a 'nap'. Curious.

In addition, I've been distracted lately with a lot of other things that interest me; specifically things that interest me more than the RPGaDay Challenge has. Yeah, sorry to say this but I'm starting to agree with the comment by Lord Blacksteel that the prompts feel a little generic and just aren't generating much excitement for me. I've started writing a few posts that I have yet to publish and in each case I've gotten bored part way through and moved on to some other activity. My hope is to revisit these, punch them up so they're a little more interesting, and maybe, just maybe, get to the end of of the RPGaDay project this year. 

All that aside, here is what has my attention right now...




Picaresque Roman - A Requiem for Rogues

An Indie Tabletop RPG from Japan, this game covers the genre of Romanticized Crime Drama very popular in both American and Japanese culture. This sort of game could be used to cover things like the John Wick films, Anime such as Baccano and Great Teacher Onizuka, and RPGs like Blades in the Dark (kind of) in the U.S.A. and SATASUPE in Japan.  

I am very excited for this game, as this genre isn't quite as well represented in TRPGs here in the West to the degree it is in the East. In addition, its more Japanese RPGS - and an indie one at that - being translated into English and that is definitely something I've been advocating for. Let's see, what else - Aha! It uses only D6s (as most TRPGs in Japan do), which only makes me smile that much more. 

The Kickstarter for this game goes live on August 24th. Please give a look if you're interested. 

Man, oh man. If only someone would translate...Wait! What's this?




Goblin Slayer Tabletop Role Playing Game

Be still my heart! The game I ran for some friends in Japan back in April is coming to the US in February of next year. Next February! For my birthday! WOO-HOO! 

Goblin Slayer, which began as a Light Novel series and was later adapted into an Anime, is a love letter to old school Medieval Fantasy Tabletop RPGs while at the same time depicting a setting with a its own unique character. Gritty, grim, but also fun and full of hope, I highly recommend Goblin Slayer if that's how you like your Fantasy. 

Very excited about this and what it means for the future of Japanese TRPGs in the West. Yen Press is a small, independent but rapidly growing company publishing numerous Light Novel and Manga series from Japan in English here in the US. They have seriously doubled or even tripled how many titles they publish in just the past six months! 

Among the many titles they publish are my absolute favorite Manga Delicious in Dungeon (aka Dungeon Meshi) and of course, the Goblin Slayer Light Novel series. Of special interest to me is that Yen Press is now getting into TRPGs, with a Konosuba: God's Blessing on this Wonderful World! TRPG announced a little while ago and coming out in December of this year. Goblin Slayer will be their second such release.

Where will they go from there?

What if...



Speaking of What If...?

First, it's AWESOME! Do you love Captain Carter? 'Cause I LOVE Captain Carter!

Second, remember that there is an official Marvel TRPG coming and it is specifically called, 'Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game'. The Playtest Rulebook for this game is due in March of next year. That means I have roughly six months to ride the high I am getting from the aforementioned animated series on Disney+ to develop a Marvel Comics Superhero campaign based on an alternate history.

Excelsior! 

The newer trailer for Star Wars: Visions has me even more excited about that series - a series I was already INCREDIBLY excite about. I sense a disturbance in the Force...could it possibly be new Star Wars RPG campaign ideas? 

As mentioned earlier in the month, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is still very much on my mind and I've worked out some alternative Panic/Stress effects (based on the ALIEN RPG) to incorporate into my hybrid Ghostbusters/InSpectres rules. I'll likely reveal more of my ideas and work on the blog after seeing the upcoming film.  

Did I mention Star Trek: Lower Decks is back? No? Well it is! Season 2 of that series started two weeks ago (as of this post) and it has been fantastic. Good enough to renew my desire to run a 'Second Contact' themed Star Trek Adventures campaign? Duh. Of course!

Add to all of this my secret, Post-ALIEN FRONTIER project - similarly nearly 30 years in the making - and honestly, the RPGaDay Challenge just isn't holding my interest. 

That said...I feel like I should at least try to complete it. 

Why? I really hate how I feel when I start a project with the intention of completely it and don't. On that alone, I need to at least give it another go...

Let's see what happens...

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Barking Alien









Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Can I Dream?

The conclusion to my 30 years in the making, 8 session, ALIEN FRONTIER campaign - run with Free League Publications' ALIEN RPG - occurred on Saturday, August 7th of 2021 after a year+ hiatus due to the Global Pandemic. 

I would describe the outing as an excellent session but a disappointing end to the series as a whole. 



Originally I wanted to give you all the play-by-play and detail everything that great and not-so-great about the session. Now, with sometime having past and my disappointment with the series' conclusion having truly set in, I would prefer to just give an overview of the game and why it didn't work as the end of what had up to that point been one of my best campaigns in a long time. 




To start with, not all of the players were available for the finale and that forced me to treat their characters as NPCs; something I don't mind doing but which doesn't feel right for a final episode of a series with really good characters.

One of the players missing was my dearly departed friend David Cotton. Not having Dave their was something I was very aware of the entire session and it made me very sad. Thankfully, the players who did show brought wonderful, positive energy and it made the event very enjoyable. 

The session was set for a six and a half hour run time and ended up going a full seven hours (more on that below). It featured six of the nine players (as mentioned above), though all the Player Characters were present and accounted for in the story. 

From a gamemaster's perspective, I divided the episode into three acts in order to facilitate what I hoped would a well organized narrative with a satisfying conclusion. I was not wholly successful. While Act 1 and 2 were fantastic - full of fast paced action, close calls, dark humor, and great PC characterization - I dropped the ball in Act 3. 




The problem was this...in the final act, when the stakes were highest and people were willing to have their characters die in order to save others or accomplish something significant, one player revealed that he'd been working toward a single goal the campaign and was unwilling to change course this [literally] late in the game.

I felt for him. I heard in his voice and saw on his face that what he wanted to accomplish was essentially what he'd been playing for for the past seven sessions. That's when I made the mistake of caving and allowing said player's PC to succeed. I made sure it was difficult to accomplish by increasing the task difficulty. The rolls were in the player's favor.

This touches on my recent discussion of Fudging. I should have Fudged a number of times during this session or simply not allowed a roll. That isn't my style of course. In fact, one of my personal 'Prime Directives' is as follows: If a player has a good idea and comes to it through solid reasoning, in-game knowledge and references, and employ nothing that defies the milieu as it has been established, I tend to allow it. At the very least it gets a roll. 

My second major directive is that the universal laws of my game are those of the setting/genre that the game covers. In other words, if you are playing a Superhero RPG based on Marvel Comics than the bottom line deciding any unclear action or event is to ask and answer the question, 'Well, how does it work in Marvel Comics?'

So, while we ended the game with a series of actions that brought about a reasonable ending, it wasn't right for the game. As one of the players put it, "This was an ALIEN game. The ending felt like the ending of a Star Trek adventure. It didn't feel like ALIEN." That perfectly sums up my feelings as well. 

The ending was too positive. It had too many survivors. It accomplished things too well and too cleanly.

I am not one for killing PCs but here I was totally ready to because, as noted, one of my goals is always to do things the way the genre/setting/IP does them. In ALIEN, nearly everyone should be dead at the end. I felt sorry for that one player and their PC and it cascaded from there. 

The entire series, the campaign, is still one of my best works. I am extremely proud of it and the cast of players and PCs that were a part of it. The finale just didn't land right.

I meant to be the Russo Brothers but ended up as Benioff and Weiss. 

Next time...

END TRANSMISSION.

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Barking Alien







Saturday, August 14, 2021

GAME OVER, MAN! GAME OVER!

Last Saturday, August 7th of 2021, was the first time in over a year that I'd run an in-person game. 

The game is question? The finale 'Episode' of my planned eight session ALIEN RPG campaign...ALIEN FRONTIER. 

One of the best campaigns I've run in several years, the series was put on hold in March of 2020 due to the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. With all attending players and myself confirmed to be fully vaccinated and everyone wearing masks during the game, we scheduled the Grand Finale to begin in the late morning/early afternoon of the 7th. 

Here is a recap of the story thus far...




Preface: Initially the players had no idea they were playing in a game set in the ALIEN franchise universe.

The game was billed as a Dystopia Science Fiction RPG with Cyberpunk elements based on an idea I had been making notes on for over 30 years (which was true). It was simply entitled, 'FRONTIER'.

The concept was that the Smithsonian Institute, in cooperation with the United Americas government and various megacorporate interests, had set up a scientific research project on the planet SA-2, orbiting the star 18 Scorpii, for the purpose of exploring various ways to save a dying Earth. 

The PCs, operating from 'Frontier Station' in orbit around SA-2, would test ways of improving and/or surviving the harsh conditions of this world and applying successes to the Smithsonian Institute Terran Revitalization Initiative - SITRI. 


FRONTIER STATION


Periodically the game would feature elements that evoked concepts from various Sci-Fi films such as Blade Runner, Outland, and of course Alien and Aliens. When this came up, I would answer questions regarding these elements absolutely candidly, matter-of-factly, and truthfully. 

For example, when a [Non-Player] character bled a milky-white substance, revealing her to be an Android, the players began a discussion about Androids in both 'this setting' and Sci-Fi in general. When Replicants were brought up as a comparison to some point being made I said with a completely straight face, "Well, the Tyrell Corporation and Hyperdyne Systems have very different ideas and approaches to what an artificial person should be."

Around the fourth session one of the players said, "This is some Weyland-Yutani level techology"

I replied, "Don't be ridiculous. This is waaay beyond anything we have in Human charted space. Weyland-Yutani wishes they could get their hands on stuff like this."

Everyone did a double take. "Wait...are you saying there is a Weyland-Yutani Corporation?"

"Of course", I said with a warm smile, "This is ALIEN."



Previously on ALIEN FRONTIER:

The Smithsonian Institute Terran Revitalization Initiative (SITRI) Project was set to begin on SA-2, a world orbiting the star 18 Scorpii, on May 25th, 2212. A few hours before, a supply ship entered the system and reported Another Ship in its flight path. In an attempt to avoid this other vessel the supply ship changed course, causing it to collide with the orbital 'Frontier Station' and eventually crash onto the surface of SA-2.

SITRI Project Director Rebecca Jordan (aka Newt) sent the PCs to investigate and if possible rescue any survivors and/or salvage any cargo. The PCs managed to secure some supplies and found two crewmembers alive - well, one at least; the ship's pilot, a man with Cybernetically enhanced vision and Pierce, an Android. They also discovered that the supply ship's AI had indeed detected the signal of Another Ship, though it did not appear on sensor logs nor did the rest of the ship's crew see it. 

The PCs (at this time) consisted of:

Dr. Aaron Allen (Dave) - Robotics Specialist. Serving as Recon and Security using Drones. 
Templeton 'Temp' Diaz (Andy) - Mechanic and Engineering Specialist.
Dr. Stanley 'Stitch' Hudson (Eric) - Station Medical Chief and Surgeon.
Samantha 'Tex' Hunter (Ray) - Scout/Survey Specialist.
Dr. David Myers (Nick) - Social Sciences and 'First Contact' Specialist. 
Lt. Mitchell 'Ace' Thompson (Carl) - Pilot and Owner/Operator of the USRSS The Queen
Prof. Mara Typhi (Will) - Life Sciences Specialist
Chief Charley Venchenko (Leo) - Security Chief

This began an investigation into a mysterious signal with three sending and receiving points: They were discovered to be an ancient temple/Outpost belonging to an extraterrestrial species dubbed 'The Thinkers', a crashed medical ship containing Dr. Ana Myr Clearwater (Lynn's character), and finally a derelict alien vessel belonging to a species Director Jordan identified as the 'Space Jockeys'. After exploring all three sites, the PCs learned that the Space Jockeys and The Thinkers were at war or at least had been at some time in the past. The Space Jockeys used a creature known as Xenomorph XX121 to virtually wipe out The Thinkers. The remaining members of the latter captured and modified some of the Xenomorphs in an attempt to fight fire with fire.




In the end, it is unclear what the outcome of this endeavor was. The Space Jockey ship was crashed at the bottom of a massive, continent sized crater and filled with small creatures called 'Facehuggers'. The Thinker temple was likewise devoid of living Thinkers, having only mutated experimental Xenomorphs and a single, long dead member of The Thinker species.

Following their investigation of the Space Jockey derelict, the PCs returned to their ATV and tried to radio Frontier Station. No response. All channels were flooded with the message, 'Another Ship...Another Ship...Another Ship...', in spite of the PCs deactivating all known signal transceivers.

The last episode ended with a pyramid shaped vessel, a Thinker ship, descending from the sky.

And now the conclusion...

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Barking Alien







RPGaDay Challenge 2021 - WILDERNESS

 


I love a good Wilderness adventure. 

You know what you rarely see though? A good Wilderness adventure. 

In the lexicon of most GMs, it seems like the word Wilderness means 'Vaguely European Forest'. In reality it is defined as 'an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.' That covers a wide range of environments. A much wider range than English Woodlands.



Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness
San Juan County, New Mexico, USA


I did a Google Image Search for 'RPG Wilderness' and the most popular hits were exactly what I expected; a dozen pictures of forest terrain maps and adventure tiles. There was a lot of green my friend. A lot of green.

Then I did a Goggle Image Search for simply 'Wilderness' and I got mountains, rivers, deserts, the everglades, and more. The conditions in these pictures ranged from treacherous, snow-capped peaks to dry, arid plains baked by the Sun. 



Antarctica 


I run a lot of Science Fiction games as you know - Alien, Star Trek, Star Wars, Traveller; just to name the most prominent - and one of the reasons I love it so much is the chance to showcase various environments.

In Fantasy, especially Medieval Fantasy, it takes a long time to get from one place to another. Travel on foot or even horseback for an hour from your Bavarian-style Woodland home and you are very likely still in the woods of Fantasy Bavaria.

From single biome worlds like Star Wars' Tatooine to the more realistic planets of Traveller such as Regina, PCs can explore a wide variety of Wildernesses in a 'relatively' short period of time in the Science Fiction genre. 

You can do a survey of a single world over the course of several sessions or FTL jump from a frosty Ice Planet to a one covered in monumental Mushroom trees with ease thanks to Warp, Hyperspace, or whatever your interstellar drive of choice may be. 



Fly Geyser, Nevada, USA


My advice to you is...head out into the Wilderness. Go to different environments. Explore terrain that challenges you. What does it take to survive the frigid waters of an ocean just a little to far from its Sun to be comfortable? How do you climb mountains of sand or loose gravel, where getting a hand or foot hold seems nearly impossible. 

Don't settle for yet another endless forest of same-old bushes and here-we-go-again trees. Do some research on Earth's more unusual and extreme regions. Find out what's required to live and/or work there and how it can impede or enhance an adventure. 

Stretch out into the unknown and face the vast, untamed wilds; not just the familiar ones.

Entry 11 - Wilderness

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Barking Alien







RPGaDay Challenge 2021 - TRUST



 
My initial thoughts here are honestly a bit depressing. I will try to stay upbeat but I fear its a lost cause. I'm going to be bummed out and likely a bit rant-y. You've been warned.

Trust is perhaps the key, number one, most important element to running and playing a great game. The players need to Trust the GM, the GM needs to Trust the players, etc. Seems simple, right? So...what's happened over the years that has created so many distrusting gamers?

In the past 15 years or so I've encountered more gamers that seem to not Trust their fellow participants then in my previous 29 years in the hobby. It is hard to explain or pin down exactly how this manifests as it isn't the same in each and every case but I see it reflected time and again in my dealings with other GMs and players.
 
  • I don't know about playing X even though I like the subject. I've never played it before.
  • I quadruple check the connection is secure/the enemy is dead/there aren't any traps.
  • People need to see your rolls. Use the on screen die roller. You could be cheating. 

I remember my (late) buddy Dave Cotton, while playing Champions, had his Superhero leap off a moving aircraft to drop onto another aircraft moving at a lower altitude. Another player asked if Dave's character could fly, to which Dave replied that no he could not. Panicked, the second player did what he could to save Dave's PC and prevent him from performing his bit of daring do. 

The second player didn't Trust Dave to either have a plan or have the where-with-all to come up with one on the fly (or the fall as it were). This was in the early days of the second players time in the hobby and he has improved leaps and bounds since but I do still see this sort of thing among various players. 

In a Star Trek session, the Engineer was trying to jury-rig a cool way of defending someone in Sick Bay but the player wouldn't reveal exactly what he was up to. He wanted it to be a surprise like on an episode of one of the Star Trek TV shows. The action was a tad confusing I'll admit, as his PC was doing some odd modifications without providing any explanation as to why. I gave him the benefit of the doubt initially, curious to see where he was going with it

 Another player, the higher ranking Science Officer, didn't trust that the player or the PC had the ship's best interests in mind. I'm sure the Science Officer's player would say that wasn't the case but that is the impression he gave to both the Engineer's player and myself. The Science Officer pulled rank and the two - players and PCs alike - argued. 

It seems to me it might have been a good idea for the Engineer to give the Science Officer the courtesy of some kind of heads up, such as "I've got a plan sir, trust me." or "Don't worry Commander, everything's under control". It is likely that would have been enough to curtail the disagreement. It certainly wouldn't have hurt and would have still allowed for the action the Engineer took to come as a surprise to the group. Why would that be necessary though? That I do not know. Suffice to say, it could having nothing to do with trust but simple how people communicate. 

This is something I see A LOT. Players not trusting other players. They don't trust each other to:

  • Make plans that are smart and effective. Obviously their plan will be even smarter and more effective.
  • Make sure ones actions don't make the situation worse (i.e. more interesting). 
  • Make sure ones actions don't make what you want to do next not work. 
  • Make sure ones actions are correct based on game rules because clearly the other player can't possibly be as well versed in the rules are they are and nothing is more important than getting the rules right.

and of course...

  • Not cheat.

This pains me. It gives me a mild stomach ache and sometimes a light headache. It makes me sad. It drains my enthusiasm for continuing to run the session in which these sorts of things occur. It's also something that was virtually unknown to me prior to 2005.

What causes this? What forms Trust and what produces distrust amid gamers (or people in general)? 

I can only say that my pre-2005 experiences shared a few traits that lead to a greater sense of Trust between the participants. 

We all shared the same goal when gaming - Enjoy time together while creating a cool story.
We all wanted everyone else to have fun. 
We all wanted to entertain each other. 
We were friends outside of gaming.
When we didn't agree we talked about it to understand each others viewpoints. 

Factors such as communication, personal effort, and time merged with the concepts above to generate Trust over the course of our relationships.

Perhaps this is the key. Perhaps the new players I've been encountering haven't been playing with each other long enough. Perhaps as they haven't known each other for a sufficient amount of time (however long is that?) they haven't developed a good rapport. Maybe they come into it from the very being with very different goals (this is actually quite true and likely). 

Maybe they're just lazy. 

Things have improved over the last few years, with more time having past and a better understand of each other having developed. In addition, the memberships of the groups I game with have changed and with those changes the group dynamics. 

Generally I am hopeful that Trust will be built and earned more and more as we go forward. At the same time, I can't help but wonder...

Has Humanity just become more and more cynical, apathetic, and fearful? Is it harder to Trust by our very nature. I hope not...because the first thing that comes to mind when I encounter someone who doesn't Trust there friends is that its because they themselves are untrustworthy. It is an extension of, 'the people who worry about cheating the most are the ones most likely to cheat.'

Given the chance to be untrustworthy, why wouldn't you? They would.

Entry 10 - Trust

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Barking Alien








RPGaDay Challenge 2021 - MEDIUM




Wait...Medium?

As in 'the size between Large and Small'? That doesn't sound at all interesting as a prompt. Maybe they mean something else, such as 'a substance/material or empty space through which a force, signal, or wave passes'. No, that doesn't work either. 

Oh wait...a Medium! 

A Medium is someone who serves as a conduit between the worlds of the living and the dead, enabling themselves and others to communicate with spirits of the deceased. These individuals often utilize things various items such as ouija boards, seances, and other means of conveying the wishes, intentions, or messages of the deceased. 

This is all hokum and poppycock of course. Mediumship is a scam dating back to ancient times but becoming popular in the modern world in the late 19th century. After fading a bit in the early 20th century, interest and belief in the paranormal made a powerful resurgence following the first World War. Sessions with Mediums were a favored form of entertainment for the upper-classes during this time and provided a sense of comfort and reassurance for families whose loved ones never returned from the conflicts overseas.

Investigations into the practices of Mediums brought revelations of widespread fraud and lessened their popularity once again. This is kind of a silly statement if you put any thought to it. According to the Wikipedia entry on 'Mediumship' 'Investigations during this period revealed widespread fraud-with some practitioners employing techniques used by stage magicians-and the practice began to lose credibility. Fraud is still rife in the Medium or psychic industry, with cases of deception and trickery being discovered to this day.

So, fake thing is revealed to be fake. Stop the presses! I mean, are there also legitimate Mediums and psychics? Is there any proof at all attesting to the existence of psychic phenomena? No. That's like saying, "It is currently believed many sightings of a living Elvis Presley are thought to be hoaxes." REALLY? Not all? How is it not all?

Mediums can play an interesting role in RPG campaigns, either as PCs or NPCs, as they attempt to provide either a convincing ongoing con or - if your setting permits - an honest source of information from beyond the grave. 

One of my all time favorite examples in my own games is Ziva Yesperani, 28 year old, female member of the Hoboken, New Jersey Chapter of the Ghostbusters in our Ghostbusters NJ campaign.

Wow, I've been mentioning Ghostbusters quite a bit lately. Hmm. 



Small portrait by Lynn Morton
Color art By Kenichi Lowe
Ghostbusters logo by Michael Gross


Ziva has inherited a very special gift from her Mother's bloodline, though it manifests in a very peculiar way. Ziva can communicate with spirits of the dead...provided she knows at least one of the phone numbers they had in life.

From any working phone - land line, pay phone, cell - Ziva can dial the number a person had during their life and the ghost/spirit of that person will 'hear the phone ringing'. The paranormal being nearly always picks up, though in some cases they will ignore the call and another related being might answer the phone. Ziva can then speak to the deceased entity or its relative and perhaps get the ghost to stand down in the physical world. 

I did quite a bit of research on Mediums and Mediumship for possible inclusion in my ongoing, ever-in-development RPG Unfinished Business. Many elements of the practice, including ectoplasm, table turning and table tapping, and other aspects are fascinating and well worth taking a look at yourself. 

Wait...I feel something...there is a presence here with us. Oh spirit, speak through me! What is your message to those who will listen? The post...Yes! What about the post? The post is...is...

Over. See you next time!

Entry 9 - Medium

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Barking Alien







Thursday, August 12, 2021

Hot Fudge

There's been some talk across the blogosphere about Fudging Dice and since I am a big fan I thought I would take some time out from the RPGaDay Challenge to add in my two credits.

Now, Fudge...I mean, who doesn't love fudge, am I right? And Fudge Dice? Come on! As a gamer what could be cooler than that?




Wait a second...that's not what we're talking about? Then what...?




Ahhh. OK.

Here we see some very different viewpoints analyzing this very serious...giggle..sorry, this very serious issue. It is of the utmost importance...giggle-snort...ahem. My apologies. It is of the utmost importance that the sanctity of the rules and the results of dice rolls...snicker...be...heh...Bwahuahahahaha!

Sorry. I just couldn't keep a straight face through that whole daffy business.  

Let's take a look at what all the hubbub is about. 

First, allow me to give you my definition of Fudging. It might not be the same as yours and it behooves us to be on the same page in order to have an intelligent conversation, does it not? So glad you agree. 

Player 1 - Playing a Starfleet Science Officer: "I scan the moons of the planet to see determine their general composition. Do I need to roll for this? I mean, I am a Lieutenant in Starfleet, the Chief Science Officer of a ship on an Exploration Mission and I've already scanned the planet itself twice."

GM: "Good point. No need to roll. You find that the moons are..."

This is not Fudging.

No roll was necessary and therefore nothing needed adjusting in any way. The outcome was pre-determined and agreed upon by all involved.

Player 2 - A Dwarven Fighter: "I appreciate you giving Burngold Half-An-Axe a Notice Roll but I am going to say he shouldn't get one or that he'd automatically fail. We've established he was born and raised in the city, knows nothing of the Elven Forests, and doesn't look kindly on things Elves think are important."

GM: "Understood. I in turn appreciate you being true to character."

This is not Fudging. 

No roll was necessary and therefore nothing needed adjusting in any way. The outcome was pre-determined and agreed upon by all involved.

Player 3 - A Skilled Based Superhero: "Superspy launches an explosive cartridge at Obvious Threat using his Mini-Grenade Launching Pen. *Rolls the dice which bounce over some books and one lands in a space between two hardcovers. It is on an angle between the books and while it looks like a failure it could be construed as not wholly on that number*. Dang it. Can I roll that again? It got caught in the crevice here."

GM: "Sure why not."

This is not Fudging.

This is known as a Re-roll and happens when the visual accuracy of the roll is in question.

Sometimes a die rolls off a table or falls into the crack between the cushions of a sofa. More often than not, the GM will just have the player re-roll. The outcome of a second roll is no different than the outcome of a first roll. Both are randomly generated numbers. Remember that you are people, often adults, playing a game for fun. No money is on the line. It isn't going to effect anyone's physical health or topple a major cultural institution. It's a f***ing die roll. Calm the f*** down.

Player 4 - Doesn't matter: "I attack and get a...*rolls dice - gets a 10*...a 15! I hit him!"

GM: "Are you sure that was a 15? You kind of covered it. It looked like a 10."

This is not Fudging. 

This is cheating. This person is likely a child, probably raised poorly by ruffians and thieves. Maybe wolves. OK, perhaps just a normal child. If this person is not a child than do not play with them. They are untrustworthy scallywags of the worst sort. 

Now, check this out...

Player 5 - A Great One: "I noticed the opponent has feature X on her person. Your description of X seems similar to the pictogram we saw in the sunken temple five sessions back. Also, I believe Player 1 discovered this opponent's 'Source of Power' is the key to unraveling this whole affair. I want to swing my sword as if to injure the opponent but I am actually just trying to separate the X feature from her forehead."

GM: "Very interesting!. Go for it!"

Player 5 rolls and gets a failure but misses the target number only by one or two.

The GM knows that the Player has finally put clues together that will lead not only to defeating this enemy but saving the world in the long term. It is a major feature of the campaign. If the Player just misses, the narrative doesn't change much and there is no reward for her clever realization. So the GM decides, right then and there with no pre-determined outcome planned before now, to Fudge...

GM: "Damn. While you fail to remove feature X, you do get the tip of the blade under it a little and it becomes slightly dislodged. You can see this causes the opponent great distress. You're on to something.

This is Fudging.

Fudging, IMHO, is when an RPG participant - nearly always the GM - sees a die result and weighs the outcome of that roll against the logical progression of the events in the session, what has gone before and is established in the campaign, and the overall enjoyment of the players and themselves, and determines if the result should stand as is or be modified in some way. 

What Fudging is not:

The End of Days
Something against which a Higher Power will judge you such that you can't enter Heaven
A Big Deal

These are games and yes, games have rules. We are also not talking about traditional games. I don't really enjoy traditional games. There is a reason I have a blog dedicated to RPGs and not Chess, Monopoly, or Chutes and Ladders. There is a narrative experience possible in RPGs found no where else. I like the 'R' and 'P' in RPG. The 'G' is considerably less interesting and important to me. Not unimportant but compared to those who seem to forget the other two letters come first, I don't hold sacred the inarguably word of the holy 'DICE'.

Finally...

You out there who have never Fudged a dice roll...I call you out. I call BS. You're lying. Unless you are some sort of robot...you aren't are you?...or have only been playing RPGs for a very short time, I am nearly 100% certain who have Fudged a roll at some point. It might have been for a PC or against one, it might have been very minor or fate sealing but every GM I have ever met has at one point or another. 

Perhaps the dice just wouldn't land on the number needed to set off that special power the monster has and you REALLY wanted the PCs to see it. Maybe it was to make someone feel better when their real life had been dumping on them lately and they just couldn't score a hit to save their PC's life all session. I guess you could also be a heartless, uncreative, cruel-minded pit of darkness but I'm giving you all the benefit of the doubt here and saying that probably isn't the case.




Listen, I'm not here to tell you how to run your game. My goal is to suggest other points of view. Run things the way you want to run them and determine what works for you. I'm not your parent. I'm more like your Fun Uncle.

There are elements of the article by Cavegirl I did not address directly. She goes a bit far and I am not sure that even I am comfortable doing things the way she suggests but now I am aware of that way and it gives me something to consider. That's why I like blogging, reading blogs, and listening to other people's ideas.

You never know what it might inspire.

Peace Out,

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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

RPGaDay Challenge 2021 - STREAM


 
Again I'm going with the first thought that popped into my head. I tried to think...



Dr. Raymond Stantz: I couldn't help it. It just popped in there.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What? What just popped in there?
Dr. Raymond Stantz: [Sigh of resignation] It's the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man.
Dr. Peter Venkman: [While seeing Mr. Stay-Puft walk towards the building and the Ghostbusters] Well, that's something you don't see every day.
Dr. Raymond Stantz: I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something that I loved from my childhood. Something that would never ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay-Puft.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Nice thinking, Ray.

Stream makes me think of 'Crossing the Streams' and that makes me think of Ghostbusters. I've been in a Ghostbusters mood lately, very much so, brought about in a large part by the trailer for the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife movie. 




I've been playing with an idea over the past few months that revolves around adapting the Stress/Panic mechanic from Free League Publishing's ALIEN RPG to Memento Mori's InSpectres RPG for the purposes of a new and improved Ghostbuster game. 

As you may or may not know, I combined elements of the InSpectres game with the original West End Games Ghostbusters RPG to create the system I've used over the last two decades (yes, InSpectres came out in 2002. I know. Insane, right?) to run Ghostbusters campaigns.

Ghostbusters has always been a game I've run successfully. I haven't run a lot of GB campaigns but I've never had a bad one. A few I would consider among my best stuff. 

With this in mind, a Ghostbusters campaign is in the running for my next 'long term', ongoing, in-person game. If Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a hit, perhaps I can use the momentum of that to convince people to give a GB campaign a try. 




Until then...Light'em up and Don't Cross The Streams!

Entry 8 - Stream

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