Sunday, November 8, 2015

You down with (Gamer) A.D.D?

Yeah, you know me...


Gamer A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder). It's become a running joke in gaming circles. It's funny, although I worry that it in some way trivializes REAL A.D.D. (which is certainly not my intent).

In any case, it's become a shorthand for being easily distracted from one's current RPG pursuit(s) by the "new shiny". The proverbial "grass is greener on the other side" syndrome.

While I'm still firmly committed to getting a Supers game off the ground, I'd be a liar if I said there aren't other games tempting me. As a Solo gamer now, I feel like I (we?) am/are even more vulnerable to the dreaded Gamer A.D.D, as with a group, once everyone is on board with a game, usually it takes on legs of its own and the train keeps rolling. I'd say there's not a lot of suddenly skipping from one game to another on the whim of one person in a group.

In any case here are a few of the other Games I'd Like To Play:

My sci-fi crush
 "White Star", oh how you tempt me. Ever since I picked this up just for the intent of adding material to the Star Trek thing I was tinkering with, it has pulled at me strongly to do as a stand-alone thing.

I love the "generic with the serial numbers filed off" vibe of it. I could totally see playing in a style of the cheesy post-Star Wars sci-fi movies of the 80's, like Battle Beyond the Stars, Starcrash, The Humanoid, The Ice Pirates, or Galaxina, which I love. (Just like in my mind, all of my D&D sessions look like the cheesy post-Conan fantasy flicks of the 80's like Hawk the Slayer...)

With the recent release of White Star supplement Five Year Mission the urge is as strong as ever. It even gives me thoughts of the Trek thing AGAIN...
tempts me to Trek on again





The recent trailers for the new Bond flick "Spectre" got me to thinking, I haven't played a modern action/adventure game in a LONG time, not since Hero Games "Espionage" back in the 80's. But I was a BIG action adventure guy back in the day, eating up flicks like "Die Hard', "Lethal Weapon", "Rambo: First Blood Part II", and a particular favorite "Commando".

Even my choice of reading material back then skewed to the Men's Adventure novels of the 80's like Mack Bolan (the Executioner), Able Team, Phoenix Force, and so on.
Meet the guy who inspired Marvel to create "The Punisher"





So I was curious to see what kind of Spy &/or Action/Adventure games were out there. Though the modern digital age has been a huge boon in the options of readily available, affordable, gaming material, it can also be a BANE too, in that it can be an enabler of one to give in to the urge to ACQUIRE and COLLECT, especially since they are, y'know, so readily available and affordable...

ANYWAY, after shopping around, two games caught my fancy for simple and rules light that look like they'd be a lot of fun that I gave in and picked up, "Covert Ops" and "Dogs of W*A*R", the former being aimed at a more espionage bent (though it looks like it would really cover the whole gamut), while the latter is firmly aimed at those Men's Adventure novels I mentioned earlier.



"Covert Ops"in particular has really got me enthralled. There is a lot of ideas and good game crammed into that rules light package. All of the Random Generators for Major NPC's, Enemy Organizations, Master Villains, Missions, and Security and Traps alone are worth the price. I can already REALLY see running it RIGHT NOW, as a very zero prep, pick up and play, stand-alone adventures type thing, not unlike the Mini Six powered "Monster of the Week" thing that I still want to get back to at some point.

Another genre that I love is the Western. It's a genre that I'm intimately familiar with, having grown up at the tail end of the the heyday of the T.V. Western, and having a Dad who's a fan of the genre instilled a love of Cowboys and Gunslingers in me that has endured, so as such I've had an idea for a "Boot Hill" sandbox for some time that I'd still love to explore at some point.

SO, back to the titular subject of Gamer A.D.D, I wonder if as a Solo gamer that this couldn't end up being a POSITIVE, as we're really free to jump around, experiment, and play whatever we want, WHENEVER we want.

The biggest challenge for me is just to get past that feeling that I'm "cheating" on one game with another, or that I'm "abandoning" one game for another.


I tend to be a absolutist in my thinking, AND in my hobbies and gaming. I'm a real "all or nothing, all in" kind of guy. That's something I'd really like to get over, as when I look at the images posted of so many great games, I really want to make room for them all in my gaming life.

Friday, November 6, 2015

That's Life in the Big City! (Modern Urban City Dressing Tables!)

Welcome to the city that never sleeps...
As mentioned in a previous post in my series on my proposed Solo Open World Superhero Sandbox Hexcrawl, one of the vital elements I still needed was Modern Urban City Dressing Tables. Not Random Encounters, just Set Dressing. Slices of life. Normal people living everyday life doing normal things.

As I said there, I feel like Dressing Tables (regardless of setting) lend verisimilitude, color, flavor, and realism.

Since I couldn't find many to choose from, I made my own. Compiled from the pages of RPG.net, Reddit, and others, as well as my own, and polished and edited by yours truly, and shared with the world for gratis below, you will find 200 Random Events, in both Day and Night flavors:

Random City Events (Day)

Random City Events (Night)

Though designed for a Supers game, these are generic enough that they can be used in any modern urban setting. They're not fancy or pretty, but they'll get the job done.

So, hopefully these make your city life a little more interesting. If you enjoy them and/or find them useful, feel free to drop me a line. :)

See ya in the Big City heroes!
*EDIT* Night table link was to a draft, not the finished one. Fixed now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Of Stoolies and Snitches (Superhero Sandbox Pt. 4)

Eat your heart out Batman...
While reading a fellow Solo RPG'ers session report on a Shadowrun campaign they've got going, I was hit by another trope of the comic book genre that would fit in perfectly with this thing I've been cooking up: the Informer.

Not quite...

Oh, all right, no one does it better...
One of the classic "bits" of the genre is the hero tearing the city apart and raising hell beating up goons until they get the information they need.

I thought this would make a nice addition in that it would give a hero something PROACTIVE to do instead of REACTIVE, rather than, or in addition to, just patrolling and waiting for things to happen.

What I'm thinking is that it could work not unlike the 1-in-6 Random Encounter I'm so fond of lifted from D&D. Except in this case, the 1-in-6 (or whatever percentage you like) is the chance that a useful stoolie will be available at whatever bar or underworld hangout you raid.

Of course you then you still have the mechanics of your system of choice to perform the actual INTERROGATION, and it'll be up to the Game Master (Emulator) if he actually KNOWS anything. This is just the chance of there actually being a fink in residence who MIGHT know something.

If the first dive you knock over doesn't yield results, and you want to keep trying, add +1 to your roll for each additional joint you tear up. Eventually someone will talk...

This would especially dovetail nicely with the "newspaper" idea from the last post. (And just to clarify on that, it occurred to me that the "newspaper" doesn't REALLY have to be an actual NEWSPAPER. It could be an overheard conversation between two co-workers, the Commissioner telling you about something that has gone down, and so on.)

But as I was saying, these two could fit nicely together. You get tipped off by the "hot news item", then start raiding criminal hangouts for information.

This could also be a good avenue of working in story hooks in and of itself. If a Random Encounter/Adventure hasn't already sprung up in some of your subsequent Patrols and all the die chucking that went with, when you find a canary and grill him, roll on your Random Adventure Generator of choice and *boom* there's what he knows is about to go down.

So, now you can have fun going out and terrorizing the underworld. Tell 'em I said "hi"!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

How's the Weather? And Now, The News... (Superhero Sandbox Thing Pt. 3)

Weather helps evoke mood and atmosphere

As I work on compiling and creating Random Mundane City Street Urban Encounters/Dressing I remembered yet another piece of verisimilitude  that served me very well in the D&D Sandbox that would be equally useful here, not only for adding color, flavor, and realism, but could also add some fun complications.

I'm talkin' 'bout The Weather.

As seen in innumerable comics, shots like the one above can really lend flair and authenticity. Fortunately, weather charts are a LOT easier to come by than the aforementioned ones in the last post. I already have a favorite weather chart, that, while created for Warhammer, is really pretty system agnostic.

Now, right after that, while still working on the random encounters, another thought hit me as to a great tool to add to this "process" I'm brewing up to not only add more set dressing, but possibly add an easy "in" or hook for adventures:

I am referring to Newspapers.

Fair and Balanced?


I looked around for a while on line for Newspaper Headline Generators that would generate serious, crime and other news related blurbs, but with no luck. But really, one could sit down with any favorite Adventure Generator and whip up a plot that is the focus of the headline. And now your hero has a hook to start investigating. Maybe it ends up being the focus of the adventure, maybe while heading out for the day/night to begin the investigation something ELSE occurs and the story in the paper falls by the wayside.

My idea is that such a feature shouldn't turn up ALL the time, more like a Random Encounter. SO,  Roll 1d6 each day to see if there's anything interesting in the paper, with "1" = Yes. (Maybe +1 for each uneventful day until SOMETHING happens? This IS the Big City after all,,,)

So the Procedure I'm picturing for a Daily Routine as originally pictured in the first post in this series probably looks something like this:

  1. Roll for Dependent NPC's, Hunteds, etc.
  2. Roll for Weather, roll for duration (as needed).
  3. Roll for Interesting Headline in the Newspaper. (Generate as needed)
  4. Roll on Patrol Encounter table for each "area" moved through/entered.
  5. If no Patrol Encounter generated, roll for Random Encounter,
  6. If no Patrol OR Random Encounter occurs, roll for City Dressing/Mundane Urban Encounter
  7. Roll for Random Encounter (as per #5) to see if any Encounter occurs AT the Destination. If     not, conclude your business there and then repeat 4-6 as you travel to your NEXT destination,   out on your daily/nightly patrol, or just back home.
If doing a Daily/Nightly Patrol, repeat #4-6 for each area/hex/block/borough moved through. 

If simply travelling to/from point A to point B (like on the way to school, job, date, etc) then repeat 4-6 until you reach your destination (#7)

 (Or maybe just one set of rolls of 4-6 on the way from Point A to Point B if you want a more relaxed pace. As I haven't tied this yet, I haven't decided, BUT I'm thinking I'd rather only do the more frequent rolls while PATROLLING and only single sets when TRAVELING).

Following the above, I think I've got the formula to play out "a day in the life" of a Superhero whenever it suits me. 




Friday, October 30, 2015

You know what this town needs?!?!? (Solo Superhero Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl Pt. Deux!)

NOT what he said!


In my last post I laid out my ideas on what I think it would take to make such a beast as a Solo Superhero Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl run, as well as all of the links to blog posts, random tables, and so on that I've armed myself with for such an undertaking. But it occurred to me that I've left out one VERY IMPORTANT element (in my mind, for me, I can't stress HOW important):

City or Urban Dressing.

Call them set dressing, set pieces, stock footage, color, flavor,or whatever you like. I've found in my D&D Solo Hexcrawl that they've been a crucial element at adding that oh so important verisimilitude that I crave. Charts and tables full of little slice of life bits that just add color and flavor as you pass through an area (and that JUST MIGHT lead to something more if you start asking Mythic the right questions, roll a juicy result on a Rory's Story Cube or whatever).

Not the big Random Encounter type results mind you, just little, mundane, everyday details (with a little color and flair).


This is what I want MY city to be like...










...and this....







...or this...



...or even this, and so on.












Raging Swan Press makes a great series of them for D&D/Fantasy RPG's that I highly recommend...



But when I SCOURED Teh Webz for modern, urban/city dressing, random events, etc I found NEARLY BUPKIS!!! There is ASTONISHINGLY less support for pretty much any other genre you care to name COMBINED than there is for the monster that is Fantasy. *sad face*

Now, I did find ONE product that is (more or less) exactly what I had in mind "100 Modern Happenings On A City Street" ...




and found a long series of forum posts that has a lot of good ones (but it'll take some time to comb through and separate the wheat from chafee).

Beyond that, surprisingly little! So, I guess I know what I'm working on this weekend!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Superhero Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl!

Let's play!

So this post may be a bit all over the place and random, as my thoughts are a bit scattered on the subject, but I will at least try to cram as much stuff in as I can that I have located on the subject of, and that I'd like to use for, a Superhero Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl, along with my ramblings on the subject.

First, I had a bit of a revelation in the past couple weeks thinking on my beloved Champions. I have a suspicion that one of the great unsung heroes of Champions game design could end up being a crucial piece of the type of game I'm looking to play. I'm talking about Disadvantages.

If you're not familiar with Hero System games, character creation is a point buy system. You're given a starting number of points for free, but in order to have enough to build an average character you have to make up the balance with Disadvantages. It's a neat system that helps build a background for your character while handing the GM juicy plot hooks.

There are a couple of types among the various Disadvantages that I have in mind in particular. These are Hunted's and Dependent NPC's 

Hunted's are individuals or organizations that are actively pursuing your character. Dependent NPC's are those regular folks who rely on the hero for their care and well being. There are a few different criteria that determine how many points you earn for both (how weak or capable they are, and so on), but the one I have in mind is FREQUENCY. Both of them have a chance of showing up each session (8, 11, & 14 or less on 3d6), rolled by the GM. An appearance need not mean combat or endangerment, just that person(s) will figure into the session somehow.

I always thought this was one of the areas Champions outshone the competition, and always felt like games like Marvel Superheros could have used it. ( Aunt May, Dependent NPC: Amazing (50). Red roll? Uh-Oh, Aunt May is going to be in danger! Maybe Green is a phone call, Yellow a personal appearance, that sort of thing).

If I end up playing Champions this isn't a problem, but regardless of system, I want to front load my sessions with a chance of Hunted's, Dependent NPC's, and the like. These could then be worked in when relevant results show up on your Random Encounter Tables (see below), or when your Game Master Emulator of choice (like Mythic GME) throws you a Random Event or an Altered/Interrupted Scene, and so on.

(This may not be much of a "revelation" for most, but it was for me, in that as kids we never really used ALL the rules from Champions (Endurance, I'm looking at you!). We were pretty lazy about Hunted's, Dependent NPC's and so on. If we were running an adventure with Genocide, and you're HUNTED by them, well, they're going to target YOU. Otherwise, we just ignored them. We we kids...)

***

Next, I'll address a question that seems to come up a lot in various online discussions I've Googled up on the subject, which is: why does a Supers game NEED a hexcrawl in the first place? It's not a bad question.

For me at least, it all goes back to subjects I've discussed in previous posts: Immersion, realism, simulation, verisimilitude. I want the world to feel REAL. INTERACTIVE. Not only do I want a GAME MASTER EMULATOR for solo play, I want a WORLD emulator as well.

It would be pretty easy to just plunk the hero down in the city and roll up a random encounter. But I want more of a city that feels like it has all these things going on around me.

SO...that said, simple random encounter tables aren't enough for me. As I'm patrolling different parts of the city, I want greater or lesser chances of encounters, types of crimes, that sort of thing. IMO this will help make the city feel REAL and ALIVE.

One of the games I've heard recommended a lot for this style of play is also the FIRST Supers game: Superhero 2044. It incorporates planning sheets for you to block out how your hero spends their time and charts to roll on for patrols and so on. Very simulation-ish. Okay, sounds promising.

I managed to track down a PDF. The results...? Well...I got a headache, and a couple of nifty charts anyway...







I won't go into much detail on how these are used in the game, as I STILL don't quite grok how it works, other than to say it all boils down to a random die roll to see if you stop the crime, make a conviction, and so on, with a bunch of modifiers and mathematical formulas. Snore.






BUT, that chart for determining types of crime by area patrolled is pretty awesome. It reminds me of another one I found at Republic of Replicants from the DC Heroes RPG supplement Night In Gotham:


Add that to this map from IO9 that is keyed with the 24 boroughs on the chart above:




And you're off to a great start on prowling the city looking for crime.

***

Marvel Superheroes has a pretty good one too, in the accessory New York, New York
that you can get for free at Classic Marvel Forever

This one runs more of a gamut, incorporating Daily Life, Miscellaneous Crimes, Robberies, Burglaries, Rampage, Vendetta, Organized Crime, and Catastrophes. It's closer to what I think of as a Random Encounter chart.

Which brings me to Random Encounters. I have nothing against them. Heck, I love them. I think they're just the spice a sandbox needs. So while the ones above and to the right would be good for "hex stocking" tables as you move through the city, I also think a Supers Open World Sandbox Hexcrawl would need true Random Encounters.

In my mind the Random Encounters in this type of game would be more of your "big" encounters. Supervillain attacks, Alien Invasions, and so on.

Fortunately there are several good ones I've scoured up in my  searches of the internet like the DC Heroes RPG one linked to above at Republic of Replicants or here's a good one for sale at Drive Thru RPG...

Worlds of Pulp: Generic Random Event tables for Super Heroes


The thing that makes the Wandering Monster/Random Encounter work in D&D is the simple 1 in 6 on d6 (or 1-2 in some cases). So I'm picturing something like that here. Each "hex" (borough, neighborhood, whatever) you move into or through you would check on your Patrol Encounter Table. No crime in the area? Roll for Random Encounter. If one is generated, roll on Random Encounter Table.

I haven't decided on frequency though. In D&D, for Wilderness you check 3-4 times per day. In a Dungeon it's every other turn for Wandering Monsters. Every other "hex" could be a good metric here?





***

So, overall the basic procedure would look something like:

1. Check for Hunted's, Dep NPC's etc. at beginning of session.
2. Roll on Patrol Encounter table for each "area" moved through/entered.
3. If no Patrol Encounter generated, roll for Random Encounter every other "area".

Between this procedure and all the randomness your GM Emulator of choice (like Mythic) throws at you, plus any and all other oracles you might employ ( like Rory's Story Cubes) SOMETHING has to happen! If not either you're not looking hard enough for trouble, or it just wasn't meant to be. Go back home and go back to bed.

Needless to say, all of this is only if you're just out patrolling the city, on your way to work, whatever. If you have a specific mission or agenda from a previous session or whatever then obviously that would take precedent (unless you WANT to add the chance of added complications. Could be fun!)

***

As a bonus, here is my collection of all the most useful blog posts and downloads that I've gathered on the subject (in addition to the ones already posted above!).


Blog post on Superhero Sandboxes by Jeff Rients

Alien Shores blog posts on Sandbox superhero campaigns (3 parts. Recommended!)

Rogues and Reavers blog: New York, New York inspired Campaign Frames



Random Encounter Tables for GM's by Ty States

Polyhedron Magazine article collection for MSH. (Of note are the articles "Constructing a Solo Campaign" from issue 80 and "Constructing Random Adventures" from issue 91)

CRIME SCENE written by A. Bigwood QUICK SCENARIO GENERATOR FOR CHAMPIONS OR ANY OTHER RPG

Heroes Unlimited Random Encounter Table

Elfmaids & Octopi blog: River city encounters for Marvel Super Heroes

Mutants & Masterminds Random Events (pg 6)

CrimeTable+Toolkit for Icons

*EDIT*

I wasn't even aware when I drafted this list and post, but apparently +John McMullen  was already ON this track before I was, hitting on some of the same thoughts regarding Random Tables and Disadvantages back in JUNE! Check it HERE.

+StevenLincoln also gave me a tip to a great City Blocks Generator, that while intended for Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk, could work great in this context with minimum tweaking.



Look! Up In The Sky! It's...wait, who's THAT guy?!? (What I'd Like to Play pt.4)

The two greatest Super Hero RPG's ever IMO.

After a slight pause due to a mild manic episode followed by a more severe depression, I'm back (for now). I decided to skip the next game I planned on talking about (Ghostbusters) as the mood has passed. Instead I’m following my passion and talking about a couple of games I actually DO feel like playing.

When I was first starting out as a RPG’er back in ’82, after my intro via B/X D&D, my first true love was Champions. After being introduced by a classmate at school it was love at first sight. I had been a big comic fan as a kid, and the chance to make my OWN heroes as playable characters in my favorite genre was mind boggling to 12 year old me.

That Christmas my parents and I rode a bus across town to the Drowsy Dragon (RIP) to get my own copy (same edition as seen above left) as my present that year. One of the greatest presents I ever got. (Right up there with the Mego “Batman & Robin” action figures I got when I was 5 & the “Six Million Dollar Man” action figure when I was 6 or 7).

Supers was my genre of choice, & Champions my game of choice (though TBH in those days there wasn’t a huge amount of competition. Villains & Vigilantes, Superworld, & Heroes Incorporated were the only ones that I was aware of, but I had no desire to try them. Champions was the 800lb gorilla on the block of Supers gaming, and I was perfectly happy with it.

Until 1984. Imagine my shock when I walked into one of the local hobby stores and there was that bright, shiny box (as seen above right) for Marvel Super Heroes. It was from the legendary TSR. It had “official” stats for “real” characters. (Which tied in nicely to the “Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe” that had just come out, and was hot stuff in my world.)

Champions got dropped like a bad habit, and thus began a brief, intense affair with MSH, running through every module TSR released and writing a fair number of our own. Eventually the novelty of running someone ELSES characters wore off, and back to Champions we went, moving up to the 4th edition hardcover when it came out.

Gerorge Perez cover FTW


Over the course of time, I’ve drifted away from Supers in general (as the cost of comics rose so blasted high, and they moved from local stores, gas stations, and so on, into specialty only stores), which also included gaming. But the genre and characters have always held a special place in my heart, and I’ve never given up on them entirely.

As I’d started evaluating other games that I might like to play besides my solo D&D hexcrawl, MSH was one of the first to get unpacked. Not for playing MARVEL characters mind you, but purely for the ease of play and character creation (one of the few downsides of Champions is both how long it takes to run large battles AND character creation, though I’m quite proficient with both, so not TOO big a deal).

One of the things I’ve waffled over is campaign setting (as always). Most of me is STRONGLY torn to do my own world. My own characters. My own background. A lot of work if you try to do it all from the beginning. I’ve been really tempted to just let it all emerge from play. But then I’m torn again.

ANOTHER part of me is tempted to drop my own characters into a “it’s always 1984-ish” MSH campaign. Focus MOSTLY on my own heroes and villains, with occasional guest stars. This temptation comes from using a system with all those characters nice and statted up. Plus it DOES have the advantage of a comfortable, familiar backdrop. Just less room to world build.

Which leads me back to Champions. Lots of looking at old stuff, seeing pics online, etc has made me majorly nostalgic for it. I’ve gotten over SOME of my reservations about difficulty (if not character creation, ESPECIALLY when considering creating new villains on the fly!). Running an original (ie not LICENCED) game like Champions opens me up more to doing my own thing, and less “playing in someone else’s sandbox”.

In ANY case, what I’d LIKE to do with EITHER game is an Superhero version of an open world, sandbox, hexcrawl. I want to play as a superhero and go out and patrol the city, fight crime, rescue people from burning buildings, almost have my secret identity discovered by my girlfriend, get yelled at by my editor-in-chief, all that good stuff. The full superhero experience.

As I’ve already gone on quite a bit as it IS, I’ll save my thoughts on THAT subject for the NEXT post. :)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

...of Immersion and Verisimilitude: Pull a seat up at the Table

One of the finest examples of Old School Random Tables
Random Tables. I've made no secret of it in the past, I absolutely love them. While still high on the post from last night, I celebrated by buying up PDF's of a ton more random tables from RPG Now. (My version of going out and painting the town red, but with less hangover the next day).

While spending the day browsing all of the new acquisitions, not only was I filled with joy and inspiration (which would be worth it alone even if I wasn't actually using them in play), but I was also suddenly hit with another trendy word from video game design:  Immersion, defined as, deep mental involvement.

While contemplating that word, another one sprang to mind, one that I'm quite fond of: Verisimilitude, or something that gives the thing into which it is integrated the appearance of being true or real.

In this case, it is Random Tables, as many as I can get my hands on, from as many sources as I can, crammed full of all kinds of little nuggets of inspiration and ideas that I wouldn't have come up with on my own, that I can stash away until needed, unremembered, and in most cases UNREAD, that give me the deep mental involvement and appearance of being true or real that helps create for me another of those words mentioned last post: Simulation.

Now the same may or may not work for you, but I think it is worth consideration that you find whatever that thing is that gives your games a sense of Immersion and Verisimilitude and include it.


Friday, October 2, 2015

...of Simulations and Sandboxes

By George, I've GOT it! (I think...)
While stuck at work on a slow Friday night, I've been mulling over the "What I Want To Play" series (#4 is sitting half finished in draft now), D&D, & RPG's in general, when I had another minor epiphany.

While thinking on some of the other games I'd like to play that I haven't covered yet versus D&D, two words burbled up from my subconscious that have been rattling around in my head for a couple of weeks now:

Simulation.

Sandbox.

While re-reading the 4th edition "Pendragon" RPG (one of those "Games I'd Like To Play") and looking up things online in regards to it, I stumbled across one quote that said (paraphrasing from memory) that "Pendragon was less of a RPG and more of a simulation" due to its system of Virtues and Vices to ensure that characters behave in a certain, consistent way, to their beliefs and character.

..."less of an RPG and more of a simulation." I rather liked the sound of that.

I think one of the things I've been consciously seeking, without necessarily being AWARE of it per se, is simulation in my RPG's. I want tables and rules that run the world and everything that happens in it, other than my character. (Hence my recent comment that I want my games to be "virtual reality" and that I want "to control my character, and the game to control everything else".

I know one of the reasons, among others, that I chose D&D for my first Solo was the huge amount of material available for it. Random tables for nearly any occasion and situation if you look hard enough. I think this is one of the reasons it worked so well. That kind of plethora of material powers the Simulation.

The other thing I want (that I've been more aware of) is for all of my games to be like a sandbox. Less "sit down & just have an adventure" and more "go anywhere, do anything, live the life of my character". Again, this is why D&D worked so well. Plethora of material, fits the style of play.

And I think this is also why I've had such problems otherwise (except for the "Monster-of-the-Week thing, which by its NATURE is episodic, thus I DON'T want or NEED a Simulation OR a Sandbox).

The problem I've been having is I want a bunch of the other games I'd like to play to be Simulation Sandboxes.

Star Trek? I wanted to live the life and career of a Star Fleet officer fresh out of the academy with an open world space sandbox to explore and unfold around me.

Superheroes? (Another genre I'd like to be playing) I want an open world sandbox simulation city where my character can and go and patrol like Spider-Man and crimes, events, and THINGS just HAPPEN, while maintaining a personal life, a secret identity, and so on.

Now, to be fair, I have scoured far and wide on ye olde intrawebz, and HAVE acquired a fair number of resources for both of the above (and maybe a few others). Supers in particular I was able to amass a decent collection of "stuff" to enable this type of play.

But for some reason I think I've had a harder time of wrapping my head around a "hexcrawl" sandbox-y style of play for the above. (Though I feel like I'm close to a breakthrough on a Supers game...there's something in my subconscious that just feels like the pieces are ready to fall into play and make sense...)

With D&D, there is so much material available, and sandboxing and hexcrawling are such well trod paths, that it wasn't a huge stretch to get started, to figure out what to do, or how to do it.

With others, even though there IS material available (as stated above), there is still lots of prep to be done, and the style of play for these genres feels like strange, uncharted territory, that when contemplating, I've had trouble figuring out where to start, how to approach.

I don't know if I have any point to make. Just thinking "out loud" here. But I think quantifying and qualifying, putting a label on,  what it is you're trying to do in Solo RPG-ing (and maybe life in general, really) helps in some way to accomplish it. When you do so, it clarifies, sets guidelines, expectations, helps identify what the challenges actually are.

Maybe now that I have a clearer idea of what it is that I really want to do I'll have an easier time figuring out how to do it.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

These are the voyages...(What I'd like to play pt3)

Classy Classic
Star Trek. Depending on your age and pedigree of geek-dom that one phrase may conjure up all different kinds of images. While I have viewed all and enjoyed most of the iterations of Trek, classic will always be "Star Trek" to me. The name conjures up that opening narration by Shatner, the legendary theme, the Enterprise *woosh*-ing by at warp speed and so on.

When I caught the bug to do a solo Trek campaign, the original RPG by FASA seemed like a no-brainer. I own it, have played it quite a bit, and love it. It does classic Trek fine (and to be honest, you could probably do TNG on with a little creativity. My longest running RPG campaign ever was set 20 years after STNG using FASA rules).

The only thing that really "bugged" me was that I had an idea I wanted to explore of starting of an Ensign at the beginning of their career and progressing them through play up through the ranks. While FASA does have rules for skill progression (via Skill Checks) there are no rules for promotion and so on. 

This was important to the type of game I had in mind, to basically have "XP" and "Levels" (ie a very mechanical, non-fiat based way to progress in rank). Which led me to THIS:

Totally not Star Trek with the serial numbers filed off. Seriously...
"Starships & Spacemen" is Goblinoid Games "Trek-like" RPG built on the retroclone ruleset that powers "Labyrinth Lord" (their B/X D&D simulacrum). While it isn't 100% Trek, it is VERY close. Close enough to house rule and hand wave the rest of the way.

It has XP based advancement though levels/ranks. Plus it has a few other features of its own that I really like (such as a "resource management" style "mini-game" based on your starship's power).

While shopping around there was another game I had my eye on...

Is totally Star Trek, with the serial numbers left on...
"WNMHGB" is a free, Microlite-20 RPG that captures classic Trek perfectly, with just a dash of humor. I could totally play it on its own and have a blast, but it didn't have some of the features I wanted (like the full range of stats), but DID have others, like the nice d20 system task resolution system and a lot of cool Talents.

"Since both "S&S" and :WNMHGB" are d20 derived though, it should be no problem to mix-n-match from them" I told myself.

That's when my troubles started.

Next thing I knew I was fiendishly planning on adding bits from "White Star", "Hulks and Horrors", "Stars Without Number", as well as "Labyrinth Lord" and "Mutant Future". I'd caught OSR DIY fever (thanks "White Star"!). I told myself this is my chance to be WAY more gonzo than I normally am.

On paper it sounds great, but the idea quickly grew into a monster that I felt like I had no control over and couldn't get a handle on.

Also, it was starting to feel decidedly "un-Trek" to me. While I was excited by the gonzo mashup possibilities, in my heart, I think I'd rather just let Trek be Trek, & save the gonzo for something less "established".

SO...back to square one? In a twist of irony, after I started working on "the project with no end" I ended up finding a good set of "rules" (or guidelines) on  Character Advancement in Rank. Which makes me think, maybe FASA after all...

FASA STAR TREK PROS

  • Captures Classic Trek perfectly, as it was designed to do
  • Easy and familiar system
  • No "conversion" required, all Trek material already built in


FASA STAR TREK CONS


  • ONLY does Trek
  • No official rank promotion. Above house rules a bit open ended.

S&S/WNMHGB PROS

  • Easily to modify and houserule
  • Very "mechanical" advancement/promotion system
  • Lots of cross-compatible material and resources

S&S/WNMHGB CONS


  • Needs lots of "tweaking"
  • Almost TOO open ended. A bit overwhelming.
  • Not "really" Star Trek
***

NEXT TIME: A "frightfully cheerful" RPG...



Sunday, September 27, 2015

WHEEL...OF...FORTUNE!!!

While reading the Stephen King memoir "On Writing" I came across the following fascinating tidbit...



Intrigued, I hit Google. I did not find an example of Wallace's Plot Wheels as I'd hoped, but discovered another interesting user, Erle Stanley Gardner, who wrote 119 novels of  the cases of lawyer/detective Perry Mason using a variety of plot wheels to provide twists and turns, as detailed HERE.

Interestingly enough, there is a link in the blog featured above the leads to the website of a Plot Wheel app you can buy ("The Brainstormer") HERE or try out the online version free HERE.


I find it encouraging and pleasing that have not only best selling writers employed methods not unlike our own, but that such a seemingly "new" innovation has actually been kicking around at least since the 1920's.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chill out, man! (games I'd like to play, Pt2.)

Meet the new boss...
...same as the old boss





















"Chill" is an RPG I never had a chance to play back in the day, nor have I ever met anyone else who had. It's odd, considering I was in full bloom as a budding horror fan back then. If I had seen the awesome cover of the 1st edition (far right) I probably would have remedied that.

Instead, the first I became aware of "Chill" was the 2nd edition from Mayfair...

Horrible, but not in a good way...
...as seen above. Very uninspiring, to put it mildly. I picked it up a few times and leafed through it. The art and layout inside were of similar quality, and equally off putting to me.

It's a shame, as I probably would have had a lot of fun with it. "Chill" is a perfect, classic horror toolbox for emulating pretty much any pre-70's horror. Emphasis on the CLASSIC in classic horror. As far as I know, "Chill" was pretty much the ONLY option one had for NON-Lovecraftian horror.

But between cover, art, layout, and so on, it just didn't do a good job of communicating to me what it was all about.

Fast forward to the present. Goblinoid Games, the same company responsible for helping bring back the love for B/X D&D with their Moldvay/Cook retroclone Labyrinth Lord acquires the back catalog of Pacesetter Games titles, including "Chill", with one slight catch: the rights to the NAME "Chill" had been sold off long ago. Hence the title change. "Cryptworld" (above left) IS "Chill" with a new name and a slightly broadened set of sensibilities. 

The range of horror beasties has been widened out to encompass more contemporary horror sub-genres (such as the Slasher or Alien Body Snatchers) alongside all the old classics.

Still longing for a generic horror RPG I decided to pick up the PDF. It's a far cry from the impenetrable 2nd edition. Very cleanly laid out, almost spartan in its presentation, it is all lean meat and no filler, with simple, thematic art. Look at that cover above. "Cryptworld" gets what it's about and does a good job of conveying that to the player.

Now, history lesson aside, "Cryptworld"/"Chill"/The Pacesetter system is a decent, solid, old school system, EXCEPT for the Pacesetter Chart. It gives me fits every time. I sit down and look at it, read through, whatever, and understand it well, then walk away and ask myself "how does that work again?"

It's not really complicated, just hard (for me) to absorb. I couldn't explain to you how to play without referring to the book if I tried. So that is a bit of a problem. It could be my advancing age, deficits in attention span, etc, or it could just be that it's a system that I just don't grock as easily as others.

So great was my desire to get  SOMETHING off the ground in this genre that I ran a quick series of sessions over the course of a week or two using the D6 system instead, specifically one of the greatest "lite" versions of it.

the greatest universal RPG ever IMO...
...and the greatest "lite" version of the same
I had a blast with it, and am tempted to continue. But I'm also torn, in that I really like "Cryptworld"("Chill") too. Decisions, decisions, decisions...

CRYPTWORLD (PROS)
  • Does what I want right out of the box
  • Fantastic "beastiary"and lots of material available
CRYPTWORLD (CONS)

  • System isn't as intuitive/familiar as I'd like
D6 SYSTEM (PROS)

  • Lot's of FREE support material available, most of it of useful in this style of game
  • Know the system well. Easy to improvise/make stuff up on the fly
D6 SYSTEM (CONS)

  • Would need to convert over a number of CW monsters and such.
***

(PS, FWIW there IS a 3rd edition of "Chill" out, but it is NOT the same system as the classic version, and TBH I'm not sure I like the looks of it. In any case, old school cross compatibility with previously released materials WAS a consideration, so there is that...)
3rd Edition, not the same as old OR new boss...

NEXT TIME: To Boldly Go, Yadda Yadda...


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Games I'd like to play (Pt.1)

It's so beautiful...
Until I get ready to actually PLAY something, I thought I might at least enjoy talking about some of the games I like to (or WOULD like to) play, and discuss their pros and cons.

The first up is also the first RPG I ever played, and the first RPG I ever solo'ed. Back when I was a dumb kid I quickly left Moldvay/Cook aka B/X D&D behind for other games (looking at YOU "Champions"!)

Don't worry, you're beautiful too...
Whenever I DID (infrequently) play D&D again, I was always forced to play AD&D, because that's what all the "cool" kids were playing. (TBH, I never liked it. I knew I liked "Basic" better, but could never explain why, & felt weird for doing so, so I kept THAT a secret).

It took the intrawebz for me to discover A) I wasn't the only one who felt this way, and B) Just how awesome B/X is.

Even when I did play it I was trapped by many of the assumptions on the "limitations" of D&D (both mechanically and in style of play).

If there is any ONE good that came out of the "Old School Revolution" (and there is PLENTY), it is how many eyes have been opened to the possibilities of D&D.

As for reasons I want to play it, even though fantasy ISN'T my first choice of genre, the pull of old school, nostalgic D&D is  strong. Just thinking about all the things it encompases makes me want to play it, right now.

Another strong deciding factor is just the sheer, overwhelming, about of material and support available for it. Again, the internet has brought a golden age that might even surpass the old days in terms of both quantity and quality material available, a huge chunk of it available for free or for a pittance.

I've got so much material available to run sandbox wilderness campaigns, urban adventures, and more now that it's sick. Just the number of random tables alone I've accumulated is staggering.

So, PROS? (see above)

CONS? None really, other than I'd like to play something ELSE (and by else, I mean in addition TO. My D&D sandbox was just warming up when I put it on hold, and I do really want to get back to it soon).

NEXT TIME: I "Chill" out...sorta...


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Emergent game play and narrative, a subject worth consideration



In the board game world is where I first learned the term "emergent narrative". There are many pseudo RPG-like board games (like A Touch of Evil :The Supernatural Game) where random elements converge and a form of story emerges from these random details.

Apparently the terms "emergent play" and "emergent narrative" came out of the development of video games, as you can read about in this Wikipedia article, which explains the whole concept in more detail.

Oddly enough, as much as I've discussed solo RPG'ing, it never really occurred to me that this thing and process that I've been struggling to describe, help others with, and implement myself, is really the same thing that I'd encountered and discussed in my other gaming endeavors.

I raise this point appropriate of nothing, other than I think it puts things in the proper context to realize what we're engaging in, when we solo role play, is a form of emergent play, where we're take random, disparate elements, and allowing a coherent narrative structure to emerge.

I don't know if I have any other point, other than having a useful frame of reference when discussing solo RPG'ing, and when considering the process ITSELF. I think it clarifies and crystallizes a something that I've struggled to put into words. The play itself is part of the process. The process itself is part of the play. And the narrative is what emerges.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Baby steps

...one step at a time
As a Solo RPG'er, I've had to learn many lessons over and over. Remind myself of my own advice again. This might be perhaps chief among them.

As a soloist, it is incredibly easy to get overwhelmed. If you are dealing with real life issues  even more so (such as the ones referenced in my previous post, or whatever RL issues you might struggle with in your own lives).

Being a solo player means it's a one person show. (DUH!) Thus all the "work" falls on you. (IF you let it! How much work should there BE? Is it possible to make the work a part of the PLAY? To do mostly play with no work? Topic for another post I think...)

In any case, my recent bout of frustration led me to thinking about my process, and where I went astray.

I think as soloists we're probably all big dreamers in some way. After all, we're all playing RPG's for starters! Add to that we're attempting to do so SOLO, which is a big dream in and of itself, since there are plenty of people who thought (and still think) that it can't be done.

If you're like me, you live in your head a lot. You think a lot. So with all this thinking and dreaming it's easy to get lost. To go astray. To loose sight of what you were trying accomplish, and overwhelm yourself by dreaming big, without having actually DONE much of anything.  (Again, maybe a topic for another time).

Back to the topic at hand...

...not quite

...I do think it's important at some point to just jump in and play (as many wonderful respondents on the previous post reminded me). I ALSO think it can be important to take each thing as it comes, one step at a  time...

...also not quite
..and deal with each problem, each situation, as it arises. I think that was one of the reasons that my most successful solo campaigns to date DID work. That I DIDN'T think about it too much, DIDN'T plan it out, and DIDN'T prepare a bunch.

I did think about it quite a bit at first, just getting stuff together and figuring out my approach to the whole process, since it was my first solo endeavor, but eventually I had to just jump in and DO it.

AFTER THAT came the process of taking each situation and problem as it arose, figuring out ways to solve it, and continuing.

Maybe easier said than done, I know. But I think (for me at least), that I have to come to grips with the idea that solo RPG'ing, if it's going to be something that I do, has to be an elephant that you eat with a teaspoon, not all in one bite.

...don't worry, it's just a cliched metaphor.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why ya gotta go and make things so complicated?!?

NOT YOU!!!
Work, life, and all the other aggravations in-between have gotten me to thinking perhaps I bit off more than I can chew when it comes to the "Star Trek-y" thing I'd been contemplating. My reach may have exceeded my grasp.

In addition to all the other daily issues one normally struggles with, I am a chronic Depression sufferer, which means it is often hard for me to find motivation or enthusiasm for much of ANYTHING at times.

Add to this trying to tackle a project out of my league (at the moment), with a lot of prep work required, and that just makes it worse. Then add guilt at thinking about dropping it, and it gets worse. And so on.

But the truth is, the more I think about it, the less enthused I currently am. All of the prep, and everything else that goes along with, is feeling like work. Work isn't fun. Thus exacerbating the issues above.

I'm starting to come to grips with the idea that, for now, I would really like to just PLAY and not do a bunch of campaign work.  That I should probably settle on one "out-of-the-box" system. Same for campaign setting, or at least one that I know intimately, or by default (modern), or emerges from play (D&D sandbox).

I think I need to lay off the home brew for now. It's too overwhelming and is standing in the way of actually getting something going. SO...I think I'm putting that project on hold for now, and may try to get something going that I can just improvise and freestyle better. More on that later.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Birth, School, Work, Death

What he said...


Number three on that list has picked up more than I was prepared for, so posting will be spotty for the foreseeable future *sadface*.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

It's a mystery

"The game is afoot Watson!"


One of my favorite genres that I do not actively pursue as such is Mysteries. But if you break it down, MANY different genres either incorporate, or flat out evolve into mysteries as the story unfolds, from Action/Adventure and Thrillers,  to Ghost Stories and a number of Slasher films (of the non-franchise variety, where the killer's identity isn't known), for example.

And who doesn't love Sherlock Holmes, Phillip Marlowe, Columbo, Matlock, etc. :)

In a way, solo rpg'ing feels like a mystery when I'm playing. You're proceeding into the unknown, looking for clues, interviewing suspects and witnesses (NPC interactions) and following a trail.

One of the subjects that has interested me is how to conduct ACTUAL Mysteries in SOLO RPG's. How to uncover REAL clues, at least "simulate" doing deduction, and have them add up to a Solution.

It's not a subject I've given a LOT of thought, but have considered in passing. Especially, as said previously, many different genres incorporate mystery elements (the "monster-of-the-week" horror game I ran is another great example).

In any case, here is a link to another blog post on that very subject that has some fascinating ideas that I will definitely be trying in the future.

Tabletop Diversions: Solo Role-Playing Bonus Feature: Handling Mysteries and Investigations

Pay special attention to the comments. The one by Ulfengaard Hrafnson is pure gold.

And as a bonus, here is a series of blog posts that, even though they didn't have the approach to mysteries I was looking for, were an entertaining read and a GREAT example of the Mythic GME in action:

Homicide: Life on the Blog