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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Describing an elephant

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, "Hey, there is an elephant in the village today."
 They had no idea what an elephant was. They decided, "Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway." All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant
"Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched his leg.
"Oh, no! it is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail.
"Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
"It is like a big hand fan" said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
"It is like a solid pipe," Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant. 
They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, "What is the matter?" They said, "We cannot agree to what the elephant is like." Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. 
The wise man calmly explained to them, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features."

I am reminded very much of this story when it comes to trying to describe playing RPG's solo. Explaining the process is very much like the blind men trying to describe the elephant. Each of us are feeling a different part of it.

Taking something ephemeral, an intuitive process, and trying to describe it comes out a bit like their description of the elephant I'm afraid. Trying to take something that is a bit of a subjective truth, and render it as on objective truth, can be difficult.

Apropos of nothing, just something I've been thinking about. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Surrender to the Oracle

This blog post was inspired by Brian Murphy over at the G+ Lone Wolf Roleplaying group. His question was for advice on how to keep your sessions with the Mythic GME from turning into a novel writing exercise.

As a quick suggestion, if your sessions with Mythic devolved into a creative writing (as is easy to happen), my method is to just jot the barest of notes, let the narrative carry you, and try to keep the action "in your head".

You may very well catch yourself "drifting" back into more verbosity. That's ok. Don't fret. Just reign it back in & keep rolling. Keep the action flowing.

Only stop to jot notes when there is something NOTEWORTHY to write down! Role-playing is very much "theater of the mind" AND "theater of the MOMENT" so just go with it.

The other thing I'd add is if you find your imagination taking over and trying to drive the narrative, surrender to the oracle. Rather than thinking "this happens and then THIS happens", ask the oracle. "DOES this happen?"

It's useful (for me) to think of the oracle as an actual GM. All of my input as to what I see, hear, etc flows from "him", so I have to keep the questions coming.

Think of the oracle and your imagination as partners, working together. Each of them enable the other, but don't let either assume exclusive control.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Motivational Monday

Keepers of an Ancient Rite

From the Italian Sci-Fi opus "The Humanoid":

These guys are awesome. I want them in a "White Star" game. :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

All mixed up

S&S, meet WNMHGB...

As mentioned previously, these are the two I'm planning on using for a "Star Trek" game, for reasons also mentioned previously. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that you can get "Starships & Spacemen" from Goblinoid Games, and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (for FREE) from Internet Archive (main site currently down).

Now, here is the mix I'm planning on using of each:

  • Stats: S&S. I like a lot of in the  Microlite d20 system that powers WNMHGB, but the reduction of stats is one thing I din't like. I want my CON & WIS (PSI in S&S) blast it!
  • Character Creation: WNMHGB. I'm torn. I like the old school 3d6 in order of S&S, but really, 4d6, drop lowest, arrange to taste really allows more of the "Starfleet" level of Heroic characters that one would expect, so that's what I'm going with.
  • Stat Bonuses: S&S. I love B/X D&D's spread from +1 to +3, which S&S is based on. So that's that.
  • Races: WNMHGB. S&S is "Star Trek" with the serial numbers filed off. WNMHGB wears its heritage proudly.
  • Classes: WNMHGB. There is a charm in it's 3 Classes: Yellow Shirt, Blue Shirt, Red Shirt. However...
  • Subclasses: S&S (Modified) ...I also like the B/X slash S&S style subclasses applied here (Command, Helm, Navigation, Science, Communications, Medical, Engineering).
  • Skills: WNMHGB. S&S only has four (Combat, Contact, Science, Technical). I like the spread of six in WNMHGB better (Communication, Engineering, Knowledge, Medicine, Physical, Subterfuge). Also under consideration is the Skills system added onto White Star in Hyperspace Messenger #4.
  • Talents: Has to be WNMHGB. S&S doesn't have them. They were one of the main motivators for the mash-up, as the original intention was just to strip races and other bits out.
  • Saving Throws: S&S. I like having different ones for different things (though I'm REALLY tempted to go "one size fits all"...thanks "White Star"!)
  • Psi Powers: I like S&S's take on them. WNMHGB really doesn't have one beyond the Vulcans more or less. There is a great White Star Supplement, Psionics, that I'll likely use as well.
  • Task Resolution: Tie. I really do like the "new school" d20 "unified system" mechanic in WNMHGB, but I'm also cool with a simple "roll under stat on d20" as well, so could go either way.
  • Hit Dice: S&S. All hail the d8.
  • XP/Level Progression: S&S. WNMHGB's is too "nu-skool" loosey-goosey for me.
  • Starship Combat: WNMHGB. It's the most "Trek-y" of the two, though I do like S&S's "mini game" of resource management via Energy Units & Power Points for travel, arming weapons, raising shields, and damage taken, & thus will be using it.
  • Travel/Map/Energy Usage: S&S. WNMHGB hand waves such stuff. I want it as part of my game.
  • Equipment: S&S (for the most part) with my own rules for Phasers. 
So, that's it. Since they're both descended from D&D, they're pretty cross compatible with little to no alteration. Same with all the other games I'm planning on looting for monsters and such.

Long live the OSR and the rise of the Retroclones. ;)

This is how I do what I do, when I do what I do...

At the request of +John Fiore, author of the 9Qs Solo RPG Engine I'm going to talk a bit about my "process" or "system", which probably makes things sound more orga-na-zized than they really are.

When I first started w/ the B/X D&D Hexcrawl that was my first foray into Solo Gaming, I wanted a big ol' 3-ring GM binder full o' page protected STUFF. The whole impetus of the the Solo D&D game was a longing and nostalgia for "the old days". I wanted an experience that emulated that as closely as possible.

So I gathered all the necessary materials went print happy. The finished product is a hefty tome of awesome. Funny thing was, when I sat down to play, with my huge binder, rule books, dice, and spiral bound notebook to record notes as I played, I found myself referring to the open laptop instead. It was so much easier to manage and find what I was looking for.

(Though TBH I DO enjoy just HAVING that big ol' binder, I like just looking through it, and do still like to drag it out!)

For the next game I tackled (a MiniSix (d6) modern-investigative-horror "monster-of-the-week" style thing) while thinking over what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it, and so on, I decided, as a thought experiment, to see IF I could play AT WORK, in between calls, issues, tasks, etc. The intention was to just get started there and pick up when I got home and bounce back and forth. I ended up running the whole multi-session adventure at work.

I will probably talk more about that experience in a separate post all its own, but for the purposes of THIS one, I'll finish on this part of it by saying I downloaded a die roller & PDF's of all the required rules and tools onto three different machines at work, so that I could snatch a quick scene here and there.

Which leads me to where I am now. When I first started the crazy-solo-RPG-thing I was very resistant to PDF's (other than as a means to get what I wanted and print it out) and still scoffed at the idea of "e-books", as I had not picked up a tablet or a smart phone yet. (Grandpa was behind the times...).

I was in the camp of "I prefer a REAL book". I always thought that I wouldn't find e-docs as "readable" as a physical book. The idea of digital was still alien to me.

But when I got a tablet (so that my youngest daughter could have her own device when they come to visit), and a smart phone (so that DAD could have a device when they come to visit!) I discovered that not only were e-books VERY readable, but there is a huge convenience and portability involved.

Also, as I acquire more and more materials printing it all off becomes less feasible. Finding a place to PUT and KEEP it all would be out of the question. Finding and fetching what I need is a hassle. And there are places you can't take everything, you may not have that one thing with you, and so on.

Discovering Google Books and Google Drive has been a major breakthrough. I can now access my documents ANYWHERE on ANY DEVICE. So....the intent for the next round of Solo RPG'ing is to be able to play anywhere, at any time, at a moments notice (more or less).

I still like having a few physical documents, like character sheets and maps, but I could do them electronically as well if I really wanted to.

I've discovered (through the D&D campaign) that lugging out all those books, binders, and so on, draws a lot of attention, curiosity, side long glances, and observation. People in the household want to know "what're you DOING?!?". I found that my Solo gaming was something I wanted for ME. I didn't really want to SHARE it with anyone.

SO...there is a strong attraction now, for me, to be able to sit down with just an open laptop, with die roller installed and dozens of PDF's open where I can flick back and forth between them at will, and be able to play a game with no one the wiser. :)

To quickly (too late!) wrap up by answering a couple of the other questions posed, I generally leave all the rules and charts "as is" in their own documents and just skip back and forth as needed, BUT I DID find it handy (necessary really) to write out a "procedure" for my Wilderness Hexcrawl so that I did the same processes in the same order every "game day". It made the process of playing a very smooth and mechanical thing, which I enjoyed.

I think having a process written out for complex operations that can become confusing is a good idea, as it allows you to work through it one step at a time in an organized way, without being overwhelmed or losing track. I've been haphazardly jotting notes off and on with the intention of writing one for Starship Combat, and the actions available to each member of a crew, for example.

As for time to play? I think one can see from the above that I've done both all day sessions (D&D) and "play whenever you've got a second" (MiniSix "MotW"). The goal for me is, ultimately, is whenever, where ever, how ever, I WANNA PLAY!!! :)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What I'm getting ready to play

...getting ready to 'seek out new life and new civilizations'

Just to get anyone reading up to speed, my first foray into Solo RPG'ing was a B/X D&D hexcrawl that lasted quite a while. Lots of fun, and I plan on getting back to it, but was in the mood to branch out after a while.

I took the jones for a "Monster-of-the-Week" style game, and successfully ran a several session long adventure using the MiniSix version of the d6 system.

Also great fun, also want to continue, but gamer ADD got me to thinking about Star Trek.

I've shared my ideas on what I'd like to do on the G+ Lone Wolf Solo Roleplaying group before, but here is a quick (?) recap for context of my G+ posts of what I'm getting ready to play. Session recaps are to follow here, so I thought this would be useful.

So I'm still slowly putting together what I want to do regarding a "Star Trek" solo campaign. I would have been ok with the old FASA game (which I have), but character creation & starship combat for it is a little too slow, & no rules for RANK advancement (though I'm still REALLY tempted). 
I decided to give a look at "Starships & Spacemen", the D&D derived retroclone, if for nothing else all the random tables. 
This one has really grown on me, as I'm enjoying class/level based right now. Plus I LOVE its whole "space hexcrawl" approach, & Energy Unit resource management "mini-game" 
Still, it isn't "exactly" Star Trek, so I'd been looking over what will need tweaking to bring it more in line with the source material. And I REALLY need a different starship combat system than the one provided. Then it hit me: 

"Where No Man Has Gone Before" is based off of Microlite d20. Its starship combat system is close to perfect for what I need. Then I get to looking over all the cool Talents it has. I grok the d20 task resolution system (never really looked it over before). 
Now I'm planning on full on mash-up I think. ;) 
Oh, and "Starships & Spacemen" + its sister boardgame "Star Explorer", + "Where No Man Has Gone Before" + ITS sister game "Far Trek" = possibly all the Star Trek themed old school random tables that one could want. :D 
I am planning on putting together a list of what subsystems I'm using from each. Eyeballing the list I jotted down, it's about 50/50, & all of it character/task resolution etc related, with the starship combat from WNMHGB + the Energy Unit management & all the rules for hexcrawling in space from S&S. 
Another idea I had for what I think I want to use for supplemental material is : "Starships & Spacemen"/"Where No Man Has Gone Before" mash-up as the core + "Labyrinth Lord" (for monsters reskinned as alien flora & fauna) + "Mutant Future" (for PC's & NPC's reskinned as Alien Races) + "White Star" & "X-Plorers" & any/all material being released for them (especially stuff of a "Rockets & Rayguns" / retro sci-fi bent). 
Basically, the idea is "what if TOS was never cancelled?" (but with my own cast & crew). 
I'm looking at doing "my own" Star Trek, starting with the end of TOS (thus set in the midst of the "5 year mission", & disregarding all material that followed TOS, thus not feeling constrained to slavishly follow cannon of "what is to come". 
Set at the "southern" edge of Federation (between the Tholians & The Gorn) it will be mostly pure "seek out new life & new civilizations", with occasional guest shots by the Klingons, Romulans, Gorn, Tholains, & Orions. 
Been looking up tons of images of Aliens, Uniforms, Ships, Robots, Tech, etc. from old sci-fi shows & movies of the 60's - 80's to use as inspiration & to reskin right into Trek & preserve that "look" of TOS. So much cool looking "retro future"!
So, that's where all of this is going...more or less... :) 

Do Eet! Do Eet NAOOOOWW!!!

"Do It! Do Iiiiiiiit!!!"

I had a few different titles in mind for this post. "Nothing to fear but fear itself", "Spread your wings and fly", "Got the nikes on, just do it", etc. But this simple, brutal, direct little ditty by Mr. Rollins & Co. gets the point across the best IMO on a subject I plan on discussing further in future posts:

Getting started in Solo RPG'ing.

It's a daunting proposition I think. Just like the whole concept of "role playing games" was new and uncharted territory to many of us way back in the 80's, Solo RPG'ing is still a pretty new and "far-out" idea now.

Role playing games took a change in mind set. A change in perspective. As silly as it might sound and seem now (even to me, and I was there!) we had to figure out the "how" of how to play these strange, new types of games with the funky dice.

I think the journey toward Solo RPG'ing takes a similar type of shift in thought, "unlearning (some of) what you have learned", and so on.

(I'm assuming here, of course, that you have heard of or learned about Solo RPG'ing, some of the tools involved, & so on. If not, hie thee hither to the G+ Lone Wolf Solo Roleplaying Community and then come back when ready).

My purpose here is to address what was MY single biggest hurdle, and from other posts that I see one that I think others struggle with as well: how to start, where to start etc.

And my biggest, best piece of advice (for now) is just as Hank says above: Do it. Don't be afraid of "doing it wrong". Don't be afraid to tinker. Try things out. Experiment. Practice. Do some trial runs. Start over if at first you don't succeed.

Sitting down & simply getting started, problem solving as I went, just taking one piece, one challenge at a time, figuring out what I needed to do in order to get done what needed to be done, was the single biggest breakthrough I had. Once I DID IT, all the pieces fell into places (more or less).

I have lots more to say on the subject, but all in good time. :)

I'm here 'cause I got something to say...

"Happy Halloween ladies!"

First post! Hurrah...

If you're reading this, it might be due to the fact you have some interest in my inane ramblings from previous posts on G+ or around Teh Interwebz. If so, I thank you and hope you'll find something of interest or use. :)

This is a huge step for me, and something that I've contemplated off and on for a while. What finally prompted me to take the plunge is that I feel like I have a lot to say, on a lot of subjects, that may not fit into the standard community postings per se. Sort of rhetorical "sound of one hand clapping" thoughts, session reports, whatever, that aren't necessarily aimed at anyone in particular, or in need of a response (though comments are more than welcome!).

Anyhoo, we'll see what we see. :)