Friday, August 20, 2010

The influence of an accountant on role-playing games

Equipment - machinery and tools needed to conduct operations, such as chainsaws, drills, printing presses, cutting machines, copiers, etc.

Item - a line on an accounting sheet, or a specific thing on a tax form

Class - a category or group of people or other things. See also: "class-action lawsuit"

Experience Level - a quick way of gauging whether or not someone can be trusted to handle some difficult task, such as handling complicated retirement funds. Seriously, I once walked in on two money-manager friends talking about the experience level of one of their coworkers and it sounded like they were talking about a role-playing game.

Simply using these sorts of terms in a role-playing game can strongly influence the types of games and players that will come about. Perhaps the "narrativist" revolution is not so bad after all, because of how it has challenged the existing language and terminology of role-playing games which so many people have become complacent about.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Character for Eclipse Phase

Very hastily-written and unpolished, so read at your own peril.

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I was born and raised on Phobos, and was just finishing up middle school when the Fall happened. To this day, I still remember seeing all those refugee ships passing by, a few of them landing and disgorging loads of hungry, dirty and impoverished folks. I will never forget how I met my first boyfriend: I was volunteering to to help take refugee children on walks around the inside of Phobos, helping them to get to know the area. He, a fall evacuee himself, started volunteering too, and we found ourselves head over heels in love. I was so naive then, thinking that we would get married, buy a thousand square feet of floor space, get a pet octopus, take cruises amongst the stars. When I found out he was seeing four other girls at the same time, oftentimes only interacting with them through virtual reality, I think I must have broken about 23 different objects before some people grabbed me and held me down.

Advanced school was pretty rough-going. It was an endless rat-race of buying the latest clothes, discovering they were out-of-fashion, buying more clothes, trying to figure out the latest slang, competing for the attention of the brightest and best-coordinated boys, trying not to fall asleep while doing water purification system design homework, passing messages in fusion reactor design class. The longest relationship I had lasted about six months. I don't want to reveal his name here, as I am not that cruel, but I think I was only able to keep him that long because of how spineless and inept he was. Don't get me wrong, he was intelligent, and the star player of the cylindrical-hockey team, but there was always something missing from him. Every time I wanted to talk about our future together, or tried to define the relationship, he just laughed it off and talked about the latest XP star to hit the mesh, or some funny things he had read on other peoples' profiles an hour ago. He would also always try to perform moves that he learned from pornographic XP, which did not enamor me or make me feel excited at all. I decided to break it off after six months, and he cried and squealed like a baby. I was having a hard time feeling any pity for him after seeing that.

Getting my B.S. in Habitat Design was not much easier. I took up the hobbies of painting and violin to cope with the sheer isolation that I felt. All of my classmates were spending most of their free time pretending to be vampires in VR, or talking about the hottest and latest XP. I gave up on trying to follow along with them, it was just too much for me. Things starting changing when, one day, while practicing violin in a park, the man who would become my husband approached me and told me how beautiful my style was. I remember how I stood up, tried to walk forward a bit, and tripped and fell flat on my face - but he helped me up. We talked about just about everything - philosophy, politics, art, religion, and even habitat design. He was a young ambitious businessman living in the Jovian Republic, visiting Mars and its surrounding habitats to close a few deals. When I showed him some images of my paintings, he insisted on seeing them in person, as that was the only true way to appreciate art. That night, he treated me to the first cooked meal I had ever had in my whole life - whole-wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce, chopped grilled garlic bits, fresh-ground black pepper, beef meatballs, and soy-bean sprouts. He even had a few scented candles made from real wax.

Alas, he had to return home the next day, but we kept in touch up until the day I graduated. I spent all the money I had saved up from my internships with various hypercorporations in order to move to the Jovian Republic and be with him forever. All the propaganda about how the Jovian Republic is oppressive is quite false - I had a fairly easy time getting a full-time job as a habitat engineer and got a starting salary double that of typical hypercorp rates. My husband and I are now happily married with two daughters and a third on the way, and we are part of a tight-knit community of dedicated families who we can trust with our lives. My name is Lex and I am a citizen of the Jovian Republic.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Thematic System, optional rules

PREMISES

The premise of the game can optionally involve special rules in order to flavor the game. Some examples of such optional rules are:

Dungeon Crawl - The possible player roles are: fighter, rogue, cleric, wizard. When roles win conflicts against non-player roles, they acquire "treasure points." These treasure points may be spent to automatically win conflicts, e.g. "I snap the rod of lightning over my knee and thusly invoke its power, thoroughly frying the brains of the orcs before me. I found the rod of lightning from my last adventure." They may also be spent to establish strongholds. For every five treasure points spent on a stronghold, the stronghold gains a level. For each stronghold level, the player gains a new role who may act in the stead of the role who owns the stronghold.

Heroic Fantasy - Roles get "heroic reputation" for accomplishing difficult feats, such as slaying powerful monsters or surviving difficult journeys through hostile terrain. Heroic reputation may then be spent to either win conflicts of soul traits or to put the role's heroic exploits into written records. When a role has stored at least twenty points of his heroic reputation into written records, he is effectively immortalized and becomes a mythical god of legend.

Romantic Drama - When a role wins a conflict, the player of that role chooses to either add or remove a "relationship point" between her own role and any other role in the game. When two roles reach ten relationship points and have a lead of at least two points above all other relationships, they get married and the game ends.

World War - Each role is a whole nation, and soul traits are expressed through culture, economy, military vehicle design, military doctrine, propaganda, etc. Each role begins with ten "victory points." When a role wins a conflict, it chooses to either gain a victory point or cause the opposing role to lose a victory point. Victory points can also be spent to automatically win conflicts, i.e. stall for time. When a role has no victory points left, it may choose to either surrender, or keep on fighting to the bitter end in the hopes of winning future conflicts. Roles who lose conflicts while having no victory points left to spend must sacrifice points from their soul traits.

The Thematic System

Inspired by The Window, Risus and the like, but also less-abstract games such as The Riddle of Steel and Cortex.

ROLES & SOUL TRAITS

Instead of characters, players control aggregations of "Soul Traits," which are called roles in this game. These can be represented by a single character for each player, a group of characters who each represent one of the traits, a whole nation of people, or something else. The scale for each player should be determined while planning the game. The Game Master may also wish to prevent things from becoming too abstract by handing out a list of roles, such as "barbarian hero," "helpful wizard," "damsel in distress," or "sociopathic robot assassin" and allowing the players to choose from the list. Each player should probably start with five Soul Traits.

Some example Soul Traits are:

Altruism
Beauty
Challenge
Chaos
Chivalry
Control
Dependence
Duty
Evil
Faith
Freedom
Glory
Good
Greed
Growth
Honor
Independence
Jealousy
Law
Love
Lust
Mysteriousness
Nature
Nurture
Oath
Peace
Strength
Ugliness
Violence
Wealth

Then, start with 10 points and allocate them amongst the Soul Traits, with a minimum of 1 point allocated toward each. Putting more points towards a Soul Trait means that it is much stronger.

The way that these soul traits are most-commonly used is dependent on the role. For example, the barbarian hero role expresses his strength by being very good at killing things with swords, or expresses his independence through excellent survival skills. The helpful wizard role expresses her freedom by magically-loosing bonds of any type, or expresses her mysteriousness by magically-hiding details about her true self. The damsel in distress role expresses her dependence by compelling the barbarian hero to rescue her, or expresses her chivalry by being in courtship with a noble knight. The sociopathic robot assassin role expresses his challenge by daring people to bite his shiny metal ass, or expresses his evil by gleefully butchering organic life forms.

COMPETITION

There are a few ways that competition between Soul Traits can be initiated:

Both Active: Conflict. The entities involved have entered a situation where only one of them can continue to exist at the end.

One Active, Other Passive: Imposition.

Both Passive: Contradiction. The entities involved simply cannot work toward the same purpose, and must either part their separate ways or convince one another.

There are a few ways that competitions can be resolved:

1. Roll a cubic die (d6) for each Soul Trait involved. The higher roll wins and thus holds its ground or gains ground. A tie means that neither of the Soul Traits is gaining ground.

2. One of the players chooses to reallocate a point, taking it away from the Soul Trait in competition. The opposing Soul Trait automatically wins. If this results in a Soul Trait reaching 0, then the player must place the point towards a new Soul Trait that was not there before.

3. One of the players chooses to reallocate a point, taking it away from an unrelated Soul Trait in order to boost the one which is in competition. The opposing Soul Trait automatically loses. If this results in a Soul Trait reaching 0, then the player must later place the point towards a new Soul Trait that was not there before.

4. One of the players chooses to spend a point, permanently losing it from the Soul Trait in competition. This Soul Trait automatically wins. This can never result in a Soul Trait reaching 0.

If both of the Soul Traits involved use some method that is supposed to guarantee victory, then they must go back to the die-rolling method.

ROLE PROGRESSION

A point should be gained after every session, allocated however the player desires.

If a Soul Trait was in competition multiple times in a session, even if it lost, it may gain a point.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

WFRP and Dragon Age

Both Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing and the Dragon Age Role-Playing Game have a lot of similarities. The Dragon Age setting has a lot in common with the Warhammer Fantasy setting, except that magic is easier to use without being corrupted in Dragon Age. The rules of both games were written by Chris Pramas of Green Ronin, except that Dragon Age is simpler and lets characters live longer.

So, I wonder: What do we really want for Friday night? I'm beginning to lean towards Josh resuming Mystara or WFRP, as we've got a lot of time and effort invested in the both of those already. So far I've been interested in running Dragon Age because it's only slightly more complex than C&C, and we're itching for something other than C&C these days. Also, Josh does not seem to be keen on rushing things, which means that there will continue to be a void for a more long-term campaign on Friday nights in the near future.

The game that I really want to run is The Riddle of Steel or a houseruled variant of it. The problem with that one, though, is that it is deader and more out-of-print than Lejendary Adventure, and has fairly complex combat rules.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Working out the details of a game

I've gotten enough interest in running the Dragon Age RPG to iron out a few details.

The best times for me to run a game are either Monday nights or Friday nights, starting at around 1800 PST / 1900 MST / 2000 CST / 2100 EST. That's 9:00pm for most people. Sessions should last between two and three hours.

I hope to start with one-on-one or one-on-two sessions in order to do each character's origin story. These sessions can be scheduled a bit more flexibly, although I'd need at least 48 hours to prepare. Much like with the video game, I want to lead the characters into the adventure rather than simply having them be wandering adventurers who stumble into each other in a tavern.

Please let me know ASAP the arrangement that works best for you and cooperates with your existing games. We're already doing Hackmaster on Monday nights and Martin's game on Friday nights. In addition, Josh has been itching to get back into Warhammer Fantasy and Don has been bitten by the Traveller bug and the Savage Worlds: Mars bug. We've got an ambitious gaming schedule ahead of us and I don't want to crowd out a potentially great game.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, current house rules that I'm thinking of are here: http://sites.google.com/site/ssfsx17srpgresources/Home/dragon-age-rpg