Bits and Bobs
Today’s a bit of potpourri–a mix of interesting things swirling about rather than a cohesive whole. I’ll get back to useful NPC tricks next time.
The Art of Consequences
Pointyman2000 wrote some great posts on using consequences to drive your game at Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer.
In Keeping the Ball in the Air, he introduces a great overarching concept.
“The player characters are the protagonists, and they should be able to inflict significant and long-term changes to the setting.”
From there, he has three rules to guide his responses to the player’s actions as a GM. The three rules are: Keep it Immediate, Don’t forget the Long Term, and Keep it Meaningful. Each gets a solid paragraph of explanation, resulting in a great set of tenets for running a responsive, the characters are the center of the story, type game.
He followed up the post with an extended example that provided great, concrete examples of protagonist action-consequence sequences from a campaign.
If you’re looking for advice on running a style of play that is very rewarding for groups that embrace it, you can’t do better. I love games that make PCs central to the world–that feel like it’s all driven by what your character did and didn’t do. Characters who work best for this type of game need to be slightly different from traditional PCs: they have to be strongly motivated, with drives and compulsions to thrive in a reactive setting. When you’re used to waiting for the clue train to roll into the station, the game can derail while everyone waits for someone else to introduce something interesting. (I’ve played in such a game, where one character was perfectly happy to hide out from society and ignore the world outside their walls. It was hard to illustrate the consequences of their actions, since they never interacted with a world to reflect their absence.)
Thanks to Phil [I think], there’s a roleplaying podcast that I now listen to regularly: RoleplayDNA. I listened to their entire first season (of five episodes) and am eager for their return on July 15th. That’s when they’re kicking off their second season of five episodes. [They have a running bit where they criticize themselves for talking about their plans too much. I totally get that!]
I didn’t see the point of podcasts for a long while–I couldn’t imagine when I would want to tie down hours of my life listening to people talk. Then I got a long commute (two three-hour drives a week), and their value became clear. I’m currently listening to an odd mix including Wait Wait, The Jefferson Hour, The Paulcast, and The Dice Tower. What roleplaying podcasts should I add to the mix? Here are the criteria I’ve discovered:
- Must be an hour or less (the dice tower barely escapes this by having lots of short contributor segments)
- Mail can’t be a big part of every episode
- Coherence and conversation on a theme is good, random conversation is not
Within those quirky constraints, what should I be listening to?
We had our second RPG Minicon and it went very smoothly again. We had two full days of events–but that’s kind of cheating, as the second day was an extended version of our normal weekly Pathfinder Society–which has been running large and consistently for the last year–since the original Minicon.
I thought you might be interested in the order the games filled in. (The event listing, for comparison, is here.
Pirates! (Savage Worlds) 10:30am-12:30
Shadowrun Intro 6-10 pm
Neutral Grounds (Dresden Files RPG) 2-6 pm Sun
Dawn of the Scarlet Sun (Pathfinder) 1-5:30 pm
The Night Clerk (Call of Cthulhu) 10:30am-3
The Island [Call of Cthulu] 2-6pm Sun
Dawn of the Scarlet Sun (Pathfinder) 10:30-3 pm
Dawn of the Scarlet Sun (Pathfinder) 6-10 pm
First Steps,Part 1:In Service of Lore (Pathfinder Society Intro) 6-10 PM
Dawn of Defiance:The Agent’s Gambit (Star Wars Saga Edition) 1-5:30 pm
The Pathfinder games took a little longer to fill–in part, because so many more sessions of Pathfinder were offered. But a nice mix of games made it to the tables.
Shout About It
I’ve followed (and backed) a few kickstarters recently–that’s a dangerous site! I’m looking forward to the second edition of A Thousand and One Nights: a game of enticing stories. What games are you waiting for?
Outside of kickstarter (but limited to the realm of roleplaying) what should the world know about? I look forward to today’s comments and seeing what new scents join the potpourri!
On the mini-con. It was great. I was only able to attend and run one game but that went well and the store was full of people sharing gaming goodness.
On Kickstarters, I am eagerly awaiting Kenzer Co putting the errata included re-print of Aces & Eights up for a fundraiser. I somehow missed Aces & Eights as a purchase when it was new. Considering my interest in the Old West, I need to correct that oversight. Even if the game is a bit crunchy for my tastes, it is full of great ideas and subsystems to steal from. 🙂
On the art of consequences – the Kaidan: a Japanese Ghost Story trilogy of adventures, the Curse of the Golden Spear features a village that the adventurers find as a rest stop following a harrowing journey through a mountain pass. While it seems a respite, the village will be attacked by a force of bandits with the PCs being the best equipped defenders. Whether the PCs successfully repel the attackers has ramifications in adventures two and three, where the PCs will pursued by the evil Daimyo’s samurai forces. Help from the peoples of the forest is entirely dependant on how things went in the village assault. When the PCs realize their actions have ramifications immersion is assured.
Also for Kickstarter projects, on July 14th (this Saturday) Rite Publishing is starting the Kaidan campaign setting kickstarter. The goal is to create 3 different publications: a Kaidan GM’s Handbook, a Kaidan Player’s Guide, and a full Kaidan Bestiary. I am hopeful for it’s results, if we only collect enought to put out a GM’s Handbook, then we’ll be happy, though we hope to be able to cover everything in this upcoming Kickstater project.
@BryanB – I hadn’t heard that they were going the Kickstarter route for the A&8 reprint. That makes a lot of sense–I understand that a number of Kenzerco projects were delayed by resource and sequencing constraints, which Kickstarter seems ideal at circumventing.
@Gamerprinter – Kaidan sounds interesting–particularly since branching paths seem hard to work into modules, since it means that much of the information in the module won’t apply to the track that your group in specific picked. But it’s certainly an interesting problem that I’d read to see how you solve it.
@Scott Martin – That seems to be the current plan based on a thread I read on the A&8s website. Not sure when the revision will be finished or the kickstarter actually started. I plan to contribute whenever it happens since it is very difficult to find a copy of the original that isn’t marked up beyond what I am willing to pay for a copy.
@Scott Martin – it’s not really a different track issue, it’s the attitudes of the peoples in the forest that could potential aid the PCs in finding help with their dilema. A certain guide shows up at a point in their travels. If the village assault went badly, the guide won’t show his face. More random encounters will be encountered. Certain kami spirits will make things tougher.
There is a part in Adventure 2, where the PCs might miss a garden shrine and choose a different route, a side panel explains how to handle this and how to include the remaining planned encounters of that module. So not following the prescribed path is a complete problem in the adventure.
I have pledged to Shadows of Esteren. The setting and art look amazing and I like the interaction with the creators. I also like their short intro video. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up at Gen Con.
@Gamerprinter – That sounds a lot less “wasted work” than true branching, but still reflects the PCs choices and efforts. Sounds good!
@Charlie – Kickstarter is dangerous–that’s a particularly tempting looking product. Thanks for sharing it! [My pocketbook may disagree…]