UbiquitousRat's Roleplaying Dreams

UbiquitousRat's Roleplaying Dreams: November 2013

Sunday, 24 November 2013

How To Stop Santa Killing Your Campaign

Every year, my group faces the same problem:
Santa kills our campaign.

This year I am determined, as GM, to work damn hard to keep our campaign on life-support, even if I know I can't compete with family visits, the demands of wives, the needs of children, and the fact that everyone buggers off for December.

Life happens, dude. Get over it. Deal.

Harnassing Technology

I'm using two tools to keep my game alive: our existing OOC chat forum, and Realm Works.

The plan is simple: keep the players engaged, keep yourself engaged (as GM), and thus keep the game played. 
We all have online access, even when away, via SmartPhones and the Interweb. Let's use it!

OOC Chat Forum

I've set up two threads for the players to access:
  1. An IC (in-character) thread, focused on the scene immediately after the last in-play game scene.
  2. An OOC thread, focused on setting the players some challenges and asking questions.
The IC thread is aimed at keeping the characters on life-support. The biggest killer of campaigns is the inevitable loss of identity with the heroes over an extended period of dead-time. By holding an online IC chat, I hope to help the players stay in-role and enjoy some roleplaying time.

The OOC thread is aimed at two things which really add up to one thing: helping keep me engaged as GM. I'm asking the players questions. I'm setting challenges (with XP rewards) which are about adding details to the setting.

Taken together, the idea is that we keep talking about the game. Along the way, I get some assists on my prep, while the players get another hit of that wonderful drug, "Setting Investment". The more I ask the players what they want from the game, the more I use their ideas, then the more chance there is of keeping the campaign alive. It's like adding an IV drip to the patient who needs life-support: without it, they'll probably die.

Realm Works

My other tool for keeping the flame alive is using Realm Works to document (properly) the setting and events so far. This is about keeping me engaged plus making sure nothing gets lost and forgotten.

Realm Works is an excellent tool for campaign management. By New Year it'll probably be available to everyone. As a Backer, I got to play with it months ago. Now I need to really get down to harnessing its powers.

The problem? I've been using it badly. My realm is a mess.
The solution? Well, actually, I feel it's time to re-do my realm using the best-practice advice.

That's not a ball-ache, though, because (aside from the software being very easy to use) it allows me the opportunity to also tie in another project that needs doing - namely, writing the Tikhon setting background book. 

So, while I tinker away and re-build the setting database in Realm Works, I have an excellent opportunity to write up the stuff long-hand too. What better way to keep me engaged with the setting, while adding depth and detail, over Christmas?

Game on!

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Fate Accelerated... For Girls

Here's the situation: the boys at the school club have been setting up and playing a fantasy-genre game using the Imagine RPG. Over the past few weeks, as a player, I've been taking part in the entertaining efforts of our newbie GM. As a reward, he has attracted a total of three new players to his campaign, taking the table total (including me) to seven.

At the same time, I've noticed at least three girls at the school (all of whom I teach) who are deeply into storytelling and who are very creative. Unwilling to try mixing up with the boys group, I am wondering if the girls might enjoy things more if we pull together an all-girl newbie group alongside the regulars.

Enter the conundrum: how do you set up a cool roleplaying experience for three (perhaps more) 11-13 year old teenage girls?

Enter Fate Accelerated... For Girls.

Fate Accelerated...

Fate is a very flexible storytelling game which has had a big make-over via Kickstarter. It's a fast-paced, adaptable, and easy-to-learn system for modelling... well, anything dramatic.

Fate Accelerated is Fate Core minus around 250 pages. It's super-lite, quick to grab and play, and designed for newcomers. What really appeals more, however, is that it's capable of handling pretty much any idea that's thrown at it... and it can do so while beginners do their learning piecemeal.

Fate can handle characters created in a few minutes using just two short phrases and six values. Come up with a High Concept and a Trouble for your hero: what are they all about and why do they end up in hot water? Order your six Approaches (how you do stuff) from Good down to Mediocre. You're set.

As you play, you are invited to add in two more Aspects (those short phrases that define your hero) and choose a Stunt (something cool that gives you a bonus). These can arise naturally from the story you're telling, so players get to choose them as they feel they've discovered something new about their character.

Fate is intuitive, simple, and allows details to emerge from play. 

...For Girls

The issue for me is that I'm trying to game with three (or more) newbie girls. Never one to wish to sound prejudiced about gender, I'm going to admit one thing: it's slightly daunting to know what to offer.

Chatting on G+ yesterday was interesting: male players make similar assumptions about girls. These include the belief that girls will downplay violence, want to be more collaborative, and seek to play feisty Princesses. Hmm.

All I know for sure is that these girls already enjoy adventure stories. They are readers of fiction. What I am hoping is that the love for stories will translate into a love for storytelling.

To be honest, I think that the best approach will be to go with a blank sheet of paper and ask them what kind of stories they enjoy. From there, through a discussion, we should be able to begin to create some characters and a setting. It'll be down to me as GM to improvise the rest.

Bailing On The Boys?

Well, not exactly. Certainly, if this project gets any traction, I'll be dipping out of the boys' campaign. But I'll be sitting around 2 metres away in the same room, gaming with another group. That makes me accessible for their inevitable queries and interruptions.

In truth, what I've been seeking to do is take a group of players into the hobby and make them independent. Right now, with their own budding GM, the lads are starting to fly. One session without me certainly won't hurt. If the ladies like playing, which I hope they will, it's no big deal to have me drop aside longer term.

To be honest, I think the boys will actually enjoy the freedom to play.
Game on!

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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Of Icke's World and Traveller-U

Icke's forthcoming book... a sourcebook?
Earlier this week I was in a really bad place with the hobby. It's amazing what a difference a few days, lots of effort, and a really successful playtest session can make to my mood.

Today, as I ponder what I want to focus on, I realise that there are two distractions in the way of my return to writing for the Tikhon fantasy game ready for Friday's game: Icke's World and Traveller-U.

Icke's World

Icke's World is a concept that I have for that conspiracy-horror-weirdshit setting I keep mentioning.

David Icke is one of my favourite "conspiracy theorists", to use the commonly bandied around phrase. As far as I am concerned he's either completely right or a very mistaken, if sincere, fool.

The premise of Icke's World is simple: what if David Icke is right? That makes for a fabulous conspiracy game. It also allows you to explore his writings as source material, testing out the practical upshot of his claims. For me, at least, that sounds like a lot of fun.

Think about this: Icke claims that the real world is an illusion (think: The Matrix) and that we have all, in fact, forgotten who we really are. We are Consciousness taking a trip through one viewpoint in our mind-body constructs. There is a conspiracy of power to delude us into believing that "we", as individuals, exist in a limited time-space holographic world.

Imagine the characters: you can take an Average-Joe type hero and allow them to have a series of Realisations. Each of those Realisations opens up new abilities to first "see through the illusion" and then, later, to learn to do cool things with "reality". Sort of Psi-powers mixed with Hindu-mysticism.

As for the stories, WOW! Icke has blended every conspiracy into one uber-Conspiracy. There is a whole world of possibility for investigations and counter-conspiracy action. For me, it's the characters as counter-insurgency "freedom fighters" that really appeals as a schtick.

Let me know what you think.


Traveller is my favourite SF setting for gaming. It's rich and very expansive. Having recently obtained (after years playtesting) Traveller5, I have been dismayed to feel like that game is too clunky for me. Going back to Mongoose Traveller is an option... but another option is to run My Traveller Universe using UbiRPG.

It occurs to me that only a few things are needed to make a game conversion to UbiquitousRPG:
  • Create some Role templates
  • Create some Race/Species templates
  • Create the equipment, such as weapons and armour
Other than that, most of the system is generic and you can easily make tweaks to support the specifics of your setting. 

That last point is an important realisation: you can tweak the rules to fit the setting. UbiRPG isn't a "generic" system, and it's not designed to be. What it is instead can be described as a homebrew baseline rules set; from this baseline all manner of specific tweaks can be implemented to emulate your chosen setting.

I can just imagine finally getting that adventure on the Solomani Rim because my regular players are already becoming familiar with the rules. It's just a step in setting. 

There... now I've said it, maybe I can get back to the Tikhon prep.
Game on!

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