Tag Archives: roleplay

Busting Out of My Shell

“Write about your personal experiences,” the gurus say. “Speak from the heart, and your readers will listen.” That’s great advice, but I lean so far over to the “introvert” side of the continuum that busting out of my shell isn’t natural or cathartic. But that’s partly why I love roleplaying games so much.

Photo by Alex Chambers - Busting out of my shell
Photo by Alex Chambers

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival has one of those deceptively tough topics: “Why do you love RPGs? Why do you love GMing?” Easy: RPGs are fun. But there’s more to it than that. There’s always more to it.

Busting Out of My Shell

So yeah, two things about me. One, I’m the quiet silent type who avoids crowds and, two, I spend most of my working day involved with RPGs — I’m a huge fan. At the same time, I’ve been a teacher, small group leader, and GM, so I’m used to coordinating others. I learned to do that the old-fashioned way — by running games at high school and after university, then by being involved at church and by taking an English teaching job in Japan. Now I feel confident in my ability to work with others or to run a game.

I still dislike crowds, but roleplaying tables are easier to handle. They also give me a chance to meet others with a shared interest.

Roleplay gives me a chance to dream, and to escape the real world. Since returning to South Africa I’ve felt disjointed. I loved the culture in Japan, the nature, the food, and especially the people. Being back in SA has felt like an uphill struggle in a world that’s no longer my home, but my roleplaying friends were among those who’ve helped me most to settle back in. It’s also great to close the door and drown out the world, now and then. John Kovalic nailed that thought in this Dork Tower comic.

Roll Dice – Touch The World

I’m not suggesting RPGs are a replacement for life. That’s dangerous.

In Japan, I made many friends through roleplaying, but my wife and I also took the time to explore, to get out into a country that was totally alien, even a little frightening, and become part of the community. That wasn’t always easy for me — Tokyo being one of the most crowded cities in the world — but it was good for me.

Busting out of my shell
Photo by Chris Chan

In the same way, a game group can be a way to touch reality. As a GM, I’m a part of providing that space for others, where we can be with friends, joke, and have fun. It’s a place to be part of humanity again and silence the voices in your head.

And believe me, those silent voices are real.

When you spend most of your time locked away in your wizard’s tower, writing RPGs, the voice of reason quickly gets drowned out by negative thoughts and false assumptions.

But that’s a post for another day.

rpg blog carnival logo

Thanks to Campaign Master for hosting this month.

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Children of the Fall — Design Insights

In this edition of Write – Design – Program we’re chatting to Gareth Graham of Frenzy Kitty Games about his latest Indiegogo campaign for Children of the Fall.

The cover of Children of the Fall.
The cover of Children of the Fall.

Rising Phoenix Games: Hi Gareth. First up, can you tell us a little more about Children of the Fall?

Gareth Graham: Hi Rodney. Thank you for inviting me to feature on the blog. Children of the Fall is an apocalyptic story game for 3–5 players. In the game, the players play as the sole survivors of a terrible apocalypse that has turned all the adults on the planet into evil, bloodthirsty savages. In addition to portraying their characters, the players will also need to manage their tribe and haven — fighting off the terrible atrocities that exist in this broken new world. It is a GMless game and has an improved system that is built on the mechanical skeleton of my previous big design, KARMA. Each session is framed around a mission and the world is built collaboratively by all the players through an extensive session zero. Children of the Fall also offers support for campaign play as well as one-shots. There is a huge variety of different missions and characters which are all customised every time they are used, meaning the game has a lot of replay potential.

RPG: You’ve already achieved some of your stretch goals. Where is the campaign currently sitting and what can fans expect once the next stretch goal is met?

Gareth: The campaign got off to a bit of a slow start, but we have successfully funded and unlocked our first stretch goal. Future stretch goals include new character playbooks, missions, and improved quality of the printed materials.

RPG: Frenzy Kitty Games has several apocalyptic survival horror titles, including Dusk, Downfall, Unchained, and a few of the modules in KARMA: A Roleplaying Game About Consequences. What is it about the genre that inspires you?

GG: There is something about this particular genre that excites me from a gamification perspective. What’s great is that it is rich with opportunities to create narratives that are dripping with tension, drama, and high stakes. It also allows the players to get into the action straight away, starting scenes or sessions in-media-res. In my opinion, the best stories are those of characters overcoming truly terrifying and seemingly insurmountable challenges (or seeing them die trying).

RPG: As a designer, how has Children of the Fall allowed you to dig deeper into apocalyptic survival horror? What can fans of the genre expect from the game?

GG: One of the design goals I had with COTF was to really emphasize the struggles that these characters face as children in a deadly and dangerous new world, and the scarcity of resources that are slipping through the character’s fingers as they and other tribes fight over supplies. The engine was mechanically designed from the ground up to tell these kinds of stories — stories of desperate measures in desperate times. The complication system has been weighted to make characters succeeding in difficult complications something rare and truly worth celebrating. The players also have story points which serve as a metagame currency to allow the players to possibly affect other player’s scenes — and this resource is limited and invaluable — emphasising the scarcity and helplessness that these characters must be feeling as children in a world hell-bent on wiping them out. It’s not all hopeless though — players also each get one Determination and Helix point which allow them to flip a result on its head and add great twists in the tale.

RPG: The art from Vincent Sammy really fits the theme and the mood of the game. Can you tell us a little more about their involvement with the project?

GG: I’ve known Vincent for years — we worked together on DUSK and in my opinion, nobody does dystopian art like him, so when it came time to make Children of the Fall he was my first choice. One of the things I love about Vincent is that we are both on the same wavelength — something I’m not extremely good at is writing up briefs for art commissions, so I explained the setting to him and told him to let his imagination run wild — and the images he has created for COTF are better than I could ever have hoped for. He’s also from Cape Town, so it’s great to have a product that is proudly South African.

Click here to see the image in full screen.

RPG: This isn’t your first Indiegogo campaign, following the fully funded KARMA: A Roleplaying Game About Consequences. What, if anything, did the past campaign teach you and how has it influenced the Children of the Fall campaign?

GG: The two main lessons I learned from KARMA was to set a more achievable goal and to make the campaign only 30 days (as opposed to KARMA’s 60-day campaign). Setting a lower target allows you to fund quicker and to get into that delicious stretch goal territory which is why people really decide to back crowdfunding campaigns in the first place.

RPG: You’re from the “Mother City” of Cape Town, South Africa. What’s the gaming scene like there?

GG: The gaming scene in Cape Town is great. It’s grown exponentially over the last 5 years, with gaming stores, cafes and conventions becoming more and more commonplace. One thing about Cape Town’s scene is that it is still a little more fragmented than I would like. Hopefully, as the conventions become bigger and more popular they will help to solidify connections between different gamers and game groups.

RPG: And yourself? What are you playing, what’s inspiring you as a designer, and where can folks find you and Frenzy Kitty Games?

GG: I’m diving into John Harper’s stuff a lot at the moment — Blades in the Dark and Lady Blackbird are absolute masterworks. There are lots of indie RPGs that just get me excited — I love the whole DIY mentality of indie game design. I’m also very interested in a lot of the OSR stuff that’s been coming out over the last few years — that feeling of nostalgia with modern design sensibilities is hard to beat.

Thanks Gareth and good luck with the campaign.

If you’ve got questions for Gareth then put them in the comments below. Be sure to check out Children of the Fall on Indiegogo and Frenzy Kitty Games on Drive Thru RPG.

 

 

LEGO Makes GMing Better

You have to love LEGO. The toy is infinitely reusable and loads of fun. Besides that, LEGO makes GMing better. Here’s a rotating stand I built for my Kindle out of LEGO I got when I was a kid.

LEGO makes GMing better with this Kindle swivel stand.
It’s IMAX for Minifigs!

It even comes with its own grumpy tech support.

LEGO makes GMing better with a grumpy tech support.
“Have you tried turning it off and on again, block-head!”
LEGO makes GMing better, except when grumpy is playing solitaire on his consol.
Every now and then I catch him playing solitaire.

The stand works without the rotating base too, and at it’s simplest — without the base and tech support — is only 12 LEGO pieces.

Lego GMing Tools

I use my Kindle when I GM, so the swivel base is great for showing my players the screen and keeping things at the right eye-height for quick rules checks. Maybe I should build a dice tower next.

Do you have any interesting GMing tools built out of LEGO? Share them in the comments below or tell us your story of how LEGO makes GMing better.

Till next time, Tell Thrilling Tales

Rodney Sloan
Rising Phoenix Games

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Round Up – May’s RPG Blog Carnival

May’s RPG Blog Carnival was a blast, we destroyed worlds, reshaped history and watched heroes rise and fall, all in the spirit of “At World’s End”.
Here’s a post by post summary…

Moebius Adventures

Only the brave or foolhardy would dare go beyond the borders of the world.
Moebius Adventures offer up some great setting ideas that I haven’t seen get much play in published works and would be perfect for a home campaign.

6d6

Some fantastic campaign seeds and how to introduce them into your game.  Beware, for the end is nigh!

Doom Rides to Silverado

A nice blend of fact and fiction, inspired by the Aztecs. Man, why does it have to end with earthquakes (I live in friggin’ Japan! I’ll be the first to go!)

Notes of the Wandering Alchemist

John Crowley III talks about reaching the end of your campaign, and how to deal with it when the day comes. Because, really, an awesome  campaign needs an awesome ending, so you’ve got to get that right.

Tales of a GM – Part 1

Phil gives us a look into four of his own campaign finales, some bumps he had along the way, and what he learned from the experience.
Some great examples to ponder over.

The Watch House

Some very practical ideas here for apocalyptic events, in a sort of “having your cake and eating it without your whole campaign dying” sort of way. Their title really says it all: Apocalypse Not Now.

Sea of Stars RPG

A dramatic opening to the apocalypse in the Sea of Stars setting. And dragons!

Tales of a GM – Part 2

Phil is back with his finale successes, rapping us up on a high note with more GMing advice based on actual plays.

That’s it for this month. Next month’s topic is Cold Iron and Pixie Dust: The Fae. Be sure to check it out!

 

At World’s End

RPG Blog CarnivalImagine you’re coming to the finale of your years-long campaign. Friends are moving away, and you want to end with a memorable bang. A big bang. A cataclysmic bang! This time it’s not just the people and things the PCs love that are at stake, but their entire world that’s on the line. There is no turning back.

So how do you prepare for a world shattering session? With the Kickstarter for Crisis of the World Eater successful funded, we’ve got plenty of this sort of thing to look forward to. Maybe you, as a GM, are feeling inspired. Perhaps, as a player, you’re about to face your toughest challenge yet.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Viktor M. Vasnetsov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The topic for May’s RPG blog carnival is “At World’s End”, and the best and brightest RPG bloggers will be sharing links to related posts, right here, in the comments below.

Anything is fair game; cataclysmic events, stats for planet crushing monsters, rules for the Apocalypse, or perhaps a hero’s survival guide to the End Times. We’re not playing games anymore, now we’re playing for keeps, winner takes all!

Don’t forget to follow the Phoenix on Twitter and Facebook, it’s the best way to keep up to date with the world shattering events that are about to be unleashed by ruthless GMs the world over.

More information about the RPG Blog Carnival can be found on roleplayingtips.com.

Don’t Be Boring

We don’t have much time on this blue planet. We just don’t. If we can do anything we put our minds to, and I really believe we can, then we need to get focused and not waste our precious time. We don’t have time to be boring.

I don’t want anyone, ever again, to have a boring rpg session. I declare it, henceforth, to be “verboten”. Great, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s break it down.

What Makes a Session Boring?

Low Buy In.

If you’re not invested in your game, then you’re going to have less fun. Some easy ways to get more involved include hamming it up, putting on those accents and, I can’t believe I need to say it, but roleplaying. I’m surprised at how many people (myself included), don’t roleplay.

 

Confusion

If you’re confused about the rules or the situation your character is in then you’ll have less fun. This is largely a GMing issue, but as a player you need to make an effort to call out your confusion and work out a solution with your GM.

 

Low Risk

The more your character has riding on the dice, the more fun it’s going to be. I know plenty of cautious players, and I don’t think caution is bad, but I do think it’s worth remembering that our characters are heroes, and they’re expendable. Put them on the line and enjoy the wild ride that follows.

 

What else can cause a boring session? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment and I promise to get back to you.

Easy-Peasy Terrain Projects

A great looking map and some simple model terrain can go a long way towards making your games stand out. Here are three super easy projects.

A Sign (Post) of Things to Come

I made this little sign post to put alongside roads on my game map. It gives the players a visual reminder of where something is, like the big city, in relation to the combat action. I intentionally left it blank.

Orc and sign post.
“Dis way!”

To make it, all you need are some small pieces of wood, cut to shape, and some modelling clay for the base. I actually used a kind of papier-mâché, which worked fine. I highly suggest painting the wood and giving it a wash to bring out the grain.

Stalagmite (of Doom)

Stalagmites and standing stones are all over every fantasy world, so having one I can plop down on the map really helps highlight those features.

A well, a sign post and... a rock.
“Some sexy models!”

This is mostly modelling clay, molded into shape and then filed to add some detail. I added chains so that it could be part of a broken bridge or a feature of a jail, surrounded by miserable prisoners.

 

Well, well, well. What have we here?

Again, water wells are everywhere. You know there’s something down there and you know your players want to find out.

Well ambush
“All I ask for is one empty well!”

The well was also made with modelling clay, built on top of plastic card, which I painted black. I added chains to look like they connected to the depths below. Some dry brushing really made this model pop!

Incidentally, Chris Shaeffer created an amazing map centered around a well as his entry to round 2 of RPG Super Star Season 9, go check it out.

 

Claustrophobia – Book Cover Revealed!

A bunch of years ago I began writing a book—a dangerous book—about garden gnomes. Many gnomes died because of this book, and many more will die for this book in years to come. Don’t let them die in vain…

In the coming months I’ll be launching the full, beautifully illustrated version of this RPG. Please like and follow the Claustrophobia RPG? page on Facebook and help me make this book launch spectacular.

Claustrophobia Cover
The Amazing Claustrophobia Cover. Illustrated by Donovan Sloan.

 

 

The Goblin of Adachigahara

Four contestants. Four adventure proposals. Only four winners…

RPG Superstar 2015

As RPG Superstar enters its final round, it may be easy to dismiss the prize of the contest, since all four contestants are essentially winning it. The prize—a chance to write an adventure proposal for Paizo—is kind of like the round 5 submission. But there’s so much more at stake here—the contest isn’t called RPG Superstar for nothing—with each contestant having grown a fan base since the beginning of round 1. And that counts for a lot. Who will be the next Gygax?

So, who’s your favourite?

Avernos Unearthed
It is said that there exists a place on the very edge of vision, hidden in the shadow of shadows, where man is not welcome and where weird, twisted things live. None venture there by design, and those who enter unwittingly struggle in vain to escape. This is Feoni, land of the fey.

Avernos Wiki

Campaign Journal
Game mastering takes effort, practice and dedication. Recently I’ve been reading the Pathfinder GameMastery Guide and thinking a lot about how I GM. Part of GMing is prep, but a whole other part is what you do at the table, which encompasses so many things: rules knowledge, social skills, time management, voice acting—the list goes on. Of all these variables, rules knowledge is probably the easiest to tackle during prep time and between sessions.

Last week I took a practice exam for DCI Rules Advisor, which might not have anything to do with roleplaying, but did get me thinking even more about rules. Things can get confusing, but usually it all comes down to common sense and an understanding of how the rules are written. What keywords are important for the game and how do they work? In Pathfinder we have checks and actions, with so much coming from the interactions of those two. Can you make an attack roll (it’s a kind of check) during a move action? No. Why? Well that all comes down to understanding those keywords and what they mean and how they work.

So if in doubt, go back to the basics, especially those keywords.

Rising Phoenix News

We’ve slashed our tile prices for this week only. Save big on Print-on-Demand and PDF titles until March 27th. Get em now!

Inspired in Japan
Last week we battled an oni in Kyoto. This week we come face to face with The Goblin of Adachigahara.

In the story, a lost monk comes to the home of an old lady, who is actually a human-eating goblin*. She doesn’t invite him in at first, but finally lets him sit by her fire and feeds him. When her fire dies down she tells him not to look into the back room of the house, then goes out to gather firewood. When the priest gives in to his curiosity, he finds the grizzly remains of all her past victims. Making a run for it, he is chased through the night by a very angry—and probably hungry—geriatric goblin.

*In Japanese folklore, oni and goblin can be used interchangably, so the term goblin is used lightly here.

This tale could easily be turned into a thrilling, roleplay heavy, horror encounter.

Scene 1, the PCs are travelling at night. Perhaps they failed a navigation check or were given a missleading map. Force them to roll against the cold and fatigue, then offer them a shining light in the distance. On closer investigation they find the run-down home of an old woman who isn’t overly eager to let them in.

Scene 2, the delapidated hut. The old woman eventually lets the party in, offering them some rice and stoking up the fire. She’s friendly enough, but mostly she’s polite, and that offers interesting leverage—sure, you can go and collect the wood, but you’ll offend your host. For this scene a good knowledge of Japanese ettiquete makes all the difference between a good session and a great session, and you’ll want to give your players some prep too, so they can play along. The scene ends when the old lady tells the party not to go into the back room, then goes out to collect firewood. This the time to start building the suspense, which means it’s a perfect time for those Knowledge(local) rolls and the howling wind to pick up.

A lot will depend on how the players feel about their situation starting out. They might expect that the old woman will have a mission for them, that the cottage is really a safe place to be and that, after all, she’s just a little old lady. You want to lull them into a sense of peace. One option for this is the cold, but the party could also be hiding from monsters or just need a place to get those eight hours of rest.

Scene 3. The PCs will either stay around the fire, leave, or explore the house. All three options will probably lead to a confrontation with the goblin. So what kind of stats are we looking at here? I’d probably make her human and stat her as an NPC with ranks in commoner. With a reputation as a “goblin”, this little old lady cannibal is so much scarier than a real goblin. But really, she could be anything, whatever fits best with your campaign.

Once you’ve figured out who or what she is, the rest is fairly simple—the party needs to deal with her and get out of there. The cottage gives you a lot to play with; you could have traps, haunts, undead servants, prisoners that need freeing, rats, whatever fits with your idea of her hut.

For more inspiration, read up on Adachigahara, a sci-fi version of the story, and about the grusome Onibaba.

That’s all from me until next week.
Tell Thrilling Tales

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