Saturday, October 23, 2010

Self Critique - Sherlock Holmes Fudge Campaign

Had a good game last night with some great roleplayers.  After the game, I asked everyone to jot down what they would like to see more of next time.  The answer came back with a resounding "More Combat!" from every single player.  I do feel bad that there wasn't much action in the last session. 

Here's where I think I went wrong:

1) We spent the first part of the session working on characters.  This was unavoidable.  The pregen characters needed some polishing up, we had a new player and I had modified some of the rules of the game due to previous feedback.

2)  I had gone into the game with the intention of letting the players decide where to take the game (usually a good thing).  The current adventure is pretty complex due to the nature of time travel.  Too many choices on where to go next stalled the game.  I didn't want to strong arm the game by having Sherlock Holmes (NPC) take over.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Workshop Notes: The 3 By 3

Rob Hupf did an excellent workshop Friday night on using the Three By Three (3x3) method for generating characters. The idea is simple: next time you're about to start a game that will run for a few sessions and require a backstock of NPCs, have your players (or random creative people in your life!) imagine a character they would want to play, and then generate a list of nine other characters: three allies, three enemies, and three characters who have no disposition toward the PCs.

One thing I think helps with this method is giving the participants a one-page summary of the setting in which they should envision their characters existing. We were a bit haphazard in our prep - Rob had been kind enough to use my own campaign world, Arinia, as a demo for part of this workshop, and I sent Rob far too much material when I should have just given him the prepared "Arinia In A Nutshell" notes and let him go from there.

One good side effect of not being more prepared, though, was that as I spitfired off the aspects of my campaign world, people latched onto the themes that really spoke to them and they gave excellent character descriptions on the things that caught their attention. (If the results of the workshop are at all representative, a lot of people really like kobolds in fantasy games, both as PCs and as antagonists.) Some of the popular concepts among the participants were things I haven't explored more fully, which tells me that I need to seize the opportunity to do more storytelling with those background elements.

Following are the 3x3s that were generated for Arinia in the workshop.

Robert’s PC: A kobold warrior

  • His adopted dwarf brother
  • His friend from his home village, also a kobold

  • His adopted dwarf parents
  • His home village of kobolds

  • The undead - Shadians killed his birth family
  • His birth family - now a slathering horde of undead kobolds!

My Thoughts: I have never imagined how a kobold raised by dwarves would act; I imagine a warrior more suited to axe and board in heavy armor, which is sort of playing against type... but I like it. This could certainly happen in some of the more cosmopolitan areas of my world. The character’s grudge against the undead coupled with the loss of his family practically screams for a confrontation with the animated remains of his dead relatives, and since other participants in the workshop used a lot of kobolds, this ties in nicely with the other character concepts that were submitted.

Dave’s PC: Rzthigar, a Neutral Evil kobold fertility shaman

  • Desperate females of various races seeking to become mothers
  • The Doctor - a colloquial name for a black dragon who grants Rzthigar his powers; his identity is known only to Rzthigar and The Crone
  • A food merchant baron who benefits from the overpopulation Rzthigar fosters

  • The people of the kobold village where Rzthigar lives
  • Lezonard, the owner of a coffee shop in the village
  • A kobold dragon shaman who does not understand why his powers are waning

  • Brothald, a kobold social theorist who hangs out at Lezonard’s cafe
  • Tringa, a kobold feminist activist who hangs out at Lezonard’s cafe
  • The Crone, Rzthigar’s mother

My Thoughts: Dave’s idea cracked me up. The idea of coffee house hipster kobolds in berets with goatees and horn-rimmed glasses trying to change draconic society fits in well with the satirical flavor of my games, so Brothald and Tringa will very likely make appearances. The Doctor has the potential to be an interesting villain, and I’d have to come up with a sinister reason for why a black dragon wants a population boom among the kobolds in his regions - To raise an army? To ensure he has a food supply? To trade as slaves to another evil mastermind? The possibilities are endless - and perhaps the Doctor’s evil plans have something to do with the other kobold shaman losing his powers...

Eric’s PC: Hadar Tolks, a human inquisitor from Verdagris

  • Zadem, Hadar’s fellow inquisitor and current partner
  • Lildia, Hadar’s girlfriend, also an inquisitor
  • A halfling merchant who sells useful gadgets to Hadar and his party

  • Hadar’s boss, the chief inquisitor
  • “Cabbie” - a driver who always pops up when Hadar needs a ride
  • Dent, an information broker

  • An elven ranger whom Hadar arrested on blasphemy charges
  • A kobold chieftain whose mate was killed during one of Hadar’s raids
  • Badel Sharm, an escaped prisoner who killed Hadar’s last partner

My Thoughts: Eric’s 3x3 is full of interesting stuff. He builds in a source of information and a means of transportation - self-serving character concepts, but he makes them interesting, which makes me not mind giving him access to those things. Of course, my first impulse is to mess with him a little - maybe Cabbie is an infernal construct or other sort of unsavory type that Hadar wouldn’t necessarily want to ride with all the time, since cooperating with a devil could get him in trouble with his superiors. I imagine the elf ranger Hadar arrested for blasphemy was probably a Numenil atheist but I envision him as more of a rival. The prisoner, though, I would make a real danger to Hadar - a psychopath bent on revenge. (I love the name Badel Sharm; it just sounds plain sinister.)

Alok chose to design characters without anchoring them around a PC concept:

  • A Numenil elf who specializes in fire magic and ran away from Nume because he fears water and ice
  • An undead Verdagrisian paladin who retained a Lawful Good alignment even in undeath, possibly due to the use of an artifact or ritual, and now fights against the Shadians

  • An Aornil elf artificer who does maintenance and repairs on the flying cities of Aorn; he now travels the world below in search of technology and magic lost in the ancient forests of Aorn

  • A kobold ranger who worships a gold dragon and is convinced that the PCs are trying to kill everyone and take their belongings

My Thoughts: Some interesting concepts - I especially like the goodhearted undead paladin, who I may place in the ruins of an abandoned Aornil city as a source of information for adventurers. The kobold is an interesting encounter for a good-aligned party; he could be acting without the knowledge of his master, or maybe his biased or misconceived reports to the dragon have convinced the wyrm that the adventurers cannot be trusted and are a threat to the order of his domain.

Steven’s PC: A Numenil elf whose family encountered a Shadian ghost ship on a sea voyage when the PC was still an infant/child; the undead killed his parents and he and his siblings have worked to repel the Shadians ever since

  • A halfling beer trader from Longfinger Ale & Lager who runs product to Nume and Ondur; he has seen the effect the Shadians are having on trade routes through the northern seas and helps the PC fight the undead hordes

  • An isolationist Numenil politician who feels the Shadians are a problem for the outsiders to deal with and does not believe the halfling trader’s reports

  • A female kobold lich, a male human necromancer, and a female elf bounty hunter, commanders of the ghost ship’s crew that killed the PC’s parents; they now lead a larger operation in the northern seas

(NOTE: Somehow Steven’s note card got lost during the hustle and shuffle Friday, so these were all I could decipher from my own notes.)

My Thoughts: Another kobold! Perhaps the lich is a sister of Robert’s PC. Steven did a great job capturing the flavor of political strife among the Numenil and the isolationist politics of the arctic elves.

Jenny’s PC: A male human ranger

  • A female elf ranger, the PC’s friend and occasional “booty call”
  • A Steward halfling who was the ranger’s fraternity brother at University of Coinway; he is now a merchant trader with Longfinger and has a gambling problem, and so he often pays his debts in beer

  • A Verdagrisian soldier and conscientious objector to the church regime who went AWOL from service
  • A Saebul bard who is addicted to catnip; when he is desperate for a fix, he twitches, bites his nails, and plays with his tail

  • A Steward ship captain whose ship was wrecked by the PC and his companions; he now dogs their heels trying to reclaim payment for his lost vessel
  • A local shopkeeper who thinks the PC ranger is a liar and a cheat and wants only to fornicate with his beloved daughter
  • A Verdagrisian Inquisitor

My Thoughts: Ooooh, an inquisitor enemy! Perhaps it’s actually Hadar Tolks, Eric’s character, or even Hadar’s boss, which would allow Eric's and Jenny’s PC to work together in-game but still provide a story hook to accentuate their differences in attitude. The angry halfling captain might also be the same halfling who works with Steven’s PC. I also like the concept of the frat brother with the gambling problem; he could be a great recurring annoyance for a party.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Obsidian Portal - Collaborative & Informative

After the great Obsidian Portal workshop that Eric ran the other day, I thought I'd share some basic information for those that did not get to attend.

Benefits of Obsidian Portal over other Wiki Sites:
  • Made by gamers for gamers - Obsidian Portal has features other Wiki's don't, such as character pages that only the assigned players can edit and GM only hiddable content.
  • Social Networking built in - Obsidian Portal is great for finding players and games in your area.  If you are in need of players, simply check off the box "Looking for Players" in  your campaign's setting page.

The main areas of your Obsidian Portal Page:

The Home Page - Use it as eyecandy to draw in visitors.  Include a link to your "Getting Started" wiki page.  You can also link to the RTR Meetup Site to help promote our local gaming community.

Adventure Log - After each session the GM should post a short synopsis of what happened.  Your players can post Character Journals here as well.  The entries are stored cronologically.

Wiki - The heart of your Obsidian Portal page.  Start off with simple information your players need to know right away (How to make a character, House Rules, etc).  You can expand from there and your players will contribute to the knowledgebase as the game progresses as well.  You can even put "GM Only" comments at the bottom of wiki pages to keep additional information for your own use a secret.

Characters - Add PC's and NPC's here.  You can customize the characters with stats, descriptions and a photo.  Players can add and edit their own chararacter (but as the GM, you can edit their characters too).

Forums - Simple forums best used for out of character conversations such as questions on rules, inbetween game session activities, schedule announcements, etc.

Maps - Upload your map graphic and then use google-powered icons to point to everything from where in the world the party is to where the caravan traveling periliously close to the spooky castle is.

Start out Small - Don't overwhelm yourself by thinking that you need to put up everything at once and that it must look perfect starting at day one.

If your game has been going on for a long time, don't try to go back and re-create Adventure Aogs for every previous session.  Instead put up a single post "Story So Far" and then keep the Adventure Logs going on from that point forward.