Board Game Review: Dixit

Dixit is a pretty game. Each card is its own tiny painting, and I love it.

Dixit falls under what I think of as a party game — more dependent on understanding your fellow players than any particular mechanical or rules based strategy. The rules support 3-6 players, but I find three a pretty limited game. It works much better with four, and although I haven't had the opportunity to play with five or six, I think that would be even better.

The idea is that for every round, one player is the leader. They pick a card from their hand, place it facedown, and give the rest of the players a one or two word clue as to what that card shows. The rest of the players then pick a card from their hands based on the clue and add it to the pile. The cards are mixed up and then turned face up. Everyone other than the leader then tries to guess which one the leader placed.

If everyone picks the leader's card, everyone but the leader gets points. If no one picks the leader's card, everyone other than the leader gets points. If some (but not all) players pick the leader's card, the leader and the folks who picked that card get more points. Everyone (other than the leader) always gets bonus points for people choosing their cards.

In practice, the scoring metric becomes easy to remember as you play. Even if it sounds like a confused mess when you lay it out. I've also found the ending score to be about when I want to stop playing naturally, too. Which is really nice since it indicates that the designers put thought (or testing time) into how long the game feels fun instead of letting it drag out.  

I've never played this with small children (like pre-teen or younger), but I really think it'd be fun for them too. You might have to limit your clues to more obvious links and use less pop culture, but honestly, you have to do that for any game with young kids.

It's a fun, chill party game with pretty artwork instead of (probably) offensive humor (looking at you Cards Against Humanity). Don't get me wrong, offensive humor can be a great way to relax with close friends. But so is pretty art and you can play it with more folks. Like your parents. Or new friends you haven't calibrated where the offensive line is yet. 

I heartily recommended Dixit to everyone, non-board gamer to occasional board gamer to hard-core board gamer. It's great for a mix of folks, drunk or sober.

Another Kickstarter I'm Backing: Alas for the Awful Sea

I heard about this Kickstarting system pretty much how I hear about all the systems I end up backing: through an online friend's recommendation. Occasionally I find out about a system through a blog review or pitch, but it's usually friends. So far, it's been working out for me: I've gotten what I've backed and my backlog is quite long. There's always more to play (and read, and write) than time.

The system in question for this post is Alas for the Awful Sea, which is finishing off its Kickstarter on Feb. 22nd (at 7am). It's make its goal multiple times over again, so backing it definitely means putting money down on the table. To quote the pitch:

Alas is a story-focused tabletop roleplaying game about a ship’s crew navigating the remote British Isles. There, they face a world consumed with suspicion, sadness, and desperation. Struggles for power have deadly consequences; mysterious disappearances plague the region; and those who seem human may not all be so. Amidst all this, the sea sends forth strange messages. Will you be the one to listen?

It draws on the history of fishing villages and folklore of 1800s Scottish Hebrides. So it should fill more of the disempowered fantasy section of my roleplaying games library, while using the supernatural to keep it from being too crushing. Since it uses the Apocalypse World system for the core, I should be able to pick up the mechanics faster than a system with totally unfamiliar mechanics. Which means that I, personally, am more likely to play. I mentioned that backlog of new systems to play, right?

The artwork shown so far in the Kickstarter looks gorgeous. It fits my current desire for narrative and character arc focused games, but looks like it will have enough plot focus that I will have a structure to work with, in order to play my character — I like having goals to move towards, it means I know something to do with a character. And the setting is an area I haven't explored much in gaming or my personal reading.

So all in all, a good mix of familiar and desired things along with ways to stretch myself as a consumer of media and a role-player. I'm looking forward to the finished project.

Go check out the Kickstarter, see if it's a game for you too.

Scenarios and Systems I will probably not write

I've been immersed in the tabletop RPG world long enough that random things get my brain to churn out an idea for a scenario or a system at a distressingly regular rate. Distressing not because I dislike feeling creative and having ideas. But because, despite writing down the better ones to come back to later, I am fairly sure I will not find (make) the time to turn them into usable things. Because the editing and general fiction writing I do is a) more satisfying and b) expands to fill the available time, if allowed. I could fix this by just setting aside some time every week to just. freaking. write. these things. But then I'd have more projects in various states of incompleteness and each one would make less visible progress on a day-to-day basis. Which I would find more frustrating than having lists of scenario and system ideas I know I probably won't get to. It's entirely in my power to change the dynamics and make the time. I've just calculated for myself that the trade-off, right now , isn't worth it. Maybe that will change in the future, maybe it won't. But if it does, I've got my list of ideas I can use.

Scenarios ideas:

Giftschrank: I've written about this one (and the next one) for this blog before, but I haven't written the scenario yet, so it belongs on the list. The original posts went up March 14th 2016 and March 24th 2016 but the summary version is that Giftschrank literally means 'poison cabinet' and, in German, refers to the cabinet the controlled substances go in a pharmacy or, in a library, refers to a biohazard zone for information. Which just screams for a scenario in the Eclipse Phase universe about information escaping/being stolen from a research facility located on an exoplanet only accessible through a Pandora Gate with the players unsure which side they are or should be on. If I ever actually start writing scenarios, this will probably be first, just because it was the first one I wrote down and I really like the name.

Courrières Mining Disaster: I've also written about this idea, back on the 31st March 2016, but. In 1906, a very large mine in France exploded and then caught fire. It was an awful disaster that killed more than a thousand people, but the part that caught my attention was the group of miners trapped underground, in the dark, for more than a month  before rescuing themselves. To which I said, 'damn that would make a terrifying Call of Cthulhu scenario, the system already had a sanity mechanic.' Writing this one up would involve really learning the 1920s era Call of Cthulhu system, researching mining equipment, technology, and practices of the era, finding a map of the actual site (shouldn't be too difficult...), and building the characters, because no way in hell an I going to let the players build some insanely broken character taking a gun and no rope into the mine for some reason.

Base Raiders: I also have an idea for a base to loot. Well, more like a scene within the base. Let me give y'all the backstory first, because the idea came from understanding the Base Raiders setting. Base Raiders is a Fate system by Ross Payton where the players are in a world where superheroes existed before suddenly disappearing on a day. Left behind were are those superheroes' and supervillains' hidden bases, which you, as PCs, go raiding. Also, lots of the PCs are turning into superheroes themselves.

The idea for the base I'd write is that it's a superhero family and friends' ER and hospital.  Family and friends a superhero thought might be a target for hostage situations would be given emergency teleporters paired with medical monitoring devices. When the teleporter detects tampering or the monitoring service detects a problem, the user is teleported to the triage room of the base or, if the problem is severe enough or the facility is marked as currently slammed, directly into cryogenic freezing. This all came from expanding a scene in my head of a dead body on the floor of medical bay, face down in front of a gurney, having obviously bled out, based on the very old, dried pool of blood the corpse was lying in.

As for writing it up, I'd need to read the system (yes again) in order to make sure something like this doesn't already exist in canon, figure out power-levels of gear that could be looted (all of which would be medically based/themed), and see what kind of security other bases use. Then I'd need to figure out what sort of security would be compatible with a hospital. 

Systems: 

The first two system ideas come from encountering the flashbacks in the Leverage RPG (through the Drunk & the Ugly's APs) and Red Markets' non-linear time mechanic with scams in negotiations. Also how much I enjoy cop procedurals and heist films. ... And now that I'm thinking about it to write this post, Shadow Run and the inordinate amount of time I have spent planning how to hack, rob, extract, and otherwise do mischief to fictional corporations in a cyberpunk dystopia.

Any rate. 

The first is a system around criminal heists with Ocean's 11 style flashbacks while the second has cops investigating crimes with flashbacks to what the criminals did as the cops figure it out. Alternatively, combine the two where the players are both a cop and a criminal. The scenarios would start with a crime having been committed so you have the end result and the cops need to work backwards. When they figure out something, everyone switches over to their criminal character and there's a scene of what happened. I don't actually know where I'm going with this one, or really why/how is different than Leverage so there's a secondary reason this one probably won't see the light of day.

The next five are all systems I'd like to write using the Profit system found in Red Markers:

Running a community hospital

Stone Age tribe level survival

1800s escaped slaves survival

1800s colonization of the American West

Modern day survival scenarios  

So... a lot of survival games in there... It fits with the Profit system's focus on trade offs, opportunity costs, and resource scarcity. Which is how health care fits in with the rest of them for me: resource scarcity. What can I say, there's two ER doctors and a health policy economist in my family, I hear and talk about this sort of stuff more than the average lay person. For the community hospital, I think the players should be the administrative heads of various departments in the hospital. Each compete for resources and prestige in order to stay relevant (and an actual department) while having to use the resources to drive value to the hospital (along with all the other departments) so the hospital can keep their doors open.

I'm picturing the Stone Age tribal survival system as a semi-cooperative, narrative game. My idea is that players control a section of the tribe, like the hunters, the gatherers, the shamans, the elders, etc. instead of individual characters. So folks need to cooperate for the tribe and the characters they're responsible for survive but there's room for intra-tribe politics and changing what kind of society you're building. Sessions/scenarios would be things like going on a hunt, gathering resources, dealing with nature, or trying to build up a tribal improvement (like finding a good source of flint so the nappers can make better spears or something). I think I'd handle trying to change societal norms through an altered negotiations mechanic.

For the escaped slaves system, I was thinking of the American South but if I made this work I could expand it to other countries in the Western hemisphere during the same time period. For instance, I happen to know for a fact there are tribes of folks in Suriname (a small country north of Brazil) in the interior composed entirely of folks who ran from the plantations on the coast and reformed societies like the African ones they were stolen from. But the core idea came from a session recorded for Technical Difficulties (which hasn't been released yet) — it was a Call of Cthulhu game where the characters were escaped slaves who headed into the Great Dismal Swamp to escape pursuit. I'd be interested in stripping out the magic and making it just about survival and what risks the players are willing to take. Do you work towards making a life in the remote area you're hiding in? Escape to the North? The West? Canada? Flat out, can you avoid the slave catchers and are you willing to kill to stay free?

Thinking about that lead to the idea for a system in the American West about colonization. I'd want to write it so you could play the Americans pushing west (and stealing land from the Native Americans in the area) or as members of local Native American tribes. As an American, you're away from civilization, in remote areas, how do you survive? You're invading land someone else calls home under the belief of Manifest Destiny, that you deserve it more, that they're 'savages'. How far are you as a player willing to go as a character who believes those things, explicitly or implicitly? As a Native American, do you resist? Adapt to the changing social and political climate?

Both the last two systems would require a lot of research for me to feel comfortable contemplating writing. For the American West one, I would want to do as much research as possible before even attempting to approach members of the tribes in question to ask for advice. And I'm not a historian in training nor do I have the inclination during my free time. I mean, I'd do it because I have a specific goal and I'm good about working towards goals. But yeah, I am not unaware of how much work these two systems would require from me. At least I might be able to use the same information on tools and technology across the systems.

The last system, the modern day survival system, seems the easiest of the proposed systems. I'm already familiar with the time period :) Just have to research survival skills and craft a narrative around why the players are in such straits. I'm not saying that's not work, I'm just saying the other systems require researching skills and setting/time period. Thinking about the narrative, it feels like a system build around one-shots — here are your characters, here's the situation, survive. I mean, unless you're a Special Forces operator going through training, I'm not too sure why you'd end up in a series of life threatening survival situations. ... If you do, maybe it's time to look at your life choices. Anyway, I'm thinking of things like 'You're all average people from X country who just survived a plane crash in Y location. Survive until rescue or get yourselves back to civilization.' scenarios.

So there you have it, three scenarios for three different systems and six or seven full systems I probably will never write. Unless someone wants to collaborate on them and kicks my ass. I'm real good at working on things when I'm responsible to another person. ;)

An RPG system I failed to sell myself

A ways back, sometime before August of last year, Technical Difficulties had the opportunity to play test Upwind (by Biohazard Games) before it went to Kickstarter. I found Upwind to be an example of a really good, well put together system that just. was. not. for. me. 

The thing about Upwind for me was, that as different and innovative as the mechanics were, and they are very inventive, the thing that made the system itself was the setting. The world building was involved, complex,  and well-done. I'm just not terribly interested in an epic, adventure fantasy right now.

The tagline for Upwind is "A roleplaying fable of lost science, elemental magic and uncharted skies." It's set in a floating world, with sunlight above and The Dark below. Player characters are Explorer Knights on their airships, fighting pirates, keeping sailing lanes open, exploring, mapping, trouble-shooting, and dungeon crawling.

I honestly think my issues with the system have less to do with the system and more with Technical Difficulties's play test session. So I got a bit behind the week we were going to play and by the time I did sit down to read the rules I was trying to read just the rules. Well, the setting section and the rules section were not clearly labeled, and I started reading the setting section. So I'm reading, one chapter, two chapters, five chapters before I start skimming, looking for the rules, getting more and more frustrated, before finally figuring out that there's more than one file and try the other file. Oh look, there's all the rules. Which were kind of short... Which once I read the resolution mechanics made sense:

The resolution mechanic discards dice in favor of a deck of cards: player and GM negotiate two possible outcomes (both of which must allow the story to continue), determine the stakes involved, and then bid on the outcomes using a hand of playing cards. So it's a scene level resolution mechanic, rather than an action level mechanic, which is narratively based.

Once the Technical Difficulties crew gets the game rolling, it turns out that I'm the only player who had perused the setting information at all really. Which, let me tell you, is not a great way to try and use the resolution mechanic. For a narrative negotiation based mechanic to work, everyone involved really needs to be well-versed on what's going on in the world. Otherwise you don't have a great idea of what to ask for, what works as penalties, or even really the type of story to tell or feel to give it.

Also, online game.

The whole deck of cards thing does not work well over the internet. In my experience, you really want the tactile and visual feed back of cards in your own hands, seeing other folks' cards, and being able to look at the multiple decks that make up your various sources of cards. If only to help each other know where to draw from. So the four of us were constantly stopping to figure out our deck situation. That was partially an issue of needing more practice with the system and partially an issue with our set-up. It'd be a better mechanic for people who play together in person.

So yeah, a game I can recognize has interesting stuff going on. But isn't for me personally.

Go give RPPR's episodes of Upwind a listen through though, because they love the game and have a great time playing. Maybe it's a system for you and either way, it's a great series of episodes to listen to they have so much fun.

MarsCon

Partner, Metamour, and I went to MarsCon last weekend, which is a little literary convention in Williamsburg, VA. I went to a few panels while Partner and Metamour spent most of their time in the board gaming room. It's a fun, chill convention. Since it's smaller (let's be honest, my benchmarks are Dragon*Con and GenCon — anything is going to seem small in comparison) there's less rushing to get across X hotels to go to the next panel which is really nice. The hotel we stayed at was less than a mile from the convention hotel which feels like short enough of a walk that I feel guilty when I drive between them, but gods damn, 10 or 11 at night in the middle of January is cold. So, you know, more driving than let's me pretend to be a decent environmentalist.

Friday

After we picked up our badges (yay pre-reg), we tootled around the dealers' room for a bit. I grabbed all three books in the Ancillary series by Ann Leckie:

IMG_4927.JPG

I definitely paid a lot more than if I'd bought them on Amazon or something, since, you know, I paid actual list price. But they were there, I was thinking about it, and I finally just did it rather than continuing to let these books languish on my wishlist. They'll probably languish on my to-read pile now but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

I did reread Ancillary Justice in the evenings before bed at the con. Just have to finish up The Real and The Unreal at home before I let myself start Ancillary Sword. 

After the dealers' room we all went to a panel: What Makes a Good Narrator or DM?  It was fun and interesting. There was some good give-and-take and feedback before the Q&A got semi-hijacked by a kind of socially awkward teenager who didn't know how to ask his questions with telling the panel the whole story of his specific situation. And he wasn't very good at telling the story. I'm glad he could get some advice. I wish the questions could have been kept more general and relevant to more people without everyone having to individually extrapolate out from the specific question.

After the panel was dinner and then board games. For the life of me, I can't tell you what we played — that information apparently never made it into the long-term memory. But any rate, after a board game I went back to the hotel to get some sleep while Partner and Metamour played another and then went to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Which apparently was a bust: technical issues plus incorrect assumptions. They thought it'd be in the tradition of Rocky Horror and have yelling at the screen. Instead it was just a watching party. Not bad, but not a desired activity at midnight.

Saturday

Actually did make it to the 10am panel I was aiming for: Economics of Self Publishing. First of all, I can't seem to sleep in so I was getting up at my usual time of 6am. Second of all, Partner and Metamour do not share this problem. So there I was typing away on my computer when Partner starts waking up. 

"What time is is?" 

Looks at clock. Well... damn. "9am." 

I made it anyway. 

The panel was pretty good. It was my second time at this particular panel (same moderator ran it at MarsCon 2016), so it mostly functioned (for me) as confirmation I'm doing everything the author's on the panel recommend. Best line of the panel of the panel was in response to the opening question of 'what does it cost to self-publish?' Answer: time, emotion, and pain. Second best: as much as you need it to.

After that, Metamour joined me at the panel on Genre Blending which was a lot of fun. Mostly thoughts on what works, why what doesn't doesn't, and talking about what's already out there. Of course, being me, I walked out with a recommendation for a book I do want to read (Vellum by Hal Duncan), a book I am going to read for the new podcast a friend is putting together where we tear apart why a book is bad and will regret reading immensely (Out of the Dark by David Weber), and an aesthetic I want to somehow write now: solar punk which was described as art deco/nouveau ecological sustainability.

If someone would like to draw that or point me at artists who already do, please please let me know in the comments.

After the panel was lunch (hurray ConSuite!) and then a Star Wars:Edge of the Empire game with a friend who found out MarsCon was happening that morning and decided to drive up for the day. Yay living within an hour's drive? Any rate, I'm finding that I like the Star Wars stupid custom dice for the variety in outcomes they could produce (... got a few single success plus two disadvantages rolls) but the Star Wars universe is not one I'm particularly interested in playing in for an RPG. Nice to visit for the length of a movie. But not play in for extended periods. 

Two things from that game:
1) my (male) friend played a female Rodian while I played a male Rodian. Nobody at the table, including the two of us, could get character genders right. argh.
2) the other player at the table had a well timed "Master, shall I attack the darkness?" that was completely in character. Play stopped for a few minutes while Friend poked me to keep breathing, I was laughing so hard. :D

After RPGs was a spin around the art show and more board gaming, where I played Cosmic Encounters for the first time. Lost, not horribly, but man, the ending to that game. A little bit like Munchkin where everyone is trying to throw everything they have at stopping whoever is in the lead until everyone runs out of things to stop other people with and someone grabs the prize. I mean, I'd play again, I think there's strategy and interesting things to do. But that particular game end felt a bit grindy.

Sunday

Sunday had one last panel for me: Indie Publishing: Getting Known. This wasn't all that useful for me. I've got that I should have a blog and twitter and stuff in order to connect with people. But like how do I drive more people like you, dear reader, to the blog or catch people's attention to come check me out? I guess I need a marketing class or guru or something to get that answered. Meanwhile, I'll keep on keeping on with this blog and hope for steady organic growth.

Last thing we (Partner, Metamour, and I) did at the convention was play T.I.M.E. Stories with a friend we only know from and see at MarsCon. So, TIME Stories is, to my mind, an RPG campaign in a box. You're time travelers jumping between bodies in the past to try and figure out how to fix something gone wrong in the time stream. There's a time limit and no way to figure everything out in that time limit. So you jump back and do the loop all over again. And again. Until you figure out where what you need is and can, essentially, do a speed run through the time loop. I felt like each loop could be it's own weekly gaming session, except maybe the last speed run one. I think we played that game for... five hours? and I was mentally fried from taxing my brain at the end of it. Lots of fun! Have to buy new stories/expansions to go with the core game in order to have replay-ability. And yet, I'd like to own it/play it again. 

All in all, a fun MarsCon trip!

Kickstarters I Have Backed

Since 2012, I have, through my account (not my partner's) backed 13 Kickstarters:

  • Singularity & Co.
  • a smart thermometer 
  • wipebook
  • a card game about using funny voices for new characters (Noisy Person Cards)
  • a board game about political movement building
  • the Baby Beastiary, vol. 2 & vol. 1 reprint
  • 7 role-playing games
    • Unknown Armies
    • Red Markets
    • Ki Khanga
    • Dialect
    • Monsterhearts (2nd edition)
    • City of Mist
    • Harlem Unbound

Honestly, I think I've got some weird tastes. Either that or I tend to think if the project will eventually be available through some mainstream sources I'll just buy it that way instead of backing the kickstarter. Or both. It could be both.

So far, Singularity & Co. did what they said they were going to (keep a bookstore open and publish some sci-fi), the thermometer and wipebook were delivered to us, and I've picked up the Baby Beastiary at Gen Con 2016. Partner and I still use the thermometer. We tried the wipebook (notebook make of dry erase pages essentially) and found that while we liked the idea, it didn't fit with how we used notebooks. Not the fault of the product, just wasn't for us. And the Baby Beastiary is directly responsible for my Monsters and Other Childish Things character. Besides just being, you know, really fun to read. So, I feel like we've gotten our money's worth out of those.

Noisy Person Cards has slipped their planned released date but were good about keeping the backers up-to-date on what was going on, where they messed up, and what was happening now. All of the rest aren't even estimated to be coming out until sometime in 2017. Heck, Harlem Unbound finished its Kickstarter this morning. All of which is going to make for an interesting 2017 if even half these projects hit their projected release dates:
March — Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Roleplaying Game
April — Rise Up (political movement building board game) and Unknown Armies
June — Monsterhearts 2
July — Dialect (birth and death of a language)
Aug — City of Mist (Noir Superheroes)
and of course the one I'm working on, Red Markets, slated for Dec. 2017

I've been lucky so far. None of the projects I've backed yet has crashed and burned, flaming out in a wreck of not-finishing or putting out a product. If that continues to hold, I will have a lot of new games I can review here :D

State of Gaming and Other Projects

It's the last blog post of 2016, so I'm going to do a look back all my stuff for the year. At a minimum, it'll help me fix in my memory the fun stuff that I did.

Seeing as this is a Thursday post and therefore technically a gaming blog post, I'll start off with the gaming podcast I'm on: Technical Difficulties. We launched at the end of March 2016 and as of Dec. 29th (knock on wood), have yet to miss an update! We've completed two campaigns and are in the middle of both playing and releasing a third, as well as 17 episodes of one shot scenarios. Lots of multi-part one shots... Had an interview with Caleb of Hebanon Games, a couple bonus post-mortem episodes on our campaigns, and talked about Gen Con for an episode too. Played in eleven different RPG systems (good grief), three of which were play-tests: Red Markets, Upwind, and The Veil (which, honestly, I don't think we're going to release those two episodes; system was not our speed). All in all, we've released 52 episodes in roughly nine months and have 9 episodes in the backlog. Pretty good for our first year!

Speaking of Red Markets, I've just totaled the word count of what I've edited on this project so far: 235,108. Wow. I just... It doesn't seem like quite as much when you work with it in sections (with each section under its own contract). And the sections get shorter and shorter as Caleb realizes just how many pages its going to take to print everything. There's still a fourth section being written that I'll get to edit. I did my best to trim down the first two sections — pulled 4k and 2k out them. But this third one, I finally asked point blank for a word count Caleb needs to keep the entire book under the planned page count.

He needs me to trim a 64K word section down to 50K, or the fourth section is going to have to be severely cut down. I'm doing my best: pulled out 4K so far. But we'll have to see how close I can get to 50K. It's good to have ambitious goals, right?

I also got to do some writing for Red Markets! When y'all get the finished product, check out the d100 encounters table. I wrote 33 of those. :)

Also in 2016 Red Markets work, the con packet has gone out for play testing.  Tom, Partner, and I did meet our goals of having something runnable for Gen Con and WashinCon. We all ran at least one game at both of those conventions, for a reasonable mix of people who already knew of the system and folks who'd never heard of it before. We got some good feedback, refined some of the text, wrote the text we'd previously skipped (because we knew the information in our heads) in favor of time, and generally expanded actual explanations and GM tools. Thanks to Caleb's monthly updates to the Red Markets Kickstarter backers, we opened up a play test to run this packet for folks who hadn't written the packet. So far, we've handed the packet out to 123 people and already gotten 14 responses. Which is just amazing to me. Did have to turn one dude down — he wanted to get the packet so he could read up on the game before a friend of his ran it at a convention. I think the line was 'so I can mess with [GM] when they run it.' Not cool dude, not cool. Told him we preferred clean runs of the game and looked forward to hearing from [GM] with feedback. We are cutting off handing out the packet on Dec. 31st and asking for all feedback to be in by the end of Feb. 2017. So there's my project time in March planned out.

Speaking of project time, I have finally started making time for my personal writing again! I've started doing drabbles for my Monday posts and I'm finding them to be a) really fun and b) good exercise in letting go and writing without a plan. Now to work on consistently writing more than three or four hundred words. And describing things, instead of relying on the visual I'm using for inspiration to do it for me. Also, the fourth draft of my novel project is in the works. I'm excited for this draft — it should close up a couple plot loopholes and add depth to a couple characters. Hurray useful critiques!

Speaking of critiquing, I was part of a critiquing circle through Scribophile this year. I guess it was like a writing circle? Any rate, there were four of us and we all gave each other beta reads. Scheduling was interesting since we had folks from three different US time zones and one lady in France. Any rate, that was helpful in that I got some specific feedback (although Caleb's is playing a bigger part in this fourth draft of the novella) and worked on my critiquing skills more. Also my ability to express "uh... this is a problem," tactfully. Explaining that someone had accidentally written colonialism and racism into their epic fantasy aiming for anti-racism was tricky.

Finally, I also signed a contract to edit a second RPG project! They approached me! I'm so excited. I haven't actually gotten clearance from them to talk about it in public, so I'm not going to say the name. But I hope I'll be able to talk about it more in 2017.

Oh, yeah, I also kept up a posting schedule here and on my Tumblr :D 

On the personal front, it's been a reasonably good year. For everything else Fuck 2016.

Happy New Year everybody. May the next year be better than the last.

On Deciding to Back an RPG Kickstarter or Not

Partner popped up with an RPG Kickstarter today called Harlem Unbound and did I want to back? RPG stuff is one of those things we try to both agree on before buying since we both like the hobby and would prefer to share. Partially that's because RPG books can be expensive and partially because any game is a bit of a time commitment, so only one of us being interested in any particular RPG is a great way to either not play together or one of us have an un-fun time. Besides, if it appeals to both of us, there's a better chance it'll be good, ya?

So, what do I look for when deciding if I want to back an RPG Kickstarter? Figured I'd walk y'all through my thought process.


Well, first thing I check (and this might be way too obvious) is the title. Is it evocative? Does it give me a sense of what the project is going for? In this case, I find 'Harlem Unbound' to be pithy, evocative, and I'm already thinking I'm inclined to give this thing a chance.

Alright, next, is it a new system or supplementary material for a system already in use? In this case, we've got a supplement, here called a sourcebook, to Call of Cthulhu or Gumshoe. I like playing in the mythos setting, have had good experiences with Call of Cthulhu, and am interested in learning Gumshoe (even if I haven't gotten around to it yet). So far so good. 1920s Harlem — a time and place I only know as the briefest of sketches that would expand the world I could play  in those systems? I'm interested.

Next watch the pitch video. Looks like the creator put time and effort into making it look professional and evokes the time period in question. Cute framing device (creator's three or four year old daughter interviewing her dad) that also evokes the 1920s. Creator name checks a couple names I'm at least aware of from the era as part of the research he's done. Clean description of what the project is. Still interested.

Check the creator's track record: already backed 52 other projects on Kickstarter and this is their first project on Kickstarter. Says to me they likely have seen what works and what doesn't on Kickstarter, so will only promise what they can deliver. Successful previous projects on Kickstarter would be nice, but everyone has to start somewhere and this doesn't look like a heartbreaker project, so consciously choosing not to penalize for not already being successful.

Goal: modest and already surpassed three times over with three weeks left to go. So definitely will fund. Hm, extra swag/add-ons of the physical stuff variety (dice and a sweatshirt). That's not great — many a Kickstarter has been sunk by physical stuff costs...  Let's check the stretch goals next.

Let's see, already funded are two extra scenarios, a keeper's screen, more art, a longer history section, printing in color, and extra creatures. Left to be unlocked are another character class, a scenario, and printing a hardback book. I like the stretches, they are focused on making the core product better. I'm a little worried the creator isn't asking for enough money for each stretch goal, but I haven't done the research on printing an RPG book and they look similar to what I recall from the Red Markets Kickstarter. So. Still good so far.

Okay, I'm pretty sure I'd like to back this, so let's look at the pledge levels. 

Hm. There's a 5$, 25$, 40$, and 50$ pledge level (actually, there are higher levels too, I just know my limits). The 5$ just gets Partner and I in the acknowledgements page — that's no good, I want to use the product. 25$ gets me a digital copy but none of the stretch goals. I assume that would be the additional scenarios but the creator isn't making two books, one with the longer history section and one without. That's an assumption but it sounds like a waste of time to me... Any rate, I personally may not care about getting a GM's screen, but I do want those additional scenarios. 40$ gets me that digital copy with the stretch goals while 50$ gets all that plus a hardcover copy. Well, Partner and I already have a lot of RPG books, both digital and physical. I'm alright keeping this digital only, especially since I don't actually own a physical copy of either base system. 

I would have loved to have seen the digital only, no stretch goals at 15$ with a softcover + digital (maybe no stretch goals?) at 25$ or 30$. But again, I haven't run the numbers from the creator's side and the pledge levels are in no way egregiously different than other projects I've seen, so I really just have to trust that they're selling it at the fairest price they can while paying everyone working on the project a fair wage. 

40$ pledge level it is.

Annnd backed.


So that's more or less how Partner and I choose RPG Kickstarter projects to back. Is it in a genre we like to play? If not, is in an area of RPGs that we're looking to stretch into? Are the creators people we feel we should back and support in order to bring new ideas or new perspectives into the hobby? Does it look like it's going to meet minimum viability? Does it look the creators have an idea of what they're doing? Do they have a plan (as evidenced by the stretch goals)?

And finally, can we afford the price they're asking right now?

We've started to get feedback

I'm finding getting feedback on the Red Markets Quickstart guide is just as exciting as any time I've gotten a critique on Scribophile. We're already at eight responses, just two weeks after sending out the first wave of packets, so I thought I'd walk through some of the feedback and my thoughts on it.

My impression, looking through the responses, is that this feedback comes from five different gaming groups. Of the eight responses, the first four

  • came in at different times
  • all played the Papers, Please job
  • three said they were playing with their regular groups in person (in different locations than each other)
  • the fourth was playing with their regular group remotely

The second set of four responses are all from the same group, I think, because:

  • they all played the same job (The Same Old Grind)
  • they all played remotely
  • NOT with their regular group
  • and oh yeah, they all filled out the survey at the same time

So far, 75% of the players have been from the US which isn't notable except that I'm slightly surprised it wasn't 100%. Hello Norwegian and Filipino Red Markets players!! 
5 out of 8 played in their sessions and three folks GMed which is a decent ratio from my perspective. Nobody had ever played (or GMed) before which meant we are reaching our intended audience. I'm slightly sad that the job I wrote (The Same Old Grind) has been used by fewer groups (assuming my assumptions are correct) than the Papers, Please job. But it's hard to argue with a mall job in a zombie apocalypse. Either way, everyone has seemed to enjoy their gaming sessions. Well, except for one person.

One person did not like Negotiations at all. Which, to be fair, can be it's own little mini-game. And is the section we're getting the most feedback of "please clarify this." But they didn't feel like it builds the setting, enhances the play experience, or ties in with the survival/resource management style or zombie genre of the rest of the game. But, you know, the genre is Economic Horror so either we did a bad job of selling the game to this person or this isn't the game for them. Which is going to happen! I'm sad they either didn't enjoy or didn't understand how to flesh out the home base through scams in Negotiations. But. It's one person out of eight. And we absolutely do need to clarify the Negotiations section. It's been the trickiest part of Red Markets to explain and to learn. For Caleb too, not just us. 

On the other side of things, we did ask folks for their favorite part of their session. We're gamers guys, of course we want to hear about that crazy thing that happened during the game. So, before the play test, everyone we'd played a session with was already familiar with the setting. This meant that one of the Legs we'd put in to illustrate a particular danger in setting (fast zombies essentially), every player had gone 'oh shit, Vector' and shot them before they could get up and be scary. It made for some tense times at the table if players missed their shot, but. Slightly disappointing for us as GMs.

The first GM to give us feedback managed to get the Vector up and running at their players. :D Based on their feedback, that part of game play does work as intended on new players: "the stress shown by the players was palpable and made for a very tense, frantic fight." And then of course two of their players rolled complications of zombie bites.

Life is good. 

So, generally happy players, direction for us on specific things we mentioned but didn't explain, and a whole bunch of people going 'Negotiations are confusing and this didn't really explain it!' Plenty of direction for us to work with, even if we never get another survey response.

A Video Game post

In my downtime recently I've been playing Civilization VI. It's a pretty good skinner box for me. I've been playing Civilization since the first entry in the series (I think. I might have missed one or two. Definitely since Civilization Alpha Centauri at any rate), so I've got the nostalgia factor. Also I walk into the game knowing the basic goals and moves, so I can start playing from the word go really.

The diplomatic game, which I've never been all that good at, is more finicky for me in this one. How various civilizations feel about you is governed by their leader's personality a lot more than previous games and I'm not so good at catering to people's particular pet issues. I'm not on the coast Norway, I can't build a damn navy!

I've played through a game on the default difficulty (Prince) and had my usual play through. Won the game through a culture victory while aiming for a space victory. Whoops? Civilization has always been a great skinner box for me. I always want to click the button for just one more turn, up until the very end game at which point I'm tired of playing but I'm pushing through turns as fast as I can in order to finish the game. Can't walk away from unfinished games!

Any rate, for the first time in my history with Civilization, I've pushed the difficulty up a step (King).

The game is kicking my butt. 

On the one hand, that's really frustrating that my skill level a this game I've played for years (never mind that it's a new iteration with different interaction between the pieces) is too low to handle the jump up. On the other hand, it's good for my productivity and continued interaction with the world since I'm not looking up three hours later and kicking myself for the next half hour to just get off the game already. The frustration is keeping my sessions to about one hour chunks. Which is much more manageable.

Any rate, it's a game I love that takes up too much of my time and brain space whenever a new edition comes out. What's everyone else playing?

RIP My Inbox... Or: What happens when you volunteer to give people stuff

So a while back Partner and I teamed up with a gentleman by the name of Tom on the RPPR forums who was looking to write a quickstart packet for Red Markets. The idea being that we'd put together a short version of the rules, for players and GMs, add in two jobs they could choose from, and have a good product for introducing new players to the system, either at conventions or home games. We've been working on it for five or six months now. 

And now it's ready for play testing.

We're at the point where we need fresh eyes on what we've done to tell us where we missed a bit. What's unclear. What works and what didn't.

To that end, we asked Caleb to mention something in one of his updates to the Red Markets Kickstarter backers.

He wrote an entire update just on the fact that a) we did this and b) we're looking for people to play test this packet. So go email Laura if you're interested.

My poor, poor inbox. 

As of writing this post, I've gotten 70 emails from interested parties. I have never had 70 unread emails in my inbox before. If only 10% of them actually return the questionnaire, that's seven sets of feedback which is amazing. So Partner is busy compiling a list of all the emails, and in a day or two we'll do a big old mail merge into the bcc field with a link to the packet.

I'm so excited.

Into the Black — Character creation

Partner is going to be running an Eclipse Phase campaign... sometime. I don't think anyone is entirely sure when we're going to get anything on the schedule. But anyways, the campaign is titled Into the Black and I know it's going to start on Extropia. 

Fucking Extropia. I have a fairly visceral reaction to the libertarian paradise of the EP universe. 

Maybe it's the microtorts — nuisance law suits (essentially) for anti-social behavior (like... jaywalking or jostling someone in the market place) put into the system by individuals. Essentially Extropia's method of social shaming/enforcement of baseline societal norms in a society that worships the individual and the only recognized tie between people are contracts. Fucking microtorts.

Maybe it's the "Slavery is legal, as long as they signed the contract." 1) Slavery. 2) I see nothing in the description of Extropia to balance the accumulation of power business will yield, so I don't see how a contract between people in Extropia is between equals. If you don't have the skills to work through the legal precedent of Extropian contract law yourself OR money to hire someone to do it for you, you are going to be screwed over. Extropia, to me, reads as an entire legal and social system that explicitly denies any help for the least among us. And that is what I judge a society on, how it aspires to and how it actually does treat the most vulnerable members of its society. Extropia, is not the habitat for me.

I should probably play an Extropian character one day. It'd be a good exercise in stretching my role-playing abilities.

But this campaign is not that day. I'm going to be playing an Argonaut data analyst — area of specialty to be decided as I build my character over the course of this blog post. I am using the Singularity character generator put out by Post Human Studios for the point build method. Because that's the default and I'm a masochist apparently. 

I always start out with Aptitudes (or the local rpg system equivalent). Laying in the baseline fundamentals of strengths and weaknesses is just how my brain works. In this case, I want to build a character who lives a life of the mind. To that end, I know I want high COG (cognition: problem solving, logical analysis, understanding, memory, and recall) and WIL (will-power: self-control, your ability to command your own destiny). I also want good INT (intuition: skill at following your gut instincts and evaluating on the fly, including physical awareness, cleverness, and cunning) as well as SAV (savy: mental adaptability, social intuition, and proficiency for interacting with others, including social awareness and manipulation). That's going to leave the physical aptitudes (coordination, reflexes, and somatics) hurting, but that's the choice I've already made by choosing a life of the mind.

COG: 25
COO: 10
INT: 15
REF: 15
SAV: 15
SOM: 10
WIL: 20

Then traits, because I like those, they're my thing in RPG systems. Ego traits (things that will follow my character from body to body): Fast Learner, Hyper Linguist, Information Control, Math Whiz. Essentially a nerd who does complex math in her head fast, who learns quickly, and picks up languages rapidly. A nerd who moves through life leaving a light touch on the information networks on purpose. This time I didn't feel like taking any negative Ego traits, partially because at this point I still had what felt like a surfeit of points to spend. 

Add in a couple traits dependent on my morph: Mild allergy (pollen) and Innocuous (looks a lot like everyone else). So unless I'm sneezing walking through a hydroponic garden, you're probably going to loose me in a crowd.

Next, I'm thinking about who she's connected to (and yes, this character defaulted to female):

@-rep (anarachists, Barsoomians, Extropians, scum, Titantians, etc.): 40
c-rep (hypercorps, Jovian Republic, Lunar-Lagrange Alliance, etc.): 20
i-rep (Firewall): 40
r-rep (Research Network Alliance [scientists]): 50

I threw in the c-rep because I figured that while she doesn't like the hypercorps of the old economy, they do have money to throw at basic research, so she's done some work for them. Have to slip into enemy territory to acquire knowledge sometimes.

The skill list is long, so I'm only going to touch on some highlights. Like Partner wincing at my low (30%) skill with kinetic weapons. The highest rated skill I took is in a Profession, namely data analysis, which makes sense since that's how I've been describing her, as a data analyst. After that are a bunch of Academic skills, a few points tossed into an Art: Code skill, and lots of points into Infosec (hacking), Interface (using computers), Research, and Investigation. 

I know things. And if I don't know it, I know how to find it. If I can't find it, I know who to ask.

And I've got the tools to back me up on that.

Duskers — A Review

I'm about fourteen hours into Duskers so far, so still in some very early stages of the game. Partially that's because I've reverted to a bad habit from my Nethack days and been restarting the game instead of resetting (like the game is designed for) when my ship and drones end up in an untenable situation. Yes, I do count every restart as having lost the game. I've lost a lot of games of Duskers so far. But I think I've got a handle on what I'm doing now. Sort of. Maybe?

The story so far is that you wake up in a ship and the entire outsider works is silent. No ship-to-ship communications, no distress signals, no nothing. Like the entire universe died, except for you in your slowly decaying ship. You've got a few drones you can user to explore other drifting ships in space, collect 'scrap'  and fuel to keep your shop functional and moving with, and deal with hostile things on the other ships. Your drones, at least so far, are not very good at dealing with hostile things. The effective strategy so far has been to use motion scanners to figure out which rooms are clear (assuming the scanner can read the rooms), explore those rooms, and then lure the hostiles into there and shut the doors behind them.

The conceit of the game is that you're doing everything over a command line interface. Oh you've got a video feed from your drones, when it doesn't cut out. But your only control is the arrow buttons and a command line.

The game is not clear whether you, the player character, are an organic person or an AI. Which raises interesting questions about the whole 'did AIs cause the singularity and an extinction level event for humans?' possibility raised in the game. Other possibilities I've encountered so far include 'grey goo' and 'pandemic scenarios'. I haven't been able to follow up on those possibilities very much so far, so I'm interested to see where the game goes with those. Every initial lead comes from messages pulled off the logs of derelict ships. Which is just creepy, given the text corruption scattered throughout. Also, the "ages" of these derelicts has typically been around the two hundred mark, with no indication if that's years or what. So how the heck long has the player character been in ... cryosleep?

I'm also unclear what 'reseting' is and there's some interesting philosophical questions involved in that. Every time I've reset, I've gotten new drones to pilot on ship with the same name and same apparent configuration. Where do the new drones come from? They have different upgrades. The map doesn't change, you still have access to all the messages and information you've already found. The community forums I've seen indicate that whatever hostiles have learned from you is carried across resets. So what is a reset? And how the heck does it work in-universe.

So, yeah, I'd recommend this game for anyone who finds rogue-like games more interesting than frustrating. The game play has been keeping me interested to see what happens next. The controls feed into the story, in addition to providing a challenge. And gosh darn it, I want to know what happened in the game universe. 

Where did all the people go?

Last bit of my Dirty World Scenario - NPCs and Locations

All right, based on my plot write-up from two weeks ago, I already know I need the following NPCs:

  • Samuel McNiven, the pawn shop operator, bookie, and the one reporting the theft
  • Officer White, homicide detective and blackmailer
  • Officer Jones, White's partner
  • Lena, romantic partner to the drug dealer, Tiny, killed by Melvin
  • Melvin Nikodemos, addict who killed Tiny
  • Petru, addict who owed Tiny money
  • Liza, addict who owed Tiny money
  • Moses Nikodemos, Melvin's father, rich business leader
  • Shade and Kevin, two small time thieves hired by Moses
  • Katrin White, Officer White's wife, Samuel McNiven's lover, and witness to the theft

Location wise, I'll need:

  • Three Rings, McNiven's pawnshop
  • a Police Station (the one our characters work out of) — I'll say that Officer White and Jones are based out of this station as well

then, assuming the players actually make progress on the hidden agenda,

  • Tiny and Lena's apartment
  • Officer White's house (best place to find Katrin White)
  • the corner stoop, neighborhood bar, and/or local apartment complex where Shade and Kevin hang
  • abandoned houses where Petru and Liza crash (separately)
  • Nikodemos's office

I don't want to make full character sheets for all these NPCs, so I'll just concentrate on McNiven, White, Jones, Moses Nikodemos, and Katrin White in the finished write-up. The rest I think I'll be able to note down a couple Identities and Qualities players would be likely to hit while questioning them and go on from there. Locations will need the NPCs most likely to be found there and I'll need to note clues each NPC could give our investigators with the right incentives. Should probably note down some ideas on incentives for NPCs too.

One of the things I've seen in other Dirty World scenarios is Lost, Mislead, vs. Hot on the Trail information. The idea is that if the PCs don't really have a good idea what's going on, give them the information under the Lost section in order to point them on the right trail. If they've got some ideas but those ideas are wrong, use the Mislead section to maybe straighten them out, maybe confuse the issue further. Hot on the Trail information is designed to throw folks off track. It's all about controlling the speed of the scenario, as I understand it. So, in addition to the clues to keep players on track, I'm going to need to think up some complications.

I've got one or two with Petru and Liza as potentially the killers to throw folks off Melvin. I'm thinking McNiven's pawnshop had security cameras, so I can tell PCs that the folks they see on camera could be X, Y, Z, Shade, or Kevin. The PCs are robbery detectives, they know folks in the business.

I actually don't think I should add in too many complications since we're already at three steps in this chain of crimes to get back to the original murder. I'm not too happy with the ones above though... I'll have to keep thinking about those.

So, now I need some clues to let our players get from the robbery to the police misconduct and murder. Well, we've got Shade and Kevin on camera breaking in. I think I'll say Kevin cut himself and left some blood at the scene. It'll take weeks for DNA typing to come back, but it's a good threat to hold over Kevin's head to get him to talk. Let's see, Shade and Kevin, if they fold, can say "you don't want us, you want the guy who hired us!" Also, if the detectives get a warrant and toss these two's places, they'll be able to turn up a) the money and b) the evidence-bagged gun. From the gun, they can go to what crimes happened at the location marked on the bag. From location and crime, they get the officers on the scene and the fact that this bag was never logged into evidence. You've then got Jones who's clean and fucking pissed at being suspected — so maybe after talking with our PCs, Jones goes to confront White and the PCs can sneak over and listen to the conversation.

I think I can improvise this. The question becomes do I try to make a write up and then play-test or take what I have, play-test now, and then write it all up? There is the matter of finding time to run a play-test, so I probably should make a centralized write up from these posts and then play-test.

Oh, and I'm totally changing my DOJ's secret from cowardice to Moses Nikodemos is his brother-in-law and Melvin is his nephew. Because I'm a GM and I can. 😈

Dirty World Characters

So I've got a plot which gives me a list of NPCs and locations to build, along with figuring out which clues show up where. But honestly I rather work on characters first.

I've already got the basic idea for everyone: cops in the burglary unit of the Baltimore PD plus someone on ride along, if I need a third character. Just have to decide if that third character is a journalist (in which case I get diversity of job descriptions/skill sets AND the added complication of them having no actual arresting powers plus the ability to screw up the evidence chain) OR an investigator from the Department of Justice (similar skill set as my cops, different resources, completely different aims, intra-party tension of 'this guy's out to get us,' less likelihood of them accessing up evidence).

Either way on the third character, I think I've got everybody's secrets. Which has really been the starting point for everyone coming alive for me. I suppose I could have started with professions, but that seemed like a fairly mechanical approach to coming up with them, and just not how it worked for me this time.

So, secrets. They come in three levels in A Dirty World: Minor, Serious, and Horrendous. Minor's are the default and embarrassing if they get out; no additional points to build your character. Serious gets you one more point and would "really changes your life if it's widely known, and not in a good way." Horrendous secrets wreck your life if they get out — disgraced and ostracized is the good outcome for a horrendous secret, jailed or dead seems more likely. Which is why you get 3 more points for a horrendous secret. So, let's look at what I've come up with. 

Secret the First
'You're a coward. Oh, not of the physical stuff. You did your year in Vietnam and came home more or less whole. There's been enough rough stuff on the streets since then that you're sure you can face any sort of physical threat.  No, it's the emotional and social stuff that you're a coward about. God you wish you had a quarter of the courage these kids on the force show these days, never apologizing for their personal lives, never hiding who they are.  Maybe if you did you'd have had the courage to divorce your wife back when the two of you started to go bad. Maybe if you did you'd have been able to stand up to her for your daughter, who's a hell of a lot happier now than she ever was as your son.'

This seems like a minor secret to me. We've got what, shame over not living up to his self-conception of who he should be, unhappiness in a marriage, possible bi- or homosexuality, and a trans kid. And most of the focus in the writing here is the shame and self-flagellation over not living up to his ideal. Heck, I think I've left it open to player interpretation whether or not this guy's open about his kid being trans. Looks to me like he's got the pronouns down. If the secret was he was trans, I'd say yeah, it'd qualify as a Serious secret, due to the risk of violence trans folks face. But not as the parent of a trans kid.

Secret the Second
'You're a rat. A snitch. A traitor. At least that's what everyone you work with on a day-to-day basis would say if they knew you're Internal Affairs. You're a long-term embed in the burglary department, in here long enough that the head of the unit has been replaced and the new guy was never informed about your undercover role. You've never had to turn in or turn a blind eye to your partner, thank God. But several dirty cops, both inside the department and in other units, have been brought down by your patient insider knowledge. You just don't think the civvies should have to fear their protectors. Or good cops should be tainted by association. Too bad even the good ones would see your career as a betrayal.'

This one is a Serious secret I think. Word gets out, this cop faces ostracism, violence from angry co-workers, and a major turn in their career (no more undercover work inside the police department). The examples of a Horrendous secret consist of "cannibalism, murder, or betraying your country during wartime." This just doesn't rise to that level to me. So, Serious it is. 

'Dad always did say you were blessed with too much imagination. You're a coward. The idea of a fight scares the heck out of you. Just thinking about the possible consequences makes you sick to your stomach and your skin prickle. That's why you made sure your career has stayed as far from the rough stuff as possible. You want to protect and serve as much as the guys walking the beat, you just know you've got to work with YOUR strengths: people and paperwork.'

This last one would require some rewording if I go with the journalist. Also, I'm not too happy with it in general. On the one hand, it works as a nice parallel to the first secret. On the other, it feels like all these secrets are of one particular type: hiding how you don't fit the face you present to the world.

um. That's kind of the definition of a secret, isn't it? Gah. Let me try again. They're all about, in one way or another, hiding how you are, not something you've done

Either way, this one would also qualify as a Minor secret, keeping in parallel with the first one I wrote up.

So, that's the secrets. For professions, I'll make the cop a Defender (let's him slide abilities between Courage and Endurance), the IA cop a Detective (Selfishness and Observation), and the journalist/DOJ investigator (I really need to pick one.... DOJ it is) an Academic, so they'll be able to slide abilities between Generosity and Demonstration. And, in order, let's name them Michael, Kendra, and James.

NPCs, locations, and clues write up next week. Meanwhile, if anyone's got a better idea for DOJ James's secret, please, lay it on me. That third one is the weakest of the lot and I'd love to give a player more to work with for that character.

Pulling together a scenario, part 2 — Using a plot generator

All right, let's get building this story for A Dirty World scenario started. To start with, I'm using the plot generator/prompts in the Appendix of the book called One Roll Legal Problems, where I am directed to roll 11d10. I got: 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 9. The sets (two 1s and two 7s) determine the 'central disputes' and the single numbers are the 'Twists, Reveals and Complications.'

Oh wow, I've been in editor mode a lot today. That lack of an Oxford comma is really bothering me.

Any rate, back to story crafting.

The Central Disputes. The ones set gives me theft, petty, minor stuff while the sevens are Government Regulation, Police Misconduct. First, that's hilarious given the setting I've already chosen and secondly, it either works really well with my character concepts or is going to make character creation harder. If the police misconduct is know or apparent from the start, it would make sense for the PCs to be Internal Affairs. But, one of the secrets I was going to lay on a character was that they were undercover Internal Affairs. (It's noir, everyone has a secret. It's coded in the rules and everything.) So, I can either make the PCs part of the Robbery unit and they have to figure out the police misconduct OR the misconduct is apparent enough when the crime gets called in that it's all handed off to IA off the bat.

Given my personal experience with identity theft, I happen to know that at least some jurisdictions aren't going to investigate/take it to court if the theft is under a certain monetary amount (because resources yo, the department is overwhelmed as it is). Therefore, petty theft doesn't seem like something a modern police force would hand off to detectives. Which pushes the story either towards being primarily about the misconduct or I need to make the theft bigger. I'm going to look at the complications and come back to that. 'Cause there's a lot of complications from this roll.

Given how few sets I managed on 11 dice, I have seven out of ten numbers on the Twists table.
2: A frame job, or evidence tampering
3: Insanity
4: Addition
5: Reluctant key witness
6: Seemingly damning physical evidence
8: Passionate, powerful courtroom testimony
9: A marital infidelity angle

I'm not all that comfortable with the insanity complication — there's a tendency in popular media to portray mentally ill folks as 'crazies' who commit crimes when in real life they are statistically much more likely to be the victims of crimes. I don't really have time to research a mental illness to portray it as sensitively as I'd hold myself to. So, since it's my story and all, I'm just going to change that 3 to a 1. And now the theft our characters need to sort out is "an item of great sentimental value."

I can fold the frame job/evidence tampering (2) into the 7s set. So know I know what type of misconduct happened. Or, the evidence tampering can be the clue pointing our PCs to the misconduct. I think I like that better. Alternatively (again), I could drop the addiction (4) complication to push up the theft into the "Elaborate, intrusive theft of something very expensive" category and say the goal of the theft was to steal evidence (2) but high-value things were stolen as a cover. Or, you know, payment to the thieves. Now I'm getting into some territory I feel familiar with.  

So, lets look at the complications I have left:
5: Reluctant key witness
6: Seemingly damning physical evidence
8: Passionate, powerful courtroom testimony
9: A marital infidelity angle

The 5 and 9 pair nicely: a key witness is reluctant to give evidence because they're involved in marital infidelity. So somebody knows something but only because they were stepping out on their partner and giving evidence in court would mean their partner finds out. I can work with that.

Now the question becomes do the players need that reluctant key witness to give 'passionate, powerful courtroom testimony' to counter the seemingly damning physical evidence? Or is their testimony opening the door to introducing the physical evidence into the record? Namely, is the evidence accurate or not? Basically, should I be looping back to tie the 6 evidence into the 2 frame job/evidence tampering or leaving them as separate elements?

Hmm, I like the idea that the theft of physical evidence was itself evidence tampering and our reluctant, cheating, key witness needs to give courtroom testimony in order for the stolen items to be admissible in evidence.

Melvin killed his drug dealer Tiny in Tiny's own home and then dropped the gun where it got kicked under the couch. Officer White found the gun and was sealing it in an evidence baggie when his partner interviewing Tiny's partner mentioned that Melvin, Petru, and Liza had all been behind on payments lately. Officer White knew Melvin's daddy Moses Nikodemos was a) rich, b) protective, and c) influential in the business community. Also, White wanted to retire in a couple years. Nikodemos could certain provide a little starting capital and recommendations in the real estate business in say... Portland. Somewhere other than the East Coast any rate. So Officer White pocketed the gun, still in the evidence bag.

White wasn't stupid enough to keep the evidence in his home — he contracted out the evidence collection and actual blackmail to a bookie he knew. Samuel McNiven, the bookie White knew, (don't get him started on the Catholic versus Jewish guilt; he's a connoisseur of both) did a pretty good job with his end of the deal... right up until he let slip to Nikodemos that he was the one holding onto the evidence that would lock up Melvin for life.

Nikodemos senior is not afraid of direct action or breaking the law. But murder would just bring too many unnecessary risks. So he contracted out a theft to a couple of professionals — hit the bookie's place and steal the gun in the evidence bag. Don't touch anything else and they'd be well compensated. Too bad for Nikodemos that the thieves decided the cash in the safe was a bigger payday than Nikodemos could provide and to keep the gun as insurance against Nikodemos. After all, if that was all he wanted, it must be pretty important.

Too bad for the thieves there was a witness — Officer White's wife Katrin whose having an affair with McNiven. She was in the room when the thieves broke in and hid behind a curtain. She got a good look at the whole shebang, including the debate over whether or not to take the money or follow Nikodemos's instructions. And a good look at the evidence bag and her husband's writing on the bag. She doesn't want a divorce just yet, nor her husband to wind up in jail...

Too bad for Nikodemos AND Officer White that McNiven decided to report the theft. After all, all that money in the safe was part of his perfectly legitimate pawn shop operations. And he wants his money back. He'll just not mention the gun that was in the safe too...

Pulling together a scenario

The other week I volunteered to try and improvise a session of A Dirty World for my gaming group. Pretty much as soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized that a) I didn't have characters generated they could use and b) I really wanted a review of the rules before I ran anything. Luckily for me and my big mouth, the group choose an Eclipse Phase one-shot instead. Which let me tell you, was soooooo much fun; our characters all died horribly!

But, you know, now I really should follow up on making that A Dirty World scenario. 

For those unfamiliar with the system, A Dirty World is a One Roll Engine powered system designed around noir/hardboiled stories. Mechanically, you're rolling d10s looking for matching numbers. Thematically, the attributes that build that pool of d10s you're rolling describe your mental state (mostly), rather than your skills. Are you more observant or more better at demonstrating? Patient or cunning? Because right now, to spot that ambush in time, you're going to have to roll that Cunning Observation. 

Getting back to scenario building, I did quite a bit of editing on Red Markets over the US Federal Holiday weekend, so I had the advice to 'zombify your surroundings' kicking around in my head on Tuesday. Which produced the lovely little reaction of "gods damn it brain: set the scenario in Baltimore, with the PCs as local law enforcement! WTF could go wrong with that? </sarcasm>" when that thought percolated up in my brain. I may have only grown up in the Baltimore suburbs, but still, that's the area that came to mind. Although now, of course, I have to name the PCs off of characters from Homicide: Life on the Street. Could be worse, I suppose — I could be pulling everything from The Wire

The original 'what are we going to play tonight?' came up because one of us is on a business trip for almost a month, in a job that's eating all his free time. So all of a sudden we were  down to two players and a GM. I'd like to have something in my pocket if that situation comes up again. Which says to me the PCs should be partners in local law enforcement. That gets me the structure of a newer, younger partner and the veteran. I mean, it's a trope/classic/cliché for a reason. Then, if we suddenly have one more player, I could add a journalist on ride-along (which should display my influences right there). If I've got two more players (four total), another set of cops makes the most sense. Either set could be patrol officers or detectives, but if there's four players, I should definitely enforce one set of each, instead of letting everyone be detectives or patrol officers. It's noir after all, got to have conflict.

Given the idea of a journalist on ride along (ooh, or I could make them an investigator from the Department of Justice), this is definitely set in the now, instead of noir's usual period of somewhere between the 30s and 50s. Cops suggests investigating a homicide, but that's my bias from TV dramas showing. No reason they can't be in units focused on arson, or burglary, or identity theft, etc. This being Baltimore, and especially with Freddy Gray, race and racism are going to have to be an element in the story. Which would also explain the DoJ investigator. 

Any rate, for the story/mystery itself, I'm either going to pull straight from The Wire or use the random plot generator included in the book. It's called One Roll Legal Problems; I've got to give it props for the name.  Whichever I actually do, I think I'll walk through using the generator and writing up a plot for next Thursday's post. Having the setting, time period, general character types, and an element or two I want to include in the story feels like good progress during the week.

Of course the second I started going back through this part to add links, I find a free scenario the game designer offers on his website... Welp, looks like I'll have two games to choose from! And a model scenario on how to write one up in-system. On wards! 

System Fluency: Gaming edition

I also have some thoughts on ‘system fluency’ in the context my friend, the Shadow Run GM, used the term. See, roughly two years ago my IRL gaming group reformed after a post-college break of multiple years. The GM hasn't had a chance to fully use the fourth edition of Shadow Run and wanted to run a campaign before he even considered buying fifth edition. Shadow Run is his system the way some folks apt D&D or Pathfinder reasons as their system: he knows the system lore and plot at a pretty deep level and it's his default system to run a campaign in. That's the kind of story he wants to tell (and yes, only tell — I don't think he'll be convinced to play anytime soon, if ever).

We have, on occasion, gone three months between sessions. Just life stuff killing scheduled time.

Ignore the difficulty of keeping a story going and fresh with such big breaks between events. We're having a hard time keeping the rules in our heads. The same things cause us to stop and look specific, fiddly rules up from session to session, players and GM alike. We aren't gaining system fluency. Our 'speech' in the language of Shadow Run is still halting and dependent on dictionaries/grammars. The rules and our lack of fluency in them is placing a barrier between us and the story we're failing to craft.

I honestly think system fluency (or lack there of) can play a big part in how enjoyable an RPG system or campaign is. How often have we heard 'the rules got in the way of the game'? Time spent looking up rules is at the table is time not spent interacting with friends or the story. Unless your type of fun is studying RPGs to gain system mastery, that's not fun. (And if that is your type of fun, you can do that in between sessions, yes?)

All of which got me thinking about system design and how the system can aid or hinder gaining system fluency. And how I can pick up new systems faster. Especially since I've been playing a variety of systems with Technical Difficulties.

Rules light, narrative systems seem, to me, like they should be the easiest to pick up. There aren't a lot of rules to remember and what there are should be core mechanics. Things that apply across a spectrum of situations. For example, in Monster Hearts, everyone had four basic moves; the trick was figuring out how you wanted to apply them to this situation and what they said about your character. The difficulty with narrative systems though can be the lack of rules. If the system doesn't do a good enough job conveying the expectations of the system, the type of story it's supporting, I at least can end up flailing, feeling like there's no direction to go and unclear even on what tone to take.

Take, for example, Fate Core and Monster Hearts — Fate Core seems like an awesome system, one I could see using for a sword-and-sorcery epic fantasy and for a gritty investigation. So unless the GM has a clear vision of the world they want to build, the genre of the game to play, conveys that to the players, and gets buy-in from everybody, I'd be flailing as a player. This is not to say I don't like Fate Core — I do, have read up on the system for it's own sake, and would be willing to play in a campaign (or one shot) of Fate or its derived settings (which I haven't read up on yet). But only with a GM who has a clear idea on a campaign. It's a broadly applicable narrative system.

Meanwhile, Monster Hearts has one story it's designed to tell: teens/young adults growing up. You can layer all sorts of stories in that, but that is the core story the system is built for. I've got a direction to take my character and a tone expectation built in. So the system is doing the tone and expectation setting, before the GM ever needs to communicate with players. Gods help you if you want to do a different type of game or campaign with the system though.

In terms of learning these types of systems, I try to focus on core mechanics and narrative feel. So I pay more attention to included fiction and rules examples. 


On the other end of the spectrum are crunchy systems, things like Shadow Run and Eclipse Phase. My main attraction to Shadow Run used to be the cyberpunk setting, but over time the density of the rules and different systems for different classes (the magic system is different than the hacking system is different than the drones is different than...) has eroded my desire to play in the world. One of the things I think Eclipse Phase learned from Shadow Run is to keep the system flat. The magic system in Eclipse Phase is, fundamentally, the same system as performing any other skill: percentile dice under a skill rating target number.

Another thing the EP team is doing differently from SR is that the metaplot is not advancing — whether or not this is a good thing is more individual choice, but personally I'm in favor (and will get to why in a bit). In Shadow Run, there was a story line that canonically happened, lots of which were available to players as modules or campaigns, and then the world changed. It was time for the timeline in system to advance by five years and the next edition of the system to come out. Eclipse Phase is keeping the 'official' clock at AF 10 and diving deeper into various aspects of the setting — what would be the Monster Manual in D&D just came out (it's called X-Risks). 

Both the crunchy systems I know are heavy on rules and setting (Shadow Run more on the rules, Eclipse Phase more on the setting). Shadow Run feels like it has just the one story to tell: go do an adventure from the perspective of people outside the power structure of the world. My GM has played at least one adventure of Lurg, the combat medic mercenary, but the campaign we've been trying to do as a corporate black ops team is the one that's not working so well. And the GM has quietly been doing a lot of work in the background to keep the system balanced (not that he really has that time to spend). Eclipse Phase, I've run a dungeon crawl, I can see a long political intrigue campaign, I've heard an actual play adventure quest, I wanted a different actual play campaign to stop  play the war scenario they touched briefly, I could see running an investigation campaign. Heck, I could see running a police procedural. What I'm trying to say is that, like narrative systems, crunchy systems can range in scope of stories they support playing. So, you know, I think that's the place to start — figure out what type of story the designers expected folks to play in the system and use that to direct you to the rules to learn first. But for me, once I get the first set of rules, I really need to try an adventure or two. One, to figure out if things move fast enough that I want to keep playing and two, to figure out what set of rules to focus on learning next. Setting wise, I limit my dives into the sourcebooks to the areas most relevant to whatever we're playing next.

You know, if I don't have time to read them for fun.

Dani & Jak-Jak

For anyone who's wondered what I sound like, Ross of Role Playing Public Radio has posted a panel I was on with him and Caleb back in August at Gen Con:

Red Markets is a game of economic horror that wrapped up on Kickstarter in June. Come listen to the creator answer questions about the book’s progress & tell us how your beta tests are going. Caleb and Ross recorded this panel at Gen Con 2016.

http://slangdesign.com/rppr/2016/09/panel-discussion/playing-red-markets-at-gen-con-2016/


Turns out creating characters for role-playing games are my writing prompts. So, first draft of a vignette, which if I've done this right, it doesn't matter which gaming system it's set in. So I'll hold off on saying which one until afterwards.

 

Danielle waved to the bus driver as he closed the school bus doors and pulled away from the curb. Squaring her shoulders, Dani shifted her backpack to settle again and started trudging down the sidewalk towards home. Halfway to the end of the block, the blob of gum that booger-faced doodie head from three rows back had thrown at her finally pulled some of her hair out of her ponytail enough that she could start trying to pull the gum out. It was stuck, tangled up pretty tight in her wavy red hair. It wasn't fair. Nobody bothered her on the bus when Liz was there too, and she was two whole years younger. Dani was focusing so much on the gum she almost tripped over the box on her front porch. Got it out through.  

Dani flicked the gum off into the bushes by the porch, then scooped up the box and headed inside. Looked like Aunt Francesca (well, great-aunt really) had reused an Amazon box again. It was probably Liz’s ninth birthday present. A week early this year. Last year, the Christmas presents hadn’t shown up until January. 

Dani locked the front door behind her, ditched her shoes and backpack by the door, and headed into the kitchen. Mom and Dad weren't home yet to tell her not to eat any toast, she'd wreck her appetite for dinner. Toast was better than dinner anyway, it was Mom’s night to cook — rubbery chicken and mushy veggies. If she was real unlucky, it'd be lima beans. Besides, Dani was really hungry. She'd been grabbing a snack after school, when Dad came home, AND eating all of dinner all week. Mom hadn't noticed yet. Stupid growth spurt.

Dani eyed the box where she'd dropped it on the counter and nibbled on her toast. She really wanted to know what was in there. Aunt Fran sent neat stuff. But she should really be a good girl. This was Liz’s present. Gulping down the last bite, Dani walked over to the counter and looked over the box again. Huh. 

If she got some packing tape, she could tape it back up. The addresses wouldn't be damaged. And Aunt Fran had clearly taped it up other times before.

Dani bit her lip. She should really be a good girl. Mom and Dad let her stay home instead of going to those stupid after-school activities. She really should be good… 

Dani grabbed the tape and a pair of scissors out of Dad’s craft table and ran back to the kitchen. Grabbing Aunt Fran's box, she moved everything to the kitchen table and climbed into her usual spot on the wall bench seat. Carefully slicing open the box tape revealed a blue gift bag, with black tissue paper peeking out of the top, laid on its side. Ignoring the card attached to the bag, Dani stood it up, looked inside, and felt her heart melt.

Aunt Fran had gotten Liz a stuffed puppy. It was purple and soft and had floppy ears long enough to trip over. Its paws were the size of Dani’s fists and the stuffed tail was curled around and under its butt as it sat. The collar was fuzzy and black and had a circle hanging off the front that said ‘Jak-Jak.’ His muzzle was shaped like a mastiff's and he had a dopey, goofy, happy grin. 

Dani wanted to cry. It wasn't fair. Liz didn't like dogs, she liked Disney. Dani loved dogs and Mom and Dad wouldn't let her get one. And now Aunty Fran had given Liz a stuffed puppy, not her.  

Grabbing the scissors and Jak-Jak, Dani dashed off, first back to Dad’s crafting bench to return the scissors, then to her room. Depositing Jak-Jak on her bed, Dani scrubbed at the tears in her eyes with the heel of her palm. She hated being this moody. Everything was felt too big, and she ached, and her feet wouldn’t go where she put them; it was embarrassing. Stupid growth spurt. Dani scooped up her Tigger plushie and tried to brush off … well, everything. Turning him over in her hands, Dani bit her lip again. It was a fair trade… Liz loved Tigger, she was always stealing him from Dani’s room.

Dani dashed back to the kitchen and tried to gently stuff Tigger in the gift bag. Once he was more or less hidden in the bag, Dani laid the bag back in the box and taped it back up. Sloppily like Aunt Fran always did. Then off to hide the box in Mom and Dad’s closet with the rest of the gifts for Liz’s party next week. In the same place they’d hidden Dani’s gifts two months ago. And the Christmas presents before that. They really needed to find a better hiding place. 

Dani walked back to her room. She had maybe another half hour to play with Jak-Jak before Dad and Liz would be home. She'd have to hide him in her backpack. Or Liz would definitely find him next time she snuck into Dani's room. The little sneak was thorough.  

Dani stopped just inside her doorway, shocked and maybe a little panic-y. Jak-Jak wasn't on the bed what she'd left him. And he hasn't fallen into the floor.

A deep, reverberating, yet oddly high-pitched yip came from Dani’s left, from behind the open door. Right before a large something crashed into Dani and she hit the floor, with whatever it was on top of her. 

Dani looked up at very large, purple-furred muzzle a couple inches in front of her nose. The rest of the doggy head it was attached to was huge, bigger than Dani, bigger than her bed! As she started to get real scared though, all of the doggy started shrinking down. The huge feet, the enormous floppy ears, the barrel chest wider than Daddy, everything shrunk until the doggy was the size of a full-grown mastiff. But still obviously puppy shaped. Dani erupted in giggles as its floppy, slobbery tongue gave her puppy kisses and its tail wagged furiously. Ticklish!

Dani reached up and vigorously scratched behind the ears, before rolling the puppy over to wrestle. There wasn’t a collar or tag anymore, but the fur was exactly the same color as the stuffed puppy had been.  This one was much more muscular than a stuffed animal could look, but the feet were the same shape, the ears the same floppy length, and the expression was just as goofily happy. The puppy rolled over from where he and Dani were wrestle-petting and dropped its head and front paws dropped into the universal puppy bow.

“Play?!” yipped Jak-Jak.

 

That is set in the Monsters and Other Childish Things setting, as background for my character Dani for the Road Trip Remix campaign I'm playing in with Technical Difficulties. Hopefully it works as a stand-alone story — tell me in the comments where I'm assuming background info and am wrong about that?

Comments/critique from my partner, my responses, and a second draft to come on Monday.

Post WashingCon, The Story of My First Problem Player

I had my first problem player at WashingCon, in the Red Markets game I ran. That means I've leveled up as a GM, right?

First off, I've been very lucky. I started GMing for friends and, while that group imploded for player dynamic reasons, none of them were ‘problem’ players. Folks just wanted to have different types of fun (and one decided that RPGs weren't for them) — at the time I wasn't skilled enough as a GM yet to accommodate different types of fun styles (also, wrong system for one of those types).

I've run one-shots for the Tech. Diff. crew and again, very lucky that the random group of folks from an internet forum are as cool and compatible as we are. Sure, there was some associative sorting from our taste in podcast fandom and the original system we were all showing up to play. But that was no guarantee we'd have fun together.

I've run four games, in two different systems, at two different conventions now. And my first problem player didn't show up until the fourth game. Awesome.

Still frustrating.

 

So, what made this guy so problematic that I, who cop to being fairly socially oblivious, actually noticed? First, a bit of set-up: problem player (who I'm just going to call P now) was playing a character type called the Latent. In universe, Latents are folks who are infected with the zombie making virus/fungus/whatever it is, nobody actually knows/thing BUT for one of a couple reasons weren't lobotomized and killed by it. They're walking infection sources who turn into sprinting 28 Days Later style zombies (called Vectors in universe) upon death. Socially stigmatized but able to go whale on zombies at melee range without worrying about getting infected. Or rather, infected again.

So P is playing a character designed for that melee role. The party has found a job, negotiated pay, and are on the road to the job site when they come upon a toll booth. Yes, an active toll booth in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Since the booth is setup at a low point of geography and zombies trending to take the geographic path of least resistance, it's in an area zombies would congregate. Thus the two snipers covering the booth are performing a community service, clearing out some zombies in the area. And to start with, the team had spotted only one of the snipers.

Most of the party agreed to send the negotiator forward to talk with the booth operator. P decides he's going to head through the woods to go kill the sniper they've spotted. Okay so far, this has happened before. It's why I moved the snipers to about a mile out. I should also mention that P LOOKS like a zombie, what with the black veins all over. Something the rest of the team has pointed out. He also has NO stealth skills, so he's crashing through the underbrush. At which point one of the snipers takes a shot at him.

‘What do you do?’
‘How can they be shooting at me, I'm in the woods.’
‘They picked defensible spots, and trees aren't perfect cover. You've been shot at. What do you do?’
‘I'm behind trees, I'm not stepping in openings, how could they shoot me?’
‘You have no stealth, you're crashing through the woods, they shoot at you. What do you do?’
‘Keep going.’

Meanwhile, the negotiator is talking with the booth operator and they come to an agreement. The operator messages his team that they're all good and to stand down.
‘Hang on, I've got a zombie out here.’
‘No, he's one of ours…’
‘Well, call him off then.’

Well and good, the guy with a drone sends it out to relay a message to P. Did I mention earlier that he had no means of remote communication on him? So, the drone operator sends the drone out to P's location, announced over speaker that they've negotiated passage, please come back.

P keeps going.

Snipers miss the next shot. Team lead turns to P and say he'll make a foresight roll, if he makes it, please tell him something that would convince P to stop. “There's nothing you could say.” Well shit. Everyone at the table is frustrated with him at this point. And that's just bad role-playing. Luckily for me, the next shot hits — rolls are made by the player and you only get hit if you fail your dodge roll. This was not railroading in the least, everyone at the table saw him fail the roll and get hit in the head. With enough damage to drop unconscious.

You’d think this would be the end of it. But no. No, no, there's more to come.

Team drudges out into the woods, hauls his unconscious body back, hikes down the road for a couple hours, and then applies first aid to wake P back up.

‘I go back after the snipers.’
From everybody at the table: ‘what?’
‘I'm going back after the snipers.’
Players share a look around the table. Team lead: ‘You do that and we’re not waiting. We'll take your share since you're walking off the job.’
P: ‘well how about I threaten the person you're escorting [who had to survive for them to get paid], then?’
Full minute of argument around the table before the drones guy managed to get clarification from me on what P had actually said, at which point drones piped up with “this isn't the game any of us signed up to play, can we please get on with it?” At least that got P to shut up and let the scenario continue on.

An hour later, when we’re wrapping up with the scenario only partially finished because we’ve run out of time, he feels the need to get the last word in before running off to his next game. ‘I still disagree about getting shot at in trees.’

The rest of us found an unused room and played the rest of the scenario.

 

So yeah, I’ve still got some work to do on figuring out how to manage players and social situations at the table better. Although I have no idea what I could have done to get this guy off that path. Possibly should have been the one to tell him that he was making the game not fun for folks. Although that might have been seen as speaking for people who didn’t necessarily agree. And GM railroading.

Anybody in the audience have stories of problem players they’d like to share and/or how you handle folks like this? Tell me in the comments, I’d love to hear your stories.