Tuesday, 19 December 2017
There are natural cycles to the universe - galaxies collide, black holes rage and stars explode. But in the midst of such cosmic destruction, new stars are born from the remnants and elements of old, hot galaxies coalesce from cold, dark matter and even black holes evaporate their information back into the light.
Likewise our games this year started in the blazing bright heights of the summer and have burnt long and strong, but nature has taken its course and as we approach the longest night, arguments have settled, players have been killed off, princesses were slain and their gold has now been rescued. Over the next few weeks the Phoenix Dawn will go on hold (as its campaign length really and sports several more scenes even after six months), The DnD has formally ended and I believe GM Jack is wrestling down his Gods in the Exalted.
So this means fresh adventures and a chance for people to pick new characters and causes, wield novel and powerful items and explore the full range of fumbles and failures. So in the new melting pot we have a selection of GM Max's Warhammer Fantasy, GM Krzys Part Time Gods (not one I know) and GM Jon's Star Trek. Interestingly GM Jon has offered to run an additional quick stop gap Star Trek parody whist the new games get into sync. My understanding is that this will take the form of a Tarantino/Roddenberry mashup along the lines of Kill Will or Reservoir of Targs.... I'm not sure whether you could actually get a blood bath with phasers or disruptors which vaporise organic material but I would be very disappointed not to see judicious use of transporter "malfunctions".
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Time travel is a tricky business. Brave is the GM who decides to take on board a campaign involving cause and effect or indeed effect and cause. Often used as a plot device, time relocation is a handy way to place characters back in the good old days which often turns out to drop them into the great mythological stories of a given world. For richer narratives like Lord of the Rings, Warhammer Fantasy or Cthulu this is an opportunity to dabble in world creation or glimpse the gods - not that that would make for a a very long game in Cthulu mind you. Moreover I would say it's a more appropriate environment to play high level characters and become part of the Mythology of a system itself; a chance to become part of Lore.
However, as tempting as it is to run such a scenario, role players will insist on doing their own thing. Off roading in temporal sensitive games can require the GM to take an overly heavy hand jus to keep a world intact. Whilst there is the argument that history cant change - attempts to achieve goals that a party is fixated on, such as the assassination of Hitler lets say, may result in repetitive play and whilst fun, are basically a dead end. Paradoxes proliferate if players start to meet themselves (always embarrassing) and create duplicates of items. Things will also spiral when they start to bring other time machines back through time.
There is a more forgiving option of sending players into the future where actions cant be judged in practical terms but there is always the possibility of bringing back knowledge or items that may unbalance a game. But also, to be fair, there is little point in running a future time travel campaign that has no interaction with the present - it may as well just happen somewhere else as far as plot is concerned.
And there is also the eternal issue of temporal ticks in the real world. Whilst we are all time travelers, spare a thought for the D&D game that has been running for 30 years ! If any of us got caught in that particular time trap, it would still be a first level adventure after the first year and then 29 more of arguing...
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Generally speaking, I have a slight aversion to watching live streams or episodic recordings of roleplaying games for several reasons, predominantly because these can be very lengthy and a lot of time can be spent eating biscuits. In addition much of the subtlety is lost as people can shout over each other and whilst it does add to the drama, critical moments can be missed. There also isn't a great deal of production value in video session where imagination is involved and it can come across as amateur dramatics to the casual observer unless you are there in person.
But it does remind me of where my games are weakest, manly due to laziness and time constraints, but like a lot of GMs, I usually come up with interesting problem solving scenarios backed by a half decent plot and a few key characters with a bit of GM roleplying on the fly. There is a need to create enough space in a game for characters to develop themselves and roleplayers are their own content to a large degree, tho I would never leave them unsupervised with sharp pencils.
The point is that ever since Homer put pen to papyrus, there have been such things as plot formulas and character development traits that underpin professional narratives but whilst not always there in roleplaing games (and they should be), they are the bread and butter for writers. For some reason Gladiator comes to mind as of course Oliver Reed died unexpectedly during production and a lot of effort went into finding a quality resolution - William Nicholson OBE stepped in here as one of the writers and his deep understanding of character provided a seamless and respectable end to Proximo. He's very engaging and more interestingly as a roleplayer one can instantly identify with his conversations on character. Here is a fascinating interview with him.
Or course I haven't had my OBE for services to roleplaying yet and broadly speaking such creative minds are not available to the GM but I did find the epic end of the recent Critical Roll game run by Matt Mercer a dramatic case in point. In fact the moment is beautifully explained by here by the engaging Matthew Colville - I highly recommend a watch - spoilers for 400 hours of roleplaying btw.