Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Reverse Psychology


Whilst this weeks article is not a write up of  a particularly cunning Baldrick like plan to outwit a turnip thief. Nor is it a prose regarding the extraction of an infighting party from a particularly sticky situation. I have been wondering recently why Roleplayers are not more aware of psychology. Now there is an underlying irony here as being aware of anything is a function of some psychology or other of course but as most of the club demonstrably functions above plant like awareness of day and night it is always worth wondering why we wonder.

We have a forthcoming career promotion to our Warhammer characters soon as we are cashing in on a growing trail of professionally dispatched corpses as per the Skullbashers Direct customer commitment and I'll be mulling over the classes available to my Rogue. But as in D&Ds most recent incarnation there are archetypes that always present themselves in good narrative order and I think there might me merit in scrutinising where archetypes come from.

In the great tradition of great psychologists it seems that formative work in the field was done by Carl Jung and although masters of the mind exhibit both genius and insanity, the theories that stick will tend to have merit. More so Carl Jung as he founded analytical psychology but his approach to human archetype is rooted in anthropological imagery - cave paintings being the hominid evidence - recurring mental images or themes drawn from our evolutionary heritage - the foundations of mythology and art. The deep roots of archetype cannot be underestimated as the implication is that mental imagery processes came long before our higher functions in our Darwinian path which goes a long way to  understanding the machinery of the unconscious and our shadow characteristics.

Im not going to attempt to digest the entire field in one paragraph but it does explain why roleplaying is so engaging, its not just an artistic side effect of exercising our imaginative muscles, it actually emerges from ancient and powerful mechanisms that idealise ourselves in different ways and generates an ethical scaffold to develop the best, or indeed worst of our characteristics - this imprints us somewhere on the lawful good/evil axes. Basically we are rolled up from the character classes that proceeded us.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020



Our Warhammer games continues in both the warlike and hammerite vein as last week saw us escorting a trade caravan between the two towns of Noose Cross and New Marienburg. To be fair it was just a last minute job just to get some extra crowns as we were going that way anyway but typically we gave ourselves a road to go off and in the usual roleplaying tradition we had an idea.

Now when we were told it was a days travel we neglected to enquire as to whether this meant a working day, daylight or indeed twenty four hours so imagine my eyes rolling when we had to make camp at nightfall. Now whilst my whining days are far behind me now my solicitor always recommends that I get things in writing from my GM so I will take some responsibility for this. Nevertheless when it transpired that there were scouts on the horizon we took the risky decision to play dumb and have a somewhat hobbit  like evening but slept with one eye open in order to counter the inevitable. Fortunately after the skirmish it seemed like the scouts were just scouts and like us just trying to make an opportunistic piece of gold but whilst half the party escorted the caravan into town our more hardy members of the band went off to scout the bandit camp and in true open world style we sold the idea to the Marienburg guards that they should pay us for clearing them out.

Whilst we may have bitten off more than we can chew we will find out but its been a while since I have played in an open world adventure and I like the sense of freedom after so many games of plot. Its pressure for the GM but may suit us well as the games are run to a schedule and without specific milestones we have a chance to get into the roleplaying rather than struggling to squeeze in objectives. Whilst we are suddenly keen to raise our reputation we are now calling ourselves "The Skullbashers" but in keeping with a more modern and corporate feel I have been pushing for "Skullbashers Direct".

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Levelling Sideways

The USS Lyonesse set sail to the solar winds once again last weekend in the continuing adventures of our Star Trek Adventures Series. Our ongoing mission is to explore the strange old worlds of the Black Cluster Nebula on the trail of the long lost VES Sunak. Sadly the breadcrumbs of the missing ship seem to be Vulcan away missions that have met grisly ends one way or another. On the first planet we came across the bodies of several Vulcans that had perished in contact with a hive mind entity. This last week saw us beaming down to a small Vulcan research habitat constructed to catalog the ruins on a long dead civilization on a planet currently wrapped in an ice age. The station crew however seem to have meat a rather incongruous end particularly for Vulcans. So far we have on murder scene with the victim (a relative of one of our party) seemingly assaulted and impregnated with some alien technology and another having been shot by an ancient security robot.

The plot will twist and turn no doubt but we also had milestone advancements to apply to our characters based on the experiences gained in previous games. Unlike the usual pick and mix grind of experience points and levels Modiphius have developed a much richer and context relevant system of advancement;. Milestones are met specifically when a character challenges one of his own values, expend 'detemination' in pursuit of a value or indeed take a complication  to a value. Milestones can then be used to alter those characters values.. 

Parallel to this is the reputation system. On the outcome of a mission  reputation is then adjusted depending on a D20 roll with brackets of success. This is modified by the events of the mission whether positive or negative - saving a life, acting above and beyond the call of duty or indeed disobeying orders or losing crew members. The reputation can then be used to gain favor with NPCs, achieve promotions or indeed receive sanctions or demotions.

I sort of quite like this as an experience system as its inextricably bound to a plot and a character story arc. Characters do not so much level up as develop laterally as their story continues which is much more in tune with the TV series. Its a chance to become a bettor or worse person not a more powerful one by default and is more realistic although rank improvement are available. I'm not sure that the modifiers are in order where reputation is concerned - whether you are responsible for one death or billions may not have the proper modifiers and I am not sure if a character with poor reputation has a disproportionately worse time getting out of a rut. Not sure what happened when Admiral Kirk got demoted to Captain tho - surely an increase in reputation but also a demotion - perhaps he was always breaking the mold.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Plot Hook


For those who sleep better after a good fairy tale its worth noting that there has been more than a nod to the high fantasy genre from the entire D&D Feywild Forgotten Realms through to games spun from the tales of the Brothers Grimm. One of the the latest worlds to be bound and delivered to us is Neverland albeit a fan made expansion. More specifically it comes as a 5E expansion but the initial module is intended to be an open world sandbox and populates its lands with Pirates, Mermaids, Crocodiles, Giants, Gnomes and Faries. Apparently its designed for an older audience so perhaps not as innocent as the children's stories although I note that the original Peter Pan appeared in the novel "Little white Bird" at the turn of the 20th century which was in fact aimed at adults.

I am always a little unsure of how a world can be extrapolated from a single protagonist. This is often an issue for the superhero scenarios but the simple solution is to combine them all together aka the Avengers and the wider Marvel universe. At this point you can roll your own hero but there is only one Peter Pan and whilst Pan like creatures go back to Shakespeare's Puck and beyond they are a singular anomaly in most narratives in the chaotic neutral vein, but I do find them an interesting phenomena.

I suppose its the difference between a hero and a narrative where a hero follows the adventures of a particular individual in a series of adventures whereas a narrative binds the adventures of many individuals into a world. This is probably why such systems don't immediately gel with me but I have enjoyed the occasional high fantasy adventure just because the characters are much more of a caricature and it encourages a bit of light hearted armature dramatics if run well and there is nothing wrong with a but of am dram.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Reddit Playing Games

I've never particularly dungeon delved into reddit nor subscribed to any of its community threads as it just seems like a longer version of twitter to me but to be fair the occasional amusing meme crosses my comms from time to time. Whilst I understand that there are corners for passionate posters as well as numerous community support areas that can be embraced the sheer immensity of prose presents a facade akin to the planetary archives of the Jedi. Its one thing to need a lifetime to read through a library but quite another to need several lifetimes just to tackle the contents section.

Oddly enough as I have been looking at some the old school systems of late I did have a quick reddit dive regarding on the fly dungeon generation. Specifically for GMs there has to be a quick method that spits out something authentic albeit in classic style and there are no shortage of approaches. Whilst I do have prize polyhedrals specifically for use with corridors, junctions and dead ends on, I have never used them as it's somewhat procedural from a single entry point. I presume this is broadly the same as drawing from a deck of dungeon tiles or indeed using a set of ordinary dice to determine layout however there is  risk that a lot of dead ends are generated inappropriately.

There is the narrative approach where the plot goes through the entrance/guardian -> puzzle/rp challenge -> red herring/trap -> boss/twist -> reward phases. The layout becomes somewhat arbitrary in this approach but whilst I like the focus on the player experience it's not really useful on the fly. Oddly and possibly appropriately enough I quite like the chaotic approach of grabbing a few dice and just rolling them onto a piece of A4. From where they land one can quickly draw around them to create rooms and from there its quick and easy to connect them up abstractly with corridors and doors. In addition with D4,6,8,10 and 12 dice available one can use these to correspond to something like the challenge ratings from the 5e monster manual... think I feel a one shot with lots of D12 coming on...