May 7, 2011

Kevin Also Attempted To Do Some Rapping When Phat Beats Presented Themselves.

I am trying to make the whole “If I want something done, best to just do it” kind of mentality make me life work. As such, I decided that, shit, instead of worrying about when I was going to make this Paranoia game I promised Cara happen, how about I just do it today? I send out the call, and go to the store and bought supplies and even baked a cake. And we played Paranoia.

Jonathan ended up as the team leader character I made, who was ordered by his secret society to basically be an internet troll, which he did constantly. He actively gave orders that inspired anti-team behavior, such as delegating all paperwork for the entire team to one person, and then punishing anyone who wanted to fill out their own forms. He also tried to enforce very strict communications chains to Friend Computer, seeing as “that’s the communication officer’s job.”

Essner spent his time as Loyalty officer constantly writing hilarious notes incriminating everyone (even himself sometimes) as well as higher-ranked citizens, which would not bode well for him. He started time-stamping his entries for awhile, at least, which was interesting to experience when going through the treason log at the end of the game. He also got to fill out most of the forms, and only drew a couple penises, honest.

Kevin tried really hard to follow orders. I mean, really hard. He took his dedication to equipment seriously, and his devotion to Friend Computer extremely romantically and inappropriately. He coined the phrase “fuck you in your ports,” but unfortunately attributed it to Essner’s character, so he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He was also very dedicated to using a bucket of soapy water as a weapon, so there is always that.

Cara really, really didn’t want to use her laser and really, really wanted to stab people with paperclips. She insisted on using an orange pen, which is an ink her Red Clearance troubleshooter shouldn’t be using, to send all communications to Friend Computer, which was unfortunate for her health. She also may or may not have been named “Pete” and may or may not have been turned into a camera cyborg.

I basically decided that since I had picked a definitely short mission, I was going to be extremely lethal, and tried to kill everyone more than I find I usually do when we play. Even then, I couldn’t bring myself to do it as everyone worked themselves into bigger and bigger corners. It was too entertaining trying to see how they were going to attempt to bluff their way out of being stuck in an Infrared Dorm room with an army bearing down on them. (The solution was to make two of the guards they had knocked out look like they were kissing, while a third knocked-out guard was made to look shocked that this was going on while holding onto a Communist Manifest from a Communist Trading Vessel. Well, their solution, anyway. Didn’t actually work out well for them.) Still, more people died than normal! And there were quite a lot of laughs. It seemed like a pretty good introduction to Paranoia for Cara, and a fun time was had by all.

Also, I didn’t ruin the cake I baked, so that was nice.

March 26, 2011

Meanwhile, at the Molasses Factory Near The Ski Lodge In Springtime…

As part of my taking command of shit, I got a game of A Penny For My Thoughts together. I bought this game because it sounded cool, and I read it and it did sound cool. But it was just on that stack of games I really didn’t think I’d ever get to play with my friends. However, as part of my take-charge attitude, I realized that they would enjoy it, but would never decide to play on their own. I was being asked to do something with people for my birthday, so I hatched a plan and forced the game to be played. People wanted to do something with me, so I twisted it, searched through a million frustrating boxes, and bam, there we were.

The back of the book has several optional different versions of the game. The basic game is about real-world drama and problems. I knew none of my group would take that seriously, so I decided to use the Cthulhu-based version that was included, thinking there was a slim chance that that might be taken with a bit more seriousness. I mean, it wasn’t, but there was a better chance! Still, that was kind of the setup.

Of course, Penny is a game for a small group, and we ended up having a big group. Thus, we only really got past the first round of the three round therapy session. Still, tons of fun was had. Watching Spants dig himself farther and farther into a hole with the sort of details he was setting up his story with was fantastic. Watching Shauna really work it with the ad-libbing and Jonathan fight desperately to attempt to make his story separate from everyone else’s even as everyone tried to draw him into an overall narrative was also enjoyable.

Early in the game, I read a list of example memory triggers from the book. One of these was “your family’s ski lodge.” Essner blamed me for this, but it was all his doing: from that point forward, everything seemed to involve a ski lodge in some way. This ski lodge was somehow adjacent to a farm as well as a Molasses Factory with a trap door which lead down into a constantly burning funeral pyre to burn werewolves who have converted to Judaism and joined the all-Jewish Mafia and trapeze artist circus act. Also, at some point beeswax was being used as a contraceptive.

That’s the kind of game we were playing.

Still, my gut instinct was right. Having actually tried it, everyone seemed to walk away from the session with a very high opinion of the game, though all agreed that a small group for it would probably be best. I got to have the role-play game I wanted on my birthday, and everyone got to have fun. We even got to eat some of Cara’s cake she made! Seems like a success to me. I have all the gear to finish the game still. I’m unsure if we’ll ever actually finish it, or play another, but I kind of hope so. It is good fun.

January 15, 2011

Stratemgee Based On Three Play Sessions

We won our first game of Castle Ravenloft tonight, and I was attempting to think about strategy and what we did better. I’m also wondering if the fact that we only had 3 players made the game easier or not. I’m not sure.
In any case, here’s what lead us to victory, as far as I can see. Let me know if these tips are wrong, in your opinion.

1. Always Keep Moving: Encounters are the things that fuck you over. Monsters are mostly manageable. Thus, you need to do everything in your power to explore every turn. Bringing the Ranger to mop up enemies while still being able to explore with her special power makes this easier.

2. Use a Power Early: There are plenty of cards and effects that can let you restore a utility or daily power, so using one right at the beginning and making sure you keep one face down tends to be more beneficial than trying to save big powers for the end of the session. Fighters, especially, should use Unstoppable the moment they take two damage and try to keep flipping it back over to help their survivability.

3. Only Slightly Be A Team Player: Being close to other heroes gives buffs, but also makes encounters fuck you over that much more. One tile away from your fellow heroes is probably the best range to be, as you can still reach each other, but also aren’t on the same tile for horrible encounter card effects.

4. Rogue Kind Of Sucks: If there’s one class in the game one would want to leave out, I think it would be the Rogue. Many of the Rogue’s abilities are very situational, and are only useful when other heroes are close, which, unlike normal DnD, is fairly rare in good play of this game. Rogue has a distance at-will, sure, but Twin Shot on the Ranger and Magic Missle on the Mage are clearly better. Rogue has some decent up close attacks, but the Fighter’s attacks have way more use and the Ranger’s attacks do more damage. Rogue is really just not specialized and spread too thin. Still, if you have one, be sure to force use of Stealth, because that power is one of the best things the class has going for it.

Those are the lessons I learned, anyway. Hopefully, with these in mind, we can start winning some more games. That’d be cool.

November 11, 2010

Proper Motivation For Turning On The Party

In the DungeonDragons, a slogan they used for awhile was “Never Split the Party.” You have to have a party with a unified front, or else you’re just not going to get anything done. People will die, combats will be failures, everything will break down into bickering.

But that’s, you know, Dungeons and Dragons. Cthulhu-stuff… well, in a way, that’s different. Tension between your party is part of the horror. Not knowing who is going to turn, not knowing if you’re all really on the same side, even as you’re facing a supernatural threat…

That’s what I think, at least. I’ve been playing a pre-made Trail of Cthulhu campaign on Talking Time for awhile (It’s here if you want to read) with a bunch of cool cats. It’s been progressing really slowly, but it hasn’t been, you know, stressful because everyone is willing to be patient for people to act. I’ve found it very refreshing in that regard, and we’ve been getting some solid Roleplaying done. I love being silly, but too rarely do I have an opportunity to do roleplaying of the serious variety. As such, I’ve been really enjoying it.

However, the character I’ve pieced together, using a premade character and extrapolating from the information I was given, is really at odds with the party. Everyone else seems to be playing their characters in a very Lawful Good-esque kind of manner. Very goodie-two-shoes and whatnot. There’s nothing wrong with that. I often enjoy playing characters like that. But that just doesn’t fit Jan’s back story. She’s out for herself, and she only believes in herself. She believes she knows what she’s doing, and she wants to be in control. She’s somewhere in the Chaotic Neutral or Lawful Evil sort of range. She’s working with everyone because their goals coincide with hers.

And now, we’re at the point where they no longer do, and Jan is going to make sure she’s protected. That means bringing no monsters back to her world, and that means stopping Roger, who is infected, from coming back. Clearly, nobody else thinks that’s a good idea, since he still has his mind, and they’re good people. But Jan has wanted to be in charge this entire time, and now she has a bargaining chip. She’s going to push this and establish control.

I can’t imagine a way this would work out well for Jan. Everyone’s made it pretty clear they’re not going to bow down, and Jan probably isn’t going to back off on this. But that’s part of what makes this situation awesome. It’s a true character moment. It’s deep roleplaying. It’s amazing. My character might end up getting beaten up or killed because of this, but it’s totally worth it. It’s a realistic, tense moment in an awesome game. It works. I hope everyone else sees it as being as awesome as I do, even as they knock me out and steal my gun. Heh.

November 1, 2010

To Be Fair, You Also Have That Dead Horse.

“How did Gamma World go?”
I’m glad you asked, voice in quotes.

I believe it was a success.

Originally, we were supposed to have like 6 or 7 people make an appearance. It was going to be a big crowd, and an intense game because of it. Eventually, people had to bail and it ended up being a more intimate, but no less intense, affair with me rockin’ the Dungeon Mastering, and Kevin, Jonathan, and Spants playing characters.

The cast of characters included Hiro G, a Gravity Controlling Japaneseman from Japanesetown, who was in gay love with his former master of manhole-cover-throwing, who was a plant, and had a love child Bonsai plant named Phyllis. Next was Ox Bellows, a Speedster Thespian who annunciated everything, was wearing a Sharks costume from a production of West Side Story, and could do a badass electric boogaloo. Finally, we come to Containment Zone, or Contain, for short. He may be glowing softly from radioactivity, but that didn’t stop him from being a master of stealth, and also a collector of metal fragments and purifier of water, since he had one of those.

The trio soon began to be huge dicks to all the NPCs, which is pretty par for the course. However, and this is why I think Gamma World fits our group a bit better than straight DnD, this made sense in the more post-apocalyptic setting they were in. They had to fend for themselves, and there was always somewhere else to go, whereas in DnD a lot of the time settings are created that has the players involved in some sort of group or something, and pissing people off at random would create consequences. In here, though, sure. They started by seeing a robit explode, and then pissing everyone off and heading out with their like, four horses, which caused them to rename themselves The Horse Lords. For they are clearly the lords of horses.

Most of the night was roleplaying them pissing off everyone in the town and proceeding towards ADVENTURE! but they did eventually get into a combat. I was impressed with how they attempted to think outside the box, be stealthy, and use the environment to their advantage. Of course, their attempt to flip over a huge boulder on a dude completely backfired, causing them to lose their surprise round, but they made it through the combat okay. They had all drawn Alpha Mutations that drained life, and, calling upon listening to many a Penny Arcade DnD podcast, I decided to try using enemy banter to make combat more enjoyable. I started having all the monsters shouting about how it always seems to be life-stealers, and kill the fucking vampires, and please don’t drink my blood, it’s not tasty anyway!
Those powers really swung the battle in their favor, but still, one could tell it was a high death setting, as I got Ox Bellows down to like 2 HP at one point, and he would have died if Hiro hadn’t used a power that gave him temporary HP earlier in the fight. This caused Contain and Hiro to argue about who got control of Ox’s horse, Contain claiming he should get it, as Hiro had two, and he only had one. Hiro responded, “To be fair, you also have that dead horse,” a horse carcass they had picked up on the way to the place where combat was occurring.

It’s that stuff that’s awesome, and really made the game a lot of fun. This setting is way, way more suited to the way my friends play, much like Paranoia, and it is a ton of fun. Granted, whenever we play, we have the most fun just free-form roleplaying, and it just makes me wish I had an easier time convincing people to play something like, say, Primetime Adventures. Still, it was great, great times. Over too soon, but great times. Hopefully we can find a time to play some more soon.

October 25, 2010

I Opened Up My Gamma World Box

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still COMPLETELY EXCITED to play Gamma World this Friday with people. I mean, totally excited.
But man, the main rulebook leaves something to be desired.

I swear there is a chapter missing in this thing. The book makes references to things like “worldlines” and all kinds of crazy stuff, but there’s no section in the book which actually describes the setting. Now, I’m not a lore person, but still, you have to give me, as DM, something more than nothing so that I can create a setting that is thematically appropriate. All you really get is “crazy, destroyed world with mutant powers.” I guess that’s enough, but goodness, it seems a little questionable, especially when you have all these other elements showing up in your descriptions of monsters and gear which refer to things you haven’t referred to.

It also seems weird that, by using the rules in the box, you can’t create several of the player characters that the pictures in the rulebook show you. For example, there are several pictures of a mutated rat person, but following the rules, you can’t be a mutated rat person. You can be a swarm of rats. An entire swarm of them. But not a rat person. It’s just odd.

Still, I really like the card mechanic in general. I am looking forward to seeing how that adds random fun to the game. It should add some! I think that’s neat. I’m not so hot on the booster thing, but if it works fantastically well and everyone is interested? Well, who knows. Maybe. I still feel like they should have been stand-alone expansion packs of powers or loot, but I guess I don’t get to make the business decisions at Wizards, huh?

It’s pretty obvious to me, though, that Wizards has a potential hit. It does seem to be handled pretty badly, though. Hopefully they can turn it around. It’s still going to make for damn fun role-playing this Friday, though. I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes. There will be pews, pows, and things of that nature! Believe it! Like a Naruto!

June 11, 2010

Someone From This Plane of Existence Would Go In.

It’s not easy being a Bard/Rogue with a bow.

For one, sometimes a bunch of lizardpeople attack the town when you’re just trying to get a fucking drink, and you have to shoot them up with arrows. That’s something.

For another, you could be teamed up with a band of misfits who decided to name their adventuring company Balls, LLC.

Yeah, I played DnD again.

I was under the impression we were going to be a big more serious, so I tried to create a character and play it as such. However, Essner made a character who was just named his name, which was really kind of silly, and Spaeth was playing a Shardmind who couldn’t decide if he was British or not. Kenny was silly, but was actually roleplaying, I thought, so awesome. He even had a little voice for his Gnome.

Jonathan did a wonderful job as always. He’s a solid DM. The game itself moved a little slow, though. We were in a single combat for something like 2 hours. Granted, it was supposed to be a huge setpiece, with people of the town being attacked around us, but that long in one fight can grate sometimes, especially with Essner. I didn’t really mind too much. I really enjoyed my Bard Arrow powers. None of them hit hard, (Almost all of them did 1W+CHA) but most of them had really great buffs on them. I especially enjoyed Rewrite the Future, where I’d roll an extra D20 and could assign it to someone’s roll before my next turn.

Everyone was very “Let’s just go kick some ass,” which my character had to keep complaining against. I didn’t see her as a reckless person who took risks for no reason. I spent a lot of my RP time arguing with people at the table. I’m sure that’s probably a good thing, but man, I kept “Inspiring Competence” so that they’d see how stupid their strategy was. I’m unsure it worked.

Still, it was a fun time. Hopefully we can get more done next session, though who knows when that will be. Hopefully soon! I can hope for things!

June 4, 2010

I Made a Monster Called a Bookwyrm. How Lame Am I?

I had promised people from school some DnD action, and so, seeing as we couldn’t get Jonathan’s campaign going on Wednesday, I decided that would be as good a day as any to get my own little campaign with everyone started.

When I had originally proposed this campaign, I had given a general outline: James L. Harner, author of this lovely book, has an evil library, and you’ll fight through it. Of course, bringing that to life is a bit harder than saying it. Especially since I ended up with a party of nothing but Strikers, and players who really enjoy lore, which has never been my strong suit. I needed to make something I’d enjoy running, but also something with enough backstory and sense built in to make the kind of people who wrote 3 pages of character backstory when asked for a “quick character idea” happy.
Oh, and I’d also have to teach everyone how to play DnD.

In the end, though, I feel like things went really well. Everyone was put on the spot when I asked them to roleplay, though they eventually got into it. Spaeth and Cole were doing most of the roleplay, even though Cara and Josh were the ones with all the Charisma. People also had a bit of a problem grasping the basic combat mechanics. I thought the power cards would make that easier, but they didn’t really. Just a little. I was glad Spants was there for that, because as the DM, I didn’t want to railroad them with advice, so having Spaeth be able to say “That really doesn’t seem like a good idea” and stuff as part of their team was better, I think.

In the end, Spaeth had to Lawful Good Stop Cole from stealing money back from a shopkeep, and Josh kept running in circles around a tree to dodge arrows. Spaeth also almost left a dude to die, even though he had magical healing powers. My enemies hit REALLY hard, but went down like chumps too, since there were so many Strikers. I felt like I actually hit a pretty good balance in my monsters this time around, because it was really close, and they were being hit hard, but weren’t in any real danger, either.

Basically, I think I kicked ass in the DM department. Or at least did competently.

I want to wrap this plot up in another session, or maybe two. Not too many, because I don’t feel like I can be counted to do that many. We’ll see how it goes.

January 2, 2010

Brendon is so much more helpful than Brandon.

I had the bright idea, during the last week of classes, that we should play a short DnD campaign over the Christmas break. “There will be plenty of time!” I told myself. “So much time!”

Well, it took like… 3 weeks to be able to come up with a date to do this thing, and even then, we barely got it going, and even even then then, we only got through one combat. But hey, it was DnD! Dungeons and Dragons! That’s cool, right?

This campaign was supposed to be a departure in many ways. For one, it was supposed to be the first time that Mr. Justin Spants, Esq. got to be the DM. I knew this meant a complete lack of seriousness to absolutely anything about the campaign, but I hoped it would be fun. I also set out to make a character completely different from what I normally play.

You see, I am stuck, in a way. I always play the healer. Now, I love, love, love playing that role, don’t get me wrong. But if I don’t expand my horizons a little, how can I know all there is to know about the game? How can I know what the other roles need from me, the healer? How can I tell someone else they’re doing it wrong if I don’t know how to do it right? All this, plus the fact that maybe it’s time to try to roleplay someone different brought me to this point.
I had my eyes firmly set on the “Controller.” Nobody in my group has ever really played a Wizard, or the like, and we’ve often been found needing them. So I decide, hey, I’m going to play a Wizard! Only I get this idea for a character: Reckless, Brash, and in love with combat. Someone who shoots first and asks questions later, and is incredibly laid back about her chosen profession. The more I thought about this, the less this seemed like a Wizard. I turned to a class I laughed at before, the Invoker, for the answer. Invoker seemed so… bland, but as my character came together, the idea of this Avatar of Kord who isn’t about evil, or anything, but is just itching to get into war, into more fights, due to anything that could be seemed as a good idea? Well, that fit. That could be fun.

There we were, at a city with a name so stupid I cannot even recall it. Avril Sparklewhisper (sister, apparently of Rachael Sparklewhisper, my Warlord), Willhelm the Staunch (my brother’s completely min/maxed tank of a fighter), and the single-y named Tao (Essner’s warrior monk Cleric Dragonborn guy) were all there. Yes, this was a gathering of one of the land’s greatest adventuring parties: Rumblefuzzz, with three z’s, because… well, I have no idea why, it’s just how it is.

There was a fire cave, or so some guy named Brandon said. In said very religious fire cave were some very bad people, and they had taken the place hostage, which was really killing tourism. We wanted to talk to Brendon, because he seemed like he would no more, but Brandon would have none of that. Dick. We went in to take some names and throw some lightning. That’s what Avril was going to do, anyway.

And I totally did! Having AoE spells really does change combat a lot, and certainly makes it easier. I was knocking down big groups with little trouble, and it was pretty cool. Jonathan, of course, was tanking like a pro, and had some pretty crazy anti-damage skills. Essner continues to not be able to roll a d20 to save his life. Seriously, I just don’t get it. He ALWAYS misses. He never deals any damage at all. Yet he can play Arkham Horror, and murder enemies he shouldn’t be able to hit any day of the week. The guy just cannot use a d20. I don’t know. They just hate him.

Anyway, the combat went on a little longer than it probably should have, which happens, especially when you’re new at the stuff and don’t know what you’re doing: balancing a combat is hard. Really hard. But we had some fun, and then people were done, so we split. Hopefully we can continue and do some more soon, but hell, as long as it took to schedule this one, maybe we can get to it around next December. Who knows.

November 1, 2009

My mentor, Dr. Phillip Rochester…

I got it in my head that, for Halloween, I was going to run a one-shot Call of Cthulhu game! I don’t really know why. I didn’t have any experience with it. But hey, I bought the book, and I schemed, and I planned, and on Wednesday, Jonathan, Spaeth, Essner, and Ben all played my little campaign.

The story I planned was based in 1920’s Arkham for ease of writing and familiarity for everyone, since we’ve all played so much Arkham Horror. I constructed a story about a Mask I made up and a creature called a Dream Sucker, which was sort of like a mosquito made of light that sucked out creativity until you sort of ended up like a robot. By a coincidence, all the players get infected by these beings, and had to work together to stop them.

The game wasn’t scary at all. We’re like… the least serious roleplayers on earth. And while sometimes I wish we’d get serious and do something serious, I wouldn’t trade the fun we have for that. We were laughing the whole damn time at stupid jokes, stupid decisions, etc. Jonathan’s character broke into a guy’s house, and then left a note with his name an address. Ben constantly attempted disguises and critically failed, causing us to invent crazier and crazier ways where he was MORE like his normal self in his failed disguises. Spants tried to pull guns on everybody, and Essner used his character’s “mentor, Dr. Phillip Rochester,” as the reason for every single thing he did. It was really quite ridiculous, in an awesome way.

From a planning standpoint, though, I feel like I succeeded pretty well. There were several points where I guessed what everyone would decide to do perfectly, and had notes for just such an occasion. I made a physical puzzle involving mocked-up card catalog cards, and while it stumped them for awhile, they all said it was a good puzzle. Which was good! Puzzle-making isn’t easy. I was glad that worked out.

But yeah, overall, a very fun time. I stayed up too late, perhaps, what with me being all old and going to bed early nowadays, but staying up for some fun once and awhile isn’t so bad, is it? I didn’t think so. I made a puzzle, drove someone insane, and laughed so hard I probably kept people up. That sounds like a good night to me.