Thursday, November 04, 2010

Parting Ways and Brand New Days

I feel as though I have no true followers, and for this I have no one to blame but myself.

  • I didn't post that often
  • I had a very strange blog, and an oddly specific blog theme
  • I pretended to be a raccoon
  • I didn't even give the best advice (meaning that I've found better advice on other websites)
So it's for these reasons that I'm closing Nook's Knack, and switching over to Path of Balance. There you can meet the real me, the man behind the raccoon. The good news in all of this is that I probably still will write about games, but they will no longer be the focus of any of my posts.

Good gaming, and happy days my friends,

From : Stewart

Monday, August 30, 2010

Schools In

Well to anyone keeping up with my blog entries, I am sorry that I haven't written in two months! I know... I'm a horrible raccoon. However, not much has actually taken place since my last post. The steam bike game sort of fell apart after the first session. A mix of me getting sick with some stomach illness, and players forgetting what day we played. We got two additional sessions in before the interruption that inevitably stopped the game, and that interruption would be moving away and going to school. All my players where back in the hometown for the summer, but we're all going our separate ways for school again. Now here I sit in my brand new apartment, with brand new roommates, looking out at a vast sunset/thunderstorm.

Sad as it is that the game fell apart, I won't roll over and take it lying down. I'm well on my way to preparing another game and finding some new players...
"New players"... now there's a thought I wasn't prepared for.

How do I go about discovering brand new players under the rocks of this brand new city? I have yet to meet anyone in any of my classes that looks interesting. Although I do suppose my roommates could work, maybe I'll try for them.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The First Session

Last night I held the first session of my Steambike game! (Finally)
The session went amazingly well! I called all the players at 11am and told them the time (5pm) and place (my apartment... I mean tree), shockingly they all said they could make it. Amazing given their less than 12 hour notice! When organizing a game make sure to find your players early on so you don't wind up with players who you've never met before, and definitely warn them about the session about a week ahead of time. If a week is too long to wait before releasing your master piece, then at least have to common decency to allow for 24 hours before the session. Obviously though, I did not do this and I still got away with it! ^^
I allowed an hour for players to arrive, and in this case introduce themselves to each other. I've been practicing this sort of patience for quite some time now, given my players lack of ability to be on time to any event. But when six o' clock rolled around, I waited no more. I turned to the most humble of my players (a choice I did not make by coincidence) and began to roll a character up with him. Apollo is the name of this character (and the nickname I'll be using for his player). Immediately after learning his character's name, I told him what peril danger his character was in.
"You're running for your life Apollo. You're being chased by a zombie-like creature with blood dripping from his jowls. He is gaining on you, and very quickly." Then without giving the player any time to take an in-game action I returned to character creation by asking him for his sex.
"Male," he quickly said.
"You rack yourself on a little lower than waist high brick wall, you fall to the ground from the pain. And how old are you Apollo?"
"I want to be wise, and since you're game is set in a confusing world, I want to know as much as I can... I'll be 65."
"Oh yes..." I said, "You're definitely in pain from that groin hit."
I proceeded to let him know about how the zombie lunges forward and is about to land on top of him, unfortunately he was unable to stop the zombie from grappling him and was thus pinned to the ground in pain of plenty, and struggling against the bloodthirsty undead for his frail but still semi-important life.

This process shattered the gray noise from step one. "Gray noise" is anything that takes up the sound waves and isn't the center of attention.. I use it as a term for other players who talk during someone's turn. When they heard what was happening, they drew their conversations to a quick end, and cheered for a new member of the gaming group. I also started throwing the other players into their own stories, leaving the old man on a cliff hanger. When I started there where only four players, so I had two in one area and another two somewhere else. One of which died almost instantly, which scared the rest of the room, making the danger seem more real. That same player (who has before been known to be one of my best players) was more careful about his decisions after that. Ok, well actually he let himself get beat up pretty bad as a distraction for a fellow PC to steal a steam bike and get away. But I don't take heroism for granted in my games, so I gave Price (formally #54) the credit he deserved. (And yes, the fact that he named his first character after a number might have had a little to do with my killing him off, but it wasn't like I didn't give him a chance to run)

Between story shifts, since there where players just listening and not particularly doing anything, I would give them NPCs to play as and told them their role as this person. They where very good at staying fair to their fellows, and so I kept doing this throughout the night. By staying fair I just mean that they didn't try to help them, and they didn't try to ruin their experience either. It's fellowship at it's best I think. This is a daring move for most GM's though. Players tend to play in a manner that will only help them, so it's a lot more common that you won't be able to let your players take control of NPCs for you, I'm just saying you shouldn't rely on it all the time.

Ironically, after just about everyone had their first turn, we started rolling for character stats. The setup was a bit odd, but I think it's going to be perfect for this game. Everyone was allowed to re-roll for only one stat. The stats are Speed: which is your ability to out-run something while your on foot, Mental: which is your general knowledge of the world and book smarts, and Physical: which is you're general strength and physical health. Depending on their size (child, regular, and husky + small, medium, or large) they got a speed roll and a physical modifier. The highest possible speed is 20 and the speed rolls my players got are as follow:
12 16 13 10 13 and 11 so they're all pretty average runners.
When a player chose they're age they got a Mental roll (max 25) and a physical roll which with the addition of their modifier is max 25 as well. The mental and physical rolls of my players are as follow:
Mental: 13 5 8 5 8 and 6 so only the old man has any common sense in this game.
Physical: 2 5 19 9 4 and 15 giving the group a balance of two tough guys, and one seriously frail old man.

Everyone was given 1 liter of water to start with since the game is pretty much about how hard it is to find water. And as always they where each allowed three basic items in their inventory. A basic item is considered roughly speaking to be anything that isn't a weapon. Only every so often do I have to turn down a player for asking for something a little too useful, like say a GPS, or 3 main ingredients to a home-made bomb. Some players started off better than others, but I threw story line at them to make things even, for instance: I gave Jackson a very nice bike to start with, but after saving an old man from near death by zombie he continued rolling on and eventually parked his bike outside a house to raid the inside. However when he returned he found his bike missing, and later the old man saw a gang of female bikers with the same stolen bike.

Only one player (Virgil) made out like a bandit on his first turn, after stealing a steam bike to make a get away from a slave trade situation, he was chased relentlessly by the Mexican slave traders. He did his best to shake them and when he took a sharp turn down a clover-shaped off ramp, three out of four of his chasers crashed into the walls due to their high speeds. He made quick work of the fourth Mexican biker, and then stole all their stuff getting a total of 15 liters o' water, a new steambike, some drugs (for trade in the game system), spare parts, and a wrench. He also obtained one my very interesting guns, and has 10 bullets each varying degrees of ways to stop someone or slow them down (ie. nets, spikes, etc.)

The session ended in a wonderful array of battles and cliff hangers, and my players left with smiles on their faces and laughter still thick in the air. They complimented me on my new game and all said they couldn't wait for the next week, when they will hopefully learn the main plot arch from me. Now the only thing left for me to do...
come up with a main plot arch.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Diligently Working

Since the return of my internet I have gone full out discovering things I'm surprised to say I didn't actually think existed. These two websites however are geared towards Game Masters, so feel free to check 'em out and maybe sign up for them... unless you're a player of mine. Sorry boys, the Gnome Stew is fine for you guys, but the forum is going to give too much away in future games.

This is a blog called Gnome Stew created by Game Master's for Game Masters. In one day it gave me about 50 great tips that I assure you I will be using in my future games.

And the Forum,
This forum is apparently run by many of the same people who write Gnome Stew. It's a Forum where Game Master's can go and feel safe to talk about what's going on in their games (which is why my players can't go there, sorry again guys). A place where one GM can ask a question and get answers from thousands of other GM's. I highly encourage any GM whether brand spankin' new or old as the forest I live in to at least visit this forum, and hopefully join.

Both sites are totally free and very helpful. They give tips on almost any traditional campaign and you can ask for help in any personal campaigns.

On another note, aiming more towards why I titled this post "Diligently Working", I've been hard at work on my games lately. Re-visited a bunch of my older games and started up the long laborious (but still fun) process of fixing all the bugs in them. For instance, since we're still not playing the Steambike game I've been trying hard to make a new map for it. The Arizona map is fine and all, but I just don't like the idea that all the players grew up in AZ. I just know that one of them will try to correct me on where a city is located or when exactly the sun rises. So seeing as how I just signed up for that Forum I thought I'd give 'em a shot and see what advice they have for me when it comes to this map problem I now have. You see (as I just posted in the Forum) I keep trying to draw my own, but I don't like how they come out looking.

I can draw, but you might be surprised to find that drawing a freeway system for a state the size of AZ is harder than it sounds. I even tried writing city names on posted notes which I posted on the floor in the order I liked, and then laid down tape for roads between the cities. This is a great way to make a map by the way. However, the outcome looked like a normal map, not a freeway system. Freeways are a bit more unpredictable than normal streets, they have to be carefully planned around pre-existing buildings and roads while still being the most straight shot way to get to anywhere in the general area. Freeways have curves but less than the average street, and they have plenty of loops like clovers,but these clovers aren't necessary unless they lead to another road.

Like I said, we'll find out what the forum members have in store for me, but in the meantime I'm still thinking hard. Never let others solve your problem for you, you can ask for advice or a little help from someone who may have already had the problem before, but it's your game and that makes it your problem. For instance since posting on the forum I've started to think that maybe I'll just start my players in one city on foot or something, and when they get to their bikes and then to the open road, I'll sorta make up a map as we go. This of course requires them to be in a party, which isn't my normal style of game play. I also posted this earlier on Gnome Stew but I'm the kind of Game Master who starts all his players off waking up in completely different spots than the other players. So party games aren't my specialty.I'm also thinking of maybe looking for another map on Google maps. Not that I haven't tried this already, but I definitely haven't looked at them all yet.

By the way! I was just thinking about this old trick I used to pull when I still wasn't very confident about my map drawing skills. Just start the players without the map and with very little geographic common knowledge. By the time you figure out a map, you can let them find one in game. It works great because most game creators use fake worlds and made up places, so the characters know just as much as the players do.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Great Return

Yes! Internet my sweet... how I've missed you so.

Oh my! Excuse me reader, I didn't see you there! *blush*

I was just showing the internet how much I have missed it while I was away. I'm sure you can understand that, or have you yourself had the internet for far too long to remember just how boring life can be without it. Well just in case you find yourself spending all your time on the internet and cant remember how else to cure your boredom I've now returned from that great beyond known as reality and can guide you through it.

I'm not sure why my players and I still haven't started playing the steambike game, but I know it must have something to do with how little I've tried to bring them together. So for you GM's out there... don't do what I've done and let you're players slip through your fingers. Players can be very slippery, either they have work in the morning, or a paper to write, maybe a baby to feed, or some sleep to catch up on. But it's all just an excuse to get away from the routine your game brings to their lives. So don't let your games become a routine! I mean don't get me wrong, its wonderful to have a schedule for them to follow so they can plan on being at the next game, but you cant let the game turn into mundane mojo! It's gotta be something more like Magnificent Masterful Melodic Mojo... at the least!

A good way to shake up the game and keep the players on the edge of their seat is to throw in special events. Don't, however, get these special events confused with storyline markers. I mean have a random meteor shower or earthquake, and the story can have been effected by it, but the story is still about getting to grandma's house before the wolf eats her. Special events are a common tactic of MMORPG's. (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game's such as World of Warcraft or Runescape for those of you who are still learning terms) In MMORPG's there isn't really an end to the story. While there are many side quests, bosses that take 100 players to kill, and rare items to collect, the best you can really achieve is a level cap. The level cap is the highest level available to all characters in the MMO. It's put there partially as a way to keep balance in the game and a way for players to finally reach a conclusion. This conclusion however is fairly pointless as there is never an end to the game itself. The game is given the appearance of being different and growing and changing by the special events that the GM's sprinkle into them.

In the MMO world a GM doesn't run the game the same way a GM would run a paper game. In the MMO world a GM is more like a peace keeper and a mechanic then a story teller, or a dark and evil mysterious force. Because, truth be told, the game has already been created. The game was thought out ahead of time and all the monsters have timers and random spawn points where they eventually come back to life with brand new items on them. The random events however, those are usually the GM's doing. Which is very good I think, because if I was getting paid a small salary to keep the peace and repair the glitches in a game where someone from Australia can teabag someone from Alaska, I would want the freedom of artistic expression too! Most MMO GM's come up with special events like "ALL THE MONSTERS ATTACK THE CITY" or "TWO CITIES CLASH OVER WHICH CLAN WILL RULE THE AREA" but these are classic cases of a condition called Pitiful and Lazy Event Design.

I'm not a MMO GM myself, and I hear it's actually work (sometimes). So I'm not bashing the job, but I do find it very boring when the same events just repeat themselves time and time again. The events that people like are the kind of events where the sky is falling, the dragon is out of the dungeon, the NPC that always sells them their favorite potion just cracked and is on a murdering streak. Events where GM's open up the Player Killing fields and allow PK everywhere not a town. Sure, players like events where EXP is tripled with monster kills, and where item drops are more rare and more frequent, this is no doubt true. However, they also like it when portals appear out of nowhere that can take them to a yet undiscovered realm where they can meet new people and fight different monsters without the hours of field travel required normally. They appreciate the chance to become famous by getting their name on a list of recent and most worthy victories! Or there's always the ever enticing Guild Wars, where two or more factions of actual players get rough and start some shit in the town square!

So when you're making your own paper game keep these thoughts in mind. The players want reality to be thrown to the wind. That's why they came to you, and it's why they play. Take what they know about your game and make it new again with a special event every now and then. Keep these events original and tasteful. I say tasteful because as Special of an Event as it is to kill your best player forcing them to start over, if it's a rude or humiliating death then it has the opposite effect your looking for. Then again... Killing players does make for one hell of a Special Event. I mean there's almost always an epic final battle or something, and the players all feel the danger become real. It makes players want to come back for more and its fun to watch them cry^^
Eh, who am I to say anything. I love killing players. . .

*Bum Buum Buuuuuuuuuuum!!!*

Monday, May 31, 2010

Catching up on lost time

I havn't had any internet, so posting has become a bit complicated.

A lot has happened since my last post. The steambike game is complete and ready to run, but for some reason we havn't started playing. I finished the finer points of the game creation process with something I like to call "Mad Skill". I was feeling fairly lazy and my players have been hard to keep in contact with, so I cheated a little bit.

All I needed to finish before we could start playing was the weapons and armor charts. The weapons are pretty simple. The players can use melee (with just about anything) and the damage is purely GM disaggregation. Which just means that instead of an exact number of damage points every time the weapon is used, I (as the game master) will decide what damage and how much of it was taken. There could also be dice used here, but nothing too special.

The Guns though!! That's where the actions at. I created a list of 6 different types of guns. And each type of gun shoots a different class of bullet. These are no ordinary bullets (well except for the regular bullet kind), they each have properties that allow the user to shoot a large variety of different attacks. Here's a list for all the guns and what bullets they can shoot.

Apprentice 1 Non-Lethal damage (rubber bullets, nets, etc.)
Alchemist 2 Traps (oil slicks, spikes, EMP, etc.)
Magician 3 Semi-Lethal/Wound damage (ordinary bullets, glass bullets, etc.)
Wizard 4 Lethal Damage (spread shot, split-shot, sniper shot, etc.)
Mage 5 Traps that can get lethal (electric blast, flame, vaporizer, etc.)
Sage 6 Bio-Warfare (Diseases)

The spread shot is like a shotgun blast while the split shot breaks up after hitting the target. The vaporizer turns all water within a small range into steam. This is particularly useful because the game is based in a world where water is hard to come by, and even your vehicle needs it to keep running.
There are also more guns that are more or less combination of those basic 6.

Druid 1-2
Warlock 3-4
Arcmage 5-6
Shaman 1-3
Guru 4-6
Cleric 2-5
Oracle 1-6

The armor is also 1-6 levels of protection (each for its corresponding damage) and available for the head, torso, arms, legs, hands and feet.

Anyway, that's all I'm posting for now, but I still have a lot to tell you. So until next time, keep doing what you're doing and I promise you'll enjoy the results.