Saturday, January 28, 2017

Learning to play

Learning a new game, especially a roleplaying game can be daunting with a bunch of new rules, and a world that is all fleshed out.  It can take the wind out of the sails pretty easy to think you have to read 400 pages to play a game. 

So sure, I have 30 extra sourcebooks for extra equipment and character options, but that is probably worth keeping on the shelf until the new player is hooked and wants to dig in deeper. 

Sometimes it is best to just get the game going and go from there.  In one such case it turned into a fairly funny anecdote.

I had a group that was all new to playing Deadlands.  I tried to contain my excitement that they were willing to play something other than Dungeons and Dragons so I kept the tagline simple by telling them that it is the Wild West with zombies and other monsters and weirdness, and that we'll learn as we play. 

To keep things simple I had everyone just pick an archetype character that we could either modify or toss after the first session and started playing. 

The first session was meant to be pretty simple and introduce the mechanics to them.  They were on a train from Missouri to points out west.  At one point the train was going to be robbed by some steam-car bandits so they could get a feel for combat, the train would be damaged and have to make an unscheduled stop which would introduce the hook for the adventure next session, but first I wanted them to get the idea of non-combat skill rolls while they got to know each other.  There was the dark mysterious gunslinger, the Chinese martial artist/laundry worker, the reporter, and the saloon dancer.  The saloon dancer quickly got a reputation for having a very large chest because every time her player mentioned an item she needed she pulled it out from between her breasts. 

On the train there was a kid who was playing with a tin horse.  He was an irritating little scamp who was more than his mom could handle and was running around the whole train asking questions and generally getting in the way.  When the player conversation slowed, I notified the group that the boy was now crying, wailing, bereft of all hope that joy would ever enter his life again.  He had lost his horse.

So the ever helpful players started looking for it.  I explained how the skill rolls worked, and asked each player where they were looking.  I had settled on a easy to moderate difficulty as the point was to show how the dice rolls worked.  It didn't really matter WHERE they searched, just that they did it, and when one of them hit the target number they would be the one to find it.

Everyone picked a location, under a chair, in the baggage rack, the sleeper cabin, etc. and rolled the dice.  Fail, fail, critical fail, fail.  Any one of them should have easily accomplished the task but the dice were against them.  So we tried again, the players stretched their brains a little thinking of other places to look and we rolled again.  Again the dice were only coming up with 1s and 2s, and no one could find the blasted tin horse.  Finally, the player the rather busty dancer in frustration said that she was checking her cleavage. Roll the dice and success!  No one could figure out how it got there, but the roll had it.

We all had a good laugh and the gal playing made it part of a running joke for the rest of the adventure. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The city that never sleeps

I'm playing a game of Exalted currently and one thing that has been really fun is that the GM leaves a lot of room open for the players to provide input.  In this specific case he had requested several citystates as background.  Here is one that I came up with.

Fu Tien, The kingdom that never sleeps.

Fu Tien's most valuable asset is that it is a breadbasket kingdom. It controls many hectares of fertile farmland that produce rice, and many other staple grains.  Large irrigation ditches mesh the fields together and serve as a water way for transportation of goods.   A few sleepy hamlets provide gathering spots out in the fields and paddies. With the majority of the land flooded for rice the area has an overall swampy feel.  Waterfowl (duck & Geese) being the primary game to be found (as well as frogs and other swamp creatures to be found amongst the flooded rice paddies).  It is most known for its one large city, Shen-Fan the capital. It is here that the kingdom receives its nickname.

Any public building, be it government, or commercial never closes. Availability is... the number one priority within the city. Needless to say the city is a place of constant trade, business, and entertainment.

A position within the city, be it store owner or government official is not attributed to a person, it is attributed to a mask of office. The dynamic this causes is that an important position is usually filled by two or three people who share a mask of the position. However, this causes several interesting effects.

The first: Social status is determined by mask. Higher positions, and the wealthy have ornate masks. These are passed down as heirlooms, and a reputations cling to masks across generations.

The Second: One person may have several masks. It is not uncommon for a ruler to don another mask and conduct intrigue, or slum to either find out first hand the thoughts of the commoner, or to seek vice with impunity.

The third: Duel relationships develop between people and the masks, with sometimes even best friends turning to bitter rivals and vice versa depending upon the mask they wear.

The fourth: Not everyone wears a mask. The farming villages generally have one mask that is communally owned and is only used when a villager travels to the city to conduct business.  The assumption in the city that a person without is that this person is a foreigner or a poor peasant.  A person is generally treated as not even existing unless they are actively spending money, but they can expect to be ignored if any mask wearers are there for service. 

The most common type of mask is the full face mask. Masks come in many other types though, ones that cover just the eyes/upper face, those that cover just the lower, ½ masks like the phantom of the opera or ones with just he chin exposes like greek theater masks. These partial masks may serve a practical purpose (like exposed eyes for archers) though often they are for fashion purposes and are treated similar to a low cut blouse or high cut skirt as different parts are revealed to show of certain assets.

Names: People have two names in the city. A birth name, which is a single Chinese first/last name: Chen, Chin, Wong, Fai, Wing, Long, Pak, Tau, Hung, Kok, Yahn, Loung, etc. This name is used with a personal mask (always worn out in public. As much of a requirement as pants in other cultures) Non-personal masks have names too (the 2nd name) and this is the name of the position the mask holds in society. Names can be titled etc, as a mask becomes more famous (masks hold more historical personality and status than individuals – as a result people will “live up to” the reputation of the mask.  A mask can give certain bonuses to skills related to it due to confidence of the wearer, though there is no reason a mask can't be enchanted as well to give magic bonuses

Mask name examples: Head butcher of the eastern market Mistress of 100 delights Brutish Robber 2nd Magistrate of the traders quarter Etc. Birth and death of a mask. If a mask is broken it is dead. The offense is as grievous as murder of a person (possibly more so) They have their own funeral ritual and everything. If a person accomplishes something of renown (or circumstance dictates a new mask is needed in society ) their mask may be entitled. On these rare occasions both names are used as well as the title when worn by the originator of the mask. Example: Chen had been a bus boy but saved up enough money to open his own restaurant (the drunken monkey). He turns in his bus boy mask when he quits his job and makes a new mask is to open the restaurant. He is now known as: Chen Manager of the Drunken Monkey. When he goes off shift and has another person manage the restaurant, they take the mask and are known only as: Manager of the Drunken Monkey.

The things the city are known for are trade, and entertainment. There is a large red light district that appeals to all tastes and types (think the Vegas strip mixed with Amsterdam). The culture if very blunt and up front. Although anotimity doesn’t really exist as a mask has as much reputation as a person anywhere else, the constant migration of traders etc that feel they have anotimity because of the masks have affected the culture (much like people feel like they can say whatever they want due to internet handles). As a result people will be very blunt and often only really have respect for and when wearing a position mask. (ex. The manager of an establishment has to be polite because the manager of the establishment is connected, and will treat all guests cordially. The same person with their personal mask on, may tell the same person: “nice outfit, do you look as good out of it?” out of the blue

Friday, January 6, 2017

A son is born and a kingdom dies

So I took a couple of weeks off, because well Christmas and New Years, and my wife and I had our first son.  So a busy time.

So what have I been doing over a holiday of my wife being away in hospital?  Playing Kingdom Death:Monster.

KD:M has a reputation for being a brutal game, and in my case this was no different.  In fact I don't think I've played anything so harsh since I rolled dice to "B-17 Queen of the Skies"

The game is supposed to span about 25 game years.  My little civilization lasted 9 years.  The small settlement I had ventured into the darkness to hunt the monsters that lurked just beyond the lantern's light.

We lost a hunter on each trip, but the settlement slowly grew and developed despite the loss.  The remaining hunters got stronger, and I got better as a player hunting the white lions.  Then I made the mistake of hunting the screaming antelope.  The problem with this was that on both counts while hunting the antelope we found the half eaten remains of the antelope and were ambushed by a mighty great white lion that was well beyond the hunters ability.  While I avoided any TPKs, my most experienced hunters got killed off, sometimes three at a time.  I could probably bare all this if I could replace my lost survivors.  Nope.  Instead my survivors caught a case of ennui and wandered off into the darkness rather than breeding, or died in childbirth. Finally the civilization got the boon of twins being born only to have a strange knight appear and kill off almost all the remaining survivors, which included the only remaining female.  So now, only two hunters remained against the inevitable darkness went off on their last hunt together never to return.

So a horrible sad tale was woven by the game, and I can't wait to play it again now that my wife is back to play with me, and we'll see if we can adventure further into the twisted darkness that is KD:M