Monday, June 29, 2015

Playing the Flexible Character

I used to always play the lawful good / chaotic good character.  I was the paladin with an inner struggle and a drinking problem.  I was the hero that wanted to always save the day and didn't need to get paid.  Then something changed.  After reading again and again about the dangers of lawful stupid and rogue vs paladin, I decided not to be limited.  I decided to play the chaotic neutral character, a person motivated differently that didn't really care about ideas like good and law.

In the beginning, it was just a way for me to avoid entanglements with alignment.  With a chaotic neutral alignment, no one could argue alignment over my actions. It was the ultimate flexibility.  My character was batman without all of the hand-wringing over innocent people.

Then, as a GM, it started to sink in.  I played this way because I hated alignment.  I hated playing with people that broke the social contract and fought against other PCs.  I hated playing rogue vs paladin in the party.  Alignment was broken.  The problem was that there were few alternatives to standard alignment that seemed to work.  As a GM, I aimed my players toward writing back stories.

Reading games like Burning Wheel inspired me.  I built a whole new system of backstory for characters to use.  I built methods for capturing goals and motivations.

5e Came out and suddenly there way this new way to fix alignment, even though alignment was still there.  There was a structured background that supported both story and mechanics.  Unfortunately, the problem was that all of that was forgotten in game.  Players had no reason to play to their motivation.  Heck, most players forgot their background after a session or two.  GMs didn't even reward for playing to it, so it got thrown out.

Now I wander back to 13th Age.  I am going to read it again, but clearly their ideas regarding background, icons, and relationships make the game better in this respect.  It all ties together.

In the end, I realize that I want to play not the flexible character, but the motivated character.  I want to do it in a way that intertwines with the mechanics of the game.  I want it to be a the forefront of the game and my own mind.  I don't want to just use plain old alignment and feel handcuffed to it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A GM Tool I Need

My Wednesday Drednaught game has arrived in a large city, Athkatla, the City of Coin, a city of politics and intrigue.  In such scenarios, as well as many others, the depth of the worlds is reflected in the numerous NPCs and their relationships, organizations, and goals.  Capturing, organizing, and defining a large number of related NPCs can be a real challenge, Unfortunately the tool I need for this job does not exist.

What I need is a social network tool that allows me to manually add nodes, define their relationships to other nodes, and allows me to capture pertinent information and their image as part of their node.  The whole interface needs to allow me to change focus of the central node for when they pop up in game.  As an added feature, it would allow me to display a full size version of their portrait on a second screen.  Displaying NPC stats in a secondary screen would also be a nice feature.  An XML template for defining stats would provide game-to-game flexibility.  Compatability with data from other tools, like PCGen, HerolLab, and Chummer would also be very handy.

More importantly, this application should be useful on multiple platforms.  Java is an obvious choice for multi-platform graphical interface.  This could be run on Chromebooks, Macs, Linux, and Windows.

Will I build such a tool?  I don't know.  I have some time now, and maybe if I find a similar tool I can modify, I might give it a try.  Too bad it doesn't already exist.

The Adventures of Tarrak

Tarrak is a dark gnome that grew up on the streets of Skullport.  He scratched by with what he could beg for food and eventually graduated up to minor thievery and pickpocketing for more organized factions within the Dredge.  He came to know people and even like some of them.  One of these people was the local trade negotiator, a halfling named Maybach.

Maybach, as often happens with negotiators in Skullport, turned up missing, and Tarrak saw his opportunity.  He found a loak that looked just like Maybach's and started negotiating trades under his name.  The money was better than Tarrak ever imagined, but the good times didn't last.  Maybach's body turned up and Tarrak was soon under suspicion of murder.  He fled to the surface in hopes of finding a safer way.

Somehow he ended up in a temple of Savras, half dead from wounds sustained during his escape.  The local temple cleric tended his woulds and fed him to get him back to good health.  Tarrak's curiosity soon drew him from his room, learning about Savras and the clerics' ways.  He came to accept Savras as his redeemer and even became a cleric of Savras at the lowest rank.

Savras did not allow Tarrak to find his calling as a cleric, though.  The piles of books in the old library called to him, and soon Tarrak was dabbling in the arcane and bring forth a whole new type of power from Savras.  The clerics did not understand this new path and sent him out into the world.

Tarrak found his way eventually into a group of adventurers headed for Red Larch with rumors of wealth and fame to be had dealing with murderers and other evil to be dealt with.  Tarrak grew slowly in power, learning the ability to conjure all sorts of magic, even healing and teleporting, from combinations of arcane and divine inspiration.

Along the way, Tarrak found good friends in Alistair, a bird man, who preferred open spaces like Tarrak, in Gom Red Bear, a hulking man that Tarrak loved to hide behind in battle, and Yrra, an oddly sensual woman who made Tarrak mostly uncomfortable.  The party investigated missing Dwarven delegates, various crimes and cultist plots.  Eventually they found Stonecarver, a massive fighter who ripped into battle alongside Gom, giving Tarrak the ability to focus on his magics.  Tarrak learned to teleport and even disappear from sight.  Soon spells gave him powers to dance about the abttlefield and rain havoc down upon their enemies.

The saga of Tarrak is ongoing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

20,000 Pageviews

This blog has passed 20,000 pageviews.  This is very exciting for a simple hobbyist blogs.  Thanks to all the readers!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Code of Ettiquette for Online TTRPGs

This Code of Etiquette will become a standard part of all games I host online henceforth, subject to further refinement.

Etiquette of the GM
  1. The GM will maintain Rule Zero: Everyone has fun.
  2. The GM will not make changes to character rules (i.e. class, race, feat, or trait specific rules) after character creation without agreement of all players unless it conflicts with Rule Zero.
  3. The GM will attempt to maintain a clear set of rules, ensure that players are following them, and not change them arbitrarily during the campaign.
  4. The GM will make rule-consistent judgement calls to keep the game going, but may research controversial calls out of session and report back to the players.
  5. The GM will make every effort to keep session going on schedule, and will notify players as soon as possible if a session will be cancelled.  Rescheduled games will include all players.
  6. The GM will use player feedback, character backgrounds, other player-generated content to influence the game.
  7. The GM will not show favoritism towards any character or player.
  8. The GM will not attempt to play a PC.
  9. The GM will assist the players as a resource, not play against them or attempt to deliberately kill characters.
  10. The GM will not fudge rules or otherwise "cheat".  This does not imply that NPC characters in play must follow player character creation rules.
  11. The GM will attempt to not interrupt roleplaying, except to provide additional relevant information.
  12. The GM will not tolerate cheating.
  13. The GM may ask players that break player etiquette or rule zero to leave the group, and may permanently ban them from his/her games.

Etiquette of the Players
  1. The players will read and understand the rules, setting, character creation guidelines, tool help, and other available documentation before asking questions or making a character concept.
  2. The player will make a commitment before joining a game and will hold to that commitment.
    • Play at least 3 sessions and communicate with the GM before choosing to leave the game.
    • Will not be significantly absent during game times (leaving early, taking care of other things during the game time, excessive absences, etc)
  3. The player will absolutely attend the first gaming session to which they are invited if they join.
  4. The player will give notice before missing a session as early as possible, and only miss sessions for significant real life conflicts.
  5. The player will communicate with the GM about positive and negative aspects of the game.
  6. The player will not leave the campaign for any reason without talking to the GM about it first and attempting to address the player's issues, if possible and applicable.
  7. The player will not cheat or ask to break the rules.
  8. The player will not bring or use pirated game content.
  9. The player will not copy characters from other material, genres, cartoons, anime, books etc.  The characters will be of their own making and design.
  10. The player will make sure they have the necessary materials before joining the game (books, documents, headset, reliable internet, etc)
  11. The player will not argue with the GM about rulings in game or after the game.  The player may present additional relevant information to the GM out of game.
  12. The player will know how to play their character.
  13. The player will take their actions quickly on their turn.
  14. The player will pay attention and not disrupt the game.
  15. The players will not suggest vulgar, sexually violent, racist, sexist, ageist, or other inappropriate things during game play.
  16. The players will keep language age-appropriate, where applicable.
  17. The players will not metagame, meaning to use knowledge the character does not have to decide character actions.
  18. The players will play as part of the party, not attempt to play against the party, and will not attempt steal the spotlight or otherwise overshadow other characters with their character.  This implies building unique characters good at unique things.
  19. The players will not bully, insult, belittle, or otherwise disparage other players or their characters.
  20. The players will attempt to play their characters consistent with the character build, background story, and alignment (if used).