Monday, December 12, 2011

What indie rpgs do you love?

As I stated in my last post, I've been fairly busy over the past two years. And although I've had time to do some gaming (mostly DnD and WoD) I haven't had time to keep up with the indie rpg community. In the past, many of my favorite games were indie ones, and I'd love to see what's been made over the past few years.

Anyone have any recommendations? 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

And we're back...

I haven't posted on this blog for the past two years.

I didn't lose interest in gaming or philosophy, but I did join the navy. As you might be able to imagine, I've had little free time over the past two years. Between bootcamp, "A" school, and being sent to a ship that had just entered a deployment as part of Operation: Enduring Freedom, I didn't have free time to post here.

I did, on some occasions, have time to play many wonderful games with shipmates, friends, and family. And I continue to do so. Currently, I also have more free time than I've had in the past two years, and so I've decided to come back to this blog to talk about games I'm currently playing as well as thoughts I've had on gaming generally in the past few years.

Anyway, in the near future you should start seeing a post or two a week on various gaming topics. Please post your own thoughts in the comments section. As before, I love to have discussions on games, philosophy, and especially the two together. 

Monday, August 3, 2009

Secrets and Lies: A Review

Secrets and Lies: A Hardboiled Detective Game is a new offering from Daniel Bayn. I've discussed another one of Bayn's games before - the super fun, rules lite, Wushu (also recommended). 

I'm a fan of noir and this game has some great genre enforcing rules. To start with, character attributes are labeled: savy, moxie, nerve, guts, and mojo as opposed to more traditional attributes. The way these work is also interesting. As opposed to making roles immediately players take hits to these stats depending on what they're doing. Eventually the character is asked to boil one of these stats which can result in game changing failure. 

One problem our group had was that there were five players and this made it too easy to spread hits to attributes out. For a one shot story this made it very easy to pass the boiling of stats. 

Speaking of problems, only one player in our group had ever seen a film noir before. Because of this general ignorance of the genre a lot of the tropes went unused, and character types didn't necessarily match the tone. This wasn't a fault of the game, however, we still had a good time playing a more gentle inquisitive game of mobsters. 

For GMs I love the gordian knot style of npc relationships. Everyone has something to hide, and this can be exploited by the players to reach whatever conclusion they're after. This is also great for more improvised styled games. Our game involved the players being hired to investigate a blackmailed gangster and turned into an investigation of his death. The answers the players received largely hinged on who they chose to interact with the most and what leads they chose to follow. The style of gameplay S&L promotes is one of the least railroading systems I've encountered. 

Overall, I thought this was an innovative and fun genre game. It comes with my strongest recommendation to all fans of mystery, or those just looking to explore creative rules for their games. 

I'll try and get another post summing up our session and specific examples of some of the mechanics in action, but I make no promises. I leave for Navy bootcamp in a week so time is a bit precious. 

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Call for DnD suggestions

I started running Dungeons and Dragons 4e about two months ago. I've STed in World of Darkness for years, run Exalted, and a handful of indie games, but I'm still kinda new to DnD. So far, I think I'm doing okay, but I think I could be doing better. This is an open call for suggestions/comments.

Here are some specific questions I have: 
What's the best thing a DM has ever done in a game you've run/you've done as a DM? 
What's the worst? 
What are some good tactics/strategies to use in general during combat encounters? 
Are there any good riddles, puzzles, traps lists on other sites you've used? 

Thanks in advance!

Friday, January 23, 2009

How to turn Dungeons and Dragons into a Noir Thriller.

I love film noir. From the black and white cinematography, the anti-heros, to the fatalism it's one of my favorite genres. Although mysteries are quite common in rpg's, the particular style of the noir is not, and so I'd like to offer this simple guide to help you turn your average game of Dungeons and Dragons (or any old world fantasy) into a noir thriller.

For players: 

Be an anti-hero. Pick fights for no damn good reason. Be cynical. Get drunk and hurt the ones you love. 

Monologue. Talk to the group before the game begins and make sure that everyone understands this is okay - and advisable. But talk about the world, the case (quest) you're on, or the doomed fate you're inevitably marching towards in your bleak and uncaring way. 

Double cross (this goes double, err... triple for all you femme fatals). Shake the guy who gives you a quest down, or just outright kill him. Make a deal with the antagonist and join his organization instead of fighting him. It's a dog eat dog world. You gotta look out for number one. 

Betray the group. Normally this isn't recommended, but if you're doing a one shot, and doing it noir, then nothing could be better than betraying the group - having them all suffer or be killed due to your evil. Or better yet, if everyone betrays everyone you can end the story with your revelations of betrayal and a kickass pvp standoff. 

For game masters:

Thieves Guild. Have the thieves guild (mafia) be central to the group or cities you're characters are in. The underworld is played up in nearly every noir, and in addition owns everything. If the player characters go to a tavern or casino, make sure to highlight it's owned by the local thieves guild. 

Double cross. Yeah, this is advice for players already. But everyone double crosses everyone in noirs. The NPCs need to get in on this too. 

Women can't be trusted. It's sexist, but a trope of the genre. Sometimes women are the saviors of the male anti-hero, sometimes the downfall. Have women be chaotically unreliable. 

Kill the Informant. Arrange for an informant to meet the group, or one of them, late at night in the dark, lonely back streets. When the player/s find the informant, they are already dead in the street, or are killed by a silhouetted figure (which leads to a chase) before the vital clue is shared.

Fate comes knocking. Don't be afraid to let the player characters get killed off in the end. Especially if they're playing good-ish guys. The world doesn't give a damn who gets offed, and neither should you. Reconsider this if the players have played horribly selfish bastards the entire game. Selfish bastards only sometimes get their comeuppance in noirs. 

Movies and Books for inspiration: 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

5 Things All Gamers Should Try

1. Talk with a funny voice. And by that I mean just play a character who's not you with a sword in your hands or with pointy teeth. Your gaming group is not a theatrical audience. It doesn't matter if you can't really act. If you're only playing yourself then you're missing out on a big part of the roleplay game.

2. Power game. Build that character who's tricked out and can one shot an enemy 3 levels higher than him. Playing with the system and figuring out its loopholes and limits will give you a deeper appreciation for everything mechanical that you can do with your game. 

3. Play an indie game. There's a large number of games out there that stretch our imaginations as well as our definition of "roleplay game". Maybe you've always wanted to play something that doesn't require lots of DM prep time to build encounters. Might I recommend Don't Rest Your Head? How about a character growth intensive game? Primetime Adventures could be for you. 

4. Game Master. At worst, doing this once might make you more empathetic the next time your GM doesn't recall a rule or forgets an NPC's name, and at best you might find that you love crafting stories, world building, and playing 50 characters instead of just one. 

5. Play your weakness. Build a character with a significant weakness or phobia, and play it up. Maybe your character is low in charisma or manipulation on the character sheet. That doesn't mean he'd never try to tell a lie. Play it up, but rp how horrible he might be at it. This can be fun, and get you to care less about failing rolls. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fate Be Damned: a Wushu setting

I've run Wushu twice now, and our last session left off at a halfway point, so I assume I'll be running it again in the near future. I like Wushu for several reasons that I've already gone into, but one of them that I didn't mention was that it gave me an excuse to work on a setting I've been developing since high school. Here's a cliffnotes guide to the setting. I've been adding lots to it, and in the near future I might release a short pdf of it and Wushu packaged together.

Fate Be Damned.


It's 2152. Much of the Midwest has turned into a vast desert of ghost towns inhabited by zombies, the rich retreat into their glamortech palace The Fantasy, while the rest of the world is either obsessed with trendsetting outlandish lifestyles or suffering in non-consumer (3rd world) regions.

You wanted to change this. You want a better future. That's why you became a Fatalist. Secret Agent, Terrorist, Techno-powered Vigilante, Assassin you're all of these now. The Oedipus Agency found you, enhanced you, trained you, and now you know what tomorrow will be by consulting The Certainty Machine. Rather, you know what tomorrow will be without your intervention.

No day is ever the same: Take down a legion of cyborgs, negotiate with the controllers of The Fantasy, save one of the stars of Teenage Wasteland from a horde of zombies, infiltrate one of the pocket universes of The Abandoned Amusement Park.

Be careful though. Libertines know of The Certainty Machine, and they want it destroyed. Cybernetics, and genetic modification have become staples of the underworld. Police forces are unwilling to continue the arms war with criminals to the point of altering their bodies. Fatalists are often all that can stop today's super-criminals.

Humanity without your intervention is doomed. Change the world. Fate Be Damned.


Premise: Player characters work for The Oedipus Agency. TOA uses a device called The Certainty Machine to track the most probable future and alter this towards a better world.
Agents: Fatalists are the primary force of TOA. They simultaneously alter small and large events (leaving a penny head's up on the ground, robbing a bank) for both immediate goals as well as creating butterfly effects.
Setting Description: A futuristic world that is fatalistically moving towards several paths of destruction. Nanotechnology, hover cars, robots, genetic altering, and cybernetic upgrades all exist, though some of these are rare, illegal, or not yet public.
Inspiration: Lacuna, MiB, James Bond, Minority Report, The Invisibles
Powers: The characters work for The Oedipus Agency. This secretive organization not only possesses The Certainty Machine but has made unbelievable advancements in nanotechnology which they put into their agents making them hardy, strong, and fast. Other advanced weaponry is available as well.
Chi is: Nano-enhanced vitality, luck.
Typical Tasks: Spilling a drink on a woman at a club, killing the vice-president, sneezing in a movie theatre, punching Scientologists in the face.
Suitable Traits: various martial arts, firearms, stealth, charm, lock picking, tech wizard
Mooks: Cops, gangs, cyborgs, robot assassins, human/animal genetic hybrids
Nemeses: Rogue Agents, Hackers of The Certainty Machine, Outliers (people The Certainty Machine cannot account for), Libertines (groups who actively work against TOA for various reasons).

More Details:

The Certainty Machine

In 2138 The Certainty Machine made its first significant prediction: China will go bankrupt due to a poor foreign investment, and this will lead to the assassination of China's prime minster, carried out by a Chinese army Lieutenant. This will lead to a civil war, and escalate over fifty years into a global war that will wipe out 97% of humanity. The Certainty Machine was then in possession of the CIA. After the prime minister's assassination by the lieutenant, the technology was dubbed a success, and agents were sent in to stop China's civil war.

In 2145 The Oedipus Agency was formed. This agency is independent of any government to stop any one nation from using The Certainty Machine for selfish gains. Andrew Marcus, inventor of the machine, is head of TOA, and believes strongly that his machine and agency will make the world better.

The Oedipus Agency keeps its missions secret from the world. This is due to a global variation of the observer effect. After China's prevented civil war, worldwide media outlets reported on the Certainty Machine's predictions, thus creating unintentional alterations, and making the predictions unreliable.

Fatalists and The Oedipus Agency

Field Agents for TOA are nicknamed "Minutia Men" for their first few months/years of missions. Such missions involve fixing seemingly trivial details in the world, or performing simple tasks such as giving a grade schooler a pack of cigarettes, stealing a car and crashing it at a certain location, or responding to a specific person's online relationship ad. Though these tasks are often easily done, they lead to butterfly effects that will significantly impact the world weeks, months, or years later.

After a year of field work an agent is promoted to Fatalist. Fatalists' goals are often more immediate and violent as well as vague on how they ought to be carried out. For large scale disaster prevention the Certainty Machine can only work with probabilities and so less information is often known or given to Fatalists. The vagueness of objectiveness, and the brutality that almost certainly comes from these, leaves many Fatalists indistinguishable from any other terrorist organization.

Andrew Marcus has never released specific details (other than those on China's civil war) but he's gone on record with the UN and his own agents that TOA has prevented two end of humanity scenarios, stopped an African genocide, and the spread of a pandemic. Marcus refuses to share his personal politics, but cyborgs and genetically modified persons, as well as their supporters, have raised questions of bigotry against their subcultures. Some insist that the "pandemic" TOA prevented was in fact the global acceptance of these groups. Marcus has stated that this is not the case, but many Fatalists have reported that their missions involved taking down large groups of cyborgs/GMP's.


There's a lot more to the setting, but I don't want to paste and edit it all into the body of a single blog post. I might post more later, or just finish the pdf and put that up. Hope you guys like it.