Monday, July 26, 2010

Here Comes The Story Train...

A busy week outside of the gaming life, though things have been going well.

Saturday's session wound up with some railroading. We all know that sometimes it can't be avoided. Sometimes, as a GM, you just need to push the story forward. This was the third session of the Ascendance campaign, and was in most ways, a conclusion to the first chapter. The characters managed to free themselves from the grasp of the Exchange, if temporarily, and have gained a worthwhile ally. They also managed to create a rather personal antagonist, after blowing the leg off of a crime boss.

They have commandeered a ship and are setting off into the Outer Rim to end a slaving ring that seems to have connections with a nefarious galactic corporation. And it was their decision.

I think that railroading because you want to tell a specific story should be avoided as much as possible. I want my player's to have as much control over the narrative as possible, even if it means that I have to make changes on the fly during the session to accommodate them.

As this was the final part of the arc, there was a fair amount of resolution. They were introduced to one of the primary antagonists, witnessed a bizarre ritual, and then fled with the girl they were trying to rescue. And then there was the showdown between the local government and the local faction of the Exchange, where the characters sold the criminals up the river and fled with their lives. They had in the process uncovered some information about some shady goings-on: the aforementioned slavery.

And so I gave them the choice: pursue the slavers in the Outer Rim and try and save some troubled souls, or head into the Core Worlds to investigate the dirty dealings and low morals of the Czerka corporation. In terms of story and what I would have to prepare, it boils down to an action-adventure story or intrigue and diplomacy. My players, bless their hearts, opted for the action-adventure this time around.

So how do you keep the players involved when you have to railroad the story along? Well in this case, much of the railroading was in response to their previous actions. And I gave them skill-checks to pull of some fancy maneuvers, etc...

They told me that they enjoyed it, and I honestly believe them. I hope they'd tell me if something sucked.

I put this to the two people that read this. Is there a situation where you feel railroading is absolutely necessary?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saturday Recap

So Saturday's game session went quite well. A friend of mine from work joined the group, playing a Kel Dor scout working as a hired gun with the Exchange, sent along with the other players as back-up for their second foray into the droid-controlled mine.

In an effort to maintain choice, I had planned the two major encounters for the session to be combat-free. That is to say, they characters could have most certainly talked their way through them. They didn't though. And this led to some rather cinematic moments.

The first battle, against the droids that were blocking off the entrance to the mine, was quite epic. There were several minion-like repair/construction droids, a prototype HK unit and a gargantuan spider mining droid. The players (all 4 of them) had managed to recruit several redshirts to accompany them, also employed by the Exchange. I think one of the moments I was most proud of was when one of the players, the Mandalorian, jetpacked onto the weakened spider droid, firing into its hull and then dropping a homemade explosive onto it before jetpacking away again. Very reminiscent of Starship Troopers.

After that, they found their way deeper into the mine, searching for a crate full of evidence for the Exchange, and the lead security officer's missing daughter, or evidence of her. What they encountered in the bizarre tunnel system under the mine, illuminated by the phosphorescent lichen lining the cave walls, was a bizarre ritual being conducted by a strange race of aliens never before seen. This situation too could have been talked through with a positive end. But diplomacy was never on the table for the characters, and they went in guns blazing.

Everybody had fun, combat ran smooth and the plot moved forward in an interesting direction.

And I've been asked to run a second game for one of my coworkers and her boyfriend, and I'm to choose the system. She's pretty new to gaming, but he's got some experience. I'm going to try and convince them to play Earthdawn, or possibly Deadlands.

As a minor note, I managed to write a draft of the first chapter of my weird western tonight, which pleases me greatly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

For the sake of it...

Ah Wednesday. With the weather, it should be more like Thor's Day. Bah, who am I kidding, this is San Francisco. There is no weather. There is only Schroedinger's Weather.

Wednesday has called upon me to be a posting day. A day in which I discuss things.

I'm working on planning the next Star Wars session. We may or may not be getting a new player this week, though I'm sure he'll fit very nicely into the group. And when last we left, my players were trapped between a Droid Rebellion and a very hard place. Intrigue wheels will spin, new details will be provided, and my players must determine how to get out of the ghost rock mines alive.

I'm getting ever closer to beginning actual work on the novel. That is, the actual writing part. I've nailed down most of the setting details at this point, and from there can move on to characters. In the meantime, I'm attempting to finish a sci-fi story that also threatens to turn itself into a novella. Whatever shall I do?

Monday, July 12, 2010

OSR

I've been reading all this business on the Old School Renaissance. What is the OSR?

I understand that there is no formal organization. From what I understand, it is a collective of people revolved around playing a certain style of game. And being nerds on the internet, they seem rather vocal about it. So what else is new?

Nerds bitch on the internet. PS3 sucks. 360 rocks. The Wii is for children (and I still giggle every time I hear someone say "I'm playing with my Wii"). Everyone everywhere has an opinion and will most likely share it with you gladly, whether you'd like to hear it or not. Isn't this why we blog? Because we have thoughts to share?

Internet drama is for plebs.

That is all. And Twilight sucks.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Encounter balance...

The current trend in game design from Wizards seems to lean towards a balanced, fun-for-everyone, GMing is easy sort of thing. So encounters are intended to scale with your PCs. Is this actually fun?

Sure you'll get some tough fights, but for the most part, you know that your PCs will win unless they roll shitty or do something stupid. Sure, some of this tags back to "I don't want to kill a PC."
Most of the D&D games I've been have ended with TPK. It sucks.

But sometimes real heroes run away. And the real world isn't balanced in our favor. Real world challenges don't scale to our age/experience. Nor should they for a PC, or a party. I feel like adding real threat, an insurmountable foe, can add necessary pathos.

The villain who can't be fought, because his army is too large, he is unreachable. He taunts the characters, hovering just out of reach. They have to plan his downfall, arrange it neatly, think carefully. The players have to be clever. Or at least a facsimile of it.

These are my random gaming thoughts of the day.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Layout

Forgive the layout change, just tinkering. Please feel free to share an opinion. I'm open to suggestions on making the blog look better, yet I have no webskills.

That which doesn't kill us...

There are moments, as a storyteller, that I doubt the necessity of threats to the lives of the PCs. Yes, it is a very easy way to add a palpable sense of terror to a story, to have your protagonists in fear of their lives. But aren't there better ways to create pathos in a game? Or better yet, manifest a sense of ethos amongst passionate PCs.

As a gamer, I crave story and plot. I love clever intrigues, mysteries and hidden secrets. I love to puzzle things out, logically or socially. I love the game of diplomacy, and talking my way out of trouble that my mouth got me into. Now don't get me wrong, I do love to walk into a room with pistols drawn, or beat information out of a witness if the moment strikes and it fits both character and situation. But I think that the threat of PC death can be overused. I never played a lot of D&D, so I really had the experience of multi-character death. Playing WoD, I had a few different characters that lasted through several generations of campaigns, so that was the norm for me.

In the campaign I'm working on now, I find myself leaning away from combat and more towards story. Making the players work together to piece together a mystery, puzzle out the lies from the truth. They have to figure out who their allies really are in a situation where they might be over their heads and caught between the rock and the durasteel.

In counterpoint, I should mention that my plot wedge - that force which pushes the players in the initial direction, involved a rather overt death threat by a criminal empire.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wiki Wiki!

Oddly quiet, these last few days. I've been a bit crazy, between happenings at work, friends visiting town and planning my next game session. Oh yeah, and in theory, writing a few short stories and a novel.

But then, perhaps I have no excuse. I'll never be taken seriously as a blogger if I can't even update my blog. But then, do I really want to be taken seriously? I blog about gaming, writing and random other strangeness.

But I digress. What I have been working on, if slowly, is my Obsidian Portal wiki for the campaign. Which can be found here: http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/the-ascendance

I've read quite a few articles regarding Obsidian Portal and its worthiness as a GM tool. And while I agree, there are two distinct downsides to it. One, that the coolest stuff costs money. And two, that I often find myself too lazy properly devote the time to building the wiki.

But it is a fine way to keep track of towns, taverns, continents and planets, as well as keep a log of your sessions. Plus all those pesky NPCs that you make up on the fly, only to have become important later. So that is what I'm working on, because I think my players will appreciate it. And so that I can keep all my notes in one place.