Archive for January, 2011

James Raggi invokes commitment costs

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

the best role-players are the ones that take it seriously, make it important in their lives, and give it their all. People who do this are the most important part of any hobby. You want to be a casual gamer? Fine. But don’t expect the same level of deference and respect that a lifer is going to get. Those who take their activities seriously are the only ones who matter.

James Raggi reminds me that I really, really must read Codes of the Underworld: How Criminals Communicate. Here we have the in-group status accorded the “lifer” (totally deliberate word choice, I suppose): sunk costs prevent defection, just like yakuza tattoos and other visible affiliation marks.

But I agree absolutely with his fundamental point: to dictate fast-food mentality in my imaginative tools… that means war. Come. Be a casual gamer, play with us for a bit, keep it light, no big deal, enjoy. But don’t try to turn roleplaying into something like the faster kind of boardgame, because that’s not what it is. Also, by all means try to make wine the way you’d make coca cola, but don’t try to dictate that this is what wine is now.

best thing I’ve read today

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

“Look, if your deity is lying in bits and pieces around the campaign world, maybe it might behoove you get the pieces into the same damn room before asking for help…”

…why has this never, ever occurred to me? This is relation to the Tooth of Vorn, which made sense to me until huth here made me look straight at it. Applicable in more fantasy contexts than is really proper.

my heretical notion for a mass battle system

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Inspired, like others, by Zak’s battle of the styrofoam cup bridge, and in only slightly ironic response to Tao of D&D’s plea for a non-system-dependent mass battle system (it’s a system without a system! It needs to be a fun game AND not shortchange the players’ expectations of my own idiosyncratic system AND plug into all rule systems!), I hereby proffer the following one-size-fits-all solution for fantasy battles:

Cheat. Watch your players. Make sure everyone’s having fun. Know how long you want it to run before you begin. Roll some dice behind your shield from time to time and nobody will ever guess.

1. Describe the whole battle situation as it forms up, when units are getting into place and the players are trying to figure out their strategy. Get the players to say how they’re arranging forces. Think at that moment how hard a time they should have in fighting, depending on how smart they’ve been.

2. Then you’re in combat. All hell breaks loose and everyone’s too busy with their own troll to think much about how the breach as a whole is doing. So you watch how the players are doing, and their units do pretty much as well as they do. If they dispatch their trolls fast enough that they’re looking to help out other people, give them more trolls. That means they’re beating the enemy at their bit of the line. If they’re struggling, so is their unit.

3. Gauge the mood of the room at half time. Everyone engaged? If not, why not? Get the players to take a look up: now is when the enemy pulls out their surprise, or when successful units get to go help others or when failing units have to decide how they’re going to avoid dying. If they’re doing great, offer them a chance to blast through the trolls in a crazy charge. React to their moves.

4. Back to melee. characters should be either triumphing or dropping, and that’s how your battle works out. If it’s looking like a stalemate decide now: either have night fall and the enemy melts into the woods, or tell the players disaster threatens unless they do something clever (sappers have got under the walls, gate’s going to break, Ghost Troll Chief is rolling up from the valley). Any half decent cleverness saves them, but blank looks had better be followed by running.

5. Do not end the session in battle. If the enemy melted away then the session ends with them still out there. Players must do something clever next session or be ambushed/sapped/have a poisoned well/whatever else your sneaky trolls could manage that would spring the players out of their current standoff. New battle should be obviously different from previous one: fought on the run, flying enemies, war engines… or if you’re feeling kind, reinforcements who have been surprised and are now fighting the trolls themselves. You have to go rescue them, attack the trolls in the rear.

That’s it. Finished early? Good: you can spend that time dealing with the aftermath and mop up, rescuing plot hook prisoners and discovering mysterious Dwarf gold clockwerks in the Troll King’s necklace, or figuring out where you’re going to run to and hole up, since you’re already 40 miles deep in the Trollridge Mountains.

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Stuff that’s lying around waiting for a really great post

January 26, 2011 1 comment

If I weren’t so pressed for time and/or just more energetic, I’d work these up into a really smart post that would make you go “how’d he get all that in there?” But as it is, I just think they’re interesting for today and maybe you will too.

John Holbo reflecting on categories for scifi movies. I disagree, but he’s started something intriguing here.

Where is the middle of Europe? What the hell is Europe anyway? I say it excludes all of Russia, partly because I hate the language so much. Also because Napoleon never conquered it, and apparently he’s still an authority on the subject.

John Waters inspired, impersonated, channeled in the underbelly of the universe. Ghost John Waters.

Edit: as Joesky very kindly pointed out, ghost John Waters is in fact Steve Buscemi. Steve, what happened, man?

“I learned a long time ago to never say something negative in the press because then you sit next to them to dinner or you’re on a talk show together, and it’s mortifying. So I just say good things about people that others don’t love. That’s my politics.”

Harry Potter is all about karmic balance (my comment at bottom, 4 years late to the party). So is GURPS (again with the comment).