Boer the Dwarf had been wandering in the woods for hours. He had seen fleeting glimpses of his friends, but mostly just tall trees, thick bushes, and the occasional burst of laughter in the air. In a clearing he saw a woman, wearing a cloak of feathers and astride a white horse.
“Don’t worry, Boer,” she said. “Someone will open the door soon.” He awoke, miles and weeks away from where he had slept.
Hugh had similarly been wandering in the woods, but for mere minutes. When he saw the woman, she was a little more verbose.
“We continue to walk astride the balance beam between worlds, and between order and chaos. But when you reach your next destination, you will find someone trying to open the door.” Hugh also awoke.
Continue reading Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 12
That’s right, the Wonk is back in the building! Today we’re getting super wonky. While my last foray into RPG theory was an examination of an old universal theory, GNS, today I’m going to be looking at a narrower component of games, and a particular dichotomy which, after some examination, I realized shapes the core of how I want to play and run games, as well as what game systems I enjoy. I’m talking about narrative, but I’m not talking about whether a game is “narrative” or not. Rather, I’m going to talk about the two types of narrative which are generated in the course of playing an RPG: Prescriptive and Emergent narrative.
Continue reading Level One Wonk: Narrative
Is your character really just you with a stat block? I bet you could get more out of your game if you let go of You and embrace your Character. Here are some techniques you can employ to help you bring your character to life at the table. It will take some effort, but you may find your escapism brought to another level once you get into it. While there are some practical tips in here, this is real mental and emotional work, more a deep cut than a skim.
Continue reading Character Spelunking
The party made it to the castle, sending a signal flare to warn the regent of the doppelganger they were following. By the time they made it there, three of the pirates had not-Hugh in a sleeper hold, and the doppelganger’s command of language was deteriorating. The group went to see Sybil the regent, after providing some quick proof that they were not in fact doppelgangers themselves.
Continue reading Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 11
It was like staring into a row of funhouse mirrors out of a nightmare. Every tank Sally ‘Spitfire’ O’Brien looked in held a body with her face. According to the readouts at the base of the tanks several were deceased, each corpse looking . . . warped, somehow, by the experiments they’d been subjected to, but an equal number had life signs in the green. CryptoHertz, Sabot, Calamitas, and White Coat (Showtime had vanished by now) all kept one eye on Spitfire while they spread out and looked at the tanks themselves, trying to understand. Plague Hack’s words – no, lies – and the video he had shown her – had to have been a fake – burned in Sally’s mind as she found herself standing in front one of the dead tanks. With a blood curdling scream she raised her fist and smashed it into the tank.
Continue reading Adventure Log: Masks: High Impact Heroics Pt. 5
Jethro saw her for the first time. In a clearing of the thickets that had occupied their dreams for so many weeks, stood a woman adorned in a cloak of feathers, astride a white horse.
“You are all getting closer. Eventually the time will come when you can decide to open the door.” Jethro shouted questions, but before he could get a reply, he awoke. While losing time was getting to the point of normalcy, Jethro had been gone for almost a week and a half, and the party was now far away from Montral’s Mine, sitting in a supply closet in the underground research complexes of the Wizard’s College of Glebhavern.
Continue reading Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 10
Paranoia, West End Games’s RPG of comic dystopia, has become a meme in gaming circles, one of the few games with as strong a play identity as D&D itself. Shouts of ‘treason’ and ludicrous extensions of the color-based ranking system help evoke the feel of a Paranoia session, which tends to consist of different uses of the Alpha Complex backdrop as excuses for players to find more and more inventive ways to accuse each other of treason and/or being a communist or mutant, and then kill each other. Neither West End Games nor Mongoose Publishing, the publishers of the most recent edition of Paranoia, ever did anything to dissuade this. That said, the game has been designed to allow for something a tad more sophisticated.
It should go without saying that all text from this point hence is of ULTRAVIOLET clearance! Do not read, under pain of disintegration (or if you want hidden parts of the game to stay a surprise)!
Continue reading Meet the Campaign: Straight Paranoia
Way back when, at the genesis of this site, I wrote a “Novice’s Guide to Powered by the Apocalypse”, a Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) 101, if you will. This article covered the basic mechanics and underlying assumptions of games written with the PbtA framework, and covered a few of the more popular games that were out at the time. Now, nearly two years later, PbtA is still growing, and has attracted many players to its fiction-forward, high-stakes style of gameplay. I’ve also run and played more PbtA games myself, and have noticed some really interesting elements that people have trouble engaging, take for granted, or even fight against. This 201 course to PbtA games should provide advice and information about getting the most out of the full range of PbtA games and campaigns.
Continue reading Level One Wonk: Powered by the Apocalypse 201
The elementals lay dead after a brutal fight that claimed the lives of half a dozen kobolds. Interpreter Ogro and Commander Snaks had regrouped, seeing who was left in their troop. But the fight was over. Ander and Elliot went over to the forge that the elementals were working, cooling but still hot with elemental fire. Not much of a smith, Ander plunged his sword directly into the hottest part of the fire…and had no sword left to speak of. Elliot, more accomplished at the forge and amused at his comrade’s fumbling, used the cooling embers to reforge the blade, more carefully this time. The new blade held an edge just as well as the old, and seemed to have a mild twinge of elemental magic.
Continue reading Adventure Log: Dungeons and Dragons, Part 8
High above the Earth in a slingshot orbit that was taking him from Tokyo back to Halcyon City, Sabot received a message from CryptoHertz: Spitfire taken by Plague Hack, need to rally the team. Muttering a few curses in Japanese about the repairs that had mandated his absence in the first place, Sabot redlined the thrusters of his newly-acquired ‘kirbycraft’. In a back alley in Halcyon City itself, Morgan was once again cleaning house at an illegal card game, the best way they’d found to support themselves while living on the street. Things might have turned ugly, the thugs around the table glaring at Morgan, but they all scampered when The Lawman sauntered out of the shadows. “Deal me in?” Continue reading Adventure Log: Masks: High Impact Heroics Pt. 4