Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Game

Saturday was my Halloween game night. I ran a Conspiracy of Shadows one shot of Delta Green. It was set in Dakar, Senegal with the players' characters being a NASA orbital debris specialist, a USDA foreign service officer, a Blackwater guard for the USDA guy, an ATF special agent and a CIA cryptolinguist. I couldn't be happier with the character concepts the players came up with.

For the conspiracy, I had the Colour Out of Space landing and tainting tobacco that was being smuggled into the U.S. supply (group kicker). As a result of a Mi-Go experiment, an extremist group got some artifacts to suppress the Colour, which the group in turn was using to get a container ship full of Colour-infected zombies (think 28 Days Later) into Baltimore. Obviously, I drew heavily from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" and "The Whisperer in Darkness," as well as the Delta Green books for Call of Cthulhu.

By the end of the night two characters met their Doom (NASA & ATF), two others fled via the airport (USDA, Blackwater), which was subsequently in flames, and the CIA character ended up wandering about West Africa, obsessively studying the two Mi-Go artifacts. And no, the container ship never made it out of port, thanks to the ATF agent's last act on this world (although the intent behind this act was questionable).

The Doom was really popular and the Trust pool went away fast after the Blackwater guard shot the Colour-crazed ATF agent. I had some difficulties with the base conflict resolution mechanic in Conspiracy of Shadows, so next time I do Delta Green, I may want to slap the Doom and Trust pool mechanics on top of NEMESIS. Other than that, though, I think things went really well (really well, meaning the suitably grim/entertaining, Lovecraftian ending of madness and death).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

An Evening Playing Carcassonne

Originally uploaded by MetalBard.
I just spent an evening playing best of three games for Carcassonne with my wife. Fortunately I won. Normally this is not the case.

Anyway, this game is great. It's very simple but it can build in complexity. I have yet to get any of the expansions or the city variation. Carcassonne is definitely genius game design. Besides, it looks so purdy when played!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Missed Conflict Opportunity

In the last Eberron game we played, Nigad and I came into conflict as to whether we should free some prisoners we came upon in the jungle. I said that my character (Marduk) didn't want to get involved in the island's politics. Nigad's character (Kruug) wanted to be the hero and save them. We just sort of muddle about for a bit, role-played an argument and then moved on (I essentially got my intent). Next time this comes up, I'll definitely role-play it out, but once we get to the outcome, I'll request one or a series of conflict resolution rolls, along with help from the different players, depending on which side they agree with. This would be a ghetto-ized D&D version of Burning Wheel's duel of wits, but I think it would be worthwhile.

Eberron, D&D & more

Our group has another Eberron game coming up soon. In the last few games we've have a good time of playing standard D&D along with the tweeks added. We've occasionally pulled out the conflict resolution on certain rolls, but with group preferences the way they are, it's hard to be consistent about it. I almost want hit points to be a count down to losing your intent when in drawn out combat, but I'm not sure how the rest of the group will react. (Mental note - discuss this at the table on Saturday)

Some of the conflict resolution has been pretty fun. One of the more laid-back players, Pep, was having his ranger scout and rolled a spot check. Mark, the DM, then asked him to state his intent, what he was looking for. There was a brief back and forth as that request stumped Pep, but eventually his successful spot check revealed some tunnels in the volcano that got us a lot farther along our journey to a ruined city. It also provided some conflict for a rod or scepter that could lead us to the city.

For this upcoming game, I think I want to play around with my character's goal and trait a bit in the reward system to see how I can get those action points going in new and different ways. Maybe it'll spur others on to do the same, but different.

Overall, the baby steps being taken in this Eberron game make me fairly confident that the group as a whole could really get into a Planescape game run with The Shadow of Yesterday.

We'll see...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Experimental D&D

My group is starting a new game, Eberron, with Mark DMing it. At first I wasn't too thrilled because I wanted to get into something a little more narrativist. Anyway, the form the game has ended up taking is actually a bit of an experiment.

Essentially, the players are all running characters that want to go treasure hunting. We all have various reasons for doing this along with goals for said treasure. Since it's Eberron and we're basing it out of Morgrave University, we're doing treasure hunting Indiana Jones-style. In addition to a player-stated goal, we have one-word traits determined by the player for their character (one trait per character).

These little embellishments would be easily thrown away in a D&D game with the exception of Eberron's action points. We tied action point rewards to specifically pursuing the stated goal and playing up the character's trait. These goals and traits can be changed, but a player can never go back to the same goal and/or trait once it's been changed. The action points are spent in the traditional way, but with one exception. In situations directly pertaining to the player's stated goal, the player may use up to three action points on a roll (that's 3d6 plus the normal d20 at our low levels).

In addition to the player-determined rewards add-on we've got going, we've decided to go with conflict resolution and setting stakes for the rolls outside of round-based combat. I, personally, had great success with this by using my character's bluff and diplomacy rolls when dealing with some victimized (but still very much undead and dangerous) inhabitants. As we progress in the game, I plan to keep track of how these little add-ons work with our more reticent players (the ones that essentially "turtled" in our Burning Wheel games).

I'll post later about the actual in-game events of the first session along with some of the stakes set and how some people have started really getting into the traits and goals for action points. The first session was promising, so I hope this hybrid-D&D thing can be a gateway drug back into some more narrativist play for the half of the group that didn't really get into our first experiment with such play - Burning Wheel.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The New Nintendo

I'll admit, I'm no fan of the Nintendo GameCube and I owned a Game Boy Advance for only a little while, but I've recently changed my my mind on Nintendo. I used to think that they should have gone the way of SEGA. Just stop wasting our time with sub-par hardware and focus on getting your games to as many people as possible. That is, until I bought the Nintendo DS Lite with Metroid Prime: Hunters and Big Brain Academy. I've been playing this thing very often since then, AND, more significantly, my wife has been playing it even more.

The stylus element is key, I think. She's hooked on Big Brain Academy, but she also found the controls for Metroid Prime to be "intuitive." Exactly how Nintendo is touting it's new Wii-mote controller. From the reports at E3, the new Metroid game for Wii will have the same control as the DS Metroid, but instead of the stylus on the touch screen, the Wii-mote will point at the TV. It sounds promising and with the new aesthetic displayed in the DS lite being carried over to the Wii, I may have to break down and get a Nintendo home console this fall. I haven't owned one myself since the old NES 8-bit. That is, if I can beat my wife to the console. We'll definitely have to get a lot of two player games...

Don't worry, Xbox 360, I haven't forgotten about you at all. There's plenty coming out this fall that I want for you.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Back to the Realms (and D&D)

I post this not because I am giving up on indie games (quite the contrary, I think I'll keep a few in my bag for when attendance might not allow for our scheduled D&D session), but because the rest of my group (though not all, I think) are energized by the prospect of D&D in Forgotten Realms. I don't think Burning Wheel was their cup of tea. Anyway, on to the gory details.

We are playing through the City of the Spider Queen Forgotten Realms mega-module with freshly made 10th level characters (and 49k of equipment). I'm playing a Gold Elf Bladesinger, simply because I want to see that character concept get off the ground for once. In our first session, we spoke with Randal Morn, fearless liberator and leader of Daggerdale and accepted a mission to investigate and eliminate a drow threat from some abandoned crypts in the Dagger Hills. In our explorations we discovered a conflict between two drow factions was taking place. The Lloth drow appeared to be the losing faction. The other faction was devoted to Kiriansalee, a drow goddess of undeath. In Cirdan's view (my character's name), the latter gets the award for most effort put into making drow even more unnatural than normal.

Throughout the crypts and the more natural caverns that followed, we encountered all manner of undead (vampire, ghost), some "sickeningly" devious traps (Alton is still suffering from the compounded eldritch hang-overs), a roper who taught us that drow salutation etiquette involves several magical projectiles and a snack mix assortment of demons and drow (something as obligatory to the Underdark as hors d'oeuvres are to a cocktail reception.) The highlight, of course, was Dunn Stonecastle's plague of locusts (courtesy of Lathander's divine might) summoned down an escape hole onto a rather nasty-looking contingent of drow. Oh yes, and spiders. There are always the spiders. We are the Company of the Bloody Dawn and we plan to live up to that name. Currently, we're back in Daggerdale, resting up, dividing loot and preparing for another delve into the madness.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rewards for pulling other players in?

While playing our Burning Wheel Orient campaign, I've been thinking about how players can tie each other into their actions and goals. In Burning Wheel, you've got a great system of Beliefs and the reward, Artha, along with the fact that characters and campaigns are collaboratively built. But after the character burning session, the way the reward system works essentially ends up being a silo for each player being rewarded for their own stated goals/actions. There are some other humor, great deed and personification rewards which are great, but I think there could be more. In the character burning session, you pay attention to what others want and collaboratively develop the beliefs. Could there possibly be a reward system in place for a game that mechanically reinforces this during play? I think having a specific reward system for tying in other player's beliefs into your own actions might help people do the things they should already doing at the table. I've become a firm believer of "System Matters," so if this is a behavior that is wanted/needed at the table, then an explicit reward system should exist.

Or maybe this could also be the kernel of an idea for an entirely new game...