Monday, August 15, 2016

#RPGaDAY 2016 Day 15: On populating the game with NPCs

Your best source of inspiration for RPGs?

I have this nasty habit of eavesdropping. Whether I'm in public transit, in a family reunion, or with friends, I like listening to people tell stories and how they inject their own points of view of things into the story. Heck, when I was young, my mom's barkada (whom I will now affectionately call the titas) used to lament how I was always within earshot and therefore they couldn't tell my mom their juicier stories. 

They eventually got used to me though, and so I heard things that no 12-year old should hear. But I digress.

Anyway, one of the things that I have internalized through listening is that you only get a small window to peek into what it is they're talking about. Far too often the info is biased, or imprecise, or told in a way that puts the storyteller in the best light. So I don't know exactly what is going on, but on the other hand I usually see just enough to speculate. My speculations are usually incorrect, hah.

Anyway, I feel like NPCs characters encounter in their stories are mostly the same. The motivations that justify what they're doing are rarely put in the limelight (this is the player characters' story, after all,) but they are there and it makes them the hero of their own story. Haha I am probably rambling here, but basically I like to think that by listening to people I am able to craft NPCs that are more than just cookie-cutter. And to me this is a huuge part of what makes my RPG games tick.

An aside: I also do a lot of research into Philippine culture and folklore, as anyone who's visited this blog before knows. And whenever I make Filipino-themed games, these things are pretty helpful as well. But to me the NPC creation takes the top spot.

#RPGaDAY 2016 Day 14: So much death

Your dream team of people you used to play with?

I would have to go with...

  • Miggy Unabia and his reckless abandon.
  • +Christian Castell so I don't need to master the rules while he's around.
  • +Jaykie Lazarte 's caution, followed by his sudden passion for combat.
  • +Christopher Ian Santos and his ability to intimidate oppenents with "wan'na die?"
  • Adding +Phil Corpuz here even if I still play with him, because we need that guy who is quiet and yet enjoys pwning d00dz just like the rest of the party.

We'll probably play some kind of murderhobo game.

#RPGaDAY 2016 Day 13: Complete stories

What makes a successful campaign?

For me, a successful campaign is one that is able to tell a complete story. And to me this relates to one's awareness of time and circumstances. Everyone might be willing to be in the game at the start, but at some points schedules will change, people will have shifting familial requirements, the horrendous Manila traffic could make it impossible for some people to go. 

I find that, locally, it is generally realistic to expect people to be able  to commit for a year. If you try to create a story that spans longer than that in real life, there is a greater possibility of the game fizzling out before you can reach a satisfying conclusion. So typically I set the game to last for only a year.

Once I have the length and the frequency of the game sorted out, I have a good idea about what kinds of stories I can tell within the time frame that has been given to me. Here the system can help a. In D&D 5E, for example, I can expect a monthly game to get players to levels 7 - 8 in one year. With that information I can then plot out an appropriate big bad, figure out when the action will be at its peak, and leave "buffers" for things that players would want to do that is not necessarily tied to the main plot.

So far, this seems to work out for me. Games have a definite beginning to end times, and a complete story is told.

#RPGaDAY 2016 Day 12: Undecided

What game is your group likely to play next? Why?

This has actually been on my mind a lot. Even as I run a lot of other games for different people, my actual core group is on hiatus having just finished our D&D 5E Eberron game. In the interim, most of the players are now under +Phil Corpuz, and we are going through a run through of the Tyranny of Dragons. That should keep us going for a year or so, but after that (or sometime before that finishes), I need to set up my replacement game, too. On the plus side, that's quite a bit of time to figure it out.

Currently I am chomping through my copy of Degenesis - Rebirth. The system looks simple enough, and the books definitely are gorgeous. But a grim, post-apocalypse grimdarkery is a hard sell for my group. They prefer something that is lighter in tone than this. So maybe I can reserve this for a different group.

Another game I'm exploring is Exalted 3E. For some reason the 2E did not really appeal to me, but this time I am intrigued at the idea of demigods finding their place in society. I kind of want to do it in a way that evokes the Philippine Epics such as the journey of Agyo and Lam-Ang. My hurdle for this, on the other hand, is that it's not a simple system by any means. It will take awhile for me to absorb it.

I can also go for an OSR module. Both Qelong and Maze of the Blue Medusa are settings that I want to tell stories in. I could even go bonkers and run them with D&D 5e! So that's definitely something that has been on my mind.

Finally, the safe bet for me would be to go for Out of the Abyss. I have the adventure in my bookshelf,, I am fond of D&D demons as antagonists, and 5th Edition is always easy to pitch to the core group. Unlike the OSR stuff above, there will also be no conversions involved so all I have to do is to know the module enough to adapt to unusual PC circumstance.

We'll see how it plays out.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

#RPGaDAY 2016 Day 11: Polymorph is also a strong spell

Which gamer most affected the way you play?

Oh here's another tough one. I would like to think that my own style of play is influenced by a lot of people, as I have had the privilege of having played with a lot of people. But it seems I have to pick one so hmm! (I know, I know. I bypassed the whole "pick one" thing in earlier posts, so why start now? Well I want to, okay?)

My pick would have to be +Christian Castell.

Xtian is a minmaxer. He once created a sorcerer with the master transmogrifist prestige class, which allowed him to be able to mix and match different monster traits. His favorite trait came in the form of making a hydra with the splitting ability of a black pudding. He also had the Arcane Strike feat, which allowed him to sacrifice a spell slot to add xd4 damage to all his attacks in the round, where x is the level of the spell slot sacrificed.

So in short, if he is in the form of an 8-headed hydra, he'd have eight bite attacks, which can each deal +xd4 damage if he spends a spell slot. Cut him up with a slashing attack and he splits into two eight-headed hydras. It was insane.

More importantly though, Xtian is an ethical minmaxer. He could deal an insane amount of damage (at some level he can have each hydra head grow medusa snake-hairs, which would each attack and OMG I don't want to think about that anymore,) but he always chose to deal damage comparable to those that his co-players can deal. You see, Xtian believed in table fun. He had complete mastery of the rules, but he knew that the rules are secondary to having fun with friends. And he even gave suggestions to his DM. Maybe Arcane Strike only works on the original hydra and not the clones. Maybe he will limit it to level 1 spell slots - his higher slots are more useful elsewhere, anyway.

I mention Xtian because his minmaxing style is my early template for GMing. Yes, I need to have mastery of the rules (more than the players, at the very least.) But I'm not here to outclass them. I'm here to have fun with them.

And while some of the things I do have evolved since then, I feel like I still hold onto the core principles Xtian had. Bend the rules to its limit, but don't break the game itself.

Xtian doesn't play D&D anymore (adulting got him!) But man, I'd love to see what he'd do with 5th Edition.