Thursday, 24 May 2018

What I Learned by Listening to Actual Play

I've been listening to the Podcast Of Foes series of actual play episodes and I've learned something about how I like to play games like D&D.

I like a short section of narrative in and around each die roll
Player: I attack with my short sword with a... 14.
DM: That's a hit.
Player: Yes! I do... 5 points of damage.
DM: Next in the intiative order is Player 2.

This kind of narrative isn't my style. It doesn't require any flavour text. In fact, you could take all the flavour text away and say, "I'm playing a Race-type-A Class-type-F character, with weapon types 12 and 17." Can you imagine how short the Monster Manual would be?

Instead, I like the short sentence or two that goes with these events. "I thrust my short sword at the goblin's chest! It's a 14." which is later followed by the DM saying something like, "the sword cuts into the goblin's armour and you hear it grunt in pain at the hit."

It reinforces the narrative of the game, not just the rules of the game. In fact, it's a bit like the view (I think I got this from Vincent Baker) that the game starts in the narrative, moves temporarily into the rules in order to return to the narrative. The rules are always subservient to the narrative, guiding it and forming it, but never eliminating it.

I like subtlely in character voices
Unless you are talented at voice acting, most good character voices only need to be subtle or slight variations on your natural voice. Cliche or pantomime voices are just annoying, unless you're playing a pantomime game, I suppose. Change the pace a little, the pitch a little, and maybe the precision (clear t or dropped g, for examples), but there's no need to be the cast of Monty Python.

I like characters that don't take themselves too seriously
Excessive faux-fantasy speech is distracting. "By my oath, m'lady, I shall vanquish the foe with the point of my sword!" belongs in Shrek because it's over the top and a bit funny. We laugh at it because it's pretentious. Maybe this is a variant of my dislike for the pantomime voices; pantomime syntax.

That's just a few things I've learned about my preferences based on hearing a dozen other groups in their own style of play. There are a few more episodes left in the series and I'm looking forward to hearing the rest.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Embers of the Forgotten

One of the players in my Burning Wheel game has been involved in a recent kickstarter project. You should check it out. Here's the quick pitch.

Discover the forsaken. A systemless, soulsian-inspired book of NPCs and creatures to take your games into dark new worlds

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Balls In The Air

Gail Simone has some of the best content on twitter. Snarky, witty, and wise.

Here's a wise one.
Here is my advice to writers.

If you throw a ball into the air, SOMEBODY better catch that mother******.

And that inspired me to make a list at the end of each of my game sessions. It's a list of unresolved plot items and it accumulates more with each game session. It's a list of ideas that I can drop back into the game as I need to. It helps to keep the game tight and meaningful, as well as ensuring that good ideas (or characters) aren't lost.

Here's the current Balls In The Air list for O Mortal.
  • Hector Long (guilty? who else? what was he doing?)
  • Stablehand
  • The water spirit - You're not the one I'm looking for. Who is it looking for?
  • Artis Chapter (what contacts can be made here?)
  • What did Qualthorn see in Robus?
  • People know that Alain Fitzroy was looking for someone who knows how to destroy Dwarven artifacts
  • Who wrote the unclaimed note?
  • Forest, three days in the future, one bell after nightfall.
  • Qualthorn is disappointed in Malasil for turning away from elven traditions.
  • The Hunter is still in the prison
  • Martha has high astrology skills, making observations about the dates and times

None of that will mean much to you within the context of my own game, but any of it is enough to trigger a scene for almost anyone in any game. For my game, I want all of these to get caught sometime. It might be in the next game or in a few sessions after that. And if no one catches any of them, we just get more balls in the air.