Monday, December 31, 2012

The Save Point Concept

The Save Point Concept
by Tobie Abad

I've been running a fan-written Final Fantasy RPG for my office mates at Indigo-Entertainment Philippines and one of the little add-ons I've given the game is the Save Crystal which is clearly present in the video game.  The earlier presence of save points in the Final Fantasy series was through the use of Inns or Tents which were meant to allow the players to recover both lost HP and MP and save the game.  Later versions of the game allowed the save point to double as the place to purchase items.  In table top games, the concept of a Save Point is nonexistent, given most games approach the narrative as a story unfolding.

The joys of having a Save Point in a game meant being able to take frighteningly dangerous risks, fail, and reload to the previous point and play on. This meant players did not have to fear making an absolutely wrong mistake.  This also meant the system could be incredibly challenging and allow the player to keep trying until he succeeds.

Clearly, for a table top game, the need for a Save Point seems nonexistent.  The games are meant to simulate a certain degree of danger and risk.  Having the chance to just "start over and try again" sort of invalidates the risk.  Having a place that allows the instant recovery of one's health seems contrary to having such risks exist.

But what if we were to find a way to incorporate the beauty of the Save Point?  That being, giving players a chance to take those risks without necessarily losing everything?

Mummy the Resurrection approached this concept by having the character always have a chance to be brought back to life, but at the cost of a Power Stat that gets permanently reduced.  It allowed players to go all out and take risks, but not necessarily lose everything in the process.     Adventure!  approached something similar with the Knack called Death Defying, which allowed a player to "die" for a scene, and return in a later scene apparently alive.  The knack allowed the player character to mimic scenes where heroes like Indiana Jones seemingly falls to his doom, only to turn out still alive somehow.  In Nomine represented this by having three ways to "die" given each character was composed of three Forces.  A physical death meant merely the death of the vessel and not the final death of the Celestial being.  Dungeons and Dragons also did something similar in certain editions with Resurrections reducing the Constitution stat permanently, suggesting death can be evaded but at a huge cost.  So clearly, the idea of death being the end isn't something all games actually want.  Allowing players a second (or third, or fourth..) chance is not just feasible, but actually already being practiced.

So why not make it an actual system?
Save the Death for Drama

For games that aren't all about being gritty and realistic, why not allow every player to "load back" an earlier scene if the results of an action turn out to be something that leads to their death.  No, the rewind should not allow players to just cancel out the consequences of a bad decision, but it should allow them to avoid that dying moment.    The cost?  They must then work with the GM on a later scene, be it in this or later game session, where the character dramatically and more appropriately bites the dust.

For example:
Your group is playing a Lord of the Rings inspired fantasy game.  As the group journeys up the mountain side to search for the hidden entrance to the dwarven keep, one player finds a cave entrance.  Rather than calling for the others for help, he slides inside and stupidly calls out, "Anyone home?"   Having mapped out a monster to be living in the cave, you have the monster give you growls and a threatening pair of glowing eyes come into view.  The player, being very unwise, charges forward rather than back away, and in the ensuring combat, he dies.   He could have retreated, called for the others to help out, or even hid somewhere until the monster moved on, but he decided to fight and came out the loser.  An anticlimactic death if anything.

The old me would have said, "He was being stupid so you pay the price."  The new me, however, realizes it would be better to go win-win on this, so I pull the player aside and tell him, "I'll have you survive. For now. But your character still has to die.  Decide now:  Is he actually poisoned and due to pride does not tell the rest, and later at the point when they're all rejoicing, have you die and give a dramatic death speech?  Or do we just have you later dramatically die as you heroically protect one of them from a killing blow?"  The player likes the second one, and we continue the game.  Everyone has more fun, and we have a great dramatic twist coming up that will floor everyone else too.

So yeah, win-win.  The Save Point was established.  The Death averted.  But the fun is kept alive.

The Save Point Warning
Fantasy worlds and the like may benefit from the concept of an actual Save Point in the game.  These can be massive crystal structures (like those popularized by Final Fantasy ) or just an OOC moment where you tell the players, "Save Point" and you have them spend all existing experience points and similar adjustments before the big bad battle.    Tactical games would greatly benefit from this, although most would say it would remove the impact of losing with bad tactics.   But this way, knowing danger is ahead, the players are given the cue to "spend what you can and beef up" for what could be a battle that kills a character.

There are few things worse than losing a character and realizing you still had so many already present points to spend to advance him but didn't get to do so.

The Save Point Check Point
Groups engaged in a nicely written narrative game might benefit from having the option to say, "Wait, can we go back to this point..."  Sort of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books where you turn to a page and discover it leads to death, so you turn back to the last decision-making moment and choose a different path.  You can allow the group to have a total of "reloads" equal to the number of players present in the group and the reload point can still remain under your control, avoiding abuse of the system to go far too back to undo too many bad choices.

Likewise, you can even deem certain events where the Check Point is inactive, giving players a taste of even greater tension since they realize this is definitely a major point where losing cannot be turned back.

So yeah, while many of us table top gamers might be a tad purist when it comes to role-playing games and whether or not computer role-playing games are indeed worthy of being called rpgs, there's no denying you can draw inspiration from them to find new ways to make your games more fun.

note:  Sadly, if you feel this article was a waste of time, you cannot reload back to the check point before reading it.  

2012 in Review

So, Tagsessions is a year old, and the year 2012 is ending. It has been an eventful year for me in the world of gaming.  I ran a host of games, for new gamers and for old-timers, as well as got a dive into a lot of old favorites and new games too.  I got to virtually chat with John Wick, a guy I look up to so much in the industry, and I got started on my own role-playing game book and my own system.    Admittedly, I feel really happy too that the blog is starting to get a wider audience.  The rise of activity in Google Plus, with the introduction of Communities, has really allowed me to reach out much further to the gaming community.

And I even got to play once this year!  HEhhehe, it has been a long while since I was a player.

Here's a peek of the stuff I've been active with for the year 2012. I'm pretty proud at how long the list is, to be honest.  Given how important gaming is in my life, I am happy to know I'm giving it the attention and focus it desires.  Plus, I have a loving and wonderful partner who also shares my passion.  Life can't get any better than this!

My 2012 Gaming List (as of Dec 24, 2012):

Games I RAN this year:
Final Fantasy RPG
Aeon Trinity
In Nomine
The Shotgun Diaries
Houses of the Blooded
DC Heroes
Vampire the Masquerade
Vampire the Dark Ages
Mage The Sorceror's Crusade
Fomori Freak Legion
Changeling the Dreaming
Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP system)

Games I PLAYED IN this year:
Changeling the Dreaming

So yeah, I'm looking forward to 2013 with much excitement.  I hope to release both of my rpg stuff within the year, and if I'm lucky start making a bigger mark in the gaming community.  My meta-rpg, Muses, has undergone a radical shift in the system - taking a larger departure from the FATE/Houses of the Blooded approach it originally embraced - and my upcoming rpg book, Tagsessions Volume One: Ideas for the Dramatic Gamer should be seeing release for proofreading soon.   Here's hoping there will be people out there willing to shell out a few bucks for them.

Here's a teaser of what the book is about:

Everyone hates drama.
Let me clarify what I mean.  Life is already filled with drama.  You got bills to pay, work to finish, family commitments to keep and problems to juggle all more or less at the same time.  Most of the time, people who enjoy role-playing games play them to escape the drama of real life.  People enjoy the dungeon spelunking adventures of their favored fantasy table top role-playing game to forget about their recent break-up or to vent out frustrations they could not unleash in the real world.  Others dive into interplanetary wars and post apocalyptic worlds to feel they can make a difference and save the universe, rather than worry over the latest political fiasco that has made the headlines.  Role-playing games are an escape from the drudge and boredom of everyday life. 
But drama can help add to the emotional weight of practically any role-playing game system, if you know how to do it without over-doing it.   And with just the right dash of drama, a simple combat scene can transform into an epic battle for survival.  A conversation can become a chance at exploring new facets of a character’s past.  A seduction roll can have unforeseen consequences that can haunt a player for games to come.  And these things can make your games suddenly much more memorable and compelling than you originally were accustomed to.The trick is finding just the right amount of drama to make the players care, without over-doing it. Too much drama and your players might feel the story is grinding into a slow glacial narrative.  Too little and none of the stakes you raise may seem important.  And while the best amount of drama varies from group to group, it can help to have a handy list of possible scenarios you can draw from to find inspiration.
That, my friends, is what this book is about.
In these pages, you will find ideas, options, story fragments, key lines, and even items that can be introduced into practically any game you play.   With each are suggestions on how the little addition can be tweaked to bring a fresh new dimension to your games.  While admittedly some suggestions might be more effective than others with particular groups, you might be  surprised to discover how games of any genre can benefit from the injection of a little bit more drama than you are used to.
So if your players end up having to call for a brief time-out because they can’t help but shed a tear for a fallen non-playing character, or because the tension has gotten so high they need to rush to the couch and embrace their own legs to calm down, you know you’re doing the right thing.
This book is organized in the following manner:
Ideas Options Story Fragments Key Lines Items
Feel free to use what you see here in your games.  Tweak them if you must.  Change the names if you have to.  Remember that you know your players far better than I ever will.  So add that irreplaceable knowledge to these suggestions like a secret ingredient to a dish, and watch how after serving this to your players, you might have to pull out the tissues, or get used to them needing a time out to calm down.
Remember, when it comes to adding drama to a game, tears are gold.
No, not gold.
Tears are something not even money can buy.

So yeah, 2013, I am ready for you! My recent acquisitions of Dr. Who Adventures in Time and Space, Kuro (Thanks Alex), Leverage, Fiasco, Itras By, Epoch, Wilderness for Houses of the Blooded, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game, Cthulhutech, Hillfolk, Scorn, Spite, The Farm, and Heroine are definitely games I plan to run in the coming year.

I'm hoping our next trip to Singapore to visit Paradigm Infinitum will net a few cool books (they've been, like many other stores, shifting to focus more on a miniatures and gameboard market). I'm also hoping that by some miracle, my partner Rocky and I will get to visit a gaming convention.

Keep the dice rolling!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Game Idea: Adventure Time!

Adventure Time
The Simplified Table Top RPG

by Tobie Abad

So you love the show?  Here's a quick way to play a game with your friends inspired by the show.  For this game, you will need the following:

Three six-sided dice for each player.  (The colors do not matter)
A pencil/pen and a sheet of paper for each player.
A extra sheet of paper for the game itself.

A minimum of two players can play this game.  But it gets more fun if you have around three to five players.  Six might get a tad complicated.    Unlike most role-playing games, in this game everyone gets a chance to be a storyteller and control the narrative.  However, every player also controls two characters of their choosing.  The two characters may be friends, enemies or whatever.  The only rule is they should not be the same as other players.  Only one person can play Jake.  Only one player can be Princess Bubblegum.

The basic system works this way.  Each character will have three things he is good at.  Then two things he is clumsy at.  Be sure to mark them with a (1) to (5) as appropriate.  For example, a player playing Finn and Jake may have the following sheet:

So on a single glance you can see the three things and the two things listed.   Now each time you attempt to do something, say have Finn attack a monster, you roll your three six-sided dice, and each die that comes out matching a number you have listed that relates to what you want to do is a good thing (a success).

Each success means I get to describe a detail of how I accomplish it.

Finn is attacking a Wolf man that is threatening Princess Bubblegum. I roll my dice and get a 1, 3 and 4.  This means I have two successes in my action since #3 is for fighting bad guys and #1 is for being a hero.  So I describe how I (#3) leap to the Wolf man and swipe my sword at him to knock him down.  Then (#1) stomp on his head and smile at Princess Bubblegum as I tell her, "Got it under control PB."

As you can see, sometimes you can benefit from more than just one number being rolled.  You can combine results to have creative descriptions.  In the same example, I might have rolled instead: 4, 4 and 5.  This means I didn't roll anything applicable to the action, so I describe how I flub it and if possible, incorporate an appropriate Clumsy stat.  "I rush to the Wolf man to attack, but then realize, she is actually the Wolf Princess!  I drop my sword because I see how pretty she is."

What happens when you roll a six?  You get a success as well.  However, you can only get that success by describing the action with a key catch phrase or statement from the character.  So if you for example roll 1, 3, 6 in the example above, you can say, "Finn swipes the sword to knock down the Wolf man and says, 'Beating bad guys and saving PB in one action, Rhombus!'"

Now once players have chosen their two characters to play, roll a die to determines who starts the story.  If there are two players, you can assign odds for one player and evens for the other.  If you have three, then allocate two numbers per player.  If four, just roll the dice and if it comes out five or six, roll again.  You get the idea.  The selected player starts the game by describing the scene, and choosing a character who is in the scene.  The character may or may not be one of the player's two choices.  But each time another player's character is mentioned, that player should join the "scene" as per the story.  If the player narrating the story has to portray the character, the narrator automatically becomes whoever is on that player's right.  The narrator can always add characters, monsters, and other things that are not represented by the player's choices.  These added things are written on the extra sheet and ANYONE can choose to play them.  If two players want to play the extra characters, whoever does not have a selected character in that scene gets first dibs.

For example:
Adam, Bill and Charlie are playing.  Adam is playing Jake and Finn.  Bill is playing Marceline and Princess Bubblegum.  Charlie is playing Treetrunks and the Lich King.   A die is rolled and it comes out four.  Since there are three players, the distribution was Adam (1-2), Bill (3-4) and Charlier (5-6), so Bill starts as Narrator.  He describes, "The scene begins in a forest.  Two giant spiders are arguing about what tastes better, animals or candy people.  Jake walks into the scene."

With that mention, Adam now plays Jake, "Hey spider people.  How're you hanging?"  Bill replies as one of the spider people, "All good.  Just you know... being bugs."  Charlie, since he hasn't had either character added into the story yet, decides to play the other spider, "Hey, wait, aren't you an animal?"  

Bill decides to make it interesting and so he adds a new scene.  "Meanwhile, in Candy Kingdom, Finn is talking with Marceline about the upcoming party."  Adam and Bill now start talking as the characters.  "Hey Marceline, I'm stoked about the upcoming party tonight.  How about you?"  Bill sighs aloud, "Hey Finn.  I'm not too keen on the party.  I think Princess Bubblegum in insistent on playing dubstep instead of letting my band play."  Charlie becomes the new narrator since Bill is now playing a character.

Damage and the like
If a character is ever hurt or injured in a scene, a player can decide whether or not that player is knocked out or still able to fight.  The narrator in that moment can always ask for a roll, and the player basically needs to roll any number from 1 to 4 or his character is knocked out for that scene.  No one really dies in this game.

Catchphrases and Signature Moves
Whenever a player uses a catchphrase or signature move appropriately even before a roll is made, he can adjust the next roll of one of his dice by one value (If he rolled 2, 1 and 1, he can adjust the 2 to make the roll 1, 1, 1, for example).  This means the more your portray your character better, the better your rolls.

This game system is intended to be a simple free-flowing system that allows anyone to try playing a game inspired by the show.  More complicated systems can be made (and probably do exist), but I thought this would be a nice New Year's present for all of you readers of my blog.

So yeah, What Time Is It?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Recruitment #05 : Lacuna Part I

Recruitment #05
Lacuna Part I. The Creation of Mystery and the Girl from Blue City.

With two new players and one returning player, it was time to throw another wrench into the story of Lacuna as the two recruits visited the Blue City for the very first time, while the older Mystery Agent acted as their Lead Agent.  Mystery Agent Mason had joined the two recruits just as they were finalizing the details on their Agent Record Sheet.  Mystery Agent Heard was Bulletproof.   Mystery Agent Dyer, on the other hand, was a Writer.

The dive went smooth, with all three Mystery Agents inserted into the Blue City without a hitch.  Or so they thought. Heard found himself in an empty parking lot, surrounded by lots of buildings.  A car was approaching from the distance.  He decided to stay where he was as he tried to get his bearings.  Dyer was on a rooftop, with a massive billboard behind him.  The billboard showed a house wife holding a tray of cookies, and her huge smile seemed to be in contrast to the message which Dyer could read:  We do not want your kind here.  Mason opened his eyes to find himself in a room.  A moment of panic surged as he recalled the events of his previous jaunt into the Blue City.  But thankfully there were no "eyes" and there was a door behind him.   Being a Caller, Mystery Agent Mason quickly contacted Control to get the Mission Parameters.  They sounded pretty simple:

1) Locate the Personality named Kindness
2) Escort Kindness to rendevzous point with Contact.
3) Protect Kindress
4) Place Lacuna Device on Kindness
5) Eject from Blue City

Mason asked for identifying features of the Personality Kindness and was told she has the Lacuna symbol on her belly.  He then requisitioned for three extra Lacuna devices, as well as for a pistol.  Control informed him they would be found in the mailbox outside the door.  "Number four.   Seven."  Mason then inquired for Intel and learned that Heard was a number of meters away.  Dyer, on the other hand, was further, but the count was getting closer.

Heard saw the car approach, and opted to stay hidden in the shadows.  When he could see the driver step down from the car, then reach back inside for something, he decided to take the opportunity to rush forward and take him down.  A few crushing blows to the man's chest and slamming his throat against the car door, and he was down.  Heard reached inside the car and took the shotgun that the man had in the driver's seat. He then searched the man for anything he carried.

Dyer headed down the stairs, learning from Mason (who called him) that they were in the same building.  He stopped however, somewhere in the upper levels, when he heard the sound of a ringing phone.  Following the sound lead him to a corridor of doors with a single open door.  A woman, silhouetted by the lights, stepped into the door and the phone went silent.  He snuck close and overheard her talking about, "Yes, Dyer should be here.  I'm not sure about the others."  Instead of returning to the route Mason directed him, Dyer waited by the shadows to assault the woman.

Mason stepped out to find a large set of iron boxes.  It was like the mailing box system of a hotel.  He tried counting from the upper left corner what most likely was box number forty seven, but instead found three cellular phones inside.  He then tried counting from the lower right corner, and found the box he needed.  Pocketing the gun, he took the Lacuna device and slid it beside his.  Calling out to check on Heard, he learns of the unconscious man.  Heard found a Lacuna device on him as well.   Calling out to Dyer, he hears the fight that ensures as Dyer steals from the woman forcibly her gun, then gets her to admit her name.  She turns out to be Agent Currier (although not the Agent Currier that Agent Mason had met before) and claims to be here to go under Cover as a Personality named Kindness.  Dyer watches as she "mends" the injured finger that was twisted when he took the gun away from her.   Mason learns from them their updates and suggests they all meet up at the ground level near the car.

Agent Currier informs them the unconscious man was Agent Foster, her companion, and that they were given a mission to meet with individuals in the Zoo.  They were supposed to wait for their Escort, who were to be composed of Agents Dyer, Heard and Mason.  Realizing their team just beat up on the mission team, Mason decides to still push forward with the tasks and starts the car.  Currier steps into the back seat with Agent Heard and the unconscious Foster while Dyer sits on the passenger side.  As Currier changes, folding her clothes, hair and skin as if they were silly putty, she explains she has Cover Techniques, specifically Identity and Documents, and that she is supposed to assume the personality of Kindness.  Mason asks her to lift her shirt, worried that the mission might have been compromised, and true enough Currier does not have the mark on her belly.  When she sees their agitation, she tears open her belly to reveal a second layer of skin underneath that has the Lacuna symbol tattoo.  "Cover Identities," Currier reminds them, "Remember?"

The drive takes them to the Zoo, a massive place with arching fences and tall trees.  Animals could be heard from the outside, although the location seemed to be closed.  As they entered the parking lot in front of the zoo, the team could see the lot had only two areas where the lamp posts were working.  In the one further away, a car was parked.  "That is the contact," Kindness to them in a voice that seemed now heavy with an accent.  "You," she pointed to Heard and Dyer, "Will escort me as my companions.  You will not speak a word.  While you," she then motioned to Mason, "Will stay in the car and be ready to drive."  Kindness took the shotgun from Heard, and somehow it had vanished under the folds of her clothing.  Thunder rumbled above.  Mason parked the car under the other lamp post.

Kindness stepped down, with Heard and Dyer walking a few steps ahead of her.  Mason watched nervously and decided to try waking Currier's partner, Agent Foster.  As the three approached the second car, the two inhabitants of the car stepped down.   Dressed in what looked like cold-war soviet military uniforms, the men had clearly monstrous features, with black reflective bulging eyes and strange mandibles.  Mason's eyes widened in horror as he recognized what they talked about.  "Spiders."

The spiders drew out pistols.  Dyer and Heard tried to stay calm, trusting in the mission.  But when Kindness suddenly speaks up about delivering the agents as discussed, the two suddenly worry that things aren't going as they should be.  Mason succeeds in waking Foster up enough to hear him mutter about things being a trap.  About the third agent being dead.  About him hoping to reach Agent Currier in time to save her.    Mason guns the engine and calls out to both agents to get ready to leap back into the car.  Kindness plants each hand on each agent, as if to usher them forward, but to everyone's surprise the Spider shoots her in the chest.  As Kindness drops, Dyer turns to help her.  But instead of staying down, Kindness' body convulses and the muzzle of the shotgun emerges  from the wound.  A spindly hand emerges, followed by a humanoid spider from inside Agent Currier's body.  Dyer leaps out of the way and instead runs for the car.  Agent Heard on the other hand charges forward, slamming a fist into the spider's chest, then ripping the pistol from its hand.  As Agent Dyer leaps for the car's open window, Agent Mason steers the vehicle straight into Kindness.  Running the former agent over, Mason then steered the car towards Heard.  Agent Heard grabbed the second Spider, leapt with it in his arms, and slammed into the incoming car with the Spider acting as the padding.

Agent Heard kicks the battered Spider to the floor, and quickly slides into the car.  Mason pedals the gas and steers the car out of the parking lot.  Calling out to Control, he in instructed to head for the exit point at the docks.  They are warned that the spiders might piggybank with them out of the Blue City, so they need to find a safer route out.  They drive for ten minutes, searching for a safe place to park and try to calm down.  Eventually they find a massive parking lot facing a Mall, and they drive in and kill the engine.  Taking a moment to try to bring down their heartrates, Mason calls again but discovers the voice that has been answering them might not have been Control all this time.

"We've been thinking you've been off the grid for almost two and a half hours, Lead Agent.  What had just happened?"

Scared of what to do next, the team drives to the docks anyway in hopes of finding a hard line they can access.  They arrive to find the docks are crawling with spiders.  Parking the car at the curb, they slip into a nearby museum and hunt for the hard line telephone inside.  What they find catches them all off-guard.  Special Agent Miner tells them their only way out is to trust him.  And warns them that it would mean having to break the rules. "We need to go deeper."

When the team agrees, they are given Cover Identities to wear while in the deeper level.  Each Agent shudders as they realize the disguises make them look like Spiders.  They follow Agent Miner's instructions to head for the Garden, and meet with a Personality named Scarlet.  "Whatever she asks for, just agree, and I'll help you get back home."  The journey to the Garden thankfully is uneventful, save for the growing signs of a coming storm.  Mason recalls reports about frogs that talk and fears what to expect if the weather turns.  They find the Garden soon enough, with green arches and bushes sculpted in the form of animals.  Agent Miner goes ahead, as per the plan, and the Agents are to pretend to demand access to "the room."  Scarlet turns out to be an incredibly sassy blonde in a red dress.  She watches as the "Spiders" approach, Agent Miner looks up to them as if he had never seem them before.  When they ask about the room, however, Scarlet asks for an unexpected demand.  "Kill him," she says without a care, and her gaze motions at Agent Miner.  Agent Heard grabs hold of the Special Agent and ponders on how to fake it, but Miner tells him, "Just kill me.  You can do it."

As Agent Miner's body hits the ground, Scarlet motions towards a massive Orchid that is sprawled in the Garden.  "You will find the room there, " she tells them.  Lightning flashes again.  The three quickly walk into the orchid, feeling its razor-sharp edges tear away the Cover they wear.   They emerge in a white room with a single phone hard line.  As Mason reaches for the phone and calls Control, light patterns begin to dance on the walls.  Agent Dyer realizes the lights are words and begins reading them out to the others.  The lights insist the phone should be placed down, and that Control has been compromised.  Mason, however, asks Control if its time to Eject and Control asks if they still have their Lacuna devices.  Dyer reads out the messages again, and reveals the messages are supposedly from someone named Kira.  And once she confirms that Agent Miner sent them, she offers more information.  Mason decides to trust the lights and drops the phone.  Kira's messages inform them on how to Eject as well as warns them to pretend they remember nothing.   The team holds their Lacuna devices together, and activate them to Eject.


Agent Heard leaves the Blue City without a hitch.
Agent Dyer slips into another place for a brief moment, seeing numerous bodies strapped to tubes and wires, before finally awakening.
Agent Mason sees glimpses of a moment in time he cannot connect to his life.  He sees people watching, staring at him.  A priest shakes his head.  Policemen stare with anger in their eyes.  Then a curtain is drawn to cover them from view.    Mason thinks it was some kind of execution scene, but he is unable to see more.

The three are back in the conference room, and the Control interviewer congratulates them all for surviving the jaunt.  She does state that Static has been intensifying through the months and many jumps have been experiencing issues.  She is happy however to tell them that Special Agent Miner's office has a post-dated document assigning them Commendation Points.   And a special guest steps into the office to meet them:  Vice-Director Pope.  Pope asks them many questions, but all of them reply with statements suggesting memory loss.  Mason, however, throws in some key lines hinting on the events that happened, including a request to get some rest since he is, "Having a killer migraine, like some miner is digging in my head."

Agent Dyer quietly ponders on the words "Kira" has shared with them.


More Mood Building Ideas for Games

By L'Orso Sul Munociclo
More Mood Building Ideas
by Tobie Abad

Lots of gamers on Google Plus Communities have been asking lately for suggestions on how to run games that contain fear and horror.  While I have written some articles before about mood building, I realize it may help to add even more examples of what I've done in various games.  I wrote a few previous articles on mood building and you can easily find them by clicking here.

At the most basic, you should always be sure to engage the senses of your players to invoke horror. Bear in mind, location and the willingness of your players to get frightened are crucial to having a game session that will be conducive to horror. You'll want a place with less distractions, and the freedom to go really loud or really soft. Light, sound, darkness, and silence can be very important factors in developing fear.
Note:  While the examples I write might mention specific games where I had used them, I do believe the ideas can be used in even other game systems.

1) Light Control
Manipulating light and darkness is a very useful tool in adding mood to a game.

Lacuna, Jared Sorensen's experimental game, is one surreal and disturbing game which I recently have gotten into and run with the use of various mood enhancing approaches.    Here are some of what I've done with the game.

Since I start each game session of Lacuna with the recruitment process, I talk to players as one of the company interviewers while track five of The Devil's Advocate is running.  As I shift the session from interview to diving into the Blue City, I then play the opening track to Inception and slowly change the lighting of the game area.  I start by walking to the main light switch and shutting it off, plunging the whole room into darkness.  Then, I walk back to the gaming table and switch on a small lamp.  The light then is just enough to see the dice rolls and character sheets, and have slight glimpses of the players faces.  This, then becomes my "stage" to run other tricks in the game.

For example, when a car drives nearby, or someone shines a flashlight at the player character's face, I switch on an actual flash light and train it at the player, making him feel the unwanted beam of blinding light upon him.

Or like when I had a room suddenly be filled with watching graffiti eyes in the game, I revealed previously hidden letter-sized print-outs of human eyes that I had taped on the walls be flipped over.  So the player (who had a flash light) could shine them at the walls and see them.

In the latest game, I had the players dive into a deeper level in hopes of escaping Spiders.  To represent this, I had the players shut their eyes, then switched off the lamp and replaced it with orange-hued christmas lights that slowly pulsed from bright to darkness.  They opened their eyes and felt they were somewhere else, with things being visible, then dark, and back.

2) Use even ambient things as part of your game
Understandably, we don't live nor run our games in controlled studio environments.  We tend to run them in our living rooms or condo apartments, with noisy neighbors, loud traffic, and ringing phones occasionally interrupting the game session.    We even have a lovely dog who scurries around while we game.  So I've decided to embrace the presence of such noises rather than find them distracting.  When a cellphone suddenly rings, I tell the player who owns the phone, "Your phone rings..." but then motion to him to answer it while I continue a different player's turn.  "Meanwhile, in your location.."

The same is done when loud cars drive by, or horns are blared, or someone comes knocking on our door.  I make them events that happen in the game, and allow the player affected to handle it out of the game while I continue the session with other players.  It allows things to keep moving and reduces the distractions and delays to a huge extent.
by Elias

3) The Mystery Die
A simple tactic which I used to use in my games to generate tension turned out to also be a tactic which John Wick (L5R, Houses of the Blooded) recommended; I called it, The Mystery Die.  How is this done?  Just choose a specific looking die, or a different set of dice, or even a small number of tokens, and make a clear show of placing them somewhere within easy reach.  Do NOT explain to the players what it is for.  But whenever something interesting or wrong happens in the game (be it a player doing something that may be dangerous, or a character attempting a very foolish action), grab the die or tokens and make a clear show of taking note of it.  (For the dice, roll it and react softly to the result.  If tokens, take a moment to count how many there are.)  Afterwards, continue the game as normal.

If you want, you can even ask one of the players to help out.  Have a player roll the die for you.  Or have the others tells you how many tokens are present in total.

Then continue the scene, pausing for a moment or two to "double check" the die roll or tokens.  While the actual thing isn't really a mechanic in the game, it has become a mechanic that adds tension as players ponder on what it can mean.  Old time gamers will wonder if its some kind of wandering monster check.  Newer gamers might think the thing is some kind of new system they are unfamiliar with.  But both side will be worried that it means trouble.

4) Ordinary Things
Throw an ordinary thing to your players.  Maybe in a Vampire game, the player hears knocking at the door of his haven.  And it happens to just be a new newspaper boy delivering the daily.  Maybe in your Continuum game, the character wakes up at 6:29a.m.   Then, have it happen again.  The following day.  And the succeeding one.  As the pattern continues, the player will start to worry what's going on.  The player will start to be very unsettled.

But whether or not the actual events mean something, or are just a quirk of chance, is yours to explore.

5) Silence and the Stare
The dramatic pause.  There is power in the dramatic pause.  There is gold.  Imagine, for example you  are playing Cthulutech and one of the players asks if his pilot can detect any Migou in the area.  You glance up at the player.  Stare at him for a few seconds.  Smile.  Then say, "No."

Rest assured, he will be on the edge for a few more turns.
This, my friends, is a cassette tape.

6) Say more with Scores
Music can carry the weight of a scene with the use of less words.   When I stated using music in my games, mp3s and music cds did not exist yet.  I was still rocking it old school with the use of pre-recorded cassette tapes and enya music.  I had a small portable table recorder, which I could then play to add music to a scene.  I'd carry dozens of batteries with me, in order to switch them once power ran out.

Now, with music being so readily available, there is little reason not to use music to enhance a game.  If you've never used music in your games before, the basic guideline is to always use music with the intention to enhance and not overpower a scene.  So avoid tracks that have lyrics or are too familiar (such as the Imperial March from Starwars, or the signature track from the classic Psycho) unless you want your players to start humming along with the song.  I have a list of suggested soundtracks to try adding to your game in this very blog.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rivers of Time : Serenity

Rivers of Time
Margaret Weis Production's Serenity

It was a night for another one-shot game, and I was supposed to have three players, but sadly one had to cancel due to work concerns.  So with two players, I had to figure out how to make the planned Serenity game work best, especially given one of the players has never seen the show or movie.  Thankfully, my players are geeks in their own way, and I knew I could still come up with something amusing enough and fun for two players.  Given how Jovan, the player who loved portraying Kaylee  in the last two games (save for the most recent one) I decided to give her another dive into the role.  But having thrown a Dr. Who + Serenity mash-up in the previous game, I realized this was also a chance to tie in a throw away line I had in that game.   ("That's because she "remembers" in her notes that Kaylee someday rescues her from the Dark Ages.")

So with the story in mind, I gave the other player (Dennis) some time to watch the pilot episode of the show. The geek in me had him watch the real first episode than the one the network used (The Train Job), and when he grasped the basic idea of the show, he was ready for his character.  He decided to go for a combination of Jayne and Simon; his character was a military doctor back during the war, siding with the browncoats.  After the Alliance won, he started taking odd jobs left and right, until finally landing his current job - the doctor working for the Space Cruise Liner Rosalinda.

The story begins with Kaylee chatting with Inara in her room in the Liner.  Inara, Kaylee, Simon and River decided to enjoy a trip on the Liner since Mal and the others needed to handle a mission on their own.  The trip was to be on a shuttle that would move from port, around the planet and its moon, and back.  Inara quizzed Kaylee on whether or not Simon knows, and Kaylee blushes at first as she pretends not to know what it is about.  Inara admits men tend to be dense, and offers to help her pretty up.  She makes a noted display of giving Kaylee "Roseoil, it is heat activated so while you wear it, the hotter your body gets, the stronger the scent.  I hope you both don't wait til it is a life-or-death situation before you tell each other how you feel."

Outside, Archibald Daitun watched as a young man chased after his sister.  The young woman was named River and she seemed to be amused with the musician playing at the band.  "The dogs hate the sound!  Their ears are bleeding!"  Before Archibald can act, his manager steps into view and starts loud-mouthing about how Archibald's position was not "earned" and was instead "just given out of pity" given his association with the Browncoats.  When she leaps atop a table to avoid the two from taking the musical instrument back, Archibald decides to step in and try to help.  He approaches River and she starts addressing him as her "Big nice doggie."  To Simon's relief, Archibald goes along with River's words, and as she scratches behind his ear, he hands back to Simon the musical instrument so it can be returned to the musician.  River asks "Baldy" to run with her, and the two run off.  As they run around the deck of the ship, the two eventually reach the far side of the vessel where River stops to look out into the Black and ask, "How many do you think there are?  Last time I tried to count them, I only reached seven thousand five hundred eighty two."  When Archibald muses on how many stars could be out there, River corrects him and explains, "I was counting the number of ships within sight."  As Archibald considers how to answer the strange woman, he notices something out of the ordinary in the area.  There are bullet holes on the wall.

Kaylee searches the deck for Simon, now that she has been prettied up by Inara.  Wearing a beautiful knee length skirt, lacey top with blush, lipstick and eye-shadow, Kaylee stalks the area in her geta in hopes of seeing if this time Simon would bite.  Instead, she gets distracted by the very generously stocked dessert table.  As she ponders on what to start attacking, a strange man in a suit walks up to the table and starts celebrating the variety of food that's available.  He points at a plate filled with white icing covered orbs on a string and asks what they are.  "Snow planets," Kaylee offers and gives some suggestions on how to enjoy it.  As the two exchange small talk over food, the funny man suddenly blurts out, "I really appreciate your help, but to be more direct I was actually looking for a certain miss Frye.  Rough and tumble sort of lass.  Oil on her cheeks.  Not as pretty as you.  She's supposed to help me find River, who is in quite a mess it seems."  Kaylee stares at the man, uncertain how to react having been complimented and insulted at the same time.  But she decides to slowly tiptoe away when she realizes the man is looking for HER.

Archibald slowly looks around and sees the shell casings on the floor.  He also notices a blood stain.  As he considers how to inform the staff about this, River runs off, eager to return to her friends.  Archibald carefully surveys the area and finally notices the last big detail that is out of place:  Three angel statues that he has never seen before.  All three are standing by the far wall with their hands covering their faces.   As he bends down to pick up one of the shell casings, he feels a light touch on his shoulder and looks up to see he's in a totally different... time.  Or place.

Kaylee feels the funny man grab her waist, however, and she is turned around face what looks like four goons.  One has a scar over his left eye, and the three others clearly are not used to wearing expensive clothes.  "I am sorry," the funny man holding her waist says, "But I need you to stay still and hide me from those four.  They are looking for her too.  For River.  My posse and I literally bumped into them earlier.  It was quite a shooting experience.  They work for someone named Nisska and I have no idea why I should know that name."  Kaylee seizes up, realizing these people might be searching for them given what happened before with Mal and Wash.  The four men walk straight up to her and start asking her if she's seen "The Doctor."  At first, Kaylee thought they meant Simon and stuttered as she answered she did not know where he was.  (And at that point, Jovan the player turns to me and asks, "Wait, are you crossovering this game?!?!")   Past the men, Kaylee sees Riven waving at her, but then staring at the four men with an odd expression on her face.  Kaylee swoons in panic, and settles by the table.  The funny man somehow had slipped off.  The four goons move on, searching elsewhere, and River comes up to Kaylee with panic about, "Moving now before they reach us.  One.  Two.  Three.  It is your turn.  Or they move 30 meters in a single second."  When Kaylee asks River what she's blabbering about, the funny man peeks from under the dessert table to explain, "I thinks he means those.  Now.  Listen very carefully.  Don't blink.  Don't close your eyes.  No matter what, if you value your life, don't blink."  Kaylee turns to see three stone statues of angels standing a number of meters away, but clearly facing them.

Archibald realizes the dark and dismal place he is in happens to be some kind of dungeon.  Chains hang from the walls, and the only light is from the flickering of a torch.  The moonlight shines far away through a barred window.  When he tries asking the nearest chained prisoner where they are, the man merely replies, "Gaul."  A light then shines, blinding him a bit until he angles his hand against it.  Looking at the source, a wavy-haired woman in chains smiles at him and says, "I don't know who you are, sweetie.  But perhaps you can help me get out of these.  I was, admittedly, expecting a sweet girl named Kaylee."  Archibald checks his waist and confirms he still has his pistol.   Walking up to the girl, he works on the chains to free her.  "Who are you?" he asks her, "And where are we?"   She replies calmly and explains she is River Song, and as to where... that would be Gaul, Earth, just before the 1300s.  Archibald's eyes widen to realize they are on Earth That Was.

The three banter on what to do (and Willpower+Alertness rolls are made every few seconds to represent the active attempt to keep from blinking) with the Doctor finally explaining he was looking for Kaylee Frye since his friend River Song left him a note saying she can help find her, but she needs to allow herself to be touched by an angel.    Kaylee grabs River's hand and asks her if she's willing to do this with her.  River asks if it means finding Simon, she will.  But as they approach the angel, River's hand slips from Kaylee's and Kaylee alone is transported by the angel's touch.

Archibald hears the sound of approaching guards.  He asks River how this is possible, and River simply tells him, "You're a time traveler now, Archie.  And once Kaylee is here, we can find our way home."  That moment, as if on cue, Kaylee pops into view in the dungeon.  As she panics over suddenly being somewhere else without River, River Song calms her down and tells her, "You are here because I know you are going to be the person who can help us get back home."  She displays a little blue notebook and taps it against her chest, "You'll find the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver, and eventually, the T.A.R.D.I.S."  As Kaylee admits not understanding what they are talking about, River explains, "You mentioned something about the T.A.R.D.I.S. calling out to you.  Something you could always do with ships?"

The door opens as two guards walk in.   Archibald starts approaching them with one of the loosened chains and moans loudly in hopes of freaking the guards out.  His attempt to intimidate them works and he knocks one unconscious with a swing of the chain.  He calls himself some kind of vengeful spirit, and turns to realize both River and Kaylee had run for it.  Archibald knows he has to track them, and realizes he can by trusting his nose.

Kaylee and River run through the dungeon, with Kaylee still confused how River could know him when she does not recall her ever meeting her. "The Doctor.  He realizes the anguish you will feel of knowing you've been to Earth and can never ever go back to talk about it to anyone.  He wipes away your memory to make it easier."  Kaylee trips as they run and she looks back to see the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver as the object that tripped her.  When she questions how it got there, River admits it was in her possession when she was flung to the past.  The T.A.R.D.I.S. followed her after she used the Sonic Screwdriver to release a beacon.  But she could not get it to reveal where it was.  As Kaylee's brain instinctively begins to grasp the utility of a sonic screwdriver, she presses the right buttons to flick it on and scan for "beacons."  She detects where the T.A.R.D.I.S. could be!  River Song can only smile.  The two head towards the beacon, only to stop when a wall bars their way.  "Now what?" Kaylee groans.  "Now is when you find the right frequency to make the rock melt away," is all that River replies.  Kaylee stares at the sonic screwdriver, clearly wishing she had one of her own to fix Serenity.

Archibald runs through the dungeon to finally see a gap in the wall itself.  On the ground, bricks lay scattered.  Confused how the two women were able to pry the bricks free from the wall so quickly, he reaches down to grab a brick and finds it wobbly and gelatinous in his hands.  Somehow, the women had turned solid bricks into soft, malleable things.  The scent of roses was still strong.  Archibald stepped through and made to follow.  But as he ran through the waist-high grass after the two, men on horseback and piecemeal armor emerged and called out for him to surrender.  Archibald fired one shot at the nearest man and shot down his horse.  The men panicked and halted, realizing Archibald was "a witch who could summon the very thunder."  Archibald realized he may have to use his intimidation to the best of his ability to survive this.  He raises both hands (while one hand still holds the gun) and starts talking about as if he were some kind of demon.  "Repent!  Bow down!  Or the heavens shall strike you down!"    The men hesitated, uncertain how to deal with this man-like demon who calls thunder that strikes others down.

Kaylee and River hear the sounds of gunshots and realize they best hurry.  River tells Kaylee to find the T.A.R.D.I.S. and get it ready, and hurries off even before Kaylee can fire out a question.  "You'll know what to do, sweetie.  I'm sure of it!"  Kaylee tracks the beacon to the closest signal and sees a standing blue box.  Kaylee sees the door left open and carefully slides it open to step inside.  Nothing can prepare her for what she sees:  a man and a woman on the ground, bleeding and wounded, with their hands clasped together... while they are being tended to by Simon Tam himself.

"Simon!"  Kaylee steps inside and Simon rushes to her.  She gasps in surprise when he hugs her tight and admits, "I wasn't sure if I would see any of you again.  This place.  This... place bigger in the inside than outside... it is their ship, Kaylee."  And that moment, Kaylee hears a feminine voice whisper, "That is true.  And it is nice to finally be able to speak to someone."  Kaylee and the voice converse, and Kaylee soon realizes it is the T.A.R.D.I.S. itself talking to her.  While it seems more direct compared to how Serenity relates to her, Kaylee feels empowered by the fact this ship actually can relate with her.  "It must be nice for you, to be able to say Hello to him each time you see him.  I haven't had the chance to speak to him.  Even if I was the one who chose him."  Kaylee stares at Simon and considers the T.A.R.D.I.S.' words.

River crawls up to Archibald, who has gotten the men on horseback to pause.  Quitely, she nudges Archibald to look down, and whispers to him how he can help her finalize a certain detail.  Ever since the Angels had sent her here, she had been mistaken as a witch by the people in this time.  This was an opportunity to close that story even more.  On the count of three, Archibald ducked down and River stood in his place, as if he had transformed into a woman.  She then declares herself free of the Church's hands, and then nudges Archibald to shoot at another man.  Archibald's expert shooting skills brings down the other warrior.  The two then hurry to get into the T.A.R.D.I.S. while the medieval men flee in terror.

Archibald steps into the T.A.R.D.I.S., overwhelmed to see how it is much bigger in the inside than outside.  River approaches the two on the ground and learns that while Amy and Rory have been treated for the gun shots, they still need better medical attention.  Archibald offers to help and River gives him directions to find the medical supplies.  Archibald finds various generations of medical supplies in the room, from herbal salves to medical tools to even tools used in Ariel and the like.  He returns with them only to be told by Simon he's already done all that can be done.  The two need a hospital.  River asks Kaylee if the T.A.R.D.I.S. is all set, and Kaylee agrees.  She hits the switch and launches them through time.

The T.A.R.D.I.S. lands on the Rosalinda and the door opens to the Doctor, who thanks them for returning and welcomes them safely back.  Archibald and Kaylee worriedly ask about the angels only to discover they are frozen in the center of the deck.  Given how there is never a time the ship is not filled with people, added to that the fact the angels are set to face one another, the angels had effectively trapped themselves forever.    River Song offers Archibald and Kaylee a glass, filled with wine, to celebrate their success.  When Archibald wisely opts not to drink it, River Song realizes she'd found her man.  The Doctor bids them farewell, and retrieves from Kaylee the Sonic Screwdriver.  River Song invites Archibald into the T.A.R.D.I.S. but then presses her hand against Kaylee's hand.  As they close the door of the T.A.R.D.I.S., Kaylee marvels as it begins to fade with its signature sound filling the area.  River leaps into Simon's arms and clearly is overjoyed to see him back.  Inara slides towards Kaylee and asks if she can explain what just happened.  She looks down and finds in her hand a stick of lipstick.  Only unlike most lipstick, this one was Sonic.


Archibald opens the door to a forest land.  River Song escorts him through the woods until they see a cabin in the woods.  "I need a hand to accomplish some of the feats I do.  Someone who has no records in history.  And someone from the future working in the past would be perfect."  Archibald admits he is doing this because he is tired of doing things and not seeing real change happen.  River Song promises him that if he works for her, real change will definitely happen.  As River leaves, Archibald stares at the night sky and relishes the fact he is now a man from the future, back in the Earth That Was, at a time before the land he is in is actually rediscovered and named.

Kaylee stares at Simon.  She wants to ask him questions but she realizes most of the memories of what happened on that cruise liner are fading away, like a distant dream.  She slides the stick of lipstick out of her pocket and stares at it, already uncertain where she had gotten it.  And why she keeps it.  All she knows, however, is that there will come a time she has to tell Simon her feelings.

But not yet.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Anima Eidolon ep02 : Final Fantasy

Anima Eidolon
Episode Two
Final Fantasy RPG

Episode two of the Final Fantasy RPG opens with the introduction of a new character.  When the first episode was run, three other players were not able to join that night.  This time, the summoner Ho-ku, a Taru taru, was present for the fun.

The story opens with Ho-ku recalling his earlier years at Dharma Island, where he met the young Akami struggling to learn to summon.  Her attempts kept failing, which led Ho-ku to try and befriend her to at least cheer her up.  Fast foward to the current time, Ho-ku watched as an invasion struck the city of Ogino.  From the window where he stayed, he saw a group rushing into what looked like a secret passage way down a fountain and without a second thought, Ho-ku launched himself into the air to follow them inside.  As he silently dropped to the ground behind the strangers, he watched as they were trained upon with guns by what seemed to be the city guard.  They accused the group of having hurt General Cid, whom Ho-ku recognized to be a key member of the city's security force.  And demanded they surrender their weapons and march down the passageway.  As Ho-ku followed suit, not wanting to cause any trouble, the others stared at him strangely, wondering where he had come from.

Elsewhere, Meugle prayed for someone to call out his name.  Safe in the Save Point, his existence was pretty much nullified as well until someone took him out of it.  As if in response to his prayers, a voice called out his name, and a hand emerged from the light.  Meugle exited the Save Point to see Morris waiting for him.  He commented the Fencer for wisely leaping into the Save Point when Bahamut charged for him.  "Those things are tough enough to kill even senior warriors.  Good thing a Thief like you knew how to escape and fight another day."  Meugle opted not to correct Morris in his misconception that the Fencer was a Thief.  As Morris told him about the airship that was enroute to "pull out" Morris and his friends from the war-torn city, Meugle realized deep down he cared for his friends and told Morris he had to go back for them.  Impressed at the moogle's kindness, Morris decided to stay as well.  "We Moogles best stick together."  But as they followed down below to the tunnels, Meugle misread the sounds the others were making, and ends up leading Morris to the opposite direction of where they should go.

Hume (Class unrevealed)

Weapon of Choice:  (Unrevealed)
Personality:  Quiet and focused, Christof seems to be a high-ranking person in Ogino.  He, however, defers to the woman when it comes to decisions.  

Hume (Class unrevealed)
Weapon of Choice:  (Unrevealed)

Personality:  Assertive and sassy, Magda commands the troops of Ogino without fear.  Her roles in Ogino might be larger than the players expect.  Sadly, none of them were well-versed enough of the land to recognize her.

The group finds themselves in a camp in one of the central sewer junctions.  A woman and a man question them, asking if they had any affiliations with the invading enemy force.  Though the group answer honestly, the two still seem uncertain and leave them to wait in their makeshift prison.  Devoid of their weapons, Akami recognizes Ho-ku and suggests to the others to scare him enough that he uses his Summon abilities to call a monster to help them.  Ho-ku, terrified as the Ronso Verden threatens to eat him, cold fast and stays calm at first.  A few failed attempts to scale the walls bring Akami to call out suggestions.  One uses his immense strength to break the chains off his arms.  The other tries Akami's suggestion to use Geomancy to make slipping off the manacles easier.  Eventually two scale the wall and creep towards where their weapons have been stashed.  But that's when the camp goes haywire as some attack seems to distract them all. Using it to their advantage, Ho-ku summons Valefor to emerges to fight while the others grab weapons.  Valefor takes a number of soldiers down but dissipates... and Ho-ku realizes unless he becomes more focused and brave, his own summons will never be strong and courageous as well.    He calls for Valefor again, and the Summon emerges with anger in its heart!  It scours the area with a massive Energy Blast, quickly felling six soldiers with one attack.

Meugle and Morris find themselves peering at a hatch that blocks them from what looks like a massive treasury room.  Down below, amid the hills of gold and treasures, soldiers that match the invading forces are gathering the loot.  Around them, massive twelve foot tall automatons stand immobile.  As Meugle and Morris unlatch the grid from their side, Morris opts to scout ahead, trusting on his advanced Mediator abilities.  Impatient, Meugle drops down to follow, hoping to bluff his way through the room as well.   He finds Morris talking to some soldiers about the events that had transpired, having smoothed talked them into thinking they were also on the soldier's side.  But Meugle saw the soldiers throwing each other meaningful glances, which made Meugle suspect the soldiers were just playing along to set a trap for them both.  As Meugle tries to consider an exit strategy, the soldiers ask Meugle to hold on to a glass case that contains a dagger that looks far too expensive and useful to be ignored.  Meugle realizes the blade is not just any blade, but an Ultimate Weapon, and deeply considers whether or not it can be used.  He learns some magical force seems to make it become extremely heavy, perhaps a kind of supernatural mechanic to keep it from being used by those not experienced enough.  He hides in a wooden box, hoping to have a change to look things over in private.  While inside the box, he opens the case and draws the dagger out of its slot.  The dagger shines so bright it is almost blinding inside.  Sounds of chaos tear outside and when Meugle peeks out, the chamber is in shambles, as the gigantic automatons had suddenly awoken from their magically imposed impairment.

A woman from the solider's side calls for a truce, and the group opts to agree.  With weapons laid down, the woman tells them General Cid had awakened and he has vouched for their trustworthiness.  With the battle ended, the soldiers quickly tend to their injured.  The woman apologizes for the confusion but does stress they were doing what they thought was best given Ogino is under assault by forces unknown.  The group is given free bunks to stay in, and access to the stores if they need it, while the leaders discuss with General Cid on what is going on.  Ho-ku, it seems, has nominally become part of the group. 

Taru Taru (Thief)

Weapon of Choice:  (Unrevealed)
Personality:  Brash and confident, Mika is clearly the leader among the two.  He isn't as good as he thinks, however.

Taru Taru (Class unrevealed)
Weapon of Choice:  (Unrevealed)

Personality:  Boshi clearly defers to Mika's decisions but her manner of dress and approach towards others suggests she is not a Thief like her brother.  

And Meugle finds the treasury room in absolute chaos, with broken bodies of soldier scattered about.  He sees Morris' cigar in the coins and realizes the other Moogle is hiding.  Using their kupo to discuss an escape plan, Meugle tries to distract one of the automatons, and evades by darting through a doorway to escape, only to bump into two young taru-taru.  Meugle first attempts to feign being part of the guests, but quickly realizes the two are thieves themselves.  And when their escape is blocked by a new group of soldiers, Meugle is told to surrender and drop his sword.

Chaos all around Ogino.  And somewhere far away, a figure in black robes is addressed by a younger figure.  "It has begun, my grandfather."  The old man in the black robes nods, and motions towards the statue of the Goddess Athena.  "Perhaps this time, you will listen to me.   And love me."


Ultimate Weapons
Every one who played Final Fantasy games knows the joy of finding an Ultimate Weapon.  Part of the balance system used in the video games for Ultimate Weapons is having some kind of level minimum to use them.  To represent that in the table top game, I described the object as being superheavy when wielded by someone who is not of sufficient level to use it.  The object becomes far too heavy and too unusable until the minimum level is achieved. 

And yes, just like in Final Fantasy 7, Ultimate Weapons will be what unlock one's Ultimate Limit Break.

The game allows Summoners to call for an Eidolon to fight for him for a number of turns. The Eidolon can be dispelled if it receives too much damage (as well as by other means).  But unlike how it is done in the game, I opted to give Eidolons a stronger relationship with the Summoner (to separate them from the Callers), in that they can communicate with the Eidolons telepathically.

While this seems to add the advantage of communicating with them, I plan to also let this mean the Eidolons can get "fussy" as the Summoner might prefer one over others.    And lastly, I plan to make it that the Eidolons are actually unique beings.  As supported by the system (where only one unique Eidolon appears at a time), an Eidolon can "die" if it receives far too much damage even after it returns to fight after being unsummoned.  To grasp it better, an Eidolon appears with 150% health based on the Summoner.  Once enough damage is received, an Eidolon is unsummoned and dissipates.  But if the Eidolon wishes to, it can allow the Summoner to summon it again to fight.  This time, if the Eidolon takes enough damage to once again bring it to 0 hit points, however, it dies.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Anima Eidolon ep01 : Final Fantasy

Anima Eidolon
Episode One
"Ogino Festival"
Final Fantasy RPG

So I've started a new campaign for my office mates at Indigo-Entertainment and given how much the gang loves video games, I decided this time to give them a taste of a role-playing game that was inspired by a video game.  The Final Fantasy RPG 3rd edition (which had Samuel Banner as the Lead developer) was available online for free (the joys of fan projects) and while it had many faults, it was a solid enough system that captured the feel of the game and yet allowed the fun of table top gaming.  While I knew I would have to consider creating both a "Limit Break" rule as well as a "Multi-Job-classing" rule for the game to be more fun for my group, such changes would simply be part of the process of tailoring the game for the players.  The fact that I have around seven players, with some loving Final Fantasy Tactics, some loving Final Fantasy 7, some having not played anything other Final Fantasy game except FF-X, I realized the best way to approach the game is to come up with a whole new world of their own to explore.

So, without further ado, allow me to present:
 Drawing inspiration from Studio Ghibli's Nausicaa, games such as Silver Star Story, as well as Final Fantasy itself, I crafted a whole new world with a whole new epic story.  The continent of Ikazamiya was on the verge of destruction under a man named Umbara, who had sought to destroy the world after the Goddess Athena ignored his attempts to win her affection.  Nine heroes from different parts of the world gathered and united their forces to bring down the vile Emperor, but the Emperor however had trapped them in an impasse.  After murdering the city of Shimamoto, Umbara had gathered the Necromantic energies into a vast orb, that upon his death would unleash the dark power all through-out the land.  Unable to act, Umbara triumphantly slew each hero - unaware that the Goddess Athena reached out  to the White Mage among the group.  "I shall allow you all a second chance," and with their permission, the Goddess drew out a portion of each hero's soul and kept it safe.  She then released it back into Ikazamiya, and new lives were born... lives that were to one day once again rise up to defeat the Dark Emperor.

Of course, in classic Final Fantasy style, I open the game session having all present players using versions of their characters that are armed with their Ultimate Weapons, and of levels high enough to use their best or most powerful Abilities.  But as the battle continues (and the players learn the combat system), Umbara begins to twist things to their favor.  And soon, each player experiences their powerful character die.  Athena reaches out and steals a part of their soul, and allows it to be reborn in various places in Ikazamiya.

Year pass.  The heroes all happen to gather at the City of Ogino for the start of its Year-Long Festival.  The characters in the game include:
Muegle Urth, a Moogle Fencer from Heian.
Blink, a Varg Swordmaster from Otoro.
Verden, a blind Ronso Geomancer from Potemkin.
Numumu, a Nu Mou White Mage of Athena.

Beorn Seru, a Viera Chemist from Heian.
Valyria Catali, a Hume Dark Knight.
Ho-Ku, a Taru Taru Summoner.

Moogle Mediator from Haku
Weapon of Choice:  Rifle
Personality:  Gruff and manipulative, Morris is a Moogle who understands the advantage of others thinking he's just a cute and cuddly face.  Always smoking when given the chance, Morris is a con-man at heart with a loyal heart.  Those who happen to gain his respect and trust find themselves allied with a Moogle who can sell ice to an eskimo and has no problems with embracing an advantage he is given.

The characters have a few mixed up initial meetings, with Muegle Urth befriending a cigar-totting Moogle who also tries to hire Beorn Seru to be a bodyguard, Blink and Verden and Numumu having a hilarious encounter with a pickpocket and a girl selling puppets, and eventually the group becoming split into two distinct ways:  Numumu finds himself among other White Mages of Athena and observed by the watchful gaze of the Mother Superior Duna.  While in a small Inn owned by an elderly hume, Blink convinces the woman to hire him as security, while Muegle and Beorn rent a room with the help of the cigar-totting Moogle's money.

Fireworks.  Everyone heads to windows, or steps outside to watch the show.  Lights and fire dance in the sky, while the technologically empowered soldiers of Ogino march the streets.  Everyone enjoys the show.  But Numumu senses something is wrong, and casts SIGHT.  What he sees in the sky bothers him:  Magical outlines of great floating things are in the sky beyond the fireworks.    And true enough, from what seems like the star-lit sky, great columns of light shine down and begin illuminating areas in Ogino.  From where each "spotlight" is trained, burning orbs are launched down, which shatter upon impact to reveal armed soldiers!

"An invasion," Mother Superior Duna tells Numumu, and the two withdraw as soldiers crash through the windows of the temple to attack them.  As Numumu prepares to retreat, the Mother Superior reveals her past as she uses the Sleepy Shuffle to knock out the persuers.

Back at the inn, the heroes fight the soldiers.  The battle goes pretty easy (with some hilarity when Verden insists in trying to attack with his Golem Bell even if his blindness causes all his attacks to sadly miss) with the soldiers being quickly dispatched.  But when a dune buggy careens down the road with four War Wolves attacking its driver, the heroes realize they best come to help.  On the passenger side, a princess seems to struggle to keep her crown on.

The battle takes a dangerous turn when a new type of enemy is launched from above: Silver Stilleto Serpents crash from the sky.   Heavily armored and evasive, their deadliness becomes more apparent when the heroes realize these things can self-destruct for a chance of creating more of themselves!  A battle against two serpents eventually upgrades into a battle against seven of them, and it is only when the "princess" calls upon Valefor to help does the battle turn in the heroes' favor.  Verden uses Geotrance to switch the terrain to register as a forest, and his Leaf Swirl quickly shifts things in their favor.  Beorn uses up practically all of his tonics, however, in the battle.  Blink taps into his inner rage, and unleashes his Limit Break, Braver, at the Serpents a few times.  Meugle poisons the other serpents to grant them an eventual edge.  After clearing the monsters, the heroes get to the buggy to hear the driver ask them to help the woman get to safety.  He mentions of secret tunnels under the city, with the fountains as entry points.  As he faints, the princess asks them to help carry her "Uncle Cid."  When the group realizes Ogino has no princess, the woman identifies herself as Akami, and claims to be the Princess of Dharma.

Beorn takes the wheel as the group drives off, hoping to find a way to the fountains.  But the enemies above track them and Beorn is forced to misdirect them while the others sneak into a basement doorway.  Inside, they encounter a young Tailor who reluctantly gives them information, and sells them some hats.  The group confronts Akami, and when Blink attempts to snatch her crown, it rips off along with her hair, revealing it to simply be a copper wire wig.  Beorns confronts Akmai's claims, stating Dharma has no royalty either, and Akami finally admits she was merely in disguise in hopes of visiting her uncle.  When Blink tries to take the three Summon Materia stones of her crown with him, she reveals her Job Class as she summons Reels that spin, and upon matching, blast the Swordmaster with Holy.  Akami, is a Gambler, it seems.

Mother Superior Duna 
Hume White Mage/Dancer of Ogino
Weapon of Choice:  Staff
Personality:  Strict and focused, her devotion to Athena is undeniable.  However, she remains secretive regarding her past.   She has many connections, however, all over Ikazamiya - and in many of them, surprise tends to be the first reaction upon seeing her again.

The group travels in the alleyways, with stealth proving a success for the most part.  But eventually they are spotted and in the rush to evade, Meugle is separated from the rest.  The group reach a fountain, pull the switch, and descend underground.  Meugle is chased by another silver serpent and tries to escape by ducking into another alleyway.    But that alleyway instead has a gigantic monstrosity chasing after another soldier, who escapes death by slamming his palm against a six foot tall floating diamond:  a Save Point!  When the monster, having lost its prey, sees Meugle as the alternative thing to eat, Meugle leaps to the Save Point as well and vanishes.

Meugle finds himself in a place of light, sensing the many consciousnesses around him.  All are mentally aware in the Save Point it seems, and these are said to be indestructible features of the world.   The catch, however, is that those inside a Save Point cannot leave unless someone touches the gem and calls for their name.  Meugle realizes he may be stuck in here for a long time.

Hume Gambler of Dharma
Weapon of Choice:  Summon Materia
Personality:  Deceptive and quirky, Akami had been posing as a Princess of Dharma when the Heroes first met her in Ogino.  She has three Summon Materia with her (one of which contains Valefor) and clearly is very possessive of them.

Her uncle, Cid, is the General of Ogino.  Her ability to use magic is probably a habit of hers which he frowns upon, given Ogino's technological slant towards things.

The others descend below to find dozens of soldiers training their guns at them.  Forced to surrender, things even get worse when the soldiers mistake them for having attacking "General Cid."  The group considers how to talk their way out of things, but given some of them are from Heian, the very City that is believed to be behind the invasion, things might just be more grim than they prefer.


Limit Breaks
So yeah, I've incorporated Limit Breaks.  A good source of Limit Breaks is what was used for Final Fantasy 7.  I plan to have certain players use certain Limit Breaks.  Currently, I've revealed that Blink, the Swordmaste, will follow Cloud's Limit Break flow.  The system I decided to use is this simple:
1) Track every player character's damage received (prior to being reduced by Arm or  M.Arm)  Once this total reaches the PC's maximum hit points, the character is in Limit Break state.  (Yes, this does mean that unless the character heals some of the damage, he most likely gets KOed instead of Limit Breaks)
2) Once in Limit Break state, the player can activate the simplest Limit Break he has.  Later levels of Limit Breaks are unlocked at higher levels, and through various methods.  For example, some Limit Breaks unlock only after the first Limit Break has been used ten times.  Others might unlock depending on the location.  Or situation.    Or weapon equipped.
3) Limit Breaks can be unleashed rather than a usual action.  Most Limit Breaks are similar to Job abilities meant for higher levels.
4) If a player is KOed, touches a Save Point, Uses a Limit Break, or Levels Up, the Limit Break meter is reset to zero.

Multi-Job Classing Rules
For multi-job options, I plan to allow players to choose a second Job come Level Seven.  Once that happens, players now level up BOTH classes at the same time. However the first Job is clearly seven levels better than the second one.  This, however, also means the Attribute Maximum Caps of the character will change, with the player now having the highest caps for either Job used in the computation.  The new Job, however, will NOT get a new set of skill points to spend.  Only an additional affinity.  So players should spend new Skill Points to help empower their second Job.

Save Points
Save Points are the perfect excuse to deal with players who are not present for a game session.  In a Save Point, a character is indefinitely "safe" and can rejoin the game at a later time.  All need happen is another player to declare he is "loading" the saved player to join the game.

Likewise, characters can take an action to touch a Save Point to recover all lost Hit Points and Magic Points.  Save Points, however, are inert and cannot be used DURING a combat sequence, unless the player successfully Escapes first.

Save Points keep all contained souls in a One Space, meaning, a player can save in one city, and be "loaded" in another city provided another player does the loading.

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