Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Legacy e01 : Houses of the Blooded

Legacy - Episode One
May 2012 - ongoing
Houses of the Blooded

Episode One: The Puzzling Party of Lady No

After what seemed like months of mapping out schedules, our first long-term Houses of the Blooded game is finally underway.  While I have run John Wick's Houses of the Blooded before as a one shot game, those games were not able to utilize the system's bountiful options to the hilt.  This chronicle aims to explore the many facets of Ven life.

The game currently has four players, though only three have fully created their characters.  The original idea was that all the players were siblings, but I realized that too quickly reduced their available number of houses to two.  (I will not say more on this matter, or to do so is to ruin a plot I already have in mind.)

Mahar plays Aesil Yvarai, Blooded of the Fox.  Her attention to fashion is matched only by her subtlety in manipulating others to do what she desires.  They say she is as Beautiful as she is Wise, but never someone to rely on when it comes to strength.    Her husband, Corin, is known to Love His Wife absolutely even if the Party Never Ends for him.  Her barony is Everbower, and her dreams of gaining more prestige are quite well known.

Rocky plays Tempkin Mwwr, Blooded of the Snake.  His penchant for sensing trouble seems matched only by his fascination for information on the sorcerer-kings.  Some whisper he is Wise and Cunning more than anything, so long as you do not ask him to wield a blade.    Prominent is his silver-finger sheath called Scythe, which adorns his right pinky.  Unlike most ven, Tempkin Mwwr has proudly taken a husband rather than the expected wife, and most know of Piotr to be surprisingly Bureaucratic in his interests.  Piotr, however has leanings towards Court Gossip and has been known to subtly manipulate others to achieve his goals.  His barony is Arakeen, and his hunt for more knowledge is whispered in the courts.

Urim plays Alexai Burghe, Blooded of the Bear.  His love and fidelity to his wife is matched only by his frightening temper; something quite common among young ven.  The man's Strength serves him well and his Prowess in battle is just as dangerous, though at times he can be quite slow in worldly matters.   His blade, which he calls Dragonfang, is always sheathed at his side.   Sittydeth, his wife, is quite the Life of the Party, and has been known to Love the Shoes of those who know their fashion sense.  Surprise does come to many that she Loves her Husband so much.  His barony is Huenadora and his idealism is quite the topic of many wagging tongues.

The three were invited to a party being held by Lady No and each quickly mapped out gifts they were to bring.  For the game, I told them to assume they spent the last year preparing for this party, and knowing it was a Rank two party, each player quickly came up with interesting gifts.  Aesil resorted to two Seasons worth of fine wine.  Tempkin brought two satchels of rare herbs.  Alexai believed that his two cartloads of various minerals would be deemed acceptable.      What they knew of the party was this:  Lady No is reputedly looking for a fourth husband.

Lady No, Countess of Ival, Blooded of the Elk.
Her three things that the players knew:
She is a poison teddy bear.
She has three dead previous husbands.
She has a "special" relationship with Zsanosz, Count Kether.

Wisdom wagers were called for on what else they knew of the party, and resulted in the following added details:
(Mahar, 2 wagers) The party was to be held at a garden.    It is to be a debut for the new ven.
(Rocky, 1 wager) Tempkin Mwwr is invited, but clearly not a candidate.
(Urim, 1 wager) Lady No is looking for someone who has always been single.
Clearly, the players were still afraid to get their toes into deep waters, so I approved the facts.

Wanting to let the players get a feel for the system, I then asked them to make Beauty Risks to see how they prepared for the party.  Amusingly, all of them failed their rolls which I decided meant they all arrived later than everyone else.

As Tempkin (who rolled highest among the three) arrived at the gates of Ival, he found another guest impatiently waiting as well.  Piotr, being the gossip that he is, recognized the man and quickly whispered to Tempkin what he knew of the Count Kether.

Count Kether, Zsanosz Yvarai, Blooded of the Fox.

His three things:
He is honest, loyal and honorable.
He is the most ruthless bastard you'll ever meet.
He never breaks a promise.

Tempkin quickly tasked Piotr to gain more information on the Count, which the young husband easily achieved by gaining Count Kether's trust and interest with a few carefully intoned words.  The two retired to a nearby camp outside Ival, which suggested to Piotr that the dear Count had been waiting outside for at least a night.

Aesil arrived and was welcomed in.  She ignored the noisy tent that was shaking by the entrance to Ival, and quickly attempted to regain some lost face for arriving so late.  In the party, she found her cousin Tempkin in line in front of her, and quickly attempted to offer some fashion advice.  Cleaning him up a bit just before he was given an audience with Lady No, Aesil felt she had gained a minor victory until someone slipped into the line ahead of her.  Of all the ven, it had to be the one ven who had seemingly marked Aesil to be a rival:  Janus.

Janus Q'n, Blooded of the Fox.
His three things:
He is prettier than most female foxes.
He is devoted to fashion.
He knows how to pull the strings of others.

Aesil gained 3 wagers to add facts she knew of Janus and declared:
He is a childhood friend of Aesil.
They were once so close as to have almost been together.
He prefers men.

Alexai found himself lost.  And upon arriving at the party, Count Kether accompanied him inside and found his wife to be quite impressive.  He offered to have her Blooded into his House, but Alexai found a way to rebuff his offer without insulting him.   As he went on his own way, Alexai reached the grounds of the garden and found it to be practically quiet.  As he looked around he discovered the ven all deep asleep.  Something had happened before he arrived.

When Tempkin found his chance to speak with Lady No, he found her actions to be strange.  Facts he had added regarding Lady No included the detail that they had just met a Season ago in another affair.  For Lady No to seemingly not recognize him quickly aroused Tempkin's suspicions:  There was Sorcery involved.  Quickly deducing this was no Tulpa, he suspected she was a victim of The Puppet and retired to one side of the room to try to trace the Sorcery.  He declared the fact that a special candle molded from certain herbs burns a smoke that trails to the source of the Puppet sorcery.  Following the trail, he discovers a man wrapped in dark robes hiding in the chamber behind the throne of Lady No.  Recalling another ven named Marcus who had uncovered The Puppet before, Tempkin suspected the robed figure was that man.

Aesil found herself in a verbal sparring with Janus, as Janus attempted to humiliate his rival by pointing out how her clothes were an old form of fashion.  Aesil countered, but sadly failed in this risk of Beauty.  As Aesil withdrew in shame amidst the laughter of other ven, she made the additional mistake of admitted she brought a candle to the debut, not a rose as most female ven would have.  To Janus' credit, however, he did not bring the matter to a point of Insult, and no stigmatized Aspect was branded on Aesil.

Janus meets with the Lady No and presents his gift:  An otherworldly perfume that captures a scent none have ever smelled before.  Aesil finds herself obsessed with it and quietly muses that Janus had overplayed his gift.  For a simple debut, such a gift was clearly too grand.  But Janus knows the game of Beauty and gives Lady No merely two swipes of the perfume upon her neck.  Foiled again, Aesil hoped to regain some face when her turn came to meet with the Lady.

A quick jump back to the future has Alexai coming face to face with a impassioned attacker.  The man cries out demanding to be brought to his "Sir" and after taking the nearest sword from a sleeping ven, attempts to strike Alexai with it.  But Alexai draws Dragonfang and with a quick motion Injures the veth with a single stroke.  Demanding an explanation, Alexai kicks away the other sword and pulls the veth closer to his blade.  Alexai recognizes him to be Piotr and realizes his cousin is somewhere in the party as well!  Quickly searching the grounds, he soon finds Tempkin slumped against a wall and unconscious.  With a hand raised, Tempkin attempts to slap his cousin awake.

When Aesil finally met the Lady No, she finds her falling asleep in front as she presented herself.  Tempkin attempts to chase after the robed figure he assumes to be Marcus but then sees a sliver of flesh left on the floor.  Pulling close, Tempkin sees in horror that it IS Marcus' face on the ground.  Fearing the robed figure to be some kind of orc in the grounds, Tempkin attempts to close in but feels a heaviness overwhelm him.  At the center of the garden, Lady No lies unconscious... and very quickly all the other ven begin to fall asleep as well.  Aesil succumbs quickly.  Tempkin remains awake only long enough to see that the robed figure has a finger sleeve much like his own - but on the left hand instead.

Tempkin awakes to see Alexai's worried face.  The two trade notes on what just happened and Tempkin wonders if the party will still push through.  The two discover the gift table to be empty and deduce the assailant must have orchestrated events to steal away Lady No's presents.  Lady No recovers, still heady from the sorcery, but insists the party should push through (She did spend a few Seasons preparing for it.)  But when Count Kether emerges, he simply walks past Lady No and waits for her at a nearby tower.  Lady No cancels the Party and informs everyone it is time to leave.   Tempkin wonders where his other cousin has gone to, but decides she probably has run off to spend some time with her husband.

Aesil, however, is not with her husband.  Aesil awakens in a room filled with mirrors.  Hundreds of them in all shapes and sizes distort the surroundings as she struggles to make her escape.  Stripped of her clothes, Aesil fights against the growing fear and somehow manages to escape what she learns is a Puzzle House in one of the regions just beyond those she already controls.   Quickly, she runs home traumatized by the event but vowing to investigate at some later point in time.

End of Episode One: The Puzzling Party of Lady No

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gifts of the God Mages : Pathfinder e01

Gifts of the God Mages
May 2012 - ongoing

Episode One: The Tomb of the Elven Princess

As my latest game for the people of Indigo-Entertainment, I've borrowed liberally from the Forgotten Realms comics of Rags Morales, Dave Simons and Jeff Grubb.  Given how the games will be held every (or at least we try to every) Friday, I've decided to make each game session a self-contained quest where the players are tasked to help Dwalimar Omen, Minder, Foxilon Cardluck and Vartan gather up all the artifacts they can to lock them away in the extra-dimensional portal that exists inside the flying galleon known as the Realms Master.

This move would allow me to have a different mix of players with each game, without too greatly sacrificing the sense of continuity with each session.

So far, the players are a mix of mostly first timers to the Pathfinder/Dungeons and Dragons system and some who have tried it before.  As of this blog post's writing, there are seven players already interested, and I'm expecting around four more to join in!

Currently, the cast has a mix of the following classes:

An Air Elemental Bloodline Half-Elven Sorcerer.
An Elven Fighter.
An Half-Elven Necromantic Wizard.
An Elven Cleric.
A Halfling Rogue.

Soon to join are the following:
A Dwarven Paladin.
A Human Rogue.
An Elven Druid.

And I've heard of talk of someone hoping to be joining as a Monk.
Oh yeah, they haven't decided on names yet.   HEheheh!

In this first game, I had the players hear of a supposed long ignored Elven Princess Tomb that they decided to try raiding.  They found the tomb quite easily, and its stone door was marked in Sylvan with a message that stated: She is Within.  The entrance was at the base of a hill, and when the Sorcerer flew over it to look around, he found a pit filled with humanoid bones stripped clean of any meat and metals.

With the rogue picking the lock, the group made their way inside.  The Cleric shot a lit arrow into the catacomb in hope of scouting ahead.  The group slowly made their way inside, none of them noticing how the tomb did not bother to have any torches or light sources along the staircase leading down.  At the bottom, the group found a series of square metal boxes that had a button each and Sylvan writing.  While some members decided to move deeper into the tomb to investigate, others stayed by the boxes to try to discern what purpose they served.   The Sorcerer tried a Detect Magic spell and it nearly blinded him with the results.  The whole tomb, it seemed, was magical in nature.   The only part that didn't reek of magic was some rectangular area at the center.   The door behind them silently slid shut, with only the Rogue having noticed since he alone could not see in the darkness.  Using a Rogue Trick, however, he learned a bit of magic and cast Dancing Lights to serve as a light source.

As they looked around, the Wizard tried pressing one of the buttons and an illusionary image of an elven maiden appeared and began addressing them all like a welcoming host to an event.  Further exploration of the tomb began to suggest it was some kind of an auditorium with four pillars at the center of the chamber, flanked by rows upon rows of seats.  At the center of the pillars, a massive rectangular stone structure that bore some other Sylvan markings as well.  The Fighter found himself trying another button which seemed to be labelled Sponsors, and from that another illusionary host appeared.  However, this one spoke of the Kingdom of Tor and on cue, four fiery hounds manifested flanking the stone structure at the center.

The group grew alarmed as a second host appeared, this time speaking of coming from the Kingdom of Erus and two tree-like things manifested as well in the center area.  The fighter released his hand on the switch to interrupt a third host that appeared that was about to speak of the Hordes of... something.  The Sorcerer cast Detect Thoughts and to his horror sensed evil thoughts emanating from the tree-things.

The Wizard's knowledge of Spellcraft made something apparent:  These new manifestations were not Illusions.  And his warning cry coincided with the four Hell Hounds charging forward to attack!  Quickly the Sorcerer tried to direct the group to gather back at the entrance, but the group splintered in response to the attack.  The Wizard ran towards the tree, thinking of using it perhaps as cover only to find it launching a tentacle strand at him with paralyzed him upon contact!  The two trees, it seemed, were monsters as well, and a massive toothed maw erupted hungry for the elf.

As the fighter struggled to take the Hell Hound down, the Cleric summoned a Viper to help turn the tide of the battle.  The Rogue leapt behind the seats and used his Stealth to conceal himself, hoping to find a perfect moment to use a Sneak Attack on the closest possible target.  The Sorcerer flew towards the tree-monster and used his Mage Hand to drop an vial of Alchemist Fire into its maw.  As the tree-thing howled in anger, the Sorcerer followed through with a Burning Hands spell directly into its mouth!

The tree-things cried out in Sylvan, "Yield" and vanished in a display of magical light.  Freed from his paralysis, the Wizard used the spell Scare to force the Hell Hounds to dart away.  Silence once more filled the tomb.  The group convened at the center and investigated the rectangular "tomb".  The writing on its surface bore a strange message:  Incomplete Repairs Yet.  Finding a break in the tomb's structure, the Sorcerer and the Fighter broke the thing open and the Rogue slid inside to check what was within.  The Sorcerer picked up the first thing closest and found it to be a paintbrush made of ivory.  The thing looked brittle and old.  It seemed to suggest the structure was just a temporary waiting shed of a construction crew that probably worked in the tomb.

A crack of light alerted the group that the tomb's door was opening, and as it slid open, a robed figure stood at the entrance and addressed them all. Questioning if they were tomb raiders and what business they had with the tomb, the group readied themselves for another possible fight.   The man identified himself as Dwalimer Omen and explained to them he is here to claim an artifact "that would best be kept safe from falling in other's hands."  The Cleric questioned if he can be trusted and the Wizard demanded that he would best explain what he does with these gifts of the god mages.  Omen invited them to join his quests, if they were willing, and admitted, "I would rather you worked for me than be someone I have to deal with."

The Rogue, inside the structure, found more and more old tools such as pigments, nails, hammers and more - lending more evidence that the structure was merely a construction shelter.  Just before he opted to leave, however, he saw a purplish clear diamond and felt a compulsion to take it.  Failing his Will saving throw, the Rogue slid the rock into his pocket and made his way outside, choosing to keep it secret from his allies.

The group gathered outside the tomb to see a flying galleon waiting above.  Pulling out a small tube from his pouch, Omen lays it down on the ground and asks it to unfurl. A portable hole expands and begins to swallow the whole hill away.  "That," Omen explains, "Is how I gather them."  At Omen's call, a stone Golem named Minder brought the ship down and the group were welcomed aboard the Realms Master.  Omen explained how through the ages, god mages mad with power crafted these artifacts in their bid for control.  With those wars long past, their artifacts remain scattered through out the realms and Omen feels it is his duty to ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands.  When questioned on how many he has retrieved, he gives the number 453.  When questioned on what he does with them, he showed them a particular door in the ship locked with numerous normal locks and sealed with numerous magical ones.  Opening it, the group sees a massive realm filled with varying artifacts floating in silence.  Airless, timeless and secure, the pocket realm was where Omen stored each and every artifact they have found, "And it is there where they will stay forever."  He asks them if they are willing to join him on his weekly quests and tells them to simply be at the port if they wish to.   A winged woman arrives and teases Omen about new recruits.  She asks them if he warned them of how high the mortality rate of every new group gets and Omen tells her to be quiet.  The winged woman introduces herself to them as Jasmine and promises them the experience will be worth it.

Omen ends the meeting with a gift giving.  He asks Minder to bring him "the bag" and from the bag, each adventurer drew out a gift which was intended for them.  The Wizard finds five scrolls worth of new spells!  The Fighter draws out a chain shirt which visibly can adapt to look like other clothing.  The Cleric finds a Ring of Protection.  The Rogue finds an Amulet of Natural Armor.  And the Sorcerer draws out a massive Staff which he accidentally tests and nearly causes the Elven Wizard to fall asleep (but Elves being immune to such easily break the spell's effect.)

"You can tell your friends," Omen informs the group, "And if they are interested they can join when I return next week.  The rules will be simple, the artifact in question will be mine.  Any other spoils are yours to keep as you see fit."  And with that, the Realms Master takes to the air and leaves.


Clearly, the weekly mention is in relation to the fact this game will be run every Friday night after work at Indigo-Entertainment.  I warned the players that this game will not "save" the players from death if they do something ill-planned.  And in many ways, I am excited to see how this game will turn out in the passing months.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Running Smoother Games

from Gimme Some Oven
Running Smoother Games
by Tobie Abad
May 2012

A friend of mine once lamented how his games tend to bog down after a few sessions, with players arguing more among themselves rather than dealing with the story that was unfolding.  Debates on systems would be thrown around, and dice rolls slow down into tremendously tedious moments where individual dice are thrown rather than quickly resolved.  The first thing I asked him in response seemed to me to be a simple question.  But to my surprise all he could do was stare back as a response.  The question was this:

What did the players say they were interested in playing in?

Smoother games happen when everyone is having fun.  The joys of smoother games are not the providence of diceless role-playing games.  Nor are they something you will only find in games where all the players are writers or theater actors.  Preparing for everything with enough world notes to fill your own version of wikipedia will not bring a game that flows without effort either.

The fact is this:  if the game is fun for everyone, everyone will naturally do things to keep the game going.  Here are some basic ways to help make this happen.

1) Ask the Players What They Want
Regardless of gaming system or gaming style, if you aren't clear with what the players want to explore in the game, you will end up throwing scenes and challenges at them which most likely won't tap into what they are interested in.  Even the most creative player will find himself frustrated if the game he wanted to play was one where he could explore human drama, and all you do is throw him a tactical battle that focuses on the bigger picture.
from Otama

A common practice of mine is to ask all the players to list down three things that interest them or things they would want to explore in a game.  From these lists, I then collate them into one grand list and take note which ones can work well or be strung together into a good story.    Many times, you will find that many of the items they list down would nicely interact well with each other.  And guess what, you've already got some story arcs ready even before the characters have been created!

2) Decide As A Group What Gaming Style Is Expected
There are many kinds of gamers out there, and admittedly, just as many kinds of Storytellers.  A table-top game is an investment of time, so to make sure that everyone is in the same boat of what the game will be like is vital to smoother sessions.   Take watching a movie for instance.  If you and your friends hit the theaters and don't discuss what to watch before buying tickets, you most likely will end up with a group that has some people loving the movie and others wishing you chose something else (and possibly making that point audibly clear while in the theater.)

Discuss what kind of game is preferred and if there are contradictions, consider with the group on what steps can be taken.  If you have two players who want a narrativist game where the story is paramount, and two others who just want to chuck dice and have fun exploring combat, then you'll have to find with their help a good middle ground that explores both.  Or, if that seems impossible, discuss with the group what approach you plan to take and clear with them if they want to play that or not.

In a group with mixed expectations, here are some suggestions on dealing with that issue that worked for me.
a) Suggest having each game session focus on a style.Just like how some shows have an episode that feels different than others, ask the group if they are willing to alternate gaming styles between sessions.  Or perhaps even between story arcs.   While this does have the risk of some players enjoying more than others in some nights, it at least is a commitment to them that you plan to make sure everyone has their moment in the spotlight.
b) Combine the preferred gaming styles.Just as shows like Ally McBeal surprised us back when they first launched by mixing what was once felt to be independent genres, consider exploring how you can turn the game into one that combines the traits of the different gaming styles that they prefer.    This might not work for all, but it doesn't hurt to try.
c) Offer a third approach as a challenge.So one group wants to try a dramatic game, and the other just wants to have a comedic romp.  And mixing doesn't seem probable.  Then why not suggest to them to take a stab at something tactical and action-packed for now, while you spend the free time between sessions to map out an eventual game more directly linked to what they prefer.  This could be a one shot game, or even a short limited session run.  This would be a last resort because ultimately you are suggesting they try something they didn't ask for.  But it would buy you time to prepare for something they like more.  And if you're very lucky, this could make them realize that something they haven't opted to try might actually be fun!  Trying something different from what they're used to might actually be more interesting for them afterwards.
by Tobyotter

3) Lastly, decide on certain House Rules early
While this sounds like a given, you'd be surprised how many people don't do this to the fullest extent.  Many make house rules on what elements of the game are ignored or what aspects of the game's setting are overlooked, but few actually make things clear on some more common causes of delay such as when dice can be re-rolled, how to deal with dice that fall off the table, or whether or not reading other books (or using one's laptop) during one's turn is welcome.

Amusingly, in our group there is this thing we call "The Curse."  At least twice in a game night, a player will have his or her turn interrupted by an important phone call, or a matter that requires the said person's attention.  We've had everything from a player's wife calling at the start of his turn, to someone at the door ringing the doorbell the moment I start a turn with my partner (and since the other guests aren't living in the house, they can't really answer the door).  The most amusing manifestation of the curse?  When a player only feels the moment his turn starts the intense undeniable need to use the bathroom.

For the Curse, we've decided on a simple house rule:  When it strikes, I just move to the next player.  And once the first guy is back, I can come back to continue his turn.   It removes the delays caused by the unnecessary need for the player to apologize and explain the interruption, and it makes the other players aware that they should stay alert for their own turns the moment the curse hits.

Decide on the small stuff sooner, and it will remove the small incremental delays that not discussing them brings in your game.

Here's to having smoother games!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Soundtrack Suggestion: Silent Hill 2 - Akira Yamaoka

Silent Hill 2 - Official Soundtrack

Composed by Akira Yamaoka

I will this early admit a huge soft spot in my storytelling heart for the soundtracks Akira Yamaoka composed for the Silent Hill series of games.  As much as the first album was filled with lots of tremendously jarring and disconcerting tunes, the soundtrack to the second game has a much more melodic approach.  This approach seems apt given the second game explored the story of James Sunderland who visits the mysterious foggy town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his long departed wife who says she is waiting for him in their "special place."

A large number of the album's tracks make use of a synthesized tunes, occasionally mixed with various sound effects such as footsteps on broken glass and similar disconcerting things.    Silence was even utilized in some tracks to give stark contrast to the moments of unsettling explosive anger, making the soundtrack an experience worth visiting even outside the atmospherics of a role-playing game.
The soundtrack has thirty-one songs in total, and lends it well to mood and atmosphere build-up in games.    There are gems in this soundtrack however; songs that I have used in so many games, I at one point literally had to buy new music to force myself to play other tracks instead.  The soundtrack is a wonderful addition to any gamer's sound collection, and yes, I would not recommend any of you listen to it alone at night.

If you're interested in listening to some tracks, check them out here.

My personal favorites would have to be the following tracks:
Ordinary Vanity (Track 05) is a haunting melody that hints as something sinister just lurking at the edges of one's vision.  It is eventually played with the accompaniment of what I can only describe as a large metal pipe being banged at with a hammer, and the over-all effect is a definite heart-thumper of a calm beat.

Promise (reprise) (Track 06) is a delicious chime and piano tune that reminds one of an introspective moment just before the horror strikes.  Part of the genius here is how they kept this track as a loopable tune suggesting the protagonists were slowly uncovering the truth... and how if allowed to flow to the next track, Ashes and Ghosts (Track 07) the beat shifts into a horrific wave of percussions and drums to announce the arrival of danger.

Magdalene (Track 15) is definitely my FAVORITE track in this whole soundtrack.  I've used this lonely piano piece in so many games that it has become a staple song of choice I play if pressed to suddenly support a dramatic moment.  The song has a nursery rhyme quality to it, that almost sounds innocent and morose, but an underlying current of horror just awaits within its echoes.

Notably, UFO Ending Track (Track 31) is the craziest track in the game, being the audio of the spoof UFO ending from the Silent Hill game.

Silent Hill 2 OST track suggestions
WTF moment: Block Mind (Track 14), The Reverse Mill (Track 21), Black Fairy (Track 26), Pianissimo Epilogue (Track 29), UFO Ending (Track 31)
Introspective/calm moment: Theme of Laura (Track 01), White Noiz (Track 02), Alone in Town (Track 10), Prisonic Fairytale (Track 17), Love Psalm (Track 18), Laura Plays The Piano (Track 22)
Tense/mystery moment: A World of Madness (Track 04), Ordinary Vanity (Track 05), Promise (reprise) (Track 06), The Darkness that Lurks (Track 11), Silent Heaven (Track 19), Terror in the Depths of Fog (Track 23)
Combat music: Ashes and Ghosts (Track 07), Betrayal (Track 25)
Hopeful moment: Heaven's Night (Track 09), Angels Thanatos (Track 12), Femata in Mistoc Air (Track 16), Theme of Laura (reprise) (Track 27), Overdose Delusion (Track 28), Promise (Track 30)
Drama/sad moment: Forest (Track 03), Null Moon (Track 08), The Day of Night (Track 13), Magdalene (Track 15), No One Loves You (Track 20), True (Track 24)

Best Used In: Games set in a modern, or post-apocalyptic setting. A lot of the tracks have a very modern feel which can be jarring if used in games set in medieval or fantasy settings.  However, the tracks can be a good counter-point to the typical strings and horns used in fantasy games to represent infernal or daemonic influence.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Long Forsaken Kingdom : cWOD : Changeling the Dreaming

The Long Forsaken Kingdom
June 2011 to May 2012
cWOD : Changeling the Dreaming

Once Upon a Time...

there lived a city that never slept.
There lived a statue that never moved.
There lived an enchantment that was never broken.

Upon a time when things were young.
There lived a servant.
A sword.
And a secret sleeping.


But that time is over.
This is now.

The game began with Rocky playing a pooka knight named Sir Felix Southpaw, Urim playing an Eshu wandering storyteller named Flynn Wordweaver, Mahar playing a Fiona Sidhe Baroness named Lady Songbird and Victor playing an amnesiac Redcap named Rendsever the Steel Gnasher.   All the players, save for Urim, were new to Changeling the Dreaming but they had played Changeling the Lost, so it wasn't too hard to get their minds around the concepts of Chimerical versus Real, Glamour and the haunting beauty and dangers of the Dreaming.

While I have most of the story (yes, still haven't finished updating the game blog) the game concluded a few days ago with a surprising twist.  While most of the game was inspired by the tales of Asterlan, the Kingdom of Willows book (which includes the treachery of King Meilge), the War in Concordia book, and lastly, the Time of Judgment stories, I had the following key plots as major threads in the story:

The fall of High King David, and the search for a successor.
The relationship of Caliburn to the Gray Sword of the Dauntain.
The hidden past of Joseph van Noceti III.
The disappearance of the Crystal Circle.
The Fomorians and the Triumph Casque of Sorrows.
And the truth behind Arcadia's exile of the Changelings.

I created a myth of three swords: Caliburn, the Gray Sword, and the Silver Dancer - as three swords whose fates are locked to the Kithain kingdoms.  With the Silver Dancer as the mediator, the two other swords were to represent the Seelie and Unseelie Courts.    Little did Sir Felix know, the Silver Dancer in his hands was so important in determining the fate of the Courts.  From an adventurous lynx pooka, the young knight eventually uncovered lost memories of his membership to the Scathach House, a membership which entrusted the blade to his care.  And in that past, Joseph van Noceti III was both his fellow murid, and his loving partner.

Lady Songbird's tale danced around the political arenas, more so when she befriended Faerylith, the Eiluned beauty who was to be the Queen to High King David.  When Meilge's treachery placed Faerylith in opposing camps against both Princess Lenore and the Dame Morwen, Songbird delicately played the courts to maintain a place of security.  She helped uncover the presence of the Shadow Court, and despised the unveiling that her true court was that of House Lheanan.  But the biggest twist was when she learned she was not truly Sidhe.  Instead, she was a Fomorian "changeling" that the White Court sought to manipulate for their kin to enter the Autumn World.  But the Red Court opposed this, knowing her truest nature:  She was the living Triumph Casque of Sorrows, and hers was the role to give birth to the Fomorians in the world.  When her audience with the Green Court opened their eyes to the Arcadian's treachery of the oaths, the Green Court rose up from the Silver Sea and retook the Dreaming, understanding the Dreaming must have a sense of intelligence... a Wyrd to guide it.

Flynn Wordweaver's tales explored the finer levels of how the political machinations affected the rest of the Kingdoms.  With David's fall, Caliburn fell into his hands and from that day, his misadventures became unexpected steps towards finding the missing King.  Eventually, it would be his capacity for stories empowered by the Art of Talecraft in the Deep Dreaming that would turn the tide in the battle against the fomorian hordes.  And when his destined steps lead him to the entrance of Arcadia, it would be this knowledge that has him bring the Oathcircle to the finale as they faced the True Fae lords.

Sadly, Rendsever barely had story time as his player was overwhelmed with real world responsibilities.  His was to be tales of the Crystal Circle's experiments with Banality, the whereabouts of the legendary Asterlan, and a more direct confrontation with the Red Courts as they unleashed the Adhene to the world, ushering the purge that the Arcadians wrongly decided to unleash.

The game ended with Arcadia's walls being breached.  The Kithain escaping into the Autumn lands, believing safety has come for them.  And the True Fae being driven mad by their losses that they hid away in far corners of the Dreaming, reinventing themselves into Gentry that now seek to abduct those they can.

The Changelings of the Dreaming have ended.
All that remains are those who the Gentry feel are Lost.

The game's chronicle blog is found here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Game Idea: Leave the Dice to the Storyteller

by cal harding
Game Idea:  Leave the Dice to the Storyteller
System: Practically Any
by Tobie Abad
March 2012

Gamers love rolling dice.  That is a basic given fact.  Gamers love rolling dice so much, many have their own unique sets or collections of dice.  (I still fondly recall how when one of my partners first got into gaming, the gaming group gave him his own set of dice as a welcome gift!)  But yes, players and their dice is pretty much as expected as peanut butter and bread.

But guess what, they don't have to always be the ones rolling.

Leave the Dice with the Storyteller
Many of you are probably already screaming at the monitor:  What?!? How is that supposed to be fun?  Well, consider real life and all the memorable things and experiences you've had.  How many of them involved you being aware fully of the odds of success and rolling to make it happen?

Leave the rolling to the storyteller and focus instead on deciding your actions and portraying your role.  The moment you have dice in your hands, the tendency is to have your brain zoom into your hand and think about rolling good.  That, quite frankly, is a step away from playing your character.  Focus instead on how you'll act, what you'll say, and what manner of plot twists you can embrace to enjoy the game.

Stop Thinking Of How You Can Roll Better

I've known players who have devoted time to "rolling perfect rolls."  With a twist of the wrist and a calculated toss, these players are known to have rolled consecutive 20s during our Dungeons and Dragons games (and for those curious, that was waaaaay back during our Dragonlance campaigns in the late 80s and early 90s).  They we're used to the weight of their own dice, and skilled enough to literally call out what they plan to roll.
by fireflythegreat

Now, there's nothing wrong with having such a skill.  Frankly, I'd love to see them make full use of such talents at a casino or some other similar cash earning venue.  But in a table top role-playing game, I feel such practices are not just unnecessary, but quite frankly, sad.  A table top game is a social event where friends can gather, embrace roles, and create a story as a group.  The storyteller is not the antagonist.  The fellow players are not rivals.  So to train oneself to remove the excitement of what a random roll brings, just to have a character who always succeeds in his actions is sort of like playing any video game at Godmode from the very start:  It defeats the purpose of having real fun and reduces the game into just a sporting match of who can keep rolling the best.

Embrace the randomness that dice bring.  Relish the unpredictability that can arise whenever a roll is needed.  Combat sequences come adrenaline rushing, rather than a tedious task of making that good roll.  Challenges become moments that test your creativity rather than just another roadblock where rolling high is all that matters.

There Is A Reason It Is Called Role-Playing.

Table Top role-playing games are not about winning every single challenge.  They are about co-creating a fun experience that you can share with friends.

So try it for a chronicle.  Ask your storyteller/game master to handle all dice rolls.  You'd be surprised how liberating it can feel to focus on role-playing instead of roll-playing.

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