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RPGaDay2020 in August – August 8th: Shade August 8, 2020

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We continue on with #RPGaDay2020 in August.

Day 8 – Shade

Due to how I’m feeling today and that my brain is a bit…slow on the uptake…for the day, I don’t really have anything interesting to say here. Just share a few (random) thoughts on the prompt word of the day.

Given that it’s a brutal summer here in the Ottawa valley, the first thing I think of when the word “shade” pops up is shade from the sun. That can be taken as getting out of the rays of the sun in the literal sense, of course, but it also conjures a place to seek shelter, safety, and perhaps relax for just a few minutes (or hours). In a magical sense, shade equates to shadow, and perhaps this is a place of shadows, where a group of players can avoid the magical seeking spell that is hunting them down or the creatures that seek them but fear the shadows.

Speaking of shadows, when I think of shades, the Roman meaning of the term comes to mind as well… Ghosts, spirits of the dead, and that sort of thing. Dealing with shades in the Roman sense in roleplaying games is as much about darkness/lightness of spirit as it is about morality, because ghosts and other forms of the dead in roleplaying games teach us about moral issues of various types, depending on the reason for the spirits’ remaining behind and doing what they do.

And that leads to my final thought on the topic for today – shades of grey. The nature of roleplaying games and players and GMs interacting in said games is always about (and if it’s not, should be) shades of grey. Nothing in roleplaying games and their adventures should be black or white, unless one is going for a very “pure” sense of situation and/or morality. While most choices that players and their characters make in roleplaying games are pretty much black and white (for example, killing goblins that attack them, agreeing to help the villagers find their lost children, whatever), there are those choices that are made by characters based on their background and personality (such as seeking vengeance on the bad guy who killed one’s family or spouse) or based on a more ambiguous, less clear-cut reason (learning that the spirit of a dead person is not at rest because of the crime committed against them by the killer, or the band of wolves is ravaging the countryside due to manipulation by a faunamancer, or what to do with the half-human child left at the farmstead or monastery). Under these circumstances, the shades of grey come to the fore – and these are the choices that players (and GMs) will remember fondly from their gaming experiences. And what their characters had to do under the circumstances!

But sometimes, shade is really just about getting out of the sun and the heat. 🙂

And there you have this eighth post for this #RPGaDay for August, 2020. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. 🙂

RPGaDay2020 in August – August 7th: Couple August 7, 2020

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We continue on with #RPGaDay2020 in August.

Day 7 – Couple

Oh, dear…

The prompt for the day is one that I…really have no idea what to talk about, but I’ll give it a shot.

Usually, when I think of the word “couple” in the context of roleplaying games, it’s about the pairing of characters in a romantic relationship. Roleplaying games are all about a group of individuals coming together and accomplishing some task while at the same time interacting together in a meaningful way. But relationships between player characters, especially romantic ones, are the stuff that can drive Gamemasters nuts or that can make both the GM and the players uncomfortable, depending on how they’re handled.

Part of the nature of romantic relationships on the part of characters in roleplaying game settings is dependent on player relationships. When two of the players are in a Real Life(tm) relationship, this usually tends to manifest itself in their characters’ relationship in play. Good GMs are capable of using that relationship, in character, to further the plot, to add sub-plots, and to create new challenges for both the players and their characters. Needless to say, if the relationship between the players sours in Real Life(tm), things can become awkward at the gaming table. ‘Nuff said.

However, when there are no romantic relationships in Real Life(tm) between players, romantic relationships between player characters can be both interesting and terrifying at the same time. Usually, a romantic relationship between player characters will arise through game play and the behaviours and deeds of the players as they play those characters. Heck, a Real Life(tm) relationship could spring up between the players. But it’s trickier when a player character falls for a GM based non-player character or the GM starts a romantic sub-plot for a player character (hopefully with the player’s agreement). I’m not going to go into the variety of reasons for the trickiness here, which I’m sure the readers of this blog entry can think of themselves.

What I will say here is that any romantic relationship between player characters and either other player characters or non-player characters should:

a) be approved of by all parties concerned (especially the instigation of said relationship),
b) have the “moves” made in the relationship agreed on by everyone involved,
c) should stay within tasteful bounds of the gaming experience (matters “behind closed doors” should stay behind said doors),
d) occasionally tie in with the main plot and should lead to some interesting side stories that are based on the nature of the romantic relationship and how it is proceeding; and
e) never affect the Real Life(tm) relationships outside the game context.

The latter is not an easy thing to manage at times, obviously, as players tend to take things personally. The key factor to this last point is for players and the GM to be open and honest about the (romantic) relationship, and make sure that all concerned parties understand what’s going on.

Anyway, I’ve got nothing more to add to this topic, to be honest.

And there you have this seventh post for this #RPGaDay for August, 2020. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. 🙂

RPGaDay2020 in August – August 6th: Forest August 6, 2020

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Day 6 – Forest

Interesting word for the day. I’ll offer this bit of rambling on the prompt subject for the day.

I’m an urban person. I was born in a city. I grew up and have lived my life in cities. Sure, I’ve been camping in the woods in the past, but that’s not the same thing as running a fantasy rpg in a mysterious or massive forest. When I think of gaming sessions where players are spending time in a forest for whatever reason, I think of a ranger or woodsman-like character having crafted a shelter from brush and fallen limbs, with the player characters huddled around a carefully tended campfire so as to wward off wild animals (and perhaps more sinister spirits of the forest). In typical fashion, they eat, they drink, and then set up watches for the night – since they have to be wary and mindful of the creatures and animals and spirits that roam the forest by night.

I tend to give my forests in roleplaying games a flavour as often as I can. Much of the time, this starts being based on the name of the forest. Names like Mirkwood, the Forbidden Forest, Ghostwood, the Shimmering Forest, and the like evoke different feels and atmosphere and themes, for example. However, the real key to remember about forests in rpgs is that they are habitats, ecosystems that have a life of their own and that they also have depths to them (especially in rpgs, where many forests have not been fully explored), depths that the player characters have to come to grips with.

And there’s the life of the forest. It’s fine to say that there’s a giant boar dwelling in a part of the forest that wreaks havoc on travelers and those who dwell too close to its territory. It’s great to have a water spirit that dwells in a section of the small river that meanders its way through the forest. But why is it there? How did it come to be there? And what superstitions or folklore have sprung up from the boar’s or the water spirit’s presence? These are the elements that make the forest unique or special. And it’s important for GMs to take these aspects of the forest into consideration.

However, the real trick to forests in rpgs, especially when it comes to descriptions of said forests, is for lack of a better term “the underforest.” Beyond what you see, forests have layers, nooks, crannies; the land ebbs and flows in forests. Contrary to popular belif, they are not the flat terrain that is beloved to cameramen and actors in movies, tv shows, etc.. There is dead ground; areas hidden from the forest walker because of the undulations of the land, as well as breaks created by brush growth and the like. Getting this across to the players and their characters requires description, and not just the use of the visual sense. Smells, the sound of the forest around you, these are what brings this to life. It’s all about the theatre of the mind again, and bringing the forest to life again for the players and their characters.

And there you have this sixth post for this #RPGaDay for August, 2020. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. 🙂

RPGaDay2020 in August – August 5th: Tribute August 5, 2020

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We continue on with #RPGaDay2020 in August.

(This entry is a bit later in the day than I’d usually post it, since I was out for pretty much most of the afternoon. Better late in the day than not in the day, right?) 🙂

Day 5 – Tribute

Tough word prompt for the day, if I’m honest.

Then I realized I want to keep this post as simple as possible.

Today, I want to pay tribute to the two roleplaying games that went a long way to shaping me as a player and as a GM.

First up, is the award-winning DragonQuest fantasy roleplaying game originally published by SPI back in 1980. While I had played D&D, Empire of the Petal Throne, Chivalry & Sorcery, and RuneQuest to that point, my introduction to the DragonQuest RPG was one that influenced my fantasy gaming for pretty much half of my gaming life. This was the fantasy roleplaying game that I would run on and off (but mostly on) for almost 30 years. It was the system that literally got me away from games that used traditional Hit Points, Armour Class, and classes in general. It was the fantasy roleplaying game showed me that the magic styles from some of my favourite fantasy literature could be turned in a magical system in a roleplaying game, if one cared to work at it for a bit. It was also the game system that showed me that orcs could be damned dangerous, that goblins weren’t to be taken too lightly if you were just starting out as an adventurer, and that the faerie folk could be interesting beyond just the game mechanics and magical skills. But most importantly (especially given the name of the game), DragonQuest taught me to respect dragons and treat them in roleplaying games as creatures that shouldn’t show up every second adventure, that should be the focus of an epic quest leading up to their defeat, and that dragons should not be treated lightly. To this day, I still have all the material that I created (and took for my use from others) for the DragonQuest RPG, binders binders of the stuff; it’s still some of my most treasured gaming material, and it was during the time I spent running the game (and very occasionally playing it) that I was likely at my most creative. Though I still do cringe at times about the Gems of Sex Change. hehe

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I have to pay tribute to the Universe SF RPG, also published by SPI in 1981. To be honest, I can’t remember what science fiction rpgs that I ran before Universe, though I do have some memories of Traveller. The Universe SF RPG was a hard science fiction system that only had the basics of a game universe – but it had a lovely map showing all the stars within a certain distance of Sol. To this day, the game’s mechanics for, the early basis for a Life Path character creation system, the rules for creating stars and star systems, the easy mechanics for creating ships (with a modular design), were brilliant and the stuff that I was looking for in a sf rpg. At that time of my life, I was very much into mathematics and so when added to the real science (at that time), the game was just what I was looking for. I ran the game for over a decade and a half, creating a massive timeline, a series of new races (two based on the works of C.J. Cherryh and John Varley) for the game using the example of the Sh’k’tlp (anyone else remember them?) :), and lots of new starship manufacturers and ship designs and types. Not to mention dozens of star systems and their planetary bodies. As with the DragonQuest fantasy rpg mentioned above, I’ve still got the binders of material for all this wonderful stuff I created; again some of my most treasured gaming material. What I learned from my years running Universe was how much I love science, especially astronomy and its related fields (though I’ve cooled somewhat on the mathematics business!) and I love doing research on subjects that I plan to use in my gaming. I find I prefer realistic science in my rpgs that are sf-based, but that some soft science mixed with space opera works well for me as well. Among other things.

Yes, I’ve run and played other fantasy and science fiction roleplaying games in the past, but these two rpgs are the two that I owe the most to and so felt that today’s word prompt was the perfect time to pay tribute to them.

And there you have this fifth post for this #RPGaDay for August, 2020. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. 🙂

RPGaDay2020 in August – August 4th: Vision August 4, 2020

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We continue on with #RPGaDay2020 in August.

Day 4 – Vision

There are a lot of different paths of thought that one could on for the prompt word of the day, but I think I’m going to take a more obvious route. Vision, sight, whatever – the primary sense.

One of the debates about roleplaying games and sets of Attributes or whatever one wants to call them these days is the character’s senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste) and how they should work in a roleplaying game, whether as Attributes, as Skills, special abilities, or whatever. I’ll be focusing here strictly on the sense of sight (Vision). Whether Vision should be an Attribute or a Skill depends on how one views them in the game.

For example, my player character walks into a chamber in a set of ruins that my fellow adventurers and I are exploring. The GM tells me what I see in the room, and perhaps describes it also through the senses of smell and hearing. But let’s concentrate on what I see here. After having the room described to my character, the GM likely prompts me for what I’d like to do. Assuming there’s nothing threatening in the chamber – or at least, not an obvious threat! – I will react to what’s in the room based on my (the player) and the character’s interests in life. For example, if the GM has said there is a moldy, threadbare tapestry on one of the walls, that might get my character’s attention based on his hobbies, his interests, or even the desire to know more about the tapestry. Whether the GM has given me any more information about the tapestry likely depended on the lighting conditions (and what the characters are using to light their way through the darkened interior of the ruined structure). Let’s say in the flickering light given off by our torches, the GM said that the tapestry might have portrayed a forest scene but we’d have to approach closer to see for sure. Or better yet, let’s assume that as I get closer to the tapestry, the GM adds that little detail to…bait…me in. I then decide to ask the GM what else I can make out in the lighting about the tapestry. The GM tells me I need to roll the dice.

So, the question becomes what do I roll? There is the possibility here that the GM will just tell me what extra details I can make out about the tapestry, without having to roll the dice at all, because the tapestry doesn’t play a role in the adventure. There could be some value to the tapestry, even in that current condition, but that might require an Evaluate, Craft, or other such roll to determine. However, the question here really boils down to: “What else do I see or note about the tapestry?” What abilities I use to make the roll for this purpose are dependent on how the perceptual skills and abilities work in the game, assuming they are used at all.

My own personal preference in this regard, is simple. Both as a GM and as a player, I prefer systems that define Vision (since we’re talking about that!) as part of a sense using an Attribute called Perception (or its equivalent, perhaps, the Attribute “Senses”). If the game uses Skills as well, I would use a general Skill such as Observation, Notice Detail, or whatever the game would call such a Skill, but other Skills might be of use here as well. A Craft Skill (with an appropriate bonus if the Skill uses specialties), an Evaluate/Assess Skill, or any number of other appropriate skills (as agreed to by the GM and the player) could be used here. If the player lacks an appropriate Skill for this purpose, than the straight Attribute would be used, perhaps with a bonus/penalty modifier if the GM deemed that appropriate.

All of that said, however, the real key with the Vision sense is simply this: Roleplaying games are very much verbal games of theatre of the mind, and as such description is central. Regardless of what game mechanic is being used in the game to represent the senses, Vision especially, it is imperative that the GM be able to describe visually what the player characters see at any given time. The other four senses are added bonuses to this, enhancing the players’ (and hence the characters’) experience as well as promoting that “I’m really in the game world!” feel. And the players have to trust the GM implicitly to tell them what they see and that this is the truth of the situation. But that, perhaps, is a different topic altogether. 🙂

Needless to say, this particular subject can be debated at length. But I’ve said enough for now. 🙂

And there you have this fourth post for this #RPGaDay for August, 2020. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. 🙂

RPGaDay2020 in August – August 3rd: Thread August 3, 2020

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We continue on with #RPGaDay2020 in August.

Day 3 – Thread

Okay, I’ve taken some Tylenol for the pain I’m in so that may be influencing this entry, but here goes…

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with spiders. The creatures themselves scare me somewhat, though not to the level of a true phobia, but I *adore* the spider webs that they create.

When it comes to roleplaying games, I’ve always been fond of spiders and arachnid-like things in the game world, but for me it’s been the spiderwebs and what you can do with them that makes them feel *right* and “useful” in various game sessions I’ve run over the years. But the key here really is that spiders may never show up in these game situations, just the spiderwebs themselves.

The obvious is the ruined building/structure with spider webs all over the place, usually in fantasy, but without the giant spiders trope. Just lots and lots of little, bitty spiders and their webs. Heck, you may never even notice the spiders themselves, though some will be in the webs. But you can add the magical element of some sort to the webs, and that can make things…fun. One time, I even used an octopoidal creature in a fantasy rpg that instead of just jetting out ink created ink spiderwebs in the water that were quite dangerous. hehe You can also do the giant spider thing, but the webs are much bigger, much thicker, and much tougher. In science fiction settings, spider aliens can have metallic or super-tough material spider webs, or perhaps their technology is spider web silk with strange chemical properties that make the “web material” unusual. We don’t need to talk horror rpgs, since in that genre of game the discussion of spiders is one that has been had in gaming circles many times.

It’s really all about the threads, if you catch my drift. 🙂

My one regret is that I’ve never been able to use the Tholian web (as seen in the classic Star Trek episode, and later an episode of the Enterprise series) in a science fiction game. Yes, I’ve run some Star Trek stuff in the past, but could never fit that into the game as I never had a good idea for an adventure featuring the Tholians. And other sf rpgs that I’ve run never really gave me that great adventure idea for introducing a new alien race with the space web spinning ability. (Hmm, wonder if there’s a way to tie that in to Arabian Nights lore?)

And there you have this third post for this #RPGaDay for August, 2020. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. 🙂

Civic Holiday (Colonel By Day) Thoughts August 3, 2020

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Monday, the civic holiday here in Canada. Colonel By Day, officially.

I’m feeling somewhat out of sorts, to be honest, as I am hurting quite a lot in the left foot and the lower back/abdomen area. A bit groggy due to having taken some Gabapentin, but needed that to deal with the pain.

I have no plans for the day, to be honest, other than to catch up on some reading, some PVR (and maybe some DVD) watching, do a bit of laundry and change some of the bed linens.

Hope my friends and everyone living in Canada have a great day. (Remember to keep practicing safe behaviour in light of the coronavirus pandemic that still threatens us.) And the rest of the folks out there, too, of course. 🙂

Books Read in July, 2020 August 2, 2020

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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my July, 2020 reads.

*****
Books Read in July, 2020

Pleasure Thresholds 2020 Edition by Patricia Tallman

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

May, 2020 Locus

Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks

Aram’s Secret by Mattias Lilja, Kosta Kostulas, Adam Palmqvist and Christian Granath (RPG)

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (r)

Lipstick Voodoo by Kristi Charish

June, 2020 Locus

The Maya: Palaces and Pyramids of the Rainforest by Henri Stierlin

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Meyer

Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying RPG by Nils Hintze, Rickard Antroia and Nils Karlen (RPG)

Broken Shadow by Jaine Fenn
*****

And that was reading that I did in July of this year. This was a pretty good month of reading on my part, both in terms of the quality and quantity (about my monthly average) of the books read, and there was just one re-read in July. The variety of reading this past month was pretty good, but regardless, my bookcases are still stacked with a pretty large To Read Queue (TRQ). The books I enjoyed the most were:

Pleasure Thresholds 2020 Edition by Patricia Tallman – In this autobiographical work, updated from the 2011 original in 2020, actress and stunt person Patricia Tallman looks back on a life on screen. From her earliest screen role in George Romero’s Knightriders through her starring part in Tom Savini’s re-make of Night of the Living Dead, her stunt work on STAR TREK (both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine), Jurassic Park and other big-budget movies, to her most memorable part as commercial telepath turned resistance leader Lyta Alexander in the five year sf novel-for-television Babylon 5, Tallman shares the struggle of maintaining an acting and stunt career while raising a son on her own. In this revised and expanded edition, she adds a chapter on the 20th and 25th Babylon 5 reunions as well as her newest business venture, Quest Retreats.

I’ve always been a fan of strong, talented women in science fiction, and Patricia Tallman is definitely that. However, as this book proves, Patricia Tallman can also tell a great story as well. The title “Pleasure Thresholds” is taken from a memorable scene in the original tv movie for Babylon 5, “The Gathering”; you can see the complete context clip of the sequence here.

The book contains her experiences working on the show, but so much more. Patricia has a conversational tone iin telling her story, from her beginnings in Illinois through her amazing experiences as a stunt woman in the likes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, and Jurassic Park. Her story then proceeds into the story of Babylon 5, including some (actually a lot!) of her experiences on the science fiction convention circuit with other members of the cast. And throughout the book are the many, many pictures that she took over the years that she shares with the reader in an open, thoughtful fashion. The book shares tales of Patricia’s life, both happy and heart-breaking, of her time both on and off Babylon 5, but if you’re also curious about the acting or stunt work professions, and about a seasoned professional and one’s who’s a bit…crazy in a good way, this book is definitely for you. Highly recommended!

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Meyer – This book is the first novel in the Harp and Ring Sequence. Long ago, poets were Seers with access to powerful magic. Following a cataclysmic battle, the enchantments of Eivar were lost – now a song is only words and music, and no more. But when a dark power threatens the land, poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a task much greater: to restore the lost enchantments to the world. And the road to the Otherworld, where the enchantments reside, will imperil their lives and test the deepest desires of their hearts. I pride myself on having a good grasp on fantasy plots and the tale that will be told, when one starts reading the book. In this case, a heroic young male poet named Darien fighting to win his love Rianna away from her cold arranged marriage. A young woman named Lin who wants to be a poet, even though her world says that’s a job for men. And a wise old wizard who’d bring them together to fight an ancient evil. That’s *not* what Last Song Before Night is about. This tale is one about acknowledging truth, and stories about truth always begin with a lie. But in fact, the story is also about art, where poetry is (quite literally) magic and the villain is the censor that must exist in order to promote the lies of self-protection and deceit among others. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who might consider reading the book, but will say the following: The characters in this novel are very well conceived and portrayed, and are developed quite nicely from the start of the book to the end. None of them are what they first appear to be, or perhaps they are, but are merely dual-faced. For example, Lin is a defiant, independent woman who refuses to be kept down; Lin is a psychologically injured person who can’t separate helping others from hurting herself. While this novel has a lot of internal thoughts and action, it also takes the characters from their home city with its warm, joyful atmosphere into cold winter woods. The book starts in a simple, mythical place about winning a contest and the person you love, but ends when you learn the truth about all manner of stuff, some of it even redemptive, but some of it very cruel. And that’s what makes this book one of the best reads I’ve had in 2020 so far. I highly, highly recommend this book.

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages – Inspired by the pulps, film noir, and screwball comedy, this is a novel set in San Francisco in 1940, which is a haven for the unconventional. Tourists flock to the cities within the city: the Magic City of the World’s Fair on an island created of artifice and illusion; the forbidden city of Chinatown, a separate, alien world of exotic food and nightclubs that offer “authentic” experiences, straight from the pages of the pulps; and the twilight world of forbidden love, where outcasts from conventional society can meet. Six women find their lives as tangled with each other’s as they are with the city they call home. They discover love and danger on the borders where magic, science, and art intersect. This novel is author Klage’s love letter to San Francisco, and to the women who love women. Set in 1940, as the world moves towards World War II, San Francisco is, as always, a magnet for misfits and black sheep. This novella is as much about the city itself as the people, not that one can really separate the two. The social aspects of life around 1940, assuming the author got them right (which I have no reason to suspect she didn’t) were difficult and tough: open and legal prejudice against anyone who wasn’t white, straight, and reasonably prosperous. Men on top. For the most part, I liked the period stuff best, but thought the present day framework was somewhat clumsy and I think mean-spirited. I liked the period stuff the best, but thought the present-day frame rather clumsy and mean-spirited. In essence, this is a love story between two people…but it’s also about friendship and sticking up for those you care about, and about finding your place in a world that doesn’t want you to belong. Author Klages writes with a clean prose style that allows the characters to take centre stage, and I liked the fact that there’s a good deal of character development in a relatively short work. The book was a World Fantasy Award winner in 2018, so I think folks should read this book even if its subject matter isn’t normally their thing.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester (r) – This is one of those classic science fiction novels that I re-read every once in a while. Since the book came out in the month of my birth, I decided to re-read it again this year at that point, and don’t regret it. I’m still amazed at how great this book is, even through the re-reads. What can I say about this book? It’s the story of Gully Foyle, a grunt in the interplanetary merchant navy who is the sole survivor of an attack on his spaceship in a war between the inner and outer solar system. After six months scrambling to survive, a passing ship chooses not to rescue him; this becomes the catalyst for him to save himself and embark on an odyssey of revenge. It’s a fast-paced science fiction thriller of retribution, a book of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, as Gully bounces between a weird space cult, underground prison, parties with the super rich, and nuclear exchanges in an increasingly deadly war. It’s absolutely bursting with some great ideas, being about progress through struggle and power in society, and provides something rare from mid-20th Century sf: a strong feminist heroine. Just a great, classic science fiction read.

I pretty much enjoyed all the books that I read in July, but these are the ones that stuck out in my mind.

Overall, I managed to read 8 novels, 2 RPG and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in July. This brings the year total for 2020 to a set of numbers that look like this: 55 books, 14 RPGs and RPG products, 12 magazines, 68 comics, and 2 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

RPGaDay2020 in August – August 2nd: Change August 2, 2020

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We continue on with #RPGaDay2020 in August.

Day 2 – Change

Hmm… There are a lot of different ways that I could go with today’s subject/word, but I thought I’d go with something less obvious.

When I think of how many different rpgs I’ve played with my gaming groups over the years, I’ve come to ask myself from time to time why are gamers resistant to change?

I know that part of it has to do with me, as the GM. There are certain genres of rpg that I won’t run (cyberpunk and managa/animé among them) and there are certain games that I’ve wanted to run that I couldn’t for various reasons or ended up not running because the players didn’t want to play them. When it comes down to it in the final analysis, players don’t want to leave their comfort zones in terms of the games they play, whether it’s because of the genre, the game world, the dice mechanics, whatever. And yet life is all about change and adaptation.

You would think in this time of the internet and all it offers, that players would be willing to try new roleplaying games, to experience game worlds that they might find interesting to play in, that sort of thing. And to some extent they do, when they go to gaming conventions or play in demos and the like. But not in gaming group campaigns. It’s one thing to play in a one-shot of a game, but a campaign is a whole ‘nother matter. Sure, the player may find that the convention one-shot gives them a great idea of how neat the game is, and perhaps they’ll consider buying the game or even possibly playing (or running it!) for a gaming group, but much of the time, the convention one-shot is just that for them: a one-shot to check out a new game, or new rules, or new world, but not something they want to play in a game campaign.

More’s the pity. There are a lot of non-mainstream, indie rpgs out there that are really good, offer really nice changes of pace from the mainstream stuff, but too many gamers want to stick with what they know. And I suspect that many of the GMs out there feel the same way, though for the most part I suspect in the case of GMs it’s a matter of not wanting to spend tons of money on games that they might or might not run at some point. (I know I’ve done too much of the latter, my storage cupboard evidence of all the games I’ve purchased and will never run (again)).

I don’t have an answer for the reader on how to convince players to try a new game. I’ve been able to do this in a few cases, but more often than not I suspect it’s been my enthusiasm for the game that has helped them make the decision to try and play a new game or a new set of mechanics.

And before anyone talks to me about the pot calling the kettle black, I’m just as guilty of this myself. These days, I chalk it up to old age and perhaps gaming fatigue.

And there you have this second post for this #RPGaDay for August, 2020. Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. 🙂

Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying Character Creation – Natanael Sundqvist August 1, 2020

Posted by jkahane in character creation, personal, rpg hut, vaesen rpg.
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While I’m not going to be running the Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying game published by Fria Ligan any time soon, I thought I would post up here a detailed example of character creation for the Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying RPG up here. Enjoy! 🙂

Please note that this post is extremely long, as I’ve gone into the game mechanics a bit in terms of character creation, and have provided background on the character and the choices made. Hence the majority of this post is behind the cut. That said, there is some of the game mechanics and descriptions of game world elements that I’ve skimped on in this write-up, so if you want to know more, just drop me a line in the Comments.

For those who don’t know, Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying is horror roleplaying game set in the Mythic North – northern Europe (Scandinavia) of the 19th Century, but not as we know it today. This is a land where the myths are real. A cold reach covered by vast forests, its few cities lonely beacons of industry and enlightenment – a new civilization dawning. But in the countryside, the old ways still hold sway. There, people know what lurks in the dark. They know to fear it. Written by Nils Hintze and based on the work of Swedish illustrator Johan Egerkrans, Vaesen presents a dark Gothic setting steeped in Nordic folklore and the old myths of Scandinavia. The game mechanics use an adapted version of the Year Zero Engine that forms the basis for the various roleplaying games published by Fria Ligan. Anyway, here’s the character creation process. Bear in mind that this material is quite long, due to the way the background section is written up.

Step 0: Come up with a Character Concept for the player character that you want to play.
The first step that I always include in my games is to have the player come up with a Character Concept for the character they want to play. This is basically a one- or two-sentence bit that gives you all the essentials about what the character in question is.

Looking over the material for the Vaesen RPG, I decide to create a librarian character. That’s the framework that I’ll use for the character.

I think this character has a lot of potential, but we’ll see where things go in the Character Generation Process…

Step 1: The player determines the Archetype for the character.
Character creation for the Vaesen RPG begins with the player choosing an Archetype for the character. The Archetype is the basis for creating the player character, and specifies a number of choices that will need to be made. It also says something about what the character is good at. There are ten Archetypes to choose from in the game: Academic, Doctor, Hunter, Occultist, Officer, Priest, Private Detective, Servant, Vagabond, and Writer.

Each Archetype provides a basic write-up about the character type, an includes some choices for Name, Motivation, the Trauma, the Dark Secret, and Relationships. There are also guidelines on the characters Main Attribute, Main Skill, Talents, Resources, and Equipment provided as well.

Looking through the various Archetypes, I decide that the Academic will best suit my librarian character. This Archetypes gives me the following guidelines for the character:

Main Attribute: Logic
Main Skill: Learning
Talents: Bookworm, Erudite Knowledge is Reassuring
Resources: 4-6
Equipment: Book collection or map book, writing utensils, liquor or slide rule

This is a good start. 🙂

Step 2: The player determines the character’s Age.
The second step in character generation is to determine the player character’s Age. There are three age groups in the game: young, middle-aged, and old.

Age affects the player character’s starting Attribute Points and Skill Points.

Looking over the various Age groups, I decide that I’m going to start with a Middle-aged character, roughly 35 years old.

This gives me 14 Attribute Points to play with and a total of 12 Skill Points. I make a note of this for use in a later step (see Steps 4 and 5, below).

Step 3: The player picks a Name for the player character.
The player picks a name for the character, using one of the suggested ones under the character’s Archetype, or can make up a name of one’s own.

I decide that the player character is male, and choose a name accordingly. Rather than use the suggested names in the Academic Archetype listing, I use an on-line Swedish name generator instead.

Welcome to the world, Natanael Sundqvist! 🙂

Step 4: The player may distribute Attribute Points to the character as they see fit, based on the character’s Age.
Player characters in the Vaesens RPG have a set of four (4) Attributes. These are Physique, Precision, Logic, and Empathy. The player distributes the points among the four Attributes based on the character’s Age (see Step 2, above), with a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 allowed in any one Attribute, except for the main Attribute of the chosen Archetype (see Step 1, above), which may be setat 5 if the player wishes.

Given that I decided to create a Middle-aged character as noted in Step 2, above, I have a total of 14 Attribute points to assign to the character, and I have a Main Attribute of Logic. I decide to assign my Attributes as follows:

Physique 3, Precision 4, Logic 5, Empathy 2

Not much of a people person, methinks. 🙂

Step 5: The player may distribute Skill Points and Resources to the character as they see fit, based on the character’s Age.
Skills in Vaesen represent acquired knowledge, training, and experience. There are twelve (12) Skills in the game, each with a value of 0 to 5. The player assigns the Skill points to the character, based on the character’s Age (see Step 2, above). At the start of the game, no Skill may start higher than 2, except for the Main Skill of the chosen Archetype, which may begin at 3.

Since I decided to create Natanael (“Nat” to his friends) as a Middle-aged character as noted in Step 2, above, I have a total of 12 Skill points to assign to the character, with a Main Skill of Learning. I decide to assign the Skills as follows:

Agility 1
Investigation 2
Learning 3
Manipulation 2
Observation 2
Ranged Combat 1
Stealth 1

Not too shabby, imo, and he’s good at his job. 🙂

The player determines the character’s starting Resources, based on the Archetype chosen.

The Resource value indicates how much capital the character has at their disposal. A higher value means a nicer home and lifestyle, with easier access to things the character needs. Normally, the player character starts with the lowest Resource value based on the Archetype chosen. This can be raised by spending Skill points (oops, missed that one above!), each point raising the Resources by one step, but the starting value cannot exceed that listed in the Archetype.

Looking at the Archetype I chose for Natanael, the Resources for the character can either be a 4 (Financially stable), 5 (Middle-class) or 6 (Well-off), depending on how I want to approach this. Since I’m not going to change the Skill point assignments (see above) around, Natanael starts with a 4 – Financially Stable. He owns his own home and has a job with a steady income, likely has some money stashed away, and sometimes treats himself in some manner.

I like this set-up for the character so far. 🙂

Step 6: The player chooses a starting Talent for the character.

The player chooses a Talent for the player character. Talents are tricks, traits, and abilities that can benefit the character in various situations. Talents affect the dice rolls or give the character access to powers or resources. Each Archetype offers three starting Talents to choose from when creating the player character. The player chooses one Talent.

I look over the Talents available for my character under my Archetype, and see that there are three: Bookworm, Erudite, Knowedge is Reassuring. I decide to take the Bookworm Talent. This reads,

“Gain a +2 to Learning Skill when looking for clues in books and libraries.”

Niiiiice! 🙂

Step 7: The player determines the Motivation for the player character.
The player determines the Motivation for the character. The Motivation explains why the character is willing to risk their own life to track down and fight vaesen. The player should pick one of the Motivations from the chosen Archetype, or create one of their own.

I look over the three Motivations provided for the Academic Archetype, but find the ones provided somewhat bland. I decide that Natanael’s younger brother, Isaac, disappeared when Nat was 15 (Isaac was 8) near their home, and Natanael vowed to find out what happened to him. Some of his library studies have led to an interesting lead or two… That will give the GM something to work with, and perhaps a few mystery ideas…

Step 8: The player chooses a Trauma for the player character.
The Trauma is the event that gave the player character the Sight, the ability that allows them to see the vaesen. It could be an incident from his childhood or something more recent, but usually it has some connection to the supernatural. The Trauma can be physical or mental – perhaps he witnessed something terrible, or were involved in an accident. The player should pick one of the Traumas from the chosen Archetype, or create one of their own.

I look over the three Traumas provided for the Academic Archetype, and like the third one. When he was 25, Natanael watched his girlfriend at the time, Gretel Lindblom, being torn apart by a very large, hairy vaesen of some type. He still doesn’t know what that creature is, but has also vowed to one day find out. Another good hook for the GM to work with!

Step 9: The player chooses a Dark Secret for the player character.
Each player must choose a Dark Secret for the player character. The Dark Secret is problem that the character is ashamed of and therefore keeps to themselves. It may be linked to the character’s Trauma or concern something completely different, but either way it will actively affect the game – it makes things difficult for the character, in Upsala as well as during the character’s travels. The player should pick one of the Dark Secrets from the chosen Archetype, or create one of their own.

I look over the three Dark Secrets provided for the Academic Archetype, and while they’re all find, I decide to create one of my own. While traveling to the library from his home in Upsala, Natanael came across a vaesen (a humanoid wolf!) tearing apart a couple of young men. He froze in terror, unable to do anything, but the creature didn’t sense him cowering in the bushes and left the area. It haunts Nat to this day.

Step 10: The player determines their character’s Relationship to each of the other player characters.

As you enter the game, you already have relationships with each of the other player characters. Each of the Archetypes lists three Relationships that one can assign to one’s fellow player characters, or the player can make up ones of their own with the GM’s approval. Note that each player must approve the Relationship to their character determined by each of the other players and their characters. Relationships should be interesting without making you enemies – the characters must be able to work together.

Since there are two other “players” in the proposed group, Annika (player 1’s character) and Viktor (Player 2’s character), I need to have Relationships for Natanael with both of them. After looking over the Academic Archetype’s list of suggested Relationships, I decide to create two of my own:

Annika: She knows her way around gadgets and equipment, but she’s dangerous around books!
Viktor: He may be brilliant when it comes to science, but he’s socially as cold as the distant North.

I’m content with these.

Step 11: The player determines the character’s starting Mementos.
In addition to starting Equipment (see Step 12, below), the player receives a Memento that will help the player play and portray their character. The player rolls on the table provided for this purpose or may decide on their own to determine what item they may have. A Momento may be used to heal a Condition by interacting with it, though the player must explain how the character uses the Memento in question.

Taking two six-side dice (2d6) I roll the dice as D66. The roll on the dice comes up as “41”. This gives me a “well-thumbed novel with a dedication” as Natanael’s Memento. I decide that this was a book that Gretel Lindblom’s sister, Isabella, gave me at her sister’s funeral.

Step 12: The player determines the character’s starting Equipment.
The player determines the Equipment with which the player character begins. The Archetype chosen by the player for the character specifies what equipment the character starts with.

Looking at the Academic Archetype, I see that Natanael begins play with certain equipment. I decide that Natanael will start with a book collection that he keeps at his home, writing utensils, and that he has a small supply of liquor.

Quite happy with this.

Thus, when all is said and done, and the character is finished, we end up with the following:

NATANAEL SUNDQVIST

Name: Natanael Sundqvist

Age/Age Group: 35/Middle-aged

Archetype: Academic (Librarian)

ATTRIBUTES:
Physique 3
Precision 4
Logic 5
Empathy 2

SKILLS:
Agility 1
Ranged Combat 1
Stealth 1
Investigation 2
Learning 3
Manipulation 2
Observation 2

TALENTS: Bookworm

WEAPONS: None

EQUIPMENT: A book collection that he keeps at his home, writing utensils, and a small supply of liquor.

MEMENTO: A well-thumbed novel with a dedication.

RESOURCES: 4.

MOTIVATION: Natanael’s younger brother, Isaac, disappeared when Nat was 15 (Isaac was 8) near their home, and Natanael vowed to find out what happened to him.

TRAUMA: When he was 25, Natanael watched his girlfriend at the time, Gretel Lindblom, being torn apart by a very large, hairy vaesen of some type. He still doesn’t know what that creature is, but has also vowed to one day find out.

DARK SECRET: While traveling to the library from his home in Upsala, Natanael came across a vaesen (a humanoid wolf!) tearing apart a couple of young men. He froze in terror, unable to do anything, but the creature didn’t sense him cowering in the bushes and left the area. It haunts Nat to this day.

RELATIONS TO OTHER PCS:
Annika: She knows her way around gadgets and equipment, but she’s dangerous around books!
Viktor: He may be brilliant when it comes to science, but he’s socially as cold as the distant North.

BACKGROUND:

While I was born in the small village of Arno, my first memory was being given a book to hold by my mother, Ebba. I guess that’s why I’ve been drawn to books and what you can learn in them since I was very young. My brother, Isaac, who was seven years younger, was very much a physical boy, and after he was born and grew into his strength at an early age teased me mercilessly. But I ignored him, as my sister Juta, three years my junior, would play with me and she also had a taste for books. That changed to an interest in boys, but that’s another matter. Mother and father scraped and saved, and I was sent to a good school in Upsala where I learned a lot and found that I wanted to know more. It seemed only natural to become a librarian, as that sated my thirst for knowledge. Well, not really. It’s why I still love books.

But the world of books is not the only world. By that I mean there is the physical world that we live in, but there is also a supernatural world – something I learned the hard way. The villagers of Arno were always talking about the folklore of the area, and while I didn’t exactly believe the old stories and tales, I knew there had to be some truth to them. After all, you live in the more rural areas of Sweden and you…sense things, sort of. I guess it started when my brother, Isaac, disappeared when I was 15. He had gone swimming with friends, and the conclusion was that he had drowned and been taken by some of the wild animals in the region, but I never believed that. Isaac was a good swimmer, but still… Then, when I was 25 years old, I had been seeing a girl, Gretel, whom I thought I might marry, for about three years. We were traveling by coach through the woods, when the coach was attacked by…something. At first, I didn’t see anything, but slowly there appeared a very large, hairy…something. I still don’t know what it was, but I now know that it is one of the so-called vaesen. After it killed her, the creature came for me – but something caused it to flee at the last minute, though I still have three deep scars from what it did to me. Ever since that night, I’ve been able to see them – the vaesen – and let me tell you, it’s frightening how many of them there are! And they’re not just rural, they even live in Upsala. I know this from experience; I actually saw a vaesen, a humanoid wolf creature, tear apart two young men one night in a park in Upsala. I was a coward that night, freezing in terror, unable to act, but I was lucky: the creature didn’t sense me cowering in the bushes, and left the area. It haunts me to this day.

Now, I spend my time digging through books, searching for clues as to what these vaesen are, what I need to know to defeat and stop them, and recently came across information about something called the Society. And lately, I’ve had the feeling that there’s been a dapper man following me at times…

And there’s the first character that I created for the Vaesen – Nordic Horror Roleplaying game. While the write-up on the character is quite long and may seem like a complicated process, it’s really not. Natanael took me about about 2-1/2 hours to create, and that includes the time that it took to read sections of the book on various aspects of the character, and he was my first character for the game system.

Anyway, that’s it. Comments and feedback on the game, the mechanics, and the character are welcome. 🙂