Posts Tagged ‘Roleplaying’

Day 100: The Bitter End.

November 4, 2009

Well, here we are, 100 days. This is a bitter pill for me; I had goals and hopes for a new project, and frankly, most of them didn’t work out, and while most of that wasn’t within my control, I know I made several crucial mistakes. Tag’s Folly was supposed to be a way for me to game more frequently and meet new people, provide gamers in Toronto with something they wanted, and prove that I could take on a big project on top of everything else that I do.

What follows is my postmortem.

What worked:

  1. The daily blogging schedule.
  2. Meeting new gamers.
  3. Getting more games in.

What didn’t work:

  1. I had the impression that there was a big pent-up demand for D&D 4e GMing; as it turned out there was … a little, and with a bunch of work you could get a group together.  But it wasn’t easy, as I’d hoped it would be, and that meant it took a long time for any of the organizers that did step up to schedule a session.
  2. I  didn’t get the rush of enthusiasm I was hoping for; everyone who organized sessions – and I appreciate their work – expressed that wasn’t really that much fun compared to how hard it was to get people together.  In some cases that meant straight drop-offs, leaving me with the task of “selling” the game to people to find organizers.
  3. The 4e ruleset, played by the book and prepped in advance is not conducive to a low-key campaign, and thus the 4e game would never be a self-sustaining organism.
  4. GTA transit kind of sucks; people just can’t get around, and when I run a game and have to spend 2 hours getting home, it hurts pretty bad.
  5. Real life threw me a few curveballs, particularly on the family and work side, and that derailed me pretty seriously.  Of course I set out on this trajectory when things were looking up, and when things got turbulent, and then outright sucktacular, I had to rein something in.  Unfortunately by the time that happened, the 4e campaign was the only thing in my life that I could really rein in.

What I learned:

  1. D&D is a game for people with basements, cars, and a lot more spare time than I have.
  2. When you get your name out there for running a game like this, all your old gamer friends remember you and start inviting you to their games.  You can quickly become a victim of your own success.
  3. A general appraisal of risks is a good idea even for personal projects.
  4. I hate prep that doesn’t get into a session right away.
  5. 4th edition is a better drill and a worse omnitool than previous editions.   It’s much harder to get it to do something different without hacking the rules, and the rules are much harder to hack.
  6. West Marches games are social monsters; there are a lot of uncharted social waters that you wade into and unless you’re a real extrovert, it will be stressful to run them.  This goes doubly for strangers.

Day 83: Health & Hiatus

October 18, 2009

In the last month I’ve had some health and family issues come up at the same time. I didn’t want them to affect my gaming, but they’ve become serious and I have to put my family first, my health second, and gaming somewhere after.

I’m putting the Tag’s Folly 4e D&D game on an indefinite hiatus; I can’t say when or if I’ll be running it again.

I’m really, really sorry to have to do this.  I wanted to meet and provide GMing for gamers in Toronto, and I’m sorry that I can’t.

If anyone wants to GM in the world of Tag’s Folly, I’d be happy to give everything I’ve got done (which boils down to my blog, the encounter envelopes, and parts in my brain) and answer any questions.  I’ll let the canned items in the blog run out, which will take me to around post #100.

The game just needs more than I can give right now.

Day 80: The Vulgar Gods

October 15, 2009

The Dominions, in their interminable strife, built greater and greater weapons of war.  The greatest were the Vulgar Gods.

Originally intended as siege engines, the Vulgar Gods were autonomous, intelligent magical constructs given life by magic and transformed by metal.  They were grown in gelatinous vats, into which magical concoctions and deadly weapons would be placed.  The creatures that emerged varied greatly in appearance, but usually had the form of some beast, with appendages and weapons bristling from their bodies.  Their teeth could rend steel, their muscles could shatter armor, and their breath itself took a hundred deadly forms.  But most dangerous was their minds, for the Vulgar Gods were not mindless beasts, but rather imbued with a savage cunning.

The first Vulgar Gods were the size of horses, but as each Dominion sought to build greater weapons their ambitions grew.  Soon Vulgar Gods towered over buildings, wreaking destruction – seemingly on behalf of their masters.

Some tell that the Vulgar Gods pulled hard against the chains that bound them, but this is a fantasy. Made for war and destruction, they cherished their roles as the dealers of death, and sought more to stoke the flames of strife between the Dominions.  The monsters relished combat, and even sought it from others of their kind, so that the clashes of two Vulgar Gods would leave a wake of nightmares long after their battleground had been destroyed.  In time, they felt the animal urges to claim territory, and found cities and their ruins the most to their liking, for avarice ran hot in their veins, and in these places the greatest wealth could be hoarded.

Time, silver tongues, military might, and the ever present threat of massacre were all on the side of the monsters, and piece by piece, the old Dominions became their playthings.  With tentacles, feathered wings, distended eyes or bisected tails, the Vulgar Gods bludgeoned, tore, and strangled the life from the Dominions, until they were a thing we wept for, and we called our world the Wastes.

Day 79: Fairies and Frailties

October 14, 2009

Yak, Connor, and Aiden have completed their frantic and brilliant quest – Echo Park is safe, the wraithdragon imprisoned, and the families restored to something like prosperity.  That game was really cool, and it included my favorite session yet as a player.  Highlights can be found at John’s blog.

But I’m going to talk for a second about the stuff that we wouldn’t highlight.  My back is sore and it makes me critical, so here’s the stuff that we need to work on as players.


Peter takes a while to get into a character – he mentioned as much after one of the games, and that’s why we’re looking at doing some longer-arc games.   I think Peter would be better served by a slightly more character-focused character creation, where we specifically took a few minutes to think about how the character acts and thinks rather than just jumping into other elements of the character’s situation.  Mouse Guard may be illuminating, with its Beliefs, Goals, and Instincts, and I also think Peter would be well-served by games that deliberately bring in more tensions with characters who relate to both Peter and another character.


Mike is awesome, and Connor had a fabulous character arc where he went from stuttering, brilliant background faery to charging up the dragon’s back to poke it in the eye.  Mike is really great to game with because he really follows the cues of the people at the table, but he should feel free to get more up in our faces and lead or make trouble for us.  This might be because he’s played alchemists, quiet gay bartenders, and helpful house elves. Now I’m dying to see Mike play someone who is really assertive – like a screaming Barbarian or a vortex wizard.


John did an awesome job GMing, especially since this was the first time he GM’d something that wasn’t strictly prepared with a follow-the-leader style of play.  The game was awesome, especially the second session, where stuff really started to happen.  John’s biggest issue was pacing – and I think we saw that the most in the difference between session 1 and 2 vs. 3 and 4.  The game was sweet, and the fiction held together nicely, but I did find that we felt a bit lost in session 3 and parts of 4, and we rushed a bit towards the end of session 4.  This stuff is massively wrapped up in fictional details, and of course it’s as much me playing a horn at the wrong times.

So I suggest a techniques for John treats the session as an episode, or as a part of a miniseries.  That means trying to kick the situation in the junk at the beginning of a session, and right at the very end, rather than waiting for the fiction to offer an opening. If the situation is already volatile, then set something off, and if it’s not volatile enough then bring in the players to write new kickers.

Generally, though, I just want to play in John’s Sorcerer game.


As for me, I’m a HUGE spotlight hog.  I really get enthusiastic and jump around, to the point where I start making the game “about” my character, which isn’t cool.  I try to pull back, but honestly I know I’m too loud and too in-your-face with my character.  I get frustrated when things aren’t moving, and I like to take control – even if that means punching a wasp’s nest.  Sometimes that’s cool, and I think it worked in the last couple of games – but I don’t pay attention enough to whether or not it’s cool.  I also have a hard time with characters that are supposed to be laid-back – basically, they’re not.

Also, I think I’m some kind of authority on how to play RPGs.  That’s gotta be frustrating.

Day 78: In A Wicked Age

October 13, 2009

So on Tuesday I got to play In A Wicked Age, with Paul, Rob, and Kate, and once again it made for an intense short story.

The player characters were all children (plus a devil in the guise of a human boy). The game got very dark very quickly, and it spooked me a little afterwards how quickly and effortlessly I dropped into the role of Baryamin, who was an extremely abusive patriarch. But it was really great finally meeting Paul and getting everyone introduced. I lost track of my IAWA games at 20 or so, but once again the game delivered a engaging, visceral chapter, and once again the fiction was dark and brilliant.

Paul played a character that was actually a devil–the soul of a stillborn child who was thrown off the alabaster tower. But his motivations were still very childlike–mostly, he wanted his father and mother to love each other.  When he talked to his mother, however, it was very, very creepy.

I have to admit that when devil-boy engineered the rape of his mother by his father (by trying to get them to love each other again) I got a bit freaked out – partially because, by establishing Baryamin as such a monster, it felt inevitable. On the other hand, that completely nailed the sort of Damian/Poltergeist/Sixth Sense angle, where the devil-boy doesn’t know he’s a devil-boy, doesn’t realize he’s hurting everyone.  Paul really went for the throat – he was playing a devil in the guise of a child, not Casper the friendly ghost – and it sure did work.  I think I found the character most disturbing when Paul brought him back to trying to do good at the end of the chapter – I expected the devil-boy to take a turn to show himself as completely irredeemable, but instead he went the opposite way and threw his weight behind Rob’s character in the final moments.

Rob summed up what was remarkable about Paul’s character: “He was most fiendish when apparently a boy and most human when apparently a fiend.”

Kate’s character, Cajen, was the first on the Owe List, and she felt the most like a “protagonist” in the whole situation – she tried to help the other characters, and though at first fascinated by the devil-boy, she was ultimately repulsed by them.  Rather than being victimized herself, she attacked Baryamin (the directly abusive NPC), and escaped with her mother from the brutality of the household.  Cajen will be the subject of the next chapter, and I’m exceedingly curious as to that character’s ultimate arc.

Anyway, Rob reminded me of my previous In A Wicked Age blog, which was here.

Also, In A Wicked Age is the best roleplaying game ever written, and you should check it out here.