Category Archives: RPGaDay

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 11 – Game Affect

Lots of stuff going on, both professionally and personally. I can’t talk about a lot of it, but I can say that the contracts are out to the various freelancers for the next full module from Cut to the Chase Games. Work is also progressing on a few 0 modules, which is exciting. But let’s get on with the #RPGaDay 2016 post for the day!

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11) Which game most affected the way you play?

A surprisingly tricky question couched in a simple form. I’ve played a lot of games over the years, but for the most part I’ve gravitated towards the big ones – D&D in all of its forms and Call of Cthulhu being the big ones. And while I love D&D and owe much of my personal experience and growth to it, I’m going to say the game that has most affected the way I play is the original Deadlands.

Deadlands was my first major deviation from AD&D and it opened my eyes in a lot of ways. I first came upon the game on a high school band trip to Chicago, where we stopped at a huge mall on the city’s western outskirts (truthfully I don’t recall the name of it). The mall had a small game/comic shop, and on its shelves I found a brilliantly hued orange book with a provocative image of an undead gunslinger on the cover. I picked it up, flipped it open, and discovered an introduction by THE MAN himself, Bruce Campbell, inside. I purchased it immediately on these merits.

I remember clearly returning to the hotel and flipping through the book, admiring the artwork while my mind raced with the crazy combination of horror and western (and I still love the epithet “spaghetti western with meat!” the book proposed in the short marshal’s section). This would have been 1999 so the book would have been the revised 2nd edition, though I didn’t know that at the time at all.

Deadlands sat on my shelf for a few years, and I think it was the summer of 2001 (after graduation) that I finally dove into the book and mechanics and started up a game. That first session was a bit rocky, and the original Deadlands rules (now referred to as Deadlands Classic) were a bit fiddly. I don’t recall the scenario itself, but I know it was one out of one of the books I had.

I was tantalized and my players were hooked, but we decided to get a few more people together and try it again. I picked a different scenario to start with out of the “Fire & Brimstone” supplement. I think the scenario was called “The Mission” and took place at a Spanish mission where something had gone horribly wrong. We played one night in a friend’s basement as the posse saddled up to figure out what was going on.

That session was fantastic. I pulled the players to the side and described their visions as they explored the haunted mission, which as I recall had something terrible in a well. The game allowed me to tap into visceral horror images and it backed up that feeling with game mechanics.

Deadlands showed me many things. For one, it was the first game I ran where the rules for the GM (the Marshal) were “allowed” to be simple. Voodoo rites, ancient sorcery, black magic, it all used the same simple rules for the Marshal (whereas for players there were different subsystems for hucksters and the like). The game taught me as a GM the basic principle of KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! This would become an invasive part of all my games going forward.

It also married the setting to the game mechanics, and for my money no game has done it better since or before. A deck of cards was used for initiative, poker chips were used as “fate points,” and colored paper clips kept track of health by body part. Sure, things could get a little fiddly, with a character’s Wind going down with every hit, but truthfully I ended up ignoring a lot of the things that didn’t quite work at my table (Wind I just forgot about most of the time!). The game worked beautifully, and it really kindled in me a love of western movies (and rekindled a love of horror movies too!).

I haven’t played Deadlands Classic in a long time, and the company (Pinnacle Entertainment) released a streamlined version of the game called Savage Worlds in 2006 that I’ve been played a lot of over the the years. And Savage Worlds took a lot of the principles of KISS and applied them to the system as a whole, which works very well, but if I were to head back out on that ol’ dusty trail I think I would go back to the classic rules. Savage Worlds sacrifices a bit too much of the grittiness that I fell in love with for a more pulpy feel, which works very well for a great many settings – but for me, it just fails to capture that Deadlands feeling I fell in love with.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 10 – Game Surprise

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s Comic Book Day! Huzzah! I’m incredibly fortunate to have a significant other who enjoys comic books just as much as myself (maybe more!), though our tastes differ. What this means is a pull list that, at one point, included nearly all of the All New Marvel titles. But, I’ll be honest, Marvel is relaunching – AGAIN – this fall under the Marvel NOW label, and some of the titles are getting reboots and some are continuing. It’s enough to put a bad taste in my mouth for the whole thing. DC’s Rebirth series, on the other hand, I’m enjoying, even more than New 52 a few years ago. But I’m trying not to go nuts with adding DC titles to the pull list as well.

Enough about comics, though. On to #RPGaDay 2016 Day 10!

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10) Largest in-game surprise you have experienced?

Hands down, the largest in-game surprise for me came from my first big, story-based campaign, which I ran in high school. I was weaned on the Dragonlance novels (Chronicles, specifically) and enthralled with the fact that it was a series of D&D modules before it was a trilogy of novels. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? So I put together a campaign setting, Cosmic Forge, and built a story that honestly hit many of the same story beats as Dragonlance.

It was a great time and my players seemed to be invested in the game as well, which made things all the more enjoyable. This was AD&D 2nd Edition, and mages were not a popular choice for characters – they tended not to live past the first few levels and the options available to them at those entry levels were quite limited. But, one of my players – Jesse Towers – created a mage named Maverist. He was the Raistlin character of the group, though I’m confident Jesse had not read Dragonlance – he had just rolled badly for Constitution in this case!

Maverist was a member of the adventuring party that fought dragon armies, elven ghosts, and horrendous monsters, and through it all he was a … well, he was a bit of a dick. Jesse played him as a self-centered, selfish mage who knew he was destined for greater things, and he viewed the other characters as mere stepping stones on his path to power. He was an interesting, engaging character and helped to create a lot of dramatic moments for the campaign.

But the most surprising in-game moment came pretty late in the campaign. I don’t recall a lot of the specifics, but I had introduced the Hand of Vecna to the party as a major relic. Maverist became obsessed with it, and after they recovered the evil relic he volunteered to lop off his hand and attach the artifact to the stump. As I recall the party needed some information that the Hand of Vecna was supposed to possess so this was met with grudging approval from the rest of the party.

The Hand … changed Maverist. I used it to whisper suggestions to the player representing the baleful will of the powerful artifact, and Jesse took to the suggestions with particular glee. Under the influence of the Hand, Maverist became more and more brazen, and seemed to care less and less about his companions. It all came to a head in a small dungeon the party was exploring (the Lost Shrine of Bundushatur as I recall, an RPGA module released by TSR) where some calamity befell the party. When the smoke cleared, Maverist had failed his saving throw and lay dead.

And that’s when the players, sans Jesse, met to discuss what to do. It was a great roleplaying moment – as the DM I assumed the party was going to raise Maverist from the dead. They had the means, and it was another player’s character. It was assumed on my part, and not just because I had more things I wanted to use Maverist for in the campaign.

But the party decided NOT to raise Maverist, and they came together to tell Jesse about the decision. It stands as the most surprising in-game moment that I can recall, and while Jesse understood I’m pretty sure he was very disappointed. I worked later to bring Maverist back as an NPC villain, and Jesse made up a new character, but I could sense a major shift in the campaign at that point. It was thankfully towards the end, and to this day I remember Maverist and the decision made by a party not to bring him back.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 7!

A whole week of daily posts. This is kind of a big deal for me! It’s nice to have something like #RPGaDay to keep up the momentum. Weekends are always the hardest for me as they tend to be the busiest, and while this weekend was no exception I was able to find time in the evenings to get up a new post. And now, on to Day 7!

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7) What aspect of RPGs has had the biggest affect on you?

The biggest draw that keeps me coming back to tabletop RPGs again and again can be summed up in a simple word: storytelling. I love stories, and I love creating and sharing stories. The ability to weave a tale of adventuring glory, of swords and sorcery, and heroic deeds and dastardly villains, with a group of people – often close friends – has had the biggest affect on me on both a personal and professional level.

For, at the end of the day, what do physical things matter? Not much, really. We surround ourselves with material things, and I am certainly no different there – I love collecting books and games of all sorts. But always I try to keep an eye towards how can I use this in a story. For generations and generations, humanity has survived and thrived because we can share stories with one another, whether it’s about a danger that needs to avoided, a lesson to be learned, or about that time the party of heroes broke into Orcus’ palace and stole his wand. These are the things that stick with us long after the dice stop rolling.

Writing a novel or short story scratches this itch, to a certain degree, but in those circumstances I am creating the narrative and responses wholly in my own imagining. Playing an RPG lets me cut loose with some wild ideas and throw them out for other people to react to – did they glom on to the plot hook about the pirate ghosts or did they go “meh”? When the dice start flying and things get dirty, players come up with some amazingly inventive ways to “win” and defeat the bad guys, often taking me completely by surprise. I’ve learned over the years not to pre-judge how I think a combat is going to go, my players always find a way to surprise me (both good and bad!).

This shared storytelling experience is the aspect of RPGs that has affected me the greatest, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s the reason I write modules and adventures, and the reason I belly up to the table week after week.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 1!

Welcome to August 2016! That means it’s time for #RPGaDay 2016, which is a day by day blow of personal RPG milestones and stories. This is the first year that I’ll actually be posting, and hopefully regularly, regarding the relevant topics. So let’s dive in, shall we?

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1) Real dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to roll?

This is an easy one. Real dice, all the way! I got my first set of dice in the Introduction to AD&D boxed set (2nd edition, the set that included the CD that was supposed to be synced up to the modules). It came with an orange d20, a yellow d12, two white d10s, a blue d8, a red d6, and a green d4 – and I still have that original set. My orange d20 rolls incredibly well when I GM and rolls incredibly bad when I’m the player, so sometimes I actually choose NOT to use it when I run a game. Especially if I’m feeling bad for my players’ own luck! I should really get around to naming it …

Keep following for more #RPGaDay trivia from Cut to the Chase Games!