Saturday, 7 October 2017

Example of Game: The Fall of Forttown.

In my newest Campaign, a Westmarches style game (well, my normal style, but most people call it west marches) I trialed a simple little project game to get some 'numbers' on whats going on. In my last post, I showed the turn by turn for 3 turns, so you could understand how simple it was to 'create a history'

Now, for your ( and the players playing this campaign) pleasure I present to you:

The Known History of Jesem South and Fort Jsemby

Not much is know why and how the world ended, except from some stories told by a small group of surviving adventurers known as "The Boomers" or if you believe them north folk in Fort Jsemby, maybe the world ended because of them.
Gone now 100 years, There was a Battle between the gods, and Two gods known as The Spider Queen and the Lord of Blood, defeated the Greater gods of War, Fire, Earth and Wind, they defeated the Gods of Battle, Healing, Life and Rebirth. Once defeated, smaller gods fleeing in their wake, called upon their followers to come together and build a mighty wall.
One warrior, known as Bob, The High Priest of the Gods of Bears, known as Klarg, used his mighty bear shape to shield the city of Forttown. Then him and his High Advisor, "TBA" advised the town to build almighty walls. They summoned Elementalists, to raise great walls around the city, and protect it, because they knew that the great Plague was coming.
Soon after The Spider Queens minions cursed all that stayed outside the walls, and were sacrificed to the Blood god. Their bodies rose up again as mighty warriors and besieged the town. But due to the foresight of Klarg and an unnamed god, The town survived long enough to summon the Lady Grey.
The Grey Lady, known well as the priestess of healing, came to this town just in time, she had come to save the last of Humanity. She brought a powerful spell for the mages to cast known as "Purity of the Gods". With this they were able to hold off the undead army, just long enough, so that the mighty heroes could defeat the Spider Queen and the Blood God.
Unfortunately for the world, the Heroes perished, and all the land lay cursed. The Lord of Blood cursed all those creatures of blood to fight against the living, with exception to Fort-town. While the Armies of Undead fell, the cursed ones remained.
For several months, Refugees of the world seeking shelter, discovered that Forttown survived, At first it was the few survivors of Middlehelm, Durnshine and Breylake, all reporting that their cities had fallen, their dead raised up and marched on, Middlehelms dead strove south, Durnshines dead boarded boats and sailed to the Islands, and Breylakes dead marched north into the deserts.
Months later, survivors from Beltayn, travelling with the gypsies, managed to arrive, reporting that the city held on, but recently fell to hordes of sun scorched undead coming south from above. They ranks included the fabled desert raiders on strange beasts, accompanied by Sand wyrms and Eefreets.
By the years end, a few Elves and Dwarves had arrived at the city, but the elves perished to their diseases, they spoke of undeath reaching all the way across the scarbourough mountains across the snowy tundra of Ruasha and the Northern Peaks of Keltaya.

All was lost. 

The Blood Forests, Home to a range of bloodthirsty native flora and fauna


<<from his point forward dear reader, I must remind you that the only information here is that known by the characters as general lore, Yet, over time, I encourage the players to submit their stories to be included later>>
The Towns Heroes gathered, they decided to travel out into the lands, help what people they could, back to the city. While many new small caravans arrived in the first few weeks, after a month, not a single caravan arrived ever again nor did the heroes.

Worse, The river, the lifeblood of the city, began to show signs of disease. At first a few dead fish on the shores, then the fish disappeared, and then people swimming were attacked, by the fish. Soon enough bodies began to be spotted in the river, but when poles were brought to fish them out, they moved. The undead were simply floating downstream from what ever had befallen them.

The Seperation


Map upside down.. oops
Soon enough the undead, crawling from the river shores, became a larger problem. Heroes were unable to take care of the problem fast enough. The undead used the bridges moors to crawl up and enter the town at night.

After  a particularly vicious battle, the city council met, and decided that the bridges needed to be separated from the towns. As people fled for the side they wished to stay on, They destroyed the bridges at each end, leaving the centres hoping to repair them later.

A Tale of two Cities


Now, as separate cities, each was responsible for food, health care and their own defences. Each town formed its own smaller council, its defence leadership and its own advisors from the few magi and priests that remained. It has been said that they should have made the decision for all magi to stay on one side and all priests on the other, to devote more work to differing goals, rather than have two whole sets of people working on the same problems without proper communication.. but 20/20 hindsight will always have the answers.
While the bridges allowed the undead to crawl up at any time of year, save the coldest winters when ice trapped them below the waters, it was only when the water levels dropped that the undead would wade out onto the shores of the old wharfs, would the townsfolk notice that this too would allow the undead to enter the town.
In the first High Summer, as the waters receded, thousands of bloated bodies started crawling from the rivers depths, to the shores and clamber up the beaches, The stench was overpowering, the undead numbers in the tens of thousands, the riverbed was a graveyard of monstrosity. Hundreds of townsfolk were called to fight back the undead, while others, less able, dug out the beeches and replaced them with walls.
The South side of the city, had the most beaches, and irrigation for its farms, So that summer, the south side of the city was inundated with undead. It took a bear, a spirit bear of great power, and size, to come to the rescue. The bear, guided by the high Priest of Klarg, pushed back the undead, giving the townsfolk the time to make the repairs, and build the new walls. His High Advisor " Joined the townsfolk, and took charge of the construction, his knowledge of undead, stone and building lore, combined with the Dwarves of the city, managed to construct great stone structures, worthy of Dwarven mines (or so the Dwarves said, and they still stand to this day)
The North side, had the fortune to already have the great wharves, which were built upon a natural wall, combined with the extensions built long ago, few undead managed to climb its shores.
The Council of the south, decided to build farms closest to the river, while the Northern council, with advice from their magi, built farms as far downriver as possible. The reasoning was, they could use some magi, and the priests of the Lady Grey, to bless the water and cast purification upon the water, allowing the water to become cleaner, the further it got in town, while it entered town from the west gate at its most poisonous.
Neither could have foretold the events to come, that may have given them cause to change their minds.
Either way, houses of the poor were destroyed first, they were given rooms in the empty houses of the rich, and some established themselves as new 'families' in the years to come. The Land was tilled, and winter, food stores were at last beginning to look healthy.
Year after year, the Bear God dealt with the undead clambering their way up the beaches and farms, while the Great Architect summoned walls to protect the city, while in the north, they had their existing great houses to hold up in. It took almost 15 years to seal off the waters, but in that time, over half of the city was lost.

A Time for Tears

Water had become scarce, The Wells of the city were somehow still clean, but the river, the source of water for thousands of people, was a brown bloody mess, limbs still floated downstream on a daily basis, touching the water now suicide, as it quickly consumed your soul and your body became one of the undead.
Bodies were now to be cremated, and the ashes mixed with the soil for healthier growth in the farm. 90% of the town was reduced to an agrarian life, the few cows, sheep, pigs and horses that remained, were under stick guard for breeding, and only the oldest were slaughtered for meat.
Luckily there were some folk who knew how to clean water, without the need for magic. One Dr Arthur Mometer discovered that boiling the water in a closed pot, until the pot became almost red hot, would destroy the blood and return the water to normal. Also that the fat of animals could be used directly as a soap, without additives, to clean off the blood rain. This helped people to survive the coming years.
Not much was recorded from this point on, some references and histories were burnt in the great attack of 1008, but what has been found is recorded here.
Sometime around 20 years after the Seperation, Some young folk found the scrolls and parchments of the Guild of rangers, and secretly started learning the skills taught by them to travel, unseen, unknown in the forest, and snuck out to see the world. Not much is known about their adventures, but 3 days after they left, they appeared at the north wall, running for their lives, exhausted, chased by what seemed like millions of undead, clutching a heavy book. The book contained several spells for mages, some of which thought lost forever, prior to the end of the world, let alone as a result of.
The Great War Barracks were built in 950, and A warriors guild was formed to deal with undead that appears from time to time, but also to exit the city and cleanse the ruins of old Jesem.
The High Priest, traveled north on boat, blessing the waters to hold back the fish, and dealt with an army of undead that managed to sneak in the east gate. but unable to return, he established a church in the north to hold back their undead that gathered at the walls. Many of which were the ones chasing the rangers.
So the North, realizing that gathering intel from outside the walls, a good thing, developed the Adventurers guild, it was mostly volunteers, those that studied with the Rangers Guild or had magical talents not suited to Healing magic, would form small parties, and push through the undead shanty town that hugged the walls, and break out into the wild unknowns. Often they'd return, requiring many purification spells to survive, but with knowledge of the outside.

What Lay Beyond


Like a wall of thorns, the Undead circled the city, claimed the heroes that returned. If only the Undead could be cleansed. With the help of the city, magi would be trained the clean the undead, to purify its waters, to burn back the forests of death, to free to city, and its survivors would be great heroes.
Klargs High Priest passed away soon after, and a day of remembrance is celebrated by the south, As is the High Advisor, his day of remembrance is celebrated by all of the city, as he went on to found a college and pushed for the wharfs to be opened so communication would improve the towns abilities.
Furthermore, In a Last Attempt to secure the Library South of the City, The Grand High Librarian and High Advisor, Cast a “Encastlemet spell” to surround the area, before the spell got halfway, it petered out and the Librarian Died. The Wall is known as “Riley’s Wall”

Slowly.. Markets were being built in the cities to allow the flow of goods and services, Blade bottomed boats were built in the wharfs to transport people and clear the water of undesirables, while food was grown both sides, it was grown differently with distinct varieties, South side food is a interesting alternative, while North side food is considered by the young folk to be exotic and upper class.

The Real growth began after. South side City doctors discovered a new cure to the Blood rain, and they were able to clear the streets faster. soon after, discoveries in magic allowed the purification magic to improve, also as more mages were being recruited, the water as it left the city was almost drinkable, after boiling twice and adding mint leaves to get rid of the taste.
Against advice from the north side (or maybe in spite of) An Adventurers guild was set up in the south side city too. There, there is a shrine to the Bonners.
50 years on, the year 983.. The South Side Barracks are finally officially established, Training is now sponsored by the council and veteran Warrior / Adventurers are permitted to exit the walls and fight the undead in the surrounding lands. On the north side, the Council of Guild masters is established, boosting internal trade regulations and setting a minimum standard of living for all.

Soon after with Metal Scavenging taking place in the nearest empty buildings, better weapons are being forged in the cities. The North decides to devote itself to armour, and the south, to weapons.
A Lesson is vigilance, whilst the adventurers were able to 'exit' their city, burn off the diseased shanties and villages, and return to their clean, safe lives, they often ignored the lessons on safety and thoroughness, and as a result, awaken an undead behemoth, which follows them back to the city. In a panic, the Last Elementalist scoll is used, to make the ground beneath the creature into mud, temporarily, it sunk, but only up to its knees before the spell wore off, trapping the creature only metres from the wall

In an effort to increase the powers of Klarg, the new High Priest of the church of Klarg begins the construction of a great Cathedral, with the help of the ‘royal family’ and some secret hidden cash reserves, it gets built, while many deem it unworthy, as soon as the capstone is placed, a Enormous (like 100m tall & wide) Klarg Bear appears in spirit form, All undead are repelled from the walls, by kilometers. Artisans manage to forge lighter chain-mail after long forgotten lore is rediscovered. The North finally builds its own Wharfs, so Large Barges can transport People, Carts and Goods across the river.. They need to be rebuilt every few years due to the wood rot from the tainted water, but it’s the only way for the North and South to begin repairs as one city, instead of two.
For the first time in decades, undead are spotted inside the walls, a breach, the walls crumble and hoardes swarm into the city, hundreds are slaughtered, some rise up as undead, but for which side? Internal conflicts aroze from the news, was it the undead somehow being controlled once again, had Hekatte returned to finish off the world? The city is devestated, while the breach is controlled the wall has been opened, and other undead will wander in, seeking the smell of life.
So a Party, Two High Priests of Klarg & The adventurers guilds from both cities form a small army and not only push back then Undead that breach the city, but push outside the walls and annihilate all undead for miles, with Holy Lights, Smites and such
The North Built a Hospital and Improved all medical supplies to both sides of the city, In a desperate need to transport soldiers and medicine across, a second Wharf is built, doubling the flow of goods south.
For the longest time, the citys population was stable, people are having many children, some born with defects from the Blood, but more often than not, children survive to their teen years, but with soldiers, ongoing battles and the never ending threat from he blood disease, it plateaued, yet now, in 1021 Population has stabilized and shows growth. The Mages have improve on their Purify Spell further and have increase their ranks by a lone hero that comes from the north. He brought information.

Soon after, Artisans begun work on the underground caves, accessing minerals from an old iron mine. There are some natural, non undead creatures down here, some are reportedly being used by the aventurers guild, and while illegal, children often sneak down into the caves.
 The Academics studying the Information brought by the foreign mage, have deciphered its abilities. By “Dangling” a special device in the water, they can purify more effectively, If they can Claim the Bridge & small Fort to the north, they’ll be able to purify the water before it gets to the city.
The city blows the emergency horns, calling back all adventurers, and holding a specialized meeting.  Light has appeared at the end of the tunnel, They have a goal, its going to work, but only if we all work together. The City is going to expand.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Number Crunch - The Fall of Fort-town

Here I will simple write out the actions taken by two players on a game untitled, the basic rules are in my previous post here. I'll try and post a small brief on how each turn played out, but I'm going to leave the conjecture on the history for the next post.

Number Crunch - The Fall of Fort-town

Firstly Maps: I took this randomly created map (left) that had a fort & walls and a river between, to make it two halves of a city. Then Myself and my Player, plotted relevant points to a hex grid and counted out areas that were 'population' vs 'anything not population'

It worked out well enough.


Introduction to Structure:
Turn #1 - isn't it obvious?
CITY NAME: Since this is a tale of two cities, I'll separate them until later when they re-merge.
ADV - Each turn in the beginning, a significant adventurer arrives in the town (fleeing from the zombie horde), They have an influence on the city, before settling in
Actions: typically It'll be like this "3 x Action name - results if imporant
Lastly, Changes to the game, 
-------------- Then a separator

Turn #0 Roll for Population increases, due to influx of refugess. North side poor = total Pop 11, South side Pop 17, Gathered food roll d6: 2 = population.. dang it.. well better than a 1 = half the population, would have gone cannibal on us.
BOTH Cities still joined: Jsemeby Fort-town it remains.
ADV - None from the Chaos.. starts next turn.
Major Changes.. All Zombies active attack this turn, Zombies co-ordinated attacks against the wells to check for initial breaches, wow.. none.. Wall spell happens, all Walls are now 2x health + 2x AF. Ok, secured.. no more external zombie problems.. oh wait, they can climb on their backs like ants? Nope, thats not in the Number crunch.. leave that for the Write up..lol. ok..
Lastly, Bridges are destroyed to ensure safety of north, as south seems to be overrun.. so the north panics.. Kaboom. two cities
-----------------
Turn #1
CITY: South JFT (Jsemby Fort Town)
ADV - - Mage Arrives, Offers Spells: Earth Elementalist - Shore Up the Water against river flood zombies.
9 people assigned to shore up the river bank
2 assigned as guards
3 assigned to tear out the houses on the west bank.. (My world doesn't have west, but I'm using it for ease of translation)
3 assigned to turn land (the west bank) into Farmland.
ZOMBIES: 6 Zombie hordes emerge from the river into the south side, as the embankment is being made.. argh! 2 guards are not enough.. 1 death.
RESULTS: 3 food added, total 20 food, 16 consumed (guard loss) = 4 food remains.
BONUS: Hero MAX destroys Zombies on river bank.
BONUS: Hero RILEY Overseas construction of river embankment +1 wall
--
CITY: North JFT
ADV - Merchant, Bonus 25% food covered for turn.
3 x tear down the rich apartments on most ariable land.
1 standard Village destroyed
2 x build Farm on that land.
4x Guards to defend walls (I have no idea of what to expect)
ZOMBIES: Emerge at my Pyre location.. crap -1 happiness
RESULTS: only need 75% food = 7, 3 food remains.
==========
Turn #2
CITY: South JFT
ADV - Entertainer - decreases unhappiness for turn.
Due to Overwhealming attacks by Zombies: 13 Guards
3 x destroy buildings
1 x Build Farm
ZOMBIES: Attack Pyre & Farm
RESULT: 7 population loss from starvation, 3 population unhappy
BONUS: Hero Max, destroys Zombies at River Bank
BONUS II: Hero Riley oversees construction of river embankment +1 wall.
-----
CITY: North JFT
ADV- Doctor, Sets up Medical Practice -10% disease
2 x build embankments
6 Guards
1 x Destroy buildings,
1x Build Farms
ZOMBIES: Invade Pyre Land, Take over Village in region.
RESULT: 1 Loss to Zombies, 4 Loss to Starvation, 2 Unhappiness
==========
Turn #3
CITY: South JFT
ADV - Entertainers, Once again clear unhappiness (what luck)
3x destroy Town
3x Build Farms
2 Guards
ZOMBIES: destroyed, Town Cleared.
RESULTS: 2 pop loss from starvation, 3 unhappy
BONUS: Hero Max purges the Pyre
BONUS: Hero Riley, Shores up the Pyre against attacks.
-----
CITY: North JFT
ADV: Academic - Helps town to Build Walls
5 x Guards, to clear town, but fail.. pyre still zombie infested.
ZOMBIES: Pyre is Zombie shanty town now..
RESULTS: no deaths, population food stable
===========

So, 15 years, ( 5 years per turn) Our populations stabilized from Farm income vs pop requirements.

While we were a bit lax on rules, and making stuff up on the fly, we had fun. We played 20 turns and around turn 16 managed to rebuild wharfs so we could transport goods and services from town to town, effectively reforming into one town, but by then, political upheaval caused the two to remain semi-seperate. I don't want to give too much away at this point, because the players might read it and also I'm not sure how interesting it is to read a turn by turn of a unfinished game. If there is any interest, I could later post it up.

If I did it again, I'd have thought out the turn by turn, destruction of peoples houses causing unhappiness, but maybe destruction of zombies causing calm, our food system was broken, and in effect we cheated to get as much population as we did, but maybe there were hidden stores that were unaccounted for, and we didn't include more food abilities in adventurers, Turn 6, a Mage Adventurer turns up south side, so maybe a few banquet spells weekly, and north side had some merchant adventurers, somehow get through from another town..


So, For I'll write up the 'history, as known by the players, as their characters who grew up in the city would have learnt from their parents and grandparents.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Been a While - Here, have a game.

So, Backstory TL;DR:

July 1st, I had 1 month to prepare my new "workspace", my mother in law was coming to stay with us for 3 months and I had 2 choices: 1) Pack up my office and use the kitchen table, sometimes, when available, to do any of my projects/painting/maps/drawing, etc. or 2) convert my shed from a dirt floor + metal skin, into an office. Its the 2nd of October, I am now at my spare PC (more on that later) in my new office.. its 60% compete, but only 65% completable. Should I have chosen the former choice?

I'm back baby!

The following section is about constructing a room, not really relevant to roleplay, but if you read it, you can have a look at the rules to a mini game at the end.. 

 So, July: I asked my current roleplay team if they wanted to 'help me out' in reward I would run a campaign for them of their choice, rather than testing the current game. So for 4 weekends, a small group of uni students, came to my place to dig up the dirt floor with me. It was supposed to be a 1 weekend job, but there were complications:

Diggy Diggy Dwarves
First up, The floor was only soft on one corner, so my initial test dig of 1 foot, multiplied into a 7x3.5m shed, divided by 3 (3 diggers 3 helpers) put me about 8 hours of digging. Instead it was much harder for 2/3rds of the shed, trippling the dig time, plus there were slabs of cement, just dumped into the original foundation, plus rocks, scraps of rubbish, etc..

We used the cement slabs (average 45x45x12cm) as supports for the floor, as I didn't want to be hauling dirt out, then hauling it back to get the floor level. This may have cost me an extra weekend of time to get right (digging out the extra holes & levelling it all) but in the end it paid off, the floor panels just dropped into place and are 1% margin of error flat.

The Floor panels are huge 3.2 x 1.3m palettes, used for hauling stone from quaries, their wood slats are close together, so dice can't fall through (but dust can) but due to the time restriction, I only put 2 big ones, and a medium sized one in, So now I have a nice 3.3x4.5 'space' in my shed, with a nice wooden floor.

For insulation I stapled plastic sheets to the walls, then stapled cardboard panels over that. The cardboard is from shipping containers that have fire retardant on them for warehouses (added safety), just cladding 1/3rd of the room so far, has dropped the heat by 5c on hot days and +5c on cold. So my expectations to improve that up to +/-15c should be about right for Australian Weather.

 It rained almost every week, so I've been able to check and test my 'water proofing'.

When I said 60/65% before, I mean that to continue now, I need a few more warehouse cardboard boxes, some more bubble wrap/foam sheeting, then next some proper wall panels, get the cables for electricity hidden behind the panels, and set up the extra lights for filming, then, I'll be ready to start streaming live my game sessions.

Yes, that's another purpose to the shed. not just an office, a whole gaming room for streaming games, events and other RP related stuff. Cool huh!?

Want to know more? honestly I don't know if this is such a relevant topic, but kitting out your RP cave is sorta something a large number of people do.. so maybe I'll post a few blogs related.



As Promised:

Mini Backstory Game for Gamesmasters

Every now and then I need to know alot more than just "this city of Z was founded by X and has been here for Y years" Backstory for cities isn't exactly easy to do, I've used civilization to create larger more world encompassing maps, but for smaller situations, I like to grab a player who might be from the town and have him 'work the story'

Why a player? mostly if you're from a city, you know some of its history, not the specifics, but at least the generalities. Having a player choose the key values for a city, improves their character, gives them some world knowledge that they can bring to roleplay.

The Game was Originally designed to deal with the 'aftermath' of a post apocalyptic situation, but I've adapted it for a complete backstory system as well as a localised plot points.

Game Rules

Write down everything that happens, you can make it into a story later

Basics: Using some kind of grid (I prefer hexes) you either start with 1 cell of village/population(pop) & 2 cells of farm. Each turn the village cell counts as 1 turn of actions. Each pop cell requires 2 food to eat, and each farm produces 1 food. So the starting 1 & 2 is self sustaining.
When the whole 'town' has accrued 3+ food, 2 of it can be consumed for 1 population growth, once per turn. Turns are set to 5 years for this 'medieval' version, scale up or down based on your needs.

Unhappiness: Every pop cell above the 1st, results in a slowly building 5% unhappiness. which is rolled each turn. If the roll is successful, 1 pop cell is too unhappy to work effectively, and you miss out on their action this turn (and reset unhappiness to 0). Also, you roll again against the success roll for further unhappiness (1 unhappy group riots, which causes further unhappy groups). i.e. total unhappines is 50%, roll is 23, so if the next roll is 23 or less, another pop becomes unhappy. If the whole town ever becomes unhappy, further rolls result in chaos & you lose d4 population per 4 population.

Happiness: You can build locations to allow your happiness to counter the unhappiness, such as markets, taverns, theatres (see below)

Heroes: Every turn there is an increasing 1% chance that a hero will visit your town, and complete a quest, resulting in a large improvement to your town. Mark these on your towns history.

Creatures: Each turn roll a d12, on a 10 or 11, add a 'small creature' to the edge of your map, approx 10 cells from your village (d6 or d8 direction, according to your map type). on a 12, add a 'big creature' Then roll d12 for each creature on the map, if its a 10 or 11, move them left or right, and on a 12, move them closer to your town and increase your unhappiness by 5%. If a creature moves into any of your cells (farms or buildings) destroy it, and increase your unhappiness by 20%, if they move into a pop cell, increase unhappiness by 50%.

Combat: When a Hero or a Guard attacks a creature in a turn, roll your preferred systems combat, for simplicity I use a simple d12: 
Guard: Attack 8, Defence 1, HP 1 vs small creature Attack 7, Defence 0, HP 1. 
Attack - Defence = roll under value, if success = -1 HP. continue rolling until defeat/win.
Big Creature: Attack 12, Defence 2, HP 3.

Each turn you can do the following:
* Turn land into Farmland
* Turn land into village (population)
* Turn a village / Farm back into Land
* Research 'discoveries'
* Prepare Land for "Larger" Buildings (needs 2 actions) - cannot be surrounded by monsters
* Build a Larger Building (needs 3 actions)
* Send out 'guards' to deal with local monsters
* Turn Larger buildings back into Land (needs 2 actions)
* Build a wooden wall

You could create some resource rules for village / wall / large buildings, which would bring far more depth to your town, i.e. forests for wood & hills for stone, if monsters block the path, then you lose access.

Discoveries & Larger Buildings:
When you have 10x level discovery points for any given discovery path, you unlock its abilities/actions.
Heroes as units, can perform actions (spells/etc) or attack creatures. See combat for details.

Warrior: Level 1: Can use 1 action to create a warrior hero from 1 food.
Warrior: Attack 9, Defence 2, HP 1: Special can give 1 damage to 1 creature & is used up.
Warrior Level 2: Can build a Barracks (Large Building) which gives you 1 warrior for 1 food, no action required.
Warrior Level 3: Can create 1 free warrior per turn.

Bard Level 1: Can spend 1 food and decrease unhappiness by 5%
Bard Level 2: Can build Theatres (use Large building location) which negates 15% unhappiness.
Bard Level 3: Can create Bard Unit (1 action, 1 food)
Bard Unit: Attack 10, Defence 0, HP 1: Special: Enthralls small creature to become population in town (used up)

Merchant Level 1: Can spend 1 action to decrease unhappiness by 5%
Merchant Level 2: can build Taverns (use Large Building slot) re-roll 1 unhappiness roll.
Merchant Level 3: Can Create Merchant Unit.

In the Fall of Fort-town, we had Undead hordes, Disease & the like, so mages with purify spells, doctors to heal sick and other aspects of the game were tied in. I'm not sure how they would work outside of a seige situation, but maybe you could add the elements in as you see fit.

Lets look at the Fall of Fort Town as an example on the next Blog:

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

RPG a Day, the first 12 Answers

Saw this:



Thought I might jump on the band wagon and answer a few.

#RPGaDay the first 12 answers.

#1 I wish I was playing my OWN, PUBLISHED RPG right now.. as in, I wish DD12 were published.

#2 Oh, Yup, same, DD12, the White Book.. get it out there!

#3, Sometimes I see some kickstarters, sometimes a google+ post

#4 Original Dungeonworld, as in MY 1994 published game + DD12 my updated version

#5 None, its unique. Verbal combat? Mental combat? Stealth rules? Best answer I can give is, its like Terry Pratchett meets Game of Thrones

#6 I'm a creator, not a gamer. I'd be adding more to my world, going on adventures in it, and making it all a little better.

#7 When I realised that we don't play a set of skills or numbers, we play a character represented BY those numbers. but at the same time, those skills and numbers define our character.

#8 None, go play a board game.

#9, Mine. You can have an effect upon the world after 4 sessions, within 10, you can be the heroes of an epic tale.

#10 I don't know.

#11 Is there ever a truly dead game? if so, shouldn't it stay that way? surely there is a reason no-one is playing it anymore?

#12 I don't judge a book by its cover, or an RPG by its art. I read the rules and determine the beauty by the math, the logic and the abilities a player can blend together for awesome moments.


CastleVania, Episode #17

Unsure if I've posted previous episodes or not, but wanted to quickly add some thoughts on the matter.

CastleVania Episode #17

Intro:

Unlike many RPGs, Castlevania is a convention Legacy game that I run. Each time I run it, I need to explain some basics:

"You are the next generation of heroes to be chosen by your elders, to attempt to defeat the Evil Vampire that has been pillaging your town over the last few centuries. Every 10 years the fog of undeath recoils, allowing a 24 hour window to get in, gather information and push forward to defeat the beast himself"

But, As you can see by the episode number, Its not going so well.

Each time a group manages to survive the first few rooms, the usually encounter one of the next denizens, and while their own level is usually comparable to the creature, the players experience is not.

It seems to balance itself in many ways. If a group looks like they're having trouble, I remind them, they do not need 'win' the scenario, merely gather information relevant to the next group and survive to escape. If they do so, the surviving members return and can enact several of their "survivors" bonuses, giving the next group some much needed equipment bonuses, weapon upgrades, or even a level up. As a result, a failing group will ensure the next groups enhanced chance at success.

Except for the information.

Why is it that Heroes are always so gung-ho. Why does an Indiana Jones movie have Indy, checking his books, pouring over his notes, being mentally prepared for the adventure. Yet role-players forget all that, and just throw themselves into a quest, and often get killed?

I've asked some of the Former players to write a 2 paragraph note to hand to their next of kin, anything to help them survive. They often scrawl messages on the walls as they go, and even set up "obvious" traps to keep smart players on the right track, and dumb players get killed.

But it always happens.. they ignore the notes, they ignore the information, and they throw themselves over a cliff, thinking there is an invisible path or something..

Ahh well.. everyone seems to enjoy themselves.. so that's what matters.. I may post again about it, if I hit episode 50.. 

Monday, 24 July 2017

Designing your PDF: Part 2

In my last post, I asked the community: Which one should I try for: InDesign, Scribus or Web? I got some great response, and I think the results really pushed me to look into several options I was not aware of (thanks team!)

The Results to the Question:

I'm going to assume you've read Part 1, where I compare Scribus, Indesign and a small test of what Web with @page can do, and follow on from my questions. Then I'll revisit my original relevant points in the 3 main areas I looked at, and discuss my research results and how I think this may/can/will benefit myself and maybe other Indie RPG writers.

1. Can I create  graphical Templates

Yes, but No. You can data merge in InDesign, but can you data merge twice in the same document from two different XMLs? Can you layer your images in a data merge? I'm getting an InDesign friend to look into this. The generic answer seems to be "Make it in a separate document, then import.. which defeats one of the aspects/needs I'll flesh out later on in this blog.

1.b. Can I create Multi-layered Image files? and can they be in Templates?

Multi-layered Images is hard, and getting them just right is harder, Scribus and InDesign both have some semblance of this, but if you want to edit it after the fact, it does seem rather tedious.. maybe that's why we pay Designers, to sit there are do a lot of tedious pixel perfect manipulations.. maybe I can bypass this, See further on my thoughts..

2. Can I Dynamically change the backgrounds?

Yes, but not simple, would require a decent ammount of setup time and learning before the first version would be available.

3. Can I add a "blood stain' effect to some of the books,?

Yes, but No.. Again, hand crafting, one by one, yes, with a few weeks fiddling with each page, OR a few weeks fiddling with the data-merge into template system, but that asks the question.. can I data merge one background, behind the data merge of the foreground.. Which is a no.. A Template is created once, and each page uses that template to create each page from the data merge, so the blood stain would need to be built into the data-marge, or not at all.

Figure 1. The Example to Show
Looking at this example: Parchment colour, ink stains (could be blood) double stripe in red, Text and Character Image. Imagine doing this more than 3-4 times.. imagine 50 times or 500 times? Now imagine you need to change the colour of that red line 12 times, and change the stain graphic 12 times.. I got a general quote for around $1500 for such a job. at my hourly rate, that's a fortnight approx of work. I think I can write a webpage to do that in far less than a fortnight.

So, How 'COULD" I use XML Data Merge for InDesign?

If I wrote each page as an XML document, and each structure was built into the same template, like a dynamic web page already does, then I declared each bit to be toggled by the XML, then yes.. 

What that means for the layman, who for some reason is reading this, I would have to declare the blood stain location in the template for all pages, then toggle it in the XML to true or false, and if true, set its width, height and opacity, all by hand. Next, I'd be setting each page to tell me what kind of page it is, i.e. title page / text block / table / creature stat block. and ALL of those parts would need to be declared in the one single template. Sounds a bit messy to me.

Is it worth it? ... Not Really, For every hour I spend learning InDesign, or for every hour I pay a designer to do this tedium for me, I am asking myself, is this worth it.. and what if, 3 months down the track, just before printing, the printer says, the alignment is off, and I need to re-size these 3 pixels smaller. 

All the Advice, wrapped up into a paragraph or three

As I Stated before, InDesign and Scribus are, to some extent, scriptable. There are tools that some have made available online, there are aspects which are semi-pre-written. There is a learning curve to any and all of that.
There are several other tools, FOP, LaTeX, Serif, ReportLab or PDFSharp. Again, learning curve, which is going to do the job best, and how far along will I turn back with new knowledge that it cannot do whats needed and will fail me.

And if I'm going to program a PDF anyway, I may as well either use FPDF (PHP PDF Creator) or the Angular Web Test that I made before I started these last two blogs.

Except for one, small, issue.. do I want the PDF to be Electronically enabled. i.e. contents pages, click links to jump to pages in the book, or is this a pure print only PDF.

Current Test Results & Logic for Web

I Work in Web, Angular-JS, I've worked on a few large and small projects and its likely to be my career for the next few years at least. None of the above tools will be, so learning them, using them and finding all their bugs and issues will only be useful for this one single project, and I don't know if I mentioned it before, if I'm going to do something, I want it to benefit me more than once.

So, I took my Test Web-page PDF Creator for a spin, I looked up a few RPG books, had a look at their layouts, and realized one interesting thing.. No-one is able to / has tried to / is doing, what I thought they were all doing.. except maybe D&D. They have the money to pay designers to get their pages looking very schmik, no-one else does.

I'm going to go make up a few pages with my new tool, I'm going to try to do what D&D has done with their books, and I'll post a third blog about the results. Once done, I'm going to contact some designers (any volunteers?) to make up a similar page (I'll supply the images & numbers) and we'll compare the time taken, and results. but as it stands, I honestly think, this is a tool that doesn't exist right now. i.e. a PDF creation tool for RPG writers to make up clean, interesting and professional looking PDFs without paying $50 a month and spending months learning, just to save you some time and or money getting a professional to do, when you don't even have an audience yet.

I have 4 main page concepts for now "Object Page" which has a title, and something, such as an image. Typically this might be a page for chapters or just the front title page, but also, full page art, maps, etc. "Text + Object" pages, all text can (if you want) have its own sub-title and a 'thing' can be added to the page, such as an image or table, that the text will wrap around, so the image can have dominance. Tables can fit nicely into the text section if you want. "Specific" pages, which for me, is an NPC stat page for my test, has a very specific layout to set the text, values, etc, plus a main image and background images. This can be used for NPCs or Monsters for now, but with a tweak I can add locations (such as taverns/dungeon rooms) and such. Lastly are "stat blocks" or repeatable elements, I've use them for character backgrounds, weapon stats, shopping lists. The interesting part so far is the idea that the table for these items, is built BY the system, so you don't need to write up a table, just nominate the table you want, and the columns you need in it. All items in your whole book could be declared in one file, the you just designate them sections, and the PDF creator can do the rest.

I've opened a Patreon, Its set at a modest $1, While I will work on this for myself, and freely give out ideas on doing it for yourself, I don't want freeloaders snatching my code and selling it to others, and want people to have a sense of ownership if they contribute. So if you think you might have a page need, that I might too need, that doesn't match one of the 4 above, then lets work on that. Patreons can test it as I write it, and any feedback will become tasks that i can improve it with, so users can benefit from my tool.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Careful what you say you may ruins someones play.

This blog goes into a few different topics, I'll try to break it up with headings.Mostly its about GMing

Pro GMs Chatting with Casual GMs

Sometimes when your talking to someone that seems to understand what your saying, is on the same page as you, you might get a bit deeper into the topic, but if the other person wasn't really there on the same page, and they have a different world view on the topic, your deeper thoughts can trigger negative thoughts. 

I belong to several RPG chat groups. Its quite common to engage in discussions about new rules. Its as common to me that people pull the strings of rules to see if they are knotted well, or robust enough, so that players won't pull said strings in the middle of the game.

When describing how the players can or might pull at the strings, examples are given.

So, when I saw a fellow community member mention a new rule, I did what I thought was normal and pulled some of the strings of the rule, presenting ways in which a player or a situation could ruin the rule.

Instead I offended the guy, he got extremely defensive of his rule, politely attacked me and when I apologised, politely slapped my face. I was of course miffed, I had too late realised it was a public post, not a group post, so I was likely jumping into his realm and just rambling on about his rule having holes.

Facepalm: Meaning, Oh, Oh sorry, I made a mistake, my bad.. lets look at this differently.

------------------------------
Player Agency: This was my point in the pulling of strings. And brevity was my downfall.
------------------------------
I have often forgotten that I'm not thinking about things like others do, and I often don't want to write a paragraph of explanation to get people onto the same page as myself. So I'll often not bother, but when I think that I'm talking to a fellow games master / games designer, I just jump straight in, and I'll talk at the person, like they know exactly what I'm talking about. which often gets mis-interpreted.

Gamesmastering is not simple or easy

Case in point: Story Telling is an Art, not just in that its artistic, but that it requires an artist, to get it right. One key factor that many casual GMs will quote "its just a game". The problem is that regardless if they think its a game or not, Its also an exercise of the mind, it teaches us things, about ourselves, our players, and the world in which we live.

If you present your players with a cliff, and they talk about how to scale UP this cliff, they spend minutes talking about pitons, rope, how far up is it, your players are engaing in player agency, you've given them a chance to shine, for them to solve the problem in a creative way. Do they have pitons, do they have rope, does anyone have the climb skill, do we have spells that can break the laws of gravity, can we go around? Is there anyone nearby that can supply us with tools for scaling? should we actual scale it? is it a good idea. The discussion of how to solve the problem is players engaging in the game. Its part and parcel of roleplay.

You know what it also does? it teaches players, regardless if you want it to or not, it teaches them to be creative in their ability to solve problems. It makes them better people.

Its one of the reasons why Roleplay IS such a great medium. The Agency of creative thought.
-----
Two ways you can destroy this part of a roleplay experience, either directly or indirectly, is to take away this agency, the players choice in what solution should they use. Because players will often, if not always, take the path of least resistance.

The First, is why the above disagreement happened: Give players an out. Give them the choice to teleport the simple material objects, pitons and rope, to their characters, without any consequence.

If players can, teleport or retroactively buy components, tools, arrows and the like directly to their character, they will always do so. No need to ask around town before leaving, 'what kind of terrain will we cross' and pre-buy the goods needed, No need to worry about packmules for the goods, nor the path chosen, to get to the quest, not even a care, if the character steps on a weight based trap.. his back pack is now empty, but later, it'll be retroactively full, breaking the immersion of the game.. 

The Second, slightly less common, is when the solution is so impossible to solve, that the players, having 0 agency in the situation can only give up, a frustrated GM can't understand why the players can't see the forest for the trees, and the frustrated players can't understand how the GM can think they CAN see the forest, since they're in a desert.

As an example, back at our cliff, no material objects and the instructions clearly say they need to walk this direction, but the players are being chased by a dragon. They cannot think how to solve it, the GM keeps saying he's given them all the hints, and yet the dragon arrives, the GM has to fudge the encounter (the players gain too much XP and become OP for the rest of the campaign) change the plot (the big nasty dragon is actually goblins in disguise, but if that's so.. then how did the goblins manage to enact all those creature powers & fly & breathe fire?) or stick to the reality and kill off the party with a single flame of the dragon.

Face Palm.

The GM points out after killing off the players, that they needed to 'walk' up the cliff, its enchanted. The quote "walk this direction" was so obvious.. was it not? 

Well, unless the players had ANY experience that walking up the side of the cliff was even possible.. this is 0 agency.. they can't make the choice, because they can't foresee it being possible.

The Problem is that Casual GMs might see that arriving at the cliff without pre-purchasing pitons and rope, as 0 player agency, so giving them a retroactive purchase seems like a good idea.

But its not. because you made the choice for the players: You will need equipment, I want you to use equipment, but I know you won't buy the right stuff, so I'll let you buy it retroactively. you took away their agency.
------ 
Player Agency, Don't take away choices
I had a player, who wove elven nets into his clothes, and carried a ball of string. He'd tie objects to his body as A) access easy items and B) crude armour. When in town, he'd buy up sets of things that he felt were needed by the group. often he was asked "why are you buying a fishing hook? we're going to a dungeon!

I had another player who would guide the group on regular outings to find rare and curious material components for spell casting. Each and every time, he'd end up with something curious, and as often as not, the group would encounter some creature, guarding its lair or out hunting or protecting its territory. Not often so horrible, but always a welcome side quest, with XP.

Another player, loved to try out different woods to craft arrows, sharpening his skills as a fletcher. At one point he managed to craft a masterwork redwood sapling arrow with a crystal holder head, allowing a crystal of ice to create his +6 distance +3 armour penetration +6 ice damage arrow , which helped take down a malicious fire demon. 

If I played any of those games where arrows, spell components or mundane equipment and or backpack arrangement was cast to the side by the game or the GM, those players would not still be talking about those events, to this day.

Player Agency allows players to choose to create interesting games, They can do things, without needing to change the plot or rules or interfere with the world building.
-----

Yet.. for all that's said and done.. players need choice.. so if your players are new.. get them used to the nitty gritty to start with, get them experienced with how it 'can' be done.. then after 5-10 sessions, let them relax on those rules, and present them with faster approaches to do the same thing.

in Dungeonworld, we have a thing called "down time" between adventures, Its done instantaneously for us, but takes weeks in game: Often while the warrior is healing, the mage gathers components, the rogue brews up potions, the archer crafts arrows and the merchant straps all these crazy things to his next set of armour.. Facepalm. 

Friday, 14 July 2017

InDesign, Scribus or Web?

I've reached the point where its time to start putting together the final book designs, and I hit a wall. Publisher Layout.

Which One to start using? InDesign, Scribus or Web

Google Docs was great and all for writing the whole bunch of rules into various folders and chapters and such, I even managed to get a simplistic 'mail-merge' to take my 600 background professions and divy them up into strutures readable by users to choose/have chosen for them, their backgrounds. This meant that I didn't have to hand write each and every one. But it does mean I have to design each and every one.. right?

I Spent maybe 4 weekends with two of my help team (Christian & Rory) sorting through this massive list of backgrounds that needed to be tabulated and filtered into the 12 different background tables.

So now I have the stats for 600 backgrounds. I can pull those stats into a table, but the table can't take a background image, or multiple background images, and pull it all together properly. Google docs is more limited than word doc..

I Asked a graphic designer, possible? and got the reply.. Um, No? but maybe their company had never dealt with such a request.

Expensive,
but maybe does everything

So I started research.. InDesign, I use here as a catch-all for the "free to try, Pay by the month" kind of tools. There is a learning curve, there might be aspects of the tool I want to use, locked behind a paywall, So I gotta ask myself. is it worth the 2-4 months of learning and the $6-$60 a month membership, to be able to create the PDF just exactly so? It Better!
Learning Curve,
 might have blockers


Next, Scribus. Or all the free tools many can do everything that InDesign does, but free. Sometimes that mostly just means its harder to find tutorials or stack-exchange articles on how to do it. My real concern is that  it has less functionality.. Should I waste 4 months of learning, just to discover that it can't do what I need also?

Comfort, Ability?
Likelyhood of working?
And lastly, Web Technology.. I recently played around with the @page feature. Turns out I can make a PDF from data. Images,Gradients, positioning, all the bits and pieces I need, I just need to write it all, by hand.. (which I can do)

So I'm sitting at this point, wondering.. Which path will I go down.. what pitfalls await me, what blockages will force me to try different angles or paths or variants, and will it be acceptable to take those variants, instead of doing exactly what I want.

If you're reading this and saying.. In Design/Scribus for the Win, then I have to ask the vitally important questions:

1. Can I create a multi-layered graphical template for a 5th of the page, each element relying on data from a CSV or better yet JSON object, that will tell each template how to react, i.e. top margin 2px, top border 1px wide, red, solid, gradient, over a parchment background, with a choice of semi-transparent images of either blood, magic or burn marks, (again, based on the Data), positioning of 24 numbers, with different titles on each, and some dice symbols (either as imported fonts or graphics). With alternative, left side/right side for the text, and have 4,5 or 6 of them appear per page. With the caveat that I have a parent object true/false flag that I can toggle at any point and print only the true flagged ones for the final PDF? (incase my test runs prove that having a street thief and a beggar are too similar and I drop one, and replace it with peddler) so all I need to do is change the flags true/false and press print.

An Example of the Above:
Grabbed from Google, but represents half of what I'm talking about.


2. Can I dynamically change the background image per page, to my page numbers have a ticking clock behind each, so my reader can 'flip' book through the pages and see the clock ticking? and if I decide later to change the 'time' I can do so simply, and the whole book updates?

3. Can I nominate a transparent image to be present on each page, and alter it based on maths, to get a little larger, spread and position differently.. but drop it if need be without having to do anything other than click a box "Add blood stains".

Because, so far, my research suggests that none of this is done easily.. it would be painful to set up, create and test, chewing up any time saving from having to just position each time once at the very end of the creative process, and hope that I don't need to change it later.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Does Story trump rules? Only in cartoons and comedy

Over at Raging Owlbear, There is a thread about how Story trumps Rules. He makes some good points, yet at the same time misses some (IMHO) critical issues. This is not just Owlbear, This has been seen across the board with so many threads on so many forums, and its really scary that anyone should/would box RPGs up, to exclude anyone that doesn't agree with this.

If you haven't or are not going to read it, or just to clarify what I think he's saying:

Story Trumps Rules:

Owlbear talks first about how rules provide a framework for us to tell a story so we can have fun. He then goes into why you should not break the rules, I agree . Then how you should learn the rules, so you can know when to break them.. and lastly, When to break the rules, mostly this was "is it fun? then break the rules"

Whose fun?

The bulk of the posts these days seems to be "oh, the situation is too hard, just let them have their fun, scale down the difficulty, pull out the problems, let the players have fun"

At whose expense?

Owlbear doesn't go down this path, he uses example that seem fair, realistic, but read between the lines, and you can see that none of these 'rules' needed to be broken.

How do I portray this to you, the reader, clearly.. How about this: for the older crowd: We all knew it was illegal to record shows from TV onto a VCR and watch it later, the law was to stop people from setting up micro-cinemas, and showing lots of people, denying the production company the money to pay for the movie/show. For the younger crowd, Its Illegal to record Youtube Videos, and watch them later, same reasons. Yet people do it, why? because the rule is broken, its a blanket rule to cover all situations. Laws can't cover all instances fairly, neither can roleplay game rules. and that's why the Gamesmaster exists, She/He can gauge the situation and determine, does that rule apply to this situation or not.

Scafford of Consistency

When Owlbear talks of not breaking the rules, he talks of Consistency: A scaffold of consistency allow players agency to use their own world knowledge to play the game without needing to know the rules off by heart. If in real life, they think they can jump from a pillar to a window frame, they should be able to, If in real life, they can 'target' the head, with their sword swing, they should be able to. The Rules, are supposed to be an abstraction of physics to game mechanics, to allow players to do what they want to do.. or at least try.

Newer GMs

Newer GMs don't know when to use rules and when they don't, Often they'll break immersion to look up a rule, players go off, get a drink, return and have lost some of the flow of the game. so GMs learn quickly or look up on the internet how to do it better and what do they hit first?, 'break the rules to make sure the fun doesn't stop' and like the VCR/Youtube example above, they'll do what everyone does. to get done what needs to be done, so the game doesn't come to a crashing halt.

One of the reasons I advocate that new GMs should first be DMs, is to get familiar with a stricter set of rules. Dungeonworlds: Dungeon Delvers Twelve, puts the DM in charge of a dungeon, players have a more structured environment, a Dungeon, to get familiar with the rules, but so does the DM. Over time, after learning how to run a dungeon a few hundred times, they might advance to GM to deal with the outside world, the travel between locations, the open world, the sandbox and all the aspects of roleplay that both players and GMs need to get used to.
As they go though, they'll get used to what rules work in certain situations, but not others. If a rule doesn't exist, (like 99% of the time) the GM has likely learnt enough on how to gauge the situation, use a rule that matches best, and if no rule exists, make a ruling on what to do. No rule has been broken, players can maintain consistency, keep their agency and get on with the game, without thinking "Oh, the GM just fudged that, ok, so I don't need to think about what I can do, I should instead think about what is cool, fun, exciting and the GM will allow it, because 'fun!'.

Maybe they do that subconsciously, maybe the make a decision to do so, I know I fell into the trap, when my GM wanted my character to succeed, I felt no push-back to my antics, so I just kept pushing, not on purpose, just to know the limits. I quit the game when I should have died for the 3rd time and he just hand waved me through.. for plot.. sorry, I want to enjoy the challenge, and to understand the challenge, I need to know the bounds of the game.

What kind of fun? What kind of story?

Everyone has an opinion of what fun is, as they do what a story is. Romeo and Juliet is a classic tragedy, its an awesome story, its known around the world, yet I can't see a shred of fun in it. So why does fun trump story again? I think restricting all forms of roleplay to only 'fun' stories, is like limited TV to only cartoons and comedy. when so many other genres exist...

This is really another topic, but at the core of what we're talking about:

Limiting Roleplay to Plot and Story is, to my mind, akin to Railroading. Any kind of decision by the forces of nature (the GM) that pushes the plot in any direction, especially for Plot (story) will be viewed by the players as taking away their agency. So if Fun trumps Story.. doesn't that mean that guiding the game, to be more fun, is another form or railroading? What if the natural progression of the 'story' is to become a classic tragedy? If the GM obeys the fun rule, it forces a comedy, from what could have been an awesome tragedy, to something in the middle, and no-body wins.

Yes, Personally, I'm a Sandbox GM, I think we create stories in real life from moments of the mundane, I went to the shops, met a man, who sold me some beans for my cow and when I got home my mother scolded me.. Each of these events are fleshed out in roleplay, and more so in life, but when we tell them later, we only state the sentence that sums up all those events "met a man", did a GM somewhere make an encounter roll? sure, and he did so for the 20 people that met that man before me, but each one failed to swap the beans, and they went to different stories, not one of them is going to include the "met a man with some beans" in their story, unless its somehow relevant. Not everyone has the beanstalk 'fun' but for some reason, this topic keeps popping up, telling new GMs, misguiding them from the path for this 'fun' version of roleplay.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

My Thoughts on Pay-to-Play in roleplay, As a Full-time Paid GM.

At the height of my career, I was taking home almost 6 figures as a paid Gamesmaster. This is my story.

Pay to Play? Gotta be worth it


From 2003 to 2013, I was a travelling English Teacher, I started raw, I didn't know what I was doing, and frankly, it surprises me still that I managed to pull it off. The number 1. thing I did was to learn how to do what I was supposed to be doing every night, until I was as good as I said I was in the interview, it took 3 years.

In 2003, I left Australia to travel the world, and promptly ran out of money. So I needed money. I took on a bar-tending job in Shanghai during the evenings and started teaching English during the day.

I discovered after about 6 months, that I knew nothing of my own language, school had not trained me anything more than nouns, verbs and adjectives, and I still suffer to correctly Capitalise my words.. I capitalise when I emphasize, so if you want to read things in your head, like I say them, then raise your inner voice every-time you see a capital.

So I learned, I downloaded books on the subject of teaching, I studied English for myself and I got better at it.. and I discovered that there was a part of language teaching that I excelled at..

Roleplaying.

In Teaching, Roleplaying is a set of circumstance that puts the student into the 'role' of a person who needs to speak English, in order to get through the task. This might be getting through customs, or buying shoes in a shop, or business negotiations to strike a deal.

For a Gamesmaster, Roleplaying is of course So much More! These books on how to teach? were trying to tell me how to 'teach' with 'roleplaying' OMG I was laughing at it all..

So after getting my feet as a teacher, I started introducing the art of actual roleplaying to my students. I started with the TV series 'lost'. My students were to learn new words each week, so I would write up 20 new words that made sense to learn while being 'lost' on an island.. we put those words into sentences, played the scenario, the students would need to use the words, to survive.. plank of wood, hammer, nail, rope, rope bridge, chasm, I was feeding them clues on how to solve the puzzle, but since the words were not known to them, it was a puzzle unto itself.

the players... ahem,,.. students.. loved it, they came back for my, my classes got more interesting and the students grade went up.

The only problem was management.. when they saw we were playing games.. they thought it was a waste of money and dropped the courses.. until later, when I would provide them with statistical evidence that gaming lessons had a more than 30% improvement in language retention that all other lesson types.. I did this by running the same grammar lessons with one group and no roleplay, I had more than 50 groups, of around 4-6 students a group, at approx 2 years per student of learning, the lower end of the spectrum was 30% improvement, for students that were roleplaying..

That was when I went full time.

Now, jump back in time, remember how I used to run a games club for kids? That was Sunday afternoons, 5 hours, each kid paid $2 to come to the club each week, plus membership fees of around $10 a year, eventually we got up to 3 GMs and a profit of around $60 a week from sales of drinks, minis and entry fees, what I learnt from that was how to set up and run a game fast, how to keep the plot hooks going at the end of the session "Come back next week, same bat channel, same bat time" and how to keep the 'customers/players happy'

A few years later, Instead of catering to the Junior Roleplayers, I had a few phone calls to my club, asking if I could come out to their place and run a game. To begin with, It didn't quite feel right to ask for money, so I simply asked that they chipped in for the pizza and I'd supply the game, but after the first 2 sessions, I was losing cash on the deal as I had to transport myself across town, supply the dice, pencils and paper to the guys, charactersheets and such, so I asked them, would they be ok with chipping in for the costs, $20 a month would do it, else I couldn't afford to cross town for this group of strangers, they agreed and I got my next round of experience as a paid GM.

So, when I was showing my clients the difference between boring class results and roleplayed results, I had more than enough confidence to talk about how I'd been doing this years before and how easy it was to set up and run, I guess my sales pitch succeeded, because they agreed and I was roleplaying, primarily, for the bulk of my income from around 2009/2010.

I was, I consider myself, to be extremely lucky, to be in the right place, with the right experience, to be able to offer this unique service which had proven results, but I knew the laws of supply and demand, so I offered this service, but at a premium price. 2x 1.5 hour lessons, twice a week for $90 an hour, per 'group'. They accepted for those students who wished to participate. which was maybe 90%.

In such a closed environment, I was able to have groups run synchronously in the same world, meeting the same NPCs, either before or after previous groups, the logistics and economy of each group affecting any later groups, "Oh sorry sir, a group of adventurers just bought my finest sword just last week". I could even allow 1 of the groups to be the bad guys, having them just ahead of other groups, plotting evil, leaving traps and ambushes along the way, before they settled down in a well defended location, and only when a player from one group disguised his character as evil (and he asked the group if he could join, because he wanted to play an evil character too) could he then reveal himself at the last possible moment and foil their plans.

After watching this Legacy style play, I invited several other GMs I knew from other countries to participate. One from Estonia, one from latvia, Germany, England and the US, to have their 'groups' running in the same world, I sent maps of events via email to the GMs and their groups interacted, somewhat, with my groups.. I even got my old players from Australia to join in via skype for some epic moments.. it was amazing.

But real life, always seems to throw you a curve-ball.

My boss, who approved the games for the majority of my client base, and his boss who joined in once or twice, moved on, and the new guy was more hard-nosed to the idea of 'games as education', the country went into turmoil over govt restrictions, another of my clients warned me that things were going to get difficult in the next few years, so I left, returned to Australia and decided to knuckle down and get my degree, get my site up and running, and after raising some funds, publish my game.

I've run some Legacy style games since then, gotten my old Russian players and even the American players to join in, I think its the angle that sets my gaming apart from others, knowing that any NPC can often be a PC from another group, seems to wake players up just a tad more and take notice.

 So, my thoughts on Pay to Play


I've talked already in a previous post about how I think you need to bring more to the table than just 'run a game' to be a professional GM. To me, that's attention to detail in your world, your NPCs and being able to run your game without a rulebook. This usually means a working knowledge of Physics, Human communication, Psychology, Cultures other than your own, Sleeping outdoors, walking in caves, fighting in the rain, anything that gives you an edge from any other guy that just 'reads the rules and runs a module'.
When your paying to play a game, you're paying for the convenience of having a GM that is prepared and unable to flake and players of a like minded attitude of "I'm paying to be here, so I'm not going to mess around, or waste time with off topic chatter or argue about rules", Other players are there for the same reason you are, to have fun in the limited time you have, because you work hard, want to rest up, relax and play a game, and you only have 4 hours spare on a thursday night to do so. You could spend $30+ at any number of events IF you had the right friends and the timing was right for that particular time frame, so why not spend your $30 sitting down, relaxed at a table, with some like minded adventurers who wish to get their game on.

As a Paid GM, I love having players that are ready, attentive, pay attention to the details, play in character, don't cancel unless its actually important and bow out if its not the right group, the right setting or the right game, rather than stay 'because its your friends' and disrupt the game for everyone else.