Saturday, 26 September 2015

Humans, meet the Octopodi

Based on the recent set or articles about Octopodes, This article seems to me more realistic amongst the myriad of link-bait "Octopuses are Aliens". I had a thought.. and so I wrote this:

They Came from the Stars

In a time, long forgotten, as records have been destroyed since. The Inhabitants of Earth watched as the creatures came in a vessel. A giant strange vessel. Rock Like, A Smooth outerworld rock, one shaped by the crashing of the waves upon its surface, outwerworld waves upon an outerworld rock. 
Shev and Marsh looked upon this strange shape in the sky with wonder, as it descended.

Gathering fish for the future family, they slowed as the shape began to land. They quickly retreated to their homes, watching from the entranceways.

The Ship descended, steam like vents burst forth from the underside, then with a great thud, it landed.

Dust and Steam mixed in the air, settling quickly upon the surface of the outerworld craft, Shev pushed Marsh to go, have a closer look.. dared him to enter this hostile place and see what is what.

Shev moved cautiously, slowly, conscious of the slight pain as he grabbed rocks too tightly,He moved along the path that led up to this, outerworld phenomenon. 

A Crack, a Boom, and a strange shape opened in the craft. It separated from the craft, like a limb. Then the creatures emerged. They did not move like shev, they seemed to glide, but in a strange jalting manner.. but their legs.. Shev was in shock, awe, confusion.. the number of legs.. it was wrong.. all wrong.. how could a creature exist with this many legs, and the way it used them.. and on the ends of the legs.. little.. things? suckers? tongues? It was grotesque.

There were eight of them.

Shev quickly ran back to Marsh and explained what he saw.. Marsh was hiding, her arms wrapped around her head, scared. When he began to explain about the legs, and how there were eight of them, Marsh yelped and spilt ink on the floor. What would happen to them, would these 'things' eat them?

Shev told Marsh to gather their things, they would leave, but first Shev wanted to see what the Aliens would do, to get a better explanation of them for the place they went to, to explain to an elder, what these beings looked like.

Eight.. he kept thinking this strange number, Eight.. 

He crawled again out of the innerworld, poking his head into the outerworld, mindful to take a breath of air. 

His own tribe of two, made sense.. Sometimes there were three or in extreme cases four, but eight.. no-one travelled in packs of eight, 

Yet these creatures, Two Older, and Six younger,  some yellow topped with long strands of golden seaweed, some brown topped with fuzzy coral on their faces. They were constructing a home, an entrance and gaps to see, for eight! In this outerworld.. they were staying.. 

Shev took note, to explain to the elders: They walk upright with two legs, and two legs to grasp tools. It was Alien! 

Shev quickly grabbed at the rocks with his eight arms, and slithered his way through to the innerworld as quickly as possible. Marsh and Shev would leave tonight.

They Packed their things and moved.. far away.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

New Places, New Cities, Getting Lost

If you haven't travelled to a new city, or better yet, a new country, even better.. a new culture new language, everything so different its just alien.. you won't know how it feels for your heroes, and you won't be able to express their feelings, nor would your GM be able to explain it to you

Experiencing the Wonder and Fear of being lost

As I stepped off the plane, to the familiar surrounds of the airport, the customs control, scowling faces, suspicion, fear of being arrested, the baggage handling, the lack of trollys, the guards ready to pounce on me, strip search my bags for suspicious sets of jeans, and the slew of taxi drivers trying to tear me away from the throng and overcharge me to go in circles.. I felt the pangs of excitement, as I was back.. in Russia.

But, all those little fears, they were familiar little jokes to myself, reminders of what actual fears I had the very first time I flew out of, and into Moscow.

Sure, our Heroes travel through dangerous forests, biting sands, caverns filled with lava, creatures of unimaginable horror, its hard to truly understand this feeling (unless you have the chance) so as GMs its a bit hard to describe them, beyond the movies and books we've seen (in our minds)

But Medieval Cities? that's do-able.

Let me take you on a ride, through a memory of mine. 

I have arrived at the small coach house, to my left, a building, tavern like. I can see some revelers dining outside. I could join them, but the parchment with a map, and an address, suggests I go further into the keeps grounds

( want to see:,24.740173,3a,75y,138.69h,90.66t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sLpCm64CA09Bgi55VZIKFpQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1?hl=en )

I travel east, along the cobblestone roads, To my right, peeking between the trees, a giant wall of stone, what seems like a mile above, small buildings, stone-works, defences. I am indeed at the keep of Tall Inn.
Further along, the battlements present themselves. High walls, protecting the city within. My heart shudders, its enormous. I hope I'll get through the gates, I'd hate to be turned away from such a glorious place.

I pass a large Hostel, A Tavern, Bakery, Iron worker, Book maker, Theatre for children, each place strange and exotic to me. Goods displayed in the windows, on shelves. Something I have not seen in my own city, at least not like this. Its like a little 'vignette' rather than shop shelves.

The Cafes are exquisite, Little places for one, maybe two people to eat. The Taverns not much different, three people can sit at the bar, not more.. how can they stay in business I muse to myself.

Rounding the corner, Street sellers are setting up stands, selling beer, Kvas (a dark sweet & salty brew) Trinkets, Markets can be heard now as I walk the street.

I am a little lost in thought.. my map shows that I must go left, but there is no left. I ask the beer seller and she looks at me dumbfounded.. I speak a strange language, and she doesn't seem to understand that I am lost. She offers me beer..

So I walk onwards, Passing a fountain, a Tavern again, devoted to only those who like the bards who sing within, a shop selling weapons (yet it is not a blacksmith). Building after Building, each, wonderous to look at, different, stone with flat faces, marble, right here on the street. I have walked too far by the time I stop myself and have to return to the start to get my bearings.

My bags are heavy, but I must get to the Border Guards Building first, else I will be arrested.
You can climb the tower, and walk the battlements for a small price, Worth it if you're a fan of all things medieval.

It takes me an hour, but eventually I get there.. I'm not too late. I go to enter, but am told to wait outside the building. The guard won't let me in yet.. probably it is full. I wait.. and wait. and eventually I am let in. The rooms are not full, they are mostly empty, I go to the window, I ask questions, I get answers, I get questions and give answers. Eventually they stamp my parchment and I am admitted entrance to their lands... in two weeks.

Returning to the street, I may now find a tavern to stay at, or a hostel.

Or Maybe I need a new Hat.

Eight years later, I have traveled this route almost 20 times, Its no longer a strange and exotic place, its my third home, my favourite home. I return here as often as I can. I have friends here, a small life here, but no work, and probably no possibility of work.

The Walk from the Coach House to the Border guards is repeated, but now, I walk down Nunne street, turn left onto Lai, and arrive quickly. I ignore the guard, he wants a bribe from strangers. I enter the building, submit my papers, answer maybe one question. The woman I speak to has become my friend over the years, she smiles when she sees me, I have a quick chat, but not so much to be overtly friendly. I tell her, sorry, but this is my last trip. I return home, and likely to never return. I am sad, so is she. I thank her for the years of help with my parchments. 

My route is not as exciting as it once was, sure, I remember the first time, getting lost, being confused, but also being full of wonder at how different it all is, this medieval city of Tall Inn.

Ok, so I jazzed it up, Medieval Style.. and hope to be doing more of my travels like this in the future. My Point is that as GMs sometime we gloss over things that for characters should be drawn out. Its hard to 'create' entire cities worth of feelings, and players as often as not, want to just get their healing potions, upgrade their weapons and armour and get back to the dungeon. So mixing it up with a bit of 'lost in the city' might not be your style..

but maybe it is..


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Coyn World

Here's my World

In my teen years (a few decades back) I "created" a roleplay world that was based on Terry Pratchetts discworld, but to differentiate, I made it a coin, (*with the eternal questions will it land heads or tails*). I decided recently to publish this world, so I thought it best to get the world 'right' with some Q&A, So I felt best to ask here, What have I not considered on a broad strokes level:

World Information:

At the centre of the world is a flat torus gravity plane which is surrounded by a km of lava, this explains the shape of the world in its earliest existance. The centre of the coin is now a large-ish continent, as over time islands have broken away and float 'around' in the seas (their bulk would be underwater, floating at the gravity centre, but their peaks on either side are islands).

The Edge, water drifts off, but then seperates into a mist, which rises up into the dome of air on both sides, becomes clouds, rains etc.

The Sun, is half the size of the planet and is still for the most part (spinning on its own axis) while the planet wobbles and spins, giving the effect that the sun rises and sets each day and moves around the planet on one edge.

Due to the distance of the sun, air particles, clouds, etc, the centre of the world gets the least warmth year round, while the edge will have summer & winter, as a result rainfall near the centre freezes, and a large spire of ice pokes up, no more than a few km.

The Land masses nearest the edge are largely uninhabitable, as they range from +80c to -200c summer to Winter (*but could be inhabited by ice or fire creatures*), but 1000km in, the range seems to be +50 to -50, I figured rainfall would likely flatten this range. I managed to make a simulation in a computer years ago to check this and make sure the +40 - -40 range was the majority of the planet, but it was simple and temp based only, no water included. 

In case anyone asks... I grabbed a standard world-building list, and decided to answer the questions.
  • How big is your world?
 Huge, Massively Huge, like all the planets in our solar system, mashed together, and squished down into a flat coin. At first this was for laughs.. later I adjusted it so the maths would work with a flat gravity. To get a Z-coordinate gravity matching earth on a flat disk, the X and Y coordinates are practically null, but for the spire and the other celestial objects, it does need to exist. This meant that in all my early simulations, I had 'dirt' floating off into space, but later when I added the moons and such, I added the X/Y and the dirt didn't float off.. instead it kept sticking onto it some more.. getting bigger and bigger. I tweaked and tweaked until I had a nice balance, but its currently 127.89K miles
  • Where is it in relationship to the sun (or suns)?
The Suns, drift around the planet. The Planet being the greater size, has the greater pull of gravity, so the three smaller suns drift around it. Due to the Z-axis gravity, the main sun rises and sets in the same location (like a yo-yo) but slightly offset, the Coyn itself also turns against the sun, one revolution of the sun takes 15.89 months, making an annoying anomoly for calendar makers. 
There are Three Suns. The first is a ball of Hot Plasma, similar to our sun, but half the size, and twice as close. It bakes the terrain nearest to it, and everything beyond 40% of distance doesn't get enough sun to be too warm, creating a 'band' of land thats quite inhabitable on the Coyn.
The Second Sun, is a Cold Fusion Sun, it has a very low effect upon the world, draining the heat, but producing an unnatural frost wave as it passed around the world. It rises and sets weekly, but as it passes the sun itself, it creates a radiation wave between the two which charges the sun (or seems to) These happen 3 times a year.
The Third Sun, is invisible to the naked eye, special lenses are needed (or ability of certain races to see certain spectrum of light) This Sun radiates energy to the world, in early times, it was not understood why, certain times of the year would feel energised and radiated.
  • Does it have a moon, multiple moons, or no moons?
There are two moons. One is close enough to benefit from the atmosphere that surrounds the coyn, making it a livable place, weather, climate all of its own. Magic users from millennia ago worked out how to teleport there, and their children live there today. The Other is further away, light is rarely reflected from its surface to the Coyn, but when it does, there are often events attributed to it.
  • What is the climate like on the planet?
The Outer Rim, rises in heat of its summer to over 100.c, and in Winter down to -100.c Yet, only 20km in, behind some mountains, are areas that are livable by humanoids, usually lizard folk. Further in are standard earth like conditions, Hot countries, think Africa, Australia, then the closer you get to the centre, the more European, Americas it becomes, further still, the climate shifts into colder tundra and snow covered forests, beyond this are dangerous places. Due to the central Ice Spire, there is a period of winter called Deep Winter, in which certain ice based creatures rise up from the shadows and cause havok. 
  • What is the geography of the planet?
There are Several major continents (Europe/Asia), More than a few Large Island Continents (Australia, Greenland) and hundreds of archipelago islands in between, Interestingly enough, there are terrains unlike and unable to be like anything on earth: sub-sea islands, where Air bubbles surround the land, (Trapped Giant Sleeping Air Elementals), Tidal Plains, because of the movement of the Suns and Moons, can be grassy steppes for several months, even years, then slowly the land is reclaimed by the sea, to be metres deep in ocean for months or years. Stone Structures are built when possible, with Floating Boat cities Moored to them for the years between. 
  • Are plate tectonics a factor on the planet?
Yes, but in some strange unknown pattern. Unlike Earths floating Plates on a ball of Magma. The Coyn has Magma Vents that seem to act like lumbricant between mechanical like cogs, Spinning Wheels of Stone, that grind against each other, some exist only on the surface, some only beneath, others go through the core, and are on both sides.
  • What is the ecology of the planet?
Standard Earth Like Ecology, except that Magic exists in all things, sometimes producing more extreme variants of rock, plants and animals.
  • What kind of wildlife is there?
The Coyn was the first world, its Laws of Physics are bent from the magical pressures, allowing all manner of creatures to exist. As such, all creatures that exist in any elsewhere, have the ability to exist here too. In the time of the great Cataclysm, creatures, clones and copies were trans- and tele- ported to the Coyn. So if it exists elsewhere, it exists here too.
  • Why are their monsters?  Where did they come from?
The First Race were made of rock, the creator created a flat surface of rock, like a desk, then created beings of rock, and animated them with cosmic powers beyond our understanding. For what original reason, is unknown.. maybe he was bored. After a great time, he moved on to other worlds.. The Cataclysm moved all manner of life to the Coyn, and rich with all varieties of rock, soil, metal and such, these new things prospered. 
  • What intelligent races are there?  What is their relationship to each other?
Every existing race of other worlds exists on the Coyn. Many of them quickly banded together to form new colonies, cities, cultures, but just as many worked together to form new, hybrid cultures. The results of this are an innumeral number of possible intelligent races, and a billion times more relationships
  • What is the history and mythology of the races?
The Initial Focus was on one sub continent, there, 87 races grew their villages into cities and began to populate the world around them. Within this place alone, are 9 distinct creation myths, there were more, but as the cultures met one another, integrated, some myths blended together and became one or new myths (similar to the Romans using Greek myths) 
  • Are there any god(s) (real or imagined)?  What impact does that have on the intelligent races?  If the god(s) are real what direct impact do they have on the planet?
Gods, in the strict sense, do not exist, instead there are beings, that feed off belief, through this belief, they form their own existence. So anyone who believes in a god, will cause the god to exist, and what they believe about the god, will cause the god to exist as the believers think. These 'beings' are thought to come from the Turtle backed world universe.
Indeed, since all worlds had their own beliefs, their own gods.. etc, when the inhabitants of worlds came here, there are many 'beings' that quickly fed off this belief and quickly became the gods that people believed in. So any and all gods from all universes (fictional or otherwise) came to be.
Most Intelligent races have some set of beliefs, their own god or gods, thus they build temples, have wars, festivals in the name of their god.
Because the gods are real, they answer to their following. Most gods do not know that their existance is directly related to their followers, but they are aware that the more followers they have, the more powerful they seem to become. So it is in their best interests to 'spread the word'. Yet some gods seem to be powerful without a following, sometimes uttering the name of a god will cause instant death, so there are gods who think they are gods.
A few, very few gods, know they are not, and secretly slowly, gain followers in indirect ways. Ensuring a large based of power in times of need.

Humanoids, knowing that they have a god on their side, but also that the opponent has a god too, don't like to throw their lives away, unless they have proof (sometimes from the god themselves) that heaven exists. Many gods believe in reincarnation, as its easier to maintain your believers afterlives that way.
  • Weather?
The same as earth, with noticable exceptions in some places.
Deep Winter has no direct sunlight. The Sun shines slightly through the great Ice Spire, which fused with magic, allows night creatures to travel through the shadows.
Spire Spring & Spire Autumn are when the sun reflects off the spire, creating a hotter period of time (maximum of 6 hours) in the region, but also fused with warmth magic. Children are often conceived in Spire Spring, and Cutting down a tree in Spire Autumn can create magical wood.

Violet Summer, is when the 3rd Sun coincides with Summer, it happens in a region once every 12 years. Any wars happening may spontanously break into festivals, hatred becomes love, vice versa is Violent Winter, when happily married couples divorce overnight, luckily this happens only once every 36 years, both only last a few nights of the respective seasons.. when is unknown
  • What are the countries and how do they relate to each other?
Too many to talk about here, In my Sub Continent were 87 countries, but we started with 100. The events put in place will result in the loss of 10 more, some are best friends, some allies, some uneasy allies, some enemies, some racial enemies, but alliances, some racial friends, but deep in wars. 95 people from my office played 95 different 'races' over the course of 7 months to create this back-history, 5 of which had to restart after unlucky beginnings.

The Major Situations:
Central South: The High Elves, Wood Elves and Sea Elves formed an uneasy Alliance with the Swamp Elves and Dark Elves to take down the Humans, Hillsfolk and Dark Dwarves, because they allied with the Necromancers and the Death Worshippers.
South East: The Humans and Elves have formed an Alliance, but are in a losing battle against three main enemies. The Undead, The Goblinoids and the Dark Elves (whom happen to be the Dark Elves of the Central South)
Central: The Desert dwelling races of Humans are the only thing between allout war between the Triad Kingdoms (three Princely brothers who independently control their own kingdoms, and use the competition between the three countries to ensure low prices & costs to run said kingdoms) and the Lizardmen who live in the desert and the surrounding grasslands.
  • Is there magic?  How does it work?  Who can use it?
Magic exists in all things.. it bends the rules, temporarily so things can work 'magically' then things go back to normal. this temporary could be as little as a microsecond or as long as the lifespan of a tree. Anyone can use it, its just a matter of true understanding, which no-one has anymore (a major mage war wiped out a grand library and reduced the knowledge of magic from 40% to 10%)
As often as not, not knowing the rules of magic works as well as knowing. Someone famous said belief was more powerful.
  • What kind of technology is available?  Who has access to it?  If there is magic how does that impact the technology?
Again, depends on where you're looking. each race, city, culture, region has its own technology level. The Dark Elves of the south have managed to forge Iron into Steel only recently, so a lot of their current tech is bronze age/Iron Age..  While a small outpost of stoners have been forging Titanium and Aluminium for decades. Some Dwarven races still use Harder rocks to mine softer rocks, while others use steam powered engines to grind out massive tunnel structures.
  • Warfare?  Trade?
Yes, and Yes.. often at the same time (kings can't go halting the import of fresh veal, for his queen, just because the forest folks king is the enemy)
  • Languages?
Every group has its own race, sometimes similar groups met each other early enough after the cataclysm to form larger groups, but after hundreds of years, two races of the same people, with different influences have diversified their languages enough that they are no-longer able to communicate. (Scottish vs American)

Final Note
I made DungeonWorld twenty years ago with a major goal, any other GM can plop their own world into any unpopulated part of my world, without any hassles. With time, and enough GMs we'd have a large diversified world, so any and all story-plots could exist with any variant system. With the right tools and the right structures, it would even help the GMs by including (randomly, but dependant on factors) the smaller parts of information that no human has the time to manually add.

If you have an interest to have your world live beyond your own GMing lifespan, let me know, you can 'find' a spot and plug in your concepts.. vague where vague is needed, specific when you want it, and the engine will 'fill in the blanks' until you override it with your own realities. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Lit Streets Issue

I might come back and edit this, but for now:

Why would Fantasy Medieval Streets be unlit?

Or Trapped Fairies? - Art by Aimee Stewart
In a fantasy city, that includes some kind of magic using group of skilled or talented people, there would exist an early understanding of creating fire, through magic. Most, if not all decent systems of magic have a ways and means of casting a spell, so that it can become permanent.

So, given these two premises, there is no reason to not have street lamps, with permanent cast flames
or light sources. With a metal cage around it, to protect, both the flame and the user, maybe the inclusion of glass, some little engineering to provide reflection, flow of air (if need be) The idea is pretty much a stable concept, if not in every city, at least the higher ranking streets of the capital (or the main castle).

This is the concept that a lot of Games designers forget to think about when inventing spells, powers, magical artefacts and the like. The effect it has on society.

These little things are what makes a world real, alive, rich and interesting.

So you've probably gotten here from a link to this, where I brief on the subject or go further into how, this is not supposed to spoil the game, not supposed to have any negative effect, far from it, its the requirement of its inclusion. Without considering Lit Street Issues, you're just building a dull boring, unplanned, unthought-out generic world.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

In a world of Heroes

So your local king is a real douche, you live suppressed in a world of pain and misery, In Earths History, you worship a god that gives you hope that, if you don't give up, and keep trying, at least you'll live in paradise when you die. In a fantasy setting, you can actually call upon that god to come down and smite the king.. or at least have some heroes sent over to do it for you.

Why would an Evil dictator exist?

I've asked this question to myself often enough, Things are the way they are in our world because of so many small significant, as a whole, things. Bad people get away with bad things because good people don't band together to fight, and fighting isn't good, or the status quo is not so bad, so lets just cope with this small disturbance, and hey at least it gives us something to complain about.

But, in a world of heroes, magical items, spells, powers, gods, kings are going to need a few thousand defences if they want to be bastards.

Lets take a simple example.. Krona the Barbarian, His Local Chief decides to raises the tributes for the year, and his village is unable to pay, so as an example, the Chief sends over thugs to rough up the village, killing Krona's mum. Krona utters an oath of revenge, which a god hears, and now she's god a slight amount of protection.  She heads out into the wilderness, fighting goblins, bears, bugbears, owl bears (lots of bears in this wilderness) even a random polar bear (encounter chart, rolled a 00) and makes all their bones into some sweet bear-bone-scale armour. Gets it blessed by a sacred temple, enchanted by a witch, finds a sacred blade in a Crypt, and returns to her lands.

She finds the a-hole that slaughtered her mum, and kills him. In the process, having to slaughter all the guards and champions that protect the chief, reducing the defences against standard local armies, triggering invasions, reacting to those invasions by having to slaughter the next chief, etc etc..

Can you see where this is going? No Chief, King, Duke, Lords in any kingdom is truly safe.. heroes are going to rise up, greater power levels than the local guards & even kings champions.

The only people capable of stopping great heroes, are other great heroes.. 

Which is probably why the kings of the land are constantly sending heroes out on missions.. the poor quality ones will die, while the survivors are rewarded by the king, given ceremonies, befriended, and are now part of his 'entourage' & 'protection' from other heroes.

Why bother with armies then?

 So, I've got this big bad-ass 18th Level Sorcerer buddy Symion, and his 17th level Necromancer cousin Nevvar, and their 19th level Assassin Andy, and they hang out in my palace. My neighbour kingdom is a bit peeved because some villages cut down some trees.. should I send 25,000 troops to attack them? knowing full well that they'll send their 20,000 against me? are they as well trained as mine? how much does this army cost me? 25,000 well train soldiers + conscript the villagers, rations, etc.. wow, I'm going to have to spend over 100,000 gold.. 

oh wait.. Maybe my friends can help? Andy pops over to the kingdom and just assassinates the king, Symion casts spells to charm the commanders of the army, Nevvar quells any uprising with hoards of Skeletons.. we declare to the populace that they are now part of our kingdom.. and viola.. problem solved..  100k gold enough for them? maybe.
Andy and his mates

Follow that through and yes, every kingdom is going to have some powerful heroes on the payroll.. AND armies, just in case.. but I bet that this becomes very much a cold war.. no-one wants to attack anyone because they all have enough information (scrying, teleporting, messages, clacks towers) about the odds, and the WMDs "Warlocks, Mages and Demonologists" will keep everyone just a little bit scared to 'push their buttons'

Will border controls, passports, customs become standard between countries? Will wars even exist? or will they all start representing modern life? 

I ran a campaign once, the world was 'skinned' with fantasy races, Russians were Dwarves, French were Elves, Arabs were Dark Elves, players started at 8th level, couldn't do much below 8th.. and it just turned into a spy game.. sure there were some goblins in the caves, but it was more interesting to travel over to the Dwarven Steppes (Russia) and ride the Minecarts(Metro) between Lybyanka (Spy Central) and Kransaya Plochad (The Palatial City) dressed as Dwarves(Russians), trying to get information about the movement of Troops into the Southern Duergar(militant) lands of UnChrome(Ukraine), and spread dis-information about their own funded Duergar as they pretended to the world, they were Snerfnebblin(United Dwarves).

Now, be careful, I'm not trying to include the 'boring' parts of history, nor make the whole scenario into a real time simulation. Its just the whole 'lit streets' issue, making sure the world build includes the realities that would happen as a result of the differences in realities. You don't add in 'diseases' so players can sit at home in bed for three weeks.. you build them in as cash/time sinks, to build suspense, to make them feel like the world is more complex, to take the edge off their skills when going into the next combat.. 

Online Fantasy Kingdoms Map,
Helped players make decisions, raid villagers, etc
In my board game "Fantasy Kingdoms" you need to maintain a fairly decent happiness of your people, if the value drops too low, they'll convert to independants, electing the local highest level paladin as protector, or if you attempt force to keep them, you need a force ratio high enough to block any uprisings, at least until you get that happiness back up again.. Kings have a hard time maintaining a level of popularity lest the locals allow (or hire) outside influence, while maintaining the political level of the game.

Its a hard thing to try to make your Fantasy world more real, but if you want your players to really appreciate your game world, you want to do it. Everyone shrugs their shoulders, rolls their eyes and just goes and hacks apart the local Ogre, when the village has a component shop, a blacksmith selling magic swords and a healing sage who sells potions, but give the players a witch who only has what she uses herself (herbs for poultices, cures & agricultural needs) The Smith bangs out nails, horseshoes and the occasional pot, and the Towns sage grows weed & smokes it to calm his nerves, the players will pay more attention, and really appreciate the sword of "Carbannog"

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

FATAL Critical Failures!

For a blog I'm doing research for (will edit link in here after I post it) I was researching other games systems, ones that did things poorly or horribly, and what they did that I should avoid for my own. During the process, I encountered some interesting (and shocking.. NSFW.. I mean for the average non roleplayer its Extremely NSFW in which writing I found my self cringing and re-writing this blog) roleplay systems, amongst the complaints from standard systems, Often people would cy...

At Least its not F.A.T.A.L!

Oh, and Gang Rape was the
plot for character
team building / formation.
For those not in the know.. FATAL is a system, created by Byron Hall, who probably didn't do a lot of market research into making RPGs, but did a lot of research into medieval environments, much of which seems to be D&D, medieval movies from the 80s, maybe some shlock horror, the Rutger Huer Movie "Flesh & Blood", typical teenage basement dwelling humour.

Whats not surprising is the amount of flak he got for daring to publish his ideas (well, a PDF at any rate). As it stand FATAL is listed as the worst, for all time so far, worst RPG system ever..

So of course I had to download it.

I downloaded the first version : Fantasy Adventure To Adult Lechery

The title gives away main reason why people hate it.

This the 2nd version cover..
The More safe for work version
Its a Great big overly detailed, and I mean comparative to Rolemaster or GURPS overly detailed, list of so many things a Gamesmaster should consider (and then discard what doesn't match their system) when designing their own system, Its just that FATAL included ALL of them.. 900 pages of rules and rules and rules..

Now, there are some glaring problems with it.. Layout, Design, 900 pages, tables of tables.. It could be salvageable, if it had some kind of underlying something to it worth salvaging. The book goes into great detail about diseases, phobias, psychological traits, aspects of dealing with life as a medieval peasant. Occupations, Skills and Equipment.. all before telling me how to play the Friggin game.

And Oh, My Gawd is it overdone.. 4 lines to explain what water is, another 4 for milk!.. If players need a Thesaurus of common terms, maybe you have the wrong kind of players..

So I'm not going to go any further, (as much fun as it could be) into picking apart a bad system, Discussing how, splitting it into Standard rules, Gamesmasters rules and the Adult material could have helped, nor how the Structure or format needed to be more player, others have done before me. I'll focus instead on what a lot of people have focused on.. poorly.. the Adult Lechery.

If you read the reviews and counter reviews of the author, you'll come across how the bulk of people focus on the fact that your character can have an [here it is... no.1 reason for its ranking ] anal circumference, because, if and when you get raped, you need to know how much pain you're going to be in.

In comparison to the size of this blog.. that one line represents the percentage of filth in the book. But for 900+ pages, thats still 20 odd pages of filth.. and another 100 pages of dubious material.. And for typical human reasons, its the only thing anyone will ever remember of it.

So Why Write about this filth?

Normally I might read up on hundreds of pages of articles, double check my references, make sure what I'm writing about has plausible credibility to it.. I do the same for my own system. I might never point out some things I read, because its not what I like to share with others..

Yet like a car accident, We imagine how it might have been us.. and I looked back at my earlier works and wondered... would I have been so unlucky if I published in 1998?

Total 100% accurate of how players
Act in game, but real life?
Then, while travelling by train across south Russia these last few days, I had some pdfs in my tablet I could read, and one of them was Critical Failures. .. About a DM who has the power to send his a group of players, who are behaving like the worst players you could get, to the fantasy world they're playing in, when their behavior gets them into trouble, time and time again...

I didn't feel like I was reading something that someone had made up, I know people that behave that way.. I don't roleplay with them, and probably never would, but I remember being 12 and sorta maybe acting that way. So I could identify easily with who they were

The writing of Critical Failures is poor, language badly chosen, some serious flaws in the style, but heck, its better than mine half the time, and at least the guy wrote it and made it available for download.

But the funniest part for me, I didn't feel like they were playing D&D, even though that's the parody the author went for. No, I felt that they were playing FATAL.. and Byron Hall was the DM, and the RPG Net were the players... and then I took a look back at the RPG environment of the 80s and 90s and felt sorry for the Author of FATAL.. because it looks like that's what he's gone and done.. Made the RPG for the audience that has since, grown up, while the Author had not.

In the 80s all manner of things, with 20/20 hindsight, seems racist, sexist, misogynist immature and just plain wrong. RPGs were not immune, depending on the system & Gamesmaster, Characters would typically devolve into murder hobos, ultra powerful bad guys, or all manner of worse. Half of today's memes are based on 80s RPG fail.

So FATALs Author seems to be a GM whose inclusiveness went over board.  instead of putting down his foot and saying.. "hey guys,too much.. this is never going to be popular on the market.." no, instead the author thought that all roleplayers were like his group.. raping and pillaging across his game world.. so he added more rules to match all the consequences..

I got out of the standard roleplay scene when this seemed to be happening around me. Players were joining the brand new Vampire games, where killing and raping innocents became part of the norm. The teenage angst of lack of control in the real world bleeds into the control they need to exert in the roleplay world, lashing out at anything that offends them, and with power, allows them to avoid or beat back any social problems that may arise.

Lessons to be learnt

It asks the question, Why do we roleplay? Is its the Escapism? to get away from this world that we lack the skills and control needed to be successful and the desire to be so? To go to a place (even if its in our minds) to be able to be skilled, powerful and in control?

Is this an immature desire? I've had maybe a few handfuls of 'adults' in my life try to tell me that roleplaying is a childish thing, and that I should grow up. Now that I'm 40, a dad, I've researched what games are, what play is, what is a roleplay game, and how roleplay has a very critical aspect of learning about it. Gamification is mired in roleplay, Schools actually teach us to role play scenarios out, in order to solve problems.

"Train A is headed from the West at 20km an hour, Train B from the East at 30km an hour, they start 100km apart, at what point do they crash?"

Albiet, your not playing a Train, but the puzzle is set in a way that allows the student to visualize the problem in real terms, which is one of the cores of what a roleplay game is.

The Concept of Games & Play has been coming up in my discoveries over the last few years, and I'm quite seriously considering my PhD in this field. How much of the desire to roleplay is the desire to escape our own mundane vs the playground of the mind to learn?


My Own system went through stages, Complex, Simplified, Improvements, Mess, Restructuring. If I had published at any stage prior, I'd expect to be ripped to shreds by the RPG community for attempting to publish anything less than a half decent set of rules.

The current 'popular' RPG seems to be rules lite, narrativity styled RPGs, possibly due to the influx of females to the gaming industry over the last 20 years, So attempting to bring a new system, more complex than most, is bound for failure, let alone adding sexuality (No, mum, not that kind of roleplay), obfuscated layout, and adult themes (plus, claiming its all historically accurate).

Yet I have a complex system, So I guess I have empathy for this guy.. he thought that his differentiation, that 'thing' which would make his game interesting, is the first person to publish a game which dealt with the smut & puerile humour that many games devolve into. To cater to those teenagers and their angst at a lack of sexual experience. Not realising, that is the worst kind of roleplay, and the community as a whole would rather pretend it never existed, than admit that yes, once, they too tried to 'get it on' with a barmaid, and the teenage GM asked to roll for penetration.

Post Script

Further topics on this to come:

* Will Roleplaying games of the future be boring, or will Roleplay become obsolete, if we get too politically correct?

* How to Use failed roleplay systems, and identifying failure within successful systems, to build a better system. (Building a better mousetrap?)

* What IS roleplay, and what IS a roleplay Game? Does a conversation about a vorpal sword working on a Jabberwickerbasket count?

p.p.s. I Always thought it would be fun to run a roleplay group of evil (i.e. bastard) characters, while several other roleplay groups of good guys were hunting them...