Permission to Change the World

One of the favorite things my gaming group brings up are the “Legacy Tokens” that allow the players to take part in the narrative “legacies” of the gaming world. I stole this idea from a (fan-made?) addition to old Deadlands but it still has evolved from those beginnings. In the following I will high-light how we have used those chips to give the players major power to reshape the narrative.

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[Door of Shadows] Creating the Campaign Setup

The Pull

Randomizing the characters

We started a new campaign at the beginning of the year (as discussed in my previous post).

This campaign is linked to the Wayward Sons-campaign I ran last year though it takes place 40 years earlier. And even though I jump started this “discussion” about the campaign with the experiments I have had with a Mythos Tome I decided that our first session also deserves to shared.

As first sessions go it wasn’t an actual playing session in a traditional sense but more like a conversation of what we were going to play. Vincent Baker‘s Apocalypse World advices you to do something similar but we took it a bit further.

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Experimenting on Mythos Tomes

We have been playing my AWengine hack for a few months now. There is a lot to talk about this game but I make my return to blogging by discussing the use of Mythos Tomes in roleplaying games.

A Mythos Tome is most likely found in horror games but should by no means to be limited to them. Mythos Tomes are ancient books filled with most eldritch secrets no man was ever to know. Or at least that is the main assumption. Continue reading

Wayward Sons: Love letters & Demonic possession

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Disclaimer: This post includes bad language and attitudes that really aren’t a representation of what we actually think. It only goes to show out we have bad taste.

As we grow more and more accustomed to this hack and how it works we manage to extend the game and bring in more interesting elements to the game.

This week I send two of my players a love letter. Now I am not sure I actually used them the right way but since this is after all our game I think the point was that they were successful. Or at least one was.

Due the first letter and the roll that followed one of the PCs got a prison tattoo. That was not too interesting. That taught me to be more considering when making the letters. Dull outcomes bring a little to the game.

The second letter was much more interesting. It bring out demonic possession and end up nearly killing the whole group.

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Wayward Sons: Moving from tier 1 to tier 2

This post is a direct followup on Aki’s post from yesterday. It started out as a comment but quickly lengthened in a way to seemed like it should have its own post.

Advancement in this kind of a game is problematic. On the one hand many players want to see their characters gaining more skills and progressing towards something like a demigod status. You may advance your character according to the “spend experience” chart found in each playbook. It all changes when you advance to “tier 2”.

This is the threshold of problem. How to keep the character in the same mould but allow him to grow?

I think that something like the advancement of John McClane has always been my ideal of character development. They might get more and more things done but they loose a bit of themselves on the process.

One thing that occurred to me just while I read this post is adding a simple and elegant system for advancement.

“But”

In simplest for this might work out when you change your playbook. You develop from a dealer to the Avenger BUT. This might even be a Move. When “when you advance your character, choose 1” and then a list of shit that might hit the fan.

This idea is presented in some ways in various hacks and I just discussed about something similar with one of the players from the same group as Aki and myself. It should not be simple to do something or if it is there should be a cost for it. You could look it the way Aki said. McClane survives (ie. develops) BUT loses his wife.

The trick here is to build the conditionals in a way that would make sense for the narrative and for the character.

Wayward Sons: Writing of the Seasoned playbooks

Once I began the work on the “second tier” playbooks for my Apocalypse World hack I quickly realised this hack still has some major issues. Though in my mind the premises and the main idea behind this hack is clear it might not be for others.This was a point that I noticed while we get together to play it a couple of weeks ago.

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Aki was wondering why would his character stick with the other characters. I realise that this is something that pops up every once in a while in any game. My current approach to this kind of a problem is to get rid of the character as soon as possible. Questioning the motives of a character is a quick way to kill the mood and diverse the story from what is actually happening. But this time was different. It got me think of the reasons any of the characters are involved in “the hunt”.

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Wayward Sons: Grinding the System

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With three gaming sessions with this Apocalypse World hack I am beginning to see where I want this game to go. I started out with of what I was doing and what the game is about but have ended up realising there is a lot to change.

I want this game to resemble X-Files with working class characters. Sessions should be about mysteries the group is trying to solve (without getting killed). The deeper they get into the mystery the more entangled with unanswered questions they become. The action and the story flow should be fast enough to be easily narrated but still retain the elements of this being a game.

When writing this hack I started out with a lot of setting rules. Most of them were tested in my own gaming system and only transferred to this new engine. Some of them were stolen from other AWhack (namely tremulus). Little by little I have been removing them from the rules. The last one to go was the Sanity damage mechanic.  Continue reading

Demonic Possession, Part 2 – The Inspiration

It isn’t really demon week anymore but as Halloween (weekend) is here I decided to “wrap up” what I started back then.

Previously I discussed a little about demonic possession and how it was handled in a couple of games I have played or read. This time it I plan to give you some pointers of what to watch for inspiration.

Movies and TV have given us a wide variety of examples of demonic possession. Mainly this works (for those who make them) because it present an opportunity to play up a wide range of our fears with little financial cost. Ie. it does not cost as to get someone to play possessed as it would cost to get someone in a suitable mask to play a space alien (or create a believable monster with CGI).

The effect of possession in roleplaying games is not as strong as in visual media. Most players can relate to their characters and into some extent to the NPCs but I doubt it is likely they will be as intimidated or related as they would be while watching what is actually going on. (I am not saying this is the case always. I am just using this assumption as the basis of choosing what movies to discuss.)

Spoilers from movies will follow.

possessionThe latest movie I watched in this genre was the Possession. It is not very imaginative when it comes to script but it does present an interesting MacGuffin to be used – the Dybbuk Box. In essence the box works as a demon prison. It demon is trapped in the box with personal items and it is forced to look at itself from a mirror for all eternity. Now I don’t get why the demon needs the personal items or why it is necessary to make its imprisonment torture but a similar item could easily be used in supernatural/horror games. An insane demon that can be freed to cause havoc is always fun.

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Wayward Sons – 1st Session & Playbooks

So we started our campaign two weeks ago. I had written five playbooks with Aki with following the ideas of the players in our gaming group. We had got together earlier to talk about the characters and so most of our group had a good idea of what kind of character they were going to play.

The main point for designing these characters was that they were more “a” than “the”. As the regular playbooks for hacks deal with characters that are the movers and shakers of their worlds in Wayward Sons the characters start out only as regular men and women. They have the possibility of grow to be the most important people of their kind – as well as turn into monsters along the way.

We followed the basic structure of Apocalypse World during this first session. Playbooks were distributed, players fill them out (complaining about bits and correcting others) and afterwards we discussed about the characters and their shared past.

As the established fact was that all characters had had their first paranormal encounter they all decided what was their Angle. (This was something that we quickly realised needed to be presented in the playbook as a choosable option). Within a little over an hour we had created a detailed history for the characters and a horrible mind-map for me to use as a GM as the foundation of the campaign.

Following the advices of AW and told the players that this session was about their characters. We followed them around, used moves and got into trouble. We did not have a fight though. This was actually something a realised only later on. Another thing I noticed was that Wayward Sons probably needs a little more flavourful 1st session sheet for GM.

The summary for the events of the first session:

The characters had arrived the the city of Rapid Falls in North Dakota following the cryptic hint from a Well-Dressed Man. They searched a safety deposit box to and found a large set of papers, photos and 8mm video. While going through the material they realised they were all connected to it and to each other somehow. It all seemed to have something to do with what their fathers and their fathers had done.

Following the leads from the documents the party searched the city archives and tried to make contact with the manager of the bank where the documents where held.

I confess I actually had a basic storyline in mind before we started the session (this actually being a part of a campaign we have been playing for almost two years). Nevertheless the players had a huge impact on the flow of the story and the clues found. It was all in all an excellent starting point for the campaign.

We are getting together to play the second session tomorrow. Hopefully we can work out even more problems with this hack and still have a good time.

The first five preliminary and “this needs some serious editing” playbooks as pdfs:

Notice – Yes. They are all pretty much work in progress. I shared them for feedback.

Wayward Sons – What’s It About?

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Wayward Sons is a hack for the Vincent Baker‘s Apocalypse World. As I have already posted the GM prep and the Basic Moves for this hack I decided it was time to tell a bit more of what the game is actually about.

The stories of Wayward Sons take (by default) place at 1980s in a fictional South Dakota city much like Los Angeles and New York. It is a game on neon noir atmosphere, conspiracies, esoteric secrets and horror.

Since X-Files and the first seasons of Supernatural I have planed on running something similar to them but never got around to do this. When Aki GMed some tremulus to our group during this summer I knew I was hooked with the AW engine and wanted to build a hack of my own to suit my needs for the game.

Premises for the Wayward Sons differ a bit from most AW hacks. The characters are not the best of the best, or moves and shakers. They are just average (or pretty near to it) people who are drawn to the world of supernatural horror by events they could not avoid.

During the game it is possible for them to achieve closure or to become one of the most famous hunters of supernatural. But it is much more likely that they will die, go mad or even turn into inhumane monsters they used to hunt. The threat of Taint is ever present on their stories, forcing them to balance between what needs to be done and what they are willing to do to achieve it.

The world where the characters live in is wrapped in paranoia and secrets. They know that most people wouldn’t believe them and have to act under the threat of being locked up in a mental institute. This means that one of the key elements will be trust.

Trust acts a bit like Hx in Apocalypse World or Trust in tremulus, but it is actually inspired by ColdCity. It is used to measure the trust between the character (and some NPCs they regularly interact). But as opposed to tremulus it does not stand for the secrets you know about another character it simply means how willingly you would place your life on their hands.

In addition to this Wayward Sons must be pretty simple. I have had my share of over complicated rules and that is one of the reasons AWengine worked for me. This also means that I will be able to use it to run games set in various different times than just the 80s – our current campaign has had adventures in wild west, 1940s, cyberpunk and in space and I want this hack to allow us to continue on that line.

The picture used in the teaser is from Supernatural and used without permission. No challenge to the owners of the franchise intended.