Sequel to Bell End

Tomorrow is the third time we are going to tackle tremulus. But this time I will be running the game instead of Aki. As this is again one of our random sessions it sets the score of games run to a tie between me and him (hopefully Ville can take this hint as he is now left behind).

I’ve been working with my own rpg system for a couple of years now (more of that will follow at some point) and wanted to brake away from it for a bit. After two sessions I think I have some idea of how to run a game of tremulus. Not enough maybe but that is besides the point of trying things out.

As a fan of intertextuality I wanted to take elements from the stories Aki ran and build something from them. A sequal was exactly what I wanted to do. Something that fits the horror genre like a hockey mask to a serial killer.

Primrose Path didn’t offer much in the way of continuity. It could only work out as a “Return to the Mansion” but if you have played it through you know the problems this kind of approach could present.

Bell End was a far better choice. My character survived it and painted a master piece (though it happened during the debrief stage). There were some unsolved elements too which helped me to form the basic idea behind my own framework. Some Red Bull and Midnight Syndicate was everything else I needed to write it.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of clear examples of writing a framework (from my experience with WFRP I gather this is a major problem as fan material is quite a boost for any game). So I worked with Aki’s framework and that from Primrose Path.

It was interesting to notice how the guidelines of frameworking for tremulus guided my ideas. I had thought it to only take moment to write down my ideas but the restrictions, examples and guidelines refined them. It wasn’t so easy to write it in a compact form but as a writing exercise it was a good one.

We’ll get back on this after tomorrow’s game. So session debriefing and the downloadable framework will follow at some point.

Writing a Oneshot

A while back I decided to write a oneshot as an writing exercise. I haven’t written a full adventure in ages (last one being the Hand of Glory for Liber Fanatica 9) so I am fully aware about being a little rusty.

I just recently sold my collection of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd edition I decided to try the 1st edition to revisit the game that mostly started the hobby for me.

As a GM I have had a hoarded my ideas for a long time. In most resent campaigns my group hasn’t even reached the main idea of the game before it dries up. Aiming to change this I now used an idea of a game I have wanted to run for a long time.

A zombie invasion.

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Ideally writing this kind of scenario should begin with the characters. You have a group of certain characters you want to use. This time I went the other way around. I wrote a short structure of events that would happen during the adventure, planed the surroundings of the events, and only after that got into the most interesting part – writing the characters.

What I have learned from playing and GMing oneshots is that most players just want to get the game rolling. Long backgrounds for the characters are easily forgotten and thus mostly unnecessary. Keeping them short and simple is the way to go.When writing a character for a oneshot I tend to aim them as for people who have never played the game before. This way I have an introduction scenario I can throw at people in convention (not that I have actually done this anyway). It also means that the characters should be easy to learn.

Aside from that the most important thing for the characters is that the have conflicts with each other. Aki (MustaJumala) has talked about his ideas of how an (ideal) oneshot should be played. But I doubt that even he can contradict me in this: give the players conflicting characters and they will rip each other apart without ever needing a firm story line.

We played through the adventure a couple of weeks ago. It was a fiasco (but no in a good way). I had completely forgotten the most important game system problem with this kind of adventure. Fighting characters froze in fear when a single zombie shambled towards them. From that point on it was just a game of failures and though we had some fun we never achieved what I had actually planned.

I have done a lot of rewriting for the adventure since. I tried to include the comments of the players as well as those of Strike-to-Stun community that were (once again) eager to enough to give comments. It is mostly finished now and will hopefully see the light of the day (well light of the internet anyway) quite soon.

It was a great exercise and thought me again a couple of things.

  1. It is all about the players and their characters.
  2. Build the characters so that they WILL be driven into conflicts whit each other.
  3. Keep in mind that when everything falls apart the players must still be entertained. This includes the GM as well.

Playing a Cybernetic Space Gorilla Scientist

Last Wednesday a random group of players from our forum gathered to try out the new version of FATE. We knew it was going to be a tryout session and hoped it was going to be fun.

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As a player I am not that much into rules-heavy games (and as GM even less). So what I had heard from FATE was actually quite promising. A simple system that allowed the players to contribute to the story and events of the game by creating defining terms.

I read through the first half of the rules (for a “rules light game” it has quite a number of pages) and got quite a good grasp of them. The GM had done the same so luckily we had the combined forces of two players who had almost read the entire rules.

Our GM had prepared an adventure and characters for us beforehand. The basis for the adventure was “Forbidden planet” type of space slipstream. I got to play a gorilla scientist enhanced with cybernetic implants. And damn it was fun.

As MustaJumala said in his earlier post I too like oneshot because the offer you a chance to get crazy. My Aspects (the defining phrases that are the core of your character) were easy to play. Krakatou was deeply concerned about his appearance as an intelligent being while on the other hand he still had his animal side. So I made sure we had a proper tea time after going all Gorilla Berserk against a hideous space monster.

Our group consisted of the crew of Attila’s Court – a spaceship owned by MustaJumala’s character Captain Attila Moon. In addition to our characters there was a fungi that was living inside a dead crew member and the first mate who was actually a killing machine robot. Your basic crew all in all.

We followed the notorious space terrorist Gorgon (“GORGON!”) to a forbidden planet in hopes of rescuing the princess he had taken captive. Naturally we crashed and had to walk through all kinds of perils to reach the ancient temple of the artificial intelligence that was the reason this planet was off-limits. We fought snailmen and a lovecraftian horror and competed for the affections of the fungi infested colleague.

Just at the brink of epic showdown we got derailed into “conversation” about gaming mechanics.

I’m first to admit that it was mainly my fault. The challenges we had faced had been so demanding and the Fate points we had gained so few that we argued for awhile of what should my character do to get some points. It almost ended up destroying the game but luckily we got it under control. GM gave us some fate points just to keep the game going and to see how much difference they did (this was a try-out session after all).

As my gorilla had an aspect telling me that I had “saving the entire crew almost cost me my life” (or something along those lines) I ended up in a mortal combat with the A.I. Entering the matrix of the planet I wrestled it long enough for my friends to escape the perilous planet.

And just as they exited the atmosphere and thought they were safe a door opened behind them. “Captain Attila MOON!” cried out the space terrorist Gorgon.

Even if we do not get back to these characters it was a marvellous adventure topped with an excellent ending.

Though hopefully next time we are more experienced with the rules…

GMing Oneshots a’la MustaJumala

On our guild’s forum, there was a request for less MtG-content. Well, not necessarily less, but more like balancing it with other content. So, here goes.

I like oneshots. Campaigns are always difficult. Back in the day, when we were able to do it, we’d mess it up by going too long. Now that we have very limited time as most members of the group have competing commitments, which are often understandably important. Therefore, one good oneshot is great.

Think about it this way: YOLO.

Yes, I hate that too. Its just a catchphrase often used to rationalize acts of random stupidity. But think about the context. I wouldn’t drive around drunk tweeting out ‘YOLO!’ as I get closer to death, but I would play a oneshot thinking ‘YOLO!’ as my character won’t survive the game either way. He or she either dies or gets “archived” in some stack of papers somewhere. Dying in a spectacular fashion is much more interesting than surviving (although, lately I’ve been surviving a lot).

So, how do I prepare, as the GM, for a oneshot.

1. Pick the starting point.

2. Pick a system.

3. Make a list of names, so you don’t have to improvise them.

That’s it. You don’t need anything else. Often you need to switch the first and the second point, depending on whether you want to use a system or you want to play a certain scenario.

Of course, I can delve into these a little further. I might be running a game today, so this work I’m doing here can act as my preparation for that possible session. We’ll see if I can give you a report on this tomorrow.

First, let’s pick a theme. With the Zimmerman case in the news right now, I’d like to run a game with jurors. Say, like 12 Angry Men. Ok, that’s enough.

Second, we’re picking a system. We played a demoscenario of Burning Wheel last week. That had a great system for arguments, called Duel of Wits. That would be great for this. Sadly, I don’t have that particular game and can’t get them right now, with only a few hours during a work day. Therefore, I’m falling back on my default: HeroQuest. Characters can be easily improvised and the system is very easy.

The third point could differ based on games (as for example, when I ran Agon, I had a clear limit on my resources, so I had to do some planning beforehand), but generally the list of names works for me. In this case I just need a the rest of the jury. Therefore, I should have list of about 10 distinctive names, so if I need to put emphasis on them, they are not confusing. Good rule of thumb is to make a list of names with no two names starting with the same letter. First names only, because they have no reason to tell each other their last names.

Again, that’s it. no more work needed. So, I’m guessing many of you are thinking, “Aki”, if you happen to know my name, “what was the crime? Did he do it? Was all the needed evidence presented?” To which I say: At this point, I don’t care. I’ll ask the players about the crime. They’ll come up with evidence. I can have them come up with things you didn’t even think to ask like is this modern day, real world, and so forth.

There’s a good chance at least one of my players is reading this (if I get to GM), so I may have ruined the whole thing, but that remains to seen.