Monday, December 11, 2017

Why LotFP Is The Best Game to Play With Strangers

The logic:

1. Game system is always less important than who you play with.

2. Dungeons & Dragons is the most widely-played RPG.

3. Anyone who likes any edition of D&D should be able to understand all they need to know to play Lamentations of the Flame Princess (or any other retroclone or old-school game) in minutes and will be within a stone's throw of a premise and theme that they've already signed on to.

4. Due to the art and marketing, LotFP offends more boring people than any other game.

5. LotFP offends no interesting people.

6. Therefore if you sit down to a table with people who've agreed to play LotFP, you have screened out a larger percentage of boring people than you have by choosing any other game while still drawing players from a diverse pool due to the bar for entry--mechanically and thematically--being extremely low.

QED
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Theft and Other Demon City Notes

Demon City's Downtime system is basically a re-tool of Jeff's Party Like It's 999.

The money system is basically from FASERIP

Contacts are a combo of FASERIP's Jeff Grubb's Genius Subplot Rule and the way they work in Night's Black Agents.

Combat is 5e's advantage/disadvantage on steroids. I think Jeff may have suggested something along one of these lines once.

The Tarot thing are relatively out of nowhere I think.

Motives instead of classes is more like Vampire than anything else I can think of that I read, but still pretty much out of nowhere.

Calm is obviously like Call of Cthulhu Sanity and probably nobody would want it any other way, though I hope Downtime puts a new spin on it.

Most of the feedback has been too good to be useful. Just a lot of "I like the__! and the__!" which is nice but the sample is kind of self-selected--they're backing it so they're getting what they want. If anybody reading has anything they just thought of, hit me with it.

I'm curious about how long-term play will work. In sunday's D&D game, we thought Agnes Steelheart was just fucking dead the other day until shenanigans restored her and it was clear it hurt. I want to figure out if the stack of rewards and interrelationships Demon City creates will eventually make that happen with a PC that's around long enough, or if you just basically have to choose between horror and that level of attachment.
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Monday, November 27, 2017

Things To Do With Salad and Styrofoam

So this is the Sandman:
...the Sandman is on set, starring in a Sci Fi Channel original movie. Somewhere in Hollywood.

Ding.

The Sandman's cell phone has rung.

Now, Sandman's wearing a lot of make-up and a mask which make it pretty hard to put a phone to your ear. So it's on speaker.

"Hey!"

"Hey Ela, I'm on set, what's up?"

"Can Poppy borrow the Lady Nine Bones Necklace from Arafel?"

"Uh, sure?"

"Cool, ok--have fun on set, sweetie!"

"Ok-good luck in the Maze!"

The call ends.

Sandman looks around to see the cast and crew staring, cocking its collective head.

"?"

"That was my D&D group."
So, a few weeks ago the party traveled to Hot Springs Island.

They hexcrawled their way across many hazards...
I used lettuce for the jungle








...and eventually stumbled on the remnants of an elven army cowering on a mountaintop a few miles from the great volcano.

The proud fair folk were suspicious of a party of mostly half-elves and--possibly worse--tieflings--but they camped together for the night.

They were then--of course--attacked by lizardmen. One of them hurled a globe of mutation at one of the basically totally incompetent elven princes (a second eye and then head began to emerge from the side of his neck) but the party eventually fought them off.



In the morning, the party asked the elves they'd just saved for help finding the volcano and the dragon egg inside, but, terrified, they politely begged off and hiked out into the jungle.

Agnes Steelheart burned with contempt at their cowardice "Good luck with your extra face, loser!"
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Also, somewhere along the line the party picked up two things:

1. Smudge the elf thief who sucks at rolling dice

2. 11 doses of a potion form Hot Springs Island that makes "the body and mind forget the last hour"

Also the cleric was drinking a lot of wine.

This lead to the following situation no less than three times:

Agnes Steelheart would get really pissed at how useless Smudge was in a fight.

Agnes would be like "Ugh! Men! Useless!"

Agnes would get knocked out and be almost dead (and, in one case, actually dead).

Agnes would awake to find Smudge the elf thief who sucks at rolling dice standing over her feeding her this potion, feeling fine but having no idea how she got there and not remembering any of the dice rolls that made her disgusted with Smudge the elf thief who sucks at rolling dice and thinking he was pretty cool. For now.
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So anyway just before this session I was trying to think how I'd write up this ruined temple they came upon and I was also like I need a muffin.

So I got in the elevator and there were three people and one of them had a big box with styrofoam sticking out.

"Hey," (lightbulb) "is that box all packing material?"

"Uh...." they thought I was going to yell at them about the environment "yeah?"

"Can I have it?"

So then I threw it together with some stuff I already had and proceeded to build a Temple of Mariyah on the kitchen table...
(Complete with the stryofoam head as the remains of a colossal sculpted head of Mariyah)









 I got pretty into it. I made a whole key of the secrets hidden under all the rocks and crannies.

I was fucking prepared...



...but you know how players are, spending all that work on something pretty much guarantees they'll be like "This looks scary, let's go fart in a pumpkin".

But, luckily, it went over...
(You can hear me yelling at them to shut up and enjoy it on this clip here).

Even better, though, there was a massive, brutal fight with a near tpk. The serpentmen had a hydra that almost bit everyone's head off until Arafel used the 9 Bones Necklace to get possessed by the Blue Medusa.

So we solved the Who Would Win In A Fight Between Medusa and Hydra question the Greeks somehow never got around to answering.

Medusa.

Then Medusa will then be like "Where am I?" because she wasn't the one who decided to possess this tiefling and then wander in a random direction (roll 40k scatter dice) and...oh dear...look right at one of those reflective pillars.
 Notch off one more dose of Rewind Potion.

Anyway it was a fun game. The cleric of Mariyah kept staring dazzled at the temple

"I love you, Zak."

"You take nine damage."
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Friday, November 17, 2017

These Are What The Planes Look Like Now

Click to enlarge
This is for a project on The Planes with art by me, Scrap Princess and a writer who is neither of us but is a secret for now.

The Planes in this version, courtesy of the art-brief I was given, are:

The Ethereal Plane: A swirly, misty transitive plane that is filled with failed, unfinished, and abandoned ideas, especially ideas from well-known fantasy heartbreaker RPGs.

The Elemental Plane of Air: Inside the hollow bones of a giant bird: dead and petrified. Floating. The bird is being torn apart and disassembled by an extremely slow moving elemental maelstrom. It will take eons.

The Elemental Plane of Earth: Walking the halls of a house that is being perpetually reconstructed. The Winchester Mystery House meets Frank Gehry's home. The ghost elementals of long-dead mineral miners.

The Elemental Plane of Fire: An asbestos-shrouded research facility that harnesses the perpetual energy of Fire. They are trying to turn the event of fire into a tangible thing. Ever-burning Pripyat trapped in the moment of meltdown. Manned by jinns of science.

The Elemental Plane of Water: A calm, highly-structured village spread across a misty island chain. The aesthetic of Mad Max in the waterways of a crumbling Vienna where scrap cars are boats. The elemental people here follow a strict, unyielding schedule.

The Quantum Plane of Absence: Everything that didn't make it into the book, provided without context. Surreal and meaningless (within the lack of context). The Cremaster Cycle meets Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler. [replaces the Positive Energy plane]

The Quantum Plane of Presence: All things on all other planes, except forced into hazy, indeterminate meanings by new context. Slaves in the employ of a well-defined god who promises them meaning but never delivers. Eraserhead meets On a Silver Globe. [replaces the Negative Energy plane]

The Meso-Elemental Plane of Asepsis: Beneath an ultraviolet sun, lead-shielded outbuildings ring a bubbled field. It looks like an armored poppy farm: a Tank Girl biodome. Nothing is native to this plane. Short-lived outsiders, toiling in a hazy atmosphere of breathable, purple-white iodine harvest one dose of the Cure-For-All-Ills every thousand years. It will only grow here. They produce and age other cures like wine. Powerful men contract diseases just to experience the wonder of their cures.

The Meso-Elemental Plane of Decadence: A living flesh-city run through with veins of neon. It’s the excesses of the 80s and New Wave fashion filtered through the lens of Cronenberg or Yuzna's Society. Primitive, biological cyberpunk. Neon elementals who hypnotize with dance.

The Meso-Elemental Plane of Extinction: A crooked monastery high upon a mountain, visible only from a certain angle. Perfectly ringed by a spiral of clouds. At the base of the mountain: a party and temptation to stay behind. Visually influenced by Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain and Daumal’s Mount Analogue.

The Meso-Elemental Plane of Rot: Inside a bulbous dome insulted by pus. Rot-technicians and disease elementals. They catalog all the sickness in the metaverse. The CDC, except the inmates are running the asylum. A syringe smokestack injects plague clouds into the Material planes.

The Demi-Planes

(1) A garbage dump plane, all broken and lost things end up here.

(2) The living plane of Neth, except it's dead and in the process of merging with the Plane of Rot.

(3) A luxurious, interdimensional inn that connects all inns everywhere.

(4) A prison plane where languages are physical beings and kept imprisoned. If killed, a language ceases to exist everywhere.

(5) A generically-evil castle surrounded by a pile of fallen Paladins. Whenever a Paladin over-zealously swears to "thwart evil," a copy of them ends up here where they fruitlessly assault the castle and die atop the mound.

(6) A lush jungle plane that is home to an elusive, primitive tribe.

(7) A two-dimensional cave plane inhabited by shadows.

(8) An Escher-like palace.

(9) An infinite garden of flowers on a finite island.

(10) A throwback to the Lady of Pain: an endless, abandoned maze plane

I know very little about this project other than what's above, but Our Mystery Benefactor pays a fair wage, is patient and eloquent, and dwells in a vast manor where the light from high windows swims restlessly across the tiles in a criss-cross of silent halls.
And now in tasteful sepia!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Some RPG Conversations That Will Never Happen, Courtesy of Vice

So Vice (or, more properly, one of Vice's hydra-head of affiliate sites) put up a thing a woman wrote about an RPG.

tl;dr on the article:  This mesoamerican game is not as woke as it wants to be and the art is bad, but the author gives it free advertising on Vice anyway.

Let me stress up front a couple things:

I personally think the game is racist and stupid, for some but not all of the same reasons the author does.

I don't think my opinion matters much--I think the opinion on wannabe woke games that matters most is the opinion of people who are in the group affected, and people who make these kinds of games.

I think the article is interesting because it points up some conversations these people will probably never have because in each case, at least one of the two sides does not believe in having conversations, in some cases both.

Here's a summary of the article and the points it brings up but doesn't resolve (and can't resolve because it's an article by one person, not a dialogue).

1. As a child the author used games as escapism, playing out fantasies of revolt they didn't do in real life.

2. Author asserts the purpose of RPGs is to aid in thinking about difficult things.

Conversation That Will Never Happen A:

These things are very often not compatible goals.


Conversation That Will Never Happen B:

Is it even good--at least for adult activists--to crave entertainment give them 1 above? Isn't it kind of sad and defeatist?

Conversation That Will Never Happen C:

Are people going around casually assuming all games are escapist fantasies and not realizing all the other things games are for?


3. The author was skeptical of an invitation to participate in an RPG.

4. The author feels the depiction of westerners landing in the new world overtly tries to depict them as bad in some ways, but not in enough ways for the author.

Conversation That Will Never Happen D:

Is it ever possible to say a person we all agree is bad experienced and overcame hardship? At what point does it become unnecessary or too much?

5. The author feels the depiction of the mesoAmericans sexes up the women too much and (I think?) de-emphazies their mesoamerican features.

Conversation That Will Never Happen F:

Yes. Can we also talk about the effect of just bad art in general? Like how much just unbelievably bad generic art makes games about historically overlooked indigenous people look like boring jerks with boring lives baking maizecakes out of straw all day?

6. The author objects to the presence of blood rituals and human sacrifice. Also it appears slavery is not deal with in depth and the author wants it to be.

Conversation That Will Never Happen G:

Can we please either decide which of "X is traumatizing let's not include it for the sake of the traumatized/"X is traumatizing we must go into it in massive detail for the sake of the traumatized" is the Official Woke Stance?

7. “European women characters can choose the unique class Dragon Rider (which is exactly what it sounds like), whereas indigenous women characters can choose Courtesan (which is exactly what it sounds like).”

8. The RPG writer was inspired by a novel, the author asserts its a problematic novel.

9. The RPG writer is apparently Mexican but not indigenous.

Conversation That Will Never Happen H:

Literally who gets to write what in games? Is it like "This is overlooked therefore everyone needs to write about it" or "You're not in the group stay away"? Give rules.

10. The game has a “Tolerance Skill”. 


Conversation That Will Never Happen I:

Isn't this hilariously twee? Is it more or less twee than Burning Wheel’s “Elf Sadness” mechanic? Is there a level of twee that Indie RPGs shouldn't be?

11. The author is scared that the fact the game is, well, an RPG, means that the players could decide to do colonialist things. Why this would be bad in a game isn’t delved into much, but presumably it is because the author assumes 1 above is the universal reason for playing games despite 2 above.


Conversation That Will Never Happen J:

Isn't that entirely the adult players fault? Are we literally trying to tell shit people to hide their shittiness?

Conversation That Will Never Happen K:

Let's say that happens. Then what? Did everyone at the table literally either feel oppressed or get more racist? What's the consequentialist argument here? 

12. The author then says Shadowrun’s politics are “a mess”. But somehow in this mess the author feels it encouraged stories the author thought were more good than bad.

Conversation That Will Never Happen L:

Your argument here is extremely subtle. Is it fair to hit authors over the head with a claim of moral wrongdoing when even the woke position is unclear and requires subtle arguments that even affected people have no consensus on?

13. The nut of the the thing:

Perhaps a way of understanding this is that Dragons Conquer America wants players to indulge in power fantasies of being both Cowboy and Indian. That doesn’t sit well with me. As an indigenous woman, I’m rarely afforded the opportunity to cut out Cortes’ still-beating heart and eat it as his soldiers quake in fear. But the options to enact violence against indigenous populations are many. A tabletop game that encourages me to play “both sides,” and create a party of indigenous characters working together with European invaders (no matter how historically accurate) feels bad in 2017. Especially when I can’t be assured that, in the end, we won’t still lose. Living as an indigenous person already means constantly being told that you lost.


Conversation That Will Never Happen M:

Are any approached besides "Hey but in the game you can win?" acceptable in 2017? Is there some precondition for them becoming acceptable?
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Monday, November 13, 2017

The Maze of the Blue Medusa, Goblin Market, Emergent Treasure and Hot Springs Island

This much is true: you can DM while holding a kitten

Here's how the party doubled their xp:

Trouble

So in the Maze of the Blue Medusa the party got in a fight with the obnoxious and imprisoned Milo DeFretwell.

DeFretwell then yelled a lot triggering a random encounter with some Nilbogs I think.

The Nilbogs were clever and dragged off a party member through a secret door.

It was also the secret door between the 2 sculptures in the maze where, if you walk between them, your eyes turn into gems.

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So....a lot of chaos and blind-firing later they extricate themselves.



Trade-Offs

Now, in other news they'd gone to the Goblin Market (chaos ensued, a goblin merchant stole all of someone's stuff then shrunk down and hid in a pumpkin, which pumpkin the PCs are still carrying around. The girls' last idea was to fart into it until he comes out but its best not to dwell on your friends' shortcomings)

...but the upshot is someone got ahold of the curse removing nut from the market.

So the gem-eye thing was removed with the nut and the gem-eye curse was in the nut, ready to be transferred elsewhere.



Tangents

The Maze, as those of you of wealth and taste such that you own a copy of Maze of the Blue Medusa may know, has an exit leading to the island of Eliator, where the inhabitants believe the Maze to be their underworld, and believe anyone coming out of it is a god.

The "gods"/PCs (whose previous relations with the Eliatorans have been...complex) arrive to find the villagers gone and the village burnt as bad breakfast.

A sole remaining Elatoran says that evil men came and stole them all taking them....to that distant island on the horizon!

The players there that week go "Sure, let's hit this side quest."


Trickery

This turns out to be Hot Springs Island.

If you don't know the gimmick, it's a system-neutral hexcrawl made to be super-immediately useful laid out by people who have been paying attention to the OSR RPG-design best practices and it also comes with a separate book--a "Field Guide" which is a partially-accurate guide to the hazards of the island written in-universe style which you can give to your group's Hermione and they'll love it and spew facts at everyone.
Also: she loves Hot Springs Island
(This worked exactly right. Ela Darling, Queen of All Porn Hermiones immediately took the Field Guide "Is it ok if I buy my own so I can read it?")

Anyway the important part here is soon there was a 20-foot-long 8-eyed centipede with 75 hp (I made it proportional to the cat toy I was using as a miniature) trying to pry open a giant crustacean on the beach and a cleric with a 4 Dex trying to sneak past it.

Shockingly a fight broke out.

It was pretty desperate, until the sorceress had an idea: pack a bunch of dead lobster around the cursed nut and shove it in the centipede's mouth.

This acorn bisque worked out. The party made quick work of the blind beast and scooped 8 eye-gems, each the size of a cantaloupe, out of its stupid face.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

It's Almost Like There's A Pattern

Green Ronin (publishers of Blue Rose, Mutants and Pointlesscrunch, etc) has a reputation for taking performatively woke stances while supporting bad business practices, cheating freelancers, and supporting harassment campaigns against rivals and is now either engaged in sexual impropriety or has hung one of their own out to dry without proof.
Onyx Path (publishers of the off-brand licensed World of Darkness stuff) and RPGnet have a reputation for taking performatively woke stances while supporting bad business practices and harassment campaigns and is either complicit in sexual impropriety or hanging one of their own out to dry without proof.
It's almost like a pattern.
It's almost like if you have a company where people lie all the time and don't think very hard about what they say, genuine abuse slips through the cracks really easily.
It's almost like when I complain about an RPG company I know what I'm talking about.
See also yesterday.
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