Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Possible LARP Benefits of Status

The following is something I am considering for my vampire LARP to make the status game a bit more interesting and give people more incentive to either increase their own status or decrease another person's status.

BENEFITS of STATUS

·         The high status characters must delegate, where possible, duties and dangerous actions to the low status characters, because High status characters are better informed about various plots and so if they do not delegate plot solutions, it is more difficult for low status characters to stay involved.  This is further emphasised by the general differences between the experience point pools of those who are high status and thus generally older and those who are low status and generally younger.  Luckily those who are high status are, by default, allowed to delegate.

·         Those who refuse to accomplish any delegated actions without payment and act as though they are high status are welcome to do so but they will be under the same plot restrictions as those who are high status.

·         Those with more status gain more feeding grounds and thus gain free dots in that merit equal to their Status -3 to reflect the number of blocks they have been assigned.

·         While the Low have plenty of reasons to hide their actions from the High, the High have plenty of experience and a fair amount of reason to sniff out those actions.  Thus those with High Status may ask simple Yes / No questions about other characters that reflect the kind of insight gained from gossip, body language and information one might gather from myriad conversations over the week.   This can be avoided by avoiding all other vampires but they will be told if you do that.

o   Each character has a certain amount of Insight Points equal to their Status - 2. 

§  Valued characters have 1 Insight Point.

§  Respected characters have 2 Insight Points.

§  Admired characters have 3 Insight Points.

o   Asking a question about a target costs a number of Insight Points equal to the target's Status.  

§  Respected and Admired characters cannot be queried in this way. 

§  Valued cost 3 Insight Points per question.

§  Recognised cost 2 Insight Points per question.

§  Acknowledged cost 1 Insight Point per question.

o   You can spread your questions among several characters, or only one.

o   You may spend insight points on NPCs who are part of the vampire court.

o   Insight points may only be spent during downtimes or coffee hour.

o   Insight points don't stack.

o   GM has the right to veto certain questions.

o   Answers will never be precise and generally range from:

§  "Probably."  Whether intentionally or otherwise, whether it has already happened or is likely to happen or is currently happening, your question reads as more than likely to come to be.

§  "Maybe."  Basically it's uncertain.  The possibility is there, being floated, but the character hasn't truly committed to it.

§  "Probably Not."  It's highly unlikely to happen or they just haven't thought of it yet.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Musings on a possible Shadows Left Behind LARP

Being inspired by Alan Wake, Silent Hill and even Forbidden Siren and Dead Space has inspired me to consider how I might create a horror LARP.  Now these are tricky things to run as immersion is key, and even harder things to recruit for as most players understandably want social intrigue, crazy exploration and to indulge power fantasies of being incredibly capable in their hobbies.  Which is fair enough, we never get to be the hero in real life but we do get to be anxious about our shortcomings.

Of course, one can always draw in a bit of a comedic element in a horror LARP like with a Brooklyn Nine Nine against a back drop of Silent Hill but there's oodles of risks there if it veers too far into farce.

Anyway, such a game would encourage a sense of unpredictability.  The rules of the game would change.  One day they might come across hiding from the mist that rolls in from over yonder while another session could involve staying out of the dark and wielding light as a weapon.  Defiling normalcy by setting events in businesses, supermarkets and cinemas can make for interesting (if hard to prop for) locations.

Being trapped and unable to escape the region would certainly add an element of suffocating claustrophobia great for any occasion.  Warping minor reality cues, like cold steam filling the air in a particularly wet fog or certain sounds being amplified, warped or reduced can also occur.

Of course, thinking up a setting is easy.  It's the practical considerations of rules set, immersion factors, character guidelines, advancement and what precisely you do during the game sessions that are the hard part.  Still it does bear thinking about.

I know that whatever I use will have to be simpler than the vampire system I'm currently utilising which has an inherent basic complexity rivalling Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons.

Friday, June 5, 2015

My Own Fears

I'll be this isn't what you were expecting when you took a look at this article.  I'm not talking about my fears to do with work or running games.  Oh no, I'm talking about those bits and pieces that creep you out that can empower your own horror games.

  • Something bad doesn't notice you so long as you don't notice it.
  • Paralysis in the face of danger.
  • Someone else's fear / incapacitation / pain.
  • Isolation - either physical or emotional.
  • Things under the bed.
  • Certain movements / shapes that are unfamiliar and alien to us.
  • Crossing the bed boundaries will attract the bogeyman's arms.
  • Inability to see things clearly - possible threats everywhere!
  • Escape routes being routinely blocked off, locking you in with the threat.
  • Exposure to an unseen threat.
  • Inability to hide.
  • Fear of contagion (especially using mundane vectors similar to disease or radiation)
  • The classic Death, Mutilation and Helplessness trio
  • Dying in agony
  • Witnessing a loved one die in agony
  • The ordinary slowly warping from the threat in a setting / location manner
  • Betrayal and realising the one you love has been corrupted by the Threat
  • Feather of mutilation, especially having to self-mutilate to survive
  • Having to do something awful to stop a greater threat (sacrifice one for the many)
  • Being near safety but unable to reach it, getting caught so close
  • Being near a rescuer but unable to call out, getting grabbed or falling down
  • Being the subject of misinformed vengeance (i.e. not my fault)
  • Something that only moves when you look at it.
  • Or the flip side, "Don't blink".
  • Betrayal by your own body.

Session Titles

There's nothing like a Session (or rather, adventure) title to keep you on track and help you create sessions with a definitive beginning, middle and end to give your games that cinematic appeal.  Naturally you shouldn't design the ending, but having some idea of possible closure such as "solve the murder" or "deal with the thieves" are good ideas regardless.

Anyway, off the tangent and on to titles.  I've recently come across a bundle of them I'd put together for a Demon: the Fallen game set in Adelaide which include:

The Pied Piper
Catching the Midnight Train
Divided Loyalties
Sentient Specimens
Blanchetown Blues
Hotel Hisil
The Dame in Blue
The Bus Never Came
The Ravaged Thrall
Wanted: Damned or Alive
The Tithe of Humanity
Love For The Fallen
The Haunting of Saint Claire
Return to Eden
The Chinatown Web
Bodyguards at the Circus

I'm quite proud of myself for those names and suggested adventures, even though I didn't get to run many of them.

Friday, May 29, 2015

WoTR: Demon's Heresy: Part A (Rebuilding Drezen)

 For those following the tales of Pathfinder's Golarion setting, Drezen was overwhelmed in 4638 AR due to a wave of raw chaos washing over the city had turned most of its citizens into hideous Warped Ones (or so I'm declaring) who turned on each other in a wave of cannibalistic fury. Since then the area was taken over by a terrible marilith known as Aponavicius who ruled a city of demons and tiefling / human cultists who survived by raiding farmlands on the other side of the West Sellen River.

Fast forward to the current point in the campaign and the city has been liberated by one tiefling monk called Alfy and his companions (Lex the Young Umbral Dragon, Eliska Zaitherin the Oracle and worshipper of Dou-bral and your friendly neighbourhood barbarian Jestak who had joined them when they took Castle Drezen). 

It is the current residence of a few good outsiders - a Planetar called Hollistar (summoned by the Sword of Valor and convinced to remain) who must keep her head down lest she draw the ire of too many local demons; a Vulpinal called Harri (arrived to offer his services) who does what he can to keep morale high; and two Silvanshee called Ellis and Manae (sent by Shelyn when her temple was cleared of the Ivory Labyrinth in Sword of Drezen).

While Demon's Heresy allows a little bit of rebuilding, I decided to expand on it greatly by taking the hex grid map and making a real Kingmaker game out of it.  Over the past fourteen weeks of in-game time while Alfy explored hexes, freed the Weapon in the Rift (PFS scenario) and conducted some fundraising in Absalom, the city has grown and slowly absorbed a lot of the extra wealth gain from earlier adventures.

The city began play with Ahari Bridge and Paradise Bridge but all else needed repair.  Since Queen Galfrey sent builders with the armies (five 100 person paladin armies, two 200 person mercenary armies initially) and since people weren't looking to make much of a profit for themselves, I halved the wealth requirement for a Build Point and reduced the time to repair a building to one week.  Alfy still has his original "Heirs of the Wardstone" paladin army and "Rosethorn" tiefling / mongrelfolk / dhampyr" 25 person army.

Queen Galfrey also sent a few high level druidic allies to smooth the earth of the hard-baked valley to allow the West Sellen River to flow down the Ahari Riverbed which allows transportation of enough food and drink to keep everyone safe.  These druids have since left the location.

Alfy must also defend settlements on the other side of the West Sellen River including Bedis, Fort Pormanteau, Valas' Gift, Vilareth Ford which fords the West Sellen River, Keeper's Canyon, and Singing Stones Temple.  You can find more details about these locations over here.

During the fourteen weeks so far passed during the campaign, kingdom events were randomly rolled on the events table in Ultimate Campaigns.  The results were then worked into the resulting storyline.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Old Character Body Language Notes

Ooh, look what I just found in my drawer ... some handy dandy roleplaying notes disconnected from any characters who were randomly rolled.

Nameless #01 NPC
Body Language: Look bored, pay little attention to the person you're talking to.
Description: Cheap, rundown, even tattered clothing on a rail thin person.
Vocal Tone: Swears a lot.
Archetype - Architect: Wish to be immortalised through a legacy that will remain long after she passes away.

Nameless #02 NPC
Body Language: Stand tall and look down your nose at people.
Description: You're a rail-thin person in need of a good sleep.
Vocal Tone: Hot & Breathy.
Archetype - Survivor: Your utter refusal to accept defeat often makes the difference between success and failure.

Nameless #03 NPC
Body Language: Be snobby, lean back, sneer a little.
Description: A cocky curve to the lips and a short buzz cut of reddish orange hair.
Vocal Tone: Speak through a smile, frequently laugh.
Archetype - Fanatic: A higher goal and a sense of duty that requires you to follow it to the utmost.

Nameless #04 NPC
Body Language: Quiet and still.
Description: Bitter brown eyes and thin lips.
Vocal Tone: Soft.
Archetype - Autocrat: You crave complete control over a situation as you believe your leadership is always in the group's best interests.

Nameless #05 NPC
Body Language: Stand too close!  Invade their space.
Description: Carries too much fat around the midsection, too much facial hair, balding under the hat.
Vocal Tone: Forever amused.
Archetype - Gambler: Life is a toss of the dice and there is nothing, no greater thrill, than beating the odds.

Nameless #06 NPC
Body Language: Lean forward and widen your eyes a little.
Description: Wild, unkempt hair and too much make up.
Vocal Tone: Clear and formal.
Archetype - Bon Vivant: You know your time on Earth is limited so enjoy it while you can.

Nameless #07 NPC
Body Language: All winks and bluster!
Description: Plenty of piercings and a few tattoos.
Vocal Tone: A throaty voice.
Archetype - Traditionalist: You are wary of the risks that untested methods present.

Nameless #08 NPC
Body Language: Be jumpy, nervy, glances at shadows.
Description: A flash of white teeth in a trademark grin.
Vocal Tone: Dominant; challenging others to disagree.
Archetype - Gallant: A gallant wants nothing more than the admiration of others.  You're a show off and a performer.

Nameless #09 NPC
Body Language: Play with your hair.
Description: Deep shadows under normally vivid blue eyes, rosy cheeks dulled from the strain.
Vocal Tone: Gruff.
Archetype - Caregiver: Take pride in being a crutch for others to lean on in times of trouble.

Nameless #10 NPC
Body Language: Lean forward, shake hands and be super-enthusiastic.
Description: Scraped knees and tiny cuts on the fact from a recent car accident.
Vocal Tone: Chirpy and rushed.
Archetype - Bravo: Take pleasure in the strong arm approach - in displaying your power first hand to people you don't respect.

Well, that's the first ten of around twenty or so but I didn't want to bore you all with a huge long list.  Just thought I'd share these ones.  They can be useful for both players and GMs in terms of how to portray the characters a little differently.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Reasons why chauvinistic fantasy worlds *can* suck for female players

Now this is an area of some contention.  Some people love highly realistic medieval worlds - with or without realistically treated magic.  Now I'm not talking about those kinds of contexts.  In a world where my character can be slain by gangrene caused by untreated wounds and STDs are rife, I'm going to be way more chilled about dealing with chauvinistic settings. 

Though, of course, the GM would have to be comfortable with playing said chauvinistic settings realistically and not with the ham-fisted style of a 1950s "Girls can't be tough" and "Stay in the kitchen, girl" that seems to be more the product of a backlash against changing expectations and a need to reinforce gender norms.  In most societies where certain gender norms are just expected, people just do what they do and say what they say.  They don't need to say "You're a girl so we're not listening to you", they just don't listen.

But that aside....

The reasons why I'm not a fan of the average chauvinistic fantasy world is for a couple reasons.  These include:
  1. The male protagonists get it easy.  Unless they're playing homosexuals or disdained racial minorities, I'll have to struggle to do what my co-players get for free just because I chose to align my PC's gender to my own.
  2. Realism is normally judiciously applied to only certain scenarios.  We don't need to worry about STDs or gangrene, but we do need to worry about men looking down to us.
  3. What may look like empowerment by letting us undermine and exceed chauvinistic expectations can actually be humiliating.  It reminds us how easy it is for men to look down on us and how if we were not in a post-industrial society, the very men at this table would feel the same way about us.
  4. It also suggests that silencing women's voices (as sexist characters shouldn't be willing to listen to a woman's advice) and ignoring of individual women's strengths (when sexist commoners laugh at their years of training even though any trained fighter is bound to trounce them) is natural to the human species.  After all, this isn't a true medieval world.  Social structures would change to reflect that.
  5. Sometimes it's not even realistic.  Sorcery and alchemy on the scale often found in most fantasy worlds should have as much of a social impact as technology.  If my willpower can beat your sword arm, than why would society assume you could overwhelm me?  Also a world with alchemy and relics could conceivably have a herbal form of birth control and family planning is a real door opener for women in a society. 
  6. If there is no form of birth control, why aren't male character's alignments changed from Good to Neutral if they have sex with random women as they are conceivably damning dozens of women and babies to an unsupported and shameful existence for a quick roll in the hay?  At the very least, it shouldn't be Lawful.
  7. It removes female role models as the average GM naturally (due to media influences) includes more male characters anyway and when you add to that chauvinistic biases, you're going to have an almost all-male cast.  This is an isolating experience for many women which sends an unintended message that these sorts of adventures "aren't for them" and that they are somehow strange or different for wanting to be a part of them.
  8. It can also give chauvinistic players and GMs the chance to express their negative beliefs toward the very women at the table.
  9. Even if the players and GMs don't hold those beliefs, it can still leave the female player feeling targeted because she's having to hear these comments occurring around her a lot.
  10. Real world chauvinism is insidious.  Smacking down a single commoner for giving you lip would normally lead to retaliation for violating social norms.  If the social norm sides against the commoner, they shouldn't have given lip in the first place.  Just look at Brienne from Game of Thrones.  Random commoners don't mention what she should or shouldn't be doing because the class differences are way more important than gender norms and they have no right to counter her desires.
Now this isn't to say that it can't be done, can't be done well, and that some female players don't actually prefer these kinds of medieval worlds and struggles.  There's bound to be a contrary list out there where a particular female player outlines all the reasons why it's awesome to do.  I'm not denying that those reasons *also* exist only that this list can shed light for those GMs who struggle to retain female players or whose female players request an absence of sexism in their game.

My gender has a long history of being told we're not good enough to be involved in any historic event -- whether political, scientific, religious or military focused.  Those historic events that do revolve around classically female domains have either silence women or been ignored.  Having to grapple with those very expectations in a fantasy world can be really hard as it means we can't even imagine a world where we matter despite our genitalia.

And that *can* really suck.

Naturally, your female players' mileage may vary but it is important to consider.