Lasers and Feelings, Supplemental

First, familiarize yourself with the original 1 page RPG “Lasers and Feelings.”

I am providing a supplement to that game, to help with a party atmosphere. Having bits of paper to look at and choose between, and a “character sheet” for the ship, and a few rules tweaks may help newcomers get in the mood.

lasers and feelings supplemental 7.14

This is still a draft, but it’s something I’m working up to have on hand for a group that’s interested. Now you can share too!

The traits are meant to be cut out and put on the table, and then with a sticky dot or something, you can “build” your sheet instead of writing much on it. I think that’s a cool notion, and I look forward to trying it out.

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Storium Update

My last Storium update was pretty grim. This one is a bit better. The games I’m running are still not very amusing, but I’ve found a couple to play in that are much better than what I had before.

Flame and Darkness. At the end of June I wrote we were to the climax. And we’re still inching towards resolution. One of the players has defaulted to ignoring the plot (“My character isn’t paying attention to that. I’m deliberately misunderstanding it.”) He is also devolving to violence, trying to kill or hack his way through instead of thinking or talking–then pivoting around to try and be all courtly and loving to the other character. The other player is ignoring that violence and rarely posting very short snips of text as moves that are somewhat disconnected from what’s going on. I think they are actually going to totally ignore the plot twist I tossed in there because they don’t like it. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to discontinuing this one when we get to a good stopping point. The only question is whether we’ll get to one, or just trail off into motionless silence.

Protectors of the Crown. It’s moving, albeit at a very slow pace. I’m not sure we’ll ever reach the climax, but there isn’t much left to this story. Part of the goal was to provide a venue where people who can’t play at my game table on a regular basis can still game with each other. I don’t think the experience is matching the objective. I’m still on the fence about whether I’ll continue it with another adventure or not. I will likely take a break for a while.

Monster Hunters of Vurna Wood. They may not even reach the monster. There was a point where I think the group was considering whether or not to even keep playing, but they gamely hung in there and avoided character death. The format and setting is sound for this game, but the next monster hunt will feature a different lineup of hunters. There may be some overlap, there may not.

I do not plan to start narrating any new games (except another monster hunt). Now, this generally grim outlook on narrating games is somewhat balanced because I’ve found some fun games where I can be a player.

Better Than Life. I’m a cyber samurai in a group hired to kidnap someone. They let me mastermind the operation, I get to play a street samurai mindset, and I get to narrate some violence. Plus, it’s got a pretty fast pace, especially relative to some of my other really slow games. I feel we players have bonded some, which is nice.

There’s Something Strange. Humorous Ghostbusters sequel! I’m enjoying my fellow players, the tone is pretty fun, and the subject material is interesting. It’s a slow game, but savory. I’m glad to play in it and I think it will likely go interesting places.

Fantastic New Worlds. We are on an airship seeking adventure. I thought this one would not be boring, but I think I was wrong. I like my character, but we haven’t gelled as a group, and it’s glacially slow, so we may not.

League of Losers. I’ve been playing this one for quite a while now. I like the idea, and the players have some delightfully goofy stuff. But it’s very slow, the narrator takes liberties with our characters, and it’s kind of incoherent. I don’t mind letting other people run my character when I can see how what they do matches the character. It is annoying to be made out as more stupid than you think your character is. I hope this one is close to the end of its second arc (I came in on the second arc) and when we get to a good stopping place, I’m retiring out of it.

Anyway, I think Storium is a cool toy, a great format, and in the right hands it can really sing. If anybody wants to check it out, send me your email and I will invite you to Defenders of Eldaav, where you can make a few moves and use your account to join other games.


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Fictive Avengers Assemble!

Fictive Avengers NameplateSo last night I got to play with a new group; we’ve been playing board games together for quite a while, but they wanted to try an RPG. So, I recommended Fictive Avengers. They made characters, and we had a brief game. They really enjoyed it!

Cat Burglar (sizemorph expert), Sister Sunshine (super spy), and Benny the Bullet (sniper) converged on Mt. Sinai hospital in Manhattan to check on their friends. A batch of Pixellite, a new drug, went bad and hospitalized hundreds of people.

The drug makes things look and feel pixellated in real life, but worse, it implants a back door into your mind so a psychic projector can use you like a zombie. (And, Hydra was behind it sale and spread. Even worse, the drug is stolen from Latveria, where it is an experimental method of controlling human troops in battle with the fine-tuned authority that applies to robots. Did Hydra steal it? Is it a test run for something more sinister?)

They arrived to check on friends in the hospital, only to find it cordoned off by police. They snuck in, checked with their cop buddy to see what was what, and got to where Hydra was in Radiology. Two of them got shot up pretty badly, but they carried the day; they took out a Hydra dreadnought. They also took out the chair that was powered and shielded in radiology by sneaking to the floor below and using all their explosives to drop the floor from under it, so Sister Sunshine could decapitate the scientist running the show.

Benny swapped out arrows for guns (tradecraft ammo needed mini-grenade-launcher pistols) and used tradecraft and regular guns in combination through the adventure. Cat Burglar discovered the fun of growing up while punching to wreck foes. And Sister Sunshine tore up some bad guys in hand to hand.

There was just that one round, where they attacked a group and two of them just could not connect in the ambush, so the goons got to fire their fully automatic assault rifles. That was the only hiccup in a night otherwise gleefully spent in ambush and sucker-punching!

All around, a rousing success. They want to play again.

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Storium May Be Winding Down

I’ve enjoyed Storium; the card system, the collaborative storytelling, putting pictures on all these things for shared mental images. But I may be winding down my Storium time. Here’s a summary of games I’ve narrated, and how they’ve worked out.

  • Ghostbreath. Solo play with my wife. Seems like her character spent the whole story trying to get out of the story, and succeeded after a pretty short span. To my surprise, she said she wanted to play again. I used the default urban fantasy setting, fleshing it out in my own direction. (I think it was a cool little self-contained story.)
  • Bones Within. Solo play with a G+ friend, got through a staggering 77 scenes. The game stopped because he didn’t like a key trans formative point that happened to his character, and he had growing dissatisfaction with the game until he brought it to a close himself. I thought it made sense and would be cool for his monster hunter to be turned into a werewolf. He gave it a try, but never did really get past that dealbreaker. His second suicide attempt succeeded. I used the default urban fantasy setting, continuing to develop it to be my own.
  • Night War. Solo play with my wife, at her request, for a second game. Turns out she doesn’t like sharing narrative control. She likes controlling a character and letting the GM control the world. She lost interest and quit. Same urban fantasy setting.
  • Flame and Darkness. I took open invitation players for the first time. Previously I played with my wife, and with somebody I had previously pbpd with. Now I took on two strangers, named my version of the default urban fantasy setting “Citadel City” and took a crack at a new story. It’s up to 11 scenes, but it is disintegrating.
    • I have two players. One of them is dead set in making it a World of Darkness game, even when I explicitly said it is not. He just agrees and continues pumping it full of jargon and detail from World of Darkness (and as a player, he has narrative control to do it). Also, he cannot admit he misread or misunderstood, he just puts his nose in the air and insists he’s right and that’s what he meant to do.
    • They did not want to play to the challenges, so I quit using cards with this game. And it quickly becomes clear how cards are helpful for focusing the action; otherwise, things tend to sprawl.
    • The players tend to not focus on what they want to do next, and it feels adversarial being their narrator. It’s like they don’t want a narrator, they want to work it out together in a chat room; in which case I’d rather they did. They are in several other Storium games together, so maybe they’ll have a more satisfying experience there.
    • Again, I came up with what I thought was a cool plot twist riffing off their backgrounds and actions–and I’m not sure they’ll even finish this game. We’re at the climax, too. I sincerely doubt this one will go on after the first story arc.
  • Protectors of the Crown. Fey and musketeers. Original setting, loosely sketched setting and plot with lots of room for player narrative control. This is for three guys from my game table; one is not currently playing my face to face games, one is in some of the games and not others, and the third is pretty much in everything. And they’re buddies outside the game table. It’s the best comedy game.
    • So, this one is really slowed down because we’ve had some trouble with people narrating things that don’t fit with what came before. Calling that sort of thing out has a massively chilling effect. Sometimes play stops for a few days.
    • And I get the sense they feel picked on by challenges. So… whether that’s my fault or not, that sense of being picked on puts a massive chilling effect on my desire to keep it up for more when and if they finish this first little story.
  • Monster Hunters of Vurna Wood. I like the premise; grim low-fantasy base town, and each story is a group gathering to go hunt a specific mythical monster. Room for the players to help shape the monster, and a neat point-based scene navigation map. Focused, room for narrative control. What went wrong?
    • I specified “no snowflake” characters and got one, and shrugged and let it slide. She’s hunted (a bounty on her head from the king himself), I brought in a supernatural bounty hunter to kill her, and that’s grinding everything to a halt.
    • We have a fundamentally different understanding of how coordination and cards work, and in a group of 4, that’s a problem.
    • I’ve got 4 players that seem to be trying to solo play in the game (though one player insists they are coordinating efforts.) They seem to be sabotaging their own efforts, from my point of view, though I suspect one or more of them feel like I’m being cruel and unresponsive to their attempts to steer things.
      • One is aloof and contemptuous of the others, hardly deigning to speak to them. One is a gregarious nobleman who figures playing a weak card means he should incapacitate himself. One is a watchful tracker loner type who just wants to do her job. And one is very task oriented with little patience with the others.
    • Whether it’s my fault that the story is going poorly or not, I don’t think this group and I should play again. Maybe if I could pick a few to continue and a few to not, but the next scene may do that for me–if they continue to play at all. (I can’t make them finish this scene.)

I thought I would be good at Storium. Evidence so far suggests I am not; the only metric of success that really matters is whether everybody is having a good time, and on that front apparently I fail. So I’m thinking I may wind down my games and stop inflicting new ones on people.

Fun fact: my wife observes that the problems I’m having in Storium reflect the ones I have at my face-to-face game table. I just hope my face-to-face players have more fun than my Storium players seem to be having.

Anyway, even if I’m lousy at Storium, I’ve got an ongoing game, Defenders of Eldaav. It is set in the monster hunter setting, it’s the base town. I figure I can send people invitations, they can get in and kick a couple moves around and get a sense of it, then (with an account) go read lots of other games and participate in others if they want.

Maybe they can find people that are more fun to play with.

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Exemplar Avengers

I’m going to add a bunch of advice, DM tools, and sample characters to my Fictive Avengers game. This .pdf has example character concepts based on the templates (but very different than the movies and cartoons!) along with recommended “Master Menace” themes to build the campaign around. And a bit on what kind of base they might have. Check it out!

Exemplar Avengers 1

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Fictive Avengers–Dust It Off

Looks like I may have a chance to play Fictive Avengers with a new group in a few weeks. I’m thinking about going through and streamlining it some more, because for most of the group this would be their first experience with RPGs.

That’s why I figure it would be good to lead with Fictive Avengers. If you’ve seen one or more Avengers movies, you’ve got the background to play in the world. The system benefits from many innovations I discovered in playing other versions of Fictive Hack. I fancy myself good at describing superpowered interactions, and helping players feel like their characters are incredibly cool.

So I thought the game needed a proper cover. Here’s my first draft.

fictive avengers cover draft 1

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The Moon and the Gray Maze

At the end of May I ran an adventure in a Fallen Moon setting using my Murderhobo Remix. You can see the prep for that here.

The adventure was a failure. I thought the setting would be evocative, but it felt flat and empty. The players were game to try, but could not engage. The combat felt like a boring series of easy math problems. I thought I had worked the system to be light and fast and fun, and the setting to be tripping the light fantastic, but damn… it crashed and burned.

I mean, it sounds good on paper. They went up to check out the UFO crashed in the mountain above, and first fought some bandits. Got in, messed around, figured some stuff out, got nailed by a repair bot (reinforcement with the same stats and name came in) and then saw a space giant hit by lightning and reanimated, and they ran with no desire to return.

So we did some arena fighting with monsters. No? We hunted some centipedes through the living area. Not a twitch? Ugh. We quit an hour and a half early and will not return to the setting or rules. Crunch.

One of my players backed “There’s a Game in This Book.” I find the title of the game to be annoying, so for my working purposes I shortened it to “Game in Book” or GiB. I don’t normally have players asking me if I’ll run a game they found elsewhere–this is the first time.

As I looked through it, the game is clearly someone taking a White Wolf premise, adapting it from dice pool to d12, and running some customizing tweaks until it’s a very different system. I spent some time with it and figured out how it worked. Since I was planning to run a one-shot, I gave the two players a list of options I’d be willing to do, and “picaresque Vornheim” won out.

I had no idea what characters my players would make. Imagine my surprise when they both make golems with magic casting ability! I’m not sure we all understand what “picaresque” means. Still, my basic plan called for them to be trusted bodyguards of an aristocrat, so fortunately it was easy enough to make it work. I had spent my time figuring out combat (and plugging some holes with house rules) and figuring out the skill/attribute interaction. “They won’t make wizards,” I told myself. “No need to brush up on the magic.”

Well… I crammed on it while they were finishing up the characters at the table, and ran it without a hitch. So an easy magic system is a big plus.

In preparing, I used the delightful aristocrat generator and relationship generator in Vornheim to make four interlinked aristocrats, then looked for the hooks in that pile that would drive my adventure. One was a vain woman, bedecked in jewels, rival to another who had an art collection. And she sneaks out to be a masked dancer in a tavern. Perfect. Also, I decided she’s trying to branch out into cat burglary.

I used an asylum breakout, a wizard’s son with control over big rats, a wizard who was old and decrepit but who had the object they were going to steal, fun with dwarves and summoned creatures and granary cats… It was very Vornheim, and my players had a great time! We ended early because we came to the end of what I had set up for a one-shot. But their response was VERY positive.

I will strip-mine GiB for a few useful notions, but I won’t play it again. Vornheim is another story. These two players want to go back, most likely in Fictive Hack. (We all miss spending Awesome Points.)

Let’s check the scorecard for setting and system for these two experiments.

  • Fallen Moon: D.
  • Murderhobo Remix: F.
  • There’s a Game in This Book: C-
  • Vornheim: A.
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