Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday #13

TOON was another game that I loved, but I didn't really understand its genius until I started evaluating its game design years later (rather than just GMing it or playing it). I have played other comedy games since (e.g., Macho Women with Guns), but this is one of the few games where the game mechanics revolve around actually making the other players laugh. This was absolute fun to GM and to play and it was the first time where my judgment as a GM was challenged. An inexperienced player wanted to play a house plant. I didn't think that a House Plant PC would be able to function, even in a cartoon setting. Against my better judgment I allowed it and it was awesome.
When I design my games, I try and remember that the players can be targeted by the mechanics as well. And when this is done well, it makes the game fun and engaging.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Genghis Con Recap

Ran Steampunk Crescendo.
We had three players and a plot by a Chinese General in Hong Kong who was recruiting British debutantes to join a Kung Fu Cult to overthrow the British reign of Hong Kong.
One of the players suggested we were stopping a Kung Fu cotillion!

Everyone tested my new Martial Arts rules. They worked very well.

The King Fu vampire general was eventually defeated by our brave heroes.

Played Numenera
This game blew me away. Enjoyed a morally ambiguous tale of finding the balance of power between five neighboring communities. Character creation is pretty amazing in Numenera and the rules are pretty smooth.

Played Savage Worlds - Interface Zero
This was my best session of Savage Worlds ever, I didn't get hoodwinked into a secret cthulu game or have the map scale jacked up by a newbie GM and I got to do stuff to help the group without hogging the spotlight, it was awesome!

Ran Fate Core
Our heroes gathered at the town of Interregnum. So named because this is where rival Dukes meet to determine who will be the next King of Brighton. I decided the players would determine who the next King was, but I never decided how. They took me at my word and chose political intrigue and mercenaries. In the end, they prevailed.

Ran InSpectres for Con Jr.
The scenario was a Star Trek Next Generation mystery with missing crewmen. Where did they go and who was doing it?

Well, it ends up six Vulcans were taken on as passengers recently. And, in case you didn't know, if Vulcans don't meditate, they can turn evil and turn your crew into Zombies. We had to blow up the Enterprise to save the rest of the crew, but we all escaped with our lives (some of us just barely).

Played Legend of the Five Rings
I hadn't played this game since 1st edition. It was more streamlined than I remembered. The scenario started out with some big red flags, one of the players was passing notes to the GM (ends up they were just trying to protect their Honor) and we were looking for a thing that we didn't know where it was or what it looked like.
But the GM was not too stingey with the hints and we used some creative magic. In the end we couldn't have defeated the Lion Clan without the team work that we displayed (always fun for me).

Ran City In Darkness
Had two new RPG Gamers. They had literally never played another game before. Was a little nerve wracking, but was lots of fun. Apparently one of the rival Magi were using illusions to make their enemies commit suicide. There was some drama, but our heroes figured out who the Warlock was and brought them to justice.

"Ran" Project Ninja Panda Taco
Professor Quark was able to take over the world with an Electric Dog (with Power + Jaws) and a Dog to English translator. He was never able to get his hands on the coin-operated Giant Robot or the Tactical Nuclear Roomba.

Played Fate Core
Was a great scenario where both sides were bad guys. I got caught in the middle of some unwanted PvP, but we recovered and had a good afternoon.

I should see about working with Eloy (@ThirdEyeGames) to improve my marketing
I should bone up on my Fate Core rules knowledge some more
I should look closer at Numenera and figure out how to run it well
I should see if my group wants to play L5R

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday #12

  I have been thinking about the "Rules vs. Rulings" debate a while. To be clear, I fall mostly in the "Rules" side of the argument. Since I started gaming ever-so-long ago, I naturally leaned that way. Without thinking about it too much, that is how I usually reacted to rules questions at the table. The first time I saw these thoughts expressed on the internet, maybe eight years ago, I questioned my stance on this debate. I really thought about the pros and cons and came back with the idea to continue to operate as I usually do.

  I feel like there is merit to the "Rulings are better" side of the argument. For instance:
1) It speeds the game along.
2) It helps the GM maintain Genre and Tone of their game.
3) It allows for player creativity to make a difference.
4) And, it relieves the burden of the GM to memorize and understand every single rule in the RPG text.
  These are all good things and should be considered before opening the book and looking up a rule.

  However, there is one key advantage you lose when you routinely adopt a "make a ruling" approach to most rules confusions:
1) It penalizes players who take the time to learn the rules.

  So, I play with two groups regularly (about once a week each) and I attend two gaming cons a year. We usually let all the players know what the next game will be in case someone wants to learn the rules, get the book, think about what character to play, etc. To be honest, this does not happen among our players very often. In most cases players come to the table like a blank slate and the GM has to teach them the rules as they make their characters and play them. This is not so bad.
  Once in a while, you get a player who likes the system well enough to invest the time to learn it. I want to encourage that behavior. I want to reward the player that has read the book by making sure their knowledge pays off. When they ask a rules question based on their understanding, and the GM makes a "ruling" that makes sense to them, then the GM is marginalizing (And possibly even penalizing) that player's inquiry into the rules for the system they are playing. To me, this is a bigger negative than taking 10 minutes to look up and discuss a rule. And to be frank, my RPG sessions are short, usually around 2 hours, so 10 minutes is a huge burden, time-wise. Still, it is nothing compared to thwarting a player's efforts to learn the rules in my opinion.

  Of course, the true solution is that a skilled GM uses a combination of techniques. There are times when quickly making a "Ruling" is the best course and times where looking up the rules is vastly superior. The trick is to understand what you gain or lose when you choose a direction to go and make sure that is the affect you want that decision to have on your game.