Monday, September 13, 2010

Switching Gears: Dresden Files RPG

After a long absence at the Back to Basics gaming table, our crew gathered to discuss what to do next. I laid out some possibilities: finish Keep on the Borderlands, play Mouse Guard or Dresden Files, or have someone else step up and run something. My oldest son said he would run Eberron (3.5) and I offered to pick up Dark Sun if my youngest wanted to explore running 4th edition D&D.

After kicking this around for a bit, most of the table was ambivalent while my two sons were strongly promoting Dresden Files. Both had played in an awesome pick-up game at Origins (referred to in our house as 'Night of the Chupacabra') run by That Internet Guy, Ryan Macklin. My youngest was giving a pitch worthy of any used car salesman. The rest of the group agreed and the Dresden Files RPG we would play.

Before sitting in on the game at Origins this year I had not read any DF material. I was familiar with the FATE system from Spirit of the Century. After Origins I picked up the DFRPG PDF and started reading through it, hopping around to skim the topics that interested me. The game seemed very closely tied to the fiction, so I decided to give the books a try.

I burned through Storm Front and passed it off to one of the members of the B2B crew. He burned through it too and loved it as much as I did. I passed it onto my oldest son and he fell in love with it too. We got our hands on the second book and were not disappointed. I now turned back to the DFRPG to read it from the beginning.

After our group settled on DFRPG, I went to my friend's computer (we game at his house) and printed off the city creation worksheets. I had read the city creation chapter before we gathered so I felt pretty comfortable walking through this as our first session.

I've played games where setting creation is part of the process of play (Mortal Coil primarily) so I went into it with an open mind. I threw out several suggestions for a city to base the game in, including New York, Las Vegas and our hometown of Perrysburg. I thought that placing the game between the urban center of Toledo and the rural city of Bowling Green could be interesting. I was worried that we were straying too far from the urban setting of the novels. Thankfully the others thought it would be interesting as well. I like that our home was an island of safety between the encroaching urban center of Toledo and the dark and mysterious Black Swamp of Bowling Green (this gets fleshed out below).

We began to bang out ideas. We first came up with a Theme of urbanization and over-development. We didn't have to look very far and were able to name many real-world examples. We placed the (fictional) mayor of Toledo as the Face of this Theme.

Next we hammered out two Threats: the area known as the Black Swamp is the source of powerful black magic and that an outlaw biker gang is upsetting the delicate balance of organized crime. The Faces of the Black Swamp Threat are the opposing leaders of the White and Black Lodges, Native American circles of shaman. For the biker gang we chose the leader (a sorcerer to bring in another supernatural element) and his lieutenant. This will definitely be the primary Threat of the initial story arc.

Next we tackled The Balance of Power. This was probably the most confusing aspect of the the setting creation for the players to grasp. After a couple of attempts at explaining the idea behind it they finally latched on and we were off and running. We created, IMHO, a nice scattering of groups (I hope to soon post a JPEG of our graph or some other such document).

Finally we started filling in the Locations that we wanted to use. The gang really go into this. Some of the more interesting ones include Ft. Meigs, a historic fort from the War of 1812 that will be Accorded Neutral Grounds, and the Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens minor league baseball team under which is lair to the city's vampires. The most interesting face we put to these locations is the ghost of General 'Mad' Anthony Wayne who haunts Ft. Meigs and keeps the peace there.

The fun didn't end there. One of the players discovered a local ghost story about Anthony Wayne. Seems his remains were were exhumed and moved to a new burial place. Along the way, some of the bones went missing. Now the Mad General rises to look for his bones. You can bet that will come into play.

Everyone is excited to get to playing. Next time we meet we'll work on character creation. I'll post the results soon

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meeting Gamers

Some of you may not know me well enough to know that I travel for work. A lot. While I'm a bit of an introvert I do enjoy meeting and talking with new-to-me people. Especially gamers. So I was pleased to meet another gamer on my most recent trip.

He was working the desk at the hotel I was staying at in downtown Phoenix. I had approached him because I needed information about getting to the airport the next morning to head home. As he answered my questions I noticed he was reading over a character sheet. An Order of Hermes character sheet from Mage: The Ascension, to be precise.

I asked him about it and he confirmed that he was playing in a Revised edition OWoD Mage game with his friends. I told him how cool that was and how much I love the original setting for Mage. We talked for several minutes about his game, the OWoD setting and getting back into play after a long absence. Talk quickly turned to technology, ebook readers and the iPad.

Eventually the client I was training arrived for our lunch meeting and I had to go, but, like a cheap whore, I scribbled down the URL to this blog and passed him the note. I walked away feeling very glad that I got to spend a few minutes during a long business week getting to talk about games with a fellow gamer.

This got me thinking about recognizing other gamers in the strangers around me. What could I do to let others know that I played RPG's to elicit further connection and interface? Is there an RPG 'gang sign' I can throw? Maybe some d20 bling? Obviously wearing my D&D t-shirt proclaims me as a member of the gaming set, but that is not exactly business attire when I'm working.

I think the simplest way to make that connection is reading gaming materials in public. Just as that character sheet clued me in that this fellow was a gamer, reading gaming material in public will let others know that I enjoy playing RPG's. Actual game books are best as they are iconic (and often very big and hard to miss). If I'm reading the Dresden Files RPG on my iPad (beautiful PDF that it is) someone has a to practically be looking over my shoulder in order to see what I'm reading. Nope, actual books are the way to go.

This also has the added benefit of inviting the curious on-looker to enquire about what it is at I'm reading. If the person is a non-gamer this gives me a chance to evangelize the wonders and magic that is the fantabulous world of RPG's. Three times a year there is the Read an RPG Book in Public Week. no reason to wait so long, grab a book and do it now.

I'm very interested in hearing how other folks proclaim their membership in the RPG Federation. Feel free to drop a comment on this blog post and share what you do to be recognized.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, September 6, 2010

Game Science Dice

GameScience Dice in action
Back at Origins I picked up my first pair of GameScience dice. After a busy summer I finally got a chance to give them a try. My oldest son offered to run Eberron (3.5) just so we could start gaming again. Between all the summer camps, travel, holidays and what-not, our semi-regular Back to Basics campaign had fallen by the wayside (as had my blog posting). Seems the only gaming I was doing was on Skype and there we used an on-line substitute to real dice.

So I dusted off Angus the Artificer and we picked up where we left off in the module Whispers of the Vampire's Blade. But before I could start playing I had an important ritual to complete with my new dice: coloring in the numbers. The opaque dice I selected at Origins (a nice dusty orange) did not come with painted numbers.

This didn't bother me in the least. See, the first (and second) set of gaming dice I acquired (and proudly still own) did not come with painted numbers either: the red Basic and blue Expert boxed sets of D&D. Those sets even came with a white crayon for the purpose of coloring in the numbers (yes, I still have the pieces of that original crayon in my dice bag; I'm working through this with my therapist); the GameScience dice did not. No biggie, I could borrow one from my boys.

(Some of you may be asking why I didn't use that original crayon for coloring in my new dice. Well, obviously, that crayon is only used for touch-up on the original dice. Yes, it is a sickness and admitting it is the first step to recovery.)

So, for the first time in 30 years I set to coloring in my dice. The artist in me settled on a dark blue-violet (I have to justify those years earning my BFA from time to time). I started with the d6, scraping the point of the crayon over each face. You see, the numbers on each die are indented, so, rubbing the crayon over these presses the dark wax into the recesses. It also sticks to the surface of the die; not very legible or pretty at this point. That is where the tissues come in.

The next step after coloring is polishing each die with tissues (a brand without lotion preferably, generic is preferred). Well, maybe not so much polishing as cleaning off the excess crayon. Throughout this process I'm turning the die over and over in my hand, feeling each side, each edge. In this way I'm getting to know each die. I notice at the edges are crisp and sharp. I also notice the rough spot where the die was broken off the 'tree' much like the parts of a plastic model kit.

This rough spot is a point of pride with the GameScience dice makers. It proves that the dice were not put through a tumbler to polish out the blemishes. Such polishing does smooth away the blemishes, but it also rounds the edges and results in unevenly-sized dice. By the way, that's also how dice with painted numbers are made: the dice are painted then polished to remove the paint from the sides while leaving it in the numbered recesses.

By the time I finished with my dice I was ready to start rolling. I gave each a few experimental rolls. I would drop each die from my hand at varying heights over the table. We were playing on a Chessex battle mat so it provided an even and slightly springy surface.

I was surprised to see that each die would bounce one or twice and then stop, even the d20. This was way cool. The sharp edges brought each die to a stop with a minimum of rolling. No more chasing run-away dice across the table. I could see that there would be much less sloppy die rolling in my future. As we played I paid attention to the results of each roll. While I did not try to stat the rolls I did feel that the results were suitably random enough for my tastes.

The end result is that I am very happy with my GameScience dice and I can't wait to get more. They have a great nostalgic quality and I can feel reassured that the dice are going to be impartial oracles. Now I wonder if the GameScience folks make Fudge dice too?

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad