Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Cabin in the Woods RPG

Whew, this blog started out pretty well, then I suddenly stopped posting! I know I know, shame on me. But I have been working A LOT. But in between all this working I did manage to make some time for fun. How did I spend this recreation time you ask? well I went to the cinema to see The Cabin in the Woods, and oh boy did I enjoy it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I decided to adapt its awesomeness into RPG form. My goal is a simple game that doesn't require too much prep time. I will be using the Unbelievably Simple Role-playing (or USR for short) system made by Scott Malthouse of Trollish Delver which can be downloaded for free here!

First of all I will say that if you haven't seen The Cabin in the Woods (well, for shame..) then get the hell out of your house and go watch it. Right now. Its awesome.

For those of you who didn't listen to my command and still plan on seeing the movie then I implore you to wait until after you do before you read this post  - it will still be here, promise - as it will ruin the greatness of the movie, as it contains lots and lots and lots of spoilers. Right, now that we have that out of the way, lets dive right in.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

GM Tips - Story vs Mechanics

In recent years the obsession with better and better graphics in video games has hit a bit of a wall. The more prominent games have been the ones with in depth stories, like the Fallouts, Skyrim, Mass Effect and even the traditional shooters  attempt to have rich campaigns. It seems now a days a game needs that captivating story in order to succeed and in a lot of cases it takes precedent over other aspects of the game. This is even more important in  your table top games.

Many RPG systems out there have a lot of rules and GM's and players alike can find themselves bogged down and restricted. This however doesn't have to be the case. Lets take a quick look at D&D 4E for a moment. In each round of an encounter the players can each take a Standard Action, a Movement Action, a Minor action and some Free Actions. This works well for the tactical game play that 4E wanted but what if your players want to try something a little different one round?

Lets say, as a player I wanted to run up to a table, jump onto and leap off grabbing the chandelier on the ceiling swinging across the room and plant my heel into the bandits face near the door.

This would require a Move Action to get to the table, a Free Action to get onto the table, an acrobatics roll to swing on the chandelier which is a Standard Action and then some kind of attack which would be another Standard Action, not to mention by the rules this would probably be an unarmed melee attack, which is going to be less than useful.

So to do this pretty awesome thing I would either have to take two turns or use an action point all to achieve a payoff that within the rules would not be worth it at all. That isn't fun, so as a DM you should rectify this. Instead of having your players try and figure out how to fit out-of-the-box actions like that into the rules just have them describe what they want to do and then you can work it the best you can. For example, just have the player move to the table, make a acrobatics test and then let them use an attack which makes sense and don't worry about what the rules say.

This way the player will have a much better time and that is better for everyone. My point here is that just because the rules say one thing it doesn't mean you can't adapt them when it is needed. That is true when you are playing any game. My example was of just one action in a fight but whatever the situation is you shouldn't let the mechanics of the game get in the way of telling your story and having fun with it. Your playing a Role Playing Game after all, the Role Playing should take precedent with the rules working as guidelines to resolve situations that arise.   

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

4 Great RPG's for Beginners

When starting out in the hobby, deciding what game to play can be pretty daunting. More often than not you will probably settle on the game you have heard most about, which will most likely be Dungeons and Dragons. D&D is certainly not a bad game and the current edition is the most beginner friendly one yet, but there are many more games out there that can introduce new players much better. Here are four RPG's which are great at doing just that.

1. Pathfinder Beginners Box

Pathfinder was released back in 2009. Based on the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition rules, It aimed to resolve many of the problems of its D&D counterpart and has certainly done a great job establishing itself as a major force in the RPG world. Recently Paizo released the Pathfinder Beginners Box and as the name suggests its intention is to help introduce new players to Role Playing Games. It does this by providing a streamlined version of the rules that offer a simpler and faster way to play, that some people argue should be the definitive rule set. The rule books explain how to play the game better than any other system I have read.

So if you're looking for a well established, highly supported yet still simple game to start with, this is probably the one for you.

Buy from Amazon

2. Tunnels and Trolls

Tunnels and Trolls was first published way back in 1975 as a more accessible alternative to Dungeons and Dragons. Though it never gained the same recognition as its competitor, that isn't to say it isn't still an awesome game. Currently in its 7th edition T&T is a great and simple game. Character creation takes minutes, combat is fluid and fast paced and there are few rules to get bogged down with. But probably the most important reason this game is so good for beginners is that it is fully capable of solo play. There is actually more community support for solo adventures than there are for Game Master adventures.

So if you really want to play an RPG but can't get a good group together yet, with Tunnels and Trolls you can still play!

Free Abridged 5th Edition rules from DriveThruRPG
7.5 Edition Expanded Boxset from DriveThruRPG

3. Savage Worlds

Savage Worlds was first released in 2003. It is a setting-less rules system, allowing you use the rules to play any game that you want. Though many settings have been released for it. It is known for speed of play and simplicity, which is great for new players. A little bit more investment may be needed in order to get the rules and a pre made setting but Savage Worlds definitely has the most room for expansion once you have gained some experience.

If you're looking for a fast paced game in a non-traditional setting then Savage Worlds may just be for you.

Buy from DriveThruRPG

4. Wrath of Ashardalon

Wrath of Arshardalon along with Castle Ravencroft and Legend of Drizzit and the recently released Lords of Waterdeep are Wizards of the Coasts attempts to turn Dungeons and Dragons into a board game and therefore making the game as a whole much more accessible. Some could see these board games as more diluting of the D&D franchise but personally I think they are a great idea. The rules are simple, using cards to indicate powers and magical weapons, each game box comes complete with rule books, dice and miniatures, everything needed to play not only the board game but the proper D&D game as well. So without even realising it players learn the basics of D&D mechanics and get a good taste of what an RPG is like.

If you are completely and totally new to RPG's and would prefer to learn to crawl before you walk then Wrath of Ashardalon or any of the other D&D board games are definitely the way to go.

Buy from Amazon

Hope this helps someone out there find their way into the daunting world of Role Playing Games. If you have any suggestions of other games that are great for beginners leave a comment below!

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter either! 

Role Playing Tips for Beginners

Everyday people are introduced to the awesome world of Role Playing Games (of the table top verity), many of these people will have played so called RPG video games, but these often require very little, if any actual role playing and it is easy for those people to play their character in a table top game the same way. There is help out there in the internet but it can be difficult to find, especially for people new to the hobby, so today I present you with 5 tips to get you started with Role Playing.

1. Not just a stat block

Your character isn't just a bunch of numbers and dice rolls, she has a personality and motivations. It can be easy (especially if you have little experience) to just concentrate on the mechanics, but this sort of defeats the purpose of the type of game your playing. In an RPG you have the chance to create a whole and completely new identity which you can assume when play starts.

Your character has a personality and motivations,  you should know what these are, if only on a small scale. I find it a good idea to write down about 3 personally traits and a motivation about my characters on the character sheet which I can keep referring back to, it helps me think just how my character would react in different situations. Of course you can take this much further, but just having a short and clear idea of how you're character acts is usually enough.
For Example:
  • Stubborn
  • Quickly Angered
  • Lazy
Seeking answers to her parents murder. A ornate dagger left at the murder scene is her only clue.

Not understanding your character can not only slow the game down but destroy the suspension of disbelief, pulling everyone out of character. So this is something you should be considering right after sorting out all your stats.        

2. You weren't born yesterday

When you create a new character you will almost certainly not be making a new born baby - unless you're playing a very strange and uneventful game of crying and poop - that means your character has had many years of experience before you took control of her.

These experiences shouldn't just be forgotten when she goes out adventuring, they should affect how she reacts to different situations. Maybe her parents were killed by Kobolds, so now whenever a chance arises to kill Kobolds she will drop everything else and go to slaughter. Maybe she still wants to avenge her parents murder and tries to get her adventuring group to help her find the very Kobolds that took her parents from her. The loss of her parents could have made her tough and headstrong and she finds weakness disgusting or maybe she now has a soft spot for sob stories and always wants to help people.

It's easy to come up with backgrounds for your characters, just think of your favourite characters from movies, comic books, video games and books for inspiration and you will soon have a rich back story.

3. NO NO I didn't meant that...

Stay in character! that needs repeating again Stay in character!
This often happens when someone doesn't have a clear idea of what their character is, they end up just acting as themselves all the time which can lead to a lot of meta gaming (covering that next) and distractions. It is a good idea to adopt a 'character voice' and a 'passive voice' in order to differentiate between when your character is speaking and when you are speaking. This doesn't mean you have to put on a silly voice, but you certainly can if you want. It just means that when in character you should have a way of speaking that is different than you.

Your character may speak very flamboyantly or in short, to the point sentences, whatever it is just make sure to be consistent with it. It can get very confusing if you're constantly talking in different ways. You should use your character voice whenever your character is speaking, or making an action, well pretty much anytime you're talking about anything in game. You should use your passive voice if you have a question for the GM which you can't ask in character (like a rules question) or your saying something not relevant to the game.

4. Guys...guys, I've read this, there's a secret passage here!

Meta gaming is out of character thinking being used to dictate your actions in game. Everyone does it, it is very difficult not to. After all, as players we will know more about the game than our in game counter parts do, just as they know things about the game world that we don't know. But just because it is easy to do and can often give you an advantage, doesn't mean it is a good thing.

When faced with a decision, stop and think what would my character think of this situation. For example, you and you're group have nearly defeated the big bad villain when he suddenly grabs a hostage and uses him as a shield. A Paladin, the protector of the weak would probably stop his attack and try to save the hostage but the more morally grey Rogue would be more likely to take the risk of killing the hostage in order to defeat the villain. Neither is the wrong decision, it is simply how that character would react. Just make sure to know you're character and be consistent. Meta gaming can be very destructive so do your best to lose yourself in your character and worry less about the rules, that's why there is a GM after all.

5. I use my attack power on number 2

Combat should be an in character experience too. When attacking that Dragon, don't simply say you "attack the Dragon", explain how you take a deep breath, gather your courage before charging the dragon with your sword held high, and plunge the blade deep into its throat. This makes for a much more exciting time.
I must admit I am a huge culprit of this one, in fact my whole gaming group is, personally I blame the power/encounter mechanics of D&D4E that we are currently playing, the flavour of attacks is so complicated and encounters take so long you sometimes can't be bothered saying anything more than I use "Ardent Strike on that Rock Golem". But that isn't a good thing and is something I will attempt to rectify. 

Of course it depends on your system and situation, you don't always want to give long descriptions of every action but at the same time you don't want to be boring either. Finding a balance between the two is something you will have to work on and will depend on many things, including the game your playing and the people you are playing with.

I hop this will help some people who aare new to Role Playing games and give them an idea of how to get started. There are certainly many more tips I could give and probably will in moer posts. So check back for more RPG tips later!

Oh and I have finally got this Twitter thing (well one I'm not just using to stalk Nathan Fillion) so follow me here if you would like! I could do with a follower or two.

A Quick Introduction

Here is yet another blog about the good old hobby of Role Playing Games. First I guess a little about myself is needed. I've been playing RPG's for over 10 years now. My first experience was with Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition. I was just a kid but I'd always had a fascination with the fantasy genre, and after somehow learning about D&D a friend and I went to our local game store and with next to no idea what a Role Playing Game actually was we started looking for D&D stuff. We stumbled upon some old AD&D rule books but were quickly shown to the newly released (and much more expensive) third edition books. It wasn't for a few years before we managed to get more players and actually play properly but I read the crap out of those books and loved every page. I am now coming to the close of a very long standing 4E campaign with that very same friend I discovered the game with years ago (plus a few other people) and beginning to plan what game to play next, which will hopefully be something completely different. 

The aim of this blog I suppose is to share my experience playing Role Playing Games and with a little bit of luck help one or two people get started with the hobby. I will post Player and Roleplaying tips as well as GM tips as I think the former is under represented in the blogging world. I'll probably put up a few reviews of systems and RPG related things from time to time and share any news I happen to get over excited about (which could be a lot). Plus I will hopefully be able to entertain a few people with some funny stories along the way too.

For those of you who may have read this thank you, and make sure to come back soon.