Apocalyptic settings were one of many topics at Convergence. Randall made the comment that every post-apocalypse game we’ve played are essentially the same. As usual, he’s correct and made me consider the topic. Every PA game we’ve played with the exception of Cyberpunk have been temporally set directly at or right after the apocalypse.
Fixing a game at the outset of civilizations downfall forces the similarity of the games. No matter if it is a military invasion, a nuclear war, aliens or zombies, at the outset everyone is focused on immediate survival. Additionally, every game master has chosen to make the players play themselves as characters. Except the player’s families have been expunged from the game to lessen obvious choice to go save each family.
The time frame of the setting is a primary contributor to similarity. Doing so forces an immediacy of action onto the players. Failure to act results in an increment to the casualty counter. The downside is that the world around the players is complete chaos. Loot to survive, make questionable moral choices, and repeat. The availability of actions is quite constrained.
Playing yourself is an old idea. I pulled that card at least a half dozen times in the past. Cool to do a few times but grows tiresome quickly. We don’t play games to play ourselves. Players want to be something different. Not necessarily larger than life at all times but creating a persona is key to role playing. Self-play is definitely #2 on similarity contributor list. Expunging history is only meaningful if you want to eliminate the obvious. Allowing players to play something other than themselves reopens the history space without the detriment of the widely known player actions.
Shifting the time frame would encourage a different style game. Letting the dust settle on the PA environment would allow a new sense of ‘normalcy’ to settle in. Characters wouldn’t have to worry about the immediacy of surviving but would already know how to acquire food, water, and shelter. The focal point of the game could then shift from survival to other topics. Perhaps eradicating the source of the zombie infection; leading a tipping-point revolt against the invading army; re-establishing the rule of man in a mutant future or many other ideas.
Over arching play is hard to achieve in PA settings. The ideas are too easily imagined. Realism has its limits when you cannot decouple entirely. There are games to play in the PA realm but mostly I think they are a few sessions at best. Fillers. Nothing wrong with that.
Role-playing games are unlike any other game. RPG systems provide a framework defining suggested abilities and limits. The framework is commonly referred to as rules. Most non-RPG games provide a fixed number of rules that must be followed to play the game. RPG’s encourage the user to be creative and to change the mechanics, if desired. No matter how a RPG is implemented, the goal remains the same: have fun.
When you build your campaign you will tailor it to suit your personal tastes. In the heat of play it will slowly evolve into a compound of your personality and those of your better participants, a superior alloy. – E. Gary Gygax, 1979
A random selection of six groups all playing the same system is likely to reveal one thing: the implementation of the system would be different in each group. The differences might be slight. One group could be playing a game with in-depth story arcs involving political intrigue amid the nobility in-fighting after the death of a king. The next might be delving through dozens of levels of an underground labyrinth filled with traps, twists and a bevy of monsters. A third may be solely undertaking adventures all within the confines of a large, walled city. The fourth, fifth and sixth may be well be venturing to the stars, ambling amid the planes or even leading a fleet of pirate ships. All different but still playing a common system and having fun.
Those same groups likely vary as much on rules as setting and plot. Some may allow only only the core mechanics of the original system books. Others will permit any expansion published for the system. Still others could have modified the original system to the point it barely resembles the initial offering. One implementation may be a blending of two or more systems into something entirely new. The groups have chosen an implementation which works for the people in the game.
According to a few, five of the six groups must be playing the system wrong. To the majority of gamers, each and every group is entirely correct. The campaign or mechanics may not be of interest to the naysayer but no egregious violation has occurred. Egregious violations are impossible if the group present at the table agrees on the game at hand. Even if not everyone at the table agrees, many players will agree to disagree and still play. The individuals know that its just a game and in the coming weeks, something more akin to their interpretation is likely to be played. Alternatively, the player can seek other like minded gamers to start a new game based on his or her preferred implementation.
As a participant in the game, I would not care to have anyone telling me exactly what must go into a campaign and how it must be handled; if so, why not play some game like chess? — E. Gary Gygax
No matter how you choose to play, I say go forth and do so. Cruise through the chaos of randomness then saunter through significant stories. Slay the dragon or be killed by a street urchin. Flip things around as you see fit. Play for fun. Self-proclaimed pundits be damned.
From the constantly late to the party file. Here’s a nice contest — Mark
Hey, old school bloggers – it would be deeply appreciated if you could give this a shout out on your blogs, with two weeks to go. (Also, submit your tables!)
Fight On! and Magician’s Manse are Proud to Announce -
A Contest for Fantasy Gaming Tables!
Entry Deadline: May 31, 2011
Send your random tables via email with the header TABLES to tombowings at gmail dot com!
Rules: Maximum 3 tables per entrant, OR 2 tables per entrant if either or both of them are ‘multiple tables’ tables (e.g. a connected set of dungeon or wilderness tables).
For some gamers, there is nothing – not even a good ruleset – that beats a good collection of random tables. So we’ve decided to run a contest to put one together!
By submitting your table, you give us permission to re-print that table in the upcoming Fight On! Big Book of Tables (or whatever we eventually decide to call it). You continue to own your own table and all rights to it other than our right to publish it in various iterations of that book and may re-use or re-publish it elsewhere as you see fit. Likewise, tables you have already published elsewhere may be submitted to this contest so long as you still have the rights to them to give to us to publish in this way.
We are looking for overall quality, game-usability, creativity, better mousetraps, and/or gonzo! Our Judges include S. John Ross, Jeff Rients, Tim Kask, Paul Czege, and Ian Burns, as well as Ignatius Umlaut of Fight On!
Grand Prize: 1 Roll on the Gold Table, 1 Roll on the Gems & Jewelry Table, 1 Roll on the Magic Items Table, a Trade Paperback Copy of Roll the Bones, and a set of Dwarven Metal Dice provided by DEI Games (deigames.com)
Second Prize: 1 Roll on the Gold Table, 1 Roll on the Gems & Jewelry Table, and 1 Roll on the Magic Items Table
Third Prize: 1 Roll on each of any Two Different Tables Below (your pick)
First Honorable Mention: 1 Roll on the Gems and Jewelry Table or the Magic Table (your pick). All prizes except FHM guaranteed; we will use this category for entries that were extremely painful to exclude from the top three.
Honorable Mention: All honorable mentions and all prizewinners above will receive a free PDF copy of the Fight On! Big Book of Tables (when it comes out) and a free PDF of a randomly determined issue of Fight On! magazine! And we intend to give Honorable Mention to ALL submitted tables meant for eventual inclusion in the Big Book of Tables, so there will be a lot of these prizes to go around!
All product prizes below are provided by Fight On! and do not represent the endorsement of or cooperation with the authors, publishers, or manufacturers of said products, although we like them all and think they’re cool guys.
Gold Table (d100) – USD:
Gems & Jewelry Table (d100) – only one of each, rolled in order of prize received:
01-30 About 30 or so mostly unpainted old-time Grenadier minis, mostly from the Dungeon Explorers and Tomb of Spells Sets
31-40 Beautifully Painted Owlbear, Otyugh, and Ogre Mage Minis (sculptor unknown, but I think they’re old-tyme)
41-50 Provocatively Painted Marilith and Succubus (Marilith is Reaper, not sure about Succubus)
51-60 Battle Scene 1: 4 Beautifully Painted Crocodile Games Wargods of Hyperborea Wendigo (Yeti) Warriors versus 6 Well Painted Privateer Press Hordes Everblight Archers and Swordsmen
61-70 Battle Scene 2: 4 Excellently Painted Tom Meier Thunderbolt Mountain Elves on Foot versus 4 Excellently Painted Tom Meier Thunderbolt Mountain Orcs
71-75 Battle Scene 3: 3 Excellently Painted Tom Meier Thunderbolt Mountain Elves on Horseback versus 3 Excellently Painted Emperor’s Choice Miniatures Goblin Grey Knights Mounted on Air Sharks
76-85 Against the Giants 1: Exceptionally Painted Otherworld Miniatures Hill Giant and Stone Giant
86-95 Against the Giants 2: Well Painted Ral Partha Frost Giant and Cave Giant
96-99 Random Dwarven Forge Custom Dungeon Piece: 1 Wall of Fire Short Passage, 2 Moss & Fungus L-Shaped Passage with Mushroom, 3 4×6 Cerberus Fountain Floor Piece, 4 Room Corner with Banner and Crystal Ball. (May reroll if you don’t use DF.)
00 Beautifully Painted Complete Ral Partha Wasteland Raider Set
Magic Items Table (d100) – all are physical print copies:
01-03 $50 donation to Friends of Starship Warden in your name
04-06 Apocalypse World
07-09 Arduin: World of Khaas Worldbook (First Hardback Printing, OOP)
10-12 Backswords & Bucklers AND Ruins & Ronin
13-15 Book of Ebon Bindings
16-18 B/X Companion
22-24 Charnel Crypt of the Sightless Serpent
25-27 Dragons at Dawn
28-30 Drowning and Falling AND Elfs
31-33 Dungeon Alphabet
34-36 Empire of the Petal Throne (HOG Reproduction)
37-39 Encounter Critical
40-42 Exquisite Corpses
43-45 Fight On! Magazine, 1d6 Randomly Determined Print Issues
46-48 Grinding Gear AND Weird New World
49-51 How to Host a Dungeon
52-54 Inferno: 1980
55-57 Majestic Wilderlands
58-60 Miscellaneum of Cinder AND Ye Olde Book of Spells
61-63 Mutant Future
64-66 My Life with Master
67-69 Mythmere’s Adventure Design Deskbook I and II
70-72 Necropolis (Necromancer Edition), autographed by Gary Gygax, slightly used
73-75 Petty Gods (if it is out, otherwise Cursed Chateau)
76-78 Realm of Crawling Chaos
79-81 Secret of Smuggler’s Cove AND Skull Mountain
82-84 Sorcery & Super Science
85-87 Spellcraft & Swordplay
88-90 Stonehell Dungeon
91-00 Trade Paperback copy of Roll the Bones AND Roll Again, ignoring results of 91-00
So what are you waiting for? Let’s see your tables!
Power running Grasslands at Convergence demonstrated how rusty I am at off-the-cuff game mastering. I did some preparation for the game but was planning on 4 players. Instead the player count was 2 at the start and 3 later in the day. Since the player count was low, I had the two original folks make two characters each. Grasslands is generally deadly so I figured at least half the characters would die over the course of the session. Instead, only one PC died: Yop* from the later arriving member. Many others came very close but managed to escape death.
In the past, I’ve used random monster tables frequently based on terrain type. I’d extend the terrain type for transition zones since the grasslands are a singular type. However, the hard bound Monstrous Compendium from 2nd Edition doesn’t contain random monster tables. So much for that. Flipping through the book is slow and tedious; not to mention boring for the players. So I’d scramble during breaks to ponder a few different creatures as I went along. The original monster supplements in the loose-leaf, 3 ring binder format had the tables. Randall asked if he should bring them. I said no need. Go figure.
After a few hours of struggling along, I finally got back into the groove. The pace picked up but was no where near my heydays in the role of chief chaos creator. Still, the majority of the party was having a good time in their chosen roles. I also wasn’t well prepared for in-town stuff. I hadn’t really given it much thought. Luckily, Randall did what he always does and started the ball rolling. Player driven stuff is easier to handle for me. I can generally determine rough slices of interest based upon the character actions. From there, I just drop in filler.
Overall, I spent over 12 hours in the DM seat. The rust wasn’t gone but at least it was flaking away by the end of the night. It was quite fun to bring back a setting from 20 years ago even if the start was slow. I was pleased and got compliments from a couple of players. If they had a good time and I had a good time, who can ask for more?
* Yep, its Yop. My bad.
Conversations at Convergence always vary widely. Randall and I were talking about brewing at one point and I mentioned I’d been thinking about trying a batch of mead. From what I’d seen, brewing mead was far simpler than beer but thought it took quite a while longer for the fermentation and ageing. He thought it would be nice to try. The idea was still ticking about in the back of my head on Monday so I did some research.
Mead is an interesting drink. I like it on occasion but really didn’t want to start with a five gallon batch. Several sites I read mentioned 1 gallon batches as an easy way to get started along with a variety of recipes. The primary components for a batch of mead are water, honey, and yeast. Yeast varieties vary for beer brewing and mead brewing has several choices as well from what I read. Then I stumbled on stormthecastle.com’s page: How to make some Mead today -the cheap, fast, and easy way.
I already needed to visit the grocery store. So along with the other necessities, I picked up the water, yeast, honey, balloons, oranges, and raisins. The total additional cost was $14.78, the bulk of which was honey. A Colorado brand was on sale so I chose it over the store brand, which added a minor amount of cost. Also, it turned out one of my beer airlocks fit the water jug nicely so I didn’t need to buy the balloons.
The instructions are pretty clear except for one thing. I wasn’t sure if the orange was sliced with or without the peel. After watching one of his videos, I discovered its peel and all. Mine is missing the peel but the orange is apparently optional. The omission of the peel will likely not add as much acidity but should be fine. I also added a cinnamon stick and a bit of vanilla bean. Spices are crazy expensive but both were on sale. For the amounts I used, the cost elevated by a couple of dollars.
Other Convergence Madness
To fill out the Steve Jackson Games section, I picked up Zombie Dice at Bonnie Brae Hobby Shop before heading out for the weekend. The game is just as advertised – fast, fun and engaging. Even after reading the lightweight rules a couple of times, I still spaced out on playing out the final round. Including it would have made several of the games much more interesting.In tandem with my Zombie Dice purchase, Randall was sucked into buying Wench! A Drinking Man’s Thinking Game. The card game appeared to be a juvenile, crazy paced card game at first glance. In the right mood, it might be a cool game but it is overly complicated for just playing off the cuff. The premise was sound, albeit crazy, but the playability languished. The game was worth several laughs. The game designer was thinking ahead — the cards can be used as a normal deck of cards. The artwork is pretty good if you enjoy the style.
Dozens of games of Magic the Gathering rounded out the card play. The highlight was 3 different decks designed to force drawing and discarding along with the associated pain. I couldn’t begin to count how many of those games we played but even starting at 40 didn’t keep one alive for more than a handful of rounds most games. Duelling might be fun but laughing as you get your ass handed to you round after round due to multiple players was crazy fun.
Demon snow angels! Looks like we’ll have a bit of snow for the Spring 2011 Convergence. It’s currently snowing above 6000 feet and predicted to continue throughout the day and into tomorrow. The accumulation could be significant. Somehow snow is always an issue when I bring along home brewed beer. Very curious.
The current weather reports are a variation of this one:
Today…Widespread snow. Snow accumulation of 5 to 10 inches. Highs 29 to 39. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Gusts up to 30 mph.
Tonight…Snow showers likely. Additional snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches. Lows 19 to 29. Northwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Gusts up to 25 mph after midnight. Chance of snow 60 percent.
The snow should make for an interesting drive up the mountain tonight.