Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Time Fun

Summer is here and thoughts turn to summer camp. (Just go with me on this one.) Summer camp - that time of the year when all of the urbanites and suburbanites all flock to the woods to experience that which they don’t know. You know the wilderness and all that.
So what would they have done in our fantasy world? They already know the wilderness and rural life. So you know what they did? They went to town. No really. They went to town - They went to the faire. OK - faires were more common in the fall - after the harvest, but they served much the same purpose as a summer camp. The rural folks would go to the big town (or city) and take part in the faire. They’d go to experience that which they didn’t know.
What did they do? Likely they competed. Who had the best apple pie, the biggest pumpkin, the best goat? Games of speed, strength, maybe skill. They also come to see the latest in craftsman’s products, the things they can’t handle on their own - fine fabrics, major tools, maybe some particularly fine tools. Maybe they’re buying seed, either seed they didn’t have or seed in hopes of crossing with some of their own. They are buying, eating, visiting, and having fun; exploring everything the big town/city has to offer.
I love faires - county fairs, state fairs, ren faires. I’ve always wanted to write one into the game world, but they either get too big or too small. I remain convinced that big fair festivals are a great add to any game world. Concentrating all the NPCs together in a smaller area brings all their drama and storylines together. A great place to start adventures - a good place to buy some new stuff - a great place to meet new NPCs or touch base with old contacts. As soon as I get it together, you’ll see it. Anyone want to offer free ideas?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fixing Literature

Have you ever read something - a comic book, a novel, or even watched a movie - and said to yourself, “That’s stupid!” You’re an hour into something and all you can think is, “This character should have had _________ instead.” Maybe you hate that Tarzan is so damn good. Maybe you hate that the Invisible Woman has force fields. Maybe you just hate Hal Jordan! (Come one -We all like just about every other Green Lantern more than Hal. If you actually like Hal, seek help.)
You know what you get to do as a game master? You get to fix those things! You can fix anything! Say you think that Waterloo was a blunder based on the French aristocracy (and their refusal to take orders from a commoner). Put that into your game world - Fix it any way you want. Maybe the nobles were forced out or the army. Maybe the first noble who acted superior was shot/executed and the next one was smarter. Maybe they just weren’t so damned French and actually listened to the messenger.
There’s a famous series of web sites about “what I would do if I were an evil emperor” or something like that. You know - train your storm troopers to shoot straight, stop delivering monologues, actually shooting the good guy so he doesn’t have a chance to escape. The lists go on and on. Go ahead and use those. But when you do take an existing story and make it your own by twisting that part that irritated the nonsense out of you, think it through. If the bad guy shoots the hero instead of letting him escape, does the hero become a martyr? Do thousands rise up in his wake to oppose the evil lord? Does the hero kill a subordinate at some point, but now that subordinate is going to have time to try and off his lordship? Sometimes things will swing exactly the way you want, but sometimes, your twist can lead to something even more interesting. Yes - I read What If by Marvel Comics and I loved them. Remember - changing genres is the easiest way to make a story your own without giving too much info to the players.
Most of the opinions in this segment are exaggerated -except for the one about Hal Jordan - he stinks!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cool Stuff from Actual History

OK - So I’ve been reading Anabasis by Xenophon. The only reason I started is because I discovered that it was in some ways the inspiration for the movie The Warriors - a truly excellent picture!
Anyway, I’m not liking it all that much, but it has had me looking up some other junk on the history of warfare. I think this should be part of pretty much every GMs list of things to do. Here’s a couple of examples as to why:
Did you know that the elephants Hannibal used were not the African elephants we know today but instead some much smaller species that was “only” 8’ tall. They aren’t that much smaller than “forest” elephants, but these are not those huge African elephants you think of. Still - 8’ at the shoulder isn’t 13’ at the shoulder, and you can see a person riding it more like a horse. Still a formidable steed. Now I just have to figure out the stats.
This does play into one of my favorite things: Making an idea my own. Now I get to create a “new” animal. Maybe I’ll add plains elephants who are 7-8” at the shoulder and live on grass, not trees. I already made up my own kudos as the main prey animals for the Central Plains, maybe these elephants will be for the Southern Plains mingled in with the antelopes. Eons ago, I created a pigmy elephant (I think they are the Island Elephants). These little guys are never more than 4’ tall (at the head), but because of the gold deposits they are eating, their tusks get marbled with gold. Hey - It’s a fantasy game!
One of the things I’ve pulled directly from Anabasis is the continuous discussion of providing for the logistics of the army. You can’t carry enough food with you, so you have to pick it up as you go. Sometimes you pillage them. Sometimes you buy them. Sometimes you might even be able to harvest them, but wow that would slow you down. Reading how ancient soldiers failed miserably at hunting ostriches was pretty funny!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Fans and Fan expansions

I’m being a little presumptuous here, but that’s me –
There are people out there using the world of Fletnern as their campaign world. Sometimes I interact with them, but not that often. As you would expect, they are developing things within my world, making changes, advancing story lines that I haven’t touched, etc. but the truth is, I’ve been living part time in Fletnern for about 30 years now, and I have good portions of the next 150 years (in game) figured out.
Why am I bothering to say this? Fortunately I have not yet run into this, but the day may come when some GM using Fletnern or some other thing that I have written will come back and insist that I stole his or her idea(s). It won’t be true, but they may not see that from their perspective.
What I’m saying is this – I hope everyone out there uses Rhum, Fletnern, Legend Quest, etc etc etc, but if you fear someone (even me) stealing your ideas, don’t tell people about them.
I was young and dumb once. I play tested some major games for a major company, and I shared all sorts of ideas with my contacts at the company. One of those “game designers” stole my ideas and published them, and because I was young and dumb, there was nothing I could do about it, well, nothing but start my own game company and outlast him. Because of my own issues, I flat out wouldn’t swipe material from one of my customers – maybe from a friend, but only after telling him about it.
So – You can trust me, but still, don’t tell me everything if you think there’s any chance I would “borrow” it. Don’t trust other folks either, not with the jewels of your creation. It’s tempting though. Gamers love to talk about games. You can tell everyone everything, but don’t get annoyed if one of those writer-blocked “game designers” decides that you’ve got better stuff than he’s got that month. Them’s the breaks!
P.S. - I’m no longer bitter about a 20+ year old theft. I really haven’t been for years - since the company he worked for went belly up. I Googled him though. Turns out that those who can’t, teach - Yep, he works at a college “teaching”.