Sunday, February 16, 2014

What is it like to Role-Play?

So I know I make fun of “gold farmers” - those folks who only care about how much damage they can do and how many gold pieces are listed on their sheets. So I was watching Burn Notice. If you didn’t watch it, you need to. One of the best shows on TV in the last few years. Scene - Michael wants Fiona to help him, and then take her to dinner, but she’s pissed because all he ever does in things connected to his burn notice.

Michael is a gold farmer. He doesn’t have fun. His character never goes to a bar unless it is to meet a client. But Sam and Fiona, they know the hot spots around the town. They know the news around town.

I often try to make this point, so I’m willing to use popular TV shows to do it. Ever notice that Sam knows every bar and hot dog stand in Miami? and typically knows what the waitresses wear? That’s role-playing. Even if in the gaming session you just pretend - “Hey Sam, they’re at Micki’s Fiesta Bar, you remember that place as the bar with the best rum drinks in town.” You don’t have to play every encounter in every bar, but you need to establish that your character is a booze hound and hits every raunchy bar in town. Or your character sticks to one or two bars in his neighborhood. Or your character is a teetotaler and can be found in church every evening. You define your character, then the GM has the ability to use those things against you, and you have the ability to use them against the GM.

How do you use it? If you’re known in every bar, then when you need to have a bunch of people scour the city for you, you know where to find them. If you are an active member of your church, you can find friends there too. I usually think that if you don’t end an adventure with at least one new contact, you’ve done something wrong. Building a list of contacts (and then actually using them), that’s role-playing too. Hey, I know there are a bunch of folks out there who use voices and costumes when they play. I’m not that kind of role-player. But I do think that if your character is a bar hopper, then when you’re looking for help, you go to your friends, not necessarily the city guards. Think of what the character would do, not necessarily what the rules say will give you the highest number of damage points.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

World Changing Events - or are they?

I have a fully involved world. Stuff happens all the time, and story lines come and go. Sometimes I get a really cool idea for a story line, but I’m not willing to do it because it would force me to completely rewrite the world. But I have an idea. So here’s my idea: Some of you may see this as a mix of two story lines - one recent cult classic and one legend.

Eons ago, two demigods fought it out on the mortal plane. The battle ended when one cut the other in two, imbedding his sword into the side of a mountain. The seers foretold that only one of divine birth would be able to remove the sword, but when they did, it would cause the end of the world. The real problem is that due to the mysticism involved, removing the sword from the mountain will cause a divergent reality to form. If this tangent time stream isn’t destroyed, it could mean the end of the world.

It took centuries, but a mercenary general convinced an angel that if she were to pull the sword from the mountain for him, he would use it to bring good to the world. Angels can sometimes be suckers. Powered by the sword and the divergent time stream, the general starts a world war - starts and is winning!
The characters get involved because they start fighting the war. Eventually the angel explains to them that if they don’t get the sword back into the hole in the mountain, the world will come to an end, but if they do return the sword key, then this time stream will cease to exist. (Maybe returning the sword will destroy the angel as well, but she is willing to sacrifice herself for that. Is the party willing to sacrifice her?)

So this “mini-campaign” starts with the party getting involved in some minor skirmishes with the mercenary army, which grow as the war becomes a full on world war. Every mission you can think of revolving around wars and religions can work here, including some massive battles taking place, right up until they have to battle the general and get the sword away from him, likely right at the mountain. So as the time tear warps reality and the angel and the general battle over the sword, with tornadoes and other phenomenon, the party ultimately gets the sword and puts it back into mountain. The divergent time streams get sucked back into each other (violently), and the party finds themselves standing over the sword with the general and the angel both dead at their feet. It is now months ago - the date that the general originally obtained the sword.

So cool, right? You can have a massive world war, and then get a mulligan on it. I would let the party remember everything that happened (thus keeping the experience). They might also learn things during the tangent time stream - secret crimes that people have committed or secret treasure troves that they can take advantage of. Others who were closely involved might have dreams of what happened, but they wouldn’t believe the whole alternate time theory. Be careful though. You might all be too young to remember, but people got really mad when an entire season of Dallas turned out to be a dream. Your players might love this whole concept or they might feel cheated for having saved the world, but not getting any credit for it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Fantasy Thieving Specialists

Think about your thieves. There are all manner of specialists: pick pockets, second story men, jewel thieves. They know their stuff. Jewel thieves need to know how to appraise gems and jewelry so they will choose the best stuff, and not get fooled by forgeries and paste. But how far does it go?

Are there fantasy era specialists? There should be. In the same vein that a jewel thief must know the good stuff from the fakes, a magic thief will need to be able to understand the real magic from the stage theatrics. But is specializing in magic enough? Wouldn’t there need to be different styles of specialist for stealing alchemicals? A separate specialist for acquiring components and other materials? What about someone who goes after the enchantments themselves? Even the necromancers would need someone who knew how to get the right things for them. After all, it would be incredibly embarrassing to send a thief after an important skull, only to have him steal the wrong one. (“Abby someone.”) In a similar fashion a mentalist in need of the proper psychometric items would need someone who understood which items held the proper mental vestiges.

These thieving specialists need to understand their targets, which means they probably need to have some skill in them. That means they might know a bit of alchemy in order to understand both the alchemical products and equipment. Or they may need training in magic in order to read spell books and mystic scrolls, in order to know what they are stealing. At the same time, sorcerers would use different styles of traps and tricks then enchanters or alchemists would, so once again, understanding your target(s) will benefit you, and knowing how to handle those types of items and magic would give you a significant advantage. The same should be said for their tools of the trade. Knowing how to beat a sorcerer’s traps does not necessarily position you to get past a necromancer’s.

Honestly, this subject is too huge to do justice in a blog post, but I hope I set your mind spinning. Need some ideas on what a magic thief would be stealing? Check out Alchemist’s Lab for all sorts of fun products and equipment!