Other people have done campaign benchmarking things before. They are probably okay. This one is mine and is still under development. Potentially.
So, the idea is to provide some data about a game so that everyone knows what kind of game it will be and can play accordingly or tell they are not interested. It also works as a tool for analysis.
In which I shall list some games I have GM’d or am willing to GM. For meanings of volatile/scripted/sandbox play, see this post.
Burning vikings (old and potential for further play)
- Setting: Norway, more or less, with fantastic elements.
- Gritty: Yes.
- Serious: Yes.
- Play paradigm: Characters in problematic situation, pressure applied by a giant.
- GMing style: Somewhat volatile.
- System: Burning Wheel
- Setting: D&D fantasy, homebrewn.
- Gritty: Far from it.
- Serious: No. Just no.
- Play paradigm: You live here. Threats happen. Respond.
- GMing style: Muddled.
- System: First D&D 3rd, then homebrew fantasy heartbreaker minus publication.
Dragongame (potential for play sometime)
- Setting: D&D-ish fantasy, homebrewn.
- Gritty: Somewhat.
- Serious: Maybe.
- Play paradigm: Here’s an explosive situation. Do things.
- GMing style: Somewhat volatile, non-detailed sandbox.
- System: Updated fantasy hearbreaker minus publication.
Dungeons and crawling therein (Will run at request.)
- Setting: D&D fantasy, generic or D&D fantasy, everyone forced underground.
- Gritty: Somewhat.
- Serious: Not really.
- Play paradigm: Here’s a dungeon. Survive and thrive.
- GMing style: Sandbox.
- System: Custom.
Persistent fantasy (working title that is turning disturbingly, well, persistent)
- Setting: Swords and sorcery, details built in play.
- Gritty: A bit.
- Serious: Not really.
- Play paradigm: Creating spontanous fiction. Or: Varies.
- GMing style: Volatile. Very much so.
- System: Custom.
Wardens (Play-by-post. On hold. Cryptic, damn thee.)
- Setting: Custom fantasy.
- Gritty: Yeah.
- Serious: Yeah.
- Play paradigm: Here’s a situation. Solve it.
- GMing style: Somewhat scripted, somewhat volatile.
- System: Freeform.
Genre is part of setting. The ratio of combat to not-combat kinda happens in play, as well as other ephemeral factors.
Also: I like fantasy. And gritty stuff. And have a tendency to go for serious stuff. And there is a correlation between something being serious and gritty.
I used to run a game that started as D&D and later was converted to a homebrew system. Dragon player characters were in a prominent role. The game kinda died, and I take full responsibility for it.
The setting had some interesting points (and several outright flaws). In this post I will describe the creation myth of my revised version (a friend is doing another, vastly different, revised version). There are elves in it and it is seen from their perspective. It is traditional D&D fantasy. This is your unique chance to stop reading.
There has been one previous article related to this setting: Body dreaming about a mind. Something like that.
This game was played during Sunday. Thalin did not fit in, as there already were 6 players (note to self: next time, only five players; the sheer number of new characters is too much for me to handle with no preparation).
The updated characters and setting info can be found in the relevant page. (The list now has twelve unique players, including me. There have been a total of thirteen [again, including me] players, but one did not get on the list at all in this game. Or maybe used that name in play. I don’t remember.) The new characters are Darethos Freyar, Jackpo, Eerik, Thóren, Tobi, Vrael Derith (with a picture).
I made the mistake on not using any random elements. There were reasons for this, yet it was a mistake. Next time I’ll print a few set of random seeds and select one so as to provide inspiration and make character generation faster. As a consequence the characters look pretty much like a standard D&D adventuring party, which is not the aesthetic I am interested in.
A bunch of random rogues and such, by request of Darethos Freyar, a knight of the church, protector of good, and (above all) destroyed of darkness, seeks to investigate certain ruins in the Swamp of immortals, due to rumours of treasure and evil cults. Thóren, a shaman of plainsmen, is heading for the same place in search of half an ancestral blade.
No proper roads go to the ruins. Darethos’s party, guided by a local hunter named Vrael Derith, meticulously move through the swamp, avoiding dangerous areas. Something human-shaped with a spear is once seen watching them, but nothing outright threatening.
Thóren the shaman is surrounded by a buzz of insects, frogs, birds and reptiles. He enters a trance (the process involves mushrooms) and contacts a spirit of that particular part of the swamp, who manifests as a mound of moss and rock and mud, speaking of someone watching him and telling about the safe paths through the swamplands. Thóren also exchanges gifts with something; leaves some animal skins, gets a bronze knife with crude frog-like shape in the handle.
Freyar’s party notices the shaman, there is some communication by yelling, but the shaman does not join the paladin’s group. Sleep, then progress forward.
The defender of the faith and his merry band of adventurers are approaching one of the more woody parts of the swamp. Three arrows in rabid succession fly from the woods, hitting the ground a few meters from the adventurers. They wisely stop, someone tries negotiating while Jackpo the thief crawls and swims towards the woods.
Thóren notices a shape in a tree, wielding a bow, and Jackpo sneaking. Thóren also approaches the tree, as does Eerik (also a scoundrel). Darethos Freyar yells religiosly coloured threats and insults into the woods, getting an arrow to his foot as a reward. The one who was hiding in the tree is swiftly coming down. It is certainly a human or very close to one, but so covered in mud and dirt that further identification would require significant washing. As the creature comes down, arrows, knives and one club fly, seriously wounding and poisoning the archer. It is questioned to no effect, only indicating some interest in the knife held by Thóren, who attempts giving the knife to it, which is responded to by spitting at Thóren.
Jackpo slits the archer’s throat.
Some days after the ruins are reached. A fire burning there indicates human presence, which scouting confirms: A lone man, very short and heavily robed, is sitting besides the fire, completely oblivious of the killers in the shadow. A knife at the throat and some interrogation tell that the man is an alchemist willing to make a fair trade with his fares, assuming he is not slain outright. He is mistrusted and the intruders instead want to know if there is anything of value hereabouts, at which the robed dwarf (as in a human of short stature) points the way down with his abnormally long hand.
The bloodthirsty adventurers head down to what looks like a cellar. There’s some water on the floor and a dripping sound can be heard. It is dark. They are not likely to be eaten by a grue because they have improvised torches. A narrow tunnel leads forward. A giant snake, venom dripping from its teeth, lunges from the darkness ahead twice, to no great effect. It then retreats.
Next in the tunnel there is a larger space, something like a cross between a cellar and a natural cave. The snake is there, as are around 10 small frog-men, some armed with knives, a few even wearing ill-fitting helmets, and a blood-stained obsidian altar with two fires in both sides of it. A flurry of weapons hits the serpent as it attacks, slaying it. The frog-creatures dive into water-covered parts of the cave, still pitch-black except where fires or torches burn.
One of the frog-men jumps on the altar, visibly drops the bronze dagger it had and, with considerable difficulty, takes off the helmet. The player characters accept the evident gesture of peace. Frog-men, few first, but then increasing numbers, up to fifty, emerge from the water and croak and jump around, as if celebrating something. There is a broken shelf with random pieces of equipment on the far wall; Thóren finds half the blade he was looking for, and others pick a few odds and ends that seem useful. The frogs don’t care.
Jackpo and Darethos Freyar go back, as there is nothing further that would be of interest to them.
Of the others Vrael Derith discovers a tunnel through which at least some of the extra frogs came. He swims through it and finds himself in a cave of some sort. Making noise disturbs a remarkable amount of bats that live there, making them screech and twitter about. There is no light and no wall nearby. Vrael continues forward in the cave.
Others wait. Toben, the peddler who brought everyone together, continues waiting as Eerik and Thóren follow Vrael into the tunnel. The uncoordinated croaking and jumping of the frog-men is changing, becoming a dance or ritual of some sort.
In the actually dark cave, with water up to thighs or so, Vrael discovers a platform of some sort, around the fifth of a meter above water. Climbing on it he discovers that there are some round objects, around the size of fist, lying there. They are cold and hard, maybe stone. Dropping one makes noise (and fluttering bats) , but the item does not break. Vrael continues forward, again entering water. There is some beast ahead, as indicated by a “hrumph”, and growling as Vrael tries to move forward. He is thus gently guided back to the platform, after which the creature departs.
Eerik enters the dark cave and starts wandering towards sounds made by Vrael and the beast. Speaking to Vrael is futile due to the bats, easily excited by unexpected noise. Thóren likewise enters the cave, cue yelling and bats. The creature drops a carcass (of a beaver) near Vrael, who slowly starts backing off from the platform.
Tobi in the frog cave is the center of their ritual dance. He is offered insects, quickly denied, but he does accept the rat they give to him and cooks, then eats, it. The dance becomes more wild and fast. The frog that initiated the surrender offers a bronze knife, like the one Thóren has, to Tobi but pricks him before giving it to him. The frogs seem to be growing larger and their movements and shapes distorting. Tobi tries to yell, but only manages a croak. He has become one of the frog-men, their new king.
Vrael is in the water, Eerik gets on the platform, finds the fist-sized thing and breaks one. Bats. Vrael finds some sort of sandy beach and a heap of rotting organic material, mostly plants, lying on the beach. The beast attacks Eerik, who does not fare well. Thóren approaches. Long struggle ensues, Eerik taking several wounds, almost drowning and falling unconscious before Thóren gets there and slays the beast, cutting its throat with the half of a blade. The frogs made a few slashes and cuts at the hated beast that eats them when able to, and few of them were killed.
Vrael finds an egg in the heap of rot and promptly breaks it. He further discovers a way out of the cave, which everyone uses.
Pacing sucked. Start was too slow, the end was sudden. Two players had to leave early, which worked sufficiently well.
I have the following patterns: Eggs of monsters, arrows flying from nowhere as warnings, creatures that are not outright hostile unless provoked, which is usually easy. There are strange rituals and the sheer weirdness of everything tends to increase as time does, reaching a climax at some point.
I really enjoyed the fiction that was created, aside from the characters, who acted too much like a band of adventurers, or cold-blooded murderers, as they are also called. Individually they are good to mediocre, but in group, nah. Turning that one character into a froggish monster was the definite high point of the session, for me.
All the stats and so on are recorded in the persisten fantasy page, as far as I remember them correctly (two players wanted their character sheets, which I graciously allowed).
Assuming I don’t get too many good ideas before the next ‘con, it is likely that I will run two proper sessions of this game there. Less players, though.
My first planned con game that was to involve a bunch of vikings did not happen. This one had six out of five places full. Two did not appear, however, which I do not find to be particularly courteous behaviour.
Players: Niko, Samu, Tomi, and either Samuli or Mikko. I had not met any of them before this game. Total strangers. Tomi (IIRC) had experience with Spirit of the Century and other indie/Forgish games (and dislikes Burning Wheel, the fool). Other players generally played D&D, with various amounts of experience divided among the other traditional roleplaying games.
(The lack of) preparation
My preparation for this game consisted of writing character sheets. In addition, I had run something similar before.
To the players I first made clear that I do not have a map prepared. They can add details. They can add stuff that is appropriate to the setting.
The players and their characters
Tomi was playing Dorian Faust, a british detective. Niko was playing André Menard (Hello Phil.), an incredibly lucky French adventurer of noble blood. Samu was playing Djazdah, an arabian priest ( Samuli/Mikko was playing Adelino Schnoor, a German explorer and now a madman due to having visited the pyramid once before.
If I get the names wrong, which is not impossible, pardon and please notify me of the error.
Of the players Tomi and Niko were very good, Tomi having experience with this kind of gaming and Niko presumably just being a good player. Samuli/Mikko, who had power to add all sorts of stuff to the fiction was reluctant to do so. He did seem to enjoy playing a plotting character, but did not do actual scheming. More revelling in knowing a secret. I hope he enjoyed his play. Samu was okay, not particularly active, but did play his part and contribute. He is what I would call a normal player playing with people he does not know in a style he is unfamiliar with. On reflection, that’s pretty good, given the circumstances.
Each character could do something, mistrusted someone (though not necessarily directly), and was looking for a particular object that would grant miraculous power, if acquired. To my shame I forgot that mister Faust was looking for a book. Others I did remember.
Characters have a number of traits. Trait gives one or two dice in relevant situations. Environment may roll some dice. Each die generates a success with probability 1/2 (even result means success, odd does not). Traps, in general, deal a minor effect in case of tie and major results when they win.
The dice pool approach does not work when there are this few dice being rolled. They were kind of boring. Using a flat d6+modifiers would have been more elegant, I presume. Alternatively, more dice.
History: There’s this pyramid that has just been unearthed. It is somewhere in Egypt, pretty far from everything. Previous explorers are dead or mad. Disappeared they have, either way. The only exception being mister Schnoor, a German explorer now, mad (but not disappeared; death is disputable).
A party of adventurers including the aforementioned player characters and few NPCs (the remaining PC is also an NPC, but I play hims as a passive follower, which is something of a mistake). There’s also a bunch of slaves servants carrying things and so on. (Quoth Mister Faust: “There is no slavery in the British empire…”)
Game starts as the characters arrive to the pyramid. Blowing up things immediately becomes the favoured way of making progress inside the pyramid. (Räjämiittiä galore.) There are dead ends, traps, exploration and explosions. The servants run away or die, a few at a time. One fake throne room, too. It becomes increasingly obvious that the pyramid is not entirely of Egyptian construction. A key is found in the fake throne room. (I gave one player the map and asked him to email it to me, but he probably forgot or misplaced the address. It is quite characteristic of the maps I draw: Messy, sketchy, disposable.)
The climax happens behind a sealed door. The German guide won’t go there (the player’s idea, not mine, but a necessary one). Mister Faust goes to investigate it, remarkably fails the relevant roll, and next there are poison needles piercing his arm. Ouch. There’s fast necrosis and mister Faust goes back to the jeeps, searching for remedy. His arm actually starts slowly melting.
Mister Menard opens the door and happens to do so via a nontrapped switch. A short corridor and there’s a large room constructed of arbitrarily shaped slabs of stone. There are some stone walls, evidently of no purpose whatsoever, and part of the floor and wall is seamless metal. There’s a huge pedestal with some chains connecting it to the roof. There are lots of holes that could fire spears or arrows or darts or snakes. Some testing reveals traps. Many traps. Mister Menard charges right through the room to the pedestal, miraculously avoiding all the traps. He tries climbing atop the pedestal, marginally succeeds, and a horde of scorpions (IIRC) floods the place. Next attempt gets him up the pedestal, where a bunch of stuff, including stuff everyone was looking for, is discovered (excluding the book I forgot).
Djazdah runs away from scorpions and is pierced and killed by all the traps in the real treasure room. Menard, while climbing atop the pedestal, triggered various other traps and swarm after swarm of creatures sweep the dead Djazdah, leaving nothing but the skeleton.
Monsieur Menard equips the stuff on the pedestal, gets down and runs through the trapped area. Schnoor begs for the crown, but Menard does not quite feel like giving it up. The djinn inhabiting/being Schnoor creates an illusory tendril of molten metal reaching for Menard, who burns his hand and then notices that it is not quite real. Another similar tendril appears and reaches for Djazdah’s skeleton, and a djinn formed of one skeleton and some semi-liquid metal is created. Menard runs. The new djinn destroys the one who was once Schnoor.
Menard reaches the jeeps (and confirms that yes, Faust has indeed lost an arm and no, it is not a very realistic illusion). The two drive away. The djinn creates a sandstorm, car crashes, which puts an effective end on the escape attempt.
The djinn catches the escapees. It is not formed of solid metal (not unlike certain characters in Terminator 2+). Some fighting and TNT later mister Faust has both the key and one of the items and essentially gets three wishes. After using those the key is dropped and monsieur Menard gets it and has the audacity to wish for more wishes. Game over, endless loop of wishes achieved.
This was the first convention game I have ever GM’d. This particularly means that the pacing sucked. Most of the game was inconsequental filler (other examples of it: many encounters in random D&D adventures), which often did promote interesting dialogue, but was boring in and of itself. There were a few traps, lots of dynamite, and so on. The total game time was around 3 hours and 15 minutes, out of four hours the game slot took. Oh well…
I certainly enjoyed running this game. I’d go as far as to say that I had fun. Two of the players liked this game enough to come to my other game.
Be that as it may, the game was technically pretty bad. Pacing sucked, there was too much filler and the structure of the game was not very good. Given that the game was enjoyable, does it matter? Personally, I think that the game would have been even better if it had gone better, so, my answer is that yes, it does matter.
Also: The noise level was sufficiently high that I had to speak pretty loud. It almost hurt. Not quite. Sore throat, but nothing that stopped me from running another game.
First, a summary: I prepared (for some, very loose, definitions of “prepare”) two games, GM’d one of them (there were too few players in the other) and then also GM’d an ad-hoc game because it felt appropriate to do so. I played in one of game of UA (also known as Unknown Armies), of which a report shall follow, and also played one game of Bang! with Ari and some friends of his. No luck playing D&D 4th, unfortunately.
Most of the program was mediocre. The GM loot, in which game masters get to participate, works so that game masters are named in order of the number and length of games they GM’d, and when named get to pick one item from a table full of loot. My picks: Two containers of fancy gem tokens (useful for representing, say, artha in BW games) and D&D 4th PHB. I don’t have other core books, so it is unlikely that I’ll run it (though possible, given how much free monsters there is almost certainly floating around the ‘net).
So, all in all, game mastering gives you free access and the chance to get some stuff. I approve of this and will run more games at future Ropecons.
Previous knowledge about UA: Modern horror game. Rules use a d100. Knives hurt. There’s madness meters, which mean that when in sanity-killing situations, character breaks more or becomes more psychopatic.
The GM was Olorin, the admin of majatalo.org, whom I properly met for first time during this con. The scenario played was from One shots. Other players included: Opusinsania and Vepa and few forumites from Finnish forums. Taustavoima and Tanan, possibly. One player about whom I remember little.
Hereafter there be spoilers
Characters: Me playing a not-too-smart robber who is overtly protective of his dear brother. Finnish forumite playing the aforementioned brother, who is pretty smart. Another forum person playing German doctor Mendele Mensch (or something to that effect) with something of a obsessive-compulsive nature. Opusinsania is playing the leader of the small group and is something of a cowboy. Vepa plays a hyperactive boy, the son of the final character called Rebecca Borgstrom (which, I suppose, is funny).
A bunch of characters in a trailer park far from everywhere. It seems that radio and TV are not working as they used to be. After plenty of talky bits, the two robbers, the cowboy and the kid go to investigate and shop a bit in the only nearby place where such can be done, which is a semi-deserted settlement with a radio station and a general store. The fact that play now happens in two groups means that two players are basically relegated to an audience role, which is, in general, not a good thing.
Everyone’s dead in that place, as becomes clear after some mucking around. The cowboy and my char’s brother go investigating. My char is obsessed with his bro’s safety and goes after them; there is a loud crash and the boy comes running in panic (a previous loud crash made the car nonfunctional, this one makes a hole in the roof.) Blather about black man with an axe follows. Somewhat panicked reactions, further investigation, flimsy excuses to not call the cops, and trying to get a car going follow. End result being that my char gets hit with an axe and the black-clad latino axe murderer shot thrice, once in the head at practically no distance. Also: Vepa is a good character actor.
During that the doctor and Ms. Borgstrom have started driving to where the others are with the only working car (others don’t start), which eats humongous quantities of fuel (a railroading measure to keep us from not simply driving away). A happy reunion. My char is professionally fixed by the German doctor, as well as somewhat drugged. The axe murderer is found to have disappeared, because it was deemed useful for the cowboy to have a gun and another of my char’s weapons had dropped near where the evil one had died and I told them to go get that gun (the effect of discovering that the murderer is gone was intentional). There is debate about what to do next. Railroading by the way of “you feel really bad leaving your dog there alone to die” pointed towards ms. Borgstrom and the kid leads everyone back to the trailer park, also known as home.
Some calm moments later there is a dead dog and everyone rapidly entering the car, driving towards the second nearby place, a farm (or something similar) of random old man. The old man is dead. Desperate grab for gas leads to climatic battle (Olorin: “You’ll have to roll 1 or 11 to hit.” Opusinsania rolls eleven. There is much rejoicing.) in which the evil one is (again) slain.
The actual content of the play was interactions of the characters. All that plot stuff was there mostly as fuel for the interaction. The railroading was somewhat visible and Olorin said he did it. The module also recommends killing player characters if they are ever alone, which did not happen. It would not have been very compatible with 4-hour con gaming slot.
The rules of UA where largely not used or alternatively were irrelevant most of the time. The combats felt slow. Personally, I would have used another, simpler, set of rules for this scenario.
All in all, it was good enough a game that I would play in something similar, given the choice. This is not true of all games I have played.
Tomorrow I will go to Ropecon. I will run two games, one about a certain called Nokkonen, one about a bunch of people looting a pyramid and maybe stabbing each other. Or shooting, more likely.
The guests of honour are not of particular interest; there’s some Scandinavian larp person, some d20 person and Greg Stolze, who is a game designer. There’s some talk about the future of roleplaying, using nontraditional economical models, and of social important of roleplaying. They may be worth attending.
Guy Windsor will hold Realities of Steel and that other thing on medieval fighting. They are guaranteed to be at least amusing.
There’s two presentations on probability; one for powergamers, the other for game designers. I doubt they have much to teach to me. Given something to do, I won’t attend them.
I will try to play in as many intersting games as possible. Approximately: Three. If feasible, one of these will be a game of D&D 4th.
I will not participate in the rpg.net meetup due to two reasons: First, I am too much of a wallflower to really enjoy it. Second, I have not actually been participating in rpg.net for a long while.
Other than that, randomly talking with people I know.