Make it personal

15 March, 2008 at 11:24 am (actual play, game mastering) (, )

Since the Lemming had a post about this and some other blogs where he (or she) mentioned liking my GMing rambles, here is a new one.

Making the fictional events personal to player characters is a good idea. This blog post is not about that. Making things personal to players may make an excellent game or cause the entire thing to burn and crash. This is not the subject, either.


The first session of the post-apocalyptic game set in Finland has been played. (What is interesting that opusinsania ran a similar game not long ago; totally unfounded claims about spying were included in the session before play began.) I set the game to happen near Pori, because most of my relatives live in that direction and I have some familiarity with the area. To be more precise: a significant encounter happened in a location which I imagined as the home of my grandparents. This was a good thing for the following reasons: There was little fear of severe contradictions as I know where everything was and what everything looked like. Second, I had an emotional connection with the place: some of the player characters effectively assaulting the place was interesting to GM.

The session consisted of the characters saving the dog (named Fifi, as any dog tends to be) of one PC. The mood was not very dark (given a post-apocalyptic game), though one character did lose an arm at the very end. This was pretty traditional game in that there was background info the players know little about. Anyway. The relevancy of the dog.

Tara, the dog that lives with my mother and sister.

(Credit for the picture: My sister. Copyright her, I guess.)

I lived some years with Tara and still meet her at least once a month. I like dogs. Making the game about “rescuing” one means that it gets a n immediate reaction from me.


Make locations and events personal to you and you will certainly be interested in the game; the extra context the relevant elements give adds value. Enthusiasm is a likely consequence, and enthusiasm is a good thing.

Using actively painful elements might or might not work, but is certainly not adviced unless playing with close friends who can and are willing to take it.

Overall, this technique is useful for having a full, detailed mental image of something: A place, building, or person. Use it as you will. As an additional bonus, you get to know what a bunch of armed attackers would do if they wanted to attack your house. That might end up being useful.

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Going post-apocalyptic

3 March, 2008 at 9:20 pm (roleplaying) (, )

Starting next week, I’ll run a game in the Monday (university) group. Estimated duration: two to four sessions. It’s a placeholder and possible introduction to some people.

There is a summary in Finnish near the end of the post.


About 10 years in the future. Finland unless someone has a reason for some other location. There are a few dials: They will be negotiated before starting to play, probably during character creation.


In year 2010 (give or take 2) a massive outbreak of disease (not quite the black death, though similar) decimated all large settlements. If more than hundred people lived there, almost all of them died. Society stopped functioning. There were people who survived: Many lived in desolate areas and maybe heard news of the outbreak (before the news stopped coming), fortifying or hiding. The disease did not go away: few dared to enter the cities and most of those who did died. People formed small groups for protection and gathering food.

The present

3 to 10 years from the first infection. People live in groups of between 1 and 25 humans. Larger groups tend to split or be infected and perish. A given group can be formed around a strong leader, an ideology (including a religion), way of life, or simply due to simply having stumbled together. Groups live by scavenging, hunting, trading or raiding. Some groups are stationary, some wander around.

Group members have some recognisable roles: Hunter (gets food), leader, scavenger (seeks and can repair stuff), soldier, professor (knows a lot of stuff, some of which may be useful), priest (or shaman), child. The average life expectancy has dropped quite a bit. People who get old or severely wounded are often left behind by travelling groups, sometimes to a place where they should be somewhat safe, like a cottage the group occasionally returns to.

The scarred

Those who survive the disease carry visible marks: Some have lost body parts, all have a scarred skin, almost none can reproduce. Reaction to them vary: Some hold them in value (they can scavenge cities with little danger of infection), many are suspicious, some loathe them. Most hold them as a source of expendable labour; they can’t reproduce and usually won’t enjoy a long life and should be grateful for whatever little mercy they are given. There are rare groups consisting solely of the scarred.

Dial 1: Matters of technology

The default setting for the technology dial is that the old technology exist, can be used by most but repaired by few. In addition, internet, tv, radio and phones are all dead. Sources of power are scarce but may be found. Weapons and ammunition scavenged from military outposts likewise exist, but the means of reproducing ammunition are pretty much lost.

Alternatives: Technology has declined, because there are no power sources and few tools to repair anything. Ammunition has been long used. High-tech is the other option: Some people have braved the risk of infection and takes control of former factories. These people hire others to defend the factories and give out whatever good it produces in return.

Dial 2: Supernatural

Default setting for the supernatural dial is very little. People are religious (the world ending has that effect), but no god or demon has explicitly appeared and likely won’t. The disease is borderline natural in that something like it could theoretically develop. There are no high-functioning mutants in the style of Fallout or Shadowrun, no undead either. Just people. They are bad enough.

High supernatural is the other option. There are mutants, most mindless beasts, very few more like traditional superheroes. There are psionic abilities. There may be zombies or other undead. Demons and maybe even divine powers in the style of C. J. Carella’s Witchcraft.


I’ll try to use rules as little as possible. Reasons: Change of pace, exercise.

Every character has one archetype or profession. In addition, all characters can have as many other traits as they want to. All of this is descriptive. I advise between 3 and 5 miscellaneous traits to start with. More can be added in play at your and my discretion.

If there is need for resolution, the relevant player rolls d6. Target number is set by circumstances and declared by the GM (me), up to negotiation. List of target numbers: 2 in case of large edge, 3 for significant edge, 4 for fair case, 5 when the circumstances are bad, 6 for really bad stuff. Effects of failing or succeeding are usually determined ahead of time and told out loud by me. Wounding, death and so forth come as a consequence for (failing) tests or other fictional stuff, like jumping off a cliff. Wounds tend to make everything harder, but this is not formalised.

The game

I have some starting situations ready, depending on the kind of characters that are made and the setting of the dials. The most likely one is a conflict over resources, with all characters in one group that is involved. Characters of different groups are okay as long as they are okay with all players.

For those who want to make up a character ahead of time: Leave enough undefined so that the characters can be tied and are likely to fit together.


Oli nykymaailma. Tuli iso epidemia, tappoi kaikki isot ihmisjoukot (kuten kaupunkilaiset). Jäljelle jääneet organisoituivat pieniin joukkoihin. Nyt nämä kilpailevat keskenään resursseista. Yliluonnolisen ja teknologian merkittävyys päätetään paikan päällä.

Säännöt ovat yksinkertaiset. Niistä ei tarvi huolehtia.

Pelitilanne riippuu suureksi osaksi hahmoista. Jonkinmoista jengien välistä konfliktia luultavasti luvassa. Hahmot voivat aloittaa kyvykkäinä tai tärkeinä, mutta ei mitään puolijumalaa välttämättä ole tarvetta pelata. Nobilista pelataan sitten joskus myöhemmin.

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