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oliverkinne
September 18, 2020
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Bots Up Board Game Review

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Min-Maxing

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Play Matt: Village Green Review

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09 Apr 2020 16:02 #309103 by dysjunct
Played a session of MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC with my 5yo spawn. It was pretty good but with just me and her it suffered a bit. The adventure kind of assumes that there's a bunch of ponies going on the adventure, so if one gets in trouble the others can help out. I had to improvise to avoid dead ends.

The included adventure is fine but railroady. Probably age-appropriate; I don't know that the target age would be into player-driven sandboxes or whatever.

The game is quite good; uses a dice-step system for attributes, roll vs. a target number. The only weird misstep is an included equipment section, with costs etc. I have never seen this in an MLP episode; shopping is always incidental to the story. Not sure why it was included; I ignored it.

The game also has many excellent puns: you can be from Manehattan, Vanhoover, Baltimare, etc.

The spawn is begging to play again, so by the only metric that matters it was a hit.
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10 Apr 2020 00:46 #309125 by Michael Barnes
Somehow I have GMed 9 sessions in three weeks. What a time to be alive.

My OSE B2 game continues...this group is just a blast. The elderly rat catcher forgot his floating disc spell but found that he could tell folksy anecdotes that have the effect of a Sleep spell. A shady trader gave him an Enlarge spell, which...has implications. The Half-Orc (Spaghetti) decided it was robbin’ season and broke into the provisioner. He found a chest trapped with a Magic Mouth alarm, but he made off with a Helm of Teleportation hidden in it that only works 50% of the time. Right now, he has been teleported to his childhood home. In the middle of a fight with Lizardmen. They al just about got arrested in the tavern but the two Gnomes decided to leverage their racial “Detect Construction Tricks” ability to act like code inspectors threatening to shut the place down. This is the kind of party whose first impulse is always to set something on fire. Lots of fun.

My DCC group is 2/3 through Sailors. I am totally loving it and I think it may be my favorite D&D system. I think I like playing it more than B/X, actually. It is definitely B/X in spirit and approach, but it is more modern in every regard. I think it’s also an easier sell to players coming from 5e. The magic system is just freaking great, I love the critical hit/fumble tables, and the funnel play is so good.

I felt like they needed a little more push to get the PC villagers into an angry mob. So I had their village, Lower Podunque, hold a town meeting to address the problem of the apparent abductions and disappearances. The Dwarven mayor, Ramonda Boltshackle, announced that they were hiring a party of adventurers to deal with the problem. So the Adventurer’s League, LLC showed up. This band of “heroes” all looked like actors with perfect hair, perfect teeth, styled to the nines in apparently unused and un-useful gear, like cosplayers. They signed autographs and mugged. They had a ladies man Love Cleric, a “complicated” halfling thief named Sprinkles Throatslitter, a Tiefling Warlock called Wulfgang Grimdark, and a lady elf wizard with extremely dyed red hair. They wanted more than the village was worth in CP to take on the contract. So the mayor had the town draw lots, and the PCs were selected for the angry mob.

They have only had one death- dude got burnt up at the door to Felan’s tomb. They didn’t bother with the body, surprisingly. The Cheesemaker fell down the well but caught the chain. Forces of Chaos tugged him down and his corruption roll resulted in his entire body and limbs elongating. Another group just completely murdered the beast men in the tower- they rolled like gods and didn’t even take a hit. One got hit with the rot grubs, but he beat them to death with his hammer.

My kids are also playing DCC. I have the scratch-off level 0 character cards for them and they are so much fun. They are doing Portal Beneath the Stars. They lost three party members in the first room, which they busted open with a goat one of them had as their trade good. But they were just stymied coming up with a way to avoid getting speared by the automatons. It’s really funny because they are TOTALLY playing with a B/X mindset...always looting anything and looking for any kind of treasure and traps. As it should be.

DCC modules are some of the best I’ve ever read...They hit a nice middle ground between the overly specific nature of WOTC style modules and the looser, more open kinds of material that require the judge to do exactly that- make judgments. If you play then with that OSR mindset of rulings not rules, they really open up.

One thing I really love, that goes back to the comments Sag and Gary made, is that your level 0 characters as an RP concern are formed from a) their occupation b) their lucky roll, and c) whatever their items are. So if you have a merchant with a lot of money, bad luck that results in a negative willpower save that has to do with “resisting temptation”, you’ve got plenty of hooks there.

What happens is that if you have players rely on these hooks, they -will- fill in the details during the game and that’s when the really funny and awesome stuff comes out. And it’s natural, instead of some narcissist trying to wedge their 20 page backstory into the narrative you are trying to develop with the players at the table.

I really feel like setting should be handled the same way. I think it’s fine to have a fixed setting and certain elements of lore, geography, custom, and sense of place. But I also think that there again, hooks and leads are more important. Let the players name NPCs or the tavern. Fuck a bunch of having to memorize 200 pages of Forgotten Realms lore. I’d rather make that up on the fly and give the players leads if they want to accept them to make whatever it is part of the story.

For example, in B2, there is that lizardman mound. There isn’t much about it. But my gang is there now, looking for a missing elf scout that the Chaos Cult has killed because she found the “Cave of the Unknown” (Tomb of the Serpent King). They came across the Lizardmen. They felt weirdly guilty about killing an ambush party, so I am rolling right into that. The Lizardmen are a displaced tribe that was forcibly removed when Fang Rock (my name for the keep) was built. So they are a downtrodden, beaten people impacted by colonialism. And, if their conscience continues to have sympathy for them, they may turn out to be allies and there may be a more quandary if they decide to take up the issue with the Keep’s castellan Jeanne Orlanne.

Or, they may just slaughter them all and set their village on fire.

Either way, that’s the lore that matters, not a bunch of backstory. I improv almost everything like that anymore, with maybe just a little note-taking as I think about how to spool up the next session. But at this stage, I am prepping almost nothing for any of my games outside of reading through the DCC modules. Because hooks, leads, and riffs are where the best RPGing comes from. It’s a jam session, not a concerto.
The following user(s) said Thank You: dysjunct, allismom3, Brewmiester

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10 Apr 2020 14:57 #309142 by dysjunct
And in the next session of MLP, the spawn declared "I'M BORED" after 15 minutes and stomped away to do something else.

The joys of gaming with 5yos I guess.

"No Thank You, Evil!" is getting here next week so we'll see if that is any better.

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10 Apr 2020 16:34 - 10 Apr 2020 16:34 #309150 by Jexik
We used Zoom to keep our 5e campaign going, and with a different group I'm going to try Blades in the Dark on roll20 tonight. Looking forward to trying a new system!
Last edit: 10 Apr 2020 16:34 by Jexik.

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04 May 2020 12:45 #309912 by barrowdown
I MCed a game of Monsterhearts 2 over Zoom for my wife and some of her friends who had never played an RPG before. It was a blast and everyone seemed to have a great time. I had nothing prepped before hand and they bit quickly on the Queen having her popularity challenged by another student scheduling a party at the same time as hers. It was completely over the top and melodramatic. I am really finding out I prefer collaborative focus games like PbtA or FitD over the GM-focused angle.
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04 May 2020 14:51 #309916 by Gary Sax

barrowdown wrote: I MCed a game of Monsterhearts 2 over Zoom for my wife and some of her friends who had never played an RPG before. It was a blast and everyone seemed to have a great time. I had nothing prepped before hand and they bit quickly on the Queen having her popularity challenged by another student scheduling a party at the same time as hers. It was completely over the top and melodramatic. I am really finding out I prefer collaborative focus games like PbtA or FitD over the GM-focused angle.


This sounds like an awesome thing.

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04 May 2020 15:23 #309919 by barrowdown

Gary Sax wrote:

barrowdown wrote: I MCed a game of Monsterhearts 2 over Zoom for my wife and some of her friends who had never played an RPG before. It was a blast and everyone seemed to have a great time. I had nothing prepped before hand and they bit quickly on the Queen having her popularity challenged by another student scheduling a party at the same time as hers. It was completely over the top and melodramatic. I am really finding out I prefer collaborative focus games like PbtA or FitD over the GM-focused angle.


This sounds like an awesome thing.


It was great. I thought I meet need to prod a little during the setting/NPC setup segment (which is collaborative in Monsterhearts 2), but it was already well on the way to overwrought CW drama before the actual game began. Very complicated web of characters (love quadrangles, messy friendships, two different descendants of the Romanovs for future plot complexity).

They were all in on making it messy with the only the player running the Ghost taking a while to warm up. The Witch got rejected in the middle of a party after trying to flirt with someone in front of her ex-boyfriend (who was only along because he is totally in to her gay best friend), she then caused demonic illusions to poor out of the walls breaking up the party. The Selkie and the Queen (who has the Selkie's pelt) had a CW-style flirt off to try and attract the bad boy they both have a crush on. They both succeeded and now have a stronger love triangle. The Ghost was accidentally killed by the Queen, so the Selkie and the Queen are probably going to try and take her down.

It was probably the most fun I have had in an RPG because PbtA has such a loose structure already and really encourages everyone shaping events.

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04 May 2020 16:24 #309924 by bendgar

dysjunct wrote: And in the next session of MLP, the spawn declared "I'M BORED" after 15 minutes and stomped away to do something else.

The joys of gaming with 5yos I guess.


Last week I ran 2 sessions of 5e with my son (8), daughter (5), and wife (??).
It went...OK?
I have never run or participated in any RPG before so it was going to be kludgy.

I came up with a pretty basic adventure plot of an ogre scaring customers away from an inn, but tailored it to them.
My daughter loves horses, so of course there were goblins stealing horses (to eat).
When they came across some badly hurt goblins (the ogre had taken their cave by force) my son, who spoke goblin, had to broker peace between them and a vengeful sister so that the party could find the ogre easily.

Yesterday was raining so I asked if they wanted to play again. Both kids said no.
Truthfully, I felt relieved. This DMing is no joke. I found it very stressful playing the part of Rulebook, Cheerleader and Salesman while also fumbling through combat.

Maybe I'll try again after re-reading some rules.
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04 May 2020 16:39 #309927 by barrowdown
I've played a few sessions with my mini-human (who is six). I clip along quickly and do only mild prepwork so I can follow whatever direction she is moving. I find she builds a better mystery appropriate for her age than I can. Some days she is interested in playing and we play, but I never preplan it because she might just not want to play.
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04 May 2020 17:14 - 04 May 2020 17:26 #309930 by Michael Barnes
This DMing is no joke. I found it very stressful playing the part of Rulebook, Cheerleader and Salesman while also fumbling through combat.

Ditch 5e. The kind of play it supports requires a ton of commitment and buy-in from players and DM alike, and if you aren’t into all of that then you are going to be overworked and over stressed for players who are not going to really dig into this rule set and its options.

Move to low/no prep games with simpler character options and no preset lore or storylines. Let them create the lore and encourage character creation through play, not prep work.

Get Knave and Stonehell Dungeon for about $20. Spend 30 minutes looking over an area and making characters. Just go. Improvise and adapt. Get away from thinking that you have to labor to make D&D fun.

I’m now running two DCC games. One just finished Sailors (5 deaths) heading into Doom of the Savage Kong’s and the other halfway through it (6 deaths so far). It is a blast. The system is really fun and the modules are awesome. As for prep, I’m spending about 15 minutes before each 2 hour session to read through the modules (20ish pages) to see what is coming up and to get Roll20 ready.

May try to get a Mothership game going this week with either Blood Floats in Space or Black Pyramid.
Last edit: 04 May 2020 17:26 by Michael Barnes.
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04 May 2020 17:45 #309934 by barrowdown
Fate Accelerated is also good (Pay What You Want on DriveThruRPG) and is super stripped down and pretty much just needs an archetype to run. Your stats are simply how your character approaches the problem (Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, Sneaky). Simpler is better in most situations unless the system mastery part is fun for your players.
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04 May 2020 19:51 #309936 by dysjunct
Bendgar, it sounds like you did great and that kind of organic story development of negotiation with goblins is part of the fun.

DMing can absolutely be super-stressful. I think everyone goes through this. I've been DMing for (takes off shoes to count....) uh, over thirty years, and I still get nervous to the point of wanting to call off the session sometimes. I play with friends and I really want them to have a great time and love RPGs as much as I do ... it's a lot of pressure, but the thing is, it's all pressure I put on myself. My players have fun, and the secret is that they don't know that I am nervous about the game going well. Never let them see you sweat.

Re: Barnes advice, I dunno. My RPG tastes are really closely aligned to his (I'm also running DCC, and Knave and Stonehell are two of the best things I've ever bought in the hobby) but best case scenario, switching to a simpler system will greatly reduce the weight of your Rulebook category, but not the Cheerleader or Salesman categories. I think you just need more practice in the soft skills part of DMing. Plus, if your kids turn out to really like RPGs then it'd be nice if they could join another group and have experience with the most popular system, and not limited to some obscure nerd game beloved by middle-aged internet nerds, but unknown to 99% of anyone they're likely to meet.

The reality is that 5e is pretty easy for the most part, especially at low levels when the PCs don't have a bunch of special powers. Roll a d20, add a bonus or two, higher is better. If you have to spend more than 30 seconds looking up a rule, then just have the players roll something; make a judgement based on how well they roll. Err on the side of the players. Then the day after the session, look up the actual rule so you know it for next session. Hell, ask here and I'll look it up for you. It's more important to keep the story moving than to take your rules-adherence during the session from 85% to 99%.

MAUSRITTER: Barnes, have you checked this ( losing-games.itch.io/mausritter ) out yet? Heroic mice with swords, core system inspired by Knave, layout inspired by Mothership and OSE. Has Tetris-style inventory, where you print out inventory tokens on cardstock and then cut them out; players have to physically fit arrange them onto their sheet like a CRPG. You get conditions like "Exhausted" that take up inventory space. It's so good. Every page is chock full of gaming amazingness. Random tables for days so you can run low/no-prep adventures. PWYW so there is no reason not to get it.

PBTA is a very fun approach and it is most fun when you can get the players to contribute stuff actively. Good playbooks encourage this. I'm listening to a podcast on how to run Trophy Gold and it is very much like this -- solicit constant feedback from the players, then incorporate it. Incidentally, this also makes GMing much easier because it's not just you coming up with shit all the time.

MORE 5e: So despite my advice to Bendgar to stick with 5e, I am having a really hard time getting excited about it for myself. One of my buds wants to run it, set in some bullshit "Wildemount" setting that I can't be arsed to read a single word about. I am about a coin flip away from either (a) biting the bullet and making a character, or (b) asking one of the other players to make a character for me. (Not playing is a last resort; these are close friends who have put up with any number of my nerd games.) I am okay, sort of, with base 5e, but this has a bunch of races and cultures and custom classes with custom powers and just fuck it. Like none of that stuff matters to me; what matters is critically failing and sending an arrow through my friend's calf while accidentally knocking a priceless vase into a volcano. I know some people are totally into settings and lore and stuff but I just don't give a shit anymore. What matters to me is fun at the table, not canon-wanking over some stranger's fictional world. If I'm going to wank over a fictional world, I'll do it over my own, thank you very much.

SPEAKING OF WANKING: White Wolf (or whoever is publishing their games these days) gave away a free PDF of Mage The Ascension 20th anniversary edition. I used to like WW back in the day, so I picked it up and almost immediately regretted it. This is one of the worst games I've ever read. I would be shocked if even 1% of the people who read it ever played a single session of it. It literally has not advanced an inch in game design or aesthetics from 1995. The first 250 pages are a combination of forgettable vignettes about annoying idiots, combined with faux-edgy philosophizing about how meaningful your campaign will be when it addresses the deep contradictions between the will to power, and the search for ultimate truth. The next 200 pages are horseshit rules about how many yards you can run in a combat round (Dexterity x 3 plus 20, obviously). It made me a little sad because of misplaced nostalgia, but also highlighted how creative the OSR is compared to this turgid retread. Even WOTC is a bastion of forward-thinking innovation compared to this. Ugh.
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04 May 2020 22:09 #309942 by barrowdown
I have always bounced off of White Wolf’s rule, but from what I have read, even among WW’s stuff M20 is considered pretty terrible and wanking to the extreme.

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06 May 2020 09:03 #309988 by blatz
Continuing our Old School Essentials game tomorrow. Running Stonehell. We're about 5 sessions in and they're finally about to enter the dungeon proper. Been having a ton of fun just exploring the area and getting some backstory to Stonehell so they think they know what to expect (they don't).

Anyway, such a great adventure. It's a mega dungeon but it's laid out so you can easily pick out sections you want to use and there's a ton of seemingly throwaway details and descriptions that make it super easy to spin stories up on the fly.

I love making the players figure out what magical properties some of their loot may or may not have. They found an umbrella and a cloak hanging up in a hidden alcove. The cloak protects the wearer completely from rain and cold but its owner is convinced it's going to make him invisible under the right conditions. Probably going to end up getting him killed at some point. The umbrella is made of white dragon hide and gives a bonus to saves vs. cold damage when opened. They keep opening it and waving it at any sign of danger. Hilarious. Fuck "Identify" spells.
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06 May 2020 11:41 #309994 by Michael Barnes
Stonehell is just really, really great. I think you could just play it with OSE from here on and it’d be totally all you’d want in terms of the classical dungeon crawl. It’s so flexible and it gives you just the right amount of everything.

I actually skipped the gatehouse and above ground area, I just put them right into the dungeon. “You are looking to loot Stonehell, the most notorious prison of all time”. And they were off.

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