Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In Which The Warlock Preps for The Big Event...

Sorry to disappoint, my lovelies, but there's no real entry this week.

Instead, come see us at WittCon VII! This Saturday, starting at Noon in the Shouvlin Center, we'll be holding our yearly game-stravaganza. Come on out and toss some dice!

After all, it's not just a game. It's a way of life!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

In Which The Warlock Pays Homage to Rock-Star Facial Hair...

With the spring convention season just about to start, excitement’s already building. WittCon’s less than a week away, and my C2E2 tickets are already on order. FOPCon’s just the week after that, and then…wow.

All of this chaos has been utterly overwhelming, particularly when the Guild has been busy writing new scenarios and revamping old ones as we get ready for these conventions and our first bout of GMing at the Big O. Ebbs, I know, has put in a ton of time building a new Ninja Nuttiness castle, and has commissioned some of the current Guilders for accompanying ninja art.

As such, there’s only one song that fits all this. Thank you, ZZ Top, for expressing in lyrics what I cannot.

“It’s got me under pressure…”

At this point, I literally feel as if there are two meat forks jammed underneath each of my shoulder blades and someone’s just twisting the muscles apart. Pleasant, I know, but I’m the sort of person that doesn’t know the meaning of “de-stress”.

Y’know, you’d think that all of this gaming would be a de-stressor. And really, I do enjoy it to help me relax. But this isn’t gaming. This, my lovely reader, is Event Planning, and it’s another animal all together.

“She’s about all I can handle; it’s too much for my brain…”

Let’s see. Just today, in amongst proctoring the OGT and teaching my freshmen Romeo and Juliet, I:
• E-mailed our good buddy Shane, regarding this year’s Paint-and-Take set-up.
• Contacted El Willy, to make sure all was well for this year’s WEGSing.
• Double checked my monster choices for “Orcs Gone Wild”
• Re-calculated the pricing for customized dice and ribbons for Origins.
• Continued writing the scenario for “Orcs Gone Wild”.
• Got Jules registered as a GM for her Cthulhu scenarios at FOPCon.

And it’s only 10 am (well, when I’m writing this, as I’m staring a sea of blankly-staring sophomores snooze their way through the Science portion)! Holy productivity, Batman!

“She likes cocaine”

Just for the record, WittCon VII is proud to be a substance-free event.

“I’m gonna give her a message. Here’s what I’m gonna say: ‘It’s all over’…”

Lionel may have said it best a few weeks ago. We love when WittCon comes around. The day is a ton of fun—14+ hours of gaming goodness, old friends, and clattering dice. You can’t beat it with a stick. However, the road leading up to it is a mass of blood, sweat, and tears (“Spinning Wheel,” anyone?) that regularly makes life rough. But, when the day is out, and we close the doors of Shouvlin, it’s all worth it. We’re already planning for the next go-round.

In the Play Dirty article that I reviewed last entry, John Wick makes takes an aside, after talking about the downfall of the eponymous Mr. Jefferson Carter:

“Writing those words, those very words reminded me…why I love this industry so much. Why I love role-playing games so much. Because we are the only medium where the Author and the Audience are the same. Where we live the stories we tell as we tell them.
The whole point of mythology is to teach lessons that cannot be communicated any other way. Roleplaying is living myth. We aren’t hearing the heroes’ trials, we are the hero. We aren’t walking in his footsteps, we’re making the footsteps.”

And, y’know what? He’s damned right. We do it for ourselves, because we love it and we want to see more of it. Yeah, she’s got me under pressure. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Which The Warlock Admits His Alignment...

So, as a pseudo-GM's Day present, Kat sent me a copy of a very interesting PDF: John Wick's "Play Dirty".

At first, I had thought it was something along the lines of the eponymous "Book of Erotic Fantasy", released in the midst of the d20 System glut, but I was surprised beyond belief at what I found.

You see, Wick's articles (compiled from a gaming website) enlighten the reader on the glories of being a "Dirty GM". That is to say, a GM that uses his full creative abilities to challenge his players by exploiting their weaknesses and gaming assumptions. He contrasts this with the "Killer GM" which kills characters simply for the sake of killing them.

He then goes on to put forward idea after glorious idea, many of which were taken from his own games (mainly "Champions", "Vampire: The Masquerade" and "Call of Cthulhu"). Of particular note is his NPC, Jefferson Carter...a bastard to crown all other bastards, and a character that any self-respecting player would love to hate.

Wick's articles got me thinking about my own reputation within the Wittenberg gaming community. You see, I have a bit of a stigma as a brutal Game Master. I guess the old adage is to "never get in a car in one of Andy's games", after I had two separate TPKs (all detailed in earlier posts, no less!).

However, I've always strived for ways to challenge my players. From the illithid invasion of Saltmarsh, to the conspiracies of the Emperor's Ship Persephone, I try to keep my players always on their toes. There is, though, one game in which I really pulled the wool out from under the players:

Back at Wittenberg, I ran a game that was something of a crossover between the old 2e setting "Dark Sun" and the historical Crusades. The players took on fantasy roles of Egyptian Muslims, as their king attempted to invade Damascus. As they had proved themselves competent at court and in the field, our heroes were chosen as an advance force to try to infiltrate the city and begin to bring it down from the inside-out.

As such, after sneaking into Damascus, they began to learn about the city's defenses, which were constructed by a certain general, Mal-Erek Tsaron. Attempting to get into his confidence was Nick, playing a psychic warrior. He joined the city guard, immediately getting noticed due to his natural prowess (and the fact that he was around 12th level at the time). The group's mission? Kill Tsaron, so that the city's defenses would be leaderless.

Undoubtedly, the PCs were figuring on only a chance encounter with Tsaron, but I didn't let them off that easy. Tsaron took Nick's character under his wing, quickly promoting him. Within a month, Nick was invited over to Tsaron's home to have dinner with his wife. The entire time, I played Tsaron as a gentle, loving man who loved his country and wanted nothing more than to live in peace. Nick and Tsaron sparred in his practice room. Tsaron gave him an enchanted blade, which he had used in years previous. Tsaron's wife made him dinner.

...and when Nick's character was about to leave, Tsaron's daughter arrived. Oh, did I say his daughter? I meant Nick's love interest from earlier in the campaign. Same person.

Nick's character was invited to stay the night...during which he did the dirty deed. He killed Tsaron and his wife, then messaged the group, which signaled for the sieging army to attack.

The entire role-play took over 3 hours, with nary a dice rolled. Literally, Nick and I went back and forth, with the rest of the group rapt on our words. With each new detail, with each new "nice guy" action that Tsaron took, the group moaned their pain.

In order to take over Damascus, they would have to kill an innocent man. And, more than just innocent, he was a friend.

That's what John Wick is talking about! That's "hitting them where it hurts"! That's gamin'!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

In Which The Warlock Straddles the Fence, and Chafes Himself...

In amongst all of the prep for WittCon, FOPCon, and all of the other X-Cons around here, I've found myself in something of a quandary.

Y'see, there's the ongoing debate out here in geekdom between "rules heavy" and "rules light" systems. It's gotten to the point where not even the best of geeks can truly draw lines between the two factions.

I guess that former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said it best (in reference to porn, no less): "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." Personally, I can't really define what makes a rules-light or rules-heavy system, but I can tell them apart when I see them.

Therein lies the problem. Recently, I mentioned my excitement for Steve Kenson's new game, Icons. Coupled with WEGS, Call of Cthulhu, and now (thanks to Will's zeal for it) Savage Worlds, I've been enjoying "rules-light" systems more and more. Fundamentally, the idea is to throw together a character, toss some dice, and have fun. However, I wasn't overly impressed with the True-20 system, which is rules-light in the same fashion.

However, even putting aside nostalgia, I still love Heroes Unlimited...a decidedly rules-heavy (and Byzantine) game. And my affection for D&D...well, how does that one fit at all? D&D has a ton of rules, feats, powers, and the like, but with the Insider program, it's immensely easy to navigate, and is quick around the table. Plus, I'm even less of a fan of games like GURPS and Rolemaster, which are incredibly bloated with rules and system abuses.

So, by now, you can see my quandary. Where do I fall on the grand-spectrum of gaming? No, it probably doesn't matter, but it's nice to be able to know what you actually like!