Monday, February 27, 2012

In Which The Warlock Summons a Supplemental Elemental...

People often wonder how I come up with such weird things for my games.  I'm known for something of a twisted imagination--just take a look my contributions on "Flying Polyps" in my work on The Mythos Dossiers for "The Laundry".  When I pitched the idea of "sentient f***ing cancer!" to my fellow writers, I could almost hear the jaws hitting the floor. 

But, I readily admit:  like any other writer or GM, I look for inspirational material all of the time.  So, you want to see where my ideas come from?  Here's a sample!

Serene Knowledge
  • This site's fantastic, and full of creepy ideas suitable for any modern and even most fantasy style of games.  When I was running "Shadows of the Cold War" at Wittenberg, I pulled a good deal of the Cthulhian themes from this site.  The series at the end, "The Holders of X" can make for a fantastic campaign on its own.
The SCP Foundation
  • Another great site for horror links, this one is essentially Warehouse 23 cranked up to 11!  While the information in these links ranges from the absurdly humorous to the outright terrifying, this site makes for great fodder for any modern game.  Running "The Laundry", "Delta Green", or "Dark Matter"?  You need to visit this site NOW.
Unused Lovecraft Story Hooks
  • Want to really build up the fear?  Why not work with the ideas of the master himself?  These ideas come from a recently (as of 2011) discovered chapbook of Lovecraft's.  While some of the ideas he's obviously used, the vast majority are fresh and ripe for the picking.  The "one line" elements like "For has not Nature, too, her grotesques—the rent rock, the distorting lights of evening on lonely roads, the unveiled structure of man in the embryo, or the skeleton?" provide for great bits of inspiration on their own, even for a non-Lovecraftian game!
Seventh Sanctum
  • One of the things that trip me up constantly is the search for the right name.  It's something I've always struggled with, whether writing or GMing.  However, Seventh Sanctum provides tons of names at the mere click of a mouse.  Not happy with the selections so far?  Click again...and again...and again.  Then, a few hours later, you might get back to writing! 
Creative Writing Prompts
  • Working on writing daily or journal-style writing?  I use this site with my students for 2-3 times weekly writing assignments.  With 340-odd prompts, ranging throughout fiction and non-fiction, this'll keep you busy for a while.  For an added challenge, try writing all of them from a single perspective--maybe a character you've been working with or arounds a single, central theme.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In Which The Warlock Mulls Analysis Paralysis...

We have something of a running joke in amongst my gaming/social circle:  the "Karl-o-meter".  You see, my good friend ChaoticKarl tends to take his sweet time when we're playing board games.  Karl's a very mathematical fellow, and (despite my monniker for him) likes to use logic in his moves...which doesn't always work, once the highly unpredictable human element is factored in.  It reached a point once where we literally forced Karl to use an egg timer on his turns, automatically moving on if he hadn't moved before the timer ran out.

The thing that held Karl up so often usually was the sheer number of choices in a game.  Do I move move my piece here or there?  Do I build up this skill/tech-tree or another?  Do I hold my resources?  Do I trade?  Do I purchase now?  Do I use the power-up or save it for later? 

Opportunity cost is a funny thing.  It's so fundamentally critical to game theory and the formation of a good game, but the inclusion of additional opportunities seem to increase the complexity in an almost exponential manner.
Look at all the fiddly-bits! 
So many options!  So many choices!
So much...reading.  :(

It makes me wonder, similarly, about the amount of opportunities in role-playing games today.  The so-called "Old-School Renaissance" has been advocating a return to simpler rules-sets--no power cards, no fiddly-bits, no gimmicks or the like--as a return to "real" role-playing.  Simultaneously, though, we've seen the rise of high-complexity, high fiddly-bit games like 4e D&D and Warhammer Fantasy

In some ways, I can equate it to this:

When 4e just came out and your 2nd level Fighter, "The Mighty Jim-Bob," leveled up, he had approximately four options for his 3rd level encounter power.  After a few months, Martial Power came out, doubling those options.  After another month, a Dragon article raised your options to 10.  After four years of sourcebooks, articles, and fan-creations...well, you can imagine the choices!

More options can be good, but each decision--meaningful or not!--slows down gameplay and character creation on a massive scale.  The more options one has in front of them, the more likely that they'll consider each of those options, grinding the game to a halt.

Now, here's the weird thing.  The answer seems to be...less options!

You see, when you take away the power options, the feat choices, the skill points and the're left with pure imagination.  Now, that's a double-edged sword, since it relies on both player and GM to fill in the details each and every time which, needless to say, is an onerous task!

Minimalist, indeed!
Call of Cthulhu may, in fact, be a perfect example of this minimalist economy.  There are no rules for how many actions a character gets in a round, no power choices, no feats....simply a player saying "I do X" and a GM adjucating that action, occasionally using a handful of abstract stats or skills.  But, for all its wonderful storytelling capacity, a good Call of Cthulhu game hinges on its players buying into the mood and atmosphere created by the GM's narration.  Without a willingness to experiment in a "box-less environment," the game quickly becomes a matter of going through the motions or, more likely, simply falls apart.

As with all things, balance seems to be key.  As a designer, how does one find the balance between over-designing a system, making it overly complex, and under-designing that same system, resulting in vagueness and lack of structure?! 

How does one avoid the dreaded Kotov Syndrome?!

Monday, February 20, 2012

In Which The Warlock Extrapolates on the Epic...

So, in the words of comedian Dennis Miller, "I don't want to go off on a rant here, but..."

...Yeah.  It's time to whip out my weekly Two-Minutes' Hate for Mr. Monte Cook once more.

You see, Wizards of the Coast's latest editorial-flavored travesty has Mr. Cook expounding on the perceived perils of epic-level play.  And, as you can imagine by my opening, I don't exactly agree with Cook's ideas or the conclusions that he draws from them.

Cook's article starts off with a disagreement with what's been one of most common complaints about D&D for years:  the fact that games break down during high-level play.  Cook attributes this to the shifts between tiers of play--something that he admits that 4e dealt with well--but then shifts the blame for the problems back onto the player-base.  At the risk of being accused of reductio ad absurdum, that's like telling a rape victim that it was their fault for walking in a dark neighborhood or telling a burglary victim that they shouldn't have had that big tv in their front room...

Cook continues to antagonize the player base by claiming:"the people that say that the game breaks down at such-and-such level are self-defining themselves as people who don't care for high-level play..." (which he follows with the apologetic "...which is fine, of course").  The issue with this is that many people would enjoy high-level play if more support were included in game material and if the mechanical end of the game held up appropriately.  There simply aren't enough adventures, source material, or GMing advice for a GM to look at running a long-term epic level game.

One of the best games I've ever played--Callon's Dark Tower-themed 3.5e game--was an epic level game.  The game was epic in feel--my paladin had built a demiplane-sized cathedral to my god--as well as in statistics.  We were told to bring level 30 characters to the party, and were similarly equipped.  For Cook to brashly insinuate my own preferences regarding high-level play simply because there's I believe the game breaks down is not only fallacious, but also insulting as a would-be player (and purchaser!). 

Let me put some evidence on the table, before I continue.  The default 4e character sheet right now is a mere two pages.  However, that character sheet only includes the names of each of a characters' powers, and nothing more.  In order to actually play the game, that character sheet must also include power cards.  At level 1, those cards easily fit onto one page--a three page character sheet, while longer than most games, is still not unreasonable.  However, at level 21, those cards--necessities for play, mind you--can take up not one page, but 5 additional pages!  When running the "Day of Dagon" one-shot, characters averaged 9-page character sheets!  That's insane!  Mechanically speaking, that's a disaster.

Yes, I get that he's a Demon Lord.
Three pages of stat block is STILL too much!
This wasn't simply relegated to PCs, nor was it unique to 4e!  The entire reason that I switched away from 3e/3.5e in the first place was my issue with GMing the game at upper levels.  In the final issue of Dungeon, Demogorgon served as the culminating boss of a year-long adventure path.  Demogorgon's stat block?  Three full pages of size 8 text!  Absurd!  That's a huge issue which no one can ignore.

To say that there's not a problem with this--to say that there's not an issue with a game that requires 10 pages of details for every player to keep up on--is outright erroneous!  There's such a thing as too many options and, at high level in 4e, these options bordered the insane.  Let's do some math here:  as a 30th level character has at minimum 4 encounter powers, 2 at-will powers, 4 daily powers, and 7 utility powers.  That's two full pages of power-cards right there.  Add in a smattering of magic items, as well a minimum of 18 feats, and one easily has a character that's simply too complex to play as a one-shot character.  That was the biggest issue we ran into, and was one that still has no solution.

Complexity is a funny thing.  While everyone loves to see their "numbers" increase, while everyone loves to get their hands on an awesome magic item, there simply has to be moderation.  Yes, feats are great.  They've been replicated over and over in games since 3e.  But when you have 18 of them?  That's simply too much.  Yes, magic items are great.  But when you're "expected" to have certain items at each level, each of which brings their own powers and quirks to the table, it's too much to deal with.

While I'd say that Savage Worlds has done well with keeping high-level play in balance with that of low-level play, even this game isn't immune.  High-level NPCs often have feats listed, but no further information, which makes their options almost moot--either the GM must slow down the game to look up necessary information or it must be ignored.  Even a GM with a great memory has more than enough to do without worrying about such issues!

As it stands now, I don't think I'd want to run an 'epic-level' game in any sense, despite for the fact that I love plane-hopping, interdimensional adventures.  The sheer lack of support for such a game, as well as the problematic at-the-table issues prevent me from actively pursuing this.

What's frustrating more, though?  The fact that the man in charge of the newest incarnation...seems to be utterly oblivious to these problems.  And that?  That's inexcusable.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

In Which The Warlock Comments on Comments and Consensus...

I've been lucky enough to have some great comments on my blog posts thusfar, coming from both my gamer-friends throughout the Miami Valley as well as gamers all over the globe.  But, my audience is still fairly small--no big deal, really:  I enjoy blogging for its own sake, and a small audience allows me to personally reply to any comments that I procure.

But, sometimes that little comment box isn't enough and, lo and behold, DigitalKat has dropped a bomb on me that really needs its own entry.  In response to my last entry on the exploits of my Friday night group's exploits in the Weird West, she mentioned:

My only observation would be that, having taken all the shooty fun skills, is that not the game they wanted to be playing, and not the gang rivalry one? Granted, throwing them a curveball every now and again keeps them on their toes, but when you make a party full of courtiers and throw them in a battlezone, or a party full of a warriors and put them in a palace, are you running the game you want to play, or the game they wanted?
Truth be told, this is a subject of some contention throughout gaming!  DigitalKat, in fact, tackled this subject herself in an earlier entry, but found herself in the same predicament I find myself in now. 

GMing a game, as I'm sure that many would agree, is a method of storytelling that's far outside the norm.  While writing a novel or filming a movie allows for a significant amount of directorial/authorial control, the amount of control held by a GM is...well, limited, at best.  The other players' actions, the improvisational nature of the game, and even sheer luck itself create for dictates that simply do not exist in other media.

The posse's Davy Jones' Locker!
Case in point:  in our last session of Deadlands: The Flood, our posse's escape route--one of Big Ears Tam's ironclads--was blown up, after the posse were discovered in Warlord Kwan's island citadel.  I had anticipated (and done most of my weekly prep assuming...) that the posse would try to sneak into the docks and steal a ship to get back to Shan Fan.  My posse, however, decided to row around the mesa, trying to find a place to hole up for the night while the search blew over.  While the PlatinumChick's shamaness warned the group against "natural hazards" of doing so, the group was insistent, searching the sea-caves for a spot to bed down. 

Thinking quickly, I checked the encounter table for the Great Maze and flipped a card--Black Joker!  A mighty Maze Dragon!  Immediately, I started dealing out cards, but the PlatinumChick had other ideas...she hoped to distract the Maze Dragon into attacking Kwan's citadel!  But, while her plans succeeded at first, the dice had their say:  Snake Eyes! 

The story being told in our game could not have been told with any single element--player, GM, or chance--but rather, emerges as a strange amalgamation of consensus.  While every person at the table may not necessarily advocate a given choice, the understood social contract of the table leads to consent for these story elements to take place.  While the PlatinumChick might not have been happy to roll snake eyes--and was certainly less happy with what I ruled about that fateful roll--she was willing to let the story continue.

There's a difference between "unanimity" and "consensus".  While everyone would surely love to game with people that share their personal interests in what they want out of a game, people are simply too different for that to be entirely feasible.  Achieving a "unanimous" decision on what type of game to run is just...not something one should expect.  But, there are going to be similarities and trends between what players like!  Making sure that everyone enjoys the game and has the ability to contribute equally provides consensus. 

Relying on those trends and those common elements provide a start for story-building.  Our group decided to play Deadlands because of a common interest in the setting.  I certainly have players more interested in role-play, while others are more interested in the setting, and still others in the mechanics.  All are fine, but we achieve balance between all three by enabling collective storytelling.  Plus, we find new interests, new combinations, and new likes and dislikes each time we play.

Constructivist Educational Theory:
The Zone of Proximal Development!
In the constructivist theory teaching, there's a term for this concept:  the Zone of Proximal Development.  When a child learns, there's a "sweet spot"--an area lying in between what a student is capable of performing on their own and material outside of their comfort zone.  In this zone--the aforementioned ZPD--the student requires additional reinforcement, guidance, and practice to achieve the stated goals of the curriculum.  A teacher in the constructivist philosophy does their best to push the boundaries of the ZPD each day, providing reinforcement and support as necessary to expand the student's "comfort zone".

In gaming, we do much the same.  While each of us certainly have our own preferences, we push outside to include other elements, introducing elements to the story that not only make them enjoyable to that player, but also introducing others to elements that they may not have considered or thought interesting previously.

That's the advantage that gamemastery has over other forms of storytelling--by providing collaborative elements through GM, through players, and through pure chance--gamemastery allows us to challenge our own wants, interests, desires, and even our own perceptions of plot, characterization, genre, and story.  That's heady stuff, right there!  And, that's worth doing...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In Which The Warlock Pushes Player Possibilities...

As I mentioned a few posts ago, my players are somewhat up to their eyeballs in plot hooks in our Friday night Deadlands game.  But, as my players are slowly finding out, it seems that those plot hooks really seem to be playing into their weaknesses.

You see, in amongst the major plot points of The Flood, there are two major background events:  an attempted invasion of California from Mexico--which I've hinted at and foreshadowed, but not really pushed as a major point--and a coming conflict between the rival Chinese triads around Shan Fan.  After becoming involved with Big Ears Tam so early on in the campaign, my players have become well and truly embroiled in the conflict, particularly ChaoticFrederick's scrapper, Mary-Ellen Hardigan, who's best known as Tam's "delicate little lotus blossom".

The results of the PCs'
actions on Dragon Breath Mesa.
However, when Tam asked Mary-Ellen and the group to investigate a potential alliance between Kang, the ruthless railroad baron of Iron Dragon Railways, and Warlord Kwan of Kwan Province.  Unfortunately for our posse, a few botched stealth rolls totally eliminated any chance of escaping unscathed.  While the party was able to escape the citadel with the information they needed--mainly due to the Byzantine decorum of the Chinese mob--their ride home out of the maze exploded before their very eyes!  And worse, the explosion awoke a nearby Maze Dragon on an adjacent mesa!  Eep!

While the posse managed to drive off the dragon--not before Chris II's hexslinger, Angus Cole, picked up a few more scars to go with his already-marred face--the real danger was returning to Big Ears Tam with the news that the mission had been compromised...

...something Tam already knew, after his ironclad failed to return...and after Kwan's ancestral daisho went missing.

Needless to say, Tam was infuriated.  While FridayNightWill was astute enough to hide the stolen daisho, Tam not-so-subtly indicated that the insult required vengeance...

...they done messed up good!
And this leaves our players in a bit of a bind.  You see, the majority of my players have focused on only a small set of skills.  Fighting, Shooting, Notice, etc. are all common, but nearly every party member in the posse seems to have some kind of social faux-pas.  And few, if any, have invested in the social skills--Persuasion, Intimidate, Streetwise, and the like. 

So, my party has found themselves in a bit of a predicament.  How do you settle the highly-delicate social balance between Chinese warlords, when you can't really talk your way out of a paper bag?

This portion really pushes the challenge level up on two fronts:  as characters, but also as players.  You see, as characters, the posse simply isn't equipped for the situation.  Their funds are running low--primiarly because they've had to keep their steam wagon fueled up and ready to go--and they simply don't have the social acumen to run "in the big leagues". 

As players, however, the challenge intensifies.  Players have to invest more bennies and the like into succeeding at tasks that a more-socially apt character might find easy.  But, just as they do this, the players have to find ways to adapt the situation to one more suitable to their own, whether through a convoluted plan or through some other means.  Needless to say, that's hard! 

So, going into next week's session, my posse is faced with some tough choices to make.  They're slowly coming up with a plan, involving implicating the enigmatic Ramirez in the theft of the daisho and peeling apart the alliance between Kang and Kwan, based on the actions of so-called "Emperor" Norton.  Time will only tell if they can succeed...and if they can get back to what really matters:  taking down Reverend Grimme!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

In Which The Warlock Has a Love-Hate Relationship...

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but I figured that it's about high time that I return to the RPG Blog Carnival.  This month's topic, hosted over at Nevermet Press, is "Things to Love, Things to Hate"--essentially, what do you (as a GM or as a player) look for in an RPG, an adventure, a system, etc.

So, take a gander at my personal perks and gripes when looking at games:


  • I love a game system that attempts to echo the genre being played. 
    • My favorite part about Deadlands is the fact that the cards-based initiative, the use of poker-chips, and the dueling/gambling mechanics push the idea of the Wild West, "gamblin' man" action.  Similarly, with WEGS, the use of poker chips enforces the idea of an adventurer "gambling with their fate".  ICONS uses the FATE mechanics to emphasize in-character actions and Determination points to encourage over-the-top action and power stunting.  All of these mechanics are built to better emulate the genre of game being played, and do so admirably, filling holes that a generic system simply can't do.
  • I love a game that facilitates ease (and speed) of play.
    • While I can give or take "fiddly-bits," I run far too many convention games to rely on them regularly.  Maps, dungeon tiles, miniatures and the like take up far too much room for my taste, and often slow down the pace of a game.  This takes away from investigation and fast-paced action, as people fiddle with movement rules or cover mechanics. 
  • I love an adventure with awesome set-piece locations.
  • The Warlock's favorite adventure!
    • My favorite adventure of all time is the wacky, fun-house dungeon crawl known as "White Plume Mountain".  It's not a particularly well-written adventure, but my goodness, the locations!  A fight above a boiling mud pit, with swinging platforms suspended by chains from the ceiling?!  A semi-permeable bubble of water?!  An enchanted-freaking-water-slide?!  Sheer unadulterated awesome!  Without locations like this, the adventure would be nothing more than a fetch quest, but these put it way over the top.
  • I love an adventure with multiple, conditional endings.
    • One of the things I was happiest about when writing "Westbound on the San Juan Express" was the multiple scenarios that could unfold.  Depending on whom the posse supports, the PCs could end up in any of 6 potential end-game scenarios, none of which resulted in a TPK or any sort of "loss".  That's a rarity to find, but it makes for sheer, unadulterated awesome! 
  • I love it my players have too many PCs they want to play.
    • You know how I know when I've picked the right game to run?  When my Friday night group starts planning out characters over and over again, and have trouble deciding what they actually want to play.  Too much inspiration is never a bad thing!

  • I hate when a game tries to do too much. 
    • This was my biggest issue while reading through Lost Colony, the Deadlands sequel game.  While the system mechanics for Deadlands worked for the base game and for Hell on Earth, Lost Colony seemed to drop much of the horror of its predecessors in favor of introducing sci-fi colonial action.  Already a packed setting, it just did...well, too much.  Lack of support certainly didn't help it, but Lost Colony definitely felt like a game stretched too thin.
  • I hate it when a game tries to reinvent the wheel...and gets run over by said wheel.
    • Wild Talents was my biggest offender here.  I picked it up at Half Price Books, while doing research for Cold Steel Wardens.  The "width vs. height" mechanic used in the game was particularly innovative...but the game (and the NPCs within it) became so wrapped up in numerics and modifiers that the core game--a dystopian superheroes game--became utterly lost in a sea of numbers.  That's anti-fun in a nutshell.
  • I hate it when an adventure stacks the deck.
    • Ever have this happen to you in an adventure:  your heroes are fighting bandits in their own lair, which is full of nasty traps--caltrops, deadfalls, etc., none of which ever seem to affect them, even when you deliberately try to turn the tables?  That's a sure sign of poor adventure writing and inflexible gamemastery.  While occasionally such things make sense--fire elementals being immune to environmental hazards in a lava realm, for example--but under normal circumstances, there's no excuse for this poor design.
  • I hate it when adventures "settle".
  • Warning!  King in Yellow ahead!
    • There's a fine line between providing an adventure "suitable" to a genre's idiom and becoming utterly predictable.  Start hearing word about a strange play and a "yellow sign"?  Yeah, it's Hastur again.  While there might be investigation and conflict, it's simply a matter of going through the motions.  The drama, the's gone.  Why bother?
  •    I hate it when players don't give me anything to work with...then complain about it.
    • GMing is hard work.  It's a lot of prep, and it's a lot of writing.  If I'm asking you, as a player, for a background, that means that I need your help in contributing to the world and to have an active investment in it.  It means that I want to engage you as both a player and a character.  And, when you reject that?  Yeah...that sends a pretty strong message that you don't really care about playing.
How about you guys?  Other thoughts?  Am I off-base?

Monday, February 06, 2012

In Which The Warlock Mulls Some Problem Players...

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to throw down some ICONS for the WittKids, as part of their Friday Night one-shot series.  In the midst of working on a ton of writing for Cubicle 7 on another book for The Laundry, I managed to cobble together a new adventure.  In true Silver Age fashion, I decided to give our heroes a great Nazi-punchin' time!

Ek Balaam--the lost city of Dr. Arrington's desire!
The premise?  Famed University of Miami anthropologist Dr. Anthony Arrington has gone missing, seeking out a series of undiscovered Olmec ruins in the jungles of the Yucatan.  But, as the heroes arrive at his dig site, they find it being trashed by men in SS uniforms! 

I wanted to make this adventure really over the top, including some great challenges for the PCs.  One of the ways I did so was through vehicles--the Nazis arrived on scene in the first chapter of the adventure riding on bulldozers, crashing through the underbrush and directly into two of the PCs!  I won't spoil the adventure, as I may be running it at FOPCon this time around since their theme is superheroes, but it ended with a fantastic airboat crash in the middle of a huge swamp.  Epic stuff!

However, the game wasn't without a few nitpicks.  While I had planned on using my pre-built supers group--The Huntsmen--I ended up with 8 players at the table:  two more players than I had Huntsmen!  Not wanting to turn anyone away, The Journeyman GM and the PlatinumChick rolled up random PCs, and we rolled with 8 players at the table.

Therein lay my biggest problems. 

You see, friends and neighbors, I ended up with two players in amongst those 8 that just Did.  Not.  Get.  It.  And, while it didn't "ruin" the game by any stretch, it did make GMing fairly difficult, as I tried to keep the rest of the group on track.

ICONS--a four-color system...
...but with grim 'n gritty players?
ICONS, as you may know, is a game very much styled after the four-color action of the Silver Age of Comics.  As such, certain things hold true:  real heroes don't use guns, heroes don't kill, and villains monologue before the battle is joined.  Player one, however--let's call him Bill--just did not get this idea.  Despite the fact that he could fling sonic energy from his fingertips, he continually wanted to loot Nazi assault rifles and pass them out to the party as sidearms.  As I was narrating through Doktor Schumann's monologue, Bill continually interrupted with what he wanted to do, often talking over other players to do so.  Twice, I had to stop halfway through the narration and ask him to stop....which he actively resented, complaining loudly to the rest of the group. 

As a GM, I felt I had an obligation to act, so as I mentioned, I asked him to stop--he had been talking over one of the players at the far end of the table, who literally was raising her hand, trying to get my attention.  It wasn't fair to her--or to the rest of the table, for that matter--for him to take up the limelight.  Further, his actions were actively obstructing the advancement of the plot! 

Unfortunately, that wasn't the only issue.  Again, as you may know, ICONS is a free-form, narrative system which uses a riff on the FATE mechanics to focus on character development and over-the-top stunts.  But, a second player--let's call him Jim Bob--took some issue with this idea.  I've gamed with Jim Bob before, and his leanings definitely skew towards more tactical games.  Jim Bob complained loudly about the fact that we weren't using a battle mat for combat, instead relying on imagination and GM description.  Eventually, I relented, scratching a brief map on the room's white-board, but even that wasn't enough for him.  He wanted precise detail in a game that not only doesn't focus on it, but doesn't even have true "ranges" or the like.  He wanted something from the game that I simply couldn't give.

Jim Bob also just didn't get the idea of his character's Aspects and Qualities.  He decided to play the Huntsmens' stealth and infiltration expert, yet began the game roaming about Playa del Carmen wearing an oversized sombrero, even trying to sneak around with it on!  He claimed that the "Sarcastic Joker" on his character sheet prompted him to do this, but actively ignored every other Aspect or Quality on the sheet in doing so.  Similarly, where others attempted to use their Aspects and Qualities to refine their actions--primarily through the use of Determination, by power stunting or using determined effort--Jim Bob really didn't do so. 

I'm not posting this to rag on the WittKids by any stretch of the imagination.  While I was frustrated at the time, it seemed that most everyone at the table--these two included--had a good time with the game.  However, I raise these issues as a question:  if these two were at your table, how would you adjust your GMing for the circumstance?  I'm hesitant to say "deal with them", simply because they're people--they shouldn't just be "dealt with". 

How do you, as a GM, alter the situation to better accomodate (or censure) actions detrimental to the game?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

In Which The Warlock Leaves Some Plot Hooks Unattended...

Well, friends and neighbors, it's appearing more and more that our The Flood campaign will be racing towards its conclusion by the time that spring rolls around.  Our posse has but 4 glyphs to find in order to bring about the climactic end to this Deadlands excursion.  But, that doesn't mean we're close to being done.

The object of Jayne Cobb's desire...
You see, my Friday night group's been slowly sinking deeper and deeper into a heap of trouble.  Their continual dealings with Big Ears Tam in Shan Fan--specifically his "delicate little lotus blossom," the cybernetic scrapper Mary Ellen Hardigan--have earned them the enmity of pretty much everyone in Kwan Province, the employees of Iron Dragon, and quite a few others.  And, now that the group has agreed to take on a spy mission for Tam, Emperor Norton and Warlord Kwan might just have their revenge for the loss of the Abysmal!

But, that's not all.  After FridayNightWill's possession in Jehosephat Cemetary, the spirit in his head has begun communicating with him in most interesting ways.  With a great roll to scope out the goings-on in Kwan's castle, Jayne Cobb got a great glimpse of Kwan's ancestral daisho...which, after Cobb's vision fuzzed out and the spirit took control, glowed with an intense arcane aura.  Needless to say, his eyes nearly bugged out of his head!

The mysterious Ramirez, perhaps?
And that's not all our good buddy Will saw.  Rather, they caught a glimpse of a truly enigmatic figure.  You see, back when the posse first managed to meet Big Ears Tam, the group ended up being embroiled in a huge underground 'kumite'--a martial arts tournament held by a ruthless dojo.  Mary Ellen, of course, represented Tam.  However, the rest of the group spent quite a bit of time roaming about the stadium, placing bets and scoping out the fighters.  One of them, particularly, stood out...a fencer known on the stadium-sheets as Ramirez.  Ramirez had won several rounds, advancing to the quarter-finals....only to utterly disappear.

Naturally, the mystery man Ramirez made another appearance at Kwan's little soiree, much to everyone's shock.

Yet the mysteries keep piling up.  Who are the Children of Hasteli?  Where's that final glyph, which the party can't seem to find?  Why is there a Hechler & Koch MP5 in Master Antiquarian Wu's shop?  And, what's the deal with Eddie, the totally-unharmed man that the party found in Rock Island Prison?

Needless to say, there's a lot still to come!