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Tag: one-shots

One-Shots: Feng Shui

I’ve been accreting a Las Vegas Feng Shui setting since we lived in Austin, where I ran a couple of sessions of Feng Shui set there. The idea stuck and I really liked Jay Ackel, PI; the Chairman of the Board; and a few other NPCs. I also enjoyed working with a primary faction conflict consisting of two Ascended factions. California is home of the bears, right?

So it’s been slowly gaining mass since then. I have a Scrivener file that gets a little more weighty every time I open it up. That isn’t all that often, mind you. Regardless, if I’m gonna run a Feng Shui one-shot, it’ll be in my Las Vegas.

Rather than write up an adventure I decided I knew the setting well enough so that I could just write an oracle. It’d work as a skeleton for any city, although you’d have to replace a bunch of People and Locations entries, plus a couple of the McGuffins. If you’re interested, grab the PDF here.

Let’s do a quick test run:

One-Shots: Beyond the Wall

My folder for Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures is complete. This is an OSR D&D-like game aimed at super-quick pickup and play. The concept is that the PCs are all friends who grew up together in a small village, and the cool character generation twist is that you work through a four-page story path playbook to figure out your history and your stats.

For example, in the Self-Taught Mage playbook, you get to a bit where you find a tome of magic. Let’s say you roll a 2 on 1d6: the book was written by a famous bard who travelled far and wide. You get +3 Charisma, and add Survival to your skill list. You then roll 1d6 to find out what kind of mage the bard was, and you get a 3 — the bard was a summoner of dark spirits. This means you get +2 Intelligence, and you learned a specific selection of spells.

I love this. It means every characters has a story grounding their stats, and it means you’ve got that random oracle goodness which sparks so much creativity. It also explicitly generates connections between the characters and, in several places, generates the details of the village in which the characters live.

The scenario packs are similar, with the additional twist that you fill out blank spaces on the random tables with details generated while the players are rolling up their backgrounds.

Thus, it was easy to prep this one. I printed out the playbooks and scenario that came with the base game, indulged my materialism by buying a stapler, stapled stuff together, and voila: done.

Building a One-Shot Book

I literally spent half an hour trying to make the phrase “commonplace book” fit this, but I couldn’t, so maybe stop procrastinating and go? Yes.

One of the tabletop gaming things I want to do this year: build a binder full of one-shot games that can be run with minimal prep. In some cases this means building pre-gens and scenarios. Some games make it easy enough to create characters so that you can just pick it up and go. Add in scenario seeds, with the same caveats, maybe system cheat sheets as necessary, and I’ll have a gaming pack.

In the interests of accountability, here’s my initial game list.

I also need something pulpy in here but I’m not sure what yet. Maybe one of the Triple Ace Ubiquity games, or maybe something Savage Worlds-ish. I’ve always wanted to run The Day After Ragnarok.

Gumshoe Redux

Jere ran some more Gumshoe for us over the last couple of weeks; it was once more a bunch of fun. The scenario was more Cthulhoid this time around, not so much from a villain perspective but definitely so in terms of locale and threat.

The PCs (a retired cop, a linguist, a spirit photographer, a stage manager, and an NSA analyst) were a motley crew attending a Shakespeare festival in New Hampshire. At a party a couple of days before Opening Night, the actress slated to play Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra killed her understudy under suspicious circumstances. By virtue of our collective failure to run away screaming, the local sheriff deputized us to solve the murder.

Over the next few days, we found out that two of the directors, the local patron family, a suspicious sculptor, and a 70s cult rock band were all involved in a plot to open the way and allow Horus to run rampant. The phrase “crack the shell of the world” was bandied about more casually than we found pleasing. Once we had a reasonably firm picture of what was intended, questions of history (how this group of cultists came together, who perverted and corrupted who, and whether or not the Lost Folio was real Shakespeare) went by the wayside and stopping the various Opening Night performances became paramount. Said performances being the components of the way-opening ritual.

I felt more or less completely outclassed by the cult at most points, which was fairly satisfying. See my opening comment regarding the Cthulhoid nature of the game. I like the sensation that the Outer Darkness is imminent with little hope of total success. In this case, the cult will be back in 17 or 33 years, and it’s not as if we made any real dent in the infrastructure of the town. We had a ton of freedom to determine the best way to stop the performances, and all we managed was to convince the actors to go home. No actual cultists were harmed.

Jere removed the combat system entirely; we just ranked our physical skills like investigative skills. I’m not sure if we got any clues via physical skills — Jere, did we? In theory we might have been able to; in practice we were a very non-violent lot.

As I noted after the game, there was far less feedback on which skills were producing which clues than we got in the first game, which left me feeling a little bit more at loose ends. I suspect that any given group is going to get to about where we were in terms of that feedback; it’s a trust relationship built up between GM and players. In this case it didn’t bug me per se, but I’d yellow flag it: much of the value of Gumshoe for me is getting rid of the “guess the clue” mechanism. This is a group issue, by the by: players are as much responsible for pushing their skills as GMs are.

I am pensive about my roleplay. It’s pretty easy for me to slip back into humor. In this case I was deliberately going for a slightly goofy approach, which in retrospect may have been wrong. I’m not sure. I pulled off my usual arc with such characters, which depicts them as mostly ineffectual with a core of resilience; said core manifested this time in Edward’s purchase of a gun “just in case.” This satisfies me but I worry that it hampers immersion for others.

I’m finding myself tempted to open up a Web site for Gumshoe in the tradition of my old Shadowfist and Feng Shui sites. I don’t know if there’d be enough interest, but I like the game a lot and I think there’s good scope for fan-created scenarios and rules, which I’ve always felt have something to do with the success of a game. Pelgrane has some pretty good forums. Hm.

Weekend Entertainment Pursuits, Part III

I also played some D&D 4e. Tom runs a nifty game, plus it’s always fun playing with new peeps. Rock on, teenage love triangle, rock on. I’m trying to decide if my Felix is crushing on Geoff. It seems likely.

That link there is a good description of the game and I agree with all of the points made therein. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a remarkably movement-oriented system. Most of our fights were in clear space, and by the end of the game I was just moving thirty feet every turn, because I wanted to tag enemies with my Curse and you can only do that to the closest enemy. The one fight where my back was to a wall, that made me sad. Playing a Warlock is like playing a GEV with a howitzer bolted to the top in Ogre. Zip zip zip. BOOM. I very much regret the failure of my 5d8+1d6+6 bomb single-turn attack sequence.

It feels like D&D. Lots more powers, and much more to do, but it’s a d20 and you roll it and you hit things and do damage and move six squares and take attacks of opportunity and flank. The changes just sort of supercharge it in an alarmingly Hong Kong actiony sort of a way. Also, there are still weird little side cases that make you go “hm, not sure how that should work. Please send lawyers, runs, and FAQs.”

Cian, who I mentioned in comments a few posts back on the LJ side, was a cleric with a side business in being an archer. I spent a lot of feats and points on that, because I was expecting to get very bored if I was just a healer. I knew I’d run out of spells and I wanted to be effective in other ways.

If I was using 4e for him, I wouldn’t need to screw with any of that. He’d have a lance of pure holy light zapping out of his fingertips on demand, a million times a day. There is nothing bad about this. I like that I don’t have to spend feats to avoid boredom.

It is lacking in out of combat skills, albeit not to the degree that detractors claim. Also I don’t know if I like skill challenges. We did one and it felt a touch artificial. The old ad hoc system that Jeffwik or someone described based on an early leak, where you did whatever you wanted and rolls just applied? That seems better. I think Tom was running ours sort of like that, but since we were not RP-focused we were a bit slow to get into that mindset.

That, however, was my only beef. I have already created a spreadsheet to assist me in choosing 1d6+3 rolled against Will vs. 1d10+4 rolled against Reflex. It is a good system for the crunchy side of me, and it is simple enough to be fun for the non-crunchy side of me.

I'm Not Gonna Run This

But I did just shell out $4 for a PDF of Against The Giants so I could convert it to 4e.

Edit: the tournament characters included in the back of the book are named Gleep Wurp the Eyebiter, Cloyer Bulse the Magsman, Roaky Swerked, Frush O’Suggill, Fonkin Hoddypeak, Flerd Trantle, Redmod Dumple, Faffle Dwe’o-mercraeft, and Beek Gwenders of Croodle. So there’s my money’s worth.

Esoterrorists: Actual Play

We played some Esoterrorists over at Jere’s last night, and it was awesome. I may have some more analysis-like thoughts later, but I wanted to get down some actual play stuff before it faded from memory. One of my questions going into the game was how smoothly the flow of play could work; would it be awkward getting clues? Would point spends work well? Turned out that all that can work very well. Here’s how it played out, more or less.

One-Shot Thought Experiment

This isn’t something I want to run immediately; I’ve just been contemplating character generation and systems lately and I wanted to do a thought experiment. Thus, if you feel like commenting on the following, please do. Or even run through the exercise of answering the questions.

So: modern occult game with some action, a touch of conspiracy, you know the genre. Occult is defined as weird stuff, including mad science, psionics, and so on. The framework is a group of free-lance journalists/bloggers; they might know the occult exists but don’t have proof. They’ve got a group blog and cooperate on investigations. Funding is sparse. Thank God for Google AdWords.

Players in the one-shot can define their characters before the game by answering the following questions in prose.

1. What is the core of your character? This could be a profession, a hobby, a way of looking at the world. Describe it in a paragraph or so.

2. What’s another thing that defines your character? Could be a side profession, a skill, a possession, a heritage, whatever. Again, describe it in a paragraph.

3. And a third defining element.

4. OK, now tell me what your character’s flaw is. Same deal, give us a paragraph.

5. What’s your motivation? Why do you do these things you do?

6. What’s your big secret? You really don’t want people knowing this.

7. And, finally, tell me about an important person in your past.