Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review Undercroft #7

The OSR has spewed forth the best reflex action towards startling talent with the curdled froth of independent zines. The turgid underground of free thought every child learned to articulate with a Tonka Truck in one hand and a headless GI Joe doll in the other on top of a sun soaked sandbox is given free reign with the current OSR zine scene.

I dipped my financial toes in the water very selectively. These selections were Vacant Ritual Assembly #4  and The Undercroft #7. They just felt the most punk rock, to me, at the time.

The most important quality of a zine for myself is there is "stuff" I can use immediately at the table with a flick of a page. No lead in, no boxed text, just an immediacy of game content felt personable, new and ready to go.

Which is kind of contradictory on its face; looking for original content that is quickly grasped and made useful? Do I ask too much? Apparently not.

Both zines met my illogical desires and demands plus more.

Undercroft came in a hand-made envelope with a secret stamp while the zine itself was embellished with flecks of red ink, fingermarks, the impression of someone bleeding to death on the pages. I think I was all in for less than seven bucks to have this bizarrely personal piece of game artifact delivered to my mailbox on any given Tuesday from across the world. Art and presentation are the stand outs from this zine. The content is a bit iffy, but it passed the immediacy test with the last article containing a must have NPC. There is nothing more valuable to  me as a GM than a useful NPC. Not that I used Old Sigvor in toto, just that it gave an intended villain another face, more depth than I would have otherwise presented. The other articles and tables in the zine will be useful in their time, but I really enjoyed holding this brutally wrought gift in my hand.

Vacant Ritual Assembly #4 doesn't have the same level of dirty handed elegance but the pages are brimming with useful content. The front cover art is awesome. That wanky line art is just the right kind of loose scribble which sparks ideas in my game head. Very Traveller or Gamma World. I pulled a dream trance setting for a Sword & Sorcery campaign from its slim pages. A whole druidic battle cult race religion was available fully formed from its pages which inspired a Dying Earth BFRPG setting. I needed a lotus den for my then running Sword & Sorcery campaign and well the zine had that too. All in all promising adversaries devised "through a terrifying cosmos of adventure-gaming psychedelia." was well articulated in less than twenty two pages.

If this level of accomplishment is routinely being delivered by the myriad of OSR zines currently available then table top rpg'ers are indeed in the middle of a renaissance which will take decades to unravel and appreciate.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Thermal Factors

I spent my recent vacation in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. With every exploration into the wilderness I game it out. Yellowstone National Park is remarkable for the thermal features. Sure you have the vast plains, dramatic waterfalls and idyllic grassy meadows, but the warning signs are thrown up for the scalding hot water which just erupts out of the earth.

So the next time your B/X party of adventures are striding across the wasteland unimpeded have the ground they walk on start to erode their foot gear. Three days in and the PC starts taking damage, to their feet. Let them do the calculation. "But I can't survive the march out" if I'm takng damage from just walking.

Don't surprise the players. That is just shit GM'ing. But give them an inclination of  the slow degradation of foot gear. Any asshat of a PC will pay attention to it.

Which leads to the next question; when is it appropriate to introduce a waste land to characters. Only after they have picked a marching order!

Anyways I'm thinking 1 point of damage a day until protection is achieved or environment is left.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I should have ran

but I decided two players wasn't enough. I don't think I have the chops to keep a small crowd entertained. Pretty soon you are down to one person and then you are in a relationship. I have one of those, It is work. RPG's are a chance to sit at the counter and kibitz with the lunch crowd.

But it is better than that. After a couple of sessions you get to see who sits at the front of the class, They want to play and as a GM you lovingly set up the pieces because they are nothing but dreams until another puts their hands on the table.

No one is herding cats here. But the most success I have had with running a game online is with a firm theme, regular set times, and being at the virtual table as the host ready to go.
So when I cancel a session I am seriously conflicted. Even if one person shows up shouldn't I run the session?

I've always decided no because I think a table top RPG runs best with three players minimum. That is one GM and three players. So four. With three PC's gaming the GM has some of the session work lifted off their shoulders because the group of players are going to start creating and carrying adventure ideas. So as a GM I get to start playing more. Less script, more random tables, and more riffing off of cause and effect being driven by the players.

I've had some really good two player sessions. But for regular campaign play I see three players essential to carrying the story.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The USR Community has been busy

Scott Malthouse's (U)nbelievably (S)imple (R)oleplaying game has gathered a small but loyal following which is found at the Google+ community here.

There has been a new "Hack" of this rules-lite system; a Samurai Noir setting called Blood and Silk by +Talon Waite as well as a preview of +Pete Segreti 's upcoming Roman Empire game Swarm of Barbarians.

+Appalachian Elf has been geeking out over Somnium Void, a Space Opera setting and has been showing off his hard copy of the rules. We wait with baited breath for him to reveal how he had it made!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Google Hangout Campaign Greatest Hits

I've run four campaigns on Google+ Hangouts since 2012 and they have all been stand out examples of the best talk being shopped around here on the OSR gaming blogosphere. Here is why. First reason is me as a Game Master. I haven't done it in a long time. I gave it up a long time ago because I couldn't do it right and I couldn't get good information on why. This all changed because of the internet. I didn't have to try and figure out this problem in a vacuum anymore. There is a wealth of information available and willing game groups are a video chat away so my game is going to be better out of the gate. Stage two; actual play. Playing all the time (for me that is once to two times a month) bad habits and bad ideas start to get run into the ground. Stimulus/response. Like a punk album. Players make the game, but nothing happens without a world builder. And the world builder needs help. I have a job. I have lovely friends and family. I have deep powder to ski while my knees hold out. I don't have a lot of free time. Now I need more material and am making purchases. Spending real money and not running off of old ideas and free pdf's. Well fresh ideas and free pdf's are probably running the show at this point. Either way the salient real time data is bearing fruit. I appreciate well done game tools, adventure materials and random tables that help me run what the hell my players are mixing and matching at the table. This has generated Stage three;

my current  Clockwork & Cthulhu campaign has just been completely taken over by the players. I run sessions now just so I can read the voluminous stories they spin after. I'm thinking soon I'll be slapping restraining orders on 'em all!

Actually, it is more being at peace with my role. I'm a game master. This is the job I can do well in this hobby. My lovely binder with the few PC's alive I treasure are a rare artifact. The binders filled with the scaffolding required for PC's to climb on is my time well spent.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

July should just die

but what do you do, as a GM, when the PC's are driving a story better than you could? How do you keep up?