Thursday, September 28

Gathox Vertical Slum Author Discusses His Publishing Tools


Tools of the Trade: Things I use to write, draw, and play Gathox

is worth signal boosting. A blog post from +David Lewis Johnson on the tools he uses to create his great game products. 

Sunday, September 24

Tres Leches Fear & Loathing

Herein is the final chapter in this the first playtest of Fear & Loathing in Fat City for Fear & Loathing USR.

The next day found the PC's ripping it up on Horse Mountain and role played their way into losing Carol on the backside of the ski resort in gnarly out of bounds terrain. Peachy and the Dude followed her tracks out but got caught in an avalanche. Finally they reached a forest road where it looked like Ross got picked up on a snow mobile and was gone. This royally pissed the duo off and before they could decided what the hell was going on the headlights from a couple of more snowmobiles illuminated Dude and the Peach.

They were angling for a ride from the two strangers but when they pulled guns it became evident they weren't there to give our PC's a ride. A hilarious, accidental on cue “I thought you had the gun!” back and forth between Peach and the Dude allowed an initiative roll where Peach managed to draw the .32 they took off of Latin and get a shot off first. Dude went for the mad grapple on the other hired gun and managed to tie him up long enough for Peach to point the gun at him after blowing away hired gun #1. Hired gun #2 gave up at that point and the PC's were able to get the sordid details out of him. 

Seems Curtis Ross Sr. is running for sheriff and if it is found out his daughter has been living trans-gendered all these years, and recently underwent a sex change operation Curtis Ross, real estate magnate, would kiss his political career goodbye. He would also see Carol's sports franchise goes up in smoke overnight. Somehow Bishop, the Ross's managing editor, had come up with Carol's medical file. In good faith the eager journalist confronted Mr. Ross about having to release a story. That would affect his boss, and his employment. But you know, what are we going to do about this… ? Ross didn't get rich being indecisive. He stove in Bishop's face right before his daughter rolled into town. Of course this left Mr. Ross with the hassle of hiding his murderous act. I sure didn't know what the middle-aged millionaire should do.

When the PC's showed up and started being super helpful and all Ross decided the PC's had to go. Carol could see the wisdom in dad's thinking too. The PC's just know too damn much. Maybe take them out skiing? Get them into some technical terrain? Accidents happen in the backcountry all the time. Just to be sure have a couple of reliable hands keep an eye on things, tie up any loose ends.

The PC's were once again caught wondering what to do. “What do we care, what's in it for us?” they asked themselves and me. 

Good questions and one I didn't have a good answer for. Stalling for time I asked the PC's to go through the cast of characters they had encountered, or not, so far on the adventure. In a round about way we got to the Environmental Cowboy who lived in a mountain cabin not far from where they were at. He had come up in the narrative earlier. He was a trust-funding law school grad who was leading the charge to have Carol's televised alpine descent canceled. He has a court injunction until an environmental impact study can be completed. Carol says it is all just sexist bullshit. But either way he is a (m)NPC they haven't interacted with. The PC's commandeer the snow mobiles, take all the guns and leave hired gun #2 with his dead buddy on the snowy road determined to find Environmental Cowboy's remote cabin. Upon arriving they are greeted by barking dogs and Roger Kinrock, an independently wealthy and fiercely independent outdoors man.

This was the two and half hour mark and not only did I not have a handle on this NPC I did want to get some feedback from my players before we called it a night. I told them as much. It was kind of a shame. We had hit the perfect spot for the game's climax, but I confessed I didn't know which way I should go with Kinrock. Instead of forcing a poorly improved ending I wanted to use what time we had left to critique the rules, the adventure and our overall play.

Being awesome they agreed and provided a frank bull session on some of the fun and frustration to be had with a “modern” rpg campaign. The good news was the adventure delivered on genre expectations. The PC's felt it wasn't lack of interesting events popping off to engage, but wondering what was the next move was part of the role playing challenge. I was also concerned about how the inherent “off-color” content of the genre would play. Having sensitive real life topics such as racism, sexism, transphobia as mere plot elements in a game may generate play which inadvertently offends someone at the table. I only had to mention this as one of my initial concerns during this critique because I was fortunate enough to play the session with grown ups. The PC's were able to discuss content and play, as it came up, resolve any issues of what was appropriate for entertainment and what wasn't and the game moved on.

I really only brought it up so as to honor their excellent skills. Remember these two players had never met, let alone play this game with some clearly loaded content, and they breezed through it and kept the loose improve heavy game session on track.

So yeah I confessed I didn't know if I should go all horror, death trap in the woods with this guy, or he is for real and knows who they can trust in Fat City… and that I really wanted their thoughts on the matter. Having the guy turn into a mad serial killer would of worked for them it seems. They didn't think it would have been over the top. I don't know, I thought it was a little cliche. I can't remember all their good feedback. It was spot on, that I can tell you. I think they even resolved the Environmental Cowboy nicely for me. I can't remember. It was late. But Fear & Loathing USR delivers what it says on the tin, Player Approved!

Fear & Loathing (part deux)

The appearance of our second PC for the night's session couldn't have been better timed. Our Denver office employee and ameture boxer was at a loss for what he wanted to do next. This is where I find running a modern rpg session challenging. Creating outlandish encounters with normal, mundane ingredients. We have guidelines as established in the rules set, that the game is “for running games in the bizarre world of 1970’s Gonzo politics, drugs, sports, sex and violence...”, but what does that mean? With the major non-player characters ((m)NPC) I randomly rolled? 

So not an easy game to run or play. But Hippie Snowboard Dude (HSD) was all for doing something for Ms. Ross. Actually I don't know what their plan was, but they ended up at Ross's house who eagerly tasked the PC's with snatching some files from the Juggernaut's office. She even loaned them her 1970 Bronco, lousy wipers and all.

Their B&E on the newspaper went without a hitch. Mostly because HSD ignored a stranger trying the office door. Finishing the blunt and the mission the duo argue what to do with the file they took in front of the truck in the alley. Seems the dead ME had a file on Carol Ross's procedure which changed her from her original self; Curtis Ross Jr. Just as the PC's decided to take the info to Carol as she asked that slick hombre shows up again. This time with a gun. And he's asking for whatever they took from the office. Between the two of them they subdue their assailant with a brutal snowboard smash to the face and only one errant shot going off from the slick hombre's .32 pistol. They truss up slick hombre, throw him in the back of the truck and check his wallet. Chico Latin. They take him to the Ross residence and let Dad and Daughter know they picked someone up along the way. 

Here the players hashed out what was the best thing to do and provided some unique role playing opportunities, namely how to stay out of trouble and how much did the PC's really care what happened here in Fat City. The end result was they had a good way of dumping Chico Latin on the sherrif deputy outside and throw heaps of suspicion on this local drug dealing operator they beat hell out of. It was well explained so their ploy paid off. Except the cops were getting a different story of events from Latin so they wanted the PC's not to leave town. Not just yet. Carol Ross invited the PC's to stay over and go skiing in the morning.

(to be continued)

Fear & Loathing in Fat City

I consider running a “modern” rpg one of the genres I have the least experience in running in any satisfactory manner. I'm not even sure if I have a good grasp of reliable adventure design elements to ensure staying on genre “point” while handling this new type of setting. I created Fear & Loathing USR in an attempt to improve my modern role playing game mastering skills. Modern in this case means gonzo journalism an politics in early seventies America.

With your appropriately brief USR custom rules set and my initial untested adventure module Fear & Loathing in Fat City, two great gamers sat around the virtual table top with me and we gamed an insightful and rewarding session around tricky subject matter and highly improvisational plot hooks.

Peter arrived first and had a Fascist, an office worker and amateur boxer from Denver named Abel Peachy. His car broke down on the way to Fat City so he hitched a ride with Carol Ross, local celebrity athlete coming out of hiding to perform a controversial ascent up Capitol Peak. She wants to stop at her father's newspaper office to pick up some media tickets. She thinks it would be fun to come see Abel Peachy's performance at the Celebrity Fight Night. Maybe even find time to grab a drink at the Rank Elk before going in to the venue.

Peachy is frantically trying to figure out how he is going to fit in getting a drink with this delightful angel before he has to suit up for his fight when Carol lets out a hysterical scream. She has come across the body of James “Jim” Bishop, the young managing editor of the Fat City Juggernaut. He is lying out on the floor near a desk, his head stove in and bloody. The weapon, an editorial award Jim won back as an intern in college, is on the floor near the body stained with hair and blood.

With a call to the sheriff it isn't long before Peachy realizes he won't be making his fight and he won't be making any money for tonight's efforts. Around midnight he is finally released from questioning. Nothing left to do Peachy walks into the Rank Elk Inn and heads to the bar to watch TV and get a beer. Some slick looking hombre pesters Peachy with many questions on what was going on with the police over at the Juggernaut office and offered Peachy a ride so he could, obviously, keep on wheedling him for information. Peachy told him what he knew and the slick guy seemed satisfied and he let him out at his hotel.

The next morning Peachy was back at the Rank Elk trying to choke down breakfast and trying to think of what to do next when Bret the Hippie Snowboard dude comes on in and asks what is uuuuuuuup! Our second PC of the night has arrived!

(to be continued...)

Sunday, September 17

This Special Joy

I was able to run another session of my "long running" BRP Cthulhu & Chivalry campaign after a month on hold. It was on hold because of my vacation schedule fell on our game dates so weeks passed by without a session.

But we got back on the horse, killed people, and interacted with new and interesting beings. At the conclusion of the session one of the players posted; "Thanks for a pretty weird session today. I've missed playing with you guys."

And that is about as good as it gets. As we all know the game doesn't run without everyone's investment and participation. According to Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering I as Keeper only count for 30% of the game experience. I can get on board with that. I can write up all sorts of adventures, read fiction, look for inspiration wherever I can, but without a group of PC's to "toss the salad" all I have is just pretty poor fiction plot outlines.

So, I missed you guys too. Thanks for another great game!