Virtual Table-Tops – Impact on Games and Gaming

This month, Douglas Cole hosts the RPG Blog Carnival on his site, Gaming Ballistic. The theme is “Virtual Table-Tops – Impact on Games and Gaming”. This article will be about my personal experiences with online tabletop play.

Technology helped improve our games in several areas. One area in which technological advancements helped is communications and maintaining groups. In the past, when a group member left because of a move, we removed the character from the game. Now, when certain members of our ongoing campaign moved, we kept playing with them through the online networks.

In the early years of Skype, I remember the connection and communication problems which resulted in players stopping to play. There were many dropped calls and when the call worked, we had several times when the voice was garbled. That campaign ended years ago. Now, we use Google hangouts in our current D&D campaign. We’ve had some technical difficulties from time to time where either the connection was unstable or a player sounded like a chipmunk. One of the members switched to his smartphone when his computer had major difficulties. It works even though we hear some background noises like his roommates talking. Those technical difficulties are less frequent than when we used Skype so many years ago. Generally, we have a good connection and we have a great game.

We have to keep track of time zones. Right now, we have only two time zones to keep track of. We’ve had games with up to four different time zones. Managing time zones is similar to the logistics of scheduling. I mention that game is at a certain start time in the eastern time zone and expect the others to convert to their time zone. If they mention a time in their time zone then I will convert. Daylight saving time does influence the interaction if that area have different daylight saving time rules or don’t respect it. Right now, all members of the group live in an area of Canada where they follow the same daylight saving time rules.

For a webcam, we either use the desktop webcam or a tablet. The desktop webcam is stable and has a wider lens. It permits those online to see more of the group. It is great for conversations and seeing expressions. When a major combat occurs which requires a battlemat and miniatures then we switch to the camera from a tablet. The tablet permits easier manoeuvrability to show the current action. We show those online a bird’s eye view with instruction on where to move the camera. One player also points to the figures and tokens and mentions what they are. We are considering switching to a setup where we have the desktop webcam for the whole game and when we require to point at a battlemat, we use a smartphone to connect to the conversation to be used as a camera. We haven’t tested that method yet to see how it once. Once we do, I’ll update this to mention the experience.

Online games gives more options for mobility impaired players. My apartment has no handicap access. When the weather couldn’t permit our wheelchair-bound friend to join us at our public play area, we used my apartment as a backup. He would connect from his place and we would use the online tools that I use with my other group..

As a game master, I have to modify my technique when I have a mix of present and telepresent group members. I have to remind myself to ask those telepresent players questions and I’ve noticed that other players interact less with a telepresent player. I believe there is a certain loss of interaction with a player not being in the same room as you. You will tend to interact more with the person next to or across from you than someone online. It is an unfortunate consequence that we need to be aware of so we can tackle it. With the cloud storage feature of google drive, I’ve placed documents like character sheets of the characters and shared it with the group. Anyone in the group can access it. Several players at the table use tablets and notebooks to load their character sheet instead of printing it to paper. I like that since it saves on ink and paper.

Not all games work with online folks. Games with a physical components are impossible to play with online players. Dread requires the tower to get the tension and this doesn’t work with online players. Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple would need to find a way to recreate the bag with stones. Since the bag contents changes the odds after each player turn in Do, you can’t easily recreate that for online play. There is a Fate version of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple which I believe will help to play in the setting of the Flying Temple. Fiasco works very well using online play. I learned Fiasco through a google hangout game. We used the sketchpad to place notes on the various characters. I’ve played another time with my regular group where I had a blast with the Break A Leg playset. In the end, our characters had created “Sir Rhino”, a variation of Cyrano de Bergerac where a rhinoceros was the Cyrano character and had top billing. It was a glorious and hilarious disaster.

There are many tools available online to help run a game. For the D&D group, we still use the online character builder and monster creator. Even though it is no longer updated, it suits our needs. I use the monster creator to adapt existing monsters for existing factions. Then I upload them onto the 4eTurnTracker, a combat tracking utility which is easy to use. A tool I use for online games is Dice Stream by Mike Hasko. It permits one to roll dice in clear view of everyone. You can also have your character name and notes appear on the screen. I’ve used it for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and 13th Age so far. I’m still learning how to use online tools to properly run games which will work for both online players and those in the same room as me. One tool which I wish to try that Google hangouts provides is to record your games. As a frequent GM, I see value in reviewing what happened during the game. On top of serving as a reminder of the game’s story, I can see how I can refine my craft as a game master. I haven’t played a game where you have to actively map but I imagine the tools are there to simplify such tasks. I am curious of any additional digital tools which could help a group which is a mix of online and offline players.

Although most of my online play experience is as a GM, I have played a few games. As mentioned earlier, Fiasco was one. Additionally, I played a fun game of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. We were able to easily indicate stunts, assets and resources with virtual notes. I played a campaign of 13th Age with Quinn Murphy as GM. We easily indicated our backgrounds and one unique thing on the screen.  We used a shared document to take notes of the major events of each session. I enjoyed that game and hope we return to it. Our last session was a major game changer and it is unfortunate that we’ve been too busy to return to it. With the sale of pdfs through online stores like Drivethrurpg, you can have easy access of rulebooks for your online games. When you share the pdf with your friends, it becomes the online equivalent of passing the book around the gaming table. When I share with my friends, I recommend they purchase a copy of the rules when they can.

In the end, I enjoy this current age where we can play with friends online wherever they are. I look forward to see future technology be adapted for tabletop games.

 

Dread: Beneath the Full Moon

On November, 2nd 2013, I played a game of Dread  with my friends. I was the host which was a fascinating experience and unlike other games which I was a game master.

For initial setup, players answer directed questions about their characters. It gives a skeleton background which players can assign details. As the host, the answers gave me tools to push the characters and explore details.

Characters:

Sam Alexander Smith – English major ladies man

Victor – Economics student who overcompensate

Janet Evanston – Fashion designer student who was first on the scene.

Kevin Wong – Computer engineer student with lots of bling who enjoys movies

Cedric Maison – Philosophy student/football player

The premise of the story: Student who go adventure camping in Grand Canyon. They find their guide, Tom Thompson mauled. They have to figure out what to do, survive with whatever resources they have including their guide who is surviving on a thread.

The game uses a Jenga tower for action resolution. In order to succeed an action, the player must successfully pull a block without the tower falling. If tower falls then the character is gone from the story (usually through death). If players refuses to pull then the action fails. This leads to the player decided whether to pull or not and thus the value of the action. The GM known as the Host never pulls unless rebuilding the tower.

The story starts with the group waking up early morning to screams, nylon shredding and aluminium poles snapping. First on the scene, Janet panicked over the guide being unconscious and bleeding. Cedric applied first aid to stabilize Tom. He learned an animal attacked Tom. The animal initially went for Tom’s throat but changed to his guts. Cedric found a silver peace sign pendant on a hemp rope on the guide’s neck. While Victor tried to operate the radio, Janet searched the area of the tent. She found some strange footprints of a strange beast. At this point, the group suspected it was a bear.

Victor reached the emergency contact and let him know of the situation. Looking at maps, they could  get at their destination past the 2 days of rapids (about 10 days of hiking) or go back to a landing about 7 days of hiking. The emergency contact mentioned he’ll reach his superior to figure out an alternate plan and contact them at 8AM. The group talked about continuing down the river to their destination. Cedric and Janet tried to go to sleep while Victor, Kevin and Sam prepared the gear for the morning. They heard the distant rumbling of a storm.

In the morning, they stabilized Tom for moving and Cedric carried him to the river. At the river, they contacted the emergency group but they found the storm interfered with the discussion. They got part of the message and then it stopped. They had to decide where to go. They could continue on the raft or start hiking. The raft would reach strong rapids which they never experienced and hiking would take longer than they have food. Cedric wished to hike next to the river while the rest wishes to use the raft. The majority of the group won. The group separated themselves onto 2 different rafts. Victor, Janet were on the first raft with Tom. Sam, Kevin and Cedric were on the other raft. A few close calls later, they survived their first day on rapids.

Janet went looking for a good camping spot in the surrounding. I gave the player a choice to pull to find a spot in time or she can find a camping spot late. She chose not to pull and thus they arrived at their campaign spot at sundown. It was an open spot with lots of visibility, vegetation but exposed to the elements. Kevin and Cedric went to gather wood. While gathering wood, they heard some growls and felt like something was watching them. They quickly returned to their camp with the slightly less wood they need. They built a small fire. During the night, I made them have pulls based on certain fears they characters had. I used the answers to the questionnaire. They proved quite effective at making pulls. They made it through another night. Some were cold and some chose not to have a good rest.

In the morning, they marched towards the shore. While marching, they saw a small plane flying overhead. Sam quickly took out the flare gun and tossed it to Victor.

Dread tower

This is how the tower looked after Sam’s player succeeded in his pull.

Victor wildly shot the flare in the wrong direction. Panicking, Victor ran into the forest while reloading the flare gun and hoping he can get another shot before the plane vanishes from sight. The group heard a growl and Victor’s death scream. After a fearful pause and a rebuilding of the tower, the group found Victor’s corpse savagely attacked with his throat ripped. Whatever was following them had taken one of their own. They salvaged whatever gear they could from Victor’s corpse and set up the rafts.

Sam and Kevin decided to take care of Tom this time in their raft. Cedric and Janet would travel together. These were challenging rafts and their few folks didn’t help. They were lucky with their pulls. During a rough turn slightly before the end, Sam got violently thrown overboard and get his head smashed against rocks. Miraculously, Kevin managed to stabilize the raft as their reached shore. Noticing it was late at night, I asked if the group wished to end it now with the death of Sam or conduct a final scene to reach the cabin. They chose to rush for the cabin.

After rebuilding the tower for a last time, we conducted a chase scene. First, an unconscious Tom rode piggy back on Cedric. His football training helped. I made the werewolf finally appear as it chased them. Suddenly, it leap in front of the group blocking them. Cedric tackled the werewolf to move it to the side while keeping Tom on his back. The group continue with Cedric now at the back. Janet managed to keep her focus onto the ranch as she saw some familiar lights on the side. It was those same light she saw when Tom was savaged. I had decided it was a will-o’-the-wisp intent on sending her into a trap. Kevin was the first to arrive and the door was locked. He broke the front window, quickly entered and unlocked the door letting the rest of the group in. They managed to slam the door in the werewolf’s face. Unfortunately, the window was open. Cedric and Kevin grabbed an armoire to bring to block the window. As Cedric backed his way towards the window, the werewolf ripped Cedric in half. Janet jumped in to help Kevin block the window. Janet, Kevin and their guide Tom were the survivors of this savage werewolf attack.

I enjoyed running Dread. The combination of the questionnaire and the tower are useful tools to raise the tension which makes it perfect for a Hallowe’en game. I was surprised the initial tower stayed up for so long. I used the book’s advice of requesting a pull around every 5 minutes. Before it fell, there were a few refusals of pulls. Letting the players decided if their fail or attempt the task is pure genius. I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out non-death failures when the player decided not to attempt the pull.

Order of Saint Seraphin: The Feast

This is the third session of The Order of Saint Seraphin campaign of The Deryni Adventure Game.

The characters of the second session of actual play were:

- Bishop Josiah Blackmane, an itinerant bishop who an eye to sense magic;

- Brom, a famous, charming landless nobleman;

- Iago, an aggressive sailor who chose be a thug for the church rather than go to the dungeon;

- Lady Penelope, a scholarly Deryni noblewoman;

- Terrowin, a sneaky thief with a dark secret;

- Thomas the farmer, a hunter whose family’s farm is church-owned;

- Willem, a secret Deryni lay brother who abandoned his life of crime.

The Order of Saint Seraphin prepared for the evening feast. Brom convinced Lady Bellemar to escort him to the feast. She hesitated due to the rivalry between the D’Ahern and Bellemar families. Brom indicated his intent to reconcile those differences. They dressed and departed to arrive in time for the feast. Iago and Willem spent their preparation by sleeping to recover their strength and heal. Bishop Blackmane wrote his blessing. The player asked how will his composition roll will assist for his future oratory. I told him the composition result will set the minimum his oratory result will ever be. It was a spontaneous house rule which I’m enjoying for Fudge. While it doesn’t give a bonus which is powerful in Fudge, it may help if the later roll is low. While working on his farm, Thomas noticed a stranger on the outskirts and went to investigate. He found Izzy Moran the alchemist gathering herbs. When confronted, Izzy apologized and offered to give Thomas a fresh potion of invisibility. He informed Thomas the potion works only in forests and renders the imbiber invisible to Deryni. Thomas accepted the offer.

At the feast, all the attendants took their seats according to rank with the highest rank seated near the hosts. Lady Penelope had a verbal match against her rival, Lady Bellemar. Brom separated them in the seating order and he attempted to mediate the verbal match. He succeeded in calming the situation and the eloquent Lady Bellemar was the clear winner over the scholarly Lady Penelope. Lady Bellemar excused herself to go refresh herself. The hosts arrived, welcomed everyone and asked Bishop Blackmane to bless this feast. He performed a wonderful blessing, embellishing his composition and brought great honour to the feast. As Lady Bellemar hadn’t returned yet, Brom went looking for her. He found her exiting the lavatory and excusing herself for taking so long.

During the second course (a meal with more than one course pleased Thomas and his wife), Lady Fafne D’Ahern passed out. Bishop Blackmane was one of the first at her side to check what happened. Lady Fafne shows many the symptoms of a Deryni who ingested merasha. Lady Margo Skelden demanded this devil woman out of the feast hall. Lady Bellemar supported Lady Margo’s position claiming she won’t eat food shared with a devil worshipper. Lady Penelope suspected Lady Bellemar of foul play and decided to read her mind from afar. She found a Deryni shield protecting Lady Bellemar’s mind. Lady Bellemar is a Deryni! Bishop Blackmane recommended his group to investigate the matter. Sir Broderick Skelden agreed, he ordered his servants to pick up the dishes, bring them to a side room for the Bishop and his team to investigate and start the third course. Sir Richard picked up his fiance and brought her to a side room to purge her body of the poison.

The Order of Saint Seraphin split up to investigate the matter. Bishop Blackmane and Iago went to Izzy Moran’s waggon to analyze Lady Fafne’s meal and drink. Lady Penelope followed Lady Fafne to take care of her. Willem and Brom stayed in the feast hall to keep an eye on the guests and talk to them. Terrowin and Thomas went to investigate the kitchen.

In the feast hall, Willem opened mental communication with Lady Penelope. He described the events and seek her counsel. Lady Bellemar and Margo started a discussion on the evils of the Deryni. Willem and Brom tried to appease the situation but tension increased. They learned Lady Margo is highly religious and despises Deryni. Considering they suspect Lady Margo is a Deryni, this surprised them.

In the kitchen, Thomas and Terrowin worked together to look for clues. I asked one to be primary and the other to be a supporter. The supporter rolled first and set the minimum result the primary can get. The primary rolls and will never get lower than what his supporter have. I’m not too fond of this technique for group checks. It is basically a take the highest roll amongst the group and ignore the rest. I’d like the results for the rest of the group to influence the overall result. They found a empty vial with traces of a liquid. They met with a servant responsible for Lady Fafne’s drink, Alys. Lady Penelope assisted in interrogating Alys with her truth sense. They discovered that Alys was ordered to put the drug into Lady Fafne’s cup and then forget it happened. They considered to make her remember and decided not to let her live with that torment of what she did. Considering Lady Bellemar is the only Deryni they know who could have done this, Thomas went to the lavatory to see if she went. He discovered that she only entered the door and stayed briefly. Terrowin brought the vial to the Bishop.

With the help of Izzy Moran, Bishop Blackmane discovered the drug used is from a rare plant found in the Forbidden Forest. The drug has very similar effect to merasha on Deryni but this drug affects anyone. Someone wanted to make it appear that Lady Fafne is a Deryni. With this information, they informed Sir Broderick who suspected Lurika the Soul-Stealer. He tasked the Order to bring Lurika to justice once and for all. The feast ended and everyone retired for the night.

What shall the Order of Saint Seraphin find in the forest? What are Lurika’s goals? How does Lady Leallia Bellemar fit into this situation?

Order of Saint Seraphin: The Missing Heirloom part 2

This is the second session of The Order of Saint Seraphin campaign of The Deryni Adventure Game .

The characters of the second session of actual play were:

- Bishop Josiah Blackmane, an itinerant bishop who an eye to sense magic;

- Brom, a famous, charming landless nobleman;

- Iago, an aggressive sailor who chose be a thug for the church rather than go to the dungeon;

- Thomas the farmer, a hunter whose family’s farm is church-owned;

- Willem, a secret Deryni lay brother who abandoned his life of crime.

The Order of Saint Seraphin interrogated the bandit leader. He told them Madame Millicent hired to get the ring. He never asked why since the pay was good. She did insist on discretion which he found it curious but never dwelled on it. Madame Millicent is owner of the brothel “House of Pleasures”. They returned to the Skelden estate with the bandits and goat.

After handing the bandits to the local reeve, the Order decided to split up. Bishop Blackmane, Brom and Iago would go to Madame Millicent’s House of Pleasures. Thomas and Willem would figure out how to get the ring out of the goat. Bishop Blackmane gave Willem the purgative which was of good quality.

Thomas and Willem tried the purgative first. Being the goat’s complex digestive system, I assigned a difficulty of Superb. Thomas’s player rolled a +4 which meant the purgative had a beyond superb effect on the goat. After a few hours, they found the ring in the goat’s excrement. Willem sensed the ring being magical. He received a vision of a glade in the forbidden forest where a tree stump has a Deryni portal. The ring conveyed enough information to find their way to the glade. Through subtle investigation, they discovered the ring belonged to Lady Margo, mother of Sir Richard Skelden. This implied her family had Deryni heritage. Thomas returned the goat to the kid and returned to his farm. After a good night’s rest, Willem tried to return the ring to Lady Fafne and found her talking to Lady Margo!

Before arriving to Madam Millicent’s House of Pleasures, they decided Brom would go in alone. This proved fruitful for the group. Bishop Blackmane was preachy to Madame Millicent when questioning about her goals. He accused her of her establishment sins. From a mechanical perspective, he botched his persuasion check. Madame Millicent kicked Bishop Blackmane and Iago out of her establishment. They left to go back to the Skelden estate. Brom got a room as a client learned a few things while discussing with Ayleth, his escort for the night. He confirmed Madame Millicent had dealings with the bandits to get the ring. Ayleth suspected Madame Millicent wished to upset the relationship between the Skelden and D’ahern families for some unknown patron. In the morning, Brom goes to Lady Bellemar’s estate in the hopes to invite her to the feast.

Bishop Blackmane and Iago had to make camp before it got dark. Being Lazy, Bishop Blackmane ordered Iago to maintain watch while he slept. It was a pleasant night with the only disturbance was an early traveller. Iago kicked Bishop Blackmane awake to greet the traveller. He grudgingly woke up as the traveller stopped. Sir Richard Skelden introduced himself indicating he was returning home after his business in Rhemuth. He was happy to return to see his new fiancé. Bishop Blackmane indicated he was heading there to preside over the feast. Richard offered to his horse to the Bishop and to escort them. Blackmane politely refused and urged Richard to his fiancé. He thanked them and left on his horse at a gallop. Iago glowered at Blackmane.

Willem approached Lady Fafne and Margo. Lady Margo reacted to him as being a lowly servant interrupting their conversation. He admitted to being under the service of Bishop Blackmane for the feast tonight. He wished to learn more about Lady Fafne so Bishop Blackmane can properly bless the engagement. While chatting, he managed some slight of hand to return the ring to Lady Fafne. Sir Richard arrived in the castle just moments later.

With the missing heirloom returned, the group would prepare to attend the feast. They also indicated their plan to check into the Deryni portal suspecting it would lead to Lurika.

This session was a fun use of several characters’ faults. I enjoyed presenting the idea that Lady Margo’s family could be Deryni which becomes more complex in the next session.

Order of Saint Seraphin: The Missing Heirloom part 1

I started running a campaign of The Deryni Adventure Game. A role-playing game using the Fudge system set in the Deryni setting. It is 10-12th century Europe with the names changed and a race of persecuted magical humans called the Deryni. I find it ripe for conflict and intrigue.

Our group discussed the focus of this campaign. We decided it will be the adventures of the Order of Saint Seraphin, a secret religious order formed by Bishop Duncan McLain and a secret founder to investigate situations of possible Deryni involvement. Their mandate is to investigate the situation and determine what to do with the Deryni. They are meant to be a neutral party as they recognize some Deryni are good and some are evil.

The characters of the first session of actual play were:

  • Bishop Josiah Blackmane, an itinerant bishop who an eye to sense magic;
  • Brom, a famous, charming landless nobleman;
  • Iago, an aggressive sailor who chose be a thug for the church rather than go to the dungeon;
  • Thomas the farmer, a hunter whose family’s farm is church-owned;
  • Willem, a secret Deryni lay brother who abandoned his life of crime.

I started with “The Missing Heirloom” scenario from the rulebook. I made some modifications to include some NPCs which I’ve taken from the Masks book. The adventure starts at a autumn fair at Sir Broderick Skelden’s manor. North of the manor and past the farmer’s field lies the Forbidden Forest where locals tell the story of Lurika the Soul-Stealer (Masks #135), a Deryni who captures anyone who delves too deep into the forest. The Order of Saint Seraphin are here to investigate this Lurika.

First, the Order decides to get the festivities of the fair. Thomas participated in an archery contest. I used a series of 3 rolls and took the median amongst a series of NPCs. This resulted in a tie between a good archer and Thomas a great archer. The NPC and Thomas shot more arrows until the target was more distant and a winner was declared. Thomas receive two silver royals for his victory. As Bishop Blackmane searched for a competition to judge, he received an invitation to pass grace at the manor feast tomorrow. Bishop Blackmane learned that Sir Richard Skelden, son of Sir Broderick, was recently engage to Lady Fafne D’ahern. Iago went to drink & watch festivities. While Brom judged an apple pie contest, he chatted with the locals and learned that Lady Leallia Bellemar (Masks #71), a beautiful available noblewoman wasn’t invited to the fair. He wishes to visit her and she lives about a days travel east. While Willem was roaming the fair to sample the food, Lady Fafne D’ahern approached and asked him for a matter requiring discretion. While judging a goat contest, one of the goats ate her engagement ring. She declared that goat the winner to place the winning wreath. She wishes the ring found before Sir Richard returns and doesn’t wish Lady Margo and Sir Broderick to know. Willem alerts some of the rest of the group of the mission.

Bishop Blackmane wishes to create a purgative for the goat. Search for ingredients and equipment, he finds the travelling merchant Izzy Moran (Masks #99) who is selling a potion which renders you invisible to Deryni while in forests. He pays him to use his equipment to make a purgative for the goat. Thomas and Willem look for signs of the goat and find tracks leaving the fair. They follow those tracks which leads to the goat and his owner surrounded by bandits. The bandits are taking the goat while threatening the owner, a young lad. Thomas and Willem engage the bandits. The bandits manage to put the goat on a horse. Thomas manages to unhorse the rider with an arrow but the second bandit rider manages to escape to escort the goat the their camp. The bandit routs except the unhorsed rider who is captured. In the end, Thomas got hurt with a cut while Willem got very hurt with a nasty gash. They do some simple interrogation while Willem mind-reads the bandit which earns them some names.

While Bishop Blackmane tended to their wounds, Iago aggressively interrogates the bandit. He learns the bandits specifically went for the goat to get the ring. They were going to steal the ring when one of their own saw the goat eat it. He learns their camp is on the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest. Brom brings bandit to the local reeve who tells him the bandits are a problem but no men are brave enough to follow them in the forest. Brom states group will tackle the problem. The group heads to the camp, arriving about an hour before sunset. They distract half the bandits by releasing the bandit’s horses. They attack as the bandits were about to gut the goat. It is a quick and bloody fight for the bandits. The goat runs loose by the Order of Saint Seraphin rescues it.

During the final fight, I remembered how much the wounds can be detrimental to an effectiveness of a character. Bishop Blackmane had done a great to treat Thomas and remove the pain and thus the effective penalty (although the wound would stay for a day). He didn’t do as good of a job on Willem and the wound and penalty of -2 would stay around a week. On 4dF, a -2 penalty is a significant detriment. From coming to running Dungeons & Dragons and a superhero campaign, this slower rate of healing will need to be getting used to.

Do Encounters: End of the pilgrimage

For the D&D Encounters program, our group saw the return of six players (including me). We played Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple  by Daniel Solis. Our plan was to end our pilgrimage as the next week (February 6th, 2013) is the start of the new D&D Encounters season.

The maximum number of players for Do is five and we had six players. We decided to try it out. Realizing that we might lose out on stone, I stated the following house rule: If a player cannot draw three stones from the bag then we check for the ending result. Luckily, we did not need to invoke that rule. We got a parade ending.

We selected the letter from Sil da goblin who needed help with adventurers and they stolen money. There were 20 goal words in this letter. A fun letter to end a pilgrimage before going back to D&D.

The pilgrims involved were:

  • Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger (played by Jeff) who was previously Pilgrim Hoarder Telescope;
  • Pilgrim Shiny Crayon who was previously Shiny Diamond;
  • Pilgrim Loud Explosives who was previously Random Explosives;
  • Pilgrim Generous Singer (played by myself) who was previously Pilgrim Generous Runner;
  • Pilgrim Tasty Whistle who was previously Pilgrim Tasty Blanket;
  • Pilgrim Ornate Plant who was previously Pilgrim Green Plant.

The story was fun and action packed. The player of Pilgrim Shiny Crayon noted we developed a testosterone and violence heavy story. I agreed with her. This wasn’t a light story and heavily relied on power and combat. We managed a better pacing of the story. If we continued to play, I can see further improvements. At the parade section of the story, the player of Pilgrim Loud Explosives initially introduced elements to the story which hadn’t appeared and weren’t connected to the narrative. Several players mentioned it to him and he changed his contribution to something which worked with the narrative.

I enjoy Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. I bought the supplement, Do: The Book of Letters, and I would play it again if given the chance. I love the creation of the narrative as a group. Several folks gave elements to build up the story. I haven’t experienced a pitchfork ending yet.

Here’s the last story. What do you think of it?

Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger enters the dungeon with the rest of the pilgrims and orders Sergei the tiger to sniff out Sil da goblin. While following Sergei, Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger finds a trail of copper pieces which he collects bringing him away from the group and lost. Pilgrim Generous Singer encounters Grob da ork who is miserable and hungry, so  Pilgrim Generous Singer teaches him a happy song to take Grob’s mind off things. While Grob da ork hums his newly learned tune,  Pilgrim Generous Singer gives the hungry ork all of the food not leaving enough for the rest of the group. Pilgrim Ornate Plant pulls a branch from a cave tree and forms a new “magic stick.” Pilgrim Ornate Plant tries to teach Sil da Goblin to become as new shaman with the magic stick but the details go over Sil’s head. Pilgrim Shiny Crayon decides to take on the role of character artist and works with the goblins to create wanted posters of the murderous elf and dwarf adventurers.  Pilgrim Shiny Crayon makes a beautiful rendering of the male elf and his beauty makes her question going against the adventurers. Pilgrim Loud Explosives takes a wrong turn and cries for help to find his way back but attracts the attention of the hungry troll instead. Realizing that some of his friends had gone missing, Pilgrim Tasty Whistle blew three times on his whistle to help pilgrims Hoarder Tiger and Pilgrim Loud Explosives find their way back to the group, and hopefully clear Pilgrim Shiny Crayon and Sil da goblin’s minds.

Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger hears a loud blast from a whistle three times and realizes that he lost the rest of the group, so he follows the whistle’s sound.  Pilgrim Generous Singer comes up with the idea to give Grob da ork the title of chief, but this causes a riot between the goblins.  Pilgrim Ornate Plant adds a flower to the magic stick that lets the user know how to use it and not require explanation.  Pilgrim Shiny Crayon wanders off in search of the pretty elf, finds him and leads the adventurers back to the dungeon. Pilgrim Loud Explosives  sees the troll and runs away screaming towards the group, leading the salivating troll towards the delicious-looking Sil da Goblin.  Pilgrim Tasty Whistle procures the copper pieces from Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger’s pockets, discovers they are chocolate and starts eating the treasure in front of the troll’s eyes.

A fight between Pilgrim Tasty Whistle and Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger breaks out over the chocolate copper pieces. Seeing that the goblins were angry about their newly found chief,  Pilgrim Generous Singer decides to give all the goblins the title chief causing a political storm.  Pilgrim Ornate Plant devises a complex political system which splits the goblin chiefs and causes a civil war.  Pilgrim Shiny Crayon and the adventurers arrive amidst the chaos, entering the fray, she gets distracted by the dwarf’s moves and gets hit by the hammer. Caught up in the excitement, Pilgrim Loud Explosives calls out Grob da ork and challenges him to a duel. Searching around frantically for MORE! CHOCOLATE!,  Pilgrim Tasty Whistle’s eyes locked onto the dwarf’s sack of stolen coins; grabbing the sack and pulling it away, he causes the dwarf to trip and fall in front of the troll and the coins scattered amongst the crowd.

Realizing that this fight was going no where, Sergei pulls Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger away by grabbing his collar with his jaws. Following  Pilgrim Tasty Whistle’s lead,  Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger starts looking through the dwarf’s backpack, taking whatever looks interesting and grabbing the angry dwarf’s attention. Pilgrim Generous Singer distributed the treasure to everyone who love the ability to buy food in the future or a quick chocolatey snack. Pilgrim Ornate Plant’s political system first caused chaos but quickly brought a strong leader for the goblin tribe. Waking to a scene infinitely  more peaceful,  Pilgrim Shiny Crayon completes her portrait of the elf and hangs it in the temple, where the elf will now be living, like it or not! The goblins show their gratitude by putting on a firework show. Curious,  Pilgrim Tasty Whistle waved the original magic stick that he found in the dwarf’s sack at the troll and flowers bloomed all over him; realizing that trolls belong in the “fruits and vegetables” part of the food pyramid, the hungry goblins prepared a salad and named it the “Whistle Salad” in Pilgrim Tasty Whistle’s honour. Avoiding the dwarf’s punches aimed at  Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger’s face, he calls out for help from Sergei. Sergei chomps down on the dwarf and eats him,  Pilgrim Hoarder Tiger keeps all the dwarf’s stuff.

Pilgrim Manipulative Singer returns to the temple teaching songs to help and find stuff. Pilgrim Mural Plant departed from the temple, traveling the worlds to ensure harmony across their residents. Pilgrim Colourful Explosives leaves the temple and opens a fireworks shop. Pilgrim Tasty Whistle, having broken his addiction to sugar, became Pilgrim Sleepy Whistle (due to his lack of energy), and traveled the world as a health food advocate and professional troll pruner. After experiencing the rash violence of too many males in one room, Pilgrim Shiny Crayon became Pilgrim Cuddly Crayon and took up residence as the temple artist, designing adventure brochures and advocating for love to bring even more beauty to the world. Pilgrim Hoarder Librarian opens a museum in the temple, teaching new pilgrims about the world. Every thing that  Pilgrim Hoarder Librarian collected or stole is proudly displayed. He and Sergei live happily ever after.

A Penny for My Thoughts: 11th Hour Memories

This post was written for the second annual New Year, New Game blog carnival hosted by Gnome Stew as part of the 2013 New Year, New Game challenge.

Every year, Cangames, the longest running gaming convention in Canada (since 1977), has a theme. For Cangames 2013 the theme is “Armageddon Missed!”, a celebration of surviving the end of the Mayan calendar. I try to run a game inspired by the theme.

At Cangames 2012, the theme was “Flames Across the Border”. I ran a D&D 4th edition game where devils were trying to breach the border the material world and the Shadowfell to release an imprisoned general. There were lots of fire and brimstone with undead guardians mixed in beneath a cemetery.

For this year, I had this idea of exploring memory in relation to the apocalypse. The premise is aliens invade Earth and force humanity to escape to a safe area. While the aliens are attempting to destroy the world, humanity sends some individuals to stop the aliens or a means to have humanity survive. The game would be exploring the memories of those individuals who went this ordeal and thus learn through the game, was the Earth saved or did humanity just survive. I asked on twitter for a recommendation of a game. I was suggested “A Penny for My Thoughts” by Paul Tevis. I bought a copy at my local gaming store.

A Penny for My Thoughts is a cool improvisational game. You play amnesiacs who help each remember the events which lead to your loss of memory. There are three scenarios provided in the book: a modern age normal amnesia following a traumatic experience; a covert operative hired to assassinate a target but lost their memory; a Cthulhu mythos based scenario. I used the guidelines and modifier the questionnaires to create my own scenario: 11th hour memories. I created a Facts & Reassurances sheet and a Questionnaire. I wanted to try the game out before submitting to Cangames.

On Saturday, January 19th, I tried out my scenario with 3 friends. We are a creative bunch. We play playing games like Fiasco, Once Upon a Time, etc. I expected my friends to be reasonably good at the game. When you explore a person’s memory, you get a memory trigger which is a key word or phrase. The other players who are guides ask leading questions which the active player answers with “yes, and” and adds a detail. For ex: when I got the question “Were you on vacation?” my answer was “Yes, and I didn’t expect the aliens to find me there.” After you get a number of questions equal to the number of players, you tell the story of the event until you get to a decision point. At the decision point, you turn to two guides who give two different outcomes which you choose to continue the story. There is a gathering and exchange of pennies which is a pacing mechanic for the game. At the end, you decide if your character wants to remember what happened or not.

As I expected, my friends were a creative bunch. Here is what we produced: penny characters. It took about a third of the game for them to start getting it but only mildly. One player started with the idea it would be a serious game and she was not enjoying it. She realized it and made the game her own and she started enjoying it. She told me after the game that sometimes she would have liked saying “No, but…” to the guided questions. When I was a kid, I learnt improvisation theatre and was comfortable with the “Yes, and…” answers. The group was not comfortable with all the rituals in the game. When you grab a penny from the pool, the rule says you must say “A penny for my thoughts”. I understand the importance to immerse yourself in the situation. I told the players about the instructions but didn’t enforce it. Some of the players said the line some of the time. We didn’t get the importance of the pennies you get in the end once you’ve finished getting your final memory.

“A Penny for My Thoughts” is a fascinating improvisation game. I will need to try it a few more times to determine if it works for Cangames. I might try one of the other scenarios in the book instead of mine. The feedback from my friends informs me the game would work in a specific niche of gamers but not at Cangames. I have my Life-size Kill Doctor Lucky and a game of Dresden Files set in Ottawa which I’ll run this Cangames 2013.