Stop, Drop & Roleplay: July Edition

A local board game café, Monopolatte, started organizing monthly roleplaying evenings. They organize the  games and thus, you show up to play whichever one you want. On top of the $5 cover fee, you play $2 directly to the game master. I had time this month to join and play. This month, they had two great local gamers organizing the games, AJ Comeau and Ron Langton. AJ works at Monopolatte and Ron was added as a guest GM. Kurt, another Monopolatte staff, was a backup GM in case there was a player overflow.

The games offered were Dixie Land and Night of the Niagara. Dixie Land was set in a post apocalyptic New Orléans where music is magic and the bayou has a nuclear afterglow. AJ was the GM and he used the Heroquest system by Robin D. Laws. Ron was the GM of “Night of the Niagara” where a tour boat, Maid of the Mist, is found on dry land and Niagara Falls is a host to a fiendish creature. He used the Monster of the Week system by Micheal Sands. Kurt mentioned he would run Everyone is John if there were enough folks. Everyone is John is a homebrew game where each player is part of the mind of the character John. Kurt’s game sounds interesting and I wish to try it someday. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough players who showed up. All the games offered sounded interesting and I had to choose one. I chose “Dixie Land”.

In the past, I played Heroquest. I find it is a nice narrative game which rewards creativity in the creation of traits. You design your own traits and assign them values. A trait can be anything you want (ex: Distracting dancing). When you need to make a test, you roll a d20 and you require a result equal or under your value to succeed. If you get a natural 1, it is a critical success and a natural 20 is a critical failure. If your value is higher than 20 then you subtract 20 from your value to determine your new value and you gain a mastery. A mastery is  a modifier to your result or the result of your opponent. For each mastery you get, you can improve your result by one success level. For ex: I rolled a 6 on my Unbinding Souls 2M trait. A 6 is a failure (6 greater than 5) normal and with my mastery (the M in the trait), I can transform my failure into a success. Simple, right? There are other tricks in the system.

AJ asked us 5 questions to gives us inspiration for character creation and tie us into the “Dixie Land” setting. Additionally, our answers helped him gives us incentives for the scenario. They were great questions which were effective in tying us to the world.

I played Janine Fauteux, a jazz player with a tortured past who had the ability to free souls from being attached to the living. Her traits were: Unbinding Souls 2M; Urban Survival 15; Utilitarian Sex Appeal 14; Unearthly Saxophone 16; Use Beats Aggressively 14. I challenged myself with having all traits start with the letter U. AJ added the trait Haunted 13 after I described my character. He did the same for every player at the table. For many, they received a special ability.

We started play after a brief explanation of the rules. We were all heading towards a concert for various reasons. We were complete strangers to each other. It is something which I found lacked in this game. Each character had connections to no other characters except for NPCs. There was nothing within the story to interact with another PC. In a long-term game, you can develop those relationships but in a one-shot, you need some ground work. I love games like Fiasco, Fate and games powered by the Apocalypse Engine where they encourage and reward you to create links with other characters. For this game, a simple question like “How do you know the character of the players to your left?” would have broached a relationship conversation. When Janine arrived on the scene, another PC was preaching unsuccessfully to the masses. I decided to approach this PC to start forming a bond. I found it unnatural but required to include the PC in the game. During the concert and intermission, we were informed that a patron wished to see us. This was our hook for adventure. Jack, a producer, wanted us to form a band and perform at Lost Vegas, a location in the middle of the Scorch, a local desert. Of the five of us, four were musically and magically inclined while our last member would act as security and roadie. After some quick negotiations, we signed the contract and boarded the bus to Lost Vegas.

On the trip, one of the band members, the preacher, befriended the bus driver. This bus driver informed him that we should get off at the stop after our planned stop since it would be closer. The player misinterpreted what he heard and had us get off at our regular stop since he thought we missed the stop before our planned stop. After a brief laugh, we continued with this harder situation. We were at a dinner which dealt in potatoes. Every food and drinks were potato derived. In hindsight, I should have done a variation on the Spam song from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Our tech band member found a satellite dish pointed toward Lost Vegas but was unable to get a signal from it. Janine was unlikely lucky to find a pickup truck with easily accessible spare keys. We piled up in the pickup and before we left, a dinner patron advised us to not stop for anything. Of the group, I was the likeliest to have some driving skills since I had Urban Survival. AJ felt it was a stretch so I have a -6 penalty to my skill (thus I had to roll 9 or lower) in any stressful situation. We’ll have a pleasant trip and nothing will go wrong, right?

Janine drove conservatively to save our half-tank of fuel. We learned this world uses salt water as a fuel source which is great for anywhere but deserts like the Scorch. On the way to Lost Vegas, a bandit gang chased us. We surmised they wanted their pickup back. We weren’t going to give it back to them so I put the pedal to the metal. AJ told me to roll my Urban Survival at a stretch. I rolled a 1 which is a critical success and AJ rewarded me with Drive like a maniac at 14. I deftly avoided the bandits by driving down in a ravine, waiting for them to pass then continued on our trip. Our next challenge was upon us as night descended.

We had to choose to continue on or stop for the night. Luckily, an abandoned farmhouse was nearby. Being the only driver, we could either keep Janine awake or stop to rest. We examined the house quickly and found it safe and defensible. In the garage, there was a fuelling station too. Bonus! We decided to stay the night and set up shifts. Bernard, the bodyguard of Angelica Starlight (our teen idol pop rocker), took the first shift. He played with a radio he found. He discovered some music which was on every channel he found. He asked our tech geek to look at it. She dismantled the radio and the music was still happening all across the house. Oh no!

A group of synchronized raiders were attacking us inside the house. They were a small mob and their music gave them hive mind abilities. I find combat in Heroquest fascinating. Like most combat systems, you do a series of opposed rolls. You gain a number of tokens against your target based of the degree of success. You are out of the conflict when your opponent gains 5 tokens on you. Each individual character keep track on how many tokens they have done to the target. Even though we were five against one target, only when one of us gains 5 successes versus the target would the character be taken out of the conflict. The conflict ends when one side is out of the conflict. At the end, you total the number of tokens each side got in total and that will determine the overall result of the conflict. So you might win the conflict but suffer several losses or lose the conflict with minimal losses, etc. During the conflict, a new player joined us. As it was late, AJ transformed the NPC bodyguard, Bernard into a PC. The system makes it easy to adjust trait values on the fly. While AJ managed the conflict, I helped the new player learn the ropes. He had some difficulties with understanding masteries at first but then he got the hang of it after he borrowed the rulebook and read the entry on them. I’ll have to read Heroquest to learn how it was explained. AJ questioned why I did use my most powerful trait (Unbinding Souls 2M) against the mob when I decided to start with Use Beats Aggressively. To me, the narrative fit using the Use Beats Aggressively as I could try to use the mob’s rhythm against them. I viewed Janine’s Unbinding Souls was a vicious thing meant more for the truly evil or as a release for those who need it. I changed my mind after a round of conflict and started to her Unbinding Souls to take the mob down. Angelica had a lip sync power to copy magic so she used it to copy the mob’s power and give us a teamwork bonus. She was the bard of the bard group. We managed to defeat the mob and the result was them running away from the window. We only had a few cosmetic bruises.

At that point, it was 10PM and thus Stop, Drop & Roleplay was officially done. We were allowed to stay until Monopolatte closes at 2AM. Kurt offered to run Everyone is John. I was tempted but unfortunately, I had to work the day after and had to return home. I enjoyed my evening and plan to return to Stop, Drop & Roleplay.

Invasive species

This July, the RPG Blog carnival talks about invasive species and the host is Hereticwerks. With my educational background in ecology, I instantly think of a species introduced into an environment which becomes too effective and becomes a nuisance by competition. Usually, these are introduced by humans, have a good reproduction and great adaptability. In many science fiction stories, humans are shown to being adaptable to various colonize world and they form vast space empires. Let’s see what we can do to make humanity be the invasive species in SPAAACE!!!

First, we need an advanced alien species who bring humanity into the environment they will invade. The Oul-nong arrive in the solar system in 2047. They are an advanced species with a vast interstellar nation. Using their faster than light ships, they establish trade amongst the various species in the galaxy. Under them, the various interstellar nations are independent for their governance but dependant on the Oul-nong for interstellar travel. The Oul-nong transport aliens towards other world to encourage the economy. Most species require extensive life support systems which are difficult to maintain. For humans, they require less extensive life support systems and there are more worlds which can support human life. The Oul-nong hire humans as workers and representatives on the thousands of worlds. Within a decade, some interstellar nations notice the dangers of introducing humans into the interstellar community. Of all the species, humans reproduce the quickest and they love the act of sex. Additionally, they are highly adaptive. They establish ghetto communities on each world they were introduced and expanded quickly. Finally, a group of humans crack the operation and construction of interstellar drives thus gaining independence from the Oul-nong monopoly on interstellar travel.

The interstellar community grows concerned with the rapid gain of humanity. Unfortunately, they have no experience with a species spreading so quickly and so far, there is no harm done. In 2082, the human common cold spreads on the Sooathi world like wildfire. Humanity treats the common cold using their centuries of experience. When the common cold jumped species, the Sooathi find the human medication doesn’t work on their biology. The common cold is highly virulent and savage to the Sooathi. The Oul-nong can find no other worlds which can support the Sooathi and they become extinct within 4 years due to the human common cold.. The interstellar community takes notice of that event. Now they see humanity as a threat to their survival. Some analysts ask “Is it too late? What can they do to face this galactic threat?”

In 2088, the Oul-nong establish an interstellar conference to discuss measures. They hold it on the Sooathi homeworld so the various nations can see the devastation. Delegates from all interstellar nations attend. They debate for two solar weeks on what measures to take. Some nations wish economic sanctions placed on the humans. Others wish humanity to return to their homeworld. A small group wishes humanity be imprisoned for the genocide of the Sooathi. Humanity wishes to stay within the interstellar community and improve their medical research in order to prevent a repeat of the Sooathi extinction. After the intense debate, the Oul-nong decide to remove the humans from all trade and transport deals. The Oul-nong transport all the representatives off of the Sooathi homeworld and leave the humans there. Each nation orders the humans to depart from their respective worlds. Humanity resists.

The various interstellar nations decide to forcefully remove humans from their worlds. They send their military to deport humanity. Humanity fights back and the galaxy sees its first galactic war. The Oul-nong learn humanity have interstellar armed ships of their own design. The galactic landscape severely changes during the first galactic war. Unfortunately, the interstellar nations run out of resources to wage war. Six species become extinct and eight are so low in population that they rely on humanity for survival. The other nations view them as slave races but humans view them as endangered species. The nations negotiate a peace treaty and humanity keeps whatever acquired worlds and territory. The Oul-nong never accept them back into travel deals but agree to trade deals as humanity acquired territory with desired resources.

In 2114, the Grenushir reveal the results of an ongoing experiment. They are experts in genetic manipulation and they are one of the nations who never released their prisoners of war. Humanity still pursues/ them on the grounds of war crimes. The Grenushir seeks a natural predator to humanity in order to control their population. They genetically alter their prisoners of war and call them the uber-humans. The uber-humans are a highly adaptive sterile species. Only the uber-humans monarchs have reproductive abilities. The Grenushir control the uber-human population by only letting the monarchs have intercourse. They raise the  children to hate humanity and hunt them down. The Oul-nong agree to transport the uber-humans to various worlds to start the hunt and get rid of the humanity pest.

Now we have a rough setting with a major conflict. Uber-humans hunt humanity. How can this translate into a fascinating role-playing campaign? I see some potential routes. The group is a crack team of uber-humans sent to liberate a world from the threat of humanity. Alternately, the group is a garrison of human protectors trying to discover and stop an uber-human before too many humans die. Both sides have different advantages.

As many rpgs tackle cooperative groups who are usually unique or specialists, the crack team of uber-humans easily fits such a mold. It has the disadvantage of making humans the bad guys when, as humans ourselves, we would connect with our own species’ cause. As uber-humans are highly trained and genetically superior, this can appeal to power fantasies. In such a campaign, you describe humans as horrible folks. You can have a world where humans eliminated another species or they treat an endangered species as slaves. If you wish to offer some personal moral ambiguity then remember uber-humans are a controlled species. Their whims are dependant on the Grenushir’s whims. The galaxy is large and a species who opposes the Grenushir’s actions could be enticing independence for the uber-humans.

You can get an investigative or dramatic story with a garrison of humans defending their world from the uber-humans. In an investigative story, the uber-humans become the equivalent to a serial killer. The group investigates the murders which lead towards the uber-human. As the murders continue, you have investigative chase component in the game. The clues deliver hints on the uber-human’s hunt pattern. Once they figure out the pattern, the group can cut off the killer at the pass and hopefully stop the murders. A time mechanic would affect when the next murder happens. You can grab inspiration from the games like Scotland Yard. After every member of the group has acted then the uber-human killer moves towards their next target.

As a dramatic story, you focus on the various opinions of the characters. Humans have a variety of beliefs and viewpoints. Some will violently oppose the actions of the other interstellar nations. Some will wish to reconcile the matter. Some humans see the harm they do to the galactic environment and look for a resolution. Those folks will protect the endangered species in the galaxy. You have the humans on a world where the native species are endangered or on the verge of becoming endangered. You can get a fascinating story on a world where the endangered species is on the verge of becoming extinct. The group can be a mix of humans and natives. A member of the group could be an Oul-nong assigned to this world. The Oul-nong character can be an ambassador, diplomat or even a trade negotiator. The campaign can be the struggles for keeping the world hidden from the Grenushir in order to prevent the arrival of an uber-human. An uber-human can be an interesting character with an internal struggle between their trained desire to hunt humanity and a newfound compassion of a struggling community.

For game system to use, there are some which are easy to play and learn. For the investigative game, I’d use Gumshoe. It captures the feel of getting the clues, letting the players figure out the next step and then lead into the action. For the dramatic game, I’m thinking either Hillfolk or Spark. Hillfolk has the dramatic poles to fuel the struggles of the characters. In Spark, the characters have beliefs which they encourage you to challenge. For playing the crack team of uber-humans, I’m imagining a superhero system like Mutants & Masterminds or Cortex Plus Action. You can create the uber-humans team in any system which permits you to make specialist characters who are more powerful than the rest of the populace. While Fate could do it, I see the game shine when you start with large struggles and difficulties at the start then a wonderful victory at the end. I’m not sure if Fate could do power fantasies very effectively.

One potentially appropriate game which I’ve heard about but have yet to read and play is Dog Eat Dog. The designer, Liam Liwanag Burke, describes it as a game of imperialism and assimilation. In this situation of humans colonize the galaxy, we have natives and the occupation. Such a scenario would be occurring after the first Galactic War.

If your group wishes to play a game where travel is important, there are some options. The Oul-nong are an obvious first choice. A character within the group would be Oul-nong with their own ship and crew. This Oul-nong could either be a PC or NPC. If you wish to include humans on this Oul-nong ship, this should occur before the Sooathi conference. Alternatively, this can be a human built ship with a mostly human crew. You can have some non-human species on such a ship. A third option is a crew of mercenaries or pirates who illegally acquired an independent ship. If you have non-human and non-Oul-nong species travelling from world to world, you should be mindful of adaptive technologies for the species to survive. A non-human species requires life support suits when exploring other worlds. They will also need to adapt their quarters to their own comfortable environments.

I’ve read Aliens and Alien Societies (Science Fiction Writing Series) by Stanley Schmidt which is about writing aliens and their societies. It covers some scientific ideas which are probably out of date as the book is 18 years old but it can be a decent start while you look at other products to create your species in this vast galaxy. Do you have a list of reference books to design interesting species in a galaxy? Please share it with me.

One thing to keep in mind for designing an invasive species for an rpg. It must lead to some sort of conflict or change. A current setting of status quo or stagnation can be boring to play through. You need a catalyst to attempt to shake the setting. An invasive species does it by going to an environment, changing it until it achieves its own status quo. The new status quo will be totally different than before and usually, natives of the old world will be gone. The process of change which the invasive species bring can be a fascinating type to play in.

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.