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Giddy as a schoolboy

12 November, 2013

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boyo! Via the wonderful medium they call Facebook, I’ve found a small group of people who want to try this roleplaying thing. How could I refuse?

I’ve been trying to gauge their preferences and interests, and it seems they are hooked on the fantasy thing, so your standard run-of-the-mill off-the-shelf stuff.

I was torn between Dungeon World and Burning Wheel. But I managed to get them hooked on story now gaming, then I’d like to give them some Apocalypse World in another skin than fantasy. Plus I haven’t actually run DW before.

So, Burning Wheel it is. That grand old lady with the huge handbag laden with bricks. She looks like your standard fantasy RPG fare. She’s far from it.

I’m going to run a demo scenario to highlight the core of BW, and hopefully they’ll like and ask for more.

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A Kicker in the teeth

2 September, 2013

I’m still re-reading the annotated Sorcerer book, and it makes me go “Ah!” and “Oh!” here and there. I read the PDF when I got my hands on it, but it’s much easier and satisfying to read the paper version. This time I’m only reading the annotations on the right-hand pages, without reading the original text.

The Kicker

The Kicker in Sorcerer is a player-authored “fictional crux point” of a player character in the game. That’s the description in the annotations, not the original text, which was a bit more opague. To help Sorcerer players/GMs to understand what this actually means, Ron has a nice three-level dissection of a Sorcerer player character:

  • A person
  • A person who is a sorcerer (ie. who actively summoned a demon)
  • A sorcerer who faces a Kicker

In the context of the game, these three are entirely separate. The classic thing to do as a Sorcerer player (I’ve done it) is to come up with a Kicker that can then be approached by the “person who is a sorcerer”-part of the character. Which means merely continuing the character backstory from character generation.

Ron’s game is much more clever than that, and his notes about Kickers made me realise that. See, a fresh Sorcerer player character has made do with the damned demon he/she has summoned (on purpose!) recently or long ago. The Kicker is a punch to the character’s  life as a Sorcerer, and that’s why it’s interesting. So, paraphrasing Ron, a Kicker is not merely more of the same. It’s a new situation, and it’s unavoidable. Bang. In your face.

Spiking the Kicker

A Kicker can and may be spiked by the GM. I think this is a lesson learnt from many years of Sorcerer practice, and Ron is making it clear in his annotations that’s it’s better to spike a weak Kicker than to ask the player to rewrite it.

The example in the annotations is great. The Kicker is “just released from prison”. Which works perfectly fine, fx. for a Sorcerer who has managed his/her prison life being a Sorcerer.

The spike comes when this character discovers the books in his new workplace are cooked. How will he/she react?

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Just play the NPCs

31 August, 2013

My my, it’s been a while, quite a while, since I posted on this blog. I apologise, and will try not to let it happen again, but a lot of stuff has been happening in my life. Mainly, I have moved country, quit my day job, and I am now working as a full-time freelancer in a.o.  translation, copywriting, corporate communications and content marketing. Do get in touch if you need those services.

NPC Court by Reebok

I’m reading the Annotated Sorcerer book by Ron Edwards, and it’s great, just great. There are a few things that really surprised me, or should I say: made me understand the game better. I might come back to some of them in later posts, but for now I’ll delve on what Ron writes about NPCs in the section about Bangs (pp. 78-78ii), because it’s important. And it’s one of my pet peeves, so hold on to your horses.

Ron’s very straightforward advice sounds: “Just play the NPCs,” but for some reason the average gamer brain doesn’t compute that. At all. And what the game brain doesn’t compute, it misinterprets.

The funny thing is that’s it’s very simple, and I think Ron makes it very clear in the Sorcerer annotations. Basically, you play an NPC as you would any character – don’t adjust the character’s actions to accommodate “the story” or whatever.

PLAY. THE NPC. AS A CHARACTER. What does he/she want? Forget the fuck about “the story” (if you have a prepared story/’scenario’ in mind, you’re REALLY fucked), and just focus on the NPC. I have no idea why that would be hard to comprehend.

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Emerging Writers guest post

17 February, 2013

Thriller writer Laurence O’Bryan has kindly given emerging writers the opportunity to write in his blog. My guest post is about my research for a crime novel, which I’ve mentioned here on this blog as well.

Now I’m just waiting for publishers to get in touch.

Laurence O’Bryan is the Irish writer behind the thrillers The Jerusalem Puzzle and The Istanbul Puzzle, and he is very active on social media.

Emerging Writers: Guest Post #10 A Danish writer on his research process

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Sorcerer: tuned and custom painted

4 January, 2013

The year 2013 has started quite well, since Ron Edwards has finally launched his Kickstarter funding for the annotated version of his seminal Sorcerer game. The book itself, which is a compilation of the core book plus the three highly excellent supplements, is ready, and the funding is for the cover art by an artist called Thomas Denmark, which I didn’t know until now.

I have written quite a bit about Sorcerer on this blog, and it remains my favorite game. It’s a so-called “emergent story” game, meaning that the plot is not prepped beforehand, but evolves from and is driven by the actions of the players, and in a very clever way, I have to add. This is hardly shocking these days, but 10 years ago, or even five years ago? Holy shit, did it freak people out. It was wonderful (and scary) watching some people struggling with the concept of not having a GM decide events, happenings and decisions in the game, whether beforehand or during the game. I have played with more than one group of people where not a single one of the players were able to get this apparently mind boggling concept, mainly, I have to admit, due to their rather prejudiced views on what roleplaying is or should be.

If you are interested in what’s actually going on when we roleplay, and how game design is able to support it, there’s no way that you can ignore Sorcerer. And subsequently the list of games since that have borrowed ideas, mechanics, concepts etc. from Sorcerer is as long as my arm.

That being said, Sorcerer is a fairly traditional game with a GM, who controls scene setting, NPCs etc., and players each controlling a player character. On the face of it. Unleash it, and whoa!

Come on, take the red pill.

This rabbit hole goes deep.

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Seven Games

26 December, 2012

There’s a #7RPGs thing going on Google+, and I posted this regarding the seven RPGs I’ve played the most since back in the 80s. I’ve added bits and pieces, plus a comment on games not mentioned.

1. Call of Cthulhu (4th Ed)
Also the RPG I’ve played the most of all, in terms of sessions and hours played. I grew tired of its repetitive nature some time in the early 90s.

2. Via Prudentia
Danish rolemaster/GURPS inspired modern roleplaying game with crunch on top. As with most things back in the day, we mostly hand-waved the rules and GM fiated the shit out of it.

A scene from Jyllands Mørke Hjerte (The Dark Heart of Jutland), illustrated by Palle Schmidt, one of Fusion’s authors. The scenario was included in the source book Som Landet Ligget (The Lay of the Land).

3. Fusion
Danish near future private detective game – set in 2012. Rules-wise it’s a complete mess based on a D6 version of another rules mess: Storyteller. I still love it, despite its flaws, and I’ve been meaning to create functional rules for it more than once. One of the best looking games EVER.

4. Sorcerer
My desert island game of choice. The most intense game of all, and hence not everyone’s cup of tea. Infinitely adaptable to your own needs. Probably the game I’ve had the most bad sessions in, partly due to my own limitations, partly due to the players’ unwillingness to engage.

5. Dogs in the Vineyard
A masterpiece of focused game design, built on some of the ideas in Sorcerer, but written as a very usable manual. I’ve never had a bad session of Dogs.

6. Fiasco
Freeform, delightful, fun and super quick to set up and play. Often slides over the gonzo cliff, but if you can keep it on a leash, it’s very very good.

7. Primetime Adventures
This is the game you want to play with your writer friends (if they are not prepared to buy into Sorcerer, that is!. It delivers. In spades. And in other suits as well. A very easy game tool to get away from your standard geeky RPG trappings. We played pensioners at a care home in one of my favorite and most touching campaigns ever.

I haven’t mentioned two other games we played quite a lot in the early days: StarWars D6 and the original Shadowrun.

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Six month recap

21 December, 2012

Hopla, and then six months passed. What happened? Well, a lot, actually.

GuibeauFirst, we went to France in July, spending a week in the village Guibeau, in the Puisseguin region of St. Emilion. It involved very long drives from Amsterdam to the Bordeaux area and back, but it was worth it.

Then we sold our house in Edinburgh and moved to New Town, closer to the city centre, which again meant we could sell the old, trusted Saab, that had just done a 3,000 miles roundtrip to France without even breaking a sweat.

I haven’t done any story gaming whatsoever over the whole period, and I’m wondering if I ever will again. One thing, I don’t really have anyone at hand that share my gaming preference, an life’s too short to play something that doesn’t really rock your boat. On the other hand I have upped my boardgaming activities quite a bit, and game of the year for me is GMT Games’ Andean Abyss. It’s simply an astounding piece of game design.

Vibækvej, BellingePerhaps this also means that I can expand the remit of this blog a bit away from gaming, and do more general ranting all over the place. My crime novel, working title Dead Frozen, is coming along nicely. All the hard work plotting it out in detail happened all the way back in January and February, and we even went to a research trip back to Denmark to take pictures of locations, and look through newspaper archives on microfilm. The story is set during winter in Odense 1986, and is inspired by an old, unsolved, murder case. The picture shows the house near Bellinge where a couple were killed in their bed in 1971, while their young son was sleeping in a room next to the victims’ bedroom. The house still stands, as you see.

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