Archive for the ‘Fastaval’ Category


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.


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.


Probable Cause: Destiny

5 February, 2012

Holy red herring, is it February already? Gaming has been slow for me since I finished my game Crossroads, intended for Fastaval over Easter. If you are going to Fastaval, please consider running or at least playing Crossroads, you won’t be disappointed. If you run the game at the convention, I’ll give you a copy as a thank you. Everyone else will have to buy one, but thankfully it’s very cheap.

Destiny: the little extra with the big punch

Similiarly, I haven’t been working much on my Probable Cause police game, besides watching a bunch of William Friedkin movies, but that’s given me some energy to pick it up again.

William Petersen as the cop in Friedkin's underrated 80s movie To Live and Die in L.A.

The inspiration for how the game works is still Mouse Guard RPG, but it’s becoming more and more its own entity. I have morphed Mouse Guard’s Fate and Persona into what I’m calling Destiny. Below I’m referring to “Credo, Hunch and Burden”, which I will explain more about in the next post. Basically they are my variations of Belief and Instinct.

Destiny points allow you to re-roll 6s as new dice and add any successes to the total. They can also be used to add a die to a roll per point spent. You can use Destiny to trigger Human Nature and add your Human Nature rank as dice to any roll except Circles or Resources, albeit risking Human Nature to be lowered momentarily.
You get Destiny points when playing your character’s Credo, Hunch and Burden. There are several ways to get these important rewards, which are all handed out after a completed game session of a GM’s and players’ turn.
Destiny point can be tracked by simply noting them down on the characters sheet, or you can use tokens like poker chips or similar. Stacking them in front of you gives the group a good view of who has many Destiny points to spend at any given moment.

Using Destiny after a die roll

Reroll any sixes from a roll by spending a point of Destiny, and add any extra successes to your roll.

Using Destiny before a die roll

Add +1D per spent Destiny point before a roll (up to +3D).
Add Human Nature rank as extra dice by spending a point of Destiny.

There are many different ways of earning Destiny points, and you can use as many as you like. Destiny points help make your player character extra special and with larger than life impact on the fiction, if necessary. Destiny Points are handed out after mutual agreement among the players at the end of a play session, after both the Chair’s and players’ turns.

Get Destiny points:

1. Act on your Credo
2. Play towards your Burden
3. Play your Hunch
4. Eradicate your Burden (create new one before next GM turn)
5. Play against your Hunch to make things difficult
6. Roleplay your character


Nerdinburgh brought the awesome

10 October, 2011

My head is still buzzing after a weekend of socialising, great food and beer, and especially some awesome gaming at Nerdinburgh II. The venue was totally fantastic and blew us all away, but it did help to have a great bunch of people around.

I got to play three solid roleplaying sessions and a couple of hilarous late evening rounds of Cash n Guns.

My top session this year was definitely the playtest of my Crossroads scenario for Fastaval. One of the best sessions I’ve played in a very long time, and as far as I’m concerned everything went fantastic and worked as I had hoped. I was facilitating while Adam, Daniel, Neil and Debbie played the four main characters. Although we sometimes screamed in laughter and/or disbelief, we had some very tense and emotional scenes. Perfect, perfect, and this will definitely go down well at Fastaval next year. I think we managed to finish all four storied in 1 hour and 45 minutes, and we had a good talk afterwards discussing why the game worked so well. I’m very very happy with how it turned out.

The two other game sessions I played in was a game of Dust Devils on Saturday run by Neil. The setup was along the lines of the film Unforgiven, and I played an ugly, and indeed inept, bounty hunter coming to town to kill a man and get the reward. Much mayhem and killing happened during the session, which in fictional time only lasted a few hours.

Sunday afternoon I played Fiasco with Neil and Scott. We were trying out a new playset by Graham Walmsley, themed as Cthulhu romance, whatever that might be. It was a sick session with unspeakable scenes. Again, Fiasco rocked as a tight no-prep convention game.


Crossroads cover

4 October, 2011

While I am waiting for the chance to playtest Crossroads over the coming weekend (at Nerdinburgh, a nifty and exclusive invites-only convention here in Edinburgh), I have been creating a draft layout and, not the least, a cover. It’s going to be comic book sized, check out the front page.

If any of you are interested in reading through the draft copy and give me some feedback on what works and what might not work, it would be much appreciated, and credited of course.


Crossroads, my Fastaval scenario

22 September, 2011

It’s official, I’m writing a scenario for Fastaval 2012, and I’m excited! I haven’t contributed to the con since 2005, and oh man, so much has changed since then. I hope my stuff meets less resistance this time, but who knows?

I’m writing “Crossroads” a “short story” scenario to be played in two hours by a facilitator and four players. It’s loosely based on Chris Kubasik’s TV series The Booth at the End, and using a super slimmed-down version of the Apocalypse World system.

Right now I’m hoping to have a first playtest ready for our local Nerdinburgh gathering in two weeks.


How much information is enough?

9 September, 2011

I am working on a small project, which is a short story convention scenario for Fastaval 2012. It’s a story game version of Chris Kubasik’s “Booth at the End” TV series, if you like, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about how little information you can give your players. The scenario is for four players and a facilitator, and has to be played in two hours or less, so I don’t want to waste a single second on participants reading through game materials. I want the game to be able to start, BAM!

My current draft has a 100 word character description, and 320 words of how to play the scenario. There’s no character sheet. This means that it all will fit two comic book-sized pages with enough room for players’ own notes as well. That’s all. I won’t give you a character example, but here’s the “How to play” text that is the same for all the players. Now, imagine you are sitting down with four other people and only has to read this before playing. Will you say it’s enough?

How to play
The scenario is made up of scenes where your player character is talking to a man in a cafe. The man is roleplayed by the scenario’s facilitator.

The first scene is special, because you get to tell the man what your character’s desire is, and he will give you a task to complete if you want your desire to become reality. The scenario is all about what you are willing to do to obtain a goal, so do play along.

In all subsequent scenes, the man will ask you what you did to perform you allocated task since you last met. And you will roleplay what happened before, based on what the man asks you. Sometimes your character might get dragged into the story of one of the other characters, and you will have to roleplay in their scenes as well. Play along with that as well.

When your character does something in a scene that’s uncertain, dangerous, dramatic, you get to roll two dice to see how it goes. You have three cards that give you a bonus to a roll, which you can use, even after the roll, if you describe how what’s on the card influences the situation. When you have used a card, it’s gone forever.
Add the total of the dice, plus the card if you are using one:
6 or under: Suck! You blow it – the facilitator will tell you how bad it is, and you won’t like it.
7-9: You do it, but there are complications – the facilitator may offer you a tough choice.
10+: You do it, no problem.

You don’t know what will happen or what has happened – play to find out.
Always tell what your character is DOING, not thinking. When you DO, ROLL the dice.
Make stuff up. Go with the flow.
Don’t be a dick.