Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vivaki of Shoubor

This weekend I start playing 4E D&D game with a new group of players, run by the host of The Tome Show, Jeff Greiner. In preparation I have created my character, an 11th-level Goliath Great Weapon Fighter named Vivaki. This is his background:

The Goliath tribe of the Shoubor led a secluded existence in the southern Sunrise Mountains for many generations. The Shoubor kept to themselves, hunting and gathering for all their needs, with little need to contact the outside world.

This all changed when, during his 14th cycle, Vivaki, eldest son of the tribal chief, returned to his settlement after undertaking his first solo hunt to find it in ruins and his people gone without a trace. With no clue as to what happened to his people, Vivaki ventured out into the world in hopes of finding answers.

It wasn't long before he was captured by slavers and sold to a wealthy merchant as a body-guard. Seeing he had a natural affinity for the glaive, he was trained to use the weapon by the best trainers money could buy. His will broken for the time being, he made a fine body-guard for his master, and was little trouble.

Many years passed, and Vivaki grew strong in both weapon prowess and will. He never forgot his tribe, quietly vowing to himself that he would one day discover their fate. He also grew increasingly reluctant to follow the orders of his master. He learned more and more about his master's criminal that he found personally detestable.

One night while camped in the forest, his master's small party was ambushed by a group of adventurers. They demanded his master submit to justice. At this time Vivaki was head of the guard, and easily the best fighter of the party. He figured he could win the battle, but knew his master was guilty of the crimes he was accused of.

He decided this was his chance. Rather then defend his master, Vivaki turned his glaive on his master and added his voice to that of the adventurer's. The other guards would not lift a finger against Vivaki, knowing he could best them all at once. Having no other choice, his now former master surrendered.

Vivaki then spent a few years wandering with this new group, until he grew tired of their seemingly single-minded obsession with wealth. Parting ways with them amicably, he set out to find a new group, one that could possibly help him find the fate of his people.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Once & Future GM: Star Wars Saga Edition

Recently I've found a new group to game with, one which is playing Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition -- a game I am excited to start as a player. So far I've only played in two short-lived D & D 4th Edition games. (One of them only lasted two sessions, if I recall correctly, and I only made it to one.) I really enjoyed the game mechanics much more so then the 3/3.5E game we had been playing the previous year or so.

However, I still plan to run my own campaign at some point once I'm done with school. I've long since decided that my first full-fledged campaign as a Game Master would be Star Wars Saga Edition, by Wizards of the Coast. There are other games I'm thinking about running as well, for example I do have ideas I'd like to run both in Dark Sun and a generic fantasy world, but I'd like to give Saga Edition a solid run first.

I actually did start running the SWSE Dawn of Defiance campaign about a year and a half ago, but between full-time work, full-time school, and full-time family, I just couldn't put together enough time to do a good prep job even with only one game a month; thus I abruptly stopped it after four or five sessions. The player's said they enjoyed it, but with each session I enjoyed it less and less due to my overburdened schedule, but I vowed to return behind the screen.

To that end I'm already starting to prep, though it'll be many months -- maybe even a year -- before the game starts. I'll be playing around with possible story arcs, flexible encounter ideas, and NPC's. I don't want to get too detailed, but I do want a library of material to draw from when it comes time to run. I think I should be able to come up with a set of encounters that are flexible enough to drop into any game session, and adjustable to a range of levels. Basically the Star Wars equivalent of a Dungeon Delve.

Additionally, I'll be reading, and reviewing, all 14 of the books Wizards of the Coast has produced for the game. Those reviews will at the very least show up here, and I may look for other outlets for them if they come out any good. I'll also queue up some of the novels and comics, and hopefully finally sit down with the kids and watch the entire series. We may even get a hold of the new Clone Wars series.

Star Wars Saga Edition was developed by Wizards of the Coast in-between D & D 3E and 4E. As such, there are many elements of both in the game. One can pick out many bits that are clearly either refinements of 3E mechanics, or prototypes of 4E mechanics. Star Wars is also a familiar universe to a lot of people I'm likely to game with, and has a lot of potential.

I have several other projects in mind, in the areas of programming and media, which I also consider to be, in part, preparation. Lately I've been learning how to squeeze in personal project time here and there, whenever possible. I've also carefully tried to align projects which may result in possible income sometime in the future with projects that are completely for fun. This makes it a little easier to justify resource usage for projects on my list.

I put this out here in the public for a few reasons. One is I'm trying to improve my communications skills. Another is I'm looking for feedback and ideas, whether it is about my writing, my game ideas, my programs, or anything else. This is also me trying to give back to the larger RPG blogger/podcaster community, from which I have learned so much.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

When RPGs Meet SMGs, Part Two

I've been thinking a bit about The Core Mechanic's ruminations on the topic of how, and what, Role-Playing Games can borrow from Social Media Games to endear themselves to future generations. The more I think about it, the more I think that, while there may be some base concepts which are adaptable, there simply isn't enough compatibility for one to pull from the other without becoming something else entirely. (This is not a bad thing, but I'm going to take the viewpoint that what we're looking for is still an RPG).

In my view, RPGs require an imaginative flexibility which simply can not be adequately modeled with current technology. Even if, as Mad Brew Labs proposes, we throw in mini-games between session's, without a human's intervention (or at least close observation), they become the same old monotonous tasks that litter games such as Farmville. At best, such a game would allow a game master to set up parameters and goals, allow the characters to run through it once using the rules of the system they are playing, and report the results back to the game master. Other then being possibly more aesthetically pleasing, this option does not offer anything that can't be done better with something like e-mail or Google Wave.

However, I found Malcolm Sheppard's Mob United article on Next Gen RPG's to be almost exactly what I have been thinking about for a while now. Instead of forcing the traditional table-top paradigm of books, dice, and loose papers into digital analogs of the same (creating near abominations like DDI), perhaps we should build new RPG systems from the ground up with current technology in mind. Build the game not as a set of books, but as a set of integrated digital tools which serve to speed the more crunchy parts of the game so gamers can focus on the story at hand. This is an area I'd very much like to be working in, especially with the potential of products like the iPad.

Which leads me to my last point in today's article. Oddyssey of the blog How to Start a Revolution in 21 Days or Less gives us an informative article from the perspective of the "whippersnapper" we're trying to capture with all of this discussion. This article provides an insight into what the young gamers of today are looking for in the table-top games of tomorrow. Turns out they pretty much want the same thing we did when we first started: a solid set of rules that allow us to sit around with a bunch of friends, roll some dice, and tell some stories. It is the creative, as well as the hands-on aspect, which seems to be far more interesting then mini-games filling in for a skill challenge. I think if we're going to digitize the delivery mechanism for the RPGs of tomorrow, then we have to do so in a way that enables rather then distracts. It's been said that great software makes the gadget disappear, and that is the goal I have for developing software in this space. I want a player using one of my programs to be no more distracted by it then the pen and paper character sheet they use now.