Sunday, January 17, 2016

Email RPGs around 2000: White Deer

For quite some time in the late 1990ies and early Noughties most of my role playing games were run in the form of IRC and especially email games.

Sadly some of those are lost, while a few are saved on yahoogroups.

One example for this was the short lived Radiant RPG. You can find an overview over posts in the message archive.

I remembered this game now, because the character I play in my current Necessary Evil game - Crystal Antlers - das Kristallgeweih - originated there. Now people can get the impression that I was inspired by amazing band by the same name, but the idea for the character dates back to the 2nd of October 2000.

Friday, January 1, 2016

My RPG Calendar 2016

1st OSB Cthulhu 1: Nachts im Schwarzwald (Jor; Kar, Nat)
3rd OSB Cthulhu 2: Vollmond vor Rügen (Jor; Kar, Nat)
6th OSB Cthulhu: The Shaman and the Captain (Jor; Ale, Mig, Agn, Vin)
8th Splittermond: Zhoujiang Trilogie Teil 3 (Google Hangouts on Air)
11th DSA4: Königstrommeln 2: Dorf der geflohenen Frau (Google Hangouts on Air)
13th DSA5 3: Von Tresen und Ritualmorden (Google Hangouts on Air)  
14th Savage Worlds: Necessary Evil 1: Auf der Spur von Doctor Devolution (Mehr NotizenHangouts)
20th DSA5 4: Am havenischen Hafen (Google Hangouts on Air)
27th DSA1 with DSA5: Das Buch der Abenteuer: 1 Graubarts Haus (Google Hangouts on Air)
31st DS4: Königstrommeln 3: Verrat am Pass (Google Hangouts in Air)

3rd DSA1 with DSA5: Das Buch der Abenteuer: 2 Graubarts Arbeitszimmer (Google Hangouts on Air)
4th Savage Worlds: Necessary Evil 2: In Doctor Devolutions Ameisenbau (Google Hangouts on Air)
18th Savage Worlds: Necessary Evil 3: Fight Club (Google Hangouts on Air)
23rd DSA1: Wurzelwahrheit (Google Hangouts on Air)
25th DSB1 5: Die Mamorkönigin in Havena (Jor; Kar, Nat, Mar)

8th DSA5 5: Nachts im Stadtpark von Havena (Google Hangouts on Air)
10th Savage Worlds: Necessary Evil 4: Fight Club, Part 2 (Google Hangouts on Air)
14th DSA5 6: Die Bezwingung der Schimäre (Google Hangouts on Air)
23rd DSA1 with DSA5: Das Buch der Abenteuer: 3 Graubarts Geheimkammer (Google Hangouts on Air)

1st DSA5 7: Der Ende der Spiegeldämonen (Google Hangouts on Air)
4th DSA5: Efferds Vergeltung 1 - Nächtliches Warten auf Verschwörer (Google Hangouts on Air)
7th DSA5 (Hosted): Winter im Radrumtal 1 (Google Hangouts on Air))
12th DSA5: Efferds Vergeltung 2 - Beschatter und Lichtbringer (Google Hangouts on Air)
20th DSA5: Winter im Radrumtal 2  (Google Hangouts on Air)

12th DSA5: Efferds Vergeltung 3 - Im Seetiger & Silberrochen (Google Hangouts on Air)
24th DSA5: Efferds Vergeltung 4 - Das Lager der Neckerhändler  (Google Hangouts on Air)
31st DSA5: Efferds Vergeltung 5 - Kampf gegen Kaltylak (Google Hangouts on Air)


11th Realms of Cthulhu: Wien 1925 A1 - Begräbnis und Leichenschmaus (Google Hangouts on Air)
12th DSA1 with DSA5: Das Buch der Abenteuer: 4 Silvanas Befreiung (Google Hangouts on Air)
18th DSA1 with DSA5: Nedime - Die Tochter des Kalifen (Google Hangouts on Air)

3rd DSA1 with DSA5: Im Wirtshaus zum Schwarzen Keiler (Google Hangouts on Air)
11th DSA5: Efferds Vergeltung 6: Vor Praios' Richtstuhl (Google Hangouts on Air)
14th Marvel Super Heroes 0: Angriff der HYDRA-Agenten
17th Marvel Super Heroes 1: Captain America & das Ding am Crisianischen Empfang (Google Hangouts on Air)
23rd Realms of Cthulhu: Wien 1925 A2 - Im Keller der Pension Hubert (Google Hangouts on Air)
25th Realms of Cthulhu: Wien 1925 B1 - Leichenschmaus und Kartenspiele (Google Hangouts on Air)
28th Call of Cthulhu: Inmitten Uralter Bäume 1 (Jogix; Roll20)
31st DSA5: Der Weiße See 1: Begegnungen (Google Hangouts on Air)

14th Realms of Cthulhu: Wien 1925 B2 - Im Keller der Pension Hubert (Google Hangouts on Air)
15th Hellfrost 1: Giftanschlag beim Fest (Kali; Roll20)
18th OSB: Die Insel-Expedition 1: Die Unterwasserhöhle (Nat; Kar, Jor)
21nd Realms of Cthulhu: Wien 1925 B3 - Die lebendige Tote (Google Hangouts on Air)
24th OSB: Die Insel-Expedition 2: Durch den Dschungel (Nat; Kar, Jor)
27th DSA5: Der Weiße See 2: Eine fast ereignislose Reise (Google Hangouts on Air)
29th Hellfrost 2: Blut in der Bibliothek (Kali; Roll20)

4th Finsterland: Lynchjustiz in Schwarzenbrück (Google Hangouts on Air)
6th Hellfrost 3: Frostbart, der eisgeborene Schlächter (Kali; Roll20)
10th Fragged Empire: Geisterschiff Karthago 1 (Jogix; Roll20)
13th Hellfrost 4: In der Anari-Festung (Kali; Roll20)
14th DSA5: Späte Post 1 (Youtube Live)

My RPG Calendar 2015
My RPG Calendar 2014
My RPG Calendar 2013 
My RPG Calendar 2012
My RPG Calendar 2011
My RPG Calendar 2010
My RPG Calendar 2009
My RPG Calendar 2008

Monday, November 30, 2015

Director Awards: The Game

You can find the basic idea for the game here: RPG board game with shifting GM

Here is the list of cards.

Set up: every players picks a Director. Currently they are just called Two, Three, Four, Five and Six. (Use normal playing cards.)

Now every player picks three random Profession cards, plus two Advantages, two Disadvantages, one Item and one Connection. //Gender card??///Motivation card??//

He places one Profession in each of his three Cast areas: Protagonist, Support and Antagonist. The player puts two of the other cards in each of the three areas, whatever way preferred.

Example: Players gets Scoundrel / Rogue, Gun Nut and Prostitute. Also: Advantages: Tough, Rich, Marksman; Disadvantages: Slow and Phlegmatic. Item: Secret File Connection: Mafia //Stud, Girl, Female//The player goes for: Protagonist: Gun Nut, Tough, Phlegmatic Support: Prostitute, Rich, Secret File Antagonist: Scoundrel, Marksman, Mafia

Next he picks 2 Location cards and plays one in the centre of the table. The 2nd one the player keeps in his hand.
Example: Laundry, Motel. The player puts Motel in the centre of the table.
After every player has set up their cast, each player picks a Relation card. And plays it to one of the players' Cast members on his right. He decides who of his cast is related that way to whom from the other cast. And keeps the card next to his cast member that it relates to.

Example: 2nd players gets Ex Asylum Inmate, Detective, Soldier; Charismatic, Fighter; Short Fused, Brainwashed; Map; Corporation 
The player goes for: Protagonist: Ex Asylum Inmate, Short Fused, Fighter; Support: Soldier, Charismatic, Short Fused; Antagonist: Detective, Map, Corporation; He also got the locations Police Station and Prison, and decides to play Police Station. 
Now both players pick a Relation card: Player one gets _______________ has been a friend to me when others were prejudiced. He decides to play it from his Protagonist to player 2's antagonist (the Scoundrel). Player gets _______________ saved me from certain doom, and I must repay them. and plays it from his Protagonist to player 1's Support (the prostitute).
After this set up phase, the director for the 1st Act is decided randomly, by picking a card with the Number of the director.

The aim of the game is create the most exciting story with the current set up (and hopefully not pissing off any of the players). After every Director directed an act, the game is over and an anonymous voting for the best director and winner takes place.

The director picks specific antagonists and their connections as well as Moves! to attack the Protagonists and Support. He sets scenes at locations and sets the Motivational or Drama Framework that lures the Cast in.

The Director also decides at this point, which Locations (from all the players' played out cards) will be featured in which act/phase (one per each of the three phases) and what Characters and Events are featured there. The Director does not need to note this down or prove it by card. He should be able to change and improvise during the game, if he comes up with a more stringent development. But having a set up before the game really starts gives a good framework as starting point.

The Non Directors of the Act play their characters and get (or spend?) points for invoking their cards.

Protagonists have plot immunity, but can lose cards while support characters can potentially die, as can villains. But the role of a character can shift. Still someone is always gonna be the a protagonist.

Example: A Move! card played by the the Director can have the outcome on Actor failure that the protagonist has to shift role with antagonist or support, or that the support dies.

All three roles can be banned for the rest of the act. For example through injury or imprisonment.

The Director plays all the Support and Antagonists, he can also play his own Protagonist. Support and Protagonist of the same player have a special Bond that gives a bonus on reaction rolls (card picks??) to each other. Antagonists collect bonus points (experience or spotlight points) that make them stronger, by showing up / foreshadowing.

Romance scenes gives bonus points?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Savage Synnibarr: Cloudpuncher's Secret Chamber

After having entered Captain Cloudpuncher's house in the giant's city of Ship's Home, Trush - in giant baby form -, Dita and Douro chat with Cloudpuncher's mother and her niece. The mother asks Dita who was the woman with whom he had the child, but Dita is able not to spill the beans and just giving vague answers. Douro decides to leave the house in the meantime to check the surrounding streets.

Dita releases Cloudpuncher's ghost from her Ghost Lamp. She asks him to float upstairs and retrieve his slave trade journal. But while he at first promises help, he does not return from upstairs - even after 20 minutes. But as soon as he is free he starts mocking her, calling her a stupid b for taking him to the place that he wanted to spend his afterlife and that he knew making her survive as a kid could pay off one day. He tells her that upstairs in his realm, he is nearly invincible. Then he disappears floating through the door.

Dita decides to send more ghosts upstairs after him: three dead soldiers, a creepy girl and a winged unicorn. One of them returned after some time, telling that Cloudpuncher's ghost disappeared behind a secret door upstairs - in a room that is protected from any magic or supernatural interference with magic traps.

In the meantime the young women decided to bring giant baby Trush to bed in the other room downstairs. Cloudpuncher's mother joins her. Dita has asked before, if she could stay one night in the house and is offered a sleeping place in the kitchen.

The two female inhabitants sleep soon and baby Trush sneaks out of the bed he shares with Cloudpuncher's mother and meets Dita in the hallway. They ghosts have told them to take care of a trapdoor on the staircase and that way they are able to overstep the wire activating it.

Upstairs they know to pick the left door and while it is locked, Dita can open it easily with her Amazon's Toolkit. She and Trush enter Cloudpuncher's bedroom. The ghosts told Dita about the secret passage under the panels, but she does not know the password. Trush is able to find a microphone though and  computer system that controls the secret door. With his Computer Domination ability he easily takes full control of the system and opens the wall.

He and Dita are able to enter Cloudpuncher's secret chamber: a room with a desk and many maps as well as a stuffed Winged Giant Grizzly that is five meters tall. The bear is standing on a box that seems to contain Cloudpuncher's secret slave trade journal. On a second glimpse the grizzly actually looks too lifelike - especially in the eyes - to be stuffed. Dita lifts the giant bear with her telekinetic powers and Trush steps towards the box that seems to be glued to the bear's feet. But as soon as Trush touches it, the bear comes to life and shoots laser beams from his eyes at Dita. She gets hit and barely is able to dodge in a way that her shoulder is only superficially burnt. She is still holding the bear with telekinesis and Trush is pushing away the box. She releases a chi shout but the bear is not even registering. She realises that Cloudpuncher's ghost has manifested in it.

Dita comes up with a plan. She tells Trush to leave the room as fast as possible and follows him. As soon as they are out, she lets Trush lock the secret door via the computer system. With all the anti magical barriers in place, Cloudpuncher should be locked in his secret room forever.

Dita and Trush look at the content of the box: there really is the journal in it. The big leather bound notebook contains all slave trade related business transactions written in ink. Dita is able to find her brother: he was sold to a person called Lady Strahd. It seems Cloudpuncher has a bimonthly meeting point with her a mountain range not to far from Ship's Home. She is buying young boys at all these occasions.

Next to the journal there are shackles in the box. Dita is able to feel that those are not ordinary shackles, but some made out of Venderant Nalaberong, the only power being able to withstand gods. These Venderant Nalaberong Shackles of Eternity are able to bind even a god for time neverending.

As the fight with the bear  - especially the chi shout - made some noise, even with closed magic barrier doors, Trush decided to return to his baby role. He steps back on the stairsteps crying. Actually Cloudpuncher's mother really woke up and came to the halllway. Trush pretends to stumble down the stairs and right into her arms. She is relieved and brings him back into her bed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pen and Paper RPG Actual Play List (English)

This list collects Actual Plays of pen and paper roleplaying games session that actually were entertaining for me to listen to.

The Dark Eye - Im Spinnenwald (Spider Forest)
This game literally takes 15 two hour sessions to take off, but once it it starts following the adventure, it gets fun. I link to that specific session.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An RPG Board Game: Everyone has a turn as Gamemaster

I have never in my life encountered a board game that was able to simulate the open structure of an RPG. Lately I came up with a new approach that maybe can solve this issue.

One of the problem those games encounter is that they require preparation of a GM not to stay very static. While in an RPG being the GM is the reward in itself, this breaks down in a board game simulation of an RPG.

My approach is to make every player the GM in each session of the game.

My basic idea was: elements are randomly shuffled around before the (sub)game starts and the GM of that section tries to create a story/ an adventure based on this card.

After half an hour his turn is over and the next player, becomes the GM. There are two different ways for it to play out: a completely new story starts, or the new GM continuous the current one.

At the end of the game - after everyone took turns - the winner is the one who gets most votes for his or her adventure. This voting process should be anonymous. And it should be split in to multiple categories. Additionally voting for best "normal" player can take places. Even splitting it up, for best actor, strategist, etc.

A potential title would be: Storyteller Power Hour, although something based on the theme of the cards could also make sense.
"The Oscar goes to" would be a title if you want to make it more mainstream. In this case creating a random title for the story/ movie would also be fun. Another option would be "Director Awards".

Actually you don't even need cards: a set of tables should do the job as well.

Categories for cards or tables could for example be:

Here you can find a list of attributes for random generation.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Troika Campaign and Adventure Planning Tool

I found this in my archive. Supposedly it is enough to plan a campaign.
  • Pick three themes
  • A list of three conflicts that might happen in the game.
  • A list of three interesting NPCs that might be encountered.
  • A list of three interesting locations that the PCs might visit.
  • A list of three "tone-setting" events that might occur, to give genre-flavor.
  • A list of three plot-moving revelations that might occur.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Big Blackout - Contemporary Mini Campaign

This is a mini campaign I intended to run and that was replaced with another game. It is intended for players who don't care for fantastic elements. It is supposed to feel at least somewhat like GTA. Everyone plays a person that was convicted for a crime. It is the player's choice if the crime was actually committed by the character or not. Use the crime table to find out what the crime is.

It all starts in a courthouse. It is focused on an unspecified city.

COURTHOUSE (Plot Point 1 = PP1)
All the characters are in one room together at the court, after being sentenced by judges, waiting for a transport back to prison. With a giant guy (Blabes). “I don’t like your face!

2 cops (guns) are also in the room, but will ignore fights without weapons.

There is sudden tumult, sirens, cops whisper, then run out (PP2). Blabes starts attacking right away.

6 more cops (guns) are in the building. SWAT (8) will arrive, but are busy.

1 girl (secretary): “I can show you a secret way out, if you swear to pay me back.”
Hands over 2 key cards for -2 floor elevator. “Just follow the Hieroglyphs!”

A psycho with trenchcoat has entered the main hall of the courthouse. He blocks basically the only exit. He has 5 hostages. SWAT teams (24) come from outside, but 8 cops are on the other side.

The Amok guy asks to talk to the president and newsstations, because “we are all controlled by beings on couches in another world. we are just imagination! they are even drunk!”

After 4 hours of waiting, the SWAT team (16) comes in. Probably a short fight. They take everyone prisoner again. Shortly after the Complete Blackout! (PP4) starts.

Under the courthouse there is a cave. It can be accessed by following hieroglyphs (1st Scarabeus, 2nd Ankh, 3rd dog head) in old archive file rooms (encounter: old file lady).

In the final room, remove a shelf to find an neo classicist Egyptian mural. Press in order of path: Scarabeus, Ankh, dog head. Opens mural as secret door: wet stairs down cave.

Dark, dog barking. Then attack by dogs.

Cave has many forks. Main way leads  to old subway tunnel not longer in use. You can walk out over rails at a station. When coming out, it’s completely dark. Complete blackout! (PP4) Some scared people are in the subway station. They just lie on the floor and cry.

Electricity is out for a few hours and it’s getting dark. There are traffic jams everywhere, as all the traffic lights stopped.

People walking to their apartments in poor neighbourhoods will have them either be blocked off by police units (1d4)- there is a fight going on behind, nobody is allowed to pass - or by gang members with knifes and guns.

In rich neighbourhoods corporate security by Janus Systems or Group 7 have closed down the entrances and don’t let anyone in

After dark the looting starts. 1d12 looters take stuff from a store. After 1d20 rounds police or a gang will show up.

For more details use the Blackout Random Tables


While driving a car, the characters notice that the street is blocked ahead by cars parked together. 2 people with rifles stand in fron, 6 more with guns are hiding behind the cars. They look like a random group of everyday citizens. Some wear suits or business dresses, others shirts and shorts. The are between 35 and 80.

They don’t want anyone to pass and send cars back.

“We don’t trust you! Go away!”


While most of the city block is completely dark, there is one bar that seems to have normal light. There is a crowd of people in front drinking. It seems everything is normal. Inside the bar is crowded. They only take cash obviously. There is a basement with a disco.

The bar has it’s own generator. It’s run by a survival maniac called Inza. She tells that she saw that coming and that she is prepared. She says she is looking for guys with guns to find her friends (actually a militia, but she won’t tell), as they did not show up. She has to stay at the bar.

Behind the disco a steel door leads to a bunker where she stores a lot of weapons. Even anti tank bazookas. She won’t tell anyone about it. The weapons are for her friends, militia.

The militia members (4 with guns) actually ended up - paranoid - as they are, dug up in the telephone franchise shop of on of the members only 2 blocks away. They had a stand off with a local gang and 2 gang members have been killed and lay out on the street. From time to time gun shots may get the attention of people nearby. The gang decided to wander off after some hours, but left 2 kids at the corner, who are supposed to ask for reinforcement (running) when someone moves inside.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Savage Synnibarr Space

Between the first Synnibarr adventure that turned into a 12.5 sessions mini campaign on the alchemist Durana's plan and the Agent-Nelson/Cloudpuncher campaign, there was an intermezzo in space - with the spaceship discovered under water.

The space adventures were supposed to be continue further, but I dropped the campaign after three sessions, because I got the impression that the players were too powerful.

Admittedly that was more an issue of me being scared to power up the NPCs enough, but I still had issues, as a normal space opera setting can't compete with the power level of Synnibarr.

Anyways: I never did a write up of the game and this should be a start.

We played 4.5 sessions. (Like in the "1st season" the final session was too long to fit into one evening or afternoon and had to be continued another day.)

In my 2013 gaming calendar the sessions can be found under the following names:
  • The Home Space Express
  • Spacestation V
  • 2 teams of Slavers
  • Through the DarkTek Office to the Vault
  • The Taker: Grenades & Eyeballs
This is what happened as far as I can remember. I used my private GM notes for the summary.

The group leaves the Synnibarr on the  spaceship they found under water

Next: Back on Synnibarr: Ninjas in the rooftop lounge

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Savage Synnibarr: Cloudpuncher's House

Leaving the airships and Clam Island behind, the group makes a 6 day trip with Airy's solid illusion submarine near Ship's Home, the giants' capital. Airy stays awake all that time, but is able to handle it with his mushrooms.

Gorogoroth, Dita, Trush and Douro walk along the cliffs near the coast towards Ship's Home. At one time they encounter an Giant airship patrol, but Trush turns into a giant flying stingray and covers view on the others with his wide body.

That way they make it to the city before the evening. They end up at a gate at the city wall where two drunk giant guards are on watch. Trush turns into a giant baby in a wheeled cradle and the group comes up with the story that they found the baby in a human city and want to return it to the giants. After being suspicious for a short time, the guards see them as heroes (Adventure Card) and let them pass, telling them about the way to the orphanage of Ship's Home.

While the rest of the group goes there, the invisible Gorgoroth follows Dita's instruction to look for the Cloudpuncher's house and to retrieve the book. Gorogoroth actually can smell from outside that there are two giant women in the living room in the ground floor while upstairs there are many weird and exotic objects.

He decides to fly intangible to the upper floor and lands inside a small room - at least for giants. Next to a small desk and a chair, a giant sized chest is the most outstanding object in the room. He puts his intangible head inside and can smell gold as well as a sleeping creature - an elvome. Elvomes are a cross between an elf and a gnome: 3 feet tall creatures that look like an overweight Yoda, who possess some magical abilities.

Gorgoroth decides to use his mind control on the elvome and is finally able to take him over. He makes the creature explain him telepathically that the chest is his home and that Cloudpuncher took the chest here seven years ago. The elvome's name is Chubbga and he has seen his chest change owner multiple times.

Gorgoroth asks the Chubbga to open the chest and elvome uses some telekinetic powers to open the look and come outside. Under Gorgoroth control he explains that he did not notice too much about the Cloudpuncher and his house, but that he knows where the giant captain was writing in his business journal: in another room on the upper floor. The elvome also explains that he has a magic dagger that turns people into golden figurines if they are stabbed with it. Gorgoroth commands him to take the two golden figurines from the chest with him.

In the meantime the rest of the group has reached the orphanage - at dusk. Some kids playing in front of that building notice them and a girl from the group falls for the cute giant baby. She tells them to bring it in the orphanage where an old nurse tells that the orphanage can take care of the baby, but that Dita and Douro better contact the authorities the next day, so that the parents can be found. For that night they can stay at the orphanage as there are enough cribs the humas can easily fit in.

Gorgoroth in the meantime let the elvome unlock the door to Cloudpuncher's study room telekinetically. He enters the big room that is filled with many weird objects from all corners of Synnibarr. The chameleon drake is greeted upon entering by a stuffed parrot that strangely talks to him in a shrill voice. Despite the danger of the two women downstairs hearing something, Gorgoroth decides to leave the door of the room open.

The parrot greets him and gives him advice first to clean the mirror in the room, then to take a red shield with a skull from the wall and finally to drink a potion that he found in the room. After hesitating for some moments, Gorgoroth follows the advice, as the parrot is not able to tell anything about the location of the book. Before that he tell the elvome to shut the door as the voice of the parrot is getting louder and louder, and could be noticed by the women downstairs.

Golgoroth examines the mirror and sees that its surface is dimmed by some grey film. He starts cleaning the mirror while being invisible with a cloths that is hanging over the mirror's corner. But only seconds after he starts, the mirror shatters in thousands of shards. Gorgoroth's scale skin is strong enough to withstand and harm from the sharts, but he can only rejoice for seconds, as he feels some presence making its way through from the back of the mirror, some evil presence...

He realizes that this is a mirror demon version of himself. And there is no doubt that his demon form posses the same powers as the adventurer chameleon drake. While Gorgoroth is able to withstand the mirror demon's first trial to possess him. Instead he runs to the wall and rips off the red shield with the skull on it, hanging there, that the parrot mentioned.

He feels that this skull shield has special powers: the ability to turn an opponent into dust, if they fail an attack. Before he can achieve more with this logic, his demonic doppelganger takes control over him and commands him to stay invisible in one corner of the room.

Douro and Dita decide in the meantime that they want to check out Cloudpuncher's house themselves. They take along Trush who is still in his giant toddler form and walks with them over to the house. There he knocks while the humans stay behind him.

Together they explain that the fake baby is Cloudpuncher's child. For some reason the old and young woman take them serious and ask them to enter the room. Trush is able to convince the giant girl into breast feeding him.

Dita takes telepathic contact with Cloudpuncher's ghost in her ghost lamp and asks him about the house. He warns her about the mirror.

Next: Cloudpuncher's Secret Chamber

Friday, October 9, 2015

SeedBoneMeat: Turning collaborative story telling into a non RPG game

I am wondering why I put my creative energy into RPGs instead of - say for example - writing stories.

The answer is really simple: RPGs give instant gratification and feedback. There is an audience. And this audience is even rewarded - by participation as well as by score tracking system and by rewards for building their characters.

They also don't need a lot of written preparation. You can plan the game under the shower or while doing  a hike and those little splinters of ideas - which can be replaced later by other ideas while just daydreaming - or just put in practice on the gaming table.

RPGs provide a lot of tools to structure the plot and character creation process. There are random tables and die rolls. There are backbones of a setting laid out that can be used to support creators.

So how can we transfer these features to a non synchronous medium? Sure: there are online forum discussions and even online forum games. But the later does not really work so well in my experience. Most of the games take too long to take off and die quickly.

We need a short set up period. There should be the possibility to drop in and out quickly. That can be done best, if there are standardized elements - like character archetypes - that can be used across different realizations of the narrative - different game sessions.

It is also important that there is no need to do too much preparation work, like reading long pieces of text. Contributors would be further motivated by getting score points for every piece of text created - as long as it is a deeper development of a collaboratively designed element - as well as special acknowledgement - karma - for pieces that are well received.

All the elements - setpieces - should be small though. A collaborative writers worst nightmare is the person who starts adding more and more stuff without collaborating any longer. Somehow this energy some people develop has to brought to good use.

What I envision now is a three layer structure: SEED - BONE - MEAT

Seeds are just ideas thrown out on the gaming/writing table.

Bones are created the moment when the seeds are connected to the work already done.

Meat is turning the bones into real text.

Meat has a style texture (skin?) that can be decided on, on the bone level. But probably that is only a suggestion.

There can be different manifestations of the outer layers created from the lower layers - done by different contributors, or even by the same person. In the end it is decided in the group which of the manifestations is
made canonical.

To make all of this work. It is most important that there is a limited time frame. People are not supposed to feel that any of their ideas rejected will take the spotlight of them for too long. This creates frustration and would turn the collaborative effort into a something similar to trench warfare.

Potentially even a randomizer (dice, cards) could be used to take some tension off the cherry picking.

One question that remains is, if there is need to structure the seeds even further. For example into:

characters, locations, interactions, plot twists, scene exits, scenes, etc.

Currently I think about being pretty lose with that. Probably it is best to give a category to each seed. That way contributors can work on in parallel on the same kind of seed. E.g. "everyone creates a location seed now!" Those parallel created seeds can than be ranked and put into categories like "Needs to Be Used", "Maybe" or "Vetoed". As people are forced to rank, it is to be taken less personal.

(Having seed categories should also help to solve the issue of creating too much of one category.)

On the bone level creating connections should be rewarded - but also questioning connections or adding a twist to connections.

The question is whether the connections can be seen as seeds themselves. Maybe they are similar but they definitely belong to the 2nd level. Except for that there is probably not much left for the bone phase anyways.

One issue that comes up is that while everyone is creating seeds (and connecting bones?), is that there will not be much talk. RPGs live from the constant chat. But they also don't create text and are synchronous. The seed-bone-meat(-skin?) game is not supposed to be that. Therefore that should not create issues.

But if it asynchronous, is there a need for a session structure? Would it be possible to just provide a big tool box? I feel that there needs to be a certain pressure. A deadline - an guaranteed end helps with that. The tighter it is, the better. The issue is that asynchronous deadlines are hard to make happen. My best hope is that the reward (karma) structure will help with that.

Karma should expire, creating an urgency to use it. But it is still undecided what Karma actually allows you to do. Probably you are given something like director rights: e.g. what seeds are created next? what bone category do we need now? Probably the Karma can also be used to gain an extra vote in the ranking process.

Now comes the tricky process of meat creation: I never enjoyed turning ideas into final, detailed text. But I think that this process can hopefully gain something by turning into micro competitions. Everyone creates the meat for the same section and then this is ranked. As reward for winning you can create the follow up meat or give it as assignment out to some other players.

The most important part about the meat is that it has to stay SHORT. Probably there should be a strict limit around 500 characters - with the option of "follow up meat" (or "meat bridge"?): another 500 characters. That way it stays modular and hopefully playful.

It would be also great to tag the meat pieces so that they can be recycled to be used with other seeds. E.g. action sequence, or first kiss, or whatever. Meat transformation would be another process: it rewrites a current peace of meat. The director / Karma holder could request a rewrite.

Maybe it would make sense to turn this into a game about the "writers's room" on the set of a TV show. This is an interesting idea - taking something like Primetime Aventures one step furter: you don't play characters: you play writers, or parodies of writers: the melodrama king, the hand grenade action guy, etc.

But this is another interesting idea I will discuss in another post.

The distribution of SBM should be handled via a pyramid structure. For each two Seed decisions there is one Bone created and for 2 Bones there has to be one Meat, before more seeds are allowed to be created.

Just one afterthought: SeedBoneMeat is based on a voting process. Every time there is a stalemate a randomizer is used instead to come to a decision. This way SBM can be even played/used by a single person: just always put two elements out, and let the randomizer pick one. I think this option will make testing the structure for me much easier.

Here you can find a first SBM test run.