Well, we’re almost a week into the New Year and thanks to an unexpected death in the family as well as WordPress eating my first draft, the first RPG Blog Carnival of 2011 is late. My apologies, folks. The Carnival will stay open for an additional week into February to compensate.
As you can see by the title, the theme for this month is tied to the New Year season. Lots of folks have done a “Best Of 2010” list, and that’s fantastic, but for the Carnival I want to look forward, break new ground and look toward new horizons. I want you to tell me what you’re going to be doing DIFFERENT in 2011 in your gaming life.
All too often we as gamers–and GMs most especially– get into safe, comfortable ruts that we seldom stray from. We run the same kinds of encounters, use the same monsters, rehash the same NPCs over and over again. And while there is a place for recycling in gaming, this blog post isnt it. What I’m talking about is breaking those chains of grognardism or elitism or simple laziness and and branching out into a realm you haven’t yet. Break some new ground, use part of your brains you haven’t for a while, get some new experiences under your gaming belt this year.
For example, this year I have a Top 5 of stuff I’m planning on doing this coming 12 months. Keep in mind that this list is IN ADDITION TO running as many games for the Bagram AFB Gaming Community as I can manage, and helping that game group to grow and prosper. This top 5 list is me planning on increasing my gaming chops and having more to talk about.
THE ACTION POINT’S NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS
1) Play some Pathfinder. I ma an unabashed Paizo Fanboy. I am a charter subscriber of the Pathfinder series of adventure paths and love pretty much everything they’ve done in Golarion. what I have NOT done is actually play in a game with their Pathfinder rules. I’m pretty secure in my 4E-ness, but I acknowledge that I’m curious about the other side and want to have actual concrete experiential date to compare the two. Also, I’d like to see how some encounters run without having to view them through a “How would this look converted to 4E?” lens.
2) Dresden Files RPG. This is about as far away from Pathfinder and 4E on the “indie story game vs. traditional Pen and Paper RPG” as you can get. I’m about as much a Jim Butcher fanboy as I am Paizo, so this is kind of a no brainer. I already have the rulebooks, and might end up running a oneshot some time this next week while I’m home dealing with the estate resolution from my grandmother’s passing.
3) Savage Worlds. I know, some of you reading this just went apoplectic. “HE HASN’T PLAYED SAVAGE WORLDS?!?!” I can hear the cries over the intertubes already. No, I havent played SW, but thanks to some awesome folks donating to the BAFGC, we have the core rules and the fantasy expansion, so I think this might just happen.
4) Burning Wheel. And now we get into the “Jason has a strange fascination with reading but never playing story-based indie RPGs” portion of the list. From Critical Hits and several other RPG blogs I’ve become fascinated by these systems, and I want to make sure to expand my repertoire into the ability to talk shop of these games with some cred. And frankly, if Chatty DM and Bartoneous like it I really should give it a shot.
5) Arkham Horror. This bullet really is a conglomeration of “I should play more boardgames.” But Arkham Horror is top on my list. I will be on the lookout for a Board Game group in the Kansas City area sometime in the next year, that’s for sure.
On the other side of the table, many of us have a similar problem during this time of year: the dreaded Holiday Break. People go away for the season, or have family in from elsewhere, so many groups across the world set their dice aside for a few weeks in December and alas many games dont survive the transition. Here’s a quick list of tips for those in such a dangerous and maybe scary position. Use these ideas to add oomph to your game and kick the new year off to a good, exciting start.
1. Kill somebody off. This is classic “TV Sweeps Week” plot theory. If you’re mid campaign, the players likely have attachments to some of the local NPCs who they have heard of before, or maybe even have heard legend of the uber-powerful NPCs of your world (Aebir-Toril, I’m looking at you here). If you want to shake things up and get off to a good start, wrapping your players up in the plot from the first minute, drop a corpse in their path, and let them recognize the face. Who killed the PCs favorite inkeep? Why was the PCs sister murdered and left at the gates of their castle? Who in the world could be powerful enough to kill the PCs nemesis Baron Von Badass and what are his plans? The list goes on and on, but basically find something the players care about and then crush it mercilessly. You’ll get their attention, I promise.
2. Start In Medias Res. If you’ve seen Star Wars, you’ve seen an example of this type of storytelling. The audience doesn’t know what’s going on, but they’re riveted by the action happening and very much interested in figuring out who the bad guys are and what the story is. Start your first game post-Holiday break by saying forcefully, “Roll for initiative!” and I guarantee you’ll get the PCs attention. Run a couple of rounds of combat and let the bad guys talk over the fight, giving out some plot info. Then STOP, and flash back to an encounter that happened before the fight– a skill challenge maybe as the PCs have to infiltrate Baron Von Badass’ castle. They complete that encounter and then *whoosh* back to a couple rounds of the first combat, revealing more plot until the flashbacks and the combat timelines meet up– just as Baron von Badass himself shows up! Just dump your players into the action and let the plot catch up. It works.
3. Run a related oneshot with Disposable Characters. This option is unique in that you as GM are running what amounts to a convention game– pregenerated PCs, a pretty railroady plotline, but there’s two benefits to this. One is that your players can get back into the swing of gaming with zero risk to their own PCs, and if you run the group of “extra” PCs in the same plotline as your original PCs, you can give the players information about the game world, plot or story that you otherwise might not be able to– and they’ll remember it better because they’re playing it. Is there an ancient battle where a group of heroes held off an enemy army 300-style? Generate the ancient heroes and let the players play through the heroic deaths of the characters who turn out later in the campaign to be their ancestors! Or maybe the disposable characters are a group of Bothan spies infiltrating Imperial facilities in search of plans for a certain Space Station… either way, the character’s lives are expendable but their story can live on through your game.
New Years is a great time to mix it up and try new stuff in your gaming life, whether it be completely new game systems and rules or simply taking your existing game and shaking it up a little. How are you going to start out the New Gaming Year with a bang? If you post on the topic, put the link in a comment and let me know!
Happy New Years,
The Action Point
Hmm… my brain is doing an interesting thing– maybe taking an adventure module and converting it across multiple systems– the same adventure done with the same pregenerated characters, in D&D 4E, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, and FATE 3 rules, all in a compared fashion? That could be REALLY cool.
(If you don’t see your link, put it in the comments and I’ll make sure it goes up!)