Aug 012009

As this is my first post, I decided to go for something that might tell the reader who the heck I am and what my insights on roleplaying are.  I can tell you to start that my tastes run both very similar and very differently from Save, Runequester and Javier.  Part in parcel that’s because I’m one of the rare, the proud, the gamer chicks.

Now let me also lay it down that I don’t play CtD because of any inherent love for lovely elfin chicks or fluffy bunnies.  I have been a longtime ST and I don’t like running stories with ranbows and prancing ponies.  I do run storylines pulled from the old fashioned myths with burning people at the stake and having gang members shoot PCs down.   So why would I be so devoted to Changeling the Dreaming, a game stereotypically know for all of those things?  Why stick with a system burdened with outdated, clunky combat rules?

It all has to do with the basic theme and mood of the game.  I, for one, agree with Save that for the most part I like embodying the hero in my games.  That is because to me, the game is not just a fun pastime spent getting treasure and killing things; but it is a change to tell a story with friends.  If I wanted to kill things and get XP and treasure (which I will grant can be hella fun) I would play a video game.  If I want to share a story, I will play a RPG.

So what compels me about telling stories with Changeling?

1. The ability to play with both past and present.  I’m a sucker for the ‘past lives’ thing in an RPG.  I love having PCs discover their past, deal with thier past lives, have that shape them or being something they act against.  The clash of who you were, who you are and who you would like to become is a dramatic question I find compelling.  It invites a second layer of characterization for the player to contemplate – and great story opportunities of discovery.

2. The ability to ‘awaken’ to magic.  At base I am a positive person and I like my games to be in general positive.  Dungeons and Dragons is at heart (no matter how you play it) positive: I start out a normal person (or dwarf or what have you) and through experience and work adventuring I become someone who is powerful  perhaps heroic, perhaps rich, or whatever else the player decides.  Changeling is, too.  There is nothing inherently angst-ridden about waking to a world of magic.  It can be confusing and startling.  It could be horribly painful, traumatic and/or destructive to the psyche – but it doesn’t have to be.  I like having the choice to play a character who is, at heart positive.  Having a group that doesn’t feel the need to sit around angsting about the horrible trauma thier PCs have been through.  This is what set me off about large parts of the new world of darkness.  For me, the ability to play a normal person who grows to become something different and more interesting without having to die, be maimed, enslaved, tortured ect ect is a strong appeal in a game.

3. Human vs. supernatural halves.  I like the pull of ‘one side vs the other’ contained in one psyche.  I like having players facing decisions and saying “well the fae half of me wants to do this, but the human half would rather not” or comparing fae morals to human morals.  It creates tough choices in a game, and tough choices are fun because they prompt action and conflict, which lets the players create a story to be resolved.

4. The ability to bring in anything you can imagine. The dreaming is a wonderful place.  shaped and influenced by the dreams of humanity, if you’re feeling like a dark and resonant game your PCs could travel through a reflection of their city where the ghosts of people killed by domestic violence walk around showing their bloody wounds.  Or if your group craves something light and shamelessly fun, you could have the action heroes of the lastest summer blockbuster manifest and wreak havoc.  The best thing is both are not only supported, but encouraged by the setting.

5. At base, the game supports humans.  Call me crazy, but I really hate games that say ‘humans are crap, lets kick them around.’  Now, having human and non-human options is not the same: humans in DnD are not enslaved and oppressed by the other races, they are just as viable as anything other race to become adventurers.  But some games (I would argue that the infamous Wraethu and the new game Changeling:the Lost) at base put humanity is a very bad light.  I don’t want to play a game that tells me ‘there are big bad things that are better than/control normal humans.  So you have to serve them/get changed by them, be one of them to be something.  Yes, CtD focuses on characters that are humans who awaken to a fae soul, but I like the blend of human and fae – I ike the idea that fae need to interact with humans for glamour and for sanity.  And at base the dreaming is crafted from the dreams of humanity – humans shape the fae as much as fae shape thier dreamers.  I can get behind that.

Jan 012009

As I sit here waiting for the ball to drop in the western time zone, I’m pondering a little tradition of mine – gaming resolutions.  They’re a lot like normal New Years resolutions, only directly related to my gaming.  Just as we can strive for personal improvement we can also strive for improvement in our gaming.  I thought that I’d share my own resolutions and what prompted me to make them.

Resolution #1: Learn to Put My Foot Down

This one comes directly from the Mutants and Masterminds game that I’ve been running.  While M&M 2e is a great system, it requires quite a bit of GM oversight to avoid potential problems.  I had a player who made a character that, while completely rules legal, didn’t really fit the street level theme I had going for my game.  Instead of putting my foot down and telling the player that the revision wasn’t kosher, I let the player go with it for a session before I realized my mistake and the disparity.  The player was very generous and decided to revamp the character again, but for the player it felt like a downgrade in power.  I’ve I’d actually had the stones to put my foot down in the first place it wouldn’t have been a problem and the player would have gotten an upgrade, not a downgrade.

So from now on I’m going to try and learn how to say no a bit more often, at least when it really counts.  I love saying yes while actually playing, but I need to stick to my guns more when it comes to character creation and big decisions.  Some things just shouldn’t be used in certain games and I need to be clear about that from the beginning.  As a poster over at is fond of saying, “You’re the DM and you wear the Viking Hat.”

Resolution #2: Make Fights More Dynamic

It’s weird, but it took running a Supers game to really make me understand how entrenched my idea of combat had become.  For years I’d run almost nothing but D&D and I was locked into a pretty static idea of combat.  It took a game with lots of esoteric and fanastic modes of travel for me to break out of the grid and start working on more dynamic fights.  Even with this impetus I don’t think my fights are nearly as dynamic and fun as they could be.  I really want to start working the scenery and extras into the fights as much as I can, which will make for more exciting encounters.

4th edition has helped in some regards, but I feel it’s going to be my supers game that will really help me break out of my mold.  I’m lucky enough that my players have been good with feedback and I’ve got forums like to help me figure things out, but it’s going to be a long haul.  In preparation I’ve been watching shows like Avatar: the Last Airbender and Samurai Champloo to help me figure things out.

Resolution #3: Take Better Notes

I’m lucky enough to have a pretty good memory, but I really need to start taking better notes during play to help with my recaps and to string my otherwise wing-it style plots together.  I’ve gotten better at this and buying a little notebook has helped, but I really do have to be better about this.  I’ve been studying books like Getting Things Done to help me with this, but in the end it’s going to take simple willpower.

Resolution #4: Update This Blog!

I know I’ve said it before, but I really do need to post here more often.  Luckily enough I’ve got a few friends here helping me put content up, but I’d really like to make writing here a more regular thing.  So starting in 2009 I’m going try to make a post a week and then go from there.  If I make this a regularly habit maybe I won’t keep forgetting about it.  I even have my next post, a fun encounter area for 4e, ready to go.

So, happy new year folks!  Hope you have a safe and happy day of booze and debauchery!

Oct 052008

Just a quick note to let everyone know that all my old 3.5e Dungeons & Dragons material has been added to the site once more. All the files even got a nice face lift and a prettier layout! You can visit the downloads page to find them once more.

Jun 182008

Long time no post, and this one will be short.  Expect a much more regular posting schedule in the near future once I find a job and leave academia behind me.

Just a short note to let everyone known that in order to comply with the new GSL from Wizards I will be removing all of my 3.5e material from the website.  If you want a copy, download it now, because it’s not going to be here for very much longer.  In the future I’m going to go with 4th edition material, most of it focused on my new campaign setting (and yes, you will see bits of it here and on the wiki).

Feb 262008

While getting over the last of this illness, I decided to finally check out this T.V. show Supernatural that everyone’s been talking about so much. I have to say that I’m very glad that I did. So far I’ve managed to rip my way through most of the first season DvD, and boy it’s been very enjoyable. What’s more, it actually runs a lot like an RPG to me. The two brothers are obviously player characters in both tactics and demeanor.

It’s given me a renewed interest in the World of Darkness mortal line, actually. I’ve begun to think that a good old fashioned monster hunting game with urban legends and monsters would be a whole lot of fun. I’ve just been trying to figure out a way to do something like this with an entire group of characters, not just two. It’s nice when a show gives you ideas like that.

Oct 282007

We have all seen the image. The lone Conan-esque warrior, on top of a pile of corpses, with a wench in his muscled arm and a bloody axe on the other. This is an image that invokes many ideas on our mind: bloodshed, grittiness, Arnold Schwarzenegger, testosterone, ManOWar, and many more things. But, deep down, instinctively, there is one thing that we all think: “kicking ass”.

Some RPG´s are defined as being “metal” (WFRP is a good example of this). They all have in common a gritty feeling, they tend to be very dark… But then, one thinks about Call of Cthulhu, and doesn´t think of it as “metal” despite it being dark and gritty. Why is this? In my opinion, that is because, in CoC, the main characters do not have the chance to really kick ass, at best they can survive. In contrast, the troll slayer in the WFRP party can charge headlong against an army of orcs, and hopefully make them flee in terror or at least die gloriously with many greenskins at his feet. So, in the end, a game that´s metal is a game where, no matter how bad everything seems to be, the characters can still go out in a blaze of glory, they can make a difference, for good or bad… And for most players, that is a welcome feeling. Call it poetic justice, or revenge at the dark, gritty world, but it does work well.

So, how metal is your game?

 Posted by at 4:23 am