Friday, September 30, 2011-End of the Month Podcast Review: The Grumpy Celt Speaks

Posted September 30, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: online garbage, Table Top RPG


The Grumpy Celt Speaks is a podcast that suffers from too much gimmick.  It is formatted by a single announcer, who interacts with two other characters which are also voiced by him.  The first character is Ren from Ren and Stimpy and the second character is a Monty Python housewife (a man doing a high woman’s voice.) Additionally, he has a convoluted background and set-up for the podcast that combines Stephen King and Steve Jackson.  Ironically, his character being a celt has a thick western drawl.

The purpose of the podcast is to review games and supplements, which it does within 25 minutes.  Unfortunately, they are all stuff that has been sitting on his shelf for 20 years.  The nostalgia aspect is quite entertaining as he reviews various modules that I bought when I was in Jr. High; but he does not really provide any acumen other than some background information.  Additionally, he has some hang-ups when evaluating games; too many dice is an issue for him, nit-picking art, and he has too much focus on typesetting.  His earlier podcast had more range and topics.  The podcast for black history month was very good and insightful. 

Because of these reasons, I am not adding the website to my “favorites.” I will wait a few months and revisit the sight and see what he has reviewed; after all, there are not a lot of RPG podcast that directly reviews materials.  Overall, this is a podcast that I can wait until later to listen too.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011-Being Badgered by Kids

Posted September 28, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: Gamemaster, Table Top RPG

Tags: , ,

My youngest son has been badgering me to play Dresden files; he is nine years old and in 4th grade.  My older brother, his grandson, and my youngest have played a watered down version of Mouse Guard; successfully.  My son sees me playing Dresden Files with my brother and instinctively wants to be included; after all, he has played RPGs before, he can handle any game.  Obviously, he cannot play Dresden Files; he cannot even read the Dresden Files Books. Despite this apparent flaw, his request has placed me in a bit of a dilemma; I do not want him in a Dresden Files RPG and I do not want to squash his interest in playing role-playing games.   Ironically, my son gave me an out.  He does not want to play a wizard but rather a gun toting hard man; asking me in detail on how to make his guns special for the game. 

I am ignoring the munchkin factor here, he is only nine.

What he is telling me, is that he does not want to play Dresden Files, he wants to shoot big cool guns, and wants my attention.  I want to be a good father.  Is there a role-playing game out there that not only meets our expectation; but also, satisfies our relationship needs between father and son?


I am going with “Dogs In The Vineyard.”

Sure I can go with D&D or Savage Worlds, but fuck that; even Savage Worlds is too much work.  I do not want to invest all that wasted detail and work to create a tactical encounter.  Kids “make-believe” under a social contract all the time; it is called playing.  Doubt me?  Put two kids in a room with two GI. Joe figures, two Star War figures, and two My Pretty Pony figures—wow, the physiological papers would fly.  My point being: they will still figure out a way to play through compromise (with a lot of “no ways”.)  Only an adult would question the physics of a Fireball fanatically; kids just want something cool and fun.  They don’t want to measure movement values or the jamming chances of a Mosin-Nagant M1938 (you are making my point if you knew that was a Russian Rifle during WW II.) Kids want to make stuff up and see how everybody responses to it.  They don’t ask WHY this is fun. 

That is why I am moving away from tactical RPGs to a more narrative game.  I am going with “Dogs In the Vineyard” because it combines game mechanics with make believe, to the degree that is a little higher than kids playing with Legos, but not so far as Squad Patrol (Or any Avalon Hill War Game before the 90’s.)

Tomorrow: Friday September 23, 2011- A Rational Approach, Tainted With Bias, Conclusion is Doomed

Posted September 23, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: Dresden Files RPG, Gamemaster, Table Top RPG

Tags: , , , , ,

The Rational Approach:

For a multitude of reasons, I have determined that I need a method to remind my players that they have Fate Points to use during our playing sessions without me directly asking.  I have used some small and simple tokens which have not worked.  Acting like a doctor, I want to “up the prescription” before making any changing conclusion; so let’s try some large and complex tokens before considering anything else.   How can I enlarge and complicate tokens?  Alright, the enlarging is easy-make them larger.  I want the tokens to be large enough so they are fiddled with; but not blocking them from playing.  Stuff that are around two to three inches; I do not want to create a wall of fate points. 

How can I complicate a token?  Well, adding additional elements to the token would complicate it; like setting, themes and character stuff would add layers to the token.  Decorate the Fate Points. 

What would be considered decoration?  The Dresden Files is a combination of “wizards” and modern “Detective Noir;” yet our campaign is a little more refined, not just about wizards but Necromancers.  So, that is a start.  Also, keep cues that everyone is in the Dresdenverse.  Are there things that define the character? Are there things to avoid from the Dresdenverse? 

Hypothesis: If my Fate Point Tokens are around 2-3 inches and are connected to the Novels, themes, and character; not only will they prompt the player about the setting but also remind them that they have Fate Points to spend.  This will make the tokens more involve than just poker chips.


Tainted With Bias

God do I love doing this project.  I have had to work my creative juices to figure out objects that fit within the campaign and the size; while performing the needed labor to actually get them.  I am just happy that it is the Halloween season.   I just bought a ‘69 Chevy Camaro Matchbox car off of ebay; because the character drives one.  I have created little Dresden File paperbacks and found a coffin to store all the tokens in.  Finding stuff to fit into the “Detective Noir” is difficult; I would love to find a miniature newspaper camera and an old fedora.  Can you make a small “Motel” sign?  I feel like I have entered a scavenger hunt. 

I think I will keep this up even if it does not help the players to remember that they have Fate Points.  I would only abandon it if it hindered the game.  It’s the Fate System, not as much stuff as D&D; I do not see the table getting so cluttered to the point where everything is undistinguishable. 


Conclusion is Doomed

Will this, in the end, help me or satisfy my GM needs? I do not know.  At worst, this will just be a bother for the players.  I just hope I will be able to be objective enough to know if I should try another tactic.  Honestly, if this does not work; there has to be another problem that is preventing the players from using their Fate Points.  I will have to focus more on the player, not making larger tokens.

Wednesday September 21, 2011-Goofy Things We GMs Have to Think About and Do.

Posted September 22, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: Dresden Files RPG, Gamemaster, Table Top RPG

Tags: , , , ,

Today I am going to combine two topics; first, I am going to dust off the topic of props within RPG and second, the weird interpretations of Game Master’s responsibilities.    

I enjoy having some props during our role-playing game, but it has been a long time since I wore a costume or brought weapons to the gaming table.  Why have I stopped? Because, the stuff was quickly forgotten during the game.  I think that the problem with most props is that they are actually decorations not props.  After all, props are used during a performance to enhance the action.  You may pantomime pouring a glass of water or throwing a credit stick at politician; but there is more weight if you actually pour a drink or throw a pencil at the GM.  Add to this, the fact that RPGs are verbal where everyone is mostly sitting around; there is very little performing action.  Hence, things you may bring to a gaming session that enhances your performance is limited and why so many things end up just being decoration. 

One of the tricks, anyone can do, is to turn a decoration into a propby using it with the game’s system.  Make the item into a tool, or decorate a tool for the game.  We are already doing this with maps, miniatures, and character sheets.  If you are playing Star Wars and find a lightsaber pen, use it at the game; or put your character on a ipad-they look like data-pads.  Make your GM screen into a castle. 

This brings me to my second topic-the weird interpretations of Game Master’s responsibilities.

Over this last weekend, I was thinking about the chips I use for the Dresden Files game to represent Fate Points and how my brother didn’t really use them.  Glass beads or golden coins, it did not matter, they just disappear on the table, despite whatever color the table was.  Let’s not forget, players only do stuff their characters can do when they remember that they can do them.  My hope to remind my brother that he has Fate Points by using chips, instead of a marking them on a piece of paper, didn’t seem to be working.  I realized that perhaps I should take it up a notch.  After all, I feel it is my responsibility to encourage using the game’s system during actual play, it is part of that “education process” that is expected by a Game Master.  Yet, at the same time I do not want to be overt, heavy handed, or direct; because I might be railroading or spoiling the illusion of the story.  Furthermore, an idea that is concluded by a person lasts longer than an idea that is told to the same person. 

Basically, I do not want to ask “Do you want to spend a Fate Point on that” every time there is a die roll.  I want him to tell me when he instinctually feels it is that important.

As a GM, I have a need; a mechanism that reminds the player that they have Fate Points without my direct involvement.  Small and simple objects are not successful; therefore we need to try larger and complex objects.  What can make tokens larger and complex? Decorations or props can make a token more complex; and thus, the two topics are combined. 

Tomorrow-The hypothesis and primaries to the experiment.

Monday September 19, 2011-A Very Pointed GM Story

Posted September 20, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: Dresden Files RPG, Gamemaster, Table Top RPG

Tags: , , , , ,

So, on a whim I suggested playing Dresden Files to my brother a few months back and he agreed.  With my Star Wars Campaign, everyone came to my house; my brother driving over thirty minutes to play.  Honestly, my brother always drives out to play games with me and after two years, I was beginning to feel a little self-centered about this.  Feeling obliged to sharing some of the driving, I offered to come to his house to play, which he was happily agreed to. 

On the day of game, I was assembling my “GM’s bag of stuff.”  I knew that I wanted to push the use of Fate Points and really did not want to force him to constantly be marking his Character Sheet as we volleyed successes back and forth at each other.  I have dealt with this issue before and in the spirit to avoid paper burns or hard pink erasers, I wanted to grab some chips.  I have come to hold the chip with the same spiritual reverence and superstition as players hold their dice and dice bags.  Perhaps I have spent too many years Game Mastering or teaching too many new systems, I cannot tell; but I am still using the same dice I purchased twenty years ago.  The hours I have spent; marking poker chips with detail pictures or written effects, or wandering through craft shops looking for glass beads is tenfold compared to the time I spent buying my dice.  It took less than a moment for me to know what chip to bring.  I have gamed at his house before, I think it was four years ago; we game in his dining room that has a yellow pine table-use dark blue glass beads in my lower drawer; they will show up nicely on that table. 

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at my brother’s house and he wanted to play in the basement.   The previous day I mentioned bringing my laptop and the potential of how handy it would be to have a computer during the game session.  Apparently, he had made some arrangements because he does not have any wireless.  Acknowledging that I am not the Lord of this Castle, I descended into the basement/computer room only to find that the table was a dark brown, nearly black in color.  My dark blue transparent beads were invisible within the lighting.  Needless to say, it was hard to remember how many Fate Points anyone had and nobody played with them. 

The next game session was two weeks later and this time I was prepared for his basement.  Forget any lowly glass beads, I went with gold coins.  The type of coin found in buried treasure; rough, hard press, and organic.  More importantly, the shiny gold would leap out on that dark sinister stain. 

Yet my intentions were blocked again.  This time we gamed in his dining room; after all, we didn’t use the computer at all.  We were back on a yellow pine table where the gold coins simply blended into the surface.  The only times where Fate Points were used was when I asked if he wanted to use one.

Friday, September 16, 2011- The Heavy Hand of King GM.

Posted September 16, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: Dresden Files RPG, Gamemaster, Table Top RPG

Tags: , , , ,

Okay, here is a good example on how heavy handed a GM can be on a player’s character.

The player has created Mr. Brawny, with the aspects “Rugged Outdoorsman” “Works Best with His Hands” and “Down to Earth Type Guy” Obviously this is a physical character, slightly macho, but definitely a manly man.  Naturally, his skills and other abilities are going to reflect this persona.  The GM is throwing Miss Scarlett at Mr. Brawny for several scenes within the story.  Miss Scarlett has aspects like “A Dangerous Socialite” “Conversations are a Chess Game” and “Queen of her Environment.”  She is not a physical character but rather a social character, capable of mind games but also concerned with her image. 

Miss Scarlett is going to be able to totally change Mr. Brawny each time they role-play during the game.   Through the system, she can start placing aspects on Mr. Brawny; like, “Finds Miss Scarlett Attractive” “Intimidated by Miss Scarlett” “Wants to make Miss Scarlett Happy.”  This Manly Man can be totally whipped by the end of one game session, which is not what the player intended.  Because, Mr. Brawny is a physical character, he really has no defenses or leverage against her, unless it is through force.  Although his character really has not changed, the game is going to change how he is being played. 

This is affects the character far more than any spell casted during a D&D session.  Ironically, it is a subtle means of control.   

Thursday September 15, 2011- A Brief Explanation of Aspects within the Dresden Files RPG.

Posted September 16, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: Dresden Files RPG, Gamemaster, Table Top RPG

Tags: , , , ,

One of the many ways a GM can influence a player’s character in the Dresden Files RPG is through aspects.  It actually is the default solution to any story problem during game play.  An aspect is a descriptive phrase that can be used on characters or the environment.  When creating a character a player will want aspects that can be used for both good and bad within a story.  “A Rugged Outdoorsman” aspect can be useful in the right situation and also cause problems in the wrong situation.  Additional aspects can be created during a game session, based on dice rolls, conflicts, and the use of Fate Points. 

                A GM can use a character’s aspects in two ways.  First, an NPC can invoke a character’s aspect negatively to gain a bonus to their die roll.  Miss Scarlett wants to lie to Mr. Brawny, so she keeps the conversation convoluted, maybe talking about resent art shows and theater, just to make sure Mr. Brawny is confused.  Miss Scarlett can invoke Mr. Brawny’s “A Rugged Outdoorsman” to increase her die roll success, because the aspect implies that he is not high flatulent .  The reward the player gets from this is a Fate Point.  The Second way, a GM can compel an aspect by offering a situation to the player that allows the GM to control the character.  Such as, offering to Mr. Brawny that by being “A Rugged Outdoorsman” he has left the campsite to collect firewood, leaving Miss Scarlett all by herself.  Once again, the player will receive a Fate Point if agreed; however, they will have to pay a Fate Point by refusing. 

Wednesday September 14, 2011- Going Beyond Player Buy In; Take Out a Mortgage

Posted September 14, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: Dresden Files RPG, Gamemaster, Table Top RPG

Tags: , , , , ,

Continuing my thoughts about the Dresden Files RPG having Mini-GMs instead of players, today I am mentioning real game mechanics that places players into the role of Game Master.

I am an abstract thinker; I like starting with a bigger picture and then moving down into details.  The Dresden Files RPG is set up in the way I think.  Its starts with the abstracts and then moves into specifics, but the great thing about this are that the players are included from the start.  The first gaming session is devoted to creating the campaign, no prep work from the GM other than figuring when and where to play.  Once the group is gathered, then City Creation begins-not character creation.  The group collectively agrees to what the world will be about and where it takes place.  The idea is that the group figures out the setting that will mesh with what they want the themes to be.  From there the group moves to locations, allies, enemies, and the like.  By the end of this process, not only do you have a flushed out setting; but also, everyone knows it and contributed to it. 

How often as a GM, do you create a setting with a five page background that nobody really reads?  Here the group has made that five page background together.  In the gaming community there is talk about “player buy in.”  This is when the players accept the believability of story and invest their own interests into that story.  With the Dresden files, the group does not have to buy into the GM’s creation because the group has invested into it before they even make their characters.  This process elevates a player to something closer to a GM than most games.

Tuesday September 13, 2011-You are not a player but rather a Mini-GM

Posted September 13, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: Dresden Files RPG, Gamemaster, Table Top RPG

Tags: , , , ,

For the pass week I have been struggling to understand and accept how the Fate System within the Dresden Files places a large amount of character control into the GM’s hands.  As I pour over the pages and consider various options, I am realizing that there are some checks and balances between the players and Game Master.  These mechanics allow a more communal story allowing for plenty of gray area for everyone to exert their interest within the story.  This week I am going to address them. 


A New Approach to Actual Play

I have come to believe that the best way to approach the Dresden Files RPG is that everyone is a GM; there is one major Game Master and everyone else are Mini-GMs.  Forget being a player; forget being spoon fed your environment; forget the narrow affect you have on everything within the story; from now on you have the meta-game perspective beyond the solitary action that a character has.   You are no longer a mere serf within the game; but rather a Duke who acknowledges a King.   The Fate System allows a mere player to rise up a level to share more control.  There are several reasons to make this approach.

The most sublime reason for this attitude is that there is hardly any distinction between NPCs actions and Players actions.  Anything a GM can do to a character can also be done to one of their characters.  There are no special stat blocks for just “monsters” nor are there any special moves or actions that a GM can do that a Player cannot do.   Essentially, every character within the story (NPC or PC) has their own goals and the same system to obtain those goals.   Miss Scarlett can initiate a scene where she wants to manipulate Dresden into favoring her, this would be done through placing an aspect on Harry—there is a risk with skill rolls; but she is creating the scene for that roll.  Likewise, Harry can try to do the same thing to Miss Scarlett.  Furthermore, the results are not dictated by the GM, but rather the winner with some agreement from the group.   

Wednesday September 7, 2011-Share the World, Share you Character

Posted September 8, 2011 by phlophouse
Categories: D20, Dresden Files RPG, Gamemaster, Table Top RPG

Tags: , , , ,

Over the last month, I have been working on a Dresden Files campaign for my older brother.  I have to admit that I am finding many of my GMing habits need to change with this indie game.  Although I have played several different RPGs; today, I realized that all of them have been one-shots.  I have never run a campaign with an indie system.  Despite all the little changes, which I might address later; I feel that there is one large encompassing abstract issue that I am struggling with; the illusion of control.  Control over what, you might ask? Well, everything. 

Being one of the disgruntled old-school gamers from the early 80’s, I have always been looking for new innovative games that went beyond the dungeon crawl.  Matter of fact, part of the reason I started GMing was to figure out a way to play something more than just hack n’ slash.  Being an unhappy product of the old-school, I advocated player control and anti-railroading by the GM.  I wanted players to contribute more to the adventure; because as a player, I felt that I was not allowed to contribute much.  Back then, I had to figure out what the GM thought was the right answer, instead of having any other options. 

As I delve deeper into the Fate System, I am beginning to realize that the GM has much more control over the Player’s character.  True, players have their own systems to create elements within the world; however, with the way Fate slings aspects around, I am noticing that a GM has a direct way to tweak characters.  A GM for D&D only had to throw monsters and traps at characters, GMs that had heavy-handed and extreme consequences where considered dicks-Never touch a golden duck you just know something bad is going to happen.   With the Fate system I can inflict several different aspects onto a character; like “Afraid of Colonel Mustard” or “Miss Scarlett Always Sounds Right.”  The amazing thing is that it is completely okay within the system.  I feel a slight conflict of motives here. 

I guess it is a little ironic that the first real indie campaign I am running allows the players to share the story with the GM, but also allows the GM to share the character with the players.