Fiasco, Act 1

Tonight was my first time playing Fiasco, which is one of the games I wanted to play this year. My wife and I sat down with our son and two youngest daughters (ages 13 to 17) and made it through Act 1 before it was time for some of the players to get ready for bed.

It was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get to Act 2 (I think it took a bit longer because we were learning the game). We played the Antarctic playset. The setting is a russian icebreaker being used for tourist runs to the South Pole. We have an alcoholic captain, his sworn enemy the first mate, an eco-terrorist transexual dancer, and two members of a quasi-christian religious sect who believe the second coming will be at the South Pole. After only one act we already have a dead body, an internet feud turned cricket bat assault, and a trained bear running loose on the ship. Good times. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Dusting off old blogs and old campaigns

So, I’m back after a three  month life hiatus. Still running three campaigns when schedules align and we are able to play. But my World of Darkness campaign is entering the home stretch and it’s time to think seriously about what’s next for this (my oldest) game group. 

A few months back we had a productive online discussion about what people preferred to play and what we might do after WoD. Most of us agreed that we preferred long-form campaigns that allow for character and plot development, perhaps with occasional breaks to do shorter (2-ish session) games. One logical choice would be returning to the D&D 3.5 Eberron campaign that we left off a couple of years ago.

This is/was a largely homebrewed campaign, though I used published modules for the early levels. I’m both excited and daunted by the prospect of resuming it — which will mean figuring out the details of the next chapter of the story, fleshing out NPCs, etc. The part that makes it especially daunting is that I can’t locate electronic copies of my old notes, session summaries, etc. I have a couple other places I can look, but I think migration to newer computers, websites for managing my gaming stuff, etc. has resulted in their loss. 

If I’m right I’m going to try to look at this as an opportunity to not be too constrained by the past. It’s a game after all, not a novel; breaches of continuity are not the end of the world, particularly when this much time has passed in real life. Wish me luck.

Have you had the experience of resurrecting an old campaign with limited documentation? How did you handle it?

Managing Lots of NPCs

Among the games I’m currently running is a D&D 3.5 campaign with only two players — my wife and our son (they are each running two PC’s). Both because there are only two players, and because the module I’m using (Expedition to the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk) presents a rich urban setting with lots of NPCs, I’m facing the prospect of having to role play potentially dozens of recurring NPCs. 

To help myself out, and hopefully avoid lots of “so and so, says . . .” I’m trying something new. For each major NPC I’m preparing an index card. One side has the NPC’s name and a picture (some are illustrations from the module that I was able to download, some are photos of celebrities or random people I found online that I decided had similar looks). Whenever I start speaking as one of these characters I will simply hold up the card with the name and picture facing the players so they know whom they are talking to.

The back of each card will have brief character notes for me. In many cases this will include a simple character quirk that I can role play (though with this many NPCs I don’t want all of them to talk or act funny). 

What do folks think of this approach? How have you managed (or seen DM’s manage) lots of NPCs?

Using Quirks to Flesh out Characters

During a recent G+ hangout with local gamers, the topic of how to encourage role playing at the game table came up. One idea I liked was to encourage players who may be role playing challenged to give their character a simple habit or quirk — ideally non-verbal — that can be easily acted out. The example was a character who was a heavy drinker. The player would have a flask with them and periodically take a drink at dramatically appropriate moments. 

Has anyone had success with this approach? I’d live to hear your stories.

Games I would like to play in 2013

I’m back, after a longish hiatus filled with the periodic challenges of life, along with a kick-ass holiday season. I hope my readers have enjoyed all of the holidays you chose to celebrate this year.

My last post was a list of topics I wanted to blog about, one of which was games I would like to play. My wife suggested I make this 13 games I’d like to play in 2013; we’ll see how many I come up with.

Comments, especially from folks who have played any of these, are heartily encouraged. 

In no particular order . . .

  1. Fiasco. I’ve wanted to play this ever since I saw Wil Wheaton and friends playing it on Tabletop. Definitely a change of pace from D&D. Seems like it would be a blast with the right players (anyone who finds the role-playing part of RPG’s awkward might have trouble here). Give me three or four people who really want to play and I’ll buy it tomorrow.
  2. Mutants and Masterminds. I played 2nd Edition M&M a few years ago and loved it. I’d really like to get back into the game. I’d be fine with either 2nd Edition (which I own the core rule book for) or 3rd Edition, especially since 3rd Edition rules are available for free online.
  3. Cards Against Humanity. Basically an adult version of Apples to Apples. One of my gaming buddies owns a copy, and unlike most games that will be on this list it doesn’t take more than one session to play, so the odds are pretty good here.
  4. Spirit of the Century.  Pulp fiction (think Doc Savage or the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, not Tarantino) RPG set in the early days of the 20th century.
  5. Settlers of Catan.  A board game, and honestly a game that excites me less than the others on this list, but I sort of feel out of the loop for never having tried it.
  6. InSpectres.  Play a group of entrepreneurs trying to run your own paranormal investigation service, with stories set in your own home town.

So, six, not thirteen. I suppose I could have thrown in Pathfinder to make it seven — I own a couple of the books and was briefly in a game that ended when life got in the way. I’d mostly like to play it again to further explore the setting. And none of this means that I’ve lost my urge to play D&D 3.5 or World of Darkness, both of which I’m currently running. Need more time!

What games would you like to play in 2013?

Things to Write About

In the interest of keeping this blog alive, I’ve been planning to make a list of potential topics for future posts. So, why not make that list here? That way I can get suggestions/requests from readers too.

Gaming-Related Topics for Blog Posts:

  • Keeping all of the players engaged when players have different gaming styles (and goals)
  • Character types that are challenging in a role-playing game
  • Published adventures vs. home-brew vs. hybrid
  • What to do when the players are having a ball and the DM is bored
  • What to do when the DM is having a ball and the players are bored
  • Other games/systems that I would like to play
  • Why I love bullet lists

Just kidding on the last one. Though I do love them deeply. 

Any ideas/requests from my readers?