Welcome to Gamma World B!@#$’s!

So last night we were down a player, and had another player uncertain of his availability up to the last minute.  So we decided to put our regular D&D game on hold and give Gamma World a try.

Unfortunately we didn’t really get much actual play time in, due in large part to traffic and such meaning most of us were late getting there.  But we did have a pretty good time with character generation, and deciding on all the details for the characters.  I may suggest we play our next session as a Gamma World game too.  We’ll just roll up a new character for the player missing last session.

So who did we meet last night?

First up was Toucan Sam, a very down to earth mutant vulture (Hawkoid/Gravity Controller).  He wears a very thick Canadian Tuxedo (with jorts) and wields a parking meter as his main weapon.  He loves his pickup truck and his riding horse (who generally spends time in the back of the pickup).

Next we met a good friend of Toucan Sam’s, Aero Gordon.  Mr. Gordon is an android who’s developed a symbiotic relationship with a plant creature of some sort that allows him to run on photosynthesis, and provides some armor (under his business suit of course).  He wields a piece of rebar with some concrete on the end.  Aero Gordon also owns a pickup truck (their shared enthusiasm for trucks is what sparked the friendship between Mr. Gordon and Mr. Sam), a wagon, and has replaced his original eyes with night vision eyes.

Next up the group was introduced Teriyaki Jackson, the most charming and charismatic man any of these people have ever met.  He’s a telepath, and a pyromancer who occasionally bursts into flames.  As a result, even though Aero Gordon likes Teriyaki a lot, he always keeps his physical distance, (the plant part of Aero is very afraid of fire).  Teriyaki Jackson wears a suit of Samurai Armor he managed to loot from the Smithsonian, as well as a messenger bag containing his laptop.  He’s armed with a potato gun that fires radioactive potatoes. He’s also got a hairless kitten that often spends time on his shoulder.  Jackson often carries around five gallons of gasoline, despite his tendency to burst into flames, and the fact that he’s extremely clumsy.

Finally we met BenJarvus Maximillian, a very fast Yeti.  BenJarvus wears football pads, and home insulation strapped to his body with a whole lot of chains.  In addition he wears a soup pot with a space cut out for his face as a helmet and keeps a pair of nightvision goggles on his forehead ready for action at all times.  He likes to hit things with the axel from a car (which still has a tire on one end).  He’s both quite strong and fast, though not particularly smart. But he speaks with a British accent, so many people don’t notice that he’s not that bright.  He also owns a generator, which he occasionally lets Teriyaki Jackson use to power his laptop.

I’m looking forward to seeing what adventures this motley crew gets up to, and who they might meet along the way.

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Another quick test…

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Virginia Ballot Initiatives 2010

Hey fellow Virginians!

Are you wondering about those ballot initiatives that are going to be on your ballot tomorrow when you vote? (You are voting right?) I know I didn’t really know what they were or what they were about.

Well here’s some pretty good, very basic, info on them so you can be prepared when you head into the voting booth. http://www.ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Virginia_2010_ballot_measures

I assume some of you in other states will also have ballot initiatives, as well and this site seems to be a good place to go to get some very basic info on them!

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Trying something a little different…

Trying out a slightly different option for connecting to buzz.

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Testing. Testing. 1, 2, 3.

With the imminent death of Vox I’m trying out a few new blogging options, right now trying out WordPress.  I’ll also give Typepad a go and see how it goes.

Right now I’m trying out buzz integration, so I’ll see if this shows up there and, and if so how quickly.

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Some thoughts on GMing

So for a bit under a year now (I can't remember exactly when I started but about a year ago I was gearing up to start) I've been GMing a game of 4th Edition D&D.  It's my first time "on the other side of the screen" for any game and I must say I'm enjoying it quite a bit.  It's been a learning experience but I'm feeling a little more comfortable with it every session we do.  4th Edition has been great for a beginning GM, it makes a lot of things fairly easy for the GM, I'm not sure I'd have been able to jump in the way I did if we were still playing an earlier edition of D&D.
Anyway, I thought I'd write here about a few things I've learned and a few things I need to work on.  Fellow GM's and players out there please comment or give feedback if you want to!

A few things I've learned so far:

  • If there's a question about a rule and it can't be looked up in less than a few minutes, then it's usually best to make a ruling to keep the action moving and look it up later for the future.
  • Always remember the first rule of improvisation: say "Yes, and…" Try your best not to shoot down your players ideas!
  • Be sure to read/think through all your monsters and room features carefully.
  • Related to the above, try to run a few scenarios for a scene through in your head before sitting down at the table to anticipate questions or situations that might come up.  Highlight things if you need to!
  • Make notes while playing, notes about things the players seemed to enjoy or didn't, names of NPC's places etc.
  • Pre-rolling initiative for your monsters can really speed things up.
  • Generally try to keep things moving, though don't rush the players.

There are also a number of things I need to work on and improve (including those things above):

  • If I make a ruling and plan to look up a rule for later, I really need to be sure to stop and make a note of it so you can actually do that.
  • There are a few rules and things that I really need to look up and read over and over till they sink in to speed things up at the table.
  • I need to work on not talking so much about the meta-aspects of the game. It's ok to occasionally note that the players did something unexpected, but it's probably best not to discuss the things they could have done or what might have happened as much as I have.  It destroys some of the magic of the story, and I need to just let things happen as they do and work with it.  On a related note…
  • I need to work on making the story a bit more organic and based more on the players actions.  I've gotten better about this, but I still sometimes feel like I'm railroading things a little bit here and there just because I'm not quite sure how to deal with things the players are doing.
  • I need to work on not rushing things.  There have been times when the players have a little bit of downtime and while I of course want to keep things moving; in retrospect there have been a few times I've probably rushed through things more than I should have.
  • I need to work on how I run skill challenges, so they feel a little more organic and less mechanical.  I also need to work on really trying to include everyone in them.
  • I'd like to work on encouraging the players to really describe what they're doing in combat and in skill situations rather than just saying "I use x power."  They've actually been pretty good about this sort of thing, but I'd love to see more of it.  The first step in this is of course leading by example, so this is something for me to really remember to do.  At the same time I also need to remember that everyone enjoys different aspects of the game, so if some players really just don't want to do that sort of thing, that's ok too, as long as everyone is having fun!
  • I'd also like to work on my improvisation/acting skills to really bring some of the NPC's to life.  I've had a few times where I've felt pretty good about this (the old man with a Main accent for one), but on the whole I feel like my characterization of the NPC's has been pretty flat and I've fallen back on the same phrases an quirks a bit too much.  Really taking some time to think about who these people are and what they're interested in should help with this.

And finally, there are a few things I'd like to try and/or am looking forward to experimenting with more:

  • Music!  I've only just started to really think about using music to set the mood, and have tried playing a little bit of music while the game is going on but I'd really like to do more of this.  I've got some interesting ideas for using music, but I'm still trying to work out some technical aspects of both playing and controlling the music.
  • Player generated world and story elements.  This is largely inspired by a section of the 4th Edition DMG 2 in which an example of a "shared world" is given with the DM letting players come up with a lot more of the details of the world than I think is normal.  I'm trying to leave a lot of details open so that when/if we have to deal with them I can leave a lot of the details up to the players.  I don't feel like I've done this enough so far but I'm working on it (and got some great ideas from the character backgrounds the players recently wrote) and I think the next sections of the adventure we're running should have some more opportunities for this.  For example, two of the characters are from the city we're in now, so I plan to let those players come up with a lot of the details of what the city is like and how it works.  From city government to some of the factions within the city to even some of the layout, I want this to be "their" city.  Some of it I'll of course also be coming up with on my own, but I want this to feel like a place they're familiar with and really want to get an idea of what they're interested in and how I can work their ideas into mine.

I'm sure there are a lot of things here I'm not thinking of, so there may be a follow up post or two on this but these are my thoughts right now.  What do you think?  What lessons have you learned?  Have you used music in your games? How much player input have you taken as a GM?  Do you have any ideas or tips for how to increase this sort of interaction?

Cross posted on LiveJournal, and Buzz!

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Amnesiac RPG Characters

I was listening to a This American Life podcast from a bit ago, part of which discussed amnesia.  The story was interesting, though wasn't really about amnesia per se. But it got me thinking about it in role playing game terms (I'm working up to GMing my first adventure soon, so I'm thinking of just about everything in terms of gaming possibilities).

It occurred to me that amnesia is used in all kinds of fiction, sometimes to comedic effect, sometimes to more dramatic effect, but that I hadn't ever thought about using it in a role playing game.  It seems like potentially a pretty good and fun trope to use in a game, either with a character who forgets who they are for some time, or with NPC's or any number of other ways.  This would probably work particularly well in a pulp themed game, where these sort of outrageous ideas make perfect sense.

I've also been reading Gnome Stew (a great GMing blog) a lot lately, and as I was thinking about this I also read this article, in which the author talks about the fun of having secrets from the other players, and generally cutting down on meta-game thinking at the table. These two things started to churn in my head and I got the following ideas…

I also started to think about the idea for PC's with amnesia.  Role playing it could be interesting but difficult for a player if their PC is supposed to have lost their memory partway through the game, or if they've written a background for the character, that they then have to "re-discover."  This could be a lot of fun, but might be difficult to role play properly for the player, since they'd know what the background really was. 

It might also unfairly focus attention on the one character if they were the only one with amnesia (again this isn't necessarily a problem, depending on the player and the groups, but is a potential problem).  Of course this could be solved by having everyone start with amnesia, and have to slowly learn about/try to remember their backgrounds and histories.  But again, you still have the problem of a PC who knows the real background, but has to pretend that they don't for the purposes of role playing.

One solution would be for the GM could write up a background for a character, or all the characters, and start the game with that characters, or the characters with amnesia, and they could slowly learn who they were as the game went on.  This could be a lot of fun, and might work really well with the right group.  But might lead to some players feeling like they don't have enough real investment in their character, or that they are being railroaded some.

Then an interesting idea popped into my head.  What if all the players wrote a background for another player's character?  This could lead to all the players really feeling like they had some investment in the game, but would also leave them not knowing what their own background was.  The players could either write the backgrounds specifically for one other players character, or they could all write a background in secret and turn them in to the GM who would then assign them to different players and make any adjustments to make them all fit together.  The GM would get tons of plot hooks, and would be able to really involve the players ideas in the game and center it around the characters, while still haveing the freedom to determine quite a bit (like how they got amnesia, and why they are together etc.).  The players would get to start the game with a clean slate, and then have the fun of figuring out who they were and how they got to where they are.

I think this is a pretty fun idea for an interesting game.  I'm not planning on using it for my upcomign adventure, as I'm not sure I feel like I'm quite experienced enough as a GM to run something like that (at least not yet), but I think it sounds like a pretty fun game for the players and for the GM (though probably a lot of work for the GM).

So what do you think?  Would you consider running a game like this, or playing in one?  Do you have any fun ideas for how to us amnesia in a game?

Cross posted on my LJ

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