Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Inspiration: Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory

I just finished reading Daryl Gregory's first novel, Pandemonium. Pandemonium is a story set in a world much like our own, but for the presence of body-hopping demons that embody archetypes of the collective unconscious and human imagination. The demons usually have fairly restrictive goals, and they possess people (usually people who fit a particular profile) in order to fulfill those goals. For example, one of the demons is known as The Truth. It usually possesses a man who meets certain physical criteria, dresses in a trenchcoat and fedora and guns down liars with twin .45s. The Little Angel possesses young girls with long hair in ringlets (thing Shirley Temple), and brings death to those who are dying and in pain. Not all the demons are necessarily killers, and some of them are able to transcend their narrow goals and become essentially human-like in their personality.

It struck me that these would, potentially, make pretty cool PCs in a roleplaying game. The demons aren't too far off from the avatars of Unknown Armies in the sense that pretty much any avatar could be a demon. On the other hand, they function somewhat differently. I've been tossing around some ideas on how the demons could be modelled in an RPG. The setting calls for something rules-lite and focused on things other than combat. I think there's some potential in using a FATE-like system, representing the demons with a set of floating Aspects.

The book is really good.It has good pacing, interesting characters, and sets up a compelling world and cosmology. If you enjoy Unknown Armies (or modern dark fantasy in general), you should definitely read it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Netbook at the gaming table

Recently, I've acquired a netbook. In particular, I got an HP Mini (I got one with a solid state drive, but the one linked looks like a really good deal). I love it. It is small and light enough (about 2 lbs.) that I can toss it into my bag with my gaming books and not notice the weight. The keyboard on this thing doesn't have tiny keys. The screen is small, yes, but at 10" it isn't too tiny, and the processor has more than enough power for running anything I'm likely to do on it. It is a great little machine. At less than $400, it was a great buy.

It is definitely small enough to use at the gaming table without it getting in the way. It doesn't even have the 'wall' effect that a larger notebook PC would have.

The question? What can I use it for?

So far, as a player, I've been keeping my character sheets on it. I've bookmarked some Wikipedia (and similar) pages of interest to my characters (things that they are more knowledgeable about than I). I've bookmarked important pages on d20srd.org.

As a GM, I've also been using it to collect pictures and such - visuals to show the players.

Any other ideas?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Awesome resource for historical games

Do you ever run games set in the last 100 years or so? WWI, WWII, the 1980s... pulp games set in the 1930s?

If so, check out Google News Timeline. You'll thank me.

I've been waiting for something like this for some time....

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Free Online Game Design Class

Interested in learning more about game design? Head over to Game Design Concepts, where Ian Schreiber (who teaches college-level game design) will be offering a free on-line course in non-digital game design.

The class will run from late June through early September. There are some costs associated with it if you want to get the full experience - namely a textbook (about $25) and some material costs for creating your own fully-realized game.

This looks cool. I will definitely be following it along at the very least.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Political Considerations...

Yesterday, I voted in my local elections. None of the races that I really cared about turned out the way I wanted it to, unfortunately.

Last night, I started thinking about the new D&D (3.5) game I've been playing in... the game is currently set in a mid-sized town in a human-dominated mageocratic empire. The three main political powers in the town are the Magistrate (representative of the mageocracy who serves in a judicial capacity), the Mayor (the local, secular ruler and leader of the town guard... technically ranked below the Magistrate), and the Priest (the empire is religious - the Emporer claims divine descent - and the church serves as a check on the mages).

My PC is a monk. The GM and I set up monks as a martial tradition within the Church, and my PC is specifically part of the inquisitorial arm of the church (with a high wisdom and ranks in Sense Motive, he's pretty good at that sort of thing). The GM set the local temple up with a young priest as well, but he and I are more or less equally ranked in the church. This set me up as, essentially, one of the political powers of the town.

By the end of the second game, I'd arrested the Magistrate for blasphemy (and nearly causing the town's destruction). His apprentice (another PC) became acting Magistrate.

In the third game, we met the Crown Prince of the Empire (who was travelling through town on his way back to the capital city).

It is shaping up to be an intensely political game, with a likely focus on local politics, which is really interesting. I've played PCs who eventually gained political power, but I don't know that I've ever played one who had it starting at low level... have you?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Today's Lesson:

Believe nothing.

As a GM, do you try to trick your players? If so, do you prefer to set up circumstances to deliberately mislead player or to you use NPCs who try to trick the PCs?

While I have done the former, I'm definitely in the latter camp. I prefer to be honest and up front with my players (which doesn't mean I'll go easy on them). PCs, however, are fair game.