Friday, 24 April 2020

Pitch your campaign to your players (feat. my pitch for a Klondike OSR setting)

Somehow I expected to be blogging a lot more during quarantine. Anyway.

There are as many ways to play RPGs as there are people playing them, so it's worth making sure GM and players are on the same page before you start a whole campaign. No reason to assume that the game you want to run is the game your friends want to play.

The trick (assuming you're the GM) is to make sure your prospective players have an good idea of what your game is going to look like, and what the tone's going to be. Then you either convince your friends to try out your game, or go find a group which actually wants to play it. Nothing wrong with that! Just don't run a game you're not enthusiastic about for the benefit of your friends. That's how we ended up with Peter Jackson half-heartedly directing The Hobbit.

The Campaign Pitch Doc

My way of managing expectations is my Campaign Pitch Doc. It's a document which describes all the campaigns I'm interested in running. (I got the idea from a Matt Colville video.) I try to make each pitch interesting to read and short. My friends have a high tolerance for my bullshit by now, but nobody wants to do RPG homework. If nobody can be bothered reading your campaign pitches, there's no point in writing them.

Whenever I'm ready to start a new campaign, I either pick one from the list and send it to some friends who might be interested, or I send the whole thing to a group chat and let people choose what they want to play. It's worked well so far. (I think part of the trick is that I try to keep my campaigns short, done within a year. If everyone likes a game, we can do a sequel in the same setting.)

Each campaign pitch in the Doc follows a set structure, based on what I think's important in a game and what's relevant to prospective players. Some things worth noting are: what are some pop-culture reference points for the setting? Will we need any safety tools? And just why the hell would people want to play in it, anyway?

MIDNIGHT SUN: a Klondike dungeon crawl

Here's an example of how I lay out a pitch: Midnight Sun, a game of dungeon-running "canaries" during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Chilkoot Pass

Midnight Sun

There are strange things done in the midnight sun / By the men who moil for gold; / The Arctic trails have their secret tales / That would make your blood run cold...
—Robert W. Service, The Cremation of Sam McGee
It is 1898, and gold has been discovered in the Yukon. Thousands of prospectors are making their way northwards to make their fortunes. They don't know what they're in for. The terrible things which spill out from the World Below have left dozens of mines abandoned and boarded shut. But there's something about the thought of all that gold which plays on a man's mind. There are those desperate enough, mad enough, to venture deep underground in search of abandoned gold. The miners have a word for you: CANARIES. Get rich or die trying.
System: Hacked Knave
Influences: Jack London's stories, especially The Call of the Wild and To Build a Fire (and the short film); Dominion Creek; Songs of a Sourdough by Robert W. Service
Player buy-in: You get to play as Snow Cowboys! This is my attempt to put a dungeon crawl/underdark/Veins of the Earth campaign in a more modern setting.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

1d12 other forms potions can take

 New look, same great taste
  1. Drink. The classic. Easy to make, but they usually expire in a month or so.
  2. Tablet. Crunchy. Tastes bad and not as effective as a liquid potion, but they don't come in smashable glass bottles or expire.
  3. Bubblegum. Slow-release of the potion over twenty minutes or so. Don't pop the bubble.
  4. Aerosol spray/gas. Usually come in a glass tube (snap + inhale) or sometimes in bellows. Difficult to carry, but very useful. Can be piped through tubes, under doorways, etc.
  5. Syringe. Very effective, but the comedown is usually horrible.
  6. Powder. Can be snorted, dusted on the body, poured into an open wound. Cheap and easy to carry in an envelope. Unscrupulous alchemists might "cut" it with cheaper potions, with interesting effects.
  7. Unguent. Grease is the word. Soaks through the skin. Useful for smearing on door handles and so on. Slippery.
  8. Incense. Affects those who smell it. The stronger the smell, the stronger the effect. Useful for setting traps.
  9. Tattoo ink. Allows you to store a potion in your skin for as long as you need it. Impossible to break or remove (at least without removing the skin), but anything able to detect magic will notice it. Becomes a normal non-magical tattoo after one use.
  10. Basilisk. Delivers magic to the brain via the visual cortex. Looks like a tremendously complicated pattern or sigil. The potion takes effect the instant you see it. Defacing the pattern or wearing cut-glass goggles renders it useless.
  11. Organ. Ask an alchemist to open you up and pop a new potion-release organ inside. Like an insulin pump. 2-in-6 chance your body will reject it.
  12. Glass globe full of spiders. When the globe is broken, they try to clamber inside the nearest person's mouth to administer the potion.
I thought it'd be easier to think of these than it was, so they got weird fast.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

MALL RATS: unsorted ideas for a Maze Rats campaign set in an INFINITE DEAD MALL

You're dragging yourself away from Security, leaving a trail of blood dark on spotless linoleum tiles. Tinny music plays through hidden speakers as you reach behind you -- only to find you're out of arrows. Security comes closer, scales silently sliding against one another. You're exhausted. You don't know how long it's been since you slept; there's no day or night here. Security opens its mouth wide. Breath hot on your face. And then! A can of Pepsi sails through the air, catching it on the head! Snarling, Security whips around, hackles raised. "Over here, buzzkill!" The emos have come to save you!

This is clearly one of those ideas where the name came first and then everything else. It was 3 a.m. and I was looking at my copy of Ben Milton's excellent Maze Rats and for a second it looked like it said Mall Rats. Then I realised I had to make this and so I made a blog and here I am.

Against the Wicked City has commented on how fascinated old-school RPG writers are by the æsthetics of ruin. Dead malls, left abandoned after they stopped being profitable, seem like a prime example of modern-day ruins. There's something I find really eerie about these pictures of totally deserted shopping centres.

Basically, it's a game set in a dead mall that goes on forever. My thinking is that the project would combine a slight hack/reskin of Maze Rats with a much larger section of resources for procedural-generating an infinite, hostile, dead mall complex. Gardens of Ynn, but with Hot Topics instead of topiary.

Don't know where this one's from, let me know if you have a source

The Infinite Mall is:
  • Infinite. Obviously. The Mall is everything. There is no "outside". The Mall goes on forever. This is all there is. (There are places which you might briefly think are outside, but they're just huge rooms, still inside the Mall complex. Look closely, and you'll see the "sun" is just a bright light and the "wind" comes from hidden air vents.) Furthermore, it's unmappable. The Mall shifts and changes whenever you're not looking, rearranging itself. Different shops vanish and appear at different times.
  • Artificial. Nothing grows in the Mall. Everything is fake here. There's no sunlight, only buzzing fluorescent lights which sting to look at. There are no real flowers, only plastic imitations. Even the air is stale. Food is all processed: scavenged frozen tacos and slushies. Everything is artificial, tacky, stagnant.
  • Hostile. The Mall is inherently hostile to human existence. It's not sentient, as such, but it has a horrible cunning. Think of it as a very very clever virus. The Mall does not want humans to exist in it. (Perhaps it needed us once, but our usefulness to it is finished.) There's no day/night cycle. The lights hurt your vision. The tinny music slowly drives you crazy. The Mall hates you, and so it manifests Mall Security, to kill the infection like white blood cells. (The real monster was capitalism all along! Do you get the metaphor. Do you get th)
Update 31/01/20: The reddit thread for this post made the "Best of 2019 in r/osr" list! Mallsoft is the new gothic. Thanks, everyone!