Sunday, February 24, 2013

Great Campaigns

My son asked me yesterday, “How do you know that a campaign will be good when you’re writing it?” I answered, “Just concentrate on writing one or two really good adventures. The players will tell you where they want to go.” While I still consider that good advice, I missed something really important. You need to get the players invested in their characters. That’s what this blog is really about - Helping GMs (especially Legend Quest GMs) get their players invested into the characters and the campaign. Once they’ve bought in to the campaign, they’ll keep coming back. So how do you do that? Well, read this blog’s archive. There are tons of ideas, and most of them end with “That’s how you’ll keep your players coming back”. In the best summary I can think of: Make the campaign work so that the characters they developed become more interesting to them. I strongly believe that the gold farmers out there could not care less what happens as long as they are tallying up experience and gold. They’ll go from one game to another without any true loyalty, because they’ve never really bought in. They may stay with a game, no matter how bad it is, because they have the most points there, but that isn’t really what you want. How to make it interesting? Some of the better ideas: - Permanent enemies - An enemy who gets away and then returns to fight again another day is someone the players feel they must conquer. They will want to return to defeat him or them. - Interesting items - A +1 sword is boring. Oh, they want it at the low levels, but they don’t really care about it. But, a magical sword that gives +10% to attack, +10% to parry, and +15% spell resistance, and was the sword of the famed bounty hunter and assassin from two generations ago, and the blade is carved from obsidian (magically hardened to steel) and the handle from mastodon ivory. That’s cool! Also - hate to admit it, but items with charges or potions that are one-time use - great for game balance, but you need to have a couple of these permanent magic items in there too. - Contacts - Players like knowing who their characters hang out with. Role-playing the sale of loot at the weapons shop and making the owner someone they want to know, or role-playing how they pump the bartender for information, and then having that same bartender greet them warmly when they return from the mission - This really helps them to see their characters as more than a series of numbers on a page. Do you see the pattern? Permanence, continuity, these are the things that make a campaign memorable. These are things that any GM can do. Being able to run a fun and fast paced game may take some experience and the right personality, but anyone can add consistency into their game. If you want some more ideas on permanent enemies, check out Character Foundry. It runs with the idea.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dead Characters

Every once in a while, the player characters have to die. I know, it’s a bummer, but if no one dies, then there really isn’t much threat. No suspense! So what do you do as a GM when a character dies? You can’t make the person start again at minimum level. Then they’d never survive the threats that the survivors are encountering. Legend Quest runs on a skill base system. Characters are built with character points, so they are completely customizable. Therefore you almost have to cut the number of character points you give them to create a replacement character. Characters that are built over a long period of time tend to use character points in a broader manner. Maybe they were going to sail across the ocean, so some of the PCs learned Sailing and Swimming. Maybe they learned a couple of extra languages and a couple of extra Localities too. Letting the replacement create strictly from scratch, he’s going to be pretty streamlined, without that broad use of skills. Generically, I dock the new guy about 15-20% of the character points. If we were playing a class based game, I would probably dock the new guy a class level or maybe two, especially two if they were higher level (basically 15-20% here too). But there is an important difference: The player has to make up two or three characters, and let the survivors choose. No, you don’t get to make up three warriors and just sub sword for axe for spear. You have to make up two or three completely different characters. Why? Because a party of adventurers is not going to take the first guy who walks in the door. OK, they might, but still - You have to give them an option. Maybe they’re desperate for some healing magic. Maybe they’re desperate for a front line damage sponge. This is actually of benefit to the party, because they get to better craft their party. Maybe they had a good balance and are looking for the new guy to replace the old. That doesn’t mean they have to be twins. In fact the GM should prevent that from happening. “This is my little brother” is not a valid explanation! Last bit on this - The GM should simply assign some equipment. Whatever would make sense for that experience of character, but make it all the dull stuff. Nothing fancy - That will encourage them to start grabbing some of the loot right away. Be careful just giving the old guy’s stuff to the new guy. Like the little brother idea, this makes for bad role-play. After all - Would a group give a really important magic item to a guy they just met? But when it comes to who gets what of the old guy’s stuff - The GM has to step in and make the decisions. Don’t let the players do it, even if it seems heavy handed and a breech of the role-play. If Player A dies and Player B decides to take his armor, Player A’s new character is going to resent Player B forever! If the GM makes the decision, then the player has to be angry with the GM, but can still work as a team member with the rest of the party. It’s the only way it will work. Otherwise, just sell all the old character’s stuff and split the money. That way the new guy can’t resent seeing “his” gear on other people.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Carousing

We often tout that Legend Quest is a full role-playing game and not just a combat system. So there have been some questions about how to handle certain situations. So we decided to go through some examples to try to help out. #1 - The party is in a nicer restaurant, and the menu doesn’t make sense to most of them. (Remember that few restaurants in that era had written menus. Instead there would probably be a chalkboard or more commonly the waiter would simply recite it.) So what to do? First, the characters would need to succeed at a Cooking task in order to understand the menu. If the dishes were regional, they might get to use Locality skills to enhance that chance. Assuming that one of the characters understood a dish and was able to ask an intelligent question about it, the chef might come out to answer. At that point, the character could compliment the chef. That would be Carousing. Dealing with the chef while they were both in a public setting and trying to make the chef like him (by complimenting him intelligently) is Carousing. #2 - The character is in the marketplace and haggling with a vendor. The character is beaten in the competitive Selling task, so he wants to try a different tactic. He tries to compliment the vendor in hopes of making a friend of him and lower the price. Again, this is Carousing - making friends in a public place. If he tried to make a public spectacle of the vendor in order to shame him into lowering the price - that would be Politics - trying to control the mood of a crowd. It might turn into Intimidation if he tried to scare the vendor into thinking that it would be bad for his image. Chances are, the vendor would be surrounded by friends, so everyone would resist the Politics because they trust their friend the vendor more than the PC. #3 - The character is in a bar. A nice looking person of the opposite sex sits down next to them. At first, the character uses Carousing to make a good first impression. As the night moves on, the two are in a booth talking quietly amongst themselves. Now it becomes Seduction. Even though they are technically are still in public, they aren’t. They are talking amongst themselves and no one else is involved. No one can hear them; they are effectively alone. This is different than being in the market, because while no one else there is listening, they are still in public. Hope this helps explain some of the subtleties of how the different skills work in different situations. For some of you, the concept that Cooking is used to understand a menu and not just for the actual cooking is probably insightful. Please send any questions in. We’re happy to share the answers!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Two Birds - One Blog

The two birds - common FRPG plot points of: secret societies and alchemy turning lead into gold I am not a big fan of the way secret societies are depicted. The Illuminati are huge and powerful, why? Too often because their foreign. The real group was pathetic. The Masons hid billions of dollars of treasure where even they couldn’t find it? Why not use that money to try and be the Illuminati. The Seven Sisters - now them I could sort of get behind, but I’ve spent my life in the corporate culture and I am probably biased. So what did I do for my world when I felt it needed this sort of shadowy super power? I created the “Gold Guild”. I was trying to justify why the ratio of copper to silver to gold was always 100:10:1. Shouldn’t a gold rush change that? Or a slow down in silver mining. Or a war using copper or bronze weaponry? So why is that ratio so solid throughout time? Or is it? I created the Gold Guild. Sort of like what most people think of DeBeers, the Gold Guild is a consortium of the largest gold producers in the world, where they control the world markets for gold through the supply chain. This means they have an enormous stockpile of gold, but they only let out a trickle in order to keep the value of it much higher than it would normally be. Why are they so powerful? Because they have been the wealthiest “families” in the world for more than 1,000 years. Oh, and they are sitting on a pile of gold that they could flood the markets with, thus destroying the world economy. Because some of my play testers will read this, I need to keep the details close to the vest on these guys, but they are able to control politics on two continents, at least for the last centuries. (Actually some historically significant events are attributed to these guys going back around 3,000 years, but they were only getting started back then.) Why can’t fantasy alchemists turn lead into gold? Well, I assume they can. Though I haven’t put stats around it yet, I have assumed for a while that a skilled alchemist could turn small amounts of base metals into small amounts of gold. The main issue being that he could probably make more money by making and selling healing potions than he would making gold, so why bother? But here’s where the Gold Guild comes in. They have agents placed throughout the world. If an alchemist starts “printing his own money”, the Gold Guild will send agents who will assassinate the alchemist and take all of his research away. Yes, they are a global secret society and have the money and power to monitor just about every town/city with a population >100,000 folks. Even if the alchemist is hiding in a little town, eventually they will find out. Those agents are actually supposed to be listening for new gold strikes, prospectors coming in with stories of new mines or new gold fields. The Gold Guild steps in before the gold rush starts by buying out the prospector (or causing him to have an accident). There is a materiality issue here. The Gold Guild wouldn’t step in if an alchemist was producing gold he needed for some experiment and was only churning out a pound a month. As long as he kept it really small, he would likely be unimportant to them. So what did I do here? I created an active global secret society that controls the world economy and profits from it. These guys can be fantastic enemies to any adventuring party, permanent enemies who keep melding back into the shadows and showing new, formerly unknown, segments of their organization. I justified the stagnation of the world markets in precious metals. Probably didn’t really, but there is a kernel of truth here which is most often enough for that willful suspension of disbelief. And I justified why the most important goal of the alchemists of Earth never seems to be an issue for FRPG alchemists. I love it when a plan comes together!