Paradiso starts tonight!

paradisoA catastrophic apocalypse swept away The World That Was, leaving only those that sheltered in the eight domed cities. As centuries passed, the other domes were forgotten, only rediscovered 30 years ago as the domes’ residents started exploring the world outside their sanctuaries. Now, the construction of an amazing railway has brought the domes closer to each other than ever before, and rumours of ‘paradise’ seem almost within grasp. Will you join those meeting on the railway, as they decide the fate of the world?

Paradiso is the society game for Michaelmas 2014/Hillary 2015, and its wiki can be found at paradiso.chaosdeathfish.com. To make a character, come along to the first session at 7 PM tonight in the Oscar Wilde Room, Magdalene College, and the GMs will be happy to help you. If you can’t make this meeting, don’t worry – email the GM team at gm@paradiso.chaosdeathfish.com and they’ll guide you through making a character.

That is not dead which can eternal lie…

Cthulhu-1000x540With the new term, the Nightflyer is coming back into action! This week I’ll be putting up articles on new books in the archive, discussions on roleplaying, and a few gems from the old print Nightflyer, but for now I thought I’d welcome our new freshers and ask the readership what you’d like to read about on this blog:

  • Thoughts on roleplaying theory?
  • Stories of people’s experiences in games and at LARP events?
  • In-character fiction?
  • News about new RPGs for sale or being kickstartered?

Let me know in the comments!

-James

Tabletops for Week 8

Today is the last tabletops session of the term, and my last as TABLO! Come along to the Harris Seminar Room at 2PM today to play:
New World of Darkness, run by me:
It’s graduation day at the Stevenson School for Gifted Children. You’ve gone up on stage to get your diplomas, local celebrities have made speeches, parents have told you how proud they are, all that kind of thing. Now the school’s grounds are full of marquee tents, loud music, food and celebration, but you can’t shake the feeling that there’s something wrong with the school today…
Star Wars: Edge of Empire, run by Owen:
The Bothan Connection:  Jovel Nial is a thief and murderer!  Join a posse that has banded together to track down the elusive Bothan slicer on her homeworld of Bothawui, whether for revenge, a snazzy ship or the sizeable bounty that’s been put on her head.
Hope to see a lot of people there!

- James

Tabletops for Week 7

Come along to the Harris Seminar Room for 2PM today to play:
New World of Darkness, run by Ellie:
‘Congratulations! You are a winner of our 8th annual raffle competition to spend a week in a five star hotel courtesy of Vali enterprises. Please join us at the Angrobad Luxury Hotel on the 20th of June in Mellomkollen national park, just north of Oslo. We are very much looking forward to seeing you there!’
Torchbearer, run by James:
It’s a hard life, adventuring. You were just resting up in the remote village of Skogenby after another badly-paying job when someone ran into the tavern calling that Jora, the village elder’s youngest daughter, has disappeared exploring somewhere even you would worry about entering. As eyes turn to you, some imploring and some looking pointedly at the bill, you know it’s time to pick up tools and go dungeoneering.
Star Wars: Edge of Empire, run by Owen
Down and Out on Ord Mantell: You’re being chased through a junkyard by a giant, ravenous Rancor beast who is apparently rather hungry. Good luck!

Tabletops for Week 6

Come along to the Harris Seminar Room in Oriel College for 2 PM to play:
 
New World of Darkness run by James:
You’ve never been out in the city at the stroke of midnight before. To be honest, you didn’t mean to be now. But you couldn’t find your keys, got lost on your way home, or ran out of gas, and now you’re about to see another side to the city.
 
Star Wars: Edge of Empire run by Owen:
A Waltz in the Clouds – join a ragtag team of scoundrels in a daring heist on Cloud City, Bespin.
 
Call of Cthulhu ran by Ellie – Brief to follow.
 
Hope to see lots of people there!

 

Guest Post: Play Like A Protagonist

Written by Alasdair Sinclair

Like most people engaged in our hobby, I move from playing games to running games and back again, a distinction increasingly blurred by the so-called “Indie” games that largely emerged from the Forge discussion forums beginning around 10 years ago. The general assumption that most people make is that the GM is the player at the table putting in the most effort both before the game in the form of preparation and during the game – any given player may be sitting idle for a while as the spotlight moves away from them, but the GM must be constantly alert.

This assumed work rate is reflected in the very structure of most RPG game books, where there is a lengthy shared discussion of the game world and rules before a special GM-only section that lays out all the additional information required for running as opposed to playing. Where “player handbooks” are available, they’re almost always a subset of what the GM is expected to know. In fact, most of my really great experiences both as player and as GM have been player driven, while the worst experiences have usually come from games where players are distracted, bored, or otherwise not contributing energy.

The best players that I know all have a few key habits in common, little tactics that make them a joy to share a table with. These include making quips and laughing at jokes, adopting the speech patterns and body language of their characters, knowing when to share spotlight time and when to revel in it, as well as being generally interested in and friendly towards the others at the table. Probably the most important trait that they all share, however, is regarding themselves as protagonists.

A protagonist is a character who drives the action in the story. There are a few great stories with reactive or passive characters at their centre, but they are extremely difficult to pull off at the gaming table. Most great stories are about characters striving for something, whether that is righting an injustice, or stealing a gem. These characters rarely sit still and wait for the story to come to them – fortune favours the bold.

A lot of players are fearful of somehow breaking a GM’s story, or going off plot, but any GM worth their salt will be delighted with players taking the initiative. The best thing you can do is take the story and run with it, and if that’s not in the direction the GM originally planned, they’ll soon figure out a new destination. The worst thing you can do is wait for the story to happen to your character, because even if that leaves the GM’s perfect plot intact, if a tidy pre-written story is what you want then why not just watch a movie?

Different game systems encourage players to be proactive in different ways, and it must be admitted that not all games do this particularly well. In EPOCH, the players are put squarely in charge of their own destiny because they choose how each encounter affects them. The system encourages players to flesh out their characters’ back-stories through flashbacks, and ultimately each character has the chance to become either a Hero or a Zero, and define who they are as people. The horror may not always be defeated, but EPOCH creates space for victory or defeat to be on the characters’ terms. While EPOCH has a specific mechanic for flashbacks, there’s nothing preventing you from using that technique in any game to explain where your character comes from and why they’re about to do the crazy thing that they’re about to do.

In the Dresden Files RPG, and in FATE generally, characters are defined by a High Concept Aspect and a Trouble Aspect. In practical terms, these are the character’s good intentions, the motivation for them getting engaged and involved in the action. A good Trouble Aspect is worth its weight in dramatic gold, and good players are always looking for opportunities to get themselves into the best kinds of trouble. If you’re not playing FATE, you may not get the FATE points from them, but you can still make a note for yourself – what drives my character forward and why are they always getting into scrapes?

Many generic systems, such as Unisystem (e.g. Eden Studios’ Buffy system) and D6 (West End Games’ iteration of the Star Wars RPG) have some kind of point-spend ability that allows player characters to add dice to difficult rolls. Players who seize the story rarely end a session with all their bonus dice intact. Don’t hoard and conserve your daily powers in D&D 4e or Willpower in World of Darkness, use them to get the story you want about a character trying to achieve something with their life.

No matter what system you’re using, you can give yourself a head start by thinking about who your character is when not adventuring, and by writing a big Old Adventure hook, known as a “Kicker” in Forge parlance, for your character. Robin Laws has my favourite expression of an interesting character in the player section of Fear Itself, where he asks players to imagine their character at a loose end. If that character is doing something interesting, that you would want to watch a film about, then it’s an interesting and dynamic character. If not, you may want to think again. A kicker is just what it sounds like – your character being kicked into action. It may seem a bit hokey now but the basic revenge story of Orcs just having eaten your parents is a perfect basic template that spurs your character into action, and makes sure they won’t be sitting around whittling until the Orc menace is finished for once and all.

However you do it, remember, you only roleplay each game once. Make it memorable.