One of the gaming blogs in my RSS feed is Playing D&D With Porn Stars. Since the blog is mostly D&D-centric and I’ve only played D&D something like 4 times this century, I usually skim the first paragraph and move on. I keep the blog on my feed, though, because the author, Zak S, occasionally posts good general gaming stuff (also, boobies). Anyway, a recent post was about an online tool called inklewriter, which basically lets you write your own Endless Quest books. Zak had started using the site to make a tool to help new players make their D&D character and announced a contest where people make a gaming tool using the site.
Since I’m a sucker for contest that involve doing random gaming stuff, I decided to submit something. My first thought was to do a QAGS character creator or Hobomancer lifepath generator or something, but since the rules specify that entries are more likely to win if they’re useful for a game the judge plays, I decided to go with something more generic. Also, I can use the contest entry as practice for possible QAGS-related stuff later on. Eventually I settled on a Faction Generator, which is being constructed here. I don’t have much of it completed yet, but I’ll be working on it over the next week or so. From what I can tell, the link updates as I make changes, so check back for updates.
Here’s the basic premise:
I tend to run very sandbox games, so I rarely plan adventures. Instead, I come up with a bunch of NPCs and factions, figure out what they're up to, and then let the players stumble across their schemes, hopefully in ways that encourage the players to either join them or oppose them. Sometimes the faction you need isn’t obvious, but you have some general ideas about what purpose the faction will serve in the story or how they operate. The Faction Chooser tool lets you answer a bunch of questions based on what you already know and eventually narrow your choices down to a specific type of faction.
For illustrative purposes, I’m going to offer at least one example for each faction type. Rather than mix and matching or trying to find a ficton everyone knows that has all of the different faction types, I’m going to pull a fantasy city out of my butt as I go along. It’s called The Red City and it’s located on the frontiers of a vast and decadent empire, far away from the center of power. The Red City is a major trade hub at the junction of a large river that flows from the capital to the sea and a trade route that leads through the Badlands of Kor to the Eastern Kingdoms. The ruler of the Red City in name is Prince Pharoshad (“Prince Ferrethead” to detractors), the Emperor’s son by one of his less favored wives. Since Pharoshad prefers enjoying the privileges of imperial birth to rulership, most of the day-to-day business of government in the Red City is carried out by his minions.
I usually try to avoid writing entries that are pure advertising, but this week I’m going to make an exception because (1) the thing I’m advertising is absolutely free of charge; (2) the thing I’m advertising is potentially useful even to people who don’t play QAGS; and (3) it’s been a long week and I can’t think of anything better to write about. Besides, I think the thing I’m going to tell you about is a really cool idea, and I can’t wait to add to it.
I’ve talked about the Who Would Play Him/Her In The Movie? stat previously, and mentioned that I use it for basically every game I play these days. I might not have mentioned is that I often used photos of the WWPHITM? actors and actresses (especially the more obscure ones) on character sheets for pre-generated characters. When the players make their own characters, the WWPHITM? decision-making stage often involves players looking up IMDB or Wikipedia entries or searching around for a picture of a particular performer. In short, visuals can make WWPHITM? even better, especially for people who don’t know a lot of movie star names.
A couple weeks ago, a long-time QAGS player asked me whether we had some kind of web page for posting cool WWPHITM? pics. We didn’t, but I thought it was a great idea. In fact, I was a little bugged we hadn’t already thought of it. Long story short, there’s now a Hex Games Pinterest page. I officially dubbed it “The Who Would Play Him/Her Inspiration Machine,” mainly because I needed a title for this post, and “We’re On Pinterest” didn’t sound like the kind of thing a lot of people would go out of their way to read, which means they’d miss out on this amazing new part of the Hex social media empire.*
Right now the site has boards for Hex product art, WWPHITM? boards for the major Hex games/lines (and one or two minor ones), and some general character archetypes, like action heroes, most with about 10-20 pins. Don’t worry, though, we’ll be adding more boards and pics in the future. I’ve also got a few ideas for handy non-WWPHITM? boards that I’ll be adding as soon as I get time to work out the best way to organize them.
In the meantime, check the page out, and let us know if you have ideas for categories or specific actors/pics for the existing categories. You folks with Pinterest accounts can follow our whole page or whichever individual boards you like. If you stumble across any relevant pins, please send them our way. Next week I’ll post something slightly less shameless.
*Hey, at least I didn’t full click-bait and call this post “A QAGS fan suggested a site for posting WWPHITM? You’ll ABSOLUTELY LOSE YOUR FUCKING MIND when you see what happens next!! EBOLA! #Gamergate!”
Role-playing is like Vegas: What happens at the game table should stay at the game table. That’s not because gaming stories are scandalous, it’s because it’s very rare for gaming stories to be the slightest bit interesting to anyone outside of the group of people who played the game. A lot of of them boil down to “I killed [thing] by doing [usually something purely based on rules lawyering] and got [treasure].” Of course, they’re rarely that succinct. Some gaming stories are interesting, but they require context, and gamers are notoriously bad at sorting important from unimportant and presenting it in an entertaining way. Some of you might object to this assertion, but that’s because gamers are also notoriously bad at reading subtle clues that the listener is hoping for a bear attack. Bear attacks offer two possible escapes for the hapless war story victim: either the attack will temporarily disrupt the story and he can “lose” the storyteller in the confusion or the bear will eat one of them. After a certain point, the listener doesn’t really care who gets eaten in this scenario.
Last week, I briefly mentioned how the “hack until it’s out of hit points” standard for combat in RPGs can suck every bit of the excitement and drama out of an action-oriented adventure, and that I’ve been working on ways to get around that in the new version of M-Force. This week I’m going to talk about a few ideas I’ve been playing around with to do that.
In fiction, the bad guy (especially if it’s a monster) often bites it after the heroes pull off some elaborate scheme that requires teamwork, unbelievable timing, and lots of luck. You can already attempt that sort of thing in an RPG, but most of the time it’s about the same mechanically as hitting the bad guy with a pointy stick. So step one of livening up RPG combat is to create a mechanic that rewards players for coming up with cool strategies to kill the monster.
Last week, I posted an excerpt for the upcoming second edition of M-Force and mentioned that we’d been working on it for quite a while. We planned to release it much earlier this year, but it’s taken a lot longer to write than we expected. Some of the delays are the usual “real life getting in the way” issues we constantly face as a small, part-time company, but M-Force has its own special baggage. While the first edition of M-Force was a good game (especially for the first complete game setting by a tiny company), it’s not really the game we wanted it to be for a number of reasons: inexperience, too little playtesting, too many cooks, an attempt to make a game that was all things to all people, and probably other things I’m forgetting. Because of that, we’re working really hard to make sure the game in the book is the same game we’ve got in our heads. We had some similar (though thankfully shorter) delays for much the same reason with Hobomancer, and as far as I’m concerned it’s our best game yet, so hopefully M-Force will be worth the wait.