Information on RPG Games, Board Games, Computer Games, and all other Game-ish things

Brief Review of We Didn’t Playtest This at All


Last week, we started our regular Friday gaming night session out by playing a few games of We Didn’t Playtest This at All while we waited for everyone to arrive. It is a neat little card game, rather humorous and a very quick play. I think we played four or five games in about 30 minutes. The rules are super simple; basically take once card, play one card.
I think my favorite thing about the game is how cut-throat the game itself is to the players. Sure there is some player to player smack down that goes on, but mostly the game itself is rather ruthless. The only way to win is to be the last player not to lose, and the cards make losing a very easy thing to do.
One of our games even included a player being saved by a dragon showing up in game, just in time. How often can a person be happy to see a dragon, or have it save your butt rather than eating it?
If you ever get a chance to play We Didn’t Playtest This at All I would really recommend you take 10 minutes out of your life and do it. I promise you won’t regret it!

Crappy Birthday – The Game

Crappy Birthday


Here is a new game we played last week at our weekly gaming session, Crappy Birthday. It is a card game which is similar in play style to Apples to Apples. As the name of the game implies you are trying to give someone the worst present you can for their birthday.

Each player has a hand of 5 cards, each of which is a different gift. A person is selected to have the first “birthday” and everyone else at the table pulls the worst gift they can from their hand and places it face down in front of the “birthday” person. Then the birthday person flips over the cards and determines which of the presents given they think is the worst. So, when giving gifts you really need to consider the person you are giving them to and what their tastes are like.  Who knows they may actually think a family room wallpapered in old newspaper (yes that really is from the game) is a neat historical thing. Once a crappy gift has been selected the gift-giver gets the card back to place in front of them on the table as a token of having won that round. Then the “birthday” person rotates to the next in the table and the gift giving starts all over again. [See how it has that Apples to Apples feel]. The first person to have given three crappy gifts wins the game.

We did find the game to be fun and a fairly quick play with very simple rules. The only challenge we had was that there are a number of gifts that our gaming group does not consider crappy at all, such as a tank in your front yard for decoration. This meant you could end up with a hand of cards that you simply couldn’t win with due to their being too cool to be crappy.

I would like to see them come up with some expansion card sets, I am sure they could do at least one or two to really round out the cards. But even without that it is a fun little game and being low cost it is worth it. Additionally, this would work as a good cross-over game, you just have to remember who you are playing with.

Modern day wands

What is a wand?


According to my recently purchased copy of The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols by Adele Nozedar, a wand is a symbol of power.  Adele writes “The wand is an essential tool for anyone who aspires to a position of authority and power: witches and wizards, druids, bishops, and the monarchy”.   I had always considered wands to be associated with wizards and fairies and the like, but had never carried that notion over to bishops and monarchs before.  What an interesting idea.  It made me wonder what modern day items would be considered wands based on this definition of a wand as a tool representing authority and power.

Modern day wands

Gavel by creationc

The first that comes to my mind is the gavel.  I can’t help but see this as a wand based on Nozedar’s description.  Considering the authority we consider a judge to have, and certainly the authority considering they can hold your life in their hands.  Though I must admit while I can easily tie a judge’s gavel to power and authority, I have trouble imagining it providing any sort of magical ability to the wielder in the way I typically visual a wand doing.

The next that comes to mind is a school teacher’s marker.  This, of course, has changed over time and depends on the circumstances.  In many cases today it is the dry erase marker or the greatly feared red pen.   While teachers are not the figures of authority to adults that they are to school children, there is still power in the red pen that marks your mistakes and your grades on each paper you turn in.  A small wand by most standards but perhaps a stronger level of magic due to that.

I am sure there are other great modern day wands out there, what can you think of?

Bring it to you RPG


So neat idea but how does it apply to your RPG game.  I can see this being a great tie in either in a ShadowRun or Champions game.  Any of your major NPC’s could be a closet magic user, implementing their wand as a focus item without letting on to the world their true nature or abilities.  It could be used as a surprise for the characters who may not see it coming.  Back in the day I played in a Champion campaign where many of the major politicians were magic users, they just used them to gain and keep their positions and only as much as needed so that it was not well known to the general population.  Just goes to show that magic users can wield their power in a low-key, yet highly effective way.

What creative ways have you used wands or focus items in your games?

Plots from the Past

There are so many places to gain inspiration for the plots that a DM throws their character group into. For me I find much of my inspiration comes from the books have read as well as the movies I have watched, that combined with my own vivid and active imagination. Since I run primarily Fantasy Genre games there is not much from the modern day that I draw from. However, my husband has introduced me a show that, while a number of years old, would provide plenty of plot ideas for the modern or near future genre DM.

Mission Impossible


Our current old TV show on Netflix is Mission Impossible; which aired from 1966 to 1973. For me this puts the show airing before I was even born, but it is still awesome enough to deserve watching. I would dare say that we have all heard of it, especially the “this message will self destruct” quote, but many of us have not actually watched it; at least I hadn’t until this last month. The show definitely shows it age in the dress and manners of the actors, but the plot is top rate, as is the scripting. It is an excellent training for anyone looking to run a Shadowrun game or better yet a D20 modern game. The situations are great, and far better than what I could think up. And even if your players were complete Mission Impossible buffs the randomness of the dice rolls and character skill sets would prevent them from following the script of the show exactly. Heck, even in the show it often doesn’t go as planned and they have to fake it and fly off the cuff to get through and out again.

In the last episode we watched, the group of agents had to infiltrate a foreign group looking to do something in the way of an attack on America.  To infiltrate the group to learn what it they were doing and stop it, they captured another group of people who were supposed to go to the training session and then pretended to be them.  In the end this had he agents pretending to be foreigners in a training environment learning how to be American’s.  I won’t give away the whole plot, but just this group of American agents pretending to be foreign agents who were to be pretending to be American’s was rather enjoyable to watch.

So if you are looking for new and fresh plot ideas for your games, then I suggest you take a look at some older TV shows and movies to see what they have to offer.  Not everyone sitting at your table will be in the know of the show’s plot and you can add fuel to your creative GM imagination bringing your games to life.

LARPs in Pacific Northwest

LARPs in Pacific Northwest

Before you head off into the land of LARP you need to understand the two basic types of LARP that exist. The first is Boffer LARP and the second is Non-Boffer LARP. Let’s look at these a little bit closer.

Boffer LARP

Most Boffer LARP’s I have encountered are based in a medieval time frame; usually a fantasy setting that includes some form of magic. There are a group of people that run the game, they decide the plot and play out all of the NPC’s from the wench at the inn to the dragon in the cave. Then there is a group of players, they dress up as their character and attempt to navigate the various plots that are thrown their way. Some events are single day and others are weekend long where you are your character both day and night. Typically there is an over-bridging story arc that carries from one event to another, while smaller stories come and go along the way.

Links to Boffer LARP’s in the PNW

Alliance Oregon
Alliance Seattle
Amtgard
SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) – Kingdom of An Tir
Legacies

Non-Boffer LARP’s

Non-Boffer LARP’s come in a greater variety of setting then do their counterparts; everything from -cavemen to vampires are covered this way. Resolution of skills is usually done via Rochambeau or through other means that do not involve actually swinging a weapon or rolling dice. Usually these events are single day events, and some carry a story arc that covers multiple events. This variety of LARP lends itself well to a convention setting as no weapons are required making it more hotel friendly. Costuming is strongly encouraged to help set the mood and make staying in character easier.

Links to Non-Boffer LARP’s in the PNW

Shag LARP

 

Floor Plans for Modern RPGs

All in the setting

One of the things that really helps with the atmosphere of any RPG is having the setting down right.  In the fantasy based games I run that is fairly easy to accomplish as they are not required to stick to any hard laws of anything, including physics.  Magic, deities, or mystical creatures can go a long way towards explaining away any difference between your game world and the standard reality that we all live in.

Floor Plans

Office Building

However, when you are running a modern or near future game the requirement for the setting to more closely match the reality we live in increases greatly.  One way to add that finishing touch is to have detailed maps of the major buildings that are part of your plot.  With all the detail that goes into a modern building this can be a major time sink for the DM.  To help solve this problem, here are a number of links to various building types whose floor plans are out on the internet.  If you don’t find what you are looking for here, just do a web search for building floor plans.

Floor Plan Links

Science Research Building (Stanford’s Lorry I. Lokey Stem Cell Research Building)

Academic Building (The Centennial Campaign for UW-La Crosse)

Observatory (Griffith Observatory)

Office Building (Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building

Auquarium/Oceanarium (Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium)

Crossover Board Games

We have found that while we really love our truly gamer geared board games, we are always on the lookout for those games that have great general appeal. In our house this are referred to as cross-over games and they can bring both gamers and non-gamers to the table for some good fun.


One of the easiest types of games to introduce to non-gamers are card games. Here I would recommend introducing the crowd you are playing with to Fluxx 4.0. This great little game has simple rules, that change over time but don’t generally lose a person. Since Flux starts with the simple rule of draw a card, play a card it is easy to teach. If you haven’t played before, it is really fairly simple, and even my kids can mange it quite nicely.


Another easy to play game, that has already hit mainstream in many areas is Apples to Apples Party Box – The Game of Hilarious Comparisons. This game is a card based game that has players placing cards into play based on their belonging to a particular category. The challenge comes from that each player takes turns determining the winning card of each hand. So to win a hand you must be able to judge how the other person will judge the cards. Not everyone has the same definition of gross after all.


If you are looking for a board game to pass away some time at the latest family gathering, I would suggest Gift TRAP Game. There is no gamer knowledge required for this game, of giving and taking of gifts. Each hand of play there are a number of cards representing various gifts that can be given. Each player marks gifts with hidden tokens to represent the level of like or dislike they have towards the gift. As an example I would love to get a trip to Disney World, but would hate to get a skydiving lesson. Then each player gives another a gift, no doubling up, and then points are scored. To win you have to manage to receive enough gifts that you like, as well as give enough gifts that other people like. It is a great way to learn a little more about the family or friends that you are playing with.

Boffering goes mainstream

Boffer combat

My first encounter with boffer combat was through my college boyfriend playing a home grown LARP (Live Action Role-Playing) Game.  We wore period style clothing, and used boffer weapons for combat.  Our group played each Sunday at Mt. Tabor Park in Portland, OR.  It is actually where I got to know my first husband, who still plays boffer LARPs just different games.  In fact my kids have their own boffer weapons as well.

However it seems that all of the strange looks we got at the park were for nothing as boffer has now gone mainstream.  NERF has introduced a line of boffer weapons called N-Force.  I checked them out online and then in the store the other day and took a good look at the Nerf N-Force Battlemaster Mace Axe.  While the construction is safe enough for most kids to play with, I would still have to say that they are not as well padded as the boffer weapons typically used in a LARP setting.  Add this together with the lack of set safety rules that are part of a boffer LARP, and you could end up with a bit of modern-day boffer bruises.


Despite my concerns over the potential safety risks with these weapons, I think that they would be awesome if combined with a bit of boffer combat rules, such as no head or groin shots.  It is nice to see that another element of our gamer world has hit the mainstream.  It just goes to prove that the geeks shall inherit the earth.

Ultimate Character Sheet Site

One of the things about role-playing is that it tends to be something you do for years and years. It also seems to be that most gamers move through a myriad of gaming systems depending on the tastes of their gaming group over the years. Of course this means an ever growing collection of gaming books and character sheets to keep track of. Recently I picked up an old copy of the 1983 TSR Red Box and needed to find a character sheet for my boy to make his first character with.

Thanks to modern advancements we no longer need to do them all by hand or make our way to a copy machine, we can just go online and find them. And in my searches I stumbled across what is to my knowledge the ultimate character sheet site on the internet, RPG Sheets. They have everything from 2300 AD to Wraith: The Oblivion. I suggest you check them out next time you need a character sheet for pretty much any game.

Remote Gaming

The Problem:

So, you have a friend that wants to game but can’t make it to the table, what should you do? Perhaps they live somewhere else, or maybe they are on vacation, or perhaps they are in a care center after having a tracheotomy? Well, no worries so long as they can talk, type, or write flash cards they can join you at the table!

The Solution:

Our friend was recently in the hospital and then care facility for a month, once he was off the strong pain meds and realized he was missing game we had to do something. So, we hooked him up with a net book complete with web cam from one of the group, and then setup my trust laptop also with web cam to take care of things on our end. We used Skype since I already have an account and is conveniently free for this sort of thing. Of course another program if you have one handy would work as well.

In Action:

We used this for two games and it worked pretty good. While we had some issues with the volume these were mostly due to an air compressor that was running on our friends end and nothing else as the problem was not as evident in session 2 when the compressor was not being used. Also I would recommend that if you have a USB web cam that you place the camera on the game side up higher if it is an option so it isn’t on one person all night, we didn’t think of this until after the game.

Alternatives:

As an alternative, I have some friends who have used Second Life for RPGs with distant people. To be honest, I didn’t really get Second Life the first time I checked it out. I can understand the appeal, I just find it doesn’t hold my interest. Perhaps I am much to busy in my first life to want to manage a second one too.