Friday, April 16, 2021

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Deathtrap Games: A Year in Review

Mirdon the Mad reading the Black Book
of Queen Maeve. Created using Hero Forge
And used in accordance with their ELULA
It has been one year since I started Welcome to the Deathtrap. A year making new friends, trying new creative projects and joining in a hell of a lot games. I want to take a moment to reflect on W2tDT's first year. 

Gaming

Before I start with the content of the blog, let's talk about what inspired it: the games. 
2020 saw the end of one business and health issues made me have to indefinitely suspend the other. (People who insist on voice acting with chronically sore throats, don't voice act for very long.) This left me with more time on my hands for my hobbies as I cared for my sons. 

But two small kids, and a wife whose job got crazier due to the lockdowns meant that while I has more time she had less. So I started to look for faster, simpler games than Dungeons & Dragons 5e to play, and took a derp dive into OSR and indie material. 

I fell in love with two games in particular Index Card RPG Core 2e, and Low Fantasy Gaming. I ran three lengthy ICRPG campaigns this past year: one with nearly 250 hours of total play, another that mixed in elements of Blades in the Dark with about 75 hours, and a third that ran about 80 hours. Plus a couple that failed. 

Meanwhile I joined in Stephen Smith's World of Weirth playtest group running Low Fantasy Gaming and have played for 25 sessions, most of them as my lovable scumbag character Lieres who is the character I have played the longest in my entire TTRPG career as a PC. I have enjoyed it so much that I have run one short (24 hours) campaign with my home group, and have one ongoing game at 66 hours and counting. 

That is on top of making my own system, several short "fizzles", running an ongoing game of Basic Dungeons & Dragons for my son, solo games in Pacts & Blades and Four Against Darkness, playing in a few one-shots, and signing up for but being unable to play in a West Marches OSE game.

I have played more and got a lot more game in with each session than I thought possible. And that has made me very happy. I have had a lot to write about! 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Planning for Mothership RPG: Building a Cast

Image by Lucija Rasonja from Pixabay
In my last article I mentioned that I am working on cobbling together something for Mothership RPG. My intention is to play a game that lasts 3-6 sessions each containing an adventure that is structured like a five room dungeon.

I find this structure ideal for horror game play, as it allows a story to unfold, but also is forgiving if there are a lot of player deaths or mission failure; knowing it is finite changes the way players engage with the PCs. They aren't likely to get attached thus take greater in-character risks that serve the horror element of the game well.

I already have a fair premise and a clear idea of the most likely chain of events. But, of course, the plan is to let myself be surprised as often as possible. 

I find one of the most important things to keep in mind when planning such a short campaign and in a system that your players are not familiar with, is that character generation is going to stretch out a very long time if you allow it. It can damage enthusiasm for the game as much as it can build it.

It's usually easier to just have some pre-generated characters available, with enough background to give some role-playing tips, and with a little world building done in character generation. I like to have two pre-generated characters per player if I can, that way there's plenty of choices. Often players will surprise you by deciding to go completely off of their usual pattern. 

This is a horror game: it is going to be lethal. Having at least two PCs per player means you can kill a few off early without bringing your game to a halt. This actually puts a limit on which systems are appropriate for this kind of game: if the characters take too long to build the investment is not worth the payoff for the GM.

I have not played Mothership, and these will be the first characters I make for it, and so this will be the first test. Most horror games are played in a relatively short format campaign like this. If the characters are too time-consuming we would see a place where the mechanics would fail the game's aims.

On top of that, I'm going to want a handful of NPCs who will die horribly early or serve as sources of information. I will break the characters into three groups.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Planning for Mothership RPG: Player-Driven Antagonists

From the Cover Art of Mothership
Sci-Fi RPG by Sean McCoy;
©2018 Tuesday Knight Games
Right now I am working on making a Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG short campaign. Well the system looks a lot like eclipse phase, there are enough little differences that I didn't feel like I could review the system effectively without playing it a couple of times first. I thought it might be helpful to talk about useful tools and ideas that I will be applying to the design of this particular short series.

One of the biggest and most complex design decisions I have made has been the inclusion of human Player Character villain. For over a year, I have had a fantastic play test group to help me refine my various modules and rules designs. But, life has been getting in the way for a couple of them since the new year and we haven't been able to get together more than a few times. My cousin Kat, in particular has been struggling, thanks to a change of professions halfway through the last campaign.

Now aside from being a Family,  TTRPGs are a mainstay of our friendship. I taught her older sisters how to play Dungeons & Dragons in 1991 and it has become a fixture of their households as well. I ran her on her first role-playing game adventure in 1997, and it has been one of the things other than our love of heavy metal and family gossip that keeps us close.

However, despite her older sisters being hardcore gamers, she hadn't had much opportunity to actually play except with me on and off. So, when I invited her to play in my group in 2019 it was the first time she had played in an extended campaign. She took her thief Livia from a frightened prisoner with no weapons, armor, or memory to a cunningly talented assassin, and eventually a wealthy baroness and a diplomat who's acumen help that you're in a new era of prosperous trade between three different nations.

She always approaches the game with a learner's mindset, which is invaluable when you're otherwise playing with a bunch of Old Guard players who have a lot of preconceived notions about the game. When she had to leave the group earlier this year, it was a real loss. Everyone in the group was sad to see her go, and we would still be playing with her if scheduling hadn't made it impossible for her to keep attending my Monday night game. 

Needless to say, I really want to be able to find a way to include her... and I think I have.O

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The House of Archer: My (Mostly) Nonviolent D&D Campaign

Coat of arms created with Worldspinnner

I would like to tell a story of a campaign I played in 2003. It is unlike many of my campaigns. It is an outlier, and a game that I wish I could recapture. Given some of the discourse on Twitter as of late, I thought it would be worthwhile sharing it.

This campaign was set on an interdimensional empire. A sprawling kingdom on one world discovered the means open up doorways to alternative Prime Material Planes, and so began an endless expansion from world to world filling in empty places with colonies. Trading with intelligent life on numerous realms, and often incorporating them into their political structure.

Culturally, it was designed to resemble Tudor England. At its heart, the empire was ruled by a myriad of entrenched political families with complex rivalries, debts, and alliances so Byzantine said it could be difficult to track. There were a total of 83 Noble houses spread across 11 planets. Wealthy trade guilds a growing merchant class had come into power to rival that of Nobles

The Player Characters were part of a minor house called Archer. One player character was the third daughter of the house, trained as a priestess of Hieroneous, (I was lazy and used the Greyhawk gods listed in the D&D3e core books.) The others were trusted retainers, including the daughter of a stable hand who is trained as an assassin, a lady in waiting who is also a talented alchemist and amateur transmuter, and a footman with levels in fighter.

All of the PCs had a secondary role as spies and secret agents of the house. Using the pretext of the daughter of the house traveling to tournaments, concerts, and theatrical performances across the empire to find a husband, the whole party engaged in sabotage, espionage, and intrigues to improve the position of House Archer, which was at the time suffering from faltering fortunes due to a drought.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Three Micro-Reviews from the Help Tiago Bundle

Cover to "The Moon King Wants to Party" from
Roll 4 Tarrasque

So, yesterday I grabbed the Help Tiago Rolim Fight COVID-19 Bundle. Today I thought I'd talk about a few of the cool things I grabbed in rapid fire, just because they were stand-out items.

Most of the material in this bundle is business card, pamphlet, or 'zine style creations in line with the Brazilian OSR aesthetic of keeping everything compact and minimal. The BROSR guys know that you already know how these games work. They aren't keen on wasting energy or words. Most of the time this works in their favor. Most if the documents here are both short and brilliantly done.

The Moon King Wants to Party

Author: Roll 4 Tarrasque
Marketplace : Itch.io
Engine: Troika!

This module has been something I've considered ever since I read its premise and saw the absolutely glorious cover art.

The Moon King Wants to Party embraces the weird, surreal, and satiritical tone of Troika! complete with biting social commentary. The PCs are forced by law to serve as the retinue for an entitled aristocratic buffoon who appears to have had his common sense gland removed along with his Charisma.

The PCs have to keep this stupid, spiteful lush alive as he attends a party with multiple bounces attended by genies, demons, and alien intelligences, and hosted by creatures who punish killing their buzz with Death.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Help Tiago Rolim Fight the Bug!

You guys know me, I don't sell much of anything here. I don't even try hard to sell my own stuff here, so bear with me...

Tiago Rolim, the creator of Numa, is sick in hospital with COVID-19 and having trouble getting the coverage he needs.

The Rolim Brothers are friends of Welcome to the Deathtrap! Tiago's brother, Lucas was the first writer to send me a book to review, and both have relentlessly promoted me to their amazing Brazilian OSR audience. I consider the Rolims friends. 

To help him cover medical expenses Guilherme Gontijo, who created one of my favorite resources for game developers, has put together a bundle of 72 books from the BROSR's coolest developers to help Tiago pay the bills. It costs only $10 USD, but it will go a long way for Tiago. 

If you haven't yet got Pacts & Blades after all of my gushing, this is your chance!

Grab the Bundle here!

... And expect a lot of reviews of Brazilian products on W2tDT in the near future!