21.12.14

A review of Neoclassical Geek Revival








NEOCLASSICAL GEEK REVIVAL, 5th Edition

Author: Zzarchov

Default Genre: Fantasy

Minimum number of books needed to play: 1

Dice used: d20, d12, d10, d8, d6 and d4.

Learning Curve*: Medium

Available as: PDF, Print of Demand Paperback, and Leatherbound Hardback

Retailer: RPGNow

Supplements/Modules/Adventures available: Several

*Learning Curve is my estimate of how hard it might be to learn the system, assuming you started with D&D, Pathfinder, or one of its clones. Levels include Easy, Medium, Hard and Existential Insane-o.

24.10.14

Recruiting for a Classic World of Darkness Play by Post Game

Using the "Call of the Wyld" here!


By the way, my readers: I am recruiting for a Classic World of Darkness game, to be played on the White Wolf Forums Play by Post subforum. It is "potentially" a Vampire the Masquerade and Werewolf the Apocolypse crossover, although if I get nothing but Werewolf character then it will just be a W:tA game with vampire NPCs (probably mostly antagonists) in it. Looking for 4 players max, and I already have one.

Vampires in Texas? Inconceivable!

Play is centered around a number of fictional towns a little south of San Antonio, Texas in the midst of a Shale Play, and the struggles of various factions to take advantage of or reduce the damage of an oil boom that the big state has not seen in decades. San Antonio has been a traditionally Sabbat city in my world, due to its connections with Mexico City. But now, Camarilla forces lured by the enormous financial gains and fresh blood supplies of the oil boom, are starting to move in. Pentex and the Wyrm also have great interest in the money, booze, gambling and fracking chemicals used in the boom, which does not sit well with the Nuwisha, the Apache/Uktena werewolves, and other Werewolf tribes.

If you want more info or want to join in the carnage, here's the link. http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/general/conventions-and-gatherings/284978-recruitment-fractown-a-v-tm-w-ta-crossover?_=1414151836055.

All changing breeds, clans and bloodlines are acceptable. If you have a character idea that you know no self respecting ST who actually read the books would allow because it totally ridicules canon, bring it on over!

If you think that playing Vampires and Werewolf's in South Texas, were its all dusty and country music and shit, you really MUST come join, and let Murky Master show you how its done! There is plenty of drama to be had in an oil town.

I'll create a tab on my blog to list some of the details of the world as it grows. Its already swelling precipitously.

See you in Fractown...

13.10.14

Overthinking how I name characters, again....

Clark Kent. Nice. Simple. Super.

Something occurred to my wife the other day: the names of "good" characters (i.e. characters designed to be adored or admired or at least pitied by the audience) sound different from "bad" characters (i.e. characters designed to be hated, criticized or feared by the audience).

I would have to agree, in that we often, consciously or unconsciously, seem to pick certain types of names for certain types of characters.

18.9.14

Roleplayer Library Review: A Princess of Mars and the Barsoom Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs

John Carter needs no armor!!!! 


ISBN-13: 9780307430458* 

John Carter of Mars has been said to be seminal (Google says that word means “a work, event, moment, or figure that strongly influencing later developments”. Take that as you will…) series in science fiction, and one of the shining stars of the planetary romance genre and pulp era. I don't think that applause is off base. For me, it stands as a distinct type of adventure, and is one of the best I read.

More importantly than that, they are great novels, full of action, romance, sexism, possibly some racism, violence, nakedness, more violence, honor, righteousness , weak vulnerable females, strong lethal females, and people-that-can-detach-their-heads-from-their-bodies. 

As such, the books are both a great inspiration, and a dangerous inspiration to GMs and players the worlds over. 

This book applies to: 
Exalted 
D&D, Pathfinder and sundry 
2nd ed D&D's Spelljammer setting 
Classic World of Darkness (very mildly)


1.8.14

How I run Monks in Fantasy Settings, or "I punch the Dragon in the Face!"

Why wouldn't you want this guy in your game?
Fei Long of Street Fighter
Ah, the overpowered, out of genre, anachronistic monk. I have no idea how 5th edition (or even 4th edition, for that matter), has treated you, but I assume you are still punching dragons in the face. Monks certainly did in 3rd Ed.

Monks for me present an interesting challenge. They are, for one, a bit "out-of-place" if I am playing in a setting with a strictly European idea of fantasy, so including monks requires me to include either Oriental analogs of some kind in my worlds, or else some rationale for one of my existing cultures to develop the art of fighting with one's body alone. That later requirement suits me better than the former.

Its also a challenge to make sense of their power, especially against certain monsters. In this article, I'll be talking about not only how monks are a challenge to wedge into a D&D game, but even more importantly, some ideas on how to challenge the Monks themselves, especially with respect to their powers.

25.7.14

Roleplayer's Library Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne

Cover Art and Design by Jim Tierney


In this time of steampunk love, I though it would be apropos to review one of Verne's best remembered tales of wonder, science, and adventure. When a ship is sunk by a mysterious attack, made by either a "massive narwhal" or something else, the U.S. Navy launches the Abraham Lincoln, and the celebrated naturalist Professor Pierre Aronnax, his ardent manservant Conseil and the burly Canadian whaler Ned Land, are serendipitously aboard. When the vessel finally encounters the culprit behind the sinking ships, a pitched battle pitches them into the brine, and into the hands of the Nautilus, and her mysterious architect, Captain Nemo.

18.7.14

Roleplayer's Library Review: Marriage and Family in the Middle Ages by Frances and Joesph Gies


ISBN-13: 978-0060914684
Marriage and Family in the Middle Ages is a highly readable, easily accessible tome for understanding the world of, well, marriage and family in the middle ages. Even if you have never cracked a non-fic since high school, you won't have too much trouble understanding this one.

11.7.14

Intro

By Artur Sadlos

It was dark, cold, scuttling and strange in the comic book shop that night.

Not that the place was unfamiliar to me. It was that same comic book store my mother took me to a few weeks before this paticular night I speak of. She thought, after the colostrum of the Hobbit, read to me before the winter of my birthtime came again, that the store would appeal to me. It was so that I welcomed the store into my heart, Heroes and Fantasies was its name (it is no more now...). 

30.5.14

Running Naked: Advice on running campaigns without systems

They said it couldn't be done....

Okay, they just implied it couldn't be done, and "they" for this piece means all them RPG books I have read in that past 14 years of gaming (which isn't many, but I'm working on it).

I run games without dice. That may not be suprising, considering we have Amber Diceless and probably other diceless systems out there. But I don't run with those systems. I don't run with ANY system, when I do the games I'm talking about here and now.

And most suprisingly, I have found that these games are not actually that hard, and don't require extra courage, smarts, or cooperation, any more than anyother game.

Without further suspense, Let me tell you how I run naked.

8.4.14

Featured Charity: Screaming Chickens Explorer Post FRC Team 3997

My friends, the one and only Screaming Chickens at the World Championship in 2013!
Hey readers, I want to introduce you to some really cool geek kids that are totally into robotics and are doing big things in San Antonio: the Screaming Chickens FRC Team 3997! These guys have a Fundly campaign going on (which explains the campaign card in the upper right corner...) and I humbly ask you guys to help me raise them some money so they can keep doing what they do: build crazy t-shirt shooting, basketballing robots!

Just yesterday, Caroline Crosson, the Executive Advisor for the Screaming Chickens informed me that the team has left the 2014 Lone Star Regional in Houston and will be competing at the World Championship again, for the third time in a row. Keep in mind though, gentle readers, that this FRC team is only three years old! Three world Championships in three years!

Now all they need to do is come up with $8,000 dollars to cover travel expenses to St. Louis.

6.3.14

Why write?: An extrapolation on truth

Why? Why indeed... (The Transcendence of the Ego by Derrick Tyson)
So I was window-shopping on Amazon. The term "window-shopping" still applies in the case of e-commerce, in my mind, mostly because the box that your looking at with all the neat things on it is called a "window" in the vernacular of my operating system; so there!

Anyway, like I said, I was window shopping on Amazon when a ran across a titillating book called "Divergent" by Veronica Roth, a book you probably have heard of. Based on the blurb, it sounds like an awesome, very Rodman Philbrick's "Last Book in the Universe" type yarn.

In the product blurb on the Amazon page, I saw a little Q & A between an unknown interviewer and Roth, and the first question hooked me; it was a peice of writing advice, and I love reading writing advice. Here it is:

4.3.14

Guest Post: Word Porn for sesquipedelian Storytellers

A good friend of mine found a wonderful game that can make demur GM into a true deipnosophist.

Check out LuKpo's blog at http://beneath-the-cellardoor.blogspot.com/2014/02/bleff-and-roleplaying.html?m=1

Bleff, Word Porn and Roleplaying

As a part of my tabletop roleplaying section, I will start adding tips for storytelling and character designing, which I hope someone will find useful.
Last year I started playing a game with some friends, called Bleff. In this game, for about 2-6 people, players take turns to draw a card which contains many weird, little known words, such as xantocianopsy (the ability to see colors blue and yellow), or adoxography (writing that doesn't really give you important data, but is interesting nonetheless -kinda like this blog?-). They then choose one, and read it outloud, after which each player must write a definition for it, without actually knowing it. So for instance, adoxography may be 'writing using an adoxous system' (which still doesn't mean anything but sounds about right) or 'unintelligible handwriting'. After each player has written down their fake definitions, and the reading player has written down both the real and a fake one, he proceeds to read them all out loud. Finally, each player says which definition he thinks is the right one. Each player who makes the correct guess gets 2 points, whereas each player whose definition got chosen, gets one point for each player who chose him.
For instance, I may not have guessed that ailurophilia is the excessive fondness for cats, but if my definition 'someone who likes sticking lures on people' is chosen as right by 3 people, I still get three points (usually you use a board and your token moves forward X squares, where each square is a point, and the first one who reaches the goal wins).

How does this game relate to roleplaying, you may ask? well, I think crazy words can be a good inspiration for character design. Take a word like Schadenfreude,  which is german for 'the joy that comes from watching others suffer', or 'alexithymia', the inability to express emotions verbally. Both are great places from which to start brainstorming a character. Say alexithymia to me, and I will think about Alex, a shy boy who has trouble expressing himself verbally and because of that prefers to do it through art, maybe painting. Or maybe a Bard who only speaks through singing? Or a mute warrior, blocked by childhood traumas?
And xantocianopsis, you could even start a whole campaign around it: 'only some, can see the colours yellow and blue. That's why the green emeralds can only be found by those who...' blah, blah, blah, you get the idea.

Another good source for inspiration words, if you don't already use it, is subscribing to a Word of the Day service (even lernu, the esperanto learning site, has one!), or following the Word Porn facebook page (and suddenly my site got a lot of traffic from people who thought they'd find NSFW content).

So, what is your favourite English word? or maybe one in another language? I personally like Cellardoor a lot, because it sounds really well when my tongue rolls around it... Tell me in the comments, and then you can create a character or story based around it! and tell me, too, if you found this advice useful! I'd love to hear about campaigns based around japanese words like komorebi, the light that filters through tree leaves, or even esperanto ones!

Flintlock flipping, rock eating dwarves sail on coal-fired steamships in new Kickstarter campaign

Sean McLain, Karl Hien and Xaviar Perez says this is pretty much how they envision their Pathfinder setting, Olabbor. Image by Ognian Bonev 

UPDATE: Olabbor Games has become an officially registered Pathfinder Compatible game! Behold...


You can see it yourself at http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/compatibility/registry as well.

The Olabbor design team is gathering steam for their crunchy clockwork and coal tar fantasy setting. Sean McLain, the writer for the setting says that "Olabbor was created to appeal to the sense of wonder which many of today's settings seem to ignore." McLain says the Kickstarter campaign is primarily for purchasing some high quality art to illustrate this vast setting. Based on the way he describes the world, great would be oozing with wonder.

Clockwork boats sailing the Ether
Olabbor has been the homebrew setting between Sean McLain, the Olabbor mechanics designer Karl Hien, and the graphic designer Xaviar Perez for past four years. Karl Hien is a 27 year old fantasy buff and self-proclaimed nerd from Fairbanks Alaska, with 13 years of playing and running everything from D&D to Warhammer 40k under his belt. Xaviar Perez is a creative consultant from New York and a veteran of computer and console RPGs. McLain is a published author, with stories published in the Alaska Quarterly Review under a different pen name.

Olabbor's geography centered around a multi-planar universe similar to, well, every other fantasy RPG on the market. The catch here though is that each plane outside of the prime material plane (called Olabbor) is effectively an island of reality, and separate the prime material from the other worlds is a network of Jetstreams, describes as hollow tubes of water, with atmosphere within them, that are colossal in size. A ship sailing the prime material plane's ocean can enter these tubes through a whirlpool, which brave adventurers can attempt to sail into without the help of pansy magic. 

McLain says that he was inspired by the old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition Spelljammer Setting by TSR and the Disney film Treasure Planet (one of Disney's more inspired fare) when creating this setting, explaining "What we want is for Olabbor to be a hub world, capable of containing 1st through 20th level campaigns, but also a place where you could leave it behind entirely for a long while, sailing to other worlds for treasure, glory, or on a quest for a lost magic of ancient myths." 

Clockwork technology, which is a trope that many steampunk fans will love, features prominently in the world, from pocket watches to massive centipedal construct cities ambling across the planes. McClain says that in Olabbor "You may be fighting pirates in the skies over a city in one adventure, only to land and take on a hoard of Daemon Worshiping goblins in crude coal fueled mechs as your next adventure, all the while still using the fantasy tools and spells you love, with some new ones along for the wild ride." That's the kind of stuff that deserves to be drawn.
McLain promises mechanics for these things. Must get this game now.

Olabbor will feature rules for the creation of machinery and integrating steampunk machines with magic, as well as slightly tweaked firearms rules for hackbuts and pistols to keep them from making bows and crossbows obsolete (mostly in requiring firearm attack rolls to exceed normal AC, rather than touch AC within the first 5 range increments as in standard Pathfinder). McClain says that the ability to craft magical armor has also helps prevent guns from overtaking the bow in Olabbor.

New Races
There are literally a dozen playable races in Olabbor, some familiar and others quite unusual. Olabbor's Dwarves for example are your usual underground living, gruff talking, mechanically inclined humanoids, except that they eat rocks, soft metals and gems to sustain their skeletons of living stone. They also have a big handle on the global economy due to their construction and control of the Underroads, a labyrinthine network of trade routes built underground throughout the prime material of Olabbor. It’s fairly unusual for dwarves to feature that prominently in a setting, so this setting should fit well for the dwarf enthusiast who wants to get away from the Gimli stereotypes.

The dwarves have a steadfast ally in the Cee-kra, Olabbor's ant-like race that also live underground. Cee-kra have a hierarchy that borrows from their RL counterparts, with mindless Drones serving the svelte Nobles who are protected by the combat-ready Champions. Unlike the bloated little Queens that sit and pop eggs all day in RL however, Cee-kra Queens and scouts, colonists and adventurers who find new resources to feed the colony. A full color printout of the Cee-kra (available to backers at $150), described as "somewhat elven appearance, lightly covered in red or black chitinous plating, gossamer wings held on their back like a cape, large compound eyes and slim antennae" would look smart on my wall.
The Breakdown
McLain says they will spend $2,000 to $3,000 on high quality artwork, assuming about $150 per image at the max for 20 images. Another $2000 go to printing the paperback reward copies of the Olabbor Encyclopedia, the complete setting guide. Another $2,000 for hiring a publishing company and advertising. The final $3000 will take care of legal fees and supplement funding for future projects, such as an Olabbor Jetstream Supplement, adventure modules, and Olabbor novels from McLain. 

Pledge levels
$0-$5: Honorable mention in the Encyclopedia credits.
$10+: All the above, plus first access to play testing materials and your comments will be integrated in by the playtesting team.
$25+: All of the above, plus you can add a character to the Olabbor canon, generated with playtest materials and a PDF copy of the finished Encyclopedia.
$50+: All of the above, plus a SIGNED copy of the PDF and a copy of the DM Toolkit from LVL99 games (Windows only).
$100+: All of the above, plus an exclusive, Kickstarter backer only PDF supplement full of unique items, classes, spells and more.
$150+: All of the above, plus the paperback version of the Olabbor Encyclopedia, full size digital copies of the race artwork and one autographed, spiral bound print copy of the final book. Only 40 pledges in stock.
$200+: All of the above, plus a poster of the world map.

The Bottom Line
Talking with McLain, I have gotten the impression that the flavor text is going to be pretty damn beautiful. At Bluefield State, his alma mater, his story "A Rescue for Two" so impressed his Creative Writing professor that she let him take the course without the prereq. Not to mention I don't think it’s all that easy getting printed in the Alaska Quarterly Review. With that kind of writer’s “street cred”, I anticipate that by the text alone that DMs and Players will get plenty of inspiration from the setting. The setting itself is imaginative and consistent without being so weird that it feels like Salvador Dali the Role Playing Game.

The main weakness here, of course, is the art. A great setting like this deserves some real art, the kind of stuff you would be proud to have on the coffee table.

Thus, bottom line is that I profoundly recommend to my readers to look into this game and see if you would like it on your shelf one day. Check out the project at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1443943482/project-olabbor-a-pathfinder-rpg-setting?ref=live , and tell em Murky Master sent ya!

3.3.14

How I handle alignments in D&D

One of my favorite systems in D&D happens to be one of the most maligned systems in RPG gaming, as far as I can see. Alignments, especially the post 1st edition, nine point, two axis system, is a system that, In my games at least, influences everything from the lowliest peasant to the most universe spanning deities.

18.2.14

How I motivate the dungeon crawl

Archer: "Why are we here?" Ax-man: "I'm glad you asked!" "Dungeon" by SebastianWagner on www.deviantart.com

In my DMing, especially in Dungeons and Dragons and its peers, I have always tried to integrate roleplaying into the dungeon crawl, rather than trying to make "roleplaying time" separate from "dungeon time". One of the ways I do that is critically thinking about WHY a group of grown men and women would risk their lives delving into a place that may or may not have treasure.

In this blog post, I will tell you how I motivate the dungeon.


11.2.14

Fantasy Adventure seeds: Because bored

Epic Adventure Idea: A wizards apprentice with a crush on the local princess accidentally inhabits the body of this guy, and makes some demands of the royalty.


 1. The second son of a king, in a land of primogeniture, will inherit nothing, unless he does something. He makes a deal with a local slave guild, trading four people and some gold for his elder brother's "accidental death". The "four people" are the PC's, who are hired by said Prince to deliver some money (the payment to the slavers) to a nearby lord. When the PCs arrive at the lord's keep (which has been abandoned for years), the slavers take the money and try to take the PCs as well. Whether they win or not, they definitely have a bone to pick with the prince.

2. Some wealthy peasants (they existed, don't worry) who own a great deal of land are having their trouble keeping their livestock, and hire the PCs to investigate. The PCs go looking for them, and return the sheep easily enough. Unfortunately though, the "sheep" are actually polymophed goblins who intend on killing many of the villagers and taking at least 13 young people prisoner. Why 13 young people? Because they have to pay for all the potions they got from a high level cleric, who intends on sacrificing the children to his/her evil god to gain the power to resurrect his/her dead family.

3. The PC's hear about a grand cleric of a benevolent, but long forgotten god. The cleric was so holy, that the church wanted his body to be well protected, so they buried him in a vast dungeon so that he may rest forever. A young woman falls ill in a large city, and her wealthy parents are searching for a cure. Other cure spells do not work though, for the young woman was so faithful to the old forgotten god that she rejected all help from other deities. The holy raiments of the cleric are probably her only hope. That and a whole bunch of wealthy nobles who wanted to ensure their salvation and cooperation with the church agreed to bury butt-loads of treasure with the body.
Epic Adventure Idea: A "good" cleric imprisoned the guy who was prophesying the arrival of this guy. If the PCs can save the prophet, he may be able to sacrifice him elf to send the god back. That is, if the PCs can get the prophet into the monster's belly...
4. A merchant's guild hires the adventures to retrieve a crystal rod from an ancient cache of an archmage. After going through that torment, the PCs bring the rod back. The merchant's guild intends to auction the item to the wealthiest nobles, and everyone from Earl to King is invited. In truth though, the rod will permanently enthrall all who gaze upon it and hear the magic words.

5. The PCs are hired by a poor ass peasant who wants her brother's murder investigated. She says that the murder lives in an old manor at the edge of town. The old manor is haunted by a soul-thirsty ghost who animated the old bat in order to lure the PCs.

6. A powerful Lich declares a cease-fire with the noble nation of holy peoples, and the PCs are hired to escort their local lord to the historic event. The Lich really does sign the treaty and everything, but the PCs over hear some high-level bishops saying "Now the Lich has fallen into our trap. Soon his power will be ours, and no one will care what we do to him because he is a monster. He hee hee."

7. A dead pope (or equivalent) of the area or nation's most powerful religion is lying in state, while the PC's are in town. Suddenly there is a huge ruckus at the funeral. The Pope has risen as a vampire and declares vampires to be good in the eyes of his god, and that mankind are to be their servants. He then disappears, assuming the PC's don't kill him. Either way, the schism has begun, and the PCs may have to choose sides.

8. A small town that the PC's are staying in is minding its own business when suddenly a great cloak falls upon the entire town. The town's inhabitants and the PCs thus find themselves in the first room of a great dungeon.
Adventure Idea: This was a bustling city, until a king jilted a wizard who cursed the kingdom, imprisoning the royals and villagers alike into the statues and masonry, and commanding them to destroy anyone who tries to free them. Their vast wealth is still buried in a vault in a dungeon under the castle, and the vault can only be opened by the royals. The story is a tragic legend in the town the PCs are in, maybe with some truth.
9. A powerful Archmage has been challenged to a spell duel to settle her case in her husbands murder by a rival Archmage. She hires the PCs to go deep into a magical jungle guarded by a mad Treant, who will slaughter any animal that his fey and plant monsters alert him two. Before they get to the jungle, the rival mage's representative offers to pay them three times as much just to walk away. If they take it, then the representative will turn the money into horrible flesh eating coin monsters once they are sleeping. If they don't then he will wait for them to return (or to hear their death screams). The Archmage needs a piece of amber from the core of the Treant, whose insides are a "living dungeon" unto themselves. Once out of the dungeon though, the rep offers them six times as much to buy the amber. If they refuse, then the rep, an animated stone golem with mage levels, goes toe to toe with them. If they live through that, then they must go through the maze of minions the Archmage has laid in place. If they deliver the damn goods, the rival archmage is defeated in combat by the defendant mage, and they are paid their payment ten fold, plus a chunk of the amber to the mage. If used as a material component, the amber turns a prepared spell into a quickened spell as is consumed.

10. A king wants his ranger back, who was captured by the local dwarven kingdom. The dwarves say that he has been accused of murdering dwarves that are passing through his forest. Assuming the PCs find the ranger, the ranger tells the PC that the dwarves are mining directly underneath the kingdom, and plan on sapping the whole castle and building afresh. The dwarves don't want witnesses.

10.2.14

My writing routine, in the style of the greats.

A la http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/

I write while my wife sleeps, as there is little use in saying "I will be your's" when she can't see me. Does an I-phone stick its finger up at its owner, while occupied with its own independent wanderings? Maybe that's what an update is.

5.2.14

An example of a magic system

What secrets does this spell book contain (apparently polymorphing counterspells and potions). In my game, this might be vitally important to a PC to save an "innocent" (i.e. very wealthy) prince from a rival mage.
As a GM/DM/ST, I am ever fascinated by extrapolating the rules of a system, especially D&D's magic system. The reason I like taking D&D's assumptions about magic and fleshing them out is because, well, they are not very fleshed out at all. Like many fantasy settings, all D&D is really saying about how magic works is this "Priests/Paladins and Druids/Rangers Pray, Wizards wiggle their fingers and speak weird words, and sorcerers/warlocks just do it". That leave tons and tons of room to interpret the real reason of how magic works.

But why do I even bother explaining it? Because D&D, while not providing an explanation of magic, sort of demands one, at least in my games. Ever send your PCs on a quest to find the lost spellbook of a random archmage? Some of you may have.

Ever wonder why though? Why would a mage guild spend money, probably good money, hiring adventurers to get a book? Probably because it has some pretty awesome secrets of magic in it. But what secrets? When a PC, who probably doesn't even maintain contact with his mage buddies can crack open the 3.5 Spell Compendium and say "I learned this next," then what potency could a book have? I'll tell you, at least as far as my world is concerned.

24.1.14

How I run one shot campaigns

Miyamoto Musashi, author of the Book of Five
Rings and purveyor of authentic Far Eastern whoop-ass
I recently had the distinct pleasure of running a wonderful Shadowrun solo-session one-shot with my gaming friend of many years, and I think I might have learned something from it!

The PC was playing a Troll Street Samurai by the name of Ron. He had the illustrative moniker "Ghengis Ron", since his presence was easily felt by the various gangs of the Redmond Barrens. He was a brute, yes, but a bit of a philosopher: after his hard and fast education on the street, he decided that "I could either become a thug like all the others, or I could become something more". He chose to read the writings of Miyamoto Musashi (the Book of Five Rings), Lao-Tsi (author of the Tao Te Ching, the most influential text for Taoists) and others, becoming a street samurai in body and mind.

My friend played a troll tank that made time for
tea and philosophy in between killing sprees.
Pic by http://perun-tworek.deviantart.com/



It was a simple, slightly sexist plot I am ashamed to admit: A young daughter of a wealthy Yakuza lieutenant retained Ron to fight in her aging Adept father's stead in a duel with a rival, cyber inclined Yakuza boss. The old Adept, in stereotypical fashion, admonished his daughter for trying to save him and tried to beat Ron in a duel to prove that he still had the edge: he didn't. My clever player had his character showed up late to the duel and slightly disheveled, just like one of his mentors did. Much hong-kong style ass-whooping commenced, and the game was wrapped up only four hours after saying the intro.

In my mind, this game was great mostly because it finished, and it did exactly what we intended. I had only 4 hours to game with my friend, and we mostly likely would be incommunicado for at least a few weeks.

Several reasons why I think this game went well:

1. Great Focus: My and my friend both knew the situation: we had little time to game and a great opportunity to have fun doing it. So we dove right in and kept the eye on the ball
2. Simple Plot: On my end, I used a reliable, if cliche-filled plot: a duel of honor against a black hat villan. On my player's end, he kept his character's goal simple: do the job, make the nuyen.
3. Experience: We had been gaming since I started gaming, so we knew each other's ticks and habits.
4. No dice. Since it was a 4 hour game, we just dropped the dice and acted it out, letting the story purely be our guide.

I would recommend anyone who wants to run a good one-shot: with one person or many, to try build their game with the first two points in mind: if you can communicate how the story is supposed to go without giving it away and make the plot simple and limber, then most likely your players will be able to run through the plot painlessly, and hopefully will have some fun doing it.
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