Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The King of the Hill

This is a character from my current Burning Wheel campaign. He’s an urchin, a leader of street kids. We first encountered him when our heroes went looking for an unnamed spirit that had been plaguing the city. He had found a paper note, stuck in the supports of a bridge on the edge of the city. The characters believed that this note had an important clue to unravel a conspiracy against Queen Rowena.

As a GM, playing this character is fun. He's juvenile, so his interests are selfish. He's also seen more than he should for a child of his age. That puts him in tension between the poles of being the one who hurts and the one who is hurt. He's also a great source of street information and gossip for the player characters. He knows a lot about who is moving where, even if he doesn't know why they do what they do. He looks after the kids from his area and they look after him. I imagine him as a young Fagin who hasn't yet lost hope that there's a good future for him and his associates.

My favourite aspect to him is that he holds power over information and that he will part with it for a different price than an adult. In this game, adults have struck bargains to murder in exchange for information. The King of the Hill wants other things that adults overlook. In that first exchange, he swapped the note for a sumptuous meal for him and his friends. They feasted in the king's hall - a small mound of earth underneath a bridge - with all the features you'd otherwise see in the Queen's palace. There was food, dancing, bardic stories, and a little magic.

Who knows when he'll come back into the story?

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Rewards for Roleplaying

There's something deeply satisfying about moments of peak roleplaying. We all have a go at it when we're at the table, in one wway or another. Sometimes it comes out as pure narrative, sometimes as pantomime, and then sometimes as a believable improvised performance.

My Burning Wheel game continues to deliver on these performances. Each game tends to be a different player who shines. The circumstances of the story might be perfect to draw that out of the player. When it happens, it's wonderful. Sly, Peter, and Scott have all brought their A-game.

I especially like when games include a benny of some kind of that. I say that because I think that roleplaying is a skill that can be practiced and also because I want roleplaying games to encourage that kind of immersion. On the one hand it rewards players for getting into the game. On the other hand it also encourages other players to join in the game to the same level.

Also, it's fun! 'nuff said.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Playing a solo game

I love these moments between uni subjects because I can blog a bit more. - Andrew

I was short on gaming this month. My family wasn't keen to dungeon or dragon, and I had some other commitments that caused me to miss the PTA game for only the second time in four years. Woe is me! So I scratched that itch by trying D&D5e as a solo game.

The Dungeon Master's Guide comes with table after table of random generators. It seemed like good fodder for a solo game. I thought to combine a random dungeon with random monsters and random dungeon contents, all based on a simple proposition for a character. I play a monk in our home game, so sending him to retrieve an item previously stolen from the monastery was an easy macguffin.

The end result was generally positive. I had fun (the best criterion). My character had to struggle hard and use plenty of abilities. There were character rewards (experience and the lost artworks).

I knew that before I started it there would be no dialogue or character interaction. This was a tabletop video game and it worked just fine. The random tables produce truly random dungeon topologies, though. I recommend a dose of architectural common sense when you interpret some of the intersections between one branch and another.

Perhaps the nicest part of it were the random functions and details for rooms and structures. Layers of story appear as the randomiser does its job. A treasure vault has rooms for dignitaries to wait before they're shown through. Some structures have water sources, barracks, meal rooms, and so on. It's not quite Microscope, but you can feel the overlap.

And although it doesn't substitute for an actual game around a table with friends, I'd still do that again.


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