Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kick-Bundles

it's alright to be jealous
So I've got a bit of a problem.  Well, a couple problems.  Those problems are Crowd Funding sites and Bundle sites.  Because really where the hell else should I be spending my money on anything other then necessities and NERF weapons?

But alas, crowd funding provides a brilliant opportunity to sink money into things I want before they're designed for what everyone wants.  Do I want to fund a new Monte Cook game and get a copy when it's done? Hell yes I do!  Do I want to help fund and get a copy of awesome far-future rogue-like, Hyper Light Drifter, or help pay to develop a billboard space turned into topiary, or fund a community owned exploration telescope that will be fired into orbit, or fund a funny science-fiction cartoon or Bee and Puppy Cat so I can continue to watch them on Youtube, or pay for the development of awesome fantasy sound effects, or fund a tongue cleaner that while originally made for people is now being made for pets?

My answer to all these things and more was "Yes", and you know what, it feels good.  I feel like when I support these products, not only am I paying to receive these products, but also to support the culture these products are a part of.  It's like instead being on the other side of the coin as a consumer, instead of telling you what I like when you sell it to me, I'm telling you what you shouldn't bother selling, because I'm not supporting it.  I'm a fan of the process.

whispering:"I support you"
Bundles are another matter, in a previous post you may have seen me mention the "Bundle of Fate".  Since I've been following bundles such as "Bundle of Holding" and "The Humble Bundle", which feature Tabletop gaming products and video game products, respectively.

Bundles are ingenious, you pay what you wish for an amount of content, say a third or half of the products featured, but then if you pay above the community average, you get the rest of the content.  Even better, the money money is split between being able to support future bundles, and charity.  The number of games and books I've acquired via bundles is a bit staggering, especially when I take into account that some of the games I've not finished, and many of the books I've never utilized in play with others.  My buyer's remorse (as if I'd ever have it for books or video games) is soothed though, as I'm able to rationalize that the money spent went to charity.

So the most recent Bundle of Holding contained a number of books not just playing games, but inspiration for world building and running games as well.  So now I'll share with you some of the random creatures I've been able to create from the "Tome of Adventure Design"

The Anurasphinx has the body of a frog, the head of a man, and the wings of a bat.  It reproduces by dropping it's eggs into a rushing stream, where they are eaten by fish.  After a brief gestation cycle where the egg absorbs nutrients from the fish, the "Tadsphinx" breaks it's egg, releasing a foul tasting enzyme that causes the fish to regurgitate the young, it then moves to the waterside to work blood into it's wings.  The Anurasphinx spends its time stalking travelers, especially musicians, as it's main source of sustenance is the sound of Music.

The Urchin Wyrm is a large reptilian creature that lives on both salt and fresh water coasts.  When at rest, it is difficult to decipher what part of the dragon is what because each of its scales elongate into quills that cover its body.  Only when the dragon attacks is it easy to decipher that the spiky mass is actually a creature of any kind.  Some say the Urchin Wyrm isn't a dragon at all as it lacks a dangerous breath attack, the truth is that the dragon's maw houses an organic gravitational mass generator, allowing it to use its "breath" to push, pull, lift, and even teleport objects in its range.  The Urchin Wyrm also has a keen intellect and a love of dungeons, giving it a working knowledge of dungeon type areas, stories and myths surrounding magic items and legends.  Urchin Wyrms are usually loath to share this information as they see most other life as beneath them, but once it has been suitably terrified, it begins spewing this information out indiscriminately in an attempt to placate or confuse what threatens it.

Soon...
The Euthanasia-Porpoise is an Elemental Monster from the Plane of Death, specifically the Quietus Ocean.  It travels between worlds only when a sacrifice is made in its name, and when it manifests into the material realm, it glides about, instilling the living with a sense of exhaustion and dread.  It's siren call drives mortal
creatures to end their own lives in the most peaceful way they can imagine.  Those who summon this terrible grampus do so at their own peril, as the Euthanasia-Porpoise does not care for wealth, power, or gifts, it seeks only to spread it's morbid influence.

So, three creatures later, and I'm pretty sure this book has paid for itself.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

These are the Rules I Game by...

So recently a friend asked "I'm planning on running a Tabletop RPG, do you know an good resources to get me started".

Now mind you, it's been months since I've played any tabletop, Amanda and I have spent some time getting moved into a house, and even before that, conflicting schedules left us not much time together.  But, storytelling games are neither jealous nor fickle, when you need to take some time for yourself its books wait patiently on your shelves, its dice and pens sit in their organized cubbies, its hand-crafted map tools and miniatures wait silently in their boxes.  And when you're ready, they embrace you with open arms, and I am ready to start again.  Every weekend that I'm not sitting around a table rolling dice with my friends is a weekend I want to jump out of my skin.

Aberrant Bunny Man, Tentacle Woman, or
Three-Eyed Intelligent Mutant Rat. But a few of
Gamma World's Character Options.
...but I digress! As I said, it's only been a few months, so when the gears started moving there was no rust to stop them.  "Which Game? What kind of story are you running? How many Players do you have? How long will your sessions be? What sort of map are you using? Who're you antagonists? What is your theme?"  of course, before I could ask any of these he added "...Specifically for Gamma World".

Ah...Gamma World, you know what's great about Gamma World? Everything's great about Gamma world.  Gamma World is a little bit of everything.  It's a little like if the Shadowrun tabletop RPG and the Fallout video game series had a baby, but the baby was too ugly so they put it up for adoption, but then it was adopted by Dungeons and Dragons, because D&D has a heart of gold, and Gamma World was too ugly not to love.

To the initiated, I'm of course talking about Wizards of the Coast's October 2010 release of Gamma World (or 7th edition)

To the uninitiated, Gamma World is an adventure game that takes place in an alternate reality where, well, all "Alternate Realities" collapsed on one another, including many like our own in an event called "The Big Mistake" due to the activation of the Large Hadron Collider.  In many realities nuclear war had broken out, in many strange and alien creatures walked the earth, etc.  Just about anything you can imagine can appear in the haunted, irradiated, apocalyptic landscape of Gamma Terra.  You are one of the strange mutated denizens of said planet, your body undergoing constant "Alpha Mutation" due to your strange physiology or perhaps just quirks of reality.  Ruins of countless "old worlds" dot the landscape, as does their discarded technology.

As bleak as this mess sounds, the game's guide urges storytellers and players to "Embrace the Weird".  Storytellers are armed with strange creature to throw at players, while the players themselves create characters from a random table of origins, mixing tropes to make Psychic Yetis, Pyromantic Intelligent Plants, Genetically Engineered Giant Roaches, Kitten Swarms, Empathic Hawk Men, Radioactive Androids...the list goes on, and any combination of those things really.

Penny Arcade knows what it's all about.


The system is based strongly on Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition rule set, making Gamma World, a fantastic game for new players and storytellers alike.  So maybe I should get back to that part, instead of writing a review of the game...

I started to compile a list of what I'd learned as a Storyteller for table-top RPGs, a few rules to live by when it comes to running a game. Said list is as follows.

This guy's D&D campaign would be
awesome...
1. Know your Audience:
Like any great performer, you're looking to make sure your audience has a good time, have an interactive audience makes that job much easier.  These are your friends and loved ones playing a game, tailor it into something they will love as much as it's a cool idea you had for a story.

2. Characters are Characters, Stories are Stories, Know the distinction:
Those new to tabletop gaming often come up with a grand tale when faced with creation in a game, full of scenery and great characters.  None of this great creativity should be wasted, it should be shared.  Storytellers and players alike should remember this is a cooperative storytelling experience. Enforce your roles as players and storytellers, but don't be afraid to give ideas and build a story based on collaborative ideas.

3.  Know the Rules at least well enough to Fake it:
You don't need to know the game like the back of your hand, but you should know it well enough to make rules as you go so that you don't have to waste time going through books.  Just remember to explain to your players that you are taking liberties for the sake of keeping the game moving and they should be pretty understanding.  If you do fudge a rule though, make sure it favors the players; ruling off the cuff is risky, and at the end of the night you can either have people walking away from your table wondering why you were making up rules to cheat them, or talking about how awesome it was when their character used their "Use Rope" skill to lasso an airship and swing to it like Errol Flynn.  I'd prefer the latter.

4. Never Punish your Players:
Friends get goofy, especially if your game goes late into the evening, or allows alcohol.  These antics can go from simple distractions, to game-breaking disruptions that angers everyone at the table.  As a Storyteller (especially in a state of exhausted, Mountain Dew fueled, frustration), it's easy to lose your temper and say "You've been struck by lightning", "your horses are dead", "All your stuff has been stolen", "you don't get paid".

...this one's would probably require
quite a few savings throws.
Catching yourself before "bringing the hammer down" is tough, it's a bit like supressing the urge to strangle the life out of someone who has just slapped you in public and is now laughing to everyone around you about it.  They ruined your game, they've wasted your time, and now they're going to pay the price. (I could do a whole post about this).  IF you have the good sense to identify this situation as soon as it starts say "let's break a few minutes before this escalates". Stand up, grab a drink, talk to your players about what's going on in the game.  If things are going in a logical direction and you think the game can be salvaged, then gather your thoughts and prepare, then get right back in there.  If you feel continuing in this direction is only going to create more disruption, or worse hostility, don't be afraid to call the game for the night.  Everyone's here to have fun, Storyteller and Players.  If someone isn't having a good time, then the game wastes their time too.

5. Challenge your Players, and Never Leave that Challenge to Chance:
A story is nothing without adversity, and if there's anything my good friend Kristina Elyse Butke has taught
me (shameless name drop), it's that "the stakes have to be life or death, anything less your audience won't give a shit about."  Death doesn't just mean character death though, it can also be a change of life as they know it.  Your players should be striving to work through something, and though bad rolls can rob your player's characters of glory, simply leaving such finality to the roll of a dice is boring, especially if they have nothing to gain from it except "Not Dying".  Don't throw needless, tedious combats at them (a crime I have been guilty of, MANY times over), and don't pigeon hole their options to "Door A, that's all".  "Challenge" means more then "heap of monsters to kill", and a player's "hard decision" shouldn't amount to whether or not they can kill something.

Wrapping up, I'm sure I could come up with many more rules, but that would diminish my point.  Running a game is more then memorizing rules.  It's easy to get swept up in trying to recall procedure like "attacks of opportunity", the bonuses you get from certain types of cover, and whether something made a saving throw for ongoing damage.  So long as the people around your table are laughing and having a great time, you can't go wrong.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bundles and Bundles

Hey everyone, I know I've kind of let this blog fall by the way-side, but if anyone's still listening, I recommend checking out Bundle of Holding's "Bundle of Fate".  If you're unfamiliar with "Bundles", their kind of like an organization's way of raising money for charity, while giving you an arm-full of goodies at a steal of a price.  I'm usually a fan of the Humble Bundle, but when I saw Bundle of Holding, released a Bundle of FATE (a system which I've long been eyeballing), I couldn't resist.



And Neither Should you! A marvel of a system from Evil Hat Productions for a mere Tuppence! 10% of proceeds go to Somaly Mam Foundation and War Child International.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Rope Trick; A Tale of Epic Skill!

So games have come and gone, and recently I've been running a new campaign.  I was lucky enough to be invited to the D&D NEXT Playtest.  Given the specifics of the non disclosure agreement I agreed to (and respect to the developers of the game I love so much) I won't mention much about the rules set, other then I love them and that there are skills.  I don't think that's too much, as skills have been part of the game since...oh...Advanced D&D?  And to those of you who have not played Dungeons and Dragons (you potential new players, you) skills are abilities that define what your character specializes in doing, be it tracking, swiming, expansive knowledge of the world's history, or the ability to read and write foreign languages, like Goblin, (or as I like to call it Goblinese or Gobbledegook). I believe went a bit into skills in a previous post.
Probably not a written
language though...

Anyway, as the game is currently a "Playtest", parts of the game or constantly being changed to see what works and what doesn't.  This includes the list of skills.  And in one itteration, one of those skills was "Use Rope".  One of my players picked it up and for the past couple games was looking to use it at almost every opportunity.  Now this was part joke, as the Use Rope skill itself is a flaccid one, the kind of skill you'd only see in use by a sailor, circus performer, or cattlehand (which this character is).  Seeing as how a player has so few options for skills to be trained in, trying to make Use Rope viable for situations other then tying up enemies, getting yourself out of being tied up, etc. would be seen as a bit of a joke. Or would it!?

I made a horrible mistake once, not too long ago, my friend, roomate, and six-year hetero-life partner Eric made a character based loosely on one of his favorite television personalities, someone so skilled in perception that they would notice clues that even the most dedicated detective might gloss over, and because of this ability, could make deductions so percise they seemed psychic, prophetic, and almost magical.

Skill Focus Perception and
Knowledge: Pharmaceutical
Of course, being the dream crusher of a GM I was (not wanting players to take advantage of the rules, and afraid admittedly of losing control over the game) I said "No! Just because you're proficiant in a skill doesn't make it a magical power!".  You know what, I was wrong.

Epic Tales are my business (except for the making money off of it part), and my favorite by far is the Albanian telling of The Skillful Brothers (which featured seven brothers instead of four), each endowed with a special skill, some not so far out of the bounds of human accomplishment, some definantly on the the side of "Miraculous Power". In the tale the brothers are asked by a king to save his daughter who has been abducted by the Devil, each must use their trait to save her.  The first can find the location of anyone or thing, and finds the Devil's lair.  The next can open the earth to any depth, and does so to reach the Devil's home.  The third could steal anything without being caught (taking first the girl, then one of the devil's shoes, which must've been quite stylish.), The forth threw the shoe to the end of the earth, as throwing was his strong suit.  The Fifth erected an impregnable tower instantly to protect the group when the Devil arrived to reclaim the girl (winded as he was, having taken the time to retreive his footwear.).

The Devil has had many
Depictions in History. This
is my favorite.
Unfortunatly the brothers were a little too trusting, and when the Devil asked for one last look at the fair maiden before leaving the brothers to their victory, they opened a small hole to allow the Devil a glimpse.  The devil reached through and immediatly pulled the princess out and laughed as he flew away.  Leaving the sixth brother (an expert marksmen) to shoot the Devil with an arrow that struck him with such force that he dropped the princess, leaving the seventh brother to catch her (and only he could, as he could catch anything that fell from any height.  Imagine the games of catch between Four and Seven.  Nike commercial material.)

As a side note, this is my favorite telling because when the brothers return, all are rewarded.  And unlike the four brothers, none bicker over who marries the princess as she is the one who chooses her husband to be (Spolier Alert: She chooses brother Seven, who caught her and was the youngest brother and most handsome, as younger brothers often are.)

Now let's tie it all up.  Skills ARE magical powers! The power to speak, the power to write, the ability to influence others, "THE ABILITY TO READ!". These are things that we take for granted, these are things that ARE magical and miraculous.  I work with a guy who could take my car apart and put it back together and it would run just as well.  And though I know that it is possible and not "extraordinary" in terms of what humanity is capable of, in terms of what I'm capable of my car is made of Glass, Metal, Fire, and Magic, and that man is a Caromancer!  The ability to use a rope though we are disenchanted with it, could be something amazing! Look at what Indiana Jones could do with a whip!

Skill Focus: Use Rope and
Knowledge: Archeology
The point is that as time goes on, and I realize that my struggle to contain and control the confines of what characters are capable has been equal to struggle to remain innovative and inventive in my story because the two are inexorably linked! (I really enjoyed that sentance.)  I've been trying to protect a rules set like it's a sacred text when really it's just a decision system.  When I try to contain the world I've created I've served only as it's opressor and to free it I must face simple facts.  I am not an all powerful being, or omnipotent overseer of an alternate reality!  I am merely a chronicler, a watcher, a simple force with the illusion of control! In truth the rules mean nothing! The players have no limits other then what they can imagine!  My imaginary constructs are alive the moment I share them, they slip away from me and the players can take them to heights I never imagined!

And those my friends, have been my very favorite stories, and my job is the best, because no matter how high they go, I get to be the one that catches them.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Roleplaying, True Character, and Letting Someone else Drive

I have a dream that my player's avatars will play in a game where they will not be judged by the numbers of their stats, but by the content of their character!

I haven't had much time recently to play Dungeons and Dragons with space and time contraints due to moving and work, and so my epic "Albion" campaign which I've plotted and schemed on of months has fallen by the wayside.  Usually I would be disappointed, and even greive the loss of the game (or more to the point, the work I put into the world's development).  But, I believe that I developed Albion to the point that the world itself is now a living thing someplace in my head, all I need is to inject players and change the priorities of the world to involve them.  Though my game has died (or at least lies dormant), a world was born, and I am a proud, proud papi!

With that lapse in time a contender has arisen! And by contender, I mean Storyteller who's been doing this much longer then I have.  There was a old Star Wars D20 game on the horizon, hosted by a man named Ryan.  Ryan is a friend of a brother of a friend of mine, who's actually also a friend, but also kind of a brother because my friends' other brother is married to the sister of my actual brother's wife.  So let's just say Ryan is a friend of a friend, and a veteran storyteller and game master.

I've always been afraid that I take my job as a game master too seriously, between things like probing character development questions, and forcing reources like Obsidian Portal on my players.  But, sitting down with Ryan to go over my character concept I realized I'm not the only one who goes to great lengths for the sake of a campaign.  By the time we had sat down to piece together my character, we had spoken on the phone, exchanged emails, and I had even taken an anonymous survey taken by the players to help shape the campaign (I'll be adopting that one).  I usually fleshing out a character after the player has created them, trying to get a feel for my player's character's backgrounds to make the characters seem more real , and less like a group of stats on a piece of paper.

Ryan's approach got in at the ground level of character creation, instead of saying "make a character and show up" asking "what type of character do you want to be?".  At first I didn't think these two approaches were so different, but it became clear to me given the chance to change perspective.  Instead of getting ready to step into you're character's shoes on game day, each step in character creation IS a step in your character's shoes.  The end result was the game starting with you being told, "this is how you got here" and less of "well you're here, now what" (a simple lesson, but one that took me years to actually learn).

"I don't know guys, I just can't shake this weird feeling,
It's like a blaster, right in my back!"
The differences didn't stop there, during the game play, rules and roles were established in character, and soon were flipped, week 1 started with a Jedi led strike team assaulting a seperatist array at the height of the clone wars, and ended with "order 66".  Blessed as I considered myself for getting to play the sole Jedi player character in game, things quickly turned ugly as the other players turned on me, killing my Jedi Master, and knocking my character unconcious and binding him.


I was pissed! Here I was, helplessly watching the other players beat, hogtie, and rob my character and rules, rolls, and the frail Jedi Sage I had carefully built was not enough to stop them.  I know as well as anyone that it is in fact "just a game" and to let things slide, but in the moment, watching other players grind my poor Jedi Padawan's face into the ground, I couldn't help but wonder, "So I drove acrossed town and used some great ideas the create a character so I can stand here and watch him get his ass kicked and do nothing to stop it?".  To boot, not only is it the person who's running the game making your life hard, but 5 of your friends kind of killing your fun.  It's hard not to get salty, and say "why's everyone picking on me!?".

In the end, after my character was taken out of action, the intruige of the story was more then enough to keep me from collecting my things, yelling "I HATE YOU!" like a burning Anakin Skywalker, and running from the house trying to choke back my angsty tears, (ok it wouldn't have been that bad, but I was pretty frustrated.)
"I rolled a 20 against stun and I STILL drop my lightsaber,
NERD RAGE!"

The night ended with my character bound, and the group fleeing the newly formed Galactic Empire.  A week in realtime (and game time) gave me time to reflect.  Walking away from the house, I was threatening player characers and plotting vengeance for my fallen master, but the week between the games gave me an opportunity to do something I haven't been able to do in literal years.  Take time to myself, drop into character, analyze what had happened, plot my next move.  Even better was that my character follows a monastic tradition, so while a week had passed, I read up on the Jedi code, reflected on it's teachings, and returned to the game the following saturday (mostly) free of angry thoughts of vengeance (in character and out).  What's more is that during the course of the evening, there was discussion in character about the current events in the galaxy, what the next step as a group was.  Most of which wasn't moderated by the Storyteller, just a few of us stepped aside, agreed on what our characters knew and didn't know about current events (to avoid "metagaming", I believe I mentioned it in a previous post), and spoke about possible paths and our goals.  For anyone familiar with Star Wars cannon, the conversation between a Jedi padawan and two clone commandos post order 66 was surprisingly respectful, diplomatic, and well played.  I'm not going to say what took place was "LARPing", but actually standing aside with two other people and speaking openly in character, it's the closest I've been.

Got a little side-tracked there.  Long story short, I reached a level of immersion I've been seeking my players to experience for quite a while.  Despite a lot of my experience coming what can be concieved as a negative experience (really frustrated), I was still hooked! Not just because the GM sets a compelling story, but also because those setbacks, both planned and rolled, helped give my character direction and set a challange before me much more exciting and important then target numbers.

So, personal story aside, let's talk a little about character development, more specifically, character development in a tabletop gaming atmosphere.

A character developed in a tabletop gaming session is quite different from a literary character, as they are forced to overcome forces that you can not control.  When writing a book or a short story, you have the liberty of setting challanges before your character that will help shape them into a character you desire, tabletop gaming is quite a bit different.  Your character is forced to weather the crucible of a fiendish DM, and the choices made by other characters (all of whom are every bit as important to the story as yours).  It's easy to forget (especially starting out) that your character is not the main character, that the story revolves around your group, not your persona.  Building a story with multiple main characters is hard on a player who's got a very interesting plot line, and a storyteller who is trying to follow an interesting plot line, but might risk leaving out other characters.  It's alright to play a character who's more of a supporting character then a lead, but even the most avid wallflowers need light, and in leaving someone to take a backseat to the rest of the group langwish you risk at best wasting that person's time and at worst that person becoming disruptive to the rest of the group.

"Trouble" Players are easy to spot, usually they're
holding a rule book, and arguing with the game master.
The key is constant is to be mindful of your surroundings and keep communication between your fellow players and storyteller.  It's easy to start the accept the atmosphere of the game (especialy Dungeons and Dragons, with it's "Adventure Game" roots) as something as more competative, with your Storyteller seen as an adversary and the other player as independant plot lines that speak when you're not speaking, and help keep you alive.  The fact is that like De Niro said in Brazil, "We're all in it together, kid.", that is to say instead of jockying for your turn to talk, you should wait to make sure to wait for others to react and have their say.  Instead of pulling levers in a room you just walked into, make sure the other players have time to check out their surroundings before being "that guy" that says "Hey! What's this do!?".  Sure you could reason "I have an impulsive character! That's just how they are!", but frustrating other player because "that's how my character is" is a slippery slope.  A few slip ups makes for interesting  (and frustrating in a good way) situations, but simply saying "That's how I am, deal with it" is either going to make player characters reconsider inviting your character on future adventures, or make your friends reconsider inviting you to future games.  Your "dark and mysterious" character is interesting, but when their "dark and mysterious" decisions start to step on the liberties of other characters, you've got some explaining to do, opening the way for some great story oriented conflict.  If it doesn't go the way of story oriented conflict (and that which actually reaches a resolution in a timely manner), and you dodge questions and accusations instead of confronting them, prepare to reap the consequences of the wedge you just drove between yourself and your party.

In closing, it's hard being a good game master, but even harder is being a good player, balancing your enthusiasim with patience in a world of adventure and excitment is enough to drive anyone crazy, but remember to share your enthusiasim with the people around you, create bonds with the other characters in the game (and game masters, create situations that force players to work together!  A room full of monsters is not enough to fulfill a team building exercise!).
You could make a thousand characters, and never know adventure
like this heating engineer.
Be prepared to make compromises on how you play your character, to leave room for others.  The only thing worse then a character who doesn't stick to their beliefs, is one too obstinate to make room for the people closest to them, and fictitious or real, people like that don't keep friends for long...ficticious or real.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Triumphant Return, and the Narrative Prerogative


You know I've got like, three or so blogs started and saved for this post.  I feel maybe I need to shift my format a bit.  I wanted this blog to work like a "Do It Yourself" manual on building narrative, especially in a Table-Top gaming format, each post being like a chapter. I realize now that's a little to intensive for me to keep up with (one of the reasons for my sabbatical).  So though I'm going to scale it back a bit, still focusing on Narrative, Storytelling, and Gaming, but breaching every now and again for a few personal bloggy things.

So, let's talk about what I've had the privilege of discovering while I was away!

I was able to attend Colossalcon in June with my friends Kristina Elyse Butke and Dave in June, and it wasn't nearly as "Colossal" as I'd anticipated.  I got the sneaking suspicion that maybe I just wasn't into the "scene" of it (being a bird of many feathers, this feeling of having one foot in the crowd and one foot out was not new to me).  Regardless it was a neat experience, and I was able to attend a panel lead by Uncle Yo, a comedian who's proclaims himself "The Geek Comedian, tackling all things sci-fi, comic books, video games, anime, and all that role-playing in-between.".  He was true to his word telling jokes through-out his panel that apply directly to the "Geek" culture, so directly in fact that some were lost on me (am I the only sci-fi fantasy fan on the planet that isn't apeshit for Dr. Who?).  But more informative by far then his humor was the content of his panel, "Beyond D&D" where he discussed narrative driven games (in story as well as system).

I can't help but applaud the mind
that decided to turn this...
Games like "Dread" a survival Horror game played with a Jenga tower.  Character Creation is, instead of the classic list of numbers detailing your characters abilities and attributes, a number probing questions, where your answer tells more about your character, things such as "In this game you will be a child at slumber party.  What did you do to your little brother that you're afraid your parents will find out about while you are away?"  your storyteller will then use your answers against you through the course of the story.  To test whether you're able to resolve conflict, you make pulls from the tower, but if the tower falls because of you, you're character is removed from the game, usually in a very final and vicious way! The tower is like quicksand, finding may give you incremental chance, but ultimately, the more you struggle, the more peril you put yourself and others in.  
...into this.


Or "Panty Explosion", I'll be honest, since looking this thing up, I've been talking anyone and everyone about it just because I like saying the name.  In this game you are Japanese school girl, dealing with high school life, evil Oni, psychic powers, and possibly (depending on the age disposition of your group) tentacle monsters.  In the game you choose which player is your best friend, and which is your rival.  When you resolve an action (with dice rolls) and are successful at an action, your "bestie" sets the scene boasting about how awesome your action was, but if the dice come up with failure, your rival paints what ever malicious picture they like.  The game pokes fun at teenage cultural norms by asking you to describe your character in terms of their zodiac, their blood type (which apparently at some time in japan was believed to shape your persona not unlike a zodiac sign), and even starting the game (and each subsequent day in "game time) by holding a popularity vote, the most popular girl claiming the best dice as her own and the least popular claiming the worst dice (in essence, the game is a lot harder when you're not popular).

There was a time when someone saying "you want to play a game where you're a Japanese school girl" might make me scoff (as many of the folks I've described it to have), but when Yo mentioned it, the first thing that sprung to mind was this movie, and how could I not be immediately overcome by dark glee!?

There are many other games Yo mentioned, games like "The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen", "Danger Patrol!" and "Mouse Guard" that also are some great looking games and introduce some fantastic narrative concepts.  Now if only I could find someone to play them.

There's also been a number of bands of great bands I've gotten into recently (and some not so recently) that introduce some amazing narrative via their music, or at the very least puts me in a mood to create a story.  Here's the rundown.

The Protomen. If I have not talked to you in person about The Protomen, we probably haven't seen each other in the last five years.  The Protomen takes the story of Megaman (Capcom's flagship blue-clad robo-hero), and turns it into a progressive rock opera.  Starting with their first album (Self-titled) following the creation of Protoman by Dr. Thomas Light, in the attempt to end the rule of Dr. Wiley and his army of evil Robots (don't you dare look down your nose at this, you loved it when The Flaming Lips did it!).  Then on to the creation of Megaman, so that Dr. Light may find companionship via a created robot son.  Megaman catches winds of his brother's exploits and decides (In only the most epic way) to finish his brother's work.
Light up the Night.

Act II: The Father of Death, the seconds album is a prequel, following Dr. Light's fall from grace, and Dr. Wiley's rise to power.  Where the first album was a rough, progressive, rock n' roll narrative extravaganza, The Father of Death combines an "old western" feel with synth rock and classic rock (even with some nods to "The Boss" himself).  I really can say enough about these guys, folks.  Buy their albums, and turn them up to 11.

I meant to talk about many other things, such as bands like "Manchester Orchestra", "The Dear Hunter", and "Ludo" (who brought us "Love me Dead", check out "The Broken Bride", a wonderful concept album), but my time on this post comes to a close.  Check out the games and music I mentioned if you get the chance.

One last thing. The other evening, I had the good fortune of appearing with my friends, Nathan Zoebl, Eric Muller, and Ben Bailey on their podcast "Dirty Sons of Pitches", which is a discussion on movies, a pitches for new films.  We made the "most inappropriate movie pitch", check it out!