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Trying to Restart a Stalled Group

Well, I haven't posted something in a few weeks and it's time for to start up again. This week, I would like to talk about something that is currently happening for me personally. the need to restart a stalled group.

So what do I mean by that exactly you my ask? It a group that had momentum. We were gaming on a regular basis. In our case every other Saturday. Then a few things happened. First up was life events for two of our players. Life events are events that change a persons life. It could be marriage, birth of children, divorce, new jobs, etc. In the case of one player, he got a new job and that changed his available schedule. The other player was forced to move so he could get work. This shrunk the available size of the group. It also in our case shrunk the number of people that could be counted on to play on a regular basis. In my group we have at least 3 players that depending on the needs of their job can play from time to time. Which means in my case we were left with 3 people including myself that were guaranteed to show up. The other thing that happened was the Holidays. I think for most people this is a time that RPG gaming takes a hiatus. This of course creates a stall. Sometimes it's hard to recover from such a stall. In some cases because people start planning to do other things. I know for myself, this was the case. I began to plan trips and activities because there was no gaming going on.

So now here it is almost 6 weeks of no gaming. In many ways it feels like there isn't a group. So what's a person to do but to see about trying to restart the stalled group. When one does this, one has to look at what the current batch of players are up to. Are there time constraints to worry about? Are there possible scheduling conflicts? Is there another day and time that works better? Are more people needed? Are there dangling adventures?

While restarting a group seems simple, sometimes it's not. We had a lack of players. First we attempted to see if there were days and times that would allow our current players all play at the same time. The only day and times that worked were on a Saturday evening/night. I hate to say it but being single, I'm not sure I want to commit to that. The second options is to keep the current plan of every other Saturday afternoon. Which meant I needed to find more players. Luckily for me, I was able to tap a few guys that were playing in my Thursday night games. That group had stalled as well. I'm happy that I was able to take the remains of two groups and form one group.

The second part for me to restart a stalled group has to do with looking at dangling adventures and what sort of things we can or should run with the group at hand. One thing for my current group that has come up time and time again is that not all players can make it to every game session. Take the dangling adventure, I think the poor GM has had to retconn the appearances and disappearances of several Player Characters. This should be like this. I think the GM really wants to finish his adventure, but I'm not sure myself if it should continue. I think the issue of not having all the players all the time (or even most of the time) is an issue we all face. I think this is why adventures which can be run in a 4 to 6 hour time frame work out well. The players are able to get involved, have fun, and get things resolved. You play with the players you have at hand and you don't have to worry about retconn hell. That's not to say that an adventure couldn't run into another session but it should not be the norm. This means if you are going to make adventures of epic nature. You may want to breakdown what would have been a large adventure to a series of tasks. Each task being a session adventure. Something that does not require each player to be there for each session.

So currently that's what I'm going for. No it's not pretty but that's the way things go sometimes. I wonder if you the gentle reader have ever had issues like this and what you did to solve them?

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Dreams of Electric Sheep!


I find it interesting that there seems to be a resurgence in my interest Cyberpunk. While I know that there have been Cyberpunk genre games out there, it seems there has been a lot of Cyberpunk related stuff that starting to come out again.

First there was the Cyberpunk 2077 video for the some video game. While not an RPG, it does seem to be based on the old RPG in some way. At least it seems that way if they have a picture in the background of Alt. Then there is the Savage Worlds Kickstarter, Full Metal Cyberpunk. It all got me to thinking about the viability of a Cyberpunk setting.

You see, I still remember when Cyberpunk the RPG first came out in the 1980's. It seemed so relevant at the time. The United States Economy was so-so. Japan seemed to be taking over the world Economically. No matter what anyone else says about that time, I remember thinking about how many of the Cyberpunk Elements could happen. I guess in a way the future looked a little bleak to me at the time and Cyberpunk seems to reflect that.

The odd thing about Cyberpunk is that by the time Cyberpunk 2020 came out, the world didn't seem so bleak. Of course I purchased it and thought much of it was still cool. Then something happened. It seems like Cyberpunk was more about the metal than the meat. Which is the danger of almost all Science Fiction type games. Somehow we what the flashy metal. Which explains why there were at least three Chromebooks for Cyberpunk 2020 that I can think of. I own two and have to say while the first one was OK, I think they really started to stretch things there. I'm almost thinking that some people wished there was not the whole concept of Cyberpsychosis. I pretty sure some people ignored it.

I guess the problem always seems that much of the Cyberpunk stuff just didn't seem as bleak to me anymore. I guess I always liked my Cyperpunk to be a little more gritty and honestly tied to reality in some way.

To be fair, I am considering that Full Metal Cyberpunk thing for Savage Worlds. The information sounds interesting and it is for Savage Worlds.

So, I wonder how many of you still play a Cyberpunk type game? And Yes, I'll count Shadowrun. Even though personally, I don't quite call that Cyberpunk at all. It's more modern urban fantasy then Cyberpunk (I think it lacks Attitude, but that's just me). So, please let me know what if anything you run!

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Birthdays and the Aging of Characters


With my birthday being this month, like most people I start to think about how old I actually am. Being a gaming, this also got me to think about the aging of characters. After all, if a character lasts long enough, shouldn't that character age??

That of course got me to wondering about a whole slew of things. The first of which is, if people actually choose a birth date for their character? Heck is there even a real calendar for the setting? Do people actually keep track of what exact day it is? My own experience in this area is that we generally don't. We may know the age of the character because we wrote it down but we rarely choose a birthday. And of course it usually complicated by the fact that most games don't really use a calendar. We may keep track of how long it takes to get there or say, it's certain time of year, but we really refer to the calendar date. Of course Genre and setting has a lot to do with calendars. If a setting or Genre using a calendar system that is not similar to what we normally use, the less likely it is that it will actually be used. So modern day games tend to have an edge here. Games like Traveller with simple 365 day calendar also have an edge. I've seen Fantasy games that have their own calendar but I don't think I've ever used them.

Even without an actual setting calendar, one could still age a character if you knew that it has roughly been a year. Like if you start a game and it's fall and you go through all the seasons and it's fall again. At that point, you could age your character one year. How many people do that? At least many of the games I've played in, we may know how long in days an adventure has lasted but we forget how many days a player has been adventuring in total. As a GM, I think unless I can have a calendar that's simple to use, I know I don't keep track very well. Which makes me wonder if I should just use the simple Traveller calendar sheet for all my games. After all it's just a simple 365 day counter. It should be page one in my GM notebook for that game.

So we have a calendar and we keep track of passage of time. I guess the last question is do people have the characters suffer the effects of aging? Of course this question only applies if you do keep track of time. Otherwise, your character is ageless. Of course this really depends on the game system in question. Some games like Traveller, have the aging built into the character generation. Other the effects of an age group seem to be in some hidden part of the rule book. I'd like to hear from people that have had aging affect their character.

I guess in the end, it all boils down to one thing. Is it important? If a game is going to be short lived, then I would say no. But if the in game time is going end up being years, then I say it could be. Send me your thoughts.

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RPG Circus and the New Year


Greetings and Salutations listeners and readers of RPG Circus,

It is hard to believe but here we will be starting Season 5 next week. Which means of course that we been around four and half years. I am very proud of that. Not to mention, that I still have fun doing the podcast and the off and on blog post. That's very important in this sort of operation as one does not get paid. So, the fact that you guys are out there and still listening and still sending us written and audio comments is very important to us. So, please by all means send more!

Of course every time a new season comes around, it's time for us here at RPG Circus to at things and see if there is anything different we should be doing. After all, there are always things that can be improved upon. Still, we did have one milestone last year. We actually recorded 25 episodes last year, which is more than we have every recorded in a single season. I look forward to seeing how many episodes we can get done this year. For those that want even more episodes, I doubt that we will be recording more than once every two weeks. Of course that said, there are other things that I would like to try this year, but I'm not sure yet how to intergrate. As you know I've fooled around in the past with a little video stuff. I think I'd like to do a little more of that this year. I'm not sure of the format for those videos or what topics those videos might take. Or if I will do them at all. It's still something of wishful thinking right now. I do know that if I do them at all, they would be fairly short.

All which comes back to you. We want you to help us help you. Tell what topics you would like us to cover. Tell us what you like or dislike about the show. Tell us anything. Tell how you think we should be using various social media.

So Happy New Year and Good Gaming.

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Obvious Equipment Carry

This is just my crazy thought for the day, please ignore at your leisure. I know I've covered some of pet peeves about carrying equipment in many Role-Playing Games. But this is more of genre thing this time. Having played a few modern day games, it seems like most people (GM included) seem to think that they can carry just about anything they want. I should point that I'm as guilty of this sort of thing as anyone.

And it's not the weight that's an issue where. I'm going to keep that out the picture this time. What I'm talking about this time is how players like to things that would normally draw attention to themselves. "Why yes, I do carry this shotgun every place I go!" Of course depending on the game, this may or may not be a problem. In a modern day spy game, this could be an issue. After all they are normally more sneaky. This of course goes both ways, as a GM the NPCs can't be carrying major hardware all the time. I guess it amounts to a sort of arms race of sorts. If a GM allows the players to very obvious equipment without issue then the NPCs should do the same no?

I guess the real question here is in games where it makes sense, do we try to enforce what amounts to equipment restrictions. And if we have these restrictions, what are penalties if those restrictions are violated?

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MERP App for Android Devices

Since in the last podcast, we mentioned both Rolemaster and Middle Earth RolePlaying (MERP), I thought it was very interesting that on my old Bone Scroll blog that I got a comment for an android app.

Now first thing right of the gate was "this must be SPAM". After I braved clicking the link withing, I found it took me to the Google Play site. Seems this gentleman has created an app to help calculate XP. Which if you think DnD 3.5 is complex, you haven't seen the way Rolemaster does it. Of course to be truthful, I don't think I've ever played with a GM would just didn't give out some random XP.

Still for those that would like it, you can find it here

Here are some sample images.


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Are Games Broken?

If the title seems a little inflammatory, I'm sorry this was something I was pondering this morning. Over at Zach's RPG Blog II, I made a comment on how all games were broken. Something that one commenter claimed was defeatism. I made a reply that I was just realist. Of course this did get me thinking, was I being truthful? Are all games broken?

I guess my thought process on this goes a little like this. What are game rules for anyway? In my mind they simply try to provide a mechanics to handle if and how things happen. I know that might be simplistic view, but I'd rather not get into if a game is simulation or not. My other thought is can a set of rules be so good that they are good for everything? Sort of lean towards the the "No" column on that. After all there are tons of so call universal systems out there; GURPS, Hero System, and even Savage Worlds. Are they perfect for everything? I don't think most gamers would say so. Each universal system usually has some weakness. I dare would think that some would call those weaknesses being broken in some regard.

Another thing about rules is that when someone makes a rule, they will not know how that rule might be used. Let's take something like Pathfinder which has feats. Feats usually break or modify a rule that's in play but only for those people that have that feat. Now, the person that wrote the feat doesn't really know how those feats will interact with all the other feats out there. In fact, I think someone would or could drive themselves to drink if they tried. The feat creator would do due diligence and check it against "core rule" feats but likely not much else. Still how many times have I seen players have a set of feats that together make a certain effect that seems overpowering or overarching. Would could argue that one or more of the feats are broken or the feat system itself is broken.

I guess what I'm saying is that no set of game rule are perfect in my opinion. If they are not perfect, couldn't one say that they are broken? Is admitting that being defeatism? I like to think not. Does admitting that ruin a game? I don't think so, it just means you accept that a game has limitations.

Now the above is clearly my opinion. I'm wondering what you the gentle reader is thinking?

One final thought has occurred to me, maybe I'm using the wrong word. Is there word besides broken that I should be using?

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Shot from the Canon

So you’re a DM, GM, or whatever, and your players are dying to play a long-term Star Wars game. Or maybe they must, must, must trudge through the dangerous territory on the outskirts of Mordor as Frodo, Sam, and Gollum slink toward Mount Doom. Or perhaps they have to play a Buffy game because they totally love Giles. (And really, who doesn’t?) After a little while, I’m guessing that your players will want to show their mettle and screw with canonical characters or events. Maybe they want to shave Chewie or murder the Witch King of Angmar. Perhaps they want to send fake text messages from Xander to Spike so that evil Spike will murder pre-lesbian Willow. I dunno, people are weird.

My advice is—when it comes to messing with canon—withhold.

This advice is not born out of respect for the stories that already exist, though I do respect them a great deal. Well, not the new Star Wars movies, but the rest, sure. I respect the writers, the stories, and the influence they had on me—quite seriously. But that respect is not what drives my warning.

Instead, my prohibition is more practical. Once you’ve taken the ring from Elijah, water-boarded Palpatine, or replaced Buffy as the ultimate slayer, well, there’s every chance that your RPG group will lose interest. Sure you can create other problems—new Dark Lords, more magic items to rule them all, other rebellions—but it is my opinion that players are not likely to push forward once the stories they know and love have been upended. After that, there’s nothing but silliness to come. “My character takes over Middle Earth and opens a Wal-Mart in The Shire.” That may be fun for a week or two, but by then, Middle Earth will lose its luster.

In a universe with canon, I suggest, at best, barely meeting a recognized character, and that is all. Leave a sense of awe. Don’t wrinkle the famous story. I recall being a player in a long D&D campaign, and our DM mentioned that Merlin, The Merlin, may have visited the region we were about to enter. That fact alone kept us on our toes, and I then took the game more seriously. Had we met him, shaken hands, and given him a wedgie (or the appropriate combat equivalent), something would have been lost. I was psyched enough just to sense him in my character’s universe. We weren’t playing in a truly Arthurian setting, either—Merlin just happened to be there, rather like Ringo in The Beatles, and that was plenty.

So, if you want to play in an IP universe, as someone running the game, don’t bring in too many famous names. Maybe let your players catch a glimpse of Rhadaghast cataloguing Middle Earth bird migrations, but don’t let them sign up to join The Fellowship. If you want to adventure close to the canonized folk, run a game where your players sneak around The Fellowship to keep wargs at bay. Or maybe it is your players’ job to infiltrate a new vampire lair in San Diego, thus forcing the undead toward Buffy’s hometown. That way, the names are there, but the main line isn’t affected.

Hopefully I’ve made my point. Either way, I do want to reiterate that I’m not suggesting this path out of misplaced obligation to someone else’s printed (or filmed) tale. I am not one of those RPG blokes so overawed by canon that no person shall dare mess with it. If you tell me that in your game, your players walked right up to Gandalf and kicked his ass, thus helping Sauron lord over an age of terror unlike anything known since my awkward teenage years, I say, “As long as you had fun, cool!” If you want to kill Kinkaid before he meets Harry, I don’t care. Newsflash—the stories aren’t real. Even if the source setting is nonfictional—you want to play a Civil War game and murder Jefferson Davis before the secession—go for it. All I’m saying is that when the canon, whatever it may be, is severely disrupted, your players may miss the wonderful stories and characters that they already know so well.

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Converting Adventures is Not So Easy

As a gamemaster, I am sure that we all have had adventures that we loved to run. Some that we have played many times with many different groups over a long period of time. Then one day a sad thing happens, we no longer play the game that the adventure supports or we just find a cool adventure that is for another system. What do we do then? Well, If you are like me, the first thought that comes to mind that we should do a quick conversion.

Which to be honest is what I was thinking for my game group's one-shot adventure we still have left to do. However quick isn't really quick in this case. The only time I think one can get away with saying quick conversion, is where there two games systems are fairly similar. Something like using the Basic Module B2 in and AD&D game. Or using a D&D 3.5 adventure in a Pathfinder game. Sure there are some work to be done, but you could almost do it on the fly. I know I've done that. Normally, however it's going to take real work.

Which is what I'm stuck with doing right now. As some of you are aware, I'm currently doing a few Deadlands one-shots, while our Pathfinder game is on hold. Last time, I ran one of the freely available One-page adventures, but I thought it was too short. So this time, I found an old TSR Boot Hill adventure that looked promising. The adventure premise was simple, Tame a Town. The adventure had it own rules on how to do that and were pretty self contained. The problem is I have a lot of work still to do.

One major area is that fact that the adventure has quite a few NPCs. They run the few businesses in town and they are also some of the people that are causing problems in the town. Which means I have to create NPC Stats for some of them. It also means I need to Deadlandize some NPCs. After all Deadlands isn't quite the west we think we know. Luckily, I can use some standard NPCs for some of the townsfolk. That should save me sometime, but I still have to create at least 9-10 special NPCs and I have to decide which of them are Wild Cards. As you can see this is where my work is cut out for me. In other game to game adventure conversions, this where one would try to convert monsters. One thing of course to look at is power levels. In some games an creature, such as an orc, might be low powered, but in other games they might be higher powered. Hell, you may even have to substitute a creature or create your own version of a creature if doesn't exist in the system.

A unique bit about this adventure that I'm converting is that it has a random crime time. That's because as the players tame the town, some crimes happen less frequently and other become more frequent. For example when the players first arrive, murder is fairly common, but yet by the time they tame the town, it's less common. Basically, who's involved in the crime is random but is influence by the location since certain people hang out at a location. The problem is that the adventure only tells you where NPCs are either in the NPC description or in the location description. I had to create a master table of locations and key it with that information for play. Again more work for myself, but it should hopefully pay off in game play.

Lastly, I had to do a little map conversion. This is something we always think we don't have to do. After all a map is pretty much system independent right? For the most part I would agree. For my part, Since I decided to just go ahead and layout the map on our playing surface, I had to re-arrange a few buildings to get it fit on my table. So again work for me, but I'm hoping it pays off when we play.

Before I close out, I'm wondering if any of you have ever done any adventure conversions? Or played such conversions, since for many of the older AD&D modules there seems to conversions to various editions?

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Player Response to Deadlands.

A few weeks ago, I posted that I was going to be running a few one-shot games using the Savage Worlds rules. I gave the players an options of settings based on what adventures I had available. I didn't give the name of setting but rather a one line description of the setting. I'm not sure if supernatural/horror/weird old west or supernatural/horror/weird World War II really describes Deadlands or Weird Wars II. Still it was the best that I could do without a full blown breakdown of the setting. In the end the players decided to go with the Old West setting, which meant Deadlands.

Almost every Savage Worlds setting has some modified rules that I needed to learn. For example in Solomon Kane, there was the Righteous Rage Rule. Deadlands is no different. I needed to for example learn how they morphed bennies to Fate Chips. For the most part they are same, but they have different colors that have slightly different effects. Still compared to learning an entirely new system, it is a very small thing indeed.

While I offered to help them create characters, most them opted to just use the pregenerated ones that you can download from the Pinnacle website. I think this was a good choice because the characters tend to be a little more rounded than what I've seen the average player do when the first start to play a Savage Worlds based game. It has been my experience that it's usually best to start play with a slightly wider range of skills instead of a few really high skills. The one player wanted to play a miner but couldn't come to make it. So I ended up doing a quick build of that character for the player.

So, the players were all set to go. One side effect of the new fate chip rules in Deadlands is that I needed new markers for wounds and shaken. I had been using the red and white poker chips for that, while the blue poker chip was the benny. I ended up with some printable markers for the wounds and shaken. A practical side effect is that since I tend to use a lot of printable minis with the old SJG Cardboard Hero stands, I can put the status marker in the stand with the paper miniature. So that worked at well for me.

For those that had never played Savage Worlds before, I was a little worried that all the pieces such as the fate chips, wound markers, and initiative cards would sort of freak them out. I happy to report that those players didn't seem to be bothered by them. As a matter of fact they seemed to really like the use of the initiative cards.

The players also like the very no strict movement rules compared to something like Pathfinder. For example, in Pathfinder and other D20 type games, you almost never move,shot, and move without a special feat. Which is something that Savage Worlds allows you to do right out of the box.

The only area that was minor issue with play was the trait rolls. This was mostly for the new player either not rolling the wild die or just using the wrong die. Which was something that I've done before myself. The other area was for those weapons that a rate of fire greater than one. Which even those players that had played Savage Worlds before had never done either. Still everyone enjoyed the exploding nature of the die rolls.

My only complaint was the one-page adventures that Pinnacle has for download. Compared to many the adventures in the Solomon Kane rulebook, the one-page adventures seemed short. I'm not quite sure why that should be. Since the Solomon Kane adventures are usually only a page themselves. The one adventure I wanted to use for four hours only ran for two and half. Luckily the players were all happy with the way the adventure ran.

Generally speaking, I think the players were very satisfied with how the rules worked. All the players were looking forward to the next one-shot session. Based on a few comments, I got the impression that at least one or two of the players would rather play Savage Worlds for a while instead of returning to our Pathfinder game after the next one-shot. I think that can be no higher praise for Savage Worlds than that.

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