RPGBlog

This is a collection of the RPG Circus Blog Items.

Season 5 Episode 1 - A Story within a Story

Welcome to Season 5 Episode 1 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics
  • Interview with Joe Wetzel of Inkwell Ideas
  • Brian's first Game System Jump
  • Character Sheets

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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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Season 4 Episode 25 - Semi-Pro Ball.

Welcome to Season 4 Episode 25 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics
  • Our Take on Mongoose's State of the Mongoose
  • The line between Amateur and Profession RPG Writers
  • Topic 3

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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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Season 4 Episode 24 - The Professor, Mary Ann, and RPGs

Welcome to Season 4 Episode 24 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics
  • Our Top 5 Deserted Island RPGS

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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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Season 4 Episode 23 - System Merry-Go-Round

Welcome to Season 4 Episode 23 of RPG Circus

Episode Topics
  • Switching Systems for the Same Game
  • Bystanders, Police, and other Background Characters
  • Kickstarter vs FLGS
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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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