Posts Tagged ‘games that can’t be named

31
Jan
12

What’s New with Games that Can’t Be Named

This Wednesday we have a double-top-secret, as in we’ll make you sign a NDA before even giving you the second NDA, session of Games that Can’t be Named. Our location for this week, 333 Court Street, is in keeping with the “you get to see it before it’s publicly available” theme. The Brooklyn Strategist is still under construction, but they’re opening their doors early for this event. Owner Jon Freeman says:

What's New with Phil and Dixie. Did you know there were new (as in 'created this millennium') ones of these, and they're all online? Click the picture to check 'em out!

Just so I can set everyone’s expectations at a realistic level, it’s still a construction zone.  It won’t have the amazing and cool vibe we’re hoping to achieve in the final product and it’s possible that the place will be a little dusty (plus I won’t have any shelving or counters up – they won’t go in until end of the week).  That said, I’m a big proponent of “if you bring good people together with games, food and drink, it usually doesn’t matter where they are…”

Hopefully it doesn’t matter too much what the games are either, because those are also under construction! Only those adventurous souls prepared to trip over an as-yet-unfixed mechanic, an uneven seam in the thinset concrete, or proud nails both literal and figurative need apply.

This Wednesday will be the third installment in the Games that Can’t Be Named series. The next two, 2/8 and 2/15, will be back at the Soho Gallery for Digital Arts at 138 Sullivan St. On those nights we’ll continue to have folks ready to run and play the games from earlier in the series (including the one we’re busting out tomorrow), and will continue to introduce a new not-widely-available game each night.

Here are some things that players in the sessions so far have ventured past the veil of silence to report!

Co-organizer Alex Guzman writes at RPG.net:

We had OSR gamers playing alongside 4e players playing alongside indie gamers all having a good time. It was great validation for my belief that people aren’t looking for the perfect game they are looking for a good time. What our hobby needs isn’t more products its more people to play with. That’s my opinion – but what the hell do I know right? lol

nerdNYC has lots of people daring the fiery wrath of disclosure to talk about the experience. The quotes below from cawshis leave out some great stuff, including more of the saga of his mom playing tabletop games again after 20 years (also referenced at RPG.net):

Happy to have been there for the first one. Hope to make one the next time I’m in town! I should say, despite the logistical considerations, I had a great time and so did my mom, who talked about it all the way home. I was mainly interested in the full “stranger” to the scene experience and that’s what I got! From where I sat, I thought you guys pulled it off. Everyone appeared to be having a fun time and that’s what’s important to me. The format needs only a few tweaks in logistics.

I encourage everyone to go! These kinds of experiments in ad-hoc gaming should be supported and encouraged! It can only improve the more folks go and try it out. And it’s fun gaming with strangers since, as Eppy taught me, it’s all about going out on dates with lots of gamers to find those perfect matches.

The logistics he mentioned were:

  • Big groups: we had a larger turnout than expected and wound up with a table that, while not exceptional by White Sandbox standards, had more players in one group than most are used to. Tomorrow we’ll have at least four people ready to GM, with likely group sizes thus in the standard 4-8 range.
  • Setting expectations: This is a tough one. The format means there are things that can’t be said; the games are so new that it can be hard to know what they’ll be like; and what part of the experience comes from the GM rather than the material is hard to assess. However, to answer some of jenskot‘s questions for tomorrow’s game, I expect it will be skewed toward combat rather than role-playing (although being player-driven means it could go either way) and a system-matters playtest.

Blogger Tenkar reported on the second session, where we did much better with logistics and solved at least some people’s expectation issues by describing the game as “inspired by OD&D and Burning Wheel and old-school video games”:

It was a blast! I met some really cool gamers, had some excellent Tunnels & Trolls conversations (last thing I expected to find), saw some amazing Old School D&D art from the likes of Peter Mullen (rendered on digital screens) and got some gaming in. I wish I could talk about the RPG I played a session of, but I can’t (NDA and all that). I will say it was a lot of fun and a blast to play.

Lessons learned? I should bring an old notebook, more then 2 sets of dice, gem dice don’t read so well depending on the light at my semi-advanced age and gamers are gamers no matter the age.

Most important lesson? My wife is awesome! Thanks for encouraging me to attend ;)

One game that happened at last week’s session can’t be named only because, when Michael Mornard learned to play it, various people called what they were doing “Blackmoor” or “Greyhawk”. Now that we’ve settled on “original Dungeons & Dragons” as a name, however, both myself and Paul Hughes (here and here) have been eagerly sharing the lore Mike is helping bring out from behind an undesired veil of secrecy.

I’m sad to report that Mike won’t be at tomorrow’s session – seminary school starts this week, making weeknights tough for him although I hope we’ll find another time. However, if you’re in range of Brooklyn, please do come by and help us make some new gaming history!

26
Jan
12

Pledge Allegiance

This morning on the bus, I tested my son’s knowledge of Tarzan to check Charlie Jane Anders’ assertion that the character is unknown to people under 30. It turns out that nine-year-olds have enough familiarity to nickname you “Tarzan” if you wear a lion-print Halloween costume that started as one year’s Charles Atlas and was re-used as Hercules the next. What Javi knows about Tarzan is that he swings on vines and drowns enemies in quicksand who are not hip to the vine trick. Tarzan’s origin story is news to him, which is probably not good for the long-term survival of what makes the character unique; apparently we are no longer much interested in people being raised by apes, but still need an iconic image of a guy who runs around hollering while half-dressed.

Cover from Doc Savage Magazine, July 1935

Anyway, Javi wanted to know why I was grilling him about Tarzan so I explained that I’d read an article about what new pulp characters have come along to replace old ones that are forgotten, like Doc Savage. Then he wanted to know who that was. Being a fan of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life I was able to do a credible run-down on the Man of Bronze, but a nine-year-old’s thirst for knowledge makes it very handy to have a hivemind in your pocket. The Wikipedia entry brings us to the thing I want to talk about, Doc Savage’s credo:

Let me strive, every moment of my life, to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit by it.

Let me think of the right, and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice.

Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage.

Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do.

Let me do right to all, and wrong no man.

Since Green Lantern was Javi’s first heroic fascination, he and I are no strangers to oaths. Our conversation about why the Guardians of Oa require that their agents to recite a daily oath to receive their powers, and what benefits Doc Savage might receive from having a code to guide his conduct, got me thinking about creating a credo for characters in a role-playing game.

I am at the stage of unpaid taxes where I guiltily suspect that a commenter like NUNYA who likes all caps and creative spelling might be Joesky in disguise sending me a warning, just as an unrepentant Scrooge might flinch at the sight of passers-by who just happen to be androgynous and candle-headed, robed and torch-bearing, or gaunt and spectral. So instead of just waxing theoretical, I will try to offer actual game-useful content. (Before the gassiness ban takes effect, let me note that Doc Savage is awesome because his myth is the unfamiliar archetype that sheds light on elements of our culture so familiar that they’re hard to perceive directly; doesn’t “strive to make myself better and better that all may profit” and “take what comes with a smile” sound like a perfect encapsulation of the ethos that makes original D&D appealing?)

And I won’t just say “hey you should make up your character’s code of behavior” because I haven’t done this and have no reason to suspect it would be a good idea. When I suggested to Javi that he and I should make up oaths for ourselves, he was clearly embarrassed by the notion and I suspect your average player, or even me when I’m not wearing my enthusiastic Dad hat, would feel the same.

But I really like the idea of striving, every moment of our lives, to make ourselves better and better, to the best of our abilities, that all may profit by it.  Since the Joesky tax fund is full of stuff that’s useful to DMs, I’ll start a series of posts aimed at being better players.

Michael Mornard's dice are not older than me only because I am really old. The twisty white thing at left was not a joint, but I don't know what it was.

Last night in the OD&D game Michael Mornard ran (here I make an exception to  Games That Can’t Be Named‘s name-no-names policy), I rolled up Boboric the Huscarl and did not want him to get killed. Being a first-level fighting man, I decided that having plate-mail would go a long way to supporting this ambition, but I only rolled 60 gp and needed cash for flaming oil and door spikes and all the other things that would let me contribute to the welfare of the party without needlessly exposing myself to death in the front lines.

So I approached Roger de Coverley, who had emerged from the previous adventure with all kinds of wealth and second-level-ness, and announced “Sir, I will pledge myself as your guard and servant if you will equip me with a full suit of steel armor!”

After making sure that this pledge included standing in front of Roger in the marching order, Paul agreed to equip Boboric. Seeing the success of this tactic, the player of Melbar the Lesser got in on the action. “Hey, is there a Melbar the Greater?” I asked. Upon learning that he was indeed, M. the Lesser was of unspecified relation to Melbar the Greater, Lord of Toast, I said “Cool, will you accept me as your vassal so that I may wear his coat of arms?”

Paul cut himself into this action too: “Hey, Roger has a garter that you can wear.” Being quicker on the draw, Boboric  got to wear the right garter, Melbar was stuck with the left. (He also wound up in the first rank of the marching order; sucker!)

What started out as a simple exercise in advantage-seeking (with overtones of greed and paranoia) became my key to roleplaying Boboric. When I challenged a bandit leader to single combat, after defeating him I went over and laid down my spear (which cost me 1/60th of my wealth, and had a valuable spider stuck on it for safe-keeping!) at Roger’s feet, establishing to the surviving brigands that he was the big man here; Boboric had proven himself to be tough and fierce, but how much more to be feared was the guy who commanded him!

Gronan, Roger, and Melbar (background, from L to R); The Mauler (foreground)

The decision to play a character who was eager to pledge allegiance and see what he could get in return unlocked a lot of fun for me during the session. Here’s what I think can be generalized as advice on being a better player:

  • Want something. D&D is a great and compelling game because, in every edition, it gives me ways to “strive to make myself better and better.” As we’ve said at the Mule before, one of the great things about XP for GP in TSR editions is that it gives characters a specific, concrete thing to pursue with monomaniacal zeal in pursuit of that goal. Both gold and XP are so fundamental that the advice to want these things is unlikely to lead to better D&D play, although it may be useful to note that a character concept that involves not wanting wealth and power will probably be no fun to play. Odyssey has written about how a party full of characters who are addicted to things other than gold would provide not only motivation but also a reason for everyone to know one another. Maybe the greatest benefit of wanting something is that it helps you understand other people who might want that too. Boboric’s drive to get a suit of armor out of pledging allegiance to the highest-level dude around set the stage for the party to embrace the idea that the bandits would sign on to our party once they learned that, under Roger’s leadership, we ate three times a day.
  • Look up and down the ladder. One of the biggest things I learned from Adventurer Conqueror King is that low-level guys want to wear the insignia of a higher-up on their shield for the extra protection it affords: mess with me and you’ll answer to Melbar the Greater. And name-level characters want to find competent people to wear their coat of arms because they want someone to go around showing the flag and doing the scutwork that’s beneath their notice. You don’t need ACKS for this (although the PDF will be available for sale real soon now!) – you could have learned it from Jeff’s posts about to-do lists for BX characters, or just from the basic assumptions of D&D. Last night’s session began when, as we were working out our marching order in a tavern, Lord Gronan sought us out because Roger’s success in the kobold mines meant we might make useful vassals, and we were delighted when taking over from the deceased bandit leader meant we emerged with nine new henchmen of our own. This stuff is as old as RPGs, but like much of the original D&D lore it risks being forgotten.
  • Set up connections within the party. You never know whether the situation in a session will provide whatever externals are necessary for you to pursue the thing you decide your character wants. The one thing you can be sure of is that you’ll always be around your adventuring companions. Linking them into whatever striving you have in mind for your character means you’ll never lack for a roleplaying hook. Boboric got lucky (or plugged into an omnipresent D&D current) in that we did meet NPCs who wanted to play allegiances with him; but since Gronan of Simmerya was Michael’s character from the original Greyhawk campaign, even this was an example of making PC-to-PC connections.
  • Be considerate of fellow citizens. Allegiances within the party shouldn’t obscure the fact that everyone’s first loyalty should be to one another. Boboric was Neutral; he kept his word but was careful about what he pledged, and although he gave his loyalty for keeps he didn’t commit until a quid pro quo was established. The player to my right, Maurice, rolled up another fighting man, The Mauler, who (as Mike pointed out at the end of the night) was definitely Good. The Mauler never hesitated to risk his life by stepping up in battle, and when one of our magic-users was killed by a poison chest trap, the rest of us were like “oh yeah, old-school play is lethal, what can you do?” The Mauler didn’t accept that answer, even when the player of the magic-user in question was like “hey no big deal”. He took the body to Gronan and demanded that something be done for his fallen comrade, and the next thing we knew we were in the Temple of St. Cuthbert of the Cudgel witnessing a miracle (and receiving a geas in return). Wanting to do the right thing is a powerful motivation, and I think we were all inspired by the dedication with which Maurice lent his assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice.
18
Jan
12

Games that Can’t Be Named

Alex Guzman of BAD WRONG FUN and my outfit Adventuring Parties are organizing a weekly series of gaming events over the next six Wednesday evenings. 1/18, 1/25, 2/8, 2/15, and 2/22 will all be at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art, 138 Sullivan St. in Manhattan; the location for 2/1 is likely to be the Brooklyn Strategist’s new location, construction permitting. There will be roleplaying going on from 7-11 pm each of these Wednesdays.

Here are answers to some questions you may have:

What are Games that Can’t Be Named?
I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you!

Seriously.
OK, it’s no secret that there are a lot of things in the RPG world going on right now that haven’t yet been released, that some people are playing, and that NDAs make it hard to talk about. Come by and we may hook you up with one or more of these, which may or may not be the ones you’re thinking of.

Is this event open to the public?
Yes, just show up and we’ll have you sign in blood at the door.

Do I need to be there right at 7? Is it OK if I need to leave before 11?
Come by whenever you can, stay for as long as you like! Different structures for gaming is one of the things we’d like to test out in this series of events. A barrier to entry for new players is that you usually have to make a somewhat substantial time committment before you know whether you’re going to like RPGs. It’d be sweet if we collectively worked out a way to offer a Vegas buffet of fun that could suit nibblers as well as those interested in a full sit-down meal.

Will there be gallery-goers wandering in and out?
No, we should have a relatively private space (where D20 Burlesque did their thing for the last event we did at the SGDA). However, if you have friends who might be interested in gaming for whom it’s easier to talk them into going to a gallery, feel free to bring them wandering in!

Do I need to bring anything?
No! If you have a favorite set of dice, paper and pencil, etc. you’re welcome to bring those, but it’s not necessary.

Is there a cover charge?

These first two weeks we’re going to pass the hat to help cover expenses. The SGDA owner is a gamer and liked having games in the gallery so he gave us a good deal on the venue, but it’s not free. As part of our agenda of generating positive representations of gamers in the media and recruiting baby bats, we’d also like to cover the costs of things like flyers and making actual play videos and suchlike fun. So we’re going to suggest that if you have a good time, you throw in something like the price of a movie ticket to crowdfund this goodness. Bad Wrong Fun’s list of sponsors is impressive and growing all the time, so down the road we may have other ways to make ends meet like selling raffle tickets for some of their cool stuff.





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