Sunday, August 22, 2021

Splitting the Party Isn't That Bad

I guess it partially depends on how patient and cool your players are, but I am here to argue my case that it's just not that bad in general.

The party usually operates as one unit. When they come to a major decision point, they get everyone's perspective and maybe take a vote. When they come to a complicated situation, each person contributes what they can to the course of action. And unlike in film or TV, the "camera" is pretty much always pointed at the party the entire time, with no occasional dramatic cuts to the villain's lair to show him talking to his cronies or whatever. That's the idea, anyway.

This does not always work out. Sometimes just because of circumstances outside of anyone's control, but oftentimes it's because of a deliberate decision. The party will eventually find themselves in a situation where they ask, "should we send the rogue to scout up ahead alone?" Even most experienced players will be uncomfortable taking the risk, and still always try to return to the status quo as soon as possible. "Don't split the party" is one of the most oft-repeated mantras in tabletop gaming.

But I have done it a fuck ton and it's been fine.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Official German Translation of Brave

Didn't see that one coming, didja? Me neither.

So recently a fellow by the name of Calvin Brandt reached out to me and said that he's translated my RPG, Brave, into German. And I said, "So this is the coolest thing anyone's ever done for me."

So here's the link to the PDF version, and here's a link to the Word document for anyone who'd like to edit it directly. Just as with the original, the formatting of the doc version is a bit messed up if you don't have the right fonts. So go ahead and make sure you've downloaded the free fonts Garamond, Hamlet Tertia 18, and Black Castle MF.

Although of course, the formatting in general is quite a bit different, just as a consequence of being written in a different language. Mr. Brandt is working on the Enchiridion right now and we'll be keeping the translation updated as the game gets updated.

I'd like to publicly thank him for this as fully and deeply as I can. I cannot, myself, read German (I took a year of it in high school but I was a lot more focused on Spanish and Latin), but I encourage folks to spread this in your German-speaking communities and see that this triumphantly dethrones The Dark Eye once and for all.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Princess Mononoke and "DM-Prepared Plots" in Old School Games

Alternatively titled, "How to Have Your Cake and Eat it Too."

There is a commonly recognized dichotomy of gamers who like linear, "scene-based" games where the DM is a storyteller and has an epic and enchanting plot prepared in advance they're trying to deliver, versus games where the DM is a referee who impartially simulates an active world and hands the reigns off to the players to do whatever the hell they want. In the latter game, to the extent that there's a "story" or "plot" at all, it's usually one that emerges naturally and unplanned out of the consequences of the PCs' actions and how the world responds to them, but the point is that "player agency" is maintained above all else. In the former game, there's usually a much-needed Session 0 conversation where the DM convinces their players to try to "play ball" as often as possible so as not to "ruin the game," and typically as long as you're playing with reasonable people then you'll have a great time.

It's not actually as though all gamers fall strictly into one of these two types, but boy do these two types fight a lot and get very defensive.

There are essentially three main ways to think of this situation:
  • Broke: DMs are/aren't storytellers and that's the only correct way to play
    • (most sensible people recognize this is a childish take)
  • Woke: There are many different playstyles that are all equally valid, and you should try to just figure out the one you prefer and then go find players who agree
    • (this is what most sensible people settle on)
  • Bespoke: A good DM can achieve a game that both keeps player agency perfectly intact and features a good amount of "emergent story" from the simulated world and has a DM-prepared plot that unfolds and wows the players with their storytelling prowess.

I am here to explain how. 


Saturday, August 7, 2021

I Want to Talk About The Green Knight

I don't do this very often but this post isn't about RPGs or gaming. It's just some thoughts on fantasy fiction in general, although it does occasionally reference RPGs because that's who I am and I know my audience.

I'll warn you when I'm about to get into spoilers. First I need to set the scene.

This post is a series of short essays. First, what I love about medieval European culture. Second, what I love about Arthurian mythology. Third, what I love about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Lastly, I'll talk about the movie. Warning: about half the sentences in this post begin with, "I like" or "I love," but I hope I'm still able to drive at something deeper than you might expect.