In the early days of my gaming career, I went through three Frodos before I got to 3rd level. This wasn’t the only time for me, and I'm sure many others over the last forty years have suffered similar fates. Mages died from single rat bites, investigators went quickly insane, and ex-space marines died alone in nondescript alleys. At the early stages of characters’ careers death and failure come swiftly, often shattering players’ dreams for their characters. Or did they?
In modern stories and structural theories these deadly moments are said to ruin the fun of the game. To avoid this possibility, many GMs and experts argue that running a long Session 0 and starting at midlevel stages make the game more enjoyable to play. While I appreciate many of the concepts shared by the storytellers and structural philosophers, I believe skipping the Beginners Stage―regardless of the game―leaves both the players and the campaign lacking.
For a while, I have been kicking an idea around in my head about campaign stages and game balance. I'm not the only one; other game designers have created mechanics around the idea. For example, the D&D world introduced the epic tier level starting with 3ed, and 4ed put it into the Player Handbook. 13th Age expanded on the idea, creating adventurer, champion and epic tiers that add different abilities and modifiers at each stage.
My instincts say there's something behind these campaign mechanics. In the past I have mused that a campaign can progress through stages like characters, with each stage offering different types of challenges. I'm now starting to believe that the PCs also experience changes as they progress through campaign stages, but these changes are based on their knowledge of the campaign itself.
Some people are influenced by books or music. I'm influenced by movies. Because of this, I often watch the short clips of Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Painting to learn tradecraft. The last one I watched was “Akira Kurosawa: Composing Movement.” While watching, I realized it was full of advice that players could use for their characters.
In the clip, Tony discusses five major types of movement used by Kurosawa: weather, group, individual, camera, and cut. Of these types of movement, the “individual” type with its focus on character seems to be the most useful, and indeed Tony takes a full minute to talk about character.
About 9 months ago I had an idea for a unique approach to a gaming supplement, as well as half a dozen other supplements for various genres, and a name. At that point in my life starting a gaming company seemed like a great idea, as I took care of my parents. And so began Chromatic Chameleon.
I found a freelance editor who had game design experience, and killing three birds with one stone, this same person could also build a website for me. Next, I reviewed the work of hundreds of artists until I found one I really liked. I went through one cartographer, but soon found another, and all of this was happening while I finished the first supplement. I began looking at incorporation and finalizing my business plan. All seemed to be going well.
Last week, we had an interesting look at the different ways to use secondary characteristics to add dimension to your characters. It is not enough to read your background…”I am a fighter who is a butcher.” You have to actually play these attributes in order to improve your role playing. Say we’re playing Star Trek, for example. Let’s say you create an amazing engineer character. That’s great; you keep the ship running. However, by simply adding a high social attribute and some carousing skills, you get… Scotty! Not only can he give her all she’s got and a bit more, with perfect timing, he does it with a bottle of Andorian Brandy and a pretty lassie on his mind.
During the past few weeks, we talked a bit about the power of the secondary. I showed that by focusing on the secondary attributes we can add useful dimensions to our characters. These aspects really come together when we start using them in play. They help to define our characters outside of combat. These attributes also have purpose beyond the table.
Welcome to my new article series: ”Critique Role,” an irregular critique of live gaming. In this installment I’ll be talking about “Critical Role” - a D&D game. Because we all know D&D and you can always watch the episodes for yourself, I’ll skip the details here. Suffice it to say that several weeks ago the Critical Role crew set out to play a social adventure in the big city, but like most D&D games, it turned into a bloody combat. No biggie, that happens all the time, right?
Hello to you all! Last time I talked about settings we looked at defining the group’s approach to gaming, whether it’s a GM’d approach or a collaborative approach. We followed this up by looking at the three primary approaches to setting: adventure, investigation, and exploration. Today, we will cover many of the basic genres of gaming. Looking at the different genres, you should be aware how they interact with the previously-defined aspects of settings.
Adventure: These are action-based settings:
Is this blog getting deep enough for you? Let’s go deeper. Let’s talk about Immersion. Yes, that hippie word for roleplaying. Some people think it’s annoying, others are scarred by it, while still others see it as the goal of their gaming experience. While roleplaying is important, it’s linked to the mechanics of the game, so it’s a hard topic to discuss in general terms. Later we can talk about group tactics and other roleplaying aspects of gaming, but before we get down to business: Why are we talking about this stuff? Because immersion means being involved - in this case involved in the story - so completely that it occupies your energy and concentration.
Everyone up for a short post? Here goes.
Finding Your Group
Over the last year I’ve been stuck in Northern Houston, without access to a ride. I don’t have a gaming group here, and the other players I know all have family responsibilities or live in isolated areas that prevent them from forming a regular group. Of course once you’ve been bitten by the gaming bug, it’s hard to avoid thinking about gaming. Have you ever been in this position yourself? Are you in this position now? What is one to do?