Awesamity

#200WordRPG: DOGMA

#200WordRPG is one of my favourite yearly traditions, despite how young it still is. This is my second year entering - last year's entry can be found here. If you're not sure what #200WordRPG is, well, it's a challenge to write an entire tabletop roleplaying game in 200 words or less, with no graphics or special formatting. It's all about the words (all 200 or less of them).
This year, I present to you DOGMA!

You and at least two others (there is no maximum) are an entire religion, throughout its timeline - from inception, to corruption and subversion.

Your religion is growing. It will do great things... Before it is twisted, and made rotten. We play to see it fester.

The first player describes a moment of SPIRITUALITY: a fact about the religion at its founding.
//Thou shall not kill.

The second describes a FABLE that explains it: written long after, it obscures the spirituality from morality into rote learning.
//St. Cain didn't kill the sinner, but cut off their hands, feet and tongue so they could never sin again.

The third describes a MISINTERPRETATION: long after the fable is written, how is it subverted and corrupted for personal gain?
//King Auger cut out the tongues of all non-believers, stating they were now, or would become, sinners. He declared their exsanguination was God taking their deaths into Her own hands.

A player who hasn't described a Spirituality begins again. New Spiritualities must reference or retaliate to a previous Myth or Misinterpretation.
//Suffer not the sinner to live.

The religion stagnates when everyone has misinterpreted something.
//Religion fades when spirituality is forgotten.

Record everything.
I also did pretty it up a little, and uploaded it here (and put it on my portfolio here).

If you play it, let me know!

#200WordRPG: MegaCorp

It's time for #200WordRPG again! This shall be the first year I'm participating. Pretty excited for it, to be honest. If you don't know what it is, you can read all about it here, or see an example from this year by Steve D here.
Please note, this game hasn't been tested. It might suck...
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You’re suits pulling the strings of a MegaCorp. But the ‘Corp is falling - you and your associates have been picking it apart for months now. You want as many assets as possible before it crashes. But not the most, nor seen to be responsible for the crash - they will be charged with fraud...
To play, gather: 2-4 players, a Scrabble set, and a Jenga tower.
Separate Scrabble vowels from consonants. Players take 5 vowels and 9 consonants each. Players make words in secret (minimum 3 letters). Oldest player begins.
Players have a conversation - when asked a question, answer it - attempting to goad the other players into saying one or more of their words.
When a word is said, the player who owns it immediately halts play, reveals it, and replaces the letters. They draw new letters of the same amount, then either remove or replace Jenga pieces up to the amount of letters in the word (minimum 1). They then restart the conversation.
The game ends when the Jenga tower falls, and the knocker loses. The player with the most Jenga pieces loses hardest. Whoever has the second most pieces wins.
Lather everything in Cyberpunk and describe it.
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I'll be playing it over the next few days to see what it's like. If you've got an idea for a 200 Word RPG, let me know in the comments below, and then submit it on the site!

Regent: A Free & Easy Card Game For Infinity Players

Regent is a game I came up with today on the way to work... Seriously, I'm not kidding. I wrote this in less than 10 minutes, and I have no idea if it will work or not yet, so I am hoping some of you play it and give me some feedback!

REGENT:
A Free & Easy Card Game For Infinity Players

Regent is a card game which can be played with any number of players above 2, with normal decks of cards (you need 1 deck per player) and probably 30 minutes or so to spare (though this is merely conjecture at this point).

Objective

The aim of Regent is to defeat the other players - all aspirants for the Throne - by destroying their Holdings, which represent their military and political might. The last player standing is the Regent and gains the Throne, winning the game.

Set-Up

To play Regent, you need a normal 52-card deck of playing cards for each player. Once you have these, shuffle them all together and place the massive pile that you'll have on your hands in the centre of the playing area. 

Deal 20 cards face down to each player. This is their Holding Deck. Then deal 7 cards to each player which they may look at. This is their Hand.

Everyone declare how many Royals they have. The player with the most Royals goes first. If you have people with equal amounts of Royals, then the one going clockwise left of the Dealer goes first. Play progresses clockwise from this player.

Playing The Game

At the beginning of their turn, players draw a card if they have less than 7 in their hand.

During their turn, players can perform up to 3 Actions and play a Court Member. Outside of their turn, a player may Defend, Exploit or Assassinate at any time.

Each Action is assigned to a particular suit of cards, and to perform that Action, play a card of that suit. The number on the card represents the power of that Action. There are four possible Actions:
  • Attack (Club): Pick a target. Remove Holding cards equal to the power. You must declare your target before defence.
  • Scheme (Spade): Look at up to power number of cards on the field (in players' Hands or Holding Decks) and rearrange them as you see fit, though maintaining the amount in each location. You need not declare your target before defence.
  • Favour (Diamond): Draw up to power number of cards and add them to your hand. Discard down to 7 cards before taking another Action or finishing your turn.
  • Heal (Heart): Draw up to power number of cards face down and add them to either the top or bottom of your Holding Deck.
Instead of using them as an Action, a player may play one Royal per turn to their Court, face up. Doing so prevents any other player from being able to use that same Royal for as long as that card remains in their court, though the player who owns that Royal may still use them in Actions. Additionally, if you have all three Royals of a suit, you gain +3 power to cards of that suit. This may only be done in your turn.

Additionally, at any time (in your turn or off-turn) you may remove a Royal from your Court voluntarily to use them in an Action (though they never re-enter your Hand, so you must use them immediately or discard them). Once this has been done, you may not add an additional Royal of that same type to your Court this turn. I.e. You may not have a King of Hearts in your Court, remove him, use him, and play another King of Hearts that you hold to your Court.

Defending can be done by any number of players when another player plays an Action, but each player can only Defend with a single card per Action. To do this, play a card of the opposing colour to the Action (Red > Black, or Black > Red). Reduce the power of the Action by the power of the Defence. If an Action's power is reduced to 0 it failed (but still counts to the total Actions used). This can only be done in your off-turn.

Exploiting can be done by drawing cards from your own Holding Deck. This can save you in a tight spot, but also harms your 'health'. This can only be done in your off-turn.

Assassinating can be done by playing a Joker Card and removing a Court Member from an opposing player's Court, thus allowing another player to add that same Royal to their own Court. This can only be done in your off-turn.


Winning The Game

Once a player's Holding Deck is reduced to 0, they lose, and their Court is disbanded (and discarded). When there is only 1 player left, they win.

Clarifications

Once a card has been used to perform an Action, Defend, Assassinate, been Assassinated, or is discarded, it goes into the Discard Pile. Once there are no more cards to draw from the Deck, reshuffle in all cards from the Discard Pile into the Deck, and keep going with play as usual.

Royals are worth the following amounts: Jack (11), Queen (12), King (13). Ace is worth 14, but is not a Royal and cannot join a Court. Further, Jokers are worth nothing and cannot be played in any way except to Assassinate another Royal. You may also never have multiples of the same Royal in your Court so as to "hold" the space. Only one Royal of each suit can ever be in a Court at any one time.

Cards used to Defend do so to their full amount. Any excess 'defence' left over does not get stored anywhere. Therefore, if you use a Defend card of 5 power against a 2 power Action, the other 3 power is simply wasted. So choose carefully!

As I say, please give this a try and let me know in the comments.

[EDIT #1] Thanks go out to Robert for making me realise I forgot some things in the original write-up, and for suggesting some changes. I'm a goof.

[EDIT #2] Thanks to Amelia, Laith and Sam for playtesting this over the weekend. It's fun, though a few issues need to be ironed out, so I will likely have to make a 2nd Edition!

What I Learned About RPGs from MCing a Wedding

Yesterday, Saturday December 6th, 2014, my best friends got married. They were both beautiful, and the wedding went off without a hitch... Which was surprising, considering I was both Best Man and Master of Ceremonies, so a lot of the screw-ups (which thankfully didn't occur) would have been on me!

The whole experience got me to thinking: planning and running a wedding is a lot like running an RPG as the GM. In fact, the two are so similar, that I wouldn't be surprised if that was why I was chosen for the role!

So here are a few tips for both MCing a wedding and for running a successful RPG session.
I swear to you I did better than this guy...
Tip #1 - Over-Plan, Under-Plot
When planning for the special day, I looked over several revisions of run sheets, spoke to everyone who may-or-may-not speak, collected together a series of items for the Groom in case of emergency, and ran through every situation in my head before it could surprise me. I also wrote a giant stack of palm cards with every step of the day marked out clearly.

Now, do you think the day went according to the plan? No way. Herding wedding guests is like trying to direct players - except you have about 10x as many, or perhaps even more! And yet, all this planning wasn't wasted.

Because I knew how the day was supposed to go and why back-to-front, I knew what I needed to change on the fly to get it back on track, or just as good. It also allowed me to be comfortable enough with the material that I could improvise when I needed to (which I did need to with several points).

For RPGs, I would recommend this sort of over planning, yet under plotting. Know who your characters are and what they want deeply (and why!), and then figure out how they're going to get their goals completed. Once you know this through and through, throwing a few players into the mix wont hurt so much. Your players will mess everything up, but your finely crafted NPCs will be able to reel with the punches and deliver some great dynamic game play!

Tip #2 - Get to know your guests and supporting cast
I spoke to everyone (or near everyone) on the Bridal Party, close family of the Bridal Party, and Church/Reception Staff before their roles were exposed to everyone else. I knew where their weaknesses were (Would they dance? Would they give a speech? Would they prefer to mingle early, or take a break from photos, etc?) 

This enabled me to know who I could rely on for what tasks, and to delegate out pieces of the evening. If I needed something for the Bride or Groom, I knew who to ask. If I needed to shuffle around some of the speeches, I knew who to talk to. If I needed to get the music changed, I had that covered.

Obviously I couldn't do everything at the Reception myself, and nor should I. The parents of the Bridal Party would want to help out on the newlyweds wedding, and I was more than happy to have their help! This delegation allowed me to focus more on the Bride and Groom, and also allowed the rest of the Bridal Party to feel more included, and to actively shape the happy night their children will remember for the rest of their lives, and that is truly special.

For RPGs, this advice boils down to: know your players, and know what they're good at. Do you have a player who is great at maths? Have them keep tabs of HP. Do you have a player who loves music and has a great ear? Have them run your playlists. Do you have a player who can bake? Have them bring some delicious treats for the rest of the players!

Keeping your players involved beyond just being characters enables them to build culture with the RPG group, beyond just in-game memories. You'll have your players talking about not just the two-headed Troll they slew, but also the sweet music going on in the background, and the delicious biscuits to go along side it! This sort of culture is, in my opinion, deeply important to RPG groups.

Hell, it's the reason the Bride and Groom are my best friends... I became close to them through my first campaign in Melbourne!

Tip #3 - It's ALL about the Bride and Groom
The single greatest piece of advice I received when planning for last night was that nothing matters beyond the Bride and Groom having a great time. Nothing. If they are happy, the wedding is going well, and in return they are happy, ad infinitum.

I made sure to keep my Bride and Groom stocked with drinks, food and anything else they could possibly need. I made them know that if they needed anything I hadn't offered, they could merely ask and I'd get it. (I also discovered a form of Wedding Sorcery - honestly, if you're ever on a Bridal Party, try going to the Reception Staff and asking for something for the Bride or Groom. They will drop what they're doing and run for it. I may have gone power-crazy.)

For your game, know that so long as they players are enjoying themselves, the game is going well. So what if you'd planned for a Dragon fight at this point - if they're having fun discussing court politics with the aging King, then damn well let them! However, if they're starting to nod off, have the Dragon come to them! Bring them the fun - don't make them find it.

Tip #4 - Be Sincere, Be Happy, Laugh When You Fall, and Help Up Everyone Else
My last tip is simple - don't take yourself or anyone else to seriously... At the Reception, I didn't write in jokes. I was nervous, and I just said what came to mind. I opened the night by standing like a dick in front of everyone chatting away. I thought, How will I get their attention? I picked up my fork and tapped it against the glass in front of me like I'd seen in the movies, and like I'd always wanted to do. Everyone shut up and looked and me, and I forgot what to say, so I said what came naturally to mind...

"I've always wanted to do that."

People laughed, I laughed, and I remembered everything I was supposed to do. I made myself a momentary prat, and then captured the audiences attention and empathy. We were all there to have a good time. They weren't there to listen to my verbosity - they wanted to see and toast and love the newlyweds.

Plus, the line became a running joke for the evening, bringing everything together. Whenever I needed attention, everyone looked over and laughed again, and it kept the tension broken. We could get on with the good stuff. During my speech, I spoke sincerely. I didn't shove in Buck's Night Humour as one cousin congratulated me on afterwards, but spoke from the heart, and matched how I felt. I hope I did them well.

And so my last time is this: Don't run your game like a TV Comedy Panel, trying to force entertainment on your players. They want to have fun along with you, not be entertained by you. They want to build their own fun out of a game session, and build it co-operatively. So let them. It will make your job easier, and make the sessions better! Just run a game as you'd tell a good story to a friend down at the pub. Your players will laugh in the right bits because you will. Your players will be tense in the right bits because you'll feel it. And they will laugh when you fall, and you'll laugh when they fall, but just as you should help them back up, so to will they.

Final Words
I love my RPG group. I really do. We are all the best of friends, and I feel comfortable around them in and out of game with anything. I've seen two of them fall in love, and two others get married now.

The game is nothing compared to the culture, and that's what I want to protect. We're an RPG Family. Thanks, M.O.R.T.E.




The Lightest RPG Ruleset Ever

Don't worry, I'm still writing the next part of my recent series.  I haven't forgotten! This is just something I thought about on my way to work this morning...

The following is a ruleset for a light RPG you can play in any amount of time, even less than 30 minutes. Character generation takes 10 seconds, and combat (if you even have any) takes a single dice-pool per 'side'. It can be used for any setting, ever.

Each player chooses 3 things their character is good at. This could be anything, from Strength, to Running, to Talking People to Sleep.

Each player ranks these traits from +1, +2, and +3. You have to use each, and you can only use each once.

To make a test, a player rolls a d6. If they are testing an action against something that they have a trait in, they roll that many more dice and add all the results together.

The GM sets the Difficulty of an action (or in the case of a contested action, the other party rolls and compares the highest). Difficulty 4 is the base-line.

If a player rolls equal to or above the Difficulty, then they succeed. If they get equal to or more than twice the Difficulty, they have performed a Critical Success, and they can describe the extra awesome things they've done.

Combat is fought by both sides adding up all their dice and rolling it as a single dice-pool. The side with the highest total wins, and the other side loses. It is up to the GM and the players to decide what this means.

Weapons and armour, and other gear add more dice, or have cool effects determined in the moment.

Rules of Thumb: Don't be a dick. Play to have fun with everyone. Trust each other. Do these things and the system will work.

Have fun!

Where Have I Been? And A Monster For Your Troubles...

Greetings,

It's been a while. It certainly has been a very long while. Much has changed, and now that the effects of Tzeentch are beginning to wear off I am finding a little more time to talk about those changes and other topics which I do love to natter on about.

So here goes...

Since I last spoke, I've: visited Japan for 2 amazing weeks; changed vocations (now professionally working for a Games Design studio in Melbourne, Australia - Twiitch); gained a housemate; radically altered (and somewhat stalled, due to increased work) my WFRP 2e campaign, Marienburg: Sold Down the River; begun work on The Sands of Athla in ernest (and hired a team to make it possible); begun freelancing for some professional tabletop ventures; and prepared myself mentally, physically (*laughs endlessly*) and emotionally for the prospect of being best man at my best friend's wedding...

So, you know, same-old.

Most (maybe all?) of these matters are topics I want to discuss more, though I wont make the mistake of promising them now. Let's just cross our fingers, shall we?

What I will give you now, however, is a monster concept that I wasn't able to jam into my latest submission (and as such it would go to waste otherwise). I give you the Hiveworm for your troubles:
Some travellers marvel at the strange formations that mountain ranges take. The educated among them often see mountains which don't quite fit with tectonic science. To some, these would be curious exceptions, but for those surveyors who have investigated, they have proven to be the source of nightmares. These 'mountains' are in truth gigantic hive-cocoons for a race of worms know as Hiveworms. Hiveworms come in three varieties; the small Slaver which coils around the necks of larger species to enslave them in protecting the hive, the horse-sized Chrysalists which devour rock and extrude it in a film to build the great mountain cocoons, and finally the mountain-sized Queens which live within the bowels of these cocoons and breed he lesser two varieties. These beasts operate towards their own goals with an almost sentient level of intelligence - certainly staring into their black beady eyes one feels a being of hate and madness staring back.
Stat it up (or suggest systems that you want me to stat it up into) and enjoy!

Hopefully we will talk again soon (and I will get a chance to show you some of what I've been up to!) 

Spotlight: The Second Greatest Damn Art Resource Ever...

So, it's been a little while. I have quite a bit to tell you.

Sneak Peak style? Lots of work, lots of WFRP, and two weeks in Japan. I shall tell you all more soon!

However, in the mean time, I have another Art Spotlight recently discovered, in the same vein as the last one.

May I present Lidrael's Gallery!

Check it out, weep over the artworks, and let me know what it inspires you to create.

Good gaming, everyone!

Unity Meets Melbourne

I had the good fortune last night to visit the Kelvin Club as part of the IGDAM gathering and listen to the representatives from Unity discuss a few topics involved with Unity game development. Now, a lot of great developers I know couldn't be there, because there was very limited seating, so I decided to take some notes to bring back and share, and the easiest way to do that would be to dust off the "Game Design" tag on versamus, and make another post in regards to my bloody career!



The talk was divided into three sections: Project Architecture in Unity, Mecanim, and Unity5. Unfortunately the 2nd part, Mecanim, was not actually discussed due to technical issues (I believe they didn't have the correct cables? Though, how you'd go to such a presentation without at least a spare HDMI, VGA, DVI and all adapters between I'm not sure, but anyway). However, they did talk a good long while on the other two, which gave more than enough information. I'll summarise the points below and expand upon them where I feel necessary. If you want more information on any one point, just let me know in the comments or contact me via Facebook, email, or phone.

Project Hierarchy in Unity

  • Began with a parable about a house with broken windows, and explained the relationship between a poor living environment and a poor mental space. Expanded this to include project hierarchy and organisation: if you maintain project cleanliness, you'll maintain project morale.
  • The problem with almost every project in Unity (that is, problems to do with the actual in-engine stuff, not with the team, etc) is in its architecture. If the project isn't planned and built correctly, it will fall down.
  • To maintain project architecture, they recommended several key points:
    • Use C#, as it is a lot more responsive to the Console system within Unity and will make finding game breaking bugs easier.
    • Use strict naming conventions.
      • Use descriptive names, including what the asset is, where it is likely to go, and any immediately important information.
      • Don't be afraid to use spaces in asset names - Unity has no qualms with this.
    • Use a strict and logical folder structure*.
    • Maintain zero-tolerance for yellow warnings and red errors, and resolve them as soon as they present to prevent later back tracking.
    • Maintain zero-tolerance for runtime memory allocation.
  • Operate under a system of Core Application Logic (now please be advised that I didn't grab everything in my notes on this, as he did talk very fast, and was in a hurry to speed past the code examples. Thankfully they did provide us with the link to the examples, which I will post at the end of this article.)
    • Use a Main Controller in your first scene.
      • This controller will be used to manage all high level applications, such as level loading, caching resources, and dumping unused resources. Technically this sort of stuff isn't entirely necessary for PC projects, but will make mobile projects work infinitely better. It is, however, just good form to get into, and they advised it is best to always use as it will make cross-platform support a lot easier down the line.
      • This should be placed in a blank scene at the very beginning of the project. It should be set to a Singleton Pattern, so that it exists throughout all levels of the game space.
    • Now, here they talked about two aspects of Unity that I've never actually seen before, so I can't comment on them well - however, they will be the first thing I will investigate when I have some free time tomorrow: GC.Collect and Resources.UnloadUnusedAssets(). If you know either of these things, please let me know in the comments, as they intrigued the hell out of me.
      • Basically, they seemed to be used to reclaim memory from unused objects within the game space. I don't know how they go about doing this, but I feel a closer inspection of the example code would help.
    • They specifically called their states in an Array of Delegates, which you can see in the examples, which was very intriguing.
    • Furthermore, they touched on the Unity "Profiler", which is an in-engine aspect which tracks performance. This will be invaluable to test these memory saving techniques, as they have a heavy up-front load time, but will save on runtime loading.
  • They recommended using script Controllers for every repeating part of a game, including Scene Controllers, Player Controllers, Enemy Controllers, Asset Controllers, etc. Essentially, anything that has one or more instances that need to be tracked (I.e., everything) should have a central Controller which is mapped to the static public.
    • Each Controller should be mapped to a Singleton Pattern, so as to prevent multiple instances of the Controller.
  • Next, and perhaps most intriguing of all, they discussed Pool-Based Objects. Pool-Based Objects work in lieu of Instantiation in a rather brilliant way.
    • Instead of instantiating and destroying instances of a prefab in runtime (which is massively taxing on memory, as can be seen in one of Impossible Worlds' recent releases SprawlRunner), you begin a scene with the maximum number of the prefab that can appear on screen at any one time.
    • Next, you disable all instances that shouldn't be visible at the beginning, and add them to a List.
    • As the object would normally be instantiated, you move the object to its intended location, enable it, and run its Awake() function.
    • At the end of its usefulness (like being killed in the case of an enemy, or going beyond visible space in the case of a bullet) the object is disabled, moved back out of the way of the scene space, and added to the end of the List again.
    • This way, if you could have a maximum of, say, 60 bullets on screen at any one time, you could preload all 60 on start-up, and then use them in your Pool as needed without having to tax memory by instantiating them. You're only calling transform values, instead of drawing whole new objects!
* I'm going to be writing up a document which will contain all the hierarchy and naming conventions that will be used as a standard template scene for Impossible Worlds in future, so I will post up the documentation and even template project files once that is created.

As stated, Mecanim was not actually discussed, which was a great disappointment. Luckily there is plenty of information online regarding it, so it wasn't a devastating hit, but was still annoying.

Unity5

Most of what was discussed with Unity5 was just a rehash of the teaser presented earlier this year, but there were a few key things noted which were not shown in the video that are worth discussing:
  • The new UI tools which are being implemented to streamline the Unity design process will be implemented into Unity4.x as well, so even if you can't get Unity5 right away, you can still access it.
  • The WebGL platform (which is awesome) is currently only working in Firefox and Chrome, but they are trying to get it to expand to others at the moment.
  • The scene view will now be in full HDR, so will look the same as your in-game environment.
  • They are improving load times for the Unity Asset Store, a badly needed update.
  • A new Physically Based Shader (which emulates, but doesn't suffer the horrendous lag issues of Physically Based Rendering) has been developed.
    • This Shader has essentially every Shader input you could need for a Shader, all of this have their values exposed and toggleable.
    • As such, instead of using several Shader types in a project, you can use the one, and customise it to its needs in engine.
    • This looked very impressive, and will solve a lot of the problems with standard Unity Shaders looking like shit - however, I don't know what this is going to mean for custom Shaders in Unity, and if this is going to affect the standard Shaders already in place.
  • There are multiple new types of Ambient lighting to scenes.
    • The only two we saw were:
      • Skybox Lighting, which mirrors the colours of the skybox onto a cubemap and reflects them from an object, which is rather cool.
      • And a 3-Point Gradient Lighting, which allows you to choose three colours: Sky, Horizon, and Ground, and your scene will be coloured depending on object facings.
        • For instance, if you have a Red Sky, White Horizon, and Blue Ground, and a model with its hand sticking out, palm down, the top of the hand would be lit by red, the finger tips by white, and the palm by blue, with a smooth gradient between.
That was essentially it, from what I gleaned. Here are the Unity examples I spoke of, and if you have any questions or answers to my own questions, please let me know via one of my billion contact methods!

Hope this was useful!

Marienburg is Born!

I do apologise for the lack of A-to-Z posts recently... I've been working a crazy amount at SportsBet, so I haven't had many evenings in which to write, and the next few days are likewise filled with lots of fun (though I will be posting about all of that), so the last few letters will have to wait a little while. I'll try and do a few tomorrow and stack them up, but no promises.

Last night I finally held my first WFRP related event since the end of Praag, and it felt awesome. Everyone gathered around at our usual gaming table, and we had a Round Table Character Creation session. We discussed the campaign, and I handed out the Starter Kits, and everything was in good WFRP cheer!

The collaborative Character Creation, though, was a lot more successful than I thought it would be. This is what I did:

  1. Everyone around the table had the chance to give a 1 sentence explanation of their character. This ranged from submissions as succinct as "Pirate", to multi-clause sentences about Half-Ogres and Blood Bowl teams.
  2. Everyone got the chance to veto or question any of the choices. Some questions were thrown, and ideas changed dramatically (I kid you not, one of the characters went from "Axe Cop", to what is essentially Vinculus from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - a charlatan who dabbles in fake magic, gambling, and anything to make a quick copper).
  3. Everyone expanded on their ideas, and added bits of flavour. This was anything to additions of back story, or what have you.
  4. Again, everyone could veto or question.
  5. Everyone described what they would be doing during a usual session, and we got some clear ideas of the party intentions. Surprisingly, there was very little combat focus, so the campaign is going to be more Everyman than I expected, which could be very interesting!
  6. I then laid out two scenarios for the party, and asked them where they would fit into the scenes - they got to colourfully describe what they would be doing*:
    1. The first was a bar fight, where all patrons are being involved in the scrap.
    2. The second was a carnival on a holy day, which was full of attractions that they could make up.
  7. Second to last, the players had to pair off with two different other players and create "memories"**.
    1. How this worked was that each player joins up with one other and creates a memory that they both share which is a "good memory". They need not know each other was involved, just so long as it is a shared experience in their past which they both find good. We had players inadvertently helping each other out, and some who became friends before the start of the campaign.
    2. The second was the same, but with a "bad memory", and another PC. This meant that every player would have a good and a bad memory, and would be linked to two other players. This necessitates that talking to any one of the players means that you can trace a web of interactions to every other player.
  8. And last of all, we rolled up our characters, using the Expanded Character Module as an aid in random skills, talents, trappings, and doomings.
* This process was perhaps the second best thing I did, because it gave the players the chance to directly tell me where in a situation they want to be.
** This was perhaps the best thing I've ever done during character creation, and I will likely write an entire article about this. It allowed the players to really understand each other, and to build a shared history for the city.

All in all, everyone ended up player characters that they otherwise probably wouldn't have thought of. We have a wonderful band which are stuck together due to a shared company interest, as well as a shared history. Among the characters are:
  • A male Halfling "Carpet Salesman" who specialises in rolling up corpses and throwing them off bridges.
  • A male Marienburg-born Norscan Bouncer who shares his Minstrel father's love of the innocent.
  • A male Tilean Painter / Art Forger who has deep ties with both the underworld and the upper class.
  • A male Marienburger Ferryman / Smuggler / Family Man who is always on the look out for more money-making schemes.
  • A female 15-year-old Bretonnian Pirate who has already done way worse things than any of the other characters have even seen in their lives.
  • A male Marienburger Charlatan / Mystic / Gambler / anything else that can con people out of money.
  • A male Half-Ogre Blood Bowl Quarterback who is looking for a leg up in the competitions.
  • A female Marienburger Ex-Black Cap / Rat-Catcher who is searching for the man who framed her, and a way to make her massively extended family proud.
Can anyone say GM fodder?! I'm going to have some fun!

Marienburg Starter Kit

As it is Sunday, and we're not to post the A-to-Z on Sundays, I thought I would do a regular post today... This one is just for something I've been cooking up recently.

A while back (7 months, ago, I believe) I wrote a little article about Player Starter Packs so that you could get everyone at the table up to speed, and involved in the campaign from before character creation. Now, as many of you may know, I've been planning a new WFRP campaign called Marienburg: Sold Down the River recently, and in many ways, this campaign diverts from my lasts campaign.

As such, I decided it would be best to create a Starter Kit for my players so that they would be able to jump in and get used to the new Old World quickly. It's not finished yet, but thus far I have the following items ready:

I'm also planning on adding in a few more things, like quick rules, and prices for common items and services, etc. All of these will be printed out on parchment paper and made into a handy folio for my players.

Anyway, that's it for today. Hope you're all enjoying your Sunday!

Artist Spotlight: Benjamin Ee, TheBoyofCheese

Here goes another Artist Spotlight! This one goes out to one of the most talented character artists I've ever seen:

All hail, The Boy of Cheese!

I met Ben (not me, nor the other Ben... I know a lot of Bens, ok?!) through QANTM Melbourne when I was studying there, and even before I knew of his ridiculously awesome artwork, I knew of his ridiculously awesome personality. Ben has alwasy stood as one of those weirdly calming presences through QANTM, seemlessly able to disolve disputes with a hug or a quick flick of his wit.

And then I saw his artwork, and... Well... My words suck in comparison, so I'll just show you.








Yeah, that's right... These are the people I know O.O

Check out his work on his deviantArt page, or purchase some prints from his online store.

I hope it inspires you as it does me!

Artist Spotlight: Leesha Hannigan, DoubleJumper

Well, I promised I would do more art shout-outs, so here is the first of the new batch. 

Living in Melbourne, and studying at Qantm, I met some absolutely amazing artists, but by far I've never seen one with the same range as Leesha Hannigan. From stunningly realistic environments, to adorable isometric houses, and Disney-quality characters... Needless to say, when Leesha told me her intention to join Impossible Worlds, I nearly fell out of my chair.

Enough of my rambling - here is the art itself! (Note, the last one is a painting of a nude model, but I would class it SFW. If you have an issue with it, then, grow up... Seriously.)







Damn... All I have to say.

Check out the rest of Leesha's work on her blog, DoubleJump!

100th Post, 15,000 Views - It's a Good Day

Holy crap, it actually happened! WOOOO!

Not only does this post mark the 100th post on versamus, but it also marks the morning of waking up to seeing the view count tipped over 15,000 views for the first time!
Hot damn, that's a lotta views...
Last month, January, was a incredibly successful month for posting, it seems. I near topped my viewing record, which I hope to continue this trend. I replaced two articles on my "5 Most Viewed", both of which were from way back in 2011! And I began posting my own creations on versamus.

I've learned two key things - people like free stuff, and people like art. Therefore, I will be promising more of both in the future! I've been writing a lot of supplements for various games, and I will start posting more than just WFRP stuff. Further, I have been in contact with a few of the amazing artists I know, and they're keen for me to host some of their work!

In other news, Impossible Worlds has started with three teams working concurrently on 2 month-long development cycles. I can't say all that much yet, but once we have some press releases, I will be sure to talk about them here. Some awesome work has already begun, and I am very keen for what comes next!
Still a work in progress, but it is getting there.
Part-Time Gods Season 2 is about to begin - our first session is on the 3rd, and will be played every Monday until it is done (I am looking for 3-4 sessions). I've been toying around with a narrative write-up of the first Season, but I don't know if I'll ever finish it seriously, or if it is just a hobby. If I do make anything of it, however, I'll post about it.
If you think that isn't awesome... Then we have nothing to talk about.
Finally, I'd just like to say thank you to everyone who has read versamus thus far, and whilst I can't promise we'll still be here for the next milestones (200 posts and 25,000 views), I can certainly say that if we are, it'll be because of you guys! I hope, in some way, I've made your games better, or at least given you something to think about.

Cheers, and happy gaming!

"Please Don't Sell Me!" Or, Why Marienburg is a Great Place to Play...

"Please Don't Sell Me!" Or, Why Marienburg is a Great Place to Play...


Whenever I have RPG downtime, I face a situation which is both boon and curse - I come up with a million and one ideas for RPGs. This is great, because it means I have lots of ideas to share with my group, and lots of inspiration for future campaigns, but it sucks because it means I want to do something other than was planned.

This tends to mean one of two things: I go with the old campaign idea, and let the new one simmer in my frustration, or I go with the new idea and leave behind all the work put into the old one.

Neither is a good path, but generally the first is better. I will enjoy anything I run, and the newer idea just seems more exciting because it is new. That being said, I don't want to give up on the new idea, so I guess it means I will be planning two campaigns at once!

So, therefore, I am writing this post. This one is more tooled towards my RPG group, M.O.R.T.E., though it is useful for anyone interested in RPGs, specifically WFRP. I'm going to talk about the great port city of Marienburg. Please note that a lot of what I am talking about is not officially canon, though, so take it as you will. This is my Marienburg. I like it, and hopefully you will too.
Technically Lake Town, but basically Marienburg.

Marienburg, City of Gold

Marienburg is considered the "City of Gold" by many, as it is the greatest and largest port in the world, and the third over all biggest city in the world (behind Altdorf and ultimately Praag). It is, however, a free city, unshackled by the Empire nor any other foreign power. It is the closest thing to a democracy that WFRP has (and, in fact, the term "democracy" was invented for Marienburg in setting).
Minds on their money, and their money on their minds.

Marienburg is Cosmopolitan

Marienburg is a true free-city. It doesn't just have a charter stating its freedom - it has a Directorate who have basically made everything legal. That is, so long as you pay the tax. If something can be taxed, or bribed, it is legal. 

You want to murder someone? To the stocks with you! That is, unless you have papers from the Guild Which Doesn't Exist, otherwise known as the Guild Who Shall Not Be Named. Sure, it wont be "legal", but there is an understanding there...

You're a Chaos Worshipper? To the Star Chamber with you! That is, unless you have paid your donations to the Tempelwijk. You have, have you? Well, surely that new statue to Manann makes up for your debauchery. Just, keep it on the down-low, ok?

PCs can find themselves in hot water for killing the bad guys simply because they didn't have the proper permits. Adventurers have new hurdles to cross. Sure, you can stab the smuggler stevedore in the face, but then you have to contend with the Stevedores and Teamsters Guild. And they're the sponsors for your own benefactors who have been paying your way!
Really nice to see everyone getting along...

Marienburg is a Mixing Pot

Every culture of the Old World and the New is visible in Marienburg. Albionese merchants hawk on the same street corner as Nipponese, Cathayan, and Elves from Ulthuan. You can stumble upon Indish spice merchants, haggling with Arabyan slavers, who are being funded by highly robed but not so disguised Lizardmen from Lustria.

Marienburg is the one city in Warhammer where people wont look at you funny because of your skin colour, texture, or make up. Well, so long as the gold is flowing, they wont look unkindly. Short change them, or take their jobs, and words will be had.

In addition to the peoples are the cultures, gods and foods. You can sample a bit of everything, and get lost in philosophical debates fought with fists over the doctrines of Sigmar, versus Dazh, versus Solkan.
Cool. All I got to say.

Marienburg boasts Bloodbowl

Whilst not as insane as the tabletop games, nor video games suggest, Marienburg is one of the few cities in the Old World that actually has a Bloodbowl league. Elves, Lizardmen, (some) Goblins, Dwarves, Ogres, and of course, Humans, all brain each other whilst throwing around a spiked metal ball for the amusement of roaring crowds.

This league is ripe for adventure, both in playing it, watching it, and rigging it. Bloodbowl is a game where cheating is expected, and playing by the rules is in itself a form of cheating. How dare you suck up to the referee by NOT killing the other team?! You cheating bastard!
If you like funny Dutch words, Marienburg is for you!

Marienburg is Central

Finally, Marienburg is in the middle of everything. Close to all the big players, it is the one spot in the Old World where a PC can feasibly get to anywhere else.

Every day, ships leave for Ulthuan, Lustria, Ind, Cathay, Nippon, Araby, Nehekhara, Albion, Norsca, Kislev, the Southlands, Bretonnia, the Border Princes, Tilea, Estalia and even Naggaroth (when the Sea Elves aren't looking). That is, not to mention the fact that it sits at the mouth of the River Reik, so feeds down to Altdorf, Nuln, Talabheim, and every part of the Empire and beyond.

Further, the city sits in the middle of a Chaos infested swamp filled with the believed-extinct Fimir. It is the object of desire for the Empire, who throw unsuccessful invasion after invasion, and Bretonnia, who threaten raids constantly, but are held at bay by crossbow armed mercenaries and the fleets of the Sea Elves.

The city sits in the shadows of the Laurenlorn Forest, home of the Wood Elves, and the Grey Mountains, on the other side of which is the magical glade of Athel Loren, the religious centre of Wood Elf affairs.

Everyone wants a bit of Marienburg. And they can get it, too, at the right price. Unfortunately, as they say, after shaking hands with a Marienburgher, you should always count your fingers. Who knows what kinds of deals will be struck?

WFRP, A Port Mortem

WFRP, A Post Mortem

After 2 long years of running the same campaign, Shadows Within Shadows, a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game, the journey is finally over. Last night me and my RPG group, the Melbourne Organisation for Tabletop Enthusiasts, or M.O.R.T.E., completed the ultimate session of the campaign. There may be one last session as an epilogue, but the campaign itself is over - done and dusted.

This is technically the first long campaign I've ever finished. I have finished smaller campaigns of 3-5 sessions before, and mini-campaigns all round. But I have never finished something this long, with approximately 70 sessions all up over the course of the game. 70 sessions with, all up, 11 different players featuring, and ending on a group of 9 wonderful players, each of whom holds my eternal gratitude.

Finishing this game has left me with many thoughts - I've learnt a lot from this experience, and I hope I can shed some hard-earned lessons with you all. These aren't just about gaming - some are about everything in life - but they are born out of gaming. And that is my first lesson learnt:


1. Always Be Willing To Try New Things

The entire concept for SWS was new to me - a large group of characters, all within a doomed city, barely scraping by, and trying to save everyone who essentially didn't want to be saved. It was a lock-in campaign. I had to fill the city with enough menace to last 2 years... And I went a bit over board on that one!

But I am glad I tried this style. It wasn't perfect, and I didn't do it as well as I could have. But I tried. I learnt my strengths and weaknesses as a GM. I learnt that my sessions run best with a plan on my end, instead of complete freedom for the PCs. Which I will get to next...

So please never turn down a new experience, unless you have a damn good reason not to. My group is filled almost completely with players who had never played before and many of whom were shaky to begin with... And it has caused us to bloom life-long friendships, forge relationships close enough to share a house together as room mates, and even been a vessel for love to blossom. No, I shit you not.

But that brings me to lesson 2...


2. Direction is Good

Every GM I've ever met has been terrified of railroading their players, and every player has lashed out at the concept of being railroaded. If a GM told a player that their character was tired, they'd scream and thrash and kick a fuss and stay away for a month...

Well, not really, but you get my point.

I once thought this way, that the only way to have a successful and "fun" game was to let the players do whatever the hell they wanted with the tools available. I thought giving them the ultimate decision was right on the money in terms of GMing chops.

I, like many others, was wrong. Players, especially new players, are coming to a world that exists for the first time only in the mind of the GM. The GM may see all these avenues to solve any problem, and they certainly know all the lore necessary to plan against and exploit. But players probably wont know it as well as a GM - and that is how it should be. If they knew everything, then there could be no surprise.

But this also means that they cannot possibly envision the world as well as the GM can when left to their own devices... The solution, then, is direction. The GM needs to direct their players - subtly, of coarse - with the use of NPCs, rumours, chatter, and general goings on. The GM should have a plan of what happens in the world, and make the PCs react instead of act first.

So, instead of saying at the beginning of a session: "What are you guys going to do today?", instead begin with "The commander of the city guard was found cut in half and nailed to his door frame this morning... What are you guys going to do about that?". (Note, that is actually how one of my sessions started. Not word for word, but the quest hook was the same.)

Eventually, your players will grow into their own and become used to the NPCs and information channels, and will start acting before things hit the fan - so long as you give them enough shadows preceding misadventure. Which leads me to my next point...


3. Trust Each Other

GMs, you have to trust your players. Players, you have to trust your GM. Trust me, you will both enjoy the game more so if you do. Everyone spouts off about the "Rule of 'Yes'" for GMs, but they never get into the nitty-gritty of it. Why are so many GMs reluctant to say 'Yes'? Because doing so towards an untrusted player could mean the unravelling of the GMs hard work. This is a real fear... And why do players often become defensive and guarded towards their GM? Because doing so protects the part of themselves which they have exposed to play the game.

RPGs are incredibly personal. A campaign, even written down word for word, would be different if played by a 10-year-old male GM, than if it was run by a 25-year-old female GM. Or two siblings. Or hell, even two twins. The mind of the GM makes the world, and no two minds are alike. Likewise, the minds of the players make their characters, and again echo the world created by the GM and make it their own. So, if you have a GM and 5 players, there are 6 echoes of the same world playing concurrently, which are all unlike anyone else's world...

If you don't trust the people around you to enter your world and leave it for the better, it can never truly be beautiful. It may feel natural to hold each other out, only letting them effect the world with your say-so, but that is wrong.

Trust me.

When you place that trust in each others hands, the emotions born from it are intense and incredible. The stories told become legendary, and they feel like they've happened directly to you. Because, really, they have. You are your character, your character is you. You are your world, and your world is you.

But this is generally a lesson for everything you could find. You will find that the simple act of trusting another human being will open them up to you, and the trust will flow both ways. I can't say it very well without sounding weird, so watch this video, and it should clear up what nonsense I spout.


Final Words...

I learnt many more lessons in this journey, and perhaps some day I will be able to articulate them, but for now I feel I have said all I can on the matter. Finishing SWS has left me feeling both insanely proud of all my group, and free of the burden of the world. But it has also left me a little hollow... It is weird to say, but in the two years of GMing my group, I think I fell a little bit in love with each of the characters. How can you not, when they play inside your mind that much of the time?

But I am stupidly, insanely, pathetically grateful for all my group. Thank you for letting me run this campaign, and thank you for sticking by me throughout it. I know it wasn't always a great ride, and I know some of you probably hated me at times... But it was an amazing ride, and I hope you've learnt as much about yourself as I have through the experiences.

I will never forget this campaign. Thank you.

O, Nine's just a few.

Something is Coming to Melbourne and I'm Excited

By Ben Scerri

Or rather, something is coming back...

I had a rather interesting night last night - I crawled through the rain and much of Fitzroy to find myself at a little gaming bar that Melbournites will know, but potentially not love. You probably all love the idea behind it, but perhaps not the execution. I am talking, of course, about the Mana Bar.

Coming to Melbourne from Sydney, I was excited beyond belief that I could finally go to a Mana Bar, and experience the awesome that was games and drinks in one open and inviting space. I, like most, was very disappointed with what came about. I went a few times, but always had something to grumble about; it was to small, to cramped, uncomfortable, far away and expensive. Also, it was gimmicky - it wasn't somewhere I could see myself at during the day when I need a beer to think through a code problem, or where I could go in and have a chat to the staff, or, hell, just suggest to my friends without making it an 'outing'.

Nearly everyone I have asked about this has expressed identical problems, and this, in itself, is a problem. If it is a hassle to go, no one will go.

Luckily, though, those who run it currently are very aware of the situation.

So this brings me back to last night. I was called in, along side many fellow devs and the like, to act as a focus group for a new project being brewed upon the stove top of awesamity. It is to take the idea of a space where everyone can comfortably drink and play games (and for indie devs to showcase their games), like what the Mana Bar was supposed to be, but to get it right.
Like this, but with 100% less arm severing... Hopefully.
I can't express much about what is being planned, as it is all very hush hush, but I can say two things:

If this works, it will be HUGE for indie devs, gamers and the geek community in Melbourne, and,
it is going to need all of our support to get it going.

More can be found out at The Revenge of the Nerd, so go have a look.

This will not be the last I will mention of this topic.

Stay tuned for more!

*manages to keep a semi-tight lid on his excitement*