General

#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!

A Disturbance in Melbourne...

"I felt a great disturbance in Melbourne, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear MIGW has come."
―"Old" Ben, sensing the coming of Melbourne International Games Week
Yes, that's right, Melbourne International Games Week (or MIGW) is here again! Starting tomorrow, and going until the 7th of November (yeah, I know, that's more than a week), this is a string of amazing events happening in Melbourne, Australia that surrounds the games industry.
Where the US has Con Season, we've decided to have Con 10-Days, and jam everything together because we a) hate ourselves and b) love each other so much we can't bear to let go so we hold on and never let go!

This year I'll be attending three of the billion things happening:
Game Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) Loading, a one-day conference for students of game development on the 30th of October. Granted, I'm now in the games industry proper so you might be wondering what the hell are you going to a "student focused" event for? Fair question. It's student focused, but broad in topic - covering things like getting into AAA, Indie, and Freelancing. Whilst I am currently AAA, I have a great interest in going Freelance in the future, and want to squeeze as much knowledge out of Freelancers as I can - so that's my plan for the first Sunday of MIGW.
Game Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) 2016, a two-day conference for games industry professionals beginning on the 1st of November, and ending with the Australian Game Developer Awards (AGDA). This is the big one, in Australia, and is basically our GDC. This is also my first year attending, which means I get a chance to rub shoulders with some of the Greats in Game Development, both home-grown and from-afar. I am insanely excited for this!
Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) Australia, a three-day exhibition for everyone interested in games, the games industry, and pop-culture. This starts on the 4th of November. I've been every year that it's come to Melbourne, and I'm not stopping now... However, this year I'm not planning on running around like crazy as I have previously - I'm going to be more relaxed, and spend more time with friends. I've met a lot of people in the industry this year, but most of them haven't been face-to-face. PAX is going to change that. I'm going to get to meet one of my favourite designers ever, and some really cool people who I look up to a lot. I'm also going to get to reconnect with some friends I've made previously, which I am very much looking forward to!

In all, that means I'm attending 6 days of MIGW, which is enough of a week for me. I'm excited, but it's also a bit stressful, and insanely busy.

Which, unfortunately, means I won't have much time for versamus! I've already felt this, with not having time to write up my last Curse of Strahd diary as I have been madly preparing. Further, I don't know if I will have the spoons to do my two This Week posts during, nor my weekly Ameshirel: A World Reforged snippet. However, if I can't, I'll be making up for this in the following weeks... I'm sure MIGW will give me plenty to talk about, and I'll be looking to write as much of it down as possible. I might even be able to do some write-ups of panels that I see - who knows?!

For those of you that I will see during MIGW, I can't wait! 

For those of you going to MIGW, but I haven't yet talked to you about meeting up - PLEASE SEND ME A MESSAGE! I want to catch up everyone who is attending, whether we know each other or not. A difficult task, I know, but I'm determined. You can also follow along my exploits on Twitter, where I'll most likely saying where I am at any given point, so feel free to track me down.

For those of you not going to MIGW, I look forward to talking to you again as soon as possible!

Versamus 50,000

I have to say, I'm pretty shocked by this...
Yesterday, I noticed versamus was picking up speed. It seems the snippets are doing well, and people are enjoying them. The last one - On the Nature of Orcs - got shared around quite a bit on Twitter and Facebook, which brought a smile to my face. I went to bed with 49-something-thousand views last night, and was pretty confident with the speed it was going that in the morning we'd be at 50k.

Then, sometime over night, a friend of mine shared a post - My 7 Tips for Playing Well - over on reddit. Instead of waking up to 50k, I woke up to 54k... And climbing! This also means that October - already - has been our best month ever, between the success of the snippets, and the tips. So thank you all very much!

Anyway, I'm just glad people are enjoying versamus, and I look forward to writing more content for your eyes. I'm also considering making more upgrades to the blog, and will keep you all up to date on them as they come up.

#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...
---
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.
---
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!

Here's a Gift: Triskell's Tower

Hey, it's been a while.

I have a lot to discuss, but not enough time to discuss it all. So, I am going to give it all in dot points for possible later discussion!

  • My group finished Marienburg: Sold Down the River. It was awesome, and I intend to let you know more about it. It involved a prison break, a fight with undead elves, summoning a dragon, and a whole lot of death.
  • I started another game, called Ameshirel: A World Undone, which is currently being run live in a Hexcrawlly sort of way. Check it out on Obsidian Portal (as I've actually managed to convince my players to update it!) It is using Dungeons & Dragons 5e, which is a new and strange experience for me.
  • I'm now running a game using Fragged Empire, an indie RPG in development that was successfully Kickstartered a little while back. It is being posted up in Vod form on Another Dungeon, so check it out!
  • I got a new job! I now work for EA Firemonkeys in Melbourne, and am an actual paid Game Designer in full now. No more split titles here, no sir! I'm having a lot of fun, and working on Real Racing 3 for iOS and Android. You should check it out, because it is one of the best racing games on mobile.
  • I'm still planning Verum Arbitus, and it should be launching in a few weeks. Very excited!
  • I've been playing in lots of games, recently, including a Cthulhu Horror game using a hacked homebrew system, and a Terry Pratchett meets The Office meets Better Off Ted style game. Very odd, but loving it.
  • I've been watching a crap load of itmeJP's YouTube channel, especially Steven Lumpkin's West Marches and Adam Koebel's Swan Song. Check them out.
Anyway, because I have been neglecting you all so much, I decided to wrap up a present for you early and release it here!

This is an adventure / dungeon I wrote for Ameshirel, but it can easily be transported into any DnD5e game, or really any game, so long as you're willing to hack it a little. So enjoy the Mad Wizard Triskell's Tower!

(PLAYERS OF AMESHIREL PLEASE READ! Do not look at the PDF above. It will spoil the adventure. I mean, go ahead and read it if you want, but Triskell will know... And he'll get you.)

New Campaign: Dark Heresy, Verum Arbitus

Recently I came to a decision to begin winding up my Marienburg: Sold Down the River campaign, and I will do a full post on that one in the future, as I believe the campaign deserves a true post-mortem.

Whilst this is sad, it means I have a chance to create something new. *cue rubbing hands together*

For a bloody long time now I have wanted to run a campaign set in the 41st Millennium of Warhammer 40k.  A long while back, I did just that, but it never got very far due to my moving away from the group. I have since grown considerably as a GM, and I am ready to step back into the fray.

Last year I designed a campaign called Into the Expanse, but unfortunately that wont really work with where I am now. I am no longer a student, and don't have as much time to put towards planning as I once did. Further, many of the questions asked with Into the Expanse were answered by Marienburg: Sold Down the River (but not all!)

Therefore, I need something new. Enter Verum Arbitus.
DISCLAIMER: This is not indicative of the coming campaign.
But I had you there for a minute.
Or do I still have you? Is this all a lie?

Verum Arbitus

Just to be straight, this is an episodic Dark Heresy campaign, where each 'episode' mission has 3 parts, played over 3 sessions. As a usual Dark Heresy campaign goes, the PCs will be Throne Agents... But there is a twist.

I first had inspiration for Verum Arbitus after I watched True Detective (the pseudo-Latin inclined among you will note that "verum arbitus" very loosely translates as "true detective"). I wanted to create a campaign where the players are, loosely, "the law", yet they are bound in near-mythic events and stumbling through. The players should feel competent - this is their job, after all - but the situation seems strange and unlike anything they have seen before. To put it into metaphor, they hold a well worn deck of cards, yet manage to draw one they've never seen before.

The second round of inspiration for Verum Arbitus, and what prompted me to write the first session was, strangely, the song Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. This was strange for me, but it hammered home the idea that inspiration can strike you from any source. And at any time. Because, as it happens, I was wasted at the time and dancing in my living room with a group of friends to very loud music...

Don't look at me like that.

Anyway, I got to writing, and I sorted out my thoughts. So let me present the Grand Concept Document for Verum Arbitus.

Campaign Name: I've already covered this, but Verum Arbitus

This name gives the needed "fake Latin" feel which is essential to Warhammer, reinforces the strange arcane nature of the campaign, and identifies that the players will take an Arbitrator role during the game. Great stuff.

Campaign Tag-Line: When you know your enemy, you know your ally.

This tag-line is a bit of a riddle, and I wont answer it here as my players are likely reading (and so they should!) However, think about this one. Really think about it. It should give you a few ideas on the sorts of games I'll be running.

What is the Campaign Question?: Who do the PCs trust when their bosses are worse than their foes?

This question is a pretty standard one for 40k, however when mixed with some of the other points in this GCD it should get the players thinking. Just what kind of scum will their employers be?! If we know that their employer is an Inquisitor, as the PCs are Throne Agents, then what does that say about the campaign scope? Is it a Radical or Renegade Inquisitor? Or a truly Puritan Inquisitor? Or neither? Maybe they are 'fake' Throne Agents! Who knows...

(I do.)

Who are the PCs?: Those in the wrong place at the right time. Those that survived. Those that can be manipulated.

The PCs will be forced into servitude, quite literally at the barrel of a gun. But then again, they are Throne Agents. They aren't just bilge scum scrapped up to service. They are competent agents, able to deal with situations that come their way. But they didn't CHOOSE this life, that is the main point.

What are the Doing?: Get a Mission, Infiltrate the Situations, Cut off the Head, Burn Everything.

The PCs will mostly spend their time clandestinely operating behind enemy lines. They will be performing things that, should they be discovered, they will be disavowed, disowned, and destroyed for. They will be doing the "thankless duties the Emperor needs them to do". And they will be doing it in bad company... Or is it better company than those who sent them into these hell holes?

Looking forward to talking more about Verum Arbitus in the future! Viva la Dark Heresy!

Announcing New Contributor: Myself!

Greetings all,

Just a bit of a management update for now. I've finally tethered my proper email address to versamus, so from now on I will be posting from this account.

What does this mean? Well, not much, really. Not much content-wise, at least. Except that it is now far less of a hassle for me to post, so that should mean I post more often!

So that this post wasn't a waste of time for you to read, I will share a map of Rijker's Isle - the fortress prison in Marienburg - that I made this week using Campaign Cartographer 3.


Looking forward to chatting again soon.

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!

Versamus 30k: We Did It, Baby!

I'm very proud today. I'm proud because versamus has reached 30,000 page views!

That's pretty intense, I have to say... 30,000 is a lot more than I ever dreamed I would get way back when I started. My writing has changed a lot in the 3.5 years, and my life has changed a lot more. I've grown as an individual and, most importantly for this blog, as a Game Master.
This photo is a metaphor about how I've been standing still with my hands cupped in front of my for so long that a tree has started growing in them. It has no relevance to this blog. None. Nothing about Growth. I'm just bragging that I can no-hands photograph.
In the 3.5 years I've finished a major campaign, graduated university as a Games Designer, and begun working in the industry. I've even started freelancing! I helped release a WFRP 2e fan supplement, and began writing my own... It's been a busy few years.

To express the growth that has gone into this time, and to pay homage to the beginnings of versamus, I am going to rewrite, and re-release my first four articles on the site - Emotion in Gaming (1, 2, 3, 4).

Thank you to everyone who has ever read anything on this site. A second thank you to anyone who has ever commented! (I don't get many, so when I do, I get very excited!!) And a third and far-from-final thank you to those who have encouraged me along the way, shared my work, or let me know that anything I've written has actually been worth reading. You guys are the reason there are 30k views on this blog. Not me. I had very little to do with it...

Cheers, and I hope I'll be doing this for a lot longer :D

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!) 

Creating Impossible Worlds & The End of A-to-Z

Greetings all,

It's been a little while since I last posted. A great many things have happened, and in the end they got in the way of the last few posts I was going to do on the Marienburg A-to-Z. But, I am here to let you know what was happening, and what will happen next.

First of all, as I may have mentioned, Impossible Worlds was experiencing some problems. They are far to myriad and complex to go into here, so I am posting the link to the Post-Mortem for you all to read if you so wish:


Additionally, I am here to let you know that I am currently working on a PDF of the entire Marienburg A-to-Z series. This will include a polished up version of the posts made between A-U, as well as the unposted V-Z. I will release this freely on versamus, for all viewing pleasure.

On this, I am looking for a couple of artworks to scatter throughout. I might end up using some of the stuff in the Marienburg: Sold Down the River book, but if you know of any artwork that would be fitting, please let me know.

I hope everything settles down soon, and I can get back to my regular posting.

All the best, and I hope you have time to get in some gaming soon!

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!

Marienburg A-to-Z over April, 2014!

As some of you may remember, a few years ago I joined in on the WFRP A-to-Z Blogging Challenge with a few of my fellow enthusiasts. Well, this year I'm doing it again, but this time, I'm riding solo!

That's right, I'm challenging myself to write 26 blog posts in the coming month, one for each day of the month excluding Sundays.

My theme, you ask? Well, it seems fitting if I do it on Marienburg. Yeap, 26 alphabetised, Marienburg-themed posts, detailing characters, places, factions, and plots that can be found in the city.

For those Loremasters out there, note that I will be writing about my Marienburg, which is largely based off of the 1st Edition book, Marienburg Sold Down the River, but with my own elements thrown in, and setting details from 2nd Edition.

But here they will be, so I hope you all enjoy them, and I hope to Sigmar that I can get through this!

Handling Large Parties - Part 3 - The Solutions

For my last two posts I have been discussion the issues involved with having a large player base. In Part 1, I discussed the maths behind having more players, and pointed out how exponentially time slips away when you have more players sticking around the table. In Part 2, I discussed the issues involved with having multiple conflicting player types at the table, and how those issues are exacerbated when large groups of players are involved.

For the final post in the series, Part 3, I will be discussing the four solutions that I eventually decided upon being feasible, and I will go into the Pros and Cons of each, and finally will reveal the solution that me and my players came to.

This, in fact, brings me to my first and biggest point.

Talk to Your Players

Whilst writing this series, and struggling with the issues, I decided that I would arrange a general meeting of my entire RPG group, spanning several campaigns. Most of the players had all played together in at least one of my campaigns, so everyone, bar the new blood, knew each other from an in-game perspective, as well as an out-of-game perspective.
It was a Round Table Discussion, but unlike you've ever seen before...
At this meeting, which I tried to make as informal, yet organised as possible, I expressed each of the following ideas/solutions, and then the group took it in turns to talk about each solution and why they liked/disliked each one. We then voted, myself included, and we came to a mutually agreeable solution. Not everyone was insanely happy with the solution we did come to, but at least everyone understood it, or was given the chance to understand it.

Anyway, onto the solutions.

The Solutions Themselves

Solution #1: The GMPC

Normally mention of a GMPC is cause for pitchforks to be grabbed and a lynch mob to be rallied - but this system is slightly different, and was actually originally given to me as a comment for [[Part 1]] of this series by another roleplayer in the community. The idea is that the GM informs one or more players in the campaign about several campaign secrets, and fills them in on lots of information, enough so that they can essentially run specific scenes throughout a session (or more, if needs be).
GMPC: In the party, yet knowing what's coming next...
Basically, they are a mini-GM, but they also have a character in the game that takes a back seat, but is there to guide the players. I like to think of this role as the First Mate to the GM as Captain of a ship. The GMPC acts as an intermediary between GM and players, and has the ability to run some of the players through a situation with little to no supervision form the GM.

This system allows the group to divide up during play (as groups of any size invariably and should do) and run a combat encounter, or a social encounter, whilst the GM is handling the main action. That way, those players involved in the side action aren't sat there bored out of their brains whilst the main action unfolds, and the GM doesn't have to break the entire session into 'turns'.

This system, though, does require an incredibly amount of communication and trust between GM and GMPC/s. The GMPC/s have to be subservient to the GM, otherwise continuity and cohesion issues will arise, and will result in a break down of the game. Furthermore, the GMPC/s have to be given enough authority and freedom that they themselves aren't hard done by (and they still have fun) and also so that those players who are running under them don't feel like they're getting a 'lesser' form of the game.

Solution #2: Run Multiple Games

Now, this one is kind of straight forward, and will be instantly dismissed by most groups (as it was with mine), but I felt it was important enough to mention, and as such will mention it here as well. It is always possible to divide a group into two different groups, and run two different games.
Two herds of cats can't be any harder to wrangle than one, surely?!
However, this system is wrought with problems off the bat. If the GM doesn't have time for two, there is no way it can happen. Even if the GM does, it will invariably mean that both campaigns are less involved than one would ever be, and that neither are filled with the same level of planning as one big game is.

Further, if you have a tight-knit group, and you divide it into two, then there can be some social awkwardness. Do people choose to play a campaign based on what it is, or who is in it? Do people still have time to hang out in the real world as much, or have as much to talk about when they're not sharing weekly forays into a fantasy world? (You wouldn't think these would be issues, but they are.)

But, then again, this system can work wonders for a group that can handle it. The GM gets to experiment with different games, and has the option of trialling something with one group, and rehashing it for another. The groups get a chance to trade interesting stories about their adventures, and compare campaigns. And so on.

Solution #3: The Players as Rivals

The third solution and the fourth are based on a similar premise that I will get out of the way now: both involve a single campaign with multiple groups running in it at the same time.
Gary Oak, you've destroyed the validity of the word "Rival"...
This option supposes that there are two rivalling groups that are contending for the same great prize, but are fundamentally unable to defeat each other. They cannot harm each other, only compete. This could be that they're all members of the same company, just different divisions (like L.A.P.D. vs F.B.I.) or they are being watched by some governing body that would be very unhappy were they to kill each other. Yet, there is still competition. Whoever solves an issue first gets the rewards, and then gets the fame/money/whatever.

This system requires a lot of out-of-game communication, as well as a lot of trust between GM and players, and players and other players. We don't want players to take the actions of rival characters to heart, and we don't want anyone feeling like one group is being favoured by the GM.

And yet, this could lead to a situation of friends talking on the weekend about how they've been going and bragging to each other in a rival-like way. It could breed a beautiful campaign. Or it could breed resentment.

Furthermore, it invariably means either each group plays only one in every two session, or the GM runs a second session a week... This might not work for some schedules.

Solution #4: The West Marches

If you're unfamiliar with The West Marches, please head on over to ars ludi and read through at least the first page describing it (there are 5 posts in total, and they're all good, but only the first is pertinent to understanding).
West Marches is approximately this awesome...
In brief, the idea is to have a pool of players, and to run two sessions per week. Players decide which session they're in, and can only choose one per week. Then, each week, each player is playing with a previously organised collection of players from the player pool.

This has the benefit of keeping up the social connections between all the players, as well as enforcing contact and "story swapping" between sessions. Players benefit from sharing information, and can do so with much greater ease. 

However, there is a much greater risk of segregation in this system. Bullying is possible (without people even realising it) and players who are naturally more inclined to one play style will consistently play with others of their same style, until such a time when dedicated factions have almost formed in the group. This can result in hurt feelings, etc, etc. It, again, requires the GM to put more time into the game due to more sessions.

But, then again, West Marches is so damn cool!

The Solution We Chose

In the end, after much debate and discussion and serious thought, me and my group came to the consensus that Solution #1 benefited us the most. We're a pretty close group, and there are many within I would trust to act in the GMPC roll. Further, we all have pretty hectic schedules, and we only reliably have one day a week to play, so the other options would be a stretch.
Yeap, Gandalf won.
However, in the end, the biggest deciding factor for me was that we're all friends, and playing RPGs together has made our group so close-knit and amazing that dividing ourselves up would be a massive blow. Sure, we'd still all be friends, but we wouldn't laugh and cry together as the blows fall.

WFRP, for us, will be a hard act to follow. But we certainly wont be following it by splitting up. Only by sticking together will we recreate the same sort of magic that lived in that campaign, and I really look forward to spreading that to our new players.

Sure, we've grown massive, and we threaten to continue to grow, but some of my players are ready for the next step into becoming GMs, and I feel that Solution #1 gives us the chance to both play together and to nurture new GM talents.

I hope my insights and solutions will be able to help you in a similar issue, or just to help you think about your own group in a new way.

Keep having fun, and we'll be getting back to our regular programming soon.

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!

...I'm Free?

A week ago (the 13th) I had my last day at Qantm College Melbourne. This last day was after 3 weeks of 9AM - approx 7PM days, fully in engine, burning away trying to get The Snowman Cometh finished. Over those three weeks, I made up almost 150 hours of work, and I was just one in a team of 9. And we were just one team of many performing the glorious slog that is IEP. And that was just during one of the six trimesters that Qantm spans...

Two years of my life have now finished, and yet, this is merely the beginning. Everything that just was, was in preparation for what will be. Impossible Worlds starts in a month, and we're taking portfolios as I type this (email impossible.worlds.studios@gmail.com if you would like to know more/live in Melbourne and are looking for a place in an indie start up/etc).

Christmas is coming towards us faster and faster, and the stress of buying presents has just abated. I am finally in a position where I can play some games whilst getting ready for the big job-hunt... But something is missing.

I'm not sure if it is because I haven't played games like I used to for 2 years, or because I am still in my Post-WFRP Funk... But something is preventing me from doing all the things I've been wanting to do once Qantm was over. And you know what I am doing instead? You know the truly mad phenomenon which is grasping me at the moment?

I'm making games.

Isn't that just...Insane?! I've spent the last 2 years of my life making games, and now I can't stop?

I think there is only one thing left to say:

Qantm - thanks :) We've had some pretty shaky times. I considered quitting before, but thanks to a solid group of awesome colleagues, and some of the best teachers and people I've ever met (you guys know who you are), I managed to stick it through have come out the other side. Thank you Gorilla5, and thank you everyone who has slugged along side me this whole time.

We did it, you crazy bastards. Now the real battle begins, and I couldn't hope for a greater fusillade at my side!