Tags: shadows of esteren

Kapiti College Ponderings for 2013

So, another year down for Kapiti College meetings. This year has been a good one with the most consistent fun all year than any previous year, though no game quite reached the height of Exalted 2e a few years back.

This year consisted of:

1. Marvel Heroic (2 sessions). Though a tough call for this crowd, it really struck a chord for some players culminating in a campaign starting outside of the meetings on Monday.
2. Dragon Age (2 sessions). This was an enjoyable experience which saw the players go off and run what I planned to run by themselves.
3. World of Darkness (1 session). This was the stand out session of the year. A one-off horror game that worked on every level.
4. Shadows of Esteren (1 session). Another successful session with a nice mashup of fantasy and horror.
5. Board Games (3 sessions). I played 1 session of Mansions of Madness, Descent 2e and Talisman. Mansions of Madness outstripped the other two by quite some way.

My options for 2013 are:

1. The One Ring. I ran this with some success a couple of years ago and now I have ready access to more resources and advantures. The release of the Hobbit should make it a hot item and its a great RPG. Probably the greates contender.
2. Hellas. This RPG is straightforward with the accessible gimmicks of Greek Mythic Fantasy and In Sppaaacccceee. The adventures I have are a decent, though no great quality, which turns this from a must run to a may run.
3. Dungeon World. I would like to do some D&D with this group again and Dungeon World seems to support the D&D style with simple rules that promote fun gameplay. It could be a winning combination and at least worth a session to try out.
4. Exalted 3e. With such success with Exalted 2e previously, I am hoping that the cleaned up ruleset will make it easier to play. If it does, it will be a big contender next year. If not, I may look at a mortals Sword & Sorcery game with Ruins of Rathess and Exalted 1e.
5. Barbarians of Lemuria. I doubt that this will be see fruition but I quite like the idea of using the simplicity of BoL to run Trial of Blood or other Conan D20 adventures.
6. World of Darkness. I want to run a more horror after the success of the WoD game this year. I particularly liked the use of mortals in WoD. Geist and Hunter are both possibilities but neither seem to hold up when I push myself. The God Machine Chronicle comes out next year and that could be a possible way in to this idea. Alternatively, I could see Kuro from Cubicle 7 (if they release the Makkuro campaign book next year) or Shadows of Esteren being possibilities for horror RPGing.
7. Board Games. Not much on the board game front. Call of the Wild for Mansions of Madness may get a session. I would also like to get out Middle Earth Quest again, given the likely Hobbit furor.

The one game that isn't on the list is Tenra Bansho Zero which is not likely to be the best fit for the younger crowd.

My Preferred RPGing Style

I realised that I often used the term "my preferred RPGing style" when talking about RPGs. This term means the "White Wolf" style of RPGing, more recently used by me in games like Cthulhutech and Shadows of Esteren.

The most recent example of my usage was here: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/215793.html. However, in that I noted that despite this being my preferred style, I have actually spent the last few years exploring other styles. Why is this?

The main reason is that though it is my preferred style, it is not without flaws. These flaws are relatively well known. Me and Mash talked about it in considerable detail over the years and I think others have as well. I find that the main flaws are:

1. It requires more effort from the GM than I am willing to put in at the moment.
2. It lacks direct channels of GM/player communication that are needed to keep the story centred on the characters. This was also the underlying reason for The Grand Experiment many moons ago even.
3. I find that conflict scenes are unexciting as the GM has too much influence over the outcome. I recently discussed this aspect here: http://grandexperiment.livejournal.com/217298.html.

So, despite knowing my preference on paper, my RPGing journey is about translating that into actual experience. This journey was initially very rocky but recent years have started to see considerable success. The reason I have been mesmerised by D&D4e, MouseGuard, The One Ring, Mistborn Marvel Heroic and most recently Tenra Bansho Zero is that they tackle these three issue direct whilst playing pretty close to my preferred style.

Though these kind of journeys seem endless at times, I actually don't think The Grand Experiment is. I can actually feel the end approaching after more than 7 years. In fact, I would say that I have pretty much resolved how to deal with issues 2 and 3 to my satisfaction.

That just leaves issue 1 outstanding. I am pretty meticulous as a GM and though I think well on my feet in terms of acting and story, I don't in terms of creating detail. On saying that, I actually have all the tools I need to help me here in theory but I struggle to let go of the edge of the pool and use them in practice.

In December, I start Civil War campaign for Marvel Heroic for a group of new RPGers. The system, campaign and players all seem like an ideal combination to make that tentative break from the safety of the edge. The players will not have any expectations of me as a GM so I can shift gear more easily. Also, Civil War gives me some base story and mechanical details to use and build up, rather than starting for scratch.

I plan to follow this up with Tenra Bansho Zero sometime next year, which is suitable to a lower prep approach, to see if I can start to swim :) Unlike Marvel, TBZ is of a genre that I am most comfortable with, so I should be able to create detail from scratch more easily both in prep and on the fly. More experienced players will be a double edged blade, with a greater ability to contribute the input I will be looking for but also with expectations of me as a GM that will need to be overcome.

Kickstarter Surprises

One of the oddities of Kickstarter is that you end up get pleasant surprises as things are released (assuming its not Into the Far West). This week I am looking to get:

1. Hellas Second Edition PDF - I love the core concept of Hella (Greek Heroes In Spaaaaccce) but the original had a few outlying wonky rules and a few jarring art pieces. The second edition has removed these elements making it a pretty cool game.
2. Tenra Bansho Zero PDF - This is a massive PDF (not massive in terms of mechanics though) filled with interesting mechanical, cultural and setting ideas. SHould keep me occupied for a while.
3. Shadows of Esteren Prologue PDF - The end of the well organised Esteren KS and hopefully open up an immediately playable option for the RPG.
4. Castles & Crusades PHB - Given I have the PDF, this adds little other than seeing the book in the flesh.

Add this on top of my Marvel Heroic Civil War reading and it gives me a lot to read at the moment.

Quiet but Productive

Quick update. Things may seem like they have been quiet for the last little while. This is mostly because I recently made a decision to RPG less in the weekends for a number of reasons. I would love to be gaming with loads of people right now (I am not ignoring you guys, promise) but the realities of life need to be respected.

On saying that, I have been pretty productive on the RPG front as well. My playtest of WR Arnimor DUAL is only a week away. It will be good to game with the gang (and others) again and also see all that hard work finally put to use. I have been spinning the wheels for the upcoming Civil War campaign that looks set to start in December, with an unrelated one off of Into the Savage Land in early November as an introduction to the system for some of the players. As a player, Shades of Terra continues to tick over and looks likely to be coming to the end of the second season. I haven't been inspired into putting up a second season of the Incarnadine Crucible together though, as its a lot of work.

On the more prospective front, I am still awaiting Book 0: Prologue for Shadows of Esteren and will likely look to pitch the three introductory scenarios as one offs for Friday night. I am also eagerly anticipating Tenra Bansho Zero and would like to do something with it in 2013, provisionally titled Kishi Kaisei.

Darkness Before Dawn - Shadows of Esteren

So, I had Elven Crystals prepped and ready to go. It was awesome and I want to run it. But I started to have doubts. Though I have three sessions left for the year, the last two are not until November. This meant that Elven Crystals as a potentially multiple session game may not be a good fit. Also, though I was enjoying the old school nature of it, it wasn't really the sandbox that was one of the core reasons I initially wanted to do this. I was also beginning to be concerned that using Esteren portraits may cause some confusion if I decided to run Esteren in a later session.

For a while, I have been thinking about Darkness Before Dawn, which is in the Dragon Warriors rulebook, as an alternative, as it is a single session game with equally good atmosphere, more sandboxy, and perhaps a better match for modern players. When reviewing it again, I came to realise that the scenario with only a little work could be run with Shadows of Esteren (which is a new shiny) rather than Dragon Warriors. After some further thinking, I worked out the conversion and the end result is now locked in. I am happier with the result.

The plot as altered is as follows, using the PCs from Esteren except Joris.

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One Off scenario madness update

Rosebride's Plight has been run and it was fun. After some useful changes arising from the playtest, it is now in the hands of Sam to run at Confusion.

Tales from Wilderland was postponed a second time. This time due to urgent work requirements. Long term weekend commitments are definitely becoming more difficult for me and Sam. With the next few months looking hectic, the start of Tales from Wilderland has been delayed with no set date at this stage.

Rejectamenta is written and ready for Confusion. I have decided against running this at Kapiti College as I think it may be too disturbing for the players. This leaves me at loose end.

Arnimor DUAL is also written. Nick and Sam are reading through it. The PC portraits are in process and I have yet to do the stats. But its pretty much wrapped up for the playtest in early October, which I hope to start inviting people to in early August.

Shadows of Esteren is a new RPG (French translated) that has caught my eye. It is one part Name of the Rose, one part Slaine and one part Princess Mononoke. It comes with three scenarios and pregenerated PCs. So, I may look to run one or more of them if I like the RPG.