Saturday, February 18, 2006

Two Manifestoes...Manifestii...Um...

Here is a link to Bankuei's blog Deep In the Game
Bankuei is a fairly smart dude and has posted two Manifestos about gaming. He has kindly given me permission to post them here as well.

The FUN NOW Manifesto:
1. Not everyone likes the same thing
2. Play with people you like
3. Play with rules you like
4. Everyone is a player
5. Talking is good
6. Trust, not fear or power
7. It's a game, not a marriage
8. Fun stuff at least every 10 minutes
9. Fix problems, don't endure them

and it's obverse
The FUN NEVER Manifesto:
1. Everyone must like the same thing
2. Keep playing with people even if you don't like them
3. Keep playing with the same game, even if you don't like it
4. Not everyone gets to play (and by play, I mean engage & input)
5. Talking is bad
6. Fear & Power, never Trust
7. Commit. Forever.
8. Be amazed when fun actually happens
9. Endure, but do not fix problems.

No one in their right mind would suggest these, right?

Try looking in some of your favorite games about "problem players", "Don't let them get too much control", "Planning a campaign", "fudging", "Acting out of character", etc. Try looking on some of your favorite forums & online advice columns about "problem players"/"problem GMs", "Forming a group", "punishing powergamers/munchkins/ruleslawyers".

Try reading Knights of the Dinner Table and pick out the cartoons you can't relate to at all.

After all, no one plays like that, right?

This is pure brilliance and should be recognized as such.
Although, for Larps, the frequency of cool things should be about once a half hour.

A missed milestone

A couple of days ago, i opened blogger's dashboard to create a new blog. (I got sidetracked on that project, but i may still create it.)
In doing so, i discovered that according to Blogger, I had made 101 posts to the Crank Report.

It never occured to me to think for a moment that i had so many. So, even though, i've sort of missed that landmark, I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about how it all began and why it continues to this day

I started out in junior high. A friend introduced me to AD&D. I remember getting killed a lot. Mostly because the other dudes were jerks, and I was kind of a shrimpy tag-along dork kid who they really didn't want hanging around. The fact that now, at age 38, I write about games, act onstage professionally, have a large circle of friends, and more muscle than i've ever had at any point in my life has not escaped me. My clearest memory of those first games is that of being chased by an enormous Pac-Man.

Fuck you. I unloaded a quiver of arrows at that thing and it didn't even slow down.

In any case, I fell in love with these games. (To the point where I dragged my brother into them and then subsequently drove him out of them. A fact for which I am profoundly sorry.) In truth, I neglected my schoolwork because it simply couldn't hold my interest. (Although it further fueled my fire to read and prodded my interest in history)

I played as much as i could and it never seemed like enough. Shockingly enough, I made it into college and when I did i discovered a whole new world of other games. Champions, Traveller,and my personal favorite from those days, Top Secret S.I.

When I left school, i was just getting into more literary styled games. Vampire had just appeared on the scene and i was reading a lot of Gibson and Sterling, so Cyberpunk was also in the mix for me. AD&D had palled for me. I had gotten sick of munchkin culture (It had yet to truly take hold in Vampire yet) and I kept right on doing those things in gaming that fed me. Or at very least fed the actor and the writer in me.

As time wore on, I began to realize that Gaming was my primary form of making friends. I made some friends at Transylvania University that I keep to this day and a stranger and more wonderful bunch of folks you could not asked for.

I began the Crank Report many years ago on a second hand Macintosh Performa. I went out and purchase a copy of Claris Home Page and made my very first web pages. I wrote about things that bugged me. I wrote about things that I discovered that worked.

This, many years before the Forge and the proliferation of other sites and blogs that sought to codify and find names for the social dynamics that make for good games. Not to diss them at all. They've come up with some fantastic stuff, stuff that occasionally helps to crystalize thoughts that rattle around in this old mans head. Although to be truthful some of the bloodless terminology turns me off.

Over the years, new insights are a little harder to come by. And that's mainly because good games are harder to come by. Constructing them seems more like work, Nailing down people to play is even more work. I live in an age where most of my contemporaries have jobs and kids and mortgages to sweat. You never really get to play as much as you did back in the day when your other players all lived in the same dorm. Also, Gaming is, at best, a fragile art. When the players and GM are in sync, there is no better thing in the world.
You, and your best friends, making up a cool story and having fun doing it. Ending in triumph or tragedy is almost secondary to being in that groove. and finding the things that enable you to do it, make it that much easier.

But add one JERK and it all gets shot to hell.

So why do I go on?

Because it's worth it.
Because WE are worth it.
and if there's anything i can do or say that makes it easier for another person to find their own groove for running or playing in games, then all the effort will have been worth it.

Worth it in spades.

Sono Finito

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday Pictures (Feb/12/06)

What the...Sweet pan fried Jesus! I'd hate to be swimming and see something like that coming towards me.

Aren't a few of these sovereign countries? Aren't they also a haven for pirate radio stations and data havens?

Okay, maybe i have an unhealthy fascination with treehouses, but shit man! How COOL is that!

There's this lovely webcomic blog where this guy re-purposes old graphics like these.
It's name is Very Important Things

These days, i'm finding that odd and unusual structures draw my attention. Papercraft too. This is just beautiful.

A shot rang out...

It was a dark and stormy night...

So I'm in this Vampire Larp (as you well know) and lately, as a sort of Storyteller Emeritus, I've been suggesting storylines to our Executive ST, which he is fully able to reject or adopt as he sees fit. Telling a man how to run his game is to end up running the game, and I'm having too much fun playing.
That being said, I do still have ideas for plot lines and I always seem to see that which is missing in the make-up of any given game.
I'm always on the prod for ways to help new players get themselves hooked into the various plotlines. lately i've been on the kick of trying to help create mortal story lines that young vampires need to go deal with.

Which got me to thinking about Mortals and their place in the world of Requiem. Mortal story lines exist for a number of reasons. Most people don't play them because, as a good friend of mine puts it. "I already AM a mortal. why would i want to play one in a game of vampires. On the other hand, there are some people who are devoutly passionately devoted to playing mortals in a vampire game. Maybe ghouls, or hunters or some form of human being with supernatural sprinkles on top. but still essentially mortal.

But i think i've hit on what makes Mortals integral to a good game of Requiem beyond being the primary source of blood. Vampires are to humans what Moths are to flames. Irresistible and yet painful and potentially deadly.
The more contact a vampire has with the mortal world the more he feel the separation from it. the less he has with it, the faster his humanity slips away.

Vampires who sequester themselves away from humans begin to see them as abstractions and tools to be used and discraded. Those that stay embroiled in the fast moving world of humankind have nightly reminders of everything they've lost and the greater tendency toward the angst that a good vampire game is supposed to be colored with.

And on those occasions when the mortal world and vampire world collide, the mortal world almost always loses, but every time this happens, it should cost the vampires involved a portion of their humanity.

I've offered the example of the Kindred going round to kill the police chief only to find that his son or daughter witnessed the entire thing. This should have only 2 possible outcomes.
1) Vampire has a "Moment of Clarity" and runs away in shame at the monster he's become...Maybe loses humanity and maybe develops a derangement over it
2) Vampire kills the child as a future threat and loses humanity on the spot, and NO you don't get a fucking roll for it. Sure, maybe the Lancea Sanctum says that this is the way it's meant to be, but their religious dogma is of little comfort when you find you can't actually put the beast back in his cage.

Now consider this possibility. Statistically, most humans killed by a vampire have a family somewhere. a family that maybe loves them. How do you deal with the fact that when you go to look at the newspaper to follow your business interests, you might have to deal with the front page picture of the person you killed last week and the pictures of their family begging for a lead...any lead to their loved ones whereabouts. Hey you thought Laci Peterson got some press...

But just as this is a dramatic sort of conflict there are conflicts that are not as dramatic but that have long term effects. Say for instance, a problem with the Werewolves that cause the Kindred to buy up the property and turn it into a toxic waste dump.
What happens when that waster gets into the local water table and starts making the humans very sick. When do you hit the vampires with the humanity stick? and how often? until they stop? Until they no longer are able to care?

What about situations where the local kindred decide to throw their influence around only to discover that they are in fact destabilizing the local economy by trying to crush their competition whether they be human or other vampires. That fucks up everybody's Christmas.

So, At some point my thinking turns to Hunters. Vampire hunters are an inevitable consequence of vampires. Some vampire gets frisky with his liquid lunch and leaves a body behind...and that body happens to be someone's wife/husband/father/lover/mother/sister/brother/etc... and then the natural need is for vengeance against the evil bloodsucking freaks who killed him/her.
It may not even be that horrific. Maybe some vampire got sloppy and his obvious OTHERNESS just offended someone so much that they took up arms.

There are lots of different hunter types:
Those sneaky academic Talamasca/Arcanum/whatever ya call em/ guys who might occasionally share their knowledge with more martially oriented hunters.
The lone nut who has powers, or knowledge, or both. Enough to make problems for the Kindred population.
The group of hunter with ties to Werwolves or Mages or some other group that may not want to contest directly with the vampires but don't mind humans who do.
The group of capable and organized mysticks who may fight vampires in the arena of Influence war. (Although, if it comes down to a physical fight they'll probably get greased. That's why they seeks out more allies as well.)
The group of military or law enforcement professionals who have seen too much and are taking "Protect and Serve" seriously.
The group of heavily armed good ole boys who may not be all that books smart, but that don't mean they are dumb and they been doing this for years.
The small cadre of hunters who are being fed intel about you by one of the other vampires.
Church hunters with faith to burn and a devout congregation acting as an intelligence gathering organ.(And let's be clear, the Catholics aren't the only one who do this. They're just the ones that jump to mind first.)
The group of poor urban folks who organize. they ain't out to save the world, they just want to clean up the neighborhood.

And that's just the ones I've seen or used.
I'm sure there are types that i simply haven't stumbled onto yet.
Do some real thinking about the hunters and remember a couple of things:
1) They can jack up your shit in the day time(Not necessarily get you, but burn your house or kill your allies)
2) They have families and by dint of this alone may have superior numbers.
3) They are the good guys. (at least they think they are. They may even be right.)
4) They aren't necessarily ignorant, but they may not have all the facts.
5) They needn't always be combat crunchy. They needn't always have teamwork, but they need to have one or the other. Otherwise, they aren't scary.
6) Massed gunfire, even though it only does bashing damage to kindred can still put a kindred on the deck. In fact you can fill him so full of lead you can use his dick for a pencil.
7) Humans run the world in the daytime.Vampires may not like it but there's only so much they can do about it. You can lie,cheat,steal,enslave,and destroy lives... but at the end of the night comes the dawn and that's all there is to it.

Sono Finito

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Reunion Larp Diary (Part 1)

So, i have this idea for a larp to run at Origins. The premise is simply this: A high school reunion turns ugly as four students killed in the same car on prom night show up with unfinished business.

I have my membership for Origins already paid for.
my reservations are in.
My palm is loaded with the MET book
When my show is over at the end of march i'll have enough money to cover my lodgings and i intend to pre-pay it.

Now all i have to do is sit down and create a 30+ character larp between now and June.
and prove to myself that i can write a large project.

First step: re-read the entire MET book from cover to cover. Re-impress as much of the rule set on my brain as i can. then go back and Highlight and tab it. Believe it or not this incredibly anal retentive task helps me learn the rules cold so i can run things like Improv.

I've already written an outline, a timeline, a list of the various types i know i'll need, as well as a list of types that can be dropped in on short notice. I also plan to create a "Spouse" template for any people my beyond my projected group. A spouse template would be a greatly simplified sheet along with an envelope with something like: "You've been cheating on your spouse with his/her best friend for the last six months. She may or may not know but tonight, you're gonna get liquored up and the whole thing is going to come spilling out."

I plan to be the DJ for this little soirree and i have a large collection of 80's music for the event.
I also plan to have an "Open Bar" for this event (which will be a cooler with sodas and bottled water.)

I may also do some Aeon Adventure stuff at the Con as well. but that's far from set in concrete.

Sono Finito

Some news stuff that i've been saving up since before Christmas(Feb/05/06)

The Flying Squirrel Man of Alcatraz
I've also seen this kind of thing in the Lara Croft movies. It seems to me that this would enable pin-point landing on even a HALO jump. Neat as hell. i could see using this in a game.

Say goodbye to cars that are surveilance free

While the encroaching loss of anything resembling privacy makes me nervous as hell, I can't help but catalog these things for use in Dystopic future settings.

A spiffy new radar based toy for law enforcement
Again, nervous about these sorts of things, but also thinking about having this sort of thing in my kit bag for my Spycraft 2.0 character.

...At 3:14 PM Botnet woke up...
Apparently this guy was hiring out his huge network for distributed spam and DOS attacks. What a waste!

Tron Frisbee
If you loved me at all. You would make sure that i got one of these for my birthday.
I am such a nerd. But I love frisbee, and it's about the only exercise i really like.

Cthulhu Carols
Not really news and kind of late for the holidays, but still worth mentioning.

Robotic Wheelchair that can drive itself.
So if your wheelchair bound villian is actually "killed", his chair can still manage his escape.

Bedside table that turns into a shield and club
Okay, I'm paranoid and even I think this is a little much. Neat though and no reason why your players or villians couldn't incorporate their violence into their design sense.

Ferrofluid Sculptures
Nifty photos of sculpting with metalic fluids and magnets.

Thousands of people living underground in Sofia, Bulgaria.
How can you not use this kind of information? Hell that's practically a whole setting!

Sono Finito