Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tarot Card Sandbox Toys

So in the last post I wrote about how I had my group create a home village for a post-apocalyptic DCC game. Part of that process was to record all their answers on separate note cards. In addition to helping keep things manageable, it also lends itself to this goofy idea I've had for a while to incorporate tarot into my games. On the off chance Nick, Marty, Rob, Kim or Denny are reading this, you should probably stop.

My original plan was to try and tie elements of the game to tarot cards which had a similar meaning. This quickly became way to big a hassle. So I took all the elements we came up with and assigned each to a card. I did this by shuffling the tarot deck and placing one card on each notecard. If the note card had a couple of different elements, I dealt out however many extra ones, so that at least for now, each card has a discrete element. A couple of things might be tied to multiple cards, but I'm figuring this out as I go.

To record the information, I gave each tarot card a notecard. On the notecard I wrote down the associated word from the deck's Little White Book, and underneath that I wrote down the campaign element. There were some weird synchronicities, like here we have Bill from the General Store being the Page of Coins, and that dude looks a lot like the way I bet Bill does. And Ace of Cups represents emotion, and it's tied to the prior safety of the town that was partially due to Whiskey Know How. And there's a canteen! WITCHY!!!

To get ready for our next game I did a six card spread as outlined in this deck's Little White Book. I'm using Omegaland an apocalypse themed deck, so the language used to describe the spread works pretty good with my game.

1 = Location (Present situation)
2 = Food (How to sustain oneself)
3 = Weapons (state of mind and strategies)
4 = Fuel (what you need to move ahead)
5 = Drink (Feelings)
6 = Stockpile (Planning ahead)

So for Location, I got the 2 of Coins, which corresponds to Ophelia Up, a village debutante, and zero level who survived, but isn't going to keep adventuring.

Food card was the Queen of Wands, which corresponds with Diane, the mother of Alistair a zero level kid that made it through and is turning into a First Level Halfling, sorta like CUBM, but not feral. The Player of Alistair, Denny got hockey game tickets, so she is bailing on the game. So with this, I'm figuring Alistair needs his mom, and the session will start off with the absent Alistair and Ophelia Up heading back to the town which was attacked and likely overrun our first session.

Weapons, or strategies I pulled the High Priestess, which corresponds with "What Happens in the Fog Area." The fog area is an area of radioactive fog where "deviants" from the town are sent. So I'm thinking this will mean I'll drop some clues that the solution to the coordinated attack from the Boat People, Honey Badger Cult, (did I write about the Honey Badger Cult? There's a Tea Totalling Honey Badger Cult that is an sorta underground opposition movement that coordinated an attack with the alien looking Boat People Others) might be found in the fog area.

Fuel, or what is needed to move ahead pulled the Page of Coins, corresponds to Bill from the General Store, the witness to the band's looting and attacking of town guards. This might be that Bill is leading a posse to retrieve the stolen goods and exact justice on the cowardly deserters, or maybe it will be something bad happens to Bill and their crimes are forgotten.

Drink, the feelings, is the Ace of Cups, the town's prior safety which was a result of their whiskey know how, and the fog among other things. These are all coming together in a weird way. Divination! Witchiness!

The Planning card was the 10 of Wands, that thus far does not have an associated game element.

So with these things I have an idea of how I'm going to run the session, and if I get to doing some prep, I'll stat out Diane, make some notes about Ophelia, to make the start of the session about her departure, figure out some rumor tables and who exactly will be spouting these rumors about the Fog Area, and maybe throw some radiation suits in for treasure. Bill and his posse will get statted up, and maybe I'll put some "feelings and ruminations" on the encounter table. Reflections of the way life used to be, reflections of the love you took from me. Like China Beach.

When we play, I'm going to have these tarot cards sitting out. This might just be for psychological effect, but I might also do some sort of luck point spending on certain cards for certain effects. Each spend will somehow "boost" the card. The intent is that the players will slowly figure out first that these cards are influencing the background events, and then which cards correspond to who.

Last week I saw Card Based Mission Generator by Jens D posted on Google Plus, and it's coming at this from a sorta similar direction, but the specifics are quite different. Last summer I read a post from Scott Kellogg about using the tarot for story elements and NPCs. I think our three approaches sort of exist on a spectrum of ways to use cards to create game ideas, and if any of this that I wrote seems the tiniest bit useful, you may want to check out these posts as well.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Collaborative Village Creation Guide for Sandbox Kickoff

In the last post that recapped the campaign kickoff (we have already decided on two days that for sure wouldn't work for the next game, but at least it's progress) I referenced the collaborative village creation. Here I'll give a rundown of how we did it, how I tied it in to DCC character creation. In a future post I'll go through how I'm pulling the seemingly set aside bits we came up with as return hooks in the sandbox we'll be playing in.

Before getting together, I put the following questions onto notecards, so I could have notes on the answers to specific questions in one place, and for bookkeeping reasons as the campaign continues. Before we started I gave the group a blank piece of paper to for them to draw a map of the village and the surrounding area. As we went through the questions they drew stuff on the map, and just doodled things. Some answers inspired follow up questions that I wrote down on additional cards. After we got through all of the questions, we had a pretty clear idea of what the town was all about.

We took smoke break screw around break for a few minutes, and during that time I wrote down all of the characters who were specifically named, or professions that were mentioned onto a numbered list. This became the Occupation list for the 0 levels. Weapon and trade good I just sort of winged after they rolled. I then rounded it out to 60 with entries from the Crawling Under a Broken Moon Occupation List.
So there's had specific people, like Beckett the most irritating guy in town, Texas, the oil bum, and honey badger cultists. For the specifically named characters I gave a bonus to the relevant stat, smartest guy in town, Einstein the scientist, got a +2 to Intelligence, Hercules Berkeles got a +2 to Strength.
The map they made.

Village Creation Question List:

  • What is special about the village?
  • Describe the village's terrain
  • Give a detail about the terrain
  • Each player name a resource
  • What does the village produce (commodity, trade goods, etc)?
  • What Else
  • Why has it been safe so far?
  • Who does it trade with?
  • What is the religion, ethos or guiding philosophy of the village?
  • What is the competing, underground or forbidden movement?
  • How is the village governed?
  • Are the people satisfied with this arrangement?
  • If opposition exists, who is involved with it?
  • What or who is the greatest threat to the village?
  • If there is any other threats, what are they?
  • Who is the most irritating person in the village? Explain.
  • What is the community's open secret?
  • Who is the oldest person in the village?
  • Who is the town gossip?
  • Who is the youngest?
  • Who is the ugliest?
  • Who is the most beautiful?
  • Who is the smartest?
  • Who is the most trusted?
  • Who is the strongest?
  • Who is the dumbest?
  • What is the worst thing to have happened to the village in the last five years?
  • What was the best?
  • What is the village's favorite pastime?
  • What will make the village prosper?
  • What is a typical meal?
  • What is the most common chore
  • What job is the most honored?
  • What is the least desired job?
  • Who should have been exiled?
  • Why weren't they?
Part of the occupation list.

Filled out Note cards 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Post Apocalyptic DCC Kick Off Session Report

My long time gaming group has in recent years stagnated into EuroGame regularity, a mocking caricature of the cartoon in the D&D book of adventurers playing Papers & Paychecks. Keraptis and +2 Spevs are now efficiency experts in German Factories and optimizers of power grids. We now manage the medieval monasteries that as Evil Gnomes we once pillaged. Panfilio the Wild Mage is replaced with a red cube that allows me to build buildings.

This is not to say that I do not like these games, they are great and I sometimes wonder how to resolve shit in D&D beyond a Roll and Move without complicating things to a painful crawl. We don’t even get the press your luck of a Yahtzee. Iis a worker placement RPG possible, let alone desirable? Enough of these thoughts...

Like a long suffering couple looking for their lost spark we headed to a cabin in the woods of Southern Ohio. Instead of Dr Ruth, couple’s erotica and a bag of silicone dongs, I had a backpack of DCC. Friday was Russian Railroads, Blue Moon City, a failed attempt at the Werewolf Card Game, and finally an aborted Dead of Winter. I don’t dig a lot of the RPG-lite board games, and my Can’t-Hang-itis really flared up when my two characters were both killed in the first round on one roll each. People complain Tomb of Horrors sucks, but at least I’d have been able to say “I climb into the devil’s mouth.” I got a new card and was told that it really is fun, but I soon apologized for sucking and crashed out.

Originally I thought my friend Marty was going to run a Narcosa trip on Friday, but that didn’t happen. We couldn’t squeeze it in on Saturday because the game I ran went way long. For this Marty, I am sorry. Word on the street is he is pissed.

But the game I ran while long, was good, and here I will recount what transpired.

My original plan was to run a DCC-ified Savage Worlds, like the Outer Space Mining Disaster I did at BASHCon, but in a post-apocalyptic setting. When I started to pull my strands together for this Magical Weekend Game That Better Be Special, it occurred to me that I have had the most fun playing DCC, so why would I only import aspects of that to another game, rather than adjusting DCC to my needs? Because ‘you are lazy’ I replied to myself. A ha! But in a funnel, a zero level is a zero level, there is no need to make classes before this session, so I was convinced. The intent is that this will be a kick off to an ongoing campaign, so I decided to run with what I am currently most stoked over. I’ll figure out the rest when I need to.

So what about the game? I’ve read a little bit about people collaboratively creating their adventuring world using Microscope, saw at RPG Tips some sort of put your best ideas on a notecard, read about Beyond the Wall, then heard the Drink Spin Run play through, and those things got me thinking. I also played through half a season of The Quiet Year, and the map making town building gave me a couple other ideas.

A month or so ago I had asked everyone what sort of game they’d be into playing in and the consensus was post-apocalyptic. I was imagining something closer to Mad Max than Gamma World, but fuck it, I’d open it up for whatever. In preparation I created a series of questions to guide where we’d be going, stuff like “Why has this village been safe so far?” and about the specific residents of the town. I’ll do a full post with the process and question for those who may be interested.

We ended up with a tropical coastal settlement of about 400 people that grew and roasted Foffee, a coffee like thing, and also had good old boys distilling whiskey and rye, some of whom found out that this’ll be the day that I die. The town was powered by a small hydroelectric station on a river, and was also a sea port. This sea port was now not functioning because there was a blockade in effect conducted by Others on a cruise ship. These Others looked sorta like large nosed greys. The town was no utopia, a strict hierarchy was enforced. This was tolerated and even celebrated because it kept everyone safe and mostly drunk. There was an underground honey badger cult that forswore booze, and did not like the way the town was governed.
The political entity in charge was a council made up of representatives from the Foffee family, the Whiskey family, and a seemingly meritocratic scientific community.

We took a little more than an hour sketching all of this out, and also named some residents of the town. The resident created by the question “Who is the most irritating member of the village?” was named Beckett.

While everyone rolled up their slate’s ability scores I quickly put together a 1d60 table of occupations pulled from what the group came up with and also placed the named characters on the list. The named characters conferred an additional bonus based on the qualifier that was attached to them, for example, Hercules, the strongest guy in the village got a +2 to Strength. Beckett got a -2 to Personality.

After character creation we had probably been going for two and a half hours. A simple introductory encounter probably would have rounded out the session. Instead we barrelled onward.

In the town there was a dangerous bridge near the powerstation that spanned the river. People liked to get drunk on the bridge, and people would then fall off the bridge. This was one of the quirks of the town. The proper adventure began with all 24 characters hanging out at the bridge. Soon they heard an explosion. They quickly came to realize that the barracks and armory was on fire. Immediately there were grumblings that this must be the work of the Others on the cruise ship.

The villagers made their way to the armory, one brave soul even venturing in. After a few failed luck checks, this was the first to fall. Others came with bucket in hand but came to realize it would do little good in extinguishing this inferno. A few others pressed their luck, and spent it too, and managed to make it in and out of the armory with machine guns. (I sorta used the Crawl gun rules in Crawling Under a Broken Moon, and I sorta winged it.)

Some sharp eyed fellow noticed a sketchy character sneaking away into the night. He shortly thereafter met his end, much to the consternation of those that thought information might have been garnered had the miscreant been captured and questioned rather than slain, but hotter heads ruled the day.

The crew went down to the shore line to find three more suspicious figures attempting to shove off in an inflatable raft. The first flying side kick missed, but someone else figured shooting the raft would stop the escape. Once trapped, the saboteurs pulled out some wicked shock sticks, electrified maces designed for killing and frying not prodding or subduing. A few of the allies fell, but those that remained killed two and captured the last.

“Why did you blow up our armory” a member of the band asked.

“So you don’t have weapons when we come to kill you and take your stuff.”

“How many of you are on the boat?”

“A hundred thousand, so it's not even worth trying to stand against us.”

After a couple more questions and answers of which the veracity was doubtful the captive received a crossbow bolt through the back of his neck.

This brutality brought a couple of grumbles, but on the whole it seemed the band were happy fascists in a happy fascist town. The bind of the fasci might have been overlooked, because the group decided to run away from town.

To Be continued....