Friday, November 21, 2014

This(ese) (Three) Week(s) in Gaming

Okay...I suck at regular, systematized updates to this blog. Maybe I should just give up. You should expect round-up updates like this to keep coming, I will find a new name for them that does not try to imply a specific time frame...

...On the plus side, I've been too busy with actual gaming and game logs to worry about these. So, on with what my gaming life looks like these days.

Regarding Video Games:

Magical Diary
While most of my gaming life is fantasy RPGs, my guilty-pleasure is Anime-inspired visual novels/dating sims. Especially ones involving young, female protagonists. Two of my past favorites in this genre, Long Live the Queen and Spirited Hearts are from Hanako Games, so I was pleased to get turned onto another of their offerings called Magical Diary on Steam (though I am not usually a fan of Steam since you cannot play games purchased from Steam when not connected to a network -- which means I cannot play from behind the firewall at work).
Magical Diary can basically be interpreted as a Harry Potter fan-fic Anime with a Magic The Gathering "pentachromatic" magic system tacked on and a few weirder elements of pseudo-Wiccan religion and ceremony thrown in for good measure. Game play is standard for a visual novel (pick weekly activities to train attributes of your choice, with interspersed scenes to advance the plot which often require checks against certain of those attributes). The deviation from the norm in Magical Diary is that at certain times of the 'year' you have to take magical exams -- which take place in the school dungeons and take the form of puzzles (which can be solved in a variety of ways depending on the selection of spells you have learned from your classes). 
On my first play-through my young, New Hampshire born protagonist became class treasurer (sadly it looks like there is 0% chance of becoming class president) and ended up forced into an arranged marriage with one of her professors (who is clearly a Snape knock-off) after an unfortunate run-in with a poorly controlled summoned creature. There are also the obligatory lesbian romance possibilities, the chance to sell your soul to a Cambion, and of course, getting kicked out of school for sleeping through all of your classes for a week.
There, confession made. I play girly Anime games. It was fun.
Recommended Reading:

Proper Schooling for New GMs:
I haven't found any good, new (to me) blogs in the last couple of weeks, but this post from Scrap Princess over on Monster Manual Sewn from Pants does a very good job of capturing the true nature of the exchange between players and GMs when planning for a campaign. As they say:
"This is an example of the other type of questions players will ask you and you should get some practice answering them now before all those bright keen faces are turned [to] you."
You really should get used to this...
Maybe if I get really bored/really stuck for a post idea I will answer these specific questions some time... 
 Player-driven Travel Narratives:
I, and my players, often complain that D&D (and its derivatives) is not a good format for telling travel tales. Sure, you can do a hex crawl and describe some terrain and roll some random encounters, but it seldom captures the feel of something like The Hobbit, where you spend 90% of the story getting from point A to point B, and then only a couple chapters fighting the dragon and looting his cave.
The article Getting from There to Here on Gnome Stew proposes a great compromise to the normal stagnant travel scenes in D&D (or Pathfinder in this specific case). Simply giving the players turns having complete narrative control (one at a time, round-robbin style) to describe what kind of events happen on the journey. 
Definitely trying this the next time I need to move the PCs from one place to another and don't feel like just handwaving it story-wise.
A Review of D&D (All of it):
This one is a month old already, but so perfect it's worth repeating. Zak S. over on Playing D&D with Porn Stars, has managed to capture exactly why I play tabletop RPGs and also exactly why I bad-mouth all other forms of games and media in this single post.
"...the potentia is always there, never quite dwindling into clarity because theme, or unity, or even meaning, implies an ending--and an ending is a limit. And the power of it is equal to the ability to suspend you in its limitlessness. You are ... standing continuously and absolutely genuinely on the brink of what art can only fake: the infinite."
What I've Been Playing:

Kobolds...kobolds EVERYWHERE!
We're finally starting to see some unified themes in the many Ruins of Adventure games I'm running. Kobolds are a big (and growing) problem in Phlan and all of the parties are starting to deal with that. In addition, all three of the major parties (face-to-face, G+, and play-by-email) have just gotten into their first real dungeon crawls (unknown subterranean environments filled with monsters and traps).
The play-by-email squad originally met Hrud while chasing some kobolds, and more recently have been ambushed by koboldsfortified a village against an anticipated kobold army, and now are taking the fight directly to the kobolds. They found a nest of kobolds lurking in the petrified corpse of an ancient black dragon and are now plumbing its depths, and trying not to be eaten by giant weasels.
Awesome sketch courtesy of Tony DiTerlizzi
The face-to-face group recently fended off an army of kobolds that attacked their keep, then encountered another kobold force invading some bugbear caves, and finally ran into a small, ragtag group of kobold leftovers hiding in an old library. The relative number of kobolds encountered seems to be decreasing steadily...maybe they've finally suffered sufficient attrition.
The G+ group of players have been through several parties, two of these (The Bitter Blades and Noriss's Boys) actually had kobold PCs. The newest crop of characters, The Amazons, got to help fight off the full-scale kobold army invasion of Kryptgarten. I'm still plotting what to do with them tomorrow evening... Hopefully it won't involve kobolds directly....