Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Veronica Monsterhearts - Looking anew at the Basic Moves

Why am I doing this? Because I didn't really like what was there, it was more the first thing that came to mind rather than something actually useful. There was also something that someone said about the difference between something like Apocalypse World and Dungeon World is that DW is about the players dealing with their environment and AW is about the players dealing with the other players. I think this game needs to be somewhere in the middle, and I don't feel that I managed to get there. The original Basic Moves as written are here. Let's see if I can improve them.

Basic Moves

Sweep the Scene
Whenever you're looking for information about a situation, a scene, or a crime, ROLL+eyes. On a 10+ you pick up 3 Clues. On a 7-9, you get 2 Clues, but you get interrupted, discovered, or attacked. You must spend at least 1 clue to ask one of these questions:
-Who should I talk to next?
-What am I missing here?
-Where is the next place to go?
-Why should I care about this?
-When is something going to happen?

On a 6- you get 1 Clue that you can't spend on any of those questions, and something bad happens ... good luck. 

Okay, I changed up the questions because I thought this is a little better. There's a few more leading questions that give the player a direction to go in rather than just have them answer questions about the environment. It should be more "how do I move this story forward."

I also wanted to make sure that you could get at least one clue from this move so that's why it got a -6 section as well. 

Open Up
When you reveal something personal to someone else, ROLL+Soft. On a 10+ you can either remove 2 conditions, or 1 condition you have and 1 condition they have. On a 7+ you can remove 1 condition you have, or 1 condition they have.

Confession time, I'm adding another change to AW here. I'm not using Harm or anything resembling an HP stat. I don't want this to be about damage, I want this to be about problems. With that in mind, I'm going to give people 4 conditions in 3 "branches." You hit the 4th condition in anyone of those branches and you're taken out. I don't know what that means yet, but I like that better for this game than Harm.

Three branches? Physical, Emotional, Social. Because that's where a lot of the hurt in Veronica Mars is. I like this a lot more now because you can open up to share, or you can open up to be selfish and I think that's really in keeping more with how the show goes than say filling up a circle or ticking marks of HP. I think that the one way everyone has to recover is more through opening up to other people which makes them possibly vulnerable later on is great. Maybe do it with four of them so that there's one for each STAT, and if you get a stat taken to -2 then you're taken out? That way if you have a high HARD 

And Action
Whenever you act where there's any immediate danger, ROLL+Rash. On a 10+ you get to act with no consequences of the danger. On a 7-9, you get to act but choose one: you take a condition; you get a cliffhanger even if you have another move.

I like this one more than the previous And Action move. First of all it's a little more general, so that could be if there's a danger of getting caught, or a danger from another player. It provides you with the option to decide what happens if you get a 7-9, it immediately stops the scene or gives people damage in the way we're doing damage here. Is it too vague? I don't know, but I like it more because the immediate danger is less specific than "something physical."

Shut Someone Down
When you need to put someone in their place, ROLL+Hard. On a 10+ choose one: give them a Condition; they lose a String against you; if they held no Strings on you, gain a String on them. On a 7-9, choose one: you each give a Condition to one another; you each lose a String on one another.

I think this is something that belongs into the basic move section. I think shutting people down is something that should be tied to hard more than anything else so I think keeping it here is worth while. The others I think should be more open, and then I think we need to have the "Putting Clues together" move that I need to add.

Adaptable Moves

I'm going to keep Adaptable Moves for now because I still like the idea, I think it's workable, and I don't have something to replace it just yet. If I do, then we'll talk about it then, but right now let's keep this as is.

Pick which STAT will apply to each move. You must apply each STAT only once.

Manipulate an NPC
When you want to get NPC to do what you want them to, ROLL+. On a 10+ they'll do what you want depending on how you manipulate them except confess to a crime without evidence. On a 7-9, the MC will tell you what it'll take to get the NPC to do what you want. Do it and they will.

This is straight out of Monsterhearts with a little modification. I don't want people to manipulate the suspects with just a single move, so I modified it to make suspects a little harder to manipulate. You still need to be able to manipulate them to get them arrested, because solving the crime is 3/4 of the job ... the other 1/4 is getting them into the hands of the "authorities" with a smug sense of satisfaction.

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
When you want to hurt someone physically, emotionally, or socially, ROLL+. On a 10+ choose one: you give them 2 conditions,  you give them 1 condition and take a string on them or get a clue from them. On a 7-9 you give them a condition, but choose 1: They gain 1 String on you; They get a Clue from the exchange; They deal give 1 Condition to you.

Back to the conditions instead of Harm. I also like the fact that you can trade clues this way too. I think it's good that it doesn't generate new clues, but it still can move the clues around the table. I want to just leave it as hurt someone, but I think part of me feels that I should include physically, emotionally, or socially because that way there's less ambiguity. 

Hold OnWhenever you need to withstand something, ROLL+. On a 10+ you withstand whatever you needed to, and managed to get a clue, and a string on whoever was working against you. On a 7-9, you withstand whatever you needed to, but managed to get a clue or a string on whoever was working against you.

I like the results of this move a little bit more than it was before. Instead of being another avenue for conditions, it gives you the ability to get more clues and more strings by taking people's best shot and taking it. It's a little reminiscent of how you get more dice in Technoir when you take risks and damage. 

Put it All Together
Whenever you want to use a clue to help solve a mystery, ROLL+. On a 10+ you get to place two clues on a suspect. On a 7-9 you get to place a clue, and the player with the least clues get to place your second clue on a different suspect. On a 6- the player with the least clues places your clue on a suspect.

And this is the final one. I like that it's on the changeable scale, so you can be good at putting clues together even if you aren't good at getting them. I think this solves some other problems I had with how do you solve the mystery.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Veronica Monsterhearts - GM Less play

I think this is the next thing I need to talk about, because it's one of the big thoughts about this game on how I want to take AW and make it GMless. I mean, Murderous Ghosts kind of does that, but not really. It's very much a two person game, and it's got its on way to do things. I ended up writing down notes, because I think better with a pen in my hand than a keyboard in front of me, and here are some thoughts I have about GM less play and what that means for Veronica Monsterhearts.

1. Each person takes their turn as the Investigator. As the Investigator its your job to set the scene, describe who is there, and figure out what's going on. You have free reign to put NPCs in the scene, but you should probably ask if someone wants to have their PC there.

Side thought: Should there be a reward for being in a scene? One per episode mystery you gain 1 XP or 1 Clue for showing up. You can get each reward once and then after that you're there if it makes sense? Do I want to rely on "good playing" to get people involved, or do I want something mechanical to get them there.

2. Once the scene is set you can improvise as much as you want. If you want to have long discussions, and huge acting scenes because that's what you love then go for it. If you want to just describe things, have fun with that. Play it the way you have more fun in. However, in the scene you get to use two moves. Originally I had it written down as you get to do one basic move and one Casefile move but that might just be a little too limiting. I think that will have to be a test thing to see how that works.

When you're done, you resolve the scene by creating a cliffhanger. This can be a soft or hard move, depending on how well you did with you move, that you decide upon. You won't be able to resolve it, but it sets yourself up for your next turn as investigator. When you're done with your cliffhanger you pass that investigator hat onto the next person. Think of this as cutting

Who is that next person? You decide, you pick who goes next and because this is Marvel Initiative, everyone gets a turn at the investigator hat before it goes around again.

Note on not mentioning the move thing you see in all *World games.
I get the idea behind it, it's just reinforcing the idea that you want to sell the reaction and the fiction rather than say "You're now split up" but even AW breaks that rule when you tell them how much harm they're taking. The stronger phrase, and the one that I think the focus should completely be on, is tie the moves to the fiction. Also, because this game is GMless you're all taking part as the GM which means that you'll all get to use/see those moves anyway.

3. Dealing with Cliffhangers
You can deal with a Cliffhanger as the next scene, or even the next scene with another player in them. Basically player X gets his two moves, and creates a cliffhanger that now Player Y deals with because she was there at the same scene. Or when you get back to your turn you can deal with it.  There was also a though on how you could deal with a cliffhanger if you wanted to set your next scene elsewhere, you could handle it like a flashback but at the cost of a clue or something. Not sure how to do that, but I do like that whole kind of Leverage feel to it (it might be because I'm currently watching a lot of Leverage).

It's a little bit of everything really, a little bit of Geasa for GMlessness, but with a lot more control on the part of the person being the Investigator. A little bit of M:HR when it comes to the initiative because it's the best way to handle initiative I have seen, ever.

One thought could be to try to Fiasco it up a bit, where you either get to set the scene or choose the cliffhanger. That might be something to incorporate into the game. Still thinking about a lot of things really.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Veronica Monsterhearts - Get A Clue

I think I need to talk about how this whole Clue/String thing works, the difference between the two and how it affect GMless play for Veronica Monsterhearts.

1. Strings stay the way that they are

Strings are perhaps one of the best things mechanically about Monsterhearts is the concept of strings. Here are some nebulous things that get held over each other's head. You know where they come from, because they come out in the play, but mechanically it's just something one player has on another, or on an NPC.

They get used to push players to do things, either by making it harder to affect someone who has strings on them, but also to get someone to do something that you want. It's great because you can play up the roleplaying aspect if you want to, and talk about where the string came from and how it interacts with the story, or not. If you aren't someone who is big on improvisational roleplay then you can just talk about what happened and move on. Either way, it's great so I don't want to change anything there.

2. Clues are used for the mystery

Part of what makes a mystery fun, is watching the mystery unfold. Usually that requires someone having some outside knowledge of the whole caper, and the ability to not try to get the people playing the game stuck. That's a big problem in any RPG really, when you have the players who have to uncover something be unable to because they didn't get a particular thing, or talk to a particular person. These chokepoints cause a lot of problems.

This is where Clues come into play. Clues, like their counterpart Strings, are a neutral mechanic that discovers a character's ability to control the mystery. They can take the place of the GM as the players shape what's going on by what they find out. When a player uses a Clue to solve the mystery, then they're the ones who are figuring out who did it as they go along. As long as there's a steady stream of clues, then the action will continue to move forward.

The question becomes how do you spend them? Right now you can just spend them. Here are some thoughts on how you can spend them.

A. You can spend one of them when you're the investigator (person who is being the GM).
That way it limits the amount of clues you can spend so you can't overwhelm a story and have a super twist that comes out of no where. Not that those aren't fun, but if you get a bunch of people who hoard them and spend them all at once then there's less of a teasing out and more of a RUSH TO COMPLETE THE MISSION, which throws me for a loop.

That means as the investigator you can spend a clue on the mystery of the day, your personal mystery, and the season mystery. Depending on the amount of clues you have and the amount of times the investigation goes around the table you can go far on any individual.

B. You have to spend them as you get them, which means when you're investigating you have to say what you're going to spend them on before you get them. That will probably mean tweaking the moves a bit, but I like that because I'm not feeling to happy with the Hard Boiled.

C. You have to make a move to spend them. I like this because it has me thinking that there are too many basic moves in the game and that if I take out some of them there is room for a "Spending Clue Move."

Now to keep things going, you will always get to spend clues, the trick is how many or what control do you have over those clues? That's going to be the question of the move.

Ultimately when spending a clue, you need to explain how it ties that one suspect to the crime. That's something you can talk about as a group and figure it out, but the person spending the clue has the final say.

Another thought: It costs more to spend clues in order to get them moving on your personal mystery, over the daily mystery, over the season mystery. That way if you're going to spend an episode on the season mystery you can do that while others figure out the episode mystery.

3. Clues allow for tension and are the timer

Because there isn't a GM, and the players have to have a point in time that tells you that the mystery is done. They should be different for each, the episode mystery should be shorter than the personal mystery which should be should shorter than the season mystery.

As a starting line the idea would be to have 5 clues applies to a suspect to have them be the culprit of the episode mystery, 8 clues for a personal mystery and 10 clues for the season mystery. The closer you get to an ending, the more tension there's going to be if everyone has a reason for picking a different suspect.

Which brings me to the point where there needs to be a different incentive in order to make people want to pick different suspects, or even change who the suspects are. There also needs to be a point where it's too much and the criminal gets away, or someone gets caught who is innocent. I don't quite know how to do that yet, but it's in the thought process.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veronica Monsterhearts - The Hard Boiled


What am I trying to do here? I think the Hard Boiled should have a lot to do with clues and strings. There should be a lot of flexibility with how the Hard Boiled uses them, and ways other than the regular way for the Hard Boiled to get more clues faster. They are the gum-shoe, so they should be the one dealing with the bulk of the investigating. 

One of the things that happens when you have half your basic moves be associated with what the player thinks they should be associated with is that you end up removing one of the easier Casefile moves you get which is Instead of Stat X for this move, you get to use Stat Y. This may make me want to rethink using a modular system for half of the moves that everyone can access. Or not, because then that kind of gives players the freedom to do what they want.

Anyway, on to the Casefiles!

STATS - Choose One

EYES: +1, RASH: 0, HARD: +1, SOFT: 0
EYES: +1, RASH: -1, HARD: +2, SOFT: 0
EYES: +2, RASH: 0, HARD: +1, SOFT: -1

Other thought here, we might just give people a stat line. Something that they use like in Dungeon World where you pick an array so something like and make it across the board.
+1, 0, +1, 0 or +1, -1, +2, 0

MOVES - Choose Two

Tequila Shots ... Never Again
If you need to talk your way into a place you shouldn't be, ROLL+Eyes. On a 10+ you get into the location, and pick up 1 Clue on the way in. On a 7-9, you get into the location but you raise suspicion, choose one: You don't get full access, you get interrupted, or trouble shows up.

I Know Who You Did Last Summer
If you want to make a character talk to you, ROLL+Hard. On a 10+ they stop what they're doing and talk to you, and have information that is helpful so you gain a Clue. On a 7-9, they can ignore you unless you spend a string on them. Then they mark XP and you talk to them.

It was the Butler's son ...
If there you want to solve a mystery and there are three or more clues in a episode mystery, five or more clues in a personal mystery, or eight or more clues in a season mystery, ROLL+Eyes. On a 10+ you figure out who did it, you just now need to bring them to justice. On a 7-9, you can add a clue to whoever you think did it, but you expose yourself to danger. 6-, you add a new suspect, and give them that clue and a clue from the suspect you thought committed the crime as well as expose yourself to danger.

3rd Degree
If you interrogate someone to get information, ROLL+Hard. On a 10+ you get some information, get 2 clues. On a 7-9 you get some information, you get 1 clue, but you also expose yourself to danger.

Get Mad, Get Even
You can use the Manipulate an NPC with Hard. If you've already chosen Hard for that move then you get +1 forward to all your rolls using that move.

You're a Marshmallow
Whenever you take on a case for someone else, you can either gain a string on them or gain 1XP.

Putting It All Together
When you would use a move that gets you a clue, you gain an extra clue.

Let's Make a Deal
You may spend clues as if they were strings.


You've got dirt on everyone, take a string on everyone.
Someone used to be your friend, they now go out of their way to harrass you. They take a string on you.
You've spent extra time investigating a person, gain an extra string on them.


You've decided that this is someone you can open yourself up to, it's a touching moment and you both lose a string on each other. That doesn't mean that you aren't going to take this opportunity to do some sleuthing, so gain a clue that you can immediately apply if the person you had sex with is a suspect.


A family member abandoned you out of the blue?
1XP - When you discover out where they are.
2XP - When you discover out why they left.
3XP - When you convince them to come back.

Are you related to one of the wealthiest families in town?
1XP - When you discover which family you might be related to.
2XP - When you uncover which of your parents had the affair.
3XP - When you find out, one way or the other, if you are related to this other family or not.


You are primarily responsible for the Victim. Your secondary responsibility are the Suspects.


Gain +1 EYES (Max +3)
Gain +1 RASH (Max +3)
Gain +1 HARD (Max +3)
Gain +1 SOFT (Max +3)
Gain a Hard Boiled Move
Gain a Hard Boiled Move
Gain a Hard Boiled Move
Gain a move from Another Casefile
Gain a move from Another Casefile

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rent's Due - Alpha-esque Document available!

Another one of those games I've been working on has more rules to it. When Quinn posted his method for making adventures in Fire Fives, I wanted to get this out because it had the same kind of mindset and I like it when that zeitgeist happens.

That said, it just had the rules for making the conflicts and that's pretty much it. There wasn't any reason why you would collect dice, or how you would decide anything, just rudimentary "here are dice and they exist for some reason"

Well, I now have about four thousand words on how to play the game. You can check it out, though I need to come up with the character maps. I'm thinking of making a Park and then drawing it out, but that's not something for the next little bit.  Now I go back to writing up Daedalus stuff and Veronica Monsterhearts ... and doing the 1KM1KT 24 Hour RPG competition.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Veronica Monsterhearts - The CaseFiles

Since this is going to be a *World game, it's gonna need those playbooks (or as we're going to call them Casefiles) and so that's something I think that I should be thinking about at least.

Let's see if we can find analogues for the characters in Veronica Mars that were reoccurring or talking enough in the show that they probably deserved some kind of look

Veronica Mars
Wallace Fennel
Logan Echolls
Duncan Kane
Eli "Weevil" Navarro
Cindi "Mac" Mackenzie
Dick Casablancas
Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas
Madison Sinclair
Meg Manning

Discussion on this list is a good thing, because this is still just talk. Do you think there are characters that need to be included?

Now let's turn them into Casefiles.

Veronica Mars - The Hardboiled
Wallace Fennel - The Bestfriend
Logan Echolls - The Bad Boy (I want to keep it gender neutral in the file, but that's kind of what we'd call it, no? Thoughts?)
Duncan Kane - The Socialite
Eli "Weevil" Navarro - The Gang Leader
Cindi "Mac" Mackenzie - The Tech Geek
Dick Casablancas - The Ne'er Do Well
Cassidy "Beaver" Casablancas - The Schemer
Madison Sinclair - The ... (This is one I'm stuck with. I don't want to use the word Bitch because of the really bad gendered association with it, but Rich Bitch was the only thing that came to mind)
Meg Manning - The Innocent

What do they do? Who knows! Right now those are the general names and kind of direction I'd like to go with them.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Veronica Monsterhearts - We don't need no stinkin' MC

I've ditched the previously generated tag because that should be for stuff that's already created that I'm doing things for. Modules, adventure hooks, ideas, whatever. This is starting to become a thing so it's probably going to get it's own label and header because why not. It's something that's on my mind.

I commented earlier today that I'm wondering why does AW need an MC? Not to say that it shouldn't, or couldn't since that's what is has, but does any sort of *World game need one. I've had some thoughts about this game, and that it might not need an MC because the players are going to give themselves hard moves for fun, profit, clues and experience.

This all ties into the idea of the mystery, and not necessarily knowing the full details of the mystery when you play. Just the what happened to cause the mystery. Now usually the MC is the one who knows all the details of what happened and lays out the mystery, but do you even need that? Can you build towards a mystery without having some outside force guide it?

I'm thinking about that when I was reading the Gumshoe SRD:
Assuming that they look in the right place and apply appropriate abilities to the task, GUMSHOE ensures that the heroes get the basic clues they need to move through the story. The question it asks is:
What will the heroes do with the information once they’ve got it?
If you think about it, this is how the source materials we base our mystery scenarios on handle clues. You don’t see the forensic techies on CSI failing to successfully use their lab equipment, or Sherlock Holmes stymied and unable to move forward because he blew his Zoology roll.
You don’t see this because, in a story failure to gain information is rarely more interesting than getting it. New information opens up new narrative possibilities, new choices and actions for the characters. Failure to get information is a null result that takes you nowhere.
In a fictional procedural, whether it’s a mystery novel or an episode of a cop show, the emphasis isn’t on finding the clues in the first place. When it really matters, you may get a paragraph telling you how difficult the search was, or a montage of a CSI team tossing an apartment. But the action really starts after the clues are gathered.
That's why I wanted to talk about clues. The idea is that I don't think we want to limit clues at all, we want to make sure that they're plentiful enough that there's sense at the end that the players have uncovered the mystery. The trick is that no one knows exactly what the mystery is until you've finished it.  You've seen clues showing up in moves, and I think that they need to be worked at a little bit more to make it more cohesive as an idea, but with clues you actually get to point the action toward a certain goal.

What are those goals? Well, if we look at the structure of Veronica Mars, one of the things that I enjoyed was that there was the episode mystery and then there was the season mystery. You had the mystery of who killed Lilly Kane that took place over the entire Season, there were personal mysteries and then the mystery due jour which was the focus of the episode. I think that's the kind of feeling we'll need to have in order to have the game go right.

How do we do that? Well, each file (because let's be thematic and call playbooks files) should have it's own Season Long Mystery, let's call them personal mysteries. The idea really comes from the Milestones in Marvel: Heroic Roleplaying, but instead of choosing what direction you want the character to go you're going to talk about your personal mystery, the thing that drives you. There's also going to be a Season mystery and the episode mysteries but those are things that you're going to build as a group.

To use Veronica Mars as an example you have the Season mystery that affected a large group of people, which was who killed Lilly Kane. Then you had the personal mysteries, Veronica and her mother ... Logan and her mother ... Mac and her family ... there were a lot of family mysteries in Veronica Mars but they were all to the individual and carried over for a bunch of episodes. Then there was the mystery of the day which depended on the episode.

The idea is that there needs to be a way to figure out those various mysteries and "clue tokens" are the path to it, at least right now. This may change depending on the casefiles (changing the name again from file to casefile because that's even better) and how they interact with each other and the clues. The hope is that you can piece together what happened and what the resolution of the case is by letting the players use the tokens to create the connections that will make up the mystery (kind of like the plot map in Technoir, but really only in basic idea).


Thoughts about anything before or what's going on now? Again this is all vague, but it's what's percolating in my head at the moment.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Previously Generated - Veronica Monsterhearts - Stats and Basic Moves

I'm sitting here and have other stuff to write, so clearly that means I feel like I should write more about Veronica Monsterhearts.

For the little bit of work I've done on doing anything AW-ish, the most important part for me to start are the stats and basic moves. Because everyone has access to these two things, they inform the basic feel for the whole game. If you want a game about investigating, you shouldn't have three basic moves that deal harm. With that in mind, here are the basic moves that are working their way around in my head for this game.


EYES: How good you are at being aware of what's going on.
RASH: How good you are at getting things done when they need to, damn the consequences.
HARD: How good you are are doing what needs to get done, regardless of the personal cost.
SOFT: How good you are at being emotional and vulnerable, because damn it you just need a moment.

I chose these four moves because I feel that part of the action in Veronica Mars. 

Eyes are for your ability to notice things, and be aware of your surroundings. This is part of being a detective, and some people are better at the smaller details than others.

Rash because there are many moments in the show when the characters do things without thinking about it. It's kind of the teenagerness of the show, but it's also because of how driven they are. Veronica does stuff for clues that is just as Rash as Logan does when he's upset.

Hard because Hard Boiled. There's a scene in the show that I love where Lamb is talking about how Logan was arrested to Keith Mars and Lamb comments on how Hard Boiled Veronica is. That's why I think that Hard is a good stat.

Soft well ... that Veronica ... she's a Marshmallow. I do think having an ability to be vulnerable is something that helps the game from becoming too much of a HARD DETECTIVE GRITTY game. It's still about their relationships and not just about figuring out the mystery.

Why not an intelligence stat of some kind?
Well, the thing is that I had CLEVER up there as a stat for a while and then I changed it for EYES because part of me didn't want anyone to put a -1 in CLEVER because one of the things that made Veronica Mars so much fun to watch was that all the characters were clever, they wasn't that comic relief foolish character that comes into play. So, they can be less perceptive, but still clever this way ... however, I'm still debating that.

Basic Moves

Sweep the Scene
Whenever you're looking for information about a situation, or a scene, ROLL+CLEVER. On a 10+ 
you pick up 3 Clues. You can spend a clue to ask a question. On a 7-9, you get 1 Clue, but you get interrupted, discovered, or attacked. You can spend a clue to ask a question.
-Who should I look out for?
-What am I missing here?
-When did this take place?
-Where is the best way out?
-Why is this happening?

And Action
Whenever you do something that requires a lot of physical exertion, ROLL+RASH. On a 10+ you do that physical thing you wanted to do. On a 7-9, you slip, hesitate, pause or land in a different kind of danger.

Hold On
When you need to resist something physical, or emotional, ROLL+HARD. On a 10+ you resist and gain a string on that person. On a 7-9 choose one: you get hurt but don't show it and take a string on them, you don't get hurt but your resistance doesn't impress anyone.

Open Up
When you reveal something personal to someone else, ROLL+SOFT. On a 10+ you can remove a condition and 1 harm, or 2 conditions or 2 harm. On a 7-9, you can remove 1 condition, or 1 harm but the person you revealed to gets a string on you.

Adaptable Moves

I was thinking about having some sort of adaptability when it comes to using AW. Basically, you get to assign one of the four stats to the following Moves. This will flavour heavily how you use that move. For instance, if you Chat Someone Up with SOFT then you're more likely going to get information from them by sweet talking and being honest with them. If you Chat Someone Up with RASH you're going to threaten and beat people up to get them to talk. 

Shut Someone Down
When you need to put someone in their place, ROLL+. On a 10+ choose one: give them a Condition; they lose a String against you; if they held no Strings on you, gain a String on them. On a 7-9, choose one: you each give a Condition to one another; you each lose a String on one another.

Manipulate an NPC
When you want to get an NPC to do what you want them to, ROLL+. On a 10+ they'll do what you want depending on how you manipulate them. On a 7-9, the MC will tell you what it'll take to get the NPC to do what you want. Do it and they will.

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
When you want to hurt someone physically, or emotionally, ROLL+. On a 10+ choose one: the harm is great (add 1); you gain 1 String on them; they need to Hold On before they can Fight back this scene. On a 7-9 you harm them but choose 1: They gain 1 String on you; They get a Clue from the exchange; They deal 1 Harm to you.

Get the Money Shot
Whenever you investigate a situation, looking for clues, ROLL+. On a 10+ you get 3 clues and they help you further your case. You can decide to split them among the current mystery, or your mystery. On a 7-9, you get 2 clues, but others can spend strings to give you extra clues that target another player. On a 6, you get 1 Clue, but the MC is going to take this opportunity to make a hard move. Good luck.


What do you folks think? Any suggestions about different stats, different moves? There's a bunch of Monstershearts still here, because that somewhat what this is based off of. I also know I cheated and added Clues that you can spend I have some thoughts about how to use them in the story to create your mystery but it's very vague. I just think we needed something other than Strings to keep track of that.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Demos For You and Me - Part 2 - Running the Game

In part 1 we covered what you need to do ahead of time when running a game demo. Let's talk about what you need to do while you're running a game. This is where you're going to sell the people on the game, this is the actual test drive so make sure it's as smooth and wonderful an experience for the players as you can.

I'm going to assume that you've done the stuff in part one and have a tailor made adventure to introduce people to you game. What's going to make them feel like this is the best game experience in the world. Now here are some things you need to keep in mind over the next 2-4 hours.

I'm going to start with one of the most important ones, because it filters down to the other ones.


There, that's out there. Yes you aren't wearing a three-piece suit, or even dress down to business casual, but if you're running a demo you can't forget that this is your business setting and you should remember that. You need to act professionally at all times. That means the things you wouldn't do because you're in a business setting, don't do them. Just don't. It doesn't matter that you're at a bar, convention space, church basement. You are selling something to someone, be professional about it.

2. Address your players directly

I'm putting this one out there because I have seen this, and have many people come up to me and tell me about this happening to them. You need to address your players directly. By addressing them directly, I mean look at them when you speak to them. It's not that hard. You look at them when you talk to them. You don't have to stare them down, you don't have to gaze lovingly into their eyes, you have to just address them as a person.

You'd be surprised how hard this is, apparently, for a good number of people who run games at events. It is also one of the larger complaints that I have heard from a wide variety of people. There are many stories about people not looking at people when they talk to them at a game, or addressing all questions to someone else at the table.

You can't do that. Can't, can't do that. One it makes the game not entertaining for that person. It's also a potential sale you are leaving on the table.

3. Make sure everyone has their moment

This is standard kind of GMing advice, but it doubly applies here. You want to make sure that every person at the table has a moment to be amazing. Otherwise they're going to get bored and think your game isn't worth buying. Part of that is making sure those moments are in your adventure, but another part is making sure that you give the player those moments in the game.

It's like the "Let the Wookie win" part of demoing a board game. People are more interested in buying your product if your product gives them an experience that they want to have.

4. Have fun

Ultimately we're all just playing a game. Remember that, and have fun when you're demoing a game. If you're having fun, the player can pick up on that and it will infect their play as well. Nothing can ruin a game like not having fun, or being bitter. That includes being bitter about other people's products. No one gets excited by negative marketing, so don't do it.

I'm sure there are more, but these are the four things I think you need to think about when you run your con game.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Previously Generated - Veronica Monsterhearts

Okay, so we all love Veronica Mars, right?

Here's a thought: Veronica Monsterhearts.

Now the more I think about it, the more I'd rather have its own set of playbooks (skins, but if it were to be redone then it would be something appropriate, right?) But barring that, how do you play Veronica Mars using Monsterhearts? By adding investigation rules!

Additional Basic Move

Get the Money Shot

Whenever you investigate a situation looking for information, ROLL+*. On a 10+ you get the information that helps further the case. On a 7-9, you get the information but it's either incomplete, gives you a new suspect, or costs a lot. On a 6- you get the information but the MC is going take this opportunity to make a hard move. Good luck.

Each skin picks an investigation style. There's the with Force, with Flair, with Deduction, with Seduction, with Connections. The *** depends on the investigation style: with Force uses Volatile, with Flair uses Dark, with Deduction uses Cold, with Seduction uses Hot and with Connections uses # of strings (max +3).

More Fun With Strings!

The second thing you add is another way for strings to play in with the investigation. If you have a string on someone, you can spend it when someone is looking to Get The Money Shot to implicate another character in the rim.

Example: The Vampire has a string on the Werewolf, and the Mortal is investigating the death of the Ghost. The Vampire spends the string to make the clue the Mortal receives to point towards the Werewolf. The Vampire doesn't actually plant information, he just spends the string to make that happen because Drama damn it.


And a big thank you to Amber, Krista and Darcy for the slight kicks of "that's awesome do it."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Demos For You and Me - Part 1 - The Setup

With the noises of interest coming off of the whole Convention RPG Selling (Found here in Part 1, 2, and 3) articles that I posted. Not to mention Lilian Cohen-Moore's article talking about a frustrating demo experience at PAX, and Ryan Macklin's following up with his own list of things not to do when doing a demo. With that in mind, I had this sitting in my drafts folder for a while so maybe it's time to come down and talk about what to do when running a demo game.

Why do this?

Well, I think running a demo for a game is one of those skills that people just kind of assume they have, and that they can do it just like running any other game. I seem to get that vibe when talking about it with other people. I've seen it in demo kits from larger publishers, and from being in demos for other games. Most of what I'm saying is applicable to RPG demos, but some of this stuff works for board game demos too, I'll try to point out when that's the case.

What's the most important thing to remember?

A game demo is another place where you will be selling your game. It's a sales moment.

In Part 1 of Selling RPGs I talked about how selling RPGs is the Used Car Salesmanship of the game industry. I'm going to use that metaphor again, because this is the test drive. This is where they take the system out for a spin, try it out, see if they like it. This means that it's another point where you have to make a good impression.

This is the same thing with boardgames. You're at the part where they want to see it before the buy. If you make a bad impression here, you've just discouraged them from buying your game and you both walk away disappointed. The player is disappointed because they were interested and the game didn't live up to their expectations, and you're disappointed because you lost a sale.

The Setup

If you are going to run a demo, the first thing you need to do is be prepared. Being prepared means a couple of things. It means that you're prepared to run the game right away. It means that you're prepared to talk about what makes the game awesome.

What Makes Your Game Awesome
This is all about knowing your product. Really, this should come first because if you know this then your demo adventure will be amazing. You should know how to run the game without referring to the book every few minutes. You need to know what makes your game amazing, and how to bring that into the adventure and how you run it. This leads into the next section which is ...

Be Prepared
This means that you have to have an adventure scenario set up. Now before you grab one off the shelf, or just come up with something you need to remember that this is a sales moment. You want a very specific adventure. You want one that's going to highlight what makes the game awesome, and showcase it right off the bat.

When I run Critical!: Go Westerly as a demo, we start with You All Meet in a Tavern. Why? Because the adventure is funny right from the get go, and that's what we're trying to show. Critical can be funny without getting in the way of doing stuff, in fact it's more funny when you're doing stuff. Having an adventurer's night where local adventurer's can meet and then have them go off on an adventure gets the people in the right framework for what's going to happen next.

This also means that you have to set things up so that the players have to interact with the system right away. Remember, this is the test drive, you need to show the players the awesome stuff about the system and why they're going to have fun playing your game. Roleplaying is great, and fun, but they don't need your system to sit around and talk in character for an hour. Have them do things! Have them do awesome things! Quickly!

More example time! When we run YAMIAT the first thing that happens is that we make them figure out what's going on, and then roll on the stairs so they get an idea of how the system works out. Then, usually something funny happens. If not, then we go straight into another encounter to make sure the few other parts of the system that aren't immediately covered by them walking down the stairs happen.

What else does this mean? It means you're going to need pre-generated characters. Unless character/setting creation is such an integral part of your game (think Fiasco, or Geasa) you're going to want to have characters waiting for your players to pick up and run with. This also means you're going to want to leave out a little bit on the character sheet so that the players have some choice. The easiest way is to come up with quick backgrounds and let the players decide on the name, looks, and gender of their character. If you have characters with genders, make sure that you've got an even number of them so that everyone at the table has a choice. Nothing is worse than when you feel like you're stuck with one or two options. 

Make your pregens diverse and interesting, and because you have control over what the characters are you can also make sure that there is something cool for them do to in the adventure. Nothing is worse than feeling like you're sitting on the sidelines doing nothing because you have a character that "doesn't fit" the scenario. If you have a "doesn't fit" pre-gen then that's a problem with your prep that you're going to need to fix.

Next, I'll talk about what to do during a demo. If you have any questions that you'd like to see answered about running a demo, then you can leave a comment or drop me a line and I'll try to include that in the next section.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Previously Generated - Monsterhearts - The Leech

This was in my head all day, and I wanted to get it out. A huge thanks to Mikael for the huge amount of input in a short amount of time. Anyway, let me know what you think about it in the comments, or on twitter, or facebook or wherever because feedback is always appreciated.

You woke up and didn’t know who you were anymore. Everyone seems so secure in themselves, so certain of what they want and what they can do. Not you, you just floated about wondering if you would ever find what you were meant to be.

Watching the others didn’t help. You just got to know them better than they ever could. They were destined to do important things.

Unless you do those things first. Unless you become them first.

Your Backstory
You’ve been watching someone intently for a while now. Gain two strings on them.

Someone’s caught on to your creepy little act. They gain one string on you.

Your Stats
Add +1 to one of these:
Hot 0, Cold -1, Volatile +1, Dark +1.

Sex Move
You get to study someone up close, to the point where you can take up to three strings they have on other people as your own. They also get a string on you and you take the condition “Not as good as they thought.”

You get the following moves

In Depth Study
When you spend enough time with someone, ROLL+Dark. On a 10+ gain a string on them. On a 7-9, Gain a string but choose 1:
-Someone else notices you studying, another player gains a string on you
-Your target notices you studying, and gains a string on you
-You get the condition “[the person I’m watching] is way better than me at [action they were taking]”

If you have a string on a player, you can take their shape. You can take any other shape you want too. If you do, ROLL+dark. On a 10+ no matter how oddly you act, other people will believe that you are that person. Any strings players get on you while in their shape are taken on the player whose shape you take. On a 7-9, you take the shape like above but choose 1:
-It hurt a lot, take 1 Harm
-It doesn't last, as soon as someone gains a string on you, you change back. That person gains a string on the person you had changed into, as well as you.
-You get the condition “I can’t do anything right”

Choose One More
Thoughts to Thoughts
You can spend a string to ask a player one question that they have to answer truthfully. It doesn’t have to be anything you would know, or even something reasonable. You’ve got a string on them, ask them a question that they have to answer.

You are Your Things
If you get a hold of something that belongs to another player, gain a string on them. You can have it given to you, or you can steal it but it has to be something that they value, even a little bit.

Darkest Self
When you trigger your Darkest Self, trade Skins with the player with whom you have the most strings with. If there is a tie, you decide which Skin to trade with. You become them, and you aren’t bound to anything that has gone on before. There is no switching back. You now have a purpose and whoever you took over becomes the uncertain, overwhelmed sad sack that you once were. The new leech player removes all their strings.

Add 1 to Hot (max+3)
Add 1 to Cold (max+3)
Add 1 to Volatile (max+3)
Add 1 to Dark (max+3)
You watch others, you can take this advancement as often as you’d like
Take a move from another skin if you have a string on that player.
Playing The Leech
You are every single bit of imposter syndrome, and not good enough feeling made flesh. You take everything from everyone else, you only have your basic moves. Any other skills you get in advancement are through not just others, but having some sort of knowledge on them. You aren’t as co-dependant as the mortal, but you’re a close second. You can take a lot of conditions when you do things, which just reinforces your feelings of inferiority.

That said, you’re all about strings. Everything you do is related to strings, either getting them or spending them to cause trouble. You can push towards your darkest self, or you can just constantly be the one who knows everything about everyone. You get a string just by being around someone long enough, it doesn't even have to be particularly focused. You’re there, you can make that move because this is what you do.

A leech tends to take control of the narrative not by inserting themselves, but by breaking down the walls that the other skins keep. No one can have secrets around the Leech, either you’ll discover them and use them against the others, or you’ll create them by playing the parts. You create all the drama and get to enjoy watching it go all around you.

Changing your skin is a dramatic darkest self, only because it changes the entire structure of the game. The Chosen that was lusting after the Vampire, now he’s interested in the Fae and the Vampire is left wondering what happened. You leave behind another husk, another shell that’s no longer confident in their ability to do anything but sit back and watch.

Monday, August 26, 2013

GenCon 2013 - The Review

Gen Con seems to have happened so long ago. Mainly because I rushed right into another convention in Fan Expo right away, but that doesn't take away the fact that Gen Con happened, and it was kind of cool.

I ended up only running three games, because Gen Con magically reduced the amount of players hours needed to get a badge and it's amazing to me. Mainly because most other places *cough*Origins*cough* seem to be trying to desperately squeeze everything they can out of everyone that they're starting to try to use GMs to fill their other volunteer voids, a practice I think is uncool at best and kind of desperately pathetic at worst, that it's just one more way that Gen Con is turning into a con I'm really starting to enjoy. This is good because for a long while Gen Con was the thing you had to do, the convention I said you had to put up with because everyone else went.

Now I tell you, go. Go have a good time. Gen Con is where you want to do that.

So, what did I do? My first game of Critical!: Go Westerly didn't end up running because most of the people were still in their True Dungeon slot. When it comes down to the economics of games, a slot that costs you over forty dollars versus a slot that costs you four usually ends up with the forty dollar slot winning. And I was left without any players.

That's fine, I ended up hanging out with Akira from Windmill Games and we played Sentinels of the Multiverse. Fun times! We did one, which went well, and then we did a second one which ended up being the wrong kind of combination and it ended up taking forever. So much so that we decided we have figured out how to win, and it was just a grind so we quit. It was fun, I'm not sure I would get it with the separation of time and space I have now, but I do recommend it to people who like a big co-operative superhero card game. You should check it out.

The second game I ran, was the Critical!: Go Westerly game of The Importance of Being Gwendolyn, which I do mean to actually publish at some point in time. Get it out there for people to see, I mean people are downloading You All Meet in a Tavern still which says something, right?

The game went well, we had our Pirate Captain, named Captain, who was busy looking for her lost Pirate Ship in the landlocked parts of Westerly, because it was smaller than the Ocean and you should always look in the smaller places first. We had Grokk our might Orcish Hero who was very much a Hero in his own mind, and eventually a small part of Tam as well. We had our Charismatic Mystic who managed to talk her way through the whole scenario and the wizard who couldn't remember where he was half the time.

They managed to diffuse many situations with Grokk coming out looking like a hero. When the wizard managed to destroy some buildings with a missed fireball, Grokk was there to tell them that Grokk Hero and Bandits Defeated!

The people rejoiced.

When they infiltrated Country Gwendolyn's estate, they had to fight for their lives as the guards recognized Algernon as a hated member of the other Gwendolyn clan. Grokk managed to get out of trouble there too because he was a Hero. It was a great moment with Grokk standing there with his hands above his head and the guards agreed he was a Hero and moved around him.

It was a game that reminds me what I like about Critical a lot. It can be funny, but the funny stuff is usually in the doing and not in the quippy lines that people say. Quips and jokes happen, but it's the actions that add to the humour the most so the game doesn't get bogged down and derailed in the quest for the better joke.

The second game that managed to be successful was the game of Geasa that ran. I ended up with a bunch of Canadians, which is a strange thing that happens to me at Gen Con. I tend to get a lot of people who could be local to me, or damned close enough to have it not matter play in my games. This was one of those times, they played Geasa and they decided that they were going to play it as Kindergardeners. Normally this can be a problem because watching people play kids who don't spend a lot of time around kids is painful, but we had 3 teachers and a teacher's assistant at the table and it went beautifully.

When I play Geasa, I tend to play it dark and I tend to play it aggressively. This group managed to play the game and have all the problems be giant and enormous ... if you were 5. We had the class bully whose mother was the teacher and always blamed the other kids for her behaviour. We had the new kid, the kid who loved dinosaurs and the kid who wished she was Alice from Alice in Wonderland. We had a Fae that was all about napping, Mr. Jinglehat that wanted all the teeth, Ennui which wanted to do something, and the fourth Fae didn't figure much into the game but it went beautifully.

The child who wanted to be Alice had Ennui push her to sneak outside ahead of time. She ended up getting lost in the half block of woods behind the school and stuck her head in a rabbit hole and was covered in frozen mud. There was a creepy moment where Mr. Jinglehat wanted to bully to get the teeth from a dead squirrel, but that was a dark as the game got. The new kid made friends with the dinosaur kid and as they tried to escape to go to the museum, the Nap Matt got the new kid to take a nap under some nice coats and the dinosaur kid ended up heading out on his own. The teacher, who couldn't keep tabs on the kids because of the Fae, ended up sending her daughter out to find the Alice kid but she ended up getting lost too.

It was sweet, and tragic, and wonderful and a way I hadn't seen Geasa get played at all before.

You know, I was kind of feeling a little out of it because everyone was running things at GoD, but I don't think I would have gotten the groups that I did get had I gone and run things through GoD at Gen Con. Origins, I'm still going to do that because I think it's a great idea and something I think I can have fun with. That said, I think I'm going to keep on doing events at Gen Con on my own.

Next year, the plan is to run larger Geasa events, because that way I can have multiple groups going because once a group gets it, they don't need me to tell them what to do. That way I can have lots of these stories to tell because I think they're awesome.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Gen Con Schedule

Hey folks!

For those who are interested in what I'm doing, here's the games I'm going to be running and helping at because I tend to be around the Smirk and Dagger folks ... all the time at Gen Con. ^_^

2:00pm - 6:00 pm - You All Meet in a Tavern - RPG1341663 - JW Marriot : 205 : Table 2
9:00pm - 11:00 pm - Hex Hex XL - CGM1345489 - Smirk and Dagger - Hall C
11:00pm - 01:00 am - Shootin Ladders: Frag Fest - BGM1345490 - Smirk and Dagger - Hall C

2:00pm - 6:00 pm - The Importance of Being Gwendolyn - RPG1341664 - JW Marriot : 205 : Table 4
9:00pm - 11:00 pm - Dread Curse - CGM1345487 - Smirk and Dagger- Hall C
11:00pm - 01:00 am - Cutthroat Caverns: Fresh Meat - CGM1345484 - Smirk and Dagger - Hall C

2:00pm - 5:00 pm - An Afternoon of Curses - RPG1341668 - JW Marriot : 205 : Table 5
9:00pm - 11:00pm - Cutthroat Caverns: Fresh Meat - CGM1345485 -Smirk and Dagger - Hall C
11:00pm - 01:00am - Run For Your Life Candyman - BGM1345486 - Smirk and Dagger - Hall C

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Previously Generated - AIR v.5 - Playtest Documents

Hey folks!

I've been puttering around at this, but here's the playtest document for AIR v.5. That's right, there's been some fixing and the character sheet still needs to get uploaded and I'm sure I'm missing things but here's the document with a form to fill out at the end if you play it!

Yay technology, now without further ado ...


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Apologies and White Dudes ... Gamer Edition (Ugh, it's always Gamer Edition Here)

I had been following the PA stuff because there are a lot of people around me who follow it for various reasons. I try to avoid them, for a whole host of reasons that aren't the point of this. What is the point is that someone said that Gabe had posted an apology about his complete ignorance of trans issues, and his hurtful and eliminating words. I checked out the website and much to my surprise there was an actual apology. With words that described how he had hurt people, and what he was trying to do to make it right.

That was a pleasant surprise. (EDIT Before Publishing: The short apology was far better than the longer one, assume I only read this and not this while looking for links because unpacking that second one is scope creep. That's a lovely shout out for all my IT Ops folks.)

Then, something else happened. I wasn't expecting it because I wasn't really expecting an actual apology. That was the whole "Forgive and Forget" vibe coming from a bunch of white dudes in games. Now, I have met a bunch of these white dudes. They are all really smart, really intelligent people. We share things in common, mostly being a white dude in games, but I think of them as up there kind of people.

That said, I should have expected this. You see, us white dudes have this thing where when someone apologizes for one thing it should immediately be applied retroactively to whatever other hurtful things we've done in the past. It's the whole divorced from history thing that happens whenever an apology comes up, the "forget and move on" kind of line that gets shoved around and in the faces of people who might actually have a point that is constantly blocked by the shouts of "MOVING ON!"

A couple of things to that.

The first one, is that as a white dude myself I feel I can say something without the whole MOVING ON shout getting thrown at me. Let me throw you an imperfect analogy at you. If someone keeps taking your things, I don't need to be specific they are nebulous things that you own make a list if you like, you're not going to like them very much.  Now say around the tenth thing says "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to take this from you" and gives you back your tenth thing. That's cool, it's appreciated. Now how about the previous nin--


Yes, he apologized. Good on him, it shows that Mike has the capacity to understand someone else's situation and realize the impact he might have had on it. This does not magically make the other times when he's not done that go away, nor does it absolve him of his previous actions.

What it is, is a start. If he wants to put his previous actions in the rear view mirror, you take that start and you build up from there. You can still make mistakes, and you can still learn and apologize from there but you have to keep trying even though people get angry at you, or upset because you messed up and verbally crushed them under that thoughtless thing, or that intentional jab.

To take from @wilw's don't be a dick line, because he's been another one of the well meaning white dudes who have been shaking his head wondering why people aren't just moving on, just because stopped being a dick this time doesn't mean you weren't a dick a bunch of times before. It just means you have the opportunity to show that you mean it, because it's not like there haven't been many times in history where people have apologized, looked like they meant it, and then brushed it off.

The second thing, I might point out, is something that struck me. Most of the people shouting MOVE ON ALREADY were the well meaning white dudes, and most of the people who were like "Well, okay that's a start" weren't white dudes. That's why I prefaced my opening with a "as a white dude myself" because chances are I'm going to get a different kind of reaction than everyone else who has been trying to remind folks that we don't live divorced from our history.

That's kind of one of the things you should take stock of sometimes. If you're sitting there with a bunch of people lamenting the fact that some people can't get over things, take a deep breath and look around you. If the people you're sitting with are, for the most part, white, straight, cis-gendered, dudes ... maybe you should rethink your position because there's a good chance that you're all wallowing in your privilege. You know, that thing that you have so you don't have to deal with this kind of stuff on a regular basis.

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