I’ve decided I’m going to redo this action scene and try to do a few more, and write them as Cortex+ scenes. So here’s the Back to the Future scene I wrote before with a few edits to introduce concepts from Cortex+ and Cortex Prime. The movie seems to fit the Action brand most closely, though the use of stress and complications/assets might be a mix of action and heroic.

Mike is playing Marty.
Chris is Playing Emmet.
Robert is running the game.

Unknown to Mike, Robert has talked with Chris about the coming session. Something is going to happen in this early chapter of the campaign.

The session starts at the local mall, in the car park. The drama pool starts with 2D6 and each character has 1 plot point.

Emmet has told Marty all about his latest invention, and is about to put it into action when his dog Einstien barks out a warning.

Robert: Out of the darkness a pair of headlights comes into view. The shape of a battered VW van grows more distinct and you get a spooky feeling that this is trouble. Out of the sun roof pops a gun wielding terrorist. 

Chris: “They found me Marty… I don’t know how but they found me. Run for it Marty”

Mike: “Who?”

Chris: “Who do you think? The Libyans.”

Robert: The van rushes towards you.

Mike: Marty ducks behind the car.

Chris: Emmet draws their fire at the back of the science truck. Firing his revolver out across the car park. [rolls dice against the drama pool, fails to beat it and rolls two 1s] I’m firing blanks or some kind of lousy shot.

Robert: Ok let’s say you forgot to load the gun.

Robert pays Chris two plot points. One for each of his 1s.

Chris rolled a one on a D6 and a D8.

Robert buys the D6 and adds it to the Drama Pool.

With the D8 Robert decides to add a complication [Need to load the gun D8]. Now if anyone uses the Pistol the GM can include the complication dice against them. This will mostly act as a deterrent, so that Chris and Mike don’t opt to go into combat.

Chris: Ha! Yeah that’s in character for Emmet.

Robert: The Libyans fire a burst of shots from a distance. But their shots only hit the science truck. The driver of the van pulls up with a screech of tires. The gun man looks menacingly at the gun in Emmet’s hand. Chris you have initiative

Chris: I toss the gun away. Hopefully they will talk.

Robert: They don’t seem interested in talking. The gun man empties another burst into your chest. Throwing Emmet backwards to the ground.

Mike: No way!!

Robert: Is that in character?

Mike: Yeah and then some. WTF? Chris are you ok about this?

Chris: Let’s play this out Mike I’m ok with the way it’s going.

Mike: ok Marty foolishly stands to head over to try and help with Emmet’s wounds. Is he ok?

Robert: Well the gun man notices you as you see Emmet motionless on the tarmac. The Libyan turns the rifle on you and opens up another burst. What are you doing with your action?

Mike: I use the science truck for cover, [rolls dice and beats the drama pool] And I want to spend a plot point to put put a complication into play, I’ll take my D8 and make the rifle jam.

Mike’s dice pool produced a result using two of his dice, that was higher than the result from the drama pool, meaning he dodged behind the truck and into safety. He can also use one of his remaining dice from his pool to create a complication. Spending a plot point Mike creates a D8 complication [Rifle Jammed] which will help buy him time.

Robert: Ok noted. The driver of the Camper van pulls around after you. But as the gun man pulls the trigger his gun jams and the van stalls. Giving you chance to act again.

Mike: I run back to the car while he’s un-jamming his weapon, and get it started up.

Robert: Ok make a drive check to get the car going under stress.

Mike: [rolls dice rolling against the Drama Pool] Just but I pass.

Robert: Cool but the Libyans are on the move again and giving chase. I’m going to spend the D8 from the empty pistol to cancel the jam, as the pistol isn’t going to be immediate anymore. So the rifle is working again.

As you are in a chase now we’ll run this as a Contested Action. You’re just trying to get away, but the Libyan’s are trying to kill all the witnesses. So set the stakes with your next driving roll.

Mike: I’ll spend a plot point on the DeLorean to get a D6 for my rolls.

Mike can buy a D6 asset at the cost of a Plot Point, this will last till the end of the scene, and represents how important the DeLorean is in the current action.

Chris: I’ll throw in a plot point too, to make that a D8. I’ve got a Distinction Trigger that lets me increase gadget assets.

Robert: Sounds great add that into your pool then.

Mike: [rolls dice] If the van is trying to come along side I’ll put my foot down and pull ahead. Then use the parking lanes to try and put barriers between us.

Mike’s result (two dice from his pool) sets the stakes, we’ll use this to track if he can keep ahead of the terrorists. 

Robert: [rolls the drama pool to raise the stakes] The driver keeps up and manages to pull into the same section of the parking lot. But keeping up with you is shaking the shooter too much for him to get a good shot at you.

Each side can roll against the current stakes to gain an advantage, in this case to get away or to catch up.

Mike: [rolls dice] hmm I’ve raised the stakes barely but there’s a one.

Robert: I’ll take that opportunity and give you a stress dice. You’re distracted and anxious.

Stress is a specific type of complication, it can be used to track damage to a character or resource. In this instance Marty is mentally stressed, and [Distracted]

Mike:  And then some. I’m gonna really build up speed with the next long straight bit.

Robert: You notice that the gun man is still having trouble with his rifle, but you don’t have time to pay attention to the lights and noises in the car. [rolls dice and manages to raise the stakes] as you turn into a straight and start pressing down on the gas you spot the gun man raising the tip of a rocket launcher out of the sun roof.

Mike: Holy shit! Can I take the chance to flee?

Rather than continue to raise-the-stakes the player can opt to Flee the scene. This saves them from being taken out when they fail, but creates a complication.

Roger: Yup, I have just the complication for this – You peel away accelerating into the high end of the speedometer. Pushing past 85mph, the car starts lighting up like a Christmas tree just as you get dangerously close to driving through a ticket booth.

Mike: I…

Roger: Hang on – The windscreen fills with a shock of blue light. The booth disappears and you’re driving over rough ground. A body bounces off the bonnet, it’s only a scarecrow but before you know it a barn comes at you out of nowhere…

 

Games over Skype are proving hard to keep alive.

I am realising with the convention less the 80days away I really need to drop my current game and start play testing the three games I’m running in June.

Do I try to run using Roll20.com and Skype? Or do I need to pull in players and sit at a table?

Maybe both.

Mapping – Dungeon Tiles

Posted: 27th February 2016 by in Uncategorized
Sample of a dungeon tile i created

Sample of a dungeon tile I created

The Auras – Mutant group

Posted: 26th February 2016 by in Uncategorized
A bunch of luddite-mutants.
They emit a glowing aura around them that interferes with electronics. Scrambling wifi and phone signals. Causing power outages and electrical surges. Uncontrollably wreaking havoc on any community that depends on technology.
 
Amongst them there are other mutations, great strength, psychic powers. Nothing disfiguring about them, the disgust grows from the inconvenience they cause, and the distrust promoted by the media.
 
Factions within their number gather together and a leader directs their efforts in an almost terrorist manner. With strategic attacks on facilities in major urban centres.
 
The media truly pumps out the hate on them all, even though it is only a small number that are active in the faction.
 
Shunned already, and now hated too, the innocent try to eek out subsistence living in low tech environments. Some latch on to religions such as the Amish where their glowing countenance and aversion to technology fit in well. Others linger on the outskirts of the cities trying to make ends meet without the use of technology.

One challenge in RPGs is getting the balance of comedy right.

It can be bad enough when distracted players might add any amount of off-table jokes and sarcasm, but even in an engaging game the inclusion of something humorous can derail. That Inn Keep with the ill chosen name, the terrible accent you tried to do, or the plot hole you didn’t account for can all steal focus from the immersion or suspension of disbelief.

Keeping the mood in a horror game like Call of Cthulhu can lead players to rebel just as an escape from the tension. There needs to be an awareness of the pace, and a measure of understanding that fear and tension need to break occasionally. If you build in moments of lighter content and bring them into play you can control the shift in mood and signal to the players when it is ok to goof off a little.

Last year at the UK Games Expo I ran two games of Paranoia, this year I’m trying to run games based on the Ghostbusters franchise.

When it comes to games with an in built sense of humour it’s worth setting some time aside in the prep to realise where that humour fits. Like the horror game managing the atmosphere of the game is important. Build into the narrative openings for the players to deliver on the implied joke, play the straight-man and allow the players to pull off the punch lines. Empower them to goof off.

In the Ghostbusters games this year I want to have a sense of seriousness, but as with the films there should be wise-cracks, and a tongue-in-cheek aspect where the PCs don’t have adequate training to deal with supernatural calamity. I’m aiming for the players to have a feeling of being out-of-their-depth and over confident at the same time.

The scenarios can aid in this, as can the rules. In the Cortex+ system locations can have Distinctions (similar to aspects in Fate), a D8/D4 combination, where the players can opt to add a distinction dice into their pool to help/hinder their roll. Using this rule I could add distinctions that aid in the light hearted nature of the game.

A haunted office might have a ghost of an old boss, returning to torment the staff, clearly a terrifying prospect. So distinctions could lend this a comedic element using tropes such as Documentary Film Crew, or Stack of TPS Reports.

tpsreports

 

In the end the actual inclusion of the distinctions will be situational, RPG humour may compare well to an improvisational sit-com. The characters need to find their own comedy, but the game and story can help support it.

I don’t think I’ve quite identified how I’ll make my players laugh, but I do hope to raise a chuckle with these games. Any advice gratefully received.

PS For more on pacing in games and managing the mood check out – Robin D. Laws’ “Hamlet’s Hitpoints”

Early June this year the UK Games Expo is going to be in Birmingham.

I’ve put in to run three games there.

Leverage: The Eight Ball Job

Ghostbusters: Witch Hunter Blood

Ghostbusters: Pirates, Loot and Ghost Ships

Tickets for games (including these three) are about to go live.

I’m hosting extra details about each of my games on my site, and with that in mind thought it best to put a few more entries into my blog. As I have been ignoring it for some time now.

So I’m going to try and write a few more items on here, something about my gaming specifically.

In Service

Posted: 10th February 2014 by in Advice, Religion, Story Idea
Tags: , ,

Today’s tweet inspires us to include religious service in the story for Paladins before battle – here’s a flash fiction I wrote with this in mind.

As Clark stepped past the two guards by the entrance, and through the tent flap, the sound of the drums and pipes from inside washed out over the camp. Missing the opening hymn wouldn’t have ruined the experience for him but, still he had rushed to make it, leaving his own bunk in disarray.

Taking his place a few rows from the back, he remained standing and added his voice to the chorus. The awe of the service washed over him and mixing with the excitement that came before another battle. The opportunity to serve the faith and please the almighty was something he would cherish, even unto his death. A death that he knew might follow in the day ahead. This was a time to put aside misgivings, concentrate on the edicts of the order and pray for guidance and blessings. This was a time to commune with fellow believers and to seek a moment alone with his god.

From where he stood at the rear of the tent the chaplain’s chants were audible, even over the loud and dissonant chorus of hymns. All these voices, predominantly male and mostly untrained, were raised in worship and still the undulating chant was heard by all the soldiers.

Clark knew a little of the old tongue, enough to recognise the chant called for a blessing and that it translated poorly as “May the unruly cattle fall before your servants feet.”

May the unruly cattle fall before your servants feet.

Slowly the drums fell silent and all but one of the pipes stopped playing. A simple lilting meditative piece filled the incense air around him as the voices of his fellow soldiers turned to mumbled prayer. Within the crowd a voice cried out again in the ancient language of the priests, the chaplain responded with words of praise, but otherwise the prayers continued.

His own heart was filling with strength of passion that fired up all his nerves and made his veins fill with a desire to bring about victory. To be a part of this day’s righteous action.

Now speaking to the congregation the chaplain gave a short lesson from the scrolls, and made a light comment that raised a smile. One final hymn and a responsive prayer that led into a blessing from the priests and then they were dismissed. Three hundred and forty knights, each sworn to the Order of Remembrance stood to attention before dispersing. Each one prepared to kill, or die in the attempt, for their god.

Godstone Mine

Posted: 31st January 2014 by in Advice, Story Idea
Tags: ,

In the last tweet for this weeks topic we delve underground and see what we can dig up.

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 17.32.41Deep in a mine a new kind of stone has been unearthed. The remains of a fallen god, fossilised over ages, have been carved out of the rock. The local guild had no idea what the new stones were, but the towns folk soon started to use them in various ways but mainly as fuel and jewellery.

Hearth fires burned the more course stones, food was cooked over it’s flames, and the town’s industries were powered by boilers filled with godstone.

One lady in the village started mounting the stones into jewellery, in particular she made her grand daughter a tiara. All the young women wanted to have similar head wear and the jewellery became quite a trend.

Today the ruins of the city that developed there are dead and almost forgotten. The mine entrance itself has been collapsed. Buried in the dark depths are many of the godstone jewellery items, returned to the tunnel where the stones had been found.

Leading Questions

Why were the jewels returned to the mine?

What rumours are told about the ghost town near Godstone Hill?

Which God was cast from the Pantheon and died under that hill?

Are there other fallen gods buried elsewhere?

What powers did the godstone jewels bestow on those young women?

When the godstone was used as fuel did it have any effect on the atmosphere of the town?
Was there a god awful smog?

 

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 16.47.32

Today’s tweet introduced the idea of abandoned locations being placed where intrigue can occur.

Talking about abandoned warehousing as a place where spies can arrange dead drops, but also available for the secret labs of evil genius’ or meeting places for underground rebels.

I thought I’d expand on the idea that some super villain was using the warehouse as a base and had all his lab equipment set up there.

One day while the evil Professor Mocker is robbing a diamond shipment, or something, a group of kids accidentally discover his hidden lab.

Kai, Peter, Will, Katie and Devon are a pretty normal bunch of kids ranging from 8 to 11 years old. Good friends who all have similar interests and argue and fight and stick up for each other. They have a great time playing with all the devices and pretending to be in charge of a spaceship. When they broke a screen it all stopped being fun and they ran off. The kids thought they would get into trouble but the police didn’t come for them and after a week or so they started to plan on going back.

On the day that the rest set off for the warehouse Devon is kept home to do chores. Unfortunately the others end up kidnapped by Professor Mocker who wants them to tell him what they did with a device that he’s lost. None of them know anything about it but he won’t believe them. What none of the others know is that Devon took a gizmo from the lab and has it at his home.

These missing kids might not show up on the superhero’s radar. But here’s a few ways to bring them in.

  • The secret identity of one of the hero’s lives on Devon’s street, potentially knows the kid and sees him playing with the gizmo.
  • Friends of the hero’s secret identity are volunteering to help search the nearby area for the kids.
  • One of the police officers reports something suspicious that flags up on the Superhero’s HQ computer.
  • Following up on the diamond heist they find the kids in some stasis cells in Mocker’s Lab.
  • Something in the background of the news coverage catches the attention of one of the Heroes.

Todays tweeted weapon is a whip called Foulscribe.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 10.19.14Someone fashioned a bull-whip from the flesh of a demon, curing that flesh into leather strips and then weaving them together to make the weapon. The name comes from the additional effect that when the whip scars a persons flesh it does so in a distinctly legible pattern. The whip scars profane and diabolic text into it’s victims skin. Some times the wound will be a single word, other times as long as a sentance or couplet. Some phrases are more common than others. Foulscribe can be as random as a fortune cookie or as personal as an apt insight into the victims darkest fears.

This text may be prophetic, or quotes from some evil tome. The words may not be in a language the victim understands, or it might be gibberish. In any case any attempt to read the wound, even accidentally, will result in some loss of sanity. Night terrors may haunt those who cannot understand the words on their skin. For the scholar that manages to piece together what the scar says even greater dementia awaits.

Scaring over the words, or carving them out of the flesh won’t work. The words appear to be wounds to the soul that come through time and again whenever the flesh heals. Foulscribe’s words always appear as the top most scarring.

SOMEONE

fashioned a bull-whip

from the flesh of a

DEMON!!

Leading Questions

Who is evil enough to put into motion a plan that ends with this weapon?

Was the text scarring effect deliberate or a scary accident?

Can we assume the demon didn’t survive the process of making Foulscribe?

If the demon did survive, or was responsible for the creation, is it seeking the weapon?