Saturday, April 26, 2014

Measuring the Position and Velocity of the Quantum Ogre

Okay this is a brief entry, and it commits kind of a blogging faux pas--but since when has that ever stopped me? Generally just posting a cool link and saying it's cool is not considered worthy of blog entries--if there is such a thing as worthy blogging versus unworthy blogging. It is somewhat of a egocentric pasttime, but I digress.

This time I don't know that I can do any better than Hack & Slash has done on expounding the problem of the  quantum ogre. Quantum Ogre is a really sexy term for an age old gaming argument. Railroading. To drive those players down the track, or let the train steer wildly into the sandbox of your campaign? That is the question. Of course that is misleading and more than a little sarcastic.

What the exchange of Hack & Slash's various articles do is very clearly and thoroughly discuss the issue. To tell the truth I am not sure which side I come down upon. I think either side is a slippery slope, but I need more time to process it to develop a well reasoned opinion.

For now, I recommend these articles wholeheartedly. Particularly the ones under the Quantum Ogre section of course. I tend to fall somewhere in between in my GMing. I like to preach the let the dice fall where they may rhetoric, but I have cheated on dice. And usually in the player's favor. When it hasn't been in the player's favor it has been to further the story along, or very rarely to teach a lesson. I know, I know--how dare I? And I dare to do so hardly ever, but I'm not going to lie and say I have never done it. For me the story that is developing out the play is what keeps us coming back to the table session after session. Not my story, but the story. One of the reasons I love gaming is that you never quite know what is going to happen.

I'll also admit something else. I love commercial modules. Not just commercial ones, but premade modules. I love reading them and I love DMing them. Now, don't get me wrong--some of them suck. I should restate that and say that I love the really good ones. But pre-made modules are extremely handy and as a DM I can use time-saving whenever I can get it. I have run my own adventures too, I just happen to love modules.

But, it is important to make clear--I have never run a module all the way through. At least not like it was intended. To me a module is a starting point. I'm not exactly sandboxy with it, but more like as a base, a foundation for whatever comes next. I have had players ditch the hook entirely or swallow it hook line and sinker--but we still never end up using the whole module. My module adventure sessions are filled with new traps, new monsters, changed architecture, off label NPCs and the like. I'm not quite sure why this happens this way, but it does.

Without a whole lot of pre-reasoning about it, I'll say that for me GMing is an art. It is something that has always seemed to come naturally to me. I know that some who have read my preferred approaches have labelled me as an adversarial or even a killer GM. But I have never had a problem keeping players at my table. The adversarial thing is more like an assumed alias than the real thing. I have had a tough time making time to game, but never keeping players engaged and excited. Oh sure we have had dull moments occasionally. But that is just a sign to up my game, and pretty soon things are rolling again.

The really funny thing I found about reading Hack & Slash Master's articles about how to fix the quantum ogre problem is that I already do most of what he suggested. In fact, as I was reading much of it I was saying to myself, "Of course! this is just common sense. Don't all GMs do something like this?"

I'm not perfect, and nor am I some kind of a GMing guru, but the issue kind of seems like a non-issue for me because I have never seemed to have the issue. But then again, maybe I'm missing something. It'll be interesting to see how my new group feels after a few months with me at the helm. I'm up for some constructive feedback--especially since I'll be running a new system.

Anywho, give the articles a read, and let me know what you think. I'll plan on reasoning this out a bit and perhaps making a more intelligent response soon. Instead of the rambling stream of consciousness type entries I'm so used to.

Friday, April 25, 2014

I'm Blessed

Whether by the Fates
Or by the Gods
Or by She Who Must Not Be Named from Discworld

But I have a wonderful wife, and three absolutely awesome kids. And moreover, my kids love to roleplay. Yep, all three of them. And in a world where we are all super busy and more and more child psychologists are telling us to spend not only quality time with our kids, but quantity time with them, I thought ... who am I to fly in the face of research?

I'm a gamer, and always complaining about not enough time to game. So, why not kill two birds with one stone? And a lot of my children's characters as well? Voila! Family gaming night was born! And I don't kill them too often. Well, I don't ever kill them, they kill themselves when they make bad decisions. But hey, isn't part of my job as a parent to construct learning experiences for my children? And how much better to learn it at the gaming table than out there in real life :-)

All kidding aside, they love it and so do I. I get to spend time with some of the coolest kids on the planet, their friends and cousins and they get the almost endless attention of their game-master Dad. It could only be better if my wife played. But honestly, she like the quiet time to herself while we talk with pixies, fence goblins and finagle a few treasures from sleeping dragons at our dining room table.

So I've created a new website/blog for my family gaming campaign. Feel free to check it out some time, but keep in mind it's mainly for campaign info and stories from our family campaign. And also feel free to game with your own kids--it's a blast. Pay the gaming hobby forward!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Gaming Movies: The Eagle

The Story of the The 9th Roman Legion has become the stuff of legend. Recently three different movies have been made of the story each slightly different from each other, all worth a watching. The Last Legion (2007), The Centurion (2010), and The Eagle are all excellent fodder for an adventure story line, and damn good movies. I like The Eagle best for this purpose because it is most "quest-like".

Marcus Flavius Aquila and his Brigante slave turned companion Esca set off beyond "the edge of the world" North of Hadrian's Wall on a quest to find the lost golden eagle, standard of the 9th Legion. The 9th had explored the North and disappeared, never to be heard from again. Their standard represented the honor of Aquila's family, and so Marcus seeks to regain the eagle and restore his family's honor.

The movie is based on the book The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff (1954), which is a historical adventure novel designed for younger readers. I've never read the book, but it seems to be in the same league as The Book of the Lion by Michael Cadnum, another historical adventure novel, but set during the crusades during the reign of Richard the Lion-Hearted.

The movie, has a good adventure session feel to it. Without going into spoilers, several "encounter-like" scenes outline the quest for a small band of adventurers. The various tribes make for interesting and compelling foes along the way, but one could substitute other creatures easily if one wished. Wild eyed druids driving scythe-wheeled chariots, shamans drinking magic potions, wild boars, savage painted tribesmen with skull headdresses, tattooed rogue warriors, snarling war dogs, thiefly infiltration, betrayal and battles a-plenty make for a fully epic adventure.