Professor Jimbles Presents: “I play to win, baby.” 

Okay, so this is over a year overdue. I’m terrible, I know.

But let’s see this as an example of time teaching you, and making a fool of your past self.

In this time, I attended another Phenomenon in Canberra (And took away their drama Triptytch award with a group of people I had never met before.) and even ran my first game for the greater Canberra roleplaying community. All in all, another fantastic year.

Why competitive roleplaying? This genre is built around making a story as a team! Guiding these semi-real entities through trials both emotional and physical! Wouldn’t adding a competitive edge ruin it? Wouldn’t the ever present thought of “Am I doing this well enough to get an award?” ruin your immersion?

Well, no. First of all, your GM is likely to be running multiple sessions of their game (Even I did, and it was my first year.) and with premade characters, there is bound to be a player or a group who has an interpretation that matches their inital designs. Us GMs do enjoy a bit of ego stroking; if a player can find interest in characters we created enough to perfectly encapsulate them in their performance then it is only natural to have a preference.

On the other hand, if someone takes a character in a completely new direction that surprises and excites the GM, this could also endear the player to them. Surprising someone who has run a particular scenario up to 11 times already is a feat worthy of recognition. Especially if this interpretation is better than what they initially envisioned.

Let’s get something clear, you are never competing against the people you’re weaving a story with. These competitive games at Phenomenon are collaborative, so you are building a story with the GM and the other players, usually-but-not-always using a rules light or no rules system. Unlike a more rigid game like Pathfinder, the ever present urge for optimization and survivability is absent. If you can’t fail because someone isn’t pulling their weight, then you’re without THAT form of competition against your fellow players.

Lastly; and most importantly comes the phrase I hear most often when describing the Perpetual games.

“But that’s rediculous, how do you score a “Winner” of rules-light or systemless games?”

Easy! These are drama or comedy games. You can use a very simple “Who made me feel/laugh the most?” metric. You could add points for anyone who has a highly quotable line, and remove them for anyone who keeps breaking character. As well as the interpretation idea I explored above.

This does mean that it comes down to more Romanticism than Enlightenment, but I’m okay with that. The kind of games that flourish under plot and characterization heavy settings don’t often come with a clear mathematical “Winner” anyway. You’re gonna have an emotional favourite anyway.

Picture of the winning team: Shiny Things and me, from Cardgames on Motorcycles. 


Photo made publically available. Please ask before reproduction. Names withheld on request.

Interview with Phil Day, creator of Sol tabletop RPG

Hey there guys,

Well, it’s a new year, and I’m back to writing. Not gonna make any promises about regularity of content, but we’ll see how we go. Hopefully I can coax Jimbles into coming back and doing some more posts as well.

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t Canberra based, we have a yearly convention here called CanCon that covers card games, board games and war games. I’m actually not sure if it has much of an RPG component, I’ve never really seen groups there for it, but it could just be that I’m not looking in the right areas. Happens on the Australia Day long weekend every January, so it was on not the weekend before last. I don’t normally play in any games at the convention (I gave up competitive play for card games a few years ago, and carting around my army for Hordes is too much effort on the bike), but I make a point of going and checking out the vendors. There’s usually some good deals on games, and I often find a lot of more obscure RPG books (or even just some older stuff that isn’t as easily found these days). Anyway, while making my rounds of the various stores, I found a table advertising a Kickstarter campaign for an RPG called Sol. Of course, being me, I had to stop and see what it was all about. So I got to chatting with Phil Day, the creator, and Kirk Hone, the chief play tester about what the game had to offer. While I didn’t have a huge amount of time to talk with them, I got a bit of a feel for the game, and started to understand just how passionate about it they are.

Based on the quick chat I had with them, I was intrigued. It sounded like a fairly simple system, with a focus on letting the GM (or in this case, Adjudicator) tell stories without having to worry about a vast library of rules and the ways everything interacts with each other. . Don’t get me wrong, I love my Pathfinder and Shadowrun games, but they do tend to get pretty complicated at times. I’d say it’s not uncommon to have to pause Pathfinder sessions I run at least two or three times a session for around ten minutes at a time, just to look up and find out how certain rules actually work. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just what happens when games have so much content. So sometimes it’s nice to see a single book system that’s designed to have simple core rules, and runs on the old school ethos of “if the rules don’t cover it, the GM makes the call”. Yes Rule 0 still exists, but these days it’s often used as a way of saying “for the sake of time, the GM will make a call now and research how it should have worked later”, rather than “the GM thinks rule of cool says it should work this way, and he’s not being unfair about it, so why the hell not!”. I guess what I’m saying is that as more rules are available for games like Pathfinder, players inevitably want to use them, and often aren’t happy to be told that certain things don’t work in the game they’re playing in. I get that, after all, if I spend money on something, I want to use it, but it can definitely bog things down. So the more I thought about this game, the more interested I was. When I got home (with a pile of books and games strapped to the pillion seat of my bike), I jumped online and checked out the Kickstarter (take a look for yourself HERE). I was interested enough to pledge straight away, and also sent Phil a quick message mentioning that I’d be interested in doing an interview about the game. When I popped back out to the con the next day to spend yet more money and give my cousin his first exposure to a gaming convention, I stopped by the table again to hash out some details with Phil.

So, a couple of weeks later, here we are. I present to you, the Grassy Gnoll’s interview with Phil Day, creator of the Sol tabletop RPG.

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Role-Playing 101: The Laundry RPG – Session 2

Hey guys. Going to make this one quick, I’ve got my parents visiting this weekend and I’ve got a lot to do to get ready. It’s time for the report of the second session I ran of Cubicle 7’s game, The Laundry RPG, for my cousin and his friends. You can read the first report here.

A quick recap for anyone just joining us. Over the last year I’ve been occasionally running games for my 14-year-old cousin and his friends in an attempt to get them into tabletop gaming. The endgame is to get them running their own games, but while we work towards that, I’m running games in a bunch of different systems for them so they can decide what they want to play long-term. So far we’ve played Pathfinder and The Laundry RPG, with Shadowrun 5th Edition on the cards next. Before we could do that though, there was one more session of The Laundry RPG to run. It’s a game of Lovecraftian horror, spycraft shenanigans, and bleak humour about the end of the world and British public service bureaucracy, based on The Laundry Files novels by Charles Stross.

The Laundry RPG core book.

The Laundry RPG core book.

So, a week after the first session of The Laundry RPG, I rocked up at my cousin’s house again to run the next adventure. Since I’d had a busy week, I’d decided to stick with the same idea as last time, and run one of the ready to go adventures out of the core book. This time around, I was running The Greys. Everyone already knew the rules, except for one player who joined this session, so we were able to get going with barely any fuss.

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Professor Jimbles Presents! Weird Situations

Hi there, Jimbles here again with a few more tales, but with a preamble first.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been writing posts that are just fluff entertainment, leaving all of the crunch to Keegan. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I think I can do a bit better. Due to my documented inability to keep characters alive (See Does anyone else die a lot?, Part two on those horrible deaths incoming.) I’ve gotten pretty good at creating new characters. I’m going to codify it and make it interesting; then show you my 5 step process for streamlining a backstory. It’s by no means perfect, but it works.

But today, I’ve got a particular subject on my mind.  A bunch of my friends and fellow players are known for coming up with twisted situations and bending the established lore in such a nefarious way that the players are left flat-footed. Once, I asked one of them how on earth they come up with their ideas. It may have been an outburst along the lines of “WHERE DO YOU COME UP WITH THIS STUFF!?”

The answer was interesting. She said “Well, for this game I thought “How can I make a player make a bad choice for the right reasons?”

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Reign of Winter – GM Perspective.

So, I fucked it.

Well, I wouldn’t go that far, but certainly, running a Pathfinder game was far more work than I expected, and it makes me appreciate the sheer amount of extra effort Keegan puts in above what the adventure path gives him.

Firstly, I haven’t run a rules heavy system since I was 14, where I mangled d20 Modern to represent school. It trainwrecked horribly, but it at least made some people laugh for a session. After that, I entered my WoD phase, being one of those oft-cursed eternal players demanding to be entertained. After some time I began writing Bard: The Crescendo (a WoD template, like Vampire, Geist and Changeling) with some friends. Eventually it fell to me to test the system. It went okay.

When Keegan wanted a turn playing Pathfinder, he thought I could do a decent job (uhh?) of running an adventure path, and gently pressured me into taking the job. What can I say, I can be an entitled jerk. He set me up with the core, our copy of Hero Lab and The Snows of Summer to bone up on.

Much like a Puritan high school, there was less boning up than would be healthy for everyone involved.

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Quotes.

I keep a list of quotes on my phone. They’re gathered by me or my friends and added in one by one. They’re usually created during roleplaying sessions, as we have a tendency to say stupid or hilarious things.

I like this idea. Moments of hilarity can fly past. They cheer everyone, raise spirits and generally make lives better for a moment, but they’re fleeting. Transitory. Some could say all the more precious because of that. I prefer to think that moments like these can be re-celebrated! Sharing a list of hilarious statements can reignite this joy and share it to others who weren’t there in the first place.

Because of this, I have a few of my favourite moments to share. You may not know the names now, but you may know us a little bit better afterwards.

Adam: *creepy whisper* I broke Obfuscate to penetrate you.
Jim: Halp.

(Sigg had a bet that no-one would die.)
Jim: I’m eating a hot-dog.
Bill: Sigg or White will go upstairs and check the rooms.
Angus: Sigg can go upstairs, I’ll eat a hot-dog.
Jim: *sigh*. I get no successes. Too busy watching White eat my hot-dog.
Angus: it’s delicious.
Jim: I breathe on the window and write “I will kill you.”
Angus: I SMS him back “You will owe me $20.”

Michael: Did anyone bring a ten-foot-pole?
Evan: No, but I have rope and a wheel of cheese.

Jim: But the rule book is nice, has great art and stories, so it’s not a chore like others can be.
Ben: Like Deathwatch. Which is pretty, but so disjointed that you think you know what the rules are but can’t find them anywhere. Leading to the conclusion that what everyone thinks is a ruling is actually a shared hallucination about a book.

Ed: I punch him in the face.
Katie: Whyyyyyy?
Ed: Because I’m a very angry person who can only express myself through violence.

Kane: And I would have had the computer too if it weren’t for those meddling orbital lasers!

David: You have arrived into the astral plane of “All the porn on the Internet.”
Kane: Not my fault.

Chris: Battle plan!
1: Cast heart strings.
2: Cast friendly face.
3: Yell “Don’t kill me, I’m an orphan!”

Listening to: The rain on the deck, trying to sleep.

Welcome to Night Vale, a sleepy desert community…

Hey guys,

Bit of a random update today. While I’ve been stuck at home with this chest infection, I’ve been listening to a podcast that I stumbled across while browsing the Paizo message boards.

Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast produced by Commonplace Books. It’s done in the style of community radio broadcasts for a small desert town. The only way I can think of to describe it is as public service announcements in the Twilight Zone. It’s incredibly surreal, and I fell in love with it instantly. In another couple of days or so I should be caught up on it (there are 26 episodes so far).

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