I don't disagree with the fact that there are a ton of high-level NPCs running around the setting, and I've heard stories similar to what Death Quaker described about those characters hijacking sessions and whole campaigns, though I agree that it's an issue that can easily be solved by a GM just deciding not to involve them (though if you're running a story about the end of the world, you might need to explain why Elminster isn't taking care of it instead of the PCs).
To be fair to Ed Greenwood, I don't think the preponderance of Mary Sues running around the setting is all his fault - or at least it's an unintended consequence. I met him at a con one time and kind of brought this up to him, and he was very much of the opinion that the world is yours when you choose to set a campaign there, and all of the setting elements are there for you to make your story better as you see fit. If that means killing Elminster off in scene one, so be it.
To address the OP's point concerning game systems creating a culture for certain kinds of players, I'd agree with that to an extent. Well, I can't really say for sure about a game system fostering a culture, but I do think that the system that a group plays does have an impact on how the session or the campaign is played. I wouldn't go so far as to say that any group playing D&D is going to focus entirely on hacking and slashing, and one playing V:tM is going to become an amateur theater company over time, but in my experience the game system tends to give subtle pushes toward certain gaming styles just by virtue of what it supports and doesn't support.
Personally, I'm much more interested in storytelling than character optimization, but my group is more moderate - we have people who enjoy both equally and a guy who really prefers character optimization to storytelling. We play a lot of Pathfinder and a lot of Fate (different games using the same system). When we play Pathfinder, nearly every encounter we have ends in a fight - I would say 70% of the campaign has taken place in combat rounds. Likewise, every story ends with a boss fight. There is character development, there are storylines for individual PCs, and we focus on the story elements as much as I can get away with, but the game really supports the tactical aspects better. In combat, I can try out weird stunts or creative uses of spells to try to take an enemy out, but often I find that this kind of thinking is discouraged - I can try something creative with a really low chance of success, or I can just throw out another fireball.
When we play Fate with the same group, I think the storytelling comes out a lot more. Combat is a much lower percentage of the game session, problems are often not solved with combat, and we have more scenes that focus on investigation, character development, etc. I think this is because the system supports these differences - spending Fate points encourages players to tie personal character motivations into actions, and social combat is handled the same way as physical combat, meaning that the two are (or should be) equally fulfilling as methods of resolution. This isn't to say that Fate is objectively better (though I prefer it) - when physical combat does happen, it isn't as robustly supported by rules as it would be in Pathfinder.
So I do think that, everything else being equal, a game system does have an impact on the style of game that's played by a group, though it's a fairly subtle one and the players won't necessarily find their philosophy as to what constitutes the perfect game session changed. It's similar to Ron Edwards' point in his "System Does Matter" essay, though there he was talking about arguments that all game systems are equally good in the hands of a good group. Here, I'd say that story gamers are going to include storytelling in their games no matter what they're playing, but the system they choose will support them to a varied extent and may shift their emphasis over time.
I've played in games where social interaction mechanics have worked really well, just not D&D or Pathfinder. In games using Fate, for example, you can set up social conflicts where each side sets the stakes, and those stakes can involve changing someone's mind about something. So I could play Darth Vader, and set up a conflict with Luke, and tell him that if I win, he joins the Dark Side. Generally, you can bail out of a conflict that's going badly by compromising something (Luke's player gives up and jumps off a balcony rather than letting himself get converted), but if you go all the way with it you can get taken out and wind up with a different perspective. I think it works because you go into the conflict knowing the potential outcomes rather than having someone just come up to you, roll Bluff, and then expect you to go off and murder Han Solo based on some lie someone told you. It also helps that each roll in combats like that gets played as part of the argument, so your potential change of heart has some more foundation.
I played a lot of Heroes Unlimited back in the 90's and would not recommend it. The system came off like 2e D&D with a ridiculous number of hit points. It would take several gunshots to take down a standard goon, for example. Characters with access to magic could short circuit that in a number of ways and so seemed really overpowered.
I haven't had much experience with other superhero games - I've played M&M 2e a couple of times and thought it worked pretty well. My next long term campaign is likely to be a modified version of the Necessary Evil campaign using ICONS, though. Another one I thought looked really interesting is With Great Power... It's an indie game where the rules are designed so that you fail early on to succeed later (think Spider-Man getting dumped and then beaten up by the Vulture before he comes back to save the day). Seems like an interesting attempt to imitate the structure of an actual comic book story.
I just finished plowing through Cold Days, which I thought was a good read. Butcher did a good job of plotting everything this time around, though I could have done with one or two less action sequences.
I'm just starting Consider the Lobster, a collection of essays by David Foster Wallace. I'm only a few pages in, but it's already hilarious.
Joey Virtue wrote:
So what is the fate system I think ive seen it but im not sure
It's a universal RPG system using Fudge dice, which are six-sided dice with two blank sides, two sides with plus signs, and two sides with minus signs. So for any given roll you'll have a skill number, modified from -4 to +4 based on your roll.
The two big mechanics in the system are Aspects and Fate Points. Aspects are important elements to your character - could be abilities, could be personality traits, whatever. They're whatever you think is important about the character. Examples would be stuff like Itchy Trigger Finger, First on the Scene, Sucker for the Ladies, etc. Whenever you're in a situation where one of your aspects might be able to help you out, you can tag that aspect by paying a Fate Point, and give yourself a +2 on the roll. Enemies and scenes can also have aspects that you can tag to get bonuses.
One of the best parts is that Aspects aren't all good. In fact, the best ones could be either good or bad. Then, when you come to a situation where your character's aspect could get him into trouble, the GM can offer you a Fate Point to do something that hurts him but serves the story and the character. This is the only way to gain Fate Points, so you find yourself getting into trouble a lot.
I'm a huge, huge fan of the system - pitching even $1 into the Kickstarter gets you a look at the basic rules, so I'd recommend going ahead and taking a look.
For the Runecarved Key event at GenCon this year, our party was as follows:
The bard-centric group was surprisingly effective during the middle section of the adventure, which was about convincing people not to participate in an auction in a variety of ways, but as soon as the combat-oriented climax began we hit a brick wall. No deaths, though, so it was a moral victory.
We had a really cool moment last night in the campaign - we're playing Kingmaker but are on a sidequest which involves trying to steal an artifact from the Chelaxian government in order to stop the Red Mantis from assassinating my character - the party is seventh level. We determine that the artifact is located in a tower in a university, but that the only door to the tower is a portal that you have to enter through the royal palace a mile away, and further the artifact is protected by all kinds of magic and a group of Hellknights.
At the end of the previous session where we made our battle plan, we joked that we should just go in and Bluff them into giving us the artifact. The DM jokingly noted that with a Bluff roll around 50, that would be possible. I laughed it off, but later that night I got to thinking...
Fast forward to this session, where we announce the entry plan. I had my character cast Heroism and Eagle's Splendor on myself (as well as Alter Self to appear as a Hellknight), donned a Circlet of Persuasion, drank a Potion of Glibness, got Moment of Greatness cast on me, and then got a fortune hex placed on me which would give me a second die on my next roll. The druid used stone shape to put a hole in the tower, and I staggered in, telling the Hellknights that Cheliax was under attack and that I had been sent to bring the artifact to safety. I explained why I'd had to make a hole in the wall (the castle was under attack and the other side of the portal was being hidden from the attackers by an illusion) and why the Hellknights needed to go up and get the artifact without letting any of the alarms go off (that was the signal that I needed reinforcements from the queen, which could cost her life if they were sent needlessly). The DM gave me a +5 on my roll due to the elaborate lie, and I announced that my roll would be at +49 - the final result was a glorious 66. So the Hellknights went up, disarmed the magical protection, and handed me the artifact. The DM later told us that the artifact had been protected by a power word stun effect that would have taken a bunch of us out for 2d4 rounds and would have alerted the entire palace to our position.
Before I could get out the door, an erinyes popped through the portal on patrol and shot me a few times, but I made it out and the druid used a readied action to close the wall up. Since the tower was dimensionally locked, they couldn't follow us out immediately, and my character and a few other party members teleported out of the city using a scroll of teleport. The rest of the party was kind of left in the lurch and were forced to retreat to a safehouse, then crawl out a sewer and kill a Hellknight and an erinyes in their escape.
And that's how we stole an artifact with an epic lie.
Could not agree more. The Kara Tur boxed set from second edition was the worst offender I ever saw - literally every country they gave had a direct real world analogue. It was like they wanted to make a game set in Asia and add monsters, but they thought it wouldn't sell so they slapped a Forgotten Realms label on it and shipped it.
Roseanne had a weird ending, but I suppose it was better than the last season.
Ugh, yes! I forgot about how bad that was - I agree that the last season was terrible and the series finale was an attempt to retcon it, but then they went back and retconned the whole series as well. So stupid.
Other than that, I agree with a lot of the other usual suspects - wasn't a fan of Lost or Neon Genesis Evangelion (though I hadn't liked Evangelion too much even prior to its ending), and I absolutely hated the finale of Battlestar Galactica. I think of it like the fictional movie in Seinfeld called "Cry, Cry Again," because when you see
them unanimously decide to shoot their entire fleet into the sun so that they can start to die of starvation and disease needlessly
you cry, and then when you get to
the ridiculous coda which suggests that the moral of the whole thing was that AI is dangerous
you cry again.
We didn't realize you needed to re-click submit if nothing happened the first time, and every event we wanted except True Dungeon and one other were sold out by the time we got in. Would have been nice if the site notified you that your request timed out rather than letting you wait until you felt brave enough to refresh. We also joked that there should be an automatic refund offer if your wishlist processed and you got zero tickets from it.
Excellent interview, thanks for posting! What was the ADwD question you refrained from asking because it would spoil someone in the audience?
My primary concern from the interview is that it seems like he hasn't actually done that much writing on TWoW since ADwD was published last year. When asked about the status of the next book, he basically said that he has a couple hundred pages done (which I believe is mostly stuff moved over from ADwD which had already been written), and that he hopes it comes out faster once he really starts in on it after he clears out his current side projects. If I were him, I'd be extremely concerned that HBO could need to finish the series before I could get it done. I think he can get TWoW finished in time, but I have serious doubts about the final book being finished before HBO gets there unless they start splitting all of the books into multiple seasons, which seems like a bad idea.
EDIT: Forgot to mention that GRRM seems extremely friendly and accessible to fans, so kudos to him for that!
I'm in one face-to-face group - we aim to meet once a week, but we wind up missing at least one session per month, sometimes two. We play on Wednesday nights, generally from 8pm or so to somewhere between 11pm and midnight. We also alternate campaigns - I'm running a Star Trek TOS campaign using Starblazer Adventures, and another guy is running Kingmaker every other week. Starblazer runs quickly enough that I don't have a problem finishing up an episode per session, but we just started the Kingmaker game and I'm not sure what the pacing will look like over the long run.
Kirth Gersen wrote:
Anything by Ayn Rand. Chick had a chip on her shoulder, coupled with a seriously misplaced case of idol worship, and willfully refused to look at reality when it conflicted with her Nietzschean imaginings.
You know that scene in Fight Club where they're talking about which celebrity they would fight if they could fight anyone, and one of them picks William Shatner? I'd fight Ayn Rand.
Lord Snow wrote:
More discussion about the end of book 5:
I read an interview somewhere in which Martin outright said that readers should NOT take Ramsay's letter as truth...here's the link. That doesn't mean there's no truth to it, but I'd be surprised if that whole battle took place offscreen.
That being said, I have plenty of other gripes with Martin at this point...most of my complaints with ADwD are set forth (by someone else) here.
Lord Dice wrote:
The British haven't always been that Oscar Wilde-friendly. Oscar Wilde himself spent two years in prison for "gross indecency" (homosexual acts) starting in 1895.
Found it. It's on page 202 - the timeline mentions that the Arthfell Forest was trampled by a Slohr.
What ghostbusters reference?
Google search reveals that there's a reference to a Slohr, as in "many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of a Slohr that day, I can tell you." I don't know where the reference is, though - I just read that book and didn't catch it.
Ah, my mistake. I had thought that was what you meant at first, but you had also said something like
"neither the murder of the Onion Knight [nor someone else's murder] were necessary to move the plot forward in ADwD," and the potential switcheroo is actually in AFfC, if I remember correctly.
Anyway, the character in question hadn't been killed onscreen, so I never fully believed he was dead. Same with
Spoiler:in ADwD. You don't see them die, so I wouldn't assume they're dead. I'm not even 100% sure the latter of those two was reported dead, actually.
Stannis Baratheon and Mance Rayder
I wasn't the biggest fan of ADwD, either, but
The Onion Knight doesn't die in it. Lord Manderly fakes his execution and then sends him off to this island to bring back Rickon Stark. He'll be back.
I didn't get the sense that Varys was necessarily meant to be riding in as a white knight at the end - in fact, he's taking actions that are going to get more people killed by further destabilizing the country. He's trying to keep Westeros unstable for Daenerys' return, because he's a Targaryen loyalist. We've known that since the first book, when he was plotting with Illyrio to aid the Targaryens.
I'll agree with those who've mentioned the following:
Wheel of Time - I read the first book and thought it was fair, but certainly not enough to keep reading when even many fans of the series say that the middle volumes are terrible. Even the first book really failed to grab me; I didn't like any of the characters and the primary vilain seemed one note.
Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever - Ugh. I appreciate that the author was trying to play with genre conventions, but this was too much. Absolutely hated Covenant and wasn't enthralled by the world building or supporting characters.
Dragonlance - I read the first trilogy last year and wasn't really impressed. The only main character that I thought had any real depth was Tanis.
Icewind Dale Trilogy - I remember being surprised at the quality of the writing. You could make a drinking game out of some of the phrases Salvatore reused over and over in this series - the one that stands out most is "the stamp of booted feet."
EDIT - One that I don't know that anyone else has mentioned: The Name of the Wind - I didn't actually hate this, but I liked it a lot less than most. Kvothe is a bit of a Marty Stu, and I found myself rooting for him to get slapped around. A lot.
Doodlebug Anklebiter wrote:
That's not a bad idea. While the series on the whole is really good, I don't know if I'd recommend beginning it now. The first three books are amazing - the fourth and fifth are weaker, but I'm optimistic that they'll work once the series is finished and you can immediately find out how they resolve. Plus, there's the problem that the wait between books is years long (and if I'm not mistaken he basically took the second half of this year off, so I don't think that's likely to change). Following along with HBO you'll at least get the story on a regular schedule.
Doodlebug Anklebiter wrote:
Yep, that's basically correct, it's:
A Game of Thrones
Then the next two will be (as of now):
The Winds of Winter
Chris Mortika wrote:
I've got a friend who is planning a Star Wars game in a similar way, but taking it further. He's planning on basically coming up with character roles or hooks beforehand, along the lines of "Your sister was killed when you were a child, your life's goal is to find her murderer" or possibly even things that involve professions, like "You are a smuggler who bought his ship on credit from a crimelord, the next payment is due soon and you have no cargo." Then the players choose between them and decide on stats and personality.
It makes it easier for the GM to tie the characters into the plot, as everyone has built-in hooks. On the other hand, I'm not sure that things will have as much of an emotional impact, where your character's big payoff is something that you had no hand in creating. Essentially, I think the approach is borrowed from video game design, with all of the same benefits and drawbacks.
I haven't read Rant nor Choke, but I can't imagine anything being worse than Haunted...I read somewhere that Chuck takes pride in actually making people pass out when doing live readings of the first story in that book.
Eradico Pravus wrote:
I'm thinking Columbia doctoral student in history, doing some research into the supernatural on the sly.
This is a big one. It also helps in terms of foreshadowing and making sure that major villains get some face time before it's time for them to get killed at the end of the AP. Once you know where the plot is headed, you'll also have a better idea of how to customize it for your group without going so far off the rails that you need to rewrite the later books entirely.
That sounds good - based on their departures in season 1, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt in terms of edits. What's your take on how they'll handle books 4-5?
There might be some blurring between the end of book 2/beginning of book 3 and where the TV show chooses to end things, but season 2 is likely to cover most or all of ACoK, considering that Martin has stated that he's writing the script for the Blackwater episode of season 2, which is toward the end of the book.
That said, I imagine they'd have to step away from the books by the time they get to AFfC, assuming they don't want to confuse the viewers by having half the cast sit a season out. The question is whether they then try to get two seasons out of the combination of books 4 and 5, and whether they take from the beginning of book 6 to pay off some of the storylines that (I feel) were left unresolved by book 5 unnecessarily.
Gregg Helmberger wrote:
I'd love to give this a try. I've played CoC a few times in the past, and have loved it each time, but I've never played a campaign of it. I've heard great things about Masks, but I haven't read it and I'm not familiar with the plot at all. I also typically favor storytelling and the like to crunch, and I understand that madness and death are par for the course with CoC (I've survived 50% of the sessions I've played). As far as characters go, I like the idea of playing a retired British military man or a history student working on a PhD in something like history.
As for format, PBeM would probably be easier for me (I would be able to post at least once per day, often more frequently), though I could possibly play on a weeknight other than Wednesday after 7:30 or so eastern time. I've played on Skype a few times and never really had too much of an issue with the technical side; whenever someone would get booted it typically wouldn't take long to get them back up and running.
I remember that! As a middle schooler, I actually thought it was pretty funny. If I remember correctly, you were allowed to interact with them, but if you just asked Elminster to heal you, he'd refuse (the jerk). Instead, you could basically trick him into healing you by staying hidden and getting the puppy to come toward you, forcing him to keep saying "Heel!"
Players who insist on playing the exact same character in every game, specifically where that character is inherently disruptive to the game. I played with a guy who absolutely insisted on playing a dread necromancer with dreams of world domination in every single game we played. Every game was dragged into a struggle between him and the rest of the group, whether they were also evil or not. It got incredibly tedious by the third or fourth time it happened. On the other hand, I've played with another guy who tends to play honorable, non-judgmental paladins in most games we play - I've got no problem with that, as there's no harm done to anyone else's fun.
Sidenote, the dread necromancer player had another quirk that drove me crazy, but it's unique enough that I wouldn't attribute it to a player type. He'd come up with a character background along the lines of "My character is a super-genius eldritch master and he's friends with all kinds of ultra-powerul demons." Then the GM would design the character for him, so he wouldn't need to bother learning the rules. Then, whenever there was even a chance that something in the game wouldn't go his way, he would pout and say things like "My character is a genius, he would have thought of this in advance" or "This is stupid, we shouldn't be rolling for this, my character's demon friends should be able to save him."
I don't have direct experience with either, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I've been doing some research for a potential upcoming game, and Curse of the Crimson Throne is constantly mentioned as one of the best APs, if not the best. In this thread, for example, CotCT is in first place with something like 13 votes - Kingmaker is in second with only 4. Serpent's Skull, on the other hand, is typically ranked in the bottom three.
I only have direct experience with three of the APs: Shackled City (ran it from start to finish), Rise of the Runelords (played up to the beginning of Hook Mountain Massacre), and Second Darkness (read it all the way through). Based on that experience, my favorite to date is Shackled City, though it did take a fair amount of work to get the most out of it.
Just to provide everyone with a tally, here are the results up to and including me (though omitting everyone who voted for more than one):
Curse of the Crimson Throne - 11
I'm not really surprised at the order, though I am surprised at how big the gap is between CotCT and the next highest.
We were playing a session of My Life With Master, and my wife (fiancee at the time) was playing a character who was chronically shy and unable to speak to people unless an animal was present. Luckily, she had a pet mouse which she kept with her to allow her to speak most of the time.
The Master (an evil genius with power over the characters) ordered her character to go to a nearby widow's house and invite her to a dinner party that he was throwing. My wife's character was also in love with the widow, so I figured that would give a lot of opportunity for pathos as he has to ask her on a date with the Master.
But when my wife's character arrives at the widow's house, the first thing she does is send her mouse to go take a look around the house, then she goes up to the widow's door and starts knocking. When the maid opens the door, I remind my wife that she no longer has an animal around, so she can't speak. So my wife starts trying to mime something to the maid to ask for permission to enter.
I figure that the maid would be frightened of this warped mime desperately signing at her, so she attempted to close the door. My wife's character then forced her way inside, still signing, but putting a ghastly smile on her face to show friendship. The maid screamed and ran away, and my wife completely panicked at that point and had her character brain the maid with a frying pan.
Everyone else at the table is shocked at how this has gone from dinner invitation to attempted murder. My wife asks "Is she dead?" I thought for a minute and replied "...no, not quite." So my wife actually suffocates the poor maid with her bare hands, then breaks a jar over the corpse's head, in an attempt to make it look like an accident or something.
Making the whole episode even more bizarre, the system allows the players to narrate scenes of horror in the town at certain points, and when my wife gets the opportunity to do this, she narrates a scene where some villager goes insane and kills someone with a jar. So my wife's character's murder retroactively looked like the work of a deranged serial killer with a fixation on jars. This led to one of the funniest lines I've ever heard at a gaming table - as another PC was leading a woman off to kill her, a third character called out "Don't go with him! He's the Jar Killer!"
My top list of games that I've played fairly extensively is first. My rankings are based on the average level of awesomeness experienced - so, for example, Call of Cthulhu gets the top spot though I've only played three scenarios because each of them was amazing. I've had more good sessions of D&D 3.5e than that, but I've also had a number of bad D&D sessions, so the average is lower.
1. Call of Cthulhu (Basic)
I made a separate list of games I've only played a couple of times. I'd like to play each of these some more before I put them on an all time best list.
1. Unknown Armies
McCaffery's there at #33.
I ran them basically as written, but it annoyed me that the climax of the campaign is basically
The characters busting Adimarchus out of prison and then killing him while he's still weak.
It seems kind of cheap. Instead,
I had the characters arrive at Skullrot just in time to see the top of the tower explode. They got a quick look at Adimarchus hovering in midair as bits of the destroyed tower came down around them, then he disappeared.
Then I converted the map of Skullrot into a tower that Adimarchus created for himself on Occipitus. I added in an army of demons that Adimarchus was putting together, so the characters got together a B-squad made up of some of their tougher surviving allies who put together a diversion so that they could enter the tower to take on Adimarchus.
If she is married to Joffrey and they can kill off all the other starks it would give them the rightful claim to Starks lands.
That's right, it's not meant to pacify the Starks, they know that's not happening after what went down with Eddard. It's also not just to humiliate her, as they don't have to go forward with the marriage to do that. They're doing it so that if they win the war, they can use Sansa to exercise direct control over the North.
Yep, Yoren is a Night's Watch recruiter.
He's the guy that was joking around with Tyrion at the Wall, prompting Tyrion to comment that he was the only member of the Night's Watch with a sense of humor. He then accompanied Tyrion south and saw him get arrested by Cat, so Yoren then warned Eddard about the arrest.
Thanks for the recommendations, everyone - apologies for the threadjack!
To help get back on track, I'd probably agree with those who've listed Shadowrun as overrated, at least up to second edition, which is where I gave up on it. I loved the idea of playing a decker, but I could never figure out how to make it work in practice, and the fans I asked about it said they basically had to make them NPCs. In general, I thought the concepts were all great, but I had a ton of nits to pick with the execution.
EDIT: I was also really disappointed with all of the published modules I read for the game. I had heard great things about one called Harlequin, but that module commits several cardinal sins of GM-ing, notably: (1) it sets up some fights that the PCs can't win, no matter what they do, and (2) the climax of the entire adventure is
two uber-NPCs battling one another with the characters standing by as onlookers. The NPCs aren't even given stats, it's just made clear that the PCs can't challenge them.
I've actually read "Worst GM Ever" threads which list people as terrible GMs just for running that adventure as written.