RPPR Episode 115: The Agony of Choice

joelNews: Boiling Point is out! Get it on DrivethruRPG or through the Base Raiders store. Tom is attending Go Play NW and might be showing up at Fear the Con. I will not be at either con, sadly, due to work.

Synopsis: After running online games for Patreon backers, I’ve started to rethink my approach about designing scenarios, especially online games. Listen to Eclipse Phase: The Evac for an example online game. I talk through what I’m thinking about with Tom and hash out some new ideas for adventures. Tom also has a review of the movie San Andreas instead of a letter, plus shout outs and anecdotes.

Shout Outs

  • Iron Edda: In the grimdark heavy metal album cover past, there are only giant Viking robots and skeletons fighting each other.
  • Kung Fury: It’s out and you should watch it.
  • Flip the Table: A humorous podcast reviewing terrible board games.
  • Fallen London: A browser game set in an alternate Victorian London.
  • How Did This Get Made?: The episodes Deep Blue Sea, Face/Off, and The Island of Dr. Moreau are hilarious.
  • Endless Legend: A science fantasy turn based strategy game.
  • Mitch Murder: If you like Synthwave music, you’ll like Mitch.

Song: Mirage by Mitch Murder.

  18 comments for “RPPR Episode 115: The Agony of Choice

  1. Fridrik
    June 9, 2015 at 8:41 am

    Tom…Divine Fire is coming out? Can we hold you to that?

  2. Ethan C.
    June 9, 2015 at 9:46 am

    I’ve played in a couple of the online games, and run a few of my own for a few folks. Here are my thoughts:

    1. Your idea of having players make their own characters and focus on playing their characters off one another is a good idea. But you’ve got to make sure that you have either (A) players that are naturally good at this, or (B) really good hooks to draw that kind of interaction, like questions for the players to answer or explicit, clear decisions for them to make. Or ideally both. I’ve run games where the players couldn’t come up with ways to drive the plot themselves, and just sat silently waiting for me to tell them what they were “supposed to do.” It’s very frustrating.

    2. To have a player-driven game, you really need to keep the group size down. With 5 or 6 players, there are just too many voices to manage. People will end up talking over each other so that nobody can hear anything, or else some players will go silent and passive just because they can’t get any words in. This isn’t as big a deal if you as the GM are doing most of the talking, but it’s a huge factor if you want more player-driven games.

    3. There’s a tension between letting the players drive the game, and giving them too free a hand to get lost in jokes and side conversations. It’s important for the GM to keep things focused, even if this sometimes comes at the cost of restricting player control of the game. Again, group size makes a big difference.

    4. Because of this, I would recommend having no more than 4 players for games like you’re describing. I actually think 3 is ideal.

  3. darren t.
    June 9, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    One thing that sounds a little more open than the average scenario pops to mind is the Trail of Cthulhu Armitage Files (or upcoming Dracula Dossier) to a point where it is more open ended sandbox as well as incredibly modular to put in whatever character moments that you want. For the Armitage Files, the GM has hints on how they can steer things being nefarious or helpful but the GM can use this as background filler for the character stuff going on.

    Another thing to do is stealing from another game of doing at the start of the game with 5 or so minutes of roleplaying daily life of a player character to just get them into the role & let the GM just use the skills as a guide without needing any dice unless it makes it more fun. Also make characters as a group (or as the GM link the characters together) even if it’s just putting a few past encounters between the characters so they have some backstory they can play off of or for them to add to (so the players can use that as fuel for the fire on how they got into or out of that situation).

    For combat the only thing that comes to mind is how things are done with Feng Shui 2. If it’s a few players against a couple of mook thugs where the base combat skill is more than enough to take them out without rolling. So with combat, the players just can take turns narrating on what’s going on without the dice getting rolled.

    Agreed on online games, been doing a lot of it lately & takes a while to get used to. Like taking classes online, you miss a lot going digital though it is more convenient to catch games at a variety of times or play with people not locally to you.

    Fun game recently re-listened to would recommend too for all the banter at the game is the Lock In for Call of Cthulhu (posted on Miskatonic University Podcast).
    http://mu-podcast.com/campus/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=987

    OR fuck you steam for putting a game on sale days after I buy it (or screw you Steam in a few days summer Steam sale on all the games recently bought which everything will be on sale).

    And thanks for the tip about Flip the Table, all of them so far looking at the list look like they would be fun to play possibly drunk but definitely not something to buy ever.

  4. June 9, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Flip the Table is definitely worth a listen in-between RPPR episodes. Their loving reviews of terrible games is similar to RPPR After Hours. So, if you loved hearing about DarkTek and Zeb Cook’s mad designs, then you’ll probably love hearing about VHS Golf or Welcome Back, Kotter! the board game.

    I like the conversation started in this episode. One strategy I’ve used that is touched on here is to include pure role-playing situations. Travel scenes are great for this; in one Base Raiders game, while players were riding in a helicopter, I used that moment to allow them to gain an additional aspect to use (or 2 Fate points) in the next encounter by having them each describe “What do you miss most about the supers?”

    One thing I’ve shifted in my own design is to not shut-down PVP anymore. Sometimes players are just being dicks, but other times they are actively trying to portray their character in logical ways. Rather than try to suppress PVP, I now let players role-play it out, and if it DOES come to violence, then that gives OTHER players a chance to intervene. This actually makes following sessions SUPER fun because the trust element between characters is weaker, giving me more possibilities to exploit. Also, fistfights between characters are .

    To further facilitate this, I have developed an entire setting/rules for D6xD6 to that completely plays into PVP while still allowing campaign-style play. Playtesting has been a blast, and once it is near being released I will try to run a session or two to for RPPR listeners. Hell, I STILL need to run D6xD6 for the RPPR Online Gaming group, so I give you some credit Ross: you’ve been able to run quite a few online sessions, and I have barely run ANY that I’m supposed to, so now I feel inadequate and small :\

  5. Derek
    June 9, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Can I secure a spot in your game at Go Play? I’ll be there all 3 days.

  6. June 9, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Flip the Table is definitely worth a listen in-between RPPR episodes. Their loving reviews of terrible games is similar to RPPR After Hours. So, if you loved hearing about DarkTek and Zeb Cook’s mad designs, then you’ll probably love hearing about VHS Golf or Welcome Back, Kotter! the board game.

    I like the conversation started in this episode. One strategy I’ve used that is touched on here is to include pure role-playing situations. Travel scenes are great for this; in one Base Raiders game, while players were riding in a helicopter, I used that moment to allow them to gain an additional aspect to use (or 2 Fate points) in the next encounter by having them each describe “What do you miss most about the supers?”

    One thing I’ve shifted in my own design is to not shut-down PVP anymore. Sometimes players are just being dicks, but other times they are actively trying to portray their character in logical ways. Rather than try to suppress PVP, I now let players role-play it out, and if it DOES come to violence, then that gives OTHER players a chance to intervene. This actually makes following sessions SUPER fun because the trust element between characters is weaker, giving me more possibilities to exploit. Also, fistfights between characters are .

    To further facilitate this, I have developed an entire setting/rules for D6xD6 to that completely plays into PVP while still allowing campaign-style play. Playtesting has been a blast, and once it is near being released I will try to run a session or two to for RPPR listeners. Hell, I STILL need to run D6xD6 for the RPPR Online Gaming group, so I give you some credit Ross: you’ve been able to run quite a few online sessions, and I have barely run ANY that I’m supposed to, so now I feel inadequate and small :\

  7. Tom Church
    June 9, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    @Derek: Sure thing. I’ll be there day one and half of day 2.

  8. June 10, 2015 at 5:15 am

    might be worth looking at Roll20, which is a virtual table top for online gaming and also has a plugin so you can use hangout for the chat rather than their native chat.

    I’ve played in a few of the Patreon games, and they do feel a little crowded at times.

    The man hunt idea is pretty good, I think it’s important to have the PC’s as part of a shared organisation.

    One of the things I do enjoy about the online games is that they don’t require as much of a time commitment. when you are done playing you don’t have to travel home. you can do things when it’s not your turn as long as you keep listening. I cleaned my office during the Evac mission game.

  9. June 10, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Hi Ross. B)

    If you’re still up for it you should totally crash our Skype Gaming panel at GenCon. Our experiences are sorta mirror opposites of one another and there would probably be some pretty good exchanges there.

  10. Adam
    June 11, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Sunless Sea is the Fallen London game btw. I’m excited by any game that lets me be a squid person.

    Played my first Skype game this week actually. I noticed I RPed more. Might be because the 3 of us were waiting for someone who didn’t show up.

  11. June 12, 2015 at 1:13 am

    If you liked Kung Fury, check out “Danger 5,” a crazy show from Australia. Season 1 is insanely fun (especially when drunk) while Season 2 is just bizzare & perhaps best watched while spaced 🙂

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danger_5

  12. Kiljoy
    June 12, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Really? No one is going to comment on the awesomeness that is MST3K and the EVEN GREATER AWESOMENESS that is the photo Ross posted with this episode? 🙂

  13. June 13, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Oh, I just assumed that was a picture of Ross meeting his time-traveling future self.

  14. redroverone
    June 14, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Am not sure which one there is Ross, as neither of the humans resembles a horrible monster at all.

  15. June 24, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks for the Mitch Murder recommendation, by the way. I’ve been really getting into him, and also Perturbator (from the Hotline Miami soundtrack) and some other synthwave.

  16. Twisting H
    July 4, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    I really like the question raised. “How do I encourage roleplaying among a group of strangers in a one shot in an online game?”

    A lot of good advice has been posted. I’m going to see if I can build off of some of it.

    I like the idea of roleplaying vignettes brought up by Darren t.. The 5 or so minutes of roleplaying in a character’s daily life or in an encounter.

    However I think vignettes work better when you have 1) two players stuck together 2) with a short problem 3) with predefined solutions 4) in a crisis situation where a solution must be provided quickly or a greater consequence will occur.

    It provides the environment for two players to make the immediate decision on 1) how their characters react to solve a problem 2) react to each other 3) and react to the morality of the situation.

    Here is an example. Remember Fallout 3 and the GOAT standardized test of short moral quandaries? What if you gave two players, say playing a mechanic and tough, a question like “While working as an intern in the Clinic, a patient with a strange infection on his foot stumbles through the door. The infection is spreading at an alarming rate, but the doctor has stepped out for a while. What do you do?” and you gave them five minutes to roleplay out a solution, not necessarily a cooperative solution.

    Like the Fallout 3 GOAT, the benefit for going through this vignette would be a small bonus dependent on how the player resolved the situation. If a player used medicine to try to help the patient, he gets a small bonus to medicine. If the player immediately amputated the patient infected limb at the risk to the patient he gets a bonus to knives. During this vignette the gamemaster should ask each player how their character reacts to the other’s actions.

    Now if the players acted cooperatively, they also get a tiny bonus if they are working on the same goal in a future roll (if they cooperate to work on picking a lock or if they attack the same enemy they get a +1 on the roll). If the players acted independently, give them a maverick/lone wolf bonus that only applies if a character is working on a project alone. For example Tom trying to hack the antenna alone to send off a message to firewall while the rest of the party is distracting the fetch would trigger the “lone wolf” bonus and he would receive a +1 on his roll.

    Now I think there is a way to tie this idea to the main plot so that the player choice and solution of the vignette gives their character an immediate interest in the plot and stake in how it is solved.

    Pathfinder publishes long campaigns called Adventure Paths. For each adventure path they publish a free player’s guide. Here is an example : http://paizo.com/products/btpy94z3?Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-Mummys-Mask-Players-Guide

    Each player’s guide has optional (but encouraged) “campaign traits” a player can choose for their character.

    The Mummy’s Mask guide states “These campaign traits tie characters to the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path, which begins in the city of Wati in the nation of Osirion. Characters designed for this campaign should have some connection to this
    ancient land—whether as natives or as recently arrived foreigners eager to explore the history and mysteries of Ancient Osirion. These traits provide a reason for
    characters to be in Wati, and are designed to help players create characters perfectly suited to adventuring through this campaign.”

    So the goal is to have the character invested in the city and people the campaign revolves around (Wati) and it gives them a drive to explore the main plot.

    It also gives the character a small bonus. For example, Devotee of the Old Gods states “Your family never lost the faith of your ancestors, however, and
    your devotion to one of the deities of Ancient Osirion has helped keep the memory of Osirion’s past alive—a past that still lingers on in the untouched necropolis of Wati.
    You gain a +1 trait bonus on Knowledge (history) and Knowledge (religion) checks, and one of those skills is always a class skill for you. In addition, your faith in the
    old gods of Osirion grants you a +1 trait bonus on saving throws against divine magic.

    So how could one combine the idea of campaign traits with two player vignettes and their rewards?

    Well lets say a player chooses the background Devotee of the Old Gods. GIve them the vignette of having to make a decision between defiling a shrine holy to them by taking food from it, or risking starvation for themselves and their companions as they are caught in a multi day sand storm. Break the background rewards in to Reverent Devotee of the Old Gods (You gain a +1 trait bonus on Knowledge (history) and Knowledge (religion) checks) or Resistant Devotee of the Old Gods (+1 trait bonus on saving throws against divine magic) depending on their choice. Does their choice change how they treat the dusty and forgotten shrines of their families god’s in the future?

    Ok, so that’s not a complete or totally original way to merge vignettes and campaign traits, and no I didn’t address how two players would make this more complicated and interesting, but I hope overall this helps. I’m SURE there is a concise, simple, interesting way to merge these ideas.

  17. July 10, 2015 at 12:50 am

    Those are some interesting ideas Twisting. I’m thinking a lot about these topics while I’m working on Ruin. I want a more heavily designed setting than is typical so understanding how players make choices and ensuring they have multiple valid paths is essential.

  18. KenR
    July 23, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    I agree with Mitch Herron after watching Danger 5 myself. If the crew has not checked out Danger 5 it’s well worth it. I mean, the second episode is called “Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich.”

    The second season is somehow more absurd, yet does have a plot running through it..

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