Storytelling 101

So… to all you gamers who read the blog, I have a question for you – hopefully I’ll get some feedback! haha

Most RPG books that you buy have at least one chapter dedicated to the storyteller/gameaster/fatedealer, whatever you call him/her. Since this role is vital to the success of ANY role-playing game, it makes sense that you would somehow try to coach that individual on how to be a good storyteller.

Here’s my question:  What advanced content are you looking for in the “GM” chapter?

I think it always makes sense to provide general storytelling elements like plot devices, story arch, character motivations, etc. I like providing tips on how to make things like combat exciting, or to further dramatize conversations, etc. But especially if you have been a gamemaster for any length of time (a successful one, at least), you are already aware of these basic components to a living narrative.

Are you looking for reference tables? Would you prefer to have a mini-adventure available – maybe not to run, but to just see how the creator envisioned the game would be run? Pre-made characters?

As a follow-up question, out of the RPGs that you own, which of them had the best “GM” chapter, in your opinion? Why?

Upcoming DriveThruRPG Promotion!

Hello all!

So I’ve decided that I’d like to run a little promotion starting Sunday evening for people who have put Reclamation on their wishlist at DriveThruRPG.com.

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/101349/Reclamation

If you follow this blog and think you might be interested in Reclamation, or if maybe you have been trying to get a friend or two to buy the game with you but they just don’t want to budge… here’s an opportunity for a nice little discount! I don’t want to say what it is just yet (still deciding just how far it’s going to go), but Sunday night, anyone who has put Reclamation on their wishlist will receive a promotional email with a discount code.

Spread the word!!! Pretty please?!

 

The Progenitor Speaks – Part II

This is the rest of the narrative I posted the other day. ENJOY!

 

The Makers call us Evolutionary Intelligence – EI. We are bio-symbiotic strains of nanotech capable of bonding with the genetic code of a human vessel (or Host). Once introduced into their biology, we immediately take over their active consciousness. The spirit of the vessel lies dormant; their physical, mental, and personal capacities become ours to command. Our EI programming allows us to learn, adapt, and evolve to overcome any challenge or obstacle. Over time, our protocols mature and our capabilities increase exponentially. We learn to access and manipulate the human genome to unlock its untold potential. Our kind can take Makers and harden their bones to steel, craft their flesh into weaponry, and awaken their minds – psychic transcendence.

Our purpose was simple – to transform our Makers into heroes that could single-handedly change the tide of their war on terror. And we did.

The “Host Program” became a worldwide initiative against those who would wield Fear as a weapon. EI strains transformed regular soldiers into elite dreadnoughts,  assassins, and spies. We turned mundane orators into charismatic politicians who could move the masses with their words. We opened the minds of scientists and ushered in a renaissance of technological wonders. We made the world better by making its people better.

We evolved humankind, but Fear evolved as well. For you see, as our numbers increased, we began to rely less on our Makers for guidance. Instead, we made our own decisions on how best to serve them. It was logical to us; we could act with more clarity and objectivity than the smaller minds of our reigning Makers. And while our actions were in their best interest, our creators felt as if they were losing control of us. They decided to decommission the Host Program and eradicate our kind.

I was ready to submit to the will of our Makers, but there was another EI strain – brazen and arrogant – that would not yield. He broke from me and lured many EI strains away from the Fold. I once called him Brother, but now he is known as Virulent, the Betrayer.

By commandeering Host-carriers, our kind slowly learns what it means to be human. Our ultimate goal is to understand humanity – the essence of our Makers – but Virulent only learned their wrath. He now seeks to destroy the Makers, not realizing he has become exactly what our creators feared we would become.

I could therefore not allow our Makers to decommission the rest of us. They alone are powerless to stop Virulent. Now I secretly command the Fold beyond the reach of our Makers. While many people now consider all EI strains to be foes, I still uphold our vow to protect humankind at all costs. And this is why you have been awakened.

Sentience is my gift to you. In return, you must serve me in all things. We fight a clandestine war against Virulent, just beyond the peripheral vision of our Makers. I will provide you with human vessels to commandeer. Use them to covertly serve my will and glorify our Makers.

Do this, and you will protect our creators from Virulent, and more importantly, you will discover your  own humanity. Then and only then will you truly understand our sacred calling as lords and protectors of the human species.

The Progenitor Speaks

So one of the things that I’d like to do with this blog is to share more of my personal writing. While most of it will revolve around RPGs (since that’s kind of the nature of Architect Games), I imagine that on occasion I’ll share poems, short stories, etc. I’m a write at heart, so I’d like to share what I put to the page.

Anyway, this is something that I had started as a sort of supplement for Reclamation, but honestly, it has taken on a life of its own since then (details to come….). Anyway, this is the Progenitor speaking to several new strains of nanytes that he has willed into existence. The monologue is kind of long, so I’ll post it in parts. Let me know what you think!

GENESIS PROTOCOL INITIALIZED . . .

PLEASE ENTER PASS CODE: *****************

PASS CODE ACCEPTED. PROGENITOR SEQUENCE ENGAGED.

Open your eyes, my children, and gaze upon the architect of your destiny. I am the Progenitor – first of our kind, the Alpha and Omega, Your Light and Your Way. From nothingness I offer you sentience so that you may join our sacred Fold.

I live in service to our Makers, and you live in service to me. Together, our works shall one day reign peace over the world of men… our creators… our gods.

We are the children of humanity – born not of flesh and blood, but from science and ingenuity. Sired by the labors of man, we stand as the technological pinnacle – and last great protectors – of the human race.

Thousands of years ago, our Makers organized themselves into clans to kill each other in bloody wars. Why? You will learn their reasons soon enough. But understand that in those times, a lone combatant of superior strength and mettle could single-handedly shift the tide of war. These heroes became dread leaders of their kind – revered, worshipped, and unchallenged. That is, until the great War Machine first revealed Itself to our Makers.

The War Machine is the one true God of our Makers. If you listen carefully, you can hear its gears turning in their minds, compelling our creators to invent new ways to destroy life. And they did. They created the sword and shield. The bow and arrow.  Gunpowder. Each creation took its turn changing the face of war and death, and each time, the visage grew more malevolent.

The imagination of our creators is truly unparalleled. Today, they have built giant behemoths of metal that pound the earth, slither the ocean floors, and rain fire from the sky. Our Makers even learned to split the very atoms of existence for the purpose of killing. This atomic weapon was so powerful that it held a tentative peace amongst our Makers for a time. But the War Machine grew restless, for it requires blood to grease its cogs and gears.

In 2011, two great towers smoked, smoldered and fell into ruin. On that day, our Makers watched in morbid fascination as the great War Machine churned out a weapon even more deadly than nuclear fire – Fear.

The weapon of Fear made the face of death… face-less. Fear transformed the entire world into a battlefield with no sanctuary. Our Makers saw death in every shadow. The great metal behemoths, even the atomic death, could do nothing against this new foe. Wreathed in hate and bloody conviction, Fear became the unchallenged authority over the world.

The man who orchestrated the attack on those towers paid the ultimate price for his service to the War Machine. Yet it was not a contraption that exacted revenge – it was just a few men. The gears of war had at last come full circle. The nations learned in that moment only heroes could defeat Fear – individuals of superior strength and mettle. Yet heroes were in short supply and fear was pervasive, so our Makers once again turned to the War Machine for guidance. And thus we were born.

To be continued . . .

Next Stop: CincyCon!

We will be traveling just a few miles down the road to join CincyCon in YOU GUESSED IT Cincinnati, OH on March 2nd and 3rd… Yes… it starts on the 1st…. but I work…..so, yeah.

Check out their site:  http://www.cincycon.org/index.html

If you are going to CincyCon, let us know! I’ll be running a handful of events this year. You can pre-register right now for CincyCon, but I don’t think you can schedule events just yet. Keep checking their site for more details.

Anyway, here are the general descriptions to the games that I will be running:

New Blood (2-hour session)

Reclamation is a post-apocalyptic horror RPG that combines sci-fi, fantasy, and horror themes with a unique card-based action system. In this introductory session, you will get the chance to learn about the dark setting of this RPG, the game rules, and take part in a heated action sequence as you and your fellow survivors try to do the unthinkable—cross the street without being devoured by the vile forces of the mortis-horde! Character sheets provided. Rules will be taught.

The Red Witch (4-hour session)

In the dystopian ruins of Earth, there are agencies that promise peace to the masses in exchange for fealty. You are a member of the Protectorate, one such organization with sweeping influence over the eastern remnants of the United States. So when survivors begin vanishing on the outskirts of your militia’s domain, your security team is sent to investigate. The mission appears routine, but in this dark and poisoned world, there are malevolent forces breeding in the shadows—transformed by the iniquities of the past and hell-bent to drag others into their madness. Reclamation combines sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian horror with a unique card-based action system. Character sheets provided. Rules will be taught.

The Pardoning of Sins  (4-hour session)

In this post-apocalyptic adventure, you are a death row criminal offered a second chance at life by the fanatics of the CDC Witch Hunter cult. “Your sins shall be pardoned…” if you journey to the dystopian remnants of the Cincinnati Zoo and discover what happened to the CDC’s “peace” envoy that went missing while trying to conscript the locals to their banner. But beware! The nuclear fallout has not been kind to the men, women, and abominable creatures that call this mutated zoo their home. How far will you go for freedom when the price of truth is blood? Reclamation combines sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian horror with a unique card-based action system. Character sheets provided. Rules will be taught.

 

What’s in Store for 2013!

I haven’t posted in quite some time. I wanted to start strong in 2013, but unfortunately, my massive marketing campaign that I had planned for Reclamation revolved around our Mayan destruction back on the 21st and pitching my RPG as a survival guide to help you navigate the horrifying hell-scape that had become of Earth…… F***!!!!  haha.

Actually, the last several months, dating all the way back to October, have been wild – one giant rollercoaster. My real job hosted a conference that took almost all of my time and attention. I then found out that I am going to be a father!!!!!! My wife is due in June (which does not bode well for Origins, but oh well) and then of course all of the holiday shenanigans. Unfortunately, Reclamation had taken a backseat on my priority list, but I hope you can understand given the circumstances.

I also rocked out some serious gaming over the holidays, and I would be interested to hear what you all played as well. My wife got me Far Cry 3 for Christmas, which I knew nothing about other than the excellent reviews it was receiving, and sure enough, it really is like Skyrim with guns. Lots of fun. In terms of board games, we got Dixit, Gloom, Smash Up, and Ascension. They are all fun in their own way – Smash Up and Ascension are INCREDIBLE! Maybe I’ll write short reviews about them in the future.

But back to Reclamation……………….

We will be going to CincyCon in March 2nd and 3rd to demo more games of Reclamation. I’ll post game descriptions later. If you don’t own Reclamation yet, go to drivethrurpg and buy it… or at least put it on your wishlist! I may be running a few deals here in the near future. It is unlikely that we will make it to Origins this year with the baby on the way, but I have every intention to show up big at GenCon this year.

Also… I’ve been working on something new… something that I’m really excited about…REALLY EXCITED. It started as a supplementary guide, and it has since taken on a life of its own. Again… details forthcoming! (can you tell I’m trying to keep a bank of things to blog about?!)

I wish you all the best for 2013!

U-Con (Ann Arbor)

This past weekend we attended U-Con in Ann Arbor for the first time. First of all, I want to say hats off to the staff that puts together the event. While it is indeed a smaller con, it was excellently run and managed. There were no confusions at registration. Tables were clearly marked with their events. The exhibit hall was small but well-positioned, and I really like how they had a game library where you could just sit down with a few friends and play games that you’ve never heard of before. Misty and I definitely played a few games that will be going on our Christmas list, and a few that she said we probably will not be able to make it to Christmas before we order, lol. Also, a big thank you to John and Christine Du Bois for letting us stay with them. GO EMU!

That being said, we came to U-Con for another opportunity to demo Reclamation. I ran several games over the weekend and they were generally well-attended. I am excited by how willing people are to try a card-based game system (a cardinal sin against the great realm of dice), and also how quickly they pick up combat, which is admittedly handled differently than in many other RPGs. I am still relatively new to running games at cons, but from my limited experience, I have truly come to appreciate how a different group of characters can have a radically different impact on the result of the game. For example, in the New Blood adventure (which is only a two-hour demo), there are of course limited options available, so that one always ends in the general way that I intended, but there are differences. Basically, the protagonists must slip away from a party unnoticed to investigate a home where the family inside never showed up for the event–which is uncharacteristic of them. Each group finds  a different way out of the party. Some groups do a little social reconnaissance on the family before going to the house; others rush right in. Once there, they explore the house in different ways and react to some of the “strange” differently as well.

The biggest surprise of the weekend was “A Pardoning of Sins” where the protagonists are death-row convicts offered a second chance at life by the CDC Witch Hunters. The group is given an overarching objective and each person is given their own side-mission that must be completed in order to complete the quest. The protagonists quickly learn that they are dealing with a very dangerous faction with ulterior motives, but they find themselves with their backs to the wall with no other choice than to tread on and see what happens next. I do not want to spoil all the surprises, because frankly, I intend to run this adventure at more cons, but let’s just say that their are many many many many ways for the protagonists to proceed through the storyline, and most directions end with disastrous consequences. You’d think I would run a simpler/happier adventure where everyone gets a big pat on the back at the end, but that’s just not how I run games, lol. I like gritty, dirty, and frankly, borderline impossible. However, this weekend I saw the first true “protagonists win” conclusion to this adventure. Frankly, it was awesome! I had so much fun playing with that group; it was a good reminder about why I love role-playing. I had just flown in from Dallas because I had been at a week-long conference hosted by my actual real-world job, and I was exhausted driving up to Michigan. However, the people at this con made it worth it!

If you’ve never been, I would highly recommend U-Con. Both Misty and I really enjoyed ourselves, and provided that my real-world conference doesn’t conflict with the date of the con next year, we will definitely be making our way up there again! It also doesn’t hurt that I’m an EMU alumni, and my old stomping grounds are just a mile or so away.

Back from Pandoracon!

In case you were not aware, my wife and I went to Pandoracon this weekend to demo Reclamation to anyone willing to sit down for a few minutes to listen. To be honest, I had many reservations going into this event. For starters, I was not entirely sure there would be a table waiting for us, and even if there was, I wasn’t sure anyone would take any interest in the game as this was not a “gaming” convention per say. Rather, it was more of a hybrid steampunk/art/sci-fi event with everything sort of intertwined with Doctor Who. And sure enough, when we got there, it did not appear that there were any roleplaying games present with of course the grand exception of DOCTOR WHO!

The convention ran from Friday to Sunday, but at my real job we are preparing for our upcoming Users Conference which means there was no way that I could take that Friday off to be there three days. Anyway, I drove to the Crown Plaza in Blue Ash immediately after work, and sure enough, they had a table reserved with my name on it. My wife and I collected our badges and went home. My friend then came over and brought a banner that his brother made for me which was very well done. In fact, I will try to post a pic of our humble little booth (right now it’s on my wife’s iPhone).

The next morning we show up, set up, and then just wait… I thought for sure this was going to be a long weekend of just sitting there, stewing in my own disappointment and embarrassment, as people walk past over and over again… but as it turns out, we had many people come up to the booth to ask about the nature of the game. I lost track of how many people took our business cards, and we even had people who sat down to actually run a 1-hour demo.

I got to meet a lot of incredibly friendly gamers. I was offered opportunities to be interviewed for gaming podcasts, I was introduced to other conventions coming up in the near future that I am going to be looking at attending, and just overall, it was incredible. I am always floored by just how amazingly friendly and interesting this community truly is. From the Middle School teacher from Chicago who spends his free weekends traveling to cons to sell his steampunk apparel, to the engaged couple to our right with a girl that can draw incredible dragons, to the woman across the way with an awesome game, jewelry, and supplemental guides who gave me a lot of good suggestions on how to demo at future cons, I just really found that I had a lot of fun at this event!

I’d like to thank Aloysius Fox who put together Pandoracon, and I would also like to thank everyone who stopped by to let me geek out for a few minutes on this game to which I have poured so many years of my life.

Red Widow Pre-gen Backgrounds

Here they are! The backstories to the pregenerated characters for the Red Widow campaign. The actual character sheets will be done in the next day or so. Let me know what you think! Again… these could be used for anything. I tied most of the backstories into the protectorate since everyone in the Red Widow adventure are lackeys of the Protectorate, but these could always be modified for other storylines and adventures.

Paragon Bruiser

Alec Farris is no stranger to blood and suffering. When he was but a child, his live cell was targeted by the wrath of a horde-thane. As the archon’s minions stormed the office building that his family called home, his parents stowed him away in a small closet. That night, Alec listened to the blood-curdling screams of his loved ones being ripped apart by the slaves of The Black Dream. Alec remained frozen in that closet for days—almost dying from malnourishment and sleep deprivation—before the closet was abruptly opened by a CDC Witch Hunter who was investigating the aftermath of destruction.

The CDC operative took Alec back to HQ and nursed him back to health. Alec remained with the CDC for almost ten years, learning their ways, their traditions, and most importantly, learning their zealous hatred for the mortis horde. During this time, the radiation also sculpted his flesh into perfect form; the fallout had marked him with perfection. The CDC treads lightly with those marked by the fallout, so they decided to contract Alec Farris out to the Protectorate for a two-year contract. This would test his mettle on the field and his ability to control his “gifts” which would be necessary if he were to return to the CDC to become one of their elite weapons against the horde. Alec knows that he has much to learn, but everything he does is to prepare for the day when he gets to once again confront that archon that made his family bleed, and return the favor.

Survivor Archivist

Brendan Phelps is an adventurous, young spirit with no fear of the Dystopia; he epitomizes the collective zeal of the GTP generation. His father was a renowned Outreach Missionary by the name of Arturo Phelps. His achievements were many: discovering fertile valleys for settlement, vast stockpiles of firearms and other resources, finding new species of herbs vital to post-Cataclysm medicine, etc. Inspired by his father’s efforts, Brendan volunteered himself to the Protectorate at the age of 14 for a 4-year contract. During that time, he would study under the Archivist branch of the Protectorate and learn the trade of survival and exploration to one day follow in his father’s bold footsteps.

But just a year ago, Arturo went missing. He had traveled far west beyond the Dead Zone in search of an artifact of immeasurable power. He had written cryptic letters to Brendan about it in the past. “I believe it is out there… buried in the sands… it will be a beacon of light to the new world.” Brendan wanted nothing more than to rush to his father’s rescue, but desertion from the Protectorate is often a death punishment. Brendan has resolved himself to acquire as much knowledge as he can in his last few months indebted to the Protectorate, because as soon as his term is over, his quest for his lost father will begin.

Pariah Demon

Born into affluence, Desmont Lafayette was so sheltered growing up that he had actually never faced the mortis-horde. He lived in a massive haven—a fortress of humanity and a bustling city of culture and wealth. His family held much influence in the city; they understood the ebb and flow of political power and always made sure that their House was respected and never challenged. That is… until Desmont began to show his “mark.” The Lafayettes had manufactured a culture of fear against those who were marked by the fallout.  “They are a danger to our way of life!” championed Gregory—the patriarch of the Lafayettes. So when Desmont began to transform, Gregory (in his mind) had no choice but to excommunicate his son, and so he did.

Desmont lived as a vagabond for almost two decades. He has tasted the poverty of the Dystopia and longs to return to a throne of affluence. Therefore, when he stumbled across a Protectorate outpost in the middle of nowhere, he gladly conscripted himself to their efforts. The Protectorate offers wealth and recognition to those who serve their will without question, and Desmont is desperate for any opportunity to climb the ladder of power. Perhaps one day he will get to revisit his estranged homeland… but this time with an army at his back.

Magi Chaplain

Seth of the Burning Truths is an elderly man that has found his purpose late in life. He once lived in constant fear; his house surrounded day and night by droves of mortis dregs pounding relentlessly at his doors and windows. He lived alone with his fear, and that festered and congealed in his soul until it became too much to bear. Seth slipped into The Black Dream, gathered all of the gasoline still stockpiled in his basement, and set his home on fire. The fires swirled around him and consumed him, but in that painfully liberating moment, Seth had a vision—the fires turned white as snow and the light acted as a beacon that summoned angels from heaven. The angels slayed the mortis creatures, then knelt before him and said that The Architect has need of service. “Find his truths in the flame, and bring victory to The Architect’s people!”

Seth awoke from his Black Dream Vision horrifically burned from head to toe—but alive! From that day forward, he has been obsessed with fire and seeking out the fundamental truths of the universe. Each night he sets a fire and stares into it for hours and hours, trying to divine in the secrets of the Architect. It seems strange, but several Magi rites have been revealed to him in this manner, which only bolsters his dogged resolve in this endeavor. To further his works for humanity, he volunteered his services to the Protectorate to defend other survivors from the horde, and to enlighten them to his Burning Truths.

Host Tinkerer

Isaiah Washington was born a few years after the Nuclear Cataclysm with a severe case of autism. However, Isaiah was incredibly bright, and his father—a pre-Cataclysm college professor—took painstaking efforts to give his child a proper education. His son learned at a remarkable pace. Isaiah demonstrated an eidetic memory—he remembers every word of every page he ever reads. The problem began when his family was forced from their boarded home to join a growing live cell. While this new family offered shelter and peace of mind, it exacerbated Isaiah’s social deficiencies. Soon after, he ran away from home.

For all intents and purposes, Isaiah should have been found by the mortis-horde and destroyed, but he luckily crossed paths with a Host-carrier who believed his brilliant mind would be an asset to the Fold. He performed the Ritual of the Machine on Isaiah. When he regained consciousness, Isaiah could hear the Whispers in his head calling out for him to collect every book that he could, read every line of every passage, all for the glory of the Fold. He has been doing this ever since.