Sunday, 24 July 2016

Entering The Ninth World

It's a map!
This week I had the pleasure to sit down and play a game of Numenera.

It's a fantasy setting based in the far future.

You're in a world that has seen the rise and fall of civilisations that were far beyond the scope of our current one in terms of technology. It's billions of years into the future and humanity is once again rebuilding itself in a world filled with ancient technology.

The game takes seriously Arthur C. Clarke's words that 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' As such, we had a moment where we entered through a portal, found ourselves in some kind of structure and found a small room with buttons on the wall. When one was pressed, the doors closed! We experienced a strange sensation of the floor moving up and when it stopped, the doors opened to show that everything changed!

We found a lift.

It is odd playing in a setting where instead of explaining any out of the ordinary item as magical, we say it's just science. Superior and advanced science but science nonetheless!

I'm told it was a Kickstarter game and the official game site confirms it.

Numenera's website also mentions that its system is easy to run.
'Numenera gameplay involves a simple die roll that determines success or failure for any kind of action.'

It's true that we only ever had to roll a d20 for any sort of check but this is hardly anything new. I've not found many systems where you'd have to roll multiple times and do some complicated math to use a Skill, for instance, analysing an artefact. One roll either tells you what it is or what you think it is (or nothing at all, GM discretion advised).

Most system complexity stems from combat. Sadly, we experienced very little in terms of combat. The one opportunity we had, we prefered to use the sneaky approach to re-stealing items rather than go on a suicide mission so I can't comment on combat complexity here.

When I first heard about this game, I was told that characters are made by choosing descriptors and adding them into a sentence: I’m a [blank] [blank] who [blanks].

I believe my character was a Clever Jack who Runs Swiftly. There's three character classes called Glaives (analogue to warriors), Nanos (wizard-like) and Jacks (jack-of-all-trade). While my skillset did reflect the character, I was disappointed that choosing the descriptors didn't provide me with any mechanical benefits. It was meant to be used as a Concept which, being structured as a specific sentence, I found highly limiting.

I wasn't fond of the way Cyphers worked either. That's what artifacts of bygone times are called within the setting. They provide you with an awesome effect! I was highly excited to read that my character had a device that would turn her invisible but my excitement died quickly when it was mentioned that Cyphers are one-use items only. This does fit in well with a focus of discovering and scavenging lost technology as it forces you to continue the practice but it also means you can't keep what you found for long.

So if you think you can walk around with a sword that shoots laserz, you can! Only once...

I would much prefer some other limits to the devices rather than a simple one-use limitation.

I have to say, I wasn't sold on the game at first. The setting required me getting used to it but I can see potential in it now. My initial thoughts on the system, having played through one session, aren't great but it's nothing that can't be worked with. All in all, the game session was enjoyable and it did provide a different feel when you imagined your fantasy with sci-fi influences.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Beginning

It was a dark and stormy night...

Cliché or Classic?
Either way, it's unmistakably an opening line.

Every story has a beginning... and stories are what I'd like to dedicate this blog to but a blog also needs an opening post... and I never know where nor how to start.

I've been running roleplaying games since I was thirteen. Although there were periods of time when I wasn't running anything, it was always a matter of time before I picked up a pencil and started rolling dice again.

Lately, something occured to me. Whether you're going through a dungeon looking for monsters to slay, hacking the virtual systems of a megacorp or trying to survive in a world hidden away from mortal eyes, the games that we play are riddled with a narrative.

I doubt this is a coincidence. Many games that I've played had chapters in their corebooks on crafting a story and some had it as their main selling point, being a system made specifically for creating stories. I suppose it harkens back to those mythic times when a community would sit down by the fire late at night and listen to one person telling stories.

Roleplaying games are similar in this way. We sit down and create a story. The main difference here is that everyone has a say in crafting a shared experience in an imaginary world. We take on the roles of heroes, anti-heroes or even villains and go through our own stories together.

This story aspect is a defining characteristic of roleplaying games that differentiates them highly from video- or even board-games. In neither of those mediums can you freely experience a narrative all of your own choosing and act out your own character. Yes, there are limits to what you can and cannot do, but they're all part of a story.

This is what I want to write about.

I want to write about games.
I want to write about stories.
I want to write about narrative.

So I made a blog...