Systems and Roleplay

In the context of LRP and roleplay in general, what use are systems? What benefit do we get from them? Are they something to be thinned down and eradicated, or something to be built up and enshrined?

There are arguments both ways. I’m not sure where I stand, and I’m not sure I agree with all the arguments that I’ve been presented with.

What good things do systems bring to LRP?

  • Systems provide structure
  • Systems mean that everyone is playing by the same rules
  • Systems ensure impartiality
  • Systems give context to setting

What bad things do systems bring to LRP?

  • Systems impose order
  • Systems have loopholes
  • Systems breed rules lawyers
  • Systems can be misinterpreted
  • Systems restrict choice
  • Systems confuse
  • Systems are complex

An initial glance at the two lists I’ve put together puts the argument way in favour of not having them if there are more bad things than good. But there are many levels of system, and they’re not all the same.

Someone said to me recently that the difference between a big fest game and a small local game is that the advantage of a small local game is you can have a massive complex system that covers every possibility while a large fest game has to keep things simple for the masses. I happen to disagree, as I don’t think any system should be so complex that players need to be reminded on what calls do before every session.[1]

Broken Dreams LARP are a company who specialise in games that have strong, evocative stories. From what I’ve seen, there games have systems but they are simple things that give you a basic structure and idea for how the game should be played and then it gets out of the way to allow you to roleplay your heart out. Shadow Factories is another LRP group who run events with tonnes of story and roleplay and a system that gets out of the way to enable that.

Empire by Profound Decisions is a big fest system that has a fairly simple system that enables you to go out and do your roleplay while having a system that supports it. While there are some more complex systems in there, they’re opt-in, not opt-out.

For five years, I ran No Rest for the Wicked, which was famed for having a ridiculously complex system. It was about as bad as people said it was, not helped by having had at least six different people involved in writing rules at different times, many of which contradicted each other when publishing rules updates, and a rulebook compiled by yet another person which simply brought together all the other rules documents without checking them. I believe someone once pointed me at three different systems for healing in the rulebook, at least one of which said they were better off recovering by lying in a ditch in the dark than actually getting healed by a medic.

Having looked at these systems, what I’m taking away is that a good and successful system should:

  • be simple enough for anyone to understand, regardless of how large your game is
  • enable roleplay, not restrict it
  • be clear and concise
  • not need explaining every session
  • not contradict itself

This is the ethos I’ve been trying to work to when developing the system for No Heaven. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded, and I don’t think I’m done. It’s certainly more complex than a Broken Dreams or Shadow Factories system, but I think it’s not much more complex than Empire, and it’s much simpler than the old No Rest for the Wicked rules. Of course, I’m not sure I’m ever going to get around to running No Heaven at this stage, regardless of how much progress I make with the rules system.

To go back to the earlier point about the advantages of small systems versus big systems. I don’t think the advantage of a small system is that you can make the rules more complex; I think the advantage of a small system is you can more often trust your players to roleplay their hearts out regardless of what the rules are, and you don’t necessarily need to impose order by having a single rules set everyone has to use to make things fair.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The difference in what Strikedown calls do in different systems notwithstanding

[Zephyr] The wyvern or the lion?

The wyvern or the lion?

Which was he? More importantly, which was he to her?

One was worrying, the other unsettling.

The answer was obvious, if you ask the right question. But was he asking the right question?

There was only one way to find out. To ask and see what answer comes from it.

At best, a scathing retort; at worst, he was wrong about the answer and things were much more unsettling.

Still, what is Dawn if not a nation that charges through difficult situations?

The question is asked. The smile is knowing. Ah, this may be much worse than was supposed…

Image is the coat of arms of Sophie, Countess of Wessex

[Spectre] Haunted

They say eyes are a window into a person’s soul. If that’s so, then I don’t like what I see in mine.

They got in my head, changed how I thought. I did things under their control that I regret.

I betrayed my friends, I betrayed my allies, I betrayed myself and my ideals.

I am haunted by my own eyes. They stare back at me with accusation and pity. They stare back at me with heavy lids and bloodshot corneas. There is a great and terrible weight behind those eyes.

The mask doesn’t help. The false identity I took on so I could do some good defaced by the marks of the enemy. A sign of my betrayal painted in brilliant gold onto the mask that represents who I am in this world. It stares at me as well, the gold reflecting the waning light as if in accusation – not letting me forget.

Who am I now? What am I now? Where do I go from here? How can I fight knowing what I’ve done? How can I not fight knowing what they are and what they will do?

Maybe it’s time to put down the mask. Maybe it’s time I walk away. But I don’t think I can do that yet. Not while… not while they keep stepping up.

The question is… how do I do this now?

Photo by Oliver Facey

[Spectre] It’s just one of those things

It’s just one of those things.

Life and death. You think you’re prepared for it. You think you know what’s to come, and how you’ll deal with it when the time comes.

It’s all a lie, though. No one is ever really prepared for it.

Staring into the face of it, knowing you’re going to die if something isn’t done, it changes you. It makes you realise things you might not have known about yourself.

It makes you realise that you would choose death over slavery. It makes you realise that you would choose the lives of others over your own. It makes you look back at your life and see all your misdeeds anew. It makes you realise what you’ve been missing out on.

It makes you regret not realising sooner. It makes you regret not being able to say anything as it’ll make it harder to let go – to have others let go.

It’s just one of those things. You can’t know what it’s like until you’ve been there. You can’t know what you’ll do until you’re there. But once you’ve been there, it changes you and it’s hard to go back to where you were before.

It’s just one of those things that makes life interesting, right? Right?

Shit. Now what do I do?

Photo by Beth Dooner

[Tertius] Forging

Sweat beaded on his face, the clang of steel against steel ringing in his ears.

The hammer came down again and again, folding the hocho-tetsu to free it from impurities. The nabe-gane is heated, and quenched, broken and purified. Then the metals are combined: tamahagane, hocho-tetsu, and nabe-gane layered and folded together to form the blade. Folded together again and again, in more and more complex layers, extended and shaped until the lumps of metal resemble the blade they will become.

The yakiba-tsuchi has already been prepared, and the clay mixture is applied to the blade before it is heated and then quenched. The hot metal bends as it cools, taking on the signature shape as the yakiba-tsuchi leaves its pattern in the steel.

The blade is set aside while the second is forged, and the process begins anew.

With the blades forged, there is still much work to be done. Polishing and sharpening and polishing once more, taking several weeks before it is ready. The crafting of tsuba and koshirae take time as well, the complete process being more akin to art than Telmark smithing.

But finally, they are ready, new blades to suit the Empire he finds himself trapped in.

Photo by Jeff Kubina (CC By-SA 2.0)

[Tertius] New Clothes

These garments are alien to him. He has seen others wear them but he is not comfortable in them yet. They are easy to get wrong, easy to make social mistakes by wearing them wrong.

They are strange, but it is a strangeness he must overcome. It is not the first time he has had to wear the clothes off a culture alien to him, and he will overcome his discomfort.

His home world is a galaxy away, as is the world he was growing to know, and all he knows is so far away.

But he can overcome this. He will overcome this. He has tasks that must be done, there are changes that must be made, and they begin by him getting used to these clothes.

But they are still alien to him.

Character Study via Playlist – Zephyr de Rondell

Something I’ve been considering of late is how my character playlists have changed from when they were first created to now.

Zephyr’s playlist was started on the 8th of September 2017, just before my first full event of playing him, and is somewhat appropriately titled “Glory!”.[1]

It starts off with “Glorious Domination” – the WWE entrance music for Bobby Roode, and that has generally been the signature track on the playlist. The song portrays a very Dawnish sentiment, as well as blending well with Zephyr’s Changeling nature.

The rest of the songs added that day are all songs that portray a different aspect of a headstrong, ready-to-charge, Dawnish war witch, whether they’re songs that you just want to rock out to or whether they’re songs you want to charge into battle to.

Queen’s “We Will Rock You” is the Dawnish battle line advancing on barbarians.
Heather Alexander’s “March of Cambreadth” tells of the relentless nature of the Dawnish at war.[2]
Lindsey Stirling’s “Roundtable Rival” is just full of energy.
Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” gives a hint of the Changeling being controlled by emotion without thought.
And then there are many many songs about Glory.

The playlist then stays unchanged until the 20th of June 2017. This is when “Firebird’s Child” by S.J. Tucker was added. This is the first song that isn’t directly associated with Zephyr, but instead with his lady love, Eliane. This was the beginning of the changes.

On the 30th of November 2017, after A “Relaxing” Social Event[3], I spent some time adding more songs to the playlist. Part of this was having discovered more songs that fit Zephyr like Lorde’s “Glory and Gore” and Saint Mesa’s “Lion”, but it was also indicative of a shift in the character.

Glory and battle are not Zephyr’s only drives any more. Love, and Loyalty, and passion are rising ever more to the fore. There are songs that tell of his willingness to do anything for his love, to stand fast and true to his loyalty, and to ensure that no one has their story forgotten.

The League of Legends track “Legends Never Die” speaks of his current tasks and Inspirations.
Celtic Woman’s cover of “Fields of Gold” speaks of the joy of love, but knowing that it will end in tragedy.
Five Finger Death Punch’s “No One Gets Left Behind” is a reminder of the events of the Spring Equinox, and of Toni.
Within Temptation’s “Stand My Ground” speaks quite eloquently of his stubbornness when confronted with Highguard tribulation.
S.J. Tucker’s “Come to the Labyrinth” hints at his newly religious nature.
Lorde’s “Glory and Gore” is both a reminder of the reality of battle, and of the fact that he is still both a Changeling and a War Witch no matter how much he’s changed.

I’m finding it quite interesting to see how character development is reflected in their playlists, and I’ll likely do another of these analyses for Tertius (my Stargate character).

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The only character playlist I have that does not share its title with the character’s name
2. ignoring the Songgate lines
3. honest, it was relaxing

Character Introductions

As there often is on Facebook, there has recently been a scourge of memes going around, one of which was along the lines of “Tell me a character name and I will write their introduction as if I were writing a novel”. I didn’t want to do that for everyone, but I did want to do some. And so, I present a select few of the ones I have written. Characters are not named, but should be obvious from context if you know them.
Continue reading Character Introductions

Well, I got hacked.

“Hacked by Imam with Love”

Well, that was all the impetus I needed to get my upgrades in order and update to https.

Editing to add more info.

So, it looks like I’ve been getting hacked about once a day for the last two weeks, but the only damage is that my last post got replaced with bragging rights about the hack, and then they spent the last two weeks fighting over who gets to display the bragging rights.

The exploited vulnerability is this one: https://blog.sucuri.net/2017/02/content-injection-vulnerability-wordpress-rest-api.html

So my user accounts weren’t compromised, and my password is secure, but WP once again introduced the sort of hack that let you do just about anything without even logging in. If I’d been on the ball about getting my updates sorted, it wouldn’t have happened, but I’ve been busy and can’t use the auto-updater any more so I’d been putting it off because manual updates are a pain in the ass.

Far as I can tell, they only edited the one post and I’ve reverted the content on that. Doesn’t seem to be any more damage.

ETA (2018-03-22): found a second post, still haven’t found much damage…

xkcd: Life Goals

New year, new things

It’s 2017, I’m still getting used to typing 2017 instead of 2016 by reflex (haven’t even tried writing it down yet), and I have absolutely no resolutions for the year. Not one.

I don’t really believe in the whole resolutions thing. But I do believe in setting some goals for myself, and trying to do better over time. I just find “New Years Resolutions” to be a crap way of doing it.

So this year, I want to achieve some things, and I might take some inspiration from the stand-up meetings we have at work and start keeping a record of how I’m doing on them to keep myself accountable and keep track of what’s getting in my way (besides myself).

With all that in mind, here are my current goals:

  • More gym time, get my cardio up, look at freeweights
    • Possibly try cardio in chain once I’m back in the swing of it
    • Currently blocked by my new gym still not being open but there’s another branch I can use in the meantime.
  • More work on Tixty
    • I need to get the admin backend sorted, and get a better frontend interface done while I’m at it
  • More creative writing
    • I want to try and get some regular creative writing done. Might start looking around for sources of inspiration or ask people for prompts
  • Write and run Heroes Rush In
    • It’s the penultimate event for No Rest for the Wicked, and I’m not alone in writing it but our plans are ambitious and we need to get started on them.
  • Make mage armour
    • I need new mage armour for Empire
    • I need to settle on a design, get someone to help with the bits I need help with, and start working on the rest.
  • Get Magento certified
    • We’re working on it at work, but I need to put in the effort, and I need to push for it to get sorted.
  • Learn Japanese
    • I’ve got a number of events coming up where knowing conversational Japanese would be useful – I need to brush up on it again and get used to using it.

I’ve probably missed some off, but one of the joys of life is that if you forget something, you can always it it to the list later.

 

Featured image from xkcd: Life Goals