Archive for October, 2011

Storytelling: The Pleasures and Pitfalls

Posted: October 28, 2011 in Uncategorized
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So you’ve found yourself with a World of Darkness book or perhaps the much talked about Fudge system or maybe the Dresden Files book and its Fate system, maybe even the Marvel diceless system is in your hands. And you’ve decided that you want to tell a story, to be the master of a game world and lead players through it. Well, it turns out that there are a lot of dangers and pitfalls for the novice storyteller, especially those who come from a strong Dungeon Mastering background. While very similar, Dungeon Mastering and Storytelling actually have a significant number of differences from the standpoint of a beginner. I feel I should take this moment to just add in a sort of disclaimer here. There are DMs who run things like the STs I intend to talk about. They are by and large considered to be some of the best DMs out there and are fairly rare. So remember, that everything that is talked about in here about the Storytelling systems, can also be applied to the more traditional D&D style table top with little effort. The thing that makes being a Storyteller so much different from being a Dungeon Master can be found in the theory of the 3 different game types. These are gamist, simulationist and narrative.

Narrative: A narrative based game is big on story, possibly to the point of decisions by the ST being made on what will make the story the best or the most like what they have envisioned.

Simulationist: A simulationist based game is based on realism. In this type of game, it would be perfectly normal for the bad guy to have resources and be just as able to use their resources as the good guys.

Gamist: The gamist based game is the closest to the traditional views of table top games. Its based on what the dice and the rules say and nothing else matter. Gamist games are the place where you are most likely to hear “I want to talk to that guy.” “Okay, make a diplomacy check.”

What I’m talking about today is the Narrative style of storytelling, the style that I personally find works best with the Fudge system and other storytelling based systems. To run a good Narrative style game, there are a few lessons you need to learn. They aren’t just lessons on how to do things, but also things you should brace yourself for.

So you’ve mapped out an adventure and you want the players to go left when they hit this intersection over here…but you know they could go right, so things are planned over there too. Sounds like you’re bases are covered, right? Nope. The players are going to try up, down, backwards and every other direction they can think of that isn’t left or right. Lesson 1 of the Storyteller is don’t sweat it, and just roll with it. Keep some paper near by to jot down notes and just freeform the parts of the world that they are now encountering because they went in an unplanned direction. This doesn’t just apply to going in directions you weren’t expecting. They might decide that a random unimportant NPC is actually the key to everything and suddenly this person who had just been scenery now needs a personality and a name and possibly a full character sheet. That happened to me once, I had a character who was supposed to just be a slightly helpful NPC who gave them specific information and some healing spells. Instead she became the worshiped deity of one of the characters and instrumental to the rest of the plotline.

Lesson 2 is don’t rely too heavily on the rules. If you look at Dungeons and Dragons, the rules will tell you that will enough work, a player can balance on clouds. Sure, it takes a balance DC of 120 and the odds of a player getting there before hitting epic level is almost impossible, but with sufficient effort they might just make it. Does it make sense for your player to be able to do it? Then let them, otherwise the answer needs to be no. On the other hand, if your player wants to do something and there are no rules for it, make something up. No one ever said there have to be dice rolls for everything. Remember that, that part is important.

Lesson 3 is an interesting one for a lot of beginning storytellers. You can write a beautiful, glorious story that does everything you want, but the second the players touch it, everything will change. Players change everything they touch, even just by interpreting it. Don’t hinge everything on your players making the choices you want them to, or even of interpreting the story the same way you are. Brace yourself for your masterpiece to go in directions you never saw coming. You wrote a beautiful story about a rebellion? The players might decide that their characters would support the rightful king. Just prepare yourself for whatever may happen.

Don’t be afraid to go about and run a storytelling game. They’re fun to run and I find them to be much more satisfying that your normal tabletop. Be brave and give your players a story to remember.

City of Wonder

Posted: October 19, 2011 in 4 Hearts
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Wow, its been a while since I last posted on here. Sorry about that folks. School has been absolutely crazy. Alright, lets see what its time to talk about. Google+ has gone live, and with it came Google+ games so lets take a look at one of these new games.

City of Wonder is your fairly straight forward social game. You level up quickly in the beginning and then slightly slower as you continue on. Like many civilization building games, City of Wonder involves building structures, gaining prestige and population and tech trees. Also, like every other social media based building game that I am aware of, everything is based on real-world time. It is also a multiplayer game, played with your friends on Google+, where you can visit other people’s civilizations and help them to build certain structures.

The tech trees start from the Stone Age and go through to the modern day, although it doesn’t require things to be strictly researched in order. As long as you have the proceeding requirements, you can research anything. For example, despite the fact that I don’t have construction yet, I can totally get cavalry any time I would like.

So far, I’m really enjoying this game. It has a lot of the things I like from your standard online civilization building game, including cute little animations in my city, and it lets me play easily with my friends. It also doesn’t have the annoying hunger mechanics that a lot games have. All I have to do is keep some cultural items in my city and my people take care of themselves.

Here’s a shot of the main game screen containing my city. As you can see, I have a lot of different kinds of buildings in my little place. The screen is fairly well organized, keeping my main focus placed in the middle of the screen and putting the interface tools around the border. For example, across the top you can see the name of my city and its population, my experience, silver, gold and level and my current research item and its progress. Across the bottom are the tabs for other tools I might want to use, such as the research tab, the building tab and the exploration tab. Normally, you can also see your friends and their levels across the bottom, but I cut my friends off the picture. Sorry guys!

This here is the buildings tab on the marvels sub-tab which allows you to build such awesome things as a pyramid. You might notice that some items are outlined in gold and have the cost in gold. Gold is the microtransaction currency of City of Wonders. One of the things I particularly like about this game is that unlike many other microtransaction games, I can play quite successfully without needing to purchase gold. There are two tech tree segments you can only get if you pay for them, steam punk and magic, but periodically I’ve been getting gold rewards in-game and I think I might just be able to save up for those ages.

In conclusion, City of Wonder is a pretty nice game. Quite well made considering its a social media game, which I generally have very little faith in, and in beta no less. I am enjoying playing it with my friends and would recommend that others try it. If you aren’t on Google+ yet, shame on you. Overall, I award City of Wonder 4 out of 5 hearts.

4/5 HeartsIf you’re interested in playing City of Wonder, you can find it on Google+ and on Facebook.