Apophenia Evolved

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Avoiding Average Proficiency

One of the issues I've come across in various games is the disuse of average skills. Players generally prefer to use their best skills. The reason is fairly obvious, players want to succeed at what they are doing and so they attempt to solve problems using the skills they are good at.

This habit can lead to a bunch of unused or rarely used skills. While this might lead to a good simulation of a character's actual abilities I feel that it is generally unnecessary to have all those extra skills.

Different games do different things to deal with this. Some games use multiple different solutions. I am going to use the word skill to represent anything that could provide a mechanical bonus to a player.

Every Skills Is Useful

This is probably the most common solution. Every skill is useful in different situations and it is the GM's job to make sure that they get used. Skills usually have a fixed breadth of what they can accomplish so that the GM can make every skill useful in different ways.

The problem is that in groups of players the character with the highest skill is always making that type of roll. It also doesn't solve the problem of the players always trying to solve a problem in ways they are good at.


Almost everything in D&D

Skills in Spirit of the Century

Resource based skills

This method has some sort of balance system for the skill. Maybe you only have so many dice that you can use for the skill during a session, maybe you have to spend points to gain a benefit.

There is something appealing about this sort of skill system. Since a player can still usually get one or two good rolls out of a weaker skill then they will want to try it occasionally. It could also be that using one skill is equivalent to using another because they all come from the same pool and then the player will just go with whichever seems most appropriate.


Everything in Trail of Cthulhu

Aspects in Spirit of the Century

Traits and Fan Mail in Primetime Adventures

Organic Growth

If an organic character growth advancement system involves increasing skills that you use then if falls into this category. That rewards the player for using their weaker skills because that is the way that they get better. Since it is harder to improve higher skills it can be more beneficial to use the lower skills because it is easier to improve them.


Advancement System in Burning Wheel

Friday, February 12, 2010

Campaign Ideas (Part 1)

PTA has caused me to think of all sorts of season ideas, it has really started a fire in my creativity. I'm probably going to continue post my different campaign ideas to help me remember them and maybe somebody else will like them too.

A new human colony on a new planet is the beginning of a new chapter in human history. However this momentous occasion is shattered when the colony suddenly loses contact with Earth and is attacked by strange alien invaders.

The explorer ship visits a strange island following a treasure map. If it weren't enough that there were vicious beasts and hostile natives on in the island, the crew all want the treasure for their own.

A round of hackers stumble upon dangerous information, a method of calling down demons. They need to decide what to do with this newly discovered ability. Then when the people they stole the information from discovers them they need to avoid being eliminated for knowing too much.

The zombie apocalypse has begun, the only problem is that the zombies are generally decent people other then the eating brains part. Now zombies are declared to also be people, at least to those who aren't zombie haters.

After a meteor shower a group of teenagers begins to monsters that nobody else notices. What will they be forced to do to protect the people they care about. When they get offered the power they need to defeat the monster how do they deal with the great cost associated with it.

What I am learning from my current campaign

As I play my current campaign I continue to notice problems with how I am GMing. One of them I already mentioned. However there are plenty of others. I am noting them down in hopes that will help prevent me from doing them again.

I'll add more reasons as I think of them.

Name The Campaign

From the start and even after a few session I don't really know what to call the campaign. While I don't think this is a major problem I really should have done it. So to remedy this problem I am now officially giving my campaign a name. It shall be known as Umwandeln Herz: Umbra. And yes I combined both Latin and German to make it sound cool.

Constant peril is boring

The situation in the story put all the players and the people that they care about in an almost constant threat of danger. So the players do the logical thing and bring everything that they care about to the safest location. This reduces the danger placed on the characters, which destroys the point of putting them in constant danger.

In the future I think it would be better to make the players think that they are safe most of the time and then spring the danger on them. That way the danger feels dangerous.

Too much sandbox

Some might say this is a good thing but I find that having too much of a sandbox leads to too much indecision and floundering. This is related to the scene issue I am having. Basically the players don't know where to go and are not self motivated enough to do much.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Roleplaying, Scenes, and Primetime Adventures (Part III)

Out of all the things in in Primetime Adventures the rotating player determined scenes are my favorite. It is something that seems so simple, you just go around the table calling out scenes, but it is very powerful. Out of everything in PTA it is the mechanic that I am most likely to port to other games that I play.

It puts in the hands of the players the decision of what happens next. This sort of rotating scene framing seems like a magic bullet which cuts directly to things that matter. Instead of asking "What do you do?" the question changes and becomes "What is happening?"

The second different thing is narration rights. Putting the control into the hands of a player who is not the Producer is also a game changer. There are other games that I have played which have done this but never to the extent that PTA does.

More PTA Season Ideas

Dragons, the great beasts of legend. They live deep in the mountains where none but the most courageous knight dare tread. Many wonder how Dragons live but it is one brave scholar who braved the mountains to find out how they live, what he didn't expect to learn was who the Dragons are.

The greatest drama ever filmed has been losing ratings and is about to be canceled. Will the actors be able to convince the studio to keep the show going or will they be forced to find new roles. What about the rising drama which is going to replace their show?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Roleplaying, Scenes, and Primetime Adventures (Part II)

Reading through Prime Time Adventures is a strange experience for me. My mind is still deconstructing it but ideas come unbidden to the top of my mind. These are stories that I never would have thought to tell. Yet somehow PTA makes me want to play them.

Again, I'll post more thoughts about PTA as they come to me.


The ancient Chinese martial artist Wei has finally taken on new pupils. Well he be able to teach them about martial arts and life or will they fall down the wrong path like his last apprentice.

The world of extreme sports is vast and some of them are very strange. In a world of extreme ice skating where there are no rules only victors, who will come out as the champion.

The princess has been kidnapped and the heros are going to rescue her. How will the princess fare in the castle populated by evil villains, especially when she find that they are tragically human.

Time traveling vampires from another dimension who are here to make sure that our world doesn't make the same mistakes that theirs did.

The despised demon child gets adopted by a stranger. Will they be able to find a place to call their own and will they be able to stay there when their pasts come back to haunt them.

Sphere is one of the largest MMO in the near future. There are many people who play the game to escape their problems in reality. When strange things begin happening in Sphere how will these people deal with their problems and protect their second life.

A bunch of people are trapped in a sky lodge and grizzly murders begin to happen. However what if the criminal was different? What if different things had happened? The next episode will do exactly that, telling a new story but with the same cast.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Roleplaying, Scenes, and Primetime Adventures (Part I)

In the last couple of games I played the main problem that I was having was game pacing. One session was mostly undirected with the players not having any idea of where to go. The second session had the same sort of problem, the players were faced with a puzzle that they didn't know how to solve. This lead to a long discussion between players and took a very long time because they even tried to do something about it.

I believe that both of these problems had to do with the players not knowing what they should be doing next and expecting me as the GM to point them in the right direction. Because I had several scene framing problems I decided to finally get a copy of Primetime Adventures. People keep talking about it being the quintessential scene framing game. I have meant to get it for a long time and now seemed like as good a time as any.

I'll post my thoughts and opinions about the game as I read the PDF.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Everyone is talking about the iPad

No comment about the iPad name. Now onto the things I actually care about....

Contractless $30 3G

This is awesome! This is probably the #1 reason that I am going to buy an iPad. Sure is doesn't support all carriers but I really have never had that much of a problem with AT&T so that really doesn't matter to me.

My Mom things it is awesome

The iPad is the layman's computer. There are lots and lots of different things that I do with a computer so it is impossible for me to replace my computer with an iPad. My Mom however is different, she almost exclusively uses her computer for the internet and for writing documents. This makes the iPad the perfect computer for her because everything just works, I almost never need to provide technical support for my Mom's iPhone and it is going to be the same for an iPad. While this doesn't make me want to purchase an iPad it does make my Mom want to buy one (and my brother).

Books, Books, and more Books

My parents are using Kindle for the iPhone to read eBooks however I think that the iPhone screen is too small to effectively read. I also find the Kindle to be too unipurpose for my tastes. I really want to do more with eBooks and the iPad seems like a good tool for doing that.

Cheaper then I expected

That sums up this point, I was expected the lower end iPads to sell for the price that the upper end iPad is selling for. This was a pleasant surprise that means that even if it turns out that I don't like the iPad then I am not too out of pocket.

I signed an NDA

I really wish I could tell you something here, but I signed an NDA. Trust me that whatever I would put here is awesome.