Jun 30

Sigil PD: Chapter 22, Part 1

Character (4) head

 

Unlucky dice, a three-week break & setting creation plans

 

The game on Saturday was a surprising conclusion to the latest excursion to the gothic realm of Terovia. The main surprise arose from the dice turning against the Heroes during their confrontation with the Baron. I try not to set difficulties too high for the Heroes, but a tough fight will often go awry if the dice wish it so.

 

However, our plucky Heroes easily escaped the prison and resumed the larger plot. Fate seemed to be against them, until the last moment. Then the story took a fresh twist, and a sudden run of dice luck killed the final guard, and the mob of townsfolk could storm the castle.

 

We now have a three-week break, so my game prep is not so pressing. However, while the events are fresh in my memory, I want to put in some of the groundwork for the next session. Otherwise, it will be too tricky to pick up the threads again. Likewise, I need to complete the admin for the last session. There was some time at the end of the game on Saturday to ask the Players what their plans are for moving forward, so I have some ideas about what they want to achieve.

 

However, tomorrow is not the time to brainstorm the whole of next session. Such details are best created nearer the time when I will be running the game, to keep the ideas fresh in my mind. Instead, I shall use the extra time this week to catch up on more of the background details for the campaign. These always need some work, so this will be a good time to move forward with the setting.

 

Hopefully the extended gap between sessions will not mean a loss of motivation. We shall see.

 

Happy Gaming

Phil

 

The Prep in Progress series are short summaries of my prep for my ongoing campaign The Tales of the Hero Wars

 

Jun 29

Game Chef 2015 Entry

 

Game Chef 2015-participantAs described in a Writing Goals piece earlier in the month, I decided to enter the recent Game Chef contest.

 

This was very much a spur of the moment choice. It so happened that I had been thinking about some mechanics to use when roleplaying with my young sons. When I saw the Game Chef announcement, I decided to use the mechanics for an entry instead.

 

I have previously designed The Scribes’ Game, so there was some precedence for this reckless decision.

 

There was probably a little bit of “new shiny” in the choice too. The idea of designing a game was my new, shiny thing, so I wanted to try it. One of the purposes of my weekly writing schedule is to shield me from this tendency.

 

Clearly, it does not always work.

 

Anyway, after a lot of work, and deadline pressure, I duly created The Hawker Metamorphosis. This was submitted last week and I now have the badge to show for my efforts.

 

My next task for the Game Chef program is to review four other entries. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to read through all four of them in less than 30 minutes. It seems the review process will not take as long as I had feared.

 

Of course, I have yet to write up the reviews, but I am relieved that this process will not be a stressful as the earlier game creation. In the meantime, I can savour the pride of being awarded a badge for participating.

 

Happy Gaming

Phil

 

Learn more about Game Chef here.

 

Jun 28

Writing Goals, 28th June 2015

TalesOfAGM Cross

 

Hi Everyone,

 

It is Sunday again, so time for my weekly update. Previously on Tales of a GM:

 

  • 2.5 hours – Primary Goal – Dyvers Project HeroQuest 2 essay
  • 1.5 hours – Secondary Goal – Smolensk pdf
  • 2 hours – Social Media – Visit different Forums and write five posts or comments
  • 2 hours – Write long blog post
  • 1.5 hours – Fiction Goal – Write Ten Pets
  • 30 mins – Weekly Task – Website

 

Progress last week revealed a flaw with my plan. By breaking up the week with additional periods of chores, or the school Sports Day, I was unable to build any momentum. So often I find momentum to be the deciding factor regarding how much I achieve in a week. Thus, last week saw only a moderate amount of work. The Smolensk pdf went well, but most of the other goals were sadly limited.

 

Not that the week was a total failure, it just felt fractured. I enjoyed Sports Day and the boys’ team even won the overall event. Roleplaying on Saturday was fun, and the story took us to some unusual places when the Heroes lost their big fight against the main antagonist.

 

Moving forward, I have a clear week for the writing. I am concious of how close we are to the long summer break, so I have three weeks to wrap up the Smolensk pdf before my time is focused on childcare. However, inevitably, there are some deadlines I need to meet first. Thus, the schedule for this week is:

 

  • 4 hours – Primary Goal – Dyvers Project HeroQuest 2 essay
  • 2.5 hours – Secondary Goal – Game Chef reviews
  • 1 hour – Tertiary Goal – Smolensk pdf
  • 2 hours – Social Media – Visit different Forums and write five posts or comments
  • 2 hours – Write long blog post
  • 2 hours – Fiction Goal – Write Ten Pets
  • 30 mins – Weekly Task – Website

 

The HeroQuest essay is about half-done already, but is due on Tuesday, so tops my list. I suspect it will be a day late, to allow for enough editing time, but that should be acceptable. This should free additional time for those goals lower on the list. Likewise, the long blog post for this week is an overview of the June RPG Blog Carnival which I have been hosting, so should be an easy essay to write. Finally, there is no roleplaying on Saturday this week, due to a birthday party, which should also free bonus time for these goals.

 

At this point, I am optimistic for a productive week.

 

I wish you are all a good week

Phil

 

Jun 27

Countdown to Dragonmeet: The Tickets

 

Dragonmeet is coming!

 

dragonmeetDragonmeet is held this year on Saturday 5th December. The venue is again Ibis Hotel, Earls Court, London. The website has announced early bird tickets available for a discount. This offer only lasts until the end of June, so act swiftly.

 

As I noted earlier this month, it is less than six months to Dragonmeet.

 

I have finally found the time to buy my ticket, taking advantage of the early bird online discount. Of course, my ticket is only a printout, which still feels a little strange. I am sure there will be no problems in December, as there is a password and QR code on the printout. It is showing my age, but I still think of a ticket as being made of card, with a stub to retain.

 

So far, the Dragonmeet website has not been updated from last year’s events. Hopefully we will soon see some announcement about guests and events. In the meantime, the facility to buy tickets is available.

 

Will I see you there?

 

Dragonmeet tickets are available from the website.

 

Happy Gaming

Phil

 

Jun 26

Summerland: A Taste of Summer

 

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallTales of a GM is the June host for the RPG Blog Carnival. This is proving to be a wonderful opportunity for the blog, and a great chance to meet new Blogger friends.

 

Previously, I announced Summerland as the theme for the month.

 

This is my fourth essay on the topic of Summerland. Today I want to offer some suggestions on how to use summer foods to evoke your setting.

 

My first contribution to the June RPG Blog Carnival was the Hunger Gap.

 

My second article was the Kingdom of Eternal Summer, a fae realm where the sun never sets.

 

My third essay explored the varied agricultural festivals celebrated through the summer.

 

Seasonal Foods

In the modern West we are mainly sheltered from seasonal variations. Most food is available throughout the year, often imported from around the world. Modern technology provides chilled and frozen storage options in our homes. We have lost the innate connection between the time of year and what we eat.

 

Certain times of the year are marked with specific meals, and these tastes and smells help to invoke those festivals. This principle can be used in your game to bring alive the different times of the year. Focusing on the taste of summer in your game will help the Players appreciate the current season.

 

In this essay I offer a brief overview of using seasonal foods in fantasy, modern and SF games.

 

Fantasy Foods

There are several ways for a fantasy game to use food to invoke the season. The first, and simplest way, is to emphasize the seasonality of food. I previously wrote about the hunger gap through July, and the resulting spike in food prices. Once Lammas is past, however, there will be an abundance of fresh bread as wheat is plentiful once more.

 

Later in the summer, when the peas have been harvested, then pease pudding will be served in every tavern and inn. Continue this through the year, with the selection of foods from vendors and taverns linked to the latest crop harvest.

 

A slightly more knowing approach, would be to contrast the availability of a modern luxury food with its fantasy equivalent. In the modern section below I discuss the British love of strawberries and cream. A fantasy setting may suddenly have strawberries available for a single week in late June.

 

By their scarcity, the strawberries would likely be in high demand. They may be the height of fashion, or perhaps used as part of the feast for a local festival. Then the they vanish again, as the local supply of wild strawberries is quickly consumed. The hope is the Players will notice the contrast with the modern availability of food.

Ice Cold in Summer

Another way of contrasting the fantasy setting with the modern world is to emphasize the luxury of ice. Magical storage options could mimic modern freezers. Likewise, a portal to a plane of ice, or just a glacier in the frozen north, would permit an endless supply of ice.

 

However, there are some low-magic options which can add to the setting. My neighbouring town has an old ice house still standing by the river. Such buildings have thick stone or brick walls to insulate the contents, and are often conical or domed.

 

Ice is imported, or harvested in winter, then stored in the ice house. During the summer, the nobles flaunt their wealth by serving iced wine or sorbets at feasts and banquets. For a society lacking modern refrigeration technology, the presence of ice in summer will be remarkable. Once more, this will highlight the differences between the setting and modern society.

 

Modern Tastes

Clearly, the same tricks will not work in a modern game. However, a modern GM can easily search the internet for background details to bring their game alive. With respect to the tastes of summer, there are two main areas of research: cultural foods and styles of eating.

Eating the Culture

Come the summer months, there are some iconic foods for every culture. Here in Britain, strawberries and cream are the iconic summer food. For many of us, the image of summer is also linked to the ice cream cones we ate at the seaside as a child. Use these foods in your game to emphasize the experience of being in Britain in the summer.

 

There will be similar seasonal foods suitable for every culture. Highlight them in your game to underline both the time and the place. Then, when your Players move on to the next location, or time passes, alter the food to reflect these changes.

Styles of Eating

The other way to represent a location is to focus on their style of eating. Are there any seasonally appropriate ways to prepare or consume food?

 

A classic example of summer eating is the barbecue, although for the genuine British experience it probably should be raining too. A picnic in the woods is another option. Again, the British version is the picnic in the car watching the rain fall. Other options include a bonfire on the beach, or perhaps a pool party.

 

By presenting the culture in this way, the GM is presenting the Players with both a sense of place and time. Elements of the culture can be highlighted, and the Players have the chance to roleplay in a fresh environment. If your game rapidly moves from one location to another, then emphasizing the local cuisine can help prevent everywhere from feeling like the same place.

 

The Future of Food

In a SF game, there are still ways to emphasize the food as a cultural marker. Technology will have negated many of the differences highlighted above. All manner of food can be stored, imported or replicated. Yet, the cheapest foods will always be the ones from the local planet, and these will be subject to the seasons.

 

The simplest approach is to adopt an exotic extrapolation of the principles outlined above. So, sticking with the iconic strawberries and cream, there are several ways to emphasize culture. Local, seasonal, strawberries may be larger, or simply a different colour. Likewise, everyone may be able to replicate strawberries, but the true gourmand demands imported strawberries from Sirius Major.

 

Conversely, in a world where everyone is shielded from seasonality by technology, it could become fashionable to embrace seasonal food. Thus, the local elite may disdain replicated or mass-produced foods. This allows you to highlight local, seasonal foods grown by the rich in their private hydroponic farms.

 

Conclusion

There are many ways food can highlight the current time and place of the setting. For those games involving a lot of travel, food is a great way to help the Players distinguish between locations. The seasons are often hand-waved in our games, yet they hold such a strong impact on our daily lives. Why not use food to emphasize this link in your game?

 

What summer foods do you have in your setting? Can you add some seasonal or cultural food to emphasize the current location? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

To read more articles about Summerland, then please visit the launch page for the June RPG Blog Carnival.

 

Happy Gaming

Phil

 

Something for the Weekend last week: Summerland, The Farming Festivals.

 

Something for the Weekend next week: Summerland, an Overview.

 

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