Friday, October 31, 2014
At first it took me a while to realize what he was doing. Once I sensed he was running things differently, I talked to him about his preparations and he told me he just made a bunch of NPCs and power groups before hand, but the real important developments happened in game when he tried to decide how the NPCs reacted to what we were doing. Now this last bit I kind of understood, from the Living Adventure concept in Ravenloft, but even then it was done within a structured adventure scenario. This was much more free form. My friend hardly referred to notes or maps at all, and when he did so it was with a simple glance. I envied that he was so able to participate fully with the players without being chained to a dungeon map or adventure outline.
Keep in mind this was before the internet was huge like it is today. We had an internet back then but most of us were not on it and it simply didn't have the volume of users it has today. So something as simple as finding a new way to run a campaign was not an everyday experience. You couldn't simply google "adventure+design" or "political +campaign+RPG". It primarily came from existing RPG books or seeing things done first hand in a campaign. So while this might seem like a minor thing to marvel at, and others had clearly been doing this sort of thing for some time (both in print and at their table), it was entirely new to me.
I don't recall the specifics of the campaign but I do remember we had freedom to move, to invent and plan, to forge ahead how we wished. However we were up against people who felt just as clever as us, so there was a real sense of inhabiting a social landscape where actions had consequences and fallout. This was also a highly political game. Because of that, I learned to associate politics and intrigue with freeform adventure and player freedom.
After that I would try to incorporate my friend's style into my own campaigns. It didn't come naturally to me but over time I became quite comfortable with it. It had some significant advantages. One was less prep. There may have been some initial prep in advance but I found these campaigns, once they got some steam of their own, propelled themselves forward with minimal upkeep from the GM. The other was I felt much more plugged into the experience as a GM.
I mention this because in my current Sertorius campaign things have grown increasingly political. The campaign just started so we began with a somewhat simple adventure structure to give it an initial thrust, but now things are developing and those initial training wheels can come off. Alliances are forming and it looks like we may have a good deal of intrigue in the coming months.
From a GM point of view this is exciting because you don't know what the players are going to do. Things could go in any number of directions. Players can make surprising choices, befriending enemies, betraying friends and finding a way to cobble together an influential power block.
Campaigns like this force you to think things through. What happens if the King's brother dies under a cloud of suspicion? What happens if those rumors the players started in the capital spread to the countryside? What happens if the players ally with a nearby Hill Tribe to take an important town on the borderlands? What would the council do when they realize the players are slowly weakening their grip on the kingdom?
It is not merely a game of "what if" it is also a game of "what now". You have to think throughout he ramifications of events from each session and incorporate them into the next. In political campaigns things often shift and change but also stay somewhat the same. And if the players win the political game, if they obtain what their after, that just leads to more adventure. Once you have power, you have to defend it.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
This concept isn't my own, though I have been using it in my campaigns. My friend Steve Bowden came up with it in his own Sertorius campaign when he felt he needed a new threat to throw at his players. He devised an elaborate cult that hunted Sertori and used their blood to make tattoos that bestowed supernatural benefits to the wearers.
Here is the Blood Cult I created based on Steve's concept for my own campaign:
From his tower near Goff-Tel, Goff-Tan has 50 soldiers under his command who are effectively part of his blood cult. He also has many cultists throughout the kingdom and an inner circle of 6 acolytes led by Nathreen. In addition he raised 4 Sertori he found as children who are loyal to him and Gesara: Rom, Ruegar, Ria and Ruga.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Each Kung Fu Technique belongs to a Discipline. There are four in total: Waijia, Neigong, Qinggong and Dianxue. Characters have ranks in each discipline to reflect their general aptitude for that type of technique.
Every Kung Fu Technique is keyed to a particular skill. You use this skill to perform the technique.
Kung Fu Techniques also come in a variety of types. The most important are Normal (which are standard attacks or skill uses) and counters (which enable you to block, interrupt or counter attacks as they occur).
Qi levels are also important in the game. Every character has a Qi rank from 1-6. This increases over time as you beat foes with more expertise than yourself. Qi rank often affects how powerful a Technique is.
Time is simply an indication of how long the technique takes to execute.
There are quite a few techniques in the book so far. We are still working on them and testing them in play. The ones below will likely be subject to some changes before release.
One thing we are trying to do is keep the text of each technique to as few words as we can. This is because each character begins the game with 6 Kung Fu Techniques and gains more as time goes on. Therefore we want to keep them as simple as possible. In some cases we have to use more words simply out of necessity however.