Monday, February 22, 2010

Meditative Vision

Over the weekend I attended a Yoga & Guided Meditation class. It was very nice and relaxing. During the meditation section, I really let my mind wander, blank and empty. It was like being in a light, dream-filled, sleep. And in that sleep I had a "vision" - nothing Earth-shaking. It was just a nice little image that felt relaxing and well-suited to the kind of meditation we were doing.

Against the backdrop of a dark bamboo forest at night, a low stone wall rested against a hill. Leaning against the cool stone was a small black and white panda, gazing longingly at the bright grey-white moon in the black starlit sky.

Like I said, it was a short, brief, image, but very relaxing.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dread Zombie follow-up

After talking with my players and getting feedback, I realized the truth in the statement "you are your own harshest critic."

I thought I didn't do a great job giving everyone spotlight time. They seemed to disagree. Most felt like they got enough time to shine and have their character do stuff.

I thought I "shot down" player ideas. They disagreed. Example: a player attempted to leave by the back door. I said that "They" parked a truck in front of it so you can't get out. I wanted to give her something, though, for her effort, rather than just "No you can't go that way" so I threw a clue in the form of overhearing some plans. Afterwards I felt like the clue was too small/lame. She disagreed. "As a player, I didn't expect to get out." And she felt the clue wasn't lame.

I thought the plot seemed slapdash and incoherent. They liked it and were able to follow it. Though they agreed that at times it felt like they were going in circles.

So... overall I'm not going to improve my game's grade (which I gave a B+), but I am going to feel happier about it. It was fun. And that, after all, is the most important part.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

That was ... interesting

Just got home from the Zombie game of Dread I mentioned in the previous post. Now I'm trying to figure out if it was a wreck or a success.

First, the most important question: Did I have fun? Yes. I did. Most of the time.
Second, did the players have fun? Yes. I think so.

- Half-n-half doesn't work.
I wanted to run an improvised game, but was too nervous to fully commit to said improv game, so I prepared notes and clues and scenes and stuff. But since I didn't want to prepare too much, I only half-prepared. Important lesson: half way between improvised and prepared is a dangerously non-committal game which confuses both players and GMs.

- Silliness.
I wanted to run a more serious game with players more invested in their characters' fates and personal stories. I would say this only succeed at about 33%. Only about a third of the time did I feel like I go to make good use of interesting character quirks, draw out intercharacter relationships, or create clues or scenes based on the characters. I will in no way place blame for this on my players.

I gave each player a few scraps of paper and they occasionally passed me notes, and I passed them notes. In a couple of instances players passed me "hey this would be cool for my character" notes or took me aside to tell me them secretly. Actually, these worked out pretty well. The problem was that I didn't feel like I, as GM, did enough to encourage this and to make sure every player got an opportunity. At least one player got left out of the spotlight the whole game. Sorry, Allie. That was my bad.

- Ran out of ideas
Towards the end I really started to run out of ideas and felt like I was making the players pull for things that were silly. I also felt like my default "I can't think of anything" solution was "hey look, a zombie!" It felt too cheezy after a while.

- The players (thankfully) acquiesced to my story premise: you are locked in the building with the zombies and a "clean up crew" is on the way.

- We all seemed to enjoy stealing classic zombie tropes
Someone was already bitten. Someone had been part of top-secret experiments before. There was the classic stereotypical lab. We had some great ripped-from-the-slasher-flicks characters. It was lots of fun.

- The End!
Even though a split party proved a challenge for me, it ended well. One group escaped by helicopter (first character death of the game was a Heroic Sacrifice to take a bullet for the chopper pilot). The other group descended into the secret basement labs, then the sewers.

In the sewers the climactic moment was a series of inter-player conflicts (bid a number of pulls, highest bidder wins, but has to make those pulls) in which one character shot at another (missed), then was attacked by a third character (and died), while the fourth character tried to steal the stolen data and escape (and got shot by the dying first player)!

I think I'm going to chalk this one in the "Win" column. I had fun. I'm pretty sure my players had fun. There were some rough spots, but we pulled through. It was silly, but in a campy zombie-flick sort of way. And the mistrust between characters, the paranoia, was palpable and resulted in great end-story conflicts.

If I had to give it a letter grade? B+. Solid effort, clearly there's something there. With a little refinement, a better hold on the reigns, and a clear decision between full improv or full preprepared, this could easily be a solid A game.

Tower Corp: a game of Dread

Dread has to be one of my favorite RPGs. Ever. It does survival horror PERFECTLY. But that's for another post.

Right now I have about 30 minutes until I'm going to run a game of Dread and I am nervous as hell! I'm not normally a nervous GM for RPGs. But this time I am trying two very dangerous things:

1. I'm trying to keep the game largely improvised. That means planning less. That means a scary feeling of no control.
2. I'm running a Zombie plot. Zombie plots tend to be fairly open-ended. And the last time I ran a zombie plot the game felt like a failure (I didn't have fun and from my point of view the players looked bored).

I am terrified and excited and eager for and dreading this game.

Here's hoping it works.

The basic premise:
The players are all employees of Tower Corp. After working late one night they are about to leave when suddenly a strange man (zombie) attacks one of them. The well-meaning security guard insists that everyone stay put until an ambulance and the police arrive. But instead of the police/ambulance, a team of pseudo-CDC types arrives and locks down the building.

They say that a CDC Incident Evaluation Team is on the way, but that's a lie: it's really a "clean up" team who are there to eliminate any witnesses or traces of infection.... with extreme prejudice.

Meanwhile, the players will have to deal with zombies and each other. Hopefully they'll want to investigate the cause/source of the zombies and find it in their workplace.

Dear lord I hope my players are willing to take as many chances as I feel like I'm taking with this.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Vacation Photo

Here's a stereogram photo I took while in Glacier National Park. I sometimes stare at it when I need a brief moment of relaxation. That was, I think, one of the most beautiful scenes I saw in the park.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Birthday HPL

It's been a while since I posted, and the 109th celebration of the birth of my favorite author, HP Lovecraft, is as good a reason to write as any I can think of.

Rather than expound on how Lovecraft has introduced me to many other authors (some because he influenced them, others because they influenced him), I thought I would post two (semi-self-promoting) links.

The first is a link to a radio drama version of "The Statement of Randolph Carter" in which I played the title character. I highly recommend listening to the other episodes of The Cthulhu podcast, since they are all excellent, and provide great historical insight as well as good stories.

The Statement of Randolph Carter
the Cthulhu podcast

The second link is to a "choose your own adventure" style story I wrote for Pelgrane Press. My main inspiration for the format comes from the solo adventure books from Chaosium like "Alone against the Wendigo." Please please please tell the folks at Pelgrane Press if you like the story. And if you think the story could use work: please tell me! I would love to get feedback on my writing.

The Invitation, a pick a path adventure for Trail of Cthulhu

Looking forward to hearing what you thought of my contributions to the mass of Lovecraftian content out there.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Dream, night of July 5

I worked at a very high class business and lived in the same skyscraper. One night when I returned to my loft, there were people waiting for me that I did not recognize. They had a strange aura about them, but it wasn't until they showed me something that I realized they were not of our world.

The next scene that I remember is standing on a beach just outside of the city, looking back at the skyline. There, floating above the city, were the aliens' spaceships: titanic hovering boxes of varying sizes. Some were long and narrow, others wide and tall. In all they gave the impression of a surreal cloudscape.

When I turned back to the beach, I saw one of the alien craft had landed in the sand. Rather than the smooth sides that I expected, the surface was covered by numerous small doors. Overcome by curiosity I began to open the doors and saw that each door opened on a deep, narrow compartment set into the cube. The depth of each chamber should have caused them to overlap and intersect, but the alien physics were such that they seemed to ignore this rule of physical space.

A crowd gathered and some began to explore the cube as well. No one could understand the purpose of the cube or the chambers built into it. The mystery grew as reports came in from around the world that other, similar, cubes had appeared.

Near me a man exclaimed excitedly that he had determined the purpose of the chambers and the cube. Each chamber was meant as a storage locker. The bottom of the locker was a sliding platform. I was struck by the similarity to the body lockers found in morgues.

The world descended into tumultuous debate. Many people wanted to cooperate with the unspoken alien demands: to volunteer themselves for storage in these cubes. Others wanted to carefully select the sample of humanity that would enter the cube. Still others weren't convinced that the lockers were meant for living inhabitants, that instead inanimate artifacts of humanity should be included or substituted.

In the end I remember either volunteering or being selected. But I don't remember if I went into one of the chambers or what happened thereafter.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Behind? I don't mind

I'm definitely feeling some pressure to keep pace to succeed at Script Frenzy. I'm at 16 pages as I sit down to write tonight. If I'm to stay on my self-appointed pace of 4 pages/day, I need to cram four in tonight. Doable.

I'm a little anxious, but really enjoying this challenge. Much more than NaNoWriMo. In fact, after this, I may try to adapt another story into an audio drama... and then try to record it!