Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Ninth World Chronicles Episode 8: Of Brothels and Broken Things

Our Traveler’s venture into Shallamas looking for a place to sell their unneeded items, and to learn more about the Crime Lyulf’s Father is accused of.  Awkwardness ensues.    (WARNING: This episode contains a bit of suggestive banter and lots of innuendo.  We kept it as clean as we could.)

The Ninth World Chronicles Episode 8: Of Brothels and Broken Things

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Poll Posted

Hello Travelers,
I am really considering doing every other week Episodes of the Chronicles for a variety of reasons.

The Episodes themselves are recorded two at a time and we take a 15 minute break in between.  We recap in the middle and it does seem to break up the flow of the game a tad.  If I did every other week Episodes the whole nights session would be one Episode.   I think the quality of each episode would be better since I won't have 'downtime' episodes where it is all setup to the following episode like I feel we have had so in the past. 

Editing wise this works better for me time wise.  It also give me a chance to get work with Cat Head Eagle more in having music that fits the segments a lot better.  Also I hope it would give me more time to provide you guys with written content.  I plan on writing up the creatures my players have encountered as well I have a couple of great idea for "The Adventures of Jeseric" Short stories I want to write.  However I spend a good deal of my free time editing.  So I have little to spend on the written endeavors.  I am working on a new website to house a better site with better content for all of you. 

There are downsides however.  I fear I will loose listeners.  Episode 4 The First Discovery.  The one with battle with the large beast, has less listeners then Episode 5.  It is also the one Episode that had a one week hiatus before it.  People like to ingest story content weekly.  That is how Television works and they are used to it.  An every other week schedule could totally alienate the majority of you listeners that download this podcast every week.

The story also stays fresh.  Weekly I am having to start punching up my GMing a bit more.  Making sure there is a new interesting encounter about every 30-45 minutes. I'm limiting down time and discussion as much as I can to get things moving forward.  This I hope makes for a better listening experience.  Slowing to a 3 hour Episode may slacken my resolve on this a bit.  I hope it doesn't but you never know.

Myself I am conflicted.  There are good reasons for both.  I am leaning towards every other week just for polish and sanity reasons but if you guys don't like it I will power through with a weekly schedule.

So what do you guys think.  I have posted a Poll on the top of the website.  Please let me know your thoughts.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Episode 6&7 Retrospective: or OpenWorld Gaming

When I started this campaign for my players I told them that even though they are on a long quest it is not one big rail.  Look at it like Video games like Skyrim or Fallout or even Grand Theft Auto.  There is a main plot that is sprinkled in here and there.  But where they go what they do is totally up to them.

I told them.  “You do not have to help every beggar with a sob story, or jump at every hook I present you.  Do what your characters would do.”  Granted some of the hooks have been too hard to ignore so far, but that won’t be the case much longer.   

So many times in pen and paper roleplaying games you are obligated to bite at the hook. You have to.  That is the adventure your GM planned.  If you don’t do it, you will probably just end up wandering most of the night while your GM rolls on a random encounter table or something (I’ve played in those sessions).  There is nothing wrong with this kind of design.  It’s a bit railroady but you came into the game wanting to have fun so will probably have the most fun with the adventure the GM prepares even if it goes against your idea of your character.

That is not the fault of your GM, in most cases it is the fault of the system.  Usually the GM has already spent hours preparing the session ( where you the player are only spending the hours playing it) because the system requires hours to prepare to get things right.

Unless of course you fudge.  I have always been a seat of my pants GM where I hide behind my GM screen making up rolls, usually it’s because I really didn’t spend the time to Stat out the NPC or I didn’t have time to look in 4 books to find out what their abilities actually do, or I am just trying to make the game interesting.   Recent systems have made the life of a GM a lot easier.  The 4E monster statblocks were a godsend(though I won’t talk about the rest of the system) Numenera makes it even easier in some regards.  I give it a level I am done.  I can make up whatever I want just assign it a level and away we go.  Usually though I have been giving things different levels.  As in the monster attacks at level 2 but defends at level 3.  That kind of thing.  I add other elements like Special attacks, or other ideas, just fun to throw in.   Like when the Synthspinner Juggernaut (thanks Scott B for the name, that write up is still coming I promise) attacked all the characters in front of it at once.  Just because I thought it was interesting.  With Numenera you can fudge that kind of thing.

What I can’t fudge however is Dice rolls.  Uggg.  Dice rolls.  We use Roll20’s dice for this podcast.  I have to say I have been unimpressed with its randomness.  We get more 1’sand 20’s than anything else.  Not sure why.  But with the players rolling all the dice the outcome is out of my hands.  That scares me as a GM.  I believe I have been WAY too lenient on my players so far in combat.  The actual fights have been a breeze.  Well except for that Synthspinner I tried hard to make that one atleast challenging.   I’ve been easy on them because I have no control of their fate.  A couple bad rolls and they can go down early.

Even in social situations the dice are fickle.  Which have led to interesting results.

But anyway back to my original topic.  I have tried my best to make this an open world game.  There is a story there is character hooks, but the players are free to do what they want. 

We’ve seen it already.  The murder plot on the caravan the characters weren’t particularly interested in.  They tried a couple things, those didn’t pan out well but they didn’t press the issue.  That’s their prerogative.  It doesn’t harm my game at all.  Obidark’s lair was another example.  They never even went past the first room of the place before they left.  They got what they wanted and they left.  Was it poor design on my part? Maybe.  I could have had Cali buried deep inside the facility but I did not.  I didn’t feel it matched the nature of what Obidark was doing and the purpose of the silo.  That and I really didn’t have much more planned.  There would have been a power source, some weird control room type thing that may hint to other facilities of Obidark’s race, and probably a living space.   I had a few small ninth world details scribbled down but nothing major.  But if I thought of something better while playing I would have had it.  Maybe ‘transporter’ type room that makes Obidark substantial or the players ‘trans-dimensional’ that would have been cool (might have to use that later)

Back to the main topic.  Creating open world games is daunting but not very hard.  There is one thing I heard on a podcast once that changed my whole philosophy of GMing. It was an Old Episode of the Order 66 Podcast where they talk about something they dub the GM’s Holocron.  They have since done an episode with it for Edge of the Empire, but you probably should go and listen to the original in the Archives if you’re interested.  What they came up with was the idea of a GM’s notebook.  Where you are not stating out each encounter and taking meticulous notes on what goes where and who everyone is, but instead you design encounters as set pieces.  You just list scenarios with brief descriptions of layout and enemy types.   You do a ton of these, the most interesting things you can think of.  Nothing too detailed.  A Fight at a waterfall, an ambush at a market, an attack while scaling a cliff.  Then when the story leads you to a place where you can throw one of them in you quickly fill in the blanks.  Who’s attacking them in the market?  What do they want? What is their goal? And bam you have an encounter.   This type of GM styling makes it so I don’t sweat the fights, and I can spend most of my GM prep time in designing interesting stories that would lead to one set piece or the other.  Most set piece are system/setting agnostic too which means you can use them over and over in different games.   It really makes open world gaming a lot easier.

However it does lead to some awkwardness from time to time.  Where you have an idea you set it up and the players back out at the last minute.    The lynch mob was kind of that.  I wanted to have a confrontation, but then couldn’t justify it.  Asura wasn’t being insulting.  They HAD just come back with the kid.  It just didn’t work out.

I will say I am having a hard time judging my characters.  Things in town didn’t go as I thought they would.  The GM intrusion with the White pyramid.  I knew Asura would go look at it.  He’s at least reliable for that kind of thing.  I didn’t expect the players to be superstitious about touching him though.  That was how Lyulf was going to first suspect something was up with his father.  A little foreshadowing I had planned that didn’t pan out.  However Thank you Theron!  Your next Judgment will be wrong.   I can see that paying dividends later on.  Do I even know what his next judgment will be?  Nope.  I have no idea how things are going to play out.  I won’t give away what Annalee would have heard.  I’ll keep that one for later.  Asura’s prophecy sounds a bit lame.  People paying attention probably have figured out some of the meta-plot going on in the background.  Asura’s did tie to that, but it may also tie a bit closer into Asura’s story in the future.  I have wheels turning.  I have idea coalescing.

That brings me to another point of open world GMing.  Plan what you can.  Weave some through plots when you can, when they make sense and don’t be afraid to have them too obvious to your characters.  You will be surprised how much they DON’T pick up on.  However you also should leave a lot of loose ends.  Things that don’t get wrapped up tightly.  And when you do NOTE THEM.  That way sessions down the line when you are working on another plot and look through your notes you might have the chance to pick up one of those loose ends and pull.   And when your players realize that odd strip clear synth actually can see a hidden messages scrawled on the wall of some underground compound it’s going to blow their minds.  Not that you thought about it in advance when you made the oddity.  But they won’t care, they will congratulate themselves with even thinking to look through the plastic and how cool they are and in that moment they will be having a blast which as a GM is my Number 1 goal.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Ninth World Chronicles Episode 7: A Walk into White

Our Travelers are almost to Shallamas.  But will they all make it thier in one piece.  As they Leave Obidark's Lair not everyone on the Caravan our happpy with what has transpired.


The Ninth World Chronicles Episode 7: A Walk into White

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Ninth World Chronicles Episode 6: Obidark's Lair

Our Travelers are trying to find a way inside Obidark's Lair to rescue Cali, the child from the Caravan who's gone missing.   What foul things will they find inside.

The Ninth World Chronicles Episode 6: Obidark's Lair

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

iTunes Fixed

Ohh iTunes! tisk tisk.  Well that and  Aprently changed the default urls that they give you for things you upload there, from http's to https'.  iTunes does not like https so any url that starts with that does not work.  Fun fun.  This change aparently happened between me posting episode 3 and 4 of the podcast.  So I had to go in and fix it. Once I figured out what the problem was.

Well all this means for you dear listener is you can now get the last two Episode of the Ninth World Chronicles on Itunes once again. 

I am so sorry for the delay.  Lets hope we have no more hiccups in the futre.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Episode 5 Retrospective

So the big battle happened.  Sorry no real retrospective on that one.  Been pressed for time and it being a big battle against a Creature there really isn’t much to say. I hope you liked the idea of the Creature, and the fact that the Trees were actually part of a large underground web in case you didn’t quite get that.  My editing of that episode was piss poor though.  I started it, had it half way edited, but closed the file without saving it.  Fun fun.  Then I had my headphone shatter (a cat helped) so I was editing the whole thing with one headphone speaker held to my head.  That is my excuse for the repeated battle music.  It just goes on WAY too long. But alas I ran out of time and patience with it.

I bought new Headphones for editing episode 4.  Turtle Beach’s Earforce X12’s if you’re curious.  They fit great and are super comfortable.  But suck for editing.  They are analog in sound. My last headphones were straight USB and while they had a volume control it actually adjusted the volume the computer was outputting.  These amplify the computer’s output.  So it really makes it really hard to tell actual volume of background sounds and even if you are over modulated.   So if things are too loud with Episode 4 that is why.  Sorry still tweeking and adjusting.

Now on to Episode 5.  Call backs, is what I should have called the episode.  With a little bit a poor planning on my part.  When I came up with the encounter in Episode 2 where the women died from the Caravan.  It was off the top of my head. I was making up the encounter as I was describing it.  Like I said back in my Episode 2 Retrospective. I never expected the party to get that far.  I didn’t plan for it.  However I never meant for her death to be tied to the attack.  However I described her as injured.  She fell off her annen during the fighting I said.  However my players skipped over that detail, and I was fine with it.  It could have been a buy product of the attack and I could leave it at that.  It wasn’t until they started caring for the guy whose arm was injured did I get the idea that this was in fact Murder.  Now I had a vessel to tell a story with that I can shelve until I need it.  The guy was unconscious after all.  Injured quite badly.

The poor planning number 1 however came during Episode 4.  I knew then that Boslin was going to be my villain.  He’s a spoiled rich man who despises the people he is with even though he chose to be with them.  They are all beneath him and he cares little for their wellbeing.  Once I knew he was going to survive Episode 4, I should have planted evidence on his dead annen.  Have the players find the used injector then and not know what it was or for.  Hind sight is 20/20.

Instead the players were fumbling around wondering if they should believe this story or not.  Frankly it didn’t make for an interesting plot as it panned out.  I was expecting them to at least question Boslin.  Confront him even.  I knew the evidence was flimsy.  I could of I guess provided more but then I was thinking why would Boslin have evidence on this other Annen.  If there was still evidence he would have it on him, and the players never searched him.  I’m not quite sure that Boslin would have even denied he’d done it if asked. Since these caravan goers aren’t really people to him they are classes apart.  OK he would have lied but been really horrible at it.  However no one even asked.  Instead we get a GREAT botched roll that leads to Asura Tao being believe to be a murderer.  FUN!  However Lyulf then goes and undermines the man’s ranting with a great roll much to my dismay J. 

Poor planning #2 in my part was not having Cali in these scenes.  I meant for her to show up early in this episode.  Ask a ton of questions about the beast and other annoying things.  Try to endure herself to the party a bit more.  However I forgot. I had it in my notes and I forgot.  I got tied up with trying to salvage this murder investigation and I dropped the ball.   So her going missing later in the Episode has less of an impact.   As listeners though as soon as I started talking about a boogie man who steals children.  I bet most of you knew what was coming.   Telegraphed a mile away that one was.  Having her show up this episode would have made it even more so.    But she did need to show up twice before she became a plot focus.  It’s usually better that way.  Makes them feel like less of a redshirt. That’s where Star Trek Failed with the red shirt.  The one guy who’s only shows up right before they die.  If you had them in minor scenes for 2 or 3 episodes prior then their death has more impact but alas TV budgets and tight time constraints don’t allow for that.  I however don’t have time constraints (or a budget to speak of) so I should do better. 

Kadiv also made second appearance.  He likes Asura Tao so he has to play the nice guy in the caravan.  He also has a kick as staff bow thingy.  He probably won’t become a plot though.  You can’t have every NPC an adventure hook.

Obidark’s lair.  There is an inherent problem with anything of significant note in a game like this; a monolith, a mysterious cave, a large column shooting out of the ground, and that is; why hasn’t anyone else been there before the players?   Why are the players the first to find the opening?  Suspension of disbelief has to occur in games like this for this reason.   I can make up what absurd happenstance makes it this way all I want. But after the 4 or so newly discovered cave entrances or crash sites or what have you, it will get pretty transparent pretty quickly.  At least in this part of the Steadfast.  Once I get into the beyond anything goes.  I guess I can say that ‘no one that has ever entered has exited alive’ but then I would be forced to kill these tier 1 pc, because seriously if no one else has even left this place than it has to be super-duper hard inside. Right.  J

In the next Episode I tried to make things weird.  We’ve been sticking with some fantasy tropes for a bit I wanted to make sure this felt like Numenera and not some high fantasy world.

How’d you like my Obidark poem/song? Didn’t turn out quite as I wanted.  I wanted little children singing the chorus.  But alas my son is only 22 months so he’s out, and I had no other kids at my disposal.  So I left off the chorus.

Hope you guys are still enjoying the podcast.  Look for the next Episode Thursday.