Fantasy F*uckin’ Italy and the Game Police

Saturday I ran my first Google Plus hangout game, set in Fantasy F*ucking Italy. The setting, more specifically, is Milan in May 1491 and the game system is Adventure Fantasy Game. Fun was had, liberties were taken and Saturday we are going to play again.

But I’m not going to write about the setting, or the game, or the period. I’m going to write about the Game Police.

The Game Police stops you from having fun your way. Because your way is not proper. Because you’re not allowed to walk off the path. Because our pasts are full of shipwrecked campaigns and bad games, and surely these suck sewage. And the Game Police knows what’s good for you and wants to protect you.

The Game Police first weapon is Nagging. It might be from people on your social network of choice, on RPG.net, your friends. It might even be your inner self-criticizing voice. Nagging mostly consists of reminding you that you are not doing justice to the material or the rules by not being 100% accurate in preparation or execution. If you’re not accurate you’re engaging in some kind of lame, distorted version of the proper setting or game. The Game Police frowns on that.

The Game Police second weapon is Fear. Fear that you might fuck up and it’s gonna be your fault if it’s horrible. The problems might happen now or later if you’re not conservative. Fear stops characters from messing with your setting, stops you from exploring and stretching its boundaries, stops everybody from being daring with toys. Because you might ruin everybody’s game now and in the future forever.

Nagging and Fear are terrible weapons, and the Game Police knows it. They keep you away from fun by threatening you with terrible consequences, stopping you and your group from hopping off the steep Cliff of Failed Campaigns and the Crevice of BadWrongFun. Keeping you safe. Nagging delays you, forcing to prepare so much that it’s not feasible and making gameplay clumsier in playing rules as written. Fear stops you from being daring with your material, your setup and with in-game consequences.

It’s for your own good, really. Truth is the Game Police also stop you from being utterly & freakin’ awesome.

Ignore the Game Police: nobody ever reached the summit of Mount Awesome without risking anything.

The best way to the top of Mount Awesome is a magical trebuchet.

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Awesome Spells: Charm Person

I’m a big fan of Charme Person. Like, big time. For the following reasons:

  1. It allows the mage to play puppeteer with somebody. Awesome. This spell so wins. Plus it presents the mage interesting problems (“should I just make him die? kill him myself? let him go back? keep on charming him every day?”). Plus, in feeding megalomaniac urges is second to just Fireball: free minions are both tricky and awesome.
  2. Because it is truly a spell with a huge range of uses. It can be used to turn the tides of a battle, to get information, to get some slack from people like guards, teachers, bankers, bartenders, shopkeepers, wenches, tax inspectors and so on. Especially if the PCs are somewhere they’re not going to stick around when charme will wear off.
  3. There’s a great chance people met somewhere can be very knowledgeable about their whereabouts. Doubly so in confined places like dungeons. Having the charmed act as a guide while keeping him away from trouble is something the charmed might appreciate, in retrospect, and if played smart can hardly be against the subject alignment. Even just asking “how the heck do we get out of here?” can save the party’s bacon.
  4. Charming an NPC allows PCs to peek “behind the scenes” and learn tidbits about your setting without going out of character. This is a meta-tool that can be used either to showoff your effort, highlight or foreshadow something important that you want to make sure players notice (possibly because they didn’t get it the fist time around) or to provide closure for some events players have been puzzling about. Be careful while using meta-tools as they’re very powerful and with great powers blah blah blah.
  5. It allows forces me to create NPCs on the fly, and I totally love that. NPCs and exploration are what make me want to run games, doubly so if I have to come up with mad stuff on the fly.
  6. It’s just first level. It lasts days. It’s probably going to last more than the charmed individual… 🙂
  7. When it wears off, problems might happen. An entire generation learnt to hate Bargle because of two spells, and one was this.
  8. An evil/chaotic NPC will probably propose and be willing to do extremely dirty work for his master. Torture, thieving, murder, prostitution, slavery, racket…

As a house rule, I make the spell permanent if the save is failed with a 1. It happened in my sandbox, and it’s been great fun to have Wolf (a ruthless bandit leader with alcohol and lotus problems) hang around with the party. He would suggest to do things most other PCs would not be ready to do or to even suggest (except the Cthulhu cleric, but that’s a topic for another post).

Something else that happened is that while my players were exploring Sham‘s Dismal Depths: Bowser the medium (played by my cousin Andrea) charmed a morlock to keep him from raising the alarm. Ugub the Morlock was used as a guide, the party keeping him safe from harm and, when they were going to leave the dungeon, Bowser even paid him and let him go back to his workshop. When the spell ended Ugub (reaction roll… high enough) realized that the magic-user treated him better than his taskmaster, left his workplace with a bag full of tools and rejoined the party. This is the reason why we now have playable morlock tinkers… 🙂