Saturday, February 18, 2017

"Is he telling the TRUTH?" Against Insight/Sense Motive

Man, I am terrible at compiling lists of GM Resolutions, I left off my renewed effort at NPC voices and came to realize today that I also left off my Insight/Detect Lie resolution. To whit, I am done allowing Insight/Sense motive checks to tell when an NPC is lying...

Now, this has been a pet peeve of mine for quite a while, but this year I'm putting my foot down and no longer allow players to declare "Is [NPC] telling the truth? I'm rolling Insight". But, but Zack! You cry, the D&D 5e Player's Manual allows it... and, sure I guess you could read it like that... here it is... the description of the Insight skill (which replaced earlier editions equally terrible "Sense Motive")...
Insight. Your Wisdom (Insight) check decides whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone’s next move. Doing so involves gleaning clues from body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms.
It's right there "true intentions of a creature... searching out a lie..." to which I say, hooey... HOOEY! Continue reading or skip right to the TL;DR

Friday, February 17, 2017

13th Age - The Strangling Sea Review and Recap

(Find it at... Pelgrane Press  / Drivethru RPG / Amazon)

I choose The Strangling Sea to kick off my new Eyes of the Stone Thief campaign, not just because it was a published 1st level adventure that I could run without much prep but because it is an excellent adventure and tailored towards GMs who are new to running 13th Age. While I am not new to running 13th Age, it was still nice to have the extra advice in the adventure to guide me as I gear up to running an ongoing campaign that I hope will cover 1st through 8th levels.

Major spoilers for The Strangling Sea adventure follow, obviously. I'll do the review first and the recap of my players second, so that readers who just want a review of the adventure don't have to stick around for the hi-jinx of my players.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Thought of the Day: NPC Voices

I didn't include it in my list of 2017 Gaming Resolutions, but I've been trying to do more NPC voices for all my games. So, even though I have players who accuse me of killing NPCs off just because I forgot the voice, I keep trying.

Voices and accents don't come naturally to me. I attempted a Space Australian accent for one of my Numenera NPCs but it quickly drifted into something else (though it was a great excuse to watch this delightful clip again and again...) Lately, I've been trying to give NPCs a quick description of their voice or vocal tics and jotting it down in my notes so I can use that to remind myself of how they should sound when I return to that NPC; here are some recent examples of how I've been describing NPC voices.

So I've been trying to decide how to voice a kitten NPC for my 13th Age game, as I want it to live up to the "Talkative" trait that the player picked for the Ranger Pet talent. Long story short, the PC, Felix Mittens, used to be a catperson until he was cursed by a witch to become fully human while his twin brother, Boots, became fully kitten. I've been wracking my brains trying to come up with how Boots should talk, since he'll be an ongoing NPC constantly with the party... I think I'm going to come up with some stock phrases I can use for when certain events happen, like maybe Boots doesn't like orcs or comments when someone fumbles... 

But then I was watching some Venture Bros today and I realize I'm tempted to have Boots speak exactly like Augustus Saint Cloud does when he's pretending that Henrietta Pussycat is speaking to him in the episode Maybe No Go. My delight at saying "Eat the pennies, Quizboy" means that I have a decent Augustus Saint Cloud impression (probably the only VB character I can do reliably) and I like the idea of starting and ending each sentence with "mew mew" to just drive home that Boots the kitten is talking... Others might think it's too creepy, but I'm starting to think it's just creepy enough...

Friday, February 10, 2017

Viking Funeral On Shifty Pond - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 8

Wait, a Seven of Diamonds but this is the eighth actual play podcast? You'll have to listen to find out...

Once again we descended into the lair of the Ginger Giant and recorded the continuing adventures of the Stonestrike sisters, Ochen and Harry Froggy Hoppington. I put in a shameless plug for my recent "Powered by the Apocalypse Style Looks for Fantasy RPG PCs" article, the PCs give Moth his Viking Funeral send-off on shifty pond. Plus whirl-wind romance, death, betrayal, ventriloquism forgiveness and the return of Thomasina, onion witch extraordinaire. All that and more in Viking Funeral On Shifty Pond - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 8.

Powered by the Apocalypse Style Looks for Fantasy RPG PCs

One of the little things from many (but unfortunately not all) Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) games that I think makes character creation really shine is the "Look" options. I've actually borrowed this for non-PbtA one shots, like when I ran my Planescape "Soup" one-shot (sample PCs here). While most PbtA playbooks (class write-ups) have only three or four look "slots" with four options each, I wanted to build off that to make a table of look options that could be easily used for non-PbtA fantasy RPG games, either for players wanting to come up with character appearance descriptions or for GMs who want to provide look options for PCs for one-shot games, like I do. The list is mostly based off the look options found in the Dungeon World SRD.

Obviously not every "slot" needs to be filled, if there's not an appropriate Skin/Other option for a character then don't worry about picking one (or providing options). Likewise, while I really enjoy the Voice options, those are probably ones that will often be skipped by players who intend to roleplay their character's voice or who don't want to always be trying to speak in a "booming voice"

Two examples of how to use this chart. First, imagine a player building Matilda Boomhammer, Dwarf cleric of a Thunder God. Flummoxed at how they should describe their PCs appearance they consult the table and pick some things that fit their conception of the PC, ending up with...

  • Smoldering Eyes
  • Battered Helmet
  • Sweet Face
  • Battleworn Armor
  • Sturdy Body
  • Braided Beard
  • Calm Voice
Or perhaps a GM is creating characters for an one-shot game and while they are picking stats and powers, they want to leave choices for the players to make to encrourage what might be an otherwise disposable PC to feel like it belongs to that player. One of the PC options is a human wizard, so the GM provides these for the look options...
  • Cold eyes, Crazy Eyes, Knowing Eyes, Searing Eyes
  • Messy Hair, Pointed Hat, Strange Hair, Tattooed Scalp
  • Bony Face, Cruel Face, Plain Face, Striking Face
  • Dark Clothes, Flowing Robes, Strange Robes, Worn Robes
  • Emaciated Body, Pudgy Body, Knobby Body, Wiry Body
  • Nervous Hands, Ritual Scars, Unusual Jewelry, Waxen Skin
Then when a player chooses the human wizard, they don't have to come up with a look from scratch and their choices will get to add some personality to the PC they portray for the one shot, as a human wizard with "cold eyes, a tattooed scalp, a cruel face, dark clothes, an emaciated body and waxen skin" feels very different from a human wizard with "knowing eyes, a pointed hat, flowing robes, a knobby body and nervous hands".

Click here for a printer friendly PDF.

It goes without saying that these are just a starting point and meant as inspiration, if you're using them and find yourself drawn to a description that isn't on the list, you should go for it instead of limiting yourself.

Options with an *Asterisk were put in to help support more unusual races like Tieflings, Minotaurs and Dragonborn

Eyes Hair/Head Face Clothes/Carb Build Skin/Other Voice
Cold Eyes Bald Aristocratic Face Animal Skins Built Body Battle Scarred Skin Booming Voice
Crazy Eyes Battered Helm Blunt Face Battleworn Armor Bulky Body Braided Beard Brittle Voice
Dead Eyes Braided Hair Bony Face Camouflaged Garb Compact Body Calloused Skin Calm Voice
Eager Eyes Carved Horns* Boyish Face Cape Creepy Body Flexible Hands Crackling Voice
Fiery Eyes Cropped Hair Broken Face Ceremonial Garb Emaciated Body Flowing Beard Deep Voice
Glowing Eyes Dreadlocks Cruel Face Common Clothes Fit Body Many Piercings Flat Voice
Hard Eyes Fancy Hair Dull Face Dark Clothes Flabby Body Masked Face Grating Voice
Haunted Eyes Flowing Hair Expressive Face Fancy Clothes Graceful Body Nervous Hands Gravelly Voice
Haunting Eyes Furry Hood Flushed Face Finery Knobby Body Pale Skin Guttural Voice
Joyous Eyes Hooded Head Girlish Face Flowing Robes Lithe Body Perfect Skin Heartwarming Voice
Kind Eyes Messy Hair Gorgeous Face Habit Long Shanks Precise Hands Hoarse Voice
Knowing Eyes Mohawk Haggard Face Mismatched Armor Mighty Thews Quick Hands Lilting Voice
Laughing Eyes Plumed Helmet Handsome Face Polished Armor Pudgy Body Ritual Scars Loud Voice
Sad Eyes Pointed Hat Kind Face Poor Clothes Rangy Body Sausage Fingers Low Voice
Searing Eyes Pristine Horns* Lively Face Practical Leathers Ravaged Body Scaly Skin* Monotonous Voice
Sharp Eyes Scarred Horns* Mournful Face Ragged Clothes Scrawny Body Scarred Hands Penetrating Voice
Shifty Eyes Shaggy Hair Plain Face Scavenger’s Outfit Sharp Body Soft Skin Reedy Voice
Shrouded Eyes Shorn Hair Plump Moist Face Scraps Stocky Body Strange Brands Rich Voice
Smoldering Eyes Strange Hair Rugged Face Silk Clothes Sturdy Body Strange Tattoos Roaring Voice
Tormented Eyes Styled Hair Smooth Face Strange Robes Supple Body Tanned Skin Soft Voice
Warm Eyes Stylish Cap Stern Face Stylish Robes Thin Body Unmarred By Decoration Soothing Voice
Watchful Eyes Tattooed Scalp Striking Face Traveling Clothes Tiny Body Unusual Jewelry Stentorian Voice
Weary Eyes Tonsure Strong Face Weather Inappropriate Clothes Well-Fed Body Waxen Skin Stern Voice
Wild Eyes Top Knot Sweet Face Weathered Hides Wild Body Weathered Skin Sultry Voice
Wise Eyes Wild Hair Weathered Face Worn Robes Wiry Body Wrinkled Skin Whispering Voice

Thursday, February 9, 2017

"I don't need any of these things, but I'm taking them." - Antagonist Relations Actual Play Podcast 7 - GM Commentary

You know the drill, go listen to the podcast for episode 7 first... Plus you'll get to peep the maps for this session.

It's been a while, but we're finally about to play episode 8 this week, so it's time to post my commentary for Meat is Meat as I prep. A Red and Pleasant Land is abbreviated as aR&PL below. Also, spoilers for the podcast, though I'll hide any spoilers for the players about upcoming sessions.

Comments are in roughly chronological order as I listen to the podcast for the umpteenth time...

A close up of the map of the dungeon, showing the starting point...