Archive for December, 2011

[Review] Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem

Posted: December 29, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Roleplaying Games

Love isn’t exactly the first thing people think about when they consider a topic for a supplement for the World of Darkness, but it actually makes perfect sense especially for Vampire: the Requiem. Vampires have long been associated with the forbidden romance, as they were dangerous beings to have as lovers. Add the allure of being mysterious and secretive and you have a powerful combination of traits that could tempt anyone.

Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: the Requiem is a supplement that plays on this aspect of vampires. While I know some people might complain that this is an unnecessary supplement, I’d argue the opposite. Of all the World of Darkness, Vampire is the one line where player characters are most likely to end up in a romance, and glossing over that fact is a disservice to the genre.

Chapter One goes through a detailed rundown on the various Themes that would fit in a supernatural romance with vampires.  Though this is a V:tR supplement, the advice and themes here are applicable across the other types of supernaturals as well (except maybe for Promethean.)  The authors don’t give much in terms of hard rules for crunch, but their treatment of story structure and elements in a romance are impressive, and I do think I’ll be revisiting these many times if I plan to implement a romance angle in any game I run.

Chapter Two provides shards, or chronicle ideas that revolve around the theme of Supernatural Romance.  Of course, being a V:tR supplement, this is where it starts getting specific.  Each of the Shards is given a thorough treatment, with interesting hooks and angles as well as small mechanics that serve to further push the theme of the particular shard.

Chapter Three covers storytelling discussing items such as the social contract in a gaming group. Something that I found as sound advice as not everyone is comfortable with romantic themes in a game. I’ve met many a gamer who would wallow in blood and violence then get very uncomfortable at the topic of intimacy.  The chapter also touches on Character Creation, NPCs and pacing for a campaign.  But one of the most interesting of the topics discussed would be the overview of one-on-one gaming with one ST and one player as a group for a Supernatural Romance game.

Overall Strange, Dead Love makes perfect sense in the context of the Vampire: the Requiem line, and I feel that many a group would be missing out on a lot if they were to ignore the way that romance subplots fit in a Vampire Chronicle.

While the supplement itself doesn’t have a lot in terms of crunch, dealing with a topic like this doesn’t need a lot.  If anything, the advice in the supplement is vital for people because you can’t codify it with a lot of rules to muddy the emotion in the game.

I would recommend Strange, Dead Love to any V:tR Storyteller interested in adding an extra layer of emotional depth to their campaigns, and at a reasonable price.

Strange, Dead Love is available from DriveThruRPG for only $9.99 or roughly PHP 450.00


While my players are off on their respective vacations for the holidays, my Legend of the Five Rings campaign is on hiatus for a couple of weekends, giving me time to think.  This has been a longer campaign than most, which leads to interesting new opportunities and challenges that I’ve not had a chance to actually tackle very often.  That said, I think it will help me a bit if I began listing down the various different plot hooks that are dangling in the campaign so far, so I can work on tying them off or at least bringing them to some form of resolution.

Among the various plot threads in the campaign so far are:

  1. Shigure of the Three Leaves Merchant house still seeks revenge for those responsible for the death of her son.  She’s been pretty much under the radar as of late, though the last information from the Crane just before Winter Court puts her in the direction of the Kitsu Lands.
  2. With the death of Doji Akiko, Akodo Kenji has lost contact with the Gozoku Conspiracy and cannot track their movements unless he manages to reestablish himself as a Gozoku asset.
  3. Asahina Sekawa, the Jade Champion, will be visiting to meet with Kitsu Tetsumi, bringing with him none other that Toturi Sezaru in order to test her abilities and understand this claim of her being able to beckon the ancestors to rise up in battle in the same way that Matsu Nimuro was able to do so.
  4. Akodo Kenji is now the bearer of a shadow brand, thanks to Matsu Hiroto
  5. Matsu Hiroto is establishing his own Matsu Shugenja School against all odds
  6. Matsu Broli is off to try and find a way to establish his own dojo with the help of his new wife, Matsu Makoto.
  7. Akodo Senji is cracking down on crime in Two Rivers, setting himself up as a primary target of the multitude of crime syndicates and other interests that do not care for his authority in their city.
  8. The Tsuno have returned to avenge their fallen and find who was responsible for foiling their plans in Ikoma lands last year
  9. Making a deal with the Tsuno soultwisters, Oni no Kenji has escaped the spirit realms to the true Lion lands for her own mysterious reasons.
  10. The three major merchant houses in the Two Rivers are involved in a serious shadow war for dominance, which as been disrupted by the arrival of Yoritomo Yoyonagi and the re-assignment of a certain Yasuki courtier to the city
  11. Someone is manufacturing Gaijin Firearms in the city

There’s a lot of things happening all at once, and to be honest, I hope I’m not overloading my players.  There’s a point at which many of my players feel that I tend to pressure them too much, and I’ve been hoping to avoid that.  All of these are dangling plot hooks, but I promise that I won’t be dropping all of them on them at the same time.  It’s good to list them down just to see the sheer scale of just how much seeding and setup I’ve had a chance to make over the past few gaming sessions though.  I’m rather proud of myself.

Well, 2011 is coming to a close, and with all the changes happening in my life, blogging has been getting much more difficult as of late.  I’ve switched jobs, and I’m looking to get married sometime in 2012, so there’s a lot of little things that have been buzzing around the background.  That said, change is good, I believe, and if anything, it gives me an assurance that my life isn’t stuck in 2nd gear.  I’m confident that once things start falling into place and once I’ve gotten used to my new schedule I’ll be able to post more regularly again.

2011 has been a good year for me in gaming.  I’ve had a chance to run several campaigns and try out new systems.  I was able to take Hollow Earth Expedition out for a spin for a few sessions, and my Legend of the Five Rings campaign has proven to be one of the longest campaigns I’ve had the pleasure to run.  While I had a chance to review a whole lot more products than I normally do, I was hoping to normalize my review process to the point that I could churn out one or two a week, time willing.

The year also saw a lot of Let’s Study articles (my series on Vampire: the Requiem has yet to continue.  I haven’t forgotten about it just yet) and I’m hoping to continue the practice into 2012 with all the new games on the horizon.  I’m especially eager to see the new Marvel Comics rpg from Margaret Weis Productions, as well as any of the upcoming books from White Wolf Games.  L5R supplements like Imperial Histories are certain to get my attention as well.  Fading Suns 3rd Edition is believed to be slated for next year, and if we’re really lucky, we’ll hear from Redbrick about Blue Planet as well.

I don’t really see myself relinquishing GM duties for the next year, and after my current L5R campaign, I’ll most likely pitch another campaign. I’ve been pretty enamored with Crafty Games’ Mistborn Adventure Game as of late, and I’m curious to give the more Narrative mechanics a spin.  I’ve just finished book 2 of the Mistborn Trilogy, so I’m getting an even better appreciation for how the game was put together.  Add the fact that my job has me working nearly 12 hour days, I just don’t have the kind of time to do my more extensive forms of planning anymore.

That said, I do lament the fact that finding physical copies of RPG books here has become even more difficult that it was when I first started this blog.  Gaming stores here are more or less dedicated to CCGs, Board Games or Miniatures Games.  Some very few might have a tiny stack of odd supplements or the occasional corebook, but nothing that could really be considered accessible for the hobby.  I’d order online, but my experiences so far have been dicey at best.  Sometimes the books arrive looking great, while other books arrive damaged in transit.  Worse, I’ve encountered post office staff that are hell bent on charging me the cost of the book in “customs fees”.  Add the fact that I’ve already paid shipping costs that are worth more than the books in question, and all I can say is that this is quickly turning into highway robbery.

I’ve had some idle thoughts about encouraging a community here, given that the older community I used to belong to is all but dead.  I’m certain there are new gamers out there in the country (I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a few) but there’s little to no support anymore to encourage gaming beyond their own respective groups. That said this is a public blog, and if anyone from the Philippines wants to comment and say hi, then I’d be glad to talk to them.  I’m already thinking of an index project where GMs who are open to new players can use a page on this blog to advertise their availability and gaming preferences as well as an email where people could contact them.

Merry Christmas from the Philippine Gamer!

Posted: December 24, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Articles

I know this isn’t exactly an RPG related post, but in the spirit of celebrating the holidays, I’d like to greet everyone a Merry Christmas!  May you all have fun during the holidays, and stay safe while having a great time!  For those who received gaming-related gifts, enjoy them, and I hope that you all get a chance to play the games that you’ve always wanted to play (or run, for that matter if you’re a GM like me.)

I was talking about character generation the other day with a friend of mine when he said something that struck me as very odd.  He mentioned that he enjoys character creation and the accompanying min-maxing because once he’s done with all of the tweaks and the loophole exploitation, there’s a sense of achievement involved.  His character is essentially complete, rounded to the point that there is nothing that can be taken out, and that everything else that follows is just gravy.

Interestingly enough, his sentiment is shared by other gamers that I know.  And each and every time, I noticed a trend in how they play or run a game.  These are the ones that end up frustrated or annoyed whenever something comes up because of their interactions with other players or NPCs.  It’s as if the actions of other characters are considered to be meddling with their vision of the character, and the long standing effects of certain socially-oriented actions of NPCs violate their chracter’s sense of self.

Ultimately I suspect it’s an issue of control.  There has to be some sort of understanding sooner or later that tabletop roleplaying games is a social activity.  Nobody, not even the GM has absolute control of how to game will turn out, and therefore it becomes the responsibility of all the participants to actually learn to get along and adapt to whatever situation they’re put in.  Whether this means developing a way of rolling with the punches as a GM, or being able to accept that the game will throw a curveball or two your way as a player.

I’m certain people have heard this one before, but it does bear repeating.  An RPG is not a novel.  If anything, it shares more similarities with improv theater than it does with writing a story.  Nobody has absolute control, and GMs would be wise to remember that only be learning to be fluid and adaptive will they actually have any fun.  Demanding that players follow a defined path down  your story is setting oneself up for disappointment, while simultaneously frustrating your players.

I’ll agree that what I’m saying here isn’t exactly easy, but I will argue that it’s a necessary thing to learn as a GM.  In my personal experience, RPGs are most rewarding when they’re like a jazz performance.  Everyone contributes something in a way that makes the performance shine.  Stories are still the heart of it, but a good GM knows how to encourage stories that matter to the players by playing up the things that the players themselves bring to the table.  Certainly, it might not feel like a single, solid narrative as it does a series of individual threads, but a cunning GM should be able to weave these threads together by tying plots at crucial places, people or things that encourage the players to work together for both the group’s goals and that of the individual.

If you keep setting hard expectations upon your game and your character, you constrain your ability to have fun and be surprised.  Be open to possibility in both your game, and your character.  You’d be surprised by just how interesting and engaging things get when your story takes a life of it’s own.