Category Archives: White Wolf
Sometimes #RPGChat on Twitter inspires me to write about a particular topic on the blog. Last night’s chat was no exception.
To Fudge, or not To Fudge? That is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to say “to hell with THAT!” and give the Big Bad extra hit points during a fight with the PCs?
There are those who will proclaim that it isn’t fair to fudge in the Big Bad’s favor. There are those will will say that it is breaking the rules. But really, what’s the better story here: “our group trounced the monster in the first round before it even got the chance to move”, or “it was an epic struggle, the battle waged on and on, and then I bit Cerberus’ balls off!”?
(Yes, this actually happened.)
You really need to consider carefully before you fudge. Sometimes the PCs do something that is just so incredibly epic that letting them kill that baddie so fast is just the right thing to do. For example, years ago when a friend of mine rolled a critical hit – decapitation instant death and killed a dragon in the opening shot of an encounter (a fight he was supposed to avoid mind you)… as a first level character… that was a pretty big moment and the GM absolutely let him have it. He should have had that moment. It’s a great story!
Other times the fight ending early is just anticlimactic. The first time we brought the Mages and Werewolves together to fight a big bad evil spirit we severely underestimated the amount of damage they could do. When we constructed the baddie we didn’t build a high enough defense for it because we wanted to make sure it was possible for them to hit it. They had ludicrous rolls with all kinds of roll-ups and it wound up totally spent before the end of the first round. Sure it happens to all guys every now and then, but does that mean they want to tell their friends all about it for years to come? Hells no! So my co-GM and I exchanged a quick glance, tripled its original hit points, and continued the fight. The players never even knew. (Well… they know now.) “Cerberus” (we never explicitly called it that, but the legend comes from somewhere!) got to try out a few nifty abilities, the PCs were battered around a bit, and yes… the fight ended when a Werewolf castrated him with his teeth. Two years later we still talk about it!
The fact of the matter is that those stats: the Defense, the Hit Points… they were just numbers we chose. Sure they were based on various other stats, but we made up those stats too! We could just as easily have made up higher numbers to begin with, and truth be told we almost did but wanted to make sure the PCs had a fighting chance. No matter how hard you try sometimes you get it wrong. Sometimes you need to adjust on the fly. What’s important is to remember that everyone is at the table to have fun, and in the case of RPGs (generally speaking) to tell a good story. If you err in the service of those two goals then chances are you’ll be forgiven if you get caught.
Just remember… next time you give that baddie more hit points! And better armor… and minions…
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re a science guy – a guy who does science. Your mission in life is to find out how and why the universe works, and you’re doing pretty well with that (you think) until you hit this stumbling block. There’s this point in your theories where something is wrong. There is some piece of vital information that you just dont have. There is one elusive key ingredient with which you could unlock the mysteries of everything if you only knew what it was. How irritating is that?
And then one day you wind up figuring out that the piece you were missing was the the Awakened Will… and now you have one! Good Morning Niels!
So now what? Sure, you’ve Awakened, and you have all this power… are you just going to throw away your quest for the answers to Life, The Universe, and Everything?
This is when you can really find things out. You’re gonna play with it! You’re gonna push the boundaries. Sure, the “Wise Mages” know that there are limits to the understanding of a young Mage that should limit what spells that Mage attempts… but as a scientist you understand more than the average newly Awakened rube! Why shouldn’t you try playing around with making ephemeral lab assistants and turning your lab space into a hallow? Paradox shmaradox. That never happens! Honestly, it’s probably just a scary story the elder Mages tell the younger Mages to keep them in line while taking bets as to how long it will take them to figure it out. Honestly, when was the last time you managed to invoke a paradox?
OK, there was that one time when Arrow claims a paradox he induced turned his toilet brush into a non-sentient and nondescript hotel maid while trying to disguise himself… but no one else was there and there aren’t any pictures so did it even really happen? And besides, if you can’t repeat the result by following the same steps then it’s scientifically insignificant anyway! He probably just miscast the spell.
And speaking of repeating the steps of an experiment to see if it can produce the same outcome, maybe it’s about time to try recreating that situation that happened in the basement a few weeks back. Yes, I know, Aenaiyah swears that it would have vaporized Manhattan in a billowing cloud of fiery death in 24 TO 48 HOURS (!!!) but who really believes her anyway? She’s just being excitable is all. That girl drinks way too much coffee… I mean tea… something with caffeine and sugar in it.
And I suppose that walking manifestation of Prime Magic that looked just like you was a bit unexpected, but it was also pretty cool wasn’t it? Can’t the world use another Niels? Sure it can!
Then of course there was the extra-nummy mana! All that double-strength super-potent glowy goodness flowed right into you every time you stepped foot in the lab. You have to admit that was pretty awesome. The speed of light may have been slightly altered by some aspect of the effect, true, but you can probably fix that problem if you have enough time to tweak the experiment. Just think of all that super-charged mana that could be yours! Eyes on the prize Niels!
And really, what better time than when your cabal mates are mucking around in Damien’s ex-Wife’s brain? It’s hardly as though they’re paying much attention to what Niels is doing at the moment, what with their being all preoccupied with astral constructs and stuff, and since your player has missed the last two sessions it really does feel like the right time for another breakthrough, doesn’t it?
Why, if you keep on experimenting Magekind could benefit in many ways… many of them good!
What could possibly go wrong?
The Principles of Time Travel
as I (Sort-of) Understand Them (in Theory)
Before I say anything else: The First Rule of Time Travel is “Don’t.”
The Second Rule of Time Travel is “Don’t Talk About Fight Club,” but I think that was someone’s idea of a joke. Possibly mine. In the future, that is. Anyway, not important.
Seriously though, “Don’t” is a very important rule. Time Travel should never be undergone lightly. If a Moros Mage f@#ks up, the worst that can happen is the zombie apocalypse or the complete and utter destruction of all matter in the universe. In the case of a serious Acanthus fustercluck, the whole of existence—at best—never happened. The problem is if you’ve done enough Time Traveling that someone’s teaching you the rules then you’ve gone and broken the First Rule of Time Travel (and possibly the second) already.
So, you beautiful little rule-breakers, welcome to my domaine.
Most people who have studied (read as: “mucked around in”) the workings of the timestream conclude that there are only two ways the universe could stabilize itself with so many people disobeying the First Rule of Time Travel:
The SPLIT TIMELINE or MULTIVERSE theory suggests whenever someone travels back in time and changes something, two timelines branch off. In one the original event happened unaltered, in the other something completely new happens. Apparently Nintendo subscribes to this theory, much to the chagrin of obsessive Legend of Zelda fans wanting to know how the various games fit in the Zelda continuity. If you are one of those fans, let me try and settle that debate for you once and for all: There isn’t any continuity. None of it ever happened. It’s fictional..
The INEVITABLE FATE or YOU’RE PROBABLY SCREWED theory is best demonstrated by any episode of Disney’s Gargoyles that involved a handy little item called “The Phoenix Gate.” Essentially, If you try to change something you’d find yourself the catalyst for the event you wanted to prevent. For example, you travel back in time to save your childhood friend from being hit by a car. When you see them alive and well and just how you remember them after so many years you shout out in joy—but this shout catches their attention and they step into the street without looking both ways and. . . . you get the idea.
In my opinion, both theories suck. The first creates an overwhelming number of possible universes (and even more debates over said universes), and the second is just damn depressing. I like to believe in a different theory, which I’ll call the BACK THERE theory, after the Twilight Zone episode of the same name. This suggests that “Major Events” are stable, but “Minor Events” can be changed.
Let’s say you decide to get all noble and assassinate a certain crazy German leader from the 1940s. That would be the historical equivalent of rewriting the Harry Potter series so that our eponymous hero croaks in The Chamber of Secrets. Lord only know what horrors you’ll unleash when you unravel that intricate weave of cause and effect. Actually, the Lord doesn’t know. . . but other Time Travelers do. Should you manage to kill Hitler you’ll find yourself a massive target for every (Somewhat) Responsible Time Traveler, and if you’re lucky your work will be undone before you can even begin it. If you’re unlucky, you’ll blink out of existence before you can say “What do you mean my father was never born?”
Saving one Jewish family from the same era doesn’t rewrite as much. It’s similar to the removal of Peeves from the Harry Potter movies. It alters things, but the changes are manageable.
In essence, a Time Traveler is like an editor; The universe is a finicky author. If you want to rewrite things in the author’s beloved manuscript you have to do it with a light touch. Otherwise the author will have a temper tantrum and things will turn out poorly for everyone involved.
All right my little rule-breakers, I’d write more on this but I have to be somewhere yesterday. Good luck on your journey, but if you can slip back and teach yourself the First Rule of Time Travel before you get started that’d probably be for the best.
Tonight’s #RPGChat, tonight as I’m writing anyway, made me feel compelled to say a few words about working gadgets into the game table experience. Naturally mileage will vary with your group of players.
I would have a very difficult time running Mage without my laptop. There are just so ridiculously many things my Mages can do (See: The rest of this blog) that if I had to print out all of my notes there wouldn’t be a tree left standing anywhere on the planet. I also keep their stats on an Excel spreadsheet so that I can make secret die rolls for them from time to time without having to ask what their dice pool is, which would blow the secret now wouldn’t it?! Then of course there is the nightmare that is tracking initiative when people are speeding themselves up, slowing each other down, and mucking with the time stream. I don’t think I need to name any names here, do I Aenaiyah?
Yes, a laptop at the table is this GM’s friend.
The problems can happen when the players have them. They can make a player easily distracted. I admit that I have been guilty of being distracted myself from time to time, which is no one’s fault but my own. We live in a world of multitasking. We’re all so used to needing to multitask at work that we even multitask when we’re supposed to be relaxing and enjoying things.
One thing that makes it easier for me is the fact that I GM in a modern day setting, so the characters have just as many gadgets as the players. As a result I can work them into the game. When I’m researching a setting for a game session I’ll keep track of what comes up with interesting Google hits. Then I’ll work those things into the game session. For example, I was looking for an abandoned location for a less-than-sane Mage killer to be hiding out in and settled on a monastery in Staten Island. I chose this particular location because not only did it suit the general feel I was looking to evoke, but there had been some interesting stories about the location posted on various sites around the web. These sites had everything from your standard hauntings, to a fire set by a crazed monk (who continues to haunt Staten Island), to 17 flooded levels deep beneath the ground that hadn’t been entered in a century or more. Not only did this give me great encounter seeds, I knew that I could count on my players to Google the place as soon as I said the name. When they did they turned up the same links I had, so I was prepared for everything they decided to do at the location. Furthermore, I didn’t have to worry that they would “know to look into something” because “if the GM bothered to make this up about the location it must be important”. Some things were absolutely not of any consequence whatsoever and were just random facts they found on the internet. Other things they found on the internet were absolutely important. All of them had equal weight in the minds of the players because I hadn’t made any of them up.
By taking advantage of the laptops the players had with them I was able to not only prevent them from being taken out of the game by the distraction, I was able to bring the game into the real world just a little bit more. By using real life places, and real life search results, I was able to make everything just that little bit more eerie because it was more than simply something I made up. It was real.
And real is creepy.