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Session Scheming

Tonight on #RPGChat* we were discussing the virtues of session planning, and how some of us like to go about it. This feels appropriate to me for two main reasons, this first of which is that I have a new chapter starting up soon for the Mages (the blog is behind the campaign’s timeline but we’ll catch up to them eventually!), and the second being that RetCon is rapidly approaching and I’m in convention game planning hell.

For reasons too asinine to go into here I committed to running three brand new adventures this year: Innocents, Hunter, and Mage. I have a vague idea of what these sessions will be, which you can check out for yourself if you click through the links. RetCon is in two weeks.

No good can come of this.

There is a lot of flying by the seat of my pants that I do with the Mage campaign. With seven players tossing around god-like powers I’m pretty much forced to. My convention games however are much more solidly put together. There are packets with background info on the characters and their basic attitudes toward life and the current situation to be put together. Naturally the characters all need to be fully statted. The packets also include a brief explanation of certain concepts so that if I have people who are new to the system they will know how things work, for example how the Virtue/Vice selections come into play. I am absolutely a fan of having things to hand out during game sessions and that all has to be put together too.

I like to give my convention players as much of a sandbox environment as I can, but the fact is that I’m running for people I don’t know and may or may not see again. This means coming up with specific goals for them that will keep them in a reasonably predictable area, and then giving them free reign to interact with that environment. I also love to give them free reign to interact with each other. This is where those character “attitudes” come into play. I make every effort to give the PCs things to argue about. Some will totally believe in the presence of the supernatural all around them, while others are skeptics. Some will be bright eyed, bushy tailed, and enthusiastic to learn something new from their team mates; while some of those team mates are just hoping they haven’t been saddled with some brown-nosing, over achieving, suck up. of course having a “Brainey Smurf” around is always good for inter-group tensions. When folks play up those personality types hilarity is sure to ensue.

The story has to be short enough to run in the time allowed, but it can’t run too short either. To that end, I try to plan out things that will be fun for the players to do yet aren’t necessary for the storyline to make sense. I plot out filler scenes. The trick is to make sure they don’t feel like filler scenes. I always give myself a way to trigger the finale in case they don’t get through all of the ‘necessary events’ with at least 30 minutes left in the session. I don’t want things to feel forced, but more importantly I don’t want the players to leave the table feeling incomplete. That isn’t good for anybody.

So, basically, I still have a lot of writing to do, and I have a rapidly diminishing amount of time left in which to do it. It’s all good though. I have my trusty coffee and the day off. I can do this! So, if you’re in the New York area I urge you to check out RetCon this year. There will be chances for me to kill your character! There will be prizes! There will be cake!!**

RetCon: Long Island's Gaming Convention

*It’s a Twitter thing, and if you aren’t there at 9pm on Thursday nights then… well… you should be there is all I’m tryin’ to say!

**The cake is a lie.


Shameless Self Promotion

If you’re reading this blog, then chances are you like gaming. Do you know what’s better than a reading a gaming blog? I know, there isn’t much in life that’s better than reading MY gaming blog, but playing some games at RetCon: Long Island’s Gaming Convention is… especially if they are games written and run by me. (Games written and run by my good friend Aenaiyah over at Adventurer Misadventures are likewise sure to induce sanity loss.)

Right there at the top of your screen you’ll see some links to my previous RetCon modules: “Asylum”, “The Naos of Serapis”, and “Your Safety Is Our #1 Concern”. This year I’ll be debuting three entirely brand new adventures for “Mage: The Awakening”, “Hunter: the Vigil”, and “World of Darkness: Innocents”. Stay tuned to this page for module teasers!

Registration for RetCon 2012 is currently open, and you can save a sweet 25% if you register online before the end of this month. That’s money you can be spending on dice, T-Shirts, and a vast array of cool stuff in the dealer room! You know you want cool stuff, so come join us at RetCon: Long Island’s Gaming Convention this August. Meet some people, play some games, buy some stuff, fun will be had – THIS I COMMAND!

I’ll kill your character, I mean see you (yeah, that’s it) there!

Mages Make Me Cry

I-Con 31 FTW!

I-Con was a blast! Not only did I support the economy by spending far more money than I should have, I got to see some people I don’t get to see nearly often enough, met some new cool people, and oh yeah… there was gaming!

There was lots of gaming.

And the gaming was good. Nay… great!

In my Hunter game alone we had a folks bribing their way through the “indigenous inhabitants” of the undercity with pain pills, fun with flamethrowers, the building of a staircase down to the bottom of a sinkhole using accident wreckage and discarded construction materials, an officer of the law shooting someone in the face for trying to prevent his friend from being possessed by an Azlu, a giant demonic creature being attacked by a crazy woman with a wrench, cleansing fire, an ambulance driver who decided to “stay here to keep an eye on the accident victims… in case, you know… they might need help or something” (his Vice was Sloth), did I mention the flamethrowers?… and these weren’t even the prize winning moments!

Though charging the enormous half-human half-monstrosity with a wrench did deserve an honorable mention!

Ultimately though we all agreed that the Paramedic using her knowledge of chemistry to turn her jury-rigged “flamethrower” into a massive ball of explosive, fiery death (GM Approved!) and the Subway Worker who attempted to flamethrower the face off of someone with a nosebleed because it may (or may not) indicate an Azlu possession in the name of the Lord were simply too awesome to not walk away winners!

Although, honestly, the Paramedic deciding that it would be a great idea to try to dig an Azlu out of someone’s head with an epic sized pair of tweezers was also incredibly entertaining! (Brava Paramedic!)

And that was just one game! That doesn’t even begin to cover the Mastigos who twisted up the meanings of “Vulgar Spell” and “Covert Spell” to try to get a Seer of the Throne to unleash Paradox on himself, the Obrimos who turned gravity on and off to slam the guy into the ceiling and the floor, and then the ceiling, and then the floor… over and over again… or the fact that this time I was the Acanthus, and my Acanthus was the GM! Revenge is mine! Sayeth me baby!

Demons were slain, Canopic jars filled with fresh human entrails were hurled out of penthouse windows (sorry pedestrians!), I told my Cabal Mate in the future to leave a note in my wallet so I would have it in the past and naturally didn’t actually flip the card over to see said note until it was too late to be of use (and I still say it was all that purple-haired Acanthus’s fault we wound up three days ago and not mine but the memory bit was absolutely all Lyric’s fault!),  and sweet sweet stuff was purchased. With all of the tables of gaming going on around me (had to be a few dozen tables) I can only imagine how many crazy stories unfurled last weekend. A successful con indeed!

Now I’m looking forward to doing it all again for RetCon!

Hope to see you there.

Mages Make Me Cry

NaNoWriMo FTW!!

As you can see at the bottom of the page I have posted a NaNoWriMo win! That means that I have written 50,000 words in one month on one coherent topic. I certainly can’t manage much coherence today having just finished that! After a month of solid writing and deadline meeting I have to admit that my brain is more than a little fried.

I am certainly not destined to be on the NY Times Best Seller list, as my writing here can attest. A large part of my NaNoWriMo participation involves giving myself an excuse to get in closer touch with the NPCs in my campaign. It gives me some pressure to develop plot-lines on a deadline beyond the next game session. I can ‘t guarantee what the player characters in my campaign will do, but I can get inside the heads of my NPCs, and if I’m lucky come up with some things that will make interesting one shot modules.

This year I believe I have somehow managed both.

It is likely that a full NaNowriMo novel will not appear on my blog, though I suppose it’s possible. Much more likely? Well, it’s more  more likely that I will post excerpts, and that I will write some modules based upon them. One excerpt has already been posted at my author’s page at

I introduced Hunters into this year’s NaNoWriMo, and that is no accident. I plan on running a Hunter module at I-Con 2012, and I haven’t figured out all the details yet. NaNoWriMo forces you to get into the heads of the characters, and do it NOW! You can’t keep putting it off. You have a deadline, and you’ll make it or you won’t. That’s what makes NaNoWriMo great! (Well, part of what makes it great.)

Please consider supporting NaNoWrimo by clicking on my link below.  If you can’t donate (and believe me I understand that!) then consider participating next year! It’s a great excuse to indulge the muse.

For now, I will indulge in some well deserved sleep! I haven’t had much of that in the last few days. I’ve had a deadline to meet!

For next week I am planning the first piece in a chronological look at the campaign’s events. With a little luck, by the time I am caught up to now (the December 2011 session) it will be OK for me to reveal all of what has happened over the past 2+ years. It has been a wild ride! I have been chomping at the bit to do so, but I have hesitated on providing my players with spoilers. They are all great players, and completely capable of separating character knowledge from player knowledge, but surprises are part of the GM’s fun!!

Up next: A Critical Look at my Very First Session as a GM!

Mages Make Me Cry

I Sleep Now

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