Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Sound of Music

Just try and remove from your brain the image of a plump, bearded man in a dirndl spinning around, Julie Andrews style, in the meadows below a soaring mountain. You’re welcome.

Music has been a big part of my games for a long time. I’ve been a big believer in playing music in the background since I was spinning Tangerine Dream CDs during high school dungeon crawls, although I’ve not used it quite as much the past few years. These days I’m more of a believer in playing the right tune at the right moment, to underscore something that’s going on in a scene, rather than as wall-to-wall carpeting. Not that atmospheric background music doesn’t still have a place, particularly in genres like horror where it can really help set the mood. Even soft music that strikes the right note can do something to players, setting them on edge in a scary game, or underscoring the wonder and awe in a scene of fantasy.

Saturday, 16 May 2015


High Trust, High Drama play can be rewarding, but it’s not without its problems. One of these is that drama requires, by its nature, characters that are motivated – they have to want something, badly. Drama is all about situations where not everyone can get what they want, as the Rolling Stones would have it. The problem is that although player characters often have a goal of some kind, players sometimes come into a scene without a particular thing in mind. They’re not sure what they want right now, and that means long, aimless scenes that might go nowhere at all. This is not interesting for other players to watch, and it puts an inordinate amount of pressure on the other players in a scene – if one player is just casting around waiting for something to happen, then they have to bring the energy and the drive to the scene. 

This is bad form.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

It's Hard Out Here for a VTT Game Master

It’s absolutely a truth of running games online that players don’t feel the same feeling of obligation as players who are meant to show up for a face-to-face game. If you don’t have to go anywhere further away than a comfy chair, with your laptop, a headset, and possibly a beverage close at hand, that’s the kind of thing people often either forget about or decide they can comfortably skip in favour of more pressing things. If you combine this with the twin dragons of adult gaming – important commitments to family (especially when there are children in the mix) and jobs – this can be a game-killer. Suddenly your crowd of five hardy adventurers raring to tear up the dungeon has turned into two, or worse, one and a GM, who twiddle their thumbs and chat for half an hour or so before finding other diversions.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Of Gunluggers and Savvyheads

To lug or not to lug?

After a disappointing aborted attempt to run APOCALYPSE WORLD last summer, I’m finally getting a chance to play it in the near future – on the player side, not the GM, but still. It’s a game I’m looking forward to.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Seven Stars in the Rearview (Part Four)

One of the things that appeals to me about the pulp adventure genre is that it’s straight-forward, meat and potatoes stuff. Always trying to entertain, seldom dwelling on the details for longer than a scene. At its best, pulp adventure is rollicking good, uncomplicated fun. There was that element to SEVEN STARS OF ATLANTIS, but it also had a flip side that was high in drama and romance. It worked for me, in the same way that old Hollywood movies like THE AFRICAN QUEEN work – it was a crowd-pleaser, with a little something for everyone.