Tuesday, August 30, 2016

LS: CO-OP Gaming

 



LS: CO-OP Gaming

Have you ever sat down to play a game, and instead of walking away having enjoyed your night, you feel the need to storm out of the room?  Or perhaps spent a portion of the night listening as others joked and laughed while you quietly brood in the corner, plotting your revenge as soon as the dice/cards/gods of tabletop games finally turn in your favor.  Maybe you like spending your night that way, but for me, I’ll pass.

 Now I know that the essence of competition is having someone win and someone else lose.  I get it.  But that doesn’t mean it feels good, and sometimes it can feel downright awful.  I mean seriously, why does the exact same person always win? And why does he have to do it with that stupid little smirk?  We get it.  You won.  Again.  Good for you.

It doesn’t always have to be this way.  

Things have changed a lot since I was a kid.  Somewhere along the line, some really creative people jumped in the mix and we all get to reap the benefits.  Gone are the days of simple roll the dice and move your colored pegs until someone reaches the end.  There no longer need to be winners and losers in every game.  No, now is a time that includes cooperative gaming.

Now, I am not certain if there is an official ‘tabletop gaming’ definition of a cooperative game, so you are stuck with mine.  A cooperative game is exactly like it sounds; all players are working together towards a common goal.  As a team, you either win or lose.  Everyone celebrates together, or you all get to pout in the corner together.  Yea team!

One of most widely known examples of a cooperative tabletop game is the game Pandemic.  Quick overview, a plague is taking over the world.  You are a team of scientists, engineers, and doctors that must find a cure and distribute it in order to save the world.  If you win, everyone lives, if you fail the world is doomed.  So you know.  No pressure.  

While you play, each player has an opportunity to make their own moves.  If I want to travel to Australia and build a hospital, I can do that.  It is advised however that everyone discuss what is happening and make decisions that benefit everyone.  I mean, lets pretend this is real life for a minute.  If you find a cure in real life it is in everyone’s best interest that everyone is healthy, right? 

Cooperative gaming is great when you want to play a game, but you don’t want the drama.  Everyone is strategizing and plotting their moves, but they are doing it together.  Do you have a child, or an adult in your group who falls apart when they lose?  No problem tonight.  

Now I know, there is at least one person out there working themselves up into a good rant about how this is what is wrong with children today.  Everyone is a winner all the time, no one is ever allowed to lose, and we are all expected to walk around like the world is made of rainbows so no one ever feels bad.  

First of all, calm down, that isn’t what we are talking about today.  

The benefits of cooperative gaming are for everyone.  From a educational standpoint, this type of board game can promote problem solving skills, teamwork, and organization.  Using Pandemic as our example again, we have a disease to cure and four players.  We all know what cards we have and what our personal in-game skills are.  Problem solving and teamwork come when all four of us work together.  We list our skills, and organize a plan.  Here is where is gets a little more interesting.

Anyone who has ever played chess has heard the concept of looking at the board and planning several moves ahead.  If I move my knight here, they will move their rook there, but if I move my pawn, their rook will likely stay where it is.  This type of planning was one of the large lessons in teaching children to play chess.  It was more than just being a classic game, it was learning to look for the patterns, the potential cause and effect, and planning for the most likely scenario.  

Cooperative gaming also requires planning several moves again.  If player one goes here, then player two needs to go over there.  Or if player one does not go over there, the game might be over before player two gets a chance to go to the other place.  You need to see what needs to be done, and plan out what everyone is going to do each move and ready to adjust if things start to go south.  

There is no room for ego in cooperative gaming.  If doesn’t matter who puts the final piece on the board, and everyone needs to be willing to let someone else have the glory.  Sure, I might want to be the one who eradicates an illness, but if I push it too much it might actually cost us the game.  So what if someone else played the cards that cured the disease.  I still win.  But that is the point of cooperative gaming, isn’t it?  We all win.

-LS

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

MK From Concept to Creation: The Finishing Touch

Hullo!

MK From Concept to Creation: The Final Touch.

Welcome to the last installment of our first ever Reader Input Series. The closing round of votes brings us some of the fine detail work that will give depth to the character we have been creating. The last bits of information you have been tasked with providing are in! After last weeks blog, Who are you?, we gave four detail driven input requests. Let's go over them now shall we?

What is his name?
 
Some of the input received here was ...let's just say less than serious. I do not believe "Bardy McBardface" would do justice to our guy. Although, I did get a small chuckle upon reading it. So to be perfectly honest, I only counted the more practical or realistic names suggested. For a moment there I forgot that this is the internet. The name chosen is strong and noble. It has a good ring to it and I feel it fits the character very well. That being said, here is our favored answer! This Gentleman will now be known as Edward Logan. 

How old is he?
 
Again folks had a bit of fun here. Humans do not live to be Four-hundred and Twenty (yes, I do know what you did there). Neither could a Human male with the current back ground we have given him be six years old. Instead we are going to run with the more logically sound answers/votes. So Edward Logan is 27 years of age. This is old enough to have been around in the court scene. Young enough to still be of use and in demand with looks, presence and talent. It is a good balanced age for the background given to him.

What does he look like?
 
Here are the winning descriptors! Edward has long blonde hair. No facial hair/close shaven face. His eyes are light hazel and have an underlying look of knowledge. He dresses well. High boots, long vest, nobility style white shirt. Pale skin. He stands at average height. This ties right in with the charming looks and disposition we have discussed him having.
The part I liked best was this bit that speaks more of who he is than what he looks like; "(Edward) has presence. When he walks into a room, people notice. When he takes the floor to speak, people listen. Regardless of how they feel about him personally, both friend and foe alike pay full attention to the words that leave his lips." Little details like this are what help us to truly feel and understand who Edward is, and how he interacts with those around him.

 What did he say/do to get on the hit list?
 
Edward Logan was hired to speak with the locals and gather some information against a noble of high power, and then speak of his findings during the annual gathering of nobles. At this gathering, the next three years of titles, duties and distribution of the kingdoms wealth would be discussed. Rumors ran wild about all of the things this family was into. It would be hard to track down reliable information. Everyone had an opinion. The poor and working class would only speak in hushed tones about the cruelty and swift punishment of those who crossed them. They were more likely to speak loudly of the wealth that they "graciously" paid the people who worked for them.
Lucky for Edward, he was used to using his charm and presence to instill comfort and trust in the eyes of others. He did find out a lot of information. He was even able to track it back to solid evidence. The family was gaining wealth and power with sites for the crown.
Unfortunately for Edward, in tracking this evidence down, his efforts and intentions had been exposed. Upon his return trip to the city, a group of thugs ambushed he and his companions. Edward was the only survivor, and barely so. Now he had to find a way to stay alive and keep the evidence safe while he himself gained some power and friends of the correct skill sets to help him expose the threat to the crown.

 
What we have Created
 
Edward Logan is a Court Bard by trade. He is a well liked man, and his talents are in demand. He uncovered a plot by a Noble family to use bribery, assassination, misdirection and misinformation to rise in power with hopes to land on the throne. Upon learning this he became a target and his traveling party was ambushed. He was the only survivor and has fled to find people he can trust with the skills to help him expose the evil that threatens his home. He wants them to pay for the lives they have taken. He is looking for a way to gain enough power and the appropriate allies to right the wrongs done and bring the nobles to justice. This will be hard for him, he does not know who he can trust, and he is slow to trust anyone with the power he will need. He learned too late the cost of misplaced trust. He must find his new place in the world so he can use his talents to keep corruption from running rampant in the politics of the world he lives in.
 
The Wrap Up
 
There is plenty more that we could write, but this is enough to make a template for you to add the detail of your own personal preferences, styles, gaming systems and campaign. I have purposefully not added anything system or world specific. This gives you the ability to adapt him to whatever setting you wish. Thank you all for following along as we have gone through my method of Character Creation. It has been a bit of a journey, and even through those rowdy internet trolls we have endured! I hope you have enjoyed our first ever Reader Input Series as much as I have. The next one will focus on less on RPGs and more on other Tabletop games!

Have an idea? A question? We are always listening! Drop your lines below in the comment section, or on any post you find with an MK Tabletop Talk link and we will find and answer/discuss your ideas. After all, f it wasn't for our readers, we wouldn't be here.

Until next time ...Game On!
-MK

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MK From Conept to Creation: Who are you?

Hullo!

Last week we took our first glimpse at the backstory of the character we are creating in Finding Ones Place in the World. Our reader input options all surrounded narrowing down our options for who this person is. Here are the results!

Race = Human (Unanimous!)
Gender = Male
Class = Bard
Alignment = Neutral

Now we continue our process

MK From Concept to Creation: Who are you?

 What we have so far

Our current character is a foreigner. Betrayed by their Superiors, they have left their country in fear of death. They feel no guilt over the loss of life in their past, but do aim to hold accountable those responsible. They are out to prove themselves free of guilt and to even a score. They have trust issues mainly aimed at people in power, but still judge everyone by their trustworthiness. 

Adding in the Obvious
 
With the addition of our reader input I see some fun ideas! Some are simple, like Gender. We can now use the appropriate pronoun when speaking about him! 


The fact that he is human does make a whole lot of sense. The most common race in almost every realm is human, and they are the most likely to have many cities, and corruption on a government level (we can discuss racial tendencies and why this holds true in another blog). Those two bits of information hold minor roles in the story.

Being Neutral

I have had many people claim that Neutral alignment is either the cheaters way of doing what they want without worry of the consequences, or that the alignment should not be an option because it creates characters who do not truly care about anything. These are two separate view points that while I will not say are invalid, I will state that they do not leave enough room for interpretation. They are narrow views. There are many ways to be neutral. We will not take the time to go over alignment and all of the options in this blog. We will talk about that another time.
Does your character have more evil tendencies? Perhaps they lean on the side of good. Regardless of how you decide to play the character neutral alignment simply means that they do not necessarily lean toward either side from the start. They can be swayed to do things depending on the situation.
 
With the character that we are building neutrality does actually make sense. He once held law and the order of government in high regard. That system has since betrayed him. Going neutral means that he still can be a good person. He is just currently in search of a new place in the world. He is open to viewing the world in a new way. Think of it like getting fired from a job. You no longer owe any loyalties to the company you worked for, and you are now open to look for a job that suits your current situation. You might even take the opportunity to change your field of profession. You are still the person you were, but now you have the option to become something more. That is where our character begins the journey your game will take him on.

Being a Bard

I was actually really excited to see this one hit the top of the list! Bards are one of the most versatile classes available. Bards are known for many skill sets. Add in arch-types and/or prestige classes and they can be focused into an extremely powerful ally, or one of the hardest villains you will ever encounter. Bards can buff your party, or hinder your enemies. They can heal, they can use spells , and they can fight. They may not be the best at anything, but they are second best at everything.

With the character we are building I almost immediately knew how I wanted this story to go. Our guy is a bard. He is good at what he does, and he has been targeted by a person of power because of it. While most bards are pictured to be mischievous, instrument playing tavern dwellers, they do not have to be. I see our guy as a man of words. An oratory master. Being among the best in his field, he was hired by nobles and royalty to speak on their behalf. He spent most of his career in the courts. Traveling from city to city along the roads he has gained some skill in defending himself, although he does not have any military training. It was this unexpected skill that kept him alive when his entourage was attacked. As it often goes in politics, he had done his job a little too well. When they found he could not be bought out of his current contract, the nobles that had been targets of his words decided to remove him from the equation entirely. 

What we have now

Our guy is a foreigner. A Court Bard by trade. Due to his talents he has been targeted for assassination so he left his country in fear of death. He does not feel responsible for the deaths of his traveling companions, although he does plan to even the score. He is looking for a way to gain enough power and the appropriate allies to right the wrongs done and bring the nobles to justice. This will be hard for him, he does not know who he can trust, and he is slow to trust anyone with the power he will need. He must find his new place in the world so he can use his talents to keep corruption from running rampant in the politics of the world he lives in.

The wrap up

Next week we will finish the job of creating him. We will add all of the detail work that will bring him to life! There is not much more we need, but as we all know, the details are what makes the difference between a good character story, and the epic tale of a legendary person. This is a very solid backstory! The only thing missing now is details. This is where it will be very important to speak with your GM and make the decisions on what country he is from, who it was that put a price on his head, and what it was he did that caused them to do it.
Reader Input Options

Here is what we need to finish this guy off:
What is his name?
What did he say/do to get on the hit list?
How old is he?
What does he look like?

Some of these might seem unimportant, but these are the things that will flesh out our character and truly give him life. These are the things that will help you know how to play him in all of the situations you will encounter along the journey.

Until next time ...Game On!
-MK

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

MK From Concept to Creation: Finding Ones Place in the World

Hullo!

Welcome to the second installment of our first ever reader input series; MK From Concept to Creation! Last week we covered the six pillars of Character and how they relate to the person you are creating in Character Building. Our reader input voted for two pillars as strengths and two as "flaws". The results are in!

Voted to be the two pillars of strength (most popular first): Trustworthiness and Caring
Voted to be the two flawed pillars (most popular last): Responsibility and Citizenship

Already I can see the shape this character is taking! 
Knowing the key elements of their pillars, we now move on to our current blog.

MK From Concept to Creation: Finding Ones Place in the World



We will begin with the flawed pillars to create the conflict of the past. I am slow to call anything here a negative aspect. Just because it may not be a persons best quality does not mean it that it is all bad. Sometimes it is in our darkest times that we learn what we are made of.

Citizenship

(Voted #4) Citizenship is the lowest rated pillar of character. This person is a thug, a criminal, or perhaps the local government is corrupt/tyrannical and this character stands defiant. No matter how you look at it, being a citizen of their country is something that clashes with their personal lifestyle.

What is the local city like? Are we looking at a mecca of law, order and justice? Is this the highest form of honorable leadership in action? Or is this a den of corruption? Is this a seedy city where the local authorities are just figureheads being controlled by the underground crime bosses? The city or location in which you will spend the majority of your time during your adventures has an impact on the person you will play.
Something to keep in mind: just because you have a flawed citizenship pillar and live in a city of just and noble rulers does not mean your character has to be a criminal. You can instead look to a neighboring city or nation that is a kind of polar opposite on the political scale and use this as your shameful origin. Maybe you try to hide your past because of it. If so, why? Did you commit a crime? Did you hold an office and get run out of it? I like the idea of the foreigner who has fled. We will run with that.

Responsibility

(Voted #3) Responsibility is not a big worry. Is this person irresponsible? I would guess not. Considering the importance of trust, I would assume this person is good to their word. In my opinion this is more more of a lack of responsibility in one specific area. Perhaps this person spends every dime they get the second it is obtained. Maybe they are overly focused on enemies in battle and don't pay much attention to collateral damage.

In the citizenship pillar we decided to go with a foreign person who has fled their country. Let's ask why is your character hiding? Were they supposed to be holding a title or position of great power or importance, but fled to shirk the duty? Maybe they lead an army into a battle of horrible defeat. This little detail could cause one to flee the country. Perhaps while being the direct cause of the deaths, your character feels no responsibility for them. Let's say their group was sent into an ambush. This character was the target of the hit. They do not feel responsible for the deaths because someone else ordered the strike.

So far we have a character who comes from a neighboring nation, has fled their country in shame, shirking the responsibility for their actions that got their group killed. This is just from the flawed pillars! This is only to give your character depth. Anyone can change. Over time everyone should. Life is full of experiences that alter your views. This is only the beginning of your characters path. This is the prologue. This gives you reasons to go on a quest, seek adventure, or be out in the world doing whatever it is you are about to do. With the story that unfolds between you and your gaming group your character will find their own path.

Now on to the pillars of strength. These will give hope and purpose to the character. While we have already explored the darker side, the tragedy if you will, there are always two sides to every coin. We have seen how the flaws have helped to motivate this person. Now we shine some light on their better qualities to see a bit more detail. What can the positive aspects of the persona do to help drive them down their path?

Care

(Voted #2) They care. This means either in general, or very deeply about something. Either way this person has a heart. We already know they care a lot about trust. What else drives this persona into action?

They are most likely haunted by fear of being found and having to deal with what they have run away from. But they still care. We are running with the "lead people to their deaths" scenario. We can play on the care this person had for the people who died, their role in the deaths and how this character deals with it. Are they drinking themselves into oblivion to avoid sleepless nights? Or do they seek a level of atonement? Perhaps they aim to even the score? If only they can do more good than they have done harm ...can they be saved? I like the atonement path. This gives hope of redemption for the character, yet another reason to be adventuring. I would definitely speak with your GM and clarify the best groups/individuals to hold responsible for the actions against your character. This will help them weave the story with ease.

Trustworthiness

(Voted #1) This person holds trust in the highest regard. Is it more important to trust, or be trusted? Regardless, trust holds huge importance for this character.

The group died due to a betrayal. Maybe the corrupt government being fled purposely sent the character into a situation they could not win. Maybe they were being a bit too effective in their position and the crime lords decided to "handle the problem" by paying their superiors to send them into an ambush. This means they might have some trust issues. They have a hard time trusting people in power. This could explain not only why the character holds trust so high but also why they care so little for citizenship.

This character will judge a person by the ability to trust them. If they travel with someone who is a great liar, there may be an understanding of the usefulness of their talent, but they will most likely never truly trust them, and therefore not be all to willing to allow the deceitful party member too much control of group decisions, and might always want to pair up with them to keep an eye on them.

What we have so far

Our current character is a foreigner. Betrayed by their Superiors, they have left their country in fear of death. They feel no guilt over the loss of life in their past, but do aim to hold accountable those responsible. They are either out to prove themselves free of guilt and to even a score. They have trust issues mainly aimed at people in power, but still judge everyone by their trustworthiness.

One of the reasons I like this approach so much is the focus on character before abilities. Your Race, Class and all the rest of the technical stuff can be applied to the character you build. These details only and add depth as more decisions are made. This current concept might seem obvious for a fighter, but it could just as easily be a Cleric. Instead of fleeing the government, they are running from their local religious chapter. Maybe they are a Wizard. Their mentor has turned on them jealous of their innate skill. Corruption isn't just for politicians! As before mentioned, this could go any number of ways! It is now time to vote on these details.

Reader Input Options

It is time to start adding some technical bits. As I am most familiar with Fantasy realm races and classes, we will choose this as our base theme.

1) What race do you think our character is? (Human/Elf, etc)
2) What gender? (Male/Female)
3) What base class is this person? (Cleric/Ranger, etc)
4) What Alignment? (Good/Neutral, etc)

I look forward to tallying your votes! Just drop a comment on the blog, post or tweet and again, most popular answers will be the direction we choose. Next week we will drop some detail work into our character to show how even the "cookie cutter" parts such as class and race can add to or even enhance our characters backstory.

Until next time ...Game On!
-MK