Sunday, February 28, 2016

What's a Game Like?

[Another Red Eft excerpt, this one from the players handbook providing a general overview of a typical gaming session]

Your experiences may vary depending on who you game with but here is the jist of it. Characters are created outside of the game and occasionally discussed online. Time is always short so the more you can do away from the game table the better your experience will be. Characters are designed using something called an Advancement Sheet and played with using a Character Sheet. Only the Character Sheet is used during a game but it doesn't hurt to bring your advancement sheets along.

Usually the game master decides where and when the game will take place and circulates a one page start to the adventure called an Adventure Scenario. Once again, it is best to read the scenario over before the game begins.

The Game Begins. Everybody gathers around a table with the game master sitting at the head of it. The GM may refresh your memory of the scenario or the last game you played. A mojo roll is made to determine how many coins each player starts with.

And we dive right in.

The Red EFT specializes in what is known as Omniscient or third person role playing. You don't actually play your character so much as control it. You call the shots for your character. You speak on your character's behalf. No one will get mad at you if you become your character and start talking as if you are that character, but don't feel as if you have to do this the whole time. With omniscient gaming you are not roped into playing just one character. Depending on the size of your group you can run multiple characters simultaneously, swap characters with your friends, or even push one character out of the picture and bring in a new one to take its place.

During the game we mostly remain ourselves, we use our natural born names and talk of our characters in the third person as if they were in the room with us. If Zitto is one of your characters you might say something along the lines of, "Zitto hides behind the overturned table and casts an illusion on the wall, an illusion of him opening a door and running through it, hoping to get the castle guards to slam into it after him."

The Dice Are Rolled. Most of the time you tell the GM what your characters are doing and the GM will tell you how it all pans out. If the action seems a bit challenging, such as Zitto's spell cast, then the dice are rolled. Generally speaking you want to roll as high a number as you can. Rolling a 3 or less is failure and not a good thing. With Zitto's spell cast he rolls a 6 which is a normal success. The GM sees this and replies, "The guards are fooled by your illusion. The captain shouts Get 'Em! And they charge into the stone wall, bowling themselves over backwards in a loud raucous clatter of platemail. The first two guards have been knocked out cold and the rest are now stumbling to get up."

To this you might say, "Yeah! Zitto pumps his little piglet fist in the air and bolts down the hall."

And the Adventure Continues. It moves on like this until the game runs out of time. Typically a gaming session lasts one to three hours. If you have to leave before the game ends hand your character sheets off to other players for them to run so the group doesn't have to deal with the sudden disappearance of your characters.

When the game actually ends all character sheets go back to the GM who will hold onto them until the next time the group meets. This is done so the group can pick up where they last left off and not have to worry if one player or another cannot attend. Always hold onto your Advancement Sheets. Ultimately these tell us who belongs to whom. While the game is running – however – all characters and their sheets belong to the adventure itself until it is over.

Very rare is the adventure that only lasts one session. These are called One-Shots and can be a lot of fun, but most adventures will carry on over multiple gaming sessions before some kind of end is reached. When the same characters are used with multiple adventures this is called a Campaign and campaigns can last for years - if you're lucky.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rewarding your Players

And to put my mouth where my money is at, Here's a bit from the Red Eft Game Master's Guide on rewarding your players....

Everyone loves a treasure hunt, but far too often treasure in an RPG is treated like treasure in a video game. Characters come upon a chest of gold coins, it rings with a bright bling noise as it is hoovered up by a sack of holding and then it becomes nothing more than a score at the top of the screen. Treasure becomes a number we think fondly of because we have been raised to think that way. Treasure rarely comes back into the game and when it does it often makes the game less interesting by making everything too easy. Powerful weapons and magical items can so dramatically unbalance a game that they can actually be a threat to your campaign. The notion of “Rewarding Your Players” is a dubious matter at best.

Frick'n Ingrates. First and foremost, your players should be happy just to be playing the game. It is not often so many people can take so much time out of their lives to come together and entertain each other by rolling dice and pretending to be elves. However, reprogramming your friends is not an option.

If your players get a gleam in their eye when you mention large rubies worth untold fortunes then you should ride that desire as best you can. This doesn't mean you should actually let them have it, but it is perfectly legal to dangle it in front of their noses like a carrot to get them to move.

You should certainly not let treasure disappear into a bag of holding only to re-emerge whenever the PC's need to buy a shank of mutton. You do not have to forbid easy magical storage devices, but do your players really know where all that wealth is going? How do they know they can trust such amazing once-in-a-lifetime wealth with a magical sack? It may be working now, but what happens when they open it up and nothing is there?

If the PC's choose to carry their booty around the old fashioned way, that chest full of gold coins is going to be heavy and hard to haul. When they drag it into a local village everyone is going to turn out to take a look and hopefully get a bit of it for themselves. Things can get quite ugly when the local thieves guild and/or tax agency gets wind of it. There is a very good reason why pirates bury their treasure and closely guard the maps leading back to it. Players should feel those forces and maybe even pushed to do the same.

To Kill Boredom, Kill Repetition. What is often meant by “Rewarding your Players” is actually “How do I keep my players from being bored?” If your players are becoming bored there is a reason for that and you need to find it and kill it before it ruins your game.

The most common cause of boredom is repetition. You can only fight a goblin horde so many times. Some repetition can be tolerated as the nature of the game, especially if the players themselves are the cause of the repetition. However it is always a good idea to try to get your creatures to react in such a way that avoids doing the same things over and over and over.

Action movies are good about this (at least the good ones are). Often an action movie is nothing but one fight scene after another but it is not too hard to see the director pulling strings to make sure the film does not seem like one fight scene after another. The same thing never happens twice in a row. If you just had a bare knuckle brawl then make sure anything else happens aside from yet another bare-knuckle brawl. If unavoidable then change the nature of the brawl itself – different creatures, different weapons, different settings – just so long as it is not the same thing as what you just did.

Another common repetition problem comes from making too many action checks for a single situation. No one wants to make twenty action checks for a single activity. It will wear the corners off your dice! If the PCs are chasing some villainous cretin through a volcanic cave, leaping from one unsteady pillar of rock to the next, have them make one agility check for the initial leap and if they succeed let it cover all the other leaps made until they come upon one which is obviously harder than the rest. Or, if they scored a little or normal success while the villain scored a great success let them try to improve their success in an effort to keep up with him.

We often think of an action as lasting only as long as one roll of the dice. You make the roll. It succeeds or fails. Then it is gone. Another way of looking at it is to picture an action as causing success that lasts until the game changes on it. If a character is in a library researching one thing or another a whole day could be spent among the shelves but just a single research check should suffice. There is no reason to do another check until perhaps the character leaves the library and goes to a different one.

Of course, some times the problem is simply too much dice rolling. Which is more fun? Walking into a library and making a willpower check, or walking into a library, talking to the librarian and being led down into the basement to a secret room where large dusty tomes are kept, chained to the walls and almost seeming to pulse and burble where they sit on shelves, shelves inscribed with strange arcane symbols....

Changing Levels. Another way to avoid boredom is to let your character's level up. This is often seen as a reward by other games. It makes the characters more powerful so they can then go on to encounter more powerful creatures, which doesn't make it much of a reward at all.

The true reward to be found in levelling up is that it changes the nature of the game. Heroic-level characters may cover the same terrain as Mortals and Demi-Gods but they will experience it in a vastly different ways.

The catch with leveling up is that once your characters increase in level they are not going to want to come back down. This leads to one of the biggest ironies in level-based role playing games. Some of the most challenging and enjoyable games are Mortal level games. By the time the PC's become Dieties they are often too powerful and overwrought to be of any interest to anyone.

Venture Elsewhere. Admittedly, sometimes it may be the game itself. You can have too much of a good thing. Maybe it is time to put the Red EFT aside and go try one of the thousands of other tabletop games out there. Just be sure to come back. You will be missed if you don't.


Pretty much the curse of my life can be found in the phrase "go big or go home." I don't intentionally follow this creedo. I just always seem to end up following this creedo. It leads me to disappear from sight for long periods of time and then reappear with something huge which the world promptly ignores because tl:dr.

It's just the nature of the beast.

The internet is a roaring stream of information where even the biggest attempts to make a splash disappear in an instant. The only way to make it reach anyone is to drizzle small amounts of paint in the water and hope someone notices the streak. Hence the blog and the twitter and the facebook and the google+, all of which I hate (except for google+ strangely, yeah google's big failure is the one thing they've made that I regularly enjoy) but that's just me. I don't change easily but I am learning.

The big thing I've been working on lately is an attempt to bring to an end this quixotic quest of almost 25 years to create the perfect all-purpose tabletop role playing game. That's right, by finally bringing a single game to market I'm bringing a very long chapter to a close. This game has gone through numerous name changes over the years. Let's see if I can remember them all....

Theater of the Absurd, The ToAd, Tales of Adventure, Model Reality Kit, Agama.

Yup, that's it.

It has also gone through astounding changes of mechanics and philosophy where each of those titles barely resemble the other. The latest and hopefully last incarnation of it is going to be The Red EFT RPG. If you could imagine the Ramones coming back from the dead to rewrite GURPS into something that anyone could play, that is what the Red Eft is. It's designed to be fast and loud and fun. Is it the perfect tabletop role playing game?

Not by a long shot.

But it is pretty good. I wouldn't bother with it if it wasn't. I think the mere presence of all the thousands of different RPG's out there proves the point that perfection will never be found. And that's fine. The big thing that has me writing this godawful early morning (it's 7 am where I'm at) is that if I'm working on the Red Eft then I'm not being social. Of course, these days if you're not being social then you're busy sinking rather than swimming. So, for this blog, at the very least. I will try to keep pumping something into it by posting interesting bits and pieces from the Red Eft books as I write them. It'll give us something to do as the clock ticks down. And I'm always interested in feedback. Who knows maybe you'll stop me from making yet another disastrous mistake.

Doh! Too late.