Friday, November 13, 2015

Some mini-reviews of the OSR Bundle of Holding (Bonus collection)

I'm pretty excited about a lot of the supplements and adventures in one of the latest Bundles of Holding. It's the 'Old School Revival - Revived' bundle, designed to help you run D&D-esque adventures.

I've only had a chance to skim-read these adventures and game systems but I'm very impressed with what I've read.

The God That Crawls
This adventure by James Raggi promises to flip the normal 'adventures enter a dungeon and explore deeper' dynamic. I suspect that run with a consideration for limited light sources and movement, it would be nightmarish fun. Maybe Torchbearer would be the meanest system to run it in, but I'm also tempted by something like Beyond The Wall--where the contrast between YA protagonists and shambling pursuing horror would be really striking.

I also really like lots of the seemly incidental material in the dungeon. This place is dangerous and rewarding, quite apart from the central threat.

(This is completely against the intention of both this module and the rules system ... but I'm curious how this would play using Dungeon World.)

The Monolith from Beyond Time and Space
There's about seven brilliant ideas in this adventure by James Raggi. In fact, I'm going to count them: ... There are nine ideas I'd describe as brilliant (including a meaty and central hook of the adventure: a nasty version of body-snatching), and many other ideas that could be brilliant depending on your personal taste.

This adventure is both a location and a resource for creating unnerving incidents. It would play really well as part of an ongoing campaign but it's also incredibly mean. You'd need either to have a totally accurate and insightful read of your gaming group's preferences or a conversation where you asked them if they were interested in introducing a high-horror, high-doom quotient into your game.

One reviewer accurately described it as the nuclear option: once you introduce this module, you are changing or condemning at least one of the PCs. In some ways it reminds me of the high-doom elements of the Call of Cthulhu moduel, A Dream of Japan.

Vornheim - The Complete City Kit
Note: The author of Vornheim,  Zak S, was kind enough to give me permission to use his elegant and quick technique for creating random floorplans in Soth.

Vornheim is an incredibly useful guide to creating a city that feels alive while doing not much work at all. In some places, it's dense: the first few pages of notes are the sort of thing you either get absorbed in and read cover to cover, or you dip into for inspiration. As the book goes on, it continually changes its presentation, giving you:

  • Bullet-pointed superstitions (I've found bullet-points to be great for presenting setting material)
  • Dungeon maps (of locations in the city) that are filled with character and convey a strong impression of the space without being a top-down presentation
  • Great techniques and procedures for creating suburbs and street maps, and floorplan
  • Lots of random tables.

The book ends with this insight:
In a wilderness or dungeon, the party’s adventure during any given session is defined by where they are geographically–in a volcano, in the southwest corner of a maze, at the bottom of a pit, etc.  
In a city, this is less important, movement is freer, easier and more certain than in a dungeon and distances are shorter than in a wilderness. In a city, the party’s adventure is defined by where they are in a chain of consequences
What’s most important, after a session, is not figuring our where the PCs left off, but who they pissed off getting there. The next session’s adventure can often be built from the consequences of what the PCs did during the last session
I'd love to combine this with Blades in the Dark and see what sticks together.

The Adventurer Conqueror King system (ACKS)
I've wanted to read this for ages. I've been told ACKs is amazing at helping the group create a completely logical fantasy economy that facilitates adventurers moving from nomadic looters to aristocratic managers of a stronghold or realm. The heart of this seems to be in Chapter 7: Campaigns and Chapter 10: Secrets, which (on a skim read) appears to be an incredibly useful resource for constructing a campaign setting, the regions inside it, the starting city, and dungeons.

ACKS also has two neat tables in its combat system: for moral and permanent wounds, and for what happens if someone tries to revive you with magic.

I have to admit, I'm a bit lost when it comes to trying to evaluate:

  • how well (and how differently) different OSR systems will play compared to each other
  • how a system compares to all the editions of D&D I'm familiar with (which is everything except 5th Edition).

I think the character or uniqueness of each system will have to reveal themselves in play. I've played Into The Odd, which was fantastic at getting me into an old-school mindset. But figuring out the specifics of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, ACKS, Beyond The Wall, Labyrinth Lord, and Swords and Wizardry will take a lot more time than I have at the moment.

Stonehell Dungeon
This is a mega-dungeon by Michael Curtis. Six levels of low to moderate dungeon-ecological-logic, which Curtis describes as perfect for a weekend gaming marathon. It's presented as a toolbox where the elements of the dungeon can be easily customised and modified by a GM.

It also takes a lot of inspiration from the One Page Dungeon competition about how to compress a dungeon down to its essentials.  In the case of Stonehell, each part of the dungeon in a two-page spread.

I was only able to skim this but it looks totally fit for purpose to me.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A review of the Bundle of Tentacles (the Bonus collection)

Here are some mini-reviews of games and adventures in the Bundle of Holding's latest offering of Cthulhu-related products. (I reviewed the Bundle's 'Starter Collection' yesterday.)

Money from this latest bundle goes towards the Electronic Freedom Foundation, which defends digital civil liberties.

Disclosure: my game Soth is in this bundle, so I'll financially benefit from sales.

In this post, I'll take a look at all the products in the Bundle's 'Bonus Collection':

  • World War Cthulhu - The Darkest Hour: This complete game (based on the Call of Cthulhu RPG) sets the battle against Great Old Ones and Elder Things in the arena of World War 2. It gives you everything you'd want, including a full multi-session, an open-ended adventure, and excellent inspiration for creating your own scenarios.
  • World War Cthulhu - Europe Ablaze: Six World War 2 adventures that contain some interesting ideas. They range from standard Lovecraftian ideas in a war setting to material that's more brutal and unfair.
  • Tales of the Crescent City: Six noir-esque adventures set in New Orleans. Features three adventures I'd like to run right now.
  • A Dream of Japan: A creepy trap of an adventure that contains the seeds of an epic campaign.
Reading through these supplements and adventures I've seen examples of at least seven types of Call of Cthulhu adventure:
  • The action-adventure
  • The noir 
  • The exploration
  • The war-stor
  • The trap
  • The doom
  • The investigation
Between the Starter Collection and The Bonus Collection, there's more than enough material to create an anthologised Call of Cthulhu campaign.

You can find the Bundle of Holding here:

Here are some other things I noted about each of the supplements in the Starter Collection

World War Cthulhu - The Darkest Hour

  • I didn't know this, but World War Cthulhu (WWC) is a series of settings that puts Cthulhu tropes into different 20th century conflicts.
  • The Darkest Hour is set in World War 2, where you play intelligence agents who are also occult investigators (a pitch that reminds me quite a bit of Tim Powers' Declare). It's a strong device to justify investigators working together on multiple missions (if they survive and remain sane).
  • This supplement is sort of a replacement for the main Call of Cthulhu (CoC) rules. Starting WWC investigators will be slightly more powerful and competent than standard investigators
  • This book gives me everything I'd want, including a full multi-session and open-ended adventure.
  • There's excellent inspiration for creating scenarios. It talks about basic military and espionage plots, and then does the same for basic Lovecraftian plots. It also provides a number of initial situations in different military theatres of operation
  • I was also interesting in the short updates on what various monsters and cultures are trying to achieve during World War 2
  • It's an easy read: clearly laid-out, nicely broken up by headings and sub-headings, and a logical order to things.

World War Cthulhu - Europe Ablaze

  • This is a set of six adventures set during World War 2.
  • There's something about this wartime setting that feels right to me. It gives adventures two tracks to worry about. It gives a sense of realistic consequences to the action and the NPCs. It creates interesting ironies, subtext and choices.
  • 'Sleeper Agents' sounds like it'll be brutal: a mix of Spielberg's Munich coupled with an internal logic that will lead to the investigators almost certainly murdering a lot of people
  • 'The Play Is The Thing' makes me think it would be possible to run a whole series of published CoC adventures dealing with various performances of 'The King In Yellow' (there are similar adventures in the next supplement I'm reading, Tales of the Crescent City)
  • 'We Will Remember Them' has a interesting flashback structure and promises to fundamentally change investigators who participate. The flashbacks feel a bit like the opening cinematic to a video game, and the whole module reads like it'll take agency from the investigators in an interesting way.
  • The final three scenarios are tight monster-hunts and military operations.

Tales Of The Crescent City

  • A book of six adventures set in 1920s New Orleans (one of my favourite CoC settings, from my days where this was my RPG of choice)
  • It contains a revised version of a classic CoC adventure ('Tell Me, Have You Seen The Yellow Sign') as well as a sequel adventure written by the same author.
  • Tales of the Crescent City efficiently orients you to New Orleans. I'd like a player handout that gives you a quick bullet-pointed summary of basic facts about the city, but it's very easy to do that with the material provided here.
  • On first glance, 'Tell Me, Have You Seen The Yellow Sign' (TMHYSTYM) feels like a noir. There are lots of characters, each of whom has interesting secrets. It's also a bit of a sequel to Lovecraft's story 'The Call of Cthulhu'. I love the stakes for failing in this adventure: the relentless spread of the King in Yellow's rule.
  • In fact, framing most of these these adventures through a noir lens feels pretty good choice to me.
  • I love a good disease story and 'The Quickening Spiral' delivers. It feels like this mystery could be quite open-ended, though ... and I wonder if selecting appropriately skilled and motivated investigators (physicians, city officials) could be important to its success.
  • 'Song and Dance' features my favourite Great Old One: it's a creepy and distressing old acquaintance that warms my heart every time I see it appear. I really dig the idea behind this scenario, which involves artists, muses, and has a faint 'disease' / epidemiological vibe to it.
  • 'Five Lights At The Crossroads' has a hell of an opening scene. This is a tightly-focused manhunt where everything's pretty obvious but tricky to resolve. I liked it a lot.
  • 'Asylum: The Return of the Yellow Sign' is set two years after TMHYSTYM. It's good but I like the faint suggestion that there might be a parallel world where the events of the previous adventure ended in success for the King in Yellow and now those successes could be bleeding through into our world. That threat undercuts any feeling of success and satisfaction the investigators have--and I think CoC plays best when the investigators are unsettled. Features a nightmarish and brilliant finale.

A Dream of Japan

  • An adventure set around Aokigahara Forest. I expect it'll be made famous (outside of Japan) in this movie due to be released in 2016...
  • It promises to enmesh the investigators in a plan that has been playing out for thousands of years, that they are pawns in.
  • A Dream of Japan contains content involving insanity and suicides, and deals with it through the lenses of pulp and horror, rather than realistically and with emotional weight.
  • The implications in this adventure's final two pages point to an amazing second act of the adventure / way to resolve the situation.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A review of the Bundle of Tentacles (Starter Collection)

I wanted to share some first-impression mini-reviews of the Bundle of Holding's latest offering of Cthulhu-related products.

The Bundles of Holding collections raise money for charity and distribute profits to game designers. Money from this latest bundle goes towards the Electronic Freedom Foundation, which defends digital civil liberties.

Disclosure: my game Soth is in this bundle, so I'll financially benefit from sales.

In this post, I'll take a look at all the products in the Bundle's 'starter collection':

  • Cthulhu Live: A Call of Cthulhu (CoC) Live Action Roleplaying (LARP) system that features amazing advice for creating makeup and costumes for Lovecraftian monsters
  • Islands of Ignorance - The 3rd Cthulhu Companion: a collection of essays (including some great advice for creating war veterans and hobos using the Call of Cthulhu rules) and 1920s-set scenarios (including a nasty ghost/possession scenario set in a luxury resort)
  • Age of Cthulhu - The Long Reach of Evil: A 1920s adventure anthology set in non-Western locations.
  • Mythos Society Guide to New England: A dense reference book that will be a useful read for a campaign based in New England. Contains a very useable, gameifiable timeline of events between 1919 and 1938, along with articles on New England's pre-European colonisation history and occult events in the centuries leading up to the 1920s.

You can find the Bundle of Holding here:

I'll look at the games in the bonus collection in another post, and then I'll choose one of the supplements to focus on in more detail.

In the meantime, here are some other things I noted about each of the supplements in the Starter Collection

Cthulhu Live

  • This delivers a streamlined CoC experience. I'd love to see how its slow-motion combat system plays out.
  • Seems to come from a different LARP culture than the ones I'm familiar with (Jeepform and NZ motivation-heavy, rules-light LARPs). The rules here rely on you having a full character sheet with stats and skills that are quickly referenced in play.
  • I'm fascinated to know what using the Accountancy skill looks like in a LARP.
  • The more practical this system was, the better I liked it. For instance, I loved the section on monsters, complete with advice on make-up, costuming and practical effects to create shoggoths and gigantic creatures. The advice on choosing a location for the game and decorating the sets was also great.
  • There's nothing here about adventure design or how to set-up/structure a session

Island of Ignorance: The Third Cthulhu Companion

  • I think how useful and enjoyable you find each of the articles at the front of this companion will be very dependent on personal taste. I really like the essay describing an unearthly opera, which detailed its history, plot, and contained an adventure seed.
  • Similarly, I liked the description of an occult tome called the Knjiga Mrvta. Again it contains a mix of history about the tome's author, some adventure seeds and information about different editions.
  • A new spell to create a portal had hints of super-science (an advanced technology that's indistinguishable from magic) about it. I liked that, but wasn't so sure about the article giving hints about the biography of Abdul Alhazared (I prefer to leave that stuff mysterious rather than create fan-canon)  
  • The advice for creating an investigator with a military / Great War background is simple, clear, and logical. The information about hoboes and hobo culture was detailed. 
  • I'm not going into too much detail about the premises of the four scenarios or how they play out. One of them contains a trigger warning for sexual violence and child abuse. One of them has a great setting (investigating an apparently haunted lighthouse). The final one is a creepy haunting / possession story - I like the way this one is presented, few NPCs, simple drives, nasty backstory

Age of Cthulhu - The Long Reach of Evil 

  • This is an adventure anthology set in non-American, non-Western locales. 
  • There are some excellent and solid premises here: a cult kidnapping, an investigation into the suicide of a friend, and dealing with the consequences of unleashing a long-buried threat
  • Each adventure assumes the investigators are outsiders to the location. I immediately wanted to invert that and have the investigators be familiar with the general locale.
  • In fact, this anthology has inspired me. I'd love to do a loosely connected, shared-world campaign, where you play specific adventurers for each new adventure. The world changes as a result of any failures in an adventure, and after a while you do an Avengers-like team up of favourite surviving investigators for a suitably epic adventure or campaign.

Mythos Society Guide to New England

  • I found this instantly educational: I wasn't aware that New England was a term for a collection of states.
  • There's a fantastic timeline of events around New England between 1919 and 1938. Feels like it'd be very easy to pick a few of these to flesh out a scenario.
  • The guide also contains a comprehensive introduction to the non-European, pre-colonisation history of New England and an overview of monsters, occultists, and paranormal events (many of these are pre-20th century).

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cartel: thoughts on prepping for the first session of a crime drama

I ran Cartel last night, a game for telling crime soap operas in the spirit of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and The Wire. It's set inside the world of Mexican drug cartels.

It was a really successful session -- successful enough that what I thought might be a one-shot is going to turn into at least a two session thing.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to make sure this session hit the ground running. I combined Cartel's advice with my experiences running Monsterhearts at conventions and came up with this:

* clearly pitch the genre and set expectations for where the conflict will come from

* identify the fundamental conflicts for each playbook

turn each player's selected playbook moves into a conflict or situation that needs to be dealt with

* enmesh the playbooks' NPCs into problematic situations

* turn the characters' histories with each other into active bits of the game's opening

By doing all of this, I created a list of bangs I could use if I needed to. I also created a list of bangs from the crime fiction I've been reading and watching (The Power of the Dog, Savages, Traffic).
Stuff like a drug shipment being observed by the DEA, a money mule taking off with cash you paid them in advance. That gave me a ready-made supply of bangs to introduce into the game if I needed them.

That took quite a lot of set-up time (maybe an hour?), but paid off brilliantly. When combined with the choices each player made about their characters and the series of botched beginning-of-session moves to set the scen, we had a lot of immediate trouble going on:

* Jolanda, the wife of the cartel boss, had a secret second family, which the DEA decided to use as blackmail to turn her into an informant. Pepa, a dirty cop and Jolanda's former lover, had to decide what to do with this information

* The two least-capable characters (Diego the street kid and Hector the meth cook) found themselves trapped in their underground meth lab as two enforcers from a rival cartel broke in to kill and rob them

In more detail, this is what I did:

When we sat down, I told the players that this is a crime soap opera, in the vein of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and The Wire. You play the criminals and your lives will inherently be difficult, with competing demands from family, the cartel, and law enforcement.

As a soap opera, you should not play safe. Each playbook has sources of trouble embedded into it: you'll be expected to embrace that trouble.

Then I took a trick from how I like to run Monsterhearts at conventions. During character creation (especially when we're figuring out the histories between characters), I find the moments of crisis. Then I bring them up in play immediately. In Monsterhearts' supernatural romance, that's stuff like being seen watching a neighbour through a window or discovered over a dead body.

In Cartel, the histories are filled with situations like starting to deal with another criminal organisation, forming a plan to make some real money, and suspecting someone is undercover.

(I really hope there's an 'undercover' playbook. If not, I suspect I'll want to write one!)

Anyway, turning the histories into active bits of the game's opening are a great creative support for those initial scenes where everyone's finding their feet and the fiction's still coming alive. There are also a few options that aren't so appropriate for openings, but holding onto them for later created explosive scenes.

* Diego is high on pain-killers after getting shot in the meth lab and from injuring himself racing to get a gas mask when Hector created a toxic gas out of some leaking chemical. That's the worst time for him to meet his cousin Jolanda who wants him out of the business. Slapping, bribery and public screaming ensued in a crowded cafe while cartel enforcers watched the whole thing.

Of course, some of the playbooks have beginning of session moves that destabilise things too. The boss finds out if they're in control of their territory or whether there's trouble brewing. In our session, we had the meth lab break down, the cop fail to find out that the police are moving in on the cartel, and the cartel boss lose control of his territory which triggered a robbery.

The playbooks also contain three other elements it'll be essential to draw on (and these are either directly stated or implied by the rules):

* The basic concept of the playbook: if you've chosen it, you'll want to deal with the conflicts inherent in it. A halcon may have to deal with someone short-counting them, a sicario will have to enforce the jefe's will.

* the moves each player selects: I've started listing those moves out, and finding ways to dramatise them into a conflict or situation that needs to be dealt with

* the NPCs: most of the playbooks have some great NPCs you can enmesh into problematic situations. Making a note of those and then either bringing them into the game or having them make conflict-generating off-screen actions will be essential.

We ended the game with three crises unfolding:

*The street kid with ambitions to move up the chain of command had just gotten together with his gang to snatch one of the military-trained enforcers from the rival cartel

*The hitman had followed the cook who's been kidnapped by enforcers from a rival cartel. He's about to shoot his way into a rescue.

* The cartel boss had just learned (from the dirty cop) that his wife was going to inform on him, just as she had seduced one of his enforcers to let her into the boss' office to search for information.

---   ---   ---

How would you prep for a game of Cartel or for a convention session of an Apocalypse World hack?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Warren: First Impressions and preparing to play tonight

I've been interested in running The Warren (formerly Lapins and Lairs) for a couple of years. It's a game inspired by Watership Down and other 'intelligent rabbit' stories.

Hopefully I'll get to take it for a spin tonight. I've already had a quick read through it and it seemed well organised and logical. Now I'm going to dig a bit deeper. I'll post comments as I go, reflecting on the game.

I'll link, here, to any actual play write-ups or reviews that I do.

The Warren is being kickstarted right now.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Psi*Run: Actual Play

We played Psi*Run last night (I was GMing).

You play ‘Runners’: amnesiacs with super-powers. The game begins with you escaping … and you’re being chased by a shadowy organisation (the ‘Chasers’). The game has a tension between whether the Chasers will capture you or whether you’ll answer enough questions about your past to be able to escape them.

The players all commented on Psi*Run’s brutal, brilliant resolution system. One player said it gave him the opportunity to fail in five different ways on the same roll. Another player said it was so good, it should be in many many more games: he saw it as a worker-placement mechanic.

I’m a huge fan of modern, urban chases, so in terms of Colour this game was pretty easy to GM. I applied a lot of setting details from my recent trip to Auckland: a crash on the beach near the Mission Bay clubbing district, nosy beach-living neighbours, a guard dog from the awesome B&B we stayed at (who was turned into a cuddly zombie by the misapplication of empathic projection powers).

Runners were separated from each other. One of them turned a few drinking teenagers into a kill-squad through switching his danger sense from passive to active mode.

What I learned as the GM

This is a game I feel like I should be able to GM well, but I need to apply a few techniques to in order to make it easy and fun for me.

Throughout it, though I felt like I needed to create more sources of GM antagonism in the story. Without constant tension, there are few reasons for the players to make dice rolls (which create jeopardy and advance the game). Some of the rolls I called for felt a bit arbitrary to me.

Anyone, some potential sources of antagonism include:
  • the chasers (which, of course, are central to the game)
  • traditional law enforcement
  • civilians
  • on-going blowback from psi-powers.

I also felt that ‘Advance the Chasers’ needed to be a GM move: if there's a pause in the game and the players turn to the GM expecting them to say something, advance the chasers by one location. (And the same for if the characters don't move at all: there’s a paragraph about this in the game, but it’s not specific.)

Another thing I’d do differently next time: each Runner has questions they need to answer about themselves. I should've drawn on those questions when they were read out for the first time, writing them down as potential situations to throw the Runners into.

A few rules questions
  • Can the characters narrate advancing through multiple locations quickly, putting lots of distance between them and the Chasers? I think so, but that’s where I need to introduce more antagonism (as above)
  • If a Runner establishes a barricade (as in one of the game’s examples) does it have any effect when the Chasers reach it? The Chasers’ success in bypassing the barricade depends on what d6 the Runner puts into 'Chase' rather than the Runner’s initial success with the goal of ‘Create a barricade’, right?
  • How can one character help another?
  • Has anyone give any thought as to how you’d play a sequel game where the Runners turn the tables on the Chasers? Would it just be the same rules? Would the ‘Chase’ part of resolution system still apply?

(Psi*Run is available here. It’s Game 28 in my Play 51 Games in 2015 challenge.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Undying: a hyper-focused vampire RPG about power (review)

Undying by Paul Riddle is a diceless RPG about vampires. It's on Kickstarter at the moment, with a couple of days to go.

Undying is about vampires as predators

It's natural to compare Undying to White Wolf's Vampire or Urban Shadows. However, Undying is a simpler game, focused on two aspects: preying on humans and the way predators fight each other for dominance.

Here are some exercepts from the rules that establish what it's about:

"You are a predator: a vampire who stalks human prey in the night, feasting on their blood. ... Predators are misanthropic, but not solitary. They are a pack of wolves.

"[In this pack of predators], the most cunning and ruthless is the alpha. All predators envy that power and prestige. Each hopes to one night rule the pack. Thus, from the greatest predator to the least, all are embroiled in a ceaseless conflict of intrigue and bloodshed.

"Game play revolves around brief periods of intense conflict, where old rivalries and new slights spark an inferno, and long stretches of intrigue, where intricate plots are set in motion. ... During the course of one or two sessions, the PCs experience tumultuous events initiated by a galvanizing crisis. The story unfolds hour-by-hour, night-by-night until the conflict resolves with a new status quo."

Undying's simplicity also comes from the way there are only a few 'dials' to keep track of: humanity, blood, debts (to other vampires), and status (relative to other vampires). Coupled with a fast moving conflict resolution system to deal with violence and with interfering in another vampire's plan, Undying looks like it will play quickly and create nasty conflicts of interest between the characters.

Predators are not inherently sympathetic characters

I initially thought this game would be perfectly tailored to my tastes. I like the idea of vampire conflicts (both political and physical), and the relationships between vampires over decades and centuries. 

This game deals with that time-frame: it divides the action into 'nightly play' where a conflict is resolved, and 'downtime play', where years can pass in a few minutes of real-time, vampires execute a long-term plot or strategy, and a new crisis is created. That new crisis becomes the basis for another round of nightly play.

It's a well-executed structure for a game.

However, I had a really unsettling reaction to the character creation section. The game's playbooks (character classes) are things like the Devil, the Nightmare, the Puppet-Master,

Reading them, I recoiled and went "I don't like most of these archetypes". As in, when I'm reading/watching fiction involving these sorts of characters, I think of them as the 'enemy'. After reflecting on what I liked about the Vampire games I played in the 90s, I realised I liked seeing new vampires caught between their old human society and the new and alien vampire society. Tested loyalties, tough choices, terrible mistakes in ettiquette and alliances.

So, Undying is nailing its vision of play: these characters in this situation aren't wish-fulfilling gothic superheroes. They are predators ... and they prey on humans and on each other.

The closest match in fiction I can think of to what a game of Undying looks like is the vampire plot in the first Blade movie. You focus on the soap opera of the entitled and ambitious vampires, screwing with each other for dominance.

The GM prep advice seems perfect for engineering these sorts of situations.

Undying is really about power

Thinking more about why I was alienated, I realised characters in Undying still have 'humanity' (which varies between 0 to 3). So, despite each playbook's theme, you're able to be human inside that

And each playbook showcases one way of handling power.

That opened my eyes. The game is about power, and now I can see other playbooks in that space that I'd love to have in a game of Undying.

  • The Diplomat - who builds alliances between groups
  • The Follower - who works as a soldier for someone more powerful
  • The Kingpin - who relies on brute strength to intimidate others
  • The Anarchist - who tries to destroy the power structure
  • The Outsider - who tries to remain aloof, unaffected and neutral.

I've written more about my thoughts on Undying here. It's a brilliantly-crafted game. I can only imagine the amount of playtesting that's gone on in order to focus on its core so successfully. I'm looking forward to playing it.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Preparing a .pdf for DrivThruRPG's print-on-demand

I've been encouraged to provide a print version of Soth. So I'm starting to investigate what that would involve.

In this initial phase, I only have three one concern:
  • Will my current .pdf layout work for the print version? Are my margins wide enough? (Answered, below)
  • How do I create a cover? (Answered, below)
  • What will happen to my page numbers (which are currently on the outside corners)

I'm also aware that there's tonnes of other stuff I don't know that I don't know.

After looking at DriveThru's 'Publish' section, I've found a checklist that hopefully covers all these unknown unknowns: Print checklist (.pdf). Here are some other concerns I have after reading that:
  • Do I need a barcode? (Answered, below)
  • What is 'bleed'? And do I need it?
  • Are my page numbers evenly-divisible? (Answered, below)
  • What does "Last page removed for use by LS" mean?

One of the things that baffled me in that checklist was the acronym 'LS'. This seems to stand for 'Lightning Source', based on this tutorial video (not embeddable) I've also found at DriveThru.

So I'll need to download a cover template from LS. Heading over to the site, it gives me a choice between 'Independent Publishers' (using a service called 'Ingram Spark') and 'Medium to Large Publishers', using LS. So, I have two more questions:

  • Do I need to set up an account with Lightning Source, and then link that to my DriveThruRPG account?
  • Am I in the 'Medium to Large' category, because I'm with DriveThruRPG?
  • (After I've done that) Where is the cover template?

Things I've answered, so far

  • Looking at my Scribus file, it looks like my margins are fine.
  • LS should have a template I can use for my cover.
  • Even if my page numbers aren't evenly-divisible, it should be easy enough to change that.
  • DriveThru has another printing checklist that says "We do not include barcodes." 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ryuutama: preparing to run it for the first time

Ryuutama is a fantasy game of travel and exploration. I've been looking forward to digging into it for a while, to see how it works.

Here's what I know at the moment:

  • Players portray non-traditional fantasy RPG characters like tinkers and bakers. They are not adventurers.
  • Every character is hit by wanderlust (this is a normal and expected part of the setting) once during their lives. A game of Ryuutama covers the travels of a group who get wanderlust at the same time
  • Wilderness travel is a big thing in the game (which situates Ryuutama near games like The One Ring and -- I think -- Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine)
  • The GM portrays a dragon who looks after the travellers
  • There are four different types of dragon a GM can control. A ... Winter (?) Dragon is one that signals a dying world.

I'll post my thoughts in the comments as I get a chance to read the game. Which, by the way, looks beautiful and (on an initial skim) clearly-written and logically-presented.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wield: a fun game that I need to get better at GMing

I ran my first game of Wield last night, for four players. You play vatcha (intelligent magic items like The One Ring or the Luggage from Discworld), and the poor saps who own them.

One of the players described it like so:

"Tonight, Matt and I had a duel of wits as adversarial artifacts and their bearers. I played a magical finger and a scholar bearing a magical gauntlet. He played the magical gauntlet and the owner of the magical finger.

Some observations, in no particular order:
  • The central tensions between the vatcha (the magic items) and the heroes worked well.
  • It wasn't quite as easy to let the players generate their own stories as I thought. I may need to steal the idea of player-generated Bangs from Sorceror and my own 'take note of highly charged situations and play them immediately' technique from Monsterhearts.
  • The web of social relationships in the game challenged my savannah-optimised primate brain. With four players, it was just on the edge of what I was able to handle. Most team-based games (eg. D&D, Shadowrun, Leverage) have an easy-to-track 'us versus them' dynamic. In terms of games with (fictional) social complexity, I think it goes: Monsterhearts --> Wield --> The full version of Left Coast
  • I definitely needed to create my own play aids, in order to understand the combat rules. I've broken it down into a 5-step process, which is easier to follow and adjudicate.
  • Combat and overcoming obstacles are lethal. They're great situations to force vatcha players to decide whether to give the heros more power (and therefore more control).
  • After consulting with some Wield GM-gurus, I can see the following player arrangements working:
    • A 3-player game where everyone plays artefacts and heros
    • A 4-player game where everyone plays the hero for the vatcha on their right or (for a far more focused game, you have two vatcha players and two hero players) 
    • For 6+ players, have half the players playing artefacts and half playing heroes.
  • I found it much easier to invent destinies for all the heroes. Those destinies also gave me tonnes of NPCs and locations to track (which is a good thing). ... The rules say to randomly assign heroes to the vatchas. When I created heroes, I riffed off what the vatcha players were coming up with. That made me suspect I could be better for the GM to assign heroes to players (at least at first).
  • As well as creating a relationship map, I probably need to track the history that the vatcha players create. I definitely need to track each vatcha-hero combination: I was getting really lost in doing that.
  • There's nothing that really points the vatchas at each other. As a result, the stories can drift apart a bit. That's probably fine in a multi-session game. I'll need to think about how you'd optimise it for a convention game.

So, I'd run this again ... after I refine some of my player handouts and streamline some of my 'how to introduce and frame the game' notes.

I'd also think about providing some pre-generated vatchas (to speed up a convention game). I've created 'playbooks' for the vatchas but I think it probably needs to be even faster to hit a climax in a three-hour slot.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Undying: preparing to run it for the first time

Undying by Paul Riddle is a diceless RPG about vampires preying on humans and fighting each other for dominance.

I've been interested in it for a couple of years now. It's currently being kickstarted and the rules are available for free over there: Undying kickstarter

I'm going to read through it over the next couple of days, posting my notes in the comments. I think this is something it'd be fun to run, soon.

How do you prepare to run a game for the first time?

There's that moment when you've read a game you haven't played before: the moment you decide you're actually going to run it.

What sort of techniques do you use?
My process is to try and build up a mental picture of what a play session would be like, and what information I'd need in order to run it well. I do that by:
  • asking questions
  • identifying gaps in my understanding
  • clarifying the designer's intentions--through my own reading of the game, if possible
  • looking for reference sheets I can use while I'm playing / running
It ends up being a bit like a reader's commentary.

This is something I think I'm going to be doing regularly here. I'll use the hashtag/label: #gameprep

Here are some examples:
I've just analysed Wield by John Wick and Gillian Fraser, which looks like a great game and got rave reviews at Kapcon this year.

Here's the second half of one for Circle of Hands by Ron Edwards.

I'll make an initial post here, and then put my follow-up comments on Google Plus as I read and ask questions. I think that's the best way to keep all of my observations in one play, that's still searchable later on.
That may or may not be followed up with an actual review of the game.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Restless: a freeform survival horror game

Played Restless last night: 's freeform horror game of survivors being hunted by an unstoppable evil force. This was a one-off game arranged via Facebook for a university games club. Every time I emphasised how lethal it would be, my prospective players would laugh and say tell me it sounded great.

They were right.

Players divide into 'survivors' and 'desolators'. Desolators describe the world and portray the Restless (the monsters who are hunting the survivors)

I played a desolator, along with Chris. I had some thoughts going in that were heavily influenced by The Darkest Hour (invisible electricity aliens).

Chris was interested in a different angle, and mentioned the Reavers from Firefly as a touchstone. We took that idea of frenzied humans as our starting point. Then I said I'd like there to be something unnatural about them: like they can hide in shadows or crawl on ceilings. Chris came back with the idea of 'possession' and we locked it in.

Not too much detail or backstory, but just enough for us to start jamming with.

The game is played out in sequences (or set-pieces from a horror movie). These are called 'verses'. The game gives you strong guidance for what happens in each verse. The order of verses is randomly determined.

Each verse provides prompts for actions to describe or settings or memories to invent. It felt a little like the verses encoded hard and soft moves into them.(*)

* Apocalypse World terminology.

Starting The Game

Our first verse was called 'Dreams and Nightmares': it made for a great opener, as it deals with memories, flashbacks, and difficult emotional terrain for each of the survivors. It really humanises them.
Right from the start of that card, we realised that (for the survivors could choose where to camp and how to defend themselves) the desolators would have to provide some setting details that weren't in the verse:
  • What are the Restless?
  • How long have the Restless been destroying the world?

It also seemed like we needed to empower the desolators to ask questions that:
  • Lead the survivors into danger
  • Explore the survivors misery, miserable lives
Giving desolators the power to ask those types of questions kept the game flowing smoothly, and steered clear of violating the Czege Principle ("When one person is the author of both the character's adversity and its resolution, play isn't fun.").

Specific Feedback On How Verses Work

I also wonder whether the desolators should be the ones to read out the information on each verse. I suspect that could:
  • preserve suspense about what will happen next
  • encourage immersion in the survivors
  • simplify some of the instructions you need to read out (I'm thinking of "The going is tough" from 'Bushwhacking') ...

... but I'm not sure how important that is to Jonathan's vision of play. We just rotated players reading out cards and it worked fine.

The game is very very late playtest, so this probably hasn't come up for any other groups. While we played I did wonder about the phrasing of the cards. Because they're read aloud, some sections felt like they could be phrased as very specific questions to the survivors or using the imperative.

An example.

In the 'Bushwhacking' verse, it says "The survivors then quickly decide on an alternate route", but maybe making it "The survivors need to decide..." or "You need to decide..." would make what's required clearer.


Developing What The Restless Are

Between verses, you can swap from playing a survivor to a desolator (and vice versa), or choose to play a new or returning  survivor character.

This was great, creatively, for our group: two survivor players in the first verse leapt at the chance to play desolators in the second. And they were fantastic at it: much better than me. I love the idea that the game allows you to rotate how you creatively feed into the game based on your enthusiasm and energy.

In passing on the desolator role, I felt I had to brief the new desolators on what we'd established... and then give them permission to establish a fact each for themselves. We applied that protocol throughout the rest of the game. It led to some creepy imagery, including:
  • Thick black streams of oil announcing the arrival of the Restless
  • Anyone who had an open wound had a chance of becoming a Restless, regardless of whether a Restless was anywhere nearby.

Establishing A Social Contract For Tone?

Initially, people took the game's situation and character creation very seriously. Over the second and third verses, it became a little comedic: perhaps people were distancing themselves from the significant chance of character death? It became serious again towards the end of the third verse and during the fourth.

Next time I play this, I think I'll introduce the social contract from EPOCH (and adapt it a bit):

At the beginning of the game you inform the players of the purpose of EPOCH (a game of character-driven horror) and emphasise that during Tension Phases it is inappropriate to ‘break character’.

By making this explicit and securing agreement from everyone present, you and the players share the responsibility for building game atmosphere. You can remind individual players of this during the game, should you be faced with a specific instance of player blocking.

Again, I'm not sure if that maps to Jonathan's vision of play, but it certainly maps to what I want out of playing each verse. Because each verse is reasonably short (in our game, 20-40 minutes), I think that social contract would be pretty realistic.

---   ---   ---

All in all, a great game. It'll be going into my go-bag for things to run at Games on Demand and at short-notice.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

My criteria for reviewing Game Chef games

I have a simple structure for reviewing Game Chef games,

First, I record my stream-of-consciousness, reading-it-for-the-first-time impressions.

During that first read, I take notes and divide them into sections that match Edward De Bono's Six Hats process:

    • Structural thoughts: What do I think the designer's 'vision of play' is? What will a session of the game look and feel like when the game is working perfectly?
    • Information: What don't I know? What do I have questions about?
    • Feelings: I tend to find I write this section last, as it ve synthesises my other thoughts.
    • Insights or Ideas: What would I like to see next from this game? What would I suggest in order to achieve the vision of play?
    • Positives: What is the game doing that I find fun, worthy, well-executed, interesting, or unique?
  • Issues: Is there anything that I'm unsure about? Perhaps I don't think it fits with the game or that it won't work.

How does it apply the theme: A Different Audience?

What ingredients are used? How effectively are they integrated into the game? Personally, I don't give this much weight: I see the benefit of Game Chef as encouraging people to write a game. Sticking too closely to the ingredients may inhibit developing the game further.


Am I inspired to run the game? Is there anything missing that I need in order to feel like I can run it? If I don't want to run it, is that because I'm not the target audience for the designer's vision of play, or is there another reason?

I then take a few hours break from the game. I let it settle, before coming back to it.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Nearly halfway through the "51 Games in 2015" Challenge

In January, Epidiah Ravachol (of Dig A Thousand Holes) issued an open challenge to play 51 games in 2015 ( #51in15 ). The 51 in '15 challenge has a great constraint: you can only count each game once.

I'm about halfway through, and that constraint is really starting to force me out of my comfort zone.

Games played in last week:

21. The Princess Bride: Prepare To Die: a family-friendly Cards Against Humanity hack. It's OK, but doesn't scale super-well to 8 players using the rules as written. Our game took maybe 90 minutes to finish (maybe longer), and felt a bit gruelling. It's very dependent on the judge (the player judging a particular round) asking a question / setting criteria that help the majority of other players create a good card combination.

Bad Family: this playtest doesn't count towards my challenge total because I've already run it this year. However, I learned a lot about the value of drunk playtesting a game.]

22. Space Team: This continues to be super-fun. I think I've cracked an optimal strategy for how to play it, though.

However, as great as SpaceTeam is, it's still just a place-holder until I can play Artemis: The Spaceship Bridge Simulator.

23. Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mount Skullzfyre: I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would after watching it on Tabletop. Fairly low complexity and the randomness is actually fun because it's offset by selecting your initiative (when your spell will occur), spell design (whether you go for offensive or healing effects), and target selection.

24. Space Fluxx: It's Fluxx, but with all manner of science-fiction references from 1950s B-movies, Star Trek, Doctor Who and many more. I like Fluxx and thought this was good. My favourite Fluxx variants are Zombie and Monty Python.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

On The Benefits Of Drunk Playtesting

There's a quote in Stephen King's On Writing, when King reluctantly takes on a newspaper job reporting on sports:

"I told Mr Gould I didn't know much about sports. Gould said, 'These are games people understand when they're watching them drunk at bars. You'll learn if you try.'"
That reminds me of this quote from Peter Molyneux:

"The first rule of game design is that you mustn't produce games that are too complex for people to play."

On Saturday night, I ran a playtest of Bad Family for a few friends. It happened at midnight and they had had quite a lot to drink. It was a super-informative playtest.

I kinda recommend drunk playtesting if you're designing a game that's low-complexity and low-strategy. It seems to work best when the players are drunk but you aren't.

Here are some things I noticed when teaching drunk people a game:
  • You have keep your instructions clear and short
  • You have to give them something specific and simple to do, frequently
  • They will immediately tell you if they're confused about something 
  • If the game isn't consistently and frequently delivering fun, you'll see it
  • They are really honest about the problems they see, but they don't try to give you solutions


Thursday, June 25, 2015

What are the best practices for Kickstarter? (Using Undying as an example)

+Paul Riddle  has just launched his Kickstarter for Undying, a diceless Apocalypse World hack for playing vampires scheming and battling each other down through history.

I've been following this for about two years and it's really exciting. The finished draft is freely available from the Kickstarter page:

Undying Kickstarter

What I wanted to note, though, is that Paul's kickstarter followed some great best practices. Here's what I saw him do:

  • Assemble a team of Kickstart veterans to give him advice
  • Do a two-stage launch of his Kickstarter preview: with his
    support team, and then with his social media followers (to
    get advice and pre-launch subscriptions)
  • Completed everything he could control, pre-launch (writing,
    illustrations, design)
  • Released the full text of the game -- not just for backers, for
  • Launched on a Tuesday (which I've heard is the best day)
It's also possible that Paul has completed the stretch goal that he's
responsible for (something that's also under his control).

Another best practice I've been hearing about is giving certain members
of your support team access to your Kickstarter account, in case 
anything goes wrong for you (health, personal crises, etc). In that
event, you have people that can post on your behalf to explain the
situation. This avoids situations where the Kickstarter organiser 
goes silent for several weeks or months while trying to deal with 
the crises.

What Kickstarter best practices have you seen?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Blender: Action! Camera! Lights! (Creating an Animation)

Now that I've created a 3D token, it occurs to me that I could probably animate it. Here's the end result.

This tutorial was easy to follow and taught me how to spin the token:

I've done a little bit of special effects work in Adobe Aftereffects and a little bit of moving titles in KDenLive (video editing software). So the idea of applying an effect to different keyframes feels pretty natural to me.

What was less familiar was the idea that I'd need to insert an artificial light-source and a virtual camera in order to film the token moving. I'd sort of heard about this on the special features for the Toy Story movies.

Another tutorial (and some trial and error) sorted me out:

So that's nearly it, for now. I need to:
  • export the file for printing
  • look for a local 3D printer  
  • figure out what I've (inevitably) done wrong
  • write all of this up into an easy to follow guide

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Soth: three examples of how the game works

I recently ran a game of Soth at a local convention. This post describes a few moments from that game, and demonstrates how the rules were used.

In Soth, you play cultists in a small-town, trying to summon a dark god. If you complete three more rituals, Soth will rise. The question: can deceive your family and friends, while you commit murders perform the necessary sacrifices?

(You can buy Soth, here:

The cast of characters

The cultists in our game were:
  • The Farmer / cult leader
  • The Mayor's wife / holder of the Tome of Soth
  • The pastor's wife
  • A young lawyer, 
  • A maimed WW2 veteran

Example 1

The cult has just completed the first of four rituals to summon Soth, sacrificing a homeless war veteran. The Farmer decides to feed the body in a wood chipper, then take the body parts out into the woods.

In the woods, he starts scattering the mince among the autumn leaves. And then meets a local truffle hunter and his dog. The Keeper (the person providing the antagonism in the game) has used the rules to introduce someone they don't want to see and start a conversation.

The Farmer tries to appear innocent, while the truffle-dogs starts sniffing at the meat-covered leaves.

In conversation, a cultist needs to use the Mask of Sanity rules: choosing from a list of increasingly worse options that signal all is not well with the cultist.

The Farmer starts explaining that the dog should really stopping sniffing around ... because he's disposing of infected pig meat. He finish his explanation with the phrase, "Praise Soth".

Soth uses a diceless system to evaluate how suspicious the cultists are being. When a cultist deceives someone, the Keeper evaluates how they did, using this list:
  • Did the cultist pull it off flawlessly? (-­2 Suspicion
  • Will the person being deceived think about it later? (+1 Suspicion)
  • Was the deception pretty comprehensively botched? (+3 Suspicion)
  • Is the cultist clearly connected to recent horrible crimes? (+5 Suspicion)

    -1 Suspicion if the cultist’s reputation would be an advantage in this situation.

    +1 Suspicion if their reputation would disadvantage them.
The Farmer pulls it off flawlessly, and his reputation is an advantage. The Keeper removes 3 Suspicion. To reflect that success, the truffle hunter later starts spreading a rumour in town that there's a disease affecting the local pigs.

When a cultist covers up a crime, the Keeper evaluates that, too. In this case, the mince-the-body-and-hide-it-in-leaves plan isn't totally perfect. The Keeper gains 2 Suspicion.

Example 2


The Mayor's wife has been slowly poisoning her husband, and he's now bed-ridden and in agony.

The cultists are meeting at the Mayor's home, in the kitchen. They're discussing how to transport the Mayor to the Town Hall, to sacrifice him. And they're deciding who they can sacrifice next to him at the same time.

That's when the Deputy Mayor rings the front door-bell. He's dropped by to see why the Mayor hasn't shown up for work [introduce someone they don't want to see].

The Mayor's wife tries to manipulate the Deputy Mayor, suggesting he come into the kitchen before checking in on the Mayor. Her manipulation succeeds because the Deputy Mayor is not an Investigator (someone who's actively tracking and blocking the cultists), and he has a positive relationship with the Mayor's wife.

The Keeper creates Investigators by spending Suspicion. Suspicion is also used to put the cultists under pressure. Earlier in the game, the Keeper created an Investigator: a church busy-body who is concerned the Pastor's wife neglecting her duties and spending too much time with war veterans.

The Keeper spends 1 Suspicion to have the busy-body waiting outside the house (show up somewhere inconvenient).

The young lawyer cultist has grabbed a cast-iron skillet. He smashes the Deputy Mayor on the back of his head when he walks through the kitchen door. The young lawyer is attempting to commit a crime.

I actually mis-applied the rules here. This should have been a conflict (see below), where the young lawyer had all the advantages. Instead, I applied the rules for when you try to murder someone. The Deputy Mayor isn't an investigator and no reason to be suspicious, so it succeeds.

In this particular situation, either way the results are the same: the Deputy Mayor is knocked out and ready to transport to Town Hall for the second ritual.

The second ritual ends with most of the evidence being destroyed.

... except for the evidence of arson. When you cover up a crime, the Keeper assesses its effectiveness. The Keeper gains 3 Suspicion for an obvious crime.



It's the final stages of the game.

The Mayor's widow has commanded a servitor (a summoned supernatural entity) to kidnap an unmarried adult and bring them to the final ritual

The pastor's wife has stolen the Tome of Soth from the widow's home, in order to be able to command the servitor herself.

The cultists have decided to perform the final ritual at night, on the front lawn of the church, under the queasy milky light of Soth (a bright new star in the sky).

Here's the situation:
  • The lawyer and the pastor's wife are conspiring to murder the mayor's widow as a final sacrifice
  • The servitor arrives with a sacrifice (whose arms have been snipped off in a prior conflict)
  • The mayor's widow has been waiting, unseen, for the servitor to arrive. Now she walks onto the lawn where the ritual will be performed. She has no idea she's about to be betrayed
  • The pastor and the church busy-body (an Investigator) reveal themselves [The Keeper spends 4 Suspicion to witness something inconvenient and bring a non-Investigator friend].
The pastor's wife immediately commands the servitor to kill the busy-body her husband's protecting. This initiates a conflict.

The Keeper establishes the characters' intended actions for this round.
  • The servitor obeys its command. It seizes the initiative (a special action to try and act first in a conflict)
  • The young lawyer moves to attack the mayor's widow, who fights back. Both of them also seize the initiative, trying to act first in their fight with each other
  • The pastor's wife tries to kill the first sacrifice
  • The pastor defends the busy-body

Characters act in this order:
  • Servitors go before Cultists and Investigators
  • Anyone who seized the initiative
    • Cultists before Investigators
    • low Clarity before high Clarity
    • If Clarity is tied, roll d6 (higher wins)
  • Characters without a disadvantage
  • Characters with a disadvantage
So, the servitor acts first, trying to kill the busy-body. But the pastor is protecting her, so the servitor grabs the pastor to throw him aside.

The Keeper evaluates the effectiveness of a character's action, by assessing:
  • their capability, position, and any effects of previous actions
  • whether the intended action still possible or partially possible
  • whether the character is acting at a disadvantage.
The servitor has giant strength, the initiative, a fearsome appearance, and no disadvantages.

So it flings the pastor far into the air: his body hits the church steeple and clangs the bell. The Keeper assigns an injury (ranging from 'stunned' to 'dead') and/or a non­-injury effect. In this case, the pastor is dead.

The young lawyer has a lower Clarity than the Mayor's widow so he acts first. The Keeper evaluates effectiveness: the lawyer is stronger, and charging towards the widow. A non-injury effect is appropriate: she's is knocked to the ground.

The widow goes next. Because she's seized the initiative, she can change her action without acting at a disadvantage. She elects to try and tussle with the lawyer and end up on top of him. The Keeper evaluates effectiveness and assigns an effect: the lawyer slammed into her with momentum. The two of them are on the ground, but no-one's clearly on top. They're still struggling.

The pastor's wife acts last. She is trying to murder the sacrifice. Not only does he lack arms and is suffering from massive blood loss, but he's a non-investigator.

Her murder automatically succeeds.

---   ---   ---

The conflict continued but I'll stop there. It was a fun game: one that ended with a rare victory for the cultists.

Hopefully those examples are clear.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Soth is available at