A good friend of mine who lives in the UK and I had recently been discussing the feasibility of roleplaying online via video conferencing. Obviously it can be done, there’s ConstantCon for example that has been running pretty well as far as the session reports would indicate. But my real concern was over the quality of the sessions that could be achieved over video conferencing. Sure, they would never reach the heights of face-to-face roleplaying, but how close could they get?
Last night we played our second session of a weird fantasy session set in inhospitable jungles using Skype and I’m pleased to report that it works pretty well. Thoughts in more detail after the cut.
The other night I had ran my first session of the transhuman roleplaying game Eclipse Phase. I was initially attracted me to its dark science fiction setting and the novel approach to player character life/death. A central conceit is that technology has advanced to a point where the human mind can be mapped and transferred into new genetically engineered bodies. This changes the entire dynamic of a game where ‘death’ is only ever temporary as long as a character has a back up of their mind. Continue reading
The other night, I had the opportunity to play Mansions of Madness, Fantasy Flight Games’ Call of Cthulhu-style boardgame. Being both a boardgamer and roleplayer I was keen to see what this hybrid game was like. With a boardgame’s miniatures, sight-lines, cards and tokens and an RPG-like gamemaster (actually called a ‘Keeper’ ), narrative and player characters possessing customisable skills it clearly has a foot in each camp. Ultimately this central premise is also its central flaw. It tries to live in both worlds and ultimately fails at both.
I was recently fortunate enough to get to play in two sessions with two different GMs. One a one-shot fantasy setting while a friend was over from Japan where we played philosopher assassins (who did a lot more philosophising than following the plot). The other was the first session of a globe-spanning Call of Cthulhu campaign that started at a symposium in Oxford. It will be played sporadically when that GM is over in Australia on work from the UK. (It would seem that I have a lot of jet setting friends…) Continue reading
I’m preparing for the second session of Blood Money, my Vampire the Requiem Chronicle. The first session went well, I feel. It gave me an opportunity to put forward a range of ‘essential ideas’ about the game world and play up the elements I wanted emphasise about playing a vampire:
- alienation from humanity – the strangeness of being a vampire, their control over and distance from mortals
- the overwhelming desire for blood — blood is smelt in a medical waste container in a hospital and it’s enticing. The victim of a crime, bleeding to death in a bath, is first identified as a warm, wasted blood…
- the predatory nature of a vampire — the character’s smell what’s in a room, what’s coming towards them, before they see it. Mortals occasionally shirk at their presence even though they don’t know what they are.
- the arcane and medieval nature of the vampire court and its practices — the wheeling and dealing, the politics, the titles. Deliberately flooding the players with arcane names, ancient grudges and esoteric titles. Continue reading
Music really improves a roleplaying session. It can help transition players to the tone of a new scene, increase the tension as a creature of shadow stalks the PCs down dark alley, up the adrenaline for a high-stakes action sequence or give the right amount of demonic punch to a dire ritual going on the Plateau of Leng…
Nowadays, putting together music for a session is easy. It’s a far cry from laborious task of switching out vinyl on the turntable mid-session or picking tracks to burn out on to a CD. MP3 players and playlists make the GM’s task of organising a selection of nuanced, mood-enhancing music a real joy.
At the start of each session of my Call of Cthulhu campaign, I have been giving the players a the front page from latest issue the Arkham Advertiser. I’ve used ‘newspapers’ before to help dispense a few clues, establish the date of the session and evoke a bit of atmosphere. For you to download and use editable PDFs as well as a few other useful resources and links that might come in handy for others setting their Cthulhu sessions in 1920’s Arkham…