Saturday, January 30, 2016

Prohibition Mob: The Players go to DC, Get Backstabbed

Precis - Mistreating your contacts leads to them screwing you over.

The Crew:

Sam: The diplomatic and sociopathic leader of the crew. Sam has been the driving force behind the group's actions since day one, and his feud with Three-Fingers Moran has been a consistent issue for the group.
Red: A 16-17 year old thug whose brother's work in the liftskirt industry got her into organized crime. Red is tenacious, has a fiery temper, and has a lot of maturity issues to work out.
Vinnie: Another thug in the 16-17 year old range, Vinnie is a skulk and thug. Raised on the streets from a young age, Vinnie enjoys gambling, slicing throats and good cigars.
Tony: Tony made sergeant in WWI and made sure that a BAR fell off a truck for his own personal use later. The triggerman of the team, Tony's found himself in the sights of an intrepid bombshell reporter- Rachel.

Supporting Cast:
Teddy: Sam's brother-in-law and the group's wheelman. Teddy enjoys loud explosions, fast cars, driving fast cars, and causing loud explosions.
Rachel: Possibly the best journalist in the city, Rachel immediately found herself smitten with Tony and is more than happy to dig up information for him. Rachel figures the book she'll be able to write in a decade will be a best seller.
Ben Kincaid: The leader of the Kincaid Outfit, Ben is the boss of the group the players are currently working under. Ben is a smooth operator who would probably be a better fit in an intelligence agency than running a criminal organization.
Senga: Owner of the bar the players use as their base of operations. Legitimate businessman.


Three-Fingers Moran is believed to be on a steamer heading for DC. The players suspect he's with the US Senator from New York, and they're looking to learn both what Moran is doing talking to a senator and put the dog down for good.

It's roadtrip time.


The players drove down in a large van. Despite Teddy's crazy driving, there were no incidents. Nobody in the group except Teddy has any valuable area knowledge, and Teddy's knowledge is purely driving based.

Sam failed to spot the sticks of dynamite Teddy decided to smuggle 'just in case'.

Relying on streetwise, the group was just about to enter a seedy looking place that a few of them had pegged as an Italian speakeasy when two patrons were rudely shown the door.

One via window.

The first one out (via window) was Petey, the son of Bran, one of Red's contacts back in Boston. Bran is the patriarch of a small time crew of Irish thugs who hire out as guards for booze shipments. Red's relationship with Bran has been strained- what she sees as friendly banter and joking has come across as aggressive and racist.

Petey, hugely drunk and having just been concussed in the middle of a fight, decides it's a good time to hit on the cute chick he's just met. Red socks him in the face and Petey is introduced to unconsciousness for a minute.

Doyle, Petey's partner in crime, is more politely shown the door, although it's clear he was involved in whatever scrap got them thrown out in the first place.

The players eventually (after Petey wakes back up) learn that they know Petey's dad and they tell Doyle and Petey their mission- kill Moran. Petey and Doyle are both on board with this as Moran has been aggressively pushing Irish gangs in NYC to join up with him- or pay the price.

Doyle sets the group up in a hotel and promises to arrange a meeting with some sympathetic locals who also hate Moran's guts.

Scouting out DC the next morning, the PCs find it far less blatantly criminal than NYC. The presence of the federal government and the overwhelming Pinkerton presence in the area has squashed crime in the area- at least on the surface.

They meet up with Fat Tony, a money launderer and the guy bankrolling a group of 15 or so thugs. By this point the players have made multiple checks (empathy, body language, etc) to make sure Doyle and Petey aren't leading them into a trap.

Sadly, it's hard to read someone's body language when their face is mangled and they're coming off of a massive hangover and head trauma. Petey has contacted Moran via telegram and agreed to alert Moran's people.

A firefight ensues where both sides of the fight dig in and refuse to advance, knowing it means death. The garage the players are in is a decent defensive position- three entrances, no windows, brick construction. The attackers tried a few approaches:
  • When the players refused to try and exit the van, they booby-trapped the back door with a trip wire and a grenade in a can.
  • They rammed the front garage door with the player's van. Although breached, the attackers refused to try and insert themselves through the gap.
  • A grenade thrown in through the back door (taken from the trip wire trap once they realized the players were aware it was there) was thrown back out by Teddy (5 second fuse time, the NPC didn't attempt to cook the grenade)
Ultimately, the players were able to take out a few guys with potshots.

The fight ended dramatically when the driver of the van found Teddy's dynamite in the back (his concealment wrecked when the back of the van got crunched into the garage door)- and botched a demolitions check at default while trying to insert the detonator cap.

The explosion turned Petey into paste. The players were far enough away from the blast that the concussion wave didn't do much damage- but shrapnel and fragmentation nailed Sam (4 points of damage to his arm) and Red (2 points to the torso).

The ambushers decided that now was a good time to leave, and they left the players to pick apart what had happened.

Rushing Fat Tony to get medical attention, they grilled Doyle and reached conclusions:
  • Petey had accepted $1000 to lead the ambushers to the group. Between Bran's deteriorating friendship with Bran and Red deciding to punch him, Petey felt Red getting killed was well worth the money.
  • Fat Tony and Doyle were supposed to die with the rest
  • Moran knows the group is in DC
Sam decided enough was enough- he was going to take Fat Tony's thugs and strike back at Moran.

All said, the fighting was one of the least exciting bits I've experienced. Both sides were all too aware of the other group, and nobody wanted to play hero and get shot. It lead to a lot of taking aim at locations and shooting anybody who crossed lines of fire- on both sides.

My players ARE getting slightly more genre savvy, as they all suspected an ambush at various points or another. Sam's failed rolls definitely made the situation much worse, and at one point Sam's player keyed into the fact that I don't go into detail describing locations that aren't going to potentially harbor fights.

Next session should involve a bunch of Moran mooks getting ambushed trying to ambush the group at their hotel. So that should be exciting.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Players generally have no idea when a GM has meticulously planned out what is currently happening, or whether they are flying by the seat of their pants.

It's part of the disparity in information presented to the players. Unless you (the GM) state that the car about to slam into them is yellow, that car could be any number of colors, and each player is likely to imagine a different color in their head.

A blacked-out SUV definitely brings a different image to mind than a tricked-out low rider with custom rims.

I generally don't see a lot of focus on how to improvise well, there's always an emphasis on the GM doing the heavy lifting for plot.

First, players who can drive plot and take action without having to purely react to everything are amazing and awesome and you should jealously prevent these players with threats of bodily harm from joining games with schedule conflicts with your own. I'm not talking the dingbats that run off doing frivolous shit that only their character cares about, I'm talking the players that hear that a rival mob boss recently got out of prison and does something about it.

They don't wait for that guy to attack, they decide that they want to scout this situation out now. 

The GM isn't Atlas, carrying the entire plot is a recipe for burnout and frustration.

Second, almost everybody plans too specifically. Information that is required for the story to move forward needs to be accessible to the group- and people frequently hide that behind hidden doors, passwords, or in other crafty locations that players never consider to look.

Again, disparity of available information. To the GM things seem obvious. To my players "Out in the harbor" doesn't imply that SOMEONE IS ON A FUCKING BOAT IN THE HARBOR.

Tip: In modern games, especially TL 8 (and for part of TL 7), cellphones and computers will be the go-to source of info being held by an NPC if that NPC doesn't want to share over coffee. I should probably write a post about how much of a pain in the ass warping effect cellphones have on games.

Third, trying to plan for PC actions is near impossible, although part of that is familiarity with your group. Some groups are far more chaotic than others- the Agency 17 boys never made a severe attempt to truly go off the rails. Other groups actively run away from plot.

If your players run away from plot, I suggest getting new players or doing a much better job indicating what your game is about so people buy into the premise.

We're talking about tabletop roleplaying, not writing a book. The GM gets to react to what the players do, just like the players react to what the GM throws at them. Some of the best moments ever are when a player thinks outside the box and comes up with a solution to a problem that is both cool and successful.

Fourth, as a GM you really should be thinking about cause and effect and logic. I've blogged about this previously.

Really improvising well draws on knowing appropriate consequences for the players actions, knowing how the setting, situation and NPCs should react to various occurrences, and making sure that it's all consistent with one another.

So the players have caught you with your pants down. You expected them to accept a deal with this certain duke/capo/politician/government and they decided to fly dual-middle fingers to everyone and go for plan B (#15).

So... uh... what do?

  1. Relax. Breathe. Sure, things have not gone as planned, but you got this. Worst case scenario, feel free to end the session and state that you need time to plan around what happened. Your players will feel awesome for doing that to you If you only need 15 minutes, go on a 'bathroom break'.
  2. Do not worry about the plans you had. They are smoke now.
  3. Focus on the now. You only have to get to the end of the session. Red tape and bureaucracy are your friends here. There's tons of crafty ways to delay player actions to drag things out when you need to slow down the pace of a game. See #57. Be devious.
  4. Use logic. People use internally consistent logic to make decisions, even if they can't explain the logic or don't understand the logic. NPCs are the same.
  5. Let the consequences happen. If your players ask for trouble- give it to them! So what if that powerful duke/mayor is angry at the players now? Let it happen! Your players have just livened things up and asked for a major challenge! Roll with it!
  6. Decide later how things shake out on the bigger picture.
It gets far easier with time and practice. Plan less, think more, react better.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Single Dice Resolution Systems Suck

A +1 boost in  a d20 system is a teeny 5% boost to your chances of success. That is because a single dice produces flat results.

Flatter than an A-Cup Angst Anime Character
Every possible roll on a d20 is equally likely. Systems attempt to account for this by moving the goalposts of what you need to roll over to succeed, accounting for bonuses to calculate the chance of success based off of the bonus you have.

After all, a +10 bonus guarantees you will hit a goal of 20 half the time.

3d6 resolution is different.

Curves like the girl who doesn't reciprocate my feelings
See that bulge in the middle? The tendency for results near the middle of the range of possible outcomes to be more frequent? That right there is awesome. It's still random, yes, but now skill bonuses matter- and become more interesting.

An effective skill level of 10 in GURPS represents a 50.0% chance of success (p.171 is amazing). A +1 raises that to 62.5% chance of success- an increase of 12.5%. That's two and a half times more bang for your +1 buck vs. a d20 system.

Now, the further you move away from the middle, the less the increases in skill matter. It's not until skill level 14 at the top of the scale that a +1 bonus in GURPS is less powerful than the same +1 bonus in a d20 system game.

The change in percents as your reach extremes is great- if you're extremely low-skill for some reason, jumping a level up is a tangible boost to success- while bonuses at the top have less and less effect, eventually becoming moot (17 and 18 always fail). In GURPS this frees you up for things like harder combat maneuvers, techniques, dangerous shit... in d20 it uh... why would you ever stop accepting bonuses to do rad stuff? You're losing 5% each time, which is trivial, sure, but you're still shooting to get above the goalpost, where in GURPS you can stop worrying once your skill hits 16 most of the time.

The goalposts you're aiming to roll under in GURPS vs rolling over in d20 aren't nearly as arbitrary. There's not a great deal of math involved figuring them out- just looking at the bell curve distribution anchors the resolution mechanic to a norm- you can expect a lot of 8-12's being rolled.

Special shout-out to 11d10-10 as producing a very beautiful 1-100 bellcurve distribution of roll values.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Arisia 2016 Report

Arisia is a yearly nerd convention that takes place in Boston. It basically hijacks the Westin Hotel and turns it into nerd central for a weekend. I bought a weekend pass and managed to make it so I was free from work on Friday to attend.

I promptly started Arisia off right by showing up 2 hours early for non-staff registration, followed by immediately using the ladies' room by accident. I didn't even realize which bathroom I was in until a woman walked in.

Socially awkward things aside, I played in two tabletop games at Arisia, Paranoia (Viva La Revolution) and Pathfinder (True Dragons of Absalom).

I played Paranoia first. I'd played with the same GM in 2015, and had a blast the prior year:
The back of my 2015 Character Sheet
For the record, giving me a PURGE character in any edition of Paranoia is likely a VERY bad idea. I was forced into a pair of Nuclear Pants from R&D and made them explode critically whilst standing next to a nuclear reactor- the GM looked at me shocked for a moment before stating that the entire sector went up and all our clone lines were eventually erased.

Complete TPKs in Paranoia are hard to pull off.

Anyways, for the 2016 game I was supporting Psion with no specific missions from them. The 2016 crew was far more experienced and cutthroat than the 2015 group, devolving into laser pistol shootouts almost immediately. Violence was rampant, before everyone seemed to just arbitrarily drop the attempts to kill one another while moving on with the game. Surprisingly enough though, all of us survived to the end of the game except for one particularly unlucky player. I didn't directly cause any deaths myself.

True Dragons of Absalom was... painful. The group was a mix of players of various ages, and the ~9 year old sitting next to me was one of the most annoying individuals I've ever had the displeasure of trying to play at a table with.

I'm talking singing/humming for no reason, whining about being stunned for 4 turns (every other player except one was stunned as well), shouting while other people were talking to NPCs, moving their mini across the map while making plane noises, the works.

I almost got up and left the game I found the kid so annoying. Thankfully they left about halfway through the game- not that it improved things much.

True Dragons of Absalom involves playing 4th level kobolds, and I was playing the Cleric. I hit quite a few pain points:

  • All of my spells that weren't 1-and-done (at-will, I guess) were limited to touch
  • All of my spells that weren't 1-and-done were defensive/utility
  • It was never explained that one of my limited abilities was an AoE nuke- I'd assumed that it was a single target attack and didn't try to use it until the last fight of the night
  • There was a trap building segment where me and another player both had roughly a 40% chance of success, and the GM suggested one of us using Aid Another to give the other a +1- a flat 5% increase of the chance to succeed. In GURPS, +1 (especially when talking skill levels 8-12) is a much bigger deal than just 5%. (Also, I'd totally take two chances at 40% to get 1 success than one chance at 45%.)
  • Have I mentioned that Pathfinder's magic system is stupid?
  • What's the point of having a 'Destructive Smite' option that boosts melee damage by +2 when my melee damage is 1d3-1 to fucking begin with?
  • Why the hell are magic wands limited to touch? HAVEN'T YOU PLAYED NETHACK?
  • I never used some of my cooler spell options because of the limited use nature of them- what if I need that invisibility spell later? (Speaking of which, invisibility is so weaksauce when a single attack breaks it)
  • Attacks of opportunity are stupid. I understand this is an attempt to make movement important on a tactical level, but it's clunky clunky clunky.
  • No active defenses just seems -wrong- after playing GURPS. Not that I personally was ever attacked or damaged the entire game.
  • The bard was the only character with any useful knowledge skills turning them into the exposition fairy
Overall, True Dragons of Absalom has turned me off of Pathfinder/D20 systems for a lot of the reasons that I strongly prefer GURPS.

I also played a good amount of Smash 4- including getting my ass whuped in a small singles tournament. There was one game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill handily won by the non-traitors that I played in.

I also saw two parts (the third hasn't been produced for stage- yet) of Mrs Hawking, which was excellent. I may be biased as one of my friends played a leading role. Totally not biased or convinced she should use the accent at all times.

Oh, I played one game of Roll for the Galaxy, which was... okay. The guys I were playing with weren't the best at explaining how the game was played, and there was more confusion than I would have liked. I eventually ended up hoarding the rule book for myself to understand what was going on- like any true GM.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Prohibition Mob: A summary of events thus far

I run very plot heavy games. Doing summaries for games that have diverse casts of NPCs and lots of moving parts isn't easy to keep up with. Which is why I haven't for quite some time now.

Not to mention charting out all the groups at play along with their relationships is a complete pain in my ass too. I miss an old program called Imagination (or something close to that) that used to come on the OS9/OSX apple laptops I used in middleschool. It could do thought-webs really easily, with all sorts of handy organization options for making the chart look less like the chaotic mass I get whenever I do things by hand.

Anyways, time to begin. This summary covers about six months worth of play.

The player group started out as thugs working for the Barberini Family. Headed by Michael Barberini with Harold Barberini acting as Underboss, the Barberini family was known for being a fairly weak family in the grand scheme of things. Michael was a better diplomat than power player, and was probably better suited to being a consigliere.

The group started with four players:

  • Sam Licari, a smooth talking wiseguy and career criminal. Sam sought refuge from the Barberinis to escape Three-Fingers Moran, who wants him very much dead.
  • Red, a tomboy street thug. She has quite a soft spot for working girls, since her brother Leone was in charge of the books of the Barberini prostitution rings.
  • Vinnie, a street thug. Wiry and stealthy, Vinnie has a gambling habit which he uses to gain information.
  • Tony, a WWI veteran. He speaks softly and carries a M1918 BAR when the group wants to be armed for bear.
Jack Bennedetto, their capo, brought them together and started them out as fixers for the Barberini organization- raiding booze shipments, extorting local businesses, tossing the places of people who made the mistake of violating Barberini turf, the usual.

Things started to heat up once Three-fingers Moran caught wind that Sam was in NYC. The spat resulted in a few firefights, a few drive by shootings, and the 'accidental' fire that burned down Moran's prime 'entertainment' (drinking) establishment in the city.

The Consigliere of the Barberini, a creepy bastard by the name of Gustav (who they don't know is a former Cheka), hatched a plan to get rid of Moran. On his orders they Kidnapped a Broadway starlet and a Pinkerton Agent, then framed Moran for the murder of both. This landed Three-Fingers in jail.

About this time Sam met a gang contact in Cuba, who wanted to establish a trade route to deliver booze to NYC via plane. 

The group came to the attention of a prominent heist mastermind, who wanted to hit a local bank. Needing the funds to secure the trade route, the group decided to go take the job.

Lots of planning ensued- finding plans, testing security, attempting to hire prostitutes to distract the security response team, deciding that cutting phone lines was easier than hiring that many prostitutes, planning escape routes, and so on.

The heist master brought along some of his flunkies, one of whom ended up being Moran's niece. She shot Sam in the middle of the heist, before getting gunned down herself. Besides that complication, the team's preparation in delaying the security team meant only a cursory firefight with a few police responders who showed up first.

The cash quickly disappeared into the Barberini coffers. The crew was waiting for their payout when Jack Bennedetto and Michael Barberini were shot while eating donuts in a car and discussing the strategy of the Barberini family moving forward.

Michael Barberini died, replaced by his hotheaded brother, Harold. Jack ended up in a coma, his recovery in serious doubt.

The Barberini family quickly started to implode. Sensing blood in the water, rival gangs started to make moves. Harold, incapable of not starting hostilities with everyone around him, dug the group deeper into the muck.

The players decided enough was enough, and they ambushed Harold and his two most trusted lieutenants at a meeting. With a combination of grenades and quickly shooting anyone trying to escape the meeting location, they cut off the head of the Barberini organization.

Concurrently, in the city, another family, the Luchesse, had their leadership culled as well. Utilizing poison and paid assassins, Kincaid hostilely took over the Luchesse family, placing himself at the helm and renaming it the Kincaid outfit. The other powerful families of the city decided not to act, figuring that the Luchesse leadership had failed to protect themselves.

Kincaid offered the players a deal. Ditch the Barberini banner and form ranks with the Kincaid outfit. Sam would be made a capo, Tony elevated to Made Man, and their crew would get to keep more of the profits generated from their rackets than most other groups working for the outfit.

It took a great deal of effort on the players' part to convince the rest of the Barberini family to go with the change- but most did.

Moran escaped from prison. The Pinkerton Agency started putting pressure on the players, suspecting that the death of their agent hadn't been caused by Moran. Harold's widow, Marge, started wondering why her inheritance had disappeared.

Worst yet, Jack was killed by a bomb planted at the hospital. The group suspects Moran.

Most recently, the pressure coming from Marge resulted in a mob lawyer, Marco Santos, looking into the group. This ended with the arrest of Senga (the proprietor of their favorite bar/hideout), a warrant for Leone's arrest, and a raid that caused Senga's (the bar owned by Senga) to be shut down for violating Prohibition.

The group decided to try and intimidate Marco, a plan that failed spectacularly due to a crit success on a perception check and some tactical blunders by the group. Marco was onto the heat, and his buddy the Mayor of NYC had his back.

It took breaking into Santos' office and getting blackmail material to get him to back off. It was a Pyrrhic victory however, as the group had to let go of juicy blackmail material on the mayor himself.

Attention is now turning to Moran, who has been hiding out on a boat in NYC's harbor. A fight is sure to come soon.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Inescapable Logic

There will be times in your life where you are given a compliment that you will hold dear and cherish forever. For me, one of them was what one of my Agency 17 vets had to say while I was advertising for Prohibition Mobsters:

Mr. Insidious' games have lots of twisty plots, some great setpieces, and a certain inescapable logic to them. In the thick of things it's like "what the hell is going on, why is this happening", and then once you work things out it's like "oh, we did this, which led to the bad guys doing that, and then this happened and of course everything went to shit".

So let's talk about inescapable logic.

People tend to think with internally consistent logic. That is, that people don't act without reason. They might not understand or be able to communicate why they took an action, but people themselves are not random. Our brains do a great deal of work that we ourselves are not conscious of, much like background processes running on a computer.

This doesn't mean that people can't be wrong. An NPC might give a party terrible directions to a local landmark (and yet not lie to them) because he has the wrong information which he believes is accurate. Many GM's make a mistake of not attempting to play NPCs based on how much information that NPC should actually have.

I'll admit, it's fun to watch players try to deal with all-knowing illuminati types who have peeked behind the curtain, but generally most NPCs shouldn't know too much out of their sphere of influence.

Take security guards. Having dated one, and having had two family members and a few close friends work as one, I know the drill. It's mind-numbing boredom and tedium 95% of the time punctuated by crazy insanity and dealing with people being unreasonable. (Much like the army, actually, except with less firearms, explosions and mortar attacks.)

So if you're running an encounter where the party might encounter guards (largely talking in a modern context here), you should ask yourself:
  • How well are these guys paid? Elite groups drawing top dollar because they have a reputation to maintain will be way more vigilant than a "I retire in four months" old timer getting $13/hr.
  • To further establish morale and how much a guard might care about their job, how are the working conditions? Has it been boring and slow and the players are something interesting, or does the guard just want to go back to Candy Crush on their phone?
  • Speaking of phones, boredom is one of the best penalties to PER skill checks ever, and you can sure as hell bet most NPCs (and let's be honest- PCs as well) don't have the Patience of Job perk.
  • In addition to all of that, most people are very adverse to risk, particularly when the stakes involve death.
Logically, most security guards need a reason above and beyond the norm to ever willingly engage in combat with foes who they believe could reasonably bring lethal force to bear. Sure, you might have a hot-headed cowboy or two, or maybe an ex-vet at a post, but most security people are just regular Joes not even issued a gun. Faced with armed assailants, most are at best going to call 911 and GTFO of the area.

Never underestimate the power of 'Someone else's problem'.

Another good example of internal logic has to do with a failure my Prohibition Mobsters recently had.

A mob lawyer, Marco, has been putting pressure on the group after they drained the bank account of their recently-killed boss. Boss' wife is pissed that her inheritance is gone, Marco wants his cut of the money, so of course the group tried to intimidate him to get him to back down.

Due to some tactical blunders (splitting the party, not bringing the wheelman to shadow another car), bad luck (a crit PER roll by Marco while he was in the car of the Mayor of NYC), and good planning on the part of Marco (Most people don't get to become successful mob lawyers without some genre savviness), Marco and the Mayor are now aware that someone is out for Marco's life.

So, getting at Marco is going to be much more difficult in the future. His already decent paranoia is going to be on high alert, the Mayor has assigned him a police escort almost around the clock, and something tells me the players are going to get very annoyed by this problem. Unless they seriously escalate their level of planning and execution, the repercussions of this failure will continue to bite them in the ass.

A big part of gaming is consequences, with cause and effect being huge. My players haven't encountered much failure, with the examples of a few isolated fuck ups here and there. With smooth sailing generating a pretty fast rise through the ranks of their organization, I'm entirely fine making this failure sting.

I can't stress enough how much more consistent a game is when you get into the head of the NPCs you are controlling as a GM and attempt to base their actions off their perspective:
  • What is the NPC's main goal?
  • What's their current, immediate motivation?
  • How is the NPC feeling?
  • What external factors might be in play?  (A county clerked mobbed by the press after a scandal will be feeling overwhelmed and likely won't like being asked questions.)
  • What does the NPC actually know?
Once you have those answers, it should be pretty clear how to proceed. Characters will typically act in line with their emotions and goals, and characters forced to put the two at odds will be undergoing stress. 

I should mention that establishing a precedent that NPCs aren't always completely right even when being completely honest makes hand-waving plot holes and sudden name-switch flubs MUCH easier for players to accept. Nothing like blaming a NPC for your brain fart when that one-off merchant becomes important later and 'Sergio the Spice Vendor' accidentally becomes 'Simon the Spice Vendor". 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Angry Rant: How to advertise a GURPS (really any) game.

It's rant time. Copious superfluous swearing and extremely rude hyperbolic language ahead.

Seriously, I mean it. Go reread the last sentence of the line above. Decide if you've got the necessary mental DR to proceed before proceeding.

There's a handful of times that I've used various resources to try and entice new online players to my virtual table. I've managed to cobble together groups a few times now, enough that I can usually just copy/paste my former attempts and smash them with a hammer until they fit the new game I want to put together.

It absolutely grinds my gears when I see people trying to attract new players and their pitch is:

"So uh, me and my pals are starting a new GURPS game and we're looking for new players, we can teach you and everything."

That pitch is fucking lazy. The only right decision in that entire sentence was making it clear that newbies are welcome.

If I had a chance to anonymously respond to this guy (oh hey, how fucking lucky that I have my own soapbox with which I can offensively yell at the internet), it would look a lot like the bullet points below:
  1. Setting/genre, motherfucker. Are you running a noir-inspired Cthulhu mythos game where everybody fucking dies or goes insane? Are the players fucking rabbits that know Kung-Fu? Is this some bullshit pony world fueled by fucking friendship? GURPS can cover a lot more bases than being that lazy dick advertising a generic D&D game.
  2. Bitch, I have a job and obligations that demand my presence in real life, during which I can't rollplay. If I don't know when your lazy ass (and by extension, your lazy ass-group) are getting together, how the fuck am I supposed to know what I could be doing instead of your generic fantasy dren?
  3. Details, asshole. Not only do I not know if this is homebrew spelljammer, dungeon fantasy, or a setting involving anus shades, I don't fucking know if I should be expecting hack and slash, overly fucking contrived attempts to be edgy and diceless (assuming a non-gurps game/howbrew bullshit), or political intrigue and unmessy assassinations.
  4. Are all of your players twelve year old dipshits who just discovered the internet, or what? Since you thus far haven't been able to write more than two sentences to advertise your group and your prowess at running games, I'm forced to assume you're a few idiots shy of a village. Give me a sense of who the fuck I'll be playing with, asswipe.
  5. I know this will come as news to you, but some players have shit for brains and don't belong in your game. Tolerances differ. Some groups handle the resident neckbeard with poor personal hygiene. Others are okay with rule lawyer fucktards bogging down play because they enjoy arguing with others more than killing shit and looting their shit. Some groups will even deal with that gamer (girl/boy)friend playing some mary/gary fucking sue dipshit ditz bitch character that the GM only allows because said partner gives good oral. Better speak up about who you want at your table, idiot.
  6. Is your game one of those slow-ass molasses games happening through PBEM? Fuck PBEM, I'm glad to have the fucking privilege of skype and video conferencing where I don't have to wait an eternity for fucking responses while I fail to find love, linger at my job long after it provides me with meaningful avenues of advancement and self-improvement, grow old, and FUCKING DIE.
And here's what you do:
  1. Be VERBOSE, motherfucker. Give me enough of the fucking details about your game that I might consider sinking hours of my life into your sandbox.
  2. Be clear about what the hell it is you want for the game, from your players, and how you want everybody to interact and play.
  3. Have an interesting pitch that's not just generic and/or lame. PIMP YOUR GAME OUT MAN, SOME BORING ASS HO WON'T DRAW JOHNS. (One of my players who is a fucking smug-face bastard had this to add: Corollary: The players a boring ass game description draws are usually shit.)
  4. Communicate times, methods of communications, and all that boring logistics crap that kills more games than anything else. If your entire group is on IRC (you glorious luddite fucks), FUCKING SAY SO. If your group is meeting when it's fucking 4AM in my time zone, FUCK OFF. Do your players need crazy-dice for your game, like 37-sided dice? TELL US. Do you prefer character sheets done in Excel? FUCKING TELL US.
  5. Put some FUCKING effort into it, you starfish five-knuckle shuffling twat. If you can't make your advertisement worth the PAPER I WIPE MY ASS WITH, your game is probably just as shitty as my offerings to the porcelain gods.
Rant done.