A couple of days ago, David Sumner, co-founder of RPGSmith got in touch with me and told me about his free web application. RPGSmith is – in a nutshell – an interactive character sheet with additional features like item, spell and ability management. The current application is meant for players, but they’ll be launching a Kickstarter later this week to fund an extended version of RPGSmith which will feature a GM campaign management interface.
At the moment, the application supports the following rulesets: D&D 5th Edition, Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorers Edition, Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, Fate Core, Fate Accelerated, and Pathfinder. It is possible to add your own rulesets though.
From what I’ve seen so far RPGSmith could be a pretty nifty tool for players regardless whether they are playing online or offline. There is a bit of a learning curve though, but luckily the site provides users with quite a few tutorial videos.
Having an interactive character sheet definitely comes in handy from time to time, and RPGSmith has support for desktop PCs and mobile devices, which is a plus in my book. You can even customize your character sheets to your hearts content. Will it change the way we play RPGs? I have my doubts, but it’s worth a look nevertheless.
What are your thoughts on RPGSmith? Have you had the chance to try it out? Please share your comment below!
Ghost Ops RPG by FeralGamersInc is available as a free quick start document. You get an overview of the fudge system, five pregen characters (called Operators) , and overview of the combat system, equipment and a GMs section with introductory adventure.
I have no love of the Fudge/Fate system but this book caught my eye. Some of my dislike about the FATE system is partly down the the whole negotiated world aspect. Call me old fashioned but I still feel most comfortable when I, as GM, build the world, tailor the professions, skills and or magic to reinforce that game world and present the world to the players for them to explore and adventure in. The negotiated world aspect feels like it is robbing me of that particular pleasure I get from writing adventures and prepping sessions.
With Ghost Ops takes that objection and throws it out of the window. The game world is our world immediately following the attack in the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. There is nothing fuzzy about that.
The players play the ‘special forces’ on missions I get to plan. They are soldiers or from law enforcement agencies and they will damn well take orders(!), there is nothing fuzzy about that.
This is the first time I have actually looked at a FATE based game and wanted to finish reading the rule book. This quick start is 62 pages and I flew through it. There is a lot of good in here but a couple of negatives as well.
I love the setting and I think the treatment of it is far better than I thought possible of a fate system.
This is not an Evil Hat Productions game and the overall production quality, page layout, presentation etc. are not up to the same standard.
There are really important rules missing from this quick start booklet. For example there is a paragraph about pools being locked by trauma but no definition of what a pool is.
This may not sound significant but I actually dug out my copy of FATE Core to look up what the pool was because I actually wanted to know. I now believe that the pool is the pool of FATE points that characters start with.
I know that elements like art and page layout are expensive for small indie game producers. FeralGamersInc have been clever with this game. The Quick Start is free and is featured in this week’s RPG newsletter as free product of the week. They also have a $12 upgraded quickstart with character creation rules and a few extras. Then there is the full game. That is a nice stepped entry into a new game. There are typos in the text, the art is not amazing but the treatment of the setting more than makes up for that. So much so that for another project I have blocked a few hours for a solo gaming project and Ghost Ops RPG is going to be the game system I am going to use. This will be my first attempt at playing a FATE game. That is something I never thought I was ever going to say!
So the conclusion of my first look is that this is the best FATE based game I have ever read.
I will try and report back after the weekend.
EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that Ghost Ops is, in the authors own words “I think of it as more leaning towards Fudge than Fate”. I had assumed Ghost Ops was Fate based when I saw the copyright acknowledgement to for the FATE Core font on the opening page. This is my mistake. It is still really cool though!
EDIT 2: I really should have linked to the games kickstarter. It is already funded and well into the stretch goals but I guess every extra helps.
I am starting my reading up on Corolis but this is going to take a while so I thought I would give you a mini series based around GM emulators.
With the discussion last week about making money from blogging and RPGs I was conscious that cycle of read a game, plug a game, post link to game could seem a bit mercenary. So I thought a few posts on something completely different before Christmas could be interesting. So with the preamble out of the way…
I have noticed a fashion with newer games where the emphasis is tending away from the GM designing the setting, then the world, then the adventure and then presenting it to players. The new, to me, way seems to be that the players and GM get together and make collective choices about the world. The FATE Core System book says “Both players and gamemasters also have a secondary job: make everyone around you look awesome. Fate is best as a collaborative endeavor, with everyone sharing ideas and looking for opportunities to make the events as entertaining as possible.” The bold is added by me.
So what if everyone and no one was the GM?
A GM Emulator is a method of getting GM-like decisions without having a GM. The emulator is actually a set of rules with tables and dice which is pretty much how we all solve every problem in RPGs anyway. This is not really any different to when you ask the GM a question and the GM rolls a quick D6 to come up with a choice. You want to know if any town guard are patrolling the market place and the GM had not intended any real action to happen here so he rolls a d6, One to three for yes and our or more for no.
So here is a really quick and massively over simplified example. Three goblins decide they want to play a game tonight. They are called Stargazer, Sunglar and Peter. They possess one copper piece between them with a severed head on one side and a scorpion on the other (it is a goblin farthing obviously). No one can be trusted to be GM because that is not the way goblin society works. So they are going to use the copper piece as a GM emulator.
First we need a setting or a world…
Stargazer Goblin asks “Is this a fantasy game?”, tossing the coin it comes up scorpions (tails) for ‘No’. He then passes the coin to Sunglar Goblin.
Sunglar Goblin asks “Is there magic in this world?” tossing the coin it comes up severed head, ‘Yes’. He then passes the coin to Peter Goblin.
So we are in a modern or Sci Fi universe but there is magic, Peter Goblin asks “Are we rebels fighting an evil empire?”, severed head, Yes.
Finally, Stargazer Goblin looking at the questions already asked and the current buzz in the media asks “Is this the Star Wars universe?” the answer comes back as a heads/yes.
So now everyone hopefully has enough information to create a character.
Getting just yes/no answers would be a bit dull and GM Emulators are much more sophisticated than a tossed coin.
What has an emulator ever done for us?
Emulators all pretty much give you a yes/no answer each time so that is how you have to structure the questions. In the same way that a GM rolled a d6 to see if town guards were patrolling the market place. The more trouble the PCs had caused in the town in the days leading up to today the GM could add a plus or minus to that 1-3/4-6 roll. So the emulator is going to take into account how likely the answer is to be a yes or a no and it will skew the results accordingly.
Emulators also normally come with a technique for changing the story or introducing a plot twist. Think of them as picking a card in Monopoly which could just as easily say “Go straight to jail.” as “Collect £20 from every player.” Without plot twists the questions you ask could become really predicable.
Whatever answer the emulator gives you it is the person currently acting as GM who has to decide what would be the most fitting and common sense interpretation of that yes or no. If Stargazer, Sunglar and Peter ask if there are guards then they are likely to be storm troopers because this is the Star Wars universe. We have magic but it is likely to be The Force for exactly the same reason. If we can manipulate The Force then chances are we are Jedi or training towards it. Each yes or no has consequences and the setting colours most of those.
Many or most emulators also give you little random words or ideas that it is your challenge to try and work these into the scenes as they unfold. This could be a random colour, sound, texture or material or an adjective. These frequently come in pairs. It is a bit like playing a word association game, it the emulator spits out “increasing” and “purple” how do you work that into the story? Maybe you looked for guards in the market place and you spot a storm trooper hitting a vagrant in the face with the butt of his rifle? The increasing purple in this instance will be the bruising from the vagrants black eye.
Sometimes an emulator will tell you to introduce an NPC. That is just as open to interpretation as everything else. What ‘NPC’ means could be anything from an innocent bystander, the sort of NPC that doesn’t even have a name through named recurring individuals to entire organisations such as guilds or agencies.
So when it is your turn to be GM you describe the scene in the game for the characters and advance the story. As soon as a question come up you pass the emulator to the next player and they roll for the answer and continue the story. The basic mechanism for an GM is “Describe the scene” and ask “What do you do?”, that doesn’t change it is just that the GM Emulator is an outside influence and can take the story in completely new and unexpected directions.
In the next instalment I will show you how an emulator really works and to make it more interesting I will create an emulator specifically for the article. It will be based around the d66 as a nod to all the time I spent reading up on Mutant:Year Zero!
A Roleplaying Games blog
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