Two more of the Twelve RPG Prompts for Twelfth Month. These are questions five and six which are supposed to be answered between the 9th and 12th of the December, but this is my blog-thing.

And some of these questions are cool.

You’re running a historical or alt-historical game. What place and time in history do you choose? Are you including fantastical elements of any sort, and, if so, what?

Ask me this a few years ago and I would have responded, “It’s always fun to take out a squad of Nazis. But you know what’s funner? Taking out a squad of Nazi werewolves. Nazi werewolves wearing experimental jet packs.”

WW2 is a great setting for some straight-up good versus evil battles — after all, Nazis are the best villains. Nobody cares when they get the crap beaten out of them and they’re never, ever, up to anything good. While that’s always good, these days I’m more interested in the Revolutionary War, especially the Culper Ring. I’ve wanted to explore a bit more of that history and a bit even more now that I’m up in New England. The only Assassins Creed game I’ve played is the one that takes place mainly in Boston. I loved running around Colonial Boston, having secret meetings that took place in what is now a Chipotle.

I’ve wanted to run a spy game, set in Manhattan after the withdrawal of colonial forces and the fire that consumed about a quarter of the city. But throw in some monsters, too. Monster Hunting Spies.

Wicked.

Do you follow any particular RPG authors? Which RPG authors have works you admire and what are the stand-out pieces of work?

So on my computer, I store all my game PDFs on the Z: drive, and I’ve got that separated by genre: fantasy, futuristic, generic, heroic, horror, modern, past, pulp, and spy. Most everything goes into those buckets… except there’s a sub-folder called “by creator”. There are only two people in that folder: John Harper and John Wick.

Everyone is going to point to Blades in the Dark for John Harper’s work, but I really like Lady Blackbird, especially because there’s a line in the document that seems to be a throwaway rule, but it really opens the world up. See, the game takes place on a small sky-ship fleeing an Imperial fleet, trying to make it to a hidden pirate base, so it’s somewhat self-contained in scope. But that entire setting becomes much, much larger with the last line on each character sheet.

That last paragraph in the rules summary on each sheet is about how to refresh your dice pool. As you use dice from your personal pool, they leave the game, but you can refill those by having a “refreshment scene” with another character. This is a scene you call for that has you and another player developing the characters and relationships — from Star Wars: think Han Solo and General Leia in the Millennium Falcon about to kiss before being interrupted, or the “Let the Wookiee win” holo-chess scene. While these scenes don’t necessarily further the plot, they let us see what’s going on with the characters and how they react to “normal” things.

That paragraph ends with the line “Refreshment scenes can be flashbacks, too.”

When we played, every third or fourth scene in the game was a flashback — we built out the empire, the service our pilot was in, what it meant to be a Sorcerer or a Petty Magician. Instead of being on a tight course heading to the Remnants, our story went EVERYWHERE.

With John Wick, there’s so many good things, but the thing I’ve been pointing people to when I’m at the John Wick Presents booth[1] is Play Dirty. John described this collection of articles as “sneaky dirty GM advice to get those bastards”, but I sell it as a book “to make your players’ characters’ lives more interesting.” I point to the story about John’s Champions game and ask “What makes a hero? It’s when everything is going bad for Peter Parker and he keeps going, because that’s what heroes do.” The book shows you how he got to that point in a player’s character’s life, getting her to a point where she could walk away from the table or keep walking the heroic path.

And the new version has a cool thing Jessica did in layout: the corners of the book have random dice rolls and random phrases. Need a quick scenario? Flip… there’s a Ransom and …flip… a Duplicitous Friend and …flip… a Bloody Knife involved. Nice.

  1. I’ve had John in the “by creator” folder years before I started working with him. []

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