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Jarrod Farquhar-Nicol
Time Zone: (UTC+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney
Time Zone: (UTC+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney

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The world is such a big place. So many things to see. Towns, mountains, dragons... oh, I was talking about Skyrim, by the way.

It's easy to get lost in Skyrim's expansive world.

What would happen if we took that sense of exploration and curiosity and applied it to our everyday lives?

Curious? Let's explore that question.
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Here's my post about Session 2 of my Urban Shadows playtest.

I won't do a full Actual Play run down like last time, but here are a some situations, moves and rulings we thought worth mentioning here:

- The Quick Start Guide definitely helped, even just reading it a few minutes before running the session.

- After watching the demo on Indie+ I saw how awesome/important Put A Face To A Name is. We didn't use it at all first session, but this session it happened a lot and was a fantastic source of story, hooks an debts between PCs and NPCs (creating PC-NPC-PC triangles when one PC rolled 10+ and the other 6 for the same NPC).

- Session Intro was weird this time around. We were in the middle of a story, so rolling to hear a rumour or get wind of an opportunity seemed forced to us and I actually forgot to come up with and tell anyone any rumours and we were all fine with that. Already had so much going on.

- We used combat a fair bit this episode and it went well. It was easy to understand and the PCs felt power. Perhaps a little too powerful? One thing that somewhat troubled me was I had created these big scary tough fae but the PCs did so much harm they took them down easily even with them having 6 harm per monster.

Perhaps this was because it was 2 PCs vs one NPC. I think it may have more been due to me - correctly or incorrectly, I'm not sure - treating the monster like one from Dungeon World and not having it attack unless they failed or partially succeeded on a roll or left things wide open.

I wanted a tougher fight than what we encountered. I'm not sure how I could've fairly done that, as I had the creature dealing 2-3 harm and having 6 harm worth of hp. Perhaps I needed to give it some armour.

- We had one advancement and the Wolf took some great transformation options, beefing him up really well. That helped take down these monsters too. He only advanced because someone marked Wild for him at the start of the session.

I've seen some comments to this effect and we found it too: the advancement seemed forced and strange. We had fae in the game, but they were monstrous. No other ones had been introduced yet that seemed reasonable to use Faction Moves on. I now realise I didn't "Name everyone, give everyone drives" for these creatures. Perhaps I should've done that, but it didn't quite seem appropriate for these hulking monsters.

In any case, it was challenging and felt a bit contrived to have every player interact with every faction, when the plot was not about every faction. No real Wild NPCs existed till the very end. Few mortal NPCs were encountered in this area, and while Putting A Face To A Name gave the PCs Debts to settle with them, they didn't come up yet.

So, I'm curious on how quick the advancement is intended to be. Except that we had one each of Power, Night and Mortality PCs, I don't know that Power or Mortality would've come into the plot that much at all. What do you do when it's a pack of Night PCs dealing with a Night plot? We felt it'd be difficult to advance in some circumstances without artificially including other Factions.

- One PC promised and reneged on an NPC Debt. He planned from the start to not uphold it, so we ruled that when he actually took the action of not upholding it, that was when we used the Refuse To Honor A Debt move. He got 10+ and it made sense to weasel out of it.

- Another question we had was if Let It Out is the only way to "take hold" of something. Two PCs wanted something and it didn't seem they needed to exactly "let out the power within" but we couldn't figure out what other move to make, as they wanted to take definitive hold of something. Both rolled it at once and both took definitive hold of the same thing. So, that was a stalemate. Is that how it's intended to go? Like two people seeing the same object at once, lunging for it and both succeeding.


- We had heaps of fun! It was great!

- Put A Face To A Name is a vital piece we were missing from the first time around. It really created action and tension. Great move!

- Like last time, my favourite part of this session was two PCs struggling over Debts. They had both killed a Spriggan and had grabbed onto the gland behind its heart that creates illusions. One cashed in Debts, the other countered. So they grappled and Unleashed on each other, but still were matched. One cashed in more Debts and the other Persuaded her to modify the terms. It went well, I think, being a tense struggle between semi-allied PCs with different values.

- We think the Advance move may make some things a bit tricky for us, but are nevertheless looking forward to playing more.

- I'm happy to give more comments or explanation of needed, but I think I've gone on long enough for now. 

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Guardians of the Galaxy opened this week and proved to be a really fun movie that still manages to teach us about friendship, surrogate families, dealing with your lot in life, communication, supporting each other and unlikely heroes.

We already talked about missed opportunities, like the one young Peter Quill has at the start of the film, so I won't recap that here. Instead, enjoy a lightly spoilery run down of 7 tips from Guardians of the Galaxy about making the most out of life.

(Click through for the rest of the post and images)
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I had a great time running my first session of Urban Shadows. So did the players. We live in Canberra – Australia's capital and largest inland city, but a much smaller city than most with about 380,000 people – so that’s where we set the game.

Here are the characters:
• Joy, the Spectre housewife who died in the 50s and whose only drive is to protect her grandson: the Prime Minister
• Miranda, the Wizard from Japan who killed the Spectre and now lives in her house… with her
• Bigby, the Wolf who is an aggressive loner whose territory – a decrepit block of apartments nad it’s surrounds – is being encroached on by other wolves
• Marcus, the Hunter who has always lived on the street, hates fae because you can never trust them due to illusions; he now uses illusions to hunt them and ultimately wants to expose them

We got a rumour about each of the four factions in the Session Intro move. All were interrelated.

• Joy heard through the ‘ghostvine’ of a wizard plot to replace a high-ranking politician.
• Miranda heard her old flame Lee was in town near Bigby’s territory, but she had abandoned her loved ones and agreed to never see them again, in order to gain her magical powers.
• Bigby heard that Bayer – a bigger, stronger wolf from better territory – was moving into his territory. Some enemy wolf kids were tagging the borders of his territory, taunting him.
• Marcus heard that someone had discovered and killed a new type of fae, the Spriggan. They are huge hulking fae but have such powerful illusion magic – from a gland behind their heart – that they can fool almost anyone, even wolf senses if they’re not paying attention. Now, the Wizard’s Guild has a bounty out for Spriggan illusion glands.

So, the story begins:

• Joy calls Bigby to cash in a debt so he’ll keep an eye out for Lee and keep him safe
• Joy cashes in a debt to have Miranda taker her along to find out about the wizards’ plot
• Marcus’ online contact, the Revelator, tells him about Spriggan and says to bring him a gland
• Miranda and Joy visit the Wizards’ Guild observatory and Miranda asks for information.
• Miranda is not on good terms with the Guild so they get several debts out of her for the info.
• Miranda takes a Wizards’ Oath before the Guild agrees to tell her anything. It’s a magical oath.
• The Guild sets up a ward before sharing the info, and Joy barely escapes before it is set up.
• Miranda hears the Guild’s plan: use Spriggan illusions to replace the Prime Minister!
• The Wizards’ Guild plan will work such that even if Parliament changes, the will be in control.
• More of Bayer’s wolves roll up at Bigby’s place. He’s set to tear them apart. Marcus arrives.
• After the Revelator’s warnings, Marcus says he’ll help Bigby if he comes on a Spriggan hunt.
• Bigby threatens the intruders, with Marcus at his back, and they make a deal and back off.
• Bayer wants to meet with Bigby, so the wolves agree to leave if Bigby will come to the meet.
• Miranda skirts around her Wizards’ Oath by talking cryptically to herself while Joy’s around.
• Miranda feels a magical tingle as the wizards find out that she’s brought the spirit of the oath.
• Joy is incensed and disappears. Nobody knows what she’s going to do next.
• Spriggans are what drove Bayer to seek to expand his territory into Bigby’s.
• Miranda continues to Bayer’s territory, with a photo of the Spriggan’s current form.
• Bigby and Marcus head to the meet with Bayer. Everyone is starting to come together.
• Bigby sees Lee: he’s with Bayer’s wolves, but is still human. Though, tonight is the full moon…

And that’s where we stopped our three hour session (about half was character creation).

Gameplay-wise, the highlight for me was when Miranda had to choose between not giving the information to Joy – and thus, Refuse To Honour A Debt – with the ghost that lives in her house OR betraying the Wizards’ Guild who had just taken out two debts on her and are not very forgiving. It was great to see the character try to find some way out of it. As mentioned, she tried to skirt the Oath by sticking to the letter of it, not the spirit, so here’s a custom move I made on the fly:

When you break the spirit - but not the letter - of a Wizards’ Oath, roll+Power. On a 10+, the Wizards’ Guild doesn't find out this time and the Oath is still binding. On a 7-9, they have suspicions that you broke your oath; there will be questions, at the very least, but they can’t prove anything. On a miss, they know what you did and consider the Oath broke: a grave crime against the Wizards’ Guild.

Now, some playtest feedback:

1. All the players had trouble with the “Who are you?” Intro question. A little too vague for them to be sure what to answer. Most of them though things like “Well, I’m the Wolf!” Joy said “50s house wife”.

2. Players wanted more information about the Factions themselves (such as the Hunter, when picking his prey, and the others to know about NPCs), which I assume will be in the book.

3. We didn’t encounter it in game, but the question came up: if Vampires and Werewolves and enemies in game, but you have a debt with the Night faction, do you have to mark down why you have it and which part (Vamps or Wolves) of the Night faction you have it with. 

It was a bit confusing, because there are the Archetype factions, but they may not be allied in-game, so there could be other “factions” within the game world and it could get tricky tracking debts. Was this debt with the wolves, or the vamps? I guess you’re supposed to write down the reason for every debt? 

Also, it’s interesting to see that increasing your Faction level with wolves, would automatically increase it with vamps, even if you’ve never interacted with them, as they’re both Night.

4. The little box is missing in the Power factions area for the Spectre.

5. We didn’t realise immediately that you had to get five corruption for a corruption advance. It makes complete sense, though, and as soon as we realised it was obvious.

6. We wanted to keep track of the debts we owed other people and noticed there’s no spot for it on the character sheet.

7. The ‘settle your accounts’ part of the Session End move seemed to be a bit redundant for us, as all debts were marked as they came up.

All in all, a great time was had and once we got through character creation the scenes flowed easily and swapping debts between characters and NPCs fuelled the action really well.

Next session’s in two weeks and we’re looking forward to more time to play (now that characters have been created) and are very keen to start testing combat!

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Geeks, gamers, lend me your ears.

Today, I've launched a business providing life coaching and personal development services to geeks, gamers and nerds of all stripes.

I'll be posting lots of free articles online too, like my first one about what Bioshock can teach us about choice and control:

If you're interested in seeing tabletop and video games (and other pop culture) through the lens of what personal development they can offer us, follow +Heroic Coaching & Consulting for updates and discussion.

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Hi all :)

I'm running my first session a bit under 24 hours from now.

One player asked about the PCs and if the are allowed to be friends and are in a party.

Our *World experience is mainly Dungeon World and a little Monsterhearts.

I get the impression PCs in Urban Shadows are indebted to each other but may not have any other real connections. Is that the intent? Are they likely to stick together for scenes or split up more? What makes them a group of PCs rather than just four separate people with separate interests? Is it just the debts?

Any help on this aspect and handling the PC relationships and interactions would be appreciated.


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I recently released a new rules-light science-fantasy game, Arkfall.

New Game Day got me thinking, and I'm celebrating it by releasing two quickstart documents: this one for creating random jobs/quests on the fly and another for quicker character generation.

I was working on these already, but New Game Day inspired me to get them done by today :)

Happy New Game Day!

#NewGameDayFeb2 #Arkfall #Roleplaying 
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I recently released a new rules-light science-fantasy game, Arkfall.

New Game Day got me thinking, and I'm celebrating it by releasing two quickstart documents: this one for quicker character generation and another for creating random jobs/quests on the fly.

I was working on these already, but New Game Day inspired me to get them done by today :)

Happy New Game Day!

#NewGameDayFeb2 #Arkfall #Roleplaying  
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Arkfall is post-apocalyptic science fantasy World of Dungeons/Mutants featuring Planarch Codex heritage moves.

The World Ark was a massive starship that harvested beings and shards of reality from countless worlds. Then it crashed and all that was strewn and mingled across this vast new planet. Since then, the inhabitants have bred and generations have passed. People have rebuilt and old worlds and cultures combine, clash and evolve. Everyone (including the PCs) has weird mixed heritages. Nanites are used as currency and levels of self-augmentation are one thing they can be spent on.

Some features:
- uses heritage moves to make bizarre PC races
- dead magic world, but technology emulates magic
- levelling up is not mandatory; instead of XP and coins, nanites are currency your characters can spend on stuff, including levels of self-augmentation
- includes a list of chems and their effects
- lore skill reskinned as 'culture' to emphasise that anything worth knowing on Arkfall has cultural significance to someone
- includes a few starting scenarios, quests and jobs
- includes an example move for PC flashbacks

If you read or play Arkfall or make something for it, I'd love to hear your feedback (also if you spot any typos, inconsistencies or things that are unclear). Also, it's Creative Commons (CC-BY) so if you see something you like - or don't - go nuts, use it, change it, whatever :)

Huge thanks to +John Harper, +J. Walton  and +Jürgen Mayer  for allowing me to use parts of their awesome, inspiring creations.

#Arkfall   #Roleplaying  
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