Episode 108 – The Good Friends look for the magic in Mage: the Awakening

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Mage: the Awakening

We’re back and we’re following up episode 105‘s discussion of the World of Darkness with a more detailed look at one of the core games that make up the current incarnation of the line. Mage: the Awakening is the reinvention of the RPG that started life as Mage: the Ascension. Onyx Path released a second, heavily revised edition last year, and this version is the focus of our episode.

Mage: the Awakening

Once again, Matt is our native guide through the World of Darkness. While both Paul and Scott have played at least a few sessions of Mage, only Matt has any detailed knowledge of the new edition. His degree of familiarity with its dark arts would have had him burnt at the stake in less enlightened times. Today, happily, the only Inquisition he faces is lots of ill-informed questions from Scott and Paul.

Our use of torture instruments is purely recreational.

Mage: the Awakening is an odd game. Whilst it has dark elements, its fantastical approach seems an anomaly in a line of games whose focus is horror. In its latest incarnation, it trades much of the mechanical simplicity that drew players to White Wolf for a far more complex magic system. And it offers fewer answers to the question of what exactly the player characters do than many RPGs. We delve into these and other aspects, trying to work out where exactly Mage fits into the World of Darkness.

Centre stage and in the spotlight, apparently.

In the news segment, we mention that The Dark Times fanzine is looking for scenarios and articles for a variety of horror games. Please get in touch with them if you want to see your name in (digital) print. Also, Chaosium have released the print editions of The Two-Headed Serpent and The Grand Grimoire of Mythos Magic. We all worked on the former, and the latter represents a Herculean feat of organisation by Matt. The Excel spreadsheets for it are more complex than the budgets of many large corporations, although maybe not as sanity-blasting.

The Two-Headed Serpent

Slithering its way into all good game shops now.

Many of you may be relieved to learn that there is no singing in this episode. We do have a few new Patreon backers to thank, but none of them have called down the horror of song upon themselves. Our voices remain hidden in the dark corners of the world, waiting to be summoned once more.

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Special episode – UK Games Expo seminar 2017

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UK Games Expo Seminar 2017

Paul attended the UK Games Expo in Birmingham recently. While he was there, he took part in a seminar about running horror games, with Mike Mason and Lynne Hardy. Unfortunately, neither Matt nor Scott could make it, but we were there in spirit.

If you squint hard enough, you can see our astral forms pulling faces behind Paul’s back.

We recently bought a Zoom H6 Handy Recorder to make it easier for us to record field pieces at conventions. This seminar was its first official outing and we were rather pleased with the results. Expect to hear more from it when we visit Necronomicon in Providence later this year.

 

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Gaming Conventions, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 6 Comments

Episode 107 – The Good Friends play some non-player characters

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Portraying Memorable Non-Player Characters

We’re back and we’re putting on silly voices, adopting exaggerated mannerisms and making life as miserable as possible for the player characters. In other words, we’re playing NPCs. This is the follow-up to our discussion last episode about creating memorable non-player characters. Now we’re offering advice on how to bring these NPCs to life at the gaming table.

Some gaming tables are better suited to this than others.

Ideally, portraying NPCs should involve shifts of accent, mannerisms, body language and speech patterns. Not everyone has the skills necessary to do all these things, however. Most GMs at least have some archetypes that they can fall back on, but it is rare to find one who is a truly gifted mimic or trained actor. With this in mind, we offer tips about portraying NPCs for GMs of all skill levels.

Most GMs would be happy with a dozen character types to call upon. Having a thousand faces just seems greedy.

When discussing how powerful NPCs could overshadow player characters, we mention of the excellent web comic, DM of the Rings. We seem to remember that Gandalf was a bit like this in the strip. That said, it is around 10 years since any of us read it, so maybe we’re misremembering. Even if we are, the comic is still well worth reading.

In the news segment, we mention that Now We Are The Sons Of God, Scott’s Victorian Cthulhu Dark mini-campaign, is now an offical a stretch goal for the Cthulhu Dark Kickstarter. If you’re reading this on the day the episode drops, you still have three days to back it if you’d like to see this happen.

We also mention Danial Carroll’s blog, Brawl of Cthulhu, where he delves into the monsters of the Mythos. You can find over 100 entries there, offering ideas about how to make use of all these beasties.

Speaking of sanity-blasting horrors beyond human comprehension, we sing again in this episode. Two generous souls have offered up their names to the blasphemous altar of our voices, so we sing their praises. Or croak them. Or something. In case this needs explanation, when someone backs us on Patreon at the $5 level, this is how we thank them. We are not good people.

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Episode 106 – The Good Friends create some non-player characters

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Creating Memorable Non-Player Characters

We’re back and we’re poring over stat blocks, writing up physical descriptions and searching the internet for names. This is the first of two episodes about NPCs. Our focus this time is on how we create non-player characters that our players will remember (probably with muttered curses) for years to come. Next episode delves into techniques for bringing these characters to life at the gaming table.

We make no guarantees about freshness.

Non-player characters are arguably the most important and versatile tool available to GMs. They allow us to give out information, provide conflict, introduce comic relief or generally be dicks to our players. Most importantly, they allow us to do these things in character. It’s always nice to have a chance to do some roleplaying in a roleplaying game!

Although tormenting the players over bad rolls can be almost as much fun.

In our discussion, we try to define the broad types of NPCs we find useful in games, talk about possible sources of inspiration, mention a few useful resources and figure out what exactly we need to prepare in advance.

Notes from one of Scott’s scenarios pictured for reference.

This episode’s news segment is a little different than usual. Matt is in the process of moving house, so we couldn’t get together to record our normal last-minute inserts. Paul has picked up the slack and recorded the segment single-handedly, giving us a brief overview of his adventures at this year’s UK Games Expo.  There is also an update on the ongoing Kickstarter campaign for the new Cthulhu Dark corebook, mostly taking the form of an extended interview with Graham Walmsley, which you can find at the end of the episode.

The other casualty of our inability to record inserts was the usual thanks to our wonderful, generous Patreon backers. This is just a delay, however. We still have a new $5 Patreon backer to thank, and we are warming up our vocal chords in anticipation. You don’t escape our singing that easily!

 

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Episode 105 – The Good Friends illuminate the World of Darkness

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The World of Darkness

Episode 105: The World of Darkness

We’re back and we’re sharpening our fangs, picking the nits out of our fur and preparing for some paradox. Born in 1991 out of Vampire: the Masquerade, the World of Darkness has grown, changed and completely reinvented itself many times since. As a result, our discussion covers only the very basics of its history. Simply cataloguing the different game lines, editions and even publishers that make up the different iterations would take more time than we have.

None of us are getting any younger here.

We give most of our discussion over to understanding the appeal of these games. While all three of us have played at least some of the lines, only Matt knows them well, so most of the episode is Paul and Scott asking him questions. Matt’s collection of the books covers his library like gothic wallpaper. Just as importantly, he has written for Onyx Path, one of the current publishers of World of Darkness material, so he speaks with some authority.

Although this authority may not always be respected.

As well as talking about the tabletop gaming world, we also discuss LARPs. No other RPG game line has made quite the same jump to live-action gaming. World of Darkness LARPs have brought many people into our hobby who may never have encountered it otherwise. Again, this is a foreign world to Paul and Scott, so Matt serves as our guide.

Although his tours usually only make it as far as the nearest cocktail bar.

This is the first episode in months to be free of the taint of singing. We did actually have a last-minute $5 Patreon backer, but they came in just too late to make the mix. As regular listeners know to their cost, we thank those generous people who give us $5 an episode with a personalised aural assault that twists their name into the stuff of nightmares. You can look forward to just such an abomination next episode.

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