I just wanted to announce that season 2 of my podcast He Plays She Plays has just launched. You can check it out on our brand new website, heplayssheplays.ca.
For anyone new to the podcast, it is an audio journal my wife, and I use to record our experiences with videogames. It’s less about the games and more about the banter.
This season kicks off with a retrospective of our experiences with Bloodborne. Why now? Two reasons: the first is we’re playing through the PS5 Demon’s Souls remake, the second is we finally got our Bloodborne board game! We were all-in Kickstarter backers about two years ago now, and it has finally arrived.
Look at this:
This is easily a few years’ worth of writing partners.
I guess I’ll have to finish this book so I can move on to new projects! I may have a plan for that… but you’ll have to wait a few months before I unveil any of that.
This post has been a long time coming. I mentioned a few times that I was building a group of scary bois to paint while I edit the second act of my book. They took a long time, but here they are:
I have had this kit for a long time. It is the Allies box for the Nighthaunt faction. In other words, a small number of ghostly friends! I’m not even sure allies are still a thing in Age of Sigmar (AOS), but when they were I grabbed a few of them because I like having a little of each faction. This was before I got into Underworlds, perhaps even before the release of underworlds. Who knows. Time is weird these days.
As you can see, I haven’t made all the riders into hexwraiths (scythe wielding ghosts) and have instead made a few of them into black riders (skeleton bois). As I mentioned, I like variety. There is also a good chance these will never get used for an AOS game. This means having a full squad of one or the other doesn’t really matter.
I’ll have to paint these quick because I’m already well into editing this section of the book. I have been writing like crazy lately but I’ve been finding building minis to be a bit more fiddly than fun. It might just be a mood I’m in. Right now I want to paint and write. Sticking together pointy plastic doesn’t feel as rewarding.
Regardless, my fiendish friends are ready to help me finish off these chapters. Stay tuned for the results!
I have mentioned a few times that I have been recording a podcast with my wife titled He Plays She Plays. We’re now up to 8 episodes! I haven’t been creating posts for every episode, I know that would probably get annoying. I have, however, embedded a player on my home page and left links for various players in my “About” page. From here on I will only post about the podcast when we hit milestones, for example: if we ever finish the Chocobo Challenge.
On that note, I have embedded a player below where you can find our most recent episode. I go on a rather fun rant about halfway through. If you enjoy it please pass it on to a friend or loved one. We’re still growing and learning so word of mouth and feedback is extremely helpful.
Welcome back to Upping Your Game, a glimpse into the minds of your GMs and storytellers trying their damnedest to improve the narrative experience without you noticing.
In the previous two articles on this topic, we discussed what is great about Fallout storytelling, narrative choice through non-combat interactions, and why tabletop gaming is such a great medium for it. We also explored the licensed tabletop game Fallout Wasteland Warfare. It’s interesting, but doesn’t quite fit what we are looking for.
Before we move on to my game suggestions, I have an honorable mention: Gamma World.
I would love to recommend this game as it has the right balance of comedy and nihilism and has really interesting game design with the incorporation of cards (that come in the core set) which I have always felt was a good way to lower the cognitive load of tabletop RPGs. However, there are two issues that keep me from doing so. The first is that while I own the seventh edition of the game, I still haven’t been able to get anyone to play it…
The other issue is that the game is currently out of print. But, as a proud owner of the game and one expansion, I think you should check it out if you can.
Now on to my actual suggestions.
Yes, yes. The fishman named Marsh suggests the Call Of Cthulhu RPG. Who could have guessed? Bear with me though. Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu RPG is my favorite table top RPG, not because of the Lovecraft bits, but because of its game design. I have never used a single monster or setting from the Cthulhu mythos when running this game. I play it because the character creation and skill system are simple and easy to teach. Also, the gameplay is balanced to discourage combat. It would take little to no effort re-skinning monsters and weapons to make a grim and engaging Fallout RPG with this system. Better still, because of the re-skinning, many monsters will seem alien to Call of Cthulhu fans as well. This means you could inject new life into the game if it is already a favorite.
As we discussed, some of the best set-pieces in Fallout 4 are horror-themed. I’ll come back to this point later, but with some research into the maps, encounters, and creatures of Fallout 4 I think you could easily recreate their effect using this system. Hell, I’ve even heard of people online using the poison system for Chaosium’s game for creating radiation effects. Could be a perfect fit.
For my second suggestion I’m going to go in a very different direction.
For those unfamiliar to the system, Fate is a setting neutral RPG system. The game system itself is meant to help create the rules, archetypes, and boundaries for what ever setting you want to play in. It is also primarily interested in collaborative story telling with mechanics that allow the GM and players some push and pull in the narrative by exchanging points to develop the story on more even terms.
Using this system, you can build your gameworld through Fate’s “Games Creation”, “Character Creation”, and “Aspects” systems. These process will boil the world’s setting, mechanics, and characters into quantifiable pieces and allow the GM and players to use them to build stories.
As we have been discussing, the key here is to replicate the feel of exploring a hostile world using creative problem solving and character interactions. Fate’s strongest points are in helping players craft narratives and impact the story being told. That is exactly what we have been looking for.
In my opinion, after selecting your preferred tabletop RPG the next step should always be the same: grab a game guide for one of the fallout games. Seriously, while Fate will benefit most from this, I think this will be an invaluable resource for any GM looking to build a Fallout world in any system.
I have the Fallout 4 game guide on hand but any of them will do. We will use the book to skin character traits using perks, build out encounters based on setpieces in the game, and develop characters and locations that feel more authentic to the series.
For example, when designing our Fate character, we can use Fallout 4’s perks as a way to develop their aspects. When creating a location full of characters and quest opportunities we can take the pages devoted to an area like Diamond city and transpose what we need into our game. Finally, for memorable quests, you could pull from areas like the the Dunwich Borers quarry for the maps, enemies, and payoff of your session.
Collaborative storytelling is a process that should involve the players as much as the GM. If the GM is trying to be unique for the sake of being unique, or writing more than you need to give the story a solid start, it is just wasted energy. Your mileage on that philosophy may vary but my point is, let the books in your arsenal do the heavily lifting for you and take as much or as little as you need to create a fun and memorable experience. Tropes exist for a reason and when used properly they help people connect with a story efficiently. That’s the reason we’re trying to play Fallout in the first place.
This whole process has inspired me to pull together my group for at least a one off session using these techniques. My prep-work will go like this: take the set pieces I like from the Fallout games I have played; figure out the core elements that make them work and assign them to distinct locations; transfer those locations onto a map of the city we live in and figure out how to use local history and legends to express story elements that I already know work; then use Fate to develop the connecting tissue with my players. Using our city we can create a unique vault and explore the urban legends and mysteries already present in our backyard. From that point on the players can explore what ever they want at their own pace, just like in a Fallout game, and by leaning on the game guide I won’t need to stay one step ahead of them.
It might take me a while to set of a game of this weird Fallout chimera but I’ll post my results when I do. In the mean time, I hope you have enjoyed this rambling trek through the wasteland with me. Let me know if you’ve tried to do something like this yourself or if you know another game system that would be a good fit. In the next series, I’m sure I’ll spend way too much time trying to make a round peg fit in a square hole.
Maybe I’ll find a use for all those chaff Magic The Gathering cards I have laying around…
I’m working on a new story for a travel writing contest. At first I was really scratching my head trying to think of an idea. I write genre fiction and historically I have a really hard time bending for contest conditions and themes. Then I saw that entries could be fiction… Time to write, but who’s going to work with me on this one?
I decided to write about the Pine Islands, a fictionalized version of the Puget Sound area a friend and I came up with. We have written many stories about this area and I have visited the Islands that inspired it many times. It’s a pretty easy place to picture in my head and one I can imagine traveling through. Though I would venture through it with no small amount of apprehension.
As usual I sat down to this project with a miniature on the corner of my desk. I made my decision based on regional flavor. I picked a giant octopus.
This is a miniature from Wiz Kidz pre-primed line. I chose it because the region I’m writing about is the home of the Giant Pacific Octopus, an animal that inspired fascination in me long before I moved here. I don’t think I’ll be painting mine red though. While my beloved devilfish are known for their striking red coloration, I think I’ll paint mine up like a Blue-ringed Octopus. My reasoning here, beyond it looking rad, is that my version of the region is more menacing than the real location. So, my octopus will be more dangerous. Imagine if the largest octopus was also one of the most venomous animals on the planet. Wonderful, isn’t it?
Beyond the paint scheme I also have to decide if filling in a small factory imperfection (the line under the eye where the head meets the body) is worth re-priming my new partner. I usually don’t bother with these cheaper minis, but I really like this sculpt. Either way, I’ll post the results after I have finished both the contest entry and the mini. Stay tuned!
I just wanted to make a quick post highlighting a project I’m working on with my wife. We just launched the first episode of our podcast He Plays She Plays. It’s a gaming podcast where we discuss the games we play together.
We’re treating it like an audio journal to chronicle the fun we have gaming together and share our stories and anecdotes. It’s sometimes informative and analytical, but more often, pretty silly.
If that sounds like the kind of thing you might be interested in, you can give it a listen using the player below. We’re still learning, so let us know what you think!
You might be wondering: Jacob, you’re a writer trying to promote his craft, so why write about games? The answer to that is actually pretty simple: I write about them because they inspire me.
I used to write a lot of critical content. I have written reviews for movies, books and video-games professionally. But that isn’t what I want to work on here. The goal for my gaming series, “Upping your Game”, is to explore ways to tell better stories in games and the lessons a writer can learn from them.
When I play games (tabletop or otherwise), I can’t help but analyse them. It’s a sad habit I picked up in school and an inevitable outcome of consuming media now. Much like reading a book, watching a movie, or enjoying a great painting, I like to break down why games work and learn from them. Good game design is just another form of storytelling and you can learn from it, even if you don’t work in that medium.
Tabletop gaming is a great example of this because a lot of the storytelling is collaborative. A good game system provides a framework to inspire players to create and express themselves. While this is most evident in role-playing games, it can also be seen in card games, war games, and even board games.
As this series progresses, I hope to deal with some really strange topics. I want to create interesting meta-games and writing opportunities in well known games, but I also want to highlight some hidden gems that I find really get the creative juices flowing. But for our first article I’m going to start simple: we’re going to turn RPG character creation into a writing prompt. Stay tuned.