Did you see the actual-play post that Fred Hicks wrote describing his one-shot RPG scenario set in the universe of Inception? If you’ve seen the film, and you’re curious about how the procedural of a dream-heist might work in play but you didn’t want to muddle through a lot of game mechanics and fiddly details, Fred’s post is a great read. If you haven’t seen Inception, this might be… less interesting to you. Still, I thought you might get a kick out of this.
Eternal Lies is a beast of a campaign, and although it was announced a while ago, don’t let the relative radio-silence fool you. Will and I have been hard at work conceiving, breaking down, and then writing the locales and make up the greater campaign. If you follow me on Twitter (@jefftidball) or search for the #EternalLies hashtag there, you can get a sense of the grim travails that my Monday-night playtest group has already experienced. (And nobody tell them, but they haven’t even quite reached the end of Act One yet!)
The overall goal with Eternal Lies—the one that’s written in giant letters at the top of the conceptual whiteboard—is to write a worthy spiritual heir to Chaosium’s legendary Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign for Call of Cthulhu. (Although, to be clear, Eternal Lies has nothing to do with Masks. We’re trying to create a campaign of that magnitude and quality, not write a sequel to its events.) Having that pole star to follow has been helpful. Whereas it’s sometimes tempting to constrain circumscribe a given location, or subplot, or locale, asking “WWMoND?” always points us in the direction of awesomeness rather than ease or safety.
One of my tasks last week was to create the set of pre-generated Investigators that Eternal Lies players can use if they don’t want to create their own. Although I have trouble imagining starting a campaign with a PC that I didn’t create myself, those players exist, and it makes sense to give them a hand. And these pre-gens also serve another, and entirely probable, eventuality: They’ll be handy replacement Investigators in the likely event that the first (or second, or third…) wave of player-generated PCs die or go mad. As an example of the “extra mile” of quality we’re trying to inject throughout Eternal Lies, each character has statistics for three-, four-, and five-player group sizes (since the character creation rules vary slightly depending on party size), and each character includes a set of notes on how that Investigator can be cast in the opposite gender, for a player who wishes to do so.
I’d love to write more about the specifics of the campaign, but extreme spoiler paranoia is leading me to delete points of interest as fast as I can write them down. (In fact, Will and I recently sent a blizzard of e-mail back and forth about the advisability of liberal use of the names and labels associated with certain [REDACTED] in certain portions of the campaign text itself, lest a player spoil his fun by accidentally glancing behind the GM’s screen at an open book while on his way to grab a beer from the fridge during play. Don’t doubt our paranoia on this front!)
Assuming we can think of things to write about that won’t ruin your eventual fun, we’ll try to keep you posted on our progress every couple of weeks from here on out.
Here’s a question that’s occurred to me quite a lot over the past couple of weeks, since Gen Con. I offer it up without much preamble, save for this: Whether you’re hacking a tightly focused game like Apocalypse World or devising a campaign for something broader, like Dungeons & Dragons, you’re almost always moving around a game’s central axis. Maybe you’re in a tight orbit. Maybe you’re drifting away. But at some distance from that gravitational center, you presumably break free and enter either the void between games or the gravity well of some other shining touchstone. So:
When are you no longer playing the game you purport to be playing? When are you so far removed from your game of origin that you no longer tell people that it is what you are playing?
“It was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Tyler and I just gave it a name.” —Narrator, Fight Club
D. Vincent Baker has created something remarkable with Apocalypse World—it’s a major conversation piece and probably a landmark in the development of RPGs. The influence of this game can already be felt throughout various design circles and it’s a conversation you maybe want to be a part of.
Actual GMing methods and styles are, so often, on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Vincent Baker set out to give them names. I applaud his motive and his decision to pursue the goal. I’m not sure I care for the names he’s chosen. He’s presented his GM principles dressed up for a desert-wasteland post-apocalyptic world, but big deal, right?
Apocalypse World was my first purchase at Gen Con 2010. I set out to get it early on the first day. I knew I needed to be conversant in this game.
Hamlet’s Hit Points presents a system for analyzing stories based on nine beat types and the story’s ups and downs between hope and fear. In the book, beat maps show both the beat types and the emotional movements in an easy-to-digest way.
We wanted to make the icons and arrows we used to build those beat maps available under a Creative Commons license, so you can build your own beat maps. There are two archives available, one containing Adobe Illustrator (.ai) files and the other containing Scalable Vector Graphics (.svg) files. Each package also includes the specifics of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license.
Craig S. Grant is the fine illustrator who created these graphics, and we thank him for letting us release them this way for your use.
Later Addition: Simon Rogers of Pelgrane Press has provided a symbol catalog of the HHP icons and arrows suitable for use with Campaign Cartographer 3, which are available under the same Creative Commons license. To use it, download the archive and then follow these instructions:
To install, unzip the files, retaining the folder structure, into the Symbols\Other folder of your CC3 installation. To use them, start a new map, then open the hamlet.fsc symbol catalog in the Symbols\Other folder and add them to your drawing.
Later Addition: Helpful reader Matt Anderson simplified the icons and arrows inside Illustrator and organized them into a convenient symbol library, making them smaller and more convenient to use.
Even More Formats: Helpful reader Josh Street built an Omnigraffle stencil file out of the icons and arrows. (Omnigraffle is an awesome MacOS diagramming application. There is also a version for iOS, but it’s unknown to we GPW humans whether stencil files for the Mac are useful on the iPad.)
We hope you find these images useful, and that you get excited and make something with them!
Hamlet’s Hit Points Icons and Arrows by Gameplaywright LLP and Craig S. Grant is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://gameplaywright.net/hamlets-hit-points.