Posts Tagged ‘Hot War’

Well spring is firmly in the air and as the weather gets nicer, thoughts are turning to spending more time indoors playing games. I have a hard time just picking up and running a game as written – I much prefer to get under the bonnet and tinker with either the setting or the mechanics. So, these are the top 6 games I want to play, and the hacks I want to play with them.

1. Fiasco: Dick Head

Not so much a hack as a playset to vaguely recreate the stories of Philip K Dick, with all manner of weird and wonderful results on the situation tables and a tilt table to pull the curtain back for the second act. Why Fiasco? I dunno, there’s something about the way the situation generator that I think will produce great, weird, Dickesque stories.

2. Hot War: Ultraviolet/True Blood

I think Hot War might be the game I own with the most hackability. Its setup lends itself perfectly for tight-knit, character-driven conflicts and monsters. So what better way to represent one of my favourite settings, Ultraviolet, a show all about agents with mixed agendas hunting vampires, perhaps mashed liberally in with True Blood.

3. Empires of Alexander

Anyone who knows me will know I’m a big ancient history buff, especially when it comes to Alexander the Great. I reckon there’d be a lot of fun to be had playing Alexander’s various generals leading their own armies east alongside the Macedonian King, and for me there’s no better game when it comes to military campaigns – Duty & Honour/Beat to Quarters, collectively known as the Empire system. All it’d take would be a reskinning of skills and character creation bits and bobs and you’re ready to ride to the ends of the world!

4. Remember Tomorrow: Revelation Space

I’ve never got into cyberpunk beyond Ghost in the Shell, but love me some hard scifi, especially Alastair Reynolds and his oeuvre. I think the multi-protagonist, split narrative of his books would map brilliantly to Remember Tomorrow’s varied stories told from multiple perspectives. I’ve got a few tweaks to the situation tables to embed the setting in the game more, but RT does the job admirably out of the book.

5. Smallville: the Walking Dead

I’ve got a real yearning to run Smallville but no great desire to play in the published setting. Instead I want to use it to run a game reminiscent of the Walking Dead, as the relationship-focused nature of the game will capture the complicated character situations of the show. In actual fact I’m going to make the setting Unhallowed, but it’s similar enough, just swap zombies for demons.

6. Lost Days of Memories & Madness: Game of Thrones

This hack will almost certainly be the subject of a future post, but with the fantasy epic about go return for a second series I’ve got a hankering to run a high-stakes political game of intrigue, and would use my own Memories & Madness to pull it off. Instead of memories, you’d have subjects or power bases, and coins would become influence or power. Easy. I’ll dig into that one a bit more another time.

How about you? What are you jonesing to a) play and b) hack?

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Just a quick one today and it’s a link to my friend Gaz’s post about writing scenarios – notionally for Hot War, but many of the techniques he describes for setting up complicated relationships would work wonderfully for other games, including Dead of Night. I used something similar with both Bad Signal and Grendel, AP, although with the latter it was the players who complicated the relationships.

Setting is characters, the rest is just color. Figure out how to express what you want from the period through the people.

– Rob Donoghue

That’s what Rob Donoghue posted over on twitter a while back in a discussion about historical settings and I’m kinda conflicted about it. I was trained as a historian, so I can see both sides – I appreciate how historical characters, traditionally kings but in recent times more common folk, are great at providing a lens through which we can examine an era. Conversely, I dig the historical events and setting themselves – the battles, as it were, or the colour as Rob puts it. To me, they’re more than just flavour, they are the setting.

Yet it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of a setting, providing the readers with tons of needless details in the hope that you’ll bring the setting alive, but in reality running the risk of burying any sense of flavour or interest they might have had.But of course it’s possible to go too far the other way, instead of providing a setting overview just providing a series of character descriptions and hoping readers can infer what they need to for the biographies. I think the right mix will vary from game to game – to me games like Polaris and Hot War get it right, providing enough setting to spark my own imagination, and enough characters to give me an idea what to do with that setting.

Looking at the game I’m currently working on, Lost Days of Memories & Madness, I can see room for both styles. Consider these two takes on the same piece of background, about what happened to all the dragons. First up, battle style:

Here be Dragons

The once-noble creatures known as dragons were perhaps the first victims of elven conquest, for these great reptiles were no less arrogant and independent than the elves themselves and neither race would bow to the other. As mighty as the dragons were individually, they were few number and overpowered by the armies of the elves. Those rare creatures that still live are as shadows of their former selves, broken and bound by elven magic to serve as steed or pet, their memories of past glories long since stolen by the elves. But it is whispered that, somewhere in the hidden corners of the world, true dragons still live. For the memories of such a beast – full of simmering rage long harboured – to be harvested would be a treasure highly prized indeed.

And now from a ‘king’ perspective:

Kesar, the Last Dragon

The once-noble creatures known as dragons were perhaps the first victims of elven conquest, for these great reptiles were no less arrogant and independent than the elves themselves and neither race would bow to the other. Kesar is the last of his kind, saved from a life of slavery by the draconic magic that changed him from dragon to elf, allowing him to bide his time and plot his revenge from within the Eternal Court. That the elven memories that crowd his mind alongside his own threaten to drive him to madness is of no concern to Kesar – his thirst for revenge drove him insane long ago.

Now, both pieces have their own advantages and disadvantages. For me, I think the former just edges it, giving me a glimpse at the world and allowing me to fill in the blanks myself. The second piece offers me the same glimpse, but I find a little too focused, a little too ‘zoomed-in.’ In focusing the lens through the eyes of a single character, there’s the danger of it just saying something about that character, not the setting he inhabits.

Which do you prefer? Are you more a fan of ‘kings’ or ‘battles’ when it comes to background? And what settings have got that balance just right?