Saturday, 15 February 2014

Roleplaying Insight and the Maiden

I have had a blast over the last few days reading through the Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition (D&D 4E) core books (Player and DM's Guides). Not just because I bought them so long ago but never actually played, but they are full of fascinating insights into the hobby and the people who play.

The fascination comes thick and fast in the Dungeon Masters Guide as there are whole sections that explore player motivations, play styles, campaign types, dealing with problems and complexities like Metagame Thinking. These are all interesting beyond the scope of a D&D game as many of the ideas would apply to game design of other types...

How might different players engage with the current build of my Maiden of the Loch game. I am certainly trying to craft a game with fun some social interaction (that is the primary goal of a tabletop game) along with a narrative flow to how the game unfolds. I am certainly trying to inject as much light roleplaying into the game where I can - at least trying to get players to relate to their monsters struggle to charm the fickle Maiden and win her heart. Giving the characters in the this tale differences is one thing, but giving scope to allow different player styles sounds wonderful - not so sure about doable yet. I will post my current game rules (maybe tomorrow) as there is certainly a game in there once I craft the cards.

Back to D&D, I thought I might just summarise a few of the awesome sections as they are quite revealing of different players, accommodating them and getting a common understanding of the game being played.

Player Motivations:

Likes to pretend to be their character, fleshing them out and bringing them to life.
Loves new places, discovery and meeting the residents, denizens and wonders of the world
Enjoys making things happen with little patience for planning but loves diving into the action.
Power Gamer
Likes levelling and the thrill of gaining new powers and items as they progress.
Emphasises the slaying of monsters and feeling of power and most enjoys the combat
Prefers the narrative of the game over other aspects including rules and individuals.
Seeks to solve puzzles and make careful choices through planning and clever tactics.
Casual player there for the social aspects and being part of the event more than the game immersion.

DM/Game Style Considerations:

Gritty ...or... Cinematic
Medieval Fantasy ...or... Anachronistic
Silly ...or... Serious
Lighthearted ...or... Intense
Bold ...or... Cautious
Preplanned ...or... Improvised
General ...or... Thematic
Morally Ambiguous ...or... Heroic

Friday, 14 February 2014

Music 23

I am a big fan of soundtracks/scores and they form the bulk of my music listening pleasure. The lines blur quite nicely into some wonderful pieces of classical orchestral masterpieces and in teh other direction to more pop-centric music and then songs.

I thought it was about time I made a short playlist that had a small group of tracks that are my favourites. There is a clear leaning towards the movies that I love - does this mean I like the music more because of the film or does the great music make me like the movie more??? I do love the extra meaning that the music brings when I relate it back to the characters, the story and the emotion of a film or cinematic moment. Maybe that is my visual mind playing the bully, but I do think these pieces are full of class and I am truly in awe of the craftsmanship and artistry needed on the part of composer and musician alike (are there too many 'and's in that sentence?)...

So, here is the Oink23 list as it stands in no particular order - enjoy.

Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho, Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean 3)
Star Wars Main Title/The Arrival at Naboo, John Williams (Star Wars 1)
The Imperial March, John Williams (Star Wars 5)
Coronation, Andy Brown & Ilan Eshkeri (Stardust)
The Ring Goes South, Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings 1)
The All Spark, Steve Jablonski (Transformers Ep1)
Test Drive, John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon 1)
Saint-Saens: Symphony #3 in C Minor, Gaston Litaize (also in Babe)
Glasgow Love Theme, Craig Armstrong (Love Actually)
Superman Main Title, John Williams (Superman 1)
John Dunbar Theme, John Barry (Dances With Wolves)
Canon in D Major, Pachelbel
Beethoven Symphony #5 in C Minor Ellegro, Ludvig Van Beethoven
All of Me, Jon Schmidt
The Throne Room & End Title, John Williams (Star Wars 4)
Time, Hans Zimmer (Inception)
Butterfly Waltz, Brian Crain
Dreams Come True, Randy Edelman (27 Dresses)
Swan Lake ActIV Scene Finale, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Olympic Fanfare, John Williams (1984 Olympics)
The Games, Patrick Doyle (Brave)
What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World, Hans Zimmer (Man of Steel)
The Prince of Persia, Harry Gregson-Williams (Prince of Persia)

[Pic from Blue Harvest via the Family Guy Wikia
The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Williams]

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Roleplaying on the Tabletop

I am lucky enough to have a good group of friends that meet regularly enough for some Tabletop Boardgamey goodness. I even was squeezing in some roleplaying with another group and having a blast. The idea of firing up some roleplaying with our boardgaming group has several of us quite excited, so the discussion turns to a choice of game/s to play when we have some people who have played and some are new to the idea.

Up until yesterday I was most keen to run the shiny new Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game from Fantasy Flight. I already have pretty much everything and a heap of minis as well. The new ruleset looks slick and entertaining with some wonderful mechanics like the dicepool generating more story. The Star Wars universe has plenty of opportunity for exploring, particularly in its outer fringes where the source books concentrate. (plus Age of Rebellion is out!!)

While this would still be exciting, as a group we certainly have a slight leaning towards the fantasy genre and roleplaying games suit the world or Orc and Elf so incredibly well. Games like 13th Age and Dragon Age were discussed as options, but the heavyweights of Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder were used as examples and reference.
I havent actually played D&D 4E myself, but in a fun conversation over lunch yesterday the fun of the 4E combat system was revealed to me. The idea of the roleplaying game switching modes to more of a tabletop boardgame once you roll for initiative felt odd before. Now it actually feels like a drawcard, if the combat experience is really that much fun, then great - let it be more boardgamey. Our group loves its boardgames so this feels like a truly natural fit.

So last night I dug out my old D&D 4E books and started reading the players handbook again. OK, I still dont know how combat works having not read up to there yet - but I am excited to learn. If I am to GM the number of ideas I have for encounters and stories that come naturally to my mind is much greater in the fantasy setting than even the vast galaxy from a long time ago can muster.

Here is a video set that nicely shows a combat sequence full of emotive roleplaying as well:

Oh and as far as I can see D&D Next feels far from ready for consumption esp. by less experienced players like us while it is in beta testing.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Denis Medri and Star Wars High School

I am not sure why I hadnt come across the magical drawings of one Denis Medri before, but his Behance and DeviantArt pages are chock full of incredible illustrations, cartoons, drawings and so forth. He has a wonderful way of capturing the qualities of characters and clearly a very imaginative way of reinventing existing canon.

Star Wars 80's High School Re-Design
These are but a handful of the wonderful re-imagining of the iconic Star Wars characters into an 80's high school tv show. We not only get some wonderful character concepts here but also some iconic moments in the new high school theme (I love Boba locking Han in the vending machine).
Check his sites for more of the images, but here are a few of my favourites:

Lets not stop there as we take a peek at his work, the style of which I just adore. I am feeling inspired to try and get some of the character joy he brings into some of my sketches Here are a few more groovy pieces from him esp the western and steampunk superheroes...

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

OpenRefine and Custard

I got my first taste of Google Refine which is now OpenRefine - a pretty classy little app for wrangling datasets. There are some elements of Excel-like-ness to the tools, but they are superficial. OpenRefine is all about massaging data, bringing in fields, generating columns based on others and so forth. There is quite a reliance on the GREL scripting language to achieve tasks - it is quite intuitive but the help for it was frustrating in that searching for what seemed like simple terms didnt come up with anything.

These 3 videos are from the sites homepage that show off the features of the software. I like the concept of using the toolset to draw in data from online data sources. In the training we brought in latitude longitude info from Google Maps and data on police stations from the NSW records site ( which feels very powerful. Some skill is needed to work with extracting the actual data needed from the various data sites and their various data structures.

The research implications of a little tool like this could be huge - helping get the right data to the right people to extract understanding from it all. It was fun at the training session yesterday here at UNSW BE seeing the Urban research guys exploring how they could bring in data to many of their projects. Seeing how they might leverage their involvement in the AURIN project to extend their software toolsets.

We also had a little self-directed peek at FusionTables and using map data - another world of data visualisation right there!


Well, if you made it this far through this post that can mean only one thing - you are intrigued about the custard. When I was walking along the other day this idea popped into my head ... Protective Custard ...