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How Jaime Lannister got on my good side

Before you read any further: spoiler alert. This text contains massive spoilers about the A Song of Ice and Fire books, and especially the events in A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. If you still want to enjoy those books, better read something else on this blog. Please, stay on this blog. It will be worth your time.

With that out of the way, let me tell you something about Jaime Lannister. Ah, what hasn’t been said about this smug-faced sisterlover already. With his good looks and his charming ways, he conquers many Westerosi hearts, but his own only beats for his twin sister. While being the father of a bunch of incest children, he still does his best to be the awesome member of the Kingsguard everybody thinks he is, despite the fact that he already killed a King he had sworn to protect. He has so much to hate, and many viewers of the HBO show and readers of the first two books really hate this arrogant tool. Until a few days ago, I was one of them.

You see, if you make it to the third book of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga, you will discover an entirely new side of Jaime. While trying to make his way to King’s Landing with Brienne, the two get caught by the rather brutish and primitive Brave Companions, and in a sadistic turn of events, Jaime Lannister loses his sword-hand. That’s right: this great knight loses what makes him so feared and famous, and he sure has a serious internal crisis about it. However, instead of turning into a wimpy idiot who just complains about how cruel the world is, Jaime makes up plans to get the most out of the situation, and even starts to appreciate the companionship and bravery of the female knight Brienne. When he gets a safe escort back to King’s Landing without Brienne, he decides that he can’t just leave her behind, rides back to Harrenhal and saves her from a bear, which she had to fight with a blunt tournament sword. Of course, he keeps his cool through all of this, almost never complaining about his lost hand, while risking his life and safety for a woman he could just as easily hate.

Ladies and gentleman, Jaime Lannister is, officially, my new favourite character of the entire saga.

Seriously, it’s impressive how Jaime goes from charming jerk to handicapped good guy in just a few chapters. Even better, the entire transformation feels plausible and is well-written. It’s great to see a tough, badass character like Jaime developing soft spots, and that almost makes you forget that he is the father of several incestuous children and the member of the family responsible for Eddard Stark’s death (though you could write that one up to Joffrey’s sheer madness). It also makes him believable, and that was just the thing he needed after being my favourite character to hate (next to Joffrey. God, I hate that brat).

So, next time you meet a fictional character that seems to be a prick, don’t judge him too fast. Snape turned out okay, and Jaime Lannister seems to be a semi-good guy as well. Hate and despise them while you can, but respect them as soon as they find redemption for their douchery.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I got books to read.

Love the people, not the game

“The Guild” by Irrel

A week ago, I wrote about my return to Azeroth. Currently, my brave little panda is having some aquatic adventures, and as I kill sea monsters and gather crab meat, I wonder what called me back to World of Warcraft. Many things have changed, but the two expansions that I’ve skipped didn’t add anything entirely new to the game. Also, there are several other MMO’s out there that are just as fun (and more up-to-date) than WoW (like my beloved The Secret World). So what makes me put so much time in this old love of mine? Well, it’s the people.

MMORPG’s are a social experience (or at least they should be). In fact, every game is a social experience. You can’t play Monopoly all by yourself, and neither can you have much fun playing football without two teams. While one half of the joy we experience during game comes from the quality of it, the other half comes from the people we play it with. The greatest MMORPG in the world could hit shelves tomorrow, but I wouldn’t linger long in it if I had no one to share my excitement with.

One reason I left Azeroth behind me after the Cataclysm was because of boredom, but that boredom was born from a lack of fellow players. My guild, in which I had experienced two expansions, had started to fall apart, and we all followed our own paths. Some of us had left WoW, others were busy leveling new characters, and the rest had moved on to other guilds. The social unit that I had called “home” was no more, and so there was no guild chat in which we could tell lame jokes and no Ventrilo on which we could annoy each other with our bad taste in music. Most of these people were more than pixels to me; I knew them in real life. I knew what they looked like, and I recognised the timbre of their voices. This knowledge made their characters come to life, and thus, I travelled across Azeroth with real, organic beings, with whom I shared victory and defeat. In a way, we were a digital band of brothers.

Now, I have a new group of people who are exactly that. The people who dragged me back into a world I had almost forgotten are also the people I would have a beer or go to the movies with. Sometimes they’re silly, sometimes they’re childish, but they are always there with me in the game. It’s a feature no game has, but that you add yourself: friends and buddies, journeying with you into new adventures.

So, be thankful for all the gaming buddies you have. Next time you rage about their low damage output or their annoying habits, be grateful for the fact that they add something to your gaming experience. Because no matter how awesome a game can be, nothing is as demotivating as a silent, lonely guild chat.

I’m the Chindividual, and I salute all gaming friends out there!

TSWoD – The secrets of the secret societies

Yeah, try saying that ten times! Anyway, welcome to another installment of The Secret World of Darkness. Today, we’ll take a look at the factions of the secret world and how to represent them best with the World of Darkness rules. We’ll be adding another WoD book to the material used, so if you want to find out what you’ll need to get from your library to bring Funcom’s world to your table, read on!

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World of Warcraft – it will never let me go

bokuzen northrendWhen Funcom announced that The Secret World would go B2P, I rejoiced and did my happy dance. Not just because I like to do silly dances, but also because I’m a Scrooge McDuck and like to keep as many Euros for myself as possible. The fact that I can keep enjoying TSW without paying a fee meant that I could dabble in other MMORPG’s, possibly even one that might require a subscription fee. That was when World of Warcraft reared its not-so-ugly head.

You see, WoW and I have a long history. I started playing the game-changing MMO one month after its release, and took only short breaks from it until Cataclysm. The world-shattering expansion also shattered my last shreds of interest , and so I said goodbye to it for quite a while. Then, Mists of Pandaria was released, and a month after its (surprisingly positively received) launch, I bought the expansion and started playing a new toon, together with some returning and veteran friends. To my surprise, I found the changes made to the game really enjoyable. The new talent system is limited, but now I have the feeling that choosing a specialisation and a talent actually matters. The Pandaren are less whimsical than I had expected, and the Monk is actually a really fun class to play. Damn you, WoW, for being fun again!

So, for the last months, I’ve been playing WoW on and off again on multiple characters. I hit 70 with my Pandaren Warrior today, and I’m working my way back to the level cap together with a group of friends. It doesn’t feel as great and fantastic as it did “back in the days”, but I have fun rediscovering a world I thought I knew so well.

Azeroth, I’m back!

TSWoD – More Anima, more rule hacks and more Fiddles!

Another day, another post about The Secret World of Darkness. In today’s installment, we will take another look at what Anima has to offer for a character, look at some notes about conflicting rules and expand Fiddles’ character sheet. Here we go!

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TSWoD – Anima explained & the birth of Fiddles

Hello guys and gals, and welcome back to another post about my The Secret World of Darkness project, in which I melt the rules of the new World of Darkness with the setting of Funcom’s The Secret World. In today’s installment, we will elaborate the aforementioned Anima power stat and pool, and start the creation of an example character. Call your secret society and tell them Cthulhu has to wait, because this will keep you busy!

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Riverlands Saga – My Song of Ice and Fire

“The Iron Throne, GRR Martin” by MarcSimonetti. Click the picture to go to his awesome gallery

 

Judging by all the TSW posts you’ve been seeing so far, you might think that all I do is playing one MMO when I’m not working. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to start a monthly SIFRP game with two of my long-time players. Next to this campaign being my first time using the SIFRP rules and Westeros setting, it is also my first time playing via Skype. Yep, the times where my friends and I could just meet to game are gone, as we decided to spread all over Europe. I raise my mug of Dornish wine in honour of modern technology, allowing us to play through the world-wide web.

Anyway, the campaign, which is titled the Riverlands Saga, focuses on the minor House Yannor, bannerhouse to the Tullys in the Riverlands. Taking place just a few months after Robert’s Rebellion, the player characters have been tasked by Edmure Tully to investigate rumours of trouble in House Dulver. It seems that the lord of the House is preparing for war, and the last thing the recovering Riverlands need is another vendetta between rival Houses.

The main characters are Jonas Yannor and his twin brother Gavin, along with the bastard and ward from House Bolton, Dana Snow. Jonas, as heir of the House, is being groomed against his will to rule the Yannor lands one day, while his twin brother shows far more interest in such a function. Dana, a talented huntress and reluctant noble lady, dreams of a stranger from the North and longs for roaming the wild lands one day. This unique combination of characters is an interesting mix, which has already shown to offer some great stories.

Next Sunday, we’ll play our next session, and I will post recaps of all the previous sessions on this blog as soon as possible. In the mean time, I’m curious to hear about your experiences with roleplaying in Westeros. What stories can you share from any corner of the Seven Kingdoms?

TSWoD – Anima stat, overlapping templates and more!

Another day, another post about my endeavour to dip the World of Darkness in the awesomesauce that is The Secret World. In the previous post, I talked about the basic premises of this project, and today, we will take a look at the only “homemade” rule, along with some ramblings about the material used. Get your spells and conspiracy theories, we’re going in!

Anima
In TSW, a creature’s Anima is its life force. It is something that runs through everything on this planet, but that can only be controlled by a few. Sorcerers control their own Anima to empower their spells, and hideous creatures from the Hell Dimensions seek this essence out to consume and devour it. While Anima is no resource in the MMORPG, it is an aspect that separates the player character from many other agents in his secret society. Swallowing a bee sent by Gaia gives one the power to manipulate Anima, which is quite helpful in the fight against draugr, vampires and the Filth.

In order to measure all supernatural creatures on an identical scale, TSWoD could use Anima as a power stat and power pool. Like Vampire’s Blood Potency and Vitae, or Werewolf’s Primal Urge and Essence, TSWoD’s Anima would measure a creature’s supernatural capacity and ways to manipulate Anima. The latter should be interpreted in the broadest way possible. An old sorcerer would have have the same Anima rating as a vicious demon, but both would show their bizarre powers in different ways. Anima would be a unifying stat, that makes it easier to compare the rather varied palette of otherworldly beings in the setting.

In many ways, Anima would work like the Arete stat presented in Mirrors. It would provide characters with additional health, supernatural resistance, heightened Attributes and a way to heal bashing damage. Unlike Arete, Anima will also grant access to a pool of Anima points, which can be used to fuel the effects of Anima. Also, Anima might not grant any access to Masteries. I’ll get into the reason for that right…now.

The amount of cool stuff is too damn high!
As I have mentioned in my previous post, I’m trying to emulate the setting of TSW with just three books: the core book, Mirrors and Second Sight. Even though this is a small amount of books, it still offers a lot of options. If a player decides to create a character, both Mirrors and Second Sight offer treasure troves of powers, backgrounds and so-called “minor templates” (supernatural templates that do not have an own power stat and pool). I’m afraid that the both books, along with an Anima stat that grants additional supernatural power, will create far too mighty characters. Of course, additional rules can limit that, but I’m still not so sure about it. I guess the only way to see if it works, is to create a character…

Well, guess that gives away what we’ll be doing next time. In the meantime, please share your feelings about an Anima stat and the amount of cool powers found in Mirrors and Second Sight. I’ll be here to listen to your feedback. Stay alive!

TSWoD – The bare necessities

Continuing the train of thought that has left the station of my mind a few posts ago, I have spent my last days thinking about the best way to portray Funcom’s The Secret World in White Wolf’s World of Darkness. The two games seem easy to merge, but before doing so, I limited myself by using the following guidelines:

  • PC’s will be “normal” mortals who are initiated into one of the secret societies. This means that the players will  not take the role of Bee People. Why I made this choice will be explained later on.
  • The game focuses on the discovery of the secret world, and the slow descent into the mysteries kept away from the PC’s. While this seems like a choice of flavour, it will also impact some game system choices.
  • TSWoD should need a minimal amount of house rules, using mostly rules available from a small amount of WoD books.

You’re not special, all you can do is shoot lightning from your hands!
In the setting of TSW, it is rather special when Gaia sends out a bee to give a normal human some wacky superpowers and immortality. To keep them rare, I want players to play humans who have been introduced into the secret world in another, more subtle way than by swallowing a magical insect. Well, maybe not a more subtle, but in a more common way (by occult standards). Think of characters who have witnessed a vampire feeding, or who have learned magic in a special school. Player characters will have “kewl powerz”, but in a different way.

Delving into the darkness
The Secret World is about stepping into the darkness with just the light of a candle, and to boldly stride through this tenebrous world. Unlike most WoD games, it is not about handling one’s own supernatural nature, but about deciding if something is worth knowing, or if the price for it is too high. Because of this setting choice, I would drop any kind of Morality system entirely, and replace it by the Reason stat presented in Mirrors. The slow descent into madness, while gaining more power, feels more fitting to me for a TSW game.

I don’t want to carry all these books!
Let me be clear here: I am a terrible rules writer. I hate to formalise any kind of rule, and I always have the feeling that it takes some kind of special education to be a game designer/ writer. That is one of the reasons I want to keep the amount of “original rules” to a minimum for this project. The other reason is that I believe that the World of Darkness offers rules for most of the things we will need. Especially Mirrors offers a truckload of alternative rules, which fit TSW really well. At the moment, I can limit the amount of titles to three:

  • World of Darkness core book (well, duh)
  • Second Sight
  • Mirrors

This means that, if you have these books, you just have to follow my short instructions, and you are able to run a game in the TSWoD in no time. It saves me the trouble to re-write a system that is already good enough in my opinion, and saves you a lot of reading!

Well, that’s it for now. Next time, I will shine a light on the only “house rule” I would add to TSWoD, and give you a short draft of the character creation. In the mean time, you are free to share your ideas and ask some critical questions. Keep your head up!