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Time to round up my mini-series, and finish with the last of three gamer archetypes, namely the most vile, vicious and dangerous Spike!

To reference back to Magic once again, you knew that if you went to your FLGS that there be someone who would urge you to play a match against him. Most of  the time, these were fat, snobby kids who got far too much money for their hobby from their parents and who didn’t mind to skip gym class in order to get their favorite chair in the store.  This excess amount of money and time gave them the tools to build vicious decks with the most exotic of combos, and only another deck with the same degree of efficiency could stand tall against them. And should they meet such a deck and even lose to it, these overweight high school pranksters would break into tears and tell you that you cheated or that you had luck on your side. Enter the world of the Spike.

I just hate Spikes, especially when theyre gloomy, emotional vampires in some 90s teenie show

I just hate Spikes, especially when they're gloomy, emotional vampires in some 90's teenie show

Now, I will be dead honest with you: nobody likes a Spike, especially not in a “non-winner” genre like tabletop role-playing games. This is because of two things. One, a Spike ALWAYS wants to win. Two, should a Spike lose he will blame every other player at the table for his most terrible failure. Witty readers will have noticed that a Spike meets a basic problem in an RPG: you cannot win alone. The “victory” in a role-playing game is to experience a thrilling story together, and beat down some evil badasses. Should the party succeed in this, a Spike will claim that it was all due to his magnificent insight into the rules and the world. Should they fail, a Spike will declare his fellow characters AND players to be incompetent tools with the intelligence of a rotten hamster, annoying everyone at the table with his grim visage he keeps intact for the rest of the session.

Most groups will try to either change the attitude of a Spike towards the game, showing him that a role-playing game is more than a lone wolf endeavor. Luckily, most Spikes will understand this after some time, and will soon become more enjoyable fellows. It is not uncommon that a new player starts his “career” as a Spike, until most of his colleagues pull him down from his Throne of Duchebaggery, converting him into the environment-friendly Johnny. Sadly, this does not happen to all Spikes.

So, what do you do with a Spike who just doesn’t want to change his mind? Well, the only “true remedy” would be removing him from the game, for the sake of everyone else. A die-hard Spike in your group is like poisoning your village’s well: sooner or later the other players will stop to show up, infected by the more than irritating attitude of the Spike. And I guess you, my fellow GM, do not want to run a one-man show, right?

A few days ago, I took a look at the player archetype called Timmy. To continue the mini-series, I’ll discuss the second of three gamer “stereotypes” I present you in Labeled Boxes!

As you know, these stereotypes are derived from the trading card game Magic. A big part of every collectible game is the customization, and finding ways to tweak and improve your strategy. However, some players see that share of the experience as the most important one and devote most of their time in their “deck garage” to enhance their combos and their odds of winning. Back when I played, we called these guys Johnnys.

They actually devoted a card to him...

They actually devoted a card to him...

I guess every GM has met at least one Johnny. It’s the kind of player who creates forty different drafts of his character sheet before declaring one of them his “finished masterpiece”. Also, a Johnny likes to spend his time reading sourcebooks and online articles about the game he plays, and tweak his character based on the information absorbed from them. He’s the kind of player who has an Excel sheet on his laptop to calculate the odds of an exceptional success when firing his Beretta while driving a car and being gnawed on by dire rats.

This sounds like a Johnny is a kind of munchkin, trying to use loopholes in the rules to his on advantage. However, this is anything but true. A Johnny does not improve his character to “win the game”, as far as anyone can win in role-playing games. Instead, the Johnny devours rulebooks and forum discussions on his character’s class because he wants to improve his personal experience. Like the Timmy, the Johnny just wants to have fun. Unlike his brother archetype, he finds this satisfaction in rolling enormous crits and finally getting that +3 flamestrike bow.

The danger a Johnny presents is that his knowledge of the rules and the amount of specialization his characters went through might overshadow the other player characters. Sure, Timmy’s sorcerer knows some good spells, but Johnny’s multi-classed sorcerer / wizard / paladin knows about the same arcane mysteries, and can wield a magical sword at the same time. This might cause a feeling of redundancy in the other characters and their players, making them feel useless in comparison to Johnny’s well-tuned expert.

A simple pre-emptive remedy against this, is simply putting the Johnny and his character up against a situation in which his “killer combo” doesn’t work. So he thinks his well-trained gunslinger, fine-tuned with the necessary merits and equipment is the biggest mother in the Wild, Wild West? Let’s see how he’ll survive a buffalo stampede his six-shooter’s noise caused. These challenges should be moments where the other, not so “perfect” characters can shine, giving them the opportunity to see what they’re worth.

So, now you learned everything about the Johnny. Later this week, I’ll end this series with an article about the power-hungry Spike. Stay tuned, dear readers!

Finally I got my hands on a copy of Geist: the Sin-Eaters, and I have to say I am more than surprised by the awesome atmosphere of the game. Now, at first the idea of playing someone who returned from the brink of death by bargaining with an undead spirit didn’t speak to me. But as I read through the book, all the pieces came together and formed a most beautiful, yet morbid image in my head.

What enchanted me the most was the whole system behind sanctifying Krewes. To me, it feels like the Paradigms from the old Mage: the Ascension, mixed with a bit of Pack Totems from both Werewolf games. Also, Geist delivers an awesome description of the Underworld, one of the parallel dimensions that was short on accurate information. The upcoming Book of the Dead is all about that, so if you just want input about the Great Below, but don’t intend to play a Sin-Eater, you might want to wait for that product.

All in all, I can’t wait to run a game of Geist. Maybe I should start out with the introductory story? We’ll see. Of course, I’ll keep you up-to-date on Exceptional Success!

So, last session your players and their characters slaughtered the vicious draco-lich that killed the virgins from the town of Mournfall, and now you need a new place to send them to. However, you don’t have a spark of inspiration left in your mind when it comes to a new and, most of all, thrilling location your heroes could venture to? Do not fear for Exceptional Success is here to help you out with five magical and exotic locations!

  • Adventurers speak of a magical forest that completes a full seasonal cycle in a mere day. At dawn, the blossoms in the forest flower in all their magnificent colors. Just before noon, the temperatures in the forest rise and many different and long-forgotten beasts roam through the thicket. As soon as the sun sets, the leaves of the trees turn yellow, red and orange, and most of the animals retreat into their hibernal state. When night creeps over this mysterious place, cold winds and snow sweep into it, and dangerous and vicious creatures stalk the woods, searching for prey.
  • The Chronos Vale is a place where time runs backwards, and this affects everything and everyone who enters it. Seasoned veterans who ventured into this bizarre place, lured by promises of wealth, returned as teenage lads who lost all their years of experience.
  • The cursed town of Blightfall harbors only zombies, ghouls and other undead. Ruled by Valthrus, a seven hundred-years old vampire, the accursed villagers see Undeath as the pinnacle of enlightenment, and use the living as slaves and trade goods.
  • Crow’s Peak is the highest mountain in the barony of Sparrowshield. It is permanently secluded by a thick, dark mist and not even the bravest men of the barony dare to venture into it. However, during New Year’s Eve, the mist disappears and gives away a bright purple fire burning at the very top of Crow’s Peak…
  • Six hundred years ago, a meteor hit the Imperial City and turned the once shining heart of the Empire into ruins. Now, the crater and the ruins of the old metropolis are filled with creatures mutated by the alien radiation of the meteor. However, shards of the extraterrestrial rock are highly demanded by armor smiths, as they can be worked into plates that are nearly indestructible. Venturing into the ruins could turn out to be highly profitable…

Feel free to use these places, and change the names and locations as you see fit. But please, leave a comment should you drop one of the fantastic regions into your campaign.

Summer break’s over, and thus I’m back to studying. Strange enough, some of my best ideas for plot hooks and non-player characters popped into my mind during the more mind-numbing classes. So, in honor of that, I will present you a few university / college campus-related story seeds for use in your on-going World of Darkness chronicle. The seeds are designed for a mortal WoD game, but with a few tweaks they’re just as useful in most other game lines.

  • An exchange student from Asia is acting very strange, and eventually abducts one of the player characters on her way home from a party, knocking her out. As the player character wakes up, she finds herself in a basement, surrounded by books written in long-forgotten languages. Upstairs, she hears the agonizing screams of a girl…
  • Senior students tell the story of a book hidden in the campus library. The last person who borrowed it was the unbelievable smart Matthew Connor, who was killed in a bar fight. Legend has it that this book lends its owner Matthew’s former knowledge and intelligence, but also seeks for revenge…
  • Everybody seems to like the new professor. No surprise: he’s handsome, drives a Porsche and is well-educated. One night, a good friend of the player characters dates the new stud of the campus, and slowly turns into a mindless servant of the professor. Eventually, she and the professor vanish…
  • The janitors discover a gigantic nest of rats in one of the underground storage facilities of the university. Even after a week of extensive and expensive vermin extermination, the building seems to attract all kinds of rodent. A few days later, one of the students is found dead on the campus parking lot, his eyes removed from his skull…
  • Ruth Ledger, the campus’ wallflower, returns from her summer break as a stunningly beautiful vamp. One guy after the other falls for her, and eventually one of the player characters is lucky enough to go on a date with her. During a romantic late-night walk through the park, Ruth pushes the player character into the bushes, and pulls a ritual dagger out of her handbag…

That should be enough material for a few stories filled with horror and angst all around the local campus. But don’t forget your classes while hunting for the answers!

I’m a big fan of a mechanism called “flags”.  For those of you who haven’t dabbled in RPG theory, flags are little hot-spots that tell both player and GM something about the character in question. Some games use them deliberately, actually calling them flags (some indie games do that), others use them more or less by accident. The new World of Darkness is somewhere in between these two categories.

To some extent, everything on a character sheet is a flag. That Strength 4 tells me that the character is very strong, and shouldn’t have any problems to kick in doors. Academics (Biology) 5 tells me that the character is probably has a PhD in his specialty, and is well-educated. These little hints tell the player how to role-play some aspects of his character, and should serve as inspiration for that. However, the most problematic flag in my games are Virtues and Vices.

Now, I forgot to tell you about a very common aspect of flags: role-playing them correctly nets you rewards. The World of Darkness rewards players who role-play their characters according to their good (Virtue) and bad (Vice) side by restoring a certain amount of temporary Willpower. From a player’s perspective, Willpower is a very useful pool, giving you a certain edge in tasks you just HAVE to succeed in. Also, many supernatural powers use it as fuel, so having a way to restore it is very generous of the game. However, my question is: how often does your Willpower restore by role-playing your Virtue and Vice?

In my games, it has only happened on a few occasions, in which a character lived up to his Vice and restored a single point of temporary Willpower. However, this is because of my players using their character’s Willpower extremely careful and seldom find themselves without any of it. This might also be a fault from my side, because I am more than generous when it comes to Willpower regeneration in between sessions.

So I wonder, how could I increase the importance of Virtues and Vices in my games? Any advices! Well, keep ‘em coming!