I am still quite new to tabletop roleplaying games, it hasn't been two years yet since I ended up getting involved, so I will be the first to say I have very little experience. Gameplay itself is where that's most obvious, especially combat, I feel like I have to ask for rule clarification several times a session, but unlike remembering various rulesets the roleplaying aspect didn't feel that new. I realized that's because I was drawing parallels between it and something I have been involved with for a longer time, theatre.
Now there are some obvious differences, notably roleplaying isn't generally scripted so unless you do improv, theatre may not seem directly related. Theatre is aimed at presenting what you're doing to an audience and while roleplaying can include having an audience, if you record your sessions or even just have observers at your table, that's not the inherent purpose of roleplaying games and is often not going to be the case. Still I've noticed a few key things I was taught while involved in community theatre that I think are also useful for anyone looking to improve their roleplaying or looking to better support the roleplaying of others at the table (and don't worry, none of them are "you must get involved with local theatre.") You don't have to be an actor to be a roleplayer of course, but there are some things that are helpful to keep in mind for both!(edited)
1. Be Present in the Scene (and participate, to an appropriate degree)
Whether you're an actor or a roleplayer there are going to be some scenes that aren't about you. Maybe you're an ensemble member milling about as part of a crowd while the leads do something plot important, or maybe your party member is finally getting to confront the mysterious figure from their past that features heavily in their backstory. It's not your scene, but if you are onstage or your character is there for that you're still a part of the scene. You're not the focus of attention, but that doesn't mean it's ok to check out and stare at the wall or your phone until it's your turn to do something.
When you're not the focus it's still important to pay attention to what's happening and how you respond to it. Too much or not enough reaction can make things difficult for the person who is at the center of the scene. The leads onstage are probably going to have trouble staying in character if the ensemble starts stealing the scene with over the top reactions or attempts to pull focus, but if the ensemble just stand doing nothing waiting for their cue to do something that's going make it hard too.
Support whoever's the focus of the scene by being present and engaged. Participating in the scene while still letting them have the spotlight shows you care about the effort they're putting in and care about their character's story. Match their tone, if their character is distraught about something and they're roleplaying that then it's probably not the best time for that great joke you just heard.
2. Be Flexible (stuff happens, go with it)
Now non improvisational theatre is scripted but that doesn't mean everything goes according to plan. Cues are missed, lines are dropped, someone breaks a prop, lights or microphones have issues, someone falls into the orchestra pit, the possibilities for disaster are endless. However no matter what happens, the show must of course go on.
If you know anyone who's done theatre I'm sure they'd love to tell you about the best mangled line they've ever heard, or the time some guy grabbed the wrong prop and had to get through his scene trying to dramatically threaten someone with a rubber chicken instead of a sword, or when someone's mic didn't get turned off before they headed to the bathroom, and how whatever went wrong everyone on stage had to act like this was how everything was supposed to go. Every production has stories.
And while things can't of course go off script for non scripted roleplaying, the principle of just going along with things that didn't go how you thought they would is useful for roleplaying as well.
Maybe what you planned as a stealth mission devolved into chaos when someone failed their stealth roll. Maybe the party split up and some of them have run into trouble that the rest don't know about. Maybe everyone agreed on a plan but now that's it's time to enact it someone's decided to go off book. Things are going to go wrong and I think for most of us the first instinctual response to things going wrong is wanting to fix it. When you're roleplaying though, you can miss a lot of good story if you focus too much on everything going right. Things going wrong is interesting, and gives you a lot to think about in terms of how your character would react to the situation. I also feel it's very easy to slip into meta when you get into problem solving mode, I've definitely experienced having things go wrong and then someone going "hold on, out of character for a second here's what we should do about this" or trying to take back an action that caused whatever trouble has ensued. You don't need to go looking for chaos or drama to have a good story or develop your character well, but rolling with it when it happens and dealing with it in character is something I definitely recommend.
3. Be Respectful
I mean that sounds obvious I'm sure, and more like just sound advice for life in general, but more specifically be respectful of how other people are taking a risk and putting themselves out there. Some people find acting or roleplaying more nerve wracking then others. Even if you're sitting in your living room with a few friends instead of standing on stage in front of an audience it can be hard trying to portray a character, and if you're giving it your all but other people aren't respectful of that it can be very disheartening and might discourage you from trying again.
Now the extent to which this applies to roleplaying depends both on the tone of the game and how well you know the player. Your friend doing a silly character voice in a lighthearted game probably won't care that much if you jokingly give them a hard time about it, but someone trying to seriously roleplay a vulnerable moment or one addressing a sensitive topic isn't likely to appreciate the same response. If you don't know a player well you won't necessarily know how difficult it is for them to play a character in front of other people so it's best to err on the side of caution. Basically if you want the theatre summary, even people who love acting get stage fright and that's ok, you're all in this together so be supportive!
Now these are just some things I've drawn parallels with personally, and of course probably apply more to trying to roleplay with a more serious tone and focusing more on story than mechanics (which to be fair is pretty much the only experience I have to draw on there) but they are ultimately pretty basic principles I think could apply to any game! And while you don't of course need to roleplay to be an actor or be an actor to roleplay, if you're involved with one and interested in the other I really do recommend trying it out! There's a lot you can learn from one that will apply to the other, and aside from that they're both great activities to have fun and form a community!
The rogues in D&D play a very important role, but often that role is from a very meta point of view. The guilds don’t really seem to feature that much in games and the soft underbelly of cities is not always prominent. With that in mind here are some ideas about how to add a little more life into the darker areas of your D&D cities. I am using Elizabethan times as the basis and this is by no means the only way that you can do this. This is just some of my thoughts on the topic. There are many ways a GM can go about it. Also keep in mind this is for RPG’s and not your history exam.
Historically big cities were substantially smaller than their counterparts today. They lacked infrastructure but also like cities today had to deal with growth. Construction is quite common but almost completely absent from RPG cities. London was huge by the standards of the day. It beat any in Europe and dwarfed others in Britain like Bristol. When there are large cities there is nearly always a reason for it. Other than that, lots of people live there. With London it had the Thames River which connected to the Channel and the seats of power.
One way to make your fantasy cities more alive is to consider what has made them grow, why are people coming to it. With the Thames it was a route to the sea, travel along its course and a big one was trade. The merchants, the type of merchants and how they interact with the city will give it some of its characteristics. It's also an idea to pick a couple of unique good and bad things. The famous London Frost Fairs which were held on the frozen river are a brilliant and unique place for characters to be. The real ones did not happen anywhere near as often as popular legend however. As a bad trait London did not have a lot of sanitation and the horrendous stench is legendary. This affects health, drinking water, and a general view of how the city would be seen.
Now it's also good to mix things up within the races too. While it is certainly easy to make all Elf cities smell of botanical gardens and Elvish maidens like the fields after a storm, but the contrast of making all human cities smell of mud and sewage can be a little extreme. Better to mix it up. Some human cities certainly would be in dire need of sanitation. Others though, especially ones with a lot of artists would probably have their own form of beauty.
London was a walled city for quite a while. Some common areas are named after the gate's location. Aldgate, Aldergate, Bishopgate, Cripplegate. These gates would be closed at nightfall. There were prisons within the city, not merely simple town watch cells. These were Ludgate and Newgate prisons. As well as a hospital if one can call it that. The Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem. Its history was long but it would become a place to treat the insane. Over time its name would also change and it would be referred to as Bedlam. If you have ever heard the phrase it's Bedlam here meaning the place is crazy. The Hospital is its origin.
Another thing to consider is how civilized your city is. This is two fold. A: How civilized is it and B How civilized do its citizens consider it to be. This can create some interesting nuances to the game. As an example London bridge used to have the heads of traitors on display. Slowly rotting on poles. The citizens did not consider themselves uncivilized even with such a practice being commonplace.
Even with London Bridge being accessible there was still a large amount of water taxis. Passage could be bought quite cheaply and the question all GM’s should ask is how they want to handle currency. D&D has very much focused on gold as the currency of choice, but there are benefits to moving the scale from Gold to Silver to Copper. For most common folk they wouldn’t work in Gold. For poor folk Copper would be the norm. If you want to mix your games up a little, taking a look at currency can be a good way to do it.
London did not have many true streets. It had a lot more alleyways and these were often a muddy mess when it rained. These were also the dumping grounds for human waste. Much of this was ignored until The Great Plague forced change upon the populace.
The markets were a huge mix of sights and sounds and it’s something
Most games don’t really do. To start with, the sellers would often be hawking their wares. From medicine to book sellers their cries filled the air. Blacksmiths at work and the constant clang of hammer on metal and the chimney sweeps plying their trade. Fire was a very real danger in these old cities. But there was also a large entertainment quality to the whole thing. Musicians and puppeteers were popular. London’s markets were a thing to be experienced.
Guilds are a great way of adding extra flavour to your games. I think it is also important to break those “know it all players” from the molds that they lock themselves in. For a game all about imagination, there are some who are amazingly rigid and inflexible. That there are no underworld guilds other than THE Thieves Guild and it has to be the Zhentarim. There can most certainly be lots of Underworld guilds. They might not all get along or may vie for power. They can be slightly or drastically different from city to city. This can be based on cultural bias. Be creative with the guilds.
London had a large criminal populace and the law enforcement of their day was not as diligent nor were they as organized as those of today. One of the most famous is a man called Laurence Pickering. He would hold gatherings at his house. Would be targets, money making plans and law enforcement activities would be discussed. They also had their own safe houses to hide when needed. The risk reward of their activities is hard to ascertain. How well does the average cut purse do? Were all their efforts just to survive with a little to spare? The risks on the other hand were high. Punishments were severe. Whipping, torture, branding were common place for those caught.
Laurence Pickering’s organization though has all the hallmarks of a fantasy guild and it is worth emulating. The problem with the Zhentarium in many D&D games is they are very much in the open as are the Rogues themselves. I think this creates some real problems that for the most part people overlook. I prefer to use the faction as the public face and keep it on the legal side of things. Whereas the real guilds hide in the shadows. Yet the safe houses, meetings, planning, organizing thefts, different members and groups working together are excellent things to add to darker guilds.
Another area to consider for cities is the church. In London St Pauls Cathedral was very important and a true architectural wonder. It has gone through several changes throughout its life. And It did not always have its famous dome. It played an important part in the life of London and the church wielded considerable power. The rich would have their sermons within its wall and the poor in the churchyard. It was also a place where important news would be reported on. It was at St Pauls that word came that the Spanish invasion fleet had been defeated. Business would often be conducted there and sellers would always be close as it was a popular and required destination. There are also periods where gallows were setup on its grounds. While Tyburn is the most famous of the hanging grounds there would often be temporary ones. On the law day there could be up to 30 people hanged for various crimes.
From a fantasy viewpoint the church has always been relegated to a distant position. Which is somewhat amusing considering in many fantasy settings there is no doubt that the gods exist. Classes like Cleric and Paladin rely on their deities for their magic. The healing the Clerics provide, the protection from the undead. Would give them a very solid position in which to flex their political muscles. In the city does one deity have a stronger foothold over the others? Does it have a church or a cathedral? If it does have more power how is that power manifested? For good or ill? Does that influence extend to outlying regions? How the church is interpreted in the city will have big ramifications.
All cities should be complex. More than the surface complexities of economics and who rules it. But rather the choices that have to be made to make it function. If the law can’t fully control it, what do they do? Have they made a deal with the devil? How does church and state see each other? Do they work together or oppose one another? How do the poor fit into the grand picture as there isn’t a city where the poor have not shaped the city's direction in one way or another. And in all of the mix the Underworld and their guilds watch and wait for the right time to profit.
Location location location. In D&D a great many cities in games are treated as one location. In reality they tend to be several very different districts all within one overall geographical location. Often these districts form along economic lines rich and poor or ethnic lines. China town as an example.
Elves are not the best example as they tend to be portrayed the same across the board where their cities are concerned. But human and Dwarven cities could certainly be broken up into rich and poor districts. These districts have their own feel to them. In Elizabethan times, one of the most important businesses that flourished was the brothel.
In London’s case the red light district was over the river. Close enough to be reached but a little out of sight. There was a great deal of hypocrisy involved with the policing and handling of the issue. There was a lot of money to be made. This sometimes led to public condemnation yet private support. Though even elements of the church were divided on how to deal with the issue. As were various rulers. Another problem was the Police for the day did not technically have jurisdiction in Southwark (suth-eck)though they did conduct raids from time to time.
Bard’s are considered an excellent profession in most fantasy games. The reality was not always the case. The excellent Shakespeare in love sums it as “The Master of the Revels despises us all for vagrants and peddlers of bombast. But my father, James Burbage, had the first license to make a company of players from Her Majesty, and he drew from poets the literature of the age. We must show them that we are men of parts. Will Shakespeare has a play. I have a theatre. The Curtain is yours.” This can add a very interesting element to a game. How does the populace see Bards and what they do? Does the Church or ruling body of the city see them differently? And how do the Bards themselves react to how they are perceived. Now the views of the day were not entirely baseless. The now famous Globe Theater was located in Southwark (suth-eck), today this area is Bankside. To further muddy the issue Philip Henslow also owned a brothel. One of his rivals The Curtain Theater which featured in the movie Shakespeare in Love was thought by some to be little more than a waiting room for the nights continued entertainment.
They were closed for a short period of time by Henry the 8th, at least officially. They would have still existed but for that period they were deemed illegal. This was removed after he died and Edward 6th became king. He was a very young king. He died at age 15 but in his short reign he proved to be a dangerous individual.
Sexually transmitted diseases were considered divine in nature and a punishment for those of low moral fibre who conducted themselves in lechery. In game terms this one is hard to use. A GM can certainly make Clerics of certain deities not treat a character. Others would have a care of compassion regardless of how someone contracted the disease or what profession they did. Either way it's a very delicate thing to bring into a game as it is very easy to become comical which I feel is a bad way to handle it. A GM’s group would need to be very comfortable with each other as well. But one big question if not the biggest question is why use it? There has to be a solid reason and one that brings something important to the game by its inclusion. If the why can’t be answered, then I would leave it out in any meaningful way.
It took till 1550 for Southwark (suth-eck) to become officially part of London. The area councillors had to pay quite a sizable sum to do so. From a gaming perspective there is a great deal of grey area to play with here. The city and bards, the various churches and their relationship and the view of brothels. And are any of the wards not part of the city? If not, why? And how does the populace feel about it?
The brothels were a very real part of Elizabethan culture. They generated a staggering amount of money all told, though not always to the prostitutes themselves. The patrons were across all classes, and the brothels ultimately survived the pox and all attempts to close them down.
In a game sense brothels can be a front for the guilds. A cover; albeit a profitable one for their other illegal operations. They can be a place of information gathering and political maneuvering as one tries to frame an opponent in blackmail.
Yet it is essential to not make light of these places. If it is a group where all the players are familiar with one another then a GM or player can do almost any story. RPG’s are an amazing storytelling device that can cover the full range of emotions. If it is a convention or store game of random people a GM should use common sense on what is appropriate. Still having said all that I feel it is vital that a GM and players treat these situations with a level of sensitivity. The punishments for the prostitutes could be harsh. Public humiliation in the form of being paraded in wooden carts through the street was common. If the individual was deemed to be not responding to the punishment, as in being caught again they could be tied behind the cart where many would fall and be dragged. Women would often have their heads shaved and whipping was not uncommon. These were real people who suffered, and suffered in an environment of incredible hypocrisy as the punishers could very well also be patrons.
Life was much more difficult for the Elizabethans. Today’s food, medicine and overall prosperity were undreamed of to the people of old. Our cities are immense in comparison and work and staying alive was even less of a guarantee. There was little in the way of free time and it would be the Church on Sunday’s which would prove to be time of meeting. The biggest form of entertainment back then was the fair. Today these are little more than a few travelling rides, games and food vendors and often with a poor reputation, not always fairly given. But these fairs that appear now and again in mall car parking lots can trace their lineage back hundreds of years to when they were the pinnacle of entertainment.
Some of these were quite elaborate and included a varied form of vendors and entertainment. They were not popular with the authorities though as they felt it brought crime. Which it certainly did at times. Vagrancy was a crime and the forging of papers among other items was also something the authorities were concerned followed in the Fairs footsteps, which it did. There were few social safeguards like there are today. If people didn’t have lodgings or work they would find themselves very much at the mercy of the law and society. It seldom ended well in such cases.
The Fair’s brought with them a lot of money into the region and the St Bartholomew’s monks profited well from taking a fee from the traders. In the beginning the grounds and the church were used and it was far more focused on the selling of goods. It was more a large market but as the years progressed it became more what we think of when we consider Fair’s. By that time the church itself would not be used by any of the vendors.
There was an unusual legal structure as well. There was a court known as the Court of Pie-Powder. The court sat only during the time of the fair and only had jurisdiction over the fair. Overall the charges were most often commercial in nature. If the crime was serious enough, escaping from the Fair would only put the individual in the jurisdiction of the regular law officers. Men not known for being very sympathetic.
One of the more common trades at Fair’s was that of the Horse Market and it was every bit the forerunner of the used car salesman involving all sorts of tricks to try and make a bad horse appear better than it was.
In the RPG setting the Fair’s are not often used. Markets are commonplace but not Fair’s. Adding one can add a different take on a familiar element. They are nomadic by nature so the arrival of a Fair can add some excitement to the locals. There is the market component and it is a good opportunity to add some items that might not regularly appear in the region. Mixed with that are buskers, and small plays, musicians, fortune tellers and tumblers. A criminal element can be added. Cut purses and swindlers, money lenders and the guilds. A lot can be done in and around the Fair.
When looking at Magic in this case things will get a little murky. In the Elizabethan age magic was largely considered good magic if it was ritualistic and done by the church. Exorcism, healing, blessing and so on. This was changed by the Church of England which saw things very differently. On the other side was bad magic which was everything else. Now it gets a bit murky here because in high fantasy settings magic is very real. Its a base part of the world. It's a basic part of daily life. Most people don’t have the use or understanding of magic. But they are very aware of magic both from Mages and the Divine. The gods are real, their power manifested not by faith but in very real and tangible ways through their Paladins, clergy and Clerics. Sometimes though rare as the gods are often doing godly things they have appeared before people. Sometimes when the occasion is one of great need but sometimes at their festivals. There is no doubt that they exist. So this creates a different setting baseline than it does in the real world.
Seers, Wise Women, conjurors, Sorcerers, Shamen and witches are all commonplace. In the 1500’s they would be charged with Witchcraft. Even then there was a distinction between light and dark magic. White magic was thought of as beneficial and Black as corrupting. There are instances though where some of these individuals seemed to exist within society and were not persecuted and occasionally were sought after by the authorities for help. It could have been the differences between the official stance to the day to day realities. Many of the “cunning men” or Wise Women as they were commonly known was their use of charms. It was these charms. These would cover every facet that you could think of. Healing animals and people, potions, especially of the love variety. Though I think that alcohol became the love potion of choice. Its effects though are short lived and come most often with regret. Where this gets interesting is where these individuals con artists who knew they had no actual power. Did they actually believe they did? Doctors of the day were a very mixed bag of talent and many beliefs were not beneficial. Did these local charmers by luck or understanding through the use of herbs were able to actually bring about some positive medical help or were they one of the first adaptors of the Placebo.
One of the saddest things with the Witch hunts is that they targeted the vulnerable. The women were not powerful individuals, they were poor, no family, vagrants. They may have picked up other strays like themselves in the form of a cat, mouse or weasel. Their life would not have been easy and years like that could well have made them appear and sound odd to those that encountered them. These all played into the popular idea of a witch with her familiar. By 1736 when Witchcraft was finally deemed not to be a crime there had been around 500 cases examined. More than 200 hundred were convicted and 109 were hanged. As terrible as this was it pailed when compared to Europe where in just 15 years 900 were burned at the stake at Lorraine (loren). The charges were easier to bring in the more remote villages and records may not have been kept so true numbers are always something of a debate.
Torture was not popular in England as a means to gain a confession, though the often mocked water method was. This idea was so devoid of logic that it is difficult to believe that even in the 1600’s that it was even considered let alone used. To test if the individual was a Witch they would be cast into the river. If they floated the only possible reason is they are a Witch. If they drowned then lucky for them they are innocent. There was money to be made as a Witch however and there is no shortage of known frauds who made coins in the profession. Considering the dangers of the Witch Finder General and the penalties that came with being charged with being a Witch meant that either the reward was worth the risk or they were not thinking this through clearly.
From a RPG side this sort of thing is more difficult. If two groups worship the same deity and disagree and move towards violence if it is a good deity they may just appear and put a stop to it. Many of the base things that had these poor women burned at the stake or hung, are in D&D an accepted and commonplace occurrence. There could be pockets of areas or some individuals in power who see magic and mages as evil. They might be deranged and think that they are saving them by killing them. Sometimes great stories can come from terrible events. But know why you're doing it and don’t just include something terrible for the sake of it. As always if the subject is going to be a horrific one or difficult emotional one then I strongly suggest not doing it with a random group. For a group you know well just talk with them. As a GM you do not have to give away your plot but you can sound them out on the idea of the adventure. Sometimes players just need a little forewarning for a difficult scene so it's not suddenly thrust upon them. I have never had a group say no to any story idea I have put forward. But it is always important and fair to discuss difficult situations with them beforehand to get the ok to proceed with that particular adventure.
From around 1650 to 1750 Astrology was quite popular. This is something we don’t see often in RPG’s and the conflicts that sometimes surround it. The church opposed Astrology. This was for a host of reasons. The church and Astrologers might be having different interpretations of the same events. As it was popular and people were wanting good news they went where they might be more likely to get it. This was lowering the power of the church and that wasn’t something that they were content with. Astrology was also divination and that raised the question: was it magic?
The idea of Astrology though was very old by the 16th century. The problem was that it was popular with all walks of life. From the labourers to the nobility there were enough supporters of it to make it somewhat mainstream. Banning it then would have been difficult. In RPG terms not all games have defined the night sky. In which case the GM would have to make a lot of stuff up and that maybe more hassle than it is worth.If they are willing to fudge it or an imaginative Seer player could find some fun and uniqueness at the table by incorporating the stars in their Divinations.
The War of the RRose was one of the bloodiest in English history. When it finally came to an end Henry the VII made a concerted effort to stop noble armies. This he reasonably managed to do. The one massive downside was that there were now a lot of unemployed soldiers who also didn’t have a barracks. While not all of them turned to banditry there was certainly an increase in violent incidents.
There was also the closure of the Monasteries which put the workers there out of a job. The Dissolution of the Monasteries was a complicated affair that took buildings and land from the Roman Catholic Church as England split from the faith. This was done over a handful of years under order from Henry VIII with the aid of Thomas Cromwell who would go on to lose his head for high treason. Though he never did stand trial for the charge.
Many of these individuals found their way to plying the highways. Though in this era the term highway is loose at best. Travel was not the easiest thing to accomplish and that was before the threat of highwaymen. There were few properly paved roads even within London, for the rest there were only 4 actual roads which were built by...yep the Romans. Most roads were mere tracks carved by the traffic that travelled them. There was an initiative where parishes would become responsible for their area of road and a surveyor of highways would be selected to see the work done. In reality there was a lot of corruption. The Highwayman rarely killed those they robbed if they gave no trouble. While it could be a somewhat lucrative endeavour and some had informers at the Beerhouses watching for good marks. But for all that the penalty would be death if they were caught so it was not a business that one could expect to stay in for long.
From a RPG perspective the taverns can be a somewhat under utilized establishment. They certainly feature heavily in nearly every fantasy game. We tend to treat them more as a modern bar. There certainly is the meeting, social and drinking aspect to it. There is more to it than that though. It can be a place of gossip and local news and information. It can be a place for bandit informers to be looking for possible targets. The views of the region would be important in the Taverns. How do the PC’s look compared to the locals? Do they stand out, are there unusual races in the party? Does that affect how they are viewed or business conducted? For many goal orientated parties the tavern is something to do for 5 min to get a job and be on their way. But if you are a RP group then consider adding some more depth to the Tavern and you may find that they spend a while there. Which keeps the players entertained and the GM has some time to prepare the next bit.
There was not exactly a police force as we are accustomed to. In the outlying regions they were often small or singular in nature and considered a bit of a joke. In London they were rough, difficult and corrupt. If one did harm to you or your property there was little that could be done. You could bring a charge against someone and more than likely would have to pay. There are recorded instances of the person meant to be arrested paying the authorities to walk away. If you didn’t have the money then you were at the mercy of every rogue who wanted to exploit or harm you.
There were fourteen prisons and there was very little oversight. The Prison Sgt’s were cruel and corrupt for the most part and time in a London prison was not about rehabilitation. Where a prisoner ended up had little to do with the crime or the sentence but was rather related to how much money he had available for his lodging. The movie Plunkett and Mclean shows this. Everything had a cost. There was no regular money from the government to cover food and supplies. If the prisoners could not pay they would find themselves in the lowest place of prison accommodation. Food would be poor and irregular and there are cases of prisoners dying in winter as they were not given blankets. Illness was common and sanitation non-existent. Abuse and corruption were the order of the day and there was little that could be done as there was no regulation board to hold the goals accountable. They were a business unto themselves.
There was surprising charity in the day. People would give coins to the prisoners to buy food, or give them food or clothing. In an era that was dramatically cold, grim and oppressive when compared to today the idea that people could see within themselves and in that to give to those they deemed less fortunate is an interesting state of the human condition.
Prisons tended to be places of holding and prisoners could find themselves there for unspecified periods of time. Newgate prison was the dreaded one as it was Newgate that was the home for people who were charged. That was usually a kind of death row before being hanged. Though that was not the only form of execution.
Standard detention in RPG’s is probably fine. A GM could certainly include some corruption, but the prison standards of the Elizabethan period were one of total oppression, inhumane and horror. There are certainly stories to be told there but the GM must be very sure why they are taking that direction and depending upon the severity certainly speak to the players beforehand.
So I have reached the end of my tankard. I hope you have enjoyed our time together but I must bid you farewell.
The Intrepid class was designed as a long range, multi-role exploration vessel. With enough fuel for three years. They could operate at the edge of Federation space and into the unknown and use Star bases for resupply. They are a drastically smaller ship than the popular Galaxy Glass. Crew complement comes in at a relatively small 141 personnel.
It could do over warp 9 for 12 hours but warp 6 was the Intrepid's cruise speed.
So they made a very cool and technological ship. But I have a confession to make...I only saw the first season of Voyager. It just didn’t seem to resonate with me. A big part was the setting. All the reasons I don’t like the show is pure athletics. I like the Next Gen area of space. I like its allies and I like its villains. Overall I loved DS9 but wasn’t a fan of the dominion.
So because of this it made it more difficult to like for me. For what it is I look for in the show. They also played a lot of things pretty safe especially in the romance department. 7 and the First Officer. The prettiest girl with the prettiest guy. Enterprise also with T’Pau and Trip. Not exactly a stretch. DS9 had some great relationships where the more unexpected characters had quality relationships. Leeta and Rom for one. But overall the writers went with what was comfortable and they went with it over a less conventional relationship elsewhere.
But I also don’t like Voyager as a ship. It's unbalanced and I like balance with my ships. Eaglemoss has a variant of this vessel with long engine nacelles and I like it a lot more.
So I got the Voyager ship for completionism. It is up to Eaglemoss standard and if you are a fan of the show or the ship I don’t think you will be disappointed. It comes with a booklet which discusses the class of the vessel and how the model guys made it. These are nice. I wish they came with a few more pages and added some more information. Deck plans would be nice. They sometimes miss basic info like crew sizes. But overall the booklets are nice and have cool pics of the ship.
The model has some weight to it but it isn't as heavy as some of the other ones and none of these ships are in scale to each other. Excelsior is a tiny model in comparison even though it is a beast of a ship. The detail is overall very good. The paint work is excellent. So the only part that feels a little flat is the underside shuttle which could do with a little more definition. Otherwise this is a excellent model all around and if you are a fan of Voyager then this will look very pretty on your desk or in a cabinet.
This young mage was painted in 2019 as a tabletop commission and he travelled to a new home for ongoing adventures. I had thought about using the idea of Iltheus in a game as I liked the miniature a lot. The miniature has a lot of character and for a miniature that is what I want. There are so many "badass" miniatures out there but sometimes they don't always have a lot of story. Its the small details that add life to a miniature and story. Pouches, a mug, the knights tabard is frayed or torn. How did that happen? When did that happen? Gear on a rogue not just their daggers and hooded cape.
Iltheus has story. He is so unprepared for whatever journey he has been set upon and must now go out into the world and complete it and survive. He carries his dagger awkwardly, it would be difficult to draw and impossible with his hands full. His lack of training and confidence will make it a last ditch defense.
His staff is a hunk of wood. Its not polished and covered in runes, made by the Elves or maybe even have any magical properties at all. he may have just found it laying on the ground on his travels and picked it up, complaining to himself the splinters it sometimes gives him.
The book is huge and he has decided to carry it. He can't open it without dropping his staff. It is open to the elements. It is also heavy and difficult to hold. Why did he not chose to place it in backpack of some sort to make its transport easier? Why does he not have a backpack. Did he have to leave in a hurry, was there attack or was he simply behind time and got yelled at by his master.
What is this huge book? A spellbook and in his inexperience did he choose the biggest he could find thinking this will surely be grand. Is it a cookbook for Agatha at the local tavern. A history of the occult for one of his companions, returning a library book or Vol 27 in the long running series Ghost Tales: How to be an amazing and sexy GM, just like Ghost.
His hair is in disorder. Is this how it normally is or only once he has been thrown out into the world. His face conveys concern and inexperience. he doesn't want to be where he is.
His cape is dirty and worn, has this been a long journey or is it the only one he owns?
Lastly my favourite piece of the mini. The Owl. One which Iltheus neither wants nor understands how he got it and can not get rid of the bird no matter what he tries. He is stuck with it for a real hoot. Is it just an Owl or is it something else?
The mini itself is metal and loaded with detail. It comes in at $4.99USD and that is a great price for this great little miniature. Perfect for your low level starting practitioner of magic.
Available for Reapermini.com and many good local game stores.
First off I want to say....damn I love that cover. It comes from a earlier time. If you look at Sci-Fi art from the 70's and into the 80's you can find a lot of these sorts of style. I have always loved that style.
Doing novels based on series is hard. As is a Role Playing Game. Its always a worry if your getting it right. Is the book or game Trek enough. In both instances I suspect everyone just does their best and see's what they can come up with.
I found this gem at a second hand book store. 1976 in the front cover. It features 8 short stories. I must admit I like the short story format. If I don't like the story the next one is not far off.
Does it feel Trek? Overall...yes but its certainly a sliding scale. Certainly some good ideas and as a place on my bookshelf its a pretty cool. If you can find a copy it is worth picking up.
When doing a discussion about rules I feel near every review is wrong. They nearly always treat the rulesets as a statement of fact, but this is only so in regards to the individual. If someone enjoys crunchy systems they will not enjoy narrative ones for the most part and vice versa. That is just personal preference but it can drastically drive the enjoyment of an individual's game experience. So for this I won’t try to focus on the rules as much as I do I think the rules work for a Star Trek game.
Star Trek is a difficult game. It requires something of players that is not always common. They have to believe in the setting and want to be there. Not from a mechanical rules perspective but from a setting one. A lot of GM’s ignore etiquette and setting in games. There are a lot of reasons for this. It hurts the games they are running too but it would make Trek impossible.
So the real question and the first question and seriously I think this should be asked and if the answer is not right don’t progress. The question is simply. Do they want to play Star Trek?
Now this isn’t a question of do they want to play a game of Trek. This is asking if they want to play Star Trek. Most fantasy games every character is equal. Not so in Trek. Every player is equal but within Starfleet there are ranks. These come with privileges and expectations. This also means there is a real emphasis on teamwork and the ranks are essential. In all likelihood someone will have rank over another character. The game needs good communicators.
It is also Star Trek. Combat is not always unavoidable but it is never meant to be a first choice option. Even when provoked Starfleet is not meant to respond with violence if there is any other option. So many other games the combat is the focus of the game and many times the only reason to play.
Trek relies on the RP first. Without combat being the focus the players have to really enjoy playing their character. They need to look at it more like a character on the show and enjoy RP’ing that individual.
So as a GM you can’t just have people that will play a Star Trek RPG, what you need is players who want to play that setting, be a character in it and follow the ideals of the setting. Anything less and the game won’t work and after a few sessions it won’t feel right, it won’t feel like Star Trek. GM’s be picky, you really do need the right players.
So do the rules help it feel like Star Trek. After playing the game for more than a year I think so. They fit a little more towards the crunchy side with the 2d20 system and my preference for a narrative game like Trek would be to have a more narrative system, but there are narrative elements in the rules. The base skill use is quick and focus on teamwork and helping the other players have a good time is in the rules.
Extended tasks are a bit mechanical in nature and I tend to not use them in order to keep the pace going. We have also simplified ship to ship combat as nearly every game struggles to make ship combat simple and to move at any pace other than a snail. Trek works best when its narrative, the more crunch the less narrative I have found things.
The books are beautiful and read really well. They are interesting, give you the correct feel for what the game is. A couple of companies have tried to do a Star Trek RPG in the past and I have played them all. But only the current one from first opening the book to having played it for a year feels like Trek. The Modiphius game has its faults but it gets it right in the core areas.
We are excited to be bring our Star Trek Adventures to you in 2021
It is always a tricky thing when you want to use one game but a ruleset from another. Often the conversation starts with "Do you think X ruleset is bad then?" But that isn't always the case and there are only a couple of rulesets that I really do not enjoy. The factors that go into these choices are a lot more nuanced. Game designers have to chose a ruleset that they think will match the setting. Its style and pace. That is not often an easy thing to do. The ruleset also has to be commercially successful. It will not matter if it is perfect for the setting but everyone doesn't enjoy it.
I think the Shadowrun rules are fine. That wasn't the issue. It stemmed very much from why I RP and what I look for in a game. As long as everyone at the table is having fun it doesn't matter what style or ruleset you do. But over the years I have found I have become far more disinterested in rules. I play with some friends whose eyes light up in a crunchy ruleset combat. They enjoy the tactics and resource management of those combats. They love to chose the right feat/spell at the right time. It is a totally valid way to play. It's just not me.
I am the 7 year old jumping from a tree limb as if it were a pirate ships mast. Have at thee ya muck rake! Its story, narration and the players characters that excite me. To pull me into a different world, to have unexpected things arise and to see how the players create a shared story. A improv play with rules is what fires me and Genesys (7th Sea is another) is the best narrative ruleset I have seen. The dice pulls the players into story, it helps them add good and bad elements into every skill roll they make. it encourages the players to be descriptive and to expand upon ideas. I love Genesys.
Now there was a very important distinction which I hope people noticed. I said I felt it was the best Narrative RPG not the BEST RPG. Everyone plays for different reasons and different rulesets provide for different players and their playstyles. The ruleset that works best for me might not for the next player. Find the game you love and play that with other people that want to play that way and you should always have a good evening at the table.