Sunday, October 30, 2011

Suicide Hotline lessons, Relationships, and some small catchups

Sadly little in the way of pictures as my comments in the last one suggested, but I've been busy this week and I've been busy with a lot of things this week. I'll try and work on readability with my next more major one.

Annoyingly, I made a mistake with last week, as they went off schedule a little and did the last module on the same day, leaving me a bit confused with things as they went this time. Fortunantly, I fairly heavily studied at least the parts of information we would have got, on the subject of loss and grief. Pretty simple, the main lesson being to understand different people value things and not to find 'minor' losses as minor to other people. Being the greenie and misanthrope I am, that's not a hard concept.

This week, the topic was relationships. Basically looking at patterns for people in crisis and how effects can ripple and the amount of work relationships have with other things. That is to say, death of immediate family can adversely affect relationships with friends or more distant family. A large focus that came with that was the concept of reframing, most Americans should be familar with framing with certain events in the last decade, rephrasing something that would be negative to sound positive. A surge in the war as opposed to an escalation being the obvious example. This is a minor extension of this, basically trying to nail in stratergies for how to turn what a caller's said is a problem and find positives within it.

Tying to it, another large focus of the later half of the day was determining meaning and feeling, a bit of a trick to get around caller evasiveness, and trying to phrase questions to figure out more detail of their circumstances, then narrow it down to the immediate things that need to be addressed. This I've not been doing well with, apparently it was most stressed last week. But it's a solid area to improve on.

Yet again, the session was accompanied by not one but two people that work the hotline regularly. Again talk of the actual hotline work, this time a lot of it was spent on the more sexual based calls the hotline tends to get. As horrific as it must be to most people, was wonderful to me. It actually really does sound like an appealing job. Very varied and interesting. That may say more negatively about me then it does how good a job is, but it's important to get work you want.

On the subject of work that's wanted. Due to the continued stuff with my unemployment, I've finally finished sorting things out with Open University Australia, a distance education service that blows my local university out of the water, and actually has crazy things like minors I want to do, and come the end of the next month, I'll be trying them for a period of time to see if it's a viable option for me. This would be amazing as I'll actually be able to at least start on my psychology education while keeping enough free time for the hotline's practice. While the course will be considered full time, keeping me out of trouble. Had I taken that damn awful job, I'd of never had the time to even sort this out, let alone discover it, make sure it'll work with circumstances and how it does compared to local choices and such.

Of course, study from home is hard, distractions are going to be a lethal threat and something I need to work on intensely. I've had poor luck in the past with this.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Setting up your own Tabletop RPG: Cruel animal testing

The other day with my last post on actually setting up my own game got a lot of responses that seemed to find it complicated. That isn't really true. It's less complex then it sounds, there's just a lot of little pieces to it. And 3-5 large ones named your players.

The only thing I'd consider a challenge is the latter.

And even then, they're alright. In response to that post, the 'slowest' friend actually was quite motivated and I helped them make large swathes of progress with planning their character. So much so that we actually got a lot of testing for a very, very basic set up of a single character using all the rules against an enemy a few times.

It ended very... appropriately to the series that inspired it. On the third fight too. It was however a very interesting And reassuring.

The most controversial part of my game would definitely have to be the very harshly limited mana people have. Its the most bitched about thing among my players but I find it an intrinsically important aspect of setting up the world. So I have been deeply paranoid about it.

Complaints against it include such that it's a broken, horrible system if you can't always turn a profit with a fight with the main enemies that provide the way to get mana back, and that the sheer amount of things you have to pay for are cruel. (E.g. You'll pay a little with reactive use of a defense power in response to being attacked.)

The first I really want to be a point of the game. In a group you likely won't get a fair share. That's part of the harsh reality you're meant to overcome. (By friendship or violence.) When alone your chances are better, but in addition to the risk of death that comes with no support, you're the only target and need to burn more mana to win. The only real way to overcome that is gauge how little defense and offense you need, by holding back your full levels of ability you save little bits of mana, how miserly can you be (e.g. could the environment help kill?) or just overwhelmingly strong, so you need few attacks to put them down.

Anything less, being wasteful or of poor judgement should end in disaster. It need not be lethal, that's its own thing. I feel thats appropriate.

The test, largely a single character against forces, in one case obscenely powerful in comparison, in another case drawn out against multiple fairly weak gated enemies in small number and the last against a few strong enemies with a smidgin of tactics were all very revealing.

Each drained a large percentage of mana, causing only a very small profit of gainback from the kills. But then that might be a perfectly reasonable point for being alone. The risk of death I can only describe is deliciously accurate to what I want. The ability to escape exists but isn't a given, and on re-learning that the arbitrarily weaker minions are capable of lethal damage as well as nonlethal was very uplifting. Approaching death is both predictable enough to be fair, and erratic enough to still snatch people before a guaranteed escape.

To get back onto the first paragraph and the main subject of this, if people do actually have interest in tabletop games. They need not feel so afraid. Not every person nor game needs silly things like playtests, common sense and the typical book's suggestions are all you truly need. These help a game, but that's just like anything one does a lot vs. something one does casually as a hobby. It's practice for the future.

Try it and see.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Setting up your own Tabletop RPG: Special edition report from the front lines

I've been sick, again, and thus missed my lesson at the suicide hotline yesterday. Fortunately it was an overview day that was only a couple hours, as opposed to 7 hours cram and practice. I suspect I did not miss much. I asked  the people in charge to contact me with the online component if anything important was missed, but they have not yet, so I'm hopeful that's the case.

Instead, large parts of yesterday that weren't wasted were spent trying to sort things out for my upcoming game. It's been quite a mess, as such a project tends to be, and given my recent posting on the subject, a few thoughts about it might be interesting.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


A bit of an update. I'm on the mend from my sickness, which is nice. I've also spent a lot of time trying to get my new campaign started. I've picked up a couple recruits for it so now I'm up to a big five again. It's been a while since I've GMed a game with that many people, so I'm curious as to how it'll go.

Looking through my stats, it seems Minecraft's still my most popular post. Not sure how I feel about that. I'd like something more intellectual. But ah well. Minecraft is a fun game and with the varrious updates lately. With the adventure update, I've... had something to talk about.

I started a new map, intially trying to run it under my castle run rules, but it quickly became evident that wouldn't be feasible immediately.


Behold, the Glitch Lands

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Setting up your own Tabletop RPG: Getting the game to start

To go alongside my older post, I think today especially highlights a few points to get out on this.

Last time I covered points to planning on making a game. This time we'll be figuring out how to use these materials on getting a game started. Next tiime, we'll get into keeping it going. It's harder then it sounds and this is probably the busiest stage, and it gets into my most favorite the single worst part of games as a major subject, so lets get into it and start with this horrible, horrible subject;

Do note, none of these steps necessarily come in any single order, they should be referred to roughly simultaneously.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Suicide Hotline lessons, Second second report

Ho boy. I am definitely sick. One of my eardrums blew up during the middle of the day and I wound up sleeping 12 hours straight after getting back. Still, I'm glad I've powered through the day for the lesson.

Today we actually got into the real meat of the subject. Specifically the model we use when talking with people. It's a complex system, while previous training with phone jobs follow a fairly linear path, this takes on a different way due to the inherintly unstable nature of callers we receive.

Basically it's been divided into three specific sections, essentially connecting, actually getting the information from the caller, as last time confirming they're talking about suicide, or say, violence to another person or just calling for something else, as both are also common calls. Understanding, where we get an understanding of reasons for their wanting to die and try to create an ambivilance in if they want to live or die. Lastly, resolving. This is the hardest since its very important to remember we're only really able to help in a crisis. This involves getting them to make a plan to continue help with professionals.

Each of these with about 4 specific sub areas to detail them even further. Its quite hard and I'm going to need to spend a while working on memorizing it. Its complex, but fun.

The class is also interesting. Because of the nature of this double lesson, one of the people was someone that had been working on the phones since 2007, I believe? They had a lot of insight into the lesson and the common calls. It seems like a fun environment once working full time. I'm hopeful I'll have time to work there still once I'm done with the training.

Very fortunately, this will be the only double session of the training we'll need to do, so I have a week to get better.

For now though, I think I am gonna try and get a bit more sleep. I have a lot of plans for the tomorrow that stats in 23 minutes from the time of posting this.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Suicide Hotline lessons, Second report

It's a double day today, cramming in study for learning the actual model we'll be using. We didn't get too much in depth on it today, mostly establishing framework on things.

For how in depth we got last time, it was a lot less so this time around, I suspect because they said multiple times they were saving the worst of it for today's lesson. we'll have to see.

There was a lot more fun discussion though. Though again, the most fun could have been avoided when during discussion about permissible suicide in euthanasia circumstances. There seemed to be universal agreement with such being fine. Maybe I'm a masochist but discussion on such is fun, to me, and easy agreement is boring.

The most interesting thing has to be though, during a part of it, we had a roleplay where we were to confront a case we had been studying. The typical bullied student situation, that's now about to have them commit suicide. A most facinating part of it is that there's a demand to say the words "Are you planning on killing yourself" (Or committing suicide, something to the same effect) as part of it, and for how easy it is to think that, there's a surprising amount of mental barriers that attempts to get in the way of actually putting that into words in time of a crisis.

Its massively important and actually being able to say that is a requirement of the course, though, and with good reason. Due to the way society tends to avoid talking about such, in the case of people actually giving killing themselves actively will find saying such a very large relief, and become far more willing to talk. This was apparently a large difference between older models other groups use and the one we're using. There was a massive effort to tip toe around actually mentioning suicide, due to worries of enabling people to do it, giving them permission or adding excuses to it. When actually in the circumstances

I'm not a fan of such crappy emotional barriers affecting my behavior, I've always preferred to behave a bit more objective, so I have high hopes for trying to tear down that mental barrier in myself, and look foreward to continuing today when I leave for the second half in a few hours.

Unfortunately, I also feel kind of like crap, and think I'm coming down with something. Half the day was spent trying to ignore a bad headache and now my throat's gone to crap. I'm gonna have to power through today and enjoy being sick during the week, I suspect. Ah well.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Setting up your own Tabletop RPG: Setting up the game

This is not my most formal of posts, as I can't say I've had exceptional experience with  Game mastering (Henceforth which shall be abbreviated to GMing.) My real life/meatspace games were typically very patched together and fell apart quickly. Online too, I had very little luck, until a few years ago when I started my old game I call "Cthulhutech in spaaaace", which lead me to getting my main source of gaming friends. I may know more about what not to do then to do as a result, and so a warning to people, all my advice may be entirely subjective.

But this is a subject I've been asked about and want to get into. This will be a long one, so I'm splitting it over at least a couple days, this post will be related to the preamble for getting a game going, Figuring out what you want and getting the materials to do it. Next up I plan on getting it set up to begin a game, and then possibly keeping it going once you have started in the last part.

The disclaimer out of the way, let's begin a magical journey.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Suicide Hotline lessons, first day report

So yesterday was my first day for the lessons, some very releiving news is that its far less intense then I had assumed. It seems there was an error sending me my schedual and I assumed it was about 3-4 weeks of 7 hours training every day. Fortunantly its (normally) only saturdays that are taken up due to most people having courses or jobs to attend to. This means it'll be a lot longer in training then I thought but I can't complain after how fun it was. Going to have to change some plans that assumed I'd have the weekends after a month, but that's relatively minor.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Designing propper bosses in PnP RPGs

I should first mention, a good deal of this knowledge comes from my more experienced friend who has designed far more monsters made to fufil this roll, but I've been doing it a while and I'd like to think I know a few tricks too.

I should say, I've never really been a fan of the idea of 'bosses' as they tend to work out in either dungeon crawls or typical games, a big fellow lurking at the end of the dungeon who is arbitrarily a stronger, tougher foe. That seems uninteresting and often brings up questions for why they aren't guarding the front entrance personally. A lot of games have mechanics explicitly for this in enemies, and I try to avoid those systems.

What I do love is unique people that actually deserve either a position of having the power/resources to be a challenge. Singular monsters that come alone to mess things up, powerful pets, named, plotty important people. Its more appealing and at least a little more original. But I'm not a fan of running dungeon crawls, so that affects it too.

That's what I try to  go for but these tricks will work with both schools, but the latter is my primary focus.

  •  Build them like a tank. A lot of games give multiple ways for people to defend themselves, these are easily broken down to they're either so fast they're hard to hit, or so tough a hit doesn't meaningfully hurt. These are both valid options for players, but a major enemy will often find itself outnumbered and surrounded. It needs to be able to endure multiple successful attacks, even if the attack needs to be very accurate, its a different game for a dodgey player avoiding one enemies attack and a dodgey boss avoiding four or five simultaneous attacks. Sheer luck will let enemies hit regularly, but without endurance, they'll be weakened far quicker. Conversely, if they're more resistant, they'll be hit more, but either lose so little health it won't matter for the time needed for them to provide the challenge, or they'll resist puny attacks, causing the players to need to expend resources to help, a bit of a challenge in itself.
  • Give them a safety net. Some sort of way that lets them re-attempt a failed attack, avoid or reduce the impact of a particularly bad one, or heal up some damage. Its best if that's limited. The fight should end, but its nice to make a backup so that it doesn't just too quickly. Players, being the cruel and petty things they are, also enjoy removing the precious resources of their enemies.
  • Mobility, this is more subjective to systems, but you want to ensure that every character can be reached, even if only difficultly. The ability to fly or shoot at flying ranged attackers. The ability to continue moving to chase down people that run. Players that learn they can exploit something because it can't get up to or catch up with them will take every opportunity to.
  • When building or testing, if you can, aim for being just a tad over the line of too powerful. This is very hard to get right, and goes against initial common sense, but this ensures you'll have the closest you get to a desirable challenge. Not only that, players are like cornered animals. They'll scrape up every single little advantage they can get. This is fairly appropriate for important for challenging fights.
  • Never be afraid to have the environment play a part in fights. Its often looked down on and considered a gimmick, but if its something thats telegraphed, everywhere or rare can be accepted, and if it's  very manipulable environment during a fight, especially if with a little effort players can turn it against their enemies or use it for their own advantage they will often absolutely adore it. Players using something that isn't just their ability to devastating effect is probably one of the single most memorable things they'll come away from games with.
I'm sure there's more tips, but this is the largest points I can think of for right now. If you can think of any other ideas, please mention them!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A short little catch up

Man, it has been a long time since I've touched this. I doubt people even care, but that's alright. I'm free enough I can try again on hunting down a regular viewership. I initially stopped updating, telling myself it'd just be till I had some news, I had none, sickness and events caused me to miss finishing my game right when schedulaed, which would'a been a major subject, then games like Deus Ex added onto that.

Now though? I think I've got news in droves. How to sum up the last month or so?

  • New games, Deus Ex has been awesome fun, though I can add nothing new that's not know, its awful outsourced bosses almost ruin the game. I haven't actually beaten the game, I faff around too much with othet things to focus on it, then I think about making new characters that are built smarter. It's a mess.
  • I've been spending more time on old games, trying to catch them all in pokemon, a goal I'll never achive legitimately due to event legendary and living in Australia, but I try. Mount and Blade, probably one of the most fun games ever, and most of all a recent (re)purchase of GTA 4 on the PC, as opposed to my old 360 copy. It was cheaper to get it with the episodes, rather then just get them on xbox live due to Australian point costs. Plus I don't have to deal with my SD TV and inability to enjoy the Euphoria engine, I hate it.
  • My SD TV evidently hates me back, it blew up in my face when I last tried to play on it. Good riddence. Now I have... the spare old SD TV we couldn't even sell. At least it does work for non HD games.
  • Jobs have been interesting. I got a big interview with the suicide hotline I've been going for, an indimidating as fuck pannel interview, But I actually did great at it. Maybe too bad. I could visibly see a bit of disappointment when, on an attempt at grossing me out with a story, I spent several long seconds debating on if I should answer with empathy and find that offputting, or misanthropic and honest and say I find it interesting, and finally picking the latter. When I got talking of plans for furthering study in psychopathology, I was offered the papers I needed to sign on the spot, I'll be attending the training next week.
  • Only a few days latter I got an interview with a company I was seeking a job from a long time ago. like, years, specifically the one I stopped bothering with on being told they'd only accept 'official' jobs that I'd been paid for. The interview, just for setup, was hellish. No cothes were clean or ready, hair was a mess, car wouldn't work. I finally get in, and my interview goes okay, I slaughtered the written part but I recorded myself during the one on one part and I was a tragedy. Plus I had already made commitments with the hotline and confirmed them at this point. 
  • A week later, after not only had the hotline details been done even more, I'd already completed it's online components, but I was looking into tying it directly into education, furthering it all for myself, it'd shave just a little time off the 8~10 years I kind of want to spend on study. And the motherfuckers offer me a job. It'd kill every one of these and give me 4 hours a day not spent sleeping, working or commuting. If I don't sleep in. Oh and they want me on weekends too. I have to turn this down, I'd literally have nothing to live for besides this. Maybe two years ago I'd consider this, but its three months till education again, two weeks till hotline training. And so I do.
  • But then the unemployment agency find out I've turned down paid employment for filthy plebeian volunteer work. The hell I get for this is so bad I even gave up for a while and tried to see if I could get the job they were offering still. I don't. They don't care. How could I try and help with people that are suicidal (Less then 1% of suicide callers attempt suicide. Its merely potential/now criminals or the extremely depressed. Thats even less important) while furthering my life long career goals, as opposed to burning myself out of wanting to work ever, doing nothing for three months straight, quitting for education, and getting shit for quitting a job when I now have university fees to pay. Maybe after having my unemployment pay removed for 8 weeks'll learn me.I hate Excelior for this so much, I'd boycott everything they touch but since their main focus is helping with Australian taxes, I'm gonna have trouble avoiding that, for now...
  • On an infinity happier note, I finally finished my long, long, long running campaign. Not only that, actually, but I got it finished in a way that I think my players found fun and interesting. A little minor drama happened but that kept it all being a happy ending, too, instead of a sad one. It had a lot of closure. Frankly I kind of surprised myself at how well it turned out. A quirk of RPGs is that endings for them are probably the single hardest thing to do. That, or a little of monster design are going to be my next post, which'll be here soon. Hopefully. Now though, my focus is on the next game.
It's been an interesting mess. I definitely do not want to have a pause like this in my activity again. There's no excuse for letting all this slide by the wayside.