Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice

Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice! is a podcast by Roger Bell_West and Michael Cule, in which we pontificate on role-playing games.

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That "Oh, Wow" Moment 01 June 2014


This month, Roger and Mike discuss Paranoia and adversarial GMing, ask how little you can tell your players before a campaign starts, have a rant about story games with limited-use abilities, and praise thematic worldbuilding. Michael was wrong: it's the Truils who are the white, dark-dwelling cannibals on Heluso & Milonda. And to answer Roger's question, there are tides and the Ob-Lobs (who should know) say the world is a sphere and the ocean is only part of it.

We mentioned Different Worlds, Paranoia) (which was indeed West End Games' first RPG), Dramasystem, The Laundry Files RPG, Reign of Steel, Tales From the Floating Vagabond, Nikolai Yezhov, The Doomfarers of Coramonde, Roger's Torg under GURPS, Alarums and Excursions, GURPS Zombies, The Walking Dead), Microscope, Trail of Cthulhu (GUMSHOE system), Hamlet's Hit Points, Madness Dossier (not yet published), the Bundle of Holding Primetime Adventures, Patricia C. Wrede's Worldbuilder Questions, Reign and Numenera. Music by Kevin MacLeod at

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 04:08pm on 08 June 2014

    I agree there can be issues if what the campaign is apparently about changes under the players feet. Keeping characters relevant is important, but extra points to be spent later doesn't always fix the problem. In GURPS for example IQ is critical for magic use, so a character that was already designed with high IQ is going to be able to do a lot more with the extra points than a chracter designed differently. And it's no good saying "well you designed a swordsman what do you expect with high strenth" if the player would have been really interested in a nascent mage if only they'd known the game was about that.

    But I also have sympathy with Mike wanting his "oh wow" moment. I once played in a Space Marshalls campaign run by Bob Dowling where for some reason quite early on (before there was an in campaign spoof) I thought the campaign was going to about first contact with aliens, and when ultimately it wasn't I was a little disappointed.

  2. Posted by Owen Smith at 04:35pm on 08 June 2014

    You say we haven't really been challenged in the TORG. It's certainly felt challenging at times. The issue is Possibilities, when you have plenty of them nothing is ever likely to be risk-of-death challenging. If you run out then combat becomes lethal suddenly. I'm finding it an exercise in rationing Possibilities, using them when it matters but not when it doesn't (some of the other players don't appear to have fully grasped this yet).

    Also there are times when I have to give something up, eg. the truck crash with Wu Han. He is a more powerful character than one PC as an enemy. It was obvious that he was going to try something every round to crash the truck, and I would have to spend a Possibility in mosts rounds to stop him until I ran out. So it seemed the obvious thing to do to accept the inevitable and let him crash the truck in the second round, rather than pointlessly burning off all my Possibilities and then having the truck crash.

    I think TORG is meant to be like this. The PCs are larger than life heroes, they're meant to get through things without serious injury. The game is set up like this, and the novels I read were the same at least until the climactic final scenes. Do you really think a campaign like this would work if there was a risk of a PC dying every session?

    I've played under a GM where every PC could die almost at any time. The GM complained that we rarely completed any plots. But this was because the players were always watching out for character survival, and would back off when the signs started to turn nasty. "We need plausible survivability, and that staircase had none" as Bob Dowling one of the other players under that GM put it.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 04:54pm on 08 June 2014

    Re campaign changes: we've talked about the bait-and-switch problem before. The one of those that I think I got away with didn't directly involve the PCs; it was a revelation about the nature of the ships they'd been casually riding through hyperspace.

    Re Torg: Good! I don't want to kill off the party, but nor do I want you charging blindly through hordes of bad guys without breaking a sweat. I think that something I may still have trouble with in GURPS, and this might come up in a future segment, is that a loss of actual hit points isn't necessary to reflect the fact that you've had a tough struggle, where in xD&D it's pretty much expected. (As you may remember from the dungeon bash game I ran a few years back, where generally the PCs wouldn't be down on hit points after a fight; in GURPS, actually taking damage is often a sign that you're about to die.)

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