Simulation and Narrative

Without getting too deep into RPG Theory, my favorite game, Alternity, would be considered a Simulation game.  Like D&D, it models the world with a consistent set of rules that players use to interact with the fictional world.  Simulationist games can be simple dungeon crawls up through political games where hardly a die is thrown.  Depth of Story and Character varies depending on the table and can be as casual or intense as desired.  In Simulationist games GMs put a lot of work into crafting an environment for the players to interact with.

Counter that with Narrativist games, like Blades in the Dark.  The rules don’t simulate a world the players interact with, instead the rules facilitate the players telling the story.  The role of the GM is toned down, they are not “in charge” of the world and the NPCs.  Instead, the Players have input into what the characters encounter.  In some games players take turns with narrating the events that occur, the twists the plots take and the situations the Characters find themselves in.

Think of it this way, the Characters are approaching a small Keep on the Borderlands:

Simulationist games would have the GM describe the scene (there are 3 guards outside looking through belongings as people enter the Keep), players ask for details, (How thorough are they searching?) then relate their plans and intent to the GM, (I’m going to cause a distraction so the others can sneak by) Then there might be some roleplaying between the distracting character and the guards.

In Narrativist games, the _players_ might decide that the Keep is on heightened alert, so there are guards outside looking through belongings, another might add that they have been on heightened alert for some time and are bored and inattentive.  Another might add that one character distracts the guards while the others pass by with their weapons under their cloaks.  Then there might be some roleplaying between the distracting character and the guards.  The players switch back and forth between adding elements to the setting and adventure and roleplaying through the events.  Narrative games have dice rolls to add that random element we all love so well.  Usually there are more options than a binary pass/fail mechanic, often yielding results such as Yes and, Yes but, No but, and No and.  These push the story forward and prompt GM and Players to improvise.

It might just be me being a grognard, but I enjoy my Simulationist games.  I like the structure, be it as a player or GM.  That said, the newer indie Narrativist games are enticing.  Games like Legacy: Life Among the Ruins and other Powered by the Apocalypse style games come with loads of creative ideas and what looks to be interesting gameplay with the right group.  Next convention I attend I’ll definitely seek some out.,

<<Yes, I’m aware that my use of Narrativist and Simulationist doesn’t necessarily agree with RPG theory.  But I like the terms and think they work for my take on theory.>>

Shadowrun Music

1st edition Shadowrun

I got into Shadowrun when it first came out back in ’89. The art included numerous references to Stevie Ray Vaughn, and that has colored my campaigns ever since. Music has been a vital part of the setting, along with food. Music and food have been vital parts of the setting; food, music and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.
This was personified, literally, in Stevie, a blues playing, crossroads visiting, city spirit who was the essence of the blues and had no idea he was a spirit. A brief and troubled romance with one of the runners ended badly, as is fitting for a blues man.

The runners have a safe haven – a nightclub called The Downfall. The owner is a free city spirit named Aelaryss, she ensures there is no fighting in the club. An absolute rule that no one alive has ever violated. Aelaryss has a soft spot for runners who take care of those living on the streets. Numerous backrooms are by invitation only and give runners a place to rest when the heat gets turned up. A unique ability I’ve given her is the ability to have The Downfall become lost in the city, anyone she doesn’t want to find the place just can’t find the place.
Aelaryss takes the mic on occasion, her songs, and the mood in the club, are dark cabaret.

Short and built like a brick, Clem is a rigger who runs a body shop in the Barrens. His skin is dark dark black with white hair and beard. He provides mechanic services and wheel work when the runners require it. Clem is a kind soul who “has 38 children” and spends some weekends out of town “working on the dwarven spaceship we are building in the mountains”. In his shop he listens to Delta Blues but when joining on a run Sturgill Simpson is on the stereo.

Sparky, (she hates that name) is a young elven mage and singer. She has done a few runs and formed a close friendship with Clem. He’s the one who nicknamed her Sparky after she cast a lightning spell that didn’t go off so well. Her singing is classically trained and from the heart. For her, the Steinman classic Nowhere Fast sums up the passion in her music.

The Horned Dance are a motorcycle gang of eco-anarchists that work to disrupt the workings of the mega corps. They spend time in a bar on the outskirts of Seattle called the Wylde Hunt where they perform pagan folk music. They are a good source of info on megacorp activities outside of the city.

The Sesheyan

The Sesheyan from Alternity

Hi Folks, This is the first post about the Alternity alien species. I’ll make a post for each, then gather them together into a pdf and post it over on

The Sesheyan have long thin tails with a fanned membrane at the tip. the underside of this fan is brightly colored in males. Males also have larger ears with unique markings. The Sesheyan sense of smell is located in pits under the eyes. Their ears are used to fan air across these pits to enhance scent detection.
Females give birth to 4-6 young on average. The births happen in specially chosen communal birthing pools. The young are born in what humans call the tadpole stage, they are about a foot long, with black limbless bodies and a large fleshy tail. The young consume the natal jelly that is excreted as part of the birthing process. As they grow they change to a diet of insects and vegetation provided by the clan. They triple in size over the summer months, they then develop front limbs and dig into the clay banks of the pool where they form a chrysalis and metamorphosize into their adult forms over the course of the fall. The second birth, where they dig out from the clay, occurs at the start of fall. The young are about half the size of an adult Sesheyan, their wings are fully formed and after approximately a month they are able to migrate with the adults to the wintering grounds in the south. Births are communal and the clan raises the young as a whole.

Sesheyan culture revolves around the complex seasons of the hunt. Their homeworld, Sheya, is a moon orbiting a gas giant. The complex orbital mechanics of Sheya and the other moon’s revolution around the gas giant, that system’s revolution around the star and the movements of the planets are well known to Sesheyan shamans. With this understanding and the migrations of prey animals Sesheyan see the universe as a series of cycles. Birth to death, summer to winter, their universe fits well into their cosmology.
The hunt factors into their culture as their wanderlust. They are always hunting new grounds, looking beyond the next valley. Wandering far in search of food or tales is considered heroic. Conversely those that do not return are not spoken of and VoidCorp xenologists translated the term for them into “ghosts”, although the terms is closer to “completed” in the Sesheyan mindset. Sesheyan death rituals take into account the wanderlust. Funeral pyres are set on the highest peak as the deceased is sent on one last journey. The dead are given a new name which is used when invoking their aspect, and their life names only are used when relating tales about their lives.

The wanderlust informs the interaction between clans. There are regular meeting grounds on the migrations where clans meet exchange members and separate. Those that leave one clan for another are given new names, when talking about their time with the original clan they are referred to by that clan name, their new experiences form under a new name.

The concept of cycles influences the Sesheyan way of thinking as well. Ancestors are thought to be part of the mythic. Sesheyans invoke aspects of the mythic to inform their thinking and actions. This triggers a change in the mental architecture and a complex release of hormones. Shamans keep the tales of the archetypes alive and educate the young Sesheyan in those most useful to the individual and the clan. (Many Sesheyan have the Faith perk to represent the calling on the mythic.)

It was purely by accident that the VoidCorp mentality fit with that of the Sesheyan. When the first contact consuls explained that they could venture to the stars, the Sesheyans signed what they believed was an agreement to join the VoidCorp clan. Being given employee numbers was just getting a new name with the new clan. Over time their shamans came to realize they were being exploited and that those who left were not being treated as equals in their new clan. The Sesheyan that are taken are given special ghost names and considered lost to the hunt by those remaining on Sheya. VoidCorp even pledged that those dying off world would have their bodies sent to the nearest star to be incinerated. That is but one of the promises by VoidCorp that were never intended to be kept.
VoidCorp has studied Sesheyan culture and indoctrinates the ghosts into new archetypes of the VoidCorp “clan”. The Good Worker, the Humble Servant and others have been invented to keep the new employees in line. The shamans know of this and make a special effort to equip the young adults with aspects from the mythic that rely on subterfuge and devotion to the Sesheyan species. What’s more, the VoidCorp Sesheyan have begun to craft their own archetypes from their own communities, and even taking mythic archetypes from human culture without the approval of VoidCorp.

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