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Episode 128: The Heavy Hand of the Fourth Wall

February 20th, 2015 | Robin

Weighty personages surrounded by bullet-proof genre expectations surround us in the Gaming Hut as we examine script immunity in historical gaming.

The Mythology Hut finds us riffing a kid-friendly adventure idea arising from the superstitious connection between faeries and uncrushed eggshells.

Pol Jackson poses an Ask Ken and Robin poser about the difficulty of staging Tomb of Horrors style gotcha traps for today’s F20 players.

Finally, as the Oscars approach, we grab some popcorn in the Cinema Hut as we reveal our top ten lists for 2014.


Attention, class! Anchor sponsor Atlas Games wants to enroll you in Mad Scientist University, the card game of evil genius, insane assignments, and unstable elements. Act now, Ken and Robin listeners, and they’ll throw in the Spring Break expansion set for free. Shipping within the US is also free.

This episode is also brought to you by the Plot Points podcast. After you listen to us, listen to them analyze RPG adventures as literature.

Modern Myths wants you to know about its booth, a veritable oasis of roleplaying both indie and trad, at PAX East, right across from Indie Games on Demand.

17 Responses to “Episode 128: The Heavy Hand of the Fourth Wall”

  1. GB Steve says:

    My mum told me about the crushing eggshells superstition, as well burning cut hair so they couldn’t use that for their magic.

  2. GB Steve says:

    Also, if you’re interested in fairies in New York, you could do worse than Martin Millar’s Good Fairies of New York.

  3. Ironicus says:

    I’d love to hear a segment on Giacomo Casanova. Does Time Inc. want to interrupt his espionage for the French? Does the Consulting Occultist think his memiors’ insistence his cabalism was a fraud was a bluff covering up true power? Is there a Gaming Hut topic to be teased from the individual adventurer bouncing around the world’s great cities until his reputation outgrows his skill and charm?

  4. Sean Phelan says:

    Dear Ken & Robin
    To what extent may named NPCs meet their demise off-screen?

    In an ongoing Dark Heresy story arc, in a particularly dark scene, to ramp up the tension/emotion an extra notch, an NPC of rank but of little familiarity was to be discovered in his last dying moments. So he would pass into the Emperor’s waiting arms in the PCs’ presence, but his demise would have been essentially off-screen.

    Of course, I then determined if one is going to go to all of this trouble, why for grimdark’s sake wouldn’t you go all the way? So, I introduced this NPC into the story much earlier so the PCs would have additional reasons to care.

    However, the story taking on a life of its own, as can so hopefully be the case, the NPC in question now sits in the storied front row. While this development, from the GM’s standpoint, makes his demise all the more desirable, it now feels questionable to have it occur essentially off-screen due to the character’s key status. Does a deeply entwined Sam Houston suffer the fatal blow off-screen, (even if he takes his last breath on center stage)?

    I look forward to your illuminating counsel.

    Your faithful listener
    Sean

  5. Terry says:

    The Food Hut meets the Cryptozoology Hut:

    http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/04/unicorn-cookbook-found-at-the-british-library.html

    Anyone have a good recipe for penanggalan guts marinaded in vinegar, maybe? How do Ken and Robin like their aswang?

  6. Cambias says:

    I suspect you crush the eggshells so they’ll break down nicely in the dungheap, but somebody’s mother got tired of explaining that and made up a story instead.

  7. Erik Otterberg says:

    Force Majeure is a Swedish film, not Swiss. So to Swedish films om Robins top ten. Great episode boys.

  8. darren t. says:

    I think the idea of mixing traps with the story is quite an interesting idea. It would be easy to have some odd trapmaker going through the area & leaving traps, so the story is where the party finds an almost dead victim of the trap, then solve the mystery of healing the person or the village from the threat of the trap.

    Though K&R hit on a better idea which is to use a more narrative system where death isn’t as often, like Fate or Gumshoe which is more geared to dealing with puzzles, might be a better fit to go with a different system used to traps/puzzle solving. As for the repeated death issue from this idea of a trap filled area, Paranoia is also an option so if someone dies, they get a +# attached to their name then proceed to solve it again if failed or move on.

  9. Rob Whitaker says:

    Who owns the rights to ‘Nightmares of Mine,’ and is there a chance of it being released again in the future? Do you know of (or have you written) similar books for designing non-horror games?

    • KenH says:

      Those rights reverted to me after Iron Crown’s bankruptcy, and I repurposed the great majority of the text into GURPS Horror, which is still available from Steve Jackson Games.

  10. Fridrik says:

    I just listened to Pol Jackson question to Ken and Robin as well as their answer. And the discussion gave me an idea.

    I think it would be great fun to play one of these old DnD murder dungeons as a ‘Grounhog day’ like game. The players go into the dungeon. The curse takes hold and until the players solve the dungeon they are forced to relive the day the enter the dungeon again and again.

    In practice it would function like this. The players enter the dungeon. They start the adventure and start dying in horrible ways. once they all die, or the decide to rest the day resets and they find them self walking into the dungeon again in the same shape as when they first did, but now with the memory of the previous day. Any monster a player has fought is at a 1 point disadvantage against that player, and keeps getting one more point of disadvantage against said player every time they fight again. The dungeon stops resetting once the players solve the dungeon.

  11. Charles Picard says:

    Now that my toddler is getting a bit more self-sufficient, I’m getting some time to delve into this source of unalloyed geeky goodness. It’s very rare to find 100+ hours of something so delightful to ponder. Every few episodes I find something I need to delve into more… I guess I’ll leave comments on specific episodes about specific things when I have the time.

    Meanwhile, thanks Robin (or Simon?) for the lovely Drama System Bundle on Bundle of Holding… great stuff. I hope you are planning on pimping this on the next K&R.

  12. bigAl says:

    Hey, just found your podcast, from looking at the RPG Golden Geek awards. Great show, any chance of getting a list of those movies you mention in this episode?

    Thanks, looking forward to hearing more.

  13. Josh says:

    We’ve seen a lot of argument recently about whether ISIS is “really” or “essentially” Islamic, which made me think, I’ve never heard anyone debate whether the Taiping Rebellion was “really” or “essentially” Christian. Which in turn lead to the thought that the story of Hong Xiuquan’s conversion is not so different from downloading an alien entity into his brain. What does Time Inc think of that?

    And is it the rare exception to Ken’s dictum to use Earth as your setting? I speculated about that plot as a con game for time travelling PCs, but maybe too much risk of offending people with the religion issues. Then again, lots of gaming is on the heretical side…

  14. Robin says:

    My top ten:

    Under the Skin
    Only Lovers Left Alive
    The Grand Budapest Hotel
    Inherent Vice
    We Are the Best!
    Force Majeure
    Birdman
    Penance
    Boyhood
    Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

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