Gamers of the World: Unite

A discussion I had recently was with someone had meandered into how they feeling like people were going to alienate them for their lack or knowledge of a game system. I can understand that feeling of being like you would be cast to the outside as I grew up as one of those outcasts in school, the kid who was too unfit to be a jock, too nerdy to be preppy while being too socially adjusted to be a stereotypical nerd, even wore second hand clothes well before the practice was acceptable. I just had my clique of friends I hung out with and was made fun off by the kids in my class. So I know all about alienation.

However, one place none of us should be alienated is at the gaming table. I know we all had experienced some sort of experience where we felt like the outsider, maybe not the same way as I have but there is always that view of being a little different, a little stranger than all the others. I don’t think we should have to feel that from the group of players of a game we enjoy. These days, RPGs are a lot more acceptable than they were in the eighties and nineties when I was growing up and interested in them. I think part of this is because of the advance of video games, like Baldur’s Gate, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Elder Scrolls, and so forth getting people interested in roleplaying games and having some explore the source material. Also it could be due to some of the famous people bringing the hobby into a much better light than it was a generation ago.
You will see Vin Diesel talking about his D&D character, even having it be part of the inspiration to the Witch Hunter movie and writing the foreward of the book 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons. We have Wil Wheaton having a channel on Youtube where he gets to play games weekly and introduce them to people (not to mention the weekly RPG broadcast he did, and others done on the same channel). I would have loved to sit at a table with Robin Williams,  if he put some of the zany energy of his standup into his characters. All walks of life including porn stars like Sasha Grey and basketball player Tim Duncan.



Teldore #2: Electric Stone Boogaloo  

So, it seems like the Goblin is now a member of our group fully. He had his mana clear removed after Boris felt he earned it in saving his life and he is showing his value… however I am wondering about exactly what the townspeople will think after all that has happened with Goblins there are bound to be some racial moments where he is judged by what he is rather than who.

I have been doing a lot of soul searching this night, attempting to prove my commitment to the Great Mother, more to myself than to the Mother I think. When we discovered the magician’s laboratory it felt good to be out of the sewers and then finding people after the skeletons…. it was a definite sign things were changing. I just wish I knew how much they would be changing.


Tell Me More about Teldore #1

This is from a Roll20 campaign, some in-character thoughts and observations. Basically a mental character journal for the events of this campaign and maybe some bluebook storytelling. GM, feel free to make use of anything.

So, I have been with this group for a while and we’ve done well, or so I thought. This morning’s fight shows I will need to run the group through the same drills that my combat teachers taught me as… well, they got their asses handed to them like soft fleshies tend to do. Reckless positioning, no use of cover, not even support maneuvers. Thank the Great Mother that we managed to come out of it alive, with her watching over her servant in a time of need.

Of course, Boris decided to keep one of the Goblins as a… pet? I seriously don’t know if that is a good idea, but it does two things. It keeps Boris busy and it keeps a Goblin out of trouble. I just will have to keep an eye open to make sure that the Goblin, according to Boris hereby known as Jeffrey, stays safe and well treated.

When returning back to town we investigated a map we found after our fight which brought us to the Blue Tower, a tower which the guards took over from a magician and apparently will hold more secrets than they know. We now have a goal, but to get inside without hurting anyone who doesn’t deserve it may be a problem.


The Name Game

I’ve talked about Fallen London before, but they recently brought back some content that I think is worth talking about as a new focus. Seeking the Name. “It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s one of the most interesting, disturbing quests you’ll ever regret taking on.” to quote Rock, Paper, Shotgun article here. I mean, the whole next paragraph is as follows:

Seeking The Name is the exact opposite of most RPG quests. You can argue it has an element of fighting for justice to it, but that’s not really the point. Really, from the point of view of your Fallen London character, it’s less a quest than it is a curse – a voracious hunger, an unstoppable drive that strips them of everything they have and promises nothing in return. One of the standard Fallen London slogans is “All will be well and all manner of things shall be well.” Seeking The Name is so far removed from that, the game itself regularly breaks character to tell you that you are making a mistake, that you should turn back, and that nothing awaits but pain, suffering and more pain. Pain like losing half your stats in a single click. Pain like throwing away your Destiny. Pain like sacrificing your hardest earned possessions just for a chance of progressing.

Normally, in Fallen London, you build up your character by doing storylines. Usually most are repeatable mini-quests, following iterations of a few choice forks like a choose your own adventure book. You do them, build up stats and resources and further yourself into stories deeper and deeper. This one is instead one that you will be broken on, as mentioned above. A lot of the in game backstory is discussed in places like this, a Fallen London tumblr discussion page and it is quite an interesting story, but I mostly like it for the idea of how it is giving the players literally enough rope to hang themselves and then the freedom to do it. Something that, as Rock Paper Shotgun says, you don’t see enough of in games. An actual ‘Hey, go do this thing that will literally make your game harder, because it’s different’.


Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me…

In trying to find some inspiration for adventures and plots, I find myself revisiting classics to try and find new ideas and new twists to throw in. In a Shadowrun game, I had my players do a strike on a drug lab after watching Robocop 2, which is a pretty basic example of inspiration but for something more complex, after watching the first Mission Impossible movie, I had the idea of what if there was a second team that was already on site. Granted, I took some liberties with the idea and turned it into a story where the second team was already infiltrating the facility the characters were going to, but it kept the players on their toes, especially when the guard caught one of the characters surveilling the building and thought it was part of the other team and tried to catch him.

So, as you can see by the above and may know after reading this blog,  one big thing that I believe in is that players don’t win all the time, and it may not be the belief of many GMs out there. I don’t directly stack the deck against them ad obvious as that example may seem, but I got the idea as a twist on the ‘Stealing the Pinch’ bit from Oceans Eleven where after an off-camera steal of the item they have to rescue their collegue who went in after them and got noticed.


Don’t Play Video Games

The title of this might sound weird for this blog, especially given as how I have talked about video games in some of the most recent posts. However, I was re-reading “Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads” which is the writers from R. Talsorian Games giving advice to the players on ways to run better games. This was one of the articles under their Dirty Tricks for using on players and it got me thinking about how it basically says a lot of what I felt like saying and very succinctly, and its title was ‘Don’t Play Video Games’. (more…)

Character, I Do Not Choose You

In “By Your Powers Combined….”, I talked about the idea of how in a JRPG game the player plays as a party of heroes, and each of these characters are unique entities and the story is all about how these people came together to achieve a goal, while in a Western RPG it is a tale of ‘The One’ hero who is out to save the world. Elder Scrolls, The Witcher, and so forth borrow from the idea of there being ‘The One’, one special person selected to make things right. But here’s a thought…. What happens when The One isn’t you?

You see it in movies a lot, where you have a viewpoint character and then there’s the real protagonist. The key is that the protagonist is the one who the story revolves around and usually is changed by the experience, and sometimes you don’t get to see that right away. Star Wars prequels didn’t introduce Anakin Skywalker until about halfway through the first film, and the prequels and the original trilogy could be said to be about the rise, fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, in his quest to bring balance to the Force.


The Power Of One

To the tune of The Power of Love – by Huey Lewis

The power of one is a curious thing
Make a one man weep, make another man sing
Polymorphed to a little white dove
More than a failure that’s the power of one.

Tougher than diamonds, make you scream
Screw you harder than a teenager’s dream
Make a bad one good make a wrong one right
Power of one that makes you lose the fight

Chorus 1:
It’s just not funny, more quite lame
Don’t need know the odds to play this game
It’s strong and it’s sudden and it’s cruel sometimes
And it might just take your life
That’s the power of one
That’s the power of one

First time you feel it, it might make you sad
Next time you feel it it might make you mad
But you’ll be glad baby when you’ve found
That’s the power makes the world go’round

Chorus 2:
And It’s just not funny, more quite lame
Don’t need no math degree to play this game
It’s strong and it’s sudden it can be cruel sometimes
And it might just take your life

They say that all the dice are fair
Yeah, but you don’t care
But you know what to do
When it gets rolled by you
Ask for a little help from above
You feel the power of one
You feel the power of one

Can you feel it?


Chorus 3:
It’s just not funny, more quite lame
Don’t tell me the odds to play this game
Tougher than diamonds and you can’t appeal
You won’t feel nothin’ till you feel
You feel the power, just the power of one
That’s the power, that’s the power of one
You feel the power of one
You feel the power of one
Feel the power of one

Hard Facts About Soft-RP

I talk a lot about improv in some of my blog posts. The reason is because roleplaying is as much, if not more, an improv than it is a story writing. Still, so many people fall into the trap that they want to tell interesting stories, and they feel when they write stories that don’t seem to go anywhere they are failing. Just look at this writer’s advice blog entry as an example, as these could be reasons that people could do an RP scene in a game.

I do play in persistent worlds, worlds that have people from all around the globe on so there could be a story told at 2AM or 8PM or whatever, so you could find people interested in a scene but not interested in a full adventure. This is a godsend for those who like to get into their characters and react to scenes, as you can find scenes you can play from time. You’ll need to study some improv, especially the scene building bits like this, and they should help give you some ideas. The book Play Unsafe is a book about how to incorporate improv into the roleplaying game.


Let There Be Cakes

There is a picture about the internet I like to compare to when people complain about their ability to GM not being good enough:


I love it so much because people will ALWAYS find a reason to put themselves down when it comes to GMing or any ability, even if they’re good. There are some horrible GMs as any Internet search will be full of stories, and Knights of the Dinner Table magazine had occasionally featured stories where a character tried their hand at running a session and mostly it turned out humerously due to either player issues (the group was known to be hack n’ slash over RP) or GM ineptitude (such as not fully prepared, stealing plots direct from TV).

So, how come I joke about those examples but still try to get unprepared people in? Well, this attitude is because those comics were intended to be humorous, while in real life most people want a GM so they will work with you over rough patches. You just need to be willing to do the work.

On one place I used to play online would have 20 to 30 people on (unique players, no alts) and be asking “So, who is doing anything now” instead of offering a scene or plot or anything. That attitude can quickly make someone who runs plots bitter, because sure you get to GM but you don’t get to tell your character’s story. So, while I could rack up the experience gained being the GM and my character could  advance, I didn’t feel like my character had really done anything to warrant advance and I wasn’t being challenged so I didn’t see a need to advance yet.

I learned to GM in tabletop as a school kid, probably started in junior high, mostly because no one else wanted to do it. so, I would pick up skills on the fly, since this was back before the game really got the public attention it has today. Today, there is a glut of websites and Youtube channels and GM help books that will tell you how to do things. The problem with a lot of the information is that it can contradict other information or it can be stuff that is too general like ‘Learn to Improvise’. So, you can filter information that works for you and the rest, you can ignore because the idea of the game is to have fun and if something is making you not have fun, then avoid it.

So, to takeaway from this, the only way to get better at Gamemastering is to do it. Don’t be afraid to take some time behind the gaming screen, and if you stumble and fall the first few times just get yourself back up again. There is no specific criteria to be a Gamemaster other than the desire to be one and the will to put in the work, since you’ll need to prepare things and then learn to do off the cuff when the players decide to try something different.