#RPGaDay2018 25. Game that had an impact on you in the last 12 months

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We’ve been playing Eclipse Phase – a game I actually get to play when I’m not Games Mastering Iron Kingdoms. I generally don’t enjoy playing as much as Games Mastering, but I have enjoyed this game a great deal.

It’s not only my preference for being the Games Master that stands in the way of me enjoying playing a game – particularly this one. There’s a host of other factors at play that make my enjoyment of the game remarkable.

I’ve had several depressive episodes while we’ve been playing that has made me distracted. I have also been through a number of med adjustments over that period that have had me falling asleep at the table, easily distracted or spaced out. In spite of this, I’ve enjoyed it – but don’t quite know how to apologise to the GM for my spaceyness. Meds and depression also lead to anhedonia, which is worse for me worrying about my own games, but also applies here.

I play a ‘useless’ character. That is to say, he’s no good at combat. He’s a defrosted cryo-capsule head with a re-grown body who used to be a science fiction writer. The best I can do is schmooze, trade pre-Fall knowledge for favours and gaze in wonder at the world in which I find myself – something I deliberately amped up by NOT reading the sourcebooks so everything would be new to me. Despite being useless, he’s fun to play and to poke at the setting with.

We have a large gaming group, so people often go a long time on the sidelines or out of the spotlight, especially a social/’useless’ character like mine.

The makers of Eclipse Phase are often arseholes. Fortunately I can – usually – separate art from artist.

Despite all that, I enjoy playing this character in this game, getting a lot of self-contained enjoyment from the character concept alone – and putting myself in his jaw-dropped wonder and love of the wider universe he woke up into.

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I’m an independent RPG (and other games) designer and author. You can check out my stuff via the links at the side of postmortemstudios.wordpress.com. If you feel so inclined, after a look around, you can support me at patreon.com/grimachu, Minds.com/grimachu or steemit.com/@grimjim. Questions and queries are welcome, remember, ‘Nullius in verba’!

#RPGaDay2018 24. Which RPG do you think deserves more recognition?

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Well obviously all the ones that I have written or worked on, clearly. I’m a friggin’ game design genius! He said, tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Most of the games that I think deserve recognition already have it. Cyberpunk 2020, Vampire the Masquerade, Mage the Ascension, FATE (or FUDGE, if you want to be pedantic), Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Feng Shui. It’s only when you get into the ones that are more designer-influential than gaming culture influential when you start to see different things popping up.

Space 1889 is underrated as pre-Steampunk I think, most of the GDW games are underrated – given their influence – however ‘whack’ the system could be. Over the Edge has influenced a lot of designers in a good way.

Then there’s the games that most heavily influenced British roleplay and game design, which may have been overlooked by a wider audience. There was the Games Workshop, Romano-Celtic take on RuneQuest, using the Basic System, there was Dragon Warriors – which I’ve mentioned before – and there was Fighting Fantasy. That was a global phenomenon, but still – I think – had a more profound effect on British gaming. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay – first edition – is still something that looms large over British design with its black humour, Pythonesque-Peasant focus and grim themes.

From my point of view all of these have some measure of recognition already, so it’s hard to pick out anything that deserves it, and didn’t get it – at least in some measure.

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I’m an independent RPG (and other games) designer and author. You can check out my stuff via the links at the side of postmortemstudios.wordpress.com. If you feel so inclined, after a look around, you can support me at patreon.com/grimachu, Minds.com/grimachu or steemit.com/@grimjim. Questions and queries are welcome, remember, ‘Nullius in verba’!

#RPGaDay2018 23. Which game do you hope to play again?

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As I have belaboured extensively, I’m usually the person who Games Masters, and that’s where I’m most happy to be. If you include ‘Games Master’ as one of the players, then just looking at the games currently in my immediate library shelf…

Vampire the Masquerade: I got so damn jaded from the LARP experience it made it virtually impossible to enjoy. I guess I’ll take a look at 5th edition.

Cyberpunk 2020: We’ve got things planned – VERY much in advance – for me to run a CP2020 game in the year 2020. So that should be fun!

Tales of Gargentihr: A gem of an indie RPG from ‘back in the day’ which I should go through in my video series sometime – though it suffers from the same self-destructing tendency as early SLA Industries books.

Dragon Warriors: An old school fantasy RPG that I have fond memories of.

GearKrieg: GearKreig’s rules (silhouette) are good, but its presentation is terrible. DUST Adventures is the reverse. Mayhap I could Frankenstein something playable with the good parts of each.

Gamma World: The 4e D&D stripped down version, which was – nonetheless – a lot of whacky fun.

Paranoia: Not played in a dog’s age, not sure if the satire holds up so well today, but I can make it.

Call of Cthulhu: One of those games you constantly want to get back to, and somehow never do.

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I’m an independent RPG (and other games) designer and author. You can check out my stuff via the links at the side of postmortemstudios.wordpress.com. If you feel so inclined, after a look around, you can support me at patreon.com/grimachu, Minds.com/grimachu or steemit.com/@grimjim. Questions and queries are welcome, remember, ‘Nullius in verba’!

#RPGaDay2018 22. Which non-dice system appeals to you?

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There’s a poker-mechanic I began developing for a Japanese/Western game I stopped work on after Far West began being developed. Maybe I shouldn’t have stopped, given that game is still nowhere to be seen.

The players worked together to create a hand of cards to try and beat the GM’s hand, with special abilities helping to modify and switch cards, rather than having to stick with what they drew. High Noon battles were run using blackjack and simple skill-checks were done with the draw of a card.

The poker mechanic worked, but got a bit complicated in larger conflicts. I think what would need to be done if I revisited it, would be that everyone would have to get a hand and all would be compared against the GM’s hand.

Players bid from their pools, initially using their skill and experience (low risk) before – if they sought it out – risking their health in the same way to try and win the conflict. When the GM ran out of chips, they won, when the players ran out of chips, they were defeated.

When it comes to existing, diceless systems, the ‘rock paper scissors’ of Mind’s Eye Theatre had a certain elegance and meant you could play anywhere, the deeper and more complex finger-show mechanic in the L5R LARP book was underused, but had some appeal if you wanted more complex rules dynamics in a similar fashion. Card-based play has its own appeal to and games where you build a ‘character deck’ have been moving around in my brain as much as other ideas lately.

We’ll see if anything makes it to reality from there!

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I’m an independent RPG (and other games) designer and author. You can check out my stuff via the links at the side of postmortemstudios.wordpress.com. If you feel so inclined, after a look around, you can support me at patreon.com/grimachu, Minds.com/grimachu or steemit.com/@grimjim. Questions and queries are welcome, remember, ‘Nullius in verba’!

#RPG – So I rewrote those awful Pathfinder Passages…

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This is very rough and very dashed off, but it reflects what I’ve learned over 30+ years of roleplaying, much – even most – of that time as the Games Master. You can think of the game table like a rollercoaster, the sensation and feeling of being in peril, while you’re actually almost perfectly safe. The idea that anyone can be harmed at the table, without stepping on a D4, is frankly silly. I wanted to write something positive though, something that shares responsibility and describes something much more like what the unspoken social contract around a good table really is.

Enjoy.

Players

As a player, it’s your responsibility to contribute to the overall health of the game. A game is always a compromise between the players and the Game Master and that requires give and take. You may encounter things that make you uncomfortable in play or concepts and ideas that – in your real life – you find offensive or stupid. Remember, these things are not real and only exist in the game space, they present opportunities for you to challenge and encounter these things safely. You can’t get hurt at the table. The gaming community has always been welcoming to minority and marginalised members, its success in this regard is largely down to caring more about each other as gamers, rather than a skin colour, a gender or a sexuality and (most) politics should be left away from the table to foster this spirit. You have ultimate control over what character you play, subject to the Game Master’s approval, but you should try to pick something that fits the setting and fulfils a role within the group. Advanced players can also experiment with playing villains or characters with belief systems wildly at odds with their own, it’s important to remember that the player and the character are two different things and that playing a villain or a bigot doesn’t mean that the player is one.

Respect the other players, and the Games Master, by not interrupting play when you do have issues or concerns, but raising them after the game or before the next game. Ultimately if the game or the table isn’t right for you, but is for everyone else, you’re the problem and you should remove yourself from that game and find one that better suits your needs. Gaming should be fun for everyone, but different people find different things fun! Some people like political machinations and lots of in-character conversation, some people like playing villains, some people enjoy a game inspired by real-world politics as catharsis. This is all valid, but concepts of fun differ and not every game needs to suit every player!

Game Masters

As a Game Master, you have a lot of responsibility and a lot of power over the game. The buck stops with you! At the same time, you are also a player and it’s important that you have as much fun (whatever you consider ‘fun’ to be’ as any other player. The role of Game Master takes more work, more commitment and even more money if you want all the latest material and sourcebooks for the game and as such your needs should – rightly – take priority. Don’t let players dictate your own game to you. This doesn’t mean that you should be arrogant or dictatorial, every game is a negotiation between all of the players (including you), just that in the end, without you, there’s no game.

Sometimes things in a game might make a player uncomfortable. Sometimes they’re supposed to. If you are playing a horror-oriented game then, ideally, you want the players to be horrified. Just as in other forms of fiction and games there are different genres that appeal to different people’s idea of fun, so it can be with roleplaying games. Players should know beforehand what they’re letting themselves in for, and you should make them aware – without being so explicit as to be spoilers. If the theme of your games is fine for most people at the table, but one person can’t grin and bear it until the game changes tone (or you play a different one) then it’s their responsibility to moderate their experience and to remove themselves from the game if they really don’t like it. That’s a polite and sensible thing to do and they shouldn’t be mocked for it, they’re allowing you your space to enjoy the game in a way you like, and you can always return the favour later.

The role of Game Master comes with the responsibility of ensuring that none of your players violates the game’s social contract, especially when playing in a public space. Be on the lookout for behaviour that’s inappropriate, whether intentional or inadvertent and pay careful attention to players’ body language during gameplay. If you notice a player becoming uncomfortable, you are empowered to pause the game, take it in a new direction, privately check in with your players during or after the session, or take any other action you think is appropriate to move the game toward a fun experience for everyone. That said, you should never let players who are uncomfortable with different identities or experiences derail your game. People of all identities and experiences have a right to be represented in the game, even if they’re not necessarily playing at your table.

Not every game has to be fun for every player, or even for you. What’s important is that over the course of a campaign of many individual games, everyone gets something that they can enjoy and that scratches their ‘itch’ of fun. One of the more advanced and sought-after goals in roleplaying is ‘immersion’, those moments where you almost become your character, acting through them in a believable and reactive world. That can come with hard choices, discomfort and even losses. Losing isn’t fun, but without losing from time to time, without being uncomfortable some of the time, winning just doesn’t feel so good. Great games have emotional moments, triumphs and losses. They’re about more than just ‘fun’, and that’s something to aspire to!

Presenting a believable, meaningful world and helping your players create engaging and captivating stories, helping them get to that sense of immersion is the Game Master’s ultimate prize.

#RPGaDay2018 21. Which dice mechanic appeals to you?

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There’s an idea that appeals to me which uses the best part of dice but which extends it outward, beyond the limitations of dice.

Dice are limited in many ways, in order to get a rollable dice you need the sides to be regular and the chance of any particular face coming up to be even. You’re limited, then, to the typical, regular polyhedra and their ranges. You can add dice together, to get a nice bell-curve of probability from them, and you can even create cylindrical dice with a wider variety of sides (as the Romans used to) but you’re still somewhat constricted by the dice and by adding, taking away and less commonly multiplying and dividing,

Sometimes you can pit one dice against another, which can be a good way of modelling low-skill and high luck, versus high-skill and low luck – depending on the vagaries of the roll.

There’s no reason – necessarily, that we be bound by this any longer however. We can create ‘conceptual dice’ via the means of random number generators and give them any values we like, no longer bound by the physical world and the necessity of a regular polyhedron.

Instead of 1d12+2 damage, we could roll a D14 – allowing for the possibility of truly glancing blows. We could pit a Stat+Skill of 1d11 versus a Stat+Skill of 1d17. If you want that bell-curve distribution you could get it by adding two results together and they needn’t even match.

‘Ditching the dice’ opens up a world of possibilities, and going for random number generation retains the utility of dice, without their limitations and without the faffing around and compromises that non-dice systems tend to fall into.

Of course, getting players to give up their totemic and beloved dice won’t be easy, even though many are already using phones and tablets with dice-apps already.

Hey, thanks for stopping by. I’m an independent RPG (and other games) designer and author. You can check out my stuff via the links at the side of postmortemstudios.wordpress.com. If you feel so inclined, after a look around, you can support me at patreon.com/grimachu, Minds.com/grimachu or steemit.com/@grimjim. Questions and queries are welcome, remember, ‘Nullius in verba’!