Role-Playing Game Types

Over the years I’ve been asked what my favourite type of role-playing game (RPG) is. I love them all, since they all have different pros and cons, and I like that they have differences. By type I don’t mean the system, setting or genre, but the method of playing the game:

  • Classic RPG or Tabletop (RPG, or TRPG), also sometimes called pen-and-paper. Of course a table is not required, plus these days can be played virtually via things like Skype, or dedicated software.
  • Live Action (LARP)
  • Computer (CRPG), whilst the label RPG is often misused with computer games, there are some excellent CRPG.
  • Play-by-mail (PBM or PBEM), a very broad term includes everything from chess to detailed moderated RPG. Subcategories of PBM include playing via: chat, forum, blogs, wiki, journals, google documents, etc.

On average I found that during such chats about favourites, the player asking tended to prefer the type of game that they were currently playing; nothing surprising there. On rare occasions a player would declare all other RPG types as inferior, or even outright stupid. Predictably some of them had not played many other game types.

d6

A bit of a tangent, I’ve met a few people whom have only ever played a single RPG, despite gaming for years. I’m curious how they could play for so long whilst not trying out one of the numerous other games. Although it is great that they’ve played something they have enjoyed for so long.

Whilst it’s great that there is so much information on the Internet about RPGs, sadly it is hard to find useful statistics. Thankfully Wizards of the Coast did carry out a big survey in 2000, although I wish they’d asked even more questions. In particular I’ve often pondered how many RPG books have been sold, in 2004 a BBC article posted:

An estimated 20 million people worldwide have played D&D since it was created, with more than $1bn spent on game equipment and books.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3655627.stm

Whilst I would have guessed that more people had played D&D in 2004, that is still a seriously big number, especially considering how niche RPGs often seems to be. I think RPG is still growing in popularity, if only because of how popular computer games are these days. Although RPG mechanics are now common place in computer games, sadly those alone do not make a game into an RPG.

At a later date I will write an article about what I think the pros and cons are for the different RPG types. To me the commonalities of role-playing are compelling. From my experience all the different types of RPG equally allow for role-playing, as all of them can be just as emotionally intense and rewarding as each other. I’ve played all types of RPGs, covering all genres. Some games use detailed rules systems, ranging all the way to almost no rules. The biggest factor of all RPG is always the players, what each of us individually brings to the game.

The next RPG article will focus on PBM.

Healthy Pacing For Deadlines

As I attempt to slowly escape from my pain tunnel, and return to a consist level of health, I have resumed working on projects that have lain dormant for years. This is in addition to my very slow writing. Whilst speech recognition really helps, it is also annoying since there are still errors and navigating is a pain, plus I used to be able to type so quickly, thus it just feels slow.

Over the last two years whilst I’ve had a lot of bedrest I contemplated how best to make use of my time once I was a bit better; sleep deprivation didn’t help with thinking, but at least I did have a lot of time to think. Making plans was difficult, since for a long-time I had no discernible improvement. When I did have a day where I felt a tiny bit better, there was an urge to instantly declare it a breakthrough. I eventually learnt that those days were not something to base plans upon. So ultimately I made plan making itself a goal, to make small goals, to make tiny notes.

Healthhourglass

I am now at the stage where I can work at a computer for a short while without instant agony. I came to realise that my problem about goal setting is not much different from a healthy person’s situation, that it’s all about pacing and being realistic. Clearly I need to be more careful, to take constant breaks, and keep to small tasks. If I am lucky I can manage what used to be a few hours of work, is now spread out over the whole day, maybe even a week. Doing work like this is also a form of physiotherapy, I need to get used to being more active, and since my level of activity is so low, this makes a big difference.

This means I am now able to implement realistic deadlines, albeit feeble ones. As I get a better understanding of my new pathetic work rate, I can alter my deadline projections to better reflect things. Then as my health hopefully keeps gradually improving, I can adjust further.

The urge to do more is ever present. I have already plenty of experience of slowly healing, then carefully going back to work, to find out that it was too much. It’s odd to think that whilst being careful, I was in fact rushing. There is a difference between a typical injury, even breaking a bone, and chronic problems, but understandably most people have not grown up with chronic problems so we haven’t learned about the differences, and how that affects recovery. When long-term bedrest, and thus atrophy, is a factor, things are further complicated.

health chart

I made the chart above to help remind myself to be careful. The vertical axis represents a hypothetical percentage of health. I didn’t think there was any point tracking my progress over time, since my healing has been so slow, and it’s only recently I can realistically do a variety of things. Even when I get to a theoretical average health level, I’ll be far from fit. I have broken the habit of exercising a lot, but my mind still wants to make comparisons, and of course reminisce about my old healthy days; as much as people say mind over matter, and focus on positive thinking, I am not in a position like I used to be of simply training hard to get stronger.

My recent story writing has been very slow, due to doing other things. It’s not that I feel burnt out, it’s that I have a deadline for the end of this month to make progress with my Elemental role-playing game I am started running in May. Although I started work on this project thirteen years ago, there is still way too much to do, my own fault for designing something astronomical in scale. I have also started work on a comic for a PBM style role-playing game. More on these two projects soon.

Escaping the Tunnel

To maybe help speed up my slow healing, and in particular to help alleviate stress, two groups of friends invited me to stay with them. I got to once again visit the wonderful country of Sweden, and thankfully the trip didn’t spike my physical problems. I kept up my physiotherapy exercises, and even started doing a little bit more. The stress relief from being in holiday mode really helped, ignoring the stress of travelling. In addition to spending time with friends, some great walks I also got to spend time with a lovely dog, and then a pride of cats.

Sadly the last few days of my trip were undermined by some jaw pain, that escalated, and by the time I got home it had become quite horrific. I was prescribed two antibiotics, which heavily affected my ability to eat and sleep; this lead to some drastic weight loss. Thankfully my dentist gave me the all clear regarding no damage to my teeth, but it did leave me wondering how I had developed the problem. I don’t know whether the infection was so bad due to my lowered immune system, but that was surely a factor.

This life update highlights how escaping from long-term chronic pain and sleep deprivation, seems to be like crawling out of a very long tunnel. For the last few months it has felt like I was finally nearing freedom, to escape in to the light, and I could return to a more productive and healthy life. It even seems like my metaphorical pain/illness tunnel has minions dragging me further back in.

I did manage to get some speech recognition writing done, both on my fiction and game mechanics, but obviously I could have gotten more if I was healthier. This was partly why I didn’t blog for two months, but at least things are improving again. Also, after thirteen years I finally started playtesting a game I’ve been working on, but I’ll write about that in a later post.

I had contemplated during some drawing for this post, since I couldn’t find what I envisioned. I made a simple stick figure drawing as an idea bouncing exercise, but my wrist RSI started to flare-up, so I didn’t get beyond:

batcrawl

I then decided to keep things simple and photograph something; this also meant I had an extra reason to walk, which is great physiotherapy. I took some pictures of the Blackpool North train station underpass. I thought it would make an interesting photography location given its local significance, and the painted walls give it some extra character. I appreciate I could have used some lovely free artwork, like on https://pixabay.com/

Bat station

CampNaNoWriMo Preparation

CampNaNoWriMo starts on the 1st April, an appropriate date for all the self-deprecating writers who think their work is a joke. Thankfully over the last few months my chronic pain has reduced enough that I have started having some good sleep, generally not at night, it is more a case of being at random times; I have tried to establish a regular sleep cycle, but since I still have pain filled days this has proved unreliable. With the sleep improvements, energy levels are improving, and crucially the mental fog diminishes. I am confident that I will reach the CampNaNoWriMo 50,000 word count by the end of April, and I even optimistically envision smashing this target.

campnano

I bought Dragon Naturally Speaking 15 this month. Although I found Dragon 13 was good, since I have so much writing to do in a short time span I want any extra dictation accuracy gains I can get. I have noticed some big differences. I also found that Apple’s Siri is based upon Dragon, one of these irrelevant but interesting facts. Even after all these years the temptation to manually edit is still there, as it is still quicker, the habit just hasn’t faded. Whilst my arms are always in pain, having my RSI pain levels skyrocket due to writing frustration would be silly, never mind my current chronic pain in left shoulder.

In March I started listening to the http://bestsellerexperiment.com/. I have really enjoyed these episodes, and I was partly using them to get me super-inspired for this April’s CampNaNoWriMo. There is too much to state about them here, so I’ll write a blog about them this weekend.

I’ve been working on my world setting for about two years. Due to health reasons I’ve done what I can, for the first year I was bedridden. Over time I have worked out the setting history and since it’s a fantasy setting the all-important metaphysics; this has been engrained in to me due to working in games design, I appreciate some authors don’t think this matters. Typically for me it is a complicated setting, which I think really matters due to the big focus on mental health, plus I do love my fantasy fate stories. I also have a lot of story outlines for important historical events, as well as a collection of scenes.

Basically, I’ve not just done a lot of outlining I’ve done a shocking amount. This is somewhat similar to Mark and Mark at The Bestseller Experiment; I’ll just hint that the Ben Aaronovitch episode alone makes the series for many listeners, plus how they’ve progressed since.

tbe_banner_shallow-405w

I decided to write something new in my setting, not obsessing over old ideas and trying to connect scenes spread over centuries. By starting fresh I feel like I am going to be better focused. In theory I won’t get distracted by indulgent fantasy designs like working out how memory & magic in my setting will work; I’ve already worked that out. The world building is done, a lot of it, now is the time to write.

Besides having the CampNaNoWriMo deadline, I have the additional pressure of finishing a board game. I will be visiting some friends, so I need to get this game to a playable state; I’ve had a mini playtest and I feel this game is at least on the right track. The board game work was going well until I strained the muscles around my right ribs at physiotherapy on Tuesday, resulting in two days without sleep, which is accompanied by the usual increase in mental fog. Thankfully my passion for this project, plus the fact I’ve been playing around with ideas for this for years, has helped me dictate a lot of ideas, even if half of them are gibberish at least I can edit the half that are good.

Sadly I haven’t completed some of the blog posts I’ve been working on, mostly due to these new deadlines. Well, technically I wrote the third part of my Lessons from Watching Role-Playing Games two weeks ago, but I had a funny idea for some graphics for that post. I won’t ruin the surprise, but I will say that organising a Skaven photo shoot has proven to be a bit difficult.

I briefly pondered writing a blog every day, but I decided that I should focus on writing. With the board game deadline approaching I already have enough to do, and I do still have health issues to manage.

camp-nanoS

#CampNaNoWriMo #AmWriting

Blog Mission Statement & RP Guide

Two weeks ago I received some great feedback about my blogs, in particular two people saying my writing had humbled them. Given how small a blog is at the start, and how likely it is to remain small, I have wondered about whether the effort involved is worthwhile. Even posting once in a while can still take up a fair bit of time, especially since then I feel like I need to put more effort into the rare blogs that I do make; this is on top of the issue of using speech recognition, and how slow I am due to avoiding being in front of a computer for too long. However, the reasons why I started writing blog posts remain the same, and given my recent health it remains one of my constructive outlets, even if it is small and really only for my benefit.

As I have started writing (dictating) stories about my life, I have considered how this will impact any people who were involved. So far I have contacted several people about whether they are happy with me discussing incidents they are involved in, and currently everyone has said yes; I have more people to ask. I am focusing on good situations, but since negative incidents can lead to re-examining ideas and improving myself, I know I need to be respectful about them as well. Like just about everyone, surely everyone, I have been involved in several negative incidents, from role-playing session flare-ups as a teenager, to leaving a LARP I cared about for reasons I didn’t explain, to professional disputes at a games company, I have pondered whether it is lying via omission to avoid mentioning incidents, or to mention but not explain, especially since they often helped shape many of my ideas. My conclusion is that I would rather focus on the positive, plus I am also aware that incidents occur generally for more than one reason, and often all parties played a factor and thus share part of the blame; I want to avoid needing to make a pie chart based on my perspective of allocated blame.

After leaving KJC games I started writing a role-playing (RP) guide. I had many reasons for doing this. Although some of the customers had a great understanding of role-playing, others didn’t. Additionally, at the time no one had written a players guide to RP, and there were very few GM guides, most of which I did not rate. For my RP guide I pondered whether to include an anecdote section, it was already pushing over 300 pages so adding anecdotes seemed like overkill, as well potentially a negative thing. Eventually I decided to write a lot because then I could decide on a case-by-case basis, but for all of them I tried to be neutral and constructive with my conclusions. It was interesting writing them, mostly because the majority of them occurred when I was a teenager. Reflecting on them was funny, especially since I had learnt a lot more since then. This resulted in giving me better insights in to my youth, and helping to further clarify my decisions about gaming and the consequences of things, and in a few cases radically changing an opinion.

It occurred to me that my concern about blog posts is similar to my thoughts about my RP guide and anecdotes. I think trying to maintain a respectful attitude is best for all involved, particularly me; this is my mission statement for the blog. I reserve the right to write (dictate) a rant, but I think it would be a big mistake to do so. I contemplated writing something more dramatic, or poetic, than this, but the spirit of what I have written is what matters to me.

 Personal update: my injured left shoulder and neck were made worse at the start of this week due to an emergency stop in a vehicle. Due to the area’s weakened state I now have whiplash, resulting in the pain feeling as agonising as when the injury got really bad, and the knock-on sleep issues.

First blog post – writing, finishing and where to start

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

So, I am finally working on my first blog post and I immediately hit what I imagine to be the common issue: where to start? Because I have RSI I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, although it is an amazing speech recognition program it has yet to gain the function to answer me. So I messaged a friend and in the process of waffling about the fact I wasn’t sure whether to put the idea of blogging back on indefinite hold, or trying to fit as much information as possible into the very first blog post! I received some great replies like “The blank page is not your enemy.” & “Do you need to reread The Art of War?” It struck me that whilst the idea of writing a ‘why I post’ overview is cliché, there is a reason why that type of post is so common.

I have chosen to write (speak) a blog since I’ve spent the last year being very busy trying to turn one of my many ideas into something more useful. This year finishing a project is not my enemy, letting go of something isn’t my enemy. I understand that peer pressure can greatly motivate us, but I have intentionally avoided discussing ideas or thoughts in any kind of public way since leaving my job as a game designer and role-playing games master. I have gotten in to a habit of writing/designing things to a level that I am happy with, but then I get distracted by another idea; I hadn’t felt the need to finish anything professionally, since I have not been a professional for years, and thus I have no deadline. Whilst at University I had to finish things, so I got the urge to complete something out of my system, to a degree (pun intended). Earlier this year I discussed my plans with friends and family to focus on finishing a big project, so posting about this on the Internet is the next big step. More importantly than peer pressure, thankfully I want to finish the things I am working on, and I have not gotten bored.