#RPGaDay2018 Day30 Lessons

Share something you learned about playing your character

When discussing role-playing I typically mention Intent, whether it is about something that is In Character (IC) or Out Of Character (OOC). This approach grew out of my early experiences of being in games with Adversarial stances, both players and person running the game. I like to have clarity of what a person is trying to achieve, not just IC but also OOC. I don’t obsessively ask the question, I let me players know they can clarify something at any time during a game, and just occasionally check with them if I feel I might be missing something. I find this approach has allowed me to empower not just the players but myself as the GM, and ideally the game as a whole.

I’ve learnt a lot more from particular characters and RPG in general. Empathy, culture, history, art, etc. But since we are keeping things short Intent is my main takeaway, which I also use in day-to-day life a lot.

The story of my first regular lunchtime High School gaming group: Role-play Meets Lord of the Flies.

RPG Lord of the Flies

#RPGaDay2018 Day15 Tricky RPG XP

Describe a tricky RPG experience you enjoyed

Almost a brain-fog video today, but I think I managed to been coherent enough. I talk about anxiousness and the moment, LARP, Street Fighter and my Mage game; see #PieChartofIndecision below. I didn’t go with any thoughts about handling tricky experiences based around things like clashes of playing styles, system opinions or expectations. I’ve had a few tricky RPG encounters at Conventions in the Living D&D and Star Wars systems, thankfully those were rare. Not that those don’t count, but I went with experiences that were all positive, I think to better keep with the #RPGaDay focus, otherwise I might have descended into a confused rant about something negative; today has been a bad day! Keeping it positive, below is a bit more info about the L5R game event that I list.#RPGaDay2018 Day15 graphThis story is when we were new to playing Legend of the Five Rings. The party were mostly Dragon Samurai, two had Kitsuki training so were odd in the setting. The group were Magistrates and as part of their travels came across a village with a murdered Samurai. Unless the guilty party was found the whole village was at stake. The Kitsuki trained individuals along with their Crab friend proceeded to investigate the murder of a Samurai. Meanwhile the cold-PC decided they did not approve of the methodology and found out who the murderer was using traditional methods.

Short-version: eventually both investigations uncover the truth, the murder was self-defence by the Chonin’s daughter who had been assaulted. The cold-PC is slightly ahead of the rest of the party, calls the village to hear the confession of the Chonin and immediately decapitates the Chonin; an innocent person. The rest of the party are quietly furious. During a drink break the others admit that they are a bit freaked out OCC, but appreciate Rokugan is different and complicated, but thankfully were loving the IC drama of it all.

A long IC awkward silence ensues, eventually the Kitsuki trained PC questions the cold-PC on their actions. The cold-PC is offended, but eventually gives in and explains that the Chonin was honourable, saved his daughter who would have been killed regardless of whether you believe her self-defence was warranted. The Chonin saved face for all, the Samurai’s family will not have their name tarnished, and the Chonin’s soul will gain from his honourable actions. Plus any parent sacrificing themselves for their child is understandable, and is worthy of respect. This way everyone won, whilst the Kitsuki’s methods would have revealed a truth, but would have undermined the Kami’s Order and Tradition. It was a wonderfully awkward session, both IC and OOC, and helped us all learn the tricky political and religious viewpoints about truth in the setting.

#RPGaDay2018 Day14 Failure Became Amazing

Describe a failure that became amazing

I go into some depth about a crazy game Vampire that I run back in the 90s, which become a disaster from a certain point of view, but most of the players loved it. It also led to an amazing game. No LARP stories, nor have I included tales about a critical dice roll radically altering a game, not that I have anything against those moments, just that the list I think I made is enough 🙂

Just realised I badly explain my point about high fantasy RPG, pesky sleep deprivation. I guess my foggy thinking was that high fantasy is typically about big failures and big successes, so many of the stories I know from others are the overly-epic type. Such as intentionally pushing scenarios to create guaranteed failures, invulnerable NPCs monologuing, which then requires Deus Ex Machina or there is a party wipe.

#RPGaDay2018 Day14 graph

#RPGaDay2018 Day13 Play Evolved

Describe how your play has evolved

In my video today I talk about learning to be less serious, a bit more tolerant of people breaking immersion. We can still have games that are predominately In-Character, have fun, but also allow players to relax when they play as well; appreciating each persons reasons for playing are varied, never mind as a group.

I didn’t mention that I strive to keep evolving, like many players I enjoy researching new ideas and re-evaluating my own opinions about gaming. The impact of studying art and science upon my thoughts.

#RPGaDay2018 Day10 RPG Changed Me

How has gaming changed you?

Another day of differing answers, with so many that I particularly appreciated.  My favourite was this tweet:

Several of today’s participants went quite personal. This is part of the reason my video initially involves literally hiding behind a mask, made myself be silly and open to ridicule and then go personal. Whilst there is more that could be mentioned I hope watching Skaven Dungeon Master Rollfang’s declaration of being the best at least makes your laugh, or roll your eyes 😉 Nothing like a bit of LARP / Cosplay improv to leave me wondering if I should put a lot more effort in and rehearse or something.

This topic also relates to a project I’ve been slowly working on, my role-playing guide. I have some comic strips relating to what I mention in my video about different ways to frame and consider things. Gamify your life #RPG4Life

#RPGaDay2018 Day07 GM & Stakes

How can a GM make the stakes important?

On the surface this is quite a straightforward question and therefore I could give a simple answer, but as like most of things in role-playing there are a lot subtleties lurking beneath the surface. I think the easy answer is personal, a perfectly valid answer. I just happened to take it a step further, since what is personal? Why do people care? Why is someone motivated or invested? I go in to more depth of my #PieChartofIndecision in my video, plus touching on my L5R and Aberrant campaigns.

#RPGaDay2018 Day07 graph

Following on from the time pressure point, when I was working at KJC Games running role-playing Play By Mail games (PBM) for a lot of customers, one of the big issues was players had a limited amount of things they could do each turn. Yep that sounds quite obvious, but since the players had in-game friends and enemies also trying to achieve things, gather resources, uncover mysteries, improve their alliance, undermine their enemies, time pressure really stood out. Thus the relationship between time and choice was emphasised.

A quick short story about being an NPC at the Lorien Trust LARP. As an NPC I created and ran out plots, potentially hundreds of players could interact with or at least hear about the plot; plots at the Gathering could affect thousands. Some of the players chatted with me about how surprised they were with my style of GMing, that I didn’t just run out big deadly plots that I also did several small things, or rather they seemed small to them, but then they wondered. Thus the players didn’t know whether somebody coming in to the guild was actually a threat or not. Then they had to determine what was important, made harder because there were so many things happening, which resulted in some plot being given to other players. Not that everyone was happy, nor everyone was involved, but a bunch of compliments was still great 😉

A common thing that I found at LARP, particularly festival LARP, is that a few proactive players were regularly resolving plots, whilst less physically capable or newer, less well-known/connected players struggled to be involved. This is partly a result of competency, understandably established characters had proven themselves.

The large scale LARP problems mentioned above are rarely a problem in tabletop, mostly because the players can discuss things directly with the GM; so much easier and appropriate to freeze game time than at LARP.

I think another thing to think about is with ComputerRPG (CRPG/JRPG), they are quite different than tabletop. Overwhelmingly with CRPG is that time is not an issue, with the main plots being put on indefinite hold whilst side-quests are carried out; daft when the main quest keeps emphasising how urgent something is. Elder Scrolls and Fallout in particular do this, but it is a core CRPG approach. Whilst I like the games the ignoring of time undermine my character and story immersion, time doesn’t really matter.

Coming back to this fusion of the #PieChartofIndecision, plus other things I’ve not mentioned, we are mortal players playing a game, time matters, time is our stake, the fact we are playing the game itself is part of our choice in life; any game is a stake of our life force.

#RPGaDay2018 Day06 Make World Seem Real

How can players make a world seem real?

I first noted the word real and not realistic, an importance difference. I also decided to avoid discussing whether a GM counts as a player, which is an interesting debate, with differences between systems and playing styles.

Every day I have been reading a lot of tweets, blogs, short podcasts, and watching videos. The majority of answers are the similar about the players helping make things in game, a brilliant point. I quite enjoyed today’s different answers, which is why I choose to directly reference some below, but part way through I was reminded of the extra work involved in doing so ;-)#RPGaDay2018 Day06 graph

Decades ago I used to role-play with a player that was known locally as a power-gamer, but thing they also role-played. Whilst they would obsess about the best ways to min-max a character, what powers were ‘broken’, what rules were open to exploitation. What I think was noteworthy about this player was that they always played power-obsessive characters with strong motivations, had a background and reasons for doing things. Despite some problems, overall I can recall most of the games they played in were good.

Adding taking the previous paragraph to a more abstract level would be: Concept, Connections & Consistency. After all if players have a reason to be immersed in their characters then they will find the game world will seem more real. If any of these abstract aspects are ignored or reduce then they will struggle. For example if the player’s character concept does not matter the genre/game/setting then will likely result in problems.

Concept, Connections & Consistency





Riotous GM Games

GM Table


#RPGaDay2018 Day05 Recurring NPC

Favourite recurring NPC?

Following on from question 4, the most memorable NPC, I got thinking about the word recurring and that led me down a different direction, which inspired me to think about time. So this is the reason why I’ve added a few more NPC’s to my Pie Chart of Indecision, plus the reason I didn’t choose Samuel Haight for my answer.

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I nearly went with Wrinkle from Mage: The Ascension, a Paradox Spirit of Time. Wrinkle is generally very polite to individuals and tries to persuade them to think about doing magick in a different way, or to resolve a problem in a different way and maybe not to use magick. If the if the character (PC or NPC) keep pushing things, vulgar magic it’s been utilised and in particular if blotches keep happening, then eventually Wrinkle might remove the character from time itself, they never existed.

Wrinkle reminded me of a Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play campaign that ran in 1995. The party consisted of independent Chaos Champions, who weren’t allowed to kill each other so group cohesion was maintained. As things occurred in the game the characters who marked by the Chaos Gods, which could include Chaos Attributes (not always a good thing). One of most common on Chaos Attributes D1000 roll was beast face, and eventually most of the characters had this. One of the players ended up with goat face which ended up becoming their nickname: Goatface, when they rolled up beast face again they were allowed to choose a Chaos Attribute, making them quite powerful compared to the other PCs. Unfortunately the player went away to University, but just before they did they rolled up Temporal Instability. Since their character was randomly dropping out of the time stream it become a bit annoying to RP, but the timing (sorry) coincided with them leaving so it was decided that their character would become an NPC.

Goatface continued to blink in and out existence, from the other PCs point of view. Goatface would typically appear during a quiet moment, just bleat something then disappearing. Occasionally Goatface would appear in combat and assist the party, a bit like the Mysterious Stranger in the Fallout series, appear make a bleating noise then decapitate something then disappear.

Goatface appearing became a bit rarer over the rest of the campaign, so the player’s anticipating its arrival become I thing of fun, a running joke of “Will Goatface save us?” Crucially it never take agency away from the other players, which I think is an important about any NPC. PCs should have the majority of the spotlight, to not have to listen to a five+ minute NPC monologue because the GM has made what they think is an ‘amazing scene’, so the NPC gives a speech with effectively godmode on.

So yeah Goatface!


#RPGaDay2018 Day04 Memorable NPC

Most memorable NPC?

As it’s become my thing I started off with a list and created my Pie Chart of Indecision to help me work out my answer. I mixed it with NPCs from supplements as well as NPCs that I’ve created; although I didn’t include any from my work at KJC Games, oddly I don’t consider them mine anymore.

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Firstly a quick nod towards the various Mr Johnsons from Shadowrun, although technically a fusion of NPCs that could be classed as cheating, but I think it is fair to include due to the fact the name tends to get a strong player reaction.

From CRPG there are quite a few NPCs of note, whether Planescape Torment, Vampire Bloodlines, etc., but I went with Deekin Scalesinger from Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide. Such a brilliant expansion, and an NPC I’ve chatted with several people about over the years, including my dad who also adored those games.

Samuel Haight from the classic World of Darkness, a rampaging angry individual who went after power to help him get revenge. I’ll probably talk about this character more for Day 5.

NPCs that I’ve actually made myself from a Changeling campaign I ran back in the 90s, one of the players joked about having a 6point Chimerical Companion background. We decided to make an incredibly powerful chimerical creature who didn’t really do anything and the player was quite happy with that. It was a fusion between a

Spider & a Cat, which was nicknamed Spat; fortunately there was no spitting jokes. Spat lived underneath the Sluagh’s hat, and it would only occasionally come out when it wanted a stretch; there were a few times when Spat having a stretch coincided with the party having a major problem. Technically Spat considered the Sluagh PC as its companion, 1pt of course 😉 Fortunately this never took the spotlight away from any PCs, I very much believe in player agency not NPCs regularly saving the day, or that my scenes should over-ride player actions.

Probably my most memorable NPC I can think of is Shinjo Mifune an L5R Unicorn Bushi that looked Gaijin yet was blessed by several Fortunes. Mifune started out as NPC friend of a Crab PC. They got along during the Crab’s Gempukku due to them both being treated as outsiders, the Crab loved that Mifune epitomised Bushido. When a new player joined the group we discussed various characters and the story, we decided to let them take over Mifune and they did a great job of keeping continuity plus adding more depth.  Mifune eventually became close with the NPC Magda from the wonderful boxset City of Lies. This campaign has been played on and off for over a decade, so Mifune & Magda’s story is not yet complete.

#RPGaDay2018 Day03 RPG Staying Power

What gives a game “staying power”?

A system that has a good endurance and encumbrance rules probably help with this 😉 On a more serious note this is a good example about how this event asks questions that open to interpretation. Some in the community are answering this from the perspective of the product, which I think is quite a valid point; whilst the majority seem to be answering it more from the perspective of the group or individual, which is primarily what I interpreted it as, as well.

So as normal I’ve made a big of things that I thought were relevant and made my Pie Chart of Indecision.

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I rarely run or play in short campaigns/chronicles. When I do play something I want it to have depth, I don’t want it to be an ocean-sized puddle, which on the surface can look like it has depth there, but when you go into it you just barely get your feet wet. Now this can obviously be achieved in multiple different ways, which is sort of the purpose of this question, from a group/individual perspective I think you can achieve it:

Powers to explore, so when people are planning out their characters, they know sort of roughly where they want to go. I think the crucial answer is when a character has a reason to be invested in an event. For example: when a PC is doing an investigation in particular, why are they investigating?

When I worked at KJC Games, one of the expressions I came up with to explain my approach to the boss: to make the games less about them being a zoo, where players walking around exhibits, such as ‘wonderful’ story writing, or plot hooks, but actually the ability to change things, to do things, to interact with the ‘exhibits’. To make the game more of a sandbox approach.

If a system has not annoyed the group then, my main group tends to not care too much about system, it comes down to the fusion between the players and the game; as Runeslinger puts it “the alchemy of play”.