RPG Lessons From Watching Games 3

Part one can be read here, and then part 2 here.

This is the continuation of the story from part 2 about the time I watched a Vampire the Masquerade game in the 90s. Over the course of the gaming session my friend asked me several questions, some were rules queries, and some were requests for feedback on ideas he was pondering. I politely reminded him that it was not my game, nor did I know the house rules, so even if I quoted the rule-book it wouldn’t matter. My friend explained that he’d only asked me questions so he could bounce ideas around; he only did this when the Storyteller was busy with other players.

The person running the game did not complain, instead choosing to focus on running the game. I am sure my friend’s actions were a bit distracting, but my friend was not trying to ruin the game, and had been considerate in regards to quietly chatting with me whilst he was waiting for his turn.

The game was good, and thankfully nobody seemed annoyed by my attendance. I thanked the Storyteller, and apologised if my presence had been disruptive, he said it was fine; I had sensibly turned my Presence discipline off. To my friend he then said:

“Next time, leave your pet Storyteller at home.”

On the walk back to my friends we had a good laugh about me being his pet Storyteller. He expanded his previous explanation, to help explain why he did not view his actions as being disruptive. He thought by bouncing ideas off me, he was helping to keep the game flow, so he could speed up his interactions with the Storyteller, since besides not having to check rules he could additionally have his ideas developed. I appreciated that his goal was to be more efficient, and to take up less Storyteller time, which was in theory commendable.

The lessons of note:

1) Ask about deviating from the group’s normal playstyle

I think my friend should have asked the Storyteller before the game started, if it was okay to discuss ideas with me whilst the Storyteller was busy with other player. It could be distracting to some, especially since the person running the game obviously has an opinion on rules queries, and it could be viewed that having an external person agreeing about how things could work is a form of ganging up.

One of my common answers to questions about how best to handle things in a group is whatever the group’s preference is. Despite what some may think, there is no perfect playing style, so therefore the opinions of the members of a gaming group are what matter, not those of an evangelising article written by somebody that is not involved.

Upon reflection, after the initial query by my friend I think I should have added “It is not my game, maybe ask the ref if they are okay with you involving me.” I guess I didn’t to minimise my impact on the game, I thought what I had said would have deterred my friend earlier.

Batjutsu Pet DM close
Batjutsu Pet DM/GM

2) Perception of fairness still matters, even in co-operative games

This may initially seem like a strange thing to mention, since role-playing games, especially tabletop, are co-operative not competitive. In a game part of what is always involved are the feelings and reputations of the participants, since nobody likes to be seen as foolish, or less important.

Consider that if one player is receiving a private peer review before they discuss ideas with the Storyteller, then their ideas might be better on average than others, leading to all sorts of potential gains for them in game, such as resources or implementing clever plans over enemies. Over time another player might become resentful at this sort of special treatment. The point is to be aware that even something as small as this can have an impact, and thus it can affect others; after all if it was not worth doing, then the player asking wouldn’t be doing it. This issue is likely avoided if a group regularly discusses ideas, and even an individual player’s action, thus everyone’s ideas gets a chance to be discussed.

3) When to tackle concerns

I think the Storyteller handled the whole thing well. They did not become emotional at what could have been deemed as disrespectful. I appreciate that whether the incident counts as disrespectful is subjective, my friend certainly didn’t mean to be, and saw an opportunity to help the game. A DM/GM/ST will consider whether something is going to escalate, and thus some things may be deemed as needing sorting out as soon as possible. Although often patience and respect for others will reveal that there was not going to be an escalation, and confronting a tiny problem could make it become major.

Batjutsu Pet DM dice
Batjutsu Pet DM/GM

An extra bit of the anecdote is that once we got back to my friend’s place, we continued a solo Vampire Elder game we had been playing for the last week. Elysium: the Elder Wars had not long been out, and as long-time Vampire players it was interesting to explore the mind of a much older Vampire. The relevance of this is that week of playing an Elder vampire lead to my massive Methuselah campaign roughly a year later, and from that to my 16 player Night City campaign.

Due to this being a busy month, #CampNanoWriMo and I am also getting ready to play-test a boardgame I have been working on. So I will write about the big games next month.

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Cyberpunk RPG and CRPG: style and substance

I have written an article Cyberpunk 2077 a smart linked chromed sandbox for NoobGrind. My gaming group and I first watched the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer around the time it was released; I think we had been looking up something to do with Cyberpunk, whilst playing in a Cyberpunk tabletop role-playing session. We were quite excited, in part because the teaser trailer was well done, but additionally because CD Projekt Red was involved.

The person running the gaming session that night has probably run more Cyberpunk games than most people on the planet, including me, and I’ve run a silly amount. So for us the announcement of Cyberpunk 2077 was a big deal, as I’m sure it is for many other role players around the planet.

I was first introduced to the Cyberpunk 2013 whilst at high school, I think in 1989 via the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) club. In 1987 I played nearly every school lunchtime with some older lads, and via them I meet another old chap called Pete, although I forget exactly when. I had been introduced to some other systems via the D&D club, in particular Warhammer Fantasy/40K wargamming; I started collecting Skaven and Space Marines around then, then Eldar 2 years later. Of course I had read Tolkien, as well as quite a lot of other fantasy and sci-fi, but looking back I don’t recall reading any cyberpunk books before 89. I think I had seen Dark Future in White Dwarf around this time.

Even back then Pete’s style of game mastering was different to the majority that I had experienced via the D&D club. There was a fun intensity combined with a mature character realism that was less common in most of the D&D games I had played; in part due to our ages. I got to know Pete a little bit, he was odd that he didn’t seem intimidated by people, he had mentioned studying Muay Thai, which I had seen on the telly as a young lad and I thought was psychotic and cool. I once saw Pete stand-up to a much bigger lad bullying people, the lad realised Pete was not worth the hassle and backed down. I think it was this confidence, as well as his relaxed attitude that gave Pete’s games an extra level of fun; it also helps that I was exposed to a new gaming system.

Back in the 80s there were not many cyberpunk style computer games, but my friends and I had at least had some solid reference points via movies, which helped us grasp the setting of Cyberpunk 2013 the RPG. The violence and cybernetics of Robocop was a big influence, the film noir style of Bladerunner, the example of ordinary humans trying to stop Arnie in The Terminator, and even psychic inspiration of a near future setting in Neo Tokyo of Akira.

By 1990 I had Cyberpunk 2020, and yet another expanding RPG book collection. At the time of writing this I started dictating gaming anecdotes about my Cyberpunk experiences, but I’ll save them for future articles.

I just hope that by the time Cyberpunk 2077 does come out, that I am healed enough to be able to play it without worrying about physical problems. Although I have Dragon NaturallySpeaking, if only real-life was as simple as buying a cyber arm for 3000eurodollars, as well as 1200 for a neural processor so I can get a Pain Editor!

NoobGrind Cyberpunk 2077 a smart linked chromed sandbox

Role-Play Timeline, article 2 https://batjutsu.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/role-play-meets-lord-of-the-flies/