#RPGaDAY2020 day 21 ~ Push

When push comes to shove the RPG experience has a lot of pushing going on.

We push the envelope in game design or in stepping out of our comfort zones. We push the limits of what a mechanic or system can do and see what happens. We push ourselves and our group to get better at the hobby in many different ways, depending upon our priorities.

Sometimes we push the limits of what our characters are capable of. Sometimes they push themselves. Sometimes we or they just push their luck and see what happens.

The characters push towards their agendas, and the world often pushes back. Sometimes the whole point of a game is to push on the character’s desires, values, and beliefs, and other times the pushback is nothing more than the NPCs pushing their own agendas.

Sometimes one of us needs to give the game a little push to give it momentum. In any event, RPGs involve people doing things, and stuff happening. Without action and force, nothing happens. You say pushy, I say proactive. 😉

#RPGaDAY2020 day 20 ~ Investigate

In my estimation, the RPG hobby is all about investigation. Curiosity leading to discovery.

Sure, the most obvious example is the investigation we or our characters conduct in the fictional game world or scenarios. What’s behind that door? Who killed Mr Smythe? What does the leader of the rebel faction really want? Where is the astral orb? What’s really going on? However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We investigate new games by reading them, analysis of how they seem to work, and by actually playing them. We investigate the system and the mechanics. How does it work? How does it feel playing this game, and how do these mechanics feel?

We investigate play styles and modes of play that we are unfamiliar with. Some become favorites, and some do not. However, if we are wise we do not become guilty of contempt prior to investigation.

Sometimes we investigate the impact that scenarios and circumstances have upon us and upon our characters. We investigate who the characters are. We investigate what happens when we combine everything together. We play to discover and let events emerge. We investigate the consequences of choices, and our reactions to those consequences.

If we are curious enough and we are willing to seek the truth we even if contradicts our suppositions, we investigate ideas. We experiment and talk with others and play games. We find out what makes this hobby tick.

From James T. Kirk to Eddie Valiant, Galileo to Lederman, some of my favorite people have made their living investigating.

#RPGaDAY2020 day 19 ~ Tower

One of the definitions for the word tower I came across was a structure which is taller than it is wide. That instantly made me think of a phenomenon that we run into with RPGs.

Sometimes we can be compelled to examine and try a large variety of RPGs, and a number of play styles. Sometimes this is deliberate, and other times it’s a bit of gamer ADHD. Whatever the reason, we are concentrating on width rather than depth. We broaden our experiences.

However, sometimes we concentrate on a few games (or one!) to the exclusion of others. Maybe we do this out of reluctance to branch out, but perhaps we do this to focus on those games and play styles that we have found work for us. By doing this we construct a tower of proficiency and experience with these chosen RPGs.

Both situations have their benefits and drawbacks. My own path as of late has been one of exploration followed by focusing on those RPGs and ideas that I find compelling. My landscape has more than one tower, and they are all still under construction.

#RPGaDAY2020 ~ Meet

“In the house and on the street, oh how many feet you’ll meet.”

RPG sessions are full of meetings. One of the most important is when the experience we have meets with our expectations. Sometimes we get lucky and it just happens that way, but more often we have to play with purpose and intention.

The first step in having our expectations met is to have expectations and to be able to define and express them to yourself and to others. We may start out in the RPG hobby thinking that everyone is there for the same reasons and wants the same thing. This assumption seldom lasts long as we discover that many people play differently than we do and seem to “do things wrong” from our perspective. We meet other gamers who we might like, but that we have trouble playing with.

Meeting together for a session zero helps us lay out expectations as a group and how to meet them. Sometimes we can all come to an agreement, and sometimes we need to part ways for that particular game. “Life is full of meetings and partings. That is the way of it”.

We meet together for games, and then we meet to communicate about how our expectations were met, and how they were not met. By being honest, by being willing to compromise and and talking like mature adults, we are able to meet with success.

Well met! (I hate that phrase)….

#RPGaDAY2020 day 17 ~ Comfort

Life can knock us around, wear away at us, and leave us battered. However, there are those things in life which can give us comfort.

I have discovered that RPGs can be a source of comfort in a few ways. There is certainly the strong impact that was made by hours spent with a particular game starting in 1981. Flipping through those books now can bring me right back to that new love affair, cranking early Rush albums and rolling dice.

There is also a certain comfort in the ability to focus on something else besides the trials and drudgery of real life. For a few hours I can leave the real world to take care of itself while we engage in an activity that I find completely immersive.

As time has gone on I have become comfortable with different games, systems, genres, people, (sometimes we become actual friends) play styles, and even methods to facilitate play with those from around the globe.

Even making videos for my YouTube channel or writing for this blog gives me a bit of comfort as it has become a small part of “what I do”.

I suppose the snacks and diet A&W I sometimes have during the game qualify as comfort food?

#RPGaDAY2020 day 16 ~ Dramatic

Quit being so damned dramatic!

It’s no secret that one of the things that make RPGs so fun is the tendency for sessions to have moments of tension and drama . These can be planned and contrived, but they can show up on their own as a part of the natural course of game play.

In today’s video I talked about when to roll, but here I think I’ll take a different approach. As I’ve spoken about in the past, the actual chances of success or failure have a… dramatic impact on how tense the moment is. In one of my favorite moments in my first LotFP game back in 2010, my character was stuck onside in the cold freezing to death. The requirement to find my way back in was to roll three “ones” in 18 attempts on a d6, each attempt representing ten minutes. I immediately rolled a “1”, and the next 15 rolls yielded fours, fives, and sixes.

Against the odds, my final rolls were both “1”, and my character survived. It’s been a while since I did the math, but I think that my chances of rolling at least three ones in 18 rolls was something like 1 in 3. ~ That’s still dramatic, and there is something to be said for rolling once and letting it ride. Joe could have just told me to roll a 1 or a 2 in order to stay alive. However, in this case, when I just had two rolls left my chances of rolling 2 ones was only 1 in 36. Pretty nerve wracking. The last roll had a 1:6 chance of making it.

That was certainly a memorable moment, and one where the uncertainty and tension made things fun. Despite what Han Solo said, often the best thing to do is to tell me the odds.

#RPGaDAY2020 day 15 ~ Frame

While very often we make an effort to make the RPG experience fluid and “natural”, these games offer us the opportunity to to zoom in on each individual frame of the action. This phenomenon allows us a different experience than other types of creative endeavors.

Preferences for the degree of detail and complexity of things like combat, but however it is handled, an RPG allows us to focus on individual actions, conflicts, and decisions. We can address the situation frame by frame, making decisions and resolving conflicts no matter what the scale.

Most games allow us to focus in on other moments of the fiction as well, stopping time to consider the moment in the frame, making decisions in moments of conflict and tension.

One doesn’t have to be particularly astute to realize that most of the moments where we consider individual frames is when the system asserts itself. However, we can also choose to examine a moment independent of the mechanics.

I like the experience to run as seamlessly as possible with few interruptions, but sometimes the best thing you can do is take a moment to stop and look at the frame in the moment.

#RPGaDAY2020 day 14 ~ Banner

Late again. It’s my 6:30 AM on 8/15. In less than an hour Anthony, Eloy, Robin, and I will be playing another session of our “ The Sky is no Limit” Leagues of Adventure Campaign. As usual, this will be streamed live on the Triple Ace Games Facebook page with the Banner of TAG displayed on the Zoom screen.

There are a lot of good games out there, but a handful of them receive the lion’s share of attention. When you find a real gem, sometimes one of the best things you can do for the communist to fly the banner of the RPG and the company behind it. One of the ways we have to do just that is to not just talk about these RPGs, but to play them in public by sharing the sessions online. The Sky is no Limit LOA sessions get live streamed by Robin (who is half of TAG so of course he’s flying the banner!) , and then released on Anthony’s “Runeslinger” channel.

But we aren’t just flying the banner of Leagues of Adventure and Triple Ace Games. One of the things we try to do is to show real examples of Actual Play. Not the polished and glossy AP streams where the players are all charismatic and charming, the video is perfect, and everything is just awesome and larger than life. Instead we fly the Banner of what playing a particular game is really like. Rules lookups, learning the system, no thought to performance or how things look, and using simple streaming and video conference software (which is not fundamentally part of the table top RPG experience, but when your players live across the globe it becomes so).

15 minutes to showtime. I had better quit writing this and get ready to fly those banners.

#RPGaDAY2020 day 13 ~ Rest

Jazz musicians often say cryptic things like “how you play the rests is just as important as how you play the notes.”

Truth be told, the space in between notes is an important and dramatic part of music. Along with dynamics, (changes in volume) the interplay between notes and rests creates a good potion of the “feel” of a musical piece.

In RPGs, a good part of the fun is the building and resolution of tension. This can be orchestrated, it can be the product of mindful play, or it can happen as the result of events naturally coming to a head.

Two the the things that can kill that satisfying feel of tension and release are rolling too much, (never resting in application of the system as a random effect rather than using it as a guideline for comparison in less important moments), and never letting up on the action for a moment. Rolling all the time can become like a cacophony of notes where none stand out. When everything is important, nothing is.

Now certainly there are genres where the point is to never let up on the action, and to never give the characters a moment’s rest, keeping them perpetually off balance. That said, the effect of never taking a rest from the drama and pressure can be the same as rolling all the time. Nothing seems special or important.

So remember kids, get your rest, but don’t get complacent.

#RPGaDAY2020 day 12 ~ Message

In my video today I tried to talk about the message that some games can convey, but I felt like I just fumbled around the idea. ~ But this blog post isn’t about that.

Sometimes modern technology can get in the way of having a human and personal RPG experience, and sometimes it can be very helpful. One of the ways in which this new sorcery has improved my experience is messaging.

We’ve always talked about “the game” in between sessions. we’ve always been able to talk about the hobby. What are we going to play next? What do you think about this system? What should we do now? Left? Right? Run like hell? However, we had to get together to do it, or at least wait until we were near a phone, (believe it or not, these used to be stationary) and the other person needed to be near theirs and actually answer. (How did the human race survive?)

With real time text messaging and things like Facebook messenger, the other members of our group or circle are more or less always available, a least available enough to leave a message the moment that an idea or question pops into our heads. As I write this I am involved in discussions about what our next move should be in a game, thoughts on happenings in the hobby, lining up plans to play some games & examine others, and even talking as friends about how we are faring in this thing called life.

Far from being a nuisance, it has been my experience that instant messaging in all of its forms has been an integral part of remaining connected to the hobby, and to each other.