#RPGaDAY2019 ~ Guide (day 14)

“Always let your conscience be your guide”. Thus spake Jiminy cricket.

Pretty good advice, but sometimes we need a little more help.

Life can be confusing. Very often in one area or another we find ourselves wishing that we had some guidance and direction available to us. Why should the RPG hobby be any different?

Sometimes we can get by on our own power. In 1981 when I picked up the Moldvay Basic set for what would become known as B/X D&D, I read the manual. It wasn’t very difficult. I was able to figure it out by myself. Not that I was able to figure out every little nuance of how to run and play a game, but I figured out how it worked. Fast forward to today, very often I can pick up an RPG text and figure it out. Keep in mind I have to read the text. The entire text. Very often I have to re-read it. After all, it is a manual. The books that we have can give us a great deal of guidance if we take the time to read them.

Assuming we’ve done that, sometimes we can still be left scratching our heads. There might be some procedure that we’re just not quite sure about. Some part of the book that is perhaps written in a confusing manner. Maybe the information isn’t organized the way we might, so things are difficult to locate. Perhaps we’re not sure why we’re supposed to do something in a certain manner or in a different way than we are used to. Or maybe we’re just not sure how to run or play in a certain type of game. Maybe we are running into difficulty in some area and we’re looking for a technique to solve our problem.

Fortunately for us we don’t have to go it alone. Especially in the modern era of the Internet, There is a wealth of information available for us. Yes, of course not all of it is going to be right. We have to seek guidance with some discernment. Have the people we are looking to actually read the game? Have they actually played the game? Have they actually done what they are advising us to do? Can they tell us what the experience was like? Can they give examples of how they made mistakes and corrected them? ~ In short, have they been there and have they found their way to the other side?

After all, isn’t that what a guide is? Somebody who has been that way before and can show us how to navigate it?

The remarkable thing about this Hobby is that I have found that many of those that I have sought guidance from have been willing to share not only their experience, but time at the table together. We have become friends.

Last but not least, don’t forget, once you have been led through the area that was giving you trouble, YOU have been there and found your way to the other side. You can pay it forward and guide the next person seeking for an answer. You have experience.

#RPGaDAY2019 ~ Share (day 4)

Sometimes we have a lot to share with each other. Today is one of those days where The video and the blog post will end up being completely different. Video synopsis: there are so many other content providers and RPG enthusiasts participating in RPGaDAY to share with each other. I picked one that really stood out to me this year. But I could have shared many more. However, as Tim Harper said, “I loved RPG story time with François!” JdrD30 does RPGaDAY

Anyhow, this blog post isn’t about that…

Instead I’ll talk about something that really took some adjustment to be comfortable with. At least the idea took some getting used to, and to be honest I had to experience it to appreciate it.

I had always played games with a single game master. However, when we assembled a group to play All For One, Anthony introduced the concept of a rotating game master chair to me. Each person plays from the GM chair for a session or two, and then hands over the reins to the next person. I have to say I was really taken aback at first. There were too many logistical things that didn’t seem possible. I won’t take the time to list them all but you could probably figure them out.

I found out when one had a good group that was willing to communicate, that sharing the time spent in the GM’s chair and as players has worked just fine, and this rotation has also presented new opportunities and experiences. I won’t call it sharing the burden because it really doesn’t feel like that. Instead I would call it sharing the opportunity to be the game master and sharing the opportunity to be a player. Put another way, it really isn’t about sharing responsibilities so much as it is about sharing the opportunity to have different experiences.

Since that initial experiment I have had the opportunity to play in other games with a rotating game master chair and they have always been fun. I have also had the good fortune to be in a small group of gamers online who all have cool ideas and are willing to take a turn running a game. It’s a bit different than the rotating game master chair, but in a very similar way we share the opportunity to have experiences playing in different roles.

#RPGaDAY2019 day one ~ First

So what’s first? They say you never forget your first. Maybe you end up comparing all of your other experiences to your first. But this blog post isn’t about that.

Last year was the first year that I did both blog posts and videos for RPGaDay. That year I ended up sticking pretty close to one format. I tended to write these posts first and then do a video afterwards. My videos ended up being less extemporaneous and seemed less like me. This year I decided to do them separately and if they go off in different directions then so be it. So this is a first.

The first time you read or play a new game it can be magical. This is something you don’t get to do again. My friend Anthony has admonished me for reading too much, skipping ahead, learning all about the setting, or what have you. He reminds me that I only get to have my first in game experience once. In my eagerness to devour everything at once I can ruin that first experience when everything is new and unknown. I smiled because I know what he means.

To me there are very few things like that thrill of discovery. Reading a new game, encountering that new premise, that new mechanic, that different philosophy that the game designer has brought to the table. Encountering somebody who thinks about the hobby and has an opinion different than what you’ve heard before. A different take on things.

It’s easy to get jaded and set in our ways. We can have that first experience and always pine for it, always chasing the Dragon hoping to recapture it. I can’t go back in time and have it be 1981 and discover role playing games for the first time ever again. But… I can have those other first experiences. That new game, that new friend, that new way of looking at things, that new game group. These first encounters can make everything seem new and exciting again. This is part of what keeps me coming back.

What about you?

#RPGaDAY 2018 ~ Day 31

Share why you take part in RPGaDAY.

Why not?

I didn’t hear about RPGaDAY until a while after RPGaDAY 2016 had ended. I became intrigued by it as I watched the videos made by the participants. The more I watched, the more I realized that it was something pretty special. I ended up making a few videos after the fact, answering several questions in each. In 2017 I jumped right in and participated from the start. ~ But why?

I think the first reason I participated and continue to participate is wanting to be a part of something bigger than myself and my own little corner of the hobby. There’s a difference between being a member of a club (we’re all gamers), and being an active participant in an event. I found that I wanted to be “a part of” this more involved group of RPG enthusiasts. Taking part in RPGaDAY helps to solidify my place in that fellowship.

Likewise, I like answering the questions. I enjoy being forced to think and to discover what my responses are. As Louis Counter pointed out, it’s often not until we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard or press “record” that we find out what our answer really is. ~ Discovering the different perspectives of the other participants, comparing them to our own, and coming away with a broader understanding of the hobby as a result is very rewarding. Sure, you can treat RPGaDAY as a spectator sport and still come way with an enriched view of the RPG hobby, but it lacks the power and depth that comes from active participation.

And besides, it’s a positive experience. Such things are a precious commodity. This year I  pushed past my comfort zone and started the blog for this event. It’s something I meant to do for a long time, so RPGaDAY was a good impetus for overcoming inertia.

Next year I hope to see you join us.

#RPGaDAY 2018 ~ Day 30

Share something you learned about playing your character.

I’ll be honest, I’m not going to share something. I’m going to share some things. But you’re probably used to that.

I say it often ~ the “real” character tends to show up over time. It doesn’t matter if it is a PC or a GM run NPC. The more that I play a character, the more their real personality starts to emerge. Sure, I can start out with a basic concept, & the game may actually contain formal procedures for defining flaws, drives, motivation, bonds, vows, and a host of other elements that help make them more than just a set of numbers on a sheet with a cool name. However, I have learned that the actual character will take time to emerge. Sometimes they can surprise me as they turn out different than my original concept. While I have grown to really like many of the systems that contain the prompts for representing the pieces of the character’s personality, I’ve found that they don’t give birth to the character that shows up. At best they act as an attentive midwife.

I also learned something very important related to what I just talked about. ~ If I don’t play the character that starts to emerge, I don’t feel comfortable & I don’t enjoy the game as much. Now I’m not talking about “My Guy Syndrome” or being oppositional & petulant. Rather, if I fight my instincts about who the character is, what they want, & what they would do because I don’t want to upset the other players, I start to really feel disconnected and start to wonder when we will call it a night. ~ For me, it pays to accept who the character is & let them come out.

Very often what I learn playing a character is actually something about myself.

Tomorrow, on the last day of RPGaDAY, after our successful first excercise in polemics regarding rulesBEHOLD! The Tribunal will once again hold a round table consisting of myself, Sam, Jason, & Scott. The subject to be argued about and pontificated upon will be Immersion. Scott’s thesis is along the lines that there is no such thing as immersion in character because you always play yourself.

While I disagree, Scott’s assertion does have a nugget of truth in it. Ignoring the times that I have simply played an avatar of myself with or without “cool powers”, I can still identify some aspect or another of myself in most characters that I play. ~ This shouldn’t be shocking, as humans do have a substantial amount of overlap in what makes them tick. Just because my character is a fictional person doesn’t mean that they won’t share things in common with me or you.

RPGs are unique as we can experience and experiment with parts of life from a safe distance. Stepping into the shoes of another person I can experience events and perspectives that I would otherwise never have the opportunity to encounter. Very often this is because the character we have chosen to inhabit is very different from us. ~ However, there are times when it’s not so much that the character is markedly different from me in some area or another, but their relationship with consequences might be.

In real life I have  a tendency to be rather risk-averse. This is something that I continue to work on. Many, but not all of my recent characters have been more willing to take chances and to stand up for their values & beliefs. While some of you could have fun playing armchair psychiatrist with me over this, what I find more interesting is how the system itself affects how similarly constructed characters behave depending upon the consequences built into the system.

As I mentioned in the recent past, I have learned that while a character concept may be similar or identical, the way in which a given system represents or models consequences can profoundly affect not only how I play them, but upon how the character “feels” as a whole. The ability of the character to act and make meaningful or difficult decisions despite the potential consequences is just another factor in this equation. This is something that I continue to explore & examine. What it tells me about my own relationship to risk, & how I view consequences, the things that I most value, & the priorities I have in life ~ all that is worth the cost of dice & a few hours of my time.



#RPGaDAY 2018 ~ Day 29

Share a friendship you have because of RPGs

Our All For One: Regime Diabolique campaign is named Lights in Darkness & the name is an apt one for the genre. Far from raging against the dying of the light, our Musketeers are literally the beacons of hope in a France which is plunged into the darkness of the 30 Years war and of demonic powers which walk among men.

The camaraderie exemplified by the genre ~ quite literally “One for all & all for one” has a way of extending past the characters & being felt by the players. ~ Other games I have been involved in may not have been about these bonds & vows, but we have formed connections as human beings around the table sharing a unique experience, and these connections have extended beyond the game itself.

I identify strongly with the sentiments by Sebastian Allard in his video answering yesterday’s question ~ I don’t know that I can say it any better than he did. It’s not surprising that Seb kind of answered both questions at the same time. If you look at my response to yesterday’s question, you’ll find most of the same people qualify as answers for today’s question as well.

This hobby is unusual in that it can provoke unexpected emotional responses, & that we can share some quite moving & profound experiences with each other. The fact that they are fictional is irrelevant. This shared experience & the bonds that often develop between the characters seems to foster the development of bonds between the actual flesh & blood people at the table.

It’s been my experience in another facet of my life that identification with one another can create very strong connections. These deep friendships were not surprising considering the nature of our common experience. ~ However, I have found that in the RPG community the connections & friendships I have formed are also important. It isn’t just about the game, but an exploration of the human experience from an unusual vantage point.

Life is hard. The human condition can be difficult, and the challenge can be magnified by anything that makes us feel different, even if it’s just a penchant for geeky & nerdy hobbies. Maybe introversion feels natural, and perhaps it’s just that there aren’t many people that we feel we can relate to. ~ In a very real sense, the people I have become friends with through the hobby are Lights in Darkness.


#RPGaDAY 2018 ~ Day 28

Share whose inspiring gaming excellence you’re grateful for.

Gratitude and I were not on speaking terms at one time. Today, gratitude is quite important to me, and when I find myself off balance emotionally, very often I find a lack of perspective and forgetting to be grateful among the list of culprits.

So, this is a very powerful & personal question not devoid of emotional content. The connections that I have with other people are important to me, and in a hobby such as ours where we tend to get a little more up close and personal than in most others, we can develop unexpected bonds through shared experience.

A lot of what I would have answered is in today’s answer by Anthony Boyd with the obvious addition of him as one of the “good eggs” in our little RPG Techniques Consortium. Being a part of a group of thoughtful RPG enthusiasts who enjoy dissecting the games & striving to play them better is an honor and a privilege, and it has enriched my experience of the hobby greatly.

Likewise I’m grateful for the inspiring gaming excellence of many of the people who I have played with online over the past couple of years. ~ They have not only inspired me with their play and Game Mastering, but the discussions we have in between the games where we talk about our impressions, our ideas, our characters, and how to make improvements have made my RPG experience so much better than it had been in the past.

As I’ve frequently said before, “play with the right people”. ~ You’ll be grateful that you did.