#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.

#RPGaDAY 2018 ~ Day 27

Share a great stream/actual play.

This is a tough one. I don’t watch or listen to a ton of actual plays. The ones that really interest me are of games that have captured my attention. Often they are ones that my friends produce.

I am very fond of the annotated actual plays that the Runeslinger YouTube channel puts out from time to time. ~ These are labor intensive, but give a great behind the scenes look into what is really going on. Likewise, I have become very fond of actual plays that include or are followed by reflections videos and discussions. This inside look that is provided via these commentaries and discussions can be invaluable to those considering a game or those struggling to learn it.

I have good friends who produce polished and professional streams and actual plays and take great pride in it. ~ I know why they do this, and the final product is aesthetically more pleasing than a simple plug & play stream on Hangouts, but I have a different take.

Tonight I played in a game ran by JdrD30 AKA Francois Letarte, who introduced me to online play during BrigadeCon 2016 when he invited me to play in a Game using the  RPGS setting. Tonight we did the same thing in a different country in the RPGS book & a different system. (This has been an ongoing project of his). Tonight’s game was fun, and we streamed it live on Hangouts.

What my initial experience with Francois showed me was that I could play online too, & that there was literally no barrier to entry. Sure, Hangouts is notoriously clunky & suffers from audio difficulties (which mostly show up as only one person being able to talk at a time), but it’s a no brainer to use. ~ Streams with discord & open broadcast software look prettier, but if that’s what I was exposed to at first, with all of the extra steps & requirements, I don’t think I would have been confident enough to take the plunge into online gaming. And if I hadn’t done that, I would have missed out on so many great games & players.

So at the end of the day, the stream that wins my vote is the one that when the inexperienced guy or gal watches it, it makes them think “I could do that too”.

#RPGaDAY 2018 ~ Day 26

Your gaming ambition for the next year.

The last two Decembers I have made RPG resolution videos. I actually accomplished everything I set out to do in 2017 that I had listed in the video I made on December 7th 2016. I don’t think I’m going to accomplish everything I listed for 2018, but that’s OK, it was an optimistic list.

Nothing in this question specified “calendar year”, (or fiscal year, sidereal year, synodic year, or even year of jubilee), so I’m going with the idea of RPGaDAY to RPGaDAY. ~ The reader on my iPhone pronounce this “Rup-GA-day” which gives no end of mirth. (I’m partial to “Karen” with the lovely Australian accent).

I thought about mentioning specific games. Sure, Broken Rooms & Circle of Hands are on my list to play, as is really learning the ins & outs of the FFG Narrative Dice system in Star Wars & Genesys. ~ However, I think of those more as goals rather than ambitions.

One ambition I have is to improve my GM skills. ~ I’ve noticed that I’m less fluid than I’d like to be. Maybe I’m rusty, & maybe I just notice my deficits more. Being exposed to a lot of new GMs has shown me areas where I can improve and branch out. In many ways, I still feel as though I’m finding my voice.

I’d also like to improve my study habits in terms of how I read & learn games. ~ I’ve mentioned in the past that reading & concentration have become very difficult for me. Learning a new game can often be very frustrating. I believe that some of this is due to my approach & even a lack of discipline. This is something I would like to work on.

I’d also really like to continue exploring different game experiences & seeing which ones really feel the most like “home” to me. ~ I’ve noticed that some of the RPG experiences I like or gravitate towards are somewhat contradictory, & I find that intriguing. In many ways they seem to be explorations of different facets of myself. I have found that I get much more out of this hobby than I previously imagined, & I’d like to continue to examine that.

It is amusing that none of the three ambitions I mentioned are easily measured in any quantifiable way, So I’ll throw in one that is (sort of). ~ I’d still really like to start a small group of local gamers that are as compatible with me as the people that I play with online, (or at least open minded enough to try some different games than the mainstream).

So many games & experiences, so little time…

#RPGaDAY 2018 ~ Day 25

Name a game that had an impact on you in the last year.

An impact you say? What kind of impact?

The past year has been an enlightening one. I’ve found that the more that you look into this hobby, the more riddles & enigmas you discover. Often the games & how we interact with them & the other people show you things about yourself, and about the complexity and diversity of human nature. ~ But this blog entry isn’t about that…

A bunch of games crossed my radar this year, but one has stood out in terms of “impact” for me this year ~ Hollow Earth Expedition. Written by Jeff Combos of Exile Game Studio, HEX (as it is often called) is a pulp adventure RPG set in 1936. A Raiders of the lost Ark vibe complete with Nazis, dinosaurs, and a mix of the real world with the supernatural in whatever ratio you wish is as good of a description of the game as any.

Although my experience with the game and with the Ubiquity system which powers it has gone on for more than just the past 12 months, HEX is still the best answer for this year based upon my experiences. ~ This RPG has been consistently enjoyable and satisfying every time I’ve been a player or a GM. The experience is fairly reliable, and that’s not as easily done as one might imagine.

I know, the question didn’t ask which game was the most enjoyable or satisfying, but hang on. If you pay attention you’ll see where the impact fits in.

If I’ve learned anything the past few years, it’s that I’m dreadfully ignorant of the depth of some genres. I like “pulp” in it’s various incarnations, but I have not read or otherwise experienced much. A lot of this literature & media is on my “to do” list. ~ However,  reading this game I instantly knew the vibe Combos was going for. The tropes are obvious & compelling.

The impressive part is that the system itself does a great job of creating the feel that the flavor text of the game suggests. Ubiquity is a system that excels when all hell breaks lose. And break loose it shall ~ as long as the GM and the players keep the genre in mind. This isn’t that hard. As a GM you just need to give the characters about as much rest as Indiana Jones ever got, and as a player you need to be be willing to go to absurd lengths to push your character in the direction of their strengths, while playing up their weaknesses.

The great thing is that the system rewards & encourages that sort of play. It takes some getting used to, but the more you do it, the more natural and “right” it seems, and as a result you end up creating the exact kind of fiction you signed on for when you decided to play the game. ~ HEX is an impressively good match of intended genre & system. It’s not over the top super heroic, (characters are human and more fragile than in some other games), but it’s not gritty & unforgiving either. For me it’s a “Goldilocks Zone” RPG.

After all, this is a blog about me right? ~ The past year has been full of discovery, & part of that discovery is what play experiences feel the most natural and satisfying to me. While it’s too simplistic to say that I like or prefer one feel, I have discovered that I gravitate to a few types more than others. I can see where on the various spectra I lie compared to my friends.

As I’ve consistently discovered, HEX is one of those RPGs which creates or supports one of my favorite types of gaming experience. Even the character creation is a win for me. They instantly become something special. ~ I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed not only all of my characters, but I’ve also really enjoyed all of the characters that the other players brought to the table, either by my side or when I have been on the other side of the metaphorical screen.

So I get two impacts for the price of one. HEX continues to reinforce the concept of system reinforcing & co-creating genre in a powerful way. My experiences continue to bear this out. At the same time, I have discovered one of those spots in the RPG landscape which feels like “home”. ~ While I’m always hopeful that my friends will find the same enjoyment with it that I do, the experience also makes me open to trying their favorites which produce a genre via system as well.

Hey that’s three impacts ~ Buy two, get one free.