Archive for category CSIHC

Commentary – Video Games vs Tabletop

So my friend Dan over at Dan on Games has asked me the following in the requests page…

“Here’s a question I’d like to hear your thoughts on: with the incredible popularity of video games now how do you feel that’s affected tabletop RPGs? I’m totally out of the tabletop scene so I don’t have any idea. Are people more power game-y/dungeon crawly/Diablo-ish nowadays, or are there still good role-players out there? (Not that those are mutually exclusive but you know what I mean)”

It is a good question but, I think it bears a little elaboration. Just so that readers know you can find a summary statement near the end of the post. Very much a TLDR, cause I ramble. I think that video games overall have had an impact on table top RPG players and publishing. However the specific types of impact vary from gamer to gamer and their experience with what types of video games.

The simplest answer to Dan’s question is that there are still good role-players out there. But just as there is a difference with what makes a role-player ‘good’ there is a difference in expectations as to what makes a ‘good’ game session.

I know this sounds like a bunch of blather, but what I am trying to say is that I feel like Dan’s question is looking for a very basic answer to a bigger question. Let me see if I can break things down from my personal perspective.

Video Game Impacts –

Video games have definitely had an impact on table top RPGs. But it is not simply possible to say that video games as a whole have had a specific impact. Lets take a look at a few of them as I see them.

  • Fighting Games – (Negative) Even as far back as the arcade game ‘Karate Champ‘ fighting games have been raising the bar for the level of description that can happen in a fight in a table top RPG. (Positive) Strangely that negative is something that also  positive. The drive for more detail in what is going on can really help a story develop. While these are obviously not true for all players the ones who get into combat role-playing want more detail, about how you move, how you hit, what gets hurt, and more. This is also true from the rise of the FPS type of game.
  • Side Scrollers – (Negative) Action and adventure games galore come in this format. For the role-players who want to get to the finish these games have given the impression that there has to be one and only one path to the ‘finish’. (Positive) On the plus side the fact that timing maters gets a nice bump in stories. Again not things that happens for everyone. But true for some.
  • Tactical games – (Negative) Sadly the impact here is not what I would have liked. The real impacts here are that all of your enemies are stupid, or can be over powered if you ignore them long enough to grind through side events so you can just bowl them over. (Positive) For some the exact opposite happens, and they figure out that out thinking a foe can be just as if not more effective than raw power. Again not everyone has this impact but it is the one I see the most often.
  • RPGs –   (Negative) So this is kinda strange. There seems to be two impacts here. The first is the that you always can fall back to a save point and try again. So if you dont like something, restart or hack it. (Positive) The opposite can also happen. Learning that choices mater. That each thing can have an impact on the story and the other players.
  • MMO RPG – (Negative) The main thing that seems to come out of these games is that you can be an @$$ to everyone else in the game and it does not mater. (Positive) However if you are not in that group of players you may have figured out that team work is a big thing, and that what you say can have as much of an impact as what you do.

So just to recap, those are all really extreme views. They comprise the most obvious impacts to players. There are thousands of more subtle things that have happened to players over time too. So dont think it stops there for good or for ill. Now lets take a quick look at publishers.

  • The lure of money – Video games have raked in billions. So there is a temptation to license them, replicate their mechanics, and follow the herd so that they keep a bigger fan base. However all these things have a tendency to rebound on the publisher in the long run.
  • The urge to be unique – For the publishers that dont jump on the bandwagon, you usually see them make other alterations in their mechanics to try and force them to be different from what ever video game is popular enough to pull customers away.
  • Reverse engineer themselves – In trying to turn themselves into video games they usually face the disappointment of their fans. To date there have been very few successful adaptations of a table top RPG into a video game. Now then this is not saying that the games have been bad, many of them have been awesome (I am looking at you TSR/WOTC, and waiting with baited breath RTalsorian/CDPR) but that awesomeness does not mean they have replicated the table top games mechanics, or the setting in a way that matches up well with the published work. It makes the game something that was ‘based on’ a table top RPG, and not an ‘adaptation’.

Now then again this is going to feel like some rather extreme comments. And they are. They are calling out the largest visible impacts. Not the thousands of little details that vary from publisher to publisher and game engine to game engine. It would be impossible to put them all into a simple statement, or even a really complex one.

Now then comes the bigger part of the question Dan asked. Are there good role players still out there? The quick answer is yes. However there are a lot of different role playing styles out there. In a previous post I talked about this so I am going to keep this version short.

  • Power gamers frequently take what they see in video games and want to replicate it so they can have something with more boom, or something that sliced up the bad guys real nice. If you can get them to tell a story about it, you can actually get some background and in game role play out of them
  • Pros tend to get ideas for new ways to apply their “this is how I am best” approach to things. Again you can use this to try and get stories. But it also means they may have something to beat. Be it a hero or a villain that they now have to be better than.
  • Quirks and Dramatists are usually disappointed by the lack of personalization in video games. Their details and voice do not get everything they need out of video games. So if they are stuck without a game group for a while and have been playing video games they may come out over the top on how they play.
  • Balance players usually find video games just as fulfilling as role-playing games, so while a video game may inspire them, it usually does not have a negative impact.
  • With other personality types the reactions can be broader or even completely unexpected. For example I know some folks who have been addicts to MMOs, and others who have found something they just so enjoyed in Diablo that they gave up on table top gaming for a few years.

Now the element of Dan’s question about environment. Referencing whether players have taken more to dungeon crawls or the MMO style… well, I think in all honesty you will have to run with everything I have been going into above. It will vary person to person, and making a generalization is kinda hard. I can say that what I am seeing in publication tends to lead me to believe that the old school dungeon crawl is not what is making money right now. And that even though MMOs are on the down turn again open worlds in table top RPGs are seeing an upsurge.

I think I need to summarize this – (TLDR)

  1. Video games have had an impact on table top role playing games.
  2. Video games have had an impact on table top players.
  3. Table top games and players have had an impact on video games.
  4. These impacts have been both positive and negative.
  5. There are still good role players out there. Just make sure you have the conversations you need with potential players to ensure your idea of good role-play and theirs match.

I know I rambled, but I think this was worth it.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see what the odds are I rambled my way into oblivion here…

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Player Participation – Driving a game publisher

Hello Readers

emailstorm

Todays blog is about a little thing that I think will appeal to everyone who games. The influence that the gamers have on the products they use. Now I am sure that everyone out there knows that if you dont buy a product it will go out of print. Sure it may be picked up by another publisher or show up in online forums or scanned in and shared. But at that point there is fan generated content and nothing that can be considered cannon for the timeline and stories that had been generated by the publisher. And if you remember the original World of Darkness, or have played Shadowrun for more than a couple of years, some of those story-lines can get rather epic.

Not to dis on those stories and worlds but there was one in particular that really caught my attention back in the way back. Torg.

I know there are going to be a lot of readers that go WTF and have no idea what Torg is/was, but there was something very interesting about what the publishers were doing with their world. They created a way to get ongoing feedback from their players that they called the Infiniverse. It was handled in a newsletter format that published rumors about things going on in the world and depending on the feedback from player groups they would take some of the information and make it fact for the main story-line in the world they were publishing. The idea was that there were an infinite number of alternate realities (every group playing Torg was its own splinter reality) however if something is happening across enough realities then it was what was happening in the core reality of the Torg storyline.

Think about that for a minute if you will. Players, all over the globe with access to the game could subscribe to the Infiniverse Newsletter and be part of the driving force that was creating the game they were playing.

Now then while there have been groups set up for player participation for, well, nearly every RPG that has had some success over the years, like the Pathfinder Society, and the Adventurers Guild, these are more about organized play and keeping everyone on the same story. Feedback can be important in these groups and does help create product improvement but they do not necessarily drive the ongoing meta plot/story-line that the publisher is developing.

Now then the next thing to think about is that the Infiniverse Newsletter idea was set into motion in 1990. At this time the most technically advanced game publishers like Steve Jackson Games were running BBS to get interaction with players. And over time those have evolved into forums (same thing really but much prettier now) and nearly every game publisher runs one. And while I think the publishers may take a bit of what is put in the forums seriously it is hard to imagine that it is driving any of their development. If you doubt that thought then consider the number of publishers that continue to fumble on power creep and the number of them that fail to draw players into their ongoing stories and so sell less and less material over time, or get stuck selling volume after volume of new rules because they dont have an ongoing story.

From having met several game writers at conventions over the years I know that at least the ones I have met are always interested in getting gamer feedback. It helps them drive things forward and lets them know they have been connecting to the people who love their products. So my real thought here is why dont more publishers take an interest in making the players a driving force in the worlds they are publishing?

Seriously.

Anyway, thats all I am going on about today.

Hope everyone out there is gaming hard and playing safe.

Now gimme the dice, I need to roll up some old feedback articles.

 

 

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Just a bit of a rant, and a short apology

angry-hamster

Ok so before I go on the rant I just wanted to apologize to readers for that last game review. I was tired and not all together together when writing it. So it is not some of my… I was going to say best work but heck that was not even some of my average work… so I am sorry. I will try to do better next time but I am not going to fix it up because I need the reminder from time to time to do it well or just call it a day.

Ok so onto the rant.

As you may be able to tell from angry hamster this rant is about being exasperated. Also about some of the things you can experience to get there.

In all the creative challenges that I face, lacking time, work load, home care, personal time to relax, being sick, needing sleep, and so many others, I think the greatest challenge is stupid. And by that I mean other peoples stupid. My own ignorance tends to be frustrating but I know I can learn and fix it. When I encounter stupid in the world around me though or when stupid invades my blog, I don’t always take it well.

Example. Right now my blogs settings for feedback are heavily restricted. That is because in any given day I get 1-20 postings that are by bots, are sales people, or carry links to places that would mess up my computer or anyone who clicked on them should they post. Thankfully the spam filter here is already high and it catches most of it on its own. But seriously people how many blogs or other posting sites are so weak in their security that this volume of spam and crap is actually a valid method for scammers and black hat hackers to get into peoples systems. Or for advertisers to be subversive. Either this means that there is a ton of stupid on the part of the scammers or in the average human online. Sadly I think it is not the scammers fault.

Example. The number of people that I contend with on a weekly basis both in the flesh and online that have no idea how to research a topic to discover if the information they are spewing have any veracity in the real world. I mean, on how many topics would a quick trip to Snopes not help out. Lets see here… politics, religious history, science, regular history, common freaking sense… I am so…so tired of the “Well my one source that has no validity on the topic what so ever but I am too stupid to check anything else and choose to follow the crap this one source has given me because for some reason they have triggered several of my emotions and so I choose to follow that blindly instead of actually thinking for my own !@#$ self” mindset… yeahhhhh. Also supported by the “Well all these people online/on the news/in my favorite magazines/on the radio stations I listen to ‘think’ the same way I do so I have to be right” mindset. Did ya notice that I put think in bold and italics. That is intended to convey SARCASM… sigh…

So yeah, for a while now I have been using a slight change in definitions to display how I see things and I need to share it in this rant…

  1. Ignorance – A state caused by a lack of knowledge. This may be because emotional content is easier to digest/accept. It may be caused by a lack of exposure to facts and other elements of reality. It may be caused by involvement in a community or organisation that prides itself on using outdated or false information to support their own actions or maintain their status. However this state can be fixed by taking action and learning.
  2. Stupid – A willful choice to remain ignorant on any topic. Especially given the volume of comparative information available. Making this choice means that either you are choosing not to learn, or that your fear of being wrong is to the point where you need help, or you may need help dealing with your arrogance.
  3. Tragedy – When one individual or a group encourages others through whatever means to embrace being stupid. Just think about it.
  4. Evil – When an individual or organization enforces under penalty, even if it is just exclusion from the organization, that being stupid is the only correct behavior.

Now then you get to this point and likely go “ohhhh what does all this have to do with gaming…” or maybe “what does this have to do with being creative” or maybe… ya know what… I dont care at the moment my blog my rules… 😛

So if you didn’t click on the link to go to the definition of exasperated, exasperation is the emotional state of being so sick of something, a behavior, an action, or lack of something, that frustration is on the edge of or slipping over to becoming anger.

What all this leads to is what kills my buzz to be creative.

I am exasperated by the ongoing evil (see my definition above at bullet point 4) tragedy (definition on bullet point 3) that is going on right now in the world around us. It invades everything. Look at the news, or what you call the news, listen to almost any politician or leader from a major religion. This crap is getting out of hand.

And before anyone can play the “Oh but so and so is a good leader, so an so is saying this, my religion is tolerant, my faith isn’t like that” card… I am not saying it is all messed up. Not everyone and everything is @#$%ed in the head. But if we do not start thinking for ourselves on a whole new level philosophically and culturally on everything from personal interactions all the way up to how we hold our faith’s and political systems accountable for their actions and in actions… then this is not going to change. And movies like Idiocracy go from being a clever little poke to being prophecy on a scale that should be feared.

The way this kills my buzz is that if all this is going on I keep having the feeling that I don’t have time to be creative. I need to educate, I need to fight, I need to wake people up from their own personal stupor and quit trying to escape into works of fiction and fancy so that the world doesn’t blow up or burn out or get taken over by extremists who think settings like the Handmaid’s Tale are a really positive example of a functional and correct running world take over everything. And yeah that link is to info about the book not the TV series but if you think about it you can find your way there.

It takes me a while but then I end up coming back to the thought that books, games, and stories can all be used to help create a thinking underground. I can teach, I can fight, and I can wake people up by using what I love to help people step out of ignorance, avoid being stupid and never enter into a tragedy. When I get to this point I usually come out and create a story or a world or something else… and I hope that it helps a little. Even one person. Because that will be one more person who can take up the fight. It is why on almost every one of my reviews I encourage folks to give things a try but to make up their own mind. Its why I encourage people to tell me I am wrong in an opinion or a bit of information so that I can research and remove some of my own ignorance or be aware of where it exists for others.

So I just want to call the rant quits now. I think I got it out of my system for the moment. And the angry hamster can slip away now.

Remember to think for yourself.

And gimme the dice. I need to roll up a revolutionary.

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Tales from the Game Table – Live Table

Welcome readers, running a little early this week so as to have a bit more weekend fun tomorrow.

dm disaster mw kaluta

So early on in my game playing days I started experimenting with the concept of playing a live table. For those who dont know what that means it is when everything that is said at the game table is said or done by the characters in the game. Players talking to each other is assumed to be in character. Statements of action are what a character is doing. It is not an easy thing to get used to, and usually it is easier to get it going in a serious game than a comedic one.

So in one of my very first attempts to play a live table, young me and young other players… and well… we happened to be playing a little game called Paranoia.

Things had been going ok… not great but ok… for the players…

But then that is the nature of Paranoia.

I had been using live table off and on in the game, trying to get the players to act things out a bit more, role play a bit more. And we had some really good moments. Then we get to a point where the players had lost most of their gear, but caught the enemy and were about to bring them in for questioning, when they suddenly realized they had no rope… and we had a moment that went like…

“Ok so how are you going to secure your prisoners?”

“I don’t know… we don’t have any rope…”

“Could we tear up our clothes?”

“Roll against your Moxie.”

****rolling sound of 2d10****

“Ok with a roll like that you realize that ripping up your uniforms would be very creative but it is also willfully destroying property of the Computer, and that is treason.”

“Shit… ok… ummm… ok…so… so I…”

****sounds of dice rolling****

“Looks like they are about to wake up… what do you do?”

“Ok… so I take of my belt and… awww #@%&-it.”

“You have no lotion so it hurts, make an endurance roll…”

Young male jokes about sex ensue.

I quietly rolled a couple of dice and realized that the prisoners had been so sheltered that what they saw as they were waking up scared them… I mean if he was willing to do that to a belt there was no telling what he might do to them…

We didn’t get much further that session. But in the end everyone was either having fun or young enough to be totally confused about the whole thing but too nervous to say anything. Young male players in the early 80’s.

So yeah… that happened… and things like it happened again and again…Not the worst thing really 🙂

heh

Ok so that’s a short post this week. I hope that everyone is having a great weekend.

Now gimme the dice. I need to see just how many troubleshooters could shoot trouble if trouble didn’t shoot back.

 

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Character Building 103 – Building Together

So having talked a bit about types of gamers, and elements in a character you may be thinking I am totally nuts, or you may be wondering how to get everyone on board and try to get a little more role play in your game.

Lets start out with what players can do to encourage each other to add a bit more depth into their characters.

The first and easiest thing players can do is to ask each other questions about their characters. Imagine an exchange like this…

Player A : So you have a pretty cool sword in game, I mean you put a lot of money into it. What makes it so special?

Player B : Its big and does a lot of damage.

Player A : So did you give it a name?

Player B : Why would I do that?

Player A : Well you know how in most of the good novels and movies the hero always has a name for their really cool weapons. Heart Seeker, The So and So family blade, and other stuff that they can call out during a fight. You seem to like that sort of thing so I thought you might have named it.

Player B : hmmmm…

It is a little thing. It is not asking the other player for a background. Some players wont bite on the suggestion and you will have to try other little ways to get them to add bits and pieces as you play but I think you can see the lots of ways you can get this going. Ask someone playing a Ranger why that species is their favored enemy. Ask a Wizard what makes the specific spells she has so important. Ask the Cyborg what part they got replaced first.

I have found that even with the most dedicated power gamers little questions like this over time can lead to players thinking past the numbers and developing much more fleshed out characters.

Some players have a bit of a challenge thinking about things like this at first, so the second thing players can do to help each other out is to make sure that when you do ask questions you are ready to follow up your questions with examples from popular media that the other player might be familiar with. This may require a bit more effort on the part of the player asking the question, but it will be worth it in the end.

The third thing is that the most powerful examples you can have some times are what inspired you to make the character you did. Did you have a fully fleshed out idea in mind? Did the way the dice rolled up the characteristics remind you of another character? And if in these examples you have to blatantly admit that you stole some ideas from a book or a movie, be honest about it.

Lastly, be supportive. When players step outside their comfort zone and play a new character type, or try to develop a background for the first time, it can feel intimidating. Not everyone has the confidence to jump into anything more than making the numbers match up right off the bat. And that is totally cool. Players need to support each other. You are a team after all.

Now from the GM’s perspective there is also a lot you can do to help encourage players to make a fully fleshed out character.

First is that you can pick a game engine that gives you ways to flesh out your characters more. Cyberpunk 2020, Palladium Books, and Role Master all make you or give you the option of walking character creation through your characters background to build them in a story like fashion. The Cypher System and Over the Edge have you build a character with descriptive terms so you sort of start them out in the flesh. Champions and GURPS build with a point base that requires you to take faults and flaws and quirks to round out your point costs. These added details can be fleshed out at any point to add more depth…

Actually here is an example from a Champions game…

Player A : I need 25 more points to finish off the character.

GM : Do you have any Hunted flaws?

Player A: No

GM : Ok then put down Hunted by Bob 11 or less. We can figure out who he is later.

That exchange ended up resulting in one of the strangest NPCs I have ever seen, and it actually got more than a few players involved in not only the characters story, but in to the NPC’s story as well.

So other than picking a system that encourages character depth, what else can a GM do?

Controlling the table is another thing. By that I mean enforcing that when players are at the table they are in character. The fastest way I have found to do this is to set a rule that anything said at the game table is said by the character. If you are using out of game information at the table it is bad for the player and their character both. If they keep themselves in character at the table you can offer bonus XP or other rewards.

The third big thing is to, from right at the beginning, reward players for going more in depth regarding their characters. XP for doing backgrounds, material rewards or something else for coming up with art that fits their character (drawn, photoed in cosplay or copied from online). Something for adding a soundtrack to their character. As long as you set the expectation for the players from the very first game session and you remain consistent in your rewards this sort of things can make players reach a bit deeper for the possible rewards. Now then if you are not applying this equally to all your players, you will cause a rift and screw up the group and you may well loose your gaming friends. So keep an eye on yourself. And if someone speaks up. Listen.

The last thing is something that should have come first in all likelihood but so it goes. That is to actually talk to your players. If you have three players who want character depth and story and three who just want to break stuff, you may want to consider two groups. If you have only one player who wants to do deep story then you might want to see if you can do that outside of the regular group sessions so that the player can work out the story. If you have just one player who wants to just destroy everything and not role play at all, consider bringing that player to your side of the table. Put them in charge of the monsters and the monsters tactics. You will likely need to scale down the power of your NPCs due to the new levels of aggression they may have. But that is all good too.

I am sure that as players and GMs you will come up with other ideas, or just pan the idea and go about your business. Just remember that in the end it is your game, and your characters. If my suggestions are not the way you want to play, that is totally awesome too. It is your game. Play it your way.

Now gimme the dice, I need to role up a random game generator generator.

hope you all continue to have fun and play nice with each other. 😉

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Character Building 102 – Creating a Framework

Hey there readers.

So in my last character building entry I talked a bit about the kind of roleplayers I have experience with. And I also spent a little time talking about the components of a character.

So what the monkey am I talking about when I say creating a framework?

Well when I am talking about a framework I am talking about putting the six elements that I talked about in the first post (Stats, Power, Kit, Personality, Story, and Appearance) into a semblance of order so that you can build like you want to build, or your game needs you to build in.

A quick example would be the following.

If I am a power gamer then I would be looking at a framework that would be

  1. Stats
  2. Power
  3. Kit
  4. Anything else.

Simple.

Now then for myself I like having a complete character with all of the elements that I mentioned. However I do not have a single framework that I use. I set myself up based on if I am using a level based game or a point based game. The reason for that is that when I am doing a level based game, they are bye and large set up for random stat generation. With that in mind I know that I cannot really come up with a story until I get my stats in place and see how they would work. When I am playing a point based game I can get a story and build the character to fit.

So my usual frameworks look like this..

Point based

  1. Personality
  2. Story
  3. Appearance
  4. Stats
  5. Power
  6. Kit

Level based

  1. Stats
  2. Power
  3. Personality
  4. Story
  5. Kit
  6. Appearance

Now then, I can already hear folks asking, ‘Why do you need a story?’

The answer to that is, simple yet not so simple.

With a character story you know more about your character. You know where they came from, how they developed their personality, if any element in their kit is something of importance.

Now then this does not mean you need to develop a 300 page novel about your characters background. It can be a simple paragraph.

For example –

**************

Julian the Swift was born to a wealthy family in one of the largest human cities in the kingdom. He was the last of six children and as such the family had no plans for him, and socially no real need for him. So he was left to his own devices as much as possible to keep him out from under foot. By age 10 he had decided that attention from his family was the last thing that he wanted, and that the street people held much more interesting lives. He fell in with criminals by the age of 12, and his mentor, Old Spider, gifted him with a set of masterwork thieves tools for his 13th birthday to celebrate his first solo job for the Thieves Guild. He would still spend holidays with his family, and even attend parties, mostly to garner information on who the Guild could hit and who they couldn’t. Unfortunately at age 19 he was caught in the act of stealing from one of his families friends and has been on the run since. He would still love to work with Old Spider and the guild, but until he can come up with a cover identity and some gold of his own going back to that city is not really an option.

**************

In that short bit of writing I have set up a background, given some serious motivations, and even hinted at the characters personality. From this you might expect a few stats to be high, and maybe a few others low. You have an idea as to where and how he might have developed skills and other abilities that may not usually seem to be part of a specific class. You know some of the kit that he carries and why it might be important in the game. You also have NPCs that a GM can run with to add to the overall game. I mean what happens when someone catches up to this character with a message saying that Old Spider is dead, or that his elder brothers have died and now he is the heir to the family estate?

Am I saying that background is all important?

No. What I am saying is that it is something that is frequently missed and is as important as everything else in a character.

The number of gamers that I know who can actually run a background on the fly is pretty high. Strangely enough. And so many of them fill in things as needed without a framework like the ones that I use. Being a bit of a control freak and a story teller myself I have a tendency to not even try to do it on the fly. I would rather have a story than not. I would rather have it well before game than not.

For the rest of the world other systems or lack there of may make sense. They may even work. For me not so much.

Personality is also something that most players will initially kind of skip over. They have a tendency to play themselves. I am sooooooo guilty of that it beggars the mind. The reason for this is because it can be hard to play another personality. You dont want to think like someone else. You just want to use your mind and escape reality for a while and dive into another. And that is cool. As long as your character supports it.

I mean if you are constantly drunk, more than a little violent, and have a moral compass with a broken needle… you really should not take that personality into playing a Paladin. If you are a righteous and moral being who cannot stand the idea that anyone should get away with anything, you likely shouldnt play a thief as yourself. You get the idea. If you are going to take your own personality into the game, you should build accordingly and so that should likely be on the top of your framework.

Now then article three in this will be about getting people to develop complete characters. How you can do it as a GM, and how as a player you can get others to do so in your group.

Ok so that should give you something to think about for a bit 🙂 Hope you enjoy.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many alternate personalities this character has… hmmm where is that d5000?

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Character Building 101 – What am I talking about?

Hello there readers

Ok so if you can see the featured image I put up… (yeah this one..)

character-male-anatomy9

I found this on Google Images with a link to a Deviant Art web page that no longer seems to exist or has been taken private. If anyone can find the creator of this art I would like to give them credit for it so please let me know if you find them.

So onto the main topic here…

WTF am I talking about with Character Building?

Depending on the type of gamer you are you might have your own thoughts on what character building is. In my experience there are a few things that folks tend to think of when they get into character building.

The first thing that most folks seem to think about is the stats. What are the numbers, how much strength or intelligence or whatever does my character have?

The second most common thing seems to be the kit. As in how have you kitted out the gear. What tools do I have, what toys do I have, how powerful are the items I am using?

The third thing seems to be power. What sort of special abilities does my character have? What super powers? What spells? What mutations?

The fourth thing seems to be overall appearance. How is my character dressed? What do they look like? Tats? Funky light effects?

The fifth item seems to be personality. Does my character have one? Or am I a raging fight monster who doesn’t need a personality as long as he/she/it has the guns?

And usually the last thing that players seem to think about is story. What is my characters background? Who do they know? What motivates them?

Now then I do know more than a few gamers where the order of those is very different. I also know a lot of gamers for whom a few of those elements do not even seem to exist. And depending on your game, well to be honest, the importance you place on any of those elements may need to change. But the type of gamer you are is going to influence how much effort you put into any of them.

When you talk about the types of gamers I really see everyone falling for the most part into one of the following categories.

The Power Gamer – This is a player who’s stats and powers mean everything to them. They could care less about background, personality, or even looks. They have to have big numbers, and hard core gear so they can blow things out of the water. Even their characters class or role is meaningless as long as it adds power.

The Pro – This is the player who puts everything together so that they can be the very best in the universe at something. When they generate a back story it only really exists to validate being the best at something. It involves training, getting the right gear and so on. They will have maxed out one stat or two and all the associated skills, along with feats or perks or whatever it takes to make them the worlds greatest expert at… something.

The Quirk – This is the player who makes a full character and backstory to support having one or two really strange things going on in their character sheet. Things that make no sense what so ever unless you know their full story. And I dont mean the character I mean the player. It can seem at times like a Quirk and a Pro are the same thing. And occasionally they are because a Quirk who is the best with whatever that strange thing is, is still a Pro.

The Dramatist – This is the player for whom the story is all important. The stats and skills and powers are all meaningless. It is the character and their backstory that is all important. All sixty seven pages of backstory. With all the annotations and details cross referenced so you can see how it is interlaced and they are very much playing to the drama of their story. Their story mind you. Not what everyone else might be playing.

The Balance – This is the player who actually takes a bit from everything above to try and make a balanced character. Powers, skills and abilities all have their place in supporting the story they have created and tried to integrate into the world that has been created and the story that is trying to be told overall in the game setting that has been used. They dont have to be the best, they want to be a part of things. Being the best is ok, but they want everyone in. Not just themselves. Interestingly enough a Balance can actually hide out as any other type of player. All they do is give you a surface view that matches the other gamers and then they keep all of the other stuff to themselves.

In all my time playing I have actually seen a few games that seem to know that they are going to attract players and game groups that would tend to focus on stats and powers and so they have put things into the game engine that will help drive to adding more personality and story to the characters. In most cases this is an optional step. However some have integrated this element fully into the game engine.

So this all racks up to a lot of what I have seen, what my perceptions are, and it does not really go into detail about what you could do. And as usual with my building series I am not going to tell you what you should do. You see even with all the stereotypes I have called out above, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with falling into any of those. As long as the group you are playing with knows that is your style of play and that it will not impact the game play for everyone else. I mean having a Dramatist in with a bunch of Power Gamers is usually just asking for hurt feelings and trouble.

And that leads me to the one and only real rule I have for character building. Be #*$%ing honest with the rest of the players and your GM on what style of play you have. Dont BS them just because you want some time to hang out or show off. It will only come back later to bite you in the @$$. The thing is you do not need to take this to mean that if you put a Dramatist in with Power Gamers it cannot work. As long as everyone knows whats what up front you can give everyone what they need in a game session. As long as you are honest, and your group is open minded, you can make it work.

And all of that leads me to what I do.

For me character creation is a lot like creating a building. You have steps you go through to get to a certain point.

You start with an environment, build a foundation, put a framework into place, add on all the bits and pieces that can make it sound, and then finally shape the appearance and accessories so that it all comes together.

In coming posts on this topic I will go into detail about several of these elements if not all of them. I am going to present them in the order that makes sense to me. However if you work in a different pattern that is totally cool. Heck if you ignore the ideas here that is totally cool too.

All righty, that is where we are going to end today. Look for more soonish.

Now gimme the dice. I need to see if this random stat randomizer is random enough…

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Tales from the Game Table – One in a Million Shots

Ages and ages ago it seems I was playing in a regular Call of Cthulhu game group. We all came up with some very interesting characters. My character was a soldier who had been a sniper in Word War 1. I even worked out a history for him that had him in places that could have suggested that he might have been responsible for things like a specific shot at a specific Arch Duke. He was one of those characters that was not really socially comfortable and only really felt at home in a conflict.

He was brought into the campaign by a newspaper add that was looking for someone who could handle challenging work with combat experience. His interview for the job was an interesting bit that ended up with him and his interviewer in a private shooting range. If my character could back up his talk about how good he could shoot the job was his. So at range he looks at the constructed target. A few silver dollars can be easily seen. Focusing a bit he could also see nickles that were a little covered up. But my character was a pro and had a knack for spotting weak points. Critical success on the spot roll and he has the spot noted that would bring down the who target structure. Now then in Call you need to roll low on percentiles. So I line up the shot. 03 on the roll. DM says he needs a back up roll if I really do want to destroy the structure. 01. Needless to say he got the job and was made part of the team. DM kept a close eye on my rolls from then on because that was just too good to be true. But no… I didnt fake it. In fact my luck with that character tanked for several months. Nothing I could not get out of in the end, but… yeah…

So a few months after that incident the group of investigators is in with a band of primitives in a region that was… not quite Earth. Anyway our investigators had teamed up with a tribe. My character had been going over defensive measures with them and helping them fortify. Things had been getting hostile and so we were expecting an invasion from at least one other tribe. Invasion comes. Our cult busting mystic is setting up spells but needs time. Out other team members are getting ready to help with the wounded. My character goes to the ramparts of the hastily constructed defenses and yells down to see what the invaders want. Trying to buy time. The invaders leader steps forward and demands certain things and people from us in order to leave peacefully. Everyone on the team shakes their heads no at me and so I have my character ask if there is anything else he wants to negotiate for. Leader yells back it is not a negotiation and that we will submit.

So my character shot him. 01 right in front of the DM. He sighed and asked me to roll again because my character was using a high caliber hand gun and it might have had more kick to take things off a bit. 01 again. DM takes a look at his own specially prepared critical hit tables and it appears that with that handgun and my characters skill level that I also took out two people standing behind the leader.

And so what do I do next…. “Anyone else want to ‘Negotiate’?!”

We had been prepped for all out war. Heavy losses and likely losses of sanity on all parts as spells that we should not be playing with get cast to help the tribe we were allies with.

Fight ends in one shot. My character became a hero/demigod to the tribes. Not wanting to play outside my role, when the NPCs came to my character to lead, he told them that he was just a messenger and negotiator. The Mystic and the Business man were the ones who could lead them.

To be perfectly honest I have forgotten if the movie Fifth Element had come out before or after we did that last session. I think it came out before the session and I was just pulling a favorite line and putting it in a new place. But as long as I remain confused I dont have to admit to having stolen the line for my own fun in the game. 🙂

Sure I have had other critical hits in my life of gaming and even done a few more spectacular things in my games as well. But those two shots in that one game series just… mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. tasty 😉 heh

That campaign continued for a good while after that and I really had a lot of fun delving ever deeper into the character and really setting some interesting goals for him that fit his personal… mindset… yeah mindset, lets not call him a psychopath or anything, cause noooo… mindset it is… in a way I dont get to do very often in a game group.

Ok so gimme the dice, I need to see if I can get a critical hit on breakfast.

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New series topic – Character Creation

Hey there readers

Now then anyone with a way back machine or a love of slightly older desktop computer RPGs might recognize the image above, or most of it, from Ultima 6. One of the best in the Ultima series of games. It had one of the most unique character creation elements I had ever encountered to date… well save for the other Ultima games… ok so lets just say I liked the way you created a character in most of the Ultima series.

Having done several series about world building, I thought it would be an interesting time to go more in depth into characters. Both the ones we play and the NPCs that GMs torment us with on a regular basis.

Even though I have talked in the past a bit about differences in Point Based game engines and level based character evolution, I have not touched on character personality and background and all the stuff that gives you the ‘character’ and not just the collection of stats you are going to use.

I plan on pulling up examples for the mechanics from several different game engines, and even a few computer or console examples because a creative table top group can incorporate them into the mix or use them directly.

Not sure when this series will be starting up but it will kick off with Character Creation 101 and be touching on… well I am not quite sure what it will be touching on yet. There are a lot of potential elements to talk about. If anyone has any ideas on things you think should be covered in regards to character creation leave me a reply in the comments and I will be happy to consider driving that point home.

Keep playing out there and having fun in the mean time folks.

Now gimme the dice, I gotta see what goes great with level one new players… 😉 heh

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Tales from the Game Table – My favorite Deaths 1

Ok so everyone knows that in an RPG the death of your character is something that may happen. If you are playing something like Call of Cthulhu then a good death may be the best you can hope for… But there comes for all of us who game the high and low points in the death of a character. Sometimes a death is a good one in which we go out in a blaze of glory becoming the person of legend who will be remembered until at least the next game session. Sometimes the death of a character is just… plain… stupid.

Well when you see the My favorite Deaths header on a tales from the game table I am going to be talking about some of the best, worst or most inconclusive deaths I have ever put a character through… as a player and as a GM.

Gonna roll this out with one of my personal favorite deaths that happened to one of my own characters.

So the entire party was camped around the fire in the middle of no where. This was not the most cliche of nights but hey no one ever said this game group was subtle. And suddenly a lich. Just roll with it.

Everyone jumps up and gets running into fighting mode, because yeah, we bad. My character tries to use his freakish magically enhanced speed to grab a log from the fire and charge into the lich, Because its undead, and undead hate fire right?

So when you have boots of speed, potion of speed, a haste ring and have had training to go faster, well… yeah you got some speed. I figured if nothing else I would distract it so the others could do something.

Oh and just as a note this was in AD&D first edition. With a GM who felt that if you roll a one you botch and a twenty is a critical hit…

Soooooooooooooo…. yeah super high speed character with a flaming log charging realllllly powerful undead ickyness. You might think you know where this is going but you are only partly right…

So I rolled to hit with  a charge with my flaming log of speed…. and I botch…

I am stumbling, trying not to kill myself as I go speed stumbling past the lich…

And the lich attacks, With a clothes line… And a crit… It was starting to look like a bad pro wrestling moment but it gets worse.

The stumble and the clothes line crit were actually enough to kill the character…. and yet the lich, having been insulted by the fact that my character would attack it physically with something so mundane as a log, used its next action to cast disintegrate on my character. Who is already dead.. and still tumbling through the air…

And I almost botch the save.

Fortunately there was enough ash that could be assembled and poured into my magic boots that a cleric could be found to bring me back later….

But yeah…

That was….

Spectacular….

 

Ok so gimme the dice… I need to make saving throws against my own dumb ideas.

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