Thursday, August 25, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #25 What makes for a good character?

A great character is one in motion. They've got something to do, somewhere to go. And that doesn't just mean in the broad sense of having a quest, mission or goal to pursue. It can also mean that the character has something to contribute to every scene they're in. The character isn't just following the GM's lead, and maybe not always the player's. They may actually be doing those things, but a good character is one that makes it look completely natural.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #24 What is the game you are most likely to give to others as a gift?

To be fully honest, the game that I have given as a gift is actually my own, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. It was a Christmas gift for my niece, who I was also gifting with the Oz books at the time. So it wasn't totally self-aggrandizing.

Though Christmas is one of my high points for sales, so apparently other people think it's worth gifting as well.

The other game that I would be very likely to give as a gift would likely be Fate Accelerated. It's small, inexpensive and easily digestible. There are even a couple of settings made specifically for FAE, Aether Sea and Masters of Umdaar, that are pretty cool. Add some Fate Dice and you're ready to go.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

RPGaDay #23 Share One Of Your Best 'Worst Luck' Stories

That would have to be the sad yet hilarious tale of Bentley, a gnome illusionist from the early days of the old school megadungeon game.

Among the various rooms full of monsters, there was a 10 foot by 10 foot room with 3 or 4 skeletons in it. As we were playing, I drew out this room on my map as a square comprised of 4 grid squares. I then placed figures to represent the skeletons (they might have all been skeleton figures, but no guarantees).

Bentley moved into the room, eager to smash some skeletons. That's when our powerhouse, a ranger we all called Boots decided she wanted in on the skeleton smashing action. But there was only so much room in that room. So I, being the kind and generous GM that I am, told her that she could move into the space if she could kill the skeleton occupying it. She also had the highest Strength score in the group, so her bonuses made her success assured.

If only she hadn't rolled a 1. But she did. Then, to make things interesting, I told her to make another attack roll, Since she had missed the skeleton, I had decided that there was a chance she had hit Bentley. And what else would she roll but a natural 20. Critical hit. Without rolling for damage, her Strength bonuses were enough to drop poor little 1st level spellcaster Bentley into negative hit points. If I had made her roll damage, it would only have made him that much deader.

Monday, August 22, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #22 What Are Some Random Events In Your Games That Keep Happening?

I don't really do random events outside of my D&D style games. When I am allowed to be my more story-centric self, I prefer that even the minor encounters have something to say about what's going on. Even if it's as simple as "This is dinosaur country!" I'm going to put effort into choosing cool dinosaurs to create neat encounters rather than building a more general purpose table. Also, most games aren't as bestiary-driven as D&D is. While D&D has pre-made stats for a lot of monsters, in another game, it ends up being the GM writing up monster stats. Prepping 3 scripted encounters is much easier than prepping a dozen of them and then writing a table. It's also more efficient, since I don't have to write content I won't use.

But in terms of elements that keep popping up even though they don't rise to the level of plot or theme or whatever, I could mention my desire to justify/redeem the trope of "You all meet in a tavern."

Back in the day, the dramatic elements that we associate with roleplaying today weren't really in place. Players spent more time on their character's equipment list rather than backstory. There are lots of ways to kick off a campaign, but the tavern opener has an interesting advantage that not many people think about: It gives players an opportunity to express their characters out of the gate.

Just putting them into a no-pressure situation and asking them "What do you do?" is a great way to get roleplaying started. Even if the response is as simple as "I order a drink,"  we just learned something about that character.

The spooky old man in the corner with the map to the Dungeons of Doom can wait until all of these actions are played out. This can be within a few minutes of opening the session or a coda ("Hey, you guys. There's also an adventure to do next session.")

Sunday, August 21, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #21 What Was The Funniest Misinterpretation Of A Game Rule In Your Group?

Off the top of my head, I don't think I have the precise story the question seems to be looking for. No strong memories of ""OMG! If I had known that rule worked differently, that thing never would have happened!"

One recent amusing misinterpretation that has no real rules effect comes from one of my current players. He loves magical characters and so is playing a wizard in my Pathfinder game. His handwriting is not sloppy by any stretch of the imagination, but it is peculiar in places. His 1's occasionally look like 7's. That sort of thing.

His most amusing typo came when he got the spell floating disk. It's very useful for carrying treasure and other heavy things out of the dungeon until you get cool items like bags of holding or portable holes. But his S came out a bit more like a C when he wrote it on his spell list. So rather than a floating disk, it looked very much like he could use his magic to create a floating dick.

We sometimes tease him about this, but I have never made a ruling that his spell actually creates anything resembling a penis.

Another story similar to this would probably be from my GURPS Technomancer campaign many moons ago.

I had purchased the book GURPS Martial Arts at DunDraCon that year. Since I was so enthused by the new content, I allowed my players to rebuild their characters to take advantage of the new rules. They couldn't change their point totals, but they could swap out old abilities for cool kung fu,

One player took this a little too far. In order to avoid changing his point total, he piled on an excessive amount of disadvantages to afford all of his new martial arts abilities. And since he was a fairly dedicated roleplayer, he insisted on playing out all of them.

It actually took me some time to clue into this. Because even though his behavior was disruptive, it never seemed petulant or spiteful. he was simply playing his character. Though once I clued in that he had written down every disadvantage in the book, I told him to tone it down and rewrite his sheet without so many disadvantages, even if it meant toning down his martial arts or his magic. Or both.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #20 What Is The Most Challenging But Rewarding System You Have Learned?

This is actually kind of interesting. I can think of a number of challenging systems and a number of rewarding systems, but not much in the way of "challenging, but rewarding."

I mean, GURPS is a challenging system. It's got a lot of detail, a lot of moving parts, which can be rewarding, but a lot of proponents of GURPS will tell you that a lot of the challenge of GURPS is knowing what parts not to use for a given campaign.

On the other hand, I don't think Fate is very challenging at all, but I can see how it could be very rewarding.

Burning Wheel strikes me as a good choice for being both challenging and rewarding. While I have yet to play the game, the process of building a character (like I mentioned yesterday) was involved, but also gave me some real food for thought as to who my guy was.

Friday, August 19, 2016

RPGaDay 2016 #19 What Is The Best Way To Learn A New Game?

I'm sure someone would say that play is the best education on a game system. Take a pregenerated character and put them through their paces, learning how the dice work and how no to die in combat. And there is a certain truth to that.

But I think that, especially with the character-focused systems that are coming out these days, you don't get a proper taste until you build one yourself. Burning Wheel is one game that is so complex that I didn't get a proper understanding of how a lot of the pieces fit together until I built a character.

The other thing that Burning Wheel character generation taught me is how the process can inform the character. My initial goal was not only to make a Burning Wheel character, but to create the Burning Wheel version of Bob the Fighter, that generic guy with a sword that fills up every fantasy RPG out there. But because of how it was structured and the sorts of decisions I had to make to fill out that sheet, My "generic fighter" wound up being very un-generic. He became a product of some very interesting decisions and someone that I wanted to play. Never got to, though. Ho-hum.

The kinds of decisions that character creation wants you to make often inform how you play the game. This can be choosing a race and class in D&D or writing aspects for your Fate character, or anything else. A pregenerated character isn't going to give you those choices.
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