Thursday, June 11, 2009

What am I supposed to do with all of this?

Well, I've been blogging for over a year now but I haven't really answered one of the most basic questions my readers may have: What the heck is an RPG and how do you play one?

In a roleplaying game, each player controls a single character. This character is defined by a set of stats, traits, or abilities written down on a piece of paper. More modern games typically include personality traits of some kind, giving you an idea of not only how strong or fast a character is, but how they are likely to respond in given situations.

The Game Master (a generic term. Adventures in Oz uses "Narrator") presents the players with a scenario and adjudicates their responses. They do this with a mix of die rolls, judgment and common sense.

For example,

Game Master: Your house has just crashed down after being lifted away by a Kansas twister. You hear some voices outside. What do you do?


Okay, seriously now

Game Master: Your house has just crashed down after being lifted away by a Kansas twister. You hear some voices outside. What do you do?

Player: What are the voices saying?

GM: You can't really tell. Make an Awareness roll.

Player: Let's see. I've got Awareness 3. (rolls dice) 1 and 4. Looks like a regular success to me.

GM: You don't know exactly what they're saying, but there are a few very nervous male voices and a reassuring female voice. It sounds like she's in charge.

Player: Oh good. I'll step out and introduce myself.

GM: There are 3 men and one old woman. At least you think so. Even though two of the men have beards and the woman looks quite old, they're all only about as tall as you. As you approach, the old woman steps forward and says "You are welcome, most noble Sorceress, to the land of the Munchkins. We are so grateful to you for having killed the Wicked Witch of the East, and for setting our people free from bondage."

Player: Woah. First of all, my character's, like, maybe 10 years old, so these people have to be pretty short. And who did I kill? This isn't like the last game you ran where I woke up with amnesia and I found out I was some kind of CIA hitman, is it? I'll tell her, "You are very kind, but there must be some mistake. I have not killed anything."

GM: She replies "Your house did, anyway, and that is the same thing. See! There are her two feet, still sticking out from under a block of wood." She points at something under your house. Sure enough, there are two feet sticking out wearing silver shoes. And it looks like your house squashed the rest of her flat.

Player: Holy crap! So it's not like I can pick up the house and free her, huh?

GM: Nope. Since you're a little girl and only Size 2, and the house is Size 5, that's a -3 penalty to your Athletics skill.

Player: And I've only got Athletics 2. With that penalty, I'm at less than zero. Right, no chance.

(For an embellished Actual Play log of the rest of this session, check it out here.)

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