Introduction to being an rpg player

A player in my games who is new to rpgs has asked for recommended reading for how to be a good player. This is hard, because I have been playing rpgs longer than almost anything else — I started when I was 8 or 9, and I’m 40 this Autumn.

I tried searching the web for articles, but many of them bored or annoyed me. Perhaps unsurprising, since I’m not their target audience. However they have other problems. One common tendency is to be patronising, to talk down to the newcomer. Another is to assume a very low baseline of ordinary social skills — in contrast, what most people need is for the article to assume that and to explicitly demarcate those challenges that are distinctive to rpgs (or to common rpg subcultures).

So, despite me being a bad choice to write something on this, I have done it anyway.

Key message

Every game is different, every group is different. Some groups override the rules completely with a local version, and sometimes that’s implicit (just local practice and custom). Some groups do that for some games but not others.

Continue reading “Introduction to being an rpg player”

Low production values are better for my enjoyment

I’ve been thinking some more about my concern in my previous post – that “high production values” are a net negative for my pleasure in rpgs. There are three reasons for this. For clarity, I will express them purely in terms of art:

First, if the art doesn’t work for me, it damages my fragile images of the imagined world. For example, anything cartoony feels wrong to me — Dungeon World, Masks, Fate… even D&D 5e is too far down this path. I’m sad to say that Silent Titans gives me trouble, too — I find Leichty’s art powerful, but too abstract and far too garish. It thus prevents me visualising the Silent Titans world.

Second, even art I like can be a problem if creates an unwelcome contrast with things I’ve brought to the table. My own rules and texts have basic typography and little or no art. I might have art printouts or a Pinterest board, but they’ll have a mishmash of artists and styles. I might have made a map, but it will look a bit shit. If there’s a game text on the table produced to a high standard, my work will look poor by comparison.

Continue reading “Low production values are better for my enjoyment”

D30 reasons two people are married

  1. The tax benefits were substantial
  2. The priest insisted
  3. One is anxious, one unflappable
  4. One is slothful, the other beats them
  5. A love potion, mistakenly administered
  6. One made the other, and felt responsible
  7. One rescued the other from a troll
  8. One talks too much, one never listens to anyone
  9. They are both a strange shape, like a lock and its key
  10. They have never thought about it, they just are
  11. One’s mother schemed extensively
  12. For the sake of the child
  13. In the hope of a child
  14. So that the child would face the curse, not them
  15. Because no other would have either
  16. The thing in the well told them to
  17. Only one had money
  18. Only one had good sense
  19. To make eachother keep a secret
  20. It was the only way they could share the treasure
  21. They’re actually not, but nobody knows that
  22. …not even them
  23. The authorities won’t be looking for a married couple
  24. The presence of the animal made it necessary
  25. They already had the same name
  26. There was nowhere else to hide
  27. They are always ill in different seasons
  28. They were born married
  29. They are actually one creature with two bodies — saying they are “married” is just the least-hassle way to describe it
  30. No reasonable explanation, but here they are

Several things I have recently read and thought were particularly good, January 2019

F M Geist, while talking about a variety of things in response to a post by Emmy Allen —

I’ve always thought of clerics as being like young men from the lower classes in any theocracy: they’re sent out to wage holy terror against others so that the religious order, hierarchy and viewpoint is not challenged because young men who might found a schism are busy dying somewhere. Also it would account for Clerics being somewhat capable fighters and devoted to weird shit about their religion.

(http://cavegirlgames.blogspot.com/2018/05/orcs-violence-and-evil.html?m=1)

Joseph Manola’s vision for how he would do Warhammer Fantasy now — http://udan-adan.blogspot.com/2018/10/bringing-down-hammer-part-12-my-own.html

Manola again, on how his dystopian setting Against the Wicked City is, against appearances, a romantic fantasy setting — http://udan-adan.blogspot.com/2016/06/romantic-fantasy-revisited-4-so-what.html .

Ideas gleaned from dead cells

I’ve been played Dead Cells today. It seems surprisingly good, and has given me ideas for rpgs, particularly dungeon/hexcrawl ones, and perhaps particularly for open table games:

  • Parcel out knowledge in little, mysterious hints of one or two lines. In session announcement emails, on playbooks and other props, hanging on the back of the GM screen today…
  • Random roll when you enter the dungeon for major state-changing events that day. E.g.
    • There’s a goblin raid ongoing in the section
    • The Goblin King has recalled all goblins for a feast, so there are no goblins other than there
  • Dungeon World (or similar) location moves that don’t supplement but replace the standard set. Have as cards/sheets that you stick over the standard list while in that area.
  • Enemies you can harvest for rare ingredients (seems obvious, but I’ve never done it)
  • Dole out world knowledge in tiny parcels through item names, in-game events (hearing that the Hate-Dwarves attacked means that you now know Hate-Dwarves exist), creature types (knowing that the Funnymen are wretched humans with bizarre things grafted onto them implies the existence of a malevolent grafter)…
  • People love treasure, especially if there’s a chance of a rare and valuable item. I’ve never got good at treasure — my default is to forget it entirely, or be realistic (and thus give far less than is best for player reward experience). For some games that doesn’t matter, but I rarely shift gears properly for games where it does.
  • Let players unlock things that will outlive their character — perhaps for them, perhaps for all players. Advantage of latter is that it makes player-player balancing easier.