Tag Archives: Carnival

February Blog Carnival: Worldbuilding

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This month’s blog carnival topic is worldbuilding. How do you get the worlds you use for your game? Do you create your own or use a published world? If you create your own, where did you start? What do you like best about building your own settings? What suggestions and resources do you have for teaching others how to build worlds of the their own? What are the pros and cons of building your own world? Where do you get the inspiration for your worlds.

It’s a broad topic, I know. I’d like to stick to the whys and wherefores of building worlds, rather than details of the worlds themselves. Instead of telling us about your world, tell us how you created it and why, as well as sharing any tips you may have for others who’d like to build their own game world, but don’t know where to start.

I’m looking forward to seeing your posts; just put the URL of your post in the comments section below and at the end of the month, I’ll do a wrap-up post listing everyone’s contributions.

August Blog Carnival Wrap-Up

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First off, thanks to everyone who contributed to August’s Blog Carnival Teaching the Game. This is my first time hosting the carnival; thanks for making it a success. This post is a little late, but I just got married last week and am only now getting the chance to get back to a regular schedule. We had some great posts this month:

Again, thanks to everyone who participated. I’ll be hosting the January 2011 blog carnival on Worldbuilding, so mark your calendars 😉 .

Teaching the Game: August Blog Carnival

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First off, thanks to Mad Brew Labs for hosting the July carnival on Growing the Hobby. It really got some great discussion going. This month’s carnival actually (and inadvertently) extends that discussion. Much of the consensus about growing the hobby focused on how we, as RPG players and GMs, need to teach our games to as many new players as we can. This month, I take that one step further and ask how do we teach them?

I’d originally intended to call this “Passing it Down” and focus on children and roleplaying, but then I realized that was only one type of new RPG player. So this month, I want to focus on the hows and wherefores of teaching RPGs to new players, whether they be adults or children, people just joining their first game or people who’ve been playing for decades learning a new system.

Here’s some possible questions to get you going:

  • How do you find new players?
  • How do you help them learn the mechanics of a system (and how much of the system do you require them to learn?)
  • How do you teach the non-mechanics part of the game?
  • How do you teach someone to GM?
  • What’s the best beginner system?
  • What’s the best system for teaching roleplaying to kids?
  • How do you run games for kids?
  • What was your first game like? How could it have been better?
  • Should roleplaying be taught in the schools?
  • Do you play with your own kids?
  • Are all-kid game groups better than adult-kid mixed groups?

And, of course, anything else you can think of.

I’ve always enjoyed teaching games and most of the convention games I’ve run have been designed to introduce new players the whatever system I’m running. Later this month I’ll post my techniques on running a teaching game. I’m looking forward to seeing your posts; just put the URL of your post in the comments section below and at the end of the month, I’ll do a wrap-up post listing everyone’s contributions.

Growing the Hobby

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For this month’s blog carnival Mad Brew Labs has posed the question “Challenge: Growing the Hobby”. Since I started playing in 1980, the hobby has grown exponentially and shows no sign of stopping. Sure, in the general population interest flares up, wanes, and fares again but the sheer number of people who play RPGs has grown considerably since its beginning. Do we really need it to grow more?

I think that before we can really answer the question of how to grow our hobby, we need to define exactly what hobby it is that we’re trying to grow. It’s RPGs, of course. But what, exactly, are RPGs? Tabletop games using traditional rules systems such as D&D, GURPS, Storyteller, Savage Worlds, etc. are obviously RPGs. But tabletop games have grown away from the table or were never there to start with. Are LARPs (live-action roleplaying games) RPGs? I think most of us would answer “yes”, simply because they’re usually based on a tabletop system.

But that being the case then, do the How to Host a Murder games that were popular in the late ’80’s also RPGs? I tend not classify them as RPGs for the simple matter that they involved reading lines from a set script. But what about the murder mystery trains and interactive theatres? How about re-enactment and re-creation such as the Society for Creative Anacronisms and black-powder rendezvous? What makes them different from LARPS?

Moving back to tabletop (in a way), we come to Play by Mail, Play by Email, and Play by Post games. Are they also RPGs? I think most of us would, again, say “yes” because they’re still playing something we recognize as an RPG. But that, then, leads us to open the big can of worms … MMOs. Are MMOs a type of RPG?

My point here isn’t to spark debate about what is or isn’t an RPG. My point is that the hobby may already be more mainstream and wide-spread than we frequently think.

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Games…Must Have Games…

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I hate gaming dry spells. I think the longest period I’ve gone without gaming was two years, if you’re talking about actually sitting at the table, either as GM or player. If you’re counting game preparation and research, it’s more like, well, 6 months.

How to do I manage? Gaming is a priority for me: right after the important personal relationships in my life and equal to martial arts.  Which puts it way ahead of just about everything else, since rpgGM.com is my job as well as my love. It also helps that just about everyone in my immediate family are also gamers. I’ve been very, very blessed, especially with a fiancé who’s actively encouraging  me to (and supporting me while) I get my own game publishing company off the ground.

But this is about how to survive the drought. Like everyone else, I’ve had times when I couldn’t get a group together or couldn’t find one I wanted to play in. Here’s what I do when I’m game deprived:

  • Worldbuilding. Number one top slot. I love worldbuilding, which is why rpgGM.com’s first series of products is the game world, Guang Keshar. But it’s not just building worlds from scratch. I also consider rewriting the background of existing game worlds as worldbuilding.
  • Reading game systems. I try get my hands on and read as many game books as I can. This helps me keep the creative juices flowing, which leads to…
  • Campaign creation. I’ll spend a lot of time fleshing out the bare structure of a campaign for a game I’m itching to run. That’s a bit trickier, since I have a very hands-off GMing style and tend to build my games around my PCs. But I can do a fair amount of preparation work so that I’m ready for character creation when it does happen. I often have three or four campaigns I’m working on (but not currently running) simultaneously.
  • Reading about GMing. I’m always looking for ways to improve my GMing. I like reading game-related blogs, though right now I don’t have time to keep pace with more than a handful of my favorites. I also love reading books like Robin’s Laws of Good Gamemastering.
  • Playing RPG computer games. For me, this is something of a last resort. I generally dislike the rigidity of computer RPGs (though they are getting better). I prefer gaming with real people who’re in the same room as me.
  • Running “Play by Email” (PBEM) campaigns. This is actually one of my old stand-by’s when I can’t get a group together locally and the number one of the reasons my dry spells are so short.  They’re still not the same, but I find them a better substitute for a tabletop game than computer games. With the advent of MMOs, I know many people who prefer the other way around, though. To each their own 😉 .
  • Writing about games (non-worldbuilding). Most of the game stuff I’ve written has happened when I was between game groups.
  • Painting miniatures and creating game-related art.

What can I say? I’m a game junkie. Gaming is one of the things my family does together and that’s something I’m very grateful for.

[This post is a part of RPG Bloggers‘ May blog carnival].

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Dancing with the Dark

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Morality. A big topic, with even bigger answers. What is good? What is evil? Are evil actions ever justified? Can we ever truely overcome evil? If we can, should we? Do moral issues have a place in RPGs?

rpg blog carnival logoUndoubtedly, yes. One of the wonderful things about our hobby is that it allows us to explore the question of evil safely. It provides us a sandbox to try out actions, attitudes, and desires that are unacceptable in the real world.

What do I mean by “safely”? I mean that we can act out these “dark desires” in a pretend world on pretend people. No one really gets hurt; no one real dies. But the concept of “safely” goes even beyond that — it helps protect us from our own darker natures. By channeling those shadow feelings into a fictional character, we can separate ourselves from our own dark impulses. We don’t need to carry the burden of guilt those feelings often bring. They become “not us”, to a certain extent.

Wouldn’t it be better to eliminate those dark desires? To purge ourselves of them? Unfortunately both psychology and history tell us that’s really not possible. The best we can do is to repress them and try our best to forget they even exist. But what we hide still remains and colors our actions in ways we don’t anticipate … or even, often, see. But those impulses and desires — our shadow — need a safe outlet. And RPGs, as purely mental exercises, can give us that outlet. We can safely project our shadow onto our fictional characters, giving us an alternative to projecting it onto the people around us.

This has an added benefit: the more we explore the dark part of our souls, the better we can relate to other people. Through roleplaying, we learn that we, ourselves can be greedy. We can be lustful, gluttonous, murderous. When we recognize these things in ourselves, I believe we become more tolerant of them in other people. Which is not to say we condone those actions, or think they’re appropriate. But what we can do is recongize someone else’s struggle with their shadow side. We may even find it easier to treat them with compassion.

Through roleplaying, we can gain a better understanding of the full range of human emotions and desires. By becoming some one else for a time, we find we’re not as different from others as we may have imagined.

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D&D: the Future

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Predicting is always a tricky prospect. Where will D&D be in five years? 10 years? 20?

rpg blog carnival logoWhile I would love to sing D&D’s praises to the highest, I’m afraid that five years down the road, I won’t be playing it. What I mean is, that it’s unlikely I’ll be playing whatever the current edition of that time is. Most likely, I’ll still be playing 3.5 ed with the occasional “beer and pretzels” 1st ed game.

You see, I actually left the D&D fold completely after the introduction of 2nd ed. After playing (pretty much exclusively) D&D for almost 10 years, I got far more intrigued by other games: Amber, GURPS, Ars Magica, Trinity, World of Darkness, Traveller, various home-brew systems, including my own. I’d gotten frustrated with 1st ed’s limitations — that a thief always had the same skills as every other thief, etc., not to mention the whole alignment controversy (which I won’t go into here).

It was 3rd ed. that brought me back. The addition of skills and feats meant that I could have a thief that was more of a highway man, or a magic-user who was a “people person” and not a high-powered blaster. But despite the new additions to the system, I felt it still managed to keep the flavor of D&D. Now don’t ask me to quantify why — I can’t. It’s just to me it still, for some untangible reason, “feels” like the 1st ed. D&D done better.

Now 4th ed. doesn’t do a thing for me. To me, it feels like an MMORG brought to the tabletop. Not a bad thing, if that’s what you’re into and I can see how it would be very accessible for brand new players. It looks like, from my read-throughs, that it’s a good game in it’s own right. It’s just not my cup of tea for a number of reasons. And, to me, it doesn’t feel like D&D. Again, that’s an emotional, gut-reaction and I can’t put my finger on why. But because of it, I’m very unlikely to buy anything from the line.

Will there be a D&D in the future? I think there’ll still be something called “Dungeons and Dragons”. It’s staying power has been proven. Will I be playing it? That all depends on what the game does between now and then.

This post is part of the RPG Blogger’s July Blog Carnival.

“You Want to Do What?”

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As a D&D player, I’ve developed a reputation for making combat use of non-combat spells. Sure, dealing out massive amounts of damage with Fireball or Lightening Strike is a lot of fun — there’s no denying that — but I get even more enjoyment out of find ways to use other spells in a fight. Whether it’s casting Nystul’s Magic Aura on all the party’s weapons (great for intimidating opponents in low-level games) or using Animate Rope to trip an opponent, I love watching the DM’s face whenever I come up with an idea he’s never seen before.

rpg blog carnival logoWhen I started playing 3.5 ed., I discovered that familiars can carry touch spells to a target and a whole new world opened up to me. My biggest success to date is the Touch of Idiocy spell. While our opponents were camping in the woods, I sent my weasel familiar to deliver Touch of Idiocy to the group’s sorcerer while he was tending to a “call of nature”. Since we were in a wooded area, I guessed he wouldn’t notice the presence of a normal woodland creature.

He didn’t. After removing 4 pts (each) of intelligence and wisdom and 6 pts of charisma, our opponents were without their spellcaster for the entire combat, allowing us to defeat them more easily than we would otherwise. Unfortunately, this trick now only works once in awhile, as word got around and our opponents have started killing every small creature than came near them.

Other “creative” spell uses I’ve come up with:

  • “Blanking out” written mission orders using Erase
  • Researching a new version of Reduce Person that only shrinks the actual person — not anything they’re wearing or carrying — and using that in combat. It’s really fun to watch your opponent get tangled up in their own clothes.
  • Using Detect Thoughts to determine if there were any invisible opponents around us. Granted, it doesn’t tell me where the invisible critters are, but it can at least warn me that I need to start looking for them.
  • Luring an opponent into a room with a single small doorway, then casting Enlarge Person on him, effectively trapping him until the spell wears off.
  • Using Levitate on a dropped or thrown weapon to put it up out of an opponent’s reach, keeping them from retrieving it.
  • Hiding an ambush using Rope Trick
  • Mending an opponent’s sheath opening. This traps their dagger or sword inside the sheath, making it take longer for your opponent to draw their weapon (thereby — sometimes — creating attacks of opportunity for our side).
  • Casting Grease on an opponent’s weapon handle (preferably before they draw it, thereby avoiding the need for a saving throw).

This post is part of the July RPG Blog Carnival, hosted (this month) by 6d6 Fireball.

Edition Wars

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Edition wars. Where would D&D be without them? Even when I first started playing D&D back in 1980, there were already edition wars. Members of my first gaming group would argue the merits of Basic D&D vs. Advanced D&D vs. “the little brown books” (the boxed set of Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures).

My contribution to the Edition Wars topic is a little different. I haven’t really had a chance to try out a new addition of D&D, but I’m hoping to by the end of the month. If I get a chance, I’ll write a post about it.

rpg blog carnival logoD&D isn’t the only game to go through multiple editions. If you’ve read my post on upgrading to new editions, you know I’ve got a lot of older editions of games on my selves. Instead of rehashing the “which D&D edition is better” debate, I decided to list my favorite games that have multiple editions:

  • Dungeons & Dragons. The granddaddy of all RPGs. To date, I’ve played Basic D&D, AD&D (1st ed), D&D 3.0 and D&D 3.5. I played 1st ed for so long I still remember that the saving throw chart was on pg. 79 of the DMG. That’s without looking at the books in almost 20 years (except to verify that saves were on pg. 79 😉 ). I loved that game and played the books to tatters. Even with that, I have to admit that 3.5 is my favorite edition so far. I love the skill system and feats which allow me to customize my character so I don’t have the exact same skill set as every other character of my class. I haven’t really played 2nd ed or 4th ed, so the jury’s still out on them.
  • World of Darkness. 2nd ed, hands down and straight across the board. Granted, I haven’t actually played the newest editions (I’m still reading through them) but I don’t care for what’s been done to the game’s setting. I’ll freely admit it’s probably due to old-fogeyness and I’m not above stealing material from other editions to use in my current game.
  • Ars Magica. 4th ed. I haven’t yet seen a copy of 5th ed, so I can’t really make a call on it. But I like Atlas’ take on the game better than White Wolf’s or WOTC’s. I feel that 4th ed has the most flavor of being truly medieval-based and historically inspired.
  • Traveller. Marc Miller’s Traveller (T4). I found (despite the horrible copy editing job of the book) this edition of the rules much easier to pick up and play than the original Classic Traveller. I haven’t played any of the other editions beyond these two, but T4 is definitely my favorite so far. Plus, I like the early Third Imperium setting.

Those are my preferences. But, as I mentioned above, I tend to take a little here and there from other editions of a game and shape them into my own house rules version of a game. So I’m curious — what edition of these games do you play and do you “borrow” from other editions. If you do, what do you use and how do you incorporate it into your game?

Everything I Know I Learnt from D&D: 20 Life Lessons Gaming’s Taught Me

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  1. Be nice to the people who have your back.
  2. When you leave home, always make sure you’ve got a bedding, food, water, a knife, and a light source, even if you’re just going to be gone “a few hours”. You never know when a freak storm may hit.
  3. Babysitting missions are always more trouble than their pay is worth.
  4. Romance blossoms between the unlikeliest people.
  5. Bring your own rations — what your teammate eats may not be food to you.
  6. Anyone who says “This is a simple job” is lying and looking for a cut-rate deal.
  7. It’s hard to adventure when you’re carrying a baby.
  8. Even when you’re sure the mama is dead and gone, leave the baby where it is.
  9. A rope, a dagger, and a 50′ pole can overcome most obstacles.
  10. If you think you’re being watched, you probably are.
  11. On long trips, it really is nice to have someone who can sing.
  12. Never trust someone else’s map.
  13. Bring comfortable shoes — at some point, you’re going to need to hoof it.
  14. Never pack more than you can carry.
  15. Saying “Can’t we all just get along?” is the quickest way to being dead.
  16. Never insult your employer. Especially about their name.
  17. You don’t have to like the people you work with…but it sure helps.
  18. Never leave horses, princesses, children or familiars by themselves.
  19. Never assume someone can’t understand your language. Especially if you’re insulting them.
  20. NEVER touch the “wam-wam”.

rpg blog carnival logoThis article is part of the RPG Blog Carnival. I’d actually started this post before I discovered the Carnival, so I had to participlate. Each week I’m going to tackle a different questions from this month’s topic.

More seriously, I think I’ve learned most of my social skills from gaming. Since I started gaming in 1980, I’ve gone from being the classic “foot-in-your-mouth-inadvertantly-insult-everyone-you-talk-to gamer geek” (yes, girls can be gamer geeks too!) to being the “bard” of the party, in real life as well in game. You know, the person who does all the negotiations ’cause they get the best results and the best deals? Gaming gave me a reason to learn to get along with other people, especially people I may not like.

I can’t imagine what my life would be like now without D&D. I wouldn’t have met any of my closest friends, the people who’ve always “had my back” and who’ve stayed with me through thick and thin. Heck, without gaming, I wouldn’t have my son — his father and I met during a game session. I’ve learned how to plan projects, innovate solutions from tools found at hand, and carry things through to completion, even when they originally seemed “too hard”.

Without D&D I wouldn’t be the person I am.