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Messages - Pebbles and Marbles

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One trick I've found to be helpful is to mentally cast the NPC as if they were going to be in a movie or tv series.  It's best to follow all of the solid advice already given in the thread, but once you have that, doing this can help you decide how to convey things like mannerisms.

I don't find that it's really mattered much that I'm not that great of a thespian -- in fact, I don't think I can act.  It's not that I'm trying to explicitly do an impression of the actor that I've cast, but rather that the casting leads me to being able to improvise things like word choice, patterns of speech, ticks/quirks/mannerisms, and so forth.  

Things as simple as word choice and speech patterns can very much help to distinguish NPCs and bring them to life for the players.  A guard who speaks in short, clipped sentences is much different from one who lapses into digressive, rambling conversations (like yours truly) with the PCs.

Two instances come to mind when the subjection of GM "authority" and player "empowerment" come up.

1) A guy who used to game with our group before he moved once posted on a RPG forum -- possibly RPGnet -- about our group's policy at the time of the GM creating the characters for short-term games.  There was some amount of shock and outrage that anyone would submit to such, as players should be totally free from GM wishes, &c.

My friend's response was fairly amusing:  "Look, it's sort of like bondage or S&M.  There's pleasures to be fond in submitting to someone else's authority for a period of time, and putting some matters outside of your control.  If it's not your kink, then it might seem odd, but don't assume that others don't get off on it."

2) My girlfriend, after a somewhat aborted attempt by me to put the majority of the game's control on the part of the players, remarked that "if I wanted that sort of control, I'd have offered to run the game myself.  Part of what I enjoy about being a player is being suprised by what happens.  I like things occuring that I didn't plan for, that I didn't expect.  I want to be suprised by what you come up with, not what I can come up with."

Now, I don't expect that either of those should work for anyone else, but I do think they're telling.  I think that some people who are enamoured of "empowerment" don't realise that it's not what everyone wants.  

I'd go further, agreeing with what David R just said, that much of this empowerment seems to stem from experiences with bad GMs.  And having had some experiences in that regard, I can see the appeal of empowerment.  It's just that it's not the primary solution that it can be portrayed to be, and it's probably not the solution that a great number of traditional gamers want.  

I know that it isn't for me.  When I think back to the worst examples of being under a bad GM, it's not that I wanted to be in control of the world to the extent that I would be if I were the GM.  I just wanted my actions as a player and as the character to have some meaning, and I wasn't being given that.  I don't want to be able to say: "Hey, there's a door on the wall here that'll lead to a safe that has the documents that we need..."  I just don't want to be told that there's a door and then be told "But it doesn't matter, because there's nothing there."  That's just sort of crap GMing, right?  Why bother to mention something that isn't either: 1) evocative color/atmosphere; 2) something to do with the game itself?

Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / Cons
« on: October 17, 2006, 05:44:30 PM »
A few recent threads have either dealt with cons, or mentioned them.  From what I can glean from people's comments, it seems like everyone has attended at least one gaming con.

Well, umm, I haven't.  I've been gaming for about 22 years, and I've never attended a con.  I don't have anything against cons, but just don't particularly have the interest that would motivate me to attend one.  

Does this make me one very odd duck?  Is it unusual for someone to have been in gaming for as long as I've been to have never been to a con?

Yeah, I know, this is a fairly inconsequential query, but I'm at home in the middle of the afternoon, sick unto death from some sort of sinus-destroying ailment, and I'm curious.

(Oh, and if this is better suited to one of the other forums, take my apologies.)

Quote from: RPGPundit
Um, I think you're confusing "cheevy syndrome" with "old coot syndrome".  The latter is complaining about how things aren't as good as when you were younger; the former is pining for a time in which you never lived (before you were born).

Err...ummm...yeah, it looks like I did confuse and conflate the two.  Where's that damned "Sheepish" smilie... :o

To salvage something out of posting at 4 a.m., I'll say that I notice that both Cheevy Syndrome and Old Coot Syndrome are often seem walking hand in hand, in my experience.  Not always though.

But, yes, I borked it up in my post.

Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / "CSI: Waterdeep"?
« on: October 15, 2006, 04:27:46 AM »
Seems like there was something about running an investigation game in one of the Eberron books, possibly the Sharn book.  I could go and dig out the books, but that'd be work.

A P.I. fantasy game sounds damned fun.  Glen Cook's Garrett novels would be a good source of inspiration, as well as those Lord Darcy novels which I'm not really familiar with.  By the way, does anyone know if Cook's P.I. is named after the author of the Lord Darcy books, or is that simply a coincidence?

Quote from: Zachary The First
I love that poem.  The SCA has a lot of Cheevys, methinks.  Gamers do, too.

I have two theories, that might be complimentary or not:

1) All hobbies, particularly among those participants who have been in it for a long time, have Cheevys.

2) People tend to become Cheevy-esque around their 30th birthday.

In almost all of the hobbies that I've been enough of a participant in to notice such things, I've encountered Cheevy types, who lament long and often about how things were better in the past, before Dreadful Development X occurred.  The only hobby that I've not encountered this in is birding.  I guess tromping around in the woods, staring at flying critters just doesn't change enough to have people whinging for the good ol' days.  I've heard a few laments about not seeing as much of a particular species as one might have in the past, but I think that's a much different complaint.

So, gaming isn't unique in this regard, or even the worst.  I've probably encountered this attitude the most among music buffs.  And that particular incarnation of the Cheevy Syndrome is often, perhaps damn near always, coupled with my second theory.  "Music isn't as good as it was when I was younger!  Everything sucks now!  It's all the same!"

All of which is ridiculously myopic, and wearing the ol' rose tints as well.  But I don't want to disgress too much, since I'm having trouble as it is bringing this back to the original point of the thread.

Which was what?  Oh yeah, that some games have this luddite, anti-Western Civ attitude.  Umm, yeah, I guess some do.  Handled well, I think such a theme/subtext/whatever-term-you-prefer could make for an interesting game, even if I don't personally share much of those beliefs.  Hey, maybe interesting because I don't share those beliefs.


Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons
He wept that he was ever born,
   And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
   When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
   Would send him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
   And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
   And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
   That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
   And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
   Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
   Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
   And eyed a khaki suit with loathing:
He missed the medieval grace
   Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
   But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
   And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
   Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
   And kept on drinking.

        - Edwin Arlington Robinson

Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / Kewl Powers
« on: October 15, 2006, 12:27:37 AM »
Echoing what Mr. McMurray said, I'll go along for the ride if "kewl powers" are involved if the game is designed properly to provide enough of a challenge to be interesting.  

And as long as that challenge is there, the "kewl powers" level can be pretty damn high.  For example, I could play Exalted as-is, as long as it wasn't a game of my demigod kung-fu master just beating some endless swaths of "mooks".  If it's a game where my demigod kung-fu master is competing with other equally powerful (or more powerful) demigod kung-fu masters, then it would have the potential to be interesting.

Lately, though, my taste is more towards the lower end, more mundane, end of the scale.  Where I to do an Exalted game, I'd be more inclined to tinker the damn thing to death, stripping out most of the more cosmic, uber-kewl elements and taking it down to the fairly gritty swords and sorcery setting a'la Glen Cook & Tanith Lee, that seems to have been the core of the setting in the beginning.

But, then, I'm not so inclined.  I'm inclined to shamelessly steal bits of color and atmosphere from some of the source books and use them in another, entirely different game.

A question, though:  When does something cross over to being "kewl powers"?  Is your standard D&D mage such?

Other Games / PC Games Every Roleplayer MUST own.
« on: October 14, 2006, 04:05:00 AM »
I feel dreadfully out of touch, as I've only played one of the games (Planescape: Torment) mentioned so far.

That's all to do with me, than the choices though.  I think I could tick off all of the PC games I've played with both hands, and have enough fingers left over to count the platform games I've played.  Well, only if you discount Atari 2600 and NES games.  I played a bunch of those in my youth.

Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / Credo
« on: October 14, 2006, 03:50:41 AM »
My girlfriend and I would often cook a quick meal for everyone before games. Some sort of Thai or Vietnamese dish - noodle dishes, typically.  We found that usually made everyone show up on time, even early, and saved them having to eat toxic snack food crap during the game.

Oh, and free beer helps 'em show up on time, as well.  We went the cheap route there, though.  If they wanted to donate to a fund, they could get something nice.  Otherwise, their cheap ass was going to drink Beck's while I had my Aventinus weizenbock.

But providing beer for everyone was only when we were feeling particularly generous.  Othewise they got water.  Out of a hose.  

Tea, actually.  Tea makes for a good drink for a game session, though there's an unfortunate amount of pauses during the game about four pots of oolong in.

I've horribly digressed, haven't I?  To get back on topic, here's my credo:

1) The Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao.

2) Free noodles and tea for everyone.

Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion / Credo
« on: October 14, 2006, 03:10:30 AM »
Quote from: fonkaygarry
4.  No more Chex Mix.  I am not fucking around here.

Why you gotta hate on General Mills and their tasty treat?

Also, put me down as a potential subscriber to JamesV's newsletter.  The constant negativity in much of the discussion of RPGs is weird and wearying.  It's also more interesting to hear what people like and what they're positive about.

Design, Development, and Gameplay / Game; Story
« on: October 09, 2006, 04:27:50 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen

You may want to read Breaking The Ice.  Not to play, just to see, because I'm not really sure I can explain it.

Sorry, I wasn't particularly clear in my response.  

I was saying that I couldn't think of a "traditional" RPG that was specifically honed to particularly approach to the extent that different approaches were impossible.

I can definately think of examples in what you called "story-makers".  Or what I'm assuming you mean as "story-makers".

Design, Development, and Gameplay / Game; Story
« on: October 09, 2006, 04:18:10 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
Can you name an RPG that is completely honed to provide a specific experience of play, to the point where it leaves out the stuff you'd use to "play it differently"?

I can - but they're all story-makers.  With the possible exception of Iron Heroes, which is tuned to producing the Sword And Sorcery feel and awesome tactical combat as an emulation; it doesn't give a damn about story-structures and such.

No, I can't.

I have to admit further curiousity as to why you think Iron Heroes might do so, particularly when compared to other...umm...say, high "crunch"/tactical oriented RPGs.  Maybe compared to stuff like Spycraft 2.0 or something.

Design, Development, and Gameplay / Game; Story
« on: October 09, 2006, 04:00:11 AM »
Quote from: Levi Kornelsen
Yes.  But currently, I haven't seen an RPG as utterly tuned to anything else.

Maybe Iron Heroes.  Maybe.

Levi, could you expand upon this?

Hello All,

I'm in the middle of something else right now, so I can't give the response that this discussion deserves, but I would like to say that I've been given several things to think about.  In particular, John Morrow's comments have made me reconsider what I've stated earlier.

Likewise, a conversation with my girlfriend this afternoon -- a gamer herself, but one entirely uninvolved with any online discussion and theorizing, more of a self-taught/instinctual GM/player sort -- has made me reconsider my statements of being unable to imagine play not amounting to "story" within a RPG.

Much of that reconsideration comes down to realising that I'm using "story" in a very vague, possibly weak manner, where others mean something fairly specific.  When I consider what others mean by "story", it does become apparent how a RPG game be just play and not amount to a story.  Or, as my girlfriend pointed out about one of our last games -- a straightforward play-through of N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God -- "there was a sequence of events, "plot" if you like, but I don't think I could consider it a story."  Okay, the conversation was rather more detailed that that, including her comparing and contrasting that game to earlier campaigns/games where we both used the term "story" to describe the proceedings.

Therefore, I acquiesce that "story" is not automatically a part of "play".  A RPG can include play, but not necessarily involve a "story".

All that said, I have a question, which can be broken off into a seperate thread if it's distracting from the core of this one:  Is it automatically a bad thing if "story" is introduced into a game?  For the sake of this particular question, I'm asking purely in terms of your traditional RPG, with the standard GM/Player division, and all that jazz.

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