HoP Idol: There Can Be Only Von! / Read And Respond

Oi!

This is the final week of the HoP Idol contest over at the ol’ House of Paincakes: last week I managed to creep over the horizon by the skin of me wossnames and a similar performance this week will spell triumph, readership, modest acclaim and a cessation of interruptions to your regularly scheduled bloggery.

Since I have slightly less than no patience with non-content pimp posts, and since I want to show y’all the sort of thing you’ll be voting for if you do decide to vote, here’s a Read and Respond, too: this one to Monsters and Manuals on Things Roleplaying Bloggers Tend Not To Write About.

  • Book binding.  Not something I’ve thought about hugely.  The one book of mine that showed much in the way of time-ravaging was the Vampire core book and, in fairness, that was used for something like three solid years.  Most of my others are staying in one piece.  I would, however, like to echo Limpey in the thought that yr. modern RPG book is mostly too buggering long, bloated with irrelevant details and shortcuts around player skill, and they fall apart mostly because they’re too big to begin with.  Harrumph.
  • “Doing a voice”.  I do it!  I’m a bit rusty having not GM’d as much as I used to for a few years, but I find that a good voice (or a distinctive bad voice) with a recognisable personality behind it goes far further toward characterising an NPC than all the elaborate descriptions and stat-blocks in the world.  The NPCs that have gone flop have been the ones I haven’t been able to voice on the fly; the ones that have been successful have either been designed with a voice in mind, or got lucky when my brain panicked onto a good choice.
  • Breaks within sessions.  I try to work in a meal break.  Hungry and thirsty players are distracted players, snack-rummaging players, wandering-off-for-a-drink players, and if you’re a group of tea drinkers, a round of drinks takes just long enough to prepare that the immersion breaks.  The other advantage of the meal break is being able to steer things toward a cliffhanger, or to break just after a big fight (and spend the rest of the session resolving the aftermath).  Answering phones is… a bit vexing, but I understand we have lives, and non-gaming friends and family, and two of my regulars are buying a house at the moment.  The break I can’t stand is the ‘random non-player wandering around talking in excessive detail about stuff that could wait or wasn’t important to begin with’ break, just because it’s tension/atmosphere/immersion poison to have someone pointing out that we’re out of milk and only bought a new one two days ago and asking where does it all go when they know perfectly well where it goes…
  • Floridity of descriptions.  Um.  I can do a convincing Ian Watson but it’s a filthy habit and I try not to indulge.  If and when I can train groups out of the ‘I make a Search roll’ and into the ‘what’s there for me to look at’ I can answer questions with descriptions and avoid the fear of frontloading that always strangles my descriptions at birth.  I do sometimes ask for one moment of floridity per session, but I usually save it for villainous monologues.  Which someone always interrupts.  Such is life.
  • The balance between ‘it’s in character’ and ‘I’m being a dickhead’ is a tricky one because I tend to play dickheads (it comes naturally).  My last long-term character could be switched off or ordered to shut up, which helped.  This is part of why I like people to generate their characters together, so that anything seeming like a license to excess can be cut off by the group consensus fairly early on.  If it comes down to the wire, I like to remind people that my character’s a dickhead before I do something dickheadly, I try not to get too attached to my characters in case there are consequences to their actions, and I do voices, so it’s clear when Jadan the Necromancer (who’s a git) is being a dickhead because, umm, Lawful Evil corpse-monger, it’s what he does, and when I, Von am being a dickhead because I don’t know any better.
  • PC-on-PC violence is always a prospect.  The group tend towards character troupes with a lot of internal tension (oh, the Star Wars game… someone would have been shot if that had gone on much longer) and to be honest, with the Goblins!, I wanted a lot of internal bickering.  It tends not to escalate into actual lethality but if it does, and I’m GMing, it goes as far as the players are willing to push it.  I get the impression that we know each other well enough to know where each other’s boundaries are, which is only a problem when the players with the least OOC/IC separation capacity are the target of others’ ire.  Some of us have trouble differentiating between ‘Jadan the Necromancer is pissed because he wanted that corpse for… reasons’ and ‘Von is pissed because the game isn’t going his way and he SECRETLY HATES ME or something’.  See also: voices.
  • “How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player?”  I try not to, most of the time.  Strangers are hard to gauge and I have a terrible, overpowering fear of coming across like this:
  • Alchohol at the table – depends on the group, the game, what other distractions there are around the place, whether anyone’s driving and it’d be unfair to leave them out, and who’s on brain pills this year.  I tend to find having a six-pack or a couple of bottles on the table doesn’t do too much harm.  The trick is not to have more booze easily accessible.
  • Dire Events befalling the characters of absent players – in a story game I don’t usually run if I can’t get everyone together, which is part of why I prefer groups of three players plus GM for those.  In a more open game… I don’t know yet.  The idea behind hotseating was that nobody would have Their Character – all characters would be played by a player in all sessions and so this wouldn’t happen – but we never really got to test the principle as nobody quite managed to get themselves killed.  I reckon I might actually take the ‘lost in fairyland’ approach for the next game, especially if I can whip up an interestingly hole-ridden reality for people to fall out of…

2 thoughts on “HoP Idol: There Can Be Only Von! / Read And Respond

Add yours

  1. Many points to comment to here.

    Book binding. Well I’m a pretty laid back girl. If my book falls apart, I just take it to the local office place and have them comb bind it or some such. Big whoop.

    Breaks in sessions- the one game I’m seriously in does a large potluck at the beginning so everyone is fed and watered prior to game start. It also sort of “runs itself” so if a mate needs a pee break, so be it and no one will get mad.

    I wish to everything holy I could do beer or wine at game, but 1) my store doesn’t have a license for liquor and 2) it’s a family friendly business and *I* have very funny ideas about what is ok when minors might pop in.

    Doing voices- I just can’t. In writing, sure. Out loud- no way.

    In character vs being a dick- Just a few months ago I could have said I’d never encountered it outside of something that could be talked around, but, alas; I’m now non-virginal on that point. I think after my experience my POV is that if more than 2 players view your action as dickish, and you are spoken to regarding such dickery, you are at fault and anything that happens is totally on you.

    Which runs right into PC vs PC violence. I will not lie, I’ve resorted to PC on PC violence in an effort to curb dickery. It often works, so I don’t plan to stop. Again, the one game I’m seriously in –encourages– PC to PC interaction and violence often happens when people get annoyed with each other. There have been multiple occasions where threat of death from other players has been imminent and real.

    Stuff that happens when I’m not there: If stuff happens around me, cool. If it happens TO me and I have no voice or option to try to avoid, I get pissed. I have that happen quite enough in real life, thanks.

    Talking about RPGs or roleplaying to strangers. I like talking to anyone about anything and I’ve done it a lot. I have a tendency to be infectious and I know it. I use it to my advantage. =)

    1. I know – it’s a good meme, tends to get a lot of people’s brain-meats moving.

      I think ‘big whoop’ is probably the most legitimate response. Zak S said something like “I want my books to be well bound and I do not wish to read a million posts on book binding”, which is sense. I do wish there were more fold-flat-fold-round-on-themselves A5 RPG books in the world though.

      That potluck approach must be nice. Do you ever find that well fed players are dopey, sleepy players? Carb coma is an ever-present threat…

      I thought you’d be a bit of a one for the distinctive voice in play, to be honest. You think you know someone…

      Your concerns about minors in the shop are entirely warranted. Do you ever have the time/inclination to play in another environment? There’s a definite distinction, I feel, between what’s acceptable in a gaming shop (where I wouldn’t drink either) and what’s acceptable at your home and, in turn, someone else’s.

      The player/character distinction with dickishness is important, I think, though I do like your telling ‘more than two’ rule. If three out of six *characters* are pissed at mine, I tend to think I’m playing Lawful Evil or the Path of Lilith or what-have-you right; if three out of seven *players* are pissed at me, as in ‘breaking character to tell me I’m out of line’, I’ve gone too far. The biggest issue I have is that it’s sometimes difficult to tell if someone’s pissed in or out of character, which tends to happen with very good or very bad performers, or people who are indifferent to the whole ‘perform your character’ aspect of the game and don’t see a distinction there at all. That seems to be where lies the drama.
      As far as out-of-character-dickishness on my part goes… yeah, that’s never okay. Explicable, sometimes, but never okay, and I’ve caught myself behaving like an entitled knobsprocket a few times when I’m not GMing. To my shame, I hasten to add, but it has happened.

      I don’t think you can do convincing PC-to-PC interaction without the potential for violence if PCs get cross with each other – as you say, violence happens when people get tense and it’s weird to think there’s some unseen barrier stopping two people on the same side from falling out with their fists. It doesn’t mean that the party always has to be at each other’s throats – just that friends can lamp each other when they fall out. Which does happen.

      Absent player agency: I hear dat. You don’t wanna be at the mercy of invisible forces in your constructed narrative time.

      And in closing – I think, given what you do for a living, you’d have to be able to explain RPGs to a stranger in order to do the job!
      The part I always find hardest is explaining what I do at weekends to colleagues or friends of friends whose geek-positiveness has yet to be tested. The most neutral, brief stock explanation I’ve come across is Zak’s ‘it’s like a video game but one player is sort of like the video game itself and tells the others what happens when they do stuff’, but even that has a lot of potential to just not work, or evoke sneers.

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