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…