Here’s the second week of posts from RPGaDay, consolidated into one place.
Day 8: How Can We Get More People Playing?
0. Obviously, there are steps that can be taken like “community outreach” and coordinating with your local stores and meetup (organization isn’t my strong suit, so I’ll focus on what I do know).
1. One-shots are your friends – Don’t be afraid of one shot adventures with pre-gen characters. Several reasons:
a. it skips right to the the fun.
b. These make it more easily run with strangers at game nights or conventions.
c. Sometimes people can’t commit to a campaign, or are afraid to commit. A one-shot still lets them enjoy in small doses (and who knows, maybe they’ll get hooked.)
d. Instead of a campaign, think of early adventures as a series of continuous one-shots. This will mean more work carefully crafting the adventure, but if each session has a complete beginning, middle and end in which the players achieved something significant, the experience will be far more satisfactory, and they’ll be more likely to return.
2. Keep it Simple – this may mean using less complex rules systems for brand new players (Fate, Dungeon World, diceless), but can also mean avoiding complex characters (ex. difficult to happen spellcasters,) steering absolute rookies to easier classes, or just fudging the rules a little at the beginning (ex. if an ability is available once per rest period, maybe make it once per fight instead). You can always play rules lawyer later.
Day 9: How has a game surprised you?
I think the number one surprise I’ve received from an RPG was when I first read‘s “Gods and Monsters”. The very idea that you could play a GOD was unheard of. If I had been tasked with such a thing, I would imagine I’d spend pages defining the many things players are NOT allowed to do, restrictions on power in order to keep things “balanced.”
But as written, “Gods and Monsters” is the ultimate test of the improve rule “yes, and.” There is literally no limit to what a character can do, so long as it fits their character and their narrative. Create a continent? Sure. Forge a second sun? Why not?! Sculpt and entire species of sentient beings out of clay? Sounds fun.
I have yet to run a game (itching to), but I feel like running such a game would be extremely liberating, while also putting my GM skills to the test. (The only way to provide a challenge to PCs who can do the impossible is to provide a situation so paradoxical they can’t best it; i.e. if they can lift anything and create anything, make them create a boulder so heavy that can’t lift.)
Day 10: How has gaming changed you?
I guess a big change for me came when I was first contracted by Evil Hat. This affected me in two major ways:
a. After years of fan-projects and self-publishing, this was my first paid writing gig. In the years before that, my self-confidence was in seriously short supply, and it amazing to have a win in my corner.
b. I’ll let you in on an amazing secret: Evil Hat has an art guide which lays out what standards they have for art. To this day, it is the most inclusive and progressive document I have seen. It set the bar wonderfully high for ART work; Though I was only the writer, I did my best make sure that my prose met the same high standard. Since then, I have looked back to my earlier work and seen were I have lacked, and try to keep it in mind in any new project.
(Note: Some of you might have read criticism about Evil Hat’s earlier works being less diverse with their art and their authors. I am merely a contract worker observing from the outside, but I am under the impression they are very aware of their deficiencies and are working hard to improve with every wave of game releases. They set high standards for themselves, reach them, and then set their bar higher.)
Day 11: Best NPC name?
This NPC was created for an Urban Fantasy / Supernatural rpg, based on the world of our comic Skeleton Crew.
More than Half of the PCs had backgrounds in mad science, so it made sense to have a villain who was a mad scientist. I wanted a name that was unique and had a fun juxtaposition; I think the inspiration was the Mystery Men villain Casanova Frankenstein. And thus we created the mad scientist,
Dr. Socrates Madonna.
Day 12: Weirdest Character Concept
This one is a recent addition, but I’m still quite proud. At #Blerdcon, I had a pleasure playing a one-shot Adventure League game run by my friend, . I let my elf-loving friends have first dibs on picking the elven characters, and I didn’t feel like playing a rogue. Thus, I ended up with the pre-gen character of the Human Paladin.
I picked a name. The only thing left was to decide what kind of god he worshipped; I could use one of the set ones, but thought it might be fun to try one of the lesser gods we created for the Clerics Guide to Smiting. Should I go with Pretensia, Goddess of Good Manners? Should he be a fashion paladin, dedicated to the Doodad, God of Accessories? (I didn’t want to use Chuggett, Dwarven God of Drink, as I’d already played a Dwarven nun dedicated to him).
And then one of my colleges made a suggestion: Paradoxiquatl, the God of Atheism. (His followers go door to door, asking people not to believe in him).
And thus, Cuthbert the Atheistic Paladin was born.
The GM Eric allowed it (partially due to his flexible nature, althoughalso made the argument that “Paradoxiquatl” could be an aspect of the Trickster God Erevan Ilesere).
During the adventure, Cuthbert made it his mission to visit the heathens with pamphlets boasting the virtues of common sense and critical thinking. When making attacks, he would loudly pray, “Paradoxiquatl, may you have no effect the outcome in any way!” If the attack was successful, he would praise his deity, proclaiming, “O god, thanks for nothing!”
I kept the character sheet, and will likely pull him out again.
Day 13 – Describe how your play has evolved?
As a GM, I’d say the major change that I’ve tried to implement is this:
Old system for an adventure: Craft a beginning, middle, and end.
New system: Craft a problem, and a list of NPCs. (Also, have half-a-plan for one possible outcome.)
The difference I’m trying to do less railroading and more open ended solutions.
The new system says, “The role of the GM is not to create a challenging solution and lead the players there; rather, any solution is the right solution, and it’s the GM’s job to make that solution challenging.”
I know this is basic GM 101 stuff, but it was a bit of a revelation to me.
I talked about this in more detail in an open ended adventure I wrote a while ago, “Blackstache’s Revenge!”
Day 14 – Describe a failure that became amazing?
(I’m going to have to cheat on this one, as it was neither my failure, nor a gaming related one, but it was inspirational enough.)
I had the pleasure of watching a performance of the Improvised Shakespeare Company when they were on tour. Every night, they create a brand new 60 minute show from scratch, pairing long-form improv with many Shakespeare inspired tropes, puns, and innuendo.
Now, as an improver, I always thought I embraced “Yes, And,” the idea of taking any suggestion from a fellow performer and building on it. Improvised Shakespeare took it to the next level.
Twice, in the opening scene, one of the performers misspoke. However, rather than correct himself, he YES AND’ED his own mistake; thus, he took the rule of “what is said can’t be unsaid” and applied it even to himself.
The exchange, as best I recall it:
King: Groomsboy, make sure you prepare the finest horse we have. The Prince of Spain is arriving soon to marry my daughter. And when he rides down the aisle –
realizes his mistake – It’s a strange custom, but we respect it – Rides down the aisle on that horse, I want him to look perfect.
Princess [Talking about the Prince of Spain]: When will he arrive?
King: The prince of France – I mean, Spain- I mean-
Princess: Just how many people am I engaged to?!?
King: Okay, the princes of France, Spain, and Denmark. Just those three. It’s a horse race. The first one to reach you at the altar gets to marry you.
And thus, by accepting even the ACCIDENTAL suggestions and running with it, they had both a cast of characters, a conflict, and a climax.
That’s all for week 2 of RPGaDay. Will be posting more soon!
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Until next time, Game On!