Lunchtime Poll #5: Under the Sea

What’s your favorite take on Atlantis as it pertains to gaming—Aliens? Mer-people? Exceptionally ancient Greeks?

I liked the ideas in Randall Garrett’s Gandalara Cycle. A quick gloss is that there’s a civilization of near-humans that live in a desert… at the bottom of the future Mediterranean Sea. They’re adapted to the thicker atmosphere (since they’re below sea level) and they can’t (easily) get out & take over Africa and Europe. He created a pretty good analogue culture– close enough to human to be very identifiable, with a few sci-fi/fantasy elements. Their culture wasn’t much stranger than most foreign cultures appear today- easy enough for most role-players to adapt to.

Lunchtime Poll #4: 2d or not 2d?

I’m not going to agree with either directly. In either case, everyone has to agree (at least largely) about character competence and system results or you’ll have frustration…

This week Li asks:

This question comes out of an absolutely fascinating discussion between longtime GMs and gamers. It was fun to watch.

Narrative Guy says, “Some of the best games I’ve ever played didn’t involve a single die roll; we decided what our characters could do and the GM took us through a story.” System Mechanic says, “That’s not gaming. If you don’t have a mechanic, then the characters are subject to the capricious whims of the GM. And how can you make sure everyone is on the same page? Also, you lack the random element.” So…what do you think? Make your case!

I’m not going to agree with either directly. In either case, everyone has to agree (at least largely) about character competence and system results or you’ll have frustration. If an Amber Diceless game has characters wandering around on simplistic quests and failing constantly like first level D&D characters, you’re suffering from the whims of a capricious GM. But that’d be true whether you rolled dice or not- it’s the style of adventure, the way the GM has statted the opposition and such considerations that make the adventure futile. The same thing can happen (easily) when a hostile or incompetent GM railroads the characters through a diced plot.

The random element is handy at times; I like the extra suggestions that they make- often they’ll twist an adventure in a way that planning wouldn’t. They can be frustrating though- once people have dice, DM’s will have them roll them, even for critical plot elements… then poorly shoehorn the required results in, no matter the dice result.

Summary: Diceless gaming is still gaming, but I prefer the added “impartiality” of dice, handled reasonably. When dice are thrown around to cover for lack of plot, etc., you’re much worse off than not picking the dice up to begin with.

RE: Lunchtime Poll #3: Imperfect Attendance

Li asks:

How do you cope with the absence of a player, either in a single session or repeated absences?

In one word: poorly.

Much as Ginger related, characters of missing players will often develop Etherealness, or just fade into the wallpaper. What’s done often depends on the size of the group and the style of game played.

Li asks:

How do you cope with the absence of a player, either in a single session or repeated absences?

In one word: poorly.

Much as Ginger related, characters of missing players will often develop Etherealness, or just fade into the wallpaper. What’s done often depends on the size of the group and the style of game played.

Continue reading “RE: Lunchtime Poll #3: Imperfect Attendance”

RPG meme bandwagon

(from Matt Snyder)

1. What is the first RPG you ever played?
D&D (basic), back in 4th grade.

2. What RPG do you currently play most often?
We’re in the middle of a Dogs in the Vineyard campaign, but Dad’s starting up a 3.5D&D campaign after the holidays.

3. What is the best system you’ve played?
Vampire: The Masquerade. When he’s on, Will can really make a session hop. Pendragon has also been cool.

4. What is the best system you’ve run?
Mage: The Ascension. Mostly because of my players and love of its color, more than the actual structural underpinnings.

5. Would you consider yourself an: Elitist/ Min-Maxer/ Rules Lawyer?
Yeah, I’m probably an elitist. I want systems that support gameplay without too much bookkeeping and overhead. Distributed narration is a big plus. (DiTV is great.)

6. If you could recommend a new RPG which would you recommend? Why?
Dogs in the Vineyard. It manages to make even “talking” tense, backs it up with system… and tempts you to escalate. The GMing advice is very good at getting you to create a town “properly”, so the system doesn’t wind up twisted into traditional tracks.

7. How often do you play?
About once a week, though we’re on hiatus til Emily’s bounced back from having her kid.

8. What sort of characters do you play? Leader? Follower? Comic Relief? Roll-Player/ Role-Player?
I often make a complimentary follower type, plugging holes that the system requires. That often means a Cleric type (in D&D) or other general support role, though if the bases are covered I’ll indulge in vanity characters. (Like Alanora the Bard, or Nathaniel, of FoodMaxx and dance fame.)

9. What is your favorite Genre for RPGs?
Modern or Sci-fi. I can get irritated by badly done history or poorly extrapolated fantasy.

10. What Genres have you played in?
Fantasy, Modern (White Wolf), Sci-fi (Mech, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun), Super Heroic. [Edited to add: Western(DiTV), Amber, and more that I’m probably forgetting.]

11. Do you prefer to play or GM? Do you do both?
The preference is weak. I’d rather GM a good game than play in a bad one, but if someone else has a good game, I’m all for letting someone else run it.

12. Do you like religion in your games?
Not really. I can’t do the mindset justice in my portrayals, and it’s too often reduced to a bare line on the character sheet and ignored.

13. Do you have taboo subjects in your games or is everything “fair game”?
Most everything is fair game. I’d be hesitant to play “deeply” with the old Saturday night group, and sorcery as demonic/evil magic is a sore spot for some players, so I’d avoid that as well.

14. Have you developed your own RPG before?
Yeah, mostly adaptations of other people’s stuff. Nothing terribly worthwhile in retrospect, but it was fun doing.

15. Have you ever been published in the Gaming Industry? If so…what?
Nope.