Friday, 18 May 2012

Who wants to play? (gaming for beginners)

Feeling heroic?

Siegfried having a normal day by Wilhelm von Kaulbach
 Want to tell stories?

Story-telling ape
Need some therapy for the general frustrations of modern life?

There are a lot of reasons people play RPGs but I'm convinced that the most basic is this:  we are story-telling apes.  While everyone encourages children to use their imaginations and play, once we get forced into adulthood, the emphasis changes.  You have to be a responsible person.  Playing gets lost in the mess.  The thing here is that the people we are at the age of 8 when everyone tells us to use our imaginations are still there when we hit adulthood.

That is where drama and gaming come in.  Two subjects very close to my heart.

An RPG* can be set anywhere.  A character can be anything.  Anyone.  There are systems for those who adore number-crunching and systems so loose they consist of two rocks and a piece of paper.  A game can run for a couple of hours or years.  They're all valid and what they have in common is the notion of interactive story-telling.

This requires actual communication between the referee* and the player or players and thus is not the same as a computer RPG.  However hard it tries, no programming can be completely responsive to the suggestions of a group of players.  Another human being can.

An important point to make here is that RPGs are not competitive in the sense that there is a winner or a loser.  It is not players v GM*.  While it is entirely possible for your character to die horribly, such death should be the result of story.  And dice.  Did I mention dice?

You can have skills coming out of your ears.  You can be equipped for all known situations.  You also have to have a little luck.  Chance comes into it.  Dice.  They represent the quirks of fate.  If you try to do something with an outcome that might have unpredictable consequences, you or the GM roll some dice.

Gamer sweets


All that sounds very pompous and optimistic for something that is just plain fun, but they are important things to note.  A lot of GMs tend to forget this in the face of a set of monsters that resolutely refuse to save their own sad-sack-selves by rolling above a 5.  A lot of players tend to forget this when they come up with a wonderful plan that falls flat on its face.

At a practical level, this means that I've somehow managed to talk Suze into letting me GM her through character creation and a solo adventurette.  We're doing this via the ancient mechanism of email until she finds her sea-legs.

So far, I've introduced her to the notion of rolling dice to create a character and offering her a choice of skills and background for this character.  We're working our way through the ruleset for Stars Without Number - which is sci-fi based.  The system is as new to me as it is to her, but I've figured out a lot of game rules before and this one is streamlined and easy to learn.

Today, I'm going to look at her PC (player character, not personal computer) and get her on the road to adventure.  I've no idea what will happen along the way.  Finding out is most of the fun.

*Role Playing Game
*Also known as the GM or DM - short for Game Master or Dungeon Master

26 comments:

  1. Wow, I am in a similar situation. I planned a pbp game for my friend who's been out of the country (& others). But a different friend invited his GF to join, she's a Newbee. So I'll have to make it good - arrrgh I'M NERVOUS.

    PS. Love the dice picture :O

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    1. What are you running for them?

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    2. Call of Cthulhu, hopefully the rules will be quite simple and it's set in the real-world 1920's so the background should be quite straight-forward.

      I'll probbaly pick up a module, fortunately the 4th player is experienced CoC DM & has lots of books.

      The Newby is going to play an Indian Princess, and the background I've already gotten is awesome.

      I'll be running it on the paizo site.

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  2. Replies
    1. Sort of hoping you might join the party once we've tested the water a bit :)

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    2. Absolutely! Do you have a setting yet?

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  3. "..once we get forced into adulthood, the emphasis changes. You have to be a responsible person."

    Sez who?

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  4. 'However hard it tries, no programming can be completely responsive to the suggestions of a group of players. Another human being can.'

    Love this, Manz.

    I didn't know you were going to mention our project! I was reading avidly and then got all surprised when I read my name! :D

    I love the photo of the dice and the way you describe them as gamer sweets and the quirks of fate.

    Can I just say that when I mentally ranked the stats prior to rolling, I could not decide whether to rank STR or WIS more highly after I'd chosen my first three, but then rolled 9 twice and felt like there was a sort of oneness between myself and the dice?

    I'm biased, surely, but kick-ass post, babe.

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    Replies
    1. Slept on your casual 'juggling stats' mention. Have decided to go another way.

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    2. All good. Building a character is always a voyage into the unknown.

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  5. The dice picture made me drool. Isn't it weird how little clumps of plastic can shout "you need more of us!"?
    Have fun with the play by mail, it's a form of roleplaying I've really come to love.

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    1. Dice are like chocolate in my book. It's not possible to have to much of either. So grumpy that I can't go to UK Games Expo this year, but have detailed son and husband to get some on my behalf.

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  6. I've always been intrigued with the idea of RPGs but am afraid I'd become too obsessed with them. Have fun!

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    1. It is a little addictive, but harmlessly so. If you change your mind, let me know :)

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  7. Yes, I've always been fascinated, but never met up with anyone playing this and know I would become too addicted.

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    Replies
    1. See the reply to Rubye above. We'll see how this goes, but if you want to try it out, I'm happy to help.

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  8. There is a pretty cool (free) website to help manage play by email rpg games: http://www.rpol.net/ it even has die rolling functions, private messages, can add images & such. might be a useful tool

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    1. I know RPOL - in fact I'm in a 4e game on there at the moment. It is a nice site, although I find it a bit non-intuitive to use.

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  9. Oh, the hoops we jump through in trying to explain our unusual hobby to the 'norms.'

    I lol'd at "gamer sweets" - how fitting - but it also put me in mind of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix: "We need guns. Lots of guns." But of course we substitute dice for guns.

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    1. It sounds to feeble when you describe it. The urge to describe your character's latest exploits is tempered by knowing that a sentence like "Hey, we found a pool of chtonic water and took some away in a lead sealed flask" is likely to get you funny looks at best.

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  10. I always opt for the 'DM' tag... it is far more interesting than the more relaxed 'GM' option. Although, I think it prudent never to openly utter the words 'dungeon master' in front of someone wearing leather and chains who openly admits to an S&M fetish. I'll never forget that experience *shudders*

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  11. all those dice...I swear half the fun of a game sometimes is just making characters, i have two I am just itching to use for 4E

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    Replies
    1. I admit to having a lot of half-created pcs in my head and on bits of paper.

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