Game WISH Archives

June 22, 2002

New Collaboration

The Game WISH (Weekly Idea Sharing Hegemony) is a weekly writing exercise for gamers.

So, today's WISH is:

Describe three NPCs (not major villains) that you really liked and what they added to the game. The NPCs can be from any game you've been in as a player or GM, and any system or genre.
First would have to be Moirin, the GM's NPC from Lou's original Amber game.

Moirin was the son of Moire and Corwin. This was an Amber game (obviously). Lou created him as a major NPC that would pal around with the other PCs. And he gave him ungodly power, which in the hands of a player could have been terrible. Even in the hands of the GM's NPC, it could have been Deus Ex Machina.

But Moirin was so flawed, it hurt to watch him. Lou crafted an NPC who was, above all, human, and he made mistakes all the time. This was where I really learned that NPCs didn't have to be perfect, didn't have to be the ones to provide accurate information to the players, didn't have to be anything other than people. Characters, just like our PCs were.

Second would have to be Cybele, from my Amber game, Which Endureth Forever. She's Oberon's first child, sent away to die (actually be imprisoned) in the early years of Oberon's reign, for falling in love with her half-brother, Benedict. She got pregnant, but refused to name the father, and so was sent to die.

At the start of the game, Cybele's return was prophecied in Tir. It came to pass, because Oberon wanted her returned. Her daughter, a PC, had been raised in very slow-time shadow, and was only 16 (where over a thousand years had passed in Amber).

She fell in love with a PC, reunited with her daughter, has Benedict living under her newly-restablished House in Chaos, and is currently the center of some plot lines I can't mention here because my players read this. I love her because I made her fallible, a wild card that not even Oberon can be sure which way she's going to play. I can easily slip under her skin to play her, and have to slide out again to realize what impact she has just had on the game. She's not a mother, though she's trying. She has no idea how to be one (sort of like me). Not everyone likes her (and she's fine with that), and she's good at plotting, but not good at relationships.

She's helped me add a romance subplot and a mother subplot, along with other plots to the game.

The third NPC would have to be Torm. Yes, the diety from the Forgotten Realms.

Lou ran a Realms game through 2nd Edition, converted to GURPS, for a long time. I joined in late (still AD&D) with an elven ranger with some wild psionic talents. Agraynel, aka Gray, was your typical elf. However, because of some events in the game and her life, she ended up having a very close relationship with Torm, who in Lou's game world was a demigod.

We had a paladin of Torm (Oquon) in the group, and Gray slept with him. She really didn't love him, though. And when the paladin thought himself at fault for getting cursed with lycanthropy and had to atone, Gray called Torm down to answer for Oquon's punishment. And to her surprise, he came down and talked to her.

They had a good relationship from the start, once Torm explained that the atonement was all Oquon's idea. It also didn't help that, later in the game, Torm would talk to Gray by possessing Oquon.

The makings of a terrible love triangle were all right there, but the game died before anything further could happen.

Torm added a "human" element to the gods, which wasn't necessarily a good thing. But in the Realms, where gods are a dime a dozen and often come down for a chat here and there, it made it fun and somewhat believable.

[Man, this was tougher than I thought it'd be at first.]

June 28, 2002

Game WISH - The Romance Edition

Describe two romantic relationships involving a PC you've seen in a game. One should be a romance that worked for the participants and the other should be one that failed, died, or came to an end. What was good and bad about these relationships from the point of view of plot and character development? How did the GM make the romance appealing to the players?
Romance has always been a big part of my games. It's not why I game, but it's one way how my characters, either PCs or NPCs, get involved with the world around them.

Narrowing it down to two is very hard. Ingrid's and Moirin's relationship was doomed from the start, and Calypso's (one of Ingrid's other personalities) and Jordan's was similarly doomed. I could spend days talking about how it didn't work for them, but that's just not going to happen.

So, for the romance that worked, I am choosing Jerrym and Rhiannon.

Rhiannon was an NPC I designed for my WEF Amber game, specifically for my husband's PC. She was supposed to be his romantic interest, and there was a possibility that she might be interested in another PC. I was thinking of setting up a triangle. Of course, things never work out as you want them to.

Brennan (Lou's PC) took one look at Rhiannon and promptly called Jerrym and said something along the lines of - "Jerrym, I have a girl for you," handed her off to him, and never looked back.

I can't tell you how upsetting that was to me at the time. He wanted a romance subplot, damnit, and here he was passing the buck...or the girl, in this case.

However, it all turned out well in the end. Rhiannon and Jerrym were perfectly suited for each other. They meshed well together, and it gave me a great way to develop Jerrym's character. It also didn't help that Rhiannon was the daughter of the Evil Villain, but she had a Good Heart and Everything Worked Out Well in the End.

Except the part where she died. There was a potential love triangle developing before this happened with another PC (Ardath, female), and this PC accidentally killed the NPC (well, the NPC threw herself onto PC's sword to keep Daddy the Evil Villain from getting her back). It caused a lot of tension between Jerrym and Ardath.

However, Rhi ended up coming back through mysterious means, and she and Jerrym even produced a child. Rhi was integral to the plot at various points, including removing spells from another PC who had been spell-brainwashed by said Evil Villain.

As to the romance that failed, I am choosing Brianna and Collwyn, from Lou's original Sunday fantasy campaign. They were both PCs.

Bree and Coll were raised as brother and sister, though when Collwyn started to develop elven traits, we knew something was up. Our parents ended up confessing that we were both adopted. Bree was fully human, and Collwyn was a half-elf (obvious, at that point). Bree had hidden her unholy interest from her brother to this point, but when it was revealed that they were not related, she started to think maybe it'd work.

Oh, it so didn't.

As far as plot, the romance had little direct impact. Coll and Bree did not get along well prior to this (for various reasons), and this tension didn't help advance the plot, but it didn't directly hinder it either.

As for character development...this ended up being a Big Thing for Bree. They almost got back together at one point (not that they ever really were "together"), but they just get on each others nerves so quickly and easily that it just didn't work. Coll's player keeps mentioning that he'd come back for her sometime, but she's married now, with a kid, and would probably turn him down.

Probably. Damn Collwyn. She still loves him after all these years. (sigh)

[This week's was only tough in that it took me a while to whittle the list down!]

July 3, 2002


(for more info on the Game WISH, follow the link under "Other Bits" in my sidebar)

Discuss three setting ideas or ideas for elements of settings that you got from movies/books/TV/etc. that you have read or seen recently. These do not need to be full-fledged settings, but can be single elements that could be incorporated into existing games.
Well, I have borrowed quite a bit for a few games from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

In our D&D world, Lou and I have taken the Aes Sedai and made them the priests of our chief god of Light (aka good), The High Lord. The High Lord knows the Beginnings and Endings of All Things, and isn't really concerned with people as anything other than tools to get the outcome.

So the priests, divided into their ajas like the books, each have their own purpose toward that end (Blues with causes, Yellows with healing, Grees with fighting the Dark, Reds with destroying evil in any way shape or form (and probably would get rid of neutrals too, if they could manage it), Whites with diplomacy, Browns with knowledge/learning). One change we made was to allow both male and female priests, which isn't that big of a deal since it really was the structure we imported rather than the whole concept.

I also borrowed his Tel'aran'rhiod, the World of Dreams, for my WEF Amber game. It wasn't until well into the description of the world to the player who is involved in this that I realized I was taking the concept from the WoT books. Basically there is a World of Dreams that sits sort of above ours (and in Amber, it parallels shadow). When people dream, they can sometimes touch this world. And anything that happens to someone in that world happens to them in Real Life. If you die in your sleep, likely you touched Tel'aran'rhiod and were killed there.

And lastly, from Wheel of Time, we took the concept of the Age of Legends. A time when magic was used for everything, empires were great, what would be great magical artifacts today were then simple child's toys. And of course, the Age had to end, and end it did.

I also borrowed, for my ATF game, the idea of floating cities, specifically from the anime, Laputa, though that's not a sole reference for flying cities. I just liked the concept.

I'm really not big on adding influences and elements like that into my games. I've always thought it was a neat idea, but I can't do it on the spur of the moment. I am a spur of the moment GM; many of my game sessions just happen because of how things flow from my mouth, so I really don't take a lot of time to craft other ideas into the adventure or setting.

If I think of any others after reading the posts linked here, I'll be sure to update.

July 12, 2002

Systems WISH

Describe three systems you have gamed under: one you thought was good, one you thought was all right, and one you didn't care for. What were the good points and the bad points of each system? Did the systems support their genre? Were they complex or simple? How easy were they to GM and play? Is there a system you'd really like to try that you haven't? Which ones wouldn't you try based on reading them?
Three systems? Okay, let's see.

Good: GURPS.

Good Points: Customizable characters due to points-based system.

Bad Points: Breaks a high power levels.

Support Genre: Since it's a generic system, yes, for the most part. See Bad Points.

Complex or Simple: Simple.

Ease of GMing/Play: Very easy. This is THE game system I could pick up and run with out knowing a ton of how all the rules worked.

All Right: d20, specifically D&D 3E

Good Points: Finally a version of D&D where I got in on the ground floor. And it makes sense! Everything goes in the same direction (no more "Do I want to roll high or low for this?"), and no more THAC0. Simple basic system; easy enough that after a few months of being a player, I decided I could run a game!

Bad Points: Not a ton of flexibility; still uses class-based levels; many confusing piddly rules (attacks of opportunity can still confuse even those who play it a lot); pretty much requires miniatures for combat.

Support Genre: I've only really seen a few other d20 systems. It supports high fantasy very well; others not as well.

Complex or Simple: Basic system is simple. It gets more complex

Ease of GMing/Play: Very easy on both counts, at least to this brain. I've actually played an arcane spellcaster and a divine spellcaster, which I never would have considered in previous flavors of (A)D&D.

Don't Care For: HERO System, any edition.

Good Points: Umm...supposedly good for super heroes in its Champions flavor. I don't know personally, never played it for Champs.

Bad Points: Confusing skill system. Requires serious math to get a character done. Favorite of min-max gamers who play points rather than character.

Support Genre: I played it in its Horror flavor, and didn't think it suited the genre well enough. I'd prefer Call of Cthulhu with its Sanity chart.

Complex or Simple: Complex. VERY Complex. At least to me of very little brain.

Ease of GMing/Play: Supposed to be good. I still couldn't get into it. It is just not plain intuitive for me.

The astute will note I did not include Amber in there. Amber succeeds because it has very little system. So I didn't feel I could include it fairly in the judging.

Is there a system you'd really like to try that you haven't?
Hrm. I'm not much for systems. I'd love to one day give Over the Edge a try, or Pendragon. But I'm not a SystemsHo. I'm a GameHo...give me a good scenario, and I'll try any system. Once.

But I would really like to play in a 7th Sea game, as I've only done that at conventions. And eventually run one some day. Love the swash'n'buckle, and the world is just wonderful.

Which ones wouldn't you try based on reading them?
Again, I don't read system books. Not for fun, anyway. Though one that I have browsed through comes to mind. Synnibar (another review here, and the quote below is from this review). Ghoul made up a game at one GaineyCon (this was before they'd moved to North Carolina). Open the rule book and read, until you've found a terrible rule. It was impossible to go more than one page. Literally. Then we had to read it out loud to share it. My favorite one by far was this one:

The rules for GMs forbid any variation. As pg. 332 clearly dictates, "Fate has absolute control during the game regarding rolls and interpretation of the rules. Fate may not, however, deviate from the rules as they are written, for if he or she does and the players find out, then the adventure can be declared null, and the characters must be restored to their original condition, as they were before the game began." Don't think you can tell the munchkin to bugger off if he cites this. McCracken successfully instituted the only Game Police in the industry by writing the following: "Players may attempt what is known as "calling Fate." This means that if a ruling is disputed by a player and he challenges Fate and is found to be absolutely correct, the player may receive double gaming points ("XP"- BCW)for the entire adventure."
Need I say more?

July 31, 2002

Miscommunicative Game WISH

Gaming requires the GM and players to communicate a large amount of information about system, plot, setting, character, and actions (among other things). There are a lot of places where a failure to communicate on the part of the GM and the players leads to disappointments for the GMs and the players. How do you deal with miscommunications and invalid assumptions as a player and a GM? Give one or more examples of situations and how you resolved them or how you are avoiding them.
This is a tough one to answer, for a number of reasons.

I haven't had too many problems with this overall, but when I have had problems, they've been big ones.

Since I've only GM'd three games in my life for any extended period of time, and two of them were Amber games, that's where most of my experience lies.

My first experience with miscommunication came with the roommate of another player in the game who wanted to join. I had no idea of this person, having never met him. Though he was online, as were most of my players then, I'd never had any experience seeing him play or knew anything about him.

This was my first mistake. I let him into the game and it took years of playing before I finally realized (or maybe we both did) that our styles just did not mesh. He wanted a more action-oriented game, I think. I was (and still am, really) a GM who loves to spend a lot of time talking in character, and plot-be-damned. He may have been more of a powergamer, as well.

I suppose I should have realized this in the beginning of the game, when he approached me with the idea of his character being Oberon's personal assassin. Then he proceeded to put very few of his points into Warfare (as compared to other characters), and then walked around telling everyone that's what he was.

We finally decided that we needed to stop being GM and player if we were to continue to be friends (which we had become over the years), so we parted amicably.

There are probably others, but I'm two weeks late answering this, and this is still the only thing I can come up with for a reply.

Secretive WISH

Sometimes the plot of a game requires a GM to keep secrets. Is it better for the GM and other players to keep most out-of-character knowledge secret, or to assume that players are capable of keeping in-character and out-of-character knowledge separate? Where and how do you draw the line as a GM and/or player between what secrets should be kept and which ones are OK to reveal?
It is best if the GM keeps everything secret.

But that's a perfect world, one in which most of us do not live.

I love to talk about the neat things in my games, all the secrets that are going on behind-the-scenes. I managed to share this with my co-GM in WEF once he became that, but still shared some stuff with Lou (my husband). There were times when he did not want to know, and some of those times I respected his wishes and kept him in the dark. It was very hard for me, as a GM, to do that. I love to talk about my game, about all the stuff that goes on, about what players did, what characters did, etc.

Now, I must admit, he is really, really good about not letting some information color his perceptions. Probably comes from him being such a good GM.

I try to draw the line at things that will make a character change their reaction if the player knows the truth. It's hard to tell where that line is, but I try as best I can.

For example, while some players and a few characters knew in WEF that Alex had basically become the avatar of the Pattern, not everyone knew. And when Kevin had Chyle teleport to the Pattern Room after killing Alex, and then was surprised when the Pattern took revenge and snuffed the life out of Chyle, Kevin was rather surprised. He did not know in or out of character that Alex had such a high position. If he had known out of character, it's quite likely he would have picked another place to teleport that would have kept him safe from the rampaging avatar of the Logrus that was attacking him, upset that the Pattern's Champion had been killed.

I don't know that Kevin would have changed his plans, but it's possible he would have, even if Chyle didn't know. Not that Kevin's not a good role-player, and able to separate the IC and OOC knowledge, but it would still be there. It could very easily have had a subconscious influence.

I also have a big secret floating around the NPC in my D&D game. Tallis looks and acts like he's lawful good, but if someone cast Detect Evil on him, he detects as evil. Only with careful study can one determine that he's not evil, but something *on our about his back* is the thing that's detecting as evil. None of the active players nor the characters know what is up with him, though they may find out soon. I have managed to keep this secret only by sharing it with others outside of the game - I have an Evil Planning Committee of three people not in the game whom I turn to for advice and ideas, and they know. The one inactive player knows because I had to share the gorgeous artwork I had commissioned for him - the artist is not done with the one I can show the players yet.

I really have no control over what my players share with each other. While I would like them to keep some things secret, I know they're going to talk. They're friends, they do that. I did have one player in my game to whom I specifically told to keep one thing about his character's background a secret, because it could have impact on the game. I found out later that he had told one other player, and while that player hasn't revealed the information (as far as I know) to the others, it still pisses me off. As long as it's character secrets, that's fine. But when I ask for a specific background detail to remain hidden from the players at large, and there is a reason for it, I get upset. Fortunately, that player is no longer in my game, for other reasons.

As for being on the other side of that fence, being a player with someone else as GM - I try to keep my mouth shut if asked. But like I said, I like to talk about my character to others. Lou does a decent job of sharing information with me if he needs help or advice, and I think I do a good job of not sharing it with others.

It gets hard when both of us have created our game world, and we both GM in it, albeit in wildly different time periods. We try to keep our sharing of information pertinent to getting details nailed down, and the occasional plot point that I often conveniently forget (like how our leader's new cohort was going to be a young silver dragon) until it happens. My mind can be like a sieve at times.

We also had one friend and fellow gamer (player and GM) once that loved revealing secrets. He'd love creating these tortured characters with lots of deep, dark secrets that could never see the light of day. And in the first few sessions, he'd reveal them. We coined a phrase for him - "Hey, I got a deep dark secret. Wanna hear it?"

August 2, 2002

Game Maxims

WISH 7: Maxims

List three or more maxims/proverbs/bits of conventional wisdom/etc. that you've learned in your gaming career, and explain what they mean and how you've seen them apply in your gaming experience.

Continue reading "Game Maxims" »

August 16, 2002

Game WISH: Maxims, Part Deux

Pick three gaming maxims that other people wrote about and discuss how you think they have applied, or not, in your experience as a gamer. Do they make sense? Are they true or false? Maxims that simply never occurred to you are also eligible for discussion.
Novak said: Whatever you, as a GM, think is subtle and clever, the players will figure out by casual inspection. Whatever you, as a GM, think is totally obvious will end up as the object of great mystery and confusion for months, if not years on end.

This is one of those things that most GMs should know and realize, and many never do.

I had one GM once who spent an entire session trying to get another player to think like him. He (the GM) had the solution, all the player had to do was say the exact phrase in the way the GM knew was right. The other players in the game knew what the GM was looking for. The player in question did not.

Finally, the GM gave up in disgust and told him the answer.

It was when I fully realized that said GM was a linear GM, and we had to follow his prepared path. The GM in question, I think, was trying to get the player to break out of his mode of thinking, to open himself up. But this wasn't the place to do it. And it wasn't the player with which to try it. The player in question just kept retreating, not letting himself think out of the box, out of his already prepared answer - that was the right answer from his point of view! - and it became a fight between player and GM.

That was the worst scenario I've experienced like this. Most of the other things are like, "Wow, you got that! And here I thought I was being subtle," or, "How could you miss that? It was right there in front of your face!" sort of disagreements, oftentimes after the PCs are dead or dying, or stuck somewhere they didn't want to be.

Claire said: Power is only power if you叝e prepared to use it.

Another player in my game, a good friend for whom I won't GM anymore, is a power-monger. He loves for his character to gather information and power, but he never does a frelling thing with it. So what's the point? I don't know, but it's how he plays, and hence we're friends, but we don't play together.

That said, I now have two powerful characters in my husband's Sunday D&D 3E game. One is on hiatus from the group, but was an almost 16th level shaman (not from OE, but instead a druid with shapeshifting taken out and spirit summoning put in). Skyler has those high level spells and isn't afraid to use them. Lou has spent time trying to figure out how to work around what she can do to give us a challenge - Reverse Gravity and Creeping Doom are such fun!

And my replacement character is a 16th level fighter/wizard - four levels of fighter, 12 of wizard. Ennis may not have the big spells he'd have if he was all 16 levels of wizard, but he's got ones that are good enough! The biggest problem I have is in beating a monk, as in our last battle. None of the spells I could hit his AC (his touch AC being nearly as good as his full AC), and the ones that called for reflex saves he'd easily make.

So I did the support magics. Mass Haste in the first round of combat, for starters. And other support spells as needed.

One of the best compliments I've ever gotten was after our last session. Lou said to me, "Boy, am I going to be glad when Skyler comes back!" It means I'm using my wizard's power well. Especially since when Ennis leaves and Skyler returns, we will once again have no wizard at all. Eep.

Ginger said: When you stop trusting the GM, stop playing.

I actually haven't had this happen to me, but it is very true.

I have had experiences where I didn't care for the GM's way of playing - like our DC Heroes GM who'd laugh at the players (not the characters), chuckling over some part of the modules he'd always use (never one to create something on his own was this GM). I didn't care for a game where the GM liked making fun of the players or the characters, so I was glad when the game stopped, and then never expressed an interest in any of the other games he wanted to run. Though I did love my character. I just didn't trust the GM enough to not have things planned, even through the module, to mess with us, just because he thought it'd be fun.

I've been fortunate with most of my GMs, especially my Amber GMs, that trust was never an issue.

Significant Game WISH

Have you ever gotten a significant other into gaming? Those of you in "mixed marriages", where one spouse is a gamer and the other isn't, how did you work this out?
Well, this WISH doesn't apply to me.

All the serious men in my life were gamers. Alex was the first GM I had (online even), Ken was my first Amber GM, and Lou, the Husband, is both GM and player in my games.

I can't imagine dating, nevermind marrying, a non-gamer. Gaming isn't all of my life (though if you saw how often I gamed, you might think it was), but it is a big part. No, my spouse/SO and I do not have to have the same interests in everything, but in this, they do.

That said, if for some reason I was involved with someone who didn't game, I would try to get them involved. If they didn't enjoy it, then as long as they let me have my fun, I'd be fine with it. But you can't force someone to like gaming.

August 26, 2002

Changing the World Game WISH

What's the most fun you ever had creating something in a game that changed the game-world?
This one is tough for me. I haven't GM'd all that much, and most of that has been Amber, so I don't really think that would qualify as a game-world, since the world is up to the GM and players to create as they go along - there's all of shadow for that sort of thing!

So this has to be as a player.

And that makes it even tougher. I don't tend to do big things that change gameworlds. Or even small things. There are tiny things I do that are because I want to explore a particular kind of character. Like making a psionic elf in Lou's Forgotten Realms campaign. Or a half-demon paladin (the good kind) for a later character in the same game.

There is my Amber character I designed (again, for a Lou game) where she had been married and widowed three times before, and wasn't going to go through all that again. She was old but "well preserved," and then in game play, I realized she had fallen in love with Benedict. Which of course, turned out to be perfect, as she was from Avalon and had lost her three husbands to Avalon's wars. Wasn't likely she'd lose HIM this way...

I did convince my husband, when we were creating our game world, that to go by the FR for the number of gods we needed was unnecessary. So we have 6 good/light, 7 neutral/grey, and 6 evil/dark gods in our pantheon (there were two more light/dark gods, one each, but they died long ago), and it was fun to create them. We got stuck on names, so I came up with Names Being Important, so our gods go by titles - The High Lord, the Lady, The Archivist, The Storm King, The Unraveller, the Deceiver. If you know a god's name, you have power over it. So many gods hope that no mortals ever learn their name...

All because we didn't want to have Elhonna, Garl Glittergold, or that poncy Elven god, Corellon Larethian, or to come up with similar names.

If I come up with something else, I'll be sure to add it in.

August 30, 2002

Visual Character WISH

Have you ever seen or met someone -- in person, on TV, in a movie, or whatever -- who made you think "Oh my goodness, that's my character!" Who was it (if you know), and what were the similarities?
No, actually. I don't tend to have really good visuals for my characters in my head. It's just not me. I know how they act without thinking, but not how they look.

I have been able to, in the past, look for actors/actresses who I think might look like my character. Usually in part of a "cast list." And sometimes, I'll see someone and say, "Ooh, yeah, I'll have to use him/her as a character someday/as my new character." I did that with an Amber character for a game I never played in, pulling images of Claudia Black for Ekaterine, and ended up giving all the images I found to Kris Fazzari last year at ACN, for her use for Juliana in TRiH.

I'm right now trying to find someone for a new character in a game Lou's starting up. I haven't quite decided, but I think she's going to be dark-haired. So I'm thinking of dark-haired actresses. I like Sela Ward, but she's getting old and I want someone young. I'm also thinking slightly Asian, so Kristin Kreuk, as she's the right age. But it's not a "Oh, that is so my character!" moment.

Google Images is a great thing.

There have been characters on TV that have ACTED like my characters, but they didn't look at all alike. I'd have to think about that for a bit, but I'm sure they'd come to me eventually.

September 10, 2002


Since this is my question, it's about time I answer it!

That said, how do you keep the mood? And once lost, how do you try to bring everyone back? Can you? Is it even possible?

And what do you do with that one player who is always the first one to crack a joke and break up the tension you've built to so carefully, no matter how many times you've asked/warned him/her not to do that?

Continue reading "Mood WISH" »

September 17, 2002

Background WISH

This week's Game WISH, a bit late, but done.

How do you like to build character backgrounds? Do you think they are important or not? Do you prefer to write an elaborate background, or fill in later? Do you find character quizzes like the one in the ADRPG or related exercises like the round of questions in Everway character development to be useful?
I used to build elaborate backgrounds for my characters. As the years progressed, I realized that I just didn't have time for it, especially when often, a lot of the background I had created would be ignored by the GM or used in (what I considered) an inappropriate way.

I think the last time I created a very detailed background for a character was for an online Amber game. I had done up this background with another player, to the point of having conference (aka chat) sessions doing background development, and tarot readings, and all manner of detailed background stories. Maeve was one frelled-up character.

And in the first session of the game, the GM took us to an alternate Amber, and tried to have my character blamed for the death of an NPC there.

Yes, in the real world, she had killed this NPC. But in this alternate world, she didn't, and it had no impact on the character or the game, really. It was an alternate universe and the details were entirely different. The GM expected it to have a great impact on Maeve, and she just shrugged it off.

Now, if she had done that in the real world, THEN I'd have been all over that.

I know, it's just one game, but I think it very nearly ended me on doing lots of details for a game where I don't know to where it's headed.

I think at least something of a background is important, though a lot depends on the game that is being played. Amber games pretty much require a detailed background, because of the variety of shadow from where the character could be, and their interactions with the elders.

For Lou's new D&D game, I have a basic background (Sophia Pilar Highbridge is the daughter of a local tavern owner, and he wanted her to be able to handle herself and any possibly rowdy patrons, so she learned unarmed fighting from the local monk), and will probably write more. But I'm not compelled to do so anymore.

I also tend to have a lot of my character background in my head. It's all there, and I usually tell the GM what it is, but it is often never written down. This is bad, I know. I do the same thing for my NPCs, but there it's okay because it's all for me and what I choose to reveal.

I also like playing the character for a session or two, like Ginger does, and seeing how what I had envisioned plays out. Often the character changes, sometimes subtly, sometimes not-so-subtly. Just like no plot survives contact with the players, hardly any character survives contact with the plot/other characters.

I do like character quizzes, ala the ones from the Amber books. In fact, I asked my players in WEF some questions, and then asked them much later to reply to them again, to see if there was a difference. I've also asked my players in ATF some questions, and while it was voluntary, I did get answers from some of them. I was going to code them into character pages, but never got around to it beyond the first character, who is no longer one of the PCs. Many of these were stolen from Sarah's To Reign in Hell quiz.

I do think it's a good idea, if you're going to pose quizzes to your players, to not require (if you do) them to submit them until after they've played the character a few times. Get them into the feel of the character, and their reactions. Or if you do require it up front, then allow the player to change their answers if need be.

Now I just have to work on a page for ATD of my own. Pardon the sparseness of the pages, it's Lou's first attempts at HTML.

September 24, 2002

Cross-Gender WISH

What do you think about cross-gender characters (i.e., men playing female characters and women playing male characters)? What about GMs playing them as NPCs?
I really have no issues with men playing female characters or women playing male characters.

I've seen it done well and I've seen it done not-so-well. I've also seen the guys with fetishes - only playing female characters, and those overly endowed and wanting sex all the time.

I've been fortunate enough to not see the reverse with the women I've seen played. I haven't played with a huge variety of women, but they've managed to stay away from the stereotypes.

As a GM, I think I've done a decent job of playing male NPCs. I have one as my main NPC in my ATF game. I think I've done an okay job with Tallis, and with his cohort, Zel.

As brief NPCs, I don't have a complaint about any male GM I've encountered doing a female character. I can't recall any GM doing a long-term female NPC, so I'm not really qualified to comment.

And if someone can play an elf, dwarf, or mutated space alien, why can't they play cross-gender?

What I'd love to see is someone play a hermaphrodite or neuter as a long-term character!

October 2, 2002

GM-Player Relationship WISH

What is your idea of the relationship between GM and player? Is the GM a host, an adversary, an enabler...?

Yes, all of the above.

Ideally, the GM should provide the environment in which the players run their characters. The environment includes not just the physical environment, but the NPCs they encounter, the traps they run into (and I don't mean just literal traps), the plots they encounter. Even if they don't choose to follow the path of the plot, there is still something going on.

A long time ago, I gamed with Ken Alves (some of you may know him through the artwork he did on ShadowKnight, and in the Amberzines) and Ken Winland (and others may know him through Amber, or as my ex). They told me tales of their original gaming group, including letting me listen to the audiotapes Ken A. made for a project at RISD. He talked to all the players, and asked what gaming was to them, etc.

One of them loved being able to beat the GM at his own game. His whole enjoyment derived from being able to solve whatever puzzle or predicament the GM had devised, or from simply messing it up. Seeing the look on the GM's face when he "won" was priceless to him.

Mundanes (non-gamers) almost always ask me if I tell them I've been gaming, "Did you win?" I try to tell them that I don't game to win or lose, but for the adventure of it. There are no winners and losers to me, or at least there shouldn't be.

The GM should be an adversary of sorts, though. They need to provide the conflict for the characters, whether it be internal or external.

And the GM should be a host, in that they should set up the place, make sure everyone's having a good time, and have everything they need/want. ***Dave did a good job describing that bit, though I think it was a bit of an extreme analogy.

As a player, I want the GM to provide me with interesting things for my character to go play with, but they are not to put me in a cart on rails. I know that I need to stay with the group (for those group-based games), but I still want my individuality.

Gah, that rambled.

October 4, 2002

Miss/Don't Miss Game WISH

In the gaming you are doing lately, what do you miss from earlier games? What works so much better you never looked back? Three examples?
I must admit, I miss the goodies.

Continue reading "Miss/Don't Miss Game WISH" »

October 11, 2002

Prop Game WISH

How do you use props in your game? Give three examples, and discuss why you use them. What do they bring to the game? Are there any downsides to using them? For those who do convention games, are there differences between the props you use in campaigns and the props you use for con rounds?
I have tried to use some props in my game, but not a lot.

I scoured the Everway decks for neat images that I could use in game, and I think I've used one of those once. I also used an image from Final Fantasy (the movie). The image of the city all lit up was how an underwater city from my world looked. Until the group put the lights out. The playes haven't seem all that impressed when I've used these, so my excitement for them has waned over time.

You know, I didn't even consider miniatures until I saw Ginger mention it. We use miniatures all the time for 3e; it's almost a necessity. Some of them are painted, some are in various states of being painted, some are still pewter, and others have a primer coat. And we also use a bag of green goblin/orcish miniatures for the "bad guys" most often. I know my friend Grant has given up on miniatures when he's playing with the family, but that is three people he's GMing for, two of them being children, so it makes more sense. Don't bog down the game with pulling out the battlemat, just use your imagination.

I want to use music, but it would be too much of a hassle, I think.

In my Amber games, I have very rarely used props. *tries to think of instance and fails*

The closest I came was when I was a player, and I had a character with multiple personalities. Most of the players could tell by my attitude, words used, body language, etc. But not all. I started using a card with "Calypso" on one side, and "Ingrid" on the other, so that those who couldn't tell would know.

[I still think my ultimate scene with that was in my original Amber game, Prime, where each NPC I was playing had a different position in the room we were gaming in. In a big group meeting, I moved from position to position (Queen Mother Deirdre was in this chair like *that*, Margarethe was standing here *just so*, Vaughn was over *here*, arms crossed, Ignatius fluttered about *there*), sometimes just to figure out if the NPC would or wouldn't make a comment.]

Back to props. I can't think of any others that I've used. I've had them used in games I've been playing in - for example, my WISH answer from last time, wherein I missed the goodies. The player handouts with news and info and tidbits. Not really "props" but they were used in game and handed out to players.

Oh, wait! Trumps! Back when I first started gaming with Ken and Ken, Ken Alves drew up trumps of all the NPCs and PCs. I still have a complete deck somewhere (he should scan them and put them in the Trump Collection project). We used them to show Ken W. which NPC/PC we were going to call, if we didn't want the others to know. That went really well, actually, and we liked having them on hand. The downsides were only in that Ken could only devote so much time to drawing them, and then color photocopying, getting them laminated and cut out. And if someone joined later, he wouldn't get a set....Ken (I believe) laminated and gave out the originals to their respective players (GM or player).

October 18, 2002

Sticking Points WISH

Every player has sticking points. (Yes, you do. You may not have had your buttons pressed yet to know what they are, but you have them.). What are some things that are absolutely no-gos for you?
I wasn't sure what the question really was, so I had to read through some replies before I "got" it.

Railroading. There is only One True Way to solve the scenario/adventure/scene/puzzle, and you must come to accept the OTW otherwise you'll be there until Hell Freezes Over.

There is one GM I will likely never play under again, because their games are most often on rails. They have the answer, and will rarely accept any other possible result.

I hate that. There is nothing that will make me walk out of a game sooner than the idea that when my character comes up with a solution that is not the same as the GM's, that it isn't just as valid, as possible as the OTW.

GM's who won't throw out the rules when needed. I think this lies with my first real introduction to gaming being an online game, and then the depth of the diceless gaming I did when I got a local group. If a GM isn't going to be flexible, then they're not for me.

This goes both ways, though. If the "House Rules" are almost as thick as the Players Handbook, then maybe it's time that we play diceless for a while, eh?

Okay, that was two GM things. Now a few player things.

I'll have to echo a few others here and say disrespect. I have been very fortunate in my gaming career and had good groups of GMs and players. But I can totally understand and sympathize, if not empathize, with those who have to put up with guys making fun of the "chick" in the group, and the character rape scenes mentioned in other WISHes.

I can't speak a lot more from personal experience, so I'll stop here.

November 1, 2002

Heart WISH

Today's question is about your heart character. The heart character rests on the idea that over the course of a gaming career, players would revisit certain themes that were important to them for some reason, and that one or two characters in particular would embody those themes or ideas. Whatever it was about the heart character(s) would draw the player back to those themes.

Do you have a heart character? More than one? If so, what makes that character a heart character? If you don't have one, do you think there are themes you revisit with your characters? Or do you think this entire theory is full of it, and if you do, why?

This was a tough one for me, in that I had to really think about all the old characters I played, to see if any had a theme. I asked Lou for help, and after he thought about it a bit, we determined that angst was my only key ingredient.

Though I didn't plan anything but that the character have some sort of angst (I need the hook to really get into the character), a lot of them seem to be related to unrequited love.

In the game from where my email handle comes (Glyneth), the character in question was striving to remain a virgin in a RuneQuest world (of the GM's own creation - NOT Glorantha). If she did, and she reached runelord level, she'd get a unicorn, just like her mentor, Poppy. She didn't expect that along the way she'd fall for another PC, a man named Abegend. The game underwent some serious changes over the years, and Foonman (who played Abe) left Compuserve. Before he left, it was a very close thing as to whether or not Glyneth would give in to her "base" desires" or stay true to herself.

More recently, I played a character named Brianna Merrick in a AD&D game (2nd Ed, before 3e came out) who had an unhealthy attraction to her brother, and was trying hard to stamp down on it (now that I think about it, Bree was also a paladin-type like Glyneth, but different worlds and different GMs made them very different characters). Not long into the game, her brother Collwyn started showing signs of being not-all-human, and it turns out he was half-elven. And then our parents told us we were both adopted! So she could act on it, and not feel guilty. And eventually she did, because Coll gave in, sorta (there's a long story behind this that I won't get into here), but the love should have remained unrequited. It ended up causing all sorts of problems.

And then, after that game was over and we were onto the next one, Lou told me that Bree and Coll were actually half-siblings, having the same father. I don't think Bree has ever forgiven their father for not telling them (not that he knew, but still...).

In a current PBeM I'm playing, the theme has come back again. Saelin has a major longing for the NPC that he "saved," and she in turn "saved" him. It's more complicated than that, but I did want to mention it as another character with said theme. I'm sure I have others too, but those are the ones that come to mind as I think about this question.

I guess I really like the "torn between keeping your feelings hidden or letting them out to possible rejection" theme, as well as the "I'm not good enough for my love" theme in my characters. I'll probably keep coming back to those...I can get good angst out of them.

November 11, 2002

Player vs. Character Game WISH

How do you deal with this mismatch, either as a game master or a player? Do you play it as-played, so that the only character who can seduce the scheming noble's wife is the only player who can pick somebody up at the bar? Or do you play it as-written, so that the character can bluff the guards into letting him pass, even if the player's best effort is "I've got an urgent message for, uh, Lord Blah-blah-blah"?

I want the player to make the effort. We've all stretched ourselves, at one point or another (I hope!), to play beyond our comfort zone. Not necessarily a whole character, but maybe a scene or scenario that we aren't necessarily good at doing ourselves, but we want our character to be. Otherwise we're just playing ourselves each time we roleplay.

All that said, I do want the player to make the effort. I want them to try That's all I ask, really - that an attempt be made. If they're not living up to what's on their character sheet, I'll have them roll and adjust the NPC's reaction(s) accordingly.

If it's not a diced game, then things get trickier. But again, everyone gets more than points for the effort. They have to tell me what they're trying, how they're trying it, rather than, "I seduce Barbara," or "I bluff the guards." Give me something to go on, and I'll let a LOT slide. Something like, "I (or my character) will flatter Barbara, buy her drinks, get her to talk about herself. Definitely get her to tell me everything about herself. I'm going to wait until I think the time is right before I suggest that we go back to my place - so she feels she can leave any time she is uncomfortable." Or "I fast-talk the guards. I wave some papers in front of them, shouting about how Lord Folderol needs these urgently, since I've been sent from his country estate. He's now a grandfather, and he has to know about it NOW, because it's not the grandson he was hoping for...basically spin a tale, but talk fast so they can't understand it and probably won't remember it. And I'll spit as I talk, so they'll want to wave me on quicker."

Those sorts of examples will make me smile as a GM, or as a player. We have one player in a game I'm in, and all he wants to do is play the stats and skills. He tells the GM just about every session that he's trying to intimidate someone (usually into attacking him), and then he rolls the dice. Never once does he say what he's trying to do, how he's trying to do it, what he's saying, etc. Pisses me off that the GM lets him get away with it. I'd love to just hear a little something, even once. How about a "Your mother wears army boots!" or "What kind of pansy-assed fighter do you think you are?" But it's not my game, and it's not how that player wants to play. Which is why I'll never invite him to be in any game I run.

November 15, 2002

Playing & GMing WISH

Does GMing improve an individual's playing? Does playing improve a GM's GMing? In what ways? Why? If not, why not?

I was all for saying yes in both cases, then I asked Lou this question. I like sharing these questions with him, it helps me think of things that I'd forgotten.

He reminded me that when you have been a GM but now you're playing a game, you can be more critical of the GM than a non-GMing player. You might be more likely to see where the GM made a choice you wouldn't have, or they're not handling a situation right (in your opinion, of course).

I do think that it can help. You don't always have to think with your GM hat when playing. But if you GM, you know what it's like to sit behind that screen (or whatever). So when you're on the other side, you can appreciate the hard work the GM put in, and can appreciate the story he or she is trying to tell. And might be more willing to help them achieve their goal.

Now, does playing improve a GM's GMing? I think it can only help. Again, seeing things from the other side of the screen is good, it helps you realize what the players are thinking when you're GMing. I don't know very many people who only GM, and I can't imagine not playing, so this is hard for me to imagine. I do think it could help the GM make their NPCs more than just one-dimensional characters, because you've had to (hopefully!) make your own character as a player become three-dimensional.

Gah, I'm rambling now. But I think I've covered everything.

Equality and Equivalence WISH

The typical party of PCs appears to be composed of equals. They may have Nodwickian henchlings or distant authority figures, but in most of the games I've played, the PCs are equal with respect to each other.

Is this generalization true for you as well? What other group dynamics have showed up in campaigns you have played? What other group dynamics might be workable? What isn't workable, and why?

Generally, yes, it's true. I have played in a PBeM where the characters are widely different in power levels, but it was Amber, and not really that important (IMHO). It's all about the roleplaying, there.

The biggest problems I've run into with unbalanced games has been with power gamers who tweak the hell out of the system and, while on paper the characters are balanced, when it comes down to brass tacks, the power gamer overshadows the others, usually in combat situations.

I've never played in a really unbalanced game, but I don't think I'd have a problem with it in the short term. Part of it has to do with being able to contribute as much as anyone else. It really depends on what the basis for the game was. If there was a lot of combat and my character was significantly less powerful than the others (less levels, less points, whatever the system uses), I could easily be upset if the GM didn't scale the challenges properly. I would hope that my character would be able to fight a character or help another PC and not just get the dren kicked out of them.

I'm going to be running into this situation in my ATF game. Anne started the game with the other players, but missed sessions and ended up being behind the other characters in level. I had another player leave the game, then return and play the same character. Fortunately he was only about a level behind at the time, and as the characters get higher in level, the less he falls behind. But Anne took a break this summer, and the rest of the group is 10th level (almost 11th for some of them) and Margaret's 7th. What makes this situation worse is that Margaret was the group's cleric, so spells are even more important.

Now, Anne and I did a weblog to have an adventure for Margaret while she wasn't coming to the sessions. But things intervened, and she didn't get as far along as I wanted. We're going to keep her going through it, even though she'll be rejoining in December.

Some of you might say, just advance her character to match the lowest level PC. While I'd love to do that, I'd have one very pissed-off husband on my hands, and possibly other players who would be varying degrees of upset (I don't know, I haven't asked them). Lou feels (and rightly so, I can understand his perspective) that the character shouldn't be rewarded just to make things even. He was at all the sessions - if someone misses a session, they don't get experience. That's been our rule. I counter with if I let her create a new character, I'd let her start at the lowest experience total of the PCs, and no, he wouldn't have a problem with that. So what's the difference? What's the solution? I don't know. I don't want her character to be so far behind the others that she's a hindrance rather than a help, or feels like she can't contribute equally. We did this in another game (when Anne took her maternity leave), and it just didn't work when Anne rejoined, and she ended up leaving that game (though, I must admit, there were other reasons as well, but I'm pretty sure this was the biggest reason).

I think I'm just going to advance her to mid-9th level, or maybe 3/4ths of the way to 10th.

(And no, Anne, I don't want you to not come back, or to not play Margaret. This isn't a complaint about you or your character, I'm just using it to illustrate the point, and the difficulty I'm having!)

December 9, 2002

RetCon Game WISH

Do you think that retroactive continuity is a good or bad thing in games? Is it a valuable GM/player tool or a cheat? Are there appropriate places for using it? Inappropriate places? How have you successfully used it or seen it used in a game? How about unsuccessfully?

I have only experienced it in its good form, so I must say it's a great tool, and a great cheat. And sometimes, it's a way for the backbrain to get things out into the game, if you don't stop and think too hard on it.

A perfect example of retconning came from WEF, back when I was running it. Oberon showed up, after being thought dead/missing for some time. He started to put all his children through interviews about what they thought about Amber, what Amber meant to them, what they'd be willing to do for it, etc. It was sort of an heir test.

Well, Benedict got very upset with his questioning, stormed out of Oberon's office, and tore apart his room, and left Amber for a long time.

Then, he returned at a PC's birthday party, and made a big show of pledging himself to another NPC, who was trying to resurrect House Barimen in the Courts.

The NPC, Cybele, managed to get Benedict, another NPC named Samuel (former assassin), and a PC (Brennan, and one of the more dangerous of the PCs) to pledge to her, all for various reasons (Brennan was her consort).

And then later, I realized that this had all (obviously) been a maneuver by Oberon. He had picked Cybele as his heir, and managed to get her surrounded by top-notch people who had pledged themselves to her, to protect her and see that she got the training she needed to run Amber.

I didn't plan it this way; originally, Benedict was just pissed at the powerplay Oberon was attempting. But then I thought about it. What if the act was a sham? What if he wasn't REALLY pissed, but Oberon and he planned it?

And it took off from there. Everything that I had planned fit perfectly with this new take on it. Samuel was the first to figure it out (as an NPC, he had access to a number of PCs who told him various things, and he put two and two together) and then presented it to Brennan. Who agreed with him, and then they agreed to not speak about it to anyone. Definitely not Cybele!

Of course, by the end of the game, everything happened as Oberon wanted. It was such a retcon, though. I've had smaller ones...usually where I do something and wonder why (usually an NPC says something) and then later it makes sense.

I may end up doing it in my ATF game, but again, only if it fits. I just killed off a PC (player wanted to switch characters, and I couldn't think of a valid reason (nor could he) for his PC to not stay with the group), and if circumstances warrant it later, I may retcon the death. It was only witnessed by an NPC, and maybe something messed up his recall of events.

But only if it works for the plot. Or if my backbrain tells me what was really going on much later.

December 28, 2002

Fantasy Series Recommendation WISH

What three fantasy books/series would you recommend to other gamers? Why? What particularly makes them suitable for gamers to read? Would they be particularly good for novices or better for experienced gamers?

Oh, interesting topic! I need to catch up on a few older WISHes, but I can start on this one.

Three fantasy books/series?

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) by J.R.R. Tolkein

The Deed of Paksennarion (Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold) by Elizabeth Moon.

The last choice is a tough one. I could go with The Curse of Chalion, but I've put the OTHER penultimate paladin book(series) in here already. I could go with other Bujold books, but while they're fun, I don't see "gamer" in them when I read. No one, and I must admit No One, could do Miles' justice in an RPG. The first Amber series is good.

So, I'm going to go with the first few of the Joel Rosenberg Guardians of the Flame (The Sleeping Dragon, The Sword and the Chain, and The Silver Crown).

Now, for why I chose these...

Tolkien is the classic. The one to read to figure out just how cool elves and dwarves are. To understand just what rangers can do. To know just how kick-ass wizards can be. Ents, orcs, wargs. It all started here. And be sure to note that I included The Hobbit. For just how sneaky a rogue halfling can be, this is a good start.

The Deed of Paksennarion inspired my first long-term AD&D character, Brianna. I wanted her to be picked a paladin by the gods, not have her choose to be one. I think that, coupled with Curse of Chalion, are THE two paladin books.

And what gamer hasn't wanted to, at least once, play in their game world? The Rosenberg Guardians of the Flame series allows the players to do just that, good and bad. It gets a bit more muddled, to my eyes, as the series goes on, and there is a distinct lack of main female protagonists (though there are women gamers/characters, they aren't the main character(s) of the series.

January 14, 2003


I'm playing Game WISH catch-up today...

What have pets and companions belonging to PCs and NPCs in campaigns you咩e GMed or played in added? What have their bad points been? How do they compare to sentient magic items in terms of their effect on play (good or bad)?

I had started to write a response to this ages ago, but it seems to have vanished. Probably at home on the laptop.

My current D&D character, Skyler, has quite a few companion animals. She could have more, but I am not bothering to do so.

She started in 2nd Edition, wherein using Skills & Powers I purchased the elven pet as part of her background. However, I chose her to have a raven named Thunderclaw instead of an elven cat or dog. Considering her background, it made more sense. Thunderclaw ran into some issues early on in the game, where he was captured by the bad guys. Once rescued, Skyler never sent him out on any scouting missions again. I must admit, I was very upset that he had been lured in by the bad guys, because I had assumed he was smarter than that, since he was the equivalent of an elven cat, and not just a dumb bird. It took a while for Lou and I to work out the differences we had in how the animal companion worked. I think Lou was possibly just thinking he was a slightly smart bird (and we already know how smart ravens are), not as intelligent as the pet I thought I had paid for. I can understand the desire they have for shiny objects (how he was lured in), but it still bothered me at the time.

Thunderclaw rarely comes with me on journeys now, even though he has been possessed by the great spirit of Raven and is a bit more powerful that he was at the start.

Later in the game, our NPC ranger cast animal friendship on the baby dire tiger that was dragging him up into the tree (hey, one of the material components is a piece of food that the animal likes to eat!). After Stalker wandered with us for a bit, and Skyler had progressed enough in levels, she awakened him. So now we had an intelligent (more intelligent than some members of the party!) talking, growing dire tiger to accompany us. Stalker's main allegiance is to the NPC ranger, but he's still a valued member of the group. And taking rogue levels. Be very frightened. No real bad points here.

And much more recently, Skyler awakened the horse that had been with her all these days (she's from a plains horse tribe), Calandra. We hardly ever go anywhere that Calandra can go (our current group is *notorious* for not taking horses with us, much to Calandra's, and Skyler's, dismay), but she always get invited. She's also been possessed by a great spirit of the Horse, so is a bit more than an average horse.

In previous games, I've had an intelligent pegasus, a little dragon from the Pern books (I've never read them, so the name is not sticking with me), and Bree had her paladin's mount, basically a cross between an antelope and a cow (Lou modified the ancient auroch). They've all had their benefits and their drawbacks, but I think they're an integral part of the game.

As for intelligent/sentient magic items - I've had very little experience with them. I'd love to have more, to be honest. Anne had an intelligent sword in our last AD&D game, and in this game, we ran into two swords (named Bleys and Brand, natch) who were not very nice swords. They were ancient artifacts that were left over from when the time local country was a patriarchy, not a matriarchy. In fact, they were the Baron's swords - the Baron who was overthrown by his Baroness who established the matrilineal line. So they were not happy, and wanted the guy who found them, the male descendent of the line (the party's NPC), to take over the throne. He got them melted down and made them into a new sword. *chuckle*

I think, with some controls and limits, having pets and companion animals is a good thing and should definitely not be overlooked.

New PC into existing group WISH

How do you introduce a new PC to an existing group? Is it best if the GM takes special measures of some kind to integrate the new and existing characters, or should the GM just allow them to meet and let the players put it all together? Does it matter whether the game is oriented towards character cooperation or character competition?

A lot depends on the game that's being run.

I have just introduced a new character for an old player in my D&D 3E game. The player had decided that he didn't want to play his original character (that'd he'd been playing for about five levels, and over a year of real time), so I was stuck with how to introduce a new character.

Fortunately for this game, I have enforced a built-in backstory. Everyone must owe the same NPC a debt, and he has called it in. So the players have an opportunity to develop a good backstory to deal with the debt, and it gives the characters a reason to be journeying together.

I think it is best if the GM works with the player to devise a way for the new character to be accepted within the group. I definitely don't think it should be left entirely up to the player and players. I've seen a few cases where the player brings in a new PC against the GM's advice, only to have the rest of the characters hate or extremely dislike the new character, and won't travel with them. The player needs to be aware of this...I understand the need to play a "real" character, but if you're designing someone that will rub the rest of the characters the wrong way, then why bother? Why bring in a character that won't last more than one session with the group?

So leaving it all up to the players is not a good idea, in my experience.

As for cooperation vs. competition - I've never really done a long-term game with character substitutions. I did a competitive "throne war" type game once, and it was limited in scope. WEF was somewhat competitive, but more cooperative, really. I introduced a number of new PCs into that game, but always worked with the player to develop a backstory that would hopefully help them fit into the game.


The RPG market is dominated by fantasy (with horror coming in second). Why have most attempts at creating a science fiction RPG failed (commercially or artistically), and what would a hypothetical SFRPG need to catch on the way fantasy has?

I think there are two directions that SF games can go, and the main reason that they haven't take off like fantasy games.

On one hand, you have the hard sf games. On the other, you have space opera.

Both have their fans, and both have their strong and weak points. Since you can't merge the two, there is the big problem.

Hard SF games are ones where the science is paramount. Tech is the big thing, what makes the game go and be fun for those who play it.

For space opera, it's the fantasy, to borrow the term. The big, sweeping epics that have you moving from one point in the galaxy to another, and not caring how you get there, but what you DO one you arrive.

I'm not a huge hard SF fan myself, though I can understand the appeal.

Now, some may think that I'm leaving out whole genres of SF games. Cyberpunk, for one. But I think that's a modified space opera, or possibly a modified hard SF game, depending on in what direction you take the game/system.

I have no clue what it might take to produce a good SF RPG, since it's not my thing. I'm a fantasy fan; I rarely play SF stuff. But when I do, it's more science fantasy than science fiction, if you understand the difference.

January 31, 2003

Movie Inspired Game WISH

[still playing catch-up with the Game WISHes...]

What are three movies that have inspired you as a gamer? Would you recommend them to other gamers, and if so, what would you tell them to look for and/or hope for them to get?

For Amber, I must admit I am a Dangerous Liaisons fan. The Usual Suspects gets an honorable mention.

What to look for? Look for the deviousness of Valmont and Merteuil. Especially how Valmont falls into his own trap. Especially how Merteuil explains how she practiced smiling while stabbing herself with a fork. Duplicitiousness is in their nature. And when Valmont starts believing what he's selling...and Merteuil convinces him to leave his lady...and oh.

Spacey's just awesome in Suspects. So frelling believable, you can't help but buy everything he says to Kujan, hook, line, and sinker.

For fantasy, I'm going to have to go with The Barbarians. Twin bodybuilding brothers (from Rhode Island!) play barbarians on your typical fantasy quest. But some of the scenes are almost straight out of a roleplaying session! Really a spoof of Conan, it's just a very fun and funny movie.

Now, one more...inspired me, hmm?

Damn. I'm just going to have to go back to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Aragorn is the penultimate ranger. Legolas is what a bowman should be like - and inspired my friends to try to create a character with exotic weapon proficiencies in arrows, so they could stab the bad guys as well as shoot them.

Campaign type Game WISH

[yet another catch-up...]

Do you prefer campaigns to be limited-plot, with a definite ending, or open-ended, so that they can continue indefinitely? What about things like ìconvention campaignsî where people meet irregularly to pick up old characters and game together? What are the pros and cons of each sort of game? Which is more common in your gaming experience?

I prefer open-ended games. I like the ideas of having limited plots within the game setting - different adventures. But overall, the characters keep moving and growing. Eventually the characters may grow apart, or the situation may become untenable.

In our previous Sunday game (set in the fantasy world of Lou's and my design), our characters went only up to about 11th level. We were playing in 2nd edition, and by that time, Lou had beaten us over the head with "the end of the world is coming!" enough times that our characters were just sick of each other. Sick of banding together to save the world YET AGAIN from whatever evi thing was trying to destroy it. The players also got kinda sick of it.

Lou didn't necessarily *plan* for this to happen, but it did. In one scenario, our characters had all planned to take a month off and get various things done. But Lou, not thinking, dangled a plot in front of two of the PCs. Yet again, the world was going to be ending. And that meant we couldn't take any time off. Lou said that he hadn't intended for us to follow up on it, it was just there as something that we would deal with eventually. But it was presented in such a way that no good-minded party (which we were, heavily) could refuse to stop whatever they were doing and go and stop yet another apocalypse.

My husband does a very good job with apocalypses, don't get me wrong. But it was overdone in that game. Even he burned out on it.

The current game is set 20 years later in the same game world, and has mainly dealt with getting a rightful princess (one of the PCs) back on her throne and kicking out/killing the usurper. In the beginning, we didn't know she was even a *girl*, she was disguised.

The game started out in 2nd edition, moved into 3E, and our characters are now 18-19th level. And we show no signs of wanting to stop playing them. (My character is lower level than the rest because she had to leave for a time due to party conflicts, so I brought in the son of my old PC and an NPC from the first game, and played him for about a level.) In fact, Lou's had to revise the evil usurper a number of times because we keep advancing, and aren't going after him yet. Partially because we know we'll lose her as PC once we do that, and partially because there are other things we need to do. Like build an army to take her back, stop the evil Lich that killed a former PC, and figure out why my character was abandoned by her elven parents and raised by a human plains horse tribe.

In the meantime, we also ended a curse on an NPC, fought an ancient red dragon, journeyed to Sigil, and various other adventures.

Okay, that said, let's get back to the question at hand.

I like "convention campaigns" just fine. But I couldn't do it regularly. It's fun for a convention, getting together with old friends and pulling out the old character for some fun. But I think part of the fun is in the short time limit. I don't think I could play Calypso/Ingrid (my Multiple-Personality Disorder character) in a regular game again. She reached her end. But for a con game, sure I'd drag them out again, in a heartbeat. It's fun to visit in their heads for a brief time.

In my gaming experience, the open-ended is definitely more common. I ran an Amber game with a finite time limit, basically a throne war, just to see if I could (mainly the backstabbing issue). It lasted maybe a half-dozen sessions or so, and it was fun. But I couldn't do it regularly. I like continuity.


[only one more, then I can start on Roll Call!]

Are PBeM (Play-by-email) games actually roleplaying? Why or why not? How does PBeM differ from or approximate roleplaying face-to-face, or other activities that you feel it is similar to?

Since it's how I got into roleplaying, I have to come down on the side of YES, it is.

I started gaming back in the day on Compuserve. Most specifically in what was called then a CON (short for CONference) game, but now would be called a chat. But not long after that, I started in my first play-by-message-board game (and let me tell you, the thing I miss *most* about CIS is its message board system). I still have all the logs...somewhere.

That allowed me to branch out into face-to-face (or ftf) games, because I needed some game material and the guy at the local store asked if I wanted to join his game.

But in those dark, early years, all my gaming was done online.

Now, PBeM is a little different than message board gaming, I think. It's tough for me to describe the difference, but there is one. Part of it is the public-ness of message board. Everyone not in the game gets to watch, as long as the threads are public. PBeM most often only includes those actively involved in the thread, and absolutely no one who isn't even in the game able to watch.

But then again, most ftf games don't have spectators, unless you're playing at a convention or a game store, and folk (are allowed to) come by to watch.

For ftf games, you can get the immediate reaction of the player and thereby the character. You're not confused by the tone or the attitude of the character - it's right there on display. Immediacy is the key word with FTF games. You get everything done much more quickly.

But ftf games often can't allow for the private conversations that PBeM games do. Unless your players/GM allow for a long time of just two or three folk talking off by themselves, those have to be done out of game time. If even those are allowed.

They can also restrict individual character development, because the group tends to be paramount (not always, especially not with my WEF Amber game, but still true with many other games.). Back in the day, when I was running Calypso/Ingrid (the MPD character mentioned in the previous WISH answer), Lou and I would spend hours just the two of us (and this was before we were involved!) gaming with just Ingrid and Moirin (his NPC), or Calypso and Moirin (less frequently, but still done). But that was all done out of game time, on our own time. None of the other characters got as much face time with the GM as Ingrid did.

In PBeM, the immediacy is gone. You can have some of it, if folk are quick to respond to emails. But there's always the chance of others being left behind, and the GM having to retcon what really happened, if PCs jumped the gun and moved farther than they should have.

But it can also be hella slow. Waiting for busy players to respond, or just waiting for every player to get the chance to respond. In large games, this can take weeks before things get moving.

There's also a slight sense of distance, at least to me, with PBeM. I can play someone wildly different than me, because I can take a day (or more) to figure out how the character would respond to the insult/proposal/opportunity that has just landed in the inbox.

I get to write more with PBeM. I used to write more for my ftf characters, diaries and logs and all manner of things. That has fallen by the wayside with the number of games I play in ftf. Hells, I haven't done a log for the game I run in almost a year. I really need to get back to doing that, dammit!

But I play in two weekly games, one every-other-week game, one once-a-month game, one whenever-the-schedule-allows game, and I run an every other-week game. I also play currently in one active PBeM (yes, Jenn, I owe you a post!), and one rather lapsed PBeM (whither TRiH?), one whenever-everyone-remembers-to-post PBeM (Whither SBE?). I stopped running my play-by-message-board game, because I just can't keep interest in a game long enough to keep it going. Plus, I have issues with having to visit a place to post - I don't do it. *shrugs* Holdover from burnout on CIS? Possibly.

I wish I was in more PBeMs, but I don't think I could just join one that was already in progress, or I didn't know all the participants. I often miss the days of composing posts on CIS for Glyneth, or Celebanna (though that was mainly a CON game), or whomever. But I'm in enough ftf games to keep my interest going. No burnout yet.

Feedback Addict Game WISH

[damn, another one snuck up on me! This is the second to last one now...]

Is there any addiction to the feedback gaming provides in the weaving of stories? Unlike traditional tales, gaming allows the input of the players and GM into going ìother places,î depending on the interests and desires of those involved...but can that lead to feeding the audience too much of what it likes and not enough challenge? Where in that scale do you measure?

Interesting question. I'm not quite sure how to respond...

Addiction of gaming? Yes. To the feedback...the immediacy, as I said in other posts for Game WISH? Perhaps.

Here's an example, I think.

In our Sunday game (D&D 3E), Lou has set the world and let us explore it. We have a TON of items on our plate, and are just getting to resolving some of them.

One of them included taking care of the ancient Red Dragon that one of our party members pissed off, trying to "threaten" it into staying off our back. It had been spying on us, we'd found out (using its half-breed children), and selling the information to the highest bidder. It told the PC that it would be coming for us, at some point. And also that it would kill the PC if he dared show up at the dragon's lair again.

Some of the players (and maybe the characters) wanted to deal with it. We made preparations, but we knew it was beyond our strength to deal with. So my character, not wanting to die (knowing she'd be the first one on the dragon's list once it knew she could cast Quench (no save, no spell resistance, 15d6 to fire-based creatures) on it (*hearts Quench*). She didn't want to die. *I* didn't want her to die.

So I kept putting that off. We'd get just about ready to fight it, then my character would suggest something else, and we'd go off and investigate that. Gaining levels, and magic items, and experience.

We finally fought the dragon last Sunday, because I couldn't think of anything else to use to stave off the fight.

This is a perfect example of catering to the audience, but keeping enough of a challenge for the players. Gauge what the players, and the characters, want to do, but offer them other opportunities. As long as there are other options, I don't think you'll ever be accused of pandering to the crowd.

Plus, as any good GM knows, the more you plan or push your players in one direction, the more likely they are to head in the other, no matter how much you cater directly to them.

House Rules Game WISH

To what extent do you or your gaming peers use and develop house rules? Are you the kind of player who builds a system from the ground up, the kind of player who endlessly tweaks an existing game system to improve its performance, or the kind of player who uses a system out of the box? How does it affect your playing style? How does it affect the balance between rules mechanics and ìpureî role-playing?

We use a number of house rules, but nowhere near as much as we did with 2nd edition.

(Amber doesn't really use rules, and we're not playing much other than D&D these days. Even starting a D&D Modern game, so will have to let you all know how that goes once it gets off the ground.)

In our current game, the biggest house rule we use is that characters get back twice their level in hit points each night, if in the care of a healer (ie, party cleric). The standard is that, but only if the character in question does full bed rest. It's better than level+1 or whatever silliness it was in 2nd edition.

We don't endlessly tweak a system - most of our gamers aren't system whores, they're there for the game, be it the experience, the social aspect, the roleplaying opportunities. So we find a system we like, and go with it. And since I'm not a system whore, that's all I really have to say on this.

About Game WISH

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