Tabletop RPGs and good beginnings

So at the very end of last year I dragged the spousal unit to the “What should we play in 2017” meeting of the Albuquerque RPG group, and I’ve now attended all 4 of the weekly Thursday night gaming sessions that have taken place this year.

Why? That’s easy. Because it’s one of those meetups where what we play is sort of based on who shows up and pitches what, and no game is slated to run for more than a few sessions. Kind of like the sampling-buffet of RPG gaming, and for the way I am right now it’s perfect.

In week 1 we played Lady Blackbird, which was super fun. It’s an incredibly elegant little game with a lot of room for story that could easily have gone for more than a session but was satisfying as a one-off as well. Pick it up, it’s free!

In week 2 we played a Fate-accelerated homebrew kids vs. zombies game run by a member who had never GMed before. I always enjoy taking part in those because it’s very rewarding to see people want to try being on the other side of the screen (though actually pretty much nobody uses screens on the Thursday night games). She did extremely well for a first time and I hope she gained enough confidence to keep running stuff. It’s also always fun to play kids.

In week 3 we played another zombie game, this time with the End of the World rules, and that’s an interesting little system too, which shows very clearly how the underlying design assumptions affect how the game is played. As in, the design of D&D is almost exclusively based around killing monsters in dungeon crawls, and that’s what the game rewards you for doing – in general, players will tend to do what rewards them because duh, reward. We had to make characters that were basically ourselves, and I found that surprisingly constraining; it would have been a great deal easier to be heroic had I been playing anyone *but* myself, but of course that’s part of the point of the game.

It also demonstrated once again a principle I learned back in 1989, which is never to let the players go shopping in-character if you want the game to move smartly along. Especially during the beginning of a zombie apocalypse when you just don’t know what exactly you might need.

This week I was going to run Mythender, another free game where you get to punch Gods and monsters in the face (or get punched) (or end up as one of the myths you’re trying to defeat), but with one group off playing a multi-session Necessary Evil game we only had 3 players total and I didn’t want to have to deal with tweaking a system I only cracked open on the same day I was planning to run it. (Meanwhile, author Ryan Macklin kindly offered on Twitter to give me some tips, so I’m definitely rain-checking it for another night.) More on Mythender when it does get run.

So we ended up playing Dog Eat Dog because one of the players has been asked to run a game of it for a 7th-grade history class. It’s basically about colonialism and what happens on and to both sides, but has the potential to be applied to any kind of ‘colonisation’ where one entity takes over another — you could potentially apply it to cult dynamics, or even possibly to something as nebulous as the inexorable takeover by Hollywood of other, smaller film industries.

Two of us played the ‘natives’ and one played the ‘Occupation’, and it was fascinating to play out scenes of how the Occupation gradually killed off and/or assimilated the natives, whose violent rebellion (me) really only ended up making things worse. It made me notice how much the outcome is determined by our cultural expectations, because as a white European player I kind of assume that colonists usually end up ‘winning’, given the history I’m taught.

It shares some similarities with Microscope, which I’m also looking forward to playing one of these weeks.

The best thing for me about these weekly gatherings is that if I don’t feel up to it on a given week, I’m not letting a long-standing regular group down, even if I’d said I’d run something. Out of the 12-15 people I’ve met so far (there’s a core of same faces and the rest don’t always come every week), two thirds are able and willing to run stuff as opposed to just playing, and as a group we have pretty much every game under the sun covered. This takes all the pressure off me, which right now is very helpful.

It’s at least good to know that I’m able to get out of the house and interact with people again, though clearly I need to keep an eye on how much I commit to because my mental health and sensory issues don’t usually do what I want them to… Yet. Given the right mix of therapies that may change, but in any case I’m very glad to see I won’t be condemned to never play tabletop again because I have trouble being around people for any length of time. A good start for the year, if only on the gaming front.

Ugh.

In a couple of days 2016 will hopefully Exit, pursued by a bear.

I won’t lie, it’s been a difficult year. Sometime down the line I may also see it as a useful, productive, or possibly even personally strengthening year, but for the time being the main word that comes to mind is “shitty”. Not that I’m looking for sympathy — for many others it’s been an even worse year. RIP so damn many famous / fun / influential / brave / honest / talented people I cared for since I hit the age of 12. Oh wait, earlier – Richard Adams also died just the other day. And we’re not even going to talk about Syria, world politics, Brexit, American politics, or money.

To misquote (or fix, that’s how I see it) her Majesty ERII, this has been an Anus Horribilis.

It’s been kind of bleh on the gaming front too. I’ve hopped from MMO to MMO for a few weeks here and there but nothing sticks. Ditto single-player stuff. I don’t have the headspace and/or I have better things to be doing, like figuring out ways to approach my upended selbstanschauung. I dropped out of the face-to-face tabletop RPG group I was in, and shortly thereafter dropped out of the VTT-RPG group I was in. Both were good decisions at the time, and while I miss spending time and having fun with all those people, I couldn’t handle being around anyone, in person or online, for the greater part of this year.

(Quick reminder: In June or July I was diagnosed with both Sensory Processing Disorder and Asperger’s. You’d think that in 47 [now 48] years on the planet I’d have noticed those things for myself by now, but apparently that’s not how it works, especially when you’re ‘high functioning’ and really good at hiding things. Anyway, different discussion for another time. The salient fact right now is that my issues had been getting much worse since the death of my dad in 2012, got even worser (it’s a word) (now) starting in Feb this year, and made it extremely difficult for me to work, go out, or basically function in any way generally considered ‘normal’ and ‘healthy’.)

Long story short, I have started taking a tricyclic medication which — cautious hurrah! — appears to have a greatly calming effect on the anxiety that basically comes along for the ride with the above-named issues. It does nothing for said issues, but not being in a constant state of dread sure is helpful. Therapy (just CBT for now) seems like it may also be helpful, but with only 2 sessions under my belt I can’t really comment for sure.

The good thing about that is that for the first time in months I feel able to be around people again. So I’ve joined a local tabletop RPG listing/meetup group thingy and have posted that I’d like to run a one-off session of something light and fun.

We’ll see if anything comes of it. Chances are nobody will reply because that’s the nature of these things — and if nobody does, that’s ok. I’ve put myself out there in whatever tiny way — but for just one session, which means I can flee if it’s too much. I won’t be committing myself to something lasting/regular and therefore won’t feel awful if/when I flee and let people down (as per the two groups this year). That same meetup collective holds single-session gatherings every week, and while they’re too late in the day and too far away for me right now (evenings + distance are a bit of an issue), maybe that will change.

Baby steps. And of course, there have been some good points this year as well, because life is rarely just black or white. I have made some new friends. I’m learning things about myself (however bloody painfully), about others, and about mental health, which has always fascinated me. I might start writing again (someday – freaking baby steps, people).

Have a lovely, warm, safe and alone/surrounded New Year, as your preferences and needs dictate. Let’s bury 2016 somewhere deep and dark, surrounded in garlic and with its head cut off just to be on the safe side.

 

On courtesy, phones and the generation gap in tabletop roleplaying

So I came across this on Twitter. But first, a quick caveat.

This is a rant. It is not a rant aimed at @GMRaphi in particular, even though I’m using his Tweet as a springboard for the rant. I’m taking issue with what he’s saying — and okay, with his generation (or what I assume to be his generation) — but not with who he is. Because a) that would be a dick move and b) I don’t know the man but he looks like a decent chap.

And an extra caveat a few days later. Yes, it’s all generalisations, that’s what a rant is. Do I think entirely in generalisations? Do I assume what I’m saying applies to each and every possible situation? Of course not. Do me the courtesy of understanding that and understanding that a rant is, by its very nature, a complaint against a general order of things. Yeesh.

 

I couldn’t find a way to respond in 140 characters so here we go.

  1. It’s impolite, at least to basically anyone of my generation or older. I’m 47 — which, by the way, doesn’t make me decrepit, doesn’t make me incapable of understanding the internet (we invented it, assholes), and doesn’t make me stupid — and where/when I come from, using your phone at the dinner table or while you’re out with your friends is just plain rude. It’s the same at the gaming table — we’re gathered to be here together, not to sit here individually checking our Twitter feed. If you want to sit in your social media bubble, do it somewhere else.
  2. It’s beyond self-centered. Just because my character isn’t in the limelight and it’s somebody else’s turn to act, I get to switch out and do something else? Seriously? Why exactly are you getting together with 3-6 other people to play a game if all you give a shit about is your character’s rolls and shining moments? If I were older and more curmudgeonly I’d say this is a perfect example of how entitled and self-centered the millennial generation is, but instead I’ll just glower and tell them to get off my lawn.
  3. To me, it’s a sign that you can’t really be bothered to be there, and/or that you’d rather be tweeting about what you’re doing than actually taking part in what you’re doing. Which, I know, is life these days — we don’t go to events to enjoy the event, we go to events so that we can take selfies of ourselves attending the event so that… I dunno. I don’t get that, which is probably another sign of my lack of hipness with the times. (Which my use of the word ‘hip’ just confirmed.)

I also know that responding in any way to what could just as easily have been a troll on some random forum is largely pointless. I don’t know the chap in question, he might just want to be provocative (because I’ve never done that, nope), and I just happened to come across some Twitter friends’ responses. If it’s a troll, responding is useless. If it’s a generation thing, responding is equally useless because we have the cellphone-grafted generation that prefers to read a thing on social media than to be at the thing and we have the pre-cellphone generation that still understands what it’s like to attend a thing and not just for the sake of filming it on your iPhone — and never the twain shall meet.

It’s ironic. Not so long ago, I was of the generation of young assholes that were destroying all that was good and kind about the world and the reason we couldn’t have nice things. Now I’m the one complaining about the young whippersnappers.

Except in this case, I’m right. If you’re going to attend a tabletop game (or a virtual tabletop game for that matter), ask if it’s ok to use your phone or tablet or whatever. Some GMs won’t have a problem with it. I sure as hell will. And if it’s not OK, then don’t pout, don’t sulk (no matter how good you millennials are at the whole passive aggressive thing), just fucking put your fucking phone away and BE AT THE THING like a normal human being. Show some interest in someone else other than as a link to your own coolness.

In short: don’t be a dick.

 

 

RPG A Day #1 – How do you roll?

RPG_A_Day_1

Whoops, almost forgot about this and now it’s almost too late. So, in 10 words or less:

I love the tactile feel of dice but software is easier.

(You can’t beat dice. Actually I have some dice from TishToshTesh that you could use to beat someone with, because they’re heavy Steampunk metal thingies that threaten to break my glass desk every time I use them. I love them.)

(But still. When you’re playing with an online group, as I do a lot these days, rolling dice on the desk in front of you when nobody else is in the same room doesn’t cut it. So yeah. Dem bones when I can, dem 1s and 0s when I must.)

Toodle-pip.

Breakfast Cult creator interview on FNG

A while ago I backed the Breakfast Cult Kickstarter, and soon the book itself will be in my hot little hands.

Breakfast Cult KS

I’m sharing this interview with creator Paul Matijevic on Friendly Neighborhood Gamer not only because it’s a good interview but because there might be a few reading this who didn’t catch the Kickstarter and might want to get hold of a copy. I’m assuming (me and my buddy ASS) that it’ll be available as a PDF at some point through DriveThruRPG and whatnot.

To my various players: I will be planning on running this at some point. The angst of school coupled with the angst of Old Ones is beyond tempting.

 

Kickstarter – MOAR FATE!

OK, technically it’s Fate More. Here is a link. Go give them your money. I’d give them your money but the courts seem to frown on that in this country.

fate more

More importantly, I’m posting here in an utterly shameless bid to be entered into a draw to win PHATE LEWT. Because lewt. Because Fate lewt which is always worth getting even if I’m already getting some from the Kickstarter and the various Patreon creations I’m chipping in for and my purchases here and there on the Evil Hat Store, DriveThruRPG (whose pension fund I probably kicked up a notch in the last month alone) and the evil, evil geniuses at the Bundle of Holding.

I? I have no need for a pension fund! I have lots and lots and lots of RPG books to read and huddle under when they come to take my house away!

Tabletop RPGs – Bundles of Doom

If anyone out there doesn’t yet know the Bundle of Holding folks, it’s time you did.

They are single-handedly responsible for depleting my pension fund and the college fund of the kids I don’t have. But hey, it goes to chariddy, so that’s ok.

Follow them on Twitter, or sign up for their e-mail alerts and you too can enjoy the luxurious feeling of having more RPG systems in your reading list than you can read if you live to be 120. Do it for nostalgia, new systems, or just plain nerdhood.

I hate these guys. Which in Ysh-speak means I love these guys. Can’t post more, I’m chewing up my crappy bandwidth downloading the latest offering. Click below for said latest offering.

never enough RPGs