This post is inspired by a challenge here. The questions and answers!
Book binding. (I can’t be the only person who bemoans the way new rulebooks tend to fall apart like a sheaf of dry leaves after about 5 seconds of use).
- My favorite is hardback; it lasts and it is sexy, especially when it embraces something I’ve written. Saddle stitch is okay if the project is the right size for that. Perfect binding is merely acceptable if that. Don’t get me started on spiral binding; smish it once, and…
“Doing a voice”. How many people “do voices”? Should they? How do you get better at “doing a voice” if that’s your thing?
- Oh, I do the voices. Some of my more attentive players can not only tell the NPCs apart, but from a couple words can identify someone they haven’t seen in months, by inflection. That flatters me. I just go where that NPC lives in my head, and let them talk. Yeah, and this is one reason I don’t game in public places or let those who are not in the know sit and watch the sessions. “Quit looking at me. Look through me at the NPC I’m portraying.”
- This doesn’t always go well. Like when my Mexican accent gets tangled with an Irish accent for a vampire who takes himself seriously. And not EVERYONE gets a special voice. Still, this is the broad strokes.
Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions?
- If the party is all split up and I’m handling groups a bit at a time, I figure people can take breaks as they need, and then I’ll wait until players are in conversation with each other, and I’ll go take my break. If we’re all moving together, I choose the time (about every 3 hours if we’re all working together well) or by intensity, or by need. The schedule does not dictate breaks, it accommodates them as appropriate.
Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions?
- Depends on the moment. Description is not in the toolbox, it is a toolbox. In the garage of game technique. There are times I rip as lurid and purple as my imagination will go, times I lay on the technobabble and cast my tenuous grapples to real science, times I slow or stop the movement of the second hand to really focus on a point, times a few sentences get us through weeks of travel. I tend to reward players with description–I offer a minimum, then open up as they ask questions. Or, for a grand moment, remind them how awesome or terrifying that grand moment (that they have earned) really is. Description is the reward, not the price of admission. Most players appreciate a quick brutal description of the horrible thing their decision and dice roll wrought upon their hapless victim in combat.
Being a Jerk. Where do you strike the balance between “doing what your character would do” and “acting like a [jerk]”?
- This is a sore spot for me. People blame all sorts of bad behavior on alignment, or interpreting their character’s motives. The trouble is, we are rationalizing creatures, and we can rig up any kind of explanatory rationale to justify our actions that we want to–so I challenge my players this way.
- “If you think your character would do something harmful to the game or others, stop and think again; how could your character justify (from the same framework) doing something that you think would help the game or the other characters?”
- In other words, don’t blame the fictional character you’re playing for your own rude and game-damaging decisions. If you are going to be a jerk, own it.
PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?
- Players should play their characters. I don’t go out of my way to set up conflict, and I intensely dislike being compelled to address player conflict for the survival of my game.
- My open table games? Stab each other, whatever. You aren’t likely to go on to win, but I’m unlikely to intervene aside from perhaps a brief discussion if it gets out of hand and players are getting offended.
- My closed table games? You only get to come if I think you can do better than killing the game off with hard feelings between players. Please don’t prove me wrong, or it’s back to the open table for you.
- Player conflict bleeds out into characters, so even if we reached a tense impasse where one or more people didn’t want to play with each other anymore, switching characters and even systems just delays the seepage of those toxic conflicts again. It’s harder and more rewarding to figure out ways to work together. Don’t even start me on the White Wolf game design principle that everyone starts out hating everyone else. Why play that?
Description. How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player?
- I start saying my friends come over and we play games. (True enough.) If pressed to quickly sketch RPGs, I describe it as a story where people are playing characters like actors in a movie, but writing the script as they go, and one person is the director/referee. Best case scenario, I don’t talk about it to non-playing strangers. The first rule of RPG club is that there is no RPG club. I do not speak out with my geek out. My geek is saved for sneak attacks.
Alchohol at the table?
- No. Only gamed with alcohol imbibed by the players one time. It was an unmitigated disaster that still blemishes my record as being among the worst gaming experiences I’ve volunteered for. Do I object in principle? Maybe if your players understand moderation. Even then. Do we need it? Really?
Absences. What’s acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?
- Open table, it’s only an issue if you said you’d be there and you don’t come. That’s obnoxious, it’s rude and disrespectful. If your circumstances changed, that’s one thing, but if you decided you had something better to do, give as much notice as possible and an apology is in order. Leaving mid-session for anything less than an emergency is a bit tacky. The beauty of open table, though, is if you didn’t say you’d come, there’s no pressure. I can take a different group every time.
- Closed table. Give me notice to work you in and out. More notice is better. Try not to do it on cliffhangers. Etc. If you said you’d come, please do. I apply my creativity to get them in and or out. I don’t mind this now and then, life is busy. But if you’re showing up erratically, like a waterlogged corpse in a fast-flowing river, we need to talk. I want my game to be a delightful opportunity; if it is a tiresome commitment, or if it is interfering with life, it’s okay to drop it.
Anyway, I hope that was interesting.