#RPGaDay2019 15th August: ‘Door’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 15: Door

I’ve never really bought into the whole ‘spend an hour of game time scouring the door for traps’ style of gaming. I know that’s largely an exaggeration but I have encountered a few players and GMs who go too far (in my opinion) with the requirement to describe every little detail of your actions. The idea that to find the hidden message in a hollow of the desk leg requires me to describe dismantling every piece of furniture just doesn’t sit right. As a player I’m literally not in the room my character is and it is all too easy to either miss or misinterpret a detail that I would spot if I were actually there. I don’t want to have to go round asking ‘how thick are the legs on the desk? Does the interior depth match up to the exterior depth? Is there a hollow sound when I tap X, Y or Z?’ and then repeat it for the bed or the cupboard etc.

This isn’t to say that description doesn’t have its place. It does, but for me it is all about finding the sweet spot. If you say you’re investigating the room looking for concealed evidence that is fine, tell me that you’re taking the time to dismantle everything and I’ll lower the difficulty significantly but at the cost of how long the process takes. I don’t know whether I’d feel differently if I had gotten into gaming when I was a kid rather than an adult, I don’t have that association that I think some aspects of OSR games are trying to recapture.

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#RPGaDay2019 14th August: ‘Guide’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 14: Guide

I always try and let my players guide the flow of the game but that doesn’t mean I don’t do session prep. Most of the games that I play are structured around objectives so I use those as guideposts, if I know the Jewel of the Ancients is being kept at the governors mansion I think about the obstacles that surround it but I try not to assume the approach that the players will take. Perhaps the most valuable skill I’ve learned is a willingness to throw away prep when a game unfolds in a way I hadn’t expected. Its rare that I have to throw away an entire adventure premise but I’ll regularly end up improvising entire sessions because the players latched on to an unexpected angle.

#RPGaDay2019 13th August: ‘Mystery’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 13: Mystery

I find adventures built around a mystery really hard to write. When you look at mystery novels or shows they tend to involve the investigator going in circles or following dead ends. That only works because a writer can cut the boring bits, imply time has passed and then jump to the protagonist trying a new approach. It’s much harder in games where we have this tendency to try and explore every avenue. Spending two hours on following a lead only to be discover it’s a red herring? Frustrating and likely to kill a game. Ditto a stalled investigation, its just no fun to get stuck and then have a clue just land in your lap. One of the ways around this is using time jumps. Start going down the wrong direction? Make an investigation check to determine how much time you waste rather than working through the scene in detail. It’s not a revolutionary concept but I do wonder why we don’t do it more (or maybe other GMs do and its just me that doesn’t).

#RPGaDay2019 12th August: ‘Friendship’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 12: Friendship

As an adult RPGs have been the foundation for the majority of my new friendships and have resulted in some of the strongest that I’ve ever made. I can’t really put the value of that into words, it has a massive impact of my life and continues to do so. When I got married last year a whole contingent made the trip down from Scotland (by bus no less!) to be there, even though it meant a ridiculously early return trip while half of them were probably still drunk (I pity anybody who had to share the journey with them). My best man was somebody I’d met through gaming while her husband was one of my ushers. I’ve been able to connect with people across the globe, online and at conventions. I may take a while to build those connections with people but I’m damned sure that thanks to gaming I will never be without them.

#RPGaDay2019 11th August: ‘Examine’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 11: Examine

When it comes to preparing for games or writing adventures I am trying to make a point to proactively examine my biases, though it is an ongoing process. One of the first changes I made was to randomly assign genders (we’re gamers – put those random number generators to use!) after drafting character descriptions and then to go back to see if I have an excessively skewed distribution. For convention characters I’m still working out the best approach. I’ve long included male and female names but am moving towards the PbtA style of having multiple suggestions and a gap for the player to write in their preferred choice. That has taken longer than it should have and I still need to update the Project Cassandra character sheets to present that choice. As I’ve tried to include a piece of character art for each of those I’ll probably include a caption on the artwork that uses a given name and then refer to the character by surname in the background.

I take the same approach when it comes to ethnicities – draft the character before I include a physical description or assign a name. I rely on stock art for most of my work so the process can take a little more time to find the right image but that’s no excuse to fall back to just using white characters. If I ever get to the point where I could run a kickstarter hiring artists would be one of the key reasons that I’d do so and I’d want to ensure that the results were diverse and representative.

#RPGaDay2019 10th August: ‘Focus’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 10: Focus

My focus for the rest of the year is releasing material. I’ve got a backlog that I need to get through before I can begin to focus on newer ideas. The Slice of Life Adventure Starters are top of the list. I’ve enjoyed producing them but I had wanted to have them all done well before now, as opposed to still having two of the five left to produce. Talentless Hacks, inspired by the bonus episode will follow the same approach as those that I have released before, a relatively traditional mission structure with clear antagonist. Clean-up Crew is a different kettle of fish though as I’d like to release a playset for Fiasco. I’ve started putting it together but am finding it a surprisingly difficult task. On the surface it should be simple, a playset is merely a series of lists but ensuring that they all work, are thematically useful and help build the type of story fiasco strives for is a challenge.

#RPGaDay2019 9th August: ‘Critical’

August has come around once again which means it’s time for RPGaDay 2019. In a shift from the questions format of previous years this year is characterised by a series of prompts, which I’ll be attempting to answer each day with a short post, with the prompt word highlighted in bold each day.

Day 9: Critical

I wish the success of Critical Role would expand out more into the hobby as a whole. I’ve come across so many new gamers in the last few years that have been drawn in by the show but know of virtually nothing outside of D&D. The hardest part is that many aren’t even interested in trying a different game, whether due to a lack of interest in non-fantasy settings or from the belief that you can just reskin D&D 5th edition ad infinitum. I had hoped we’d seen the back of that after the bubble burst on the 3.5/d20 market. It’s especially frustrating as somebody that got into gaming through a society where virtually every table was running a different system. This isn’t to say that I blame Critical Role or wish it didn’t exist. I think they have made tremendous strides in attracting new people to the hobby and showcasing what is possible. I just wonder what they could achieve if they started expanding out into other systems rather than sticking almost exclusively to D&D. They’ve got a fanbase that would leap onto anything that appeared on the show, to the point that even just discussing a smaller game would probably boost its sales significantly.