No one reads livejournal anymore, so no one will know that I started this 24 days late. Perfect. (Or that I did them all in one day.)
August 1: Do you prefer to use real dice, a dice application or program, or use a diceless system?
I like physical dice, though they don't like me.
August 2: What is the best game session you have had since August 2015?
As a player, Red Markets at GenCon was really hard to top. As a GM - I think one of the first Night Floors type Delta Green games I ran, probably?
August 3: What is something you have done with your game character that you are the proudest of?
I was pretty pleased when we harpooned a dragon with a ballista attached to a chain and yanked it out of the sky, I'm not going to lie. I spent a lot of time planning that particular session.
I feel like I don't get to brag on my DM characters since they have so much story control. But hopefully I've made MewTwo scary enough in Team Rocket. I am proud of the look of dawning horror Jill had when she realized that her character had met MewTwo about 5-6 sessions into the game - and had been mentally programmed not to remember it.
August 4: What is the most impressive thing that you can remember another player’s character doing in a session?
Working hard to redeem a paragon of an evil god is up there, I think. (Jill's character in Awakening.)
The other one is the eulogies that Pat made up for each of the masks in Pirates. They were extremely good and gave the last session so much more depth.
August 5: What story does your group of players tell about your character?
Unfortunately it is sometimes about the racist undead guy I made while
kinda drunk to make fun of racists. And also how D&D takes about race/species with monsters like the yuan-ti.
Oh, and for my psion character, all the times she goes looking in other people's heads for their hidden secrets.
August 6: What is the most amazing thing that you know a game group has done for their community?
I have to say that I don't know a lot of these. I know some of the RPPR crew has done volunteering in the past, but I feel like that's more individuals instead of as a coordinated group? Which seems like what the question is asking?
August 7: What aspect of Roleplaying Games has had the biggest effect on you?
The social aspect. Running games even with my closest friends used to scare the hell out of me. It still did for a long, long time. I kept doing it though, and I think I've got better. Now I've run games for people I hardly know and (mostly) tables I don't know.
I think working on that through role-playing has helped my teaching as well.
August 8: Do you prefer hardcover, softcover, or electronic books? What are the benefits of your preference?
I prefer hardcover, as spendy as they are. I like being able to flip through the book and I like the physical artifact. I like how well hardcovers hold up and I like asking the author(s) to sign it if I get a chance.
But they are expensive and man they're heavy.
August 9: What things are a part of your ideal session, other than the actual game?
What helps make a game session go from being good toward being 'perfect' for you?
Other ... than ... the game? To me a perfect session is one where the other stuff kinda drops away. Everyone is really invested. For the games I run, it's usually invested in their characters, but it can be invested in figuring out the mechanics puzzles too.
It's hard to describe, but you can tell when that energy is there and you've really tapped into the creative well for all the players. It's just the best.
Music and props can help with that, sure, but they aren't as key as that group energy.
August 10: What was the largest in-game surprise you have experienced?
Hm. Citing one where I was GM feels like really patting my own back, but I do think having Pat play a doppelganger of his character was pretty good. (Monster of the Week)
As a player? Probably the first time I got to do a Cthulhu themed LARP and everyone started dying and going mad around me while my (very rational) doctor saw none of it. He thought it was a mass hallucination up to the end - where he was murdered by another person. (And then devoured by ghoul children.)
August 11: Which gamer that you have played with has most affected the way that you play?
It has to be my wife Jill. She has played in so many of my games, listened to so many of my RPG monologues, and provided so much feedback over the years. I am unspeakably lucky that she enjoys these elfgames too.
August 12: What game is your group most likely to play next? Why?
Hoo. Maybe Eclipse Phase? I really want to run that or Base Raiders or Better Angels soon. And I am the one who introduces new games to the group, so I am the decider.
Of our regular schedules, well, Dungeon World and then Monsters and Other Childish Things (Pokemon flavored).
August 13: What makes a successful campaign?
I think you need a reasonably good premise, but I think it's most important to pick up on what the players are bringing with their characters. They show up with characters who have a few things defined - as GM, it's your job to pose new questions.
That's what keeps both you and the player engaged with the character. Things like, "What is important to your character? What will they stop short of doing?" or even just "what do you do on your days off?" All of those go into the story, especially when you can make them cause interesting friction with other characters or the world.
When everyone feels like their character has no surprises left, I think the campaign runs out of juice. So you have to try and tie it up before that - leave a few questions!
August 14: Who would be on your dream team of people you used to game with?
If I'm being honest, my current groups are some of the best I've played with. I wish I could get my other friend Pat in on more games or that I could actually play Shadowrun/Eclipse Phase with John, though.
August 15: What types or source of inspiration do you turn to most often for RPGs?
Podcasts. I like to listen to other people play. I both enjoy it and study it. Books and serial TV are the back-ups, but I really love podcasts.
August 16: What historical character would you like in your group? For what game?
As .. a player? Or a character in the game?
For a player, I would love to see the expressions on HP Lovecraft's face as we set up for Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green.
As a character, the brilliant weirdness of Nikola Tesla is hard to beat, but is well established in the nerdosphere. I'd really love to see like a late 1800s game with Marie Curie, Robert Koch, Louis Pasteur. Science technothriller of 120 years ago. (I would put Cthulhu in it. I couldn't stop myself.)
August 17: What fictional character would best fit in your group? Why?
Of players? I don't know. I don't really understand this question.
Of characters? I have no idea for Dungeon World. It's a weird group.
August 18: What innovation could RPG groups gain the most benefit from?
I think just a little more tech (phone character sheets or rules look-ups) would go a long way.
I also think a bit better organization/graphic design would be huge. Textbooks are more slick than RPGs, but I have yet to see an RPG that is designed to teach itself during play. I think that would be incredibly cool and maybe make everyone else think about the now-standard model that they use.
August 19: What is the best way to learn a new game?
As a player:
Play it with a patient GM.
Failing that, listen to other people play it and see where they get confused. Use this in addition to reading the game.
As a GM:
Both of those, but also make your own cheat sheets. The process of thinking about where people will get confused (and trying to address it in advance) will help a lot.
August 20: What is the most challenging but rewarding system you have learned?
I have to be honest, I don't much go for systems that could be described as "challenging." I am almost always the one teaching a new system, so the more elegant, the better.
That said, I think Red Markets uses about every bit of its complexity well. So I'll say that. (Part of the challenge was learning it from a beta draft, but that was my choice.)
Runner-up is Eclipse Phase. As much as I love it, I do think that some of the complexity is maybe a bit much.
August 21: What was the funniest misinterpretation of a game rule in your group?
In the Red Markets beta, I had a couple.
I let them roll and roll to get over this truck, which is not really how it's supposed to work. If you allow a roll, the situation should change if they fail.
So they failed like 7 times in a row - all at trying to climb a truck. Most of the other stuff they did went relatively fine, but that truck defied all plans and all efforts to climb it.
I also let someone use their body armor to soak a hit to the leg. Oops! Neither armor nor physics nor the rules work that way.
Runner up is that Jill's Scum Enforcer punched a Fractal to pieces in Eclipse Phase. I'm pretty sure that the shock gloves aren't supposed to work that way, but I didn't have time to check and she kept rolling really well. And with this terrifying tehcnological monster, I could not roll for anything.
August 22: What are some random events in your games that keep happening?
Jen always goes straight for the Yellow King/Yellow sign/Carcosa.
Pat's characters die more than anyone else's in my games.
Jill has trouble resisting the sympathy traps.
Paul loves having secrets.
I guess these are more in terms of player traits than like, dice randomness.
August 23: Share one of your best 'Worst Luck' stories.
I feel like either my crippled Fractal or the unbeatable truck from Red Markets qualify.
Otherwise, my worst luck as a GM - I was running Call of Cthulhu d20 for the first time and one of my players rolls a 20 in a battle of wills versus an ancient artifact that he had just put down his pants. He took control of the artifact instead of vice-versa.*
* I know it doesn't have to work this way, rules as written. It was a high school game though. These things happen.
August 24: What is the game you are most likely to give to others as a gift?
I generally avoid giving games as gifts, because they do take so much time to learn. That said, I gave Atomic Robo to Pat last year. And I got two copies of Dinosaurs ... in Spaaace! to give as gifts because it's a neat little game. And well, that title.
August 25: What makes for a good character?
I feel like I touched on this above, in terms of how you keep campaigns fresh. But I think the characters are a big part of that. Make a character that has room to grow - always assume the most interesting part of their life is what we're seeing now.
Be open to the questions that the GM hits you with in the form of plot developments.
August 26: What hobbies go well with RPGs?
Cooking. Brewing. (Besides the obvious one of writing/reading a lot.)
August 27: Describe the most unusual circumstance or location in which you have gamed.
I (mostly successfully) ran a game of the Quiet Year on a boat. We didn't finish the game, but it was fun.
August 28: What film or novel would you be most surprised that a friend (in your gaming group) had not seen or read?
I accidentally skipped this but to be honest, it doesn't bother me. Generally I'm the one who hasn't seen the beloved nerd touchstone film. So if someone else hasn't sen a thing I love - for instance, Alien - that just means we can maybe watch it together instead.
August 29: If you could host a game anywhere on Earth, where would that be?
I think just a regular, laid-back kinda game would be great in an Irish pub kind of setting. I think that the Irish have some of the best pubs in the world and gaming is at its core a social activity.
For something ridiculously spooky, well, I know that there are many abandoned or sold underground missile bases. I think you could run a game there and it would be unforgettable.
August 30: Describe the ideal game room if your budget were unlimited.
Hahaha. Oh man. Ready?
At one point, I would have done the full medieval tavern type thing, but that's not really what I'd do now even with a blank check.
I'd like kind of an old-fashioned, classy study, but with a small bar or kegerator at one end. I would like most of the walls to be covered in heavy bookshelves that can actually support ALL my RPG hardcovers. I want a custom table with lift-out panels and cup-holders. Maybe the table is shaped like an elder sign. I don't know; it ultimately comes down to functionality. I did see a star-shaped 13th Age table once and it was super neat.
Edit: Obviously I would need a full set of Delta Green books for this, along with some other collections. Along with Eclipse Phase, Unknown Armies, and pretty much anything by Greg Stolze, Ken Hite, Robin Laws, Ross Payton, or Caleb Stokes.
Some of the shelves would be used for display purposes. Unsurprisingly, I would go for a Cthulhu type feel - so dark wood, some occult books, and a few spooky props. In practice, I already have most of the things I'd want - a collection of ocean shells, a microscope, a branch bent into a sculpture, and some fossils. Some old bottles with samples floating in them* would certainly complete the look, though.
(* Edit 2: I realize that my grandpa had some bottles exactly like that - he was a biology teacher - and they really fascinates/horrified a young Ken.)
I'd leave a little wall space for framed pictures and a corkboard for clues in mystery games. Pictures to be framed and hung would be: the raven picture from my sister, the shark-stabbing print from RPPR, and the print of Castle Dracula from the Dracula Dossier. Maybe a few old fashioned medical drawings too?
And finally (the budget was unlimited, after all) a set of dimmable lights and blue-tooth speakers throughout the room.
A part of me thinks of an H.R. Giger-esque room but it would be so hard to clean. Let's stick with the gaming study.
August 31: What is the best piece of advice you were ever given for your game of choice?
"These characters are fated to have a confrontation with the unnatural. What's up to them is how they prepare for that encounter." Slightly paraphrased. It's advice from Greg Stolze on running Delta Green or similar Cthulhu games.
It helps balance the fear of railroading with the focus/tension that is absolutely necessary for horror. The thing about horror is that you can't escape it - that's what makes it horror in the first place. Players will often test this by making sensible decisions that would seem to leave them safe. The challenge as GM is making situations that still pull them close to that fated encounter without feeling too contrived.
It's a balancing act, but it's also one of the reasons horror is harder to run. But also more potentially rewarding than doing another dungeon crawl.