Oct 222012
 

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Hosts -Dan, Tyler, Bryan, Mack

Topic - In this episode, we answer(?) another listener email.  We also discuss the sci-fi genre  (What is sci-fi and what isn’t?).

We then spend a little time talking about the sub-genres of sci-fi, and close the episode out with a campaign idea from Mack.

(2:40) Another listener email!!! Keep ‘em coming!!

(20:48) The sci-fi breakdown

(42:07) Sub-genres

(47:23) An homage to the Steve moment

(56:47) Mack’s game concept

Media - 

MTG: Return to Ravnica
iTunes review
Please feel free to leave one while you’re there!
Critical Hit (podcast)
RPPR Actual Play (podcast)
Sammy and the Punk
Legend (RPG) (Rule of Cool.com)
Pathfinder (RPG)
GURPS (RPG)
QAGS (RPG)
PDQ (RPG)
Don’t Rest Your Head (RPG)
Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot: the Roleplaying Game
Toon (RPG)
Savage Worlds (RPG)
Mutants and Masterminds (RPG)
Hero Games
Margaret Weis Productions
Cloverfield (2008) – IMDb
Super 8 (2011) – IMDb
Fringe (TV Series 2008– ) – IMDb
Mac and Me (1988) – IMDb
Paul (2011) – IMDb
Isaac Asimov (Wikipedia)
Shadowrun (RPG)
Toilet paper dispenser Ipod dock
The Fifth Element (1997) – IMDb
Surrogates (2009) – IMDb
Johnny Mnemonic (1995) – IMDb
Borderlands 2
Firefly (TV Series 2002–2003) – IMDb
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (TV Series 1993–1999) – IMDb
Cowboy Bebop (TV Series 1998– ) – IMDb
Red Dwarf (TV Series 1988– ) – IMDb
^This is really still on?!?^

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Sep 272012
 

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Hosts - Dan, Bryan, Mack, Tyler, Steve

Topic - In this episode, we discuss ways to keep your game group engaged when there has been a significant change in scheduling,and we answer(?) a listener email.

(:44) On our horizon

(11:19) Game savers

(21:03) EMAIL!!

 

 

Media-

 

 D&D Next playtest
Metagamers Anonymous
Heroes of Newerth
League of Legends
TMNT 2 (IMDb)
IDW Publishing
Lasagna Quattro Formaggi
Obsidian Portal
Happy Jack’s RPG Podcast
Savage Worlds
Martha Stewart tv movie (IMDb)
Star Wars Saga Edition
Traveller (Mongoose)
GURPS
Prime Directive RPG
Rogue Trader
Battle Fleet Gothic
Spelljammer (apparently, people still play this)
Hackmaster
Scumbag Shang Tsung

Mack Supported Shai-Hulud (Wikipedia)

Notes - Because of a pressing schedule, a late start, and tangential (yet substantive) discussions, we did not quite make it to to our topic in this episode.  Stay tuned…the Sci Fi episode is coming!

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Jul 302012
 
vanitas

 

Metagamers Anonymous

Metagamers Anonymous is a young podcast that I discovered while sifting for gold on iTunes.  Lo and behold! I found it.  These guys, and girl, are knowledgeable, well spoken, and creative.  Their bi-weekly podcast has become one that I find myself waiting for.

A little while ago, I wrote them an e-mail, I’m posting it here for all to see…

In previous episodes, you’ve brought up the concept of “organic 
roleplaying,”and, indeed, this seems to be a key principle in your own game
play.  While this is a valuable tool around the game table to be sure, I feel
that “organic roleplaying” tends to reward those on the player’s side of the
screen more often than the GM.

Now, before you send me a “Dear listener, Please go [smurf] yourself” letter,
please allow me to explain.

Most of the time, players are experiencing the game world and all of it’s events
through the eyes one character.  This means that every bit of role-playing
energy that the player puts into the game is being used to define the emotions,
attitudes, actions, and reactions of one individual, as opposed to the GM, who
is responsible for what goes on in the heads, hearts, and hands of everyone else
in the game world.  Because of this, it’s more difficult for a GM to become as
deeply rooted in one character’s persona than it is for the players.

So what then, does a GM get out of a game with “organic roleplayers?…”

…The opportunity to take advantage of another gaming concept…”dynamic
storytelling.”

While a GM may be hard pressed to get down to the nuts and bolts
of every NPC’s emotion and motivation, he can use every descriptive tool at his
disposal to create a vibrant and immersive world around the PCs.  The GM’s reward
for having good roleplayers is that he can tell a story and be confident that
his players will pull every but of excitement and fun out of any tale he tells.
It’s my point of view that, the more believable and dynamic the world and it’s
inhabitants, the more fulfilling the game.

That’s the concept that’s been bouncing around on the ping pong table of my mind
lately… player immersion.  If immersion is the ball, then “dynamic
storytelling” and “organic roleplaying” are the paddles.  It’s been my
experience that, while player immersion is a simple thing to define, it is not always
an easy thing to execute.

So here is my purely hypothetical question:

Which is more important to achieving player immersion, organic roleplay, or dynamic storytelling?

Once again, great show!  Looking forward to the discussion.

The on-air responses and discussion can be found on Metagamers Anonymous Episode #7.

With the exception of their divulging of a weird furniture fetish, admitting to using Facebook in a manner in which, I’m sure, Mark Zuckerburg never intended, and something about a gazebo,  the discussion went pretty much as I expected.  Some tug o’ war occurred between the two sides, both with valid points.  However, ultimately, I think they came to the same conclusion that I did….

RPGs take place, almost exclusively, through the cinematography of the minds eye. Therefore, a GM can “dynamically” tell a story until his lungs collapse, but, if he does not have receptive players, he may as well be reading them a grocery list.  Conversely, a good organic player can allow his or her character take the wheel, steer, and  role-play Tic-Tac-Toe if they set their mind to it.

But we’re talking about immersive role-playing.  Throw out the dice and rules, and you get down to the quick of what our hobby is about…

playing make believe.

In the imagination of a child, it’s easy for a pencil to be a dragon-smiting holy sword, or a small patch of dirt in the backyard to transform into an arid wasteland that travelling heroes must cross to save the world.  While a good GM can keep his players well stocked with pencils and dirt, he can’t give his players the sight to see them for what they really are.  Only the child inside can make full use of such valuable tools.  Children are, hands down,  the most immersive gamers, even if they aren’t as refined and rules saavy.  We were all there at one time.  As role-players, most of us strive to reach, in our games, that point of full immersion we used to achieve so effortlessly as children.  With that goal in mind, we’ve quantified every aspect of “make believe,” and in turn, those rules and the fiddly bits of whatever system we may be playing, can keep some of us rooted in the world in which we exist, while the immersive gamer soars in the world that they imagine.

It seems to me that player immersion exists with or without dynamic storytelling and organic role-playing, these concepts just help us achieve it by giving our inner 9 year old more things to play with.

With that bit of conjecture, I must go.  But, you can all rest easy tonight, as I have recently purchased a new pencil sword and, as soon as I don my beach towel cloak, I’m off to save the world…..again.

- The Nondenominational GM

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Jul 262012
 

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Hosts - Dan, Mack, Steve, and Bryan

Topic - In this episode, part 2 of our settings series, we discuss the trappings of wild west, Victoriana,  steam punk, and a few other derivatives of 1800s settings, and ways to use them in your games.  We also review, not 1, but 2 games, Thunderstone Advance, by AEG, and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards, by Cryptozoic Entertainment.

(00:00) Battle Jesus

(1:30) Metagamer’s Anonymous

(3:29) Our current geeks

(6:19) Bonus game review – Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards

(14:36) Settings breakdown

(18:25) Wild west

(22:50) Victoriana

(26:14) Spin-offs

(31:11) Examples from other media

(46:30) Full game review – Thunderstone Advance

Media - 

 

Metagamer’s Anonymous
Magic – The Gathering
Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards
Civilization V
Deadlands Reloaded (Pinnacle Entertainment)
Fiasco (Bully Pulpit Games)
GURPS (Steve Jackson Games)
Aces and Eights (KenzerCo)
Back to the Future 3 (IMDb)
Tall Tale (IMDb)
Wierd West (Robertson Games)
Wild Wild West (IMDb)
Sherlock Holmes (IMDb)
Jules Verne (Wikipedia)
H. G. Wells (Wikipedia)
The Difference Engine (Wikipedia)
Red Dead Redemption
Space 1889 (Heliogarph)
Postcards From the Dungeon (Podcast)
The Dark Tower
Dominion (Rio Grande Games)
Ascension (Gary Games)

Thunderstone Advance

Newsroom (HBO)

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Jul 122012
 

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Hosts – Dan, Bryan, Tyler, Steve , Mack

Topic – We discuss the uses of settings in your campaigns, list a few fantasy tropes, and outline the different types of fantasy settings.  This episode also contains a break down of different types of magic and ways to portray them in your games.

(:34) Changes we are making

(2:31) A little about settings in general

(3:10) The truth about truths

(8:27) Fantasy trappings and tropes

(14:44) Fantasy variations

(39:49) What does magic mean to your world?

(43:02) Variations in magic systems

Media -

The Game Of Thrones
The Princess Bride (IMDb)
Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (IMDb)
The Crow (IMDb)
Pirates of the Caribbean (IMDb)
Willow (IMDb)
Conan the Barbarian(Wikipedia)
The Dresden Files
R. A. Salvatore
John Carter of Mars
Harry Potter
Futhark Runes
Skyrim (wiki)
Full Metal Alchemist (IMDb)

The Legend of Korra

Notes – CarpeGM.net is changing it’s look soon, We will be needing art.  We prefer to use art from the members of our community.  A formal announcement will be made soon, but if you’re interested, contact dan@carpegm.net.  Thanks for listening!

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Jul 052012
 

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Hosts - Dan, Bryan, Steve, Tyler, Mack

Topic - We discuss the movie The Avengers, (don’t worry, not too many spoilers) and what we liked and disliked about the movie.  We also talk about some of the difficulties of running a campaign about the Avengers, and break down the characters from the movie and draw parallels to fantasy character archetypes.

(:30) Discussing the movie and it’s pros and cons from our perspectives

(11:30) The obstacles concerning GMing  The Avengers

(28:43) Breaking down the character archetypes

 

 

Media - 


The Avengers (IMDb)
Cabin in the Woods (IMDb)
Serenity
Firefly (IMDb)
Angel
The Dark Knight
Marvel Heroic Roleplay
Pathfinder RPG

Notes - We will be changing the face of the website soon, making it easier to navigate and a better utility for keeping up with what’s going on in the gaming world.  We will also be adding a “friends of the show” page and a gallery, among other changes.  If you would like to submit art for the new website to be used with full attribution, contact dan@carpegm.net.

PS. My apologies to those of you who downloaded the previous version of this episode.  There were some issues overlooked and some content was not suitable for our “clean” rating.  I’ve fired the editor.  Thanks for listening!

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Jun 252012
 

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Hosts – Dan, Bryan, Steve, Tyler, Mack, and a friend, Katelyn, joins us for some color commentary on this episode.

Topic - We discuss player immersion, and some ideas on ways to help achieve it from the GM’s and player’s perspective.

(1:00) What is immersion?

(3:00) Tips for the players

(15:39) “Meta”

(23:00) Tips and tricks for GMs

(43:30) A few of our own anecdotes on immersion

 

Media - 

“What is the opposite of meta?”

Happy Jack’s RPG Podcast

Notes- Please log on to the forum and let us know what you think.  We’d love to see you there!

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Jun 182012
 

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Hosts - Dan, Bryan, Steve, Tyler, Mack

Topic - We discuss the concepts of traps, puzzles, and obstacles, and ways to effectively  implement them in your campaigns while keeping your players engaged.  We also cover the dangers of adversarial GMing.

(4:18) Obstacles

(16:29) Puzzles and riddles

(28:32) Traps

(33:14) Traps and such from our games.

(46:53) Adversarial GMing

 

Media - 

Indiana Jones (franchise)
The Labyrinth (IMDb)
Saw (IMDb)
The Dark Crystal (IMDb)

Notes - My apologies for the sporadic “popping” that can be heard in this episode.  It escaped  my attention until editing.

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Jun 142012
 
Amidala

[cc_full_width_col background_color="141314" shadow_color="000000" border_color="0a678f" radius="6"]There are many forms of nerds in the world. Different geeks have different streaks, and we tend to run in packs. There’s the Sci-fi crowd, setting their phasers and channelling the force when not hunting replicants or bringing glory to the God Emperor of Man. And then, there’s the Fantasy crowd who spend their nights slaying dragons, fending off the nefarious forces of Mordor, or conquering the land of Westeros. There are even more types and sorts, but at bottom there is something integral to us all.

That something is how we interpret and organize our data of choice. What separates a true nerd or geek from someone who is simply enthusiastic about something is how they organize the data. For example, I am an enthusiast of flight. I love planes of all shapes and sorts because to me they are a true symbol of man’s ambition. We cannot live in the sky, there is no food or resources… even the water there is in a form that we cannot easily make use of. But the allure of flight is one that I enjoy. I will not, however, claim to be an expert of aerospace engineering. I may know a thing or two about physics and the basics of aerodynamics, but I doubt Boeing is looking for someone of my qualifications. I am enthusiastic about flight, but I am not an expert, and expertise is where gaming can truly shine.

There are other bloggers and contributors to this fine website who I can vouch for being exceedingly knowledgeable in the fictional histories of their choice. The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Fire Fly… these are mythologies in the truest sense. We tell stories of the Batman and Joker, Elim Garak, and The Doctor and the Daleks as if they were tales of Zeus and Hades or Thor and Loki (well we tell stories about them as well). But we do not simply tell stories, we also nurture and craft the setting in which they are told.

The amassed history of some of the settings in which some of our games take place is as lush and varied as that of real world civilizations. But what makes a history?

Certainly, the major events must be recorded, hewn into the stone of our minds with great care and precision. All the dates, the details, who were the heroes? Who were the villains? This deep set memorization is quintessential to being a “proper” nerd.  But a civilization is much more than just a history, and there are some details which are often overlooked, even by some of the most learned members of our community.

Lets talk about Fashion, come now… it’ll be Fabulous.

Everyone KNOWS what Sauron looks like.  Ring Wraits, Nazgul, Uruk Hai… all of these vile entities are quickly recognized even by children.  And why is this? Well, the answer is simple.  A number of very talented people took the time to truly think about the sort of symbolism that was the stuff of nightmares across multiple cultures.  We’re seeing this more and more, an emphasis on making the costumes in our favorite television shows and films not just seem cool but seem “right”. For example:

-Bronn of Game of Thrones.  Bronn states in multiple instances that he refuses to wear a golden cloak, the symbol of House Lannister, his employers.  He wears simple, hardworn leather armor over the peasant’s clothes that have been permanently darkened by dirt, mud, and blood.  This is integral to his character.  Bronn is no high-born Lord or a Knight. He is not a rank and file soldier either.  Bronn is a mercenary.  The manner in which he dresses is such that he will not draw attention, and so that he can move and fight without being hindered.  He has been known to fight with a sword, and a bow, but the one weapon he always has with him is a knife, kept at the small of his back (a place that he could reach it even if he were flat on his back).  The knife itself is a Kukri, a blade of Nepalese origin that can be used to clear brush, skin animals, chop meat and vegetables, pry things open, take a man’s head off, and even to dig with in a pinch. The blade is still issued to the Nepalese Army for its use both as a weapon, and as a utility tool.  So every part of Bronn, from his outfit to his selection of weaponry, says,  ”I’m not just hear to fight, I’m here to survive.”

And now for something COMPLETELY different…

A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about The Phantom Menace.  I won’t go into those here.  But one thing that many overlook is the costumes of Queen Amidala.  In her portrayal of the Queen, Natalie Portman wears some of the most spectacular and over the top outfits to be featured in the franchise.  They feature lustrous silks, intricate beadwork and embroidery, feathers and furs.  They speak of opulence and wealth, but it’s the smaller details that say the most about the character.

Rangaswamy Satakopan, a winner of the George Polk Award, has been quoted saying that the Sari is the most impractical garment known to man. For those of you unaware, a Sari is a garment from India.  It consists of little more than folds of silk, always lovingly embroidered and detailed with all manner of jewelry, and in some cases gems.  A sari is a garment of beauty and elegance, but in terms of function it is sorely lacking.  Satakopan wrote:

“In summer, the folds stick around the legs.  In winter, it affords no protection from the cold.  When it rains, it can collect mud and filth at the hem.  Only one hand is free while wearing it.  It has no buttons, so if the hem is stepped on or slips, the whole garment may slip down. It cannot be worn during sport.”

I’m paraphrasing, but, the point is that a Sari is a garment for someone who does not work. The same can be said of nearly every one of Queen Amidala’s gowns. The long and full sleeves, the full train, the beads… these are not the sort of things that you would find in the outfit of someone who works.

I have been in far too many games where, the one conducting the narrative, simply describes someone’s outfit as “they’re wearing armor” or “they look nice.”  Some authors even resort to these descriptors.  Simply put, with the kind of freedom that magical or science fiction settings can afford, we must go beyond simply “nice looking.”

Tabletop roleplaying games are amazing things.  But, where they can break down, is when the categorization and classification that is required when amassing the information of the setting and the narrative do not have a visual component.  As a Dungeon Master, Game Master, or Keeper, it is someone’s duty to be able to describe what’s going on.  Not just the gore and magic, but the characters themselves.  Even players could take heed, after all, they are the ones that dress their characters.

I hope you found this first commentary thought provoking.  In the weeks to come, I intend to expand on some of the points outlined here.  The contrast of functional and non-function outfits, the usage of different materials, concepts of uniforms, and some of the historical aspects of each.

Thanks for reading. I’m Mike and I make pretty dresses.[/cc_full_width_col]
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Jun 112012
 
vanitas

The grizzled electrician takes the corner a little too tight as he enters the parking lot of 32nd National Bank,  the under-carriage of his old, light blue, service van chipping the curb just slightly further up than the last time he was here.  He squares the front of his baby blue beater with the “handicapped” parking space directly across from the main door.  Flicking his Pall Mall out of the driver’s side window, his hand moves toward the gearshift….

Just as the cigarette lands on the blacktop, exploding with a tiny, incendiary flourish, the van takes off.  Like a confused rocket, it shoots off in reverse, speeding toward the large, glass, double doors of the bank.  One patron, Mr. Giordano, looks up from counting his “Vegas” money just in time to see the bright orange “How’s My Driving?” sticker as it crashes through the glass and steel.   The powder blue wrecking ball turns the bank’s sleek, professional, (and streak-free if you ask the janitor), entryway into an eruption of twisted and mangled door frame accompanied by a barrage of shattered glass, death, and sky blue destruction.

The bank manager, Mrs. Pikney, steps out of her office and takes in the scene.  She gingerly steps over Mrs. Baumgartner, being careful not to ruin her shoes, and hurries over to “Ol’ Frankie”, ecstatic that he’s “finally showed up to replace that light fixture.  And…where is the janitor?”

Okay…

So that’s not how that really goes down…

“Ol’ Frankie” pulls in, parks, goes to the back of his van, grabs his tool belt and the few tools that he knows he will need, and a couple “just in case” rather than bringing all of them.  He then, goes inside, fixes the light and leaves.  Everybody’s happy, and no bloodshed.

By now, you’re probably asking “What does all of this have to do with GMing?”

All Gms have what’s called the proverbial “GM toolbox.”  The amount of tools you have in your toolbox directly correlates with how long you’ve been practicing the craft and how much  research you do.  These tools include everything that you know about running a game, designing a game,world building, adventure generation, story-telling, and anything else that comes in handy at the game table.  This list also includes gaming ideas that you haven’t tried yet, story and/or villain concepts, variant mechanics, gimmicks, etc.

While these things are all wonderful additions to your gaming repertoire, they must be used sparingly!  You will not need everything in your “GM toolbox” every session.  This is why you need a “GM toolbelt.”  This is the group of tools that you need to bring to the table to get through the session that you have planned and a few “just in case” tools because your players will always surprise you.  If you want to put a gimmick or a new concept in your game, just make sure that it doesn’t ruin the concept that your players have of their game.

There must be some form of continuity in your game and some measure of player comfort around the game table in order for players to be able to appreciate a new concept or gimmick that you bring in.  Too many gimmicks, or constantly changing mechanics can make a game feel very disjointed to some players.  You should try to establish some constants in your game.  The lullaby of familiarity only elevates the level of impact that a skillfully executed surprise mechanic or gimmick can bring to the table.  However,  the opposite can also be true.  If every time you sit down to prepare for the next session, you’re planning on using “this new gimmick,” you can create a situation where the players are constantly on their heels and uncomfortable with the game as a whole.

You’re saying, “This is totally gonna blow their mind!”

They’re saying, “I hope we run into an old man at the inn.  Maybe he’ll give us a map, and we’ll head out for a dungeon crawl.” or “Hopefully the King needs us to rescue the Princess again’”

A GM who constantly tries to cram new concepts or mechanics into a game, regardless of story or setting continuity, runs the risk of destroying the foundations of his game just as effectively as “Ol’ Frankie” and his sky blue van.

In the next few posts, I will be discussing some of the tools that you can find in a good GM’s toolbelt.  Some of these will be old concepts with a new face, but I may throw in a few of my own tricks.

But, for today, I’ll leave you with this advice: (worth every penny you paid for it)

Approach your sessions with a toolbelt full of things that allow you to get the job done in the most efficient manner.  While creativity, novel ideas, and new gaming concepts are what make this great hobby as diverse and entertaining as it is, overuse can break the flow of any game and ruin the experience for your players.  Remember, it’s their game too!

So, don’t ruin Mrs. Pikney’s shoes, and don’t get in the way of old Italian men doing whatever it is they do with “Vegas” money.

-The NonD. GM

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