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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Jun 082012
 

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Hosts – Dan, Mack, Bryan, Steve, Tyler

Topic – A discussion about board games and how they differ from RPGs.  We also talk about the different types of board games that are being produced today, some of our favorites, and we review Smallworld.

(2:15) The difference between board games and RPGs

(9:25) Different types of board games

(14:00) Luck VS Strategy

(22:32) Buddha’s List

(25:30) Our favorite board games

(40:46) Smallworld (Game Review)

 

 Fantasy Flight Gmaes
Wizards of the Coast
Thunderstone
Hero Clix
War Hammer
Smallworld
Chaos Chess
Buddha’s List (Wikipedia)
Go (Wikipedia)
Pass the Popcorn
Munchkin
Logo (game)
Cards Against Humanity (free)
Frag (game)
Betrayal at House on the Hill (game)

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May 282012
 
coin block

My step-son and I attended Fear the Con 5, hosted by Fear the Boot,  which was a fantastic experience.  We had not registered for any games but that community is one of the best in gaming, they made sure that we were involved in something entertaining during every block. I will delve into this experience a little deeper at a later date, however, I wanted to announce that their latest episode (Episode 266 – Vivid Storytelling) is posted.  This episode was recorded live at the convention, and I was able make a comment on air about their topic….  Ok, so it’s more like being a scene extra than a cameo, but I’m still stoked!

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May 252012
 

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Hosts – Dan, Bryan, Mack, Steve

Topic – A discussion about stereotypical villains and antagonists.  We discuss what those stereotypes are, what makes a good villain, and ways to use them in your campaigns.

(1:24) A few villain stereotypes

(35:32) Our favorite antagonists that we’ve encountered as players

(43:46) Our favorite villains that we’ve ran as GMs

(53:41) Our favorite villains of any medium

Media - 

Dragon Strike
Shadowrun
Vladimir Propp
DC Universe RPG (Wikipedia)
Mass Effect
Resident Evil (1996)(Wikipedia)
The Killing Joke (Wikipedia)
Magneto
Se7en
Lex Luthor
The Ring
Bio Shock (Wikipedia)
Silent Hill (Wikipedia)
F.E.A.R.
Left For Dead

Subscribe, rate, and review us on iTunes!Subscribe on Stitcher Internet Radio!Like us?...Then like us!Follow us!Send us an email at dan@carpegm.netOur HomepageReccomend us on RPG Podcast.com!