Friday, March 27, 2009

GM Styles, Part I

I've had a few GMs in my life. Some good, some bad. Today I'd like to start a mini-series and discuss some of the GMs I've had and what I thought made their styles good or bad. I'll mostly use handles or nick names, because i think its better to keep them anonymous, plus i like handles better for the interwebz. Volgren

One of my longest running game masters. He led us through dungeons hand drawn on 30 sheets 8x11 1/8" graph paper taped together in a monsterous 6-sheet x 5-sheet map that made our palladium RPG characters cry, sweat, and bleed. His adventures were epic in scale, endless in detail, and fantastic in creativity. He was thoughtful to the rules, using those that worked and ignoring or changing those that didn't, and he was good at making his point. 

He was an excellent artist, intelligent conversationalist, and a good friend. (Miss you, man. If you're out there and you read this, drop me a line.) 

One time after a very long argument between Volgren and his twin brother, Shrine, about the feasability of making a powerful laser out of a leather wrap, a couple magnifying glasses and an eternal ball of light (yes, some GMs would have allowed this to be a flashlight, but Shrine was set on it being a laser, and we were 15, so yeah), he was fed up and ready to make his point that he was the game master. 

Instead of continuing on our D&D game, he opted for a side of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So we spent the next couple hours rolling up our mutant animals and outfitting them as completely as possible, writing backgrounds and how they know each other, etc. 

Our mutant animals were in a world populated by their kind, so there was no hostility to deal with, no hiding. We were mercenaries for hire, and damn good ones, at 4th level, and ready to rock. Our first mission we meet with the contact and he tells us that an object of his is being held in a secure warehouse on the other side of town. 

We agree to a price and head out. Volgren gives us the time we need to plan and purchase any additional gear, and we head out. We reach the warehouse without incident and case around it, looking for trouble. Finding none, we approach the side entrance and jimmy the lock, entering quietly. 

The warehouse is packed with crates and boxes stacked high overhead. We stealthily move through the shadows of the warehouse in search of our target. Suddenly, there is a loud metalic clang on the door we entered, and the high windows are shuttered with metal slats. A skylight opens in the roof and no less than twelve grenades are dropped around us. They begin to spew a sickly sweet smoke. 

"Do you have gas masks?" 

Hurredly we check our inventory sheets, only to discover that we do not. 

"Aww, that's too bad. The nerve gas begins to work its sinister magic and you die slowly and painfully, crippled and paralized, until your body is unable to work the muscles that breathe. Suck to be you." 

Shrine is pissed. He begins yelling and throwing dice. 
Volgren leans back and smiles. 
I laugh. 

Hours of creating these characters, only to have them killed in the first encounter without ever seeing our enemies. Harsh, yes. Immature, sure. 

We were only 15. But definately effective for the situation and the stubbornness of his brother. His point was he is GM and he has the power to play nice or not. He has the power to decide the rules and we must understand and live with that. Shrine wasn't interested in playing nice. He wanted it his way. But after that he was more accepting of Volgren's rule. 

Sometimes the only thing that works is an object lesson with nerve gas.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Using Skill challenges in social encounters

Was over at the Chatty DM just now and he mentioned something that I thought would make a good post. Of course, I'm sure he's going to post more on it another time, but I gotta take my inspiration where I get it.

This follows right along with my previous post about role playing. Most of my old party (I don't have one right now, sadly) was not into roleplay. They were hack and slash crazy, but when it came to the finer points of conversation, they'd fumble their tongues a bit and then reach for the dice, proclaiming what they were trying to accomplish.

"Umm.. Where are we going? What are we getting? Oh, geez. I don't know what to ask. Gather information check."

At first I was reticent to allow such a sham. No roleplay in a roleplaying game?? Heresy! But I am nothing if not diplomatic and was not going to chase my few players off by making them act, so skill challenge it is!

I would still do my best to roleplay the reaction: horrible voice, squinty eye, and everything. But it does leave something out of the experience. I think that Sage and Sinister would be more apt to roleplay if the whole group was into it, but with Lone, nothing is more complicated than: I hit it with my axe.

Still, few gamers I have met were trained actors. The one Vampire: The Masquerade game I played was the closest I've been to LARP. Everyone dressed the part and was in character the moment we walked into the basement. The prince of the city had the meeting table set up and it was very engrossing. I miss groups like that.

I think in the end I will continue to suggest and encourage any role play first, but am glad the skill challenges are there as a backup.

How do you handle conversation in your own games?


Puting the Role back in Roleplaying

This was actually supposed to be a response to Ambrose's post about role playing, but I got some strange error when trying to comment so decided I could make it a full post.

Roleplaying can be fun and I try to do some whenever I play, most usually with personality or some sort of quirk, like my caustic cleric that healed by scoring the flesh with blessed needles (i'd pick up bobby pins and chase my intended target around the table).

I don't do voices much. When I do they're over the top squiggly or something (think the old Jack-in-the-box commercial with the Earl of Sandwich screaming "Silence!"), or I'll just squint and growl for an old man, that sort.. but when one of our party members tries to do voices, he usually just ends up with the same Russian Slavic accent no matter who he plays or in what system. We thought it was period and interesting when it was in Ravenloft, but Dark Heresy?

Sage generally flat refuses to roleplay. I get it. She's new to the game and the world, uncomfortable with being out of her box as it is, much less trying to be someone she's not. But I would like at least a feeble attempt at it. She did pretty good in our Star Wars game, as mentioned in a previous post, and I was very proud of her.

I guess I get my roleplaying base from text-based rpg's (moos like Sindome or muds like Harshlands) where the roleplaying is enforced, immersive, and really does wonders on the suspension of disbelief.

I crave that level of roleplay in my face2face games, but there is pos def something to be said about the anonymity of text and hiding behind the screen. When the other players can only see what you give them it changes the perspective quite a bit.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Not a surprise for him, was for me

Was running around and came across MTHOMAS768's post on what D&D4E character are you. He wasn't surprised by his outcome, but this is something I wasn't expecting. I've never played an Avenger. It's a new class in the PHB2 that I don't have yet. But I'm real interested...

D&D Home Page - What Class Are You? - Build A Character - D&D Compendium


About This Blog

All of Soulie's RPG (paper and dice) related articles that will be published on RPG Blogger's Network.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP