What do you wish someone had told you when you first started role-playing?
This week I asked a question on reddit that got the most answers I’ve ever gotten before, and it filled me with joy that so much of the community is willing to reach out and offer their advice. The best part is that it was all amazing and really good advice. If you want to read all the answers, click here:What do you wish someone had told you when you first started role-playing?\
Here are some of my personal favorites though (not listed in any order, I love them all equally).
There’s like a billion different RPGs out there, and you would love so many of them. Lots of them have really short rules — even one page! — and they’re really easy to get into.
You don’t have to do combat. You know how much you love the story and glaze over when you fight stuff? There’s games that are just storytelling. You can tell a hilarious, or beautiful, or gut-wrenching story in just a couple hours, no dice needed.
There’s a lot of LARP that has nothing to do with foam swords. It can be an awesome way to reimagine roleplaying, and no, you don’t have to dress up.
One-shots aren’t compromises! You don’t have to feel bad about not doing a campaign; it can be just as rewarding to tell small stories that you don’t revisit later.
What I’ve always recommended is playing one session of your game with Primetime Adventures, which is a rpg that frames the game as if it’s a television show with an ensemble cast. There are a few reasons why I recommend this, and two that really go into getting the players to have more ownership of the narrative.
Firstly, conflict resolution isn’t something like “how many damage points do I deliver?” It’s a question that centers around the entire conflict, like “Do I impress the princess when I rescue her?” And then there is someone at the table who gets narration rights — if the answer to the conflict is “No, you don’t impress the princess,” someone at the table gets to describe what happened. You do rescue her, but perhaps your actions were so brutal when you carved your way through the cultists, you frighten her. Or you rescue her, but not quickly enough and she’s scarred from it. Or you rescue her, but it looked like you were simply lucky — she’s grateful but thinks you’re a bumbling oaf. Your players get to describe their failures and successes based off of a dramatic question.
Secondly, the game session ends with “Next time on…” where we go around the table and do a short teaser of something we’ll see on the next episode. This is them literally telling you about what they want to do in the game. In my Shadowrun game, we had a shot of one of the characters who grew up in an arcology and never went out into the city alone, in a city alleyway, menaced by approaching figures. That told me Brian wanted to see his character completely out of his element and out of his safe zone, placing him in a situation I might not have thought of.
Oh! And thirdly, we go around the table and each player suggests a scene with a location, who is present, and if the scene is going to focus on character or plot development. That also shows the GM what the players want to see more of in the game. Couple this with a few implied elements about player creation of elements in the story (the game posits we are all writers of a television show gathered in the writer’s room, breaking out the episode), and you’ve got the GM saying something like, “Okay, this elf woman, Shaunna, comes in. Bill, she doesn’t like your character. Why is that?” And Bill responds with something that you might have never thought of — “She doesn’t like that I was in the military,” he responds. That opens up a whole section of Bill’s character’s background that he really wants to spotlight in the game.
First and foremost, I wish someone had told me to stop worrying about making my characters “interesting”, or to avoid being “stereotypical”, or to make them “average”. In fact, I wish they had told me to do the exact opposite.
I wish someone had told me that avoiding tropes makes your characters worse. I wish someone had told me to play a stereotypical dwarven barbarian who loves beer and mountains and grouses about elves. I wish someone had told me to, at the very least, start there.
I wish someone had told me that if you’re finding your characters boring to play, the solution is not those “character questionnaires” that push you to develop more backstory, add more quirks, etc. It is not to lean towards realism and complexity. It’s usually the opposite. The solution is to simplify.
I had so much more fun once I finally discovered the joy of playing stereotypical characters. Sure they start out a little boring and predictable, but starting out “interesting” leaves you nowhere to go. You can’t subvert expectations before there are expectations. Playing a stereotypical character creates all sorts of expectations, and by the time the initial novelty is wearing off, you’ll be in a position to subvert that huge range of expectations that the character tropes have created for you. It’s more fun for everyone at the table. And you get to be surprised at the subversions too, when you get to a point and you suddenly realize that it’s right for the character to do something that you wouldn’t have expected them to do.
Also: Don’t try to play with so many people. I know all your friends want to play together, and you don’t want to leave anyone out, but almost every RPG is absolutely miserable with seven players. In fact, smaller games are often better. A lot of newbies are nervous and prefer having a lot of players because they’re worried they won’t know what to say, and they like the idea that they can let the other players take over. But the best games I’ve ever played have usually had the fewest players, even if they were beginners! If all your friends want to play, figure out how to break into smaller groups. Don’t try to run the seven-player game.
And finally: D&D is fine, but it’s not the only game in town. The other RPGs aren’t just inferior knock-offs. It isn’t like other RPGs are the bag cereal on the bottom shelf and D&D is the name-brand stuff.
In an ever-expanding attempt to simplify the rules I’ve nixed the Forced Movement rules for various sizes and, in general, made size matter a little less in the game.
Why? (you might ask)
Because it’s not fun. It’s hard to remember, and I generally want to avoid any situations where the GM has to open the book and consult the rules. I’m fine with players needing to open the book to get clarification on what a Perk or Spell does, but when the GM is running a Beast or Foe all the information for that Foe should be listed on a single sheet of paper and they shouldn’t have to consult other pieces of paper to remember the rules.
Also, the Stone Body Martial Artist Style has been fixed and now falls more in line with the system. Remember, it’s very easy to get a +1d8 environmental damage from this Style by pushing Foes into walls and other Foes.
So here’s my take on Redcaps. They’re all kinds of nasty and evil and they suck blood out of their hats, or spit it into their hats. Either way, gross. They’re also vicious as all get out. Vicious (trait) – Redcaps can inflict the Bruised Malady AND do damage if the Fairy Fails a combat roll. Just Plain Evil – Any attempt to appeal to a Redcap’s good nature will automatically result in a Fail during a Social Ruckus.
Boardgames are SLOW work. There’s a lot of proofreading and number crunching after you’re done with the creative part. That’s what I’m doing right now. If anyone looks over the game and finds any spelling, grammar, or other mistakes I will credit you on the back of the box when this thing goes to print. I hate proofreading.
Very Little to Report Here
I’m still fiddling with Foes in this system and have come up with a few mechanics for them.
Engagement: This is a cost you have to pay in order to to into Combat with the foe (usually 1 Sanity or Vitality). The idea being that the Foe is strong enough that they’re going to do damage no matter what.
Loss: This is something that happens if you fail the Combat roll on top of the damage you take. Still toying with this for a while.
Hauntings/Injuries/MalWare – Introducing persistent negative effects. At the moment they just block normal healing but more to come as ideas come to me.
On another note: The system is moving ahead to a point where it needs weekly playtesting. Will probably be looking for a short-lived group. Contact via Discord if you’re interested.
This week I wanna talk about SimLeek. One of my very first playtesters who has gone on and is working on making his own video games!
Q: What was your first RPing experience? A: Hmm… two memories come to mind. In the first case, I was writing fanfiction, and eventually figured out how to get on the front page of the site for a few days, then I messaged some other authors to do collabs. I still keep in touch with a friend I met through that.
The other time was, I think, my first in-person DnD game. I’d tried to set up games myself on Roll20 earlier, but that failed because I went overkill and tried to make my own sprites and everything. The in-person DnD was when I was training for the nuclear part of the navy (didn’t finish that, still a little curious about the nuclear reactor details, but I can imagine them for the most part).
Q: What’s your favorite character that you’ve ever played? A: I kinda want to play as Miles Calico again. A catfolk bard in another DnD campaign. He was the son of an upper-class family of cartographers, but the kingdom he lived in would never normally allow him to become a good king instead of the current ruler that had an iron fist, so he traveled to the lands in his parents maps to deal with threats there, and hopefully, come back with an army so powerful that he could take over his own kingdom without a fight. He left initially by rallying as many people as he could and sending off fireworks, then escaping on a prepared boat, and he made jokes and cat-puns throughout the campaign, while still being competent for a more comedic relief character.
Q: Tell us about the projects your working on in the video gaming side of things. A: Right now I’m trying to help out with Indie VR, mostly relativity right now, by taking modern AI from CUDA/NVidia. It’s a big project, but I’ve got convolutions working and just need to optimize, which is a massive chunk of modern AI. I’ve read enough graph theory to be able to replicate pytorch’s setup eventually (if not just add non-cuda stuff to it). And going even further, I’ve read some neuroscience, so I can add in some of the online learning methods from it. This is important because the current state of the art isn’t actually good enough for some tasks like depth mapping.
I recently got “Stride”, which is a parkour VR game. I think it’d be cool if they fixed up the controls a bit, set the music to match the speed of the player’s running, and based terrain generation off of the music, as well as off of a stage editor. Idk if I have the time do that, but I might message the game creator.
My System for DnD – This Week: Delk
Ability Score Increase:
+2 Any, + 1 Wisdom Age
Delk reach maturity at the age of 16 and can live up to 100 years. Alignment
Delk from the Eastfield Nastions tend to be True Neutral. Delk from Ascension Fields tend to be Chaotic Neutral. Size
Delk are usually 200 cm tall. Speed
Delk Base Speed is 30. Special Training
You start the game with one Feat. Farmers and Wranglers
You have proficiency in Nature. Languages
Delk can speak the Common Tongue