#6: Ancient

Many RPGs have ancient… ‘things’… out there that the characters encounter and have to deal with. Most notably, of course, dungeons from a lost civilisation, filled with wondrous artefacts. I had wondered before how it would be possible for the locals to simply forget large parts of what the previous inhabitants left behind, but then I realised that we have models for this in real life too. All it takes is an event where most inhabitants are displaced — such as after the sacking of Rome, when the Forum was basically dismantled to serve as building material for new houses. So it’s not that unlikely as it first seemed to me.
I’ve written about that in this entry.


#5: Space
Reading the other answers to this question, there seem to be three interpretations of this term, and I’m going to answer for all three of them.

The first is ‘space’ as in: outer space. I’ve never played much sci-fi RPGs — and the ones I did play did not ‘feel’ very sci-fi. Mostly, space is merely a backdrop for the adventure, and you don’t have to deal with all the iffy aspects of travelling through space. Most recently, I’ve played Star Trek Adventures — I’m not even counting Star Wars, because that’s more fantasy than sci-fi.
Something like Transhuman Space would be fun to get to the table, because there the vastness of space is the whole point of the setting, but I don’t know anybody who would run it. And my priorities for games to run myself lie elsewhere.

The second is ‘space’ as in: the physical space. I used to do a lot of gaming at friends’ homes, but that has largely been replaced by playing online — using Roll20 for character sheets and dice rolls; and (mostly) Zoom for video chat. Which means I tend to play at my desk, with all the comforts that are available there.

The third is ‘space’ as in: metaphorical space. It used to be that I wanted to hear myself talk, because I thought I had Things To Say — both in and out of games. I’ve mellowed out quite a bit with age (like you do), and I quite enjoy listening to the antics of the other players. I do not crave the role of a leader, and I enjoy giving others the space to explore the game and their characters.
There’s one thing that I have not been able to shake. If there is some kind of plot, then I will stay on-track and will try to keep the others on-track as well. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve had multiple campaigns where the whole group looked at me to tell them what should happen next. Even if I try not to take on that role in a group, I somehow end up doing it anyway.

RPGaDAY catchup

For the sixth year running, there is another RPGaDAY month in August! This year, instead of a set of concrete questions, there’s a single term for each day, and it is up to the respondents to interpret that term and tell something about how they experienced RPGs in a way that is related to that term.
You can see the full announcement here.

What with business travel, recuperating from that, visiting a festival and recuperating from that, I only now have the time to sit down and post my answers. So today you’re getting a catch-up post! I’ll try to do a single entry for each day from now on, but we’ll see how that works out.

#1: First
My first RPG was Rolemaster, what is now called the ‘classic’ edition. In the fall vacation of my 14th year, a boy from school told me he was going to run RPGs at his house every day, and he told me that it would be right up my alley. Turned out he was right! I was given the ‘easiest’ character to play, a Hobbit Thief (of course), and with a crew of adventurers we set out to solve the mystery of Minas Anghen, the first adventure of the Haunted Ruins of the Dunlendings Middle-Earth module.
For years, Rolemaster would be my go-to Fantasy RPG, and it would take me years before I’d even play Dungeons & Dragons, because it just wasn’t a factor in my immediate gaming circles. TO be fair, my teenage self even looked down on D&D, since it lacked the skill-based customisation options that were baked into Rolemaster. At least that was ‘rectified’ by D&D’s 3rd edition (which came at a time when nobody was playing Rolemaster anymore), and even taken to the extreme with Pathfinder…

#2: Unique
D&D and its direct descendants promote a mode of play that is sometimes derisively called ‘murder-hobo’: the adventuring party is a group of exceptional outsiders that roams the wilds, killing and looting as they go, without too much connection to the places they visit. Over time, attempts have been made to circumvent this mode of play and make D&D games something different — with varying success. Still the XP requirements of D&D steer towards murder-hobo’ing.
In Ryuutama, the players are ‘normal’ people (craftspeople, farmers, healers, hunters, etc) that go on a long, extended trip — there is a justification for it in the setting. And while there are combat rules (that are expected to be used), the focus is not on killing monsters and taking their stuff, but on experiencing the trip. Instead of gaining XP for killing things, in Ryuutama you get XP for travelling! This mode of play takes the murder out of the hobo’ing, and that is pretty unique for a game that features extended travel.
And because it’s a Japanese game (it has been translated to English, French and Spanish), it has a unique flavour to it, too.

#3: Engage
The very point of RPGs is to play it with a group of people. Together, you create ‘the fiction’ (as the Apocalypse World Engine calls it), and interact with that through the rules. This means engaging with the GM and the other players, but also with the resulting story. The stereotype of the antisocial gamer can’t exist in RPGs, because to play an RPG you will have to play with others.

#4: Share
When klik was at her retreat, I started writing a Macross-inspired RPG. I didn’t get too far, and all the good parts are based on the text of Blades in the Dark or Monsterhearts II — all the bad parts are my own… I’ll just share how far I got before the week ended. I will revisit it and continue work on it, when I have more time.

Day 31: Share why you take part in RPG-a-day
Roleplaying games are, at the moment, my main hobby. I love them, and I wish there were more people playing them. I especially would like to have more diversity in the player base: things are improving, but it’s still a hobby for white dudes. And I play RPGs for the awesome adventures, so having more diverse experiences and viewpoints represented in the hobby will make adventures more surprising and interesting — and thus awesome.
Things have improved a lot the last few years, with artwork becoming more inclusive (iconic characters being non-white, no chainmail bikinis!) and a wider variety of viewpoints being represented in the subject matter of games (such as queer teenagers in Monsterhearts). But we’re not there yet, and there are shitty white dudes everywhere who will happily seek to exclude others, but I think the tide is against them and can’t be turned anymore.
But RPGs are still very much a niche hobby, so perhaps a lot of people who would be interested, just are never made aware of the possibilities of RPGs and how fun they are. So by talking about them, I hope to pique people’s interest. Perhaps they will become interested, perhaps they will find a group.

And maybe, one day, I will be able to play in a group where I’m the only white dude. I’d certainly like that.

…and on the last day of the month, that is the last question of RPG-a-day 2018!

Day 30: Share something you learned about playing your character
I’ll do you one better: I’ll share something I learned about myself while playing my characters. All of my characters tend to stay “on task”: there’s something to be done, and my character(s) are going to do it, and are going to make sure that the other characters are going to help. This is only slightly helped because I tend to write session reports and thus remember all kinds of details — but that is also part of who I am.
I’ve had other players remark that I’d be a great project manager, because I went about the mission so structured. I had never thought of myself that way, but not long after that, I did make a promotion to project manager, and I turned out to be pretty good at it…
I guess I’m not that good a roleplayer, because all of my characters tend to have this trait. Recently, I have tried playing characters that are more easy-going and less structured, and that’s hard work for me!

Day 29: Share a friendship you have because of RPGs
The group I played with in the streamed campaigns that I mentioned two days ago. I already knew them from hanging out in the chat for the streams on ByronicGamer’s Twitch channel, but the Dungeon World game was the first time I got to play an RPG with them. And we’re still playing (though not online): most of my RPGing these days is with this group.
It’s turned into a really mutually supportive group — or perhaps it already was, and I’ve become included in that through my RPG participation.

Day 28: Share whose inspiring gaming excellence you’re grateful for
I had to think a bit for this one, but I think I’ll go with Pete Fenlon. He used to be with Iron Crown Enterprises, and he drew all of their overland maps for the MERP modules that they published. He developed his own, distinct style of mapmaking that inspired gamers everywhere.
And it inspired me, too. Looking at those detailed maps of the places I read in professor Tolkien’s books, tracing the journeys described and seeing what else is there. Perhaps this has given me a keen interest in RPG games that treat travel as an actual (part of the) adventure, instead of a reason for pesky random encounter rolls, like The One Ring and especially Ryuutama.

Day 27: Share a great stream/actual play
I’m a big fan of the idea of streaming RPGs, but somehow it’s not something I would watch myself. So I only have two collections of recorded streams to offer that I played in myself. The first is the YouTube playlist of the run of Dungeon World we had, clocking in at just a little under 35 hours (which does include our breaks) and 13 sessions. It was my first time playing an Apocalypse World Engine game, and while I had read the book before, it never ‘clicked’ with me until I got to play. It got chaotic fast, mostly because we didn’t really ‘gel’ as a group with a common mission, and the campaign ended with us burning down another village — and we just never got around to the next session because it had run its course.
The second is the YouTube playlist of the run of The Sprawl we had. This one is much shorter, with only 8 videos and under 25 hours. I like this one a lot better, because The Sprawl has a good mission-based structure (which comes natural for cyberpunk!), so you had a much more ‘modular’ experience. And in between, we had quite a bit of cool character play, both individually and between characters. Unfortunately, this didn’t ever reach a conclusion either, because we were kinda burned out playing on-stream: it’s quite something to be performing to an audience and for the other players for about three hours!

Day 25: Name a game that had an impact on you in the last year
Hm. If I had to choose, I’d think that would be Blades in the Dark. People were very enthousiastic about it, so I got the PDF and read through it, and I decided it was not for me. But then a friend was looking for players for BitD, and I will play anything they want to run — so there I went. And it’s been a very, very wild ride. We started out as a band of drug dealers, and it sort of… devolved… into us basically decimating another gang while the drug dealing took a backseat. We’ve lost three characters, and the Crew is still not a unified group: there’s lots of internal tension. I’ve never had a group that was that intense in-game.