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Category: Memes

WISH #59: Neos

WISH 59 asks:

Name three games you might use to get someone who has never roleplayed before into roleplaying.

Well, it depends on the someone, of course. The games I’d use for my 12 year old nephew might not be the games I’d use for my mom. But, hey, here’s a shot at it.

Feng Shui is a strong first choice. Character creation is really simple, especially if you stay away from the martial artists. The genre is one that’s perfect for cutting straight to the action, and PCs are likely to succeed. The chances of a negative experience right out of the gate are pretty slim. Of course, it’s also a fairly violent game, so maybe not the best for Mom, which leads us to…

Trollbabe. Incredibly simple system that puts a lot of power in the hands of the players. A lot of more experienced players are weirded out by this, so I’m curious to see how total newbies would respond. I think it would tend to provide a sense of ownership. Also, Trollbabes only have one stat, so there’s not much to remember. But the babe factor might be a bit much for Mom, so…

Screw it, I’ll go with Everway. (Thanks to Dorathea for the reminder. I swear I thought of Trollbabe independently!) It’s visually-oriented, which would be good for Mom, and not too complicated. Despite WotC’s terrible marketing, it is nonetheless an excellent game for New Age-inclined types as well as people who just like spiritualism. In fact, I’m now really tempted to make Mom play a bit next time I go visit.

Monday Mashup #3: Narnia

Sorry about the missed week last week; Gen Con killed me. I was gonna take a suggestion from Eric McErlain this week, but it’s a little too close to the last one in theme, so I think I’m gonna save it for a little while.

Also, I put together a Monday Mashup page for your delight and amusement.

What else… oh, yeah, I need to come up with something this week. OK, let’s pick some low-hanging fruit. Your inspiration this week is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Go.

WISH 58: Metaplot

WISH 58 asks about metaplots:

What do you think of metaplots (plots developed in the rules and supplements published by the game company)? Are they good, bad, or indifferent? Have you played in a game with a metaplot? What was your experience?

I don’t really like ‘em. They don’t stop me from buying a game, but I don’t have a whole lot of interest in them when you get right down to it, so space used on a metaplot is space I’d like to see used elsewhere.

Now, White Wolf hasn’t devoted a whole lot of space to metaplots in the last couple of years. Sure, there are 16 page sections about the metaplot, and Vampire Revised had a chunk of metaplot in it, but it’s not been outrageous. I do think people overreact to the scent of the metaplot.

But I also think that this overreaction needs to be taken into account when doing game design. You have to be aware that putting forth a metaplot will instantly flip a lot of people into a certain mode of thinking. Some people will be paralyzed, unable to diverge from the metaplot. A lot of people think they have to follow the metaplot.

Bad roleplaying, not to mention lack of creativity? Sure. But there’s no point in trying to pin blame on the consumer; it’s better to say “OK, how can that problem be fixed?” And of course the easy answer is “eschew the metaplot.” So, yeah, if I were running a game company I’d skip ‘em.

Mind you, if I were running a company that was selling a line of fiction in the form of gamebooks, I’d metaplot all the way to the bank. It’s interesting how many people buy sourcebooks not for gaming but to further their understanding of the game world. In one light, the Vampire line is a lengthy piece of fiction exposed in the form of game sourcebooks; the plot moves slowly, but it does move, and there is a semi-coherent narrative that will come to an end next spring.

So if you’re doing that on purpose, you’d pretty much want a metaplot. It’s a tactic which, consciously or unconsciously, has worked well for White Wolf for many years.

Monday Mashup #2: Body Snatchers

Let’s take this meme out for another spin. Yep, it’s time for another Monday Mashup.

Ryan made a suggestion which I’m going to take up. He pointed out that a lot of respondants were interested in the idea but didn’t know enough about Greyhawk to take a stab at it. He suggested that I should pick a piece of modern media, and let people choose their own game for the purposes of adaptation. I think he’s right.

Thus, how to participate: pick a roleplaying world and talk about how you’d use the specified book/movie/TV show/whatever as an inspiration for a campaign or one-shot set in that world. You can post on your own blog or LiveJournal or in the comments here, as you see fit.

This week, your mashup subject is Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (The 1978 remake is also valid fodder.)

My contribution follows.

Monday Mashup #1: Greyhawk and CSI

So this is an experiment.

I like genre-mashing. I also like drawing on the tropes of Western media to give genres a new spin. I also think the Game WISH is the bee’s knees.

Thus, I’m kicking out Monday Mashup as a writing exercise. The format is pretty simple: I’ll toss out a roleplaying game/setting and a piece of pop culture, and you write up a brief rendition of a possible campaign that incorporates ‘em both in whatever unhealthy form you prefer. If people dig it, I’ll keep going, and if not, I will continue to chortle about my weird ideas in privacy.

This week: the forensic scientists of CSI meet Greyhawk. Go!

WISH 55: Name a little

WISH 55 asks about names:

How do you choose character names? What makes a good or bad name for a character? What are three examples of really good (or really bad) character names, and why are they so good or bad?

I just kick names around until they feel right. I tend to use baby name books and sources often, thanks to Gretchen’s pernicious influence. I have an archived copy of the Onomastikon which has been very useful for culturally appropriate names. I don’t think my names are ever particularly stellar, but they work.

Examples. Um. I’m still fond of Paul/Emoticon. Paul made the fatal mistake of allowing American reporters to coin a superhero name for him, and as he’s French he didn’t realize how lame a name Emoticon was. (His power was projective empathy, which manifested as glyphs in the air in front of him.) He was always a little annoyed about that, although he refused to show it.

Daevros was a great character with a lousy name. What can I say? I’m not a Dr. Who fan, so I didn’t realize.

Oh, I guess I can admit to the source for Reese Beulay’s last name as my third example. I like David Bowie a lot, and I found the contrast between the song and the concept of backwoods redneck mystics to be amusing.

WISH 54: Background Hooks

WISH 54 is about one of my favorite character generation issues, background hooks.

Do you like to have bits and pieces from your characters’ backgrounds appear in the game? Do you write hooks into your character background for the GM to use in the campaign for your character? Do you like it when the GM gives you a background hook into an adventure or scenario with a previously unknown hook, such as creating an old friend of your character’s who is somehow involved? What are some examples of cases where hooks have worked or not worked for you?

Yes! I love background hooks, I’m big on background hooks, background hooks make me squirm in glee. I don’t write big complex backstory for my characters before starting play, but I do sketch out loose backgrounds, and I invariably put some hooks in. Usually it’s something that would cause the PC problems if it came out.

I also tend to include a couple of strong attitudes. Paul was a devout Catholic, Reese is a bit jingoistic, and Amelia/Andy hates weak women. I’m not sure that’s the sort of hook Ginger had in mind, but I think it provides the same function.

Since I like hooks a lot, I like it when a GM pulls on ‘em. I’m also OK with it not happening. After all, sometimes people go through their lives without their little quirks ever causing serious issues.

Now, an interesting thing about hooks: they’re one of the ways in which you can buy spotlight time during character generation without spending any points or getting high rolls on the attribute dice. Spotlight time is one of the most important currencies in roleplaying. If the GM takes advantage of your hooks, you’re getting spotlight time for free — which touches on Scott’s point about overdoing hooks. Interesting.

Finally, I’m stealing Kynn’s PC requirements for my next game. Cool stuff.

WISH 52: Who Are You?

WISH 52 asks what Robin Laws classification fits you best. I’m Iron Man! Um.

Robin Laws identifies several types of gamer in his book of GM tips: The Power Gamer, the Butt-Kicker, the Tactician, the Specialist (plays one type only), the Method Actor, the Storyteller (plot and pacing fan), and the Casual Gamer. Which of these types do you think you are, and why? Most people aren’t pure types, so multiple choices are OK.

I’m some unholy blend between the Method Actor, the Storyteller, and the Tactician. The first two are fairly obvious — I like playing interesting characters, and if you want to call that immersive you can; I also like backstory. Maybe that doesn’t make me a Storyteller, but there’s no Lawsian classification for “people who dig a coherent world.” Unless it’s an aspect of Method Actor, which it might well be.

I blame the Tactician in me on too much exposure to Hero gamers. On the other hand, I do really like D&D 3E grid combat. It’s an interesting challenge at about the right level for me to be interested in it. Wargames and miniatures do not capture my interest, but pushing a little lead figure painted to represent a Celtic Bronze Age priest of Mercury around the map? That’s quality fun!

WISH 51: Genremania

WISH 51 asks:

What are three genres that you’ve had limited exposure to as a gamer that you’d like to try or play more of?

Hard question, cause I’m not sure what limited exposure means. I’ll take it as “haven’t played a lot in.” Lesse.

Off the top of my head, I might say pulp, but I think the old Feng Shui games I’ve been in qualify. They were more Asian pulp, but pulp nonetheless. Dear old Clarice, British counter-terrorism expert, was pretty much a pulp character down to the quirky name for her gun. So OK, I’ve played pulp.

I’d play to play in a good horror game. There’s one. It’s a pretty wide field, but I’d be happy with anything from the esoteric horror of Whispering Vault to the gnostic horror of Kult to the conspiracy-driven horror of Vampire. This desire is likely to be satisfied very shortly by an interesting Ravenloft game… which, come to think of it, is slated to have a pulp element as well. Would that all my desires were so readily satisfied.

OK. I’m gonna give in and say pirates, and I swear I was thinking of this before I saw Ginger’s answers. I like pirates and I want to play in a good pirate game, preferably in the Tim Powers vein. Unknown Pirates, anyone? I’ll have to reread the UA rulebook tonight to see if there are possibilities in that direction. Man, Plutomantic pirates… the gold weighs you down but it buys you freedom. Intriguing.

The third is hard. I’d say conspiracy, but UN PEACE was a pretty conspiratorial secret history kind of a game. SF? I want to play in a good near-future game (OK, OK, I want to play in a Trinity game) but I can’t really say I haven’t had exposure to that given my freelance Trinity work.

So I’ll punt and steal Tim Hall’s final answer. Alternate Worlds it is. As long as I’m dreaming, let’s make the GM work a lot.