Friday, November 04, 2011

things to talk about

Noisms at Monsters and Manuals things we need to talk more about some stuff.

Book binding. (I can't be the only person who bemoans the way new rulebooks tend to fall apart like a sheaf of dry leaves after about 5 seconds of use).   I've all but given up on buying game bookss that aren't stapled in the middle.  That limits me to smaller books but I'm okay with that.

"Doing a voice". How many people "do voices"? Should they? How do you get better at "doing a voice" if that's your thing?  I do voices.  I'm pretty sure they're terrible and have no idea how to improve other than listening to Billy West, John DiMagio, etc. discuss the craft on the commentary tracks for Futurama.  They often discuss starting with a known voice and layering in the emotional tone of one or more additional voices to reach an amalgam.  So don't shoot for just Merlin from Excalibur, try mixing it with the exasperation of Bones from Star Trek to achieve a new character.

Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions?  I run short sessions, usually no more than three hours.  One five or ten minute break seems sufficient.

Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions? I try to keep it minimalist.  My feeling is that if you suggest rather than explain the player's imagination will do a better job than I will.

Where do you strike the balance between "doing what your character would do" and "acting like a dickhead"?  Most the PCs in my games are dickheads in various ways.  I only care when the players are being dicks to each other.  My personal rule of thumb is that the DM gets to be the biggest dickhead at the table.  Anyone being more dickerly than me is asked to tone it down or leave.

PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?  I don't ban it, my games actively discourage though.  If the world is dangerous enough smart players will figure out that the other PCs are their only allies.

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? (Real life example: my friends and I were playing in the local M:tG club space. A M:tG groupie teenage goth girl came over and asked, "What are you playing?" "[We answered.]" "Sounds kind of gay.") Do people really need to explain what D&D is any more?  I guess I once explained to an old lady it was like doing an action adventure series on the radio, but with dice instead of a script.

Alchohol at the table?  Never really played with booze on the table.  I run at a gamestore and I'm sure it wouldn't be legal.

What's acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?  I don't take attendance.  If you don't show up the game goes on without you.  No big whoop.


  1. Here's mine:

  2. Book Binding: Smaller books tend to offer more bang for the buck anyway, so you're golden, IMO.

    Doing a Voice: For me, RP are the first two letters of RPG. Call me nutty, I know, but that's how I feel :)

    Breaks: Usually two, sometimes more. Often initiated when one player has to run to the restroom and I'd rather not run the scene without that player present.

    Description: Dunno. Not sure how to measure exact floridity :) If Tolkien circa Lord of the Rings is a 100 and Tolkein circa the Hobbit is 25, I tend to shoot for the 5-15 range, let's say. Having recently attempted to read Game of Thrones, I'd say that's approximately 1.4 Millimartins.

    Dickheads: Are removed from the table, if it's the player. If it's the character and I genuinely believe it's the character (and not the playe acting out), it's fine provided it fits the campaign tone.

    PC-on-PC: Depends entirely on the game of choice and campaign tone. I can't even imagine generalities.

    Summarizing RPGs to Non-Gamers: I tailor this to the recipient. No stock version.

    Booze: I often GM at pubs, so some players elect to indulge. I actually had a drink while GMing for the very first time this year; got slightly buzzed while running a Doctor Who session of Risus. Actual drunkenness at the table: that would be unacceptable.

    Absentee Players: Depends a lot on the game/campaign, but I do my best to minimize that character's role in the events of the game in a way that doesn't smash the fourth wall entirely. If I can't come up with something that fits, we just declare he's "down with the mumps" (an old gag going back to our game-shop campaigns in the mid-1980s).

  3. @Jeff - I like your dickhead rules. I need to get better with enforcing this one in my own face to face games.

  4. Anonymous4:26 AM

    My advice is don't be too pedantic when describing RPGs. A vague but awesome answer is better than one that's detailed and technically correct but makes you sound like a doof.

    To a fellow nerd:
    "It's the king of all board games. All nerd culture revolves around it in some way. Warhammer, Magic, WoW and GenCon are all spin offs."

    To a normal:
    "It's the king of all board games."

    If pressed for a more technical answer:
    "It's a wargame with flexible rules."

  5. Booze at the table: once in a while I might have one or two drinks while DMing usually a beer or jack-n-coke but I never get drunk and discourage players from having much more as they have to drive home.

  6. I play casually at my flat, so I don't mind if someone has a casual drink or two.

    As for players missing some sessions, it depends on the character, really. One of the PCs is usually passed out back in the inn after carousing, so he's easy to write off. Once we took a PC along as an NPC, and he died to a Medusa (my party has a horrible record for keeping hirelings alive), so we're never doing that again.

  7. I do silly voices, just the way me & my brother always played. We tended to impersonate every voice we heard on TV & radio & teachers at school for fun & got laughs that way anyway. So just practice helps, I find if I don't do one for a while I "lose" it for a while.

    I am already making the biggest fool of myself as DM doing a whole range of voices so most players do one to. But no one minds either way if they choose not to.

    Gonna have to start putting breaks in. I'm often frazzled & sloppy by the end of a DMing session.

    Our rule of thumb is I give everything a quick, brief description, if players want more then they ask about it & search it. (eg "A nobleman in rich clothes walks by" -if they ask/stare "His clothes are in the Venetian style you notice his pants are dirty at the bottoms"

    Guys have a beer if they want, no one gets wasted though simply because of work next day/driving. Some indulge in weed before play but before joining the group.

  8. On a more general note, these talking-point posts are good fun.

  9. Voices - Rarely, depending on the dynamic of the group and the tone of the game. I'm more likely to use voices in a low key, humorous game. That way they don't have the potential to ruin anything.

    Breaks - No official breaks but if people need one they should just say so. I too prefer shorter sessions.

    Description - I probably do too much.

    Dickheads - Dickhead players are not tolerated, dickhead characters are the norm.

    PC-on-PC Fights - In general not allowed as it causes real life hard feelings. In theory I'm not opposed to it at all.

    Explaining Rpg's - I don't do it anymore, and there are people I purposely conceal my rpg involvment from. Its shameful, I know.

    Booze - I like it. We are grown men pretending to be elves, why not add a little levity? That said, the rules of the host shall dictate. I don't like stoned people at my games. Stoned people get distracted way to easily.

    Absent Players - If characters are in a safe zone, the absent player's character is assumed to be busy elsewhere. In dungeons, that character is picked up by another player. So far no deaths while the player is away - lets hope that never happens.