The Player’s Perspective: First Lessons

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreetings once again all!

As I mentioned last week, I have been playing tabletop RPG’s for nearly my entire life. All of this was thanks to my father, who was one of the original D&D geeks. I started gaming with Dad around the age of 7. He ran a weekly game for some of his friends and I would always have to watch and generally be bothersome. Eventually, after months of begging to be a wizard so I could throw a fireball, my Dad caved.

One of the first lessons I was ever taught about playing RPG’s was to put myself in the character’s place. At such a young age I was not really able to develop interesting and compelling characters, so everything I played was really just me with cool powers and abilities. So my first lesson was about immersion and the idea is simple: don’t think of your character as a piece you are moving around on a board; instead, imagine yourself in your character’s situation.

Half of the point behind the game is to escape, even if only for a few hours. Why not let yourself do just that by truly stepping into the shoes of your character?

DragonEvery time I sit down to a gaming table I cease to be just Jason. I blend with whatever character I am playing and try to get into their head. What would I do if I were this person? For example, if I were to encounter a dragon just Jason would wet himself and run away as fast as possible, but if I was Caeldon the young ambitious knight trying to prove himself to his liege lord, I would charge into the fray for the sake of honor and glory.

The more you are able to step into the persona of your character the easier it is to make an honest and believable personality. In fact, I usually find that I never really know the character until I have played them for a few sessions. During creation, I make a concept that sounds good to me; kind of an outline. This rough sketch is what I take into the first game and the interactions with the GM and my fellow PC’s help me find the fine lines hidden within the broad strokes. Slowly but surely, a character is born.

Bear in mind that one does not have to go overboard to immerse themselves in their character. Chances are no one at the table is expecting an Oscar-winning performance. How deep the rabbit hole goes is really up to you and your style of play. However, even a small amount of character immersion can go a long way to keeping you engaged and entertained. Speaking as a player and a GM I always have a better time when other people in the group are getting into the story and action.

Sometimes all it takes to get your creative juices flowing is that one spark that you get by seeing what someone else made. The next thing you know, you have a table full of well-developed PC’s and a GM inspired to create by his players’ excitement. That, my friends, is the place where all the best gaming stories come from.

Monsters of the Shattered World #5: Revelations

Monsters Logo 1300x1300In this episode of Monsters of the Shattered World, Andreas recounts his final battle in the lich’s laboratory, and the surprises he uncovered.

And that’s the end of season 1! Thanks for listening. Depending on the feedback we get from this episode–hint, hint–we’ll produce another season soon. Please let us know if you’d like to hear about Andreas’s further adventures.

For those of you new to this show, Monsters of the Shattered World is a storytelling podcast. It’s about a young scholar out on his own in the world, encountering strange monsters and writing about them. Each episode is 5 to 10 minutes long, so it won’t overburden your iPod.

Credits: This podcast is written and performed by Brent P. Newhall (a.k.a. Dr. Worldcrafter), and amazingly edited by Quinn Conklin (columnist at Troll in the Corner and author of Toys for the Sandbox). The show’s theme song is “To The Ends” by Kevin Macleod.

GE17: Meet Ben and Brent

Ben Gerber & Brent Newhall cover for Jonathan while he’s engaged with real life stuff for his first home.

Brent and Ben sneer at real life, preferring to spend our time on the internet. Where it’s virtual, and friendly. They do what comes naturally, which is talk about themselves.

They discuss their upcoming projects, talk a bit about board game design, and Ben also does a month in the life of a indie publisher, where the cover about the numbers. Total units “sold” (including free stuff), total gross and total net $$$ and the fact that a lot of people who get a free copy to review it, don’t end up reviewing it.

Many thanks to Ben and Brent for covering for me while I was indisposed.

Don’t forget to listen to Episode 16: 5 Great Soundtracks, if you haven’t done so yet.

Continue reading “GE17: Meet Ben and Brent”

Monsters of the Shattered World #3: A Clutch of Kobolds

Monsters Logo 1300x1300In this episode of Monsters of the Shattered World, Andreas and his band finally reach the island of Prima, where they search Granfeld Crag for information about strange rumors. They journey into the jungle and into an abandoned temple, much to the consternation of a clutch of kobolds.

For those of you new to this show, Monsters of the Shattered World is a storytelling podcast. It’s about a young scholar out on his own in the world, encountering strange monsters and writing about them. Each episode is 5 to 10 minutes long, so it won’t overburden your iPod.

New episodes are released every month. If you want to hear it more frequently, we’ll release a new episode every two weeks if we get more than 100 listeners. So tell your friends!

Credits: This podcast is written and performed by Brent P. Newhall (a.k.a. Dr. Worldcrafter), and amazingly edited by Quinn Conklin (columnist at Troll in the Corner and author of Toys for the Sandbox). The show’s theme song is “To The Ends” by Kevin Macleod.

Monsters of the Shattered World #1: The Sea Devils

Khairul Hisham - Sahuagin
Khairul Hisham – Sahuagin

Monsters of the Shattered World is a new podcast debuting, well, today on Troll in the Corner.

This is a different podcast: it tells a story. It’s about a young scholar out on his own in the world, encountering strange monsters and writing about them. Each episode is 5 to 10 minutes long, so it won’t overburden your iPod.

New episodes will be released every month. If you want to hear it more frequently, we’ll release a new episode every two weeks if we get more than 100 listeners. So tell your friends!

In this episode, our hero travels to a remote island to investigate an attack of sea devils.

Credits: This podcast is written and performed by Brent P. Newhall (a.k.a. Dr. Worldcrafter), and amazingly edited by Quinn Conklin (columnist at Troll in the Corner and author of Toys for the Sandbox). The show’s theme song is “To The Ends” by Kevin Macleod. Big thanks to Khairul Hisham for the fantastic piece of artwork for this episode.

DNDNext First Impressions

So, for those of you that missed it, the upcoming rules set of D&D has entered a public beta, and you can sign up now over at Wizards of the Coast (be careful, there’s still some server load and issues with download links. Check their Twitter for help if needed.)

I’ve been looking forward to the public beta, not only because D&D is what brought me into roleplaying, but because I might actually get to play some D&D with it.

I tried to get into 4E when it came out, but among a great number of the people I might actually play with, it wasn’t really popular. A great number moved on to Pathfinder, the rest clung to 3.5 because the new version was “too complicated” and they “got bored during character creation” (actual responses when I tried to get a few to play – they refused my help with explaining it to them, too). I’ve been hoping that the new rules might make them realize that there are other versions of the game they love so much, and whilst they might not play exactly the same, fun can still be had playing them.

Now, I want to stress that I haven’t finished digging through the playtest materials, but I’ve gone through them enough to mention a couple of highlights. I also haven’t played the game, but that’s happening next week, so there will likely be a follow up article about that.

So, on to my first impressions.

It feels like an amalgamation of the different editions of D&D. I’ve not got a lot of experience with the earlier stuff, but I can see some of it coming through. Some quick (though actually a little detailed) highlights:

  • Each ability is also used for a save. Strength can be used to escape grapples, Dexterity too, but obviously in different ways. Strength means batting aside falling masonry; Dexterity means dodging it to start with. Constitution can ignore poison and petrification; Intelligence resists spells, so does Wisdom (but again, different spell effects are implied); and Charisma helps against compulsions. Obviously, abilities have other uses too, but this stood out.
  • Advantage and disadvantage. No more +/-2 checks; just roll 2d20, and choose the best or worst roll depending on what you have. Certain effects give you each, and it looks like it can come down to DM judgement/table consensus too. If you’re hidden, you get advantage on attacks. Aiding another gives them advantage on their rolls (presumably providing you aid successfully; I’m still reading).
  • Surprise is now a -20 to your initiative check. Seems sensible. Even rolling a 20 when surprised by someone who rolled a 1 means the surpriser goes first.
  • There is actually a heading in “things you can do in combat” labelled “Improvise,” which suggests coming up with cool stuff and using an ability check to do it. Obviously within reason, but I liked the inclusion enough to point it out.
  • Minor actions are gone. Most of them are now free. Effectively, everyone has the equivalent of the Quick Draw feat.
  • Hit points work out a little different. At first level, add your Constitution score to a hit die roll. Every other level, add hit die roll OR Con modifier, whichever is higher. Helpful for weak wizards I suppose. At the other end, you’re unconscious and dying at 0 HP, and dead at Con score plus level in the negative. There are death saving throws, like in 4E. Healing also stabilises/brings you to 0 HP before gaining your HP from the healing.
  • Speaking of healing, Long and Short Rests allow you to heal up. Short rests can give you a boost of a hit die plus Con modifier for as many hit die as you have levels, though you only have so many hit die to spend in a whole day (one at level one). Long Rests heal you up fully (8 hours rest).
  • Armor has set Armor Class values, but allows you to add your Dex modifier, depending on the armor. Light armor adds Dex modifier to AC, Medium adds half the modifier, and Heavy doesn’t add.
  • Weapon Finesse is folded into the weapons themselves. Weapons come in flavours of Basic, Finesse, Martial, and Heavy. Finesse lets you use your Dex to hit, if you wish. Small characters can’t use Heavy Weapons (no Halflings running around with Greatswords, it seems). Also, using a Bastard Sword two-handed upgrades the damage die.
  • Spells seem to have verbal and somatic components (remember them?) so if your hands are bound and your mouth gagged, you’re probably not casting your spells. Spells use spell slots, though wizard cantrips and cleric orisons are the equivalent of 4E’s at-will powers. Using a higher level spell slot for some spells means nastier results. Spells can be cast as rituals, but they use up some expensive spell components and take a while to cast (tens of rounds).
  • The characters themselves are interesting enough to me, although I’ve heard people saying the fighter isn’t very interesting. The way the different races look interests me, but the Backgrounds and Themes for the different characters look great. The Dwarven Paladin has a Knight background, so he knows how to handle an animal, and might even get free boarding if someone recognises him. The Halfling Rogue’s Commoner background gives her a profession, and others in her profession might be more willing to talk to her. The Themes give a starting feat and seem to follow a progression track, with some other feats at later levels. There is some fine print on the sheets advising removing Background and Theme for an Old-School game.

I’m excited by the adventure, The Caves of Chaos, which is part of Keep on the Borderlands. I’ll be playing this week with a small group, so I can get back to you more on the adventure then, and how the game itself plays. From what I’ve heard of hints from the closed playtest contingents, I’m excited to see how well it all works together.

There are still a few things I’m unsure about. The Dwarf’s starting damage with his Greataxe is 2d6+7, and I can only account for +6. And why does a wizard have 10 torches in a backpack if they can cast a light spell at will?

EDIT: I’ve been having more of a dig around. There are some more discrepancies than a simple +1 modifier for the Fighter – Greataxe in equipment is listed as 1d12 (which is the 4e damage value). For now I’ll run as the sheet says, but make a note for feedback.


Well, that’s my two cents for now, more after I’ve played the game itself, probably with more commentary once I’ve had a better look at the rules. What are your thoughts so far?

Full Frontal Gaming


Before you start rolling your eyes, this isn’t a post about sexuality in games or how women should or shouldn’t be portrayed. This is simply about the plain old fact that most women have boobs. And, any size, shape or flavor, there are things to consider in game regarding these modifiers. They are actually very mobile, sensitive and malleable organs that will affect how your female acts or reacts in any given situation. And, being a female who owns a pair, I have considered the repercussions of having a character that also sports girls.

Now I’ll be brief and to the point with the sticking point. Breasts have weight. They swing, the bounce, when you lie down they take a little nap in your armpits. Running actually physically hurts if they aren’t supported.  Sitting a trot on a horse has the same result. Ouch.

Armor.  Now I could go long and hard into practical vs awesome looking armor but we’re all hoping to get on with the day at some time. So just a few things to consider: To protect properly, they have to be big enough to cover dem boobies. If they don’t, that’s cool. Just something extra to consider just like you have to consider fighting in a 4 foot high corridor is gonna be hard. While not quite as bad as a kick to the nuts, getting a direct blunt blow to the nipple causes the same doubled over, moaning pain.

Consider your weapon. If your character’s chest is large, swinging an ax is going to be tricky. Swords are great, but two handed weapons may limit your range/strength. If a female archer who rolls a NAT 1 should be required to have the bow string hits her in the boob. While not quite on the same level as a nutshot, a direct hit to the chest results in a similar doubled over, moaning position. It hurts. A LOT!

Consider other stats. If they’re tiny, chances are your CHA checks may be affected. A female with small breasts pads them to look bigger. She can survive one direct hit to the chest due to all the padding but loses one charisma point due to her secret being found out. A character with ridiculously large girls may not be taken seriously either by sexiest men or women who are self-conscious about themselves.

The alignment of the female character can almost always be exclusively advertised by her cup size. A
Lawful Good misses will have modest, unobtrusive AAs. True Neutrals usually sport a classic B. Chaotic Evils throw all common sense into the wind and can swing some DDs and up with the best of them. When dreaming up the design of your PC to think hard about how this factors into the moral fiber of your character.

Consider modifiers for neckwear. Consider cleavage and the repercussions of showing it. Please remember cleavage is not a natural phenomenon and actually requires support to happen. If you flaunt it, be prepared to face the consequences.

They are a fact of female life and should be enjoyed as a fascinating aspect of the game. With these (hopefully) helpful suggestions you should be well on your way to facing a brave new world of female enlightenment.


World War II: Where Are You?

Photo from Flickr courtesy of the U.S. Army
World War II games are some of the most popular and best-selling regardless of format and venue. Simply look at the shelves of your nearest video game, computer game, and FLGS to see that this genre dominates video games, computer games and board games. Furthermore, Baby Boomers are the largest consumer group in the history of the world. They collectively represent more wealth and purchasing power than any other age group in existence. Most if not all of the Boomers lived through or were directly impacted by the war to end all wars.

These are facts and not hypothesis. With the veracity of these declarations beyond doubt we come to the issue of roleplaying games. For ages they have been dominated by fantasy settings as notably evidenced in Dungeons & Dragons. To a lesser extent other settings are commercially available with science fiction being popular. Star Wars, Scion, Legends of the Five Rings, White Wolf, and Dark Heresy are some of the many varied and popular venues.

Visibly absent is anything set during World War II. Why is that? The war canvassed the globe touching different environments and people. It is already equipped with conflict and equipment for adventurers to use on their quests. It is so large that DMs can write their own story lines without changing history…and if they changed the history who cares?

Are companies put off by the known outcome? Are they concerned that gamers would have to deal with Hitler’s genocidal programs? Or, are they worried that customers will dislike recreating historical engagements?

Yes, we all know how the war ended. We know the general facts of the war. We know the broad strokes. While Hitler is a rightly despised individual he can be used as a teaching tool. We can use the roleplaying game to put gamers in the shoes of those touched by the concentration camps, the forced breeding, and the paranoid secret police. If knowledge is power, then we can use the game to educate people and thus give them the power they need.

If companies are concerned about recreating history, then perhaps they need to have a glance at the innumerable reenactments and organizations that bring the history buffs together to replay past battles. Those individuals know who won, who lost, and how it happened but they gather year after year to recreate the events. Clearly, there is demand for this.

To all the game publishers I say that I don’t know why you are not releasing WW2 roleplaying games. But, I do know that you are missing out on a fiscally lucrative and interesting market for a game. You have me befuddled.

Poaching from the best

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

There comes a time where all storytellers realise that their stories are less original than they’d hoped. But that’s fine. Georges Polti claimed there were only thirty-six possible plots in our narratives, and having looked over the list both on Wikipedia and in the fourth edition of Legend of the Five Rings, I’m inclined to agree. I certainly couldn’t think of any more that weren’t simply combinations. Polti’s claims were based on Greek and French literature, but I still think this holds true.

So how does this affect the humble RPG storyteller? How do you pull one over on the players, without them realising? My latest ploy is to cheat, wholesale.

As the title of this article suggests, it’s a lot easier to steal plots in part or in full, and then piece them together. In a recent game using Greg Christopher‘s Synapse system, I managed to pull the players through the fist part of a novel I read years ago. None of them have any clue as to the novel itself, and I think that’s because I chose something suitably obscure, and hoped that none of them had heard of it. Obviously some adaptation was needed. There was no journalist character in the novel, for instance, or a soldier with PTSD. I resorted to pulling in other stories – there’s theme in the second novel in the series regarding integrity and truth, and some journalism. I’ll be borrowing heavily from that for his character plot hooks.

The point that I’m trying to make is that we shouldn’t be afraid to poach or outright steal narratives for our hobby, since it seems unlikely we’ll manage to be truly original. There’s plenty of advice for creating characters based on poached ideas – have you played a Star Wars game without a cocky kid or clever droid? The problem is that there’s less advice out there for the story itself, at least regarding most core rulebooks. And I think that, especially when the players don’t know the poached narrative path themselves, there’s plenty of opportunity open for them to play what makes sense to them.

In the case of my example above, what felt right was apparently the narrative of the novel. They barely strayed at all somehow, despite the introduction of three almost completely divergent characters. I wonder whether that will still hold true next time we play, or whether I will unintentionally railroad them in the direction of the novel. Time will tell.

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