Sunday, October 18, 2009

Re-Learning What's Important to Players

Yesterday, I met up with some guys that I gamed with for over 10 years. After a few brews and appetizers to catch-up, we came back to “The Dungeon” to discuss gaming.

I wanted to know what they were looking for in a game.

Combat: A good selection of humans and humanoid fights. To them, these are some of the most cunning of opponents. As well, having some mythical or classic monsters is good as well. These should be special encounters for the group not overdone with a dragon a week.

Enemies: I asked about enemies. They had enjoyed common enemies such as orcs in a prior campaign. By that, they meant common from the aspect of being able to point them out but yet to be different as they level. They wanted a nemesis. Not as much an organization but to be re-occurring and not to be faceless.

I am taking both combat and enemies as applying class levels to creatures opposed to always putting in new monsters with a new or higher CR. Also, I am thinking that I need to be a bit more cunning with these monsters to allow escapes, etc. Several times, they mentioned having “the Foil”. The foil for them could be evil or good.

World-Building: This was unanimous and clear. They loved prior campaigns with being able to build their destiny and felt it was unique about my campaigns. One of the pieces that I had been forgetting to include was planning for the foils. This was something I had learned at GenCon about three years ago. For the group I was talking to, they mentioned it would be interesting that they should be too late to save the princess or have another group save her.

Consequences: The conversation switched to the game having consequences and that they loved that aspect of a campaign. Included in this was a personal request that death should be more of an “option” in my campaigns. A special note is that Brian opts not to have his characters die in my campaign.

Being Heroes with Influence and Recognition: The group mentioned they liked campaigns where they were the heroes and did good deeds. As well, they wanted to have a better payment or reward. It would be in the form of Influence and Recognition. Examples were to meet with the King or to be able to have special access to the city, etc.

That covers most of the night. It was good to hear a lot of these things. I still need to blog about what it means and what kind of setting – but it’s a good start and I still have time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How Far Did I Get? Where will I be going?

It’s important to determine progress. It lets you know whether to set a new course to increase effort or to bail out. So what have I accomplished so far / how far did I get?

Networking with gamers
I joined up with Lehigh Valley Gamers on Facebook. They seem to be up and coming in the area and may have potential. This is something I will need to keep my eye on. On a different front, I am going to have lunch with some of the old guys, who I’ve gamed with for a long time or that gamed for a long time.

Be a more gregarious gamer
I’ve been trying (2 follow-ups) to get in with the MEPACON event coordinator for Pathfinder Society to run some events. Not very far yet, but hopefully I will get a more positive response this week. The goal here is to DM at the convention, in the Pathfinder Society. By the end of the week, I may have to bail and write my own events.

Rebuilding my imagination
I’ve taken to reading quite a bit lately. I’m thinking more about characters that I played, new characters I could play, and a part some forget how they would interact with others later. (I have to blog about that later). It’s re-establishing the sense of fantasy, the magic of the setting, characters, etc. All that opposed to some cookie cutter formulaic gaming that I think I was in with goals for the night and storylines, hooks, and plots.

What needs to be done this week?
Environment: I need to change my physical environment that means:
a) Cleaning: A proper workspace is needed. I have minis and books that can be boxed and put away.
b) Organizing: I need some materials to better organize my thoughts and ideas.
c) Redecorating: I need to get some old posters up. Things that had Inspired and gave Imagination.

Planning: I need to prepare for going out. As Cyrus mentioned, I need to have an agenda. I can’t have time lost talking about old times or online gaming. Additionally, the conversation needs to be progressing and positive; not a gripe or glory days discussion.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Imagination and Inspiration

Before taking a break, a lot of what I was seeing was like eating cardboard and water. Characters and plot were becoming “blah”. My imagination was gone and nothing really that I seen impressed or intrigued me.

I’ve been thinking about it all and during the past week, I’ve been thinking of what made the early games so special to me. A part of it was my imagination. I was reading a large amount of graphic novels, regular comics, and paperback books with intriguing characters: the Dark Knight, Daredevil (Born Again), Iron Man (Armor Wars), Wolverine, the amazing and cynical Green Arrow, X-Men, Avengers, Thor, Transformers, Conan, Mack Bolan (The Executioner), etc.
All those characters and stories inspired me to make my own (and sometimes similar) characters or to tell a similar story or give a foundation of “something like this would be great in my game or to happen to my or someone else’s character”. Sometimes, it was modified. At times, it was a more direct carryover such as my ranger who was hunted and also hunting “the Hand” from Wolverine.

Additionally, my friends and I all understood, “the Hand” was evil and bad news. All that it took was a throwing star to be tossed across the room and lodged into the timber next to your character that was roughing up some guy. It was at that moment, unconditionally, we started grabbing the dice as we would have a knockdown dirty fight ahead of us.

It wasn’t just the characters and the plots. It was what they did. Reading the fight scenes in the comics, or their actions in the in the books, triggered us to have an imagination of about the same.

All of this built great things. I had a cleric of Thor who had the personality of Captain America, a returning hammer like Thor that would knock opponents down or shoot a lightning bolt, who always was in turmoil over being a combatant or a healer in battle. Often it was asked “What would Cap do?” and my friends at the time, they were doing something the same (some characters based off the character Hawk or Tiger Man from Buck Rogers) so we all knew what to expect from each other as well.

It was also about setting. I remember certain fall nights where there is a silence and crispness to the air – a magical feeling absorbing everything as if it was a long time ago. There were certain parts of books which capture my imagination. Part of Daredevil: Born Again has Cap in front of a fire “This one’s been shot. Medic! Over here, man! Put out those fires out. We don’t want a gas main going up” [A soldier with a voice that could command a GOD --] flash to a silhouette of a top of building with Thor with his hammer raised, only showing a little gold on the boot and the red cloak [ - - and DOES. Suddenly it’s RAINING so hard it HURTS. Everybody who can falls SILENT.]

Another part was, we didn't just do damage. We had things happen because there was something more. This is best shown in the Rise of the Runelords. I think this is all summed up with allowing the players add to their own characters descriptions. John had stated "Maug is going to grab a chicken leg of the table hit the kobold with it over the head and then stab him in the throat with it." It was simple, easy, imaginative, and interesting.

So what to do? I have to get my imagination and some inspiration back. To do that:
- I’ve started reading more. I have just received “Percy Jackson and the Olympians”.
- I’m picking up some old Conan paperbacks
- I’m looking to put up some new “old” posters here in the Dungeon. Surround myself with the things that may rekindle old memories while DMing.
- I will start working on a list of “things to remember when I play and DM” regarding characters, actions, and settings - to be more creative with what is happening and intriguing.
- Add back in the actions of the Kobolds in Rise of the Runelords.

What are some of the things that spark your imagination that I could read or that maybe you yourself should start looking at? Any works that I should look at?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What to do next?

When I put my current game on hiatus, I knew I had to get back to the basics. Being a business analyst / consultant, I knew my skills would be needed to put things back the way that I wanted them.

One of the best time management seminars I ever attended was “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”. To cut to the chase, you list out your goals. Each week, you work towards meeting the overall goals by accomplishing some type of related task. That’s easy enough. It simply requires discipline to do it. A trait though that I do not necessarily have but working towards getting better at it.

I told my players:
1) I would like to get out and meet up with different gamers.
2) I want to give something back to gaming and to be more gregarious.
3) I want to explore some new things and find new ideas.
4) I want to develop campaign setting things wherever it may be - Pathfinder setting or my own.
5) I want to study the game a bit more - try some new techniques, products, etc.

All that translates into:
1) Networking with gamers.
2) Be a more gregarious gamer.
3) Improve the gaming experience.
4) Build the castle from long ago and make it work for the players.
5) Use and review new products and ideas; make the game smoother.

Other components would be:
6) Be a better GM (add in more components)
7) Be a better player (find the game I want to play in)

I’ve already started pursing game-networking. I will be meeting up with some old friends later this month. Not as much to talk about old times, but what made gaming so good and how to do it again. Also, I will be attending MEPACON ( in November to see some old friends there, meet some new people, and look for new ideas. As part of that I have been working on Pathfinder Society. I would like to run some events to give back to the hobby that I love so much.

Already, I feel like I am making progress. By the end of this week along with some other blogs, I need to get this gaming room organized. By next week, I want to have some organized thoughts on campaign materials.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Start

In the summer of 1986, I started playing Advanced Dungeons with my cousin John. It has been a remarkable world of fun, adventure, and learning. That same year, I remember sitting in class and study hall working on characters and thinking of dungeons, demons, and dragons being defeated by the +5 Holy Avenger that my paladin wielded, not to be outdone by the Hammer of Thunderbolts wielded by the cleric or the bow wielded by the ranger that made “Hank” from the D&D cartoon look like a chump. We had to make out own monsters from the DMG because – what else could stand to our characters.

What were we after? We were living the dream of doing good deeds, defeating demons (especially Orcus), saving the world, and owning the castle with a horde of money to do even greater deeds.

Twenty-three years later, I still don’t own my castle and for the most part, I don’t see what I fell in love with from the next generation. It seems lost in a feats and maxed-out skills. I remember (or I think I do) having player characters knowing the townsfolk to trust us if framed for a crime we didn’t commit.

Truthfully, I’m not as sharp as I was with the rule system as I once was but more the part of as a player or a DM, I rarely felt the need to come to the table with my “A” game anymore. That was until I went to “Cyrus-Con”. There were “kids” there half my age; ok, they were less than half my age. I came to the table pretty unprepared – still writing up my stats, having to double check my thinking with another player or the book. The DM was an old friend about 8 years younger. I would like to try to take credit and say I taught him some good stuff but he had new and better tricks and he was really prepared; prepared like I was or could get by with.

I realized how relaxed and content I became with my current group. That perhaps online gaming and not needing to be the best DM made me, well, old.

I’ve taken a break from my group and trying to find what I used to do that made me good and also help me get that castle I’ve wanted for so long.