Random RPG Thoughts #5: Responding to Zak's Questions

Why not! Here's my 23 cents on Zak's Q.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
Embedding the player characters in the world, giving them powerful positions with quite some responsibilities as well. Taking care they have families or friends, or both to care for, contacts who work with them, organisations that work for or with them. Makes the game completely different.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
Yesterday. I planned to go to a friend's birthday, but we were sort of snowed in. The session was somewhat unusual, as the player characters set up some embassies in other cities. Also they engaged a non player party of Romagnese warriors to act as their private vampyre hunter party. These hunters then were sent out to pester and exterminate some of their foes.

3. When was the last time you played?
Almost two weeks ago. I played the captain of an experimental sailing ship with what you might call limited warp capability. I started near Europe and ended up near New Zealand. My captain still has to find out. But the time before that was about a year and a half before that. I try to master at least a few times a month, but playing happens seldomly.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

You find yourselves lying on the wet pavement, and have no idea who you are, or why, when sirens wail and sounds of gunfire come your way.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Think of what the non player characters and organisations are up to. Go to the toilet. Eat something. Or else stir up things by throwing in some action, or let one of their friendly NPC helpers say something helpful or odd.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

High quisine, if possible. My wife is an excellent cook, and some of my players aren't bad either. Actually, I cook fairly well if I do, too.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

Usually I find it invigorating, except when we go on too long, in which case I need a lot of sleep afterwards. Sleep which may be hard to get once my daughters wake up at 0600.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
Keeping my ships crew alert and courageous as we entered a rather scary warp gate.
9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
If I'm lucky I am in sync with my players. But once in a while my serious mafia movie setting may turn into a silly comedy styled like Allo Allo or Blackadder. Usually the same couple of players who do that...

10. What do you do with goblins?
Seldomly use them. The closest thing I used recently is another version of orcs, where the orc women are in fact rather beautiful and hard to distinguish from straight humans.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
The last? I turn about everything I find in history into gaming material! I think the last big thing was introducing a train and train tunnel into my fantasy campaign - which starts to evolve more and more into something steampunkish.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

There must be zillions. But the first that comes up is how (this is 1985 or so!) sorceress Ben da Blop teleports over a chasm five foot wide, and rolls six consecutive ones on a d20. And a one is a fumble in our game. So I figured she teleported herself straight into the rock.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
James M's 1000 suns on RPGNow. To see if I might buy it, as a Traveller fan. From my shelves I think it was the Talislanta hardcover. Still haven't played this Vancian style game, but think it's the most inspiring game book around.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

Perfect? I think there are many great illustrators and illustrating styles. Actually I'd like my rulebooks with more pictures than rules sometimes. I'm not too thrilled by very graphic violence however. Most of the time.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

Yes. Including nightmares. Or lasting moral dilemmas. Although that last one was perhaps a bit too heavy. Fortunally I also run quite a few lighter games.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

Doing Tomb of Horrors. Loooooong ago.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

Is that a live game or a table top game? Or a semi-live game? Best set up is a warm location, with good food, a big empty tabletop, and enough good chairs. Like a big kitchen table. And a place where the GM can sit at the short end of the table and see all players well.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

Brothers in Arms squad based first person shooter, and Dungeons & Dragons. Or maybe the original Monopoly (and I don't mean the Parker brothers rip off, but the "Landlords Game" - look it up, it's really an amazing story! I'll write about it another time), and Call of Cthulhu.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

I think that's paranormal experiences like seeing ghosts or having past life memories on one side, at the very least as concepts, and real life history and economic crises on the other side. Maybe you can understand that real life ghosts (if you want to believe in that) fit well in a fantasy game. Economic crisis? Think of the immense debts Charles V of Habsburg incurred to get him elected as emperor. After that he had to go to war endlessly to pay off these debts, but of course... the wars only incurred more debt. My pcs try to unweave the tangled web foreign bankers and vampyres made for their emperor. That's my setting.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

Players who make up their own plans and adventure goals, players who like real history, players who like acting, players who love knowing and learning things. Friends. A mix of women and men at the same table.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

Many of my holiday frustrations end up in the game. Both situations and non player characters. Often if an NPC is really annoying, like the lady who refuses to let you go to the toilet because you're not a client, or the cops that stop you just to fine you for an extra fifty bucks because you don't have all day lighting on your vehicle... then my players know to ask if that's from my last vacations.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
A role playing game that "normal people" would willingly play, as a parlour game. If possible, with the game master role passing from one player to the next in the same game. I guess I have to design it myself :-)

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
Yes, my parents. They're mightily intrigued. Still. Even if I'm a forty-something teenager now, and my parents are seventy-somethings. But I guess they still haven't got any idea how a game really goes.

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