Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gaming as Therapy

As many of my close friends can attest, I am an introvert and like to observe more than participate. I generally start characters who don't get into the middle of things and are not openly aggressive. My characters tend to start out as wallflowers and "blossom" from there as the game progresses. To me, this is very therapeutic from the day-to-day stressors of real life.

I know that there have been several crimes that have been directly or indirectly tied to gaming; from tabletop RPG's to MMORPG's. I can understand how gaming could have such an effect on someones mind, and this is why there are so many games with disclaimers on them. If a person lacks the mental or social discipline to treat this games as just a game, they should probably no partake in them. I have seen my fair share of people who have played the games and thought that the game world was their real world, and it scares me. So far, these people I've witnessed have not gone so far as to become destructive.

For me, gaming is a stress release. If I let all the stress I normally endure during a normal week build-up with no release, my head would explode. I play RPG's, LARP and video games so that I don't become a "disgruntled postal employee". For those that know me in real life, I generally project a calm demeanor and let most things slide off of me like water off a duck's back. While inside, I may be raging to kick someone's ass at whatever insult they may have lobbed my direction or some new way to get under my skin. It's a good thing I didn't take to chemistry when I was in high school for fear I'd work to develop a Jekyll and Hyde concoction.

I deal with in-game stress easier than I think most of my friends do. Recently, I've had several players communicate that they were sorry about an argument that took place in game. I understand that they didn't want me upset that it took a great deal of actual game time, but what they failed to understand in return is that disagreements and arguments are a way of life. I learn a great deal from fellow players by how they react to in-game opposition. As heated as some of the arguments may get, I never find myself taking an issue with it outside of the actual game and I try not to let it have an effect on me.

I game so I can de-stress, and this is a therapy for me. It's not all about escapism... even though that helps in the therapy. I also don't feel that I need a game to occupy what little free time I have in my life. If I didn't have my current responsibilities with my LARP group, I would probably have a relatively relaxful life. I guess that at that point I would have to game just for fun!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Games We Play: Customizing Your CCG's

When I was regularly playing Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, I found an interesting site that provided instructions for creating customized cards for the game. I thought this was a unique idea and went for a ride with it. I was able to create cards based on some of my past and present character in the various Vampire: The Masquerade games I've played... including the Camarilla LARP games. Here are a few of the cards I've designed based off my personal characters:

Anthony G. Keel- This was one of my LARP PC's. He was a part of a large and somewhat infamous Ventrue family known as the Keel's. His backstory was that he used to be a member of the Giovanni family and was taken by his sire before he received the proxy kiss.

Erika Kekman- Those people that know me know that my favorite vampire clan are the Tzimisce. Erika was an NPC I developed for a game with my ex-wife and some friends. As I recall, she quickly became a thorn in the side of all the PC's.

Simon Archard- Probably one of my favorite character's from Vampire: The Masquerade. I have used him as an NPC in several of my tabletop games, and I'm currently working to develop him into a LARP character for the next Mind's Eye Society chronicle. There is a long story behind Simon, and I've recently decided to try and write his story for possible publication.

Alexander Bennette- This is another of my NPC's from the same game that I used Erika in. You can see, from their respective titles, that I played Chicago as a contested city. Considering that one of the PC's was Alexander's childe, this provided a great deal of drama for the game.

Khalid- Another of my NPC's from the Chicago-based game. He became more of a key player in the political scene that I had originally intended. This was primarily due to Alexander's childe bonding with Khalid. A young Toreador bonding with a Nosferatu. If you know the clans, you'll understand the strangeness.

Hiroko "Blade" Takano- For the Cam/Anarch side of things, "Blade" was probably my favorite LARP character in the Camarilla organization. I designed him as a weapons dealer, and with a couple of friends, we created the Takano family that spanned across the United States and even crossed venues. There were several Takano in the Cam/Anarch venue, but there were also numbers in Sabbat, Werewolf and even 1 Changeling. In time, I hope to again develop this Japanese family for use in the Mind's Eye Society.

Dakota Black- This was my first actual LARP character. He originally was a Tremere, but was soon adopted into the Brujah clan to help save him from the Tremere. Playing Dakota was the best times I had before the 4.0 chronicle for the Camarilla organization. I traveled up and down the Willamette Valley to play this character. That was back when such inter-Domain gameplay was promoted. Now, there is very little reason... outside of getting together with friends in other cities... to travel for other games. This is one of the several reasons why I'm considering dropping LARP from my list of social obligations. We'll see.

Azima- A counterpoint to Erika in my Chicago game. I'll be honest, I don't remember much about her character, but I do remember that the concept for her was based off of an old Dark Ages character I played.

If you're interested in creating your own Vampire: The Eternal Struggle cards, this site is a great resource... even though it's out of date:

Damnans' VTES Page

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tabeltop vs LARP

Certain things have started me to think strongly about my desire of playing in a live action setting versus your traditional tabletop game, and I thought I would share some of these thoughts and feelings. I welcome any and all comments and opinions on the subject. (FYI- My basis for the LARP pros and cons are based off of my experiences with the Camarilla/Mind's Eye Society.)


  • Familiarity with rules. In all of the tabletop games I've played over the years, I have never had to create a large document to explain a multitude of house rules. When I've had house rules, it's usually limited to a single page.
  • Easy access to rule and setting material. I know that with e-books this becomes less of an issue, but some people (like myself) don't have a tablet/e-reader to take full use of this resource. Most of the tabletop games I've participated in are art a friends house (or my own) where the books are available.
  • No need for cosplay. As much as I appreciate watching people who costume well, I am a cosplay slacker.
  • Dice versus RPS. As I am a traditionalist, I prefer the feel of dice over the cold nature of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Besides, there is an element of psychology in RPS that is taken away when you utilize dice. It evens the playing field.
  • Single source for rules clarifications. I think this is self-explanatory.
  • More intimate setting. What I mean with this is that generally you play a tabletop game with a group of friends.
  • More options available for holding game. It's a great deal easier to host a tabletop game than a LARP. Most 24-hour restaurants will let you stay there for however long you need as long as you're a paying customer. Some game stores even have a room or space that can be used for such a game. Many players even appreciate having people over at their house/apartment for game.
  • The feeling you need to bring snacks/drinks. This has always been an element of stress for many games I've participated in. Often times there are people who feel obligated to bring food or drink for the others, and occasionally the host feels obligated to prepare a meal for those invited. This becomes an element of undue and unspoken stress for all parties.
  • Kids. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate children... especially when they can go back to their parents in the end. :) There have been too many times where children have become a large source of unnecessary stress. Some times parent's feel as though the host's home is like a Chuck E Cheese's and they can just drop them off and forget about them. If the children are old enough and mature enough to participate in the game, this becomes somewhat moot. I won't even go into the topic of children being mobile incubators for vile strains of sickness and plague.

  • Cosplay. As I said before, I do appreciate those people who can cosplay well.
  • No kids. Some are good for LARP, some are not.
  • Number of people. Generally, a LARP game can accommodate more players. This is, in part, due to player driven plot and additional ST's. I have my thoughts about adapting this in tabletop play. (I smell another subject for another post in the future.)
  • Cosplay. As I said before, I'm a cosplay slacker, so for me this is both pro and con.
  • Rules being changed. In the Camarilla/MES, there is not a single person who can make strong rules clarifications at games. Yes, the presiding ST can enforce their specific ruling but are accountable to people higher in their chain of command. In my time since 2011, there have been numerous changes to the rules for one reason or another. There was even an occasion where the rules were changed in a manner of a week or less. This is not ideal (IMHO) for a global organization or even simply a national game. This actually goes for rules surrounding game as well as the out of game rules about earning prestige and advancing in member class.
  • Monthly reports. For people who old a primary coordinator or storyteller position within the Camarilla or MES organization, you are expected to provide a report on a monthly basis to the next level above your station. (i.e. VST report to DST. DST to RST. RST to NST.) For some people, this is problematic and they choose not to deal with it. My personal opinion is that if you don't want to do everything that is your responsibility, you shouldn't volunteer for the position.
  • Not a closed environment. In tabletop, you generally invite people who are your friends or those who are compatible with your play style. In the Camarilla/MES organization, you have people that are your friends and people you may not care for in your games. There are also those that are very socially awkward or extremely shy that simply hang around and view rather than take part in the game. On the rare occasion, there is also unstable element that could easily turn your well-designed evening of fun into a crime scene.
  • Finding a stable site location for games. When I began LARPing in 1996, we had a single location for our games and we appreciated it. Yes, it was outdoors but we didn't mind as much back then. Eventually, we got an indoor site at the same location. When the city decided to re-carpet that indoor location, we were forced to go back outside. In 2011, we evidently got thin-skinned at unused to the cold and wet weather our locale offers on a regular basis. We were fortunate to find an indoor location for the Winter of 2011-12, but that location was not available to us for the Winter of 2012-13. There are few locations that can support the number of people we have AND allow a group of live action role players who are acting like vampires AND stay open until midnight. As of this writing, we have only cancelled 1 game due to lack of location so far. I do concede that having a LARP game at someones house is an option, but sometimes not a viable option for those who cannot travel or have issues with being at someones home.
  • Prestige and Member Class. Yes, I put this as a con because there are those that feel that acquiring prestige and advancing their Member Class is everything. Yes, the Camarilla/MES is an organization based around helping the community and we try to do our part. Since I became the Domain Coordinator for my Domain, we've earned enough money to donate a new XBox 360 to the Children's Cancer Association and we've made a fair donation to the Keizer Food Share. Most of the people who donated for the XBox weren't thinking about earning prestige, and that's the way it should be. The problem is that to advance in Member Class, and thus providing a better start for your characters, you need to earn varying amounts of prestige. When you've earned enough to advance your MC, you receive a special benefit to your characters. It is very easy to simply buy your prestige for those who have the desire and money. This has been a topic of much debate for most of my time with the Camarilla/MES, and I seriously doubt it will end any time soon.
I'd like to mention that this is obviously not all the Pro's and Con's for each style of play and that with each pro or con, there can be a different way of viewing it to turn it to the opposite. Also, these are my opinions and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of other people nor are they meant to slight the Mind's Eye Society or its membership.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Collect vs Play

I know this rings true more for CCG's and miniature games than RPG's, but I thought I would tap into the debate of collecting versus playing.

When I first started my foray into CCG's, I thought I was buying them to play. I wanted a sizable collection so that I had several different cards to chose from to make decks. When games like Star Trek and Star Wars were released, then I wanted to make sure I had the cards of the primary and familiar characters. Occasionally, I even bought certain cards because I appreciated their artwork. NéNé Thomas and Quinton Hoover provide 2 of the most breathtaking pieces from when I originally collected Magic the Gathering.
Little did I know that I was actually buying to collect and then try to gain value on the more rare cards in my collection. All that time sorting out the rares and uncommons from the commons and putting them into plastic 9-pocket sheets in 3-ring binders just made it that more easy to sell them.

That's the trick with CCG's. That first "C" stands for collectible, and therefore it gives you the impulse to buy more to be able to complete your collection. You trade with your friends to get the cards you need, but that is never enough. This leads you to try and sell your cards so that you can purchase those you need. It's an endless, vicious cycle.

In all the CCG's I've collected over the years, I have never just purchased the cards to play... that is until recently. With my renewed interest in Star Trek and Star Wars (both the Decipher versions), I have found myself collecting just to play. Yes, there have been a few cards that I've found while organizing my collections, but it's only been the foil cards that I don't see a reason to keep when I have perfectly good regular versions of them. I sell the foils that I don't play with to help pay for the cards that I do use. I feel that I have found a balance.

I do think that CCG packs should come with the same warning that I've seen with the lottery: they are for entertainment purposes only and not meant to be an investment. I know that there are people that purchased boxes of cards in the early days of Magic the Gathering that have definitely earned a great deal of value, but I don't honestly see that happening again in my lifetime. Only time will tell.