Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Games We Play: Technology And Your Game

When I first started role playing, our highest tech was an electric typewriter. Later, I owned an electric typewriter that I could program to print entire character sheets... which I then took to my mother's work to make photocopies of. As time went on, computers entered our lives and we gained access to so much opportunity. The world became our oyster.

In the past, when you wanted to send a discrete message to the GM or other player, you simply wrote it down and passed the note like you were in 6th grade. With the addition of instant messaging (IM) and texting, things became a lot easier.

There were several times where I would use IM to my advantage. Often times, players didn't realize anything was up. With today's smartphones, it's even more discrete. Does this make the game more enjoyable? I think it definitely adds to the game... but as a GM I would advise you to be wary of your players using this too much. I understand multitasking, but often times people get too engrossed in what they're doing on their computer or phone and not concentrating on the game at hand.

Recently, the owner of our cities game store... where we play a weekly game of Pathfinder... asked our group what additions we could come-up with to help make the private game room better. One idea came up that really struck a chord with me, and I have been pondering the idea ever since. The idea was of adding a digital projector to the room. I guess this would be for easily sharing images of characters or perhaps maps of the locale/dungeon. The room already has a couple of white boards on the wall and a large battle map so I'd never even considered a digital projector.

I know that I have some friends that have connected their computers to their large screen television's so they can stream whatever they want from the internet. I've done it a few times myself. There has been the idea that, while I enjoy purchasing laminated city maps to use in my games, the same thing can be accomplished with Google Earth and the aforementioned TV. While I have yet to actually utilize this idea, I look forward to the day I can give it a try and see if it performs to expectations.

I admit that I bring my iPod Touch to the Pathfinder game I'm in. Even though the store we play in doesn't have free wi-fi, I have some great apps that are very useful to someone who only owns the core player's guide. Spellbook helps me keep  wraps on what my Cleric can cast and is a quick reference for what each spell actually does. Dice Bag, for those times when you forget your actual dice... not that I've ever done that. Criticals for people who remember the create critical charts from Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP). The one that I actually had to pay for is called PF RPG rd which includes most of the published Paizo source books that you might need for your game.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where Do You Game?

There are the misconceptions that all role playing happens in someone's Mom's basement or some such. While I have had the occasion to partake in the occasion basement game, more often than not we've generally taken over the dining room table or even a front room with our tabletop games. When I moved to a larger house in high school, I had the entire upstairs to myself... complete with a half-bath. I originally had a large table with chairs setup in the room adjoining my bedroom. This was my little slice of heaven.

When my city gained a new gaming store, there was a back room that we used for many of our games. If the location was better, it would have been perfect. Granted, for many years it was situated between a bar and a liquor store, but there was not much else within short distance. Now that the store has moved to a better location, there are a plethora of options available including a mall within reasonable walking distance.

The back room of this specific store is well suited for our tabletop needs, but it seems like the tables and chairs have been through a great many gamers sitting on them. I'm to understand that the owners of this establishment are looking to replace them at the time of my writing. As it is, the location is ideal, the room is very useful and the fee to use the private room is reasonable.

There is now another gaming store that has rooms available for private use. Sure, this other store is not as convenient to get to and it's only opened recently and is still growing in stock and clientele. The fee's to use the private rooms (yes, multiple rooms are available) are still fairly reasonable... especially if you happen to schedule them in advance... yes, I meant a discount.

The problem of playing in a store that has competition is that you will always find at least 1 person who will put down the other store... asked to or not. I understand competition, but bad-mouthing another store is very disrespectful and it only breeds contempt. When I have a complaint about a specific store, I generally let the management or owner know about it. In this respect, they hear what's wrong and can work to resolve the issue. If the issues are not brought to the attention of the management, then they will never be fixed.

There have been homes that have specific setup's for gaming, and then there are those that simply use a front room where it's comfortable. As much as I like playing at a table, I also enjoy feeling comfortable if I'm going to be spending several hours in a location. For many years, I have dreamed of creating the ultimate gaming nirvana if I were to ever win a large lottery. If I ever do when, you can bet your final dollar that I will post about it here. :-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why Do You Game?

In all the years I've been role playing, I don't think I've ever been asked this question. I have been told that I should play these games, but I've never had someone question my reasons behind my fascination.

I guess I've always had an overgrown sense of wonder and imagination. When I was a child, my first movie experience was the original Star Wars and I think this may have provoked my interest into escapism and fantasy. This was promoted through the ample supply of toys and action figures that pressed my young mind into utilizing my imagination on a regular basis.

The answers are different for every person. Some hope to use it to escape from the banality of real life. Others may use it as a crutch to seem socially active. I'm sure there are those who see gaming as their only method of finding friends. I'll even bet there there are more than a few of the rare gamer girls that will secretly admit that the only reason they game or at least got into gaming is because of a significant other; either boyfriend or girlfriend.

With gamer celebrities like Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton, it has become increasingly popular to be known as a gamer these days. It makes one wonder what brought them to the table.There are now so many different Facebook groups that proclaim "Geeks Are Sexy" and similar notions that stimulate the idea that being a gamer is now considered "cool". 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mortality of Characters

I'll be the first to admit that I often reuse character's. Not just the concept, but the entire character. I have played 1 LARP character in 2 separate chronicles, and there have been a multitude of tabletop characters that I have been able to play again and again.

For the first time in my life, I'm actually taking a Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop character and bringing him to LARP. Unfortunately, this specific character won't convert 100% over to LARP due to the fact that several of the options available through tabletop are not currently available in the MES LARP rules right now. He'll have to be toned down quite a bit, losing starting generation plus a special merit that allowed him to actually have 4 in clan disciplines rather than the normal 3. We'll see how it works out in the end.

It's actually this character that I've brought back time and time again in several tabletop games... both as my PC and as an NPC in games I've run. My ex-wife and I actually went back-and-forth running games that involved this character and one of her design. This created a large arching story which I hope to bring to this blog in the near future. (I'm currently working to get proper permission to use the White Wolf specific terms without infringing on copyright laws.)

Another method of keeping your characters alive is to use them... or variants thereof... as NPC's in your own games. I insert characters from my previous games as NPC's into every game I run. Some may see this as a lazy method of designing your chronicle, but I enjoy reviving the old characters and allowing them to interact with new PC's under new circumstances.

When you run games with a common set of friends, these NPC's spark old memories of games past. I've even taken characters from a modern day game (Vampire: The Masquerade) and inserted a version of them in a fantasy setting (Dungeons & Dragons). This way you not only invigorate the former character, you also have the option to design them anew the way they may have been in a different world.

To give you an example...

A D&D game I ran several years ago was one of my M Night Shyamalan style games where I actually started the game with a twist. I had the players create regular D&D characters that they'd like to play, and the prelude to the actual game went something like this:

"We're all here, sitting at the table and putting the finishing touches on our characters. Each of you have told me you're ready, and I excuse myself to the bathroom before we actually begin. When the door of the bathroom closes behind me, there is a bright flash. When you wake-up, you are lying in a field. As you move around, you don't recognize your surroundings... and you won't seem to recognize your body as you look at it. You are also surrounded by others whom you don't seem to recognize."

The players soon realized that their personal consciousness had been transferred into their characters bodies. Everyone seemed to enjoy the concept, and I inserted character we had each played as NPC's. The one I recall best is my former Tzimisce priest from our Sabbat LARP game was a sorcerer that helped to guide them in their travels. Obviously the powers and abilities of the Tzimisce (mainly the ability to mold flesh and bone) were not converted, which is why I decided to make the NPC version a sorcerer... and less "evil".

I'm sure I'm not the only person who tries to keep a copy of their old characters so they can reminisce when they happily happen across them while cleaning or organizing. I try to re-invent many of these character from time to time. Even though the concepts are old, bringing them back to life helps get the proverbial creative juices flowing.

To date, even though I have had my fair share of LARP character die, I have never had a single one of my tabletop characters die inside of a campaign.