Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DM For Life

There are a lot of people out there talking about a lot of things. People who cast their thoughts and opinions out for all the world to see, and maybe, just maybe, someone will listen. Many of us just hope that our words may reach and inspire so much as a single person. Then, and only then, can we know that it was worth it. On the subject of gaming, there are a few people whose thoughts and opinions really do continue to inspire me. Most of them are close friends, but there are a few industry professionals whose works I do follow. One of my current favorites has been Chris Perkins.

For those who don't know, Christopher Perkins is the Senior Producer for Dungeons and Dragons. He has been writing a column on the D&D homesite since February 2011 entitled The Dungeon Master Experience. He's put it on indefinite hiatus as of last Thursday. I can say right now, I'm gonna miss his posts.

Back before I even knew who the heck this guy was, I ran across a video on YouTube wherein he ran a one-shot for some of the writers for Robot Chicken. I remember hearing in the DM's commentary that "if someone who's never DMed before comes away from these video casts thinking 'that doesn't look hard at all. I want to try running a game.' then I have accomplished something." I'll be the first one to admit that, yes I did think that, and yes I did run a game. Thumbs up to you, sir. Now, many moons later, I find myself re-reading his articles, and being further inspired. Inspired to put more work into my game, and to better craft my campaign worlds. 

Personally I think people like this are important to the hobby. There are too few ready to take up the challenge of running for others, and even fewer ready, willing and able to teach those who came after. Not many of us have someone who'll show us the ropes, and most of us end up thrust upon the mercy of our players. It's an easy job, but a complex one that is more an art than a science, and the benefits of experience are paramount. Every little bit of insight is worth it's weight in gold, and much like currency, it's worth more in circulation than out.

It strikes me that if we want more people to play and more people to DM, there are a few things we can do. Help. Encourage. Inspire. Teach. For you Forever DMs out there, teach someone else how. Show them how things work, and help them through the process. Encourage them to not give up. Failures are going to happen, and that's totally okay. Put some care into your craft and it'll show through, and hopefully inspire others to do the same. The easier it seems, the easier it becomes, and attitude is infectious.

I'm going to keep this one short and end it here, but first some food for thought. Who has inspired you as a DM? What advice would you give to a new gamer looking to DM? And how can you make this look easy to someone totally fresh off the turnip cart?

Until the next encounter, Stay classy!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Getting The Reference

Everybody has their own interests. Sports fans. Motor heads. Geeks. Nerds. Bird watchers. Cinephiles. Gamers. Connoisseurs for every thing that there is to take an interest in. One thing that, in my opinion, separates  the 'nerds' from the rest is reference humor. A kind of secret handshake in it's own respects. A few well placed words to let others know that 'Hey, I saw that movie too!' and 'we have a lot in common, you and I'. Of course nerds are not the only ones to do this, but we seem to have a regular habit of it, and have even turned it into an art-form. Show of hands: how many GMs out there have put a reference into a game they ran? Probably most of you. I know my group does. A lot. And I've made some observations I feel I should share. Indulge me if you will. You may find something useful.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Highlight Reel

So we're in the middle of town square, right. And our holy man decides he's gonna bless the fountain. The whole fountain. Make it one big bowl of holy water. Then, get this, the walking tower of bandages uses it's mummy wrappings to drag the vampire lord into the drink and watch him melt. Wait, wait, I've got another one. So the train is about to explode. right. Too much pressure in the boiler. So what's a cowboy to do? Obviously making a pressure release valve via careful application of ballistics is the right idea. Then boom, train stops. Extra bennie later and the Scottish guy only almost died. In case you are wondering, yes, both events occurred in campaigns I took part in. I just wanted to demonstrate one of my favorite facets of this hobby: The Highlight Reel. This particular form of gaming lends itself exceptionally well to generating stories and anecdotes, many of which would never happen in real life. I'm sure every gamer and his brother has a nifty story about some long and nearly forgotten game he was apart of. And that is the key part. Long after the main events of a game are long since forgotten, something you or someone in the group did was worth remembering. Maybe it was over the top, or truly epic or just really funny, it doesn't matter because it stands out from the rest. I live for these moments, sometimes. 

Here's a simple philosophy regarding methodology: If you can't do something smart, at least do it right. And if you can't do something effective, at least make it memorable. If you at least make it into the highlights, not much else matters. It's a funny thing. I've found that once you commit to this chain of thought, failure doesn't seem like so much of an obstacle, and in rare cases can be a desirable outcome. Or maybe, despite all logic and common sense, you manage to prevail. You may end up looking more badass in the eyes of your peers. Regardless of the outcome, one day you may end up retelling the story, or posting the quotes on a message board, or writing the entire fiasco as a light novella. The important part is that it was awesome and worth telling. Remember, the only difference between genius and insanity is success.

This leads me back to a point mentioned in an earlier post: gaming is a group activity. GMs have total narrative control, so when they bring up stuff they did, it can seem like empty boasting. Players on the other hand usually only worry about the awesome stuff they did. So I ask you... Nay, I challenge you: What awesome things did everyone else in your group do? What was the most memorable thing your GM threw at you? GMs! What kind of stuff did your players do that make you proud to run for them? How awesome are the people you game with? Who made the Highlight Reel?

Until next time: Walk tall. Be proud. Stay classy!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

System Check: HERO 6e

 As I gain more experience with various systems, I figure it's only fair to take a look at them and share my thoughts on how I see them. I'm not a professional reviewer and this only my opinion, so feel free to agree or disagree with me as you will. While it's not the first system I had the opportunity to try out, HERO system's 6th Edition is the one I've had the most exposure to, having participated in two short campaigns and having GMed a third. For those unaware, HERO system is a point-buy system using only D6s (six-sided dice) and all abilities are built right from scratch. This allows for total and complete customization of characters, abilities, worlds, everything. That's right. EVERYTHING. In fact, one of the first things they'll tell you on the forums is that if you ask how to build something and don't get about twelve different answers, wait a little bit longer. This thing is versatile. I mean we're talking about a system where you can build caped crusaders of justice who rely on wits and fancy gadgets, steam-powered hulks of arcane design  and even sentient toasters with abandonment issues. So let's dig into this thing.