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Archive for December, 2009

I, the guilt party, do henceforth solemnly swear to make a concerted effort to write on a steady basis. I will stop giving head-space to other people’s storylands and expand on my own. I will push my boundaries, and sometimes I will fail, but I will learn something from having gone further than I’ve ever gone before. I will actually get off my butt and exercise . I will change the world, in small mysterious ways.

What’s the point in making resolutions if you don’t dream big? What about you, my faithful lurkers? Any resolutions? If not, why?

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It’s Christmas! That means gamers are running down the stairs, hoping to find something cool under the tree. I did a little poking around online and found some things that any gamer would think was cool. Or, at least, that I think is cool, and most people think are silly. Same thing.

I *LOVE* journals. And this one is a good blend of pretty and nerdy. I approve.

And who wouldn't want this amazing christmas card! Actually, I want one of everything in this store. Except the bugbear shirt. I want two of those.

I just think these are cute. And a way for me to be geeky without anyone at work noticing... too much.

Just so much yes. Seriously, who wouldn't want one of these?

I think that’s enough virtual gift-giving for one day. Merry Christmas, everybody!

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This post started off as a continuation of my earlier post. It’s went through about three revisions when I came to the realization that I kept trying to write on a different subject. So I’m putting aside that particular series for now. Maybe I’ll come back to it, after I’ve laid some more groundwork. Now, onwards to the content!

I’ve been mulling over an idea for the past couple of weeks about what makes a character fun to play. And I kept coming back to one key concept: a character is as only fun to play as the group you’re playing with allows it to be. Group dynamics are everything with role-playing. I’m sure this topic has been beat into the ground, but I can’t resist mulling it over in my mind. In my mind, the concept of the group dynamic can be broken down into several abstract areas. Today, I’m just going to talk about the first area: things ‘allowed’ within the group.
This is an odd area to pin down, because the “rules” are both universal and specific at the same time. For example, it is usually considered bad form to shank the person sitting next to you, regardless if that person took the last diet cola from the fridge. Of course there are exceptions, but “not shanking the person next to you” is generally regarded as A Very Good Idea. From there, the understood norm deviates greatly. It’s the small rules that make up a unique social dynamic, like when is it proper to make “your mom” jokes; if you say “that’s what she said” in front of a certain person, that person reserves the right to hit you; or in-game if the appropriate response to a conflict is to a) try to come to a reasonable compromise or b) kill them all and wear their guts for garters. It’s all very confusing, and can be hard to suss out. So what makes up these unspoken rules, at least in a game?

I’m not entirely sure about the answer, to tell the truth. I’ve never really studied group behaviors, instead focusing on how the individual reacts to the group. So working from that, I keep returning to the Richard A. Bartle theory of types of MUD players. For those of you who find Dr. Bartle’s tl;dr, a summary (and shame on you! It’s an excellent article!).

There are four types of players: Killers, Socializers, Explorers, and Achievers.

It seems pretty simple when stripped down to that bare minimum, but that’s the gist of the article. He talks more about how the different player types interact, and how each of those characters relate to the in-game world.

This is how killers and socializers interact, I imagine. Explorers and achievers I envision as a couple of old-timey British explorers sitting around in a room, smoking pipes, and telling stories about their travels.

So what does this have to do with group dynamics? A socializer wandering into a game centered around getting the ten pieces of the staff of Ra probably won’t have as much fun as they would in a game focusing political intrigue. Conversely, an explorer isn’t going to be enjoying themselves in a generic setting without things to explore, discover and (possibly) exploit. That said, it is possible to balance the needs and interests of different player types, but it can be a bit hairy at times.

I seem to have wandered into a bit of a tangent. Sorry about that. The point I’m trying to make is that the social dynamic is driven in large part by the types of players that make up the group. In a role-playing setting, achievers and killers tend to lean more towards min-maxing, while explorers and socializers prefer more world-building. Of course, this is not the only part, but it’s the foundation stone to the other areas of what make up a group dynamic. I feel like I’ve talked around in circles a bit, but I can’t think of a way to make it any more clear.

When finding a roleplaying group, it’s important to find one that can accomodate your needs as a player. For example, I ran away from 3rd/3.5 edition as fast as my legs would carry me after a rather unfortunate instance with a group of guys who insisted on rules-lawyering EVERYTHING. At one point, they were looking the the PHB to find the rules so our party leader could cleave a hut using his bastard sword. Couple that with one of the guys being THAT creepy guy (female readers will know what I mean. The guy who hits on everything vaguely female in the least flattering way possible). The whole experience soured me on role-playing games for a while. I think that I’m lucky to have found two groups (with possibly a third in the making) that compliment my strengths and weaknesses as a player. And that, along with cheetos and having a good time, is what roleplaying is about, in my book.

As a socializer, I tend to be a bit fuzzier on how the rules and systems of each game work. Luckily for me, I married an achiever/explorer hybrid, and he helps me navigate the rules of the game. Conversely, I tend to work harder at finding out the plot and relationships between characters in-game. Now, this isn’t always true, it’s a very general stereotyping of the situation. But having somebody who understands the unspoken rules and can explain them to the others helps make it a lot more fun.

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Open Thread

Hm, I’m wrestling with a bigger than usual topic at the moment. So it’s open thread time! The topic: what do you want to get out of a game?For myself, I like the social experience. I’m a heart through and through. I’m not very good at the actual game-playing, I’m afraid. Oh, and I like the story. I always want to find out ‘what happens next.’ So what about you guys?

And, so I can pretend that I actually have content, here’s a video of Stephen Lynch singing about D&D.

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The information the party has gathered all points to Rose as being amazingly suspicious. So, in true adventurer fashion, they decide to head to the bar.

At the Bar!

When they arrive at the bar, Rose and Jilad are nowhere to be found. Chuck is behind the counter, humming to himself. The rest of the party is sitting in a corner, trying to gather information from the townsfolk. Plague is still helping out, serving drinks and getting things from the kitchen. Chuck is at the counter, humming to himself. He is doodling on some scrap paper in between filling drink orders. The party decides to talk to Chuck first. Chuck looks up, and smiles at the party. Pentaros looks down and sees that Chuck is crudely drawing a woman. When pressed, Chuck mentions that it’s the woman in red who visits him at night, asking how he is doing. The party kind of looks at each other, confused. When asked further, Chuck can’t really offer too much more information, other than the woman is very pretty, and she said she’d be going away soon. Sensing this is a dead end, Indiriana asks where Rose or Jilad are. Chuck seems confused, since Rose and Plague went into the kitchen together, and Rose hasn’t come out since. This was about an hour ago. The party enters the kitchen, to find Plague there, alone. There are no other exits that the party can see. The party, sensing this is a plot point that something very wrong was going on, indeed, decide to restrain Plague. No sooner than they get the ropes out, Plague disappears, leaving the party to wonder WTF is going on.

Not knowing what else to do, Israfel decides to hide under Chuck’s bed to see if he can meet this mysterious woman in red. Somehow managing not to fail his boredom rolls, Israfel does meet the woman in red, but only to see her vanish before his eyes. The rest of the party heads to Jilad’s place, hoping for some answers.

A Rush of Answers

At this point, I was going to be unavailable to DM for a month, so I kind of had to rush all the answers together. Yeah, my bad. The party faces their biggest challenge yet: The Info Dump. When the party reaches the hut, they see Jilad there, alone. Jilad assures them that Plague is unharmed. He then proceeds to talk for a solid five minutes. The story, in short, is that the Sheriff and Ren raped and beat the real Rose badly, leaving her brain damaged and preggers. The witch woman, Shirley, did nothing to help after the fact. As an act of vengence, Jilad summoned a succubus to impersonate Rose and kill the sheriff and author. She killed the sheriff with her bare hands, and then covered her tracks with blood from Ren’s slaughtered pig. She then compelled the witch woman to stab herself in the eyes while Shirley was in a trance. Finally, while Ren was in a drunken stupor, grieving over his lost pig, “Rose” used her compulsion to convince him to kill himself. However, even a succubus can feel guilt at times, so she checked in on Chuck to make sure he was doing all right.

The party was kind of at a loss for a moment, but Cedrick, the paladin, really came through at this moment. We didn’t really have time for a fight, so he came up with the best solution possible. Best of all, it was all something that Cedrick would have said. In short, since Cedrick knew that they’d be unable to actually kill the succubus (a little bit of the overly-helpful DM threw in), he devised a plan that would let everybody ‘out.’ Jilad than shape-shifted back to “Rose” and opened up a trap door hidden under the rug. Plague, Jilad, the real Rose and her child are all safe and sound, chatting amongst themselves.

RESOLUTION!!

Rose goes back to the bar to attend to her business. The party waits until nightfall, when Cedrick comes bursting in, yelling something about “infernal hellspawn” and “being of darkness.” She angrily transforms into a scary generic demon form, and screams. With that, he rushes her, and stabs her with his sword. She vanishes, the mayor awards the party a good amount of gold, and Rose and Jilad head off somewhere to start a new life.  A happy ending, all contrived because we managed to cram 3 hours of adventuring into about 45 minutes. Woooo!

I’ll do a run down of what worked and what didn’t next time. I learned a lot from this campaign, and I really did have a lot of fun building it. Cheers.


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Hiatus!

Life is kind of crazy until the end of next week, so expect the thrilling conclusion of “Murder, Most Foul” on Monday. Until then, look! A picture! Or rather, like so many things, a work in progress. Until Monday…

Bimbi is as shocked and appalled as you are

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