Day 18 R is for RPG

April 21, 2014
April 21, 2014

RPG stands for Role Playing Game.

The quickest way to describe it is “Make believe with rules and dice.” There are some RPGs that don’t use dice, so they can be described as “Make believe with rules.”

If you ever played Cops & Robbers as children, you know how to play make believe.

RPGs take our ability to pretend to be someone else and give it a context, i.e. fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, etc., and rules.

The rules describe what your character can do and different games have different ways of doing that.

D&D is the best known example. You are a player and you generate a character. You roll dice to determine the character’s strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, and charisma. Based on the scores for each ability, you can choose different races, human, elf, half-elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling, and half-orc; and different classes: cleric, druid, fighter, paladin, ranger, magic-user, illusionist, thief, assassin, or monk.

You then determine a name and depending on the style of play, you develop a back story, or just start playing.

The level of role playing is up to you. Some people are more comfortable saying what their character does in the third person and do not have a voice to go with it. Others will talk differently and say things in the first person, as if, they were that character, much like in cops and robbers or an actor on stage or screen.

The key to RPGs is having fun. There may be several rule books over hundreds of pages, but if the mechanics of following the rules gets in the way, toss our what isn’t fun. If you are not having fun, then you aren’t doing it right.

Space Nazis – Iron Sky

I just watched the movie Iron Sky.  the premise is that the Nazis retreated to the moon in 1945, and a US mission to the moon in 2018 reveals them.

It was better than I expected. It is a comedy/farce, with the feel of a WWII movie mixed in with a bit of 007, and a dash of the advertising/propaganda business.

It was produced in Finland, Germany, Australia, and New York. It pokes fun at Nazis, America, and the UN. The UN is renamed in the movie to something else, but is a stand in for the UN.

It reveals how the rest of the world views Americans as warmongers, and not much better than the Nazis. Unfortunately, we Americans have let our leaders piss off the rest of the world so much that we need the military we have to keep them at bay.

I won’t delve into the politics further here. As an American, if you can just let the jabs at America pass, you can enjoy this movie.

Day 17 Q is For Quills

April 19, 2014
April 19, 2014

Quills, short for quils pen, are ink pens made from the feathers of a bird in our world. In the world of fantasy RPGs like D&D, a magic quill is needed for making scrolls that have magic spells. Quills for inscribing these come from magical creatures, like gryphons or pegasi. Some such quills might be collected by elves and then sold for a high fee. Other quills might come from more dangerous creatures that require the creature to be tracked down and slain to collect all its feathers, not just the ones that fall to the ground.

For some DMs, a single feather can be used to scribe a single scroll or a single page in a spell book.

It all depends on how the DM wants things to work in his campaign. Some DMs may not worry about this aspect of it, or it may only be an issue for making scrolls, or only for the most powerful of spells.

Day 16 P is for Players

April 18, 2014
April 18, 2014

Players are the people who generate characters and role play those characters in the world presented by the DM or GM.

Without players, the work of a DM will never see the light of day.

A game can be run with a single player, but usually two or three is considered a small game. Many GM’s will not want to run games with more than 8 or 9 players at once. However, there are stories of some DM’s running games with a dozen players at once. Personally, I prefer being a player in games from one to six players. Larger than that seems unwieldy.

In the world of the internet and using Google+ and a Virtual Table Top (VTT), the number of players can be limited by the technology. In the campaign I am playing in we have the DM and seven players. We use Google+ and the Roll20 VTT. We do not use video to speed things up, so it is like a voice conference call. We use Roll20 for dice rolls, intitiative, and showing the position of the players. There is no map. This is very close to how I started playing D&D, so other than the seeing the reaction on other’s faces, is very much like an in-person game.

Day 15 O is for Orcs

April 17, 2014
April 17, 2014

Orcs are not just something from Tolkien. In the Silmarilion, we learn that orcs are created from tortured and corrupted elves.

In D&D orcs have an influence from Tolkien, but the word is from Orcus, for an ancient diety of the underworld. It is also connected to ogre. In D&D, Orcus is used as the name of the ruler of the undead, skeletons, zombies, wights, vampires, etc.

In the Monster Manual, the classic illustration are of creatures that appear to have the head of a pig.

If you have ever seen Return of the Jedi, the Gamorrean Guards reminded me of the D&D orcs. Players from my era think of D&D orcs when they see the Gamorrean Guards. Too funny.


Day 14 N is for NPC

April 16, 2014
April 16, 2014

A Non-Player Character (NPC), are all of the people and creatures the players encounter in the world presented by the GM. The GM must portray all of the NPCs.

Different GMs do this differently. Some merely portray them by the way the NPC describes things and using a standard vocabulary for a given type of NPC, like town guards.

Ohter GMs go all out and get into doing voices and facial expressions and the whole nine yards, much like a parent does when reading a bedtime story.

There is no right way for the GM to portray an NPC. As long as the players know which NPC they are talking to and everyone is having fun, you are doing it right.

Day 13 M is for Maps

April 15, 2014
April 15, 2014

Maps are a valuable tool in RPGs. They can be maps of a world and its continents, geography, political divisions, and dungeons. Or for a science fiction RPG can be a map of the star sector and the planets round there that players explore.

The most iconic map is the dungeon map as made famous by D&D.

Usually, the dungeon map is a map of the place the characters will explore. Usually, only the DM ever gets to see the dungeon map. The players may or may not have to map the dungeon, depending on how the DM wants to do things. If the dungeon is mapped, one player is designated the mapper and must draw a map from the verbal description of the DM. Most often this is done using graph paper.

Other types of maps analogous to the dungeon, might be above ground ruins, or a cave complex, or an adventure in a town or city.

Players may only get a glimpse of the world map in a D&D setting, but in a science fiction setting, they can look out the window and see the planet, or access a map easily enough.

In a fantasy RPG a treasure map is the best kind of map, assuming the player’s can read it and find the treasure to which it points. If they find the location, is the treasure still there?

Day 12 L is for Limits

April 14, 2014
April 14, 2014

I find it hardest to limit myself in preparing a campaign. I get so wrapped up in searching online for ideas for tables for different situations and ideas for maps and encounters and adventures and general and specific world building, that I don’t get the smallest part done, a prepared adventure/dungeon/sandbox for the players to get started.

The advent of the internet and access to world wide RPG players and there ideas is a gold mine of ideas. There are just too many ideas to choose just one.

A GM must force themselves to focus and limit their development of the game to what is most needed by the players. If the adventures and monsters are planned and prepared for the area the players are in currently, then expand and add all the bells and whistles.

Time for preparation is limited, so one must limit their research and focus on the parts that require immediate attention for play.

Day 11 K is for Kobolds

April 12, 2014
April 12, 2014

Kobolds are iconic D&D creatures. They are intelligent but weak, and are typically encountered by starting characters to work their way up to bigger and badder monsters.

Kobolds are creatures from Germanic mythology and have been equated with goblins, or other mythological creatures.

In D&D terms there are lizard like humanoids. Some DM’s make them organized to the point of being a great challenge to even the toughest player characters.

One very famous group of koblods, Tucker’s Kobolds, were discussed in an edition of Dragon Magazine.

Day 10 J is for Jerk

April 11, 2014
April 11, 2014

Jerks are a common theme in RPGs. Whether the DM is a jerk or a given player is a jerk, can ruin a session or a game. If the DM is always a jerk, he will have a hard time finding and keeping players. If a player is a jerk, he will have a hard time finding a DM and group of players that will put up with him.

Back in the old days, it was usually the nerds getting away from the jocks who were jerks, but there were some players who could fill that role all to well.

Within role playing, a character or NPC can be a jerk. It adds to the realism when the NPC with information is a jerk and you have to play “that game” as you role play the interaction between the player character(s) and NPC(s).

May all the jerks in your life only be in the context of role playing and all in having fun; and not the kind that suck the joy out of life.