Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reverb Gamers #20 - #31

Reverb Gamers is a project from Atlas Games that includes 31 question prompts to kick off gaming in 2012. It gives a structure to gaming conversations and asks all the right questions. My plan is to do at least 2 questions a week starting here. Also, check out @ReverbGamers on twitter or check it out on Facebook to keep the conversation going.
In an attempt to catch up a bit, I'm doing these in bulk.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #20: What was the most memorable character death you've ever
experienced? What makes it stick with you?

The most memorable death is a relatively recent death and wasn't one of mine.

In Star Wars Saga RPG, I was gamemastering the Dawn of Defiance campaign for my friends. The group of  proto-rebels were deep in Imperial territory on Coruscant. And they were in the skyscraper fortress tower of the Inquisitorus. As the tower began to fall, the resident scoundrel, Jaster, decided the best thing to do was to make sure his friends and the scientists they were sent to rescue were safe. Unfortunately for Jaster, despite securing everyone in pods that would inevitably keep them alive for the fall of a couple hundred stories, he had only his jetpack to keep him alive, and it was out of fuel. Jaster fell to the ground and severl thousands of tons of building fell on him.

Heroic deaths are always the best in an RPG, and the group felt like it was missing something without Jaster, despite the fact that his player built a new character to keep playing. I've seen many other character deaths in my years of gaming, but Jaster riding a building down to his own end remains my favorite.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #21: What's the best bribe you've ever given (or received as) a GM? What did you get (give) for it?

I'm not above doing art for the group or miniatures if it nets me extra XP, but I've rarely been bribed as a GM. Sure people have given me food for game, and I am always willing to give a reroll or some lesser reward.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #22: Describe the worst game you've ever played in. What made it so bad? Did your fellow players help, or make it worse?

I cannot blame the game, but I played an absolutely horrid game of D&D at I*CON one year in the RPGA room. It was an intro adventure to the then living campaign (Forgotten Realms, I think). I remember a game with dire cows and other insipid monsters, and it COULD have been funny, or at least fun. But the people that were running it.. Gods, it was boring as watching tar fill the gaps in a street.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #23: Have you ever experienced Total Party Kill (TPK), or been close to it? What effect did that have on you personally? On your group of players? Have you ever used retroactive continuity (retcon) to save yourself? Why or why not?

Actually, I just had my first TPK as a gamemaster recently. The party had stumbled across an angry Will 'O Wisp. Despite several ways to stay alive, a mixture of bad tactics and bad dice rolling cost the party their healer first. The rest followed within five turns after. I cheered inwardly at the genocide, but it was the end of the campaign as a result. Oh sure, I could have retconned it, but I have a rule. Unless you are a complete moron, I won't let you die in the first adventure, but from that point on it's no holds barred. That first adventure prepares you for the level of lethality to come, so despite it meaning the end of the campaign, it was a rule I stood by. I was even rolling in front of the players so I couldn't fudge the rolls to keep them alive.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #24: Have you ever been to a game convention? What was it like to be surrounded by so many other gamers? If not, would you like to go to one? Why or why not?

We regularly attend Origins Game Fair in Columbus and Gencon in Indianapolis both as representatives of Slugfest Games as well as on our own. Of course, I could take the low road and make the obligatory smelly gamer joke, but honestly, it's great to be among people with the same interests as myself. Knowing at any moment, I can sit down and play any game I choose, it's a little like nerdly heaven. Yeah, there's work and I spend more time like a zombie in my exhaustion than I'd like, but such is life.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #25: If you game enough, you're bound to run into someone being an ass. What's the most asinine thing someone's done in a game with you? How did you react? Did that experience change the way you game?

I used to game with a guy named Pete. I can tell Pete stories all day, because the man made some terrible, terrible decisions: in life as well as game. There were times he got bored so blindly ran into battle with Lone Star forcing us to fight off the cops just to pull his character, Rook's, miserable ass out of the fray. There were times he would speak up in tense negotiations only to make it all go to pot.

Yet we kept him around. Despite bing an ass, as a group we were able to sit back and laugh at him- often to his face. Sure, there were times we wanted to kill him, but as a whole, we were tolerant of him.

It did make me judge my gaming companions more thoroughly in the years that have passed, but that's no surprise.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #26: Who or what was the most memorable NPC you've ever encountered? Why?

Maybe I have short term memory only... but the only one that stands out is from a couple years ago. Long before he became the leader of The Shadow Lodge in Pathfinder Society Games, the information broker Grandmaster Torch was always a fun character to meet or control as a GM.

Pompous and less than magnanimous, Torch played PC's like chess pieces and ruled Absalom's underworld with a smirk, wink, and fire. He was scarred and burned on half his face, but used it more to intimidate than to make others feel sorry for him. And he was never really an ally, but often players had to meet with him to learn more about the goings on in Absalom.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #27: If you were an Ent, what kind of Ent would you be? Or, what other NPC creature would you be? Why?

An Ent? interesting question...  I suppose I'd be a willow: Big and bowed to protect the little things beneath my leaves. Bendable in the wind, but solid as oak in my trunk. Slow to move, but quick to change, full of beauty in unconventional ways.

Or maybe I just like that tree.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #28: Do you have any house rules when you game? What are they, and why do you use them? If not, why not?

Our favorite house rule regards hit points when advancing in d20 games. The Gamemaster rolls a hit die in secret for the players as they advance. When the player rolls his HP, if he doesn't like it, he has the option of using the GM's roll instead. However, since the GM rolled in secret, they might end up with a lower roll. Regardless, if they choose to go with the GM's roll, they have to keep that number even if it is lower.

I don't know why I started this house rule, It just came out when playing Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 in the early 2000's and as I went from game group to game group, it followed. It even happens in d20 games I don't run now.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #29: What does the word "gamer" mean to you? Is that different than what other people seem to think it means? 

The word gamer, to me, means anyone that likes there entertainment with a healthy does of rules. It doesn't matter the medium, board, rpg, video game, all have rules and attract similar aspects of the player.

Game has a different meaning to the world at large. Images of fat, smelly, uncouth guys comes to mind rather than everyone and anyone that lets themselves enjoy games of role, board, card, and video.

Their loss, not ours.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #30: What lessons have you taken from gaming that you can apply to your real life?

Tolerance, to think before I leap, and never trust in luck alone. Luck is a traitorous, jealous temptress and she'll screw you every time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #31: How would your life be different if you'd never gotten into gaming?

Gaming has been a very large part of my life for many many years so it's hard to imagine. When I wanted something to take the place of other addictions, gaming was there for me to dive in. And my dreams, of writing in the industry I love? Yep, I'm there now.. so wow. Where would I be without something that so defines me?

I wouldn't be writing, that's for sure. Gaming pulled that out of me and made it important. I'd still draw and paint, but my subject matter would inevitably be different. I think the better question would be "How would I be different" rather than my life.

And I would be someone else entirely.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reverb Gamers #11 - #19

Reverb Gamers is a project from Atlas Games that includes 31 question prompts to kick off gaming in 2012. It gives a structure to gaming conversations and asks all the right questions. My plan is to do at least 2 questions a week starting here. Also, check out @ReverbGamers on twitter or check it out on Facebook to keep the conversation going.
In an attempt to catch up a bit, I'm gonna be doing these in bulk.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #11: Have you ever played a character that was morally gray, or actually evil? Why or why not? If yes, did you enjoy it?

That's a bit of a weighted question. I played Shadowrun and White Wolf games quite a bit in the 90's so evil/morally grey.. it's a bit of a given. Shadowrunners tend to be thieves, thugs, and corporate terrorists. They are driven by the almighty nuyen (or dollar for the unawakened) and can always be bought. In white wolf games, you are literally that thing that goes bump in the night. No one is a good guy- at least until the Hunter game came out. So both games really force you into that role.

However, in games where the choice was more mine, from Dungeons and Dragons to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I generally tread on the side of the angels. Oh don't get me wrong, No one is pure and true so there was a bit of moral flexibility, but rarely would I cross over evil's threshold. It's not that I don't enjoy those types of characters, in fact in most stories, the villain is the more interesting character; it's just that I prefer the role of the hero. I'd rather be lauded than derided. 

Maybe it's just me.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #12: Do prefer collaborative or competitive games? What do you think that says about you?

Collaborative. I like both types and enjoy the rush of crushing my opponent, but I prefer the feeling of achieving a goal alongside a friend or three. I'm sure it's more or less related to my enjoyment of the social aspects of gaming. But winning a game of Shadows Over Camelot with my friends or losing to the timer in Pandemic or to the Count in Castle Ravenloft is much more fun and brings us together more as a group than facing off in a game of Diplomacy or the like.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #13: Who's the best GM/storyteller/party leader you've ever had? What made him/her so great?

This is a tough call because so many of the GM's I've played with have so many varied strengths. Some are more knowledgeable, some fall into their roles like they were born for them. It's a very subjective matter.

I'd probably go with one of my current GM's, Adam, as my favorite depending on the situation. When he is in his element (dark tales with political intrigue and things that go bump in the night), he is the bees knees. He uses voices and accents drawing on his acting past, and sets a scene very well. It's pretty impressive, but Adam's success really depend on the world and system. Like anyone, there are times when he's off, but it in no way makes him a bad GM.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #14: What kinds of adventures do you enjoy most? Dungeon crawls,
mysteries, freeform roleplaying, or something else? What do you think that says about you?

I like variety in my games. I can enjoy dungeon delves, political maneuvering, a good puzzle or six, and even simple social roleplaying. But I can't enjoy just one of the aspects, I need more to flavor my games. I don't want to just roll dice, but I also don't want to never role dice. Maybe that makes me greedy. But I like to think of it as "well-rounded."

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #15: People often talk about the divide between what happens "in game"and "in real life." Do you maintain that divide in your own play, or do you tend to take what happens to your character personally? Why?

I'm sure I get a little sad when one of my characters bites it, but I don't take it personally. It's a game, not living and breathing, and while I might miss him when my fantastic thief gets caught with his hand in the wrong pocket, I can't fault the GM that takes his life. For the most part, it's dice and perhaps Desna or Olidimarra, or whoever is not with me. But tomorrow, I can make my next FAVORITE CHARACTER EVAR!

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #16: Who was the most memorable foe you've ever come up against in a game? How did you beat him/her/it? Or did you?

I have two.

First, there was Molkoth, a tremere ancient that antagonized our characters in several games set in the old World of Darkness. When we were playing Vampire: The Masquerade, he was so old an powerful that there was no chance we could touch him. He left the Camarilla behind and had something of a cult following him. His cultists hunted both Camarilla and Sabbat vampires and burned them to ashes for their "impurity." He even burned my character's bar, Suspended in Dusk, to the ground while trying to start a war between Vampires and Werewolves in NYC. He succeeded at his intended task but was rumored to have died in the battle. Vampire ended soon after.

Later, we were playing a variant of Vampire called The Hunters Hunted. This thin paperback allowed us to play human vampire hunters with no special powers. My character, Jake, was a hunter back in the old west. When he rode alongside a local werewolf clan to hunt the local tremeres, the lead tremere (Molkoth) got rid of him with a spell that sent him 100 years in the future. In the 1990's Jake became a werewolf through a ceremony when he found his old werewolf friend was now leader of his clan. As a werewolf, Jake finally eviscerated Molkoth in the aforementioned battle of central park (the Storyteller was great at linking our adventures together like that), but never made it home.

The other was Dr. Phil. In a great Mutants and Masterminds game that we still tell stories about to this day called The Graveyard Shift, we found that the main baddy that was trying to take over the world through mind control and television was none other than the pop psychologist. We had to face the entirety of Freedom City's premiere supergroup while trying to get to him, but in the end we defeated him on live TV bringing a bit of fame to The Graveyard Shift.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #17: What was the best reward you've ever gotten in a game? What made it so great? How much do you need tangible rewards (loot, leveling, etc.) to enjoy a game?

Years ago, while playing 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons, my cavalier, Cray Rectrose, was rewarded with a fief for service to a king. This fief included a manor and lands around it. While it sounds like a simple duh- "OOO you got a castle...", what made it cool was that it changed the whole dynamic of the game. For one, the party had a cool home base and we had to staff the manor and explore all that was within Cray's lands. But also there was a wealth of adventuring that came to us as the local lord.. from political intrigue to invaders. It was fantastic.

I suppose leveling is always welcome, but I seriously enjoy those static level games like Mutants and Masterminds where rewards happen more in story than arbitrary numbers.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #18: Have you ever "cheated" on a die roll/random chance outcome, or looked up a quest solution on a fan site? Why or why not? If yes, was it worth it?

As a GM? Absolutely. There have been campaigns where my dice rolls guaranteed TPK, but I usually try very hard to keep the characters alive so that it is more fun for all. Of course, last year when I actually had my first TPK it was the combination of good dice rolls and bad tactics that killed my players.  Long live the Will O' Wisp!

As a player, I don't fudge my rolls, but I suck at math. So, I would not be surprised if my successes are more incorrect than correct. As far as reading ahead, I like to be surprised, but as long as its within a theme... If there will be undead, i like to know that but I don't want to know specifics. I'd rather see them as i grind them to dust.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #19: What's the weirdest character you've ever played? How did you end up with him/her/it?

Hmm.. Played or Created? I once made a character that completely consisted of bees for a game called Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone, but never got to play him. Instead I played a tried and true human centurion. 

For the life of me, the weirdest character I can think of actually playing is Fester, and that's just because he was a bit outside the box.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reverb Gamers #3 - #10

Reverb Gamers is a project from Atlas Games that includes 31 question prompts to kick off gaming in 2012. It gives a structure to gaming conversations and asks all the right questions. My plan is to do at least 2 questions a week starting here. Also, check out @ReverbGamers on twitter or check it out on Facebook to keep the conversation going.
In an attempt to catch up a bit, I'm gonna start doing these in bulk.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #3: What kind of gamer are you? Rules Lawyer, Munchkin/Power Gamer, Lurker, Storyteller/Method Actor, or something else? (Search "types of gamer" for more ideas!) How does this affect the kinds of games you play? For example, maybe you prefer crunchy rules-heavy systems to more theatrical rules-light ones.

After doing some research, I decided to pull my Gamer classifications from Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering, by Robin D. Laws (published by Steve Jackson Games, 2001). His classifications are: The Power Gamer, The Butt-Kicker, The Tactician, The Specialist, The Method Actor, The Storyteller, and The Casual Gamer.

I found that two of these Gamer Types seem to apply to me after reading through the details. Depending on my role as player or gamemaster, I am equal parts The Specialist and The Storyteller.

The Specialist: As a player, I tend to play character types that I enjoy to watch. Almost always, i play the charismatic rogue, someone that is as quick with his wit and smile as he is with his rapier and pickpocketing. I can be kind of mouthy and love more dexterous characters.

The Storyteller: Almost always, if you play in one of my games, story and character development far outclasses rules time and again. If i have to bend or break a rule entirely because it suits the story, so be it. If your character does something amazing, I may not even call for a role just because it suits the story. And if you want a glorious death that hits a dramatic beat, I'm all ears. It's ironic then that when we were writing the Smallville RPG, I was the one person on the team that was the most reluctant to accept the direction we were going. I was looking for a crunchier method of superhero roleplay, and couldn't wrap my noggin around the choices we were making. In the end, however, I was 100% wrong and Smallville was by far a better game and more fulfilling experience when it was completed than a crunchier game could have been.

Now does this affect my choices in game? Not really, despite my preferences, I will play all kinds of games. Of course I love FATE and Cortex +, but that doesn't mean I don't love Pathfinder or even more involved games like Pendragon.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #4: Are you a "closet gamer?" Have you ever hidden the fact that you're a gamer from your co-workers, friends, family, or significant other? Why or why not? How did they react if they found out?

In Junior High and High School, it mattered WAY TOO MUCH to me what other people thought. I mean, sure I did things I shouldn't have. I wasn't a bad kid, but I certainly wasn't a good kid either. But other than my closest friends, Chris, Ian, and Melissa; nobody knew I gamed. And not just a game or two, I was deep into Dungeons and Dragons, Marvel, Shadowrun, and Warhammer 40,000 on top of the games that Chris and I wrote like The Sword & the Hand and Mystical Magic.

But I had something of an image to maintain and didn't know how freeing it would have been to wear my Geekery on my sleeve. It was my loss, however, as the wisdom of age has taught me to accept who I am rather than some image of who I should be. Because who was I hiding from? Prying eyes of my classmates that didn't really care?  Or myself?

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #5: Have you ever introduced a child to gaming, or played a game with a young person? How is gaming with kids different than gaming with adults?

Actually, yes.  Since returning to Cincinnati, my friends from high school have returned to my life and my gaming table. All of them have kids now, but Melissa's daughter is the oldest of them. Every now and then, when Melissa's ex-husband doesn't have her daughter for the weekend, she comes over to my place while we game. Sometimes, Melissa's daughter joins in, rolling dice for her mother or conferring as to what they should do next, and has been present for Star Wars games as well as some Pathfinder.

But every now and then, we'll bust out a board game or two and she joins in right away. I think my favorite time playing with my surrogate niece was a game of Ren Fair that we played after a comic convention. She jumped in feet first and her excitement at playing was a welcome addition.

Is it different? I suppose so, but only in the parts that she doesn't know all the rules to a certain RPG or that I try to watch my language more when she's around ( I fail, but I still try). But these are things easily remedied, and she is more than welcome at my table anytime.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #6: Describe your all-time favorite character to play. What was it about him/her/it that you enjoyed so much?

Heh. My favorite character? That would have to be Fester. In my buddy Luc's 3.5 game, Fester was a goblin rogue. Well, that was what his stat sheet said, but Fester hated letting the other party members see him work on traps or steal. He wasn't hired to be the rogue, Fester was the cook.

Famous (or perhaps Notorious) for being the genius chef behind a local inn called The Elven Lady (though Fester called it The Goblin's Lady), the party hired him to keep them fed. They were a bit daunted, however, as his kills became some of their odd, but delectable, meals. Scarier still when they realized the pair of daggers he used in combat were actually the pair of knives he used to so deftly chop up their meals when cooking. He would never clean them off, either, deciding he proffered to keep the "spices" on them.

But what made him fun was that if there was trouble to be had, he was always neck deep and made a great antagonist, deciding it was hilarious to give each of the other PC's derogatory nicknames and pick on them mercilessly for even perceived failings.

Sigh. He was such a dick. Good times.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #7: How do you pick names for your characters?

It varies. Sometimes I choose names from the source material- this happens a lot in Pathfinder where I will choose names from the Inner Sea Guide to get the right regional naming style. Sometimes, like with my Varisian Gunslinger Milosh, I choose real names that correspond with the character's race (in this case Romani gypsy)

For some, I try to find something humorous (my goblin Fester or Kaek -pronounced Cake- my Urseminite) or historical (Sinjin, my Keleshite Urban Ranger).

And finally, I sometimes just try to create a name I think sounds cool (Vesh Tsalamir, my Lone Star clone for Star Wars, or my go-to human fantasy RPG name, Boeric)

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #8: What's the one gaming accessory (lucky dice, soundtrack, etc.) you just can't do without? Why?

While I don't have lucky dice or the like, there is one thing I love. Visual representation. This comes in several forms depending on the game.

For games that use them, Miniatures. Over the years, I've proven to be a fairly good minis painter, even winning Best Painted at a tournament or five. And so if a game uses a board ever, you are dmaned skippy that I will be painting minis. And not just for my character. I don't expect other people to paint as well as I do, especially since very few other gamers I play with have put brush to mini, so I'm more than happy to remedy that situation by painting their PCs for them.

For superhero games, I go a different route. I've been drawing superhero characters for as long as I remember, and unless someone is a better artist or wants to do it themselves, I draw all superhero PCs for my group in games like Mutants and Masterminds and Icons.

Finally, for some games, I will make photo cards of PCs (and important NPCs if I'm Gamemaster) from pictures of the characters in the adventure I am running, or more likely, from celebrities the other players pick for their characters.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #9: Have you ever played a character of the opposite sex. Why or why not? If yes, how did the other players react?

I have played a female character. In the late nineties, I played a Night One Assassin named Bloo in a Shadowrun Game. And I did this simply because the character made more sense as a woman. And while I've played female characters here and there in one shots, Bloo was my only long standing female character. For the most part, my friends didn't react one way or the other, but it occurred to me back then why I don't like to play women.

I am not a woman, and while I might like the occasional so-called chick flick, or actually care and empathize when someone comes to me with a problem rather than always taking the logical route; that does not mean I have a clue what goes on in a woman's head any better than a woman will understand the nuances of my own mind. That's not to say that women are inhuman or deformed in some way. It simply means that I do not know what it is like to be a woman, so I could not accurately portray a woman. I find, instead, cross-gender characters generally end up lumped into stereotypes, and that does more harm than good.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #10: Have you ever played a character originally from a book/TV/movie? How did the character change from the original as you played? If not, who would you most like to

In one of the many Shadowrun campaigns I got to run and/or play in the '90s, There was one time that the group needed a good rigger. I'd already played a droid rigger for years in my notorious paraplegic character, Forge, so I was the natural choice. That and after playing that game for nearly ten years, I'd played every type of character, so I was willing to go with whatever the group needed. Good getaway drivers are harder to build than most riggers because you have to not only build the character, but his getaway car is almost a character in itself. And I could have found inspiration in a few million characters from Bullitt to Speed Racer.

Instead, I chose to base my character on a little known anime called Riding Bean. Bean is a mean sonuvabitch, but no character until the Transporter movies has been nearly as much of a badass behind the wheel as that character.

So my rigger, Bean, was every bit the character that inspired him and is remembered for one incident. Another PC, a lowlife scum street samurai called Rook, was getting on Bean's nerves and our GM was cool with PC friction. So, when Rook tried to jack Bean's car, Bean drew his smartgun and said: "Get out of my car or I'll shoot you in the leg."

Fearing for his life, Rook got out of the car, and Bean immediately shot him in the foot.

Rook freaked out complaining that he said he wouldn't shoot, but Bean just shrugged. "It wasn't the leg."

Let's Talk SOPA, PIPA, and Other Annoyances

Hey Fearless Readers (or reader, whatever).

So I know this is not my usual thing, but I feel it is my responsibility to talk about this. Of course, Chuck Wendig is FAR has a higher INT score than I do and said everything I could possible want to say over on his blog, Terrible Minds, so I'll just copy his stuff here. Also, follow Terrible Minds. It is a great read.

Take it away Chuck whose blog post I'm stealing for today:

  • First and foremost, let’s just put it out there –
    No, this site did not blackout for the protest.
    Wikipedia blacking out? Thumbs-up. They have a global audience. I don’t. I blackout and what happens? I miss a handful of new readers and a handful of new sales. In the all in all, nobody soaks their pillows with tears that I’m gone. Besides, what will I do if not obsessively refresh my blog numbers?
    Instead, I’d rather talk a little bit about SOPA and PIPA.
    It is, I think, easy to convince writers that anti-piracy legislation is a good thing. And while I’m not stridently anti-pirate (for a number of reasons we can discuss in the comments, chief among them being “I don’t think it matters as much as people think it matters”), I grok those who want to shut down All Pirates All The Time. Pirates are bad, after all. They steal our shit. They plunder our grog barrels. Fine. Good. Yes.
    Problem, though:
    You done got swindled, sons and daughters of the creative age.
    SOPA and PIPA are not about piracy.
    They are about control.
    See, the Internet is this unruly pubic tangle of possibility. It is raw potential given form and it puts a great deal of power in the hands of the individual (are you listening, creative-types?). Power in the hands of individuals can, in some cases, wrest power from the hands of corporations. And corporations don’t like that, so they go to the government and they pour giant buckets of money into the government’s slavering maw and lobby for legislation and the result is, in this case, SOPA, PIPA, and any other naughty anti-pirate hydra-heads that pop up.
    Writers and creatives — again, as individuals — have a lot of opportunity in the Internet Age, in part due to the innovation and distribution the Internet offers, in part due to the social media that connects us all. Harming these by harming the Internet then harms free expression. And that’s no good.
    Just to be clear, in case you don’t realize what it means to give corporations power over censorship and the subject of artistic originality, please cast an eye no further to the MPAA, whose arbitrary and often insane ratings of films put out by the film industry help stifle creativity and the craft and art of filmmaking. You really want that kind of control over sites like YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Google, Wikipedia?
    No, you do not.
    SOPA and PIPA hit the issue with a hammer when what’s called for is a scalpel. (That’s how our government seems to respond to everything anymore, but I suppose that’s a conversation for another time.)
    Anyway, others can discuss this matter with far greater aplomb than I –
    Visit AmericanCensorship.org to learn more.
    In summation:
    Fuck SOPA. Shit on PIPA.
    Freeze-frame high-five.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reverb Gamers Prompt #2

Reverb Gamers is a project from Atlas Games that includes 31 question prompts to kick off gaming in 2012. It gives a structure to gaming conversations and asks all the right questions. My plan is to do at least 2 questions a week starting here. Also, check out @ReverbGamers on twitter or check it out on Facebook to keep the conversation going.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #2: What is it about gaming that you enjoy the most? Why do you game? Is it the adrenaline rush, the social aspect, or something else?

There are several aspects of gaming that draw me to the hobby. However, the draw really depends on the style of game. I enjoy different types for different reasons.

 The one major crossover is the social aspect. I love hanging out with my friends- even if I rarely like to leave the house. But people coming over for a board game or three? For a weekly RPG session? Or to challenge me to some down and dirty miniature game? Done and Done. Ask my wife, I love very little as much as the sound of my own voice so I'm nothing if not a social butterfly. Even games like Ex-Illis got some major play just to meet new people and play over the internet with clever use of remote viewing/computing programs.

Role-playing Games drag out the storyteller in me. Theres a part of me that writes stories pretty constantly- whether they make it to the page or not. So I relish the chance to see where those stories can go while running a campaign. Or better yet, diving into the boots of some odd character and seeing where he'll take me.

Board and miniature Games, however, bring out something else. The need to completely demolish my opponents until they can only meekly raise an arm begging for the mercy I refuse to give them.

No, not really.

I do enjoy some healthy competition though. And mini games and some board games have that in spades. Of course, whipping out a cooperative game or three brings us back to the Social Aspect.

But the question asked what do I like most, and in more recent years, I've found myself wearing the face of a game designer. So I try to play as many different games as possible to better my craft. Good game, bad game, Monopoly, it doesn't matter. I thrive on discovering new and innovative game mechanics and new ways of using old favorites. I love trying new things, even if it seems odd or too quirky at first. In the end, it only makes me a better designer: knowing where others have succeeded and failed, and trying to forge my own path towards the former.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reverb Gamers Prompt #1

Yeeaahhh.... So.... Star Wars: The Old Republic has been taking up a large amount of my time because it is such a great game experience (not something I see much in the MMO field), so I've been so busy and playing SW:TOR and writing hard to meet my deadlines for a few games that I haven't written here. In the end, I wanted a good topic to talk about other than a blood bowl update which is coming soon.

Enter Ryan Macklin, one of my favorite bloggers and a damned good game designer/editor.  He threw down the gauntlet pretty well in mentioning Reverb Gamers.

Reverb Gamers is a project from Atlas Games that includes 31 question prompts to kick off gaming in 2012. It gives a structure to gaming conversations and asks all the right questions. Also, check out @ReverbGamers on twitter or check it out on Facebook to keep the conversation going.

Ryan is doing 1 question a day for the month of January. I'm a bit late in the game to start that and complete in January, but I can certainly do 2 a week.

Without further adieu: 

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #1: What was your first roleplaying experience? Who introduced you to it? How did that introduction shape the gamer you've become?

I started gaming at eight years old. Oh, I'm sure I played games like Uno, Monopoly, Ants in the Pants, and others before that, but in 1983, my friend Sean Hart sat me and his brothers Dave and Chris down on their back deck to play Dungeons and Dragons. 

Sean was a bit older, around eleven at the time, and REALLY smart, so it made sense that he would not only be the one to introduce us to the game, but became our dungeon master right off. In fact, as we got older and went from game to game, that never changed. It almost felt like a privilege when I finally got to run a game for Sean (Shadowrun, many years later) and even though I was an old hat at gamemastering by then, there was certainly some anxiety and trepidation at running a game with him as a player.  

Sean flavored my gaming in a way that is VERY indicative of not only my style of gaming, but writing as well. It started with D&D and a few weeks later, we tried out the old Marvel RPG (FASERIP.. oh yeah!). Sean made gaming fun and understood how to tailor his game to the needs and interests of his players. It helped, I'm sure, that his players were his two brothers and me (I was so close to the Hart's for most of my youth that I was practically a sibling), so he always knew what to expect from us and what plot elements we would pick up on and run with.

For me, my early experiences with gaming and the Harts made gaming a social event. Gaming not only allowed me to meet knew friends, but it cemented those bonds of friendship with shared experiences and that hasn't changed to this day. Heroes were born and died and legends were written in those early days. And to this day, my half-elven paladin and first superhero (the Enforcer) still live on in my mind, holding a special place for me.

Thanks guys.