The End of the Lightbringer

The end of the Lightbringer sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Actually, what really happened was my player killed the Archmage who had essentially become Lucifer. His final goal was to shape the world in his own way. After all, who doesn’t want the earth to turn into hell?

After about 18 months of game, the story ended, and the world was saved. It was fun, and I learned quite a bit, but I am also glad to be moving on.

The story revolved around shaping people’s perception of reality. It didn’t always work as well as I would have liked, and there are still a few threads that I felt we’re completely answered, but it was a good place to end.

One of my favorite memories from this campaign:

The characters found a place in the “spirit world” where a mage had been creating fairy tale universes so that he could change them in subtle ways to manipulate the collective conscious of the western world. The player character went in and changed these things in their own image. One of our characters was a weretiger named Kolya, who with his antics added tigers to many fairy tales and religious books. Don’t you remember Daniel was rescued from the lion’s den by 3 angels, a fox, a wolf, and a particularly large tiger?

Hopefully, my players will add their own favorite memories of the campaign.

Overall, I had a great time running this campaign and trying to do something very different with the changing of reality. It didn’t always work, and I do see myself playing with this theme again in other campaigns.

 

Personalities at the Table

A GM has to wear many hats: storyteller, actor, cat herder, referee, mind reader, therapist, god, etc. Only a few of the hats have anything to do with preparing the game, and most have to do with getting the people at the table to play together. I’ll be discussing some of the personality types I’ve either ran in a game or played with.

The Planner:
They tend to be in depth role players, who enjoy coming up with a way to do things. These player love taking time to set up a plan before going running into the fight, and they usually cover all their bases with backup plans if things go wrong.

If you want to make a Planner enjoy a game, make sure you reward thinking ahead even if this means they sometimes bypass some of the traps or monsters. Through careful planning my players were able to take a near impossible battle down to only a few monsters. First, by figuring out who one of the minor villains was, and then by putting him to sleep for a day.

They also did investigation into the evil dragon to find out they had to cover it in water after they killed it to keep it from rising again. Allowing the player to figure things out before hand while still giving them a fight has a really great feeling of productivity.

The Actor:
They’re there for the character. Usually they have voices for their character or ways of moving. They want to present a story about their character.

These players want their time to shine. Give them scenes where their characters can show off their strengths, and their weaknesses. They want to interact with NPCs in interesting ways. I sometimes put myself in this group. I really enjoy seeing my character grow through the game.

The Rules Lawyer:
These are sometimes the hardest players to play with. They care so much about the rules, that they will happily point out rules for ever occasion. I’ve played with this type of player, but thankfully haven’t actually GMed one, yet.

I still remember falling asleep for an hour only to find that two players were still arguing about the same rule. For these players, I think it’s best to have a time-limit, and making sure that in the end the GM has the last say. As long as things are kept to a minimum they can be awesome for remembering those hard to find rules.

The Mechanic:
They’re all about the mechanics of the game. In truth, the story is backseat to the hows of their character. They are great at min-maxing and building characters.

Overall, these people are bored by story, but brighten up when they can use their characters abilities or skills. The best way to get these people interested is allowing them to roll. Dice in their hand make them happy. I’ve had a few of these players both as a GMs. Once, I had a player who built his character so well that he could all but take out the big bad in 1 round. Nothing delighted him more than being able to take them out quickly. That and ramming ships… Ramming is good.

The Mischief Maker:
These people are here to poke the dragon and see what happens. They play chaos personified.

It’s important to keep their mischief channeled so that the other players can have fun as well. I remember playing with one player who always played crazy, this sometimes took the game into other dimensions, literally. As a GM, I find it really important to allow these players to do their mischief, but keep their attention on the goal at hand. Don’t kill the party because this player decides to poke the dragon. (But maybe burn this character a bit).

The Relater:
These people like to talk. Not always about ingame things, though. It’s amazing how many things that happen ingame relate to memes or animal pictures.

Depending on how strict I’m being on time, I usually allow a bit of digression from time to time in my games. We’re all friends, and it’s fun to talk about things. That being said, there are times I use the words, “So what’s happening in this world…” to get us back on track. My advice is be nice, but make sure it doesn’t happen too often.

The Sweet Talker:
These people aren’t quite actors, but they do enjoy the conversation part of role playing games. Usually, they have fun getting things out of NPCs by being nice.

I’ve had a few players who have had high charisma scores, and like using them, and I try to allow it as much as I can. Have fun interactions for these characters too, who knows when it might be important to seduce the barista.

There are more types out there, I’m sure, here’s just a few I’ve seen. Feel free to let me know more types and how you deal with them.

When the World is All Male

At GenCon 2014 (http://gencon.com/ for more info), I played in a homebrew beta game. It was an adults only game, which I found the only difference between a normal game and an adults only was they gave us beer or in my case hard apple cider. Overall, the people that ran the game were incredibly nice, and I were inviting and friendly.

The pre made characters were written so that each one essentially wanted to be the last man standing. This lead to player vs. player pretty quickly in the game. Something that truthfully, I wasn’t used to, but the characters were balanced enough that this didn’t seem to be a huge problem. With 6 players and 3 GMs, there was very little downtime, since anytime we would split up one of the GMs would take a section of the group.

When I sat down, I realized something pretty quickly. All the player characters were male. I quickly announced that my character was female which seemed to confuse the GMs, but they agreed that was fine.

The game started with us on a train, all trying to get a mysterious item from a pair of NPCs. However, the Player characters were soon at each other throats. Not being one to enjoy player vs player, I started looking at my character sheet. One thing that was mentioned was that he (now she) was a vegetarian. A silly throwaway line, but I decided to use it develop the character.

I then announced to the GM. My character is non lethal unless she has no choice. This led me to using “sand in eyes” and other methods of escaping without actually hurting anyone. What I noticed pretty quickly about the world… everyone was male. I can’t remember one female NPC. It made for a very strange world to me.

There weren’t many implications of a world of men in the game. Since, what was important was grabbing the MacGuffin, there wasn’t much room for real social interaction among the characters. That being said, a world devoid of women left me feeling strange. It told me that “women aren’t people here.” Even if the authors didn’t really intend that. “My kind” didn’t belong in this world, and so the world felt flat and colorless. Thinking about this, it could be generalized to any marginalized group. How do we get more people to enjoy role playing? Let them see themselves in the world.

The “while Female” Part

So, today it was pointed out that so far none of my posts deal directly with the female part of the title. There’s so much to talk about there, and I certainly won’t cover it in one post, but I will talk about my experience overall. I hope that everyone who reads this can agree that women are individuals, and as such my experiences don’t reflect the whole of women’s interactions with table top role playing. In other words, what I have to say in no way reflects women as a whole, but they are my stories.

My experiences overall have been positive with both men and women at the table. There have been very few times I’ve been the only female at the table. I’ll probably write up one of those experiences in a separate blog post.

Thankfully, I’ve never had the experience that I hear about quite often from female players which is men turning their female character into a sex object. Even when playing with groups where the language and discussion could get a little R-rated, I’ve never felt that my character was being in danger in that way from the other players. I was comfortable that my boundaries would be respect as a person when it came to my character. If this is ever not the case, it probably isn’t a good group to stay in, no matter what the gender makeup.

One thing I have experienced was dealing with “realism.” As a player, I’ve encountered a few games where the GM or players have a very rigid idea of what the gender roles should be for the characters. One such game, I wanted my female character to be a tinkerer, only to be told that women didn’t have jobs in this game. They were aristocrats to be saved by the male characters, and I should either make a male character or redesign my female character. I decided very quickly, it wasn’t the game for me, and left. You can argue a game set in a real world time and place that I should fall into line, but I found that at least for me, role playing was all about thinking outside the box.

As a GM, I  sometimes find myself defaulting to authority figures as male, and sometimes have to reexamine my lists of NPCs before I start a game. Depending on the situation, I don’t always have 50/50, but I am loathe to not include a female because it isn’t common for a female in that occupation. After all, no matter what type of game I’m playing, in the end, it’s about making a world I want to believe in for better or worse.

Role playing for me, is exploring different aspects of humanity. I like to explore characters that aren’t me for one reason or another. Trisha is mostly lawful and thoughtful, so sometimes it’s fun to play the character that blows up the bright purple mushroom just to see what it does (Note: It poisons you), or play the character that does sell out the party for something else she might believe in. It’s fun to explore a character who isn’t straight, or a character that is far more noble than I could ever hope to be. In general, I find role playing is exploring the “human” part of me, and I find that is what brings me back again and again to role playing.

As a GM, I get to put characters into my world, and see what they do. I get to react to that, and build characters both allies and nemeses that bring out the parts of the characters that are most interesting. In the end, it’s all about relationships for good and bad of the characters to each other and to the world. That’s very female, and very human.

Character Backgrounds

One of my favorite aspects of role playing is writing character backgrounds. I tend to write them both when I’m a player for my Player Character (PC), and when I’m a GM I’ll usually write them for important Non-Player Characters (NPCs).

Character Backgrounds not only give details about the characters past, but they also give reasons for the future actions of characters. Generally, I can use a background to tell me how a character will react to a situation, or behave.

Below I’m including a profile you are free to use for your character.

Writer Name:
Char. Name:
Species: (If non-human)
Gender:
Race: (This is used like Species in D&D)
Age:
Height:
Weight:
Eye color:
Hair stats:

Relatives:
Mother:
Father:

BRIEF PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION:
(What does your character look like to those around them? Do they have strange movement or a birthmark? Are they always dressing to impress or are there clothes never washed?)

PERSONALITY:
(Is your character grumpy in the morning? How do they treat their fellow man? Do they have any personality quirks? How do they deal with their day to day life?)

BRIEF HISTORY:
(I usually write about a page or two here. What in their past made them what they are today? It’s a great place to give a GM hooks to use in the story.)

STRENGTHS, POWERS, ABILITIES:
(These are not powers or ability in mechanical terms, but things that your character tends to be good at. This is mostly for understanding the character rather than writing down all the character’s spells.)

WEAKNESSES, PHOBIAS, FEARS:
(This section is often overlooked. It’s an important part of making your character come to life is to have real weaknesses. It’s best if you can pull these from the history. Maybe the character comes from a very protected background, and doesn’t understand how to interact with the masses, or has a fear of heights after a bad fall. Many great ways to develop a character here.)

OTHER:
(This is a catch all for anything that doesn’t fit into the other categories).

GMing Resources

I will probably edit this post quite a bit, but I thought this was a good place to put resources I use for various parts of role playing.

My Journey to GMing

I’ve been writing stories as long as I can remember. If I wasn’t writing them down, I was acting them out with legos. Most involved escaping from enemies, adventure in far off lands, or friendships tested to the breaking points. One of my favorite characters was Robin … the daughter of Robin Hood, (I was name challenged back then), who stood up for the poor while she hid in her treehouse hideaway. You see, she saved the boys, not the other way around.

When I was 17, I started role playing in online groups. Many of which were based on shows. It was here, I learned about voicing characters that were not my own. I began to understand about consistency in character, and staying true to the character no matter how much you wanted them to do something that didn’t quite fit. Role playing kept me sane through college as an outlet of creativity while I tried to stay afloat of homework.

After college, I got my first taste of pen and paper role playing. My first character was a Gnome Druid, who was unceremoniously eaten by a blind, albino cavasourous that she tried to calm. For most of my characters, I wrote long backstories while relying on the help of my fellow players to help me design the stats of character. I’ve become more competent at designing stats for characters, but still don’t find it the most interesting part of playing.

Once I moved to the Bay Area, I didn’t role play much until I was invited to a group of friend’s of my now husband. It went well, overall, and I enjoyed the epic stories of a kingdom far away.

When it was my turn to GM it was another story. My first time out as a GM was a disaster, which left me crying and leaving a session. I had done research for hours, trying to incorporate character backgrounds, and pieces from real history as well as my own spin on things. Only to find two players completely not interested, and the other saying I didn’t have enough fighting. I did get in a few more sessions with added car chases and more combat, but I found it unfulfilling. My career as a GM was short and full of failure, or so I thought.

That was over 4 years ago now, and I’ve been Gming the same group for 3 of those years. Our first game was a Star Wars game that lasted 18 months, before I decided it was time to end the story and move on. My second game is wrapping up now close to the same amount of time. I find finishing a game a reward in and of itself.

Along the way, I’ve learned many things about being a good GM, and about being a good player. I still have much to learn, but I enjoy the process. Each time I come up with a new story, or a new way of doing things I get excited. I experiment on my players, and thankfully they’re always good sports about it.

As I continue this blog, I hope to share stories about what I’ve learned, and about Role Playing and things around it in general. If there is anything you want me to discuss, please put it in the comments.