Thursday, January 20, 2011

My new toy...

I just received a new toy, a cam corder (a ten year gift from FedEx. Thank you, FedEx.). My first pics, of course:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So you throw a party...

First off, thanks to Dave for becoming follower number three. :)

So you decide to start a game, great! You have some initial plots in mind, have created NPCs, you have amassed a tremendous amount of background information provided on your message board, mailing list or web site. You now proceed to advertise at a variety of message boards and mailing lists.

And...No one is interested. No bites, no queries, nothing. So, what is wrong? Why isn't your game generating any heat? Here may be some reasons.

Bad Idea: You might think your game is awesome, but it is possible it sucks. When coming up with a game it might be a good idea to field the concept to some friends. You might not always get an honest response but a little feedback never hurt. And it is not a bad idea to discuss the idea on game message boards to refine your concept.

One example of a bad idea that generated virtually no interest whatsoever was one I saw ten years or so back, when was still around. That was The Place to post your ad. There was a guy who kept advertising the same game concepts over and over again, where he would play this principle character and everyone else would play the supporting cast. It reminded me of the lame Indiana Jones RPG where one player was to play Indiana, and everyone else would play Sallah, Short Round, Marion, etc. I think you can imagine how popular that game was. This guy did not seem to get that players do not want to play subordinates to GMPCs...Well, let me clarify that. In Star Trek games most of them have the captain is run by the GM. Players do not want to play characters who are so obviously inferior to GMPCs. In a Star Trek game even if the ship is run by the GM's character their own have plenty of opportunities to shine. This guy did not seem to get that no one wanted to play a mere mortal in his super human's world.

In situations like this it might be a good idea to simply ask the advice of others. Ask on message boards and mailing lists if your idea is a viable one, and if they do not think so ask them why. Do not be afraid of constructive criticism and do not take any potential personal attacks personally. It is the internet, trolls abound.

Bad Ad: Presentation is key and if you are unable to produce a well written, coherent advertisement then likely no one is going to play your game. Spelling and grammar are still important, and a clear and exciting ad is needed to sell your game. Edit yourself carefully before you post your ad, and bear in mind that you do not need to spell out your game's every little detail. People often have short attention spans and if they see your ad is twelve paragraphs long they will likely skip most of it. Specific details can be addressed on your web site or you can answer questions fielded to you via e-mail. It also could not hurt to have a friend of yours proof read your ad as well.

An ad can be best served by a good, catchy title, one that can give a prospective player the gist of your game right off the bat. For example, for my Star Trek: Vixen game I believe I used the tag line "Star Trek meets Firefly" as it was about a merchant vessel and her crew in the 'Trek universe. Right away it suggests the theme of the game, and it might draw the interest of Firefly fans. In the body of the ad I fleshed out the concept a bit more.

Finally, what is very important is you provide the e-mail address you will be using associated with the game as well as the web site, mailing list or message board associated with the game.

Bad Reputation: And this leads me to how you are perceived by others. Your actions have consequences and if you have a reputation of being a poor role player or a troll, these things could haunt you. The gaming community is not all that large and word can get around. If you have proven to be a difficult person to get along with or have a reputation for being vindictive and cruel then these things could harm your chances for running a game of your own. Now, I suppose you could fix this by altering your name and e-mail address, which of course means your entire game and subsequent relationships and friendships with your players will all be based on a lie. But hey, if running a game is so important to you that you want to deceive your players in perpetuity, who am I to stop you?

So to sum up, make sure your concept is one that players want to invest their time and effort in, possibly tweak accordingly or scrap the idea altogether and start over. Make certain that your ad is presented in a coherent and exciting manner to generate interest. And above all else, keep in mind that the internet has a memory and your actions can have consequences down the line that can possibly sabotage a game before it starts.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

When characters become unplayable

I read some of my earlier posts, and man do I need to edit myself more better. :/

Sometimes you might discover that there is something...wrong with your game. Something is constantly cropping up and is making it difficult to generate effective and compelling plots. Something may be causing player friction. What could it be?

Perhaps it is a character.

Your player might be a great guy. He may be a great role player. But is his character monkeying up the works and ruining your campaign? Maybe. Here are some signs that a character may be the source of your problems:

Too Powerful: This character makes the rest of your team look like scrubs and it feels as if he might be able to solve all the problems singled handedly and is only holding back to spare his team mates' feelings. Superman might have days like this. Too powerful does not necessarily mean raw might, it could also mean too versatile. Hi tech, cosmic and magical characters could both suffer from a little too much versatility where their power sets are concerned. I used to game with a guy named Nick in my Champions RPG days, he ran a character named Quantus. I inherited this character from a previous GM who allowed Nick to abuse the character creation rules to such an extent that Quantus was a nightmare. His ridiculous speed and power set meant I kept having to create more and more powerful bad guys to give him a challenge, which meant the rest of the PCs suffered as a result. In the end I gave up when Quantus single handedly stopped the main bad guy and his entire team of badass minions single handedly.

Too Weak: Are you handling a PC with kid gloves? Do villains inexplicably leave him alone during combat? Or is he/she constantly getting hurt or kidnapped and placing the other PCs in peril as a result? Maybe the character's power levels are too puny for the campaign world. Batman makes keeping up with demigods look easy, but when your writer is Grant Morrison that is only natural. Not everyone can pull off being a powerless or low powered character in a campaign world where everyone else possesses god-like might.

Genre Incompatibility: Your player approached you with a novel idea, a character that was going to be refreshingly different. Perhaps he/she is a mage in a wild west setting. Or is a steampunk scientist serving on board a Starfleet vessel. Maybe he is the only character in the Potterverse packing heat. Initially it sounded like a neat idea, only now...

Well, this neat character that would have been great in a novel is just driving you nuts. Heat packing Potterverse character just put a bullet in the head of your principle villain, or Steampunk engineer is useless on an away mission. For one reason or another the character's way-cool weirdness is making thing difficult for you.

Too contentious: Conflict in a game is not always a bad thing. Characters who get along all the time can be boring. So when a player wants to play a character who does not play nice with others that is not a bad thing. The player wants to role play and that should never be discouraged.

But maybe his style is a little too...passionate. He adheres to the letter of the law too literally, or is a casual killer in a team of law abiding heroes. He/she hates another character and cannot resist an opportunity to needle his nemesis whenever possible. One way or another, the character is harshing everyone's mellow.

So, what do you as the GM do? If you let the player run this character it is partly your own fault. That does not necessarily mean you are a bad GM. You did not want to say "no" to your player, or he/she was a great salesperson, or your blood sugar was low that night when you wrote that e-mail agreeing that yeah, Starhammer The Undying would be a great addition to your wild west campaign. Or you were desperate to fill out your ship's roster and were willing to let the guy play Anything, even that Q/Borg hybrid, to swell the ranks. Whatever the reason, you have a problem on your hands and must fix it.

If the character is too weak or too powerful, you either work with the player to adjust their power levels. You could make the power change an adventure in itself; perhaps the uber powerful character has to sacrifice a measure of his might to stop the bad guy, or the weakling adopts the weapons of his fallen enemies to augment his abilities? If the character still has potential then work with the player to keep him. If the character's idiom simply does not work in regards to your game's tone/theme/setting, then it might be time to get rid of them altogether. If a player is contentious to the point of distraction, then they need to adopt some sort of in game reason for them to start playing ball with the other characters. It could even be an amusing reason; years back in Justice League megajerk Guy Gardner was knocked out by Batman and when he awoke he hit his head. This resulted in a complete personality change.

But perhaps your player is sticking to their guns. Your player insists their character is fine the way it is and they refuse to change or retire them. They are refusing to work with you and might even go so far as to say they will quit if they cannot play their character. When that happens, it is time to either stop the game or fire the player. Remember this; you are not being paid to be a GM (If you are, please let me know how. I would love to get in on that action), you are running your game on your own time because you want to, because it gives you pleasure. If this character and his player is making the game feel like a job then it is time to reassess your relationship, game wise.

Finally, as I said in an earlier post, it is very important to hold your temper. If things get heated then take a step back, calm down, find your happy place again. You never want to say something that might damage a friendship.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

This, that...

To everyone reading this, I wish them a happy new year.

To Rafe, thanks for following my blog.

If anyone is interested, my New Years resolutions are to try and lose a little weight and to write a thousand words a day.

Finally, Red Letter has a new review up here: