Sunday, January 22, 2012


Questions we have given Thee, in the number Twenty-three.

Can I answer these and still be a rebel?  Hah.  Here you go:

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
I like all my fairy-tale logic magic items and spells.  I think people would benefit from more of these kinds of things in game rather than paragraph long descriptions trying to lay out every eventuality.  And, hell you can't beat when a player cuts his own eye out with an obsidian blade to give his blind friend back one of her eyes.   But you said pick one, so how about the Angel of Geometry.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
Not this Friday, but the Friday before.  (I could have played this Friday but cancelled because I was exhausted from work.)  I could probably be playing three times a week if I was independently wealthy which is crazy when I think about how hard it seemed to find kindred souls just 10 or 15 years ago.

3. When was the last time you played?
This Friday, eeeearly my time. (But wait, didn't you say you were exhausted.  Hey, I couldn't pass up a chance at the Caves of Myrddin, and it paid off I got the Spaniard's Orb of Inversion!)

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
This one seems kind of odd to me.  Why is it we haven't run this adventure?  I guess this assumes DM's having gamer ADD or something.  If I think of a cool adventure it usually happens in the next week. I'm trying to run the best game I can.  (I suppose you could think of an adventure that would be too high level for the current party, but I don't have any high level play experience so I'm not yet.  I suppose you could think of an adventure that you don't think fits your world's genre/tone, but I pretty much mash all my interests into my one psuedo-medieval/ Sinbadian smoothie.  I suppose you could just be bubbling with ideas for adventures, but why not buckle down and develop the one that's coming up in a week.  Maybe I'm just of a different temperament.)  
But also, doesn't this question push more towards adventures as stories DMs prepare?  My PCs end up having adventures shopping in Nidus.  Ok, enough, moving on . . .

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
I don't like waiting for them to do things, (unless it is part of the fun, like heist planning- but usually it's bickering about which way to go in a corridor or whether they should leave the dungeon or explore just one more door)  So I say "Ok, what are you doing?" and I roll for wandering monsters.  In combat I'm even less patient; if it's your init I start counting to 5 before I move to the next person.  I really want the combats tense and snappy.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Sometimes my players have cooked things-- potato skins, chili.  We had some nice games where everyone ate dinner together, chit-chatting before we played.  But usually just beer.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting? 
Yes.  I try to dramatize the abstract combat dice rolls and riff on previous events.  That takes attention and creativity.  It' true that I get adrenalined-up and have a hard time sleeping afterward, but I'm still wiped out.  It would probably be better if we didn't start at 7:00 pm at the end of a day, at the end of a long week, of work.  But I imagine even if we played during the day I'd just take my extra energy to try to up my game.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
Climbing up a Cthulhuoid horrors's cloaca and stabbing its brain from the inside, haha.
9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
This is a very good question.  I find that sometimes I undermine the mood of a game by taking a joke opportunity when things were getting creepy.  Tone is tough.  But usually, goofiness and joking is meta, and my game tries to maintain a dry brutal, serious, creepiness.  You can laugh at what the goblins were doing but you're still dead.

10. What do you do with goblins?
I came to despise the idea of humanoids.  But I guess I reconciled with goblins by making them my own (which is sort of the whole point of OD&D style DMing, right?)   I reinserted kobolds and goblins as something from the mythic underworld-- hard to predict, odd, and offputting.  Why are they here?  Where do they come from?  Why are they slathering that zombie abbot's pale naked body with honey?  Of course I don't call them "goblins" and my "kobolds" are just weaker versions of the same things.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
Not sure, but probably the South Pointing Chariot, except it points to a tower in the middle of some lava-tubed, broken lands (hard to pull a chariot there).

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
Have a lot of these, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some of the funniest, but what comes to mind was when the PCs were running a heist on a shrine and the Cleric Toral tried to rile up the crowd of pilgrims to cause a distraction.  He succeeded so incredibly (I think he rolled the big d30, and my reaction roll was max, and he had high Char) that the crowd wasn't just distracted but became incensed and started ripping the guards limb from limb. 

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
The GURPs Goblins book at the recommendation of Richard Guy and Chris Hogan.  I'm on the lookout for any cool game innovation and it sounds like this book has several.  But I have to confess, I have a hard time sitting still and reading any more.  I think all this internet and blog reading has atrophied my attention span and I have a hard time reading more than a page before my head's spinning with other ideas and I want to get up and walk around, go do something.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
Someone that makes illustrations that tell a story.  I am so sick of pictures of people looking "badass."  Remember "no honor among thieves," from the DMG?  Or the one with the guy trapped in water and cell bars with a skeleton coming. Or the one (from a White Dwarf ad?) that showed all the dead skeletons reaching for the huge diamond?  Or, hell even the alignment illustration from Moldvay.  Yeah, more pictures like that.  Here, illustrators, I'll even give you one: couple down and out guys trapped behind iron bars, using a golden sceptre as a lever, golden crown as a fulcrum, to try to lift the bars.  Sceptre is just starting to bend.

I should say, the best art wouldn't have to have a little scene in it.  Your picture (Zak) of the obese succubus has a lot of story just in her expression for me.  She looks bored or wistful and, under the conditions she is experiencing it, that is interesting.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
I think so.  As much as any movie does (if not more).  You'd have to ask my players, but there was a time where a naked, female ghoul picked the party off one by one in the darkness.  And the time a pc who's player has arachnophobia (I didn't know) was climbing up onto a ledge and a giant spider bit his face, killing him.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
I haven't.  Part of it is NIH syndrome, a kind of cocky, thinking I can do better.  But part of it is the opposite; a complete lack of confidence "how can I remember all these facts and get this right?"  I do love looking at adventures because other than after play reports it's really the only chance you have to learn how people do this DM thing.  This usefulness is undermined by people who write modules throwing everything they do at the table out and creating something completely different, like railroads and tournament modules, because they think that's what a module is.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
Big oval table seating 10, felt covered.  Side table for my junk.  Room for me to walk around the whole table.  Well-lit.  Walking distance from where I'm staying.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
I haven't had much gamer ADD, been pretty happy with D&D and trying to make it work but I was really impressed by the way DC Heroes fit Ma Kent and Superman on the same chart.  I would like to look at that again.  And I spent a few years developing a system of magic that used sentence like structure (SVO) to cast on the spot spells, only to find Ars Magica beat me to it.  Haven't played it but was impressed.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
The Bible and Walt Disney.  (that last one completely surprised me right now, but the genre-summing-up that the original Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion do, seems a lot like what I'm attempting in my D&D.  I mean, "what does the perfect haunted house need in it?", seems very similar to "what does the perfect classic dungeon need in it?").

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
I guess the kind of person you'd want at a party; friendly, interesting, funny.  I almost said I want people that won't sit there quietly, but will be active, but I changed my mind, I want quiet players too, as long as they enjoy the game, the company, and my DMing.  It's just with quiet players it's hard to determine that.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
Hah, this terrifying raccoon

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
A book on DMing.  Everything I've ever read on the subject was so abstract or light as to be useless.  A lot of good questions get in depth discussion on blogs, if only they were compiled, arranged, and added to.  And I don't mean DMing tips, as if we were homemakers wanting to know how to better clean our whites (that we already know how to get partially white), I mean stuff like how do you run a campaign, when, in the real world you will have different players every week? How the hell do you start a campaign as a newbie DM?  How do you organize your junk so it doesn't slow play enough to start affecting how fun the game is?  What do you do when players show up an hour late to a session?  These probably go the opposite way and are too specific, but I guess what I want is someone to lay out DMing theory-- show how you can devise practices from it, and vice versa, show some DMing lore that has worked for a lot of DMs and try to figure out the underlying reasons.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
Yeah, my blog is pretty important to my sanity and enjoyment these days.  And not just because of gaming (I've learned a lot about audience, writing, and the blog post as genre).  So, if you're in my life I'm going to be talking about it at some point.  Unfortunately, it is so alien that these folks just don't understand.  My parents and my boss don't even grok video games, so they can't even use that as a metaphor to understand our game.  In the end, I think they know I like to try and minimalize and innovate in all things and they figure I'm doing something similar in the realm of a child's game.  But there is always that sense of being wary-- wasn't this that Satanic game with demons and magic?-- which I suppose is partially warranted with some of the godawful creepy things I have goblins doing to try and mess with my players.


  1. Love that picture. I like GURPS Goblins a ton also.

    1. Yeah, I like it too. I think I might try to make that creep a wight or ghost silhouette. I saw that pic on the Old Book Illustrations scrapbook blog:

  2. I have an aversion to bandwagons and their issue (perhaps a bit of the old NIH, as you say) but I enjoyed your answers quite a bit.

    1. Hey, thanks for letting me know. I tend to do too much self-reflection, but even so I learned a few things answering these.