Tuesday, 15 August 2017

RPG a Day, the first 12 Answers

Saw this:

Thought I might jump on the band wagon and answer a few.

#RPGaDay the first 12 answers.

#1 I wish I was playing my OWN, PUBLISHED RPG right now.. as in, I wish DD12 were published.

#2 Oh, Yup, same, DD12, the White Book.. get it out there!

#3, Sometimes I see some kickstarters, sometimes a google+ post

#4 Original Dungeonworld, as in MY 1994 published game + DD12 my updated version

#5 None, its unique. Verbal combat? Mental combat? Stealth rules? Best answer I can give is, its like Terry Pratchett meets Game of Thrones

#6 I'm a creator, not a gamer. I'd be adding more to my world, going on adventures in it, and making it all a little better.

#7 When I realised that we don't play a set of skills or numbers, we play a character represented BY those numbers. but at the same time, those skills and numbers define our character.

#8 None, go play a board game.

#9, Mine. You can have an effect upon the world after 4 sessions, within 10, you can be the heroes of an epic tale.

#10 I don't know.

#11 Is there ever a truly dead game? if so, shouldn't it stay that way? surely there is a reason no-one is playing it anymore?

#12 I don't judge a book by its cover, or an RPG by its art. I read the rules and determine the beauty by the math, the logic and the abilities a player can blend together for awesome moments.

CastleVania, Episode #17

Unsure if I've posted previous episodes or not, but wanted to quickly add some thoughts on the matter.

CastleVania Episode #17


Unlike many RPGs, Castlevania is a convention Legacy game that I run. Each time I run it, I need to explain some basics:

"You are the next generation of heroes to be chosen by your elders, to attempt to defeat the Evil Vampire that has been pillaging your town over the last few centuries. Every 10 years the fog of undeath recoils, allowing a 24 hour window to get in, gather information and push forward to defeat the beast himself"

But, As you can see by the episode number, Its not going so well.

Each time a group manages to survive the first few rooms, the usually encounter one of the next denizens, and while their own level is usually comparable to the creature, the players experience is not.

It seems to balance itself in many ways. If a group looks like they're having trouble, I remind them, they do not need 'win' the scenario, merely gather information relevant to the next group and survive to escape. If they do so, the surviving members return and can enact several of their "survivors" bonuses, giving the next group some much needed equipment bonuses, weapon upgrades, or even a level up. As a result, a failing group will ensure the next groups enhanced chance at success.

Except for the information.

Why is it that Heroes are always so gung-ho. Why does an Indiana Jones movie have Indy, checking his books, pouring over his notes, being mentally prepared for the adventure. Yet role-players forget all that, and just throw themselves into a quest, and often get killed?

I've asked some of the Former players to write a 2 paragraph note to hand to their next of kin, anything to help them survive. They often scrawl messages on the walls as they go, and even set up "obvious" traps to keep smart players on the right track, and dumb players get killed.

But it always happens.. they ignore the notes, they ignore the information, and they throw themselves over a cliff, thinking there is an invisible path or something..

Ahh well.. everyone seems to enjoy themselves.. so that's what matters.. I may post again about it, if I hit episode 50.. 

Monday, 24 July 2017

Designing your PDF: Part 2

In my last post, I asked the community: Which one should I try for: InDesign, Scribus or Web? I got some great response, and I think the results really pushed me to look into several options I was not aware of (thanks team!)

The Results to the Question:

I'm going to assume you've read Part 1, where I compare Scribus, Indesign and a small test of what Web with @page can do, and follow on from my questions. Then I'll revisit my original relevant points in the 3 main areas I looked at, and discuss my research results and how I think this may/can/will benefit myself and maybe other Indie RPG writers.

1. Can I create  graphical Templates

Yes, but No. You can data merge in InDesign, but can you data merge twice in the same document from two different XMLs? Can you layer your images in a data merge? I'm getting an InDesign friend to look into this. The generic answer seems to be "Make it in a separate document, then import.. which defeats one of the aspects/needs I'll flesh out later on in this blog.

1.b. Can I create Multi-layered Image files? and can they be in Templates?

Multi-layered Images is hard, and getting them just right is harder, Scribus and InDesign both have some semblance of this, but if you want to edit it after the fact, it does seem rather tedious.. maybe that's why we pay Designers, to sit there are do a lot of tedious pixel perfect manipulations.. maybe I can bypass this, See further on my thoughts..

2. Can I Dynamically change the backgrounds?

Yes, but not simple, would require a decent ammount of setup time and learning before the first version would be available.

3. Can I add a "blood stain' effect to some of the books,?

Yes, but No.. Again, hand crafting, one by one, yes, with a few weeks fiddling with each page, OR a few weeks fiddling with the data-merge into template system, but that asks the question.. can I data merge one background, behind the data merge of the foreground.. Which is a no.. A Template is created once, and each page uses that template to create each page from the data merge, so the blood stain would need to be built into the data-marge, or not at all.

Figure 1. The Example to Show
Looking at this example: Parchment colour, ink stains (could be blood) double stripe in red, Text and Character Image. Imagine doing this more than 3-4 times.. imagine 50 times or 500 times? Now imagine you need to change the colour of that red line 12 times, and change the stain graphic 12 times.. I got a general quote for around $1500 for such a job. at my hourly rate, that's a fortnight approx of work. I think I can write a webpage to do that in far less than a fortnight.

So, How 'COULD" I use XML Data Merge for InDesign?

If I wrote each page as an XML document, and each structure was built into the same template, like a dynamic web page already does, then I declared each bit to be toggled by the XML, then yes.. 

What that means for the layman, who for some reason is reading this, I would have to declare the blood stain location in the template for all pages, then toggle it in the XML to true or false, and if true, set its width, height and opacity, all by hand. Next, I'd be setting each page to tell me what kind of page it is, i.e. title page / text block / table / creature stat block. and ALL of those parts would need to be declared in the one single template. Sounds a bit messy to me.

Is it worth it? ... Not Really, For every hour I spend learning InDesign, or for every hour I pay a designer to do this tedium for me, I am asking myself, is this worth it.. and what if, 3 months down the track, just before printing, the printer says, the alignment is off, and I need to re-size these 3 pixels smaller. 

All the Advice, wrapped up into a paragraph or three

As I Stated before, InDesign and Scribus are, to some extent, scriptable. There are tools that some have made available online, there are aspects which are semi-pre-written. There is a learning curve to any and all of that.
There are several other tools, FOP, LaTeX, Serif, ReportLab or PDFSharp. Again, learning curve, which is going to do the job best, and how far along will I turn back with new knowledge that it cannot do whats needed and will fail me.

And if I'm going to program a PDF anyway, I may as well either use FPDF (PHP PDF Creator) or the Angular Web Test that I made before I started these last two blogs.

Except for one, small, issue.. do I want the PDF to be Electronically enabled. i.e. contents pages, click links to jump to pages in the book, or is this a pure print only PDF.

Current Test Results & Logic for Web

I Work in Web, Angular-JS, I've worked on a few large and small projects and its likely to be my career for the next few years at least. None of the above tools will be, so learning them, using them and finding all their bugs and issues will only be useful for this one single project, and I don't know if I mentioned it before, if I'm going to do something, I want it to benefit me more than once.

So, I took my Test Web-page PDF Creator for a spin, I looked up a few RPG books, had a look at their layouts, and realized one interesting thing.. No-one is able to / has tried to / is doing, what I thought they were all doing.. except maybe D&D. They have the money to pay designers to get their pages looking very schmik, no-one else does.

I'm going to go make up a few pages with my new tool, I'm going to try to do what D&D has done with their books, and I'll post a third blog about the results. Once done, I'm going to contact some designers (any volunteers?) to make up a similar page (I'll supply the images & numbers) and we'll compare the time taken, and results. but as it stands, I honestly think, this is a tool that doesn't exist right now. i.e. a PDF creation tool for RPG writers to make up clean, interesting and professional looking PDFs without paying $50 a month and spending months learning, just to save you some time and or money getting a professional to do, when you don't even have an audience yet.

I have 4 main page concepts for now "Object Page" which has a title, and something, such as an image. Typically this might be a page for chapters or just the front title page, but also, full page art, maps, etc. "Text + Object" pages, all text can (if you want) have its own sub-title and a 'thing' can be added to the page, such as an image or table, that the text will wrap around, so the image can have dominance. Tables can fit nicely into the text section if you want. "Specific" pages, which for me, is an NPC stat page for my test, has a very specific layout to set the text, values, etc, plus a main image and background images. This can be used for NPCs or Monsters for now, but with a tweak I can add locations (such as taverns/dungeon rooms) and such. Lastly are "stat blocks" or repeatable elements, I've use them for character backgrounds, weapon stats, shopping lists. The interesting part so far is the idea that the table for these items, is built BY the system, so you don't need to write up a table, just nominate the table you want, and the columns you need in it. All items in your whole book could be declared in one file, the you just designate them sections, and the PDF creator can do the rest.

I've opened a Patreon, Its set at a modest $1, While I will work on this for myself, and freely give out ideas on doing it for yourself, I don't want freeloaders snatching my code and selling it to others, and want people to have a sense of ownership if they contribute. So if you think you might have a page need, that I might too need, that doesn't match one of the 4 above, then lets work on that. Patreons can test it as I write it, and any feedback will become tasks that i can improve it with, so users can benefit from my tool.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Careful what you say you may ruins someones play.

This blog goes into a few different topics, I'll try to break it up with headings.Mostly its about GMing

Pro GMs Chatting with Casual GMs

Sometimes when your talking to someone that seems to understand what your saying, is on the same page as you, you might get a bit deeper into the topic, but if the other person wasn't really there on the same page, and they have a different world view on the topic, your deeper thoughts can trigger negative thoughts. 

I belong to several RPG chat groups. Its quite common to engage in discussions about new rules. Its as common to me that people pull the strings of rules to see if they are knotted well, or robust enough, so that players won't pull said strings in the middle of the game.

When describing how the players can or might pull at the strings, examples are given.

So, when I saw a fellow community member mention a new rule, I did what I thought was normal and pulled some of the strings of the rule, presenting ways in which a player or a situation could ruin the rule.

Instead I offended the guy, he got extremely defensive of his rule, politely attacked me and when I apologised, politely slapped my face. I was of course miffed, I had too late realised it was a public post, not a group post, so I was likely jumping into his realm and just rambling on about his rule having holes.

Facepalm: Meaning, Oh, Oh sorry, I made a mistake, my bad.. lets look at this differently.

Player Agency: This was my point in the pulling of strings. And brevity was my downfall.
I have often forgotten that I'm not thinking about things like others do, and I often don't want to write a paragraph of explanation to get people onto the same page as myself. So I'll often not bother, but when I think that I'm talking to a fellow games master / games designer, I just jump straight in, and I'll talk at the person, like they know exactly what I'm talking about. which often gets mis-interpreted.

Gamesmastering is not simple or easy

Case in point: Story Telling is an Art, not just in that its artistic, but that it requires an artist, to get it right. One key factor that many casual GMs will quote "its just a game". The problem is that regardless if they think its a game or not, Its also an exercise of the mind, it teaches us things, about ourselves, our players, and the world in which we live.

If you present your players with a cliff, and they talk about how to scale UP this cliff, they spend minutes talking about pitons, rope, how far up is it, your players are engaing in player agency, you've given them a chance to shine, for them to solve the problem in a creative way. Do they have pitons, do they have rope, does anyone have the climb skill, do we have spells that can break the laws of gravity, can we go around? Is there anyone nearby that can supply us with tools for scaling? should we actual scale it? is it a good idea. The discussion of how to solve the problem is players engaging in the game. Its part and parcel of roleplay.

You know what it also does? it teaches players, regardless if you want it to or not, it teaches them to be creative in their ability to solve problems. It makes them better people.

Its one of the reasons why Roleplay IS such a great medium. The Agency of creative thought.
Two ways you can destroy this part of a roleplay experience, either directly or indirectly, is to take away this agency, the players choice in what solution should they use. Because players will often, if not always, take the path of least resistance.

The First, is why the above disagreement happened: Give players an out. Give them the choice to teleport the simple material objects, pitons and rope, to their characters, without any consequence.

If players can, teleport or retroactively buy components, tools, arrows and the like directly to their character, they will always do so. No need to ask around town before leaving, 'what kind of terrain will we cross' and pre-buy the goods needed, No need to worry about packmules for the goods, nor the path chosen, to get to the quest, not even a care, if the character steps on a weight based trap.. his back pack is now empty, but later, it'll be retroactively full, breaking the immersion of the game.. 

The Second, slightly less common, is when the solution is so impossible to solve, that the players, having 0 agency in the situation can only give up, a frustrated GM can't understand why the players can't see the forest for the trees, and the frustrated players can't understand how the GM can think they CAN see the forest, since they're in a desert.

As an example, back at our cliff, no material objects and the instructions clearly say they need to walk this direction, but the players are being chased by a dragon. They cannot think how to solve it, the GM keeps saying he's given them all the hints, and yet the dragon arrives, the GM has to fudge the encounter (the players gain too much XP and become OP for the rest of the campaign) change the plot (the big nasty dragon is actually goblins in disguise, but if that's so.. then how did the goblins manage to enact all those creature powers & fly & breathe fire?) or stick to the reality and kill off the party with a single flame of the dragon.

Face Palm.

The GM points out after killing off the players, that they needed to 'walk' up the cliff, its enchanted. The quote "walk this direction" was so obvious.. was it not? 

Well, unless the players had ANY experience that walking up the side of the cliff was even possible.. this is 0 agency.. they can't make the choice, because they can't foresee it being possible.

The Problem is that Casual GMs might see that arriving at the cliff without pre-purchasing pitons and rope, as 0 player agency, so giving them a retroactive purchase seems like a good idea.

But its not. because you made the choice for the players: You will need equipment, I want you to use equipment, but I know you won't buy the right stuff, so I'll let you buy it retroactively. you took away their agency.
Player Agency, Don't take away choices
I had a player, who wove elven nets into his clothes, and carried a ball of string. He'd tie objects to his body as A) access easy items and B) crude armour. When in town, he'd buy up sets of things that he felt were needed by the group. often he was asked "why are you buying a fishing hook? we're going to a dungeon!

I had another player who would guide the group on regular outings to find rare and curious material components for spell casting. Each and every time, he'd end up with something curious, and as often as not, the group would encounter some creature, guarding its lair or out hunting or protecting its territory. Not often so horrible, but always a welcome side quest, with XP.

Another player, loved to try out different woods to craft arrows, sharpening his skills as a fletcher. At one point he managed to craft a masterwork redwood sapling arrow with a crystal holder head, allowing a crystal of ice to create his +6 distance +3 armour penetration +6 ice damage arrow , which helped take down a malicious fire demon. 

If I played any of those games where arrows, spell components or mundane equipment and or backpack arrangement was cast to the side by the game or the GM, those players would not still be talking about those events, to this day.

Player Agency allows players to choose to create interesting games, They can do things, without needing to change the plot or rules or interfere with the world building.

Yet.. for all that's said and done.. players need choice.. so if your players are new.. get them used to the nitty gritty to start with, get them experienced with how it 'can' be done.. then after 5-10 sessions, let them relax on those rules, and present them with faster approaches to do the same thing.

in Dungeonworld, we have a thing called "down time" between adventures, Its done instantaneously for us, but takes weeks in game: Often while the warrior is healing, the mage gathers components, the rogue brews up potions, the archer crafts arrows and the merchant straps all these crazy things to his next set of armour.. Facepalm. 

Friday, 14 July 2017

InDesign, Scribus or Web?

I've reached the point where its time to start putting together the final book designs, and I hit a wall. Publisher Layout.

Which One to start using? InDesign, Scribus or Web

Google Docs was great and all for writing the whole bunch of rules into various folders and chapters and such, I even managed to get a simplistic 'mail-merge' to take my 600 background professions and divy them up into strutures readable by users to choose/have chosen for them, their backgrounds. This meant that I didn't have to hand write each and every one. But it does mean I have to design each and every one.. right?

I Spent maybe 4 weekends with two of my help team (Christian & Rory) sorting through this massive list of backgrounds that needed to be tabulated and filtered into the 12 different background tables.

So now I have the stats for 600 backgrounds. I can pull those stats into a table, but the table can't take a background image, or multiple background images, and pull it all together properly. Google docs is more limited than word doc..

I Asked a graphic designer, possible? and got the reply.. Um, No? but maybe their company had never dealt with such a request.

but maybe does everything

So I started research.. InDesign, I use here as a catch-all for the "free to try, Pay by the month" kind of tools. There is a learning curve, there might be aspects of the tool I want to use, locked behind a paywall, So I gotta ask myself. is it worth the 2-4 months of learning and the $6-$60 a month membership, to be able to create the PDF just exactly so? It Better!
Learning Curve,
 might have blockers

Next, Scribus. Or all the free tools many can do everything that InDesign does, but free. Sometimes that mostly just means its harder to find tutorials or stack-exchange articles on how to do it. My real concern is that  it has less functionality.. Should I waste 4 months of learning, just to discover that it can't do what I need also?

Comfort, Ability?
Likelyhood of working?
And lastly, Web Technology.. I recently played around with the @page feature. Turns out I can make a PDF from data. Images,Gradients, positioning, all the bits and pieces I need, I just need to write it all, by hand.. (which I can do)

So I'm sitting at this point, wondering.. Which path will I go down.. what pitfalls await me, what blockages will force me to try different angles or paths or variants, and will it be acceptable to take those variants, instead of doing exactly what I want.

If you're reading this and saying.. In Design/Scribus for the Win, then I have to ask the vitally important questions:

1. Can I create a multi-layered graphical template for a 5th of the page, each element relying on data from a CSV or better yet JSON object, that will tell each template how to react, i.e. top margin 2px, top border 1px wide, red, solid, gradient, over a parchment background, with a choice of semi-transparent images of either blood, magic or burn marks, (again, based on the Data), positioning of 24 numbers, with different titles on each, and some dice symbols (either as imported fonts or graphics). With alternative, left side/right side for the text, and have 4,5 or 6 of them appear per page. With the caveat that I have a parent object true/false flag that I can toggle at any point and print only the true flagged ones for the final PDF? (incase my test runs prove that having a street thief and a beggar are too similar and I drop one, and replace it with peddler) so all I need to do is change the flags true/false and press print.

An Example of the Above:
Grabbed from Google, but represents half of what I'm talking about.

2. Can I dynamically change the background image per page, to my page numbers have a ticking clock behind each, so my reader can 'flip' book through the pages and see the clock ticking? and if I decide later to change the 'time' I can do so simply, and the whole book updates?

3. Can I nominate a transparent image to be present on each page, and alter it based on maths, to get a little larger, spread and position differently.. but drop it if need be without having to do anything other than click a box "Add blood stains".

Because, so far, my research suggests that none of this is done easily.. it would be painful to set up, create and test, chewing up any time saving from having to just position each time once at the very end of the creative process, and hope that I don't need to change it later.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Does Story trump rules? Only in cartoons and comedy

Over at Raging Owlbear, There is a thread about how Story trumps Rules. He makes some good points, yet at the same time misses some (IMHO) critical issues. This is not just Owlbear, This has been seen across the board with so many threads on so many forums, and its really scary that anyone should/would box RPGs up, to exclude anyone that doesn't agree with this.

If you haven't or are not going to read it, or just to clarify what I think he's saying:

Story Trumps Rules:

Owlbear talks first about how rules provide a framework for us to tell a story so we can have fun. He then goes into why you should not break the rules, I agree . Then how you should learn the rules, so you can know when to break them.. and lastly, When to break the rules, mostly this was "is it fun? then break the rules"

Whose fun?

The bulk of the posts these days seems to be "oh, the situation is too hard, just let them have their fun, scale down the difficulty, pull out the problems, let the players have fun"

At whose expense?

Owlbear doesn't go down this path, he uses example that seem fair, realistic, but read between the lines, and you can see that none of these 'rules' needed to be broken.

How do I portray this to you, the reader, clearly.. How about this: for the older crowd: We all knew it was illegal to record shows from TV onto a VCR and watch it later, the law was to stop people from setting up micro-cinemas, and showing lots of people, denying the production company the money to pay for the movie/show. For the younger crowd, Its Illegal to record Youtube Videos, and watch them later, same reasons. Yet people do it, why? because the rule is broken, its a blanket rule to cover all situations. Laws can't cover all instances fairly, neither can roleplay game rules. and that's why the Gamesmaster exists, She/He can gauge the situation and determine, does that rule apply to this situation or not.

Scafford of Consistency

When Owlbear talks of not breaking the rules, he talks of Consistency: A scaffold of consistency allow players agency to use their own world knowledge to play the game without needing to know the rules off by heart. If in real life, they think they can jump from a pillar to a window frame, they should be able to, If in real life, they can 'target' the head, with their sword swing, they should be able to. The Rules, are supposed to be an abstraction of physics to game mechanics, to allow players to do what they want to do.. or at least try.

Newer GMs

Newer GMs don't know when to use rules and when they don't, Often they'll break immersion to look up a rule, players go off, get a drink, return and have lost some of the flow of the game. so GMs learn quickly or look up on the internet how to do it better and what do they hit first?, 'break the rules to make sure the fun doesn't stop' and like the VCR/Youtube example above, they'll do what everyone does. to get done what needs to be done, so the game doesn't come to a crashing halt.

One of the reasons I advocate that new GMs should first be DMs, is to get familiar with a stricter set of rules. Dungeonworlds: Dungeon Delvers Twelve, puts the DM in charge of a dungeon, players have a more structured environment, a Dungeon, to get familiar with the rules, but so does the DM. Over time, after learning how to run a dungeon a few hundred times, they might advance to GM to deal with the outside world, the travel between locations, the open world, the sandbox and all the aspects of roleplay that both players and GMs need to get used to.
As they go though, they'll get used to what rules work in certain situations, but not others. If a rule doesn't exist, (like 99% of the time) the GM has likely learnt enough on how to gauge the situation, use a rule that matches best, and if no rule exists, make a ruling on what to do. No rule has been broken, players can maintain consistency, keep their agency and get on with the game, without thinking "Oh, the GM just fudged that, ok, so I don't need to think about what I can do, I should instead think about what is cool, fun, exciting and the GM will allow it, because 'fun!'.

Maybe they do that subconsciously, maybe the make a decision to do so, I know I fell into the trap, when my GM wanted my character to succeed, I felt no push-back to my antics, so I just kept pushing, not on purpose, just to know the limits. I quit the game when I should have died for the 3rd time and he just hand waved me through.. for plot.. sorry, I want to enjoy the challenge, and to understand the challenge, I need to know the bounds of the game.

What kind of fun? What kind of story?

Everyone has an opinion of what fun is, as they do what a story is. Romeo and Juliet is a classic tragedy, its an awesome story, its known around the world, yet I can't see a shred of fun in it. So why does fun trump story again? I think restricting all forms of roleplay to only 'fun' stories, is like limited TV to only cartoons and comedy. when so many other genres exist...

This is really another topic, but at the core of what we're talking about:

Limiting Roleplay to Plot and Story is, to my mind, akin to Railroading. Any kind of decision by the forces of nature (the GM) that pushes the plot in any direction, especially for Plot (story) will be viewed by the players as taking away their agency. So if Fun trumps Story.. doesn't that mean that guiding the game, to be more fun, is another form or railroading? What if the natural progression of the 'story' is to become a classic tragedy? If the GM obeys the fun rule, it forces a comedy, from what could have been an awesome tragedy, to something in the middle, and no-body wins.

Yes, Personally, I'm a Sandbox GM, I think we create stories in real life from moments of the mundane, I went to the shops, met a man, who sold me some beans for my cow and when I got home my mother scolded me.. Each of these events are fleshed out in roleplay, and more so in life, but when we tell them later, we only state the sentence that sums up all those events "met a man", did a GM somewhere make an encounter roll? sure, and he did so for the 20 people that met that man before me, but each one failed to swap the beans, and they went to different stories, not one of them is going to include the "met a man with some beans" in their story, unless its somehow relevant. Not everyone has the beanstalk 'fun' but for some reason, this topic keeps popping up, telling new GMs, misguiding them from the path for this 'fun' version of roleplay.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

My Thoughts on Pay-to-Play in roleplay, As a Full-time Paid GM.

At the height of my career, I was taking home almost 6 figures as a paid Gamesmaster. This is my story.

Pay to Play? Gotta be worth it

From 2003 to 2013, I was a travelling English Teacher, I started raw, I didn't know what I was doing, and frankly, it surprises me still that I managed to pull it off. The number 1. thing I did was to learn how to do what I was supposed to be doing every night, until I was as good as I said I was in the interview, it took 3 years.

In 2003, I left Australia to travel the world, and promptly ran out of money. So I needed money. I took on a bar-tending job in Shanghai during the evenings and started teaching English during the day.

I discovered after about 6 months, that I knew nothing of my own language, school had not trained me anything more than nouns, verbs and adjectives, and I still suffer to correctly Capitalise my words.. I capitalise when I emphasize, so if you want to read things in your head, like I say them, then raise your inner voice every-time you see a capital.

So I learned, I downloaded books on the subject of teaching, I studied English for myself and I got better at it.. and I discovered that there was a part of language teaching that I excelled at..


In Teaching, Roleplaying is a set of circumstance that puts the student into the 'role' of a person who needs to speak English, in order to get through the task. This might be getting through customs, or buying shoes in a shop, or business negotiations to strike a deal.

For a Gamesmaster, Roleplaying is of course So much More! These books on how to teach? were trying to tell me how to 'teach' with 'roleplaying' OMG I was laughing at it all..

So after getting my feet as a teacher, I started introducing the art of actual roleplaying to my students. I started with the TV series 'lost'. My students were to learn new words each week, so I would write up 20 new words that made sense to learn while being 'lost' on an island.. we put those words into sentences, played the scenario, the students would need to use the words, to survive.. plank of wood, hammer, nail, rope, rope bridge, chasm, I was feeding them clues on how to solve the puzzle, but since the words were not known to them, it was a puzzle unto itself.

the players... ahem,,.. students.. loved it, they came back for my, my classes got more interesting and the students grade went up.

The only problem was management.. when they saw we were playing games.. they thought it was a waste of money and dropped the courses.. until later, when I would provide them with statistical evidence that gaming lessons had a more than 30% improvement in language retention that all other lesson types.. I did this by running the same grammar lessons with one group and no roleplay, I had more than 50 groups, of around 4-6 students a group, at approx 2 years per student of learning, the lower end of the spectrum was 30% improvement, for students that were roleplaying..

That was when I went full time.

Now, jump back in time, remember how I used to run a games club for kids? That was Sunday afternoons, 5 hours, each kid paid $2 to come to the club each week, plus membership fees of around $10 a year, eventually we got up to 3 GMs and a profit of around $60 a week from sales of drinks, minis and entry fees, what I learnt from that was how to set up and run a game fast, how to keep the plot hooks going at the end of the session "Come back next week, same bat channel, same bat time" and how to keep the 'customers/players happy'

A few years later, Instead of catering to the Junior Roleplayers, I had a few phone calls to my club, asking if I could come out to their place and run a game. To begin with, It didn't quite feel right to ask for money, so I simply asked that they chipped in for the pizza and I'd supply the game, but after the first 2 sessions, I was losing cash on the deal as I had to transport myself across town, supply the dice, pencils and paper to the guys, charactersheets and such, so I asked them, would they be ok with chipping in for the costs, $20 a month would do it, else I couldn't afford to cross town for this group of strangers, they agreed and I got my next round of experience as a paid GM.

So, when I was showing my clients the difference between boring class results and roleplayed results, I had more than enough confidence to talk about how I'd been doing this years before and how easy it was to set up and run, I guess my sales pitch succeeded, because they agreed and I was roleplaying, primarily, for the bulk of my income from around 2009/2010.

I was, I consider myself, to be extremely lucky, to be in the right place, with the right experience, to be able to offer this unique service which had proven results, but I knew the laws of supply and demand, so I offered this service, but at a premium price. 2x 1.5 hour lessons, twice a week for $90 an hour, per 'group'. They accepted for those students who wished to participate. which was maybe 90%.

In such a closed environment, I was able to have groups run synchronously in the same world, meeting the same NPCs, either before or after previous groups, the logistics and economy of each group affecting any later groups, "Oh sorry sir, a group of adventurers just bought my finest sword just last week". I could even allow 1 of the groups to be the bad guys, having them just ahead of other groups, plotting evil, leaving traps and ambushes along the way, before they settled down in a well defended location, and only when a player from one group disguised his character as evil (and he asked the group if he could join, because he wanted to play an evil character too) could he then reveal himself at the last possible moment and foil their plans.

After watching this Legacy style play, I invited several other GMs I knew from other countries to participate. One from Estonia, one from latvia, Germany, England and the US, to have their 'groups' running in the same world, I sent maps of events via email to the GMs and their groups interacted, somewhat, with my groups.. I even got my old players from Australia to join in via skype for some epic moments.. it was amazing.

But real life, always seems to throw you a curve-ball.

My boss, who approved the games for the majority of my client base, and his boss who joined in once or twice, moved on, and the new guy was more hard-nosed to the idea of 'games as education', the country went into turmoil over govt restrictions, another of my clients warned me that things were going to get difficult in the next few years, so I left, returned to Australia and decided to knuckle down and get my degree, get my site up and running, and after raising some funds, publish my game.

I've run some Legacy style games since then, gotten my old Russian players and even the American players to join in, I think its the angle that sets my gaming apart from others, knowing that any NPC can often be a PC from another group, seems to wake players up just a tad more and take notice.

 So, my thoughts on Pay to Play

I've talked already in a previous post about how I think you need to bring more to the table than just 'run a game' to be a professional GM. To me, that's attention to detail in your world, your NPCs and being able to run your game without a rulebook. This usually means a working knowledge of Physics, Human communication, Psychology, Cultures other than your own, Sleeping outdoors, walking in caves, fighting in the rain, anything that gives you an edge from any other guy that just 'reads the rules and runs a module'.
When your paying to play a game, you're paying for the convenience of having a GM that is prepared and unable to flake and players of a like minded attitude of "I'm paying to be here, so I'm not going to mess around, or waste time with off topic chatter or argue about rules", Other players are there for the same reason you are, to have fun in the limited time you have, because you work hard, want to rest up, relax and play a game, and you only have 4 hours spare on a thursday night to do so. You could spend $30+ at any number of events IF you had the right friends and the timing was right for that particular time frame, so why not spend your $30 sitting down, relaxed at a table, with some like minded adventurers who wish to get their game on.

As a Paid GM, I love having players that are ready, attentive, pay attention to the details, play in character, don't cancel unless its actually important and bow out if its not the right group, the right setting or the right game, rather than stay 'because its your friends' and disrupt the game for everyone else.

So, it might be that I'm the highest paid GM in the world?

I was having a chat with a guy online about what it is to be a Paid GM, and we were looking for an analogy, some people refer to artists or movies or such, and as we talked about it, I admitted that I was already a paid GM for years, my first paid gig back in 1992, and he was offended, but curious.. and that seems to be the internet right now on the subject of paid GMs.. offended but curious, and when he asked how much did I make.. well that blew his mind.

  as a Paid GM, 2005 to 2012, from 5 to later 40+ hours a week

I think my 2 cents on the matter, well, matters?

I didn't start at 40 hours GMing, but it was mostly in the last 3-4 years of that maybe 50 hours, running 6-10 groups a week, but when I started I was scraping by for 'costs', bus & food, approx $20 ($5 each player) for a 4-6 hour session. I've been compared to being a prostitute to an artist, my sessions from a glorified conversation, to the equivalent of a theatrical performance worthy of the stage. Some people can't justify paying for a GM, any more than they can justify going to a restaurant, when they can cook for themselves at home. 

The Dungeon Master by KwongBee-Arts
I think (and remember, this is purely my opinion, not canon/law/rule) one of the differences between professional and not, is more about the ability to cope with all the things the average GM never would. As I trained in hospitality (and for some time as a cook) I'll compare as such:

Cooking at home, for friends, you pay for the costs yourself, lighting, heating, food (as would a GM, buys his own books, prep, etc) take the time, because you have it, and if it all goes pear shaped, your friends will accept an apology and a pizza. There is no more expectation than you showing off your ability to cook, and your friends saying "well done, you can cook" (Thanks for a good game, see you next week).. you are getting paid.. in praise and a feeling of success.

A Chef though, having trained for years, day in day out, thinking, breathing, living in a kitchen, is expected to be 'good' as a default norm. He can look in a fridge and prepare a meal from almost any ingredients, without thinking. He knows a classic set of meals, some variants, he can replace any missing ingredient with an equivalent and still make a fine meal.

So, I would say a Pro-GM is someone who has at least 3 years of basic training, daily sessions, 40 hours a week, so if you say been a GM casually, but that includes 10% cancellations, 4-5 hours on a Sunday, then you'd need 20+ years to match basic training. A Pro GM can run a game without a system, just as a discussion and a coin to flip, without skipping a beat, match the game to the players requests (space/horror/western) but not cow-tow to their demands.

You open the dungeon door to reveal... a filet!
Chefs also learn to create their own food, but they also price it, determine its caloric value, its cost to produce in goods and time and how repeatable junior chefs can make the meal. So that would mean the same equivalent of creating dungeons.. not just scribbling a random map and adding monsters, but fleshing out the ecology of said dungeon, how it came about, what existed here to begin with and why it got kicked out. what adventurers already came here and died to determine how the rumours of said dungeon eventually drifted back to towns to trigger the current team to come here.

Prep-time should be amortized over a more realistic schedule, You can't figure in 60 hours prep for a single session, (unless the client knows they are paying for a unique, once off, never to be repeated adventure), prepping a session should give you at least 3-6 sessions x 3-6 groups, breaking down to maybe 2 hours per group per session, If the average wage of your country is $20 an hour, and you run a 4 hour session, then $80-$120 might be viable for an equal -supply vs demand- environment, but until people recognise this proGM level of talent and are prepared to pay $120 (for a group, thats $30 each for 4 players, $7.50 an hour) for a Sunday afternoons entertainment, then you have to charge less.. and as your name becomes known, and your demand increases.. then, like any decent job, you can ask for a higher price.

When you go to a restaurant though, you get more than just a chef, you get an environment, you get to compare this to others who've been to this restaurant, you get to take photos of your food and post it on your social media. So this too could be considered part and parcel of attending a ProGMs game. Some people argue that running D&D isn't fair, because you're using their system, their worlds, you're not doing all the work. Well you could argue that the chef doesn't grow the food, but I sorta agree that while the chef uses recipes that are common to the world, the better chefs use their own recipes.

I've heard it said "make sure you have a doctor and lawyer in the family" so you didn't have to pay for these expensive costs. In my day, family and friends helped each other out. Hairdresser, builder, Electrician or Plumber you had someone to do these things and you paid them for the materials, but in return you supplied YOUR skills for free. Today as an IT guy, I'm often asked to 'fix' peoples computers.. for free?! So if you have a GM friend, it feels normal to get them to run a game for free, they're your friend.. but what service are you supplying your GM friend for free in return? 

At the end of the day, People will pay for an experience that they can't achieve themselves. Some people have a bar in their back room and invite friends, but the rest go to a bar, Some have a pool, but the rest go to a public pool. So if some people will pay to have a game run for them, which has a nice clean start, middle and end, is structured, run professionally, friendly and enjoyable, then more to them.

Now.. how do I get my players to post social media of our games.. lol..

The Little RPG Group - Merinid_DE


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Board games are Card games are c-Roleplaying games?

I follow kickstarter board games quite heavily, actually, all kinds of games, if its being Kickstarted, I want to read about it, this gradually started about 2012 or so, and I was a kind of local guru on 'what makes a good kickstarter' enough to run some workshops for some people in different industries that had heard about me..

After I returned to Oz, It slowed a little, yet I kept my finger on the pulse.. just ignored that pulse a little too often and missed 2-3 great games (and likely ended up paying more than I should have to get them later on)

The most interesting thing I've noticed recently is, the blurring of the lines between the different genres of

Board game, Card games and c-Roleplay Games

Lets double check we're on the same page with these things.

Board games of 2011!
Board games, typically have a board, pieces, sometimes of board, sometimes of wood or plastic. They have rules for moving/placing/removing the pieces, which results in score or win/lose conditions.

Card games, produced by fantasy flight!

Card games, typically have cards (made of thin boards ;) ) which are played according to rules about placing, moving or removing, which results in scoring or win/lose conditions.

If you think Diablo is an RPG, stop reading and go away

c-(components of or computer variety) roleplay games, have rules, which are played according to rules, about placing, moving or removing (from your character sheet) which represents an avatar. c-Roleplaying games result in a win/lose condition (and sometimes even score)

Yes, I know.. Roleplaying games, are different, that is, REAL roleplay games, are a set of rules or guidelines in order to tell a fun, yet believable story, some of that fun is understanding the restrictions of the character you are playing, which is represented by a set of rules, but those rules are to help people to feel fairness and order, not to represent any value or score or win conditions.. which seems to be lost on anyone who grew up with the c-variety of roleplay games as staple.. but thats not the topic of this blog.. I just wanted to clarify for you, so the comments section won't have anyone ... 

well forget it.. people comment, its the internet, so I'll just leave that.. 

So, to re-clarify, Computer/Component roleplay games are about levels, bonuses, equipment and numbers, of monsters killed. be it in a computer, or a psudeo-RPG-in-a-book variety.
These are board game cards, almost as complex as D&D

Back to my point

I've recently seen some awesome looking board games, that have charactersheets.. not Dungeon crawls, I like dungeon crawls, they break down the idea of the game and simplify it to be played in 45 minutes. my first real board game, was Heroquest. ahh Heroquest.

Heroquest is the best game ever made.

No, I'm talking about these new games, where the in-game charactersheet is more complex than Dragon warriors.. the simplest roleplay game I know of. 
Maybe, just maybe I've played for DW than any other system (except my own, based on DW)

Take this concept.. Monster are attacking a castle, the players are playing heroes, who are slinging spells, making actions, to hold back these monsters. At the same time they're placing workers to shore up the battlements, set up traps or defences to push back the invaiders, or gathering resources to prepare. Sounds ok as a game, yet the 'heroes' are not just Health tokens, Magic tokens, some weapon cards and skill/spell cards, no, they have progression, they level up, they gain backstory, they gain so much more.. More than a fully realised DW character.. If I wanted a roleplay character on a board game.. why wouldn't I simply get my DM to create the plot to 'play' that game? shouldn't be THAT hard right? or is $90 worth learning a new RP system, just for the stand alone, repeatable quest?

I think it might be just me, I don't like to watch a movie twice, or a tv-series.. if I wasn't concentrating the first time, it wasn't good enough for me to watch again.. the same with roleplay.. If I've entered the dungeon, defeated the monsters and died.. well so be it.. that character is dead.. I don't want to come back with a new guy, because 'I' the player have already experienced the first 6 rooms of this dungeon...

Except of course for Legacy Games, now that's different.

So replaying a board game with a different, roleplayable, character, just seems... off..

There was that dice rolling game, where you matched, Yatzee style, a set of rules to form.... a Character. A character, as GM I would NEVER allow in any of my games.. so min-maxed, so ultimately broken. How a child would survive the rigors of medieval times with a charisma of less than 7, I'll never know...

Then there are board games, Dungeon Crawl board games, with deck building mechanics.. advance in the dungeon by fighting monster cards, or drawing equipment cards or helper cards, try not to wake the dragon, but try to grab all the lot before the other players.. Its an awesome game, it mashes all the parts together in a worthy style, and is enjoyable.. once or twice.. luckily, it has no character sheet, maybe that's why it works.

I think the broken part is, the use of RP components, rather than real RP mechanics. In the world of gamification, there were components such as points, badges and leaderboards, all extrinsic motivators. All shiny, all broken. Why? because they only bring IN the user, they don't KEEP the user. RP components, Weapons, Armour, Skills and Levels, bring in players, but they stay because they get to build stories.

Look at Minecraft, No points, No badges, no Leaderboards, just self created goals, exploration and learning. people 'advanced' by discovering upgrades, not because the game told them to, but because it just felt like the next progression.

I'm slowly building a graph of games.. Why? because last time I did, I predicted Minecraft.. 1st person games, flooded market looking for something new / different 1st person games.. crafting games, a new emergent genre of game, makes the market interested, open world games, a solid genre that people trust, and look out for.. not specifically fantasy, nor science fiction.. could be both or neither.. gap in the market.. first half decent game to hit that gap wins.. Minecraft!

So the graph of card/board games.. the rise of deck building and worker placement games two emergent genres, looking for a solid genre that people trust, Euro games? and a flooded market? Board? Card? Roleplay? that's the final unknown.. I know where I'm putting my money... 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Levelling your Race

A thought occurred while discussing races with my group.. can you level up your race?

I'm a 5th level elf

If classes or professions are a 'set' of bonuses that are applied as you level up, why can't we have a set of 'racial' bonuses that we can choose to 'level up' as well?
I'm curious as to if any other game systems do this too, One that seems closest to the bill is Legend, but its not exactly a specific "level up" so much as just getting Boon bonus's to your race skills.

For the d20 fans, It would essentially be a set of skills, feats and increasing bonuses such as night vision or will save. A decent DM/Games designer could probably come up with a decent list, but the questions for such a system would be, why bother to level up my elf, when I could level up my class?

Maybe if DMs were a little more restrictive with their classes, then this would be a viable idea. i.e. Elves are not allowed to take rogue classes normally (alignment, disdain for such a career), yet elves are stealthy, especially in a forest, so maybe an 'Elven build' with stealth skills, ref saves and the like, Evasion, Uncanny dodge, but none of the Sneak attack, Backstab, Pickpocket skills.

For full Dungeonworld rules, there would be no real point, all skills are able to be increased, and only your motivations to increase them hamper or help this. I already have background skills lists, so this too serves its purpose and you may choose to practice and improve your background skills as you choose..

Yet, Dungeon Delvers Twelve, the simplified version rules, relies on the tropey level up sets of bonuses, pre-chosen to help newer players in understanding their characters better, guiding them. 

This, would be useful to have a 'levelling system' for your race, it would represent the players choice in increasing their background skills.. it could be an interesting set of bonuses, traits (and or flaws) skills and racial goals.. as you think more of your culture, your family and your race, as you return year after year to continue your racial training, you learn more of the racial divide between certain cultures, possibly racial hatreds, which give you combat advantages when fighting the 'enemy'

Just a few thoughts at this stage.. we'll see if I introduce it or not.