Wednesday, August 5, 2020

RPGaDay Challenge 2020 - TRIBUTE

So far I am not loving the prompts for this year's RPGaDay Challenge. They don't really inspire any RPG related thoughts. Mostly they're too 'real world' if that makes any sense. As in, to write an entry related to them I have to think of something about the world outside of gaming that I have to try to relate to RPGs somehow. 

Take Tribute for example. A game which serves as a tribute to a friend I've lost? A Tribute to an old game no longer in production? Perhaps a tribute to a writer, artist, or designer of a bygone error? 

That's all very sad, yet try as I might that's all that comes to mind when I think 'Tribute'. 

Trying hard to think of an 'in-game' idea related to Tribute I can only come up with giving tribute, as in to a diety or royalty. Something like an offering or tithe meant as payment. Now to say something about I got nothing. It isn't something that usually comes up in the games I run. It might be interesting to explore the idea in Ars Magica but it isn't interesting to me at this moment. 

So that's my Tribute post. Pretty lame, huh? This year the words just aren't generating any ideas. Hopefully at some point they will...

Barking Alien

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

RPGaDay Challenge 2020 - VISION

The word Vision makes me think of a lot of things. Foremost among them the ability to see things, my favorite Marvel Comics Android Avenger, and that moment when a character foresees an event either far way or in the distant future. 

None of those definitions are the one I want to talk about today however. Instead, I am looking at this interesting meaning of the word:

"a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination"

Which relates to:

"the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be"

Examples: "I have a vision for this company" and "We need to work together to realize our vision for this project". 

When I create a new campaign I am particularly excited for it is usually because I have a clear vision in my mind about what the game is going to be like. I then develop the story, choose a rules system, and make the necessary choices needed to see that vision become a reality. 

It may be that my players share that vision or they may be so curious about what it is that they jump in with both feet just to see it come together. Somewhere a long the line, hopefully, they come to like and appreciate what I have in mind, lean into it, and together we create a thing of beauty. 

Sometimes...that doesn't happen. 

If the GM and players don't share the same vision in anyway it is unlikely the final product will be all that great. Sure you might get some fun moments here and there but it is going to be by share luck that this occurs if the overarching concept isn't one everybody is equally eager to see come into being. 

Is there anything one can do to make this happen? That is, how do you improve your chances of sharing your vision?

Well...first off, make sure you communicate your vision to the group as best you can. Sometimes this can be difficult if you are hoping to surprise them with a twist but honestly, letting them know 'All is not as it seems' is part of the vision and it's perfectly OK to say that. In fact, in my experience, it's really helpful. It worked especially well with my ALIEN FRONTIER campaign. I didn't let them know they were gaming in the Alien franchise universe until they figured it out in the third or fourth session. I did tell them from the start, "there is more going on then meets the eye. There will be a point where the context of this game may change and change dramatically."

Another key idea is to ask the players how they see the game after you've explained your vision to them. By this I mean to avoid confusion down the line, make sure what you said is what they heard by asking them how they envision what you described. If you explained your vision as. "An epic, if somewhat sardonic, romp through a world of Medieval Fantasy" and they say back, "It's basically D&D but we can't die 'cause it's a comedy", you can clarify whether that is what you meant to convey. 

Having a clear and concise vision of what you intend to do is extremely helpful in making a campaign work. Your vision need not be one of complexity and grandeur. It can be simple, straight forward, and easily accessible. "A classic dungeon crawl where we flesh out the PCs' background a bit more than usual" is just as valid a vision as "A analysis of how the existence of Superhero might alter the course and nature of Human history and society". 

Have a vision. Communicate it. Discuss it. Follow through. 

Barking Alien

RPGaDay Challenge 2020 - THREAD

Thread? Really?

This is a day late because I literally fell asleep trying to come up with a post for this prompt.

Thread brings to mind threads on internet forums. It strikes me as too meta to be an RPG Challenge prompt. Is Day 4 'Blog'? Is Day 5 'Prompt'? 

I am sure others may be inspired by this word and honestly more power to them - I'm impressed by anyone who is - but sadly my mood this month is not such that this prompt does anything for me. 

I am going to pass on this one and maybe come up with some at the end of the challenge to make sure I fulfill the 31 entries criteria. 

Next please,

Barking Alien

Sunday, August 2, 2020

RPGaDay Challenge 2020 - CHANGE

(Turn and face the strange)
(Just gonna have to be a different man)

Time may change me
But I can't trace time

The biggest change I've experienced in gaming of late is of course the same one many others are dealing with; gaming over the internet as in person sessions are not viable at this time of global pandemic. 

Now I, like a lot of you out there, have been gaming online for a good deal of time before the coming of Covid-19 made it the only way to safely play RPGs with friends but I have to say, it doesn't get any easier. 

More accurately and specifically, the more I game over the 'net the less I enjoy it. Instead of getting used to the change, it makes me miss meeting in person all the more. I have mentioned this before I believe but I have several issues that make gaming online less conducive to running a great game then I would like. 

First and foremost, not everyone has a camera or wants to show their face online. Even people I know in real-life, people I've gamed with in-person, just don't like looking at themselves on camera. I understand this as I don't really like seeing myself on video either. Unfortunately, much of my GMing style involves facial expressions, hand gestures, and 'acting' out what NPCs are doing. If you can't see me I often have to describe things I would never have thought to describe in the past. Also, I sometimes forget and make physical, visual references anyway and while three out of four people laugh, the last person is stuck going. "What happened? I can't see you", because they don't have their camera feature on. 

In addition, I base a lot of my reactions and responses on the vibe of the room and the look on my players' faces. If I can't see you and don't know if my last joke went over or you're sitting there with a confused look I can't see, I don't know what's working with my audience and what isn't. 

Lastly, I am notoriously bad at judging size and distance in the abstract. I can't visualize a twenty foot by twenty foot hallway. I always hated those descriptions in old D&D modules. 'The pillar with the statue is 9 feet high and it's 45 ft from the entry way to the pillar'. OK, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Seriously, I just can't exactly picture it. Instead, what I've always done is say something like:

It's about twice the length of my arm.
The creature is roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. 
The distance from the door to the pillar is the same as from where I'm sitting to the bathroom of the apartment we're in. 

If you can't see me and heck, sometimes even if you can, you can't easily judge some of those references over Discord or Zoom. For example, one of my players lives in an apartment that is about the same size as mine but looks huge on camera for some reason. Does mine look too large to him? Too small? Ugh. 

I have been working on this one gaming project for a good 35+ years now that I recently went back to in hopes of running it after I complete my ALIEN FRONTIER campaign. Thing is, I will only finish that campaign if I can do it in-person. I will only start the new one if I can do it in a room with people. 

For now, I have adapted to this change in gaming but I for one and very eager for it to change back. 

Barking Alien

Saturday, August 1, 2020

RPGaDay Challenge 2020 - BEGINNING

So it begins...

Where does it begin exactly? I have to begin somewhere.

I suppose I could always begin at the beginning, but I feel like I've covered my beginnings so many times before this. I've no interest in beginning my beginning again.

Hmmm. This is off to a rough beginning. I'm probably beginning to get on your nerves. I know I'm beginning to get on mine. 

Beginning things is probably the hardest part of any endeavor, where it's beginning a new job, a new relationship, or even a new campaign. I never want to begin, I just want to already be knee deep in it. I often wish I could begin a new game somewhere between the third and fifth session. I want the group to already know each other, already be friends, and already have decided where they are going with the campaign. 

At the same time, the beginning of a new game is incredibly exciting and I don't want to cheat the players or myself out of those first steps into the larger universe that we'll all eventually come to understand and hopefully love. 

I guess I will begin this year's RPGaDay Challenge the way all journeys begin...with this first step. 

Barking Alien