Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Barking Alien 101: Advice For Playing In My Games

My good buddy Jay at the ever-so-futuristically-fun blog EXONAUTS, recently posted a list of things for novice PCs to make note of when first entering into the exciting, fast paced world of adventuring.

Actually, I think he might have meant that the points listed were things novice Players should think about when they start in the adventure gaming hobby, but that's just semantics more or less.

I think his post is largely bang-on, but I also thought a slightly altered version of it would be more appropriate to what I am specifically hoping to see in a new player (those playing in my campaigns, or wanting to in the future, please take note).

Snark Warning: Snarkiness Level set to Chartreuse. Pretty snarky but not too snarky.

Let's begin shall we? Being A Player in a Barking Alien RPG - Lesson 101

    1. GOLDEN RULE: Ask the GM questions and try stuff. Have fun!
    Don’t ask the GM if you can breathe or tie your shoe or whether the modern day city street your PC is on has stores. Are you dense? Try to imagine the place the PC is at, what it looks like, what it would be like. Seriously.
    1. Talk to each other, you're a team so get to know your teammates.
    OMG! Yes please. You are not alone in the game. Get to know each other.
    1. Look around at your surroundings, try to be aware at all times.
    If you have trouble doing this, let your GM know. Maybe he/she can draw a picture, set up minis or something. If you can’t picture the environment (see #1), get HELP.
    1. Listen - this means both you as a player and your PC in game.
    But be aware that you the Player can often hear things your PC can’t because they are not near the source of the sound. Learn to separate these two concepts. Please.
    1. Learn about your abilities, see Golden Rule.
    Less important to me. If it floats your boat, go ahead.
    1. Look in your gear bag, learn about your stuff, see Golden Rule.
    Less important to me. If it floats your boat, go ahead.
    1. Check for traps - decide if they should they be disarmed or sidestepped? Left for enemies to run into?
    OK, this can be summed up easily. Think. Don’t be stupid. If you are stupid, expect it to bite you in the butt.
    1. Always be searching for clues, information is as valuable as treasure!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.
    In most of the games I run, information is much, much more valuable than treasure. There usually isn’t much treasure per se.
    1. Record any clues you find or hints you might suspect are being dropped.
    Do you know what record means? Take physical notes! Good physical notes. If we read the notes from last sessions this session and don’t know who or what they are referring to, YOU HAVE NOT TAKEN GOOD NOTES.
    Remember fifth grade? Yeah. Like that.
    1. Learn about your enemies, keep a record in case you run into more.
    Notes. See above.
    1. In combat - look for cover and take up key positions when possible.
    Remember #7? Think and Don’t be stupid.
    1. After combat - loot the bodies, see #7, and see #8.
    Do this in one of my games and be prepared to face consequences unless appropriate to the genre.
    Starfleet Officers, Superheroes, Knights of Chivalry, and Samurai do not loot the bodies.
    1. Remember to get paid, collect treasure, and then convert it to liquid currency if needed. You earn XP for spending your income.
    Again, if genre appropriate, get paid, collect treasure, etc.
    Money has nothing to do with XP in any game I run. None. Not even D&D.
    1. Return to HQ/town/etc. and get information on what you've found. Refer to previous clues discovered.
    Good advice.
    1. Heal yourself and other teammates whenever possible (this includes rest and nourishment).
    Good advice.
    A few other, general pieces of advice.

    • Besides sticking to your class and/or race attributes, determine who's doing what on the team - (e.g., is one of you the group's "leader"? Who looks after team-owned gear, etc.).
    Not applicable or appropriate in the majority of my games.
    If you are playing Star Trek and you don't understand that the Captain is the leader, don't play Star Trek. Did I go too fast there? No? Good.
    Meh. If you want to. Probably won’t matter in a universe where people can fly, teleport, move at super speed, see the future, read your mind, etc.
    • When in doubt, ask the locals. Brush up on bribing, interviewing, and intimidating NPCs. Even if encounters appear to yield nothing, there could be a clue in their temperament or mood. What aren't they saying?
    Here’s a thought, instead of bribing, and intimidating NPCs, get to know them. Maybe, and here's a crazy idea, make friends. Who is more likely to give you good information, more often; the guy who hates you, and is afraid of you, and can’t wait for you to leave, or the guy who’s happy to see you and actually WANTS to help you out and see you do well?
    • Try to determine who might find value in the treasure or information you've discovered.
    Where and when appropriate, sure.
    • Always review your character sheet -- look for ways of improving yourself. How will you spend your XP?
    Meh. This is fine as long as it doesn’t lead to min-maxing. Don’t min-max. It’s asinine. Update your character logically based on their interests and goals.

Hopefully, this will give a little insight into how my games differ from most, with a little added humor. Hopefully.
Now put your books away.

Class dismissed.

Barking Alien


  1. A lot of the advice seemed pretty game- or genre-specific, as you suggested in your response. The big one for me is players listening. Having miniatures, maps, et al is great for non-auditory learners, but so much is still conveyed through the GM, who is effectively the narrator that describes the location, the NPC's, and everything else. I can not tell you the number of times I've had players miss major things because they were not listening.

    1. My goal here wasn't to discredit my good pal Jay over at EXONAUTS, whose advice matches perfectly well with the style of game he runs in the genre he run it.

      Instead, I wanted to point out the specific differences in my style in hopes some giving my 'audience' (such as it is) a greater understanding of where I'm coming from.

      In addition, I posted a link to this on my group's Facebook page. I wanted to give my players a better handle on where I'm coming from when I GM, and how our games aren't going to flow quite as smoothly if the player is 'thinking D&D'.

      Now, my guys (most of them) are pretty darn good at listening (most of the time). Their note-taking skills are kind of hit and miss, but their memories are pretty good for the most part.