Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Change of Plans

I deleted my previous post because after follow up research, analysis, and reflection, I don't believe the campaign story I planned to post was really the one I wanted to tell. 

I am looking to describe the first campaign I ran that I feel illustrates my approach to Gamemastering (and RPG gaming in general) and I don't think the one I was going to use was really the first one.

It's difficult to recount such a milestone because usually there isn't one. A person doesn't normally change their style and thinking suddenly but rather gradually over time. It most often occurs in small increments and builds up to a preferred approach after years of trial and error. 

That said, by 1982 - the year I first purchased my own games with my own money - I'd already had 5-6 years of gaming experience. I was probably already doing things a bit outside the normal of course (as noted in my previous post) but I don't know I thought about what I was doing ahead of time. I didn't sit down to design a campaign and say, "OK, I am going to handle this one differently from how I did the previous one. I am going to go at this with a completely new attitude. Here's what I'll do..."

I know that running Superheroes and Science Fiction (particularly Star Trek) as often as I did/do, and running Dungeons & Dragons and its ilk as little as I have, definitely influenced my perspective on tabletop gaming very early on. It is surely the origin of why such things as Player Character Rewards (discussed recently) and 'Realistic' Tactical Combat don't really interest me that much. 

When did it happen though? When did I stop caring about things like Initiative, Encumbrance, Range in inches on a Hex Map...wait...I never cared about those things. I mean I used them (OK not really the later two) but I didn't get all excited about any of that crap.

Could it be there is no origin story to be found? No single campaign I can point to at all because doing things the way I wanted to do them and see them done was always there? 

This will take some more thought but for now I am going to talk about other things.

Some old things, some new things, some tried-and-true things, and some experimental things. 

Stay tuned.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Self Analysis

Each one of us games the way we do because of various factors that have worked their way into our psyches over the course of our participation in the hobby.

In theory, the longer we go at this, the more the way we do things and the way we like things done develops, changes, and hopefully improves our personal experiences. Eventually, certain things cement themselves in our minds to become what one might call our gaming preferences. We establish a 'style of play' and hope to find other players whose own style of play matches well with ours. 

I talk a lot about my personal style of play, my outlook on what constitutes a good game, a good GM, and good players, and often question the more traditional and widespread approaches to gaming without giving a clear historical context.

That is to say, most readers of this blog know I've been gaming since 1977, which is 43 years. Most know I generally run a 'standard' table, with a GM, players, dice, and a relatively familiar gaming structure. At the same time, my outlook and view points on a number of gaming sacred cows - Adventure Design, Combat, Experience and Rewards, Initiative, PC Death - are quite different from others who grew up in the same era. 

The question I often find myself asking is why? Why is my style of play so different from other 50something+ gamers? Why don't I like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and the 'popular' games? Why is it so much harder to find like minded players these days than it was as a kid, in Junior High, High School, College, and even a while after? 

The answer to the first few question is quite simple.

My start in the hobby, my very first session, went a bit differently than similar tales I've heard told by other gamers. We went into it thinking Television Shows, Movies, and Comic Books, not novels. We saw ourselves as heroes, like Superman or Captain Kirk, not adventurers like Fafhrd and Conan. Our characters were out to help the Good King, not to kill monsters and steal from them.

We started our journey from an atypical point on the map and it lead us on a non-standard path from the get-go.

As time moved forward, I found that not everyone played the way that first group did and though I adapted and even enjoyed the more standard approach to gaming for a while, I grew weary of it after a stint, missing the initial joy of that first game.

I also played with a bunch of people here and there who were really enamored with D&D and AD&D in the RAW* and their style of play turned me off to it even further. As a matter of fact, for a long while it was very rare for me to participate in a D&D game run by someone else that didn't feel oppressive, limiting, and just outright terrible. It was during this period, the late 70s and early 80s, that I decided I didn't enjoy playing even half as much as GMing. That feeling would continue to this day, though it's eased up immensely over the last five years.

I began incorporating my alternate approaches and ideas into an Advanced D&D campaign of my own design that ended up becoming my occasionally mentioned 'D&D-But-Not' game. That game appealed to me quite a bit for a while until I discovered...there were other games. Not just other systems but games that weren't about Wizards and Dragons, which only intrigued me so far as they related to old folklore and myths, which D&D in it's various incarnations rarely did.

No, no, there were games about subjects I truly loved like Science Fiction and Superheroes. There was a Star Trek RPG! A Star Trek RPG! Eventually I discovered more and more games that were not D&D and I couldn't imagine going back. Why would I? 

For years and years I experimented with new systems, new genres, and new ways of staging a session. I used elements from film and TV, from Japanese Animation, video games, and other sources to give the games I ran a [hopefullu] unique feel. I focused on the PCs, on their stories, on the world/setting and its story, on the atmosphere and the timing, and occasionally looked over my shoulder to make sure the rules were still there. They were and so I went back to paying them little mind. 

The only way this worked over the course of 43 years was because of my players. I had...well I just had the best players. Some I grew up with and we developed our styles and approaches together. Some I met and found our approaches compatible. Some I introduced to gaming using my outlook and literally had them say, "Wow. I always thought gaming was like THAT. I didn't know it could be like THIS!". 

Sadly, perfect players and games are a zeitgeist we often fail to appreciate. People move, they marry and have kids, they change jobs, they divorce, and sometimes they pass on. 

A gamer who loves to game continues to enjoy the hobby with new groups of friends and new players. I found though that as I cast my net wider, there were many who didn't play the way I did, didn't think about gaming the way I do, and had their own, very different, developmental experiences.

I have tried to incorporate my style of play into games with these newer players and it's either worked or hasn't to varying degrees. In some cases I have made new friends who get what I do and enjoy it, contributing every bit as much to our games as did my old groups.

Unfortunately, that's not everyone and I can't expect it to be. I've modified my gaming style here and there to work with my modern groups and it's OK. A bit of the old me, a bit of the new me, and mixed results ranging from Awesome to wanting to pull my hair out of my head. I am grateful to have what I have of course and it could be worse. 

I have been thinking of illustrating my preferred style of play by recapping my very first campaign ever, a Basic D&D game featuring the DM and three players (one of which was me), that began on August 25th, 1977. Then I realized I have done that already. There are at least three posts that tell that tale.

Instead, I am going to start next month with one of the first game campaigns that I think showed my style establishing itself. Hopefully it will be entertaining as well as revealing, both to my audience and to myself. 

See you soon,

Barking Alien

*Rules As Written

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Just Rewards

In the comments of my post on what I called 'Plot Avoidance', JB of B/X Blackrazor and I got into a discussion about 'Game Rewards', more specifically 'Whether or not Mechanical Game Rewards [such as Experience Points, Stat and Skill Increases, in-game Wealth and Improvements in Gear] were the motivation for playing.' 

The question and conversation so intrigued me that I asked the question of the members of three different Facebook groups dedicated to RPGs; two of which were general and one consisted of only personal friends and those I actually game with. 

Do you - do most gamers for that matter - play in order to gain to XP and treasure and see your characters improve? Is this why you play RPGs? Is that the reason you play or the goal in doing so?

Before revealing what my research discovered, here's my personal take...

For me, XP rewards and other forms of mechanical improvement are simply not that important to my enjoyment of a game. They're not unimportant or uninteresting, I mean, sure I like to see my characters' abilities improve and it's fun to gain new talents over time, but it isn't my motivation for playing. 

I would best describe it as a fringe benefit. It's akin to a tip or a bonus. I don't expect it these days but I'm pleased when it happens.

This wasn't always my viewpoint, though I don't think I ever played BECAUSE of mechanical rewards.* It was certainly never the primary motivator.

I play to explore an idea, create a personality, and to follow my character's story. I want to see development, but development of the PC's personality, relationships, knowledge, and the fulfillment of their desires and goals. I am motivated to play because I love doing these things. I love seeing my PC and their tale form and evolve. Whether or not my Piloting Skill goes from 3 to 4 is a minor concern at best. 

The same is true for many of my players over the years, if not all.

Now to be fair, I have mainly been a Gamemaster over the past 42 years of my time in the hobby so I'm sure I come at it from a different perspective then someone in it mostly as a player. In addition, I long ago turned away from reward focused games like Dungeons and Dragons and other titles that are focused on that sort of thinking. 

For the majority of my gaming experiences I've run and played games with minimal or extremely slow [if any] progression such as Star Trek, Star Wars, classic Traveller, Superhero games**, Ghostbusters, Teenagers from Outer Space, Mekton, and others where the heroes are not known for obvious increases in their perspective stats, station, or abilities. 

To make it clear, I am not saying that there is necessarily no progression at all but it may come slowly, may involve in game story improvements over mechanical ones, or manifest in very small increments. 

Now...that's me.

As mentioned above, I asked the question of a large number of gamers across many different age groups, backgrounds, and interests and the results were quite interesting if not completely unexpected. 

The larger percentage of responders, probably 60% more or less, are very much motivated by the idea of mechanical, rules related rewards for their characters, as well as in-game wealth, magic items (or superior gear), and other treasures. It is, essentially, why they play or at the very least, what they are playing for. Not surprisingly, most of these individuals are Old School gamers, people who have been playing over 20-30 years. Likewise, the majority of them mentioned D&D, Pathfinder, or some other game with the traditional format of raising levels, finding/stealing gold and enchanted items, and the dynamic of doing so by slaying enemies. 

The remaining 40%, who were not principally motivated by the acquisition of money, power, and increases to their 'to hit' were a interestingly mixed group. While many fell in with my own views on the subject, some who advocated it as a genre conceit were largely of the Horror RPG persuasion. That is to say, a good number of those motivated to play in order to explore character, great stories, world build, solve mysteries, and the like were people who played Call of Cthulhu, the new Alien RPG, and other games where at best you hope to survive to make a rude gesture in the direction of death or madness for another day. 

From friends I know personally I've received a number of interesting responses, one of which said that the mechanical rewards were important to him because, in his mind, RPGs are indeed games and games have winners. I don't exactly agree with that myself as earlier posts have made clear, but I understand where he's coming from. To him, as I'm sure it is to many, a game is an endeavor in which you score points and achieve some goal like finishing with the most hotels on the most properties or something. 

Others noted their love of playing particular characters and how the very act of doing that is what brings them back to the table time and again. One of the fellows from my recent and current Red Dwarf / Yellow Sun game noted that his character is the most fun PC he's ever played. Experience points, new abilities, and such haven't even occurred to him. He just wants to play his character and continue having a ball doing it. 

So now I pose the question to you.

Is improving your PC's skills and abilities, finding treasure, and other mechanical or in-game rewards your reason or at least motivation for playing? How important is it to you? If you got one minor raise or a new talent every two dozens sessions, who that be enough? Does it matter?

Tell me what you think.

Barking Alien

*I once argued the Superheroes do indeed increase in ability and that rules for character improvement should be included in Superhero RPG. This was in counterpoint to the Marvel Heroic RPG by Cam Banks, which didn't really include a direct system for improving characters because, as he noted in interviews, it was his feeling that comic book Superheroes don't actually improve in a linear fashion. 

While I think they do, and gave my reasons why in that post, I am not really chomping at the bit to improve my Superhero PCs in general. It's nice to get a bonus every once in a while, but not a major concern. 

**This statement, which I've made before in some form or another has given me an idea for an upcoming series of posts. I want to detail to the best of my knowledge my first Dungeons & Dragons game ever. We're talking 43 years ago this August. It will explain a lot. LOL

Monday, June 8, 2020

Player Profiles - David Cotton

On Saturday, May 30th, 2020, one of my closest friends passed away. 

David Cotton, mentioned numerous times throughout the online history of this blog, suffered a heart attack as a result of a seizure. I was informed on Thursday, June 4th, by our mutual friend Eric, who was contacted by Dave's mother earlier that day.

Last night, from 6 pm to roughly 11 pm, Dave's friends including myself (who facilitated the event) held an online Memorial, sharing memories, telling stories, and of course recounting his many RPG characters and exploits. Eight members of our circles of friends showed up with calls, messages, and emails from literally dozens of others sending their love and sadness over his passing and their regret over not being about to attend live. A post on Facebook related to the new gained over 40 comments and nearly 60 likes/hearts in just a day and a half.

I first met David Cotton about 14 or 15 years ago when I decided to run a campaign of Mutants & Masterminds at my FLGS, The Compleat Strategist, in New York City. My wife and I had separated a year or so before and I hadn't gamed since. Gaming was such a big part of our time together and it didn't bring me joy any longer to do it without her. That was until I realized not doing it, not doing something I really loved, was preventing me from moving on and so I set up this Superhero campaign and opened the table to anyone who wanted in. 

At first I got some old friends and acquaintances I'd met over the years of shopping at the store and working in the retail game industry myself. It was a good sized group right off the bat, maybe six or seven players. Then a fellow came in, saw us getting ready, and asked what game we were running. This was Dave.

He came up with a character concept based on one he'd made for fun (not specifically for gaming) and I fudged his stats and such for the 'Session Zero' introduction. He returned the following session and from there on in never missed a game. In addition he brought in his cousin and later another friend. 

That campaign was easily one of my best Superhero games ever and the largest, with an average of 9 players showing up monthly and a maximum of 12. Dave was a key part of making the game entertaining and over time we learned we had a lot of interests in common beyond games. We shared a love of the same foods, films, social concerns, and many other details. Amazingly his birthday was February 11th. Mine is the 12th. 

Dave's A-List Superhero Characters
(Only a small portion of the ones he'd created)

IMPACT!, Silver Sun, Night Knight, and Anthem

The following fifteen years or so saw us becoming really close friends, discussing some of life's best and worst moments. From hirings to firings, found loves to break-ups, Dave was always there with warmth, intelligence, and honesty. And I gave it all right back because that is what true friends do even, no especially, when times are tough. 

He was also a great sounding board for ideas; creative and supportive but honest when he didn't like something or thought is could be better. He coined a number of phrases and concepts that still stick with me and always will about the creative process, how I myself do things, and how things can be done. We didn't always agree. We definitely had our differences of opinion but we shared a love of reasonable discussion and debate. We changed each others minds as often as we patted each other on the back. 

He would say, "I am a Reese's guy. I want some chocolate in my peanut butter." This was his way of explaining why he would combine two or more genres together to me, who can sometimes be a setting purist. 

When I would got confused or even frustrated over what to run he would say, "Adam, you make two kinds of campaigns: Summer Blockbusters and Indie Art Films.The Blockbusters aren't as close to your heart but they always go over well. Doing them earns you the credit and good will to suggest the Art film".

Mobile Suit Pilot Dane Bradley and his GM Striker

We would also speak about our views on racial injustice and equality that ring through my head continuously in our current world situation. I regret that I will never hear his thoughts on this past week. I, and others, will never get to know his take on what can be done to make things right and make them better. 

Universally, every person I have ever spoken to about Dave, whether they were close to him or had only met him once for a game at a Convention, described him the same way - One of the truly good people on this Earth. Kind, supportive, compassionate, confident not only in his own abilities, his own success, but in yours.

The Lady Luck, caracca of the Half-Elven Pirate Hero Jorvan StarsByNight

You believed him too, because his belief in himself and in you was like a force of nature. It was like a hurricane. 

The winds have died down. The storm is over. Only memories remain. 

Through the memories, I hope to retain a spark of Dave's lightning within me always. 

So long my friend,

Barking Alien

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Come for the Role Playing, Stay for the Game

Another odd thing I've been seeing in my games lately is what you could call 'plot avoidance'. Before I can explain what I mean, I have to explain a little bit about what I mean by plot as I am not really using the term properly in this case. 

By plot I mean the relevant conundrum of the session or arc of sessions that are related by what is going on. It could last a single evening, several evenings, or even longer. It is the mystery the group of PCs is trying to solve, the quest they are attempting to complete, the villain or villains they are fighting to vanquish or whatever else might be driving the campaign at the time.

Recently I've noticed players who make an effort to not try to solve the mystery, who would rather RP for the entire 4 hours of our 4 hour online sessions, or who scoff at other players when their PCs come up with an idea about what's going on or how to stop it. 

This one is particularly strange to me because of the type of games I run and the way in which I run them.

Generally speaking, I don't write adventures the way most people do. Really I don't write adventures at all. I have characters that are doing things or situations that have occurred and the PCs in the game come across these things and decide what, if anything, they're going to do about it. 

In some campaigns, largely based on their genre or setting, the events that transpire are directly related to the PC's and their outlooks/purposes and one can therefore assume they will get involved because that's the very reason the characters are there. A good example of this is a Silver Age Superhero campaign. If a crime occurs and the PCs learn of it they will likely investigate. If the Super Bowl is under attack by Alien Invaders, the PCs will go to try and stop them. They don't have to technically, but they are Superheroes after all. It's what they do. It's why we're playing that particular game. 

A variant on this is when the PCs belong to an organization that can assign them to investigate an unusual or potentially dangerous situation. In this case, as above, the PCs chose to do this job, so they will want to accomplish their given assignment. An example of this is a Star Trek campaign. A Starfleet Admiral contacts the PC ship and ask them to check out a region of space not far from them where two probes and a small scout vessel have disappeared. The PCs are inclined to investigate this because they are Starfleet Officers on a Starfleet Ship and this is what Starfleet does. Furthermore this is an order from an Admiral and you need to follow orders because that's how things work in Starfleet. 

The third type of game, and last for now, is one where the PCs are 'Adventurers' with a capital 'A' in an open world/universe where they are the masters of their own fate. When I run these types of games the PCs will come across local or widespread events, characters, and conditions and it is completely up to them whether they engage with them or not. I have run Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, and many other games this way.

An example of this type of game is one in which the PCs hear rumors of a Monster threatening the local villagers and eating their stores of food. The PCs party may decide to hunt down the Monster or they may want to leave town before the Monster strikes again. Let's say they do the latter. The team travels on to a bigger city; arriving a few days later, they hear about a nearby ruin and a possible treasure there. They decide to check that out. When they return from their expedition they might be richer but they might also hear tell that the village they left has been abandoned. The Monster ate all the food the inhabitants had saved for the winter. The players may care or they may not. 

So basically, once the players in any game discover that something is going on, something that interacts with their present course of travel or activity, they must make the choice on whether or not to interact with that component of the game. In some cases, as noted, interaction should be assumed and almost automatic. Superheroes will fight villains and try to solve crimes. Ghostbusters will investigate hauntings and try to bust ghosts. Rebels in a Star Wars game will attempt to defeat the plans of the Galactic Empire. 

In the case of a group of Adventurers, Thrill Seekers, or Treasure Hunter in D&D, Traveller, Star Frontiers, or other open-ended settings, players and their PCs decide what they want to pursue and if something crosses their path, they either deal with it or move on to something else. 

Now we can get to the real meat and potatoes of this post...

Once something is encountered or discovered, once a mystery reveals itself or a quandary is presented, the players generally make a choice to pursue it or not. The players Do Not not make a choice of any kind. They don't generally sit around the gaming table (or on the chat these days) and just RP or drink at a tavern or whathaveyou for the next dozen some odd sessions. 

Sure, there are games in which Role Playing is the explicit focus, with little to no combat or traditional mystery solving involved. There are Soap Opera games, Slice of Life games, Romance games, and many other genres that de-emphasize traditional RPG elements. Breaking the IceGolden Sky Stories, Romance in the Air, Tales from the Loop, Til Dawn are but a few of these with varying degrees of investigation and tactical action but which get deep into the characterization and storytelling aspects of gaming. 

What I am talking about however is more or less traditional game wherein the players or PCs would rather Role Play than get involved in the plot - be it discovering the reason behind a lost allied starship suddenly appearing and attacking peaceful aliens or what's behind the assassination of a nobleman and his daughter on the crux of establishing an important alliance. 

The players want to 'play their characters' and aren't focused on what is happening in the story, as if they can't act in character while searching for the catalyst of their current predicament. They want to talk with NPCs and PCs alike but with little goal in mind beyond the act itself. In some ways, this reminds me a little of the issue I discussed in my previous post. Why not do both? At the same time? Towards an end? Imagine having memorable dialogue AND accomplishing something!

In one player I have a fellow who seems to actively get upset when other players make in-roads towards solving the conundrum at hand. I am not certain why but at least twice now he accused his fellow players of kind of meta-gaming by guessing at what was happening based on the facts provided. In both instances I disagreed completely, instead commending the players for actually paying attention and putting the clues together in a sensible way. Sadly I am not always sure they're paying close attention and I'm pretty impressed when they reason such things out. 

In conclusion, What The Hell? Why is a balance between Action and Story, Characterization and Intrigue, Role Playing and Exploration so difficult for some players? Why isn't it all fused together into one coherent, equally comprised, unspoken ebb and flow? 

Why is your character in the game if they're not going to participate in the exploits that characters in such a game are supposed to participate in?

Are you playing a Starfleet Officer who isn't interested in preventing a Temporal Anomaly from damaging the timeline? Would you want to be a Superhero who opens a bar and doesn't ever fight crime? How about creating a Thief who isn't interested in obtaining treasure and instead just sits around the local tavern discussing politics and wine pairings.

Why? Why would you do that?

Barking Alien

Monday, June 1, 2020

Walking and Talking At The Same Time

My first post for this June is one that covers something I've been noticing a lot lately in the various groups I game with.

It feels as if the balance within a game between the Action elements and the Role Playing elements are really peculiar compared to my past experiences. Since I know my experiences in the hobby are a bit atypical, maybe someone out there can give me some insight into what it going on.

We'll see. 

A lot of modern games seem to split the moments in a game session into 'scenes'; basically separating the events into distinct sequences such as Action Scenes, Story Scenes, and sometimes a Rest or Recuperation Scene wherein you regain Hit Points or rejuvenate powers or something similar. 

These partitioned sections of a single game session were instituted into game design over the last decade or so mainly to delineate the difference between being in and out of combat or to help reinforce a given genre's way of depicting how said genre was staged (such as panels in a comic book or the climax of a movie).

Even my own game, 'The Googly Eyed Primetime Puppet Show' RPG, designates different kinds of moments within the game - Scenes, Sketches, and Skits - to help the Director/GM stage a genre appropriate session more easily. 

Older games didn't explicitly have these distinctions of sequence and didn't really separate your RPG moments from your non-RPG moments. 

Or did they?

Surely you rolled for Initiative and once that happened you were in Combat. Combat had rounds and turns and often a very specific way for determining what amount of time those terms constituted and what could be accomplished within them.

What I don't recall was time specifically allocated to Role Playing. There weren't designated or dedicated parts of the game where you were meant to have conversations or where you weren't allowed to interact with NPCs in a non-combat way. How many rounds does it take explain your point of view to a local nobleman? Does trying to get information from the barkeep last a full turn? 

This brings me back to the beginning and the odd issue I've observed of late - Players having their PCs RP or do something such as Investigate a Mystery or Fight. They can't seem to do any of these at the same time

It creates a very slow and occasionally stilted feel in game sessions, with players either asking the GM questions or rolling dice to use their skills, or having conversations in character with each other or NPCs. 

Why is this? What created this dynamic? Why am I just encountering this now? 

On that last question, is this a thing that has always been a factor in other peoples games? Is this the way most people play? 

My confusion stems from the fact that we (my older groups and I) always combined these activities. We definitely didn't have separate times or exclusive moments where we did one or the other. We bantered and even discussed personal [PC] relationships while we fought enemies. We had in depth conversations about what the villain's motives might be as we searched for clues.Two PCs would be talking about what was going on in the story at the same time as another scanned the opposing forces for a weakness and yet another tried to modify the ship to do something unusual. 

I was recently in a session of our Hogwarts/Wizarding World game in which all of the PCs were sitting around a table eating. We started to discuss the mystery at hand. One Player/PC in particular went on and on about the particulars of the mystery, clearly stating the situation and all it's relevant elements. It served to clarify things and bring us up to speed, but it didn't add anything in the way of an answer or conclusion because at that point we didn't have enough information to make one. 

That was all fine and good but why not do that in a scene where we are looking for more clues? Why not do it while going somewhere or taking some other action that moved things forward?

I told the GM that my PC was going to leave the table. In character I said, "See you guys later", and then I walked over to my PC's NPC girlfriend and asked if she could help me do something that my character knew he's not good at. We proceeded to walk down a few levels to a place where we could mix potions, all the while having my PC tell the NPC about a crazy idea he had to reveal some information he needed about an injured friend. He had picked up something related to the injury (leaves with the injured parties blood on it) and needed to know if there was a potion that could see the past of an object dropped into it. I said I'd heard more experienced wizards mention such a thing.

The GM looked through his notes and asked, "Is this a potion we've discussed before?"

"Nope", I said, "I just imagine such a thing might exist. I have a cool idea if it does [or if it can]." Luckily the GM is a good one and says sure, why not. My NPC companion is good at potions and tends to read ahead of what most people (the PCs included) tend to know (two of the reasons I asked her specifically to accompany me). She tells me this is an extremely difficult potion and we need to work as a team to make it happen. Again, that was my hope so I am good with this. 

Around this time the others players decide to stop their discussion of what is going on and two of them go to do research on one of the potential bad guys involved. The last PC (there are four of us in the game) goes off to have a one-on-one Role Play encounter with the PC's boyfriend. Cool. 

Follow me now...

My PC gets into a slightly heated personal discussion with his NPC girlfriend about something she did that she thinks I should be angry at her for. My PC, well, he isn't angry because he is a very even keeled fellow and knows she did it with the best of intentions.

All the while we are cutting ingredients, brewing the potion, and rolling dice to see how it turns out. Yes, we are Role Playing a scene between two romantically involved characters and at the same time we are making a potion that will help reveal information about the game's plot. At the same time! Hide your old folks! Cover your eyes! Think of the children! The Children!

I will also remind you that this potion, this action we're taking, didn't exist until I invented it, suggested it, and now we have a new means of revealing what is going on. (See all my posts on being a Pro-Active Player).

In the end my scheme worked, though the potion was imperfect and its use injured both characters who used it. A Professor came in and saw what we'd done and we both received detention. Hurray! The story moved forward. Something happened! A new element was added to the world (world building!), and there is a new status/condition to take with us into the new session. 

Meanwhile the other PC who spoke to their boyfriend did manage to move that relationship forward and the two guys who went to do research found a name in a book and learned a bit of who the person was and maybe why they were at our school.

Yay? I mean, yes it was good to get that information and it will help in the long run but the specifics of their scene have largely faded from my memory already and it just happened three days ago. It was useful, helpful, but not interesting or exciting. 

It was talking. Following by looking in books. Followed by a little talking. 

It wasn't talking while also hurriedly discussing cutting the right ingredients in a rapid manner, then juggling an emotional moment with mixing a boiling pot at the right speed; followed close by putting our faces into a really hot and stinging smoke and viewing someone being chased down by enemies who are amazingly revealed as three more things happen. Hah..hah...hah...whoo. Give me a sec. Hah...Got to catch my breath. Dang. 

While I really wanted to focus on the idea of Role Playing while doing other things, and doing other things while Role Playing, it seems I've also touched upon a number of other pet peeves here, like trying to move things forward, taking decisive and creative action, and being a bit more pro-active. That last one is hard I know but it is so worth it. 

What do you guys think? Should scenes be separated into the fighting scenes, the plot scenes, and the trivial banter scenes? Why do players like to discuss things but not actually do them? Can we not walk and talk at the same time?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Barking Alien

PS: I was ready for the GM to tell me, "There is no such potion" or "There's no potion like that but there is a spell and it's years ahead of you." I was prepared with a second crazy idea using the same blood caked leaves and a trick the injured person had taught me a year or so before. 

I never have only one idea, only one plan. Neither should you!