Alright, I’m getting excited. GenCon is coming up in a while, August 1st through 4th, and I’m going this year! A board game and RPG convention with 60 thousand plus people in attendance will be crazy. I’ll probably get to see some people whom I’ve…
Time for the New Years State of Nerdologists Address Ladies and Gentlemen, Nerds and Geeks, lend me your beers. Alright, what’s coming in 2019 for Nerdologists, enough being goofy. 1. The podcast is going to be done for a while. As you know, with having…
This ties into the articles I’ve written on different characters class, backgrounds, and most recently on having a happy backstory instead of having a darker backstory, so it’s area that I’ve covered a fair amount, but I wanted to write about it really focusing in some more on role playing and playing your characters motivations.
I would say that the ideas I’ve been giving in posts have been medium levels of backstory. It has been more than just suggesting playing a rogue who likes to stab stuff. But it also hasn’t been creating a lot of very depth heavy backstories. I leave stuff generally vague like what deity it is that the cleric is following, what town or area you grew up in that something horrible happened in. It is very possible to set-up a very in depth backstory where you list out your friends, you family members, everyone who has wronged you, what your life was like growing up, what all of your hopes and dreams had been.
There are multiple reasons for me doing that, the first being, if you want to use it, some of those things are things you’ll have to work through with your DM, because I don’t know your game, and some of them are stuff that you don’t need to know. Knowing too much about your character does a few things, it can limit what the DM can do around your character, because there will be a lack of mystery. It can force you into playing a character in a certain way and finding out that you don’t enjoy it. It can limit your character in how they can develop.
The one that I want to focus on for this topic is the fact that it can force you into playing your character a certain way.
The point of this topic was to cover two things, the first being, what’s my motivation for adventuring, the other other being, what’s my motivation for role playing. These two topics are fairly closely held together. Most likely the reason you have for adventuring is also the reason that you’re going to have for some of your characters motivations and interactions in role playing. If goblins murdered your family, you’re probably adventuring to get revenge on the goblins, it’s also probably going to mean that when you run across an injured goblin that poses no threat to you, you’re still going to want to kill it.
With motivation for adventuring, there can be a lot of different reasons. A bard might be in it to see the world, be able to travel and perform on different stages that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. You could also have a Barbarian who is just in need of and bad with money, so they don’t care too much about the adventuring, but they always need money and the adventuring party always gives them a little money. Or you could be out looking for a lost holy artifact as a cleric, getting revenge on a ruler who slaughtered your village as a fighter, or out to protect your grove against a blight that is on the land as a druid. There are a lot of reasons otherwise that you could be looking into adventuring. But one of your jobs as a player when creating your character is to make sure you have this answered.
Along with having that answered, a lot of DM’s will put your party together, but if you and fellow players can come up with a reason for putting together, or better yet come up with a reason for keeping your party together, that is huge. Whether it’s because your party has similar goals or needs or because you actually like each other, it’s important to have some reason. This motivation with help inform some of your interactions and will help it make sense when the story of the game isn’t focused on your character to keep them as part of the group. Now, this isn’t all on you as a player, the DM has to keep all the characters involved in the story as well, but if you’re creating the loner Druid who cares only about her part of the forest, when the characters aren’t focused on that, that druid is probably going to leave the party to either go off on their own or to find another adventuring party to help them.
But also with motivation, we want to talk about the idea of role playing your character. I talked some earlier about having a medium depth background story. Some of the reason was that it doesn’t lock you into a single specific way of playing your character, but also because it doesn’t lock you into a single path going forward. It’s too easy to lock your self into a single purpose and single goal while role playing and then finding out that you really don’t enjoy it.
Now, I realize that sometimes it’s fun coming up with a ton of backstory and all of these different plot hooks, but often times it’s going to be too much to actually work into a game and there is a chance to feel disappointment because it wasn’t fully touched upon. As a DM, personally I don’t try and avoid using peoples backstories and generally I’ll try and tie them into the campaign as I go. However, if something doesn’t fit in with the overall story, or if I feel like the story is leaning too heavily on a single person, I am going to try and change it up which might keep it from using all of your backstory. If there are too many plot hooks as well for your character, I might not touch on all of them, instead just focusing on one of them to really add into the main story with a nod or two thrown to others of them.
Beyond having too many plot hooks, having too few is bad as well. If, as a DM, I don’t get much to work with, I’m not going to put as much effort into keeping your character engaged story wise. My assumption is that you’re going to like combat more so and I’ll make sure to sprinkle enough of those in as well. But it also doesn’t give you much framework to role play, if you want to role play a lot, a consistent character. They might end up being consistent because you’re just playing your own personality, but it might be that they are very chaotic in how they respond to everything presented to them. Being a little chaotic isn’t bad, and a lot of people play chaotic characters, in fact, the Total Party Thrill podcast has an episode (linked here) about how Chaotic Good is probably where most adventurers should be playing out of.
So there is chaos in a good way and in a bad way. A chaotic character can at times be used as an excuse to do whatever you want, but chaos means less that you just do whatever sounds the most fun in the moment, it more means that you’re willing to do what it takes in situations laws be damned, and you’re willing to be flexible for the greater good, again, I think that Total Party Thrill with their episode does a really good job of explaining it, so I’ll leave that as a listen for people.
There is one major exception for having much of a backstory, or any of one really, and that’s at a Convention or while playing a one-shot. When playing those shorter games, focus in on a single thing for your characters. When I was playing Dungeons and Dinosaurs game at AcadeCon the first year I was there, one person made their T-Rex very impulsive, I had an herbivore and I made him into a researcher who was watching and documenting everything. We didn’t have more backstory or direction for character than what we gave them, in fact about the only thing we knew about the dinosaurs came on a dinosaur fact sheet. In that case, having that one thing you role play to is important as it’s going to allow you to have a focused character for that short time without slowing down the game because you’re trying to pick out or build more depth into your character.
What are some things you’ve used as motivation for either being part of a party or role playing a character in Dungeons and Dragons or any role playing system?
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Now, as I normally do, a disclaimer/clarifying my title since I just write catchy titles, or something like that. This isn’t only going to be about gaming with a baby around, it’s going to cover a number of nerdy things. So, for those of you…
I talked a tiny bit about this game in my AcadeCon review, but I wanted to mention it again and do a proper review on it. Machi Koro is what is called a “tableau building” game. In this type of game, you are building up…
Peder and I have a second year of AcadeCon under our belts! And I’m happy to report that it was even more fun the second time around. Having a better sense of the Dayton area and what it has to offer, being familiar with the con location, knowing our own limits better, and seeing friends again (and making new ones!) made attending AcadeCon 2017 a great time.
As Peder mentioned, this con is growing, and it felt even more established this year. And since I was familiar with the con this time, I found myself a lot less intimidated by the prospect of playing new RPGs with strangers than I was during our first year. Overall, I had a great time, and really enjoyed getting to try out some great new systems! Here are a few of my highlights:
Highlight #1: Trying out the Cypher System. I loved all of the new systems we got the chance to try (and it was a
treat to play in sessions run by the system creators themselves–thanks again, Colin and Pete!), but my favorite new system this year was Cypher. You can either play in the cyberpunky vampire/werewolf/magi/alien/technozombie-inhabited setting Peder mentioned in his AcadeCon post, or in a far-future setting that takes place after eight versions of Earth have risen and fallen, with you as a denizen of the ninth. Both are the sort of settings that kick my imagination into overdrive, and it’s so much fun to explore worlds like that and envision the kind of stories that could happen in them. I’m hoping we’ll be able to add the system components to our collection and run a game based on it soon!
Highlight #2: Seeing friends from last year. It was so much fun seeing some the great people we’d met last year, and getting to know them a bit better. Con friendships are great that way — when you see each other the next time around, it’s pretty easy to just kind of pick up where you left off. It was great having a few people we knew we could grab for a random board game session or hang-out time, and it was so much fun to hear about what they’ve been up to with their own websites and podcasts. Who knows…maybe we’ll even convince a few of them to guest-post for us in the future!
Highlight #3: Taking things slower this time. As we’ve mentioned, we planned a really full schedule for ourselves during our first AcadeCon stint, and ended up running ourselves pretty ragged by Sunday. This year, we were older and wiser; we limited ourselves to just a couple of scheduled events per day, and left plenty of open time that we could fill up later or leave open as we chose. This made for a much more relaxing time, which let us really enjoy the events we did choose to partake in.
Highlight #4: Checking out new places. Last year, we did a little bit of exploring in the downtown area, and this year, we got to discover even more. We had a ton of fun trying the beer and hanging out with some con friends at Warped Wing brewery, and got the chance to stop at the Destihl restaurant and brewery on the way home as well (it wouldn’t be one of our trips without a couple of brewery stops!). It was nice to feel more familiar with the area as a whole, and great to get the chance to check out some new spots as well.
It was another successful year at AcadeCon, and I’m glad we were able to go again! I’m once again feeling inspired to try out even more new systems, and to see how we can integrate the new ones we played into our current gaming groups. Expect more content on that front in the future!
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We’re back from AcadeCon again. And once again, it was a blast, and this time I didn’t end up giving myself con-crud. I want to run down a handful of highlights: Highlight #1: Running a one-shot for the second time. This w\game that went in…
This will be a super light week, probably the post I was supposed to have on Clerics getting posted, but that’s because we’re heading out to AcadeCon. Some exciting things with that. I’m running a Dungeons and Dragons version of Pride, PrejuDICE, and Zombies and…
We’ve talked some about homebrewing before, in terms of beer, and then less obviously when talking about building your world, your NPC’s, and your own story. All of these things are unique to you, and therefore are known as homebrew. But what if you don’t like the way D&D uses a rule or another RPG uses a rule, can you homebrew your own rules as well? The answer to that is yes, but do so carefully.
How do you do that carefully?
With that I mean, don’t do anything that will be game breaking. If you decide to home brew some guns into your game and think, okay a gun will do 2d10 damage, that’s going to be game breaking. There are weapons that other people can get that do 1d12 or 2d6 damage, but 2d10 is a whole lot more. Especially if you put it onto a class that gets multiple attacks. So keep the damage inline, if someone has a gun, make it do 2d6 damage, still very powerful, but there are other weapons that do that. And since it is ranged, make there be a downside. It’s dex based for sure, and it’s going to jam sometimes, on a natural one, or maybe the ammo has to be carefully counted, is expensive, and cannot be reused, same with gunpowder. Figure out that way where it falls into the boundaries that the D&D rules framework gives you.
Another example would be our critical hit roll in Dungeons and Flagons. If someone is taken down with a critical hit, you don’t just become unconscious, but you take a wound. Something that is going to affect your character for a little while. In the case of our game, I picked something, a bruised leg for Nim that was going to hurt her dexterity checks. But since then I’ve created a table that I could roll on. It goes from one day of disadvantage on certain types of checks up to a week of disadvantage, and if I roll a 96-97 on a D100 (or 2d10), they fail a death saving throw, if it’s 98-99, they fail 2, or if it’s all the way at 100, they are just dead. This adds some more tension to the game, doesn’t really break anything, and makes it interesting to role play that out in the future.
What if I want to change that something means?
Certainly, go for that. We actually have done that a few times in Dungeons and Flagons. The first thing is when we started the game Nim was a ninja type character so the player wanted shuriken and nunchucks. Neither of those weapons are in the players handbook, so what did we do, we just picked weapons that did a similar type of damage, darts and club and the player just renamed them. We’ve also done this with hit points. There is a bit of the idea with hit points that this is where you get 10 arrows sticking out of you when someone hits you. But that’s now how we play it anymore as a group. We use them as exhaustion points more than hit points. It takes effort to block or dodge out of the way of a sword swing or to move when an arrow is being shot at you, or getting a shield up to stop a morningstar. It’s only on that last hit that takes you down does it open up a wound and probably not that bad of a wound, but that’s when you are bleeding and have a chance of dying. So those are two common examples of changing the meaning of something.
What about intimidation?
This is one that I wanted to address separately and is something that I’ve been tossing about homebrewing into our campaign. No matter how a player describes something, the roll is always charisma based. If a half orc looks down at you, flexes, and slaps the edge of a long sword onto his hand, is he really doing that off of charisma? Are you going to go up to that half orc and look at it and go, man, that isn’t that scary, you’re just a big softy, why is my head flying through the air? Nope, you aren’t going to do that, he should be scary even if he is terrible in social situations trying to persuade someone to do something. So there are a couple of options as to what you could do here. The first being, make it based off of strength instead of charisma. A big hulking creature like that should be able to make a show of strength and get someone to back down. Even a fairly small dwarf fully armed in plate mail should be scary when making a displaying of strength, so let them roll their intimidation using strength instead of charisma. The other option would be give them advantage, meaning that you roll twice and take the higher or the two. I actually like the first way more as it would probably help them as much as advantage would and it would still give room for them to do something very amazing and still get advantage on their roll.
Now, I talked about RPG’s in general at the beginning and all of these examples have been Dungeons and Dragons examples. So, how would this work in another system?
The example that I have of this is from AcadeCon in our Star Wars Age of Rebellion game. The GM had Kristen do a roll and she succeed on it while talking to Space Lucas. He then asked her to do a George Lucas voice in response to say that Space Lucas said. It was a bit of extra role playing and was funny at the table. Since Kristen went along with that, he flipped one of the dark side points (which makes the player’s rolls harder normally when flipped) to a light side (which the players can use) because Kristen did a good job at it. It’s a tangible reward for doing something well that isn’t written into the Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPG system, but made sense and made it more fun while we were playing the game.
We have some examples up there about how you can change your game. The biggest thing to remember is to keep it balanced, to keep it fun, and be willing to do it. Sometimes, even now, when playing Star Wars RPG or Dungeons and Dragons, I won’t know a rule. I’ll then look it up later, but instead of letting things stop in the middle of your game, make up the rule for that night or until the break, and keep the game going. People will be happier that way, and you’ll have a more fun game night. Figure out what rules you’ll misuse or add and enjoy it.
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We’ve completed our first full year of Nerdologists! Sure, that was really a year in October, but here we ended up with a full calendar year of Nerdologists. It has been a lot of fun, so here are some of my nerdy highlights. Going to…