Gaming, Theory

Organizing Gamers and Handling Expectations

Disclaimer: There is no wrong way to game. Gaming is about fun, escapism, and entertainment. You can’t game incorrectly.

That said, many people disagree on what constitutes entertaining gaming. Some folks like a more serious, competitive environment and want the other people at the table to take it seriously too. Others like a relaxed, carefree approach to gaming; where everyone is just having a good time, chatting, and hanging out. And infinite variations of viewpoints in between. Not all these ideals mix well once you get a group together. Most people even change their preferred play style based on game type or with certain people.

Hosting an Event

All of these variations can cause a headache for an event organizer or someone just trying to get friends together to try their favorite game. One simple solution: set Expectations.

Lay out what you plan on playing and what the goal is for the night. If you are just playing just for fun, say that. Need practice for a big tournament? Spell it out. Play testing a new optional rule? Explain what and why.

Board game night? Give everyone an idea of what kind of board games to expect or the specific ones you had in mind. Tell how long you expect the games to last. Not only does this give people an idea if they would enjoy the game you are going to play but lets them plan accordingly.

This all needs to be communicated well beforehand. Your players, friends, and fellow gamers will know what they are getting into. Be ready to change your plans slightly to account for the issues that will inevitably come up. Remember, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

Going to Events

Personally, I’m typically very casual in my play style with most games. I want everyone to play the game and enjoy themselves. I don’t mind winning or losing. I do take the playing of the game seriously. The game is my first priority. Hanging out, drinking, chatting, or flirting always takes second place. I know this about myself. I enter any gaming event with these expectations built in. So when the event doesn’t match what I expected I do what every civilized individual does: get annoyed and throw a fit! RAWR!

Kidding… mostly.

If the event isn’t meeting my built in expectations, then I adjust accordingly. Either by shifting my attitude more competitively or relaxed to match the environment. Even if an gaming event you attend doesn’t match your exceptions it is better to adjust than to get upset. Like Bruce Lee said, “You must be shapeless, formless, like water.”

Event Etiquette

When at an event it’s important to show respect to the other players, the host, and the games themselves. This can be as simple as being a good loser and a gracious winner, thanking the host for hosting, or shaking your opponents hand.

Most of my personal experiences where this goes wrong is someone not treating someone else’s game well. Damaging, destroying, or losing pieces because of anger or by negligence. This can quickly turn a fun experience into a contentious problem.

As the host be understanding that accidents happen, tempers can flair, and someone will eventually spill something. Keeping a calm demeanor and making judgement calls fairly and firmly.

The Perfect Event

Never happens. Although if you can handle other’s expectations and adjust your expectations, you might be able to herd the cats known as gamers.

Gaming, Theory

An Argument for Playing Unpainted

A lot of my Cygnar army is currently unpainted and recently I came to the conclusion that may be okay. Not to say I will never paint my whole army only that I’m not in hurry to paint freshly constructed models. I can already hear the wave of “play it painted” advocates but hear me out.

I’m relatively new to miniature war games. I’ve only been playing Warmachine for the past three years and I’ve never played any other miniature war game before starting Warmachine. In the past, the only miniatures I would paint were the handful of player characters for role-playing games. During that time, the most heart breaking thing to happen to any mini was to have a fully paint, sealed, and based mini fall apart during play. The wizard’s staff hand pops off. The warrior’s shield falls to the table. The cleric would drop their holy symbol. Gluing the pieces back never fully hid the scars of the damage. These kinds of structural failures help to motivate me to learn about pinning and other useful construction techniques.

When I took the leap from RPGs to war gaming there was a push from more established players to get my army to fully painted as quickly as possibly. I enjoy painting models but I’m not a great painter and not a very quick one either. And aside from my painting issues, I was still learning the mechanics and deciding on which units I enjoyed running. I didn’t want to sink what little bit of hobby time I have into painting models I didn’t want to play. Also a part of me knew, “these models are going to be touched a lot and will fall apart if I’m not careful.” I wanted that eventuality to happen while they were still unpainted. At almost every tournament and convention I’ve attend there has been an instance of someone’s models falling apart during events. The most heart breaking moment is a tray with two fully painted lists crashing to the ground from elbow bumps. The more common are just arms falls off while moving a model. When those models are painted I feel my heart break just a little bit for the owner.

Three years later more than half of my Cygnar models are unpainted, bare metal even. While experimenting with new units I’ll construct them with hopefully enough glue, pins, and green stuff that they don’t fall apart just as I charge an enemy caster. After a few rounds of play testing and I feel comfortable they won’t fall part without extreme conditions, they will get put in the long line to be painted.


Fiction, Gaming, Theory

Building a Campaign as a Group

When running a new campaign I like to try something different. A system I’ve never tried. A new character building method. A weird magical system. An interesting genre mix mash. Just something new to keep the experience different so I learn what I enjoy and what players enjoy. This time around I started the campaign off with a group world building session.

The premise starts with all the group members offering ideas and themes for the campaign. We collectively pick our favorites. Then we all work together to flesh out those ideas to make a campaign world and the major themes.

I got my new group together and explained the idea. We used note cards to keep track of each idea. To start us off I offered up a few themes.

  • “Magic is part of everyday life”
  • “Under the rule of evil tyrants”
  • “The gods are angry with mortals”

The group added a few of their own ideas.

  • “The area’s city-states offer war among themselves”
  • “Magic-users are seen as sub-human”
  • “Demon and devil incursion are commonplace”
  • “Government propaganda abound”
  • “The journey is more important than the destination”
  • “Adventure!!!”

The group then voted on their five favorites: “Under the rule of evil tyrants”, “Demon and devil incursion are commonplace”,”Government propaganda abound”, “Magic-users are seen as sub-human”, and “The journey is more important than the destination.”

Then we had a series of discussions on how to flesh out each one. During our discussions, I offered suggestions on what the group could add to the campaign. If those suggestions sparked an ideas or new discussions, I encouraged it. When a suggested didn’t sparked anything, I dropped it. As the game master I would have plenty of time to add flavor and content to the campaign. This world building session was for the players to get their ideas out there.

“Under the rule of evil tyrants” was the first to get some attention. They decided that the tyrants are secretly magic users but seen to be benevolent dictators. The groups adds the tyrants may be related to demons.

They decided “Demon and devil incursion are commonplace” only started in the past 15 years and they don’t have a central home base. The demons are drawn to magic users and they are the governments enforcers.

Aside from using demons it seems “Government propaganda abound.” They use their propaganda is to vilify magic users. Blame them for the demon attacks. Also to smear the neighboring country, the Wild Wizards of the West.

With all this negativity it seem the general population sees “Magic-users are seen as sub-human” and fear them. This opinion started around the same time the demon started attacking. But the magic users themselves don’t feel like they are sub-human or sub-dwarf, or sub-elf.

“The journey is more important than the destination” wasn’t expanded because I felt it was pretty self explanatory. I kind of wish I had given the group the opportunity just to see what the players would had done with the idea.

And so the country of Welldrake was born. The basic themes and ideas of the campaign were laid out. Armed with the new knowledge the players built characters and I ran a quick introduction season where the characters are whisked away to the far reaches of the country and need to travel back the capital.

By the time the second session rolled around I had taken a little time to write up a little flavor text for the campaign.

Thirty years ago the kingdom of Welldrake was under attack from marauding demons. The kingdom’s military was unable to protect its people as towns were destroyed and thousands were killed. A small heroic band of adventurers were able to do the impossible and stop the demons. In the process, they uncovered clues to a conspiracy amongst the kingdom’s elite and leadership.

The heroes gained a new purpose and founded an organization, the Inquisition, to uncover how deep the conspiracy went. They found priests, nobles, generals, and even the king himself guilty of working with the demons. At the center of it all was the Wizard’s College and its members. They had started and lead the conspiracy against the people of Welldrake.

The next ten years was marked by a war between the Wizard’s College and the Inquisition. When the war ended the Inquisition had won and the Wizard’s College and all its members were destroyed. The Inquisition ended the monarchy’s rule, set up a new ruling council, and outlawed the study of magic.

The new nation of Welldrake had peace again for five years. Then the first reports of demon attacks spread. With the Wizard’s College gone suspicion ran amok and blame was put into any caster of spells, wizard or not. Priests and the naturally gifted were targeted with anger and fear. The people of Welldrake were scared demons were returning.

That was 15 years ago, the fear and suspicion has only gotten worse.

In one creative brainstorming session the group gave me the basic tools to make a campaign that they, collectively, would be interested in. We could have taken more time to dig deeper into the world, races, magic, and lore but we only focused on what interested the group. Any concepts left unexplored were for me to fill in later or not at all.

I like group world building idea. I think it has great potential. I would love to see what a different group does with it and how it shapes their campaign. If you have done something like this before, let me know how it did or did not work out for you.

Gaming, Theory

Introductions to Tabletop Role-playing

I recently had the pleasure of running an introductory role-playing scenario for group of friends who were interesting in trying out tabletop RPGs. A few weeks prior, they had asked me if I could run something for them. So I dusted off an older one-shot sci-fi adventure, printed out some character sheets, packed up my dice, and readied myself to introduce (mostly) brand new players to role-playing. But was does an introduction to role-playing entail? Rule books and dice math? Character sheets and experience points? Hit points and critical hits? TPK and alignment arguments? I gave it some thought and came up with a few methods for introducing new players.

Storyteller Bias

There is no wrong way to role-play; there is only preference. My preference is to focus on stories and character development. Because of this preference, the rules as written or tactical play take a backseat to narrative drama and moments of cool. I’m going to try to put this bias aside for the rest of this article and focus more on what works on introducing new players to role-playing. Continue reading

Gaming, Theory

Character Decisions: The Squiggly Face Incident

A little while back, I played in a Fantasy Flights Star Wars role-playing campaign for a couple of months. During our sessions, one of the other players harped on a decision my character made near the start of the campaign. It became sort of a running joke about my character’s “diplomatic” skills. As a game master the mere fact the moment was brought up so often is a good sign to me. It indicates the scene was memorable even if it wasn’t beneficial to the party. In the player seat the jabs did make me question if my choice was a reasonable response to the situation. Should I have had my character act differently? Would my character have acted differently? I don’t think so but the series of exchanges got me thinking about character decisions,both PC and NPC, and how believable those decision should be.

Our unit was a group of rebel “spies.” I use the term spy VERY loosely. The team was not ideal for spying on the Empire: a Mandalorian force user in full combat armor, an explosives expert Wookie, a pyromaniac Klatooinian activist for droid’s rights, a medical droid modified for super effective unarmed combat, and my character, Maxir, a human ex-mercenary turned rebel solider. Maxir was basically Marv from Sin City; a brick of a man with close to the same shinning personality.

During a mission, we found ourselves in the lower areas of a space station and stumbled across a small slum. The area was obviously poor and forgotten but maybe they could give us directions to our objective. As we entered the slum the GM described the shacks and pointed out an individual who was directly ahead glaring at us. A male Twi’lek wearing a wide brimmed hat who was missing a head tail and a tribal tattoo on his face. Not missing an opportunity, my character spoke up and said, “Out of the way, Squiggly Face!” This comment incited my new Twi’lek friend to announce he was a captain of some kind. He called for a few minions and a fight broke out. We handled it easily and Squiggly Face escaped with a whirl of his cape. Not kidding, Captain Squiggly Face vanished by waving his cape around. The party attributes the later misinformation and almost being blown up by a thermal detonator to Squiggly Face.

I liked Squiggly Face. He was a recurring, mustache twirling villain. He’d show up with a big speech and an easily handled problem. He would vanish before we could catch him. He was ridiculously campy and made me roll my eyes more than once. I was a little disappointed when we finally caught him and Maxir just killed him.

I like to think my character interacted with the NPC appropriately per his gruff and rude personality. Definitely not the best way to ingratiate myself with the locals but he wasn’t the kind of person to make friends and honestly didn’t do most of the talking. A fellow player commented, “You wouldn’t walk into the ghetto and just start insulting people.” They were right, the actually me wouldn’t. I’m not disrespectful to strangers. My character on the other hand was a bit of a bastard.

On the other side of the exchange, did Squiggly Face act appropriately? Five fully armored individuals carrying heavy fire power walk into your neighborhood and insult you. How do you respond? After a few meetings with Squiggly Face, I figured he must have a megalomaniac complex. So maybe his openly violent response to my insult was very in character for him.

Decisions a character makes, both as a PC and NPC, are important. Not all those decisions need to be beneficial. People in real life and in stories make bad decisions all the time. The decisions display a character’s personally, they can cause or avoid conflict, or just add interesting flavor to the game.