noism's "Things Role Playing Bloggers Tend Not To Write About"

Am I a role-playing blogger? Yes, obviously in the strictest interpretation of the words, but do I get anybody following my blog’s feed mostly to see my write about RPGs? I don’t think so. I think anybody doing so is probably chased off by the technical posts… but there’s little to no chance I’m going to try maintaining two blogs. Blech.

Anyway, a few weeks ago noism made a little list of Things Role Playing Bloggers Tend Not To Write About and a few people posted their thoughts on those topics, and I thought I might as well do the same.

Book binding. (I can’t be the only person who bemoans the way new rulebooks tend to fall apart like a sheaf of dry leaves after about 5 seconds of use).

These days, I tend to buy two kinds of RPG books: D&D 4E books, which are pretty nicely bound, and PDFs. I’ve bought PDFs lately of Rotworld, Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future, some Judge’s Guild stuff, KC&C, and other rules, not to mention a bunch of games that were available for free, like Mazes & Minotaurs, Eclipse Phase, etc. Even when these are available in print, lately, I’m opting for PDF.

All of the small press or print on demand books that I’ve bought have been decent (or better) quality. I haven’t suffered anything falling apart after use, yet. The thing is, it’s often about the same price to have the PDF printed at Staples and then spiral bound. Spiral binding for RPG books, so far, has been much better for me than stitched binding. So far, the only books I’ve found too hard to get spiral bound have been full-color books (which cost an arm and a leg to print one-off) and digest-sized books, which Staples just doesn’t do. Does anybody have a good source for those? (And is there an Encounter Critical PDF that puts one page per page, instead of the two-page spreads that I have?)

“Doing a voice”. How many people “do voices”? Should they? How do you get better at “doing a voice” if that’s your thing?

If I had to pick one thing that my players have liked over the years, it would be NPC voices. I don’t know if they like anything else in my DM arsenal, but NPC voices get mentioned a lot. I always have fun with them, and a funny voice can communicate a huge amount about the character without needing to dedicate valuable table time to actual character development. If the guy sounds enough like Boris Badenov, the point is clear.

I’ve always liked doing funny voices, so I have no good advice. Jeff Rients’ post on these questions mentioned listening to Billy West and John DiMagio talk about doing voices, which seems like good advice. They have a lot of interesting things to say. In fact, I’ve heard lots of voice actors say interesting things about how they develop voice-only characterizations. I can’t say that I’ve intentionally gone to them for advice, though. I just goof around.

Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions?

I dunno. Once every two hours? Any time someone really needs to use the bathroom, or get a cigarette, or when I know that we haven’t had a break in a long time and I think a time-consuming 4E combat is going to begin soon, or when we’re out of drinks… which leads to:

Alchohol at the table?

Sometimes we have a few beers. Never more than two each, I think, because never more than a six pack. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where we wanted more than that. Nobody wants to get all logey. We can go out for drinks on not-game-night for drinks.

Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions?

Not very. I try to let the players imagine whatever they want – although my sneaking suspicion is that for the most part nobody is working on forming a coherent and detailed imagining of our games beyond what I say. I try to keep descriptions only as involved as the described thing is complex, and I try to make sure that if there is one really important detail, there are at least a few others to keep it from being too obvious.

If the sword is inscribed with the magic name that will control it, then there will have to be a number of other embellishments: inlaid gems, a pommel in the shape of a boar’s head, etc.

Where do you strike the balance between “doing what your character would do” and “acting like a dickhead”?

I have almost never had this problem, thankfully. The PCs in my games are usually pretty well set-upon, and fighting within the party is going to spell disaster. Even when the ship’s captain (a PC) liked to harass the hired gun (another PC) and get him into trouble, it never seemed like it would lead to hard feelings – or a TPK.

I don’t think I’d have any trouble telling a player to fall in line, if he was making everyone else unhappy. Who wants to have his leisure activity become a big source of unhappiness?

PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?

I don’t think it has ever happened. Once or twice we had out-of-game mock combats just to figure out how some rules worked, and this was usually fun, but so far, no PvP. I wouldn’t mind player characters offing each other, as long as nobody got too bent out of shape. In my current 4E game, I think that, at present, it would just be inconceivable. (See my previous answer.)

I thought there were a few times in my space pirates game that the crew was going to have to really mutiny, and if it had, I think there would’ve been one night of grumbling, and then business as usual. I don’t think I’d ban it, but if it started to become a regular event, and it was causing player unhappiness, I guess I’d have to consider doing so.

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? (Real life example: my friends and I were playing in the local M:tG club space. A M:tG groupie teenage goth girl came over and asked, “What are you playing?” We answered. “Sounds kind of gay.”)

I hadn’t had to do this in a long time – doesn’t everyone know D&D by now? Well, no! I was talking to my neighbors, who are in their late 20’s, just last week and said that I was off to a D&D game. “What’s that?” I used Jeff R.’s explanation: It’s like an old-timey radio serial, but instead of a script, the actors improvise, and there are some rules for figuring out the results. Later, my neighbor asked, “Did you win or did you die?” I said, “I was the referee.”

What’s acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?

If I can write the PC out of the session, I do. Unfortunately, my games have an ugly habit of ending in media res, so it’s hard to extract one PC. When that happens I play the character, and have him or her keep quiet when possible, and act reservedly in character when not. I used to also run them in combat, but lately I hand them over to the other players, and so far this hasn’t resulted in any real problems.

The only way I’d let the absent PC’s character die is if there was a TPK. Other than that, I think it’s just not fair.

When I started my current 4E game, my goal was that whenever a player could not attend, I would run a side game with different characters, set in distant part of history that would inform the rest of the game, but not really affect it.

I was really happy with that, but it ended up happening too often. We tried to play every 3 weeks, but half the time it would get delayed a week, and that would mean something like two months between any two main-story games. My players, wonderful guys though they are, don’t have the best memory for what happened from session to session, and putting more time between the main story sessions was a problem.

I’d love to do it again, though, with a more regularly-scheduled game.

Written on November 15, 2011
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