26 January 2012

GM Questionnaire

At the intersection of hubris, banality and spam is the self-interview. However, this seemed like a good idea at the time.

Originally posted by Zak S.

GM Questionnaire

Repost and answer. Or, if you don't have a blog, answer in the comments. Or be a big rebel and do neither.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

I like to write modules. Once, I had a dungeon where the walls screamed and bled. That seemed pretty creepy at the time; I was ten.

These days, I am more proud of the "darling" elements I leave out of a game. Set the table, but allow the GMs to serve the meal. People are smarter than you think.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

About a week or so ago. The game was Labyrinth Lords and the adventure was B2: The Keep on the Borderlands.

3. When was the last time you played?

The last CRPG I played was Fallout: New Vegas (about 6 months ago). The last time I played a pen and paper RPG as a player was close to thirty years ago -- in the eighties.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

Easy, but I need three sentences.

Several children of Little Flanders have gone missing near an abandoned house of ill-repute. A desperate town has begged your heroes to exorcise the house of evil spirits and rescue the children. Can you brave the dangers of the Manse on Murder Hill?

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Usually, my players are waiting for me. But normally, I'm reading ahead in the adventure.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

I don't eat while I play.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

I find it emotionally draining, but that's a lot to do with using google hangouts to run the sessions remotely. It's like having a two hour teleconference. My sessions are necessarily concentrated, but still fun.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

I don't remember back that far.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

Well, I de-emphasize the "community theatre" aspect of RPGs and instead focus on presenting tactical situations to overcome. I don't mind humor in the game as long as it doesn't rehash Monty Python sketches or Princess Bride.

10. What do you do with goblins?

What don't I do with them! Goblins and goblinoids are goto monsters for low-level players. I like them more than skelies and zombies these days. Goblins are social creatures who can be as clever and formidable as you want them to be. Remember, in groups of 12 or more, goblins can wreck a low-level party's day. TPK!

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

I find the classic Brother's Grimm stories inspirational. Even Dr. Seuss presents some ideas. Take the Cat in the Hat (which I have read to my son every night for the past year). The Cat is an agent of chaos who may be well-meaning, but causes mass destruction none-the-less. Make the Cat a human prince that the PCs need to guard for a few days until his coronation and you have the bare bones of a good romp.

I favor the "generic fantasy" world as described in the Moldvay/Cook rules. World building is a waste of time.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

I suppose you had to be there but in the current campaign, the magic-user with a crappy sling is killing more goblinoids than the burly fighter with a two-handed sword.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

I have been pretty immersed in the Labyrinth Lord's rules of late. I enjoy re-reading my collection of Dragon and White Dwarf mags. The old D&D Gazetteers are great too. I try to keep up with the OSR blogs, but that's almost impossible for a working parent.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

Erol Otis.

Don't over-think it. Shut the front door!

All of his work is highly evocative, but the back cover of B2 crystalize the game of D&D for me. Young adventurers, full of promise arriving at a formidable keep at what I take to be sunset. The colors send me.

Like Hellboy's Mike Mignola, Otis is a high contrast, low detail illustrator and that sends me.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

It's just a game, dude. It's not like I threaten them with cancer or something.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

I am having a great time with my current campaign.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

The Google hangouts + twiddla combo is almost perfect for what I want out of the game. I would like software that allows me to slowly unveil a map, but crudely whiteboarding the dungeon is pretty charming too.

I am old. I don't want to have people in my house for 4, 6, 8, 12 (20?) hours at a time.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

I like a lot of games, so I don't know if this is about differing RPGs or differing games of any kind.

Had you asked what non-RPG game is most similar to D&D I would say a gambling game, like poker or craps. I hadn't realized that so much of D&D is essentially craps. And you know what? Craps has been around for more than 100 years. Other dice games have been around much longer.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

I tend to see synergies and confluences rather than dialectics.

I will volunteer that I loathe any RPG mash-up in which elves roam modern cities with pierced noses and fireballs.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

No actors, please. And no rules lawyers.

Come beat up orcs, think through the occasional puzzle and roll your d20s well.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

Having a son has really made me sensitive to PCs senselessly slaughtering monster families who could be dealt with more humanely. Sure, we can pull apart worms all day, but can we create them? No? Then maybe we should think twice before stomping on the ones we have.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

A Fallout PnP RPG that details the SPECIAL system would be desirable. I know there have been semi-official and ametuer attempts to do this. Perhaps Dan at Goblinoid Games can crack this nut.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

You mean, besides this blog that address the faceless hordes of the Interwebs?

24. Do you allow player innovation or require character skills?

I don't like skill systems for D&D. Ability checks are sufficient for me. I might be influenced in this from my flirtations with the TSR Marvel Super Heroes RPG.

25 By the book or Off the cuff?

I like to have a plan, but there is a lot of improvising inside of that plan at "runtime."

26 Characters should die...?

Characters die. That's the game.

I am on record as saying that PCs that make it to 9th level or so should be retired. The fun is in building up the character. High-level PCs are really a wank-fest.

I strictly forbid apotheosis.

27 Dice fall where they may or a little fudging never hurt.

Fudging when necessary -- in favor of the PCs. However, sometimes you need a wandering monster even if the dice don't say so.

28 How many combats can a player expect a session.

Great question. In a two hour session, I think my players get about 4 or so combats.

29 House rule you think everyone should use.

First level PCs get max hit points. They are so fragile anyway that they are always one or two orc hits away from death even with this bonus.

30 Crab Rangoons, yes or no?

When ordering Chinese food, my wife insists on these. As for D&D monsters, I prefer Crab Dragoons. Get it?

Hey, where are you going?