A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why so spergy? OR Things to do to not have a bad RPG session.

Call this a two in one post.

(The events happened with people I knew. I apologize in advance if posting about it upsets them in any way. I think we learned a few things worth sharing with the Internet. Should anyone not wish these events to be repeated here please email me and I will remove enough content to fix it.)

Last week a group I joined of people who I already knew had an RPG game. It did not go so well. Mistakes were made all round. Too many people were chatting loudly about things utterly uninvolved with the game, putzing with things not involving the game, ect.

I got an email from the GM taking me to task for building a model kit during the game. Looking back perhaps I should have asked if it would be a problem. Normally I can multitask while I play, plus as I feel I talk too much and am constantly (and somewhat hurtfully IMHO) taken to task for being too loud as well I felt the kit would keep me quiet during downtimes and give other players a chance to shine as I eased into the campaign. If the kit was causing me to fail to keep 95% of my attention to the game I would have put it away posthaste.

The game itself was kind of a disaster. Around 10 people around 1 table all talking and the GM, being one of the nicest damned people I have ever met wasn't really running the game as best a GM should.

On an RPG forum I posted about it and what happened.

The responses I got ran the gamut from intelligent things that should have happened to the most worthless, hateful things no gamer should ever do, ESPECIALLY not in a group where everyone is friends. (Or you really should want to BECOME friends with the folks around the table with you.)

There were such horrid suggestions as "Steal the best players", "The GM should have booted you for even bringing it because you were clearly a passive aggressive tool", "The GM can't run a game so boot him and take over" and a few similarly hateful things NO DECENT PERSON SHOULD EVER DO.

See for some gamers the game is the Alpha and the Omega. Its all important and anything that keeps it from some perfect gaming ideal should be horribly stomped on. These are the sorts of people who think yelling at other people will get them to do what they want and think how they think. Like Rush Limbaugh. Normal people, and people with souls and empathy for other human beings understand this in fact not only fails to solve any problems, but hurts feelings and makes things worse.

Way worse. It in fact can end friendships.

Asperger's Syndrome, for folks who don't know the term is a condition in which the sufferer largely has trouble empathizing with people and interacting with others on a normal level. Many nerds on the Internet have decided they have this condition as an excuse for being a douchebag to others. Spergin is a joking term for nerds getting angry and pissy about stupid things online or in a game setting.

The guy who flips out if you even look at his models on the table? Spergin.
The chick who starts screaming bloody murder if you make fun of her favorite anime pretty boy character? Spergin.
The rules lawyer who starts spouting rules and trying to overturn a GM call? Spergin.
The guy who builds his 40K armies only after he hears what army you play so he can beat you soundly? Possibly Spergin.

Ya know that sort of thing.

More common real life Spergy things could be not throwing your garbage away at the movie theater as you have to walk right by the trash can to leave the room anyhow. Not putting away your shopping cart, but instead leaving it in the middle of your parking space. Giving a waitress a hard time at a diner for no real reason and then not tipping her just to try to score a free meal or because you think its funny.

In fact, those real life things might be closer to Asperger's behavior than the nerdy ones. It shows a lack of consideration and empathy for your fellow human being.

And sadly, empathy for your fellow human beings seems to be in such short supply in this world that many people have becomed accustomed to other people "peeing in their Corn Flakes"!

The thread I made on this site was full of that. I consider people I game with either friends or potential friends. You DO NOT do your boys and girls wrong. You give them plenty of chances even when they bork things up. You respect them. You help em when they fall, and cheer them on when they win.

This thread I mentioned had sadly little of that making me wonder what sort of horrible draconian games many roleplayers play in. While they might get more gaming in than my groups do, we certainly are closer as friends and have generally more pleasant days even if the games themselves might not be as satisfying.

Yet in this game session's failure I take learning and knowledge and wisdom from it. And I impart not only to you my few readers who don't know who I am, but the folks in the game who do.

1: You are the GM. Your word is law.
As the GM you run the show NOT the players. If they keep babbling off topic or being loud, you should bring them in line. If you choose to ignore a rule for speed or flair or fun or cinematic awesome the Rules Lawyers should just be quiet and accept it, maybe bringing up the correct rule after the game.

This is VERY important. Knowing all the rules is nigh impossible in these games but you should know more than your players do. Keep some "cheat sheets" handy with the main things you need to know. Have your rulesbooks tabbed to important sections so you can look up stuff fast.

3: Be prepared, but be flexible.
Have your adventure notes ready, but be capable of changing gears due to player actions.

1: The GM is God. Obey and respect them. The players are your brothers and sisters. Respect them too.
Don't cause trouble for the GM. Don't try to powergame rules or stupid actions to hose over and ruin the game for other people. Its not nice. The GM's word is law. They should be impartial but fair. If you find some lame loophole or rule the GM doesn't want to follow tough noogies. Bring it up after the game but accept their ruling for now.

2: Contribute don't distract.
If you can't keep quiet find something to fiddle with that will keep you focused on the game yet not distract anyone from the game. If you cannot do this, leave your Ipods, cellphones, artpads, toys, or whatever at home.

3: Know what your character can do.
Be as prepared as the GM is. Except you just need to know what your character can do. Jot down page numbers of your character's powers and abilities. Maybe even scan them and put them on cheat sheets. Don't expect the GM to remember every skill and ability you have. Its impossible!

Some thoughts from the game that could be useful:

1: Game size. We had 10 people in one room. This might have been too many people. For a game this big it may have been better to go LARP style and split up into rooms and move about giving us more RP with less requirements for constant GM interaction. We were all talking over each other, and rarely did it involve the game itself.

2: Assistant GM/"Rules Bitch"/Party Leader or Caller. Once you get that many people the GM is gonna be swamped. Some help or backup could be handy. This obviously requires some forethought and planning as the Assistant GM kind of needs the game spoiled a tad, and if its a Party Leader or Caller the players need to agree on how it will work. But it can make for smoother, faster games. The Rules Bitch just saves time and sanity for everyone. Because the Rules Bitch is already on the case when a rule needs to be repeated for the sake of all.

3: Giving players motivation and stuff to do. This was a problem with me. I didn't get into the game till like 90-120 minutes in, and had little motivation or story reasons to do so, yet the GM expected me to almost drive things. If you want a player to drive things, get in touch with him or her before the game and work out what they need to do. Sometimes players like myself who sort of take up the party leader roles don't always want to be the LORD OF ALL ATTENTION and want to let other folks shine. In the game we played I apparently picked a REALLY stupid time to become an awkward wallflower. The GM was used to me taking the reigns. I didn't really want to, but would have if I had known, which leads to:

4: Communication is key. Everyone should be on the same page. Campaign style, characters that work together, what is expected of everyone. It makes for happier, smoother, faster running games.

5: Talk with people after the game to clear up issues, rules conflicts, ect. We are doing that very thing, and this post and some phone calls are part of it.

6: Remember you are all friends and to treat each other as such. None of the passive aggressive ways of handling things most RPG forums seem to think is the correct way to deal with a game. Mutual respect and understanding and empathy goes a LOOOOOOOONG way folks!

Hopefully this will illuminate some people and give them wisdom and knowledge. Plus its always good to remind ourselves why we play.

To have a good time with friends.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Toyniverse Plot 12

For those on my blog this is a new one so I will quickly summarize what Toyniverse Plot is. Basically its my toys as sentient though normally bonkers/douchebags/bonkers douchebags all interacting and doing horrible things to one another while vaguely pretending to be whichever character the toy actually is. They are mostly aware of being toys and I am in fact a toy who is their owner yet most of them hate me while still needing me to do things for them. So they are kind of like plastic and die cast talking cats pretty much.

I've been doing these comics off and on for years now. Many times tabletop games become involved in various ways including a pile of Decepticons, Gobot Renegades, and Predacons all playing Dungeons & Dragons.

With me doing my various gaming battle report comics and the like, the Toyniverse Plot got shunted to the side for the better part of 2 years. However I had an idea for a comic series with a couple installments that is semi self contained, but does advance the original storyline plot (or lampshade hangs why I haven't been doing it anyhow) and it features gaming elements heavily.

So now even my blog gets to have the comic strips. Also, it adds in more content since I haven't been posting as many entries as I used to for various reasons.







Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Federation Commander Campaign Notes

One of the many projects going through my head when I am not feeling sorry for myself is an RP campaign system for Federation Commander, a hex n chit/miniatures wargame of the "machine sheet" variety.

You know, Machine Sheet. Those games where your units have a big sheet of paper filled with stats and damage boxes and piles of other detail most gamers don't care about.

Well Federation Commander is a Star Trek machine sheet game. Except it has a sort of kind of Trek license and could possibly be a prototype game universe for what many of the current wargame universes are. You know, "In the grim darkness of the grimly dark far future/fantasy world of Blah Blah there is only war". Basically Federation Commander is Star Trek how I always wanted it to be. Lots of jolly big capital class starships shooting the stuffing out of each other. Trek sans Roddenberry's idealist utopian dreams.

Take Trek, mix with Warhammer 40K, add in some original races and ignore any Trek besides the original series and the animated one, stir for 30 years. (See Federation Commander is a fancier streamlined version of the long running "Star Fleet Battles", a game for people who like the rules insanity/lifestyle gaming of Advanced Squad Leader (the full version) but would rather have starships neeming each other as opposed to replaying World War 2 for eternity.

Seriously. I am all WW2ed out. Greatest Generation, some of the worst atrocities ever recorded, Normandy blah blah. Humanity's history encompasses more than just the 1930s and 40s. There have always been soldiers dying for causes just and unjust for millennia.


Back then we had a miniatures RPG goulash where everyone was Star Wars Imperial TIE Fighter pilots taking on missions for the Empire and given options to join various factions and maybe not always backstab each other.

(Of course most people DID, but its not the GM's place to enforce player cooperation. Merely to make life difficult for the jerks in the long run. Sadly, karma never had a chance to rear its ugly head.)

As an aside, why DO hobby games players love jumping at the chance to be douchebags anyhow? Am I the only one who wants to play heroes anymore?

I combined 2 miniatures games, Silent Death for starfighter operations and Star Wars Miniatures for ground ones. Then I added in a simple quickie RPG advancement scheme and away we went.

Except this time using Federation Commander for space combat, and I have no idea what for Away Team missions. (My Adamythryl Engine system? Necromunda/40K? Traveller? D6 Space?)

With Star Trek now hot again because of a TOTALLY AWESOME movie, and my desire to play more Federation Commander, it seems like a good time to overload some Photon Torpedoes, cloak a Romulan vessel, and launch some Kzinti drones.

And I need the excuse to buy the 2 newest expansions. Orion Pirates as a full faction! Lyrans! Hydrans!

Basically it would be a riff on the movie events happening in the Star Fleet Universe which changes ITS timeline, except the villain of the movie's actions change and the SFU's main baddies, the Andromedans show up a good 30 years early and everything changes.

Everyone is a captain of a small ship from their chosen faction at the edge of space, guarding against pirates and the potential return of the Andromedans. While everyone is loosely allied, old grudges die hard (I know this one IRL all too well.) and who is to say anyone is REALLY gonna make nice nice with old enemies?

Plus secret orders from Starfleet/Romulan Command, ect could make for some tricky situations out on the frontier. Work with your new allies? Maybe its the smartest and best solution, but since when does anybody ever do that? :p

Ground stuff will be little ground battles/RP bits ala Trek.

Now my goal is to figure out which game system will be selected for the ground battles, and write up a quick set of campaign rules.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mechamorphosis, the Transformers RPG?

Yeah. See Fantasy Flight Games made this little D20 line called Horizons, roughly 64 page rules/campaign settings that were not fully fleshed out, yet were pretty inventive frameworks that probably deserved more.

One of them was called Mechamorphosis, and is obviously based on the Transformers, a setting/license that tons of people want to play, but has never officially been done. (Its been various poor fanmade renditions though.)

Mechamorphosis in 64 pages covers ALMOST every possible type of sentient transforming robot you would want to play in a Transformers game without getting too crunchy. I am still reading it, but I am liking what I am reading.

Which leads me to want to run a game of it. Here is a rough transcription of my thoughts on how a playgroup would get set up to play and campaign in this setting:

1: Campaign itself: It would be a classic Generation 1 Transformers story, based in the early 80s, pre cartoon series, but linking to it. It will be more based on the Marvel comic with some additions and such from other sources. (Which I cannot mention since it would spoil the surprise of stuff at least half our probable playgroup has no idea of being slightly too old to care about.) It will be a secret war on Earth to find the original Transformers who have gone missing but their location was pinpointed to our lovable blue mudball. The PCs and various NPC factions will all be searching for the objective, yet stealth will be required as to not attract too much attention.

(The person who introduced me to Mechamorphosis says my campaign idea is rather close to Beast Wars at least at first glance, though with rad 70s and early 80s vehicles.)

Even if you are a 20' tall giant robot who can turn into a tank you get enough early 80s military gear shooting at you and you will die. Good robot? Bad robot? Reagan still has his finger on the button, as do a bunch of filthy commies who haven't quite realized their system sucks butt.

2: Combat will involve miniatures. Which is where the fine players come in. I am gonna require players to buy their mini, and to make it as accurate to their designed character as possible. (If you are a sportscar robot you should have a sportscar model. Obviously being early 80s means lots of rad cars and such, but there are not so many proper 70s and 80s car toys out there.)

This means a group would need to answer the following questions and lines of thought:

A: Scale. How big do we want to go? From Micromachine sized Transformers which go for 3-8 bucks all the way to massive to scale city ones. Smaller means I have less bad guy choices to be fought, but less cost to players. Going for the "Deluxe" class means on average the player will spend 8-15 dollars on a normal sized miniature. Insane people who want to play giant-er Transformers will then of course have to spend more if they want to play a Metroplex or Devastator type robot.

B: Some restrictions/ proxying. If someone would rather buy a roughly to scale model car and then a model robot of roughly the same scale because their desired design doesn't exist in an easy to buy price range or at all that's cool. But if one player wants to be a C130 Transport plane and another wants to be a Corvette Stingray, there should be some obvious size differences! Plus, no playing a G1 Season 1-3 character. Or using a toy of that character. (Unless you repaint the thing to be your character.)

C: Bonuses for effort. There will be player benefits to not only having a nice miniature representation, but extra benefits depending on how close your model is to your PC. Kitbashing a model car with say a Gundam model kit will get even more benefits since you are putting some SERIOUS work into your dude.

I would say for scale, Deluxe class as baseline scale is the best. These go for around 12 bucks these days and there is the widest selection overall. Its close enough for the "Basic" and "Voyager" (Roughly 8 and 20 dollar pricepoints) lines to fit in well enough, plus if anyone is psycho enough to go for a really big robot it won't cost them too much.

(But even if I were a player in this game as opposed to GMing it I probably wouldn't buy a really big robot.)

Deluxe class also allows model cars and model robot toys to be used without much difficulty as well. Zoids, Gundam, GNU DOU, Revoltech, ect.

(I also have some models and toys at this scale I would be willing to sell at a reasonable price, though I would prefer people buy their own and not scavenge mine. Other people's gamegroups might need everyone to buy their own.)

There are even bootlegs or castoffs folks could get online or at Dollar/Big Lots type stores for even cheaper prices.

If people can pay 15-20 bucks for a movie or a meal out, I think we could afford a decent miniature for our PCs! (Plus as it wouldn't begin till July at the earliest its plenty of time to save a couple bucks a week. Giving players heads up time to scrounge some cash instead of BUY NOW is a nice gesture. For those groups that bring snacks and drinks, just skip on the 6 pack of beer for 2-4 weeks and you have the money for a nice model.)

For my crowd I can provide links to lots of sites that sell appropriate minis and models. A gamegroup playing this could even have a model building/painting day for those peeps who want to make their miniature special. Which again, should get PCs some bonuses, ala extra XP or whatnot.

This to me sounds like a great idea for a game, plus the toy and model building aspect gives players immense freedom and ownership of their character. If you can't just make a powerbuild character because you aren't willing to buy or customize your model, why should you be allowed to play a Battleship? You like the idea of playing a robot dinosaur? Go buy one, or bash together a toy dinosaur with a cheap toy robot. You EARNED your right to play the giant robot Tyrannosaurus and munch on the Decepticons.


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I like to play nerd games! I am a nerd! Join our nerd ways at https://www.facebook.com/groups/112040385527428/