So Norwescon has come and gone again. I got my four day pass and attended, but (sadly) as a patron and not a panelist. I sent several e-mails to the Norwescon “contact us” address (asking how to join in the reindeer games, asking if they’d received my previous e-mails, asking if it was something I said or my breath or what) but to no avail. My frustration wasn’t that my offer to attend as a volunteer panelist was rejected, it was that I got no response at all. I payed attention this year though and saw a lot of repeat panelists, one of whom flatly announced that their only credentials for getting such a position was being friends with someone in charge. So I’m not sure if I was contacting the wrong place or don’t have the right friends or what. Either way, I guess I’ll keep on blogging try again next year.Anyhow I went to several panels on gaming and came away from them with some new ideas for post topics! The main one being questions. One of the panels invited GMs and players to ask questions relating to their current games or simply on games in general for the panelists to offer advice on. This was a fantastic idea! I thought about it and in my blog I’ve largely been operating in a vacuum. Sometimes I get a comment, but for the most part I have to think of my topics all on my own. That makes it hard for me to post on subjects you would find interesting. So the first thing I’d like to do is invite anyone who reads this to submit gaming questions of any kind to me. I will respond to any and all serious queries either in my blog posts or privately if discretion is requested. Post your questions as a response to a post if you like or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org Okay, meat and potatoes time. I went to Norwescon and listened to a lot of neat gaming conversations, but didn’t really have the opportunity to get involved much because I wasn’t a panelist (boo-hooo-hooo). Usually if I had a comment on someone else’s question the group had already gone through two or so other topics before getting to my upraised hand and then me pulling them back to an old discussion was met with some rolling of eyes and sighs for wasting some of the 60 minutes they had to work with. So I’m going to babble to you all about those topics! The question I’ll address today which came up was one that hadn’t before occurred to me. It was from an older player who had teenaged children. He started running games for his kids because he wanted them to have the chance to enjoy gaming like he had, but couldn’t seem to keep their attention. They never got very invested in their characters and didn’t seem to concerned at all about the plot. The game he was using was D&D 3.5. The panelists asked him if this was his kids’ only game and he said that they also ran their own game over at a friend’s house. This game he described as “hectic” involving rapid turnover of characters and little to no thought given to alignment cohesiveness (Chaotic Evil bunking with the Paladin, mass hysteria!). The panelists suggestions (along with most of those given by the other GMs in the room) leaned toward focusing more on his kids characters. One person said to give them unique powers so they’d value their characters more. Another suggested paying more attention to individual story lines. I disagree. My advice would be to look at the game they play for their own enjoyment rather than the one you are trying to give them as a learning experience: fast paced, deadly, lax on the alignments. What you’re describing there is a video game. Fantasy is a common setting for video game RPGs and so that’s what these kids are equating this experience with. What you need is to give them something that will cater to their urges, but still give them something they largely can’t get from a video game. Solution? Start a new modern day setting game. Modern day settings tend to be a bit faster paced, involve a larger array of options for the players to choose from, and largely omit the question of alignment altogether. It will give them an arena in which their knowledge of the world around them will actually be useful. That should pull them in a bit more and they should be able to better relate to their character if their character lives in a world more similar to the one they live in. It will make their character seem more like a person and less expendable. At the same time, they will be allowed to decide right from wrong for themselves within the confines of what is legal. I mean, everyone understands the divide between what you can do and what you are allowed to do under the law. Alignment is a little more esoteric and therefore a little less “real” to your average person. Also, how many modern day video game RPGs are there on the market? Not many. Why, you ask? Because they are a logical nightmare. Fantasy settings are so much easier to program with their simplistic divides of good and evil and with “the Law” mostly being what the current monarch of the age says it is. You also usually have to walk or ride a horse to get from place to place. Slow. In modern day you can jump a flight to almost any populated place on the globe in anywhere from a couple of hours to half a day. Boom. Change of setting. Car chases, helicopters, credit cards, gun laws, gun calibers, sky scrapers, substructures… The permutations of the modern world are just a bit beyond the capabilities of any video game… but it isn’t beyond the imagination of a good GM. Give them something new, something with some woosh and flash, a few explosions, and some Mission Impossible theme music. They’re kids, they’ll dig it.