So I went to Norwescon (Seattle’s science fiction and fantasy convention) last April and in the list of discussion panels was one called “Putting the ‘R’ in RPG.” Me, being the naive guy that I am, assumed that they were going to be discussing how to increase the role-playing in your role-playing games. Before I went though, I found a longer description and apparently they meant “R” as in something getting an “R” rating. Specifically they were focusing sexuality and sensuality.Seriously the first thing that came to mind was that Dead Ailwives “Dungeons and Dragons” sketch. Specifically I thought bout the part where one player is in the kitchen looking for Cheetos and calling back to the GM about how if there are any girls at the bar his character is in he wants to “dooooo them.” I had to laugh and I think I opted to go see Jim Butcher talk about “Kickassitude” in the Urban Fantasy genre instead. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about that topic. Do people out there really want to role-play through getting their characters all sexed up? Now I wish I would have gone to that panel because I’m seriously curious. I mean in my games when the logical conclusion of a situation is the PC having sex, I usually skip to at least the far end of that act if not the next day entirely. If the character has some kind of power that is sex related (some kind of seduction power or something like that) I let them roll it, but usually I don’t dwell on the carnal details. To my understanding most gamers are male and only about 5% of the population is homosexual so in my imagination the sexual role-playing equates to two hetero dudes spending their RPG time inventing a fully sexual scene together while two or three other Players (probably hetero dudes as well) listen and/or participate. Now I’m as confident in my sexuality as the next guy, but that just strikes me as a weird way to spend your time. Anyway, long story short, it is something I just don’t usually include in my games beyond the basic acknowledgement that on occasion PCs get laid. So I’d like to know, how far do you other GMs out there take in-game sexual encounters? Do you include rolls for sexual performance? Do you roll for pregnancy? I don’t unless offspring is a conscious goal of the PC’s. I mean, in every on-going television show I’ve ever watched and in most books I’ve read, introducing a pregnancy is about the worst way to thicken a plot as there is. Most of the time all it does is introduce an easy way to make normally rational characters do stupid things because of parental instincts. It strikes me as sloppy storycraft so typically I don’t use pregnancy in my plots unless it is a motivation that has been with the PC in question from their inception. I’m curious what you all think, though. My opinion on this front should be obvious by now. However, since there was a panel discussion on the topic that I believe was well attended, I’m guessing there are other opinions out there. Oh and if you could, please post any responses directly to this blog. I know I have this auto-posting to the Facebooks and I definitely appreciate everyone there’s interest in what I have to say, but I do have some ulterior motives for publishing this blog. One of them being developing some street cred on the subject of RPGs. Next year it is my hope to get on some of the panel discussions at Norwescon. The role-playing over rule-playing point of view was wildly under represented this year and I’d like to change that on the next go around. I believe that having a relatively well read blog on the subject may get me in the door. So if any of you can help generate some activity on my blog’s actual site it would be much appreciated. Also, I think there’s a way to subscribe to my blog? It probably won’t do you much good if you rely on FB to inform you about new posts because this will just give you e-mail notifications as well, but if you’re willing to take the hit for the team it will help my cred along greatly to have more subscribers. Thanks in advance to anyone who helps me out in this way and extra thanks to those of you who already have!
When I was younger having a couple in the gaming group was rare and always caused huge amounts of drama as most things did when I was younger. However, it seems to have become more common as more and more of us pair up and start settling down. Lets face it, gamers either try to pair off with other gamers or they try to convince whomever they have decided to spend their life with that they should spend that life gaming. This can be difficult though because couple is a completely different entity than either of the individuals are on their own or even together (were they not in a relationship). Some people are less willing to indulge in some conversations and activities if their significant other is present. Some couples feel the need to confer on everything even if their Characters wouldn’t. How do you deal with this? Well, first you have to understand that this issue falls into three categories: Player/Player couples, GM/Player couples, Player/Observer couples.Player/Player couples are the easiest to deal with because as the GM you can enforce some policies that both of them have to adhere to. Most of this type of couple tend to have one member who is “more into it” than the other. What you need to watch out for is the “more into it” Player trying to play two characters for the price of one. Tackle this by starting your game with a C-gen session and requiring that significant others can’t make characters together. If the “more into it” Player doesn’t have a hand in the C-gen of the other’s character, they’re less likely to feel any kind of ownership of it. If the “less into it” person is inexperienced (and they usually are) assign someone other than their significant other to help them through C-gen or help them yourself (this latter being the better option). While the game is running, keep an eye out for the “more into it” Player suggesting courses of action to or performing the math/rolling dice for or even speaking for their SO’s character. Politely but firmly discount what the “more into it” Player has said (I’ve used the phrase “Hay! Who’s talking to you, chuckles?” and it worked well for me), make eye contact with the “less into it” Player, and ask them directly what they’re doing, what their roll was, or what their character said/did. Make it clear that they have to be involved. Also, taking them aside and running them through encounters without their SO being present will help a lot. In other words, cut the “more into it” Player out of the loop. A little time and attention can do wonders for meek Players and that’s really what this comes down to. Give them your time, but remember not to focus all of your time on this one Player or your game will suffer. Player/Observer couples, in my opinion, are just a Player/Player couple taken to the extreme. One person wants to come to game, but insists that they don’t want to play. How do I handle this? I refuse. No observers at my games. No exceptions. I mention that I don’t like observers in advance, but otherwise say nothing till the first session and then I insist that they make a character. In this way I turn the Player/Observer couple into a Player/Player couple and deal with it like that (see above). This may sound unreasonable to some of you, but I’ve never done this and not had the former Observer ending up becoming a Player for life and thanking me in the end for forcing the issue. 100% success rate. Hard to argue with, huh? GM/Player couples. That one’s a doozy. I’ve seen whole gaming groups crumble because of this and it’s hard to deal with because as the GM you’re part of the problem. I was once in a game where we were all supposed to make pirates. We all did, except the SO’s girlfriend who made a horse-archer. It was amazing how many boats we encountered that were built perfectly to house horses. All of the bad guys conveniently got close enough for the horse to jump onto the opposing ship. Every pirate’s treasure was hidden somewhere easily accessible by horse. A pirate captain even challenged our “leader” to a duel… that duel to consist of a joust followed by an archery contest. So lame… I was also told of a game where the SO alone was allowed to take a set of abilities which were (with some effort) able to double for any other abilities in the game and (because of a quirk concerning the way their SO’s character was built) those abilities would cost them half price in terms of xp. By the end of the game that Player had to imagine reasons for why their character would let the other Players participate in things rather than just saving the world on their own. Seriously, it was as if they had gotten twice as much advancement fuel as the rest of the team. I’m told the story was very imaginative and the game well run, but in spite of that the end game sounds more than a little lackluster to me because of the incredible power gap. Ouch. Here’s the best advice I have. Do your best not to steer the game completely in your SO’s direction. Include lots of face time with the other Players. Make a point of alternating which Player each session focuses most on. Oh, and for the love of god don’t let your SO become noticeably more powerful than the other players. If another Player becomes a little more powerful, no one will care. If your SO becomes more powerful than the others, it will be instantly noticed and the reason for it assumed (probably accurately). Finally, talk to your SO about it. The person with the GM’s ear for the largest amount of time outside of game tends to have some advantage in the amount of GM thought that has gone into seeing things from their character’s point of view. That’s just to be expected. However, if you acknowledge the possible issues and explain to your SO that for the purpose of game they’re just another player and that you may not want to discuss game with them at times they should understand. A good SO will anyway. If they don’t. I pitty you, and not just for your gaming career.
Women, ladies, senioritas, the Y-chromosome deficient masses (just kidding ;), in other words, girls. I’m all about equality, but let’s be honest: there are more male gamers than female. The ratio differs from game to game and I’ve heard (but never seen) that some LARPs (Live Action Role Playing) are primarily women. By in large though gaming is a predominantly male past time. Sad but true.Sad for whom? Sad for everyone, in my opinion. Most of you reading this are probably gamers yourselves and so would agree with me in feeling sorry for anyone who isn’t a gamer. So it’s sad for them because they’re missing out. However, the lack of female gamers is sad for us as well. It means our games don’t have nearly the depth of dimension they could have. We try to be politically correct and ignore that any differences between the genders that aren’t purely physical, but that’s just not the way we work. Men and women see things differently. They think differently. They come up with different solutions to the same problems. Now I’m going to try and give some examples here. They’re almost certainly going to be sexist, but keep in mind what we’re talking about. This whole topic is sexist by nature. I’m discussing the differences between male and female gamers and I will be directing this as though speaking to male GMs as most GMs I’ve ever encountered have been male. The range between simply not ignoring gender differences and rudely pointing them out as flaws is what the term ‘sexist’ refers to. I’ll try and keep to the near side of that range though. The first thing that comes to mind is LARP. While I’ve never seen a LARP where the women out numbered the men, the women are usually far better costumed than the men are. To those of you who haven’t LARPed before this may seem like a trivial difference, but it isn’t. For one, an individual’s investment in a LARP is easily measured by how much between-games time they spend with their head still in the game. When you see someone who clearly put many hours into an outfit dedicated to a single character it says a lot about their intellectual investment in the game. Better costumes at a LARP also deepen the role-playing experience for everyone present and encourage others to do the same. These are things that can be performed by just having men at a LARP, but usually aren’t nearly as pronounced as when they are joined by even just a few women. On the table-top front it seems to me that many guys are completely capable of getting lost in the numbers, logistics, rules-lawyering, and more boardgame-esque aspects of role-playing; activities where everyone in the room is focusing on the same subject. Women, on the other hand, seem to thrive more when the focus is not everyone looking at the same thing, but when everyone is looking at each other. I don’t know why this is, but it is something I’ve observed on many occasions. The eyes may or may not be the windows to the soul, but they are a good indicator of what’s going on in the attached mind. When everyone is looking at a game board, they are all most probably thinking about that game board as well. When they are all looking at each other, they are most probably thinking about the interaction going on. In my opinion, board-gaming is at best an aid to true role-playing and more commonly a detraction from it. Having more members of a game who are willing to drop the solid rules and lines of things in favor of the interaction those rules and lines are supposed to be facilitating is a good thing. I’d love to tell you about the types of story lines that women in general are good at picking up and following, but I can not. The types of stories someone likes is mostly a matter of taste and women are not generic to the point of all liking the same stories and plots just like men don’t all like the same stories and plots. They do, however, have subtly different points of view than their male counterparts and I would encourage male GMs to listen to what their female Players have to say. Many times I have described the actions of a female NPC only to hear from the feminine quarter “That doesn’t make any sense. Girls don’t do that.” Now I love being right (god knows I am most of the time) but I’m not a woman; never have been and never will be. So when I get advice like this I seize upon it greedily. It’s something that, should I be wise enough to learn from it, could improve my games now and in the future. So a nice gender mix in a game is a good thing. Fine. How does one recruit female gamers? No idea, but I think recruiting is a bad idea anyway. I mean, first of all that’s just as sexist as excluding them. Second, anyone who is added to your game for any reason other than their ability to role-play and contribute to the game is a poor addition regardless of gender. What I’d encourage you to do is listen carefully to any female Players you have and remember that it is your job to make sure their voice is equal to those of their fellow players. Do not let them be over rode by louder male players (I’ve seen many boyfriends end up running two PCs for the price of one by bringing a girlfriend along) and don’t insist that they adapt to the style of your previously all male group. You’re adding a new spice to the soup, if it doesn’t taste different afterward, that just makes you a poor chef. If you go out of your way to make sure your female Players are as much a part of things (Face Time works well here) as everyone else your game will only benefit from it.