Friday, November 30, 2012

The 25 Villains of Christmas!

Okay, this might not work, but here's what I'm going to try to do.  Sometime in the near future I want to run a Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game in my home-grown universe known as "Earth 3."  I figure that what that gaming universe needs is a pantheon of supervillains: great, small, and everything in between.

In order to do that, I am taking on a fairly ambitious plan: create 25 unique (or at least not wholly-derivative) supervillains between now and Christmas Day.  Now, these will just be the stats and background that would be known to the superhero community at large (that way my players don't have an edge).  I'm also probably not going to swing illustrations, but will just describe the costumes.  I'm not a bad artist, but I can't crank out quality drawings that quickly.  Maybe one of you would like to help?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Outlying Gamers

Barking Alien asked a great question over at his blog regarding players whose actions in gameplay deliberately set them apart from the gaming group, or are particularly disruptive to the rest of the group's experience.

Am I familiar with this phenomenon?  Honestly, I married it.  My wife, the inspiration behind "Irene" over at Hard Boiled Zombies, once joined a WEG Star Wars Campaign I was running.  She then proceeded to turn over the rest of the PC's to the Empire, collect the reward, and then promised them that in the next session she would rescue them  We never had a next session.

Call them "weasel gamers," call them "outlying gamers," call them whatever you want, game long enough with enough people and you'll meet at least one.  In my experience these outlying gamers fall into three categories.

The ignorant gamer.  The least common and easiest to deal with version is the person who is so unfamiliar with roleplaying games that they don't get the idea of co-operative play, at least initially.  When I first began playing D&D as a pre-teen back in the early '80s, I asked my father to be in my gaming group (I had few friends).  It took a good chunk of that first gaming session to explain to him that he wasn't trying to kill the other members of his party in a gladiator-style deathmatch.  As I said, it hopefully doesn't take long for these kind of players to comprehend what is going on.

The Mr. Spocks.  These are the players who, for whatever reason, have to stand out from the group.  I had  one player who, in my Vampire: the Masquerade campaign, insisted on playing a werewolf.  Like the eponymous Mr. Spock in Star Trek, both rulesets and actual gameplay tends to reward the PC who stands out.  Don't believe me, look at FASA's Star Trek rules for Vulcans.  Plus, the GM has to generally work with or around the divergent PC in order to craft a story.

Usually there is some degree of need for attention, emotional immaturity, anxiety or in rare cases poor social skills at work.  Dealing with this kind of player is usually determined by how severe the cause may be.  In some fairly mild cases, occasionally throwing them a narrative bone, so to speak, will fulfill their social and emotional needs.  Sometimes you may, with our without the rest of the group, explain that their character concept just doesn't work for the campaign you're running, and that either they need to change the PC or consider whether this is the kind of campaign in which they want to play.  There is a reason why I can game with eight to ten players at EOW, and that's because all of them are mature human beings who understand the social contract of the gaming table, including the part where sometimes you sit quietly and don't participate.  At the risk of being insulting, how you respond will usually dictate what happens in the future.  As my dog obedience instructor likes to say, "if you're not training them, they are usually training you."

The Scorpions.  Most of you know the fable of the scorpion being carried across the river by the frog who stings his transport and dooms them both, citing his nature as the reason.  These players are the conflict junkies who just can't play with others.  Sometimes, they are just angry.  In the aforementioned Vampire campaign a player couple in real-life was having some serious relationship problems and the male of the pair took it out on his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend by sabotaging the campaign she loved so much.  In some severe cases, the person suffers from some form of emotional illness, like borderline personality disorder.  Despite the fact that it ruins not only the other player's experiences, but inevitably dooms their own gaming, these players continue to sabotage the experience by insisting that it is all about them.

And frankly, none of us are paid enough to deal with these people. It's a hobby, not a therapeutic profession.  Their actions are likely making gaming unpleasant for the rest of the group, and you've got just as much a responsibility to them and yourself than you do to the outlying player.  If you have someone who is consistently ruining your campaign one after another (as it appears to be the case for Barking Alien), then I'll wager they aren't that good a friend outside the gaming environs as well.  And if you're concerned that you're getting rid of one of the few gamers you know, consider this: these people will keep any prospective gamer away from your table.  You're better off taking the loss now and recouping it in the form of one or more healthy, fun gamers in the future.

Responses welcome.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November Update

Sometimes I wonder about RPG-themed blogs.  What do people really put in them?  I can't write about what it upcoming in my game, because some of my players read this blog.  Writing about what happened in my game always seems to me to be a little underwhelming, a little bit like "how I spent my vacation" articles.  Ironically enough, the most prolific RPG bloggers seem to not be gaming at all, but instead talk a lot about what kind of game they'd run if they had people to play with.  Food for thought.

I am still gaming, still running D&D 4E.  We had a great bit of moral dilemma in the last story when the lich who had kidnapped the One Female Gamer's PC told her that he had secret knowledge about who really killed her parents, but would only tell her if she agreed to stay with him instead of being rescued by the other PC's.  In character, the One Female Gamer decided she would stay (although personally thinking that she really shouldn't).  The other players had a bit of a discussion about it, with the argument tending to fall into the following categories:

  1. The BBEG is full of it and doesn't know anything.  Let's get him!
  2. We can beat this guy and then make him tell us what he knows.  Let's get him!
  3. Let's go get that morally-ambiguous high-powered NPC to help us make this guy tell us what he knows!
  4. Hey, this is a highly dramatic plot element and we should let her go off with this guy, find out who killed her parents on our own, then come back and tell her she can leave!
They went with option two.  Since I had already decided that the being that had killed the Only Female Gamer's PC was a sort of evil rival, the BBEG was only too happy to sic a high-powered and rather violent group of adventurers on him, except he'd make them work for it by only telling them the guy's name.

Following the session, the Only Female Gamer switched from her "guest star" PC to her regular "I had been kidnapped" PC.  Both were Controllers, the long-running PC a Wizard and the fill-in a Psionic, but she liked the Wizard better just because it seemed to her there were more options. Both PC's tend to do the same thing: pin down major threats from moving towards the group until everyone else can get into position.  It's a boring, but critical role.

The OFG's husband, however, informed me that he would be switching out his regular PC (a bow-themed elf ranger) for another (a sword-themed pixie ranger!).  That means that at this point, every player has at switched out their original PC for another, either temporarily or permanently.  Aaron Allston, in his outstanding RPG sourcebook Strike Force, said this was a natural occurrence when you have both creative players and a long-running campaign.  Because of the loose nature of the campaign, this isn't a really big deal.  I just cycle people in and out of the "adventurer's society" the group belongs to.  It's a somewhat cheesy element of the story, but it works for just this reason.

What's your feelings on changing PC's mid-campaign, and how do you handle it? 

Over at Strange Vistas