Category Archives: RPG

When Orcs Are Real

I have come up against an interesting challenge this week.

As some of you will remember I am working on a Wild West game. I like to use anything I am working on to maximum effect. To this end I am happy to throw a bit of money at things as needed. Having the right tools for the job can make all the difference and being interested in game design does not make you a brilliant artist, page setter or professional writer.

As my setting is a real historical period there is plenty of public domain art and original photography so from an art perspective the challenge is not to get great art created it is more about gathering real images that tick all the right boxes, that fit the chapter contents and so on. Then it is about having a game art style and making sure all the art fits that style regardless of its original source. This is more graphic design or even photo editing rather than ‘art’. The undoubted king of this sort of image manipulation is Photoshop.

Page layout is one of those things that can make a game look professional or amateur. Along with the layout are things like cross referencing, tables of contents, a good index and other elements that make the rulebook easy to use at the game table. In a PDF that also includes bookmarks and layers for ease of printing. Scribus is a perfectly valid page layout application but InDesign is more feature rich.

So if you are going to buy Photoshop and InDesign than you may as well have CreativeSuite. So that was my first investment in the game.

I also bought some books on using Photoshop and Indesign as the best software in the world will do you no good if you don’t know how to use it.

No I come to the real challenge. I am of an age where we used to play Cowboy’s and Indians when we were young and Western films more often than not had ‘Indians’ or ‘Red Indians’ as the default villain. When we played Boot Hill the Apache were the default bad guys. At the time we didn’t give this a second thought.

Now when it comes to writing a game in this genre Native Americans are a real people and many of them will be role players. These real people are not the cardboard cut out ‘bad guys’ of the movies but a wide range of culturally individual nations. In gaming terms Native Americans are not simply the Orcs of a different genre, they are real people and often the ‘historical events’ behind many Hollywood movies have more than one interpretation!

One of the things I have struggled with writing up this game is not the game mechanics, they are easy, it was the setting. So to solve that problem I have employed a professional writer. He has experience of writing for Pathfinder amongst other RPGs so understood the needs of an RPG rulebook.

It was much harder than I had imagined to write about the Old West. I think part of the problem was that as I am British this is not my culture and not part of my history. I kind of knew in principle what I wanted but putting it into text was leading into cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac of bad text.

On the other hand employing an American writer this is much more real and personal for them. Freelance writers are massively under paid in my opinion and I am getting three entire chapters of the book written to a professional standard for under $250.

So looking back at what I have spent on this project, excluding my own time which I would never charge for as it is my hobby and I only do it when I want to and purely for fun it is easy to see how and why many kickstarters have target values in the few thousands of Dollars, Euros or Pounds. If I could not get my art for next to nothing then my bills would certainly be mounting up.

I also really like the way the game is shaping up and cannot wait to see the finished game. I think one last challenge I want to put before this game is that of making it the subject of a kickstarter campaign of my own. I know what it has cost to create and so can put a realistic price tag on it. I have been happy to spend what I spent on the game but if I get that back then I can reinvest it in making more games. If I don’t then it is no real loss. With the money out of the equation as unimportant then a kickstarter campaign simply becomes a way of bringing the game before the eyeballs of more potential players. There is nothing better for a game designer than having people play your game. That is the real reward.

#RPGaDay2018 – Day 20: Which game mechanic inspires your play the most?

Today has been a long day, lots of things to do still, so I’m keeping this one short. Day 20 of #RPGaDay2018 proposes the following question: Which game mechanic inspires your play the most? Here are my video responses…

The video in English:

The video in Spanish:

Look for the #RPGaDay or #RPGaDay2018 hashtags in social media so you can contribute and follow along with the community. Visit David F. Chapman’s blog for more information.

See you tomorrow.

Don’t ask what the GM can do for you

This post was first published in February 2013 on this very blog.

… ask what you can do for the GM. Or let it put me differently: it’s not the GM’s job alone to make sure the game is interesting and fun for everyone. Roberto’s last post focused on the gamemasters, so I thought I should focus on the players this time.

There’s a common misconception in our hobby that the GM is solely responsible for whether a game is fun or not. Sure, a bad GM may ruin a game, but more often than not this could have been avoided with the help of the players. Roleplaying games are a group activity and everyone at the gaming table shares the responsibility of making the game fun. So what can you do as a player to make the GM’s job easier?

Don’t be a dick!
This should be a given, but alas it’s not. All of you probably have heard horror stories about that guy, and a lot of us have actually played with him (or her). Just try to be nice to everyone and treat everyone in a way you want to be treated by others, and everything will be fine. Actually I could stop here, since “don’t be a dick” sums it up pretty well, but I guess, we should go into a bit more detail. By the way, this rule also applies to your character. In most RPGs the player characters are supposed to work as a team. Since when is a back-stabbing, mysterious, loner-type character a team player? You make the GMs job and the other players’ life much easier when you play a team player. That doesn’t mean you can play goody two-shoes only, but at least make sure you work with the rest of the party, even though its to further your own agenda.

Don’t argue with the GM during the game
Especially in most old-school games the gamemaster, dungeon master, referee, or whatever you call him (or her) has the last word when it comes to rules interpretations. His word is law. But that doesn’t mean that discussions about rules or the GM’s ruling crop up every now and then. The correct way is to accept the GMs decision during the game and – if there’s still need for discussion – bring it up after the game.

Help to maintain the atmosphere of the game
Often a GM tries hard to set a certain atmosphere for a game, but it just doesn’t work. The main reason is often that the players don’t support him. This is especially an issue in horror games. If you are an investigator in Call of Cthulhu searching a weird mansion for clues, avoid making jokes all the time, but try to imagine you were actually there, having the nagging feeling that something is terribly wrong. If one or two players work with the GM to set the mood, the rest of the players might actually join in. This will improve the game for everyone.

It’s not all about you
It can’t be said often enough: there’s no I in team. And there’s no I in party either! A lot of players feel the game is all about them. It’s not. The other players and the GM are as important. We all love to be in the spotlight from time to time, but try to avoid shoving your fellow players to the side. I’ve experienced games where the GM and one player basically were engaged in a 2-hour long dialogue while the rest of the players started building towers out of their dice or played around on their smartphone. Especially if some of the players is extremely active and extroverted, the GM might not notice that the other players are bored, because this person demands all his attention. In my opinion it’s the active players’ job to help the other players to get into the spotlight, too.

Play by the rules
I am not talking about the game’s rules, but the rules of the group. If the group is used to serious games, where talking out-of-character is frowned upon and where eating snacks at the game table is considered a mortal sin, try to not to force your less serious, tongue-in-cheek play style on the others. The same is true if you join a group that prefers a more light-hearted approach to the game. Forcing your play style on the group seldom works. Feel free to convince the other players to change their approach to gaming outside of the game, though. But doing so during the game is just a bad idea.

Be on time and don’t leave early!
Usually gaming groups decide on when to play and for how long a long time in advance. Especially with older gamers scheduling becomes a real hassle. Don’t put insult to injury by coming late to the game or leave early because of another appointment. If something suddenly comes up, make sure you inform the GM and the other players in time. That’s actually what I would consider common courtesy, but this issue still comes up in a lot of gaming groups. I can understand that the priorities change over time and some people take gaming activities more serious than others, but that doesn’t mean you should act like a dick.

Bring some snacks, drinks, etc.
In a lot of cases the GM is the one who puts the most time, effort, and money into the hobby. Often the games get played at his or her place, he or she buys the snacks, the game books that are used (including the adventures), provides handouts for the players, buys appropriate background music, etc. – I guess you catch my drift. You can make the GM’s (or the host’s – if he or she’s different from the GM) life much easier by bringing some snacks, drinks etc. that you freely share with the others. It doesn’t need to be every time and you don’t have to bring a lot, but it’s a simple way to show that you care about the game.

There are of course many more ways for a player to help to improve a game. What did I forget? What do you wish would happen at your game table more often (or less often)? Please share your thoughts below. Think about what YOU can do to be a better player!