Brett and Sean had a couple people comment on our forums, here, and here, about the use of audio for your rpg. Whether it is a soundtrack that helps paint the scene or if it’s ambient sound that sets mood…we touch on it.


Brett steps down from Evercon Leadership role.

Survey to gauge interest in playing online with Brett, Sean and other BS’ers is up! Weigh in now!

Sean plans to be at GaryCon Saturday for sure.

Random Encounter

Chris Shorb leaves us a voicemail, re: practice episode

Ty Monger comments on our forums regarding Folklore Foes

One of the games I play that allows you to pick & choose how powerful or powerless the monster is. ICRPG is a great game system where you can choose to buy a Index Card from one of the three packs you can buy from DriveThruRPG of a 100 cards per pack. And pick the skills it might have, And a story to go along with the pic. My favorite is the Skeleton caring a Gatling gun wearing a sombrero. What kind of stats would you give him? Also the creature of the game system would be an awesome guy to interview about RPG’s not just about his game too.

Robert Nemeth (NOLAbert) in the forums on episode 282 for the full version.

Interesting episode Sean and Brett. I haven’t completely finished it so I may come back and add to what I’m writing here. But I’m mostly writing to give a little more context to the “10,000 hours” estimate. I’m a cognitive psychologist and the research on expertise comes out of cognitive psych and artificial intelligence. I haven’t read any of Malcolm Gladwell books but as far as I know he made a big splash about 15 years ago distilling a lot of psychology (much of it cognitive psychology) in popular press books. Looking at his Wikipedia entries for his books, I see a number of psychologists have criticized his conclusions (the problem with pop psych is that it wants to distill messy research findings into overly simplistic sound bites).

So, I don’t know where he gets the 10,000 hours estimate. I’m more familiar with the 10 years estimate to become an expert. I checked one of my cognitive psych textbooks to find out if there was a direct reference, but I couldn’t find one, and the textbook author, Margaret Matlin, states that most researchers in this area have moved away from the 10 years estimate because it’s too simplistic a statement–people show different rates of obtaining expertise depending on the field.

(Way cool additional explanation and examples follow – but we cut those for time)

Although I haven’t finished listening to the episode, I think I’m more in line with Brett. I think this becomes a prickly topic because people get sensitive regarding the discussion of experience with RPGs and interpreting any discussion of such as gatekeeping. I think a lot of that thinking comes from an illicit conversion in conditional reasoning. Conditional reasoning takes the form “If p, then q.” So, for instance, “if a person has a lot of experience with RPGs, then they will be a better GM/Referee.” People who grouse at that statement, I believe, do so because they make the illicit conversion of “If q, then p.” Therefore, “If a person is a better GM/Referee, then they have a lot of experience with RPGs.” That would be a logical fallacy. People learn at different rates, and some people are quick to take to various skills.

Jared R on the forums about 282.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to recover from the term, “Jeff Deep.”

Regarding the discussion on pregens, I’ve said it before elsewhere on the site, but Mike Shea’s pregen characters in his Sly Flourish adventures are great–they have choices like race, ability scores, and class all determined, but with a few choices, like backgrounds and traits, left open for customization.

Digging in to the 10,000 hours of practice angle–I think one of the advantages of GM advice and the discussion of best practices is not that you will never make mistakes after hearing that advice, but you may be more likely to recognize when you are making the mistake in the moment, because something about the situation sounds familiar, based on GM advice you have heard.

In other words, good instruction and advice probably cuts down on how many of those 10,000 hours you really need to participate in for the development of skills.

Doing things with intentionality changes the potential outcome. If you put in 10,000 hours playing without thinking much about developing particular skills, you may develop some new tricks and best practices, but thinking about, for example, encounter structure, when an encounter doesn’t work, you are more likely to make that mental checklist of what isn’t working and what is missing.

Getting REALLY good, you don’t just think about what went wrong, but what you can do in the moment to correct.

A lot of all of this boils down to communicating intent. Mechanics can definitely reinforce genre and transform a blah framework of a game into something that is great for doing a very specific thing, but it’s going to be way easier to use those tools if the game designer tells you why they think mechanic A reinforces genre trope B.

It’s one of the things I love about 13th Age. The sidebars aren’t just a factual statement about why mechanics do what they do, but are an ongoing discussion about the designers intent, and where they evolved how the game worked.

The quality of those 10,000 hours is going to vary a lot. 10,000 hours of running only D&D won’t produce the same results as running 10,000 hours of running different RPGs, playing different RPGs, and consuming media from various different soruces from which the genre tropes of games are drawn.

I’m not saying everyone should do this, but me watching Star Wars movies over and over again will lead to me having a better handle on running Star Wars RPGs. But me sitting down and saying, “what are the traits of the the criminal underworld in Star Wars?” and watching the movies while taking notes whenever some criminal element shows up gives me a lot of tropes to drop into an Edge of the Empire game.

On the other hand, cutting down on the gap between having 0 hours and having 10,000 hours would be game designers TELLING US WHAT THEIR INTENT IS. Ahem.

I could never wrap my head around the Keep on the Borderlands, because I don’t know why the PCs hang out with each other and how they get to the Keep. On the other hand, if the adventure had literally said, “don’t worry how they got here, let them fill in the details later,” I would have relaxed and done that.

On the other hand, I “got” The Isle of Dread, because right near the start it says “the PCs should be hanging out here, and there are a handful of ways you can get them on a boat heading for the island with a purpose.”

Die Roll

  • DMDJ – that’s the sound app Brett uses on his iPad
  • iJingle – used on our own very show for all effects
  • Syrinscape – Beautiful, immersive, dynamic music and sound effects for your favorite tabletop games
  • Tabletop Audio – 10 minutes ambiances and music for your games and stories  
  • Stargate RPG public beta
  • TaleSpire – this is that virtual tabletop system that Brett couldn’t think of a show or two ago
  • BrowserQuest – single player, browser-based, rpg
  • From Ty’s comment

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About the Author
The 'S' of Gaming and BS podcast. Besides producing and hosting the show, Sean enjoys long walks on the beach, running rpg's, and killing player...characters.