Using an image to portray the scene. Montage boards, throwing a picture down on the table or simply describing it to the players.


Project BS: The Delta Green Experiment
Third Floor Wars hosts Streets of Avalon game with Brett. Friday, Aug 27th at 8pm CT US

Random Encounter

David B. emails on homework and commitment

My current DM is good about assigning homework to those of us who enjoy it, as well as finding other ways to engage the players who don’t. I have written about gnomish culture from my wizard’s perspective, outlined a mystical codex which I will eventually write out (I have a couple novels to finish first), and have developed backgrounds for cities and countries in our homebrewed world. Sometimes when we only have a couple players, we run a game of Microscope or The Earth Below to flesh out another aspect of the world. We all have jobs, families, and other non-gaming things in our lives, so there is an understanding if things aren’t done.

This rolls in with the gaming commitment episode. I’m not as hardcore as I used to be, but still commit to gaming nearly every week. Again, it’s not always easy with life circumstances, and lately it’s rare that the entire group is available each Tuesday; it was so much easier when we were teenagers!

Going back a few episodes, I’m happy that Brett allowed the easy win when his players poisoned the dracolisk. There will always be other challenges, and most will be tougher than planned. The players have earned their levels and deserve to get lucky and flex their power now and then. Years ago, I got lucky disintegrating a lich when it rolled a 2 on the save. We spent a couple days in-game going through diaries and destroying phylacteries and my necromancer took the library in lieu of treasure. Either we got all the phylacteries, or the DM decided not to bring the lich back.

I appreciate listening to you every week. I enjoy your insights and even after nearly forty years of gaming, I still learn new things or sometimes relearn things I’ve forgotten over time.

Good luck with your Delta Green competition! I’m sure your players will be the winners!

David Balog

Phil comments on Homework

Brett, don’t let Sean fool you! He demanded a full on thesis statement for our latest Forbidden Lands game which required I develop a genealogy going back 5 generations describing the trials and tribulations of my dwarven clan during the 300 year blood mist!

It was the most demanding essay I’ve had to research and write since university!

I’m still waiting for the official grade on the paper.

All kidding aside, this “homework” has provided a lot of benefit to the new campaign. It’s provided initial insights and motivations into the character which helped determine how I’ve roleplayed some of our initial encounters.

I think Sean may have used some of that info to develop the starting quests for each of us in the group?

Now that we’re rolling, it’ll be interesting to see how Sean incorporates our “homework” answers into the campaign and to what degree. Speaking for myself, if it becomes a significant part of the game, great. If not, no big deal. Sometimes just the motivations are enough to push the game at the table in interesting directions. So long as the way I play those motivations don’t become a hinderance or distraction to the group, it’s all good.

Ultimately, the story told at the table, and the fun had by all, is the most important part of the game.

Harrigan comments in about Dedicated vs Serious rpg’er

Really enjoyed this episode.

To me, it’s like all hobbies. Some folks dabble, some go all in, some are obsessed. It’s a tough hobby in that live play requires finding other humans who like the games you do to play with, committing to playing regularly and consistently, and all the things Brett, Sean, and Butterpants talk about.

For me personally, I reached a moment, after playing RPGs via play-by-post almost exclusively for 20+ years, when I decided I really wanted double down and focus on the hobby. That meant getting back into live at-the-table (and now virtual) gaming, and that meant I had some decisions to make regarding my “me” time. I was into all sorts of different nerd hobbies – comics, board games, television and movies, computer games… and RPGs. I made a conscious decision to trim the time spent on these other hobbies way back so I could focus on RPGs.

And you know what? I couldn’t be happier. Like many BSers, I draw inspiration and ideas from a bunch of other mediums so it’s not like I don’t still mess with other parts of Nerdlandia, but my focus is heavily on RPGs and it’s been super-rewarding to have that focus pay off.

Anyway. Dedication is a positive thing!

The Warden comments on Player Feedback ep 352

Years and years ago, before we kept track of time, I got into a discussion with a player about how much could be accomplished with free actions in a single turn. He felt there were too many limitations on what players could do outside of combat and wanted to be one of those players hopped up on Sugar Smacks and cocaine. “In 30 seconds, you can enter a room, search it throughly for treasure, talk with others, and crack open a chest,” he said firmly.

So I asked him to go to the kitchen (in the next room of my house) and fetch me a drink. In a can, no pouring or prepping anything required. And I timed him. He came back in something like 34 seconds.

“That took you a whole turn AND you didn’t even make it back in time to finish your turn with the drink in my hand,” I rebutted. “So it took you a whole turn to enter a room (without a door, I might add), open the fridge (a chest), grab an item, and return here. And you have to wait until next turn to give it to me. Are you sure about doing more things on a single turn?”

It was an eye opener for all of us and it started with player feedback. I mean, it was more whining than feedback, but it was a point of feedback brought forth by a player. Because of that, we realized we were being a little too loose with the interpretation of free actions and started putting a cap on it.

The reason why I bring this up is that I’ve gone years thinking of this as a moment where I, the almighty GM, put a player in their place. In hindsight, this moment has altered how I run nearly all RPGs with regards to balancing player accomplishments. Making sure everyone is doing an equal amount of deeds and accomplishments per turn, even if the game doesn’t tightly manage action types or anything to that effect. It just goes to show you player feedback can have an amazing ripple effect on your GMing style… for the better.

Oh, but I dumped that player in like the next session. Turns out he was bad mouthing me to the other players outside of the game about how I didn’t know what I was doing, he could do a better job, we’re cool, we’re badasses, blah blah blah. Sooooo remember kids… player feedback is when you bring it up to the GM’s face and not behind their back like a rogue with severe backstabbing compulsions.

Jared Rascher’s insight into Chris Spivey’s dilemma

One of the unfortunate situations that Chris ran into when he tried one of his streamed games of Haunted West was that he had had some big named people lined up to play in his game, including Matt Mercer. However, one of Chris’ goals is for people to play POC to learn empathy about them by playing them as protagonists in the game. But when the internet found out that Matt would be playing a POC, instead of looking at it from the standpoint of “playing a person of color to learn about their perspective,” it was viewed as the same paradigm as a white actor playing a POC character . . . which is weird because while RPGs are similar to performances, and streaming blurs that line, it’s not quite the same. That stream never ended up happening.

That said, I’ve seen Chaosium sponsor various stream to boost visibility of Call of Cthulhu, but I haven’t seen them use either Chris’ product or Chris as part of those promotions. I’m not saying that Chaosium is doing anything intentionally nefarous, but they did publish 2nd edition as an official supplement, so it might be nice for the company itself to work it into their widening promotional efforts.

Online streaming and visibility, however, are weird. D6 Star Wars gets mentioned by big name Star Wars creators all the time (Filoni, etc.), and it gets highlighted as being the origin of a lot of the setting in various articles on the official site . . . but you almost never hear Lucasfilm referencing Fantasy Flight Games, and when they do, its usually something like the X-Wing miniatures game.

Sam Witwer, professional actor and the voice of Darth Maul not only in Clone Wars and Rebels, but also in Solo, ran a streaming game for the voice actors on the Rebels animated series, and I almost never hear people talking about it in regard to streaming RPGs. That should have been huge.

So I guess what I’m saying is, I have no idea how this hobby works, and who ends up getting the nod and who doesn’t. I’m happy that Magpie is having a massive Kickstarter with the Avatar RPG, but I never would have predicted that level of success. I don’t know if anyone can fully comprehend what takes off and what doesn’t and what draws from outside the hobby, and what doesn’t.

Die Roll

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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.