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And just like that, it's suddenly the tail end of January. I came back from Japan on the first week of January and hit the year running, both with games (hosting a session of Titanfall the morning after I landed), and at work. This Sunday is already the first Gamers and GMs event of the year, so the committee is up to our eyeballs in work.

Today, though, in between doing an inventory of the G&G office supplies and packing things for Sunday, I also fixed my tabletop notes, archived some sheets, and swapped filefolders of my character sheets around. I thought I'd show my filing system for my notes and stuff.


This is what I do. Some people eat chocolate, I take copious amounts of game notes and archive them when games retire. Some of these notes are from as far back as 2011 or 2012, I believe.



This is my current notebook. It's nice because the pages are swappable and just move when I need them to.



My character sheets are in anime file folders like these. Easy merch to purchase and used a lot!
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There isn't really much to say about the last month, except that it's been crazy busy and exhausting but fun all around. I updated the last entry to reflect a one-shot I played this week and a game discontinuation, but otherwise I think that list won't move anymore for the rest of the year.

Next week, Erich, Stacey and I travel to Japan for the holidays. We are likely to visit the tabletop store there, where I can hopefully find some interesting dice or books. More importantly, I want to see how their logistics works for the event space that they have, and maybe take some photographs in the hopes of being able to emulate their set up here for the event space we use for G&G.

We only have one game this month left, a Christmas party for the Scion game, and a Christmas party with my main circle of friends before we leave. I hope to finish more of the logistics requirements of the January G&G event before we go, so there won't be so much work to come home to. The year draws to a close at a satisfying if hectic note, but all in all I think it's been fantastic gaming-wise.
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Thinking back to 2016, it's actually been a really rough year for everyone. Between two elections (the Philippines and the US), European and Asian issues that came up, massive work changes, miscellaneous drama, the death of my grandmother, and a breakup of a seven-year relationship, I think it's been a slew of one exhausting month after another.

But, on the other hand, it's also been a really fruitful year for tabletop gaming for me and my circle of friends. I learned something like fourteen to sixteen new roleplaying games/systems this year alone, not to mention the number of characters I made and played.

Here's a rundown, with *s marking new systems learned in 2016.

O N G O I N G

Campaign System Character GM
Fate Online
Fate Core
Alberic Sixwright
Erich
Accounts of Strange Incidents
Fate Accelerated *
Akari
Adrian
Songs of the Underdark
Dungeons and Dragons 5E
Mikel
Erich
Legend of the Five Rings
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Ed *
Shosuro Kyouya ♀
Mahar
Northern Nights
Vampire the Masquerade *
Malcolm Summer
Erich
No Rain but Thunder, and the Sound of Giants
Dungeons and Dragons 5E
Silas Tealeaf
Raymz
The Titanfall Initiative
Scion 1E *
Aibhlinn O'Brien (Ava) ♀
Dave
Keltia
Keltia *
Dylan Maridudd ♂
Mahar


O N • H I A T U S / B R E A K

Campaign System Character GM
Tales of the Yellow City - Westside
OSR *
Dian
BJ
Bad Solars
Exalted 3rd Ed *
Elise
Jay A.
Precint 8
Shadowrun 5e *
Perfekto Madrigal (Pekto)
Raymz
Fallen Boughs of Cormanthor
Dungeons and Dragons 5E
Noase
Mahar
Eberron
Dungeons and Dragons 5E
Chalcedony ♂
BJ


O N E - S H O T S / C O M P L E T E D

Campaign System Character GM
Shadows Over Esteren
Shadows Over Esteren
Iv ♀
Mahar
Sails Full of Stars
Fate Core
Giles ♂
Adrian
Aswang Fate
Fate Core
Jaime Ramirez ♂
BJ
Through the Breach
Malifaux *
Nina ♀
Raymz
Misc Adventurer's League Modules
Dungeons and Dragons 5E
Wilem Tealeaf ♂
Various AL DMs
OVAWatch
OVA *
Lina Klose (Babylon) ♀
Jay
Zweihander
Zweihander *
Wilhermina Hermann Wolff ♀
Raymz
Edge of the Empire
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire *
Sin ♀
Matthew
AD&D
Dungeons and Dragons 2E *
Daekas ♂
Mahar
7th Sea
7th Sea*
Rainard♂
Flip


D I S C O N T I N U E D / I N D E F I N I T E • H I A T U S

Campaign System Character GM
Warden
DC Heroes
Tara White (Trace) ♀
Tobie
Angel's Song
Fate Core
Kuma Himuro ♀
Marc
Great Shadows Over Manila
Fate Core
Cecilia Velez ♀
Marc
Numenera
Numenera
Ghost ♂
Jay
Abyssum of Warden
Dungeon World
Flik-Elz
Mahar
Waterdeep by Moonlight
Dungeons and Dragons 5th Ed *
Silas Tealeaf
Marc


O T H E R • R P G S

System Role
Fall of Magic *
Apothecarist
The Quiet Year *
N/A
Watch the Skies! *
Alien
Watch the Skies!
UK Prime Minister
Urban Nightmare! *
Police and Cartel Control


I'm sort of impressed with myself, truth be told. I was under the impression that I hadn't been very productive this year outside of the committee, but in fact I've actually been doing a lot of things! Clearly, though, one of the things I need to do is learn how to code tables properly, because this is super wonky.

What I am terribly pleased by is that taking into account all my characters, the divide between male and female have been largely even, and the variety of personality in all of them are pretty decent. You have the broody, somewhat violent Dian and the hyper and friendly Mikel. There's the manic Lina, the purehearted and earnest Elise, the ruthless but awkward Akari, the stingy but soft-hearted Silas, the optimistic but savage Ava, and the manipulative and ambitious Kyouya. Malcolm is endlessly put upon, Chalcedony is naive but goal-oriented, while Dylan is cheerful and just wants to be a hero.

Playing in the Scion game has also been getting my writing game active again. After the long fanfiction I wrote earlier in April this year, I haven't actually sat down to write much of anything outside of session notes, so it's been pleasant to RP in text form. Hopefully the others have been enjoying it as much as I have.

So, on 2016 -- yes, I've enjoyed it a whole lot. But it's also been really exhausting to play this many games and still juggle all the other things -- family, friends, anime, video games, household chores, work -- so I foresee being a bit more moderate next year. Now that my time of experimenting with a frenzy is more or less done, anyway -- or is it?

Mahar brought up if I should include Pandemic Legacy and Seafall into this list, but I put them firmly in my boardgame bucketlist (which has also been excessively long this year). In Seafall in particular, I've been doing a lot of Exploration and have reused Seran Thorne, an old adventuress character, in figuring out decisions on what to do in the game. It's a most adorable boardgame with ships and island discovery, so I suppose in a way it counts as an RPG?
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Gamers & GMs recently held its last event for the year at Venture Space Ph, a new venue and therefore an experiment for us that hopefully will lay the groundwork for next year's series of events and activities, both for our group and our partner organizations.

It was a fun event, and I was glad to have the registration table inside the venue proper for this one. It was no less tiring than usual -- coming up with new logistics and executing them as 'oh god I hope this works' is always an exhausting task -- but it went very well and I feel that some technical difficulties aside, it will be a good place to call home.

Accordingly, the event theme was a housewarming, and the community really outdid itself with all the food contributed to the potluck.


The venue also comes with its own cafe that makes adorable latte art.


The venue had some equipment we could experiment with as well; Erich livestreamed our talk and one game into the G&G Twitch channel, archived in our Youtube channel (a WIP, as you can see). We were told the livestream was watched by a couple of people who could not attend the event. Hurray!

Despite the difficulties of what was pretty much an impromptu event, I think we can congratulate ourselves for pulling off a great ender for the year, and look optimistically into all the new plans and things we want to try for 2017. I won't lie: some aspects of running logistics for the committee has been tedious this year. It's a natural part of running events to stumble into problems pretty much constantly, but I feel that we've done a pretty good job minimizing them. In the end, seeing the results of the committee's efforts is well-worth the energy, along with the new friends and groups made and met. I am looking forward to how the committee will grow next year.
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A couple of my friends and I joined the Titanfall Initiative megagame that a friend, Dave, started last month. It runs on the system Scion, which sets the characters up as the half-mortal sons and daughters of pantheon gods, and has over a dozen characters appearing for various missions all run by the same GM. I must confessed that I joined it for a variety of reasons: curiosity over the system/setting, a desire to play with the players who joined, and also to witness how a solo-GM megagame manages logistics.

Now, if you know me personally, you'll know that I love logistics. It's not exactly my line of work (I work in Process with a P), but it's something that I've always liked to observe, admire, and sometimes improve. Maybe it's the Chinese in me, or perhaps it's the manifestation of the fussy persona hiding beneath my veneer of laziness.

My close friend Pam had the same idea long ago, which she runs with her friends up north of the city, also with her as the sole GM. But I had been unable to join this because of location (traveling 10km up north in the same city is often equivalent to passing a kidney stone in suffering; it's a heftier physical barrier than you'd believe), and incompatible scheduling. But now, lo!

So far, I feel that Dave manages logistics considerately and effectively to try and give all of his players a fair shot at doing something in the game. RP happens either in person or over at Discord, and there are documentations available to the players so everyone can keep up with what's going on in the world (documentation! glee!). What I find most interesting is how Dave divides missions according to "field" or "HQ", which is a great solution to accommodate different play styles. I attended my first face to face session last Saturday, which consisted of nine players segregated to 5 field and 4 HQ. I was told that this was the first mission where the field aspect of it was primarily social, and HQ was bunked nearby where the field agents were operating. Many of the field agents for that mission were also typically staffed in HQ, apparently.

I joined field, which is more your traditional adventuring party out to get things done (albeit in a modern setting), while HQ is uniquely conducted via a secret chat with the GM. HQ does the traditional operations intelligence part of missions, and call out information to us field agents that our characters receive via "comms". Dave sat with the field agents in the dining room, while the HQ agents were in the adjoining living room, just close enough to talk to while using indoor voice, but still clearly ensconced in their own space. Sometimes, one HQ agent or another would approach one of the field agents for private information as well.

I had up until that point been slightly skeptical of how the set up would work, but as the day progressed I found the groove with HQ to be quite natural and engaging. It helped that all nine of our characters were briefed together and were able to banter as we, in-game, chose our roles. In this way, camaraderie was easily established early on and continued as the night wore on. I'm still amazed at Dave for herding us energetic players efficiently, and multi-tasking between responding to field and HQ without noticeable lag. HQ seemed really fun and busy with their research and running point, and while I don't think my character is suited for it at all, the moment there's an appropriate mission that can use her very-on-the-field skills, I might just try it.

There are a couple of official Discord RPs that I've signed up for in the coming month, and I find that I'm really looking forward to them. It's a format that I used to do a lot in my youth, especially with friends from other countries, so it's an RP method that I'm happy to come back to. Surprisingly, while I had thought that perhaps I would have trouble keeping up with the enthusiasm and different playing style of the group (for example, their characters are more thirsty than I've ever played with in the past decade), I'm finding it easy to adjust and that I'm enjoying this fun, new experience.
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I set up this calendar a long time ago, as the keeper of the calendar and schedules of my tabletop/gaming circle. It's always been a little annoying that I couldn't figure out how to pick up the url for the calendar... until now. So I'm testing the widget out if it works on html.



Gasp, so it does. It looks really dinky, though, and I'm not sure what to think about that horrific language setting for people whose google accounts aren't actually included in the specific share settings.
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In general, my gaming group knows me as someone who tends to avoid the lore or fluff part in a game system book -- I go straight to character creation, or just flip through the mechanics to have a general idea of how they work. I don't actively dislike fluff in general, but it's not something I typically have interest in, and in certain situations even feel harangued by. There's something unfair, I find, in a system that encourages what I call the lore trap, where a character's competence depends significantly on how much the player knows of the setting's fluff and gritty politics, and how successful a character is depends largely on how much of the meta the player knows. There's nothing revolutionary or fun about getting trapped into situations that you normally would not get into if you had all the information about the world the GM or even other players do.

I won't deny that I've been salty about Legends of the Five Rings in particular, for example -- while Mahar is a considerate GM who takes great pains not to fall into the GM trap, reading L5R gives me the impression that this is a thing that would be really easy to do with the system. I've talked to a few other L5R GMs/players in recent months, and their in-game anecdotes both involved situations that led to seppuku (or almost seppuku) that could have been avoided if the player -- and by extension the character -- knew the lore of the setting more. In L5R, the smallest action can have really high stakes. It's a game where the setting is backed by a system that will numerically punish you for player ignorance. "Knowledge of the world is power," is practically baked into it.

But I realize in recent weeks that this thinking of mine isn't entirely fair. My own game of L5R isn't like that, though sometimes I get nervous about what I do purely because my character is a challenging one, going against almost all my typical tropes. Clearly, how the lore works for or against the players is something that both the GM and the players can manage with clear communication and table dynamics. But the first session, while manageable, was rather stressful in terms of keeping up with everyone's knowledge of the setting's fluff (and my own confusion at how Japanese but not Japanese it is, and how so many things fly in the face of cultural common sense).

Eventually, after a little bit of experimenting, I realized that a way to cope with the sheer breadth of lore was to ask the GM a lot of questions rather than assuming things and, more importantly, to take a step back from the character like what Erich had been doing with his courtier. I didn't need to say verbatim what my character wanted to say, where my phrasing can be minced -- and rightfully so -- because I can just say it in action. For example, Erich threw an NPC at my character as someone who flirted with the NPC's boyfriend in the past, in his character's effort to get the NPC to move on from this man. Now, I can't do courtier stuff to save my life, and while my character is a social beast, I had not yet been able to encounter that in her adventures. Rather than struggle with what Kyouya would say, I opted to go by the route of: "Kyouya is going to act her way through this. She acts like she is confused but trying to hide her confusion, to make Hiname feel like she caught her offguard and unprepared for once. What she wants to convey with her body language is that in that encounter Hiname is speaking of, the attention she gained from Hiname's lover was entirely unsolicited. Kyouya wants Hiname to think that her lover was at fault for having a roving eye, and that they are comrades in being victims of his bad behaviour."

This is a bit of a step away from what I had been trying to practice as a roleplayer -- which is to refer to myself in first person, as the character, rather than considering the character as a separate individual entirely. But at the same time, it's a healthy way to get things done without inflicting my own ignorance on a character who is supposed to be competent. There's a lot of reliance on the GM here, because it does give the GM a lot of work when it comes to embellishing the scene, so I still try to contribute to the visuals as much as I can with body language. Curiously enough, I find that it is a satisfyingly collaborative way of coming up with the scene, if only because of the negotiations that go around the table.

On the other hand, I knew that being fluff-averse is also not a productive habit to keep. As a player, it's also my responsibility to pull my weight at the table, to not entirely rely on the GM to give me the details of the world. What I realized with some reflection is that if I only focus on a character's fluff, it's actually quite easy for me to incorporate it into my character's background and story, and it becomes easier to digest the rest of the setting by extension.

As an example, I've had to create characters in two games recently that I consider to be fairly fluff-heavy. First is in the new Vampire: The Mage Masquerade game that Erich is newly running, Northern Nights, where I play Malcolm Summer. Malcolm is a 9th generation Lasombra with a lot of baggage with humanity and Kindred in general, but is still in many ways a true blue Lasombra in his mannerisms and mindset. I knew nothing of the setting, but I began by reading the clan summaries Erich gave our table, and choosing one clan that interested me. Knowing their quirks like being snooty and not having reflections allowed me to form a character in my mind, and I had a visual idea of how he would use his powers. I asked about how feeding happens and the mechanics of feeding, and decided that the best way to gain a rotating base of food is by being in the hospitality business, so he became a hotel owner. I created Malcolm as a mortal -- someone who was vengeful, why not? -- and then reading the rest of their creed, attitudes, and opinions on humans and Kindred let me flesh him out a bit more.

The party convened and we created our domain, and I slotted in Malcolm and filled in the rest of his personality: business-minded, intense when spiteful, and good at leading but satisfied to leave carefully-picked subordinates to their job. I made him a little obsessed with contingencies because I realized in further reading of the fluff and some clarification, that I would be a Camarilla Lasombra -- a traitor to the clan, and that his clan would probably kill him on sight. His personality was reflected into his character sheet -- a humanity of 6! -- while other parts of the sheet were reflected into his personality. For example, by necessity, I made him an older generation because Lasombra disciplines are very blood-heavy, and this added to his fluff as a paranoid Kindred due to being a prime target for diablerie, and his role in the party. Erich started throwing facts about the world at us, and further character quirks emerged as I incorporated the setting into the last six decades of my character's existence and had a focus on what I wanted to read in the books, including the fluff of my party's respective clans. In this way, I found myself quite integrated in the lore without noticing it.

A second example is a Warforged Barbarian that I created for Nosfecatu's Eberron game. Chalcedony is a self-proclaimed scholar who works in the Cogs district of Sharn, sorting wands for the Cannith factory there. I entered the game reading up only and only on Warforged, which led to a base understanding of the war they were allegedly created for and the sentient rights Warforged acquired recently. This gave me a mindset of a Warforged who is interested in freedom and fair wages, and I decided that Chalcedony is a Warforged who would be enamored with fairness. Interest in scholarly pursuits gave him the desire for knowledge (that his intelligence score of -1 could not actually support well). He's guileless and dedicated to his job, but selective in his dedication. His view of right and wrong is a bit black and white, but he understands concepts in terms that are laid out in bullet points.

The GM gave us some readings to acquaint ourselves with the city we would start out in, which gave me an idea of my Warforged's status in society and what can be expected of the population's treatment of him. A few rounds of casual RP with fellow Warforged NPCs and some goblins settled him into my head so easily, even I'm surprised at the ease with which I slid into his head. In his first session, the party decided to rob a university in the higher class district of Sharn, and Chalcedony instead decided to walk in and enroll as a student. He wishes to participate in economics, and has asked of the party that hired him as a fighter, that he wants to experiment with a compensation concept he ran across recently called commissions. His fellow Warforged was robbed, so Chalcedony started showing him the modification in his chest cavity that allowed him to keep gold in there, completely made up on the spot, and which the GM rolled with and incorporated into later scenes in a Warforged-centric tavern. It was quite fun, and a great example of how lore worked for me.

So, in effect, I suppose like most of my conclusions: table dynamic is very important in tackling issues at the table, regardless of if it's the group's or an individual's, and how one learns of the lore is a great contributor to how well a person integrates into it (learning style).

On the other hand, in my examples above, I created Malcolm with great involvement of the party, while I created Chalcedony pretty much on my own and just brought him to the session as a character sheet. Character creation dynamics is probably something I am going to reflect on next, in a future blogpost.
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"Best advice you were ever given for your game of choice?"

I've received a lot of advice over the years, ranging from, "Stop writing your notes and play more," which had helped a lot until I could multitask it better, to "Try playing women," which had been a difficult but worthwhile path.

I suppose the bigger advice I received is that if you're not compatible with someone else's play style, it's entirely all right to voice this and disengage from that table before it becomes a more negative experience than it ought to be. It's a principle I've carried over since high school (although applied extremely sparingly -- I can count with one hand the number of people I have actively distanced from in my life, and I'm approaching 30), but I'd never thought to apply it to games before. I think there's merit to this suggestion because it spares people a ton of awkwardness and may lead to an easier time remaining as friends if not playmates with others, without the chore of trying to subtly avoid each other at the table.

That brings me to compatibility issues in games. Surely we have all experienced it -- if not in games, then in other aspects of life. Human beings as fairly diverse, and there will always be someone we have friction with, whether it's a little or a lot. That's why it's important that, prior to the beginning of the game, the table as a whole must talk about what they want out of the game, and have set expectations of each other and the game. If a person has voiced out a different idea of fun, then the issue may be is that you are not compatible, and that's okey. It doesn't have to be anyone's fault, because it happens naturally in social interactions and other human group activities.

------

And this marks the end of the #RPGaDay challenge. It was pretty fun, although I'll admit now that I did not actually write a blog entry once a day -- due to my gaming schedule and other commitments, I did most of my writing a few times a week during lulls at work and in the evenings on the rare night I'm just in the apartment, and just unlocked them for public reading accordingly. Still, majority of the topics were fun and I had one or two blog posts that really encouraged self-reflection, so I'm quite happy with the result.

Here is a masterlist of all my RPG a Day entries for 2016. You can also access it via this tag.
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"Describe the ideal game room if budget were unlimited."

I'm assuming this is all going to end up in my place, which will have to be new since my current space is not large enough to accommodate a new room just for gaming, let alone all the stuff I want to put in it.

In no particular order, these are the things I want that gaming room to have:

  • A clean, fresh bathroom fully equipped with handwash, a bidet, a reliable supply of at least 2-ply toilet paper, hand towels, lotion, and a toilet that flushes well.
  • A large, wooden table suitable for tabletop gaming, with sturdy and nice chairs. If the table has drawers, that would be nice.
  • Temperature control, so that the place is always at a comfortable 23ºC.
  • Lots of places to plug our chargers and whatnot, so we aren't competing over the same outlets.
  • Lovely lighting, but with mobile lamps and the like in case a GM wants to adjust for mood.
  • Shelf for gaming books and other paraphernalia.
  • A cot for resting when we take breaks and someone needs a nap.
  • A steady and constant supply of hot and cold water.
  • A steady and constant supply of easily stored, prepared, and moderately good food and drinks, including tea, coffee, and juice.
  • Near good restaurants for expensive dinners.
  • Near cheap restaurants or other sources of food for when we're cheap.
  • Near a few fastfoods when we want to be unhealthy.
  • Typical appliances like microwaves and toasters, I suppose, in case we need it.
  • Some extra beds in a spare bedroom, in case people need to sleep over and use the place as an office instead.
  • Parking for those who travel by car.
  • People I want to play with.

    My current apartment is quite all right for gaming, though. If I add a water dispenser there (so that people are not drinking from water bottles from the fridge) and replace the living room airconditioner with something new, it would be much improved.
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    "You can game anywhere on Earth, where would you choose?

    I've always wanted to try gaming in conventions or events specifically for tabletop games, like The Kraken. It seems like a really fun getaway full of gaming all day and night, until everyone drops dead from social exhaustion. Fortunately, my stamina for games is heroic, and I can keep on going for hours and hours if need be!

    Since this is a once in a lifetime thing and I assume an all-expenses paid trip, I'd also like to play with the friends I have online who I know also play tabletop games in their respective countries. So Doc from Washington, or Nick who is currently in Japan, would be nice to hang out with. I've always wanted to playtest for Nick's system, but of course since I'm so rarely in Japan and he's a busy person, that's impossible at the moment.

    I've been told before that gaming is different depending on the area you are in, so it would be interesting to play with a bunch of people from Seattle and then Australia, and check out the difference.