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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.

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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.
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    "Thing you’d be most surprised a friend had not seen or read?"

    I stared at this topic for a very long time, wondering what to even say about this, because in my group of friends I am the one who is typically lacking in modern pop culture know-how and get the response of, "What, you haven't heard of it?"

    But why is it that we tend to be surprised when people don't know something we do? Regardless of how "common" something is, clearly in this day and age, people more than ever have the ability to look for things they like and ignore the aspects of pop culture they don't care about. Tabletop gamers is something of a niche hobby already, so wouldn't it follow that we would know how it feels like to not be "in" with the crowd?

    It's usually funny enough, but sometimes it's also incredibly annoying to be judged for lacking in one kind of popculture knowledge, when I consume an entirely different set of modern media that others just don't have in common with me. It's even worse when I try to explain the media I do consume and get dismissively told that my media is inferior! Unbelievable.

    But jokes and outrage aside, I do think that this sort of condescension towards others is a very strange thing to experience in what I consider a niche community of hobbyists. And it's not just in popculture or geek culture in general -- I've run into kinkshaming quite often in the hobby as well. Is it an inevitable problem in any human community?
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    "Most unusual circumstances or location in which you’ve gamed."

    I live in a large, sprawling metropolis with a number of friends whose houses or apartments are available for gaming, and if not that, there is always Ludo -- so I don't think I can say I've gamed somewhere odd before. Gaming on the floor is already odd for me.

    Probably the oddest was during my company's summer outing, which was functionally just giving everyone a hotel room in the middle of the city to take our family or friends to. I'd booked two hotel rooms and invited my then-girlfriend and two friends, and then in the evening decided to play a session of Dungeon World before bed. Hotels are full of beds with no tables to really use, so it was a strange set up. I've been told that that's how people in conventions play RPGs, and I don't think it's very comfortable. I've got too many notebooks and sheets of paper to be comfortable without a solid surface at a decent height for writing.

    On the other hand, my group and I are planning a trip out of the city for a few nights in December, and we might marathon a few RPGs there. That sounds like it will be great fun.
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    "What hobbies go well with RPGs?"

    I feel that the only answer I have to give is reading, or in general, the consumption of stories. To create a good story means having consumed many stories, because stories is how we learn vicariously of things that we otherwise would have to experience for ourselves to know.

    The stories that we consume come out a lot in our playing, or in the case of GMs, in their running of games. Sometimes I think about noting down my observations to verify them later on, since it's an interesting thing to watch. I had a GM before who primarily got his inspiration from TV and film, and it came out in how cutscenes and transitions were done in the game, while my other GM who reads a lot of fantasy books reflected the same sort of subtext in his NPCs.

    Even in that, I find that GMs who watch a lot of anime versus Western films typically used different tropes for their NPCs, and so on and so forth, since stories linked to one culture or another are often also quite different. I've had two GMs who are quite heavy book readers run their games in completely different ways, because they also read vastly different genres of fiction. While I don't think any one source is better than others, I will admit that there are some stories that I adapt to better by virtue of my own consumption.
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    "What makes for a good character?"

    There are countless studies on this in the fiction writing sphere: what is a good character and what makes them good? The usual answer will include good backgrounds, character motivations, personality and personality quirks, and character stories that can and will be developed. There are numerous theses on "Mary Sues" and their indicators.

    I then approach this question with a reminder: RPGs are collaborative and not solo fiction writing activities, so a good character in a tabletop game does not by necessity follow the rules of good characters in solo writing endeavors, though they have many overlaps and I would say that majority of those rules would apply. But tabletop roleplaying characters don't grow the same way simply because they don't follow a script or a vision dictated by only one writer. In the first place and speaking as someone who has written and read a lot of fanfiction in the past, I feel that "Mary Sue" is a term that should strictly only apply to fanfiction where one has canon to use as a baseline, because the factors affecting character creation for anything else is too complex to put a reliable rubric on.

    There are leeways that should be made available to roleplaying characters from the understanding that most of the time, players have the tendency to make main characters for their adventures. Thus, I don't subscribe to the idea that tabletop characters shouldn't be super special snowflakes, because some games are really designed for you be one, and that is all right. You might not be the main character of the world, but you are the main character in your story.


    We're all Mary Sues!


    The difficulty of roleplaying games might be, then, is that your character can be good or bad independent of yourself as a player. There are more factors in play, such as the consistency of the world as presented by the GM, or the style and narrative direction of your fellow players that may run counter to your plans. Even the timing of games alone can affect how one plays their character. Thankfully, because tabletop roleplaying is also a social activity, these are things you can communicate with your table about.

    Do I think that good characters are those who should have good backgrounds, motivations, and development? Yes. But ultimately, like with any roleplaying game or any game that is social in nature, a good character is really anyone you have fun with and with whom the other people in the table also have fun with as well. I feel that due to the collaborative storytelling nature of tabletop RPGs, regardless of how "crunchy" or "narrative" the game is, a good character is simply one that contributes to the fun experience of people at the table.

    On the other hand, even if good characters don't necessarily have to have in-depth backstories or extremely fleshed out personalities, I do find that great characters typically do. Characters can be more than their stats. So while your half-orc barbarian with an axe is fine, your character would be more memorable and may enhance table experience more if you indicate that your half-orc is a maudlin character who likes to eat fine food and likes to pretend he's an eloquent scholar when in fact he's a crazy, raging berserker with a temper as short as a match stick and is endlessly embarrassed by it.

    Anyway, narrowing the topic back to myself: A good character for me to play is someone I feel I can adapt to most situations without imposing too much on other players, while still staying true to the character's personality and motivations. For this reason, all of my D&D5e characters are neutral good despite a wide variety of motivations and personality (from the dourest of the dour, to wide-eyed enthusiasm). It's a little harder on my grumpier characters, but I also take into consideration the party composition when I make those ones -- it's easier to go with wild party decisions as long as the goals align, so being a waspish grumpo is all right.

    I have a preference for what you might consider "side characters" to a greater story, characters who don't really matter so much in the grander scheme of things in the world, but nevertheless contribute to the narrative in their own way. I've made the potato farmer caught up in mysterious events, and the sailor dragged into situations too amazing for him to fathom. But I've also made heroes when the setting calls for it, like the shipwright so passionate the gods themselves took notice of her endeavors. In the end, as long as I have a good handle on the character, I'm typically satisfied with them. When I can, off the top of my head, come up with an appropriate answer to the question, "What would [Character] do?" without pondering for it for a long time. If you ask me what they are doing at any given period of the day, and I have an answer for you. These are typically the characters whom I feel have a good footing in the setting and the world, such that their growth and, as a result, their actions flow naturally from session to session.
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    "What is the game you are most likely to give to others?"

    There are a number of games that I would highly recommend to friends, including Cypher, Fate Core, and Dungeon World, but in terms of actually giving someone the copy of a game, it would probably be Pirate World. Not because I highly recommend it (I haven't actually played it), but because it's one of the few games that I own that no one else in my group does or isn't free for download (or too expensive in the case of Cypher).

    Pirate World has a bit of a rocky history in that it took three years for the Kickstarter's promised PDFs to be delivered, and there was an issue with the writer's real name and identity being false on the Kickstarter (I think) and other such strange problems. Some backers wanted to get together to sue him! I didn't mind it so much because I only invested ten dollars into the game, though, and eventually was only pleasantly surprised to get my pledge reward PDF. Now I can cry "Ships!" and say, "I even have a pirate game if you want to run it for me, hint hint."
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    "Share one of your best “Worst Luck” stories."

    In the recent D&D event I attended, my halfling fighter Wilem Tealeaf needed to kill an orc before being able to move on to assist his other party members in rescuing a few prisoners from a smithy's fire. We were running our third mission of the D&D Epic Reclamation of Phlan, and this was our third mission for the night.

    Anyway, Wilem has two-weapon fighting and so moved forward to strike the orc out in what should have been a decisive blow. On my first strike, Wilem rolled a 1. So he rerolled it using halfling luck, and... got another 1. What the hell.

    On my second attack, he missed by just a little, so I figured that if I used my superiority dice to add a d8 to it, I only needed to roll a 3 or higher to hit. Wilem of course... rolls a 2. Defeated, I sighed and figured out the best way to remove myself from this orc to get to my party mates, without dying from both the orc and the big wolf occupying 20 square feet worth of mapspace just a few blocks ahead of me.

    I did get to the party on the turn after that through sheer luck as well. I ran away from the orc uninjured (superiority dice to add to AC), and then bypassed the wolf by rolling a crit on animal handling. The wolf found my halfling too small to bother with and let me in the door to rejoin the rest of the party.
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    "Supposedly random game events that keep recurring?"

    In general, I tend to have awful rolls with my dice, which is why I prefer systems that allow for hedging and increasing my chances of success beyond a single roll. In D&D5e, I favor halflings (they have lucky and can reroll 1s), and as for systems, I tend towards those like Numenera/Cypher and Fate because they allow one to influence the difficulty of the obstacle by making reasonable narrative decisions to ease challenge difficulties.

    Apparently, halfling luck only gets me as far as rerolling to... 2. Or 3. Last Saturday in Conclave.ph's D&D event, I rerolled my 1s into another 1 thrice over the course of two games and about nine hours of play. I can go through a single Fate session rolling both four minuses and four pluses before the day's end. Disadvantage in D&D 5e? Of course I roll a 1 and a 20. It's been better in recent years than they used to be, but some days I wonder if some probability god must be angry with me out there.