Dear Reverend DM
@wOOhoo: Dear DM, is there any way to make a child a suitable antagonist for a party? Or have I just painted myself in to a corner?
If the player is a kid and the rest of the group are adults, this is a bad idea that will end with tears. If the NPC villain is a kid, then you’re just fine. It’s possible you might be able to squeeze a bit of extra drama and pathos out of your group banging some kid’s head off the sidewalk, but if he’s evil enough, it’s unlikely that they’ll take the time to sympathize with him enough to care.
So just to make sure we’re clear; real kid bad, fake kid good.
@Alan: Dear DM, what is your opinion of Computer RPGs as a replacement / addition to PnP roleplaying?
For those times when you just gotta get your fantasy on, and it’s just not convenient to grab a half-dozen friends for some traditional roleplaying, online games are the bomb. My group meets once a week because that’s when it’s convenient for them to. Any other time you’ll find me and the missus bashing bad guys in WoW or jumping chasms on the Wii. It’s good fun and works out the tension.
As a replacement for spending time with friends… computer games rate a zero. I enjoy WoW and I dig my guildies and if all that dried up tomorrow I would miss it like beer. But I love my friends, and I wouldn’t give up my time with them for anything. (Ummmm… anything non-Lena related, that is.) Dungeons & Dragons, (or any pencil and paper gaming for that matter) as I’ve said before, is just an excuse to spend time with the people you love. It’s an endlessly fascinating, completely entertaining, deeply engrossing excuse, but without your friends there to share it with and to help build the experience, it’s just… reading.
@Stephen: Dear DM, if it isn’t too much trouble would you mind making us a “Character Sheet” on your least fave celb/and or politician >=D
I gave it some thought, and decided that it is too much trouble.
I do like the idea however, and if you don’t mind I may steal it for a future Friday Blog segment. D&D Oprah would be awesome.
@Christina: Dear DM, what, to your mind, are the pros and cons of having a rules lawyer in the group? Also, in which rules systems can a rules lawyer outrun an arrow aimed at his head?
I love having a rules lawyer in the group! See, I used to be that guy who studied the books and knew all the ins and outs of all the rules, who could argue and plan and plot and scheme. But honestly, who has the time anymore? However, if you’re lucky enough to have a rules lawyer in your group you don’t have to know much of anything, you just ask him. (Not being sexist, but we both know it’s gonna be a guy.)
Now the drawback is on the occasion that your lawyer may try and hijack your game by arguing rules with you. Fortunately there is an easy way to deal with this that will properly train your lawyer to behave as you expect him to.
Step 1: Do ask questions of your lawyer whenever the opportunity arises. You lawyer wants to please you, and looking smart by quoting page numbers makes him feel extra-special.
Step 2: If your lawyer does try to test your authority, first be completely quiet and listen to his reasoning. When he is done, restate his position in your own words so that he knows you understood him completely. Then proceed to step 3.
Step 3: Tell him you don’t play that way, and continue the game.
If you stick to these easy steps, your rules lawyer will be one of your greatest gaming assets, instead of just a gaming ass.
P.S. A truly committed rules lawyer transcends systems and can outrun an arrow in any game.
@anonymous coward: Dear DM, what game systems and source materials would you recommend for someone who finds FATE and FUDGE a bit rules-heavy? Assume I haven’t kept up with anything that has come out in the last decade. Also, the last time I had anything to do with Ars Magica was its 4th ed, which set my standard for systems so weighed down with rules it takes spreadsheets to make sense of it. What has happened to it/with it in the last decade?
Dear anonymous coward,
If FATE is rules heavy for you, there’s only one direction left to go. (For those who don’t scrupulously keep up with esoteric gaming systems, FUDGE is an award-winning gaming system designed to play intuitively and be very malleable by players who want games tailored specifically to their campaigns. FATE is the system based on FUDGE and created to provide the lowest possible barrier to entry for players. The whole idea is to make it as easy and transparent as possible. Saying it’s rules-heavy is like saying french fries are difficult to get into your mouth.) I’m afraid it’s time to go diceless.
While the most famous version of a diceless roleplaying game is Amber, as presented it’s still two hefty books away from being rules-less. However, it does provide a good jumping off point. In the Amber game the late Erick Wujcik says that the system is really just a waypoint, and that the ultimate extension of what he was trying to do was to end up not only with no dice, but no paper as well. In a game such as this you “character sheet” might simply consist of a simple verbal description, such as, “Six foot, medium build, olympic level fencer and above average in most other areas. Loves his cat and is afraid of motorboats.”
Now in a game such as this the DM still needs to prepare ahead of time, and description takes an even more important role. Also, player participation is supremely important. For instance, in order for combats to be exciting, a player must be involved with what his character is doing, swinging on chandeliers and pulling rugs out from underneath people. A player who says, “I fight him.” and takes it no further is not a good candidate for this type of experience.
But… the right DM, with the right people, can make magic.
Ars Magica is in it’s 5th edition now, and has unfortunately moved largely away from the “troupe system” that made it so unique and such fun. I think it’s listed as an option, but that’s it. On the plus side they did finally fix the stupid armor rules so it’s no longer quite so easy to die.