What Do You Look For in an RPG? (RPGaDay2018)

I am endlessly intrigued and fascinated by the variety of roleplaying games currently on the market, as well as all the systems that came before. So on the one hand I don’t really look for anything in an RPG, I just take them as they come and try to embrace what is unique about that particular game. Especially now as I stock the collection for my TTRPG library project, I do not gatekeep the games in any way. I want them all!

Which is all well and good for that project, but of course I have a different attitude when it comes to what I’ll play on the regular. While I do enjoy a certain level of crunch, what I want most of all is an RPG with just enough rules to make character creation choices interesting, that allows us to get to playing in a minimum amount of time. As I get older, I find I have less and less time to use for playing RPGs (and yes, it will happen to you), so when I do have that time I don’t want to waste a bunch of it in character creation. I want to maximize the amount of time I spend at the table. So while I still enjoy crunchy games like Pathfinder, I find myself drawn more to games like D&D 5e that are relatively rules light, or FATE, where character creation is also world building and is tied into starting the game.

Not coincidentally, those are also the games for which I enjoy creating content. I can pull something together real quick, give it a practice run in play, and tweak it as I go. This is especially the case with any 5e content I create for my home campaigns, as I’m currently running two games set in my homebrew world. Often I try something out in one game and modify it based on feedback before trying it out in the other.

But the common thread in all that is that I want to spend the maximum amount of time at the table rolling dice and telling stories with my friends. Any RPG that allows me to do that is aces.

What Do You Love About RPGs? (RPGaDay2018)

I’m taking part in RPGaDay 2018, so get ready for a plethora of posts all month long!

I’ve talked in other posts about the many reasons I love RPGs. I mean, one rarely takes part in a hobby for thirty-nine years unless they really love it (and if you’ve been doing it that long and not loving it, maybe it’s time to evaluate why you’re in the hobby?). So after all that time I have plenty of reasons to love this hobby and this community. I’m going to talk about one: how it helped me be a better introvert.

Ask around and you’ll get ten different definitions of introvert from ten different people. My working definition is that introverts are energized by solitude and solitary activities, and expend that energy to interact with large groups of people. Simply put, if I have a party or even convention I want to go to, I need some quiet time beforehand to get myself energized for that event. And then I’ll likely need some time the next day to recharge.

One of the reasons I love TTRPGs is that they are sort of a loophole for me in the introvert energy transfer. An RPG session can actually energize me, even though I’m spending time constantly interacting with 4-6 other folks for several hours. For the longest while I couldn’t understand why that should be. Put me with the same number of people for the same amount of time doing anything else, and I need some recharge time almost immediately. But I found myself coming out of gaming sessions with as much, and sometimes more energy, as I carried in.

After some thought I realized that what I did during an RPG session and what I did during my recharge times were very similar. When I’m recharging I usually read a book, watch episodes of a show or a movie, maybe play a single-player computer game of some kind. I’ll also write campaign material or work on editing. But in some way I spend my down time engaged in story, whether creating or consuming. And that same engagement in story happens when I play RPGs, there just happens to be other folk around. So while there is a minimal energy drain from dealing with other people, that energy is replaced by the game, by collectively telling a story with my friends.

Discovering this not only helped me embrace more gaming (I had been reluctant to take on too much lest I drain myself too often), but it helped me shift how I approached playing the games themselves. I used to love a tonne of crunch, but these days I’m more interested in rules-light storytelling. Running my games that way has meant my games energize me more, and I think it’s helped make me a better game master.

What about you? What do you love about TTRPGs? Comment below.

April TTRPG Maker Challenge, Day 2: Where ya At?

Geophysically, I’m in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on the northern prairies. Because I live in Canada I’m also on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/ Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our community.

Edmonton is a vibrant city in many ways, and tabletop gaming is no exception. I think we may have more tabletop cafes per capita than any other city in Canada, and recently I’d be willing to say that about Friendly Local Game Stores as well. There are four very active tabletop gaming cons locally, two focused on board games, one on just TTRPGs, and the last tries for a mix. And just this year we added a tabletop game prototype con and a computer and tabletop gaming con, so there are no shortage of events. In fact, if you’re in Edmonton and have the weekend free a few weeks from now, you should check out GOBFest, running April 14 and 15. Always a good time!

As to where I’m at in my making? I’m just starting out, really. I mean I’m a GM, so I’ve been making for over 35+ years. But as far as making for general consumption goes, I’m a newbie. I’ve learned a bunch editing other people’s projects, though, and I have that experience to draw upon. I’m actually really excited to take this next step and start putting more of my stuff out in the world.

April TTRPG Maker Challenge

I’m taking part in the #AprilTTRPGMaker Challenge this month from @kiranansi. While I’ve been blogging about and editing TTRPGs for a few years, I am just easing a toe in the water of writing and designing my own material. This looked like a good opportunity to talk about that process, as well as solidifying some of my thoughts around making game material. I hope you enjoy, and if you’re taking part I look forward to reading your posts.

#1: Who Am I?

My name is Brent Jans and I’ve been a table top gamer since 1980, when I started playing Dungeons & Dragons at the tender age of ten. Since then I have played many games, more often as the game master than not. About five years ago I started blogging semi-regularly about the hobby as Renaissance Gamer (a play on the term “renaissance man”). About three (four?) years ago I hung out my shingle as a freelance TTRPG editor, mostly trying to provide editing services to other freelance or small press TTRPG writers and publishers who might not otherwise use an editor; you can find links to some of the work I’ve done on my Need an Editor? page.

Here on my blog I talk about whatever gaming-related idea or topic pops into my head, though I do have semi-regular articles on food at the gaming table, campaign inspiration, and inclusivity. I also blog a bunch about local gaming events and stores, because supporting the local gaming community is important to me. My blog posts are also where you’ll find a bunch of my creations/ideas for my home games, posted to share with other gamers. I also post an editorial once a week over at The Rat Hole, an excellent site for both board game and TTRPG reviews (which you should totally check out, hint hint!).

About a year-and-a-half ago I started a D&D 5e campaign (the first time I had played actual D&D in almost ten years), then I started a second one. I created my own campaign world for that, and my players are currently exploring various parts of one of the main areas, Cotterell. I’m excited, because the campaign has me writing new game material on a regular basis, and I’m eyeing some of that for publication. I have wanted to publish for years, but never put my focus into it the way I should have until very recently.

I also recently pulled the trigger on a project I’ve had in my head for many years. The Canadian Library of Roleplaying Games is my project to collect, preserve, and discuss gaming material from the start of the hobby until now. It’s very early days, but my meager collection is growing and a number of folks locally have come on board to help. It’s probably the thing I’m most excited about, moving forward.

And that’s me. If you have questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below. In the meantime I’ll see you tomorrow!

 

Read an RPG Book in Public Week

I’ll have a longer post later in the week, but I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone that it’s Read an RPG Book in Public Week, from March 5-9. Time to fly your hobby flag and be seen reading something role-playing related in public, as a way to raise awareness and show your love of the hobby. You can do it anywhere with any RPG book you’d like. If you’re an introvert like me, I recommend tracking down a local introverts reading event. It’s the perfect location to read up on your favourite RPG.

Come back Wednesday for a new article!

D&December Catch Up

Work has been a bear, and a few things came up besides, so I’m a little behind on my D&December posts. So today is a little bit of catch up, with another catch up post tomorrow to get me up to date.

Day #5: A Moment of Triumph

This might be slightly different than what was intended for the question, but one of the moments I had around characters was the day I outgrew the “lone wolf” style of character. As a young gamer and a lover of fantasy and sci-fi film, the stoic character who makes his own path was well-known to me. And on the screen it looks like an exciting character to play. The problem, of course, is that D&D is a group activity. If you’re playing a loner (or as was often the case, everyone in the group is trying to play a loner) you don’t really fit with the dynamic needed for a successful adventuring party. So the day I figured out how annoying and boring the lone wolf character is for the other players and the GM, was the day I really started to grow as a player and GM.

Day #6: A Moment of Despair

About two years ago, I almost gave up the hobby for good. I was having health issues, both medical and mental. There were health issues elsewhere in my family that were a drain on my time and energy as well. My work was suffering as a result of all this, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to fix that. Tabletop gaming, which had been my escape from all of this, was becoming harder and harder to organize, and I couldn’t work up enthusiasm for it anymore.

It was around this time that I discovered the show Critical Role, and got hooked on watching the adventures of Vox Machina. It didn’t happen all at once, but over multiple episodes I felt my enthusiasm for gaming return. I was reminded of what was truly important about the hobby: shared experience and friendship. It wasn’t a magic bullet, and I still had a bunch of other things to fix. But I was saved from giving up on the hobby which gave me support and strength through the bad times.

Day #7: Your Player Character

I have a longer piece planned for this, so stay tuned. I’ll post it out of order later on.

Day #8: Favourite Creature

I talked about them in another post, but I’m really fond of slipping mimics into my campaigns. I enjoy the idea of the “classic” mimic, disguised as a treasure chest to gorge on the greedy adventurer. But I also love the idea that, like other ambush predators, mimics will use whatever works best for their current environment. So a mimic could potentially show up as any inanimate object that might attract prey. And the strength of the creature can be pretty easily adjusted for any party, so they are a wonderful “evergreen” monster to throw at your party at whatever level.

Day #9: Draconic

I don’t think dragons get used nearly as often as they should, as an encounter, NPC, or main villain. You have a creature which, barring mishap, will live for centuries and likely has done prior to meeting the adventurers. They are stronger, faster, more cunning, and generally smarter than the party. They can prepare their lair to “properly” receive visitors, and have usually hired or bullied a screen of lesser beings to wear down the party. My favourite way to reveal a dragon in a campaign is to have the characters interact with an NPC who they think is humanoid  for a while, and eventually learn that that NPC is actually a dragon in disguise. Always fun!

See you tomorrow, as I get myself up to day twelve.

D&December Day 4: Favourite Villain

I feel like I may have answered this yesterday with Strahd as my NPC, but since it would be boring to just write, “See yesterday’s answer” I’ll pick another.

Instead of a specific character, I’m going to go with type of villain. And my favourite villain type is the true villain. I can have fun with a “shades of grey” villain, who is maybe a little sympathetic or actually has good reasons for their actions but goes about them in the wrong way. But sometimes I want to just let slip the dogs of evil and confront the party with a hold nothing back, scenery chewing, evil to the core villain. The kind of villain who actively chooses to do the selfish, nasty thing all the time. And maybe they play on the “I’m just misunderstood” trope to confuse the characters or string them along. But they are dastardly and evil through and through. And the only thing they love more than crushing the innocent is crushing the party of adventurers who dare defy them.

* * *

My first post is up over at The Rat Hole, and it would be swell if you went and checked it out. It’s sort of a mission statement for the next several weeks of posts, and I’m excited to research and write those articles. Plus you can check out the news and reviews posted by Dave; this month is all about Christmas themed games so you should check that out.