Wednesday, September 25, 2002

It's been a while...

Life has been busy. What more is there to say? Sometimes we barely have time for the essentials. (House of Cards of course being essential.)

Anyway, it seems as if my routine is settling down again. Of course Kris and I are complicating that by beginning a new PBEM Shades of Darkness. It's a World of Darkness game and I have been given a variety of different characters all ready. We also have some wonderful plot elements wandering around in our heads. The character creation phase is still going strong if anyone is looking for a game.

Beyond that, I hope to get caught up on Wishes some time soon. And I'd like to get some more info on Lilly's blog. So be on the look out!

Friday, August 23, 2002

Parenting Secrets Revealed

For the second day in a row, my 3 1/2 year old son, Kristopher, has fallen asleep on the couch after eating Corn Pops straight from the box. Mind you this is a child who almost never naps. I might be onto something here... Can Corn Pops induce sleep? Or at the very least will my belief in their ability to make rambunctious preschoolers nap prove to be enough to make it so? Hmmm....

Good thing I have two boxes of them in the house. I see much experimenting over the next few days... LOL!
Game Wish 9

[Yes... I do seem to have skipped number 8. We have been sooo busy as of late I simply haven't gotten to reading everything that is out there. Hopefully I will get to it sometime soon. Even by answering #9 I am still 2 wishes behind as it is. Anyway, here is my answer to what I consider a relatively *easy* one! ]

Have you ever gotten a significant other into gaming? Those of you in "mixed marriages", where one spouse is a gamer and the other isn't, how did you work this out?

It's funny, but every guy I have ever dated gamed. Every single one. I'm sure that in and of itself says something about me. But I held out. No way was I going to be drawn into some childish game of make believe. I was about to start hoarding dice or complaining when others touched them. And I certainly would never see the need to own all of those books...

Then I met Kris.

For Kris gaming was never something he did to simply pass a few hours with friends. Or atleast by the time I had met him he was quickly moving away from that. For Kris gaming was and is a full time hobby. It is his creative outlet and in some ways his obsession. He uses it to learn more about who he is. Sometimes it's all fun and games other times it is an emmotional fire keg. But no matter what he would not be complete with out it.

Like most non-gamer girlfriends, I initially didn't realize any of this. I naively thought I could change him. Or maybe I believed he would out grow it. So I gave in, let him have his night with the guys, and nodded politely as he tried to share his stories with me. This was good for quite sometime. I was able to hang onto my delusions for a good two years I think.

Slowly though I got tired of it. I got tired of the nodding. Being with his friends was something I dreaded because ALL they talked about was gaming. I realized something had to give. Being the stubborn person I am I decided I was going to try to understand my now husband even if it killed me. You see I have this self righteous streak that's about a mile wide when it comes to my marriage. None of our friends thought we would last six months together. As a newlywed I was determined to prove them wrong. In order to do that, I had to eliminate ANYTHING that might cause problem. So I began to ask questions.

Once I began to ask, my mind opened up. Slowly mind you. Like I said I can be stubborn at times. My first step into gaming was playing a character very much like me. Heck, all of my first attempts were characters Kris suggested because they would be familiar to me. The we began playing Vampire. Kris was determined I should be playing Toreador because they are the most human. Me? I wanted no part of them. Too hedonistic I said. (And at the time they were.) I wanted to play a Malkavian. I thought of this awesome concept and he let me go. That's when I ceased being a gamers girlfriend and became a gamer in my own right.

Now? Well aside from the fact I can play one hell of a hedonist, I have embraced gaming as my own. It has given me a creative outlet and a place to let my passions run free. I no longer play mere reflections of myself but enjoy playing people who are in many ways my complete opposite, like Lilly in House of Cards. I think if Kris had pushed me, I would have resisted and resisted hard. But by allowing me to discover gaming on my own, I was given a true gift. No wonder I adore my husband so much.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Another Maxim

Now that I've done my wish and have begun to read what others are saying, I thought of something else...

Speak a Common Language.

Nothing, and I repeat nothing, is as bad as finding out the character you have been given to play for the night is mute and can not communicat with *any* of the party members. My annoyance at that was only tempered by the fact that someone actually created this character. I couldn't believe it. Why would anyone want to play a character who not only couldn't speak but had a lower intelligence score then some of the local rocks. All I could do was kill things. Lovely. I vowed never to play AD&D again!

The there was this time we were playing Werewolf. Two of us decided on Lupus characters. The GM decides we have just undergone the first change and do not know human language. Fine. I could have lived with that. Then he puts us in a situation where we have only kinfolk to teach us what we need to know. The Kin couldn't speak the garou tongue. The ensuing scene, while absolutely hilarious, totally obscured any serious edge the game might have had. It took us forever to get anything done. To this day the quote left over from that game is "Thank You. Pants." Needless to say, that game died a rather quick death.

On a similar note, taking speech imediment can also really hamstring a character. We had someone take stuttering as a flaw in a GURPS game one. The flaw lasted a session before he practically begged the GM to allow him to change it.

All in all anything that affect communication between the players is going to have an affect on the game. As both a GM and a player we have an obligation to take note of that. Even when say half of the PC's can speak a particular language things get interesting. The other half will no dobt become distrustful of what they don't understand. Wether or not that is appropriate in the game is something that really should be considered.
WISH 7: Maxims

List three or more maxims/proverbs/bits of conventional wisdom/etc. that you've learned in your gaming career, and explain what they mean and how you've seen them apply in your gaming experience.

If it’s not fun, don’t do it.

It’s weekly gaming night. Your friends are due to arrive any minute. The table’s cleared off, chips are at the ready, and everything is as it should be. Well almost everything. Instead of looking forward to this gathering, you feel sick. The game has been dragging, the group annoying the heck out of you, and every ounce of your being is dreading another night of *that* GM. A good game has officially gone bad. Still there you are.

We’ve all done it. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves why we game. If our games begin to cause us more stress then enjoyment, it’s time to quit, to move on, or at the very least take a break. Sometimes it’s simply a system or a GM that needs to be thrown out. Other times it’s the entire group. Whatever the cause, we owe it to ourselves to put our mental health first.

Never Try To Turn Into a Pink Elephant.

I mean that literally. Many years ago, in a mixed World of Darkness game, I was playing a semi powerful Verbena named Caroline. She was a curious sort who tended to act before thinking. Many times it was Caroline who kept things moving while every else wanted to plan. This was both a good and a bad thing.

One night the group encountered the Changeling Court of the Duchy of the Black Diamonds. To make a long story short, the Childers were having a scavenger hunt and one of the things they were looking for was a *chimerical* pink elephant. In an effort to attract them, Caroline decided to use her life magick to become said elephant. Anyone who has ever played White Wolf’s Mage the Ascension knows just how stupid that was to begin with. Unreal things in the WoD attract all sorts of bad stuff. To make matters worse my roll was horrible. It wasn’t pretty but somehow she managed to survive.

What’s the moral of this story? That’s easy. Sometimes a stupid action is just a stupid action. I was completely in character with what I did with Caroline but that didn’t make it any less stupid. Sometimes common sense needs to outweigh character. With a little more thought on my part, I could have found something much more constructive to do that was still uniquely Caroline.

Leave the Boyfriend at Home.

It usually begins with the best of intentions. Gaming is something you truly enjoy and you want to share it with your significant other. So you invite them along to sit in on a game. For several hours they sit there twiddling their thumbs, bored out of their minds.

I know. I’ve been there. It’s like trying to watch a movie from the middle. To make matters worse there are all these rules you don’t understand. What began as an exercise to show support for your S.O.’s inner gamer, turns into a grueling ordeal. Within an hour you’re questioning why anyone would ever want to do this. By hour three you’re vowing to never play or sit in again.

There is another part of this. That’s the boyfriend or girlfriend who has agreed to play in order to spend time with you. I personally have had some horrid experiences with people of this sort. There was this one woman who kept wanting to create her own rules and do her own things while having her feet massaged by her fiancé’. If they were left out of the action for any length of time it became full out foot sex. There was another woman, one whom I really liked, who was completely pressured into it by her boyfriend. She wanted no part of it but he refused to believe that. All night long she would just sit there barely contributing as she watched the clock tick. I can go on and on but I think I’ve made my point.

The truth is, if you are passionate about you hobby, if half of the conversations you have involve gaming in some way shape or form, if there are gaming books accessible in you house, then chances are eventually most boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, etc. will find gaming on their own. Allowing them to discover the joys without pressure is the best thing you can do. Not only did this work for me, (I eventually got tired of not understanding half of the conversations Kris was having in my company.) it has worked for friends. In one case, the husband used to GM at his house. Slowly the wife began to ask questions, and then she would sit in on her own accord. Finally she began trying to make comments. But her husband, the GM, had a rule. Only those with character sheets on the table could have input. After a few sessions she got tired of not being able to say anything about the PC’s planning and she created a character. Again I could offer many more examples but I think I’ve said enough.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Just a Little Something

The last two days have found me dutifully sticking address labels to meet notices as something of a favor to my mother in law. I say something of a favor because the truth of the matter is I get paid rather good money for this mine numbing task. In order to keep my somewhat hyper active mind from being totally bored I have taken to reading the labels as I work. Every once in a while this habit of scanning as I'm sticking gifts me with a little gem.

Last year I found myself sending mail to Many Pantankin. I've also found some cool names that stuck in my head and formed themselves into characters. Today's find though particularly struck me. Evidently there is a town in New Mexico named Truth Or Consequences. A place like that is just asking to have a game set in it or a story or something. Maybe a convention game. It would just be fun to use that as the event title. "What are you going to play next?" "Truth or Consequences!"

Anyway, I just thought I'd share...

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Wish #6: Secrets

Sometimes the plot of a game requires a GM to keep secrets. Is it better for the GM and other players to keep most out-of-character knowledge secret, or to assume that players are capable of keeping in-character and out-of-character knowledge separate? Where and how do you draw the line as a GM and/or player between what secrets should be kept and which ones are OK to reveal?

For the most part, I think secrets are good for plot development. After all, who would want to play in a game where you knew exactly what was going to happen? The GM has a duty almost to keep things from their players. As the story unfolds more and more should be revealed. Mysteries keep the players interested so long as there are hints and foreshadowing to avoid total player frustration.

Player backgrounds can be something different entirely. In some games background secrets are vital plot enhancers. In games like Vampire or Amber or anything with a political feel, secrets often have their place and can make for a much more interesting game for all.

All of this sort of gets thrown out in PBeM’s though. I know in HoC for instance there are things going on out in shadow that we in Amber have no clue about. Secrets are being revealed and some of our characters our nearly powerless at the moment. But that in its own way is a good thing. It creates dramatic tension. I have also seen online GM’s do unseen asides which I very much enjoyed. It gave the players a glimpse into the mind of the opposition without spoiling too much.

I, like Kris, very much prefer when PBeM’s have open threads. I might not read them, but at least if I’m waiting for something to be resolved, I know it is happening. As a GM I trust my players to only read others threads if they can keep themselves from using that information. Some of my players openly admit that they can’t and as a result only read their threads. That’s fine.

As for where to draw the line? For me that is a personal decision. I’ve had players who absolutely did not want certain secrets revealed. So I kept them quiet. Other players have babbled their entire character history to anyone who would listen. I am fine with that too so long as there are no complaints afterwards about someone using something they could not have possibly known. That is usually solved by making sure people know what knowledge is in character and what is out though.

As a GM I tend to be tight lipped if I have something good cooking. Every once in a while an idea just skates across my mind that I run with. When that happens I keep everything very close to my chest and allow the idea to blossom to both the delight and horror of my players.

Monday, July 29, 2002

UnShore Forest?

I find it disturbing how real life can invade gaming and vice versa. It's not that I can't draw a line between real and imagined, I can and easily. But there are times when I look at something and it just needs to filed away in the universe I carry around in my head because it belongs better there then it does here.

Take my cousin for instance. He's in his late teens now. For most of his life he has been in trouble in some way shape or form. His parents have tried everything to help him mend his ways including sending him to boot camp a few years back. I can attest to the fact that these are not bad parents. They have really done everything they could to help their son.

Professionals have told them that he was a lost cause. Some people, they said, are just born that way. My favorite story is of the professional who tried to confort the mother by telling her that while her son had all the makings of a homicidal maniac, she should taking comfort in the fact that he truly loves his immediate family and though he might steal from them he would never kill them. Uh huh. That sounds comforting to me.

Anyway, he came up to the campground on Sunday with his father. He is an almost startling presence with longish but well shaped jet black hair, light olive skin, and eyes as blue as the sky on a cold winters day. This is someone who could be a model, easily. On this particular day he was sporting a soul patch as well.

That small amount of hair on his chin triggered the image I think. One moment he's standing there, impatient and brooding, the next he is sporting horns from his brow and has cloven hooves. An unseelie Satyr my mind cried out. Why hadn't I seen it before? With a smile I put that thought into the back of my mind where it belonged and sought out my husband to share this revelation. Kris whloe heartedly agreed.

This of course led to further discussion about how the Shore Forest Manor Campground could be used in a White Wolf campaign. One could easily imagine the owners as Children of Gaia kinfolk. And I swear my grandfather's presence is still very strong there in spite of the fact he died miles from there nearly five years ago. For years he was known as the mayor of Shore Forest. He loved that place, spending nearly every summer there for many, many years. Whenver his name comes up at my parents or one of my dad's sisters sites, a lite will flicker. To my amusement this even began happening at our tent site this weeked.

Before we left, we took some brochures and maps from the office. It seemed almost funny to be taking this stuff from a campground I have been visiting for as long as I can remember, but we did it anyway. That way if I set a Con game or even a FtF game there, I have lots of interesting props to hand around the table. Now all I have to do is remmebr all of the wierd things that have happened to me on that mountain and see if I can't form a game around them!
R & R

This weekend we took the kids camping. For the first time in a good five years I actually slept in a tent. I had no choice really. During those past years we stayed at my parents seasonal camp site and I and at least some of the kids slept on the pull out sofa in the air conditioned trailer. This began when I was pregnant with our third, continued through his first year, extended into Kate's infancy, ending just after July fourth.

Why did it end? For one my sister in law is pregnant. It seemed only fair that she be allowed the couch after years of sleeping in a tent. More importantly though, it eneded because we decided to break down and get our own site. Not owning a camper or anything even remotely close, we pakced up out ents and more pillows and balnket then I knew we owned and set out.

It was wonderful.

I had gotten so used to the stress and chaos involved with spending a weekend within yards of my parents that I no longer even noticed it was there. This weekend was so much quieter. Our kids went to bed easier because their was no one sitting just outside the trailer playing cards. We made our own campfire and didn't have to put up with extended family gossip from aunts, uncles and cousins who also camp very close to my parents. The kids were better behaved because they were out of the realm of grandparents from time to time. We had only one stressful moment when Kris' work pager went off and the cell phone wouldn't get a signal to respond. That aside it was smooth sailing.

We enjoyed ourselves so much we reserved a site for the middle of August....

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Kids Stuff

I think I watch too much TV....

But it's not what you think. Not by a long shot. I can't even remember the last time I watched something geared towards adults. My day is filled with Disney, Nickelodeon, Noggin, PBS, and the Cartoon Network. They are on constantly. Mind you the kids are usually no where to be found until I try to turn the set off. Then of course they were watching that!

It reminds me of being a kid myself. Only then my dad controlled the TV. We watched what he wanted. The only thing he gave into was Christmas specials. Even when he would doze we had to leave his shows on. As soon as we would turn the channel he'd wake up and complain. In truth it didn't bother me much. I just assumed I would get to control the TV when I was an adult.

So here I am, fully an adult for some time now, and I've never had control over my TV. Even when Kris and I break down and watch adult shows he usually chooses. The only time I get the power is during the Olympics. Then my family knows better then to take the remote from me.

In the meantime, I watch kids TV. It's not bad either. Well once you throw out Barney and the Teletubbies and Maisy and... well and a few others it's not bad. Japanese anime definitely has it's place. I was addicted to Sailor Moon for a while there. Cartoon Network has even been responsible for a character or two and a few game seeds. Almost everything the two older boys watch is palatable if not down right interesting.

But even the preschool stuff has gotten better. Ok, maybe not better then some of the Kermit the Frog/Grover skits on the classic episodes of Sesame street but definitely better then the faire my younger brother was offered. Right now Kristopher is fully involved in a Veggie Tales video that is just hilarious. Anything that can parody Hamlet for kids and do it well enough to bring a smile is good in my book. The Book of Pooh also has at least one episode that tells kids about Shakespeare. "Who is this William fellow and why is he shaking spear?" Pooh asks Owl. "Yes, he sounds quite fierce." Piglet adds. From there they are off. Fifteen minutes of the best of Shakespeare laid out for three year olds.

Having all of this knowledge of children's media has it's uses. I've thrown werewolves into Umbral realms where these shows exist. It's great, especially at Cons. You get lots of people who have no clue what the Island of Sodor home to Thomas the Tank Engine is. They can't play with out of character knowledge. And yet I know that Island like someone who grew up there. And that is just one of dozens of obscure places I can easily visit while thoroughly confusing my players.

So it might not seem like knowing the names of all of the Wiggles and their corresponding colors is important. But you never know. It could turn up in a game...
Tara Kunkel