My mother always said “don’t generalise”, but when it comes to role-playing, go big or go home. And if you’re at home, just go bigger. Big generalisations give us a point of reference that’s such a key to entertaining sessions. Heavy Scottish accents indicate dwarves, that’s pretty much a tradition of the hobby. Evil villains sound evil: they cackle as they deliver their diabolical monologue.
Don’t do what I did. I’d heard advice like this before, but in my mind “subtle” was always a better option. Boy was I wrong. Subtle characters are effectively watered down and they become bland, tasteless and unrecognisable amongst the scores of other watery NPC’s. When you make generalisations that support players assumption, you confirm aspects of the world that are a cornerstone of their understanding. Yes, the dwarf could have any accent, or none at all, but a Scottish accent is expected. The merchant who speaks with an Indian or Egyptian accent might well be looking for a good deal, even if he’s from Calimshan rather than Calcutta.
It’s all about character, so ham it up. Use those cues to make your characters truly unforgettable.
I’m loving the web so much right now. It turns out that the more I blog the more I comb the net for great stuff and the more awesome role-playing stuff I find. Stuffer Shack was just such a resource. Go ahead and check it out if you haven’t yet, it’s crammed with plenty of freebies. I got into contact with Tourq Stevens, the brains behind Stuffer Shack and rolled my interrogate, this is what we spoke about:
[Rising Phoenix Games] From your website it’s pretty obvious that you’re not only passionate about role-playing, but also about the community in general. How did you get into role-playing in the first place?
[Tourq Stevens] I got into role-playing just like anyone else, I guess. I went to some kid’s house with a friend, and we all played on the bedroom floor. My first game had the DM asking us if we wanted to open a door and walk in. We said “sure,” and were thus maimed when we walked into a pool of acid. …Well, I hope my first game wasn’t like everyone else’s, anyway. Ever since then, I’ve always striven to make the game fun for everyone.
[RPG] Every role-player has fond memories of a really great game session. Does anything stand out for you? In game or out of game?
[TS] Recently I wrote a quick post thanking D&D 4e for a great game, and a great session. It was the type of session where I appreciated a game mechanic more than at any other time. My long, long-favored pastime, though, is drawing heroes and villains for Supers games, like Super World and Heroes Unlimited. That’s probably when I‘m most content (that, and when I’m creating 3D terrain for my players). There’s just something to say about the enjoyment and satisfaction from drawing and building.
[RPG] What are you playing at the moment?
[TS] A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, by Robert J. Schwalb. If you’ve seen A Game of Thrones, then you know how important a family name is in this game. That’s why I love character creation – it’s very interesting to see how your character’s family is created, as well as discovering it’s history. These are things that will definitely come into play.
[RPG] Stuffer Shack has loads of stuff for players and GM’s, from miniatures to articles, character backgrounds and adventures. There’s a huge amount of free stuff on the site, tell us a little about the Stuffer Shack philosophy and why you offer so many free resources to the community.
[TS] Good question, and a little harder to put into words than I thought… Gaming is a creative and social sport that can greatly benefit from easily attainable online resources. Several gaming websites offer free resources (so we’re not breaking the mold there), but we do try to offer a never-ending supply. Anything we can do to make the game more fun and accessible, we’ll do it. The art of gaming can only improve as more and more people become accustomed to it, so we’re just trying to do our part by giving as many tools to gamers as we can.
[RPG] What made you decide to create Stuffer Shack in the first place?
[TS] I’m a creative type of person. I like to write and, well, create. I went on a gaming hiatus, but had all these ideas piling up in my head, so I began to write them down. Character ideas, adventure ideas, ideas for encounters, monsters, NPCs, enemies, and so on. I figured I might as well start a website so that I could have somewhere to post these ideas – a means to share them. And, I figured at least a few of them should be useful to others. (That makes two of us, Ed) [RPG] If there was one bit of wisdom for player you’ve learned from your time with Stuffer Shack, what would that be?
[TS] Boy, that’s a tough question. I’d have to say that as a player, it’s important to continue to expand your horizons. It’s really easy to whip up a stack of numbers and splash them onto a character sheet, but I think players will come to enjoy the game more and more if they occasionally strive to create different types of characters, and/or create characters with more and more interesting story hooks. Well, that’s my opinion, anyway. [RPG] Same question, but now as a GM. Has Stuffer Shack taught you anything amazing for GMs?
[TS] I’ve become much more creative in my ideas, and that’s a direct result of me being more creatively active (which is what Stuffer Shack is really about – creative ideas for gaming). On top of that, running a gaming website has opened my eyes to soooo many other gaming websites, people, projects, and ideas – I simply can’t ever regret it.
[RPG] If there was one recommendation you could make to a new player, what would it be?
[TS] Wow, there’s so many things that could be said here. You know, the only thing that I’ll throw out there is that as a new player – just grab the bull by the horns give it your all. Let your inner geek out, and let loose. I think if you’re not doing that, you can’t really have fun.
[RPG] D&D next is probably the hottest topic on most forums at the moment. What’s your take on the next iteration of the Dungeons and Dragons phenomenon.
[TS] To be honest, I’m barely following it’s development. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to try it out, and I’d love to be impressed by it, but (at this point) it’s just another game to me. I hope it’s successful, of course.
[RPG] Is there anything else you’d like to add? Any secret projects planned or great competitions happening at Stuffer Shack at the moment?
[TS] Great question. I have a couple of things:
Our site is all about making the game more fun. In addition to all of the “Steal this…” ideas, we offer gaming accessories that we put together for our home-games. Only the accessories that we love and use often are the ones that we offer on the site Store. We do have a secret project in the works, and it’s the biggest addition to our Store as of yet. I’m contemplating using Kickstarter, but either way, it’s coming.
At Stuffer Shack, we like contests. We also like free stuff. So, we have plenty of contests in which we give away free stuff! In a few months, we’re going to have a “Your Worst Villain” contest. Basically, readers will submit a few paragraphs detailing a great villain. It can be submitted for any role-playing game, and in any format. What matters most is that the baddie be memorable… and bad. The winners get free stuff, of course.
And, we’re currently right in the middle of the 2nd annual RPG Site of the Year contest (2012 RPG SOTY). Thirty-four RPG blogs have submitted their sites in the hopes of taking the prizes, SOTY Shield, and most importantly, the title. Last year, Critical Hits won the contest, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the winner for this year. In the end, though, the real purpose of this contest is to be able to throw an online party, and to give a bunch of great gaming blogs some extra exposure.
Thanks Tourq! I’ll be ordering my mounts soon.Rising Phoenix Games is in the running for the SOTY Shield so go and jump on stuffershack.com and vote. If you have a question for Tourq leave a comment below and I’ll be sure he gets it.
Last week I wrote about how to be a better player, now we’ll focus on the character you play, specifically your equipment and how to get the most out of the gear available to you. I’m focusing on Dungeons and Dragons and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game here, but the principles apply generally to all games, even table top war games.
Never overlook armour. Your armour proficiency will give you a good idea of what kind of armour you’ll need, simply choose between the highest protection or high manoeuvrability. Typically you’ll want high protection if you’re a front line fighter and high manoeuvrability if you’re an acrobatic rogue.
Choose shields in a similar way. Even if you suspect you won’t need a shield, take one anyway if you can carry it. You never know when you might need it’s protection, such as if you find yourself running down a passage of dart traps.
If you’re a caster, choose some protective spells and supplement that with defensive feats like Dodge and magical armour, like rings of protection.
Always carry a good knife, I always say. Daggers are easier to hide, can be thrown in a pinch, prepare a tasty camp meal and provide a clean shave before heading back into town. If you can find a nice toy knife it makes an excellent prop at the table, especially when rolling to intimidate some NPC.
Miyomoto Musashi, the famous Japanese duellist, likened weapons to the tools available to a carpenter. Different weapons have different abilities and uses, making them better for certain tasks. For instance, did you know that the Jo, a Japanese short staff about the length of a broom handle, is particularly effective against the sword. It was developed as a defence against the katana, the famous Japanese sword. It follows then that your character should have as many weapons available as possible, if not carried then close at hand. I’d suggest looking at what weapons are available to your character and then try to cover a number of ranges and attack types (such as piercing, bludgeoning, non-lethal and so on). Don’t forget those reach weapons either. Spears and the like may have other uses than those mentioned in the rules, such fishing someone out of quicksand. Also, don’t forget about silvered weapons and magical weapons, particularly for your main arms.
It’s surprising how easy it is to think in two dimensions with role-playing games. That is, until your party gets terrorised by a flying creature. Having a ranged weapon on you gives you options, even if your ability to hit is reduced and you’re doing less damage.
A good selection of healing potions and buffing potions are important. Anti-venom is one of those things you won’t want until you need it, so get a few bottles early on. Typically I’d choose potions that can heal around a third to half your total health points, so that any extra healing isn’t wasted.
Things like disguise kits, healing kits, thieves tools and climbing kits are all good to have floating around in the party. Without them, it can be a little like changing a tire without the proper tools. Even if you only get a small bonus, that can be the difference between success and failure, so rather be prepared. Again, also remember that some equipment may have other uses than stated in the rules: a healer’s kit may have needles and other useful equipment that could be used in other ways, or when empty could help you carry that stash of loot.
The most useless equipment…
…is what you left behind. Every piece of equipment is a useful tool that will, if used well, help you succeed on more rolls. Make the most of what’s available and be well equipped to face your next encounter.