Category Archives: RPG

Harassment and the Gaming Community – A few thoughts

Recently I was made aware of this article and was shocked and appalled by what I read. What the author of this post has endured is terrible and it’s a shame that all this has happened in the gaming community. A lot of people immediately dismiss the post because it just seems too outrageous, too far away from their personal experiences. But I have no doubts that these things happen way too often.

I actually wrote a long post with my thoughts on the subject, but eventually I decided against posting it because of several reasons. English is not my native language and even though I have a pretty good grasp of the language (at least I hope so) sometimes it’s hard to put my thoughts into the proper words. This subject is highly emotional and very complex, so it’s very easy to offend everyone even if you have the best motives.

My intentions with this post are twofold: first I want to point out the article and recommend everyone to read it and think deeply about it. I especially ask my fellow male gamers to not just dismiss it. Secondly I want to ask everyone to help changing the community for the better. Don’t look away, speak up and point out the bad apples, support your fellow gamers regardless of gender, sexuality, skin color, and religion. Make sure that your own gaming table is a safe and welcoming place for everyone! Remember that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

P.S.: If you want to read more about why we should take such reports seriously, I recommend this article.

Why are some games so hard to understand?

Over the years I’ve encountered dozens of games which are highly popular, are supposedly easy to learn, but I just can’t wrap my head around them.

One reason was probably that I grew up with pretty traditional roleplaying games, while most of the games I had trouble with were definitely more “indie”. But this couldn’t have been the only reason. But for quite a while I never realized why I had a hard time getting into games like Fate or Apocalypse world.

While I am still having trouble, I at least think I’ve found out what my main problem is. I overanalyze and overthink everything. Especially with Fate this still kicks me in the nuts when I try to run it. Skills are fine, Approaches (like in FAE) are mostly so, but Aspects always make my head spin, especially when it comes to situational Aspects.

In fact Aspects are pretty easy. If a room has the aspect “Pitch Black” it just establishes a fact. In traditional games, we actually establish facts as well, we just don’t write that down on an index card (which you can do in Fate to remind you of said fact) or give those facts special names. Invoking an aspect for example is just making use of the fact. For example you get a +2 bonus to hide in the room. That’s not much different how you do things in other games. But instead of having a rule for every possible circumstance, Fate uses a slightly more abstract approach. Which is actually not that hard to get…

… BUT for some reason my brain wants to make things more complicated. It’s actually pretty hard to put into words, because it’s all a bit fuzzy, but I tend to look for a deeper meaning or something more complex which just can’t be found, because it isn’t there.

I don’t know if it’s just me or if this happens to other gamers as well. So please share your thoughts below. And if you have good tips on how to avoid overthinking everything, please share those with us!

Making Stuff up As We Go Along

My favorite GMing style has always been “making stuff up as we go along” which means I basically improvised from start to finish instead of doing some prep work before the game. Depending on the setting you’re playing in and the system you’re using this can either be awesome or a terrible trainwreck of a game session. Luckily it worked fine for most of my games.

Especially Numenera by Monte Cook supports this GMing style perfectly. The world is weird and mysterious, you never know what lurks behind the next corner or beyond the next hill. Usually I just came up with a very simple setup and then started improvising.

In one game the player characters stumbled upon a small settlement in dire need of help. People kept disappearing and noone has even noticed the culprits responsible for it. That was basically what I had prepared before the game. I also decided that I wanted something from the past responsible for it. So I came up with a crashed spaceship which was buried underground. At this point I had no idea how the story could progress. Using my imagination and guided by the players’ actions I improvised the whole adventure. Everyone had a blast and the players never expected that I didn’t prepare the scenario beforehand.

BUT this approach has its issues. If you are not at the top of your game an inprovised session may quickly derail into a disaster. Things get worse if you are having doubts about your ability to improvise.  Even with my depression and anxiety issues I still have good days where I can improvise the heck out of any game. But on bad days – which are more often lately – I feel a lot of pressure. I’ve had to cancel games after the first session because I was terrified of running the game. So I am now thinking about trying a new approach.

At first I should give Never Unprepared and Odyssey another read. Especially Never Unprepared gives great advice on how to prep a game without going nuts about it. Back in the day when I started taking up the GM’s mantle, I tried to prepare for everything. Sometimes I planned endlessly on a single adventure which in the end I never even ran. As I grew more confident as a GM I quickly started to improvise more and more up until the point where I am now.

I guess I should find a middle ground between improvising everything to preparing everything. Since I just took a break from running games I now have the time and opportunity to think about how to do things in the future. At the moment I am really looking forward to making a change, learn some new skills and become a better GM. I’ve done this for about 20 years now, but I think there’s still much to learn.

P.S.: The featured image on this post is called “Improvisation 26” and was painted by famous artist Vassily Kandinsky in 1912.