Sunday, 24 March 2013

Memes: things GMs tend not to talk about

This little meme comes from Monsters and Manuals, via Shannon. And in passing, it's always nice to spot another Scouser on the web...
  • Book binding. I've not really had any books disintegrate on me, but I haven't played anything in particular that much. I do think binding is an overlooked factor. As Shannon noted, very large books can weigh heavy on the covers and risk the textblock ripping right out. Largeish paperbacks avoid that because they don't tend to directly weigh on the cover, but the spines can be vulnerable. I quite like small manuals because they're portable and easy to shelve, but they're quite hard to use because they don't want to stay open and you don't want to damage the spine. On the whole I find 2-3rd Ed D&D to hit the sweet spot.
  • "Doing a voice". I do voices, but then I do them in real life too. I always have, years pre-gaming - I blame early exposure to old radio comedies. I grew up using a few different accents so can slip into those easily, and adding in other, less convincing ones is a natural extension. Mostly my players (or GMs) seem to enjoy it, especially my mangled attempts at being posh. I think the decision is a very personal one - if it helps you establish or invest in a character, and it's not going to bother anyone, go ahead. The main line for me is being careful not to put on accents that might make anyone uncomfortable, the same as with other aspects of character portrayal. I don't really work at voices, but putting a little time into phonetics, dialectology and reading up on dialects is always going to help. If you want to put on particular accents, look for genuine sources to work off, and take film portrayals with a pinch of salt: don't try basing a Cockney accent on Dick van Dyke.
  • Breaks. Our sessions are pretty informal and we take breaks as and when, though I think generally people try to pick lulls. I quite often decree GM Breaks when I get to suitable points, so I can stretch my legs and grab a drink; it's much easier for players to slip out without interrupting play, and if you're not careful you can end up pushing on for hours and getting worn out or a bit stressed with all that concentrating. Plus, it gives me time to plan a bit.
  • Description. Depends on the game, the tone and how important something is. I like fleshing out even basic locations with some details, but overdoing it can slow down the game. Investigative scenes tend to get more description to help highlight the nature of the scene and immediate options. Often I have extra detail in my head, but don't spill it unless someone shows an interest.
  • Balance between "what your character would do" and "acting like a ****"? I do like getting into character, but that's only one part of an enjoyable game. I try to avoid doing anything that I think would actually wreck a plot (like walk away), and occasionally check concerns with the GM. You could say, try not to do things that would make a game less interesting rather than more. Because I'm typically very enthusiastic and have a very exploratory approach to games, I try to reign myself in and avoid hogging the limelight or just the GM's attention. A character's yours, but at the same time, they only exist through your choices, and so they don't have to be a monolith; you can make different choices sometimes. I mean, sometimes I act against my habits and preferences in real life.
  • PC-on-PC violence. Never had any, except in Call of Cthulhu under the effects of magic or madness. That being said, I tend to play games that are explicitly team-based, where PCs have fairly parallel goals and interests, so I don't know how much it's down to the game structures and how much is player preference. Certainly I think I'd rather avoid it if I was GMing, unless it was specifically a competitive game, because it's one more complication to deal with and always has potential to cause OOC problems.
  • How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? I get this quite a lot. Usually, something like: "A mixture of board games and improv theatre".
  • Alchohol at the table? None of us are especially drinking types. There might have been a glass of wine once? I can't remember. Mostly it's tea. Given there's at least one teetotaller in our group, I'd be uncomfortable with anyone being conspicuously tipsy.
  • What's acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? We generally avoid running games sans players, to be honest. I don't think I'd do anything much to a playerless PC; they might be "holding their own against another kobold" in the background, or mysteriously unconscious, or just disappear from the narrative for a while. It depends on the game though - it's easier to fade someone out over a few days' casual investigation than in the middle of a shipboard battle, especially if they've got particularly relevant skills for a situation.

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