The games we play.. [RPG meta]

I have often thought of starting a more generel discussion on roleplaying in this forum. This forum is directed toward Ars Magica in particular - and as such we often discuss mechanics rather than methods. The mechanics of the rules and the setting. But I cannot recall ever having seen a thread on methods. By methods I think of how we storyguide and play at our session. What methods do we use to narrate the world of Mythic Europe?

Why not discuss this somewhere else? Well, I do know of many other RPG-forums (not least among the very vibrant local RPG community) and many of these discuss nothing but subjects of this sort. Then why attempt to start one here? First of all because I think methods and gamespecific mechanics are much more integrated and interacting than we usually give it credit for. The rules set the frames for the setting and our play - but the setting is also readable from the rules. "Just as the reader of any form of fiction enters into a sort of contract that sets the conditions for her willing suspension of disbelieve, every roleplaying game comes with a similar, implicit contract that formulates what is expected of the player to make the package work" (Joris Dormans). In other words I do not think I would find it as rewarding to discuss RPG-meta or methods with someone who plays another RPG-system or even ruleless non-system roleplaying. And even though I also play other RPGs or ruleless scenarios Ars is where my heart lies. Secondly this forum is great company, so why go somewhere else?

A thing really prompting me to getting on with this was the inspiration I had from reading this splendid article earlier today. I encourage all to read and enjoy Joris Dormans enlightened words. As a sidenote Dormans lists Ars Magica as one of his references. Even though I do not think that roleplaying should get too 'academizised', I do think it is great that the acedemia is getting a growing interest in roleplaying as a media and a social form (even if the social scientist working with this often are or have been players themselves). Just earlier this year my university had a symposium on roleplaying. The linked article is another great example of this trend of growing interest, and even if some of the things are evident to roleplayers or just "a-ha!" confirming experiences, I think it is great to see it explicitly articulated.

Some of things I think it could be interesting to discuss here, if anyone share any of those interests:

What did you think of Dorman's article? What thoughts or comments did it inspire?

What methods do you use as a SG or player? Have you experimented with different methods or do you often stick to known territory? Do your troupe have some explicit discussions or agreed methods or is it implicitly understood only?

What is it about Ars that makes you tick? Besides the setting, the rules also very much define the stories we tell - so is there anything in that regards that makes Ars agree well to you?

Dormans states that playing "roleplaying games is an experience that incorporates three important factors. It is at the same time narrative, social and ludic. All these factors are important, although different players might value them differently. Some play for the narrative pleasures, some play to be with friends, while others enjoy the game for the challenges it offers". Even if it is hard (was to me at least), which of these three factors (narrative/social/ludic) would you say is the most important to you personally? What of your troupe - where would you place them?

Are you most inclined to simple and fast rules or complex and realistic rules?
I could think of many more questions or things to add, but for now I will leave this post as is, as a possible kick off for a discussion, and see whether there is any interest in it at all.

Well I would be unreasonable if I didn't at least responded to one of my own questions. After all posing questions are often so much easier than answering.

My main roleplaying is the Ars Magica saga I'm storyguiding, but I have played many other games and alongside the Ars I am currently also playing more or less weekly in another group (atm Earthdawn). There is a huge difference in the playing style of the two groups (even though 2 of us overlap), so on this question I'll stick to the way the Ars troupe play.

The place. I always makes a point out of our surroundings. Mostly we play in my living room (with a extendable somewhat wobbly table). A certain tablecloth is used, the electrical lights are turned off and heaps of candles used in stead. A bit dampening to the immersion I do use a screen in my end of the table, to hide notes and to have ready access to the info on the back, but to diminish the feel of a bulky screen I've decorated the front to include it rather than distract from the story. On the flanks it has the page of hand gestures related to the different Arts from 3rd edition, so that the players can enjoy themselves with using them in their playing styles. In the center I put a sheet with the name of the current story and a picture of some kind (usually reproductions of authentic woodcuts) to hopefully inspire. I have often thought of dropping the screen entirely, but I like to have my notes in secret (even if my players are benevolent we can all get to caught up in the moment to not keeping the eyes of 'secret' notes - one in particular :wink:) and I like to have the relevant table ready at hand, because even though I like to use the rules I dislike the destruction of tension or immersion if having to rustle the rulebook all the time.

Playing style. Most of the troupe has SG experience (though not Ars) and experience with live RPG aswell - and this feeds in to both our 'playing' and 'acting' style. We put a lot of emphasis on the narration. As storyguide I often take good time to describe the scenery - often using it to set the theme or underline what goes on - but at other times I use very minimalistic descriptions (mostly as a conscious choice for some effect than to cut corners). As players (and me as SG with the NPCs) most of us put effort into 'acting' the characters taking "in character". The degree to which people act varies, but all conversation between characters is "in character" and we have very few 3rd person comments ("I say to you that... etc"). This is mostly only used when clarifying whether some factual information has been shared between characters over a prolonged time spent in company. I have notcied that we tend to put more energy into 'acting' the characters when playing companions or grogs (voice, tone, gestures and mimic), whereas the PC magi are often very close to the various players own voice.

Music. I use is all the time and would feel very handicaped without it. I have an evergrowing collection of music for use ingame (+100 CDs) but my collection isn't growing as fast as earlier. My challenge was that playing with the same people for years gets everyone used to the music - and I feel that this somewhat lessened the emotional cord of the music to underline the various scenes - but now I have so many that many of them dont get used for a long while, thus we get less used to them. I think of two ways to use music to underline the theme of a scene: by having a cord or feel that underlines the theme or setting and this might very well be all kinds of musical genres although I mostly prefer orchestral or classical music to rock :laughing: ; or by using music and/or sounds that add a sense of "authenticity" such as the countless modern interpretations of medieval coral or folk music. And at times I spend energy on planning what to use when or how to time a mood swing in the music with a description setting or closing a scene. Even though I in most cases always have something on in the background, at times simply cutting the music entirely can also be used to great dramatic effect.

Methods. We have experienced a bit with different methods, but not to much either. Some of the things we've worked with are "storytelling", "asides" and "second person roleplaying" - I am not sure the words are the best translations to English though.

"Storytelling" is giving the 'floor' to one of the players for an extended period. No other players participate, nor does the SG in his usual capacity. The player then goes on to describe or tell a story - often in 3rd person view rather than "in character" - of importance to the character. This could be about a scene in his childhood or as an apprentice, it could be a Twilight or a one-on-one with the love of his/her life. These are often of events very important to the character and can be ways to explore furhter or to find new sides. As a SG I often ask some questions to set it in motion - or even make a handout in advance so the player can ponder it prior to the session - but during the storytelling the rest of us do not participate, except maybe to pose a question (which might further fuel the storytelling). These things usually lasts 10 to 30 minutes for one player.

"Asides" are short and used in the midst of normal play. They are the thoughts of the character spoken aloud "in character". The might 'act' as much as he prefer but it is kept in 1. person dialogue as if speaking to oneself, except the other characters can't hear it. The players off course hear it very well, so this is a tool to play out inner dialogue and give the rest of us a picture of the characters inner thoughts. It can also be used to give other players a clue about what plausible acts or words by their character might lead the story in a very interesting direction. Such inner thoughts could also be simply explained by telling them "out of character" but it can often somewhat take the heat out of an otherwise tense scene. We have worked with different ways to show it when shifting to aside dialogue - for now we do it by moving back in the chair or stepping it back from the table.

"Second player roleplaying", is used for making scenes or whole sessions where only one character is present and the story revolves around them. The rest then take on other roles - roles that would otherwise have been NPCs. As an example when an apprentice (all the PC were apprentices then) lost his master and the covenant council discussed his fate and who to take on the rest of his apprenticeship. The apprentice was brought before the council (fearing ending up with one of them - one who had earlier discarded him and with whom he was on very bad terms) and given a possibility to speak his case and then listen to their continued discussion. The others had in advance been given a short character summit and agenda. At another session we played out a Twilight of one particular magus, where the rest took on the parts of the 'beings' met in the Twilight. At other times we have used this much more impromptu and improvised - such as a player taking on the part of the 'dark shadow' following one of the PCs (a diabolic flaw) whispering encouragement and damning suggestions in his ears.

phew - that's all for now.

One trick that I only use in Ars, is using players as impromptu extras when one player character walks off by himself for some reason. (point at unsuspecting player Thief! Stop!) We joke that every time a grog or other extra is brought into the story we know there will be some incompetent or willful complication, and "difficult underlings" makes no sense for us - they're all difficult... :wink:

Other tricks are brought over from old Star Wars rpg, and concern cinematic tricks like cut-aways (describing scenes the players have no way of knowing, like showing a brief glimpse of a marching army, or a monster stirring from its lair), switching between two parallel scenes happening at the same time, or moving-camera descriptions starting from a mountaintop overview and zooming in and through a door to a set scene.

What did you think of Dorman's article?
It seemed well researched and well written. It was very descriptive but I didn't see too much there that systemitized or made new meaning out the description.

What thoughts or comments did it inspire?
He used D20 as the example case for Grainyness!! (and that's after referencing Paranoia and WoD! I wonder how he'd react to Shadowrun or Deadlands or FUDGE, (not to mention TWERPs-Wushu- the Window etc.)

What methods do you use as a SG or player?I use in character speech when it is socially appropriate and I can pull it off. This second bit is important as I am no great voice actor and any fake accent that I do will sound rediculuous. The first bit (socially appropriate) is also important. I am personally uncomfortable handleing romantic scees in character (who wouldn't be) I also remember times when my character was clearly shouting but Erik should not have been.

What is it about Ars that makes you tick?
Two thoughts, neither of which are inspired by the article.

There is rules mechanics space to explore. When I played my first AD&D charater in 1980 he was an elven wizard, there were no proficencies or skills to be had. There wa a table in the DMG that provided a previous profession or some such but by and large I had a class, a race, and some attributes. In ars I can come up with a half dozen different ways to make a wizard who specilizes in oak trees. (Makeing characters who differentiate themselves by history , deeds and personality is essential but I really like to be able to have so much "room" to do it with game mechanics as well.)

I like how so many of the in game concepts map so very cloesly to the game mechanics. Characters really speak about arts, vis is really used in pawns, A book as defined in the game mechanics maps to a particular book that exists in the setting. In many other games these sorts of ideas are abstracted. I very much appreciarte how they are not in Ars.

Even if it is hard (was to me at least), which of these three factors (narrative/social/ludic) would you say is the most important to you personally? What of your troupe - where would you place them?

Are you trying to start a GNS debate on our happy little Ars Magica board? :open_mouth:
I guess I recieve my social rewards from gaming without any prep or worry. It just happens. The narrative aspect is what I plan for outside of game. It is the aspect that the emails to my players are trying to bolster (even if they are mechanics emails, I send them to see if I can stop a mechanics issue from popping up and screwing with the narrative. Yet I think that when I sit down at the table I'm most interested in the game aspects, I love to watch the interaction between the story and the rules.

Upon reflection I think that to split it apart would be akin to asking "what do you listen to in music, rhythm, harmony, or melody?" The obvious answer is, that if you can't absorb all three at once you're not really listening to the piece as well as you could be. The question is, by its nature, assuming an incomplete understanding and appreciation as melody, harmony and rhythm are incomplete by themselves so are the different aspects of an RPG.

Are you most inclined to simple and fast rules or complex and realistic rules?
Clearly this is a false dicotomy. I am intersted in rules that are provide good descriptions of meterial important to the story. I am interested in rules that have meaningful choices for the players (something that Dorman touches on).

You would like the rules to be sufficently intuitive that the players can learn them and the game will be filled with throwing dice and telling a story rather than looking things up and doing grade school arithmetic. In this choice: the quality of the rules and their presentation to allow the players to absorb them is much more important than the amount of detail that the rules include. So the effect of detail versus simple is much less important than the quality of the rule set.

I agree that is mainly descriptive, and I know that there are academic works moving on to a more analytic state, but acknowledging that desciption is its focus I still think that it is well done. Description after all is a fundament for terms from which to discuss.

Not sure I get this.

lol - I certianly agree. Personally I feel my barr on feeling ridiculous lowering, but I am not sure whether this is because my skills are growing worse or my self-critique harder (maybe more realistic?:smiley: ). Portraying the different familiars speech patterns is especially hard and bordering... nah.... crossing any sense of the ridiculous. I often envy the players who in a regular setting doesnt have to act as many different parts as a poor SG.

Romantic scenes are uncomfortable (real life ones can be too! :laughing: ) and having women in our troupe doesn't lessen the uncomfortability (although less challenging to play amoured with a women it can be as embarrasing). Luckily this can always be solved a bit by going completely overboard with the courtly love approach.

I concur on both. I really like that the character generation forces/inspires people to make decisions on their character in terms that impacts on the stories we are about to tell, and that it is very hard to make flat 2-dimensional Ars characters. And that the specialisation of which you speak doesn't just give those possibilities but they feed into a great magical system also enhancing the setting. And I certainly agree on the way Ars terms exists so seemlesly into use ingame.

I have been into Ars for some editions but I feel the 5th for real is realising the untapped potential of the game!

Hehe! No nothing that sinister! Dormans destinctions, albeit close, isn't either exactly the same as Ronald Edwards'. But without having to go all GNS or Big Model, I do find it interesting to have more discussions on the tools or craft of being storyguide (or player - but having the impression a majority here are SGs). It is more inspiring and down to earth to have it with people working with the same system - rather than chiming in at the more entrenched discussion elsewhere. We almost only debate rules resolution, and some plot ideas now and then, but we seldomly debate how we each make ME come alive during our session!

I guess I am all three myself, but if asked what makes me play I would probably stress the narration but with focus on the interaction. I don't play to have a social life (although the people I play with is people I really care about), as I could aswell nourish that in other relations. It is not for the 'ludos' either - although ironical enough I do put importance in the mechanics. To me personally the last two enhance the former. They both feed into creating and framing the interactivity that to me is the backdrop for an interesting roleplay-based narration.

I really like your allegory, so I kind of hate somewhat to disagree with it, but... Frankly I enjoy to "asorb all three", but (/or and?) I can rank all my worst roleplaying experiences with one of these elements partly or totally missing; at least from my perspective. And in that last bit there is a destinction - because whereas I might be able to enjoy a game with very little to none 'ludos' I could not enjoy one with very limited narration.

Well, it is a false dichotomy as they certainly are not mutual exclusive, but I see it more of a scale of sorts with two extremes. And between players there certainly often is a preference in one direction or the other. I have played a lot of Rolemaster, though never as a.. well... rolemaster, and if you were to actually use the rules as written every conflict would take ages because the rules are complex (and realistic to some). Rolemaster and other games I've played with a troupe that can easily spend 3/4 of a session on rules mongering and roll-playing. On the other hand I know many people in the local RPG community that instantly flinches and gets nausea at the very mentioning of any rules or discussion thereoff. So there is a real difference in what people prefer on a scale of how heavy the rules are.

Concerning my own preferences they are close to yours - what I would label as a middleground. Wanting complexity but not wanting it to impair or bog down the sessions. I do like transparancy and that give 'meaningful choices', and that narration and dice rather than shuffling of pages and calculations is prefered during sessions. And though many RPGs are not terrible succesful at translating complexity into readily usable and simple rules I also think this is a question of how a group and its SG(s) handles them. Preparation of sessions goes a long way in this regard, and as you also noted above to talk over rule issues with the players between games and off the actual sessions.

My place of play is quite different. I have a large room in my basement with some book cases, two floor lamps, a large table, six chairs and absolutely nothing else. It is always well lit, perhaps it is my eyes but I've never felt comfortable with mood lighting. I don't use a screen my notes are typically scrawled on a legal pad or few 3" x 5" cards. Just names, an outline of what I intend on springing on the characters written as a few bullet points so that I don't forget anything, and stats for combat if I think it is possible that we'll have a fight. My poor handwriting and tendancy to write down only a few words just to remind myself of my plan is sufficent cypher to protect them from unwary eyes.

All of my Ars books are sitting on my bookcase at the end of the room. I often stick post it notes in them to mark the sections that I expect to need to reference. I have a spare rule book and all but one of my players have a copy of the core rules so there should normally not be a reason for the players to be asking for a book (yet they often do :confused: ).

Never use it. I find it distracting. I don't listen to music that frequently in my life, I also spent five years studying music in college (but thankfully had a change of heart and became a Scientist). What this means is that I don't tune out music well. Instead I tend to tune out other things and pay atention to the music. Background distractions of any sort are things I try to remove from my game. That being saidd I 've had music work fantastically well in other people's games. Particularly a star wars game I played several years back. Music isn't bad, it's just not for me.

One thing that struck me odd that Dorman reported in his piece is the people who dressed up for the vampire game. That doesn't make sense for how my mind works while gaming. The characters don't really look anything like the players. Having a player dress up as a character would make me want to see the character as resembling the player. That's not something that I'd want to do.

lol :laughing: The oldest code in the world!!!

Ahh I see. Funny how things you pursue can as a consequence be somewhat 'deathened' of sorts to you, though I wont go on to claim that my 10 years as a lt. firefighter has diminished my use of candlelight. Although when I studied history at university I realised that it was starting to erode my lifelong passion for the subject, which made me promptly change it to my minor and now getting me stuck halfway through at a major subject I was never passionate about. A catch 22.

Concerning music in generel as a backdrop it is a delicate balance to make it not making it overpowering nor to low. And the annoying part is that sometimes when you make an extra effort for especially memorable scenes that you dont get much feedback on it. I guess it is as with succesfull movie soundtracks - when they are the most succesfull it is when people havn't noticed the music! When they've just piped into the throb and nerve of the story. I had a funny one once though. It was the warmest day of summer some years back and a friend (from the troupe) and I were stuck in my very warm studio for weeks struggling on a paper for an exam, and suddenly he got goosebumps and shivered from feeling cold. We then realised that the reason was that a CD was playing on my PC with the music I had used 2 years earlier for a particularly thrilling session taking place in the Alps with some children on the Childrens Crusade stuck in the harsh unforgiving cold. He did not reckognise the music consciously or had ever heard it since the session. Only goes to show how our brain stores info in the must amazing way.

That really cause a lot of wonder, and some laughs, with me too! I never heard of such. And although I have played a fair bit of live action roleplpaying and though I ran a tabletob Vampire campaign for 8 years I would never dream of mixing the two and dressing up for ordinary sessions! Well, some Vampire players are just... unique.

D20 isn't a particularly grainy system. The fact that he used it as an example of grainy-ness seems to indicate that he'd be really displeased with systems that were even "coarser".

So true. I've been an ars fan since I read the first edition lab chapter at gen con in 1988. The support material put out for fifth edition to date has just been incomparable. Atlas is giving me exactly the books I want. The mechanics are playtested and have just the balance between "unified mechanics to make everything easy" and "disparate mechanics to make everything unique" for my tastes. We've never had it half this good before.

You got me, I did sidestep the question :blush:

For Ars Magica it has got to be the narrative. Some of the greatest sessions I've played were all about non-violent intra-party conflict, Characters just trying to convince each other to change their positions. (not that an occasional fireball throwing session isn't also appreciated)

I kind of shirked on this one too. I like my mechanics to be descriptive. this is something that I never hear from others over at Any die roll in a game is a sort of formula that lays out the relationship between different elements in the story. Formulas comunicate on a level that mere writing or the spoken word can't. This preference to have things described with mechanics tends to push me towards more rpgs with more intricate mechanics (complex rules).

I disliked the core die mechanic from shadowrun 1,2,and 3 (a die pool success counting system with a floating target number done using six sided dice). I thought that it was clunky and bad but I couldn't help by be entraced by how many factors the game brought into play with their die mechanics, how everything that went into a cyberdeck came out in the die rolls, how a high willpower low bargains skill character differed from a low willpower high bargain skill character and so on. It was beautiful in its own way.

That being said I've had game sesions hamstrung by rules issues. I'd like Ars Magica even more if I had a group of players who knew the system as well as I do. So let me modify my previously stated preference for complex mechanics. Realizing that this is a false dichotomy and that I'm only talking about general prefrences; I like to play a game as complex as the players around the table can handle well. If the players don't know the system I'm going to vote for something very simple. If I can get the players to invest the effort to learn the rules, were playing Ars Magica.

Okay - I was unsure about what you meant with grainy. To me, a non-native speaker, I was unsure whether you meant too atomic, too elusive, too detailed or too coarse. But now I get it, though I can't make up my mind whether I agree or disagree. It depends on what one think is coarse when it comes to RPG-mechanics. To my his point is that: "The core mechanic (roll a die, add relevant modifiers, compare the result to a target number) is so basic that they leave little control to the player: either you roll high enough, or you do not.". In other words that he critizise it for not providing the players with meaningful choices when generating a charater, and that this is a challenge to a game's 'agency' (= "the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices"). That a certain amount of xp leaves you at a certain predetermined level, at which certain challenges are easy others completely impossible. You might then ask - if it is predetermined why make a character? If not feeling that your PC is personal why invest in playing him? I have some old school D&D on the shelves and I play Earthdawn on a regular basis - in Earthdawn the advancement is so constricted that I reckon that you really have a hard time distinguishing a character of one type from another character of the same type (discipline) at the same 'level' (Circle).

What I am aiming at is to say is that a RPG can be coarse in the sense of being simple, and yet still offer the players meaningfull choices in their character generation. I do not know D20 properly, but if it is coarse in the sense of not giving the players any meaningful choices in the character gen and advancement, then it certainly wouldn't please my preferences either. The same would go for any other number of games I don't know. But luckily my personal preferences doesn't infringe on the joy plentitudes of others get from playing those games, or on the revenue on the mainstream D20 publishers. Heck I even spend a lot of saturdays playing the earlier mentioned Earthdawn, but what keeps me there is the social side of meeting with my oldest RPG buddies and gals. And frankly, I have to admit :blush: that being in a straitjacket system with lack of meaningfull choices I can in a heartbeat turn into the most vicious mini-maxing Mr. Hyde of a weremunchkin :smiling_imp:


I often use formulas to get a grasp of things, but I never consciously untill I read Dormans, and now you, describe this communication of formulas. I do find it quite intriguing, but to a limit. Having played Rolemaster it does offer a mesmerising and alluring set of formulas, but it very quickly bogs down any ingame combat resolution.

I have heard a lot about Shadowrun but never tried it. I reckon it is somewhat close to Earthdawn (except not having to gather the most mixed fistfulls of dice).

Yeah! My troupe is a mixture of hard crunch players and those more or less indifferent to the rules. I havent easened this by going from 4th to 5th edition in paced strides having been somewhere inbetween untill now, where we are about to go (almost) 5th exclusively. So it is a challenge to maneuver the 'agency' of the different sort of players. And this also goes for the SG himself!!! Although being active on this forum really helps in getting the rules to heart, you cannot always have a ready answer for anything. And a well-versed SG can raise the level of any troupe, if he can give readily answers to complex actions and thus fusing complexity and uniqueness of the rules with simple and quick feedback to give the players a transparancy of the rules to empower them to make those pesky meaningfull decisions!!

And that is why we love them the most! When describing the role of grogs I often use Shakespearean theater to illustrate them. The main characters of all his plays always have some people of less nobility circling around them and the main plot. The reason for this was the fact that he (and his comtemporaries) had to entertain a very varied audience each time they performed. As such they had to cater to all, lord as well as lackey. Thus the 'grogs' in his plays. But more so they should not only be someone that that part of the audience could identify with, they should also be entertaining to the very same part of the audience - which is why they often had the crudes dialogue and immediate humour. In that light grogs easily, and with great fun and dramatic effect, becomes incompetent and difficult underlings. Or in the words of one of my players to me: "oooh please Jeppe pleasse let me play a grog, I am exhausted from all the thinking and brooding and the responsability of my magus." They really love rolling out the greatest cliches as grogs.

I like to do the same at times. It often improves the narration that the players know more than their characters (which does require a measure of trust). It is also a great way to sum op and round off a session. But sometimes I do the opposite - keeping the players out of the loop keeps them on the edge. But I aslo think that works the strongest when you vary between both.

I will have to disagree on the Rolemaster Combat.
In the years that i ran the game , we did not find combat too bogged down in detail.
Yes , there are a lot of tables to consult , but it streamlines once people are used to it.
And we did so enjoy reading the sometimes very amusing description of what a Critical Result did.

As with Ars Magica the dice-rolling conventions were fun.
It was possible for someone in Full Plate Armor (AT 20) to be disemboweled by a Housecat.
(a roll of 100 on the maximum Tiny Animal Crit , iirc)
Using the under/over-roll system ,
The Cat needs to get 95+ on 03 successive d100 rolls , and
the Knight has to roll 05/- on 03 successive d100 rolls.

(our explanation was that the cat somehow managed to crawl inside the armor ,
rather than the armour suffered from spontaneous metal fatigue)

I also played for many year. And yes the criticals can be quite fun. And I did, and still do, enjoy Rolemaster. But it is a system very impeding to the narration and the immersion. And as stated elsewehere above it is a question of how well the players know the rules - We played it for many years and several players still did not know the rules. And even so some rules were never used. But is a generel challenge to roleplaying that when the action ingame is at its fastest pace that is when the pace become the slowest because action entails rules and rolling of dice. Any immersion you had in the story very quickly suffers from this. That is true challenge; to fuse interesting and realistic rules with fast application and moderation.

I like the article, and thought it had merit mostly as a description of the activity to outsiders, yet going deeper into actual mechanics and situations than most attempts at this do.

For me, this varies by system, adventure, and evening. :smiley:
My current group consists of people who for the most part have been gaming together for 20 years. Basically we know all of the tricks, and while we enjoy them when done well, we've acknowledged that we have 90% of the fun when we use 50% of the effort.

We currently spend about half the session watching Football (as I pray for the end of the season), or talking about our weeks, telling jokes, eating dinner, etc. The other half is conducted mostly out of character, with doses of in-character events. All the time competing with TV, music, or other distractions.

Sometimes this is quite frustrating as a Storyguide, other times its nice to realise that you're with a group of friends enjoying their time together. We've had discussions and arguments about what is the right amount of off-subject chatter, and have asked for certain times to be all in character.

The last game I ran was a Buffy the Vampire Slayer game (forgetting the one off Deryni game), where we attempted to "recreate" the feel of the TV series, using pre-teaser intros, credit sequence with music and signs for the actors to hold up for credits, flashbacks, "meanwhiles" to show what was happening in the plot that the characters couldn't see, Themes for the episode, sub-plots, guest stars, etc. Frankly it was exausting. And while everybody seemed to really like it, it took so much prep time and energy I was glad when our "season" ended.

As you can see, we don't generally set the mood, and while I love music, I've found that scenes continue on too long for any conventional scoring. The guy who runs our current D&D game uses his computer to generate music and sound effects from time to time, and he does it pretty well.

We've done the live action stuff, and loved it, look back on it fondly, used extensive props (my favorite: MLK-1 and CHZ-1 homicidal robot puppets in Paranoia....Oh, Bon-R-Dud, you never saw that Fizzy Cola machine until it was too late), gotten girlfriends to play specific parts, conducted Star Ship battles from two seperate rooms with one Klingon and one Federaton group, each deciding their half of the battle, and talking (well insulting) each other through the viewscreen of a kitchen pass through.

Ah, good times.

I love the setting, and magic rules.

Some of our best role playing is in council meetings, in fact in our last one one of our Magi threw up his hands in disgust and decided he had to kick all his plans out of a window and put his effort into making us a more cohesive covenant.

I like the Troupe game idea, and Beta storyguiding. I also love the underlying idea of each session being geared to a couple specific characters, and everybody else playing a support role in this.

For me it's social, and I think it is for most of my troupe, too. There are times this changes, in D&D I'm often focused on the "nuts and bolts" of the game, what my character's special abilities are, what I will spend my advancement points on when I level, etc.

Hmmm, I must admit I like complex rules that represent real things in a clear and clever way. That being said, I know I spend too much time sometimes trying to find "the right rule" in a game session.

We do a lot of rolling in our games, mostly because of bad experiences in other games, and under other gamemasters who basically made many skills worthless. If I put points in Area Lore, I want it to matter, damn it. This can get to be a bottle neck, and sometimes we'll fast forward and I'll just ask general questions (is your Per+Alert above 4?) or just assign the information to the most likely person, or the person who has the least to do at the moment.

I also like to feel like when the it's called for, I'll forgo the rules, and make quick decisions.

Whew. My thinker hurts.

Do you need a bandaid for you thinker? I could post you one! :laughing:

Anyway - thanks for your input! I hoped more people would join this thread!

I can relate to that. Our Ars troupe is very good at focusing, though we off course also occasionally get derailed by bits of humour or everyday catching up and discussions. I would still say that at most sessions we are focused 90% of the time, excluding a break for dinner. TV and other distractions are banned however. With another group we are much less focused, and the game also tends to slide more toward 'roll-play' than roleplay and charaterplay. Those are my oldest RPG friends and the style of play really hasn't changed for a decade and in many way it is mostly the social aspect the drives it.

Yeah I know those frustrations! And the discussions too. When I started up the Ars saga I had held a SG break for more than a year, only doing occasional oneshot scenarios or at conventions, and I used the time to ponder the new saga - which where to be my first real Ars one. What I did was to gather a group of people for the Ars saga that I felt would want and would enjoy the same things (the 'dreamteam' as I affectionately called them - a very good sale pitch if nothing else). I think that succeeding in trying to play whatever you feel for can be hard to do in a group set in its ways - no matter how motivated all are for trying something out. A new formed troupe (though many of them old RPG aquintances) can make it easier, since you can promote a certain approach from the outset. In this Ars troupe we all wanted a focus on the narration and on incharacter play, and that has been our driving force.

The other games I participate in are possibility to keep seeing old friends, and I also find that I enjoy them much more even if the setting, system and style aren't my personal preferences. And that don't feel like discussing or changing a bit - it's just cozy and fine - and probably because I get my other RPG kicks elsewhere (together with the Ars-troupe).

Great work! I do know that feeling - and SG aren't always appreciated for the amount of time... :cry: On the other hand it can be rewarding in itself. I volunteer in a couple of project using live roleplaying to teach school kids about difficult subjects often hard to address in regular classes. It takes tons of work - and I will add that doing roleplaying with an educative aim (where you just can go out a on limb of follow your own interests or amusement) is very different than from as a leisure - and it is exhausting. But even though you look forward to the end, the personal gratification of a job well done can still kick in in spite of the relief of being done.

That depends on your ambitions. I often have to change music during a scene, and I often change scenes without changing the music. At other times I let a CD repeat if is fitting and the mood or setting is unchanged. I have a large collection of CDs for roleplaying use by now, and it mostly consists of soundtracks from music or theater. The great advantage is that most soundtracks are produced to strengthen a certain mood and often all the tracks are somewhat in sync, so you dont have to think in terms of individual tracks. I do sometime use a specific track for some specific effect - but mostly only when starting a scene or maybe when closing it (the rest of the time the music is very much in the background). When playing I sit at the end of the table at the stereo so I dont have to scramble around the room - when setting up games at a convention I bring a ghettoblaster and a few select CDs only, or I load the albums onto a MP3 and then connects it in place of the CDs. I would however really like to have a laptop - just to have the added ease of changing music without the juggling of CDs.


Me too! I actually think one of the bonusses on being active on this forum is how it really keens you knowledge of the rules and easy your ways. It is kind of homework for Ars SG - put in a good sense! Tricky questions make you wonder, look op stuff, and think of what you prefer in your own saga even if it hasn't or maybe never will present itself there. And all kind of secondary questions gets addressed aswell.

I don't think the quantity of rolling a lot is either good or bad - to me it is how the rolls are used. To me the rolling of dice has to very important factors in roleplaying games (those that include dice that is!).

Firstly it adds an element of chance which can take the story in a completely different direction than anyone expected. This challenges all involved and that challenge often lead us to excell (OMG - I am starting to sound like a Tytalus!) while the story gets a life of its own.

Secondly introducing an element of chance is cheap but effective trick to pass some of the tensions experienced by the characters onto the players. Watching a well produced movie, they use impressive pictures, sounds and compelling stories to draw us in to the story and out on the edge of the seat. As SG we can't aspire to do the exact same, as we dont have the tricks and means of a movie. But by introducing chance, and because of the feelings, and hard work, players have invested in their characters, the very real chance of failure dependent on the dice, it gives us just that little bit of uncertainty and adrenaline that makes the drama a tad bit more real. If we did not use dice, most would rely on the SG control of the situation and sense of feeling safe.

I can only envy those who have the luxury of having Games at home.
The Games Club i go to is very noisy at times , and having mood music is out of the question.

To me the possibility to play has always been a major importance in how Before moving to a bit larger flat I lived in a small studio and we had to spend some time moving the furniture around the small room to set up a table, at it was very annoying, but I would not have managed without that option.
There are a couple of Game Clubs in my town (RPGs are VERY popular in Denmark) but I never used any of them, but I have the impression from friends living abroad that there is a huge difference in how clubs install themselves. I think that the trend here is that the clubs might have a larger common area for board and strategic games, whereas all rolelaying is done in smaller rooms with only one group in each. I get the impression that many places abroad roleplaying in a club also has to be done in common areas, which I think is a pity if that is the case (not only the music, just the challenge to keep the focus or set a mood). Maybe someone knows more of this?

The previous Games Club i was at , had separate rooms.
We were roleplayers for the most part , with some boardgamers.
Due to outrageously high insurance charges in recent years ,
many small groups (of all kinds) in Australia had to disband.

The current club has only the one large common area with plenty of tables.
It is only really noisy on saturdays.
This is also the only time most people are free to play.
The business also closes at 8pm on saturday.

That's a pity! I am certain, even being Ex Miscellanea, that you could find plenty sympathy to declare the collective insurance industry of Oz as enemies of the Order and then have them Marched. :smiling_imp: (I only we knew how to get there...)

So you cant even play at, or through, the night? :open_mouth:

Alas , no longer can i have the joy of overnight or weekend-long gaming sessions. :frowning:
Previously , i was used to all these things.
The other Gaming store that has tabletop is open until midnight on saturday.
(the business closes at 4pm)
I will be checking it out in a week or so.
It has less space for actual gaming , but not so many card gamers to make cumulative background noise.

Send me a couple of AC - and I will speed up my work on a AC range BoAF - and stay out of the shop the first satruday after each full moon!! :smiling_imp: