Category: Actual Play

One of the things I used to develop plots for the Spirit of the Century game I ran was to steal liberally from news stories.

The second plot I ran was based on a news article describing a group of Russian climbers in the Himalayas that had mysteriously gone missing. It went on to involve the polar bear god, Moscow, Siberia, and huge glowing crystals.

The first plot, on the other hand, was based on an article about feet washing up on the Vancouver coastline. At the time there had been seven feet found. I called that story “The Nine-Foot Man” – so tragic as it is to be finding severed feet, imagine my amusement when I ran across this article today…

One of the things that frustrates me to no end is the rate of attrition when it comes to gaming over email or forum.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve definitely been guilty of it myself! I’m terrible when it comes to keeping up with forum games that aren’t on my “home” forum. I don’t mean to do it, but I’ll start forgetting to check, or Real Life happens, and the next thing I know, it will have been a month and a half of me not posting, and I’m thoroughly embarrassed by the whole thing.

In a real life gaming group, you know these people. You can call them, or see them every day or every week, and if they need to leave the game, they usually manage to convey that to someone. There’s some sense of accountability to the group.

Over email or forum play, you could be getting anyone*, and often the only way you have to contact them is via email or PM. You might not even be able to get a “read receipt” on your message. And there’s absolutely NO guarantee that they will ever respond to you again, ever – or if they do, it may not be in relation to the current game, but to some other game somewhere else and months later.

It’s on my mind right now because of the game I picked up and ran with. We started with 14 players. As of Monday night, I had 7 posts out of the 8-9 players that I expected to post. What happened to the rest?! (Well, okay, I know what happened to them: two gracefully resigned due to RL, one disappeared but I was able to contact to learn he was resigning, and the others just kind of… wandered off without saying a word.) There’s nothing I can do about it at this point except recruit new players or let the game continue until it reaches a natural end.

But it’s so annoying.

* And good grief, have I ever gotten “anyone” a few times…

Bouncing off of this post

I think my “best” freeze ever was in the first actual campaign game I played in. We were playing Changeling, and I was playing a Pooka. I’d established the character as not so much a liar as an obscurer of the truth under lots of long, rambling, circular-to-pointless exposition. We got into a situation where my character and an NPC had to run back to our patron, the Duke of Boston, to get help to rescue the rest of the party. We broke for the night when we’d reached the Duke’s house, and I spent the intervening week working up a lengthy explanation of exactly what my character was going to say.

We got to the session. It came around to me. The GM knew I’d worked up what I was going to say, and gave me a chance… but I completely froze up at that point. My mind went blank. The only thing – I mean, the only thing – to spring to mind was a single sentence:

“There is absolutely nothing wrong.”

It worked out well in the end, but that was a horrifying moment. The best part of it, honestly, was the fact that we all had a good laugh about it – then, and later.

Anyway, stories aside… I find I’m very much in the category of on-the-spot freezer. I can make decisions just fine – ask my current group about the night the GM phoned me when I was home sick and doped up on Nyquil and asked whether the paladin or the rogue was going to die – it’s just speaking that makes my blood run cold.

This is why I don’t play the Face, and why I’m not the party leader, ever. Inter-party banter, I can do. But put me in front of someone that needs speaking to that isn’t in the party, particularly some sort of official/noble, and my mind goes completely blank.

I always found it odd at the casual disdain that Wujcik had for rules. I don’t mean it as some sort of pejorative statement. One of my personal beliefs is never speak ill of the dead because they can no longer defend themselves. But he really enjoyed skirting, if not ignoring, rules.

It is what makes the rule system for Amber so frustrating. In game design, the rules must reflect the world, genre, tone, and relative level of realism the game is aiming for. The rules need to be able to account for everything that the game creator feels must be accounted for in order for the player to have the experience that the game designer wanted. That’s why I will always go back to the rules and try to find ways to justify it in the rules.

Heck, rules do more than just define a world. We cannot play games without rules. The rules define what the game ultimately is. To say “there are no rules” is to also say “there is no game.” There has to be something there in order for the game to work, at least on some level. The rules are there and agreed upon by all parties before the game begins. Without the rules, I cannot even imagine what there will be, but I know what won’t be there. The game of Amber.

-Michael Zack, Amber Diceless RPG Yahoo!Group

(Bolded emphasis mine.)

There are two reasons why this post struck me so strongly.

One, of course, is obvious: the truth of it. Wujick played fast and loose with the rules, and expects GMs of the Amber DRPG to do the same – and it’s frusterating beyond belief. He put the framework of a loose box around the world of Amber, and expected everyone to think outside of it. It relies entirely on good GM calls – and almost excludes new GMs by the very fact that it does.


The second is not so obvious, but it should be. After all, what applies to the game also applies to the Family game, right?

The rules were written before you were born, aren’t actually written down on paper anywhere, and the other players are often terrible at explaining them to you… but there are rules.