Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Zak asks, we answer

Quick questionnaire from Zak Smith:

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
The single RPG thing I'm proudest of, at least this morning, is the Yogi class I wrote for Goodman Games. It ended up in Monte Cook's Year's Best d20 the one year he did that. It's a good class -- but never got played in my game, so I dunno if it answers the question.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
September. I only run semi-regularly these days.

3. When was the last time you played?
A DCCRPG playtest last spring. This is what I thought about it.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
You're stranded in a hostile foreign city because your boss, the diplomat, was just murdered there.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Think of more things for them to do. Think of ways to interrupt what they're doing now. Roll some dice for possible use later. Play with the dog.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
What, if anything, did the players bring? What, if anything, did we order for lunch?

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Mostly no, but it's murder on my throat. I do a lot of voices.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
Eh. The most interesting thing I remember was my unrelenting quest to form a breakaway unsanctioned thieves' guild in a D&D game whose GM was unrelentingly dedicated to wilderness exploration and dungeons. Our attempts to maneuver each other in the desired direction were actually a lot of fun for everyone.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
My players will make everything less serious than I planned. That's how I play too, so I roll with it.

10. What do you do with goblins?
[insert lame joke about eating/trading/painting them]
Not much. My go-to monsters for typical fantasy games are kobolds and hobgoblins; goblins sometimes get slotted into the space traditionally held by dwarves. My nontypical fantasy monsters aren't typical.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
The time Jay's shapeshifting character (aka Form) tried to seduce Sue Storm back in the 1960s, but then Ben Grimm came up the stairs, so Form dove under the bed, and he tried to turn into the Thing himself, but he screwed up the power roll, so after some catastrophic failures he became a clear orange rocky rat, which destroyed the bed, and the mission was all screwed up, and Jay was literally rolling on the floor laughing, and then the Living Tribunal sent them somewhere else to stop the Mandarin, but instead they just teleported Mandarin's hands to Mars without the rest of this body, and then the Living Tribunal showed up and shouted "I'm tired of you!!!" and clapped the PCs out of existence...

For all its flaws, Marvel Super Heroes might be the platonic ideal of RPGs.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
The AD&D DMG. I just won it in a contest, I'd never read it before, and now I'm going to blog about how Uncle Gary and I were occasionally playing very different games.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
I mostly look at the words. Larry Elmore and the Marvel Bullpen illustrated the games I grew up on.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
If I'm running Call of Cthulhu. And occasionally beyond that.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
There was a session of Castle Ravenloft that I was glad to be done with, I guess. And a particularly disastrous attempt at Rebel Breakout (in the old West End Star Wars game) that still brings a smile to my face for all the wrong reasons. I don't run a lot of modules.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
Some kind of... room? With electric lights?

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Champions and Castle Falkenstein. Didn't have to think about it.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
Stan Lee. The aforementioned Jay. Watership Down. Tolkien, of course. Jack Vance, of course. The memory of my sister burrowing under a blanket to get away from a particularly rude shopkeeper NPC. Larry Elmore's picture of a bunch of low-level dudes posing with the tiny dragon they just killed. Ben Edlund. Half of what Greg Costikyan said. A secret desire to be nominated for a Diana Jones award someday. William Goldman. The soundtrack to the first Conan movie. Humphrey Bogart, especially in The Maltese Falcon, and also everything else from The Maltese Falcon. Keith Baker.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
Someone who enjoys being their character more than they enjoy solving puzzles. But who enjoys having fun with their friends most of all, Scarecrow.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
See question 11. All the grist goes in the same mill.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
A version of Champions that opts for fewer rules, not more, and has some random character generation options. I'd also like a big book of Random Plot Generators and Random Adventure Complicators and Random Neat NPCs -- I'm sure these things already exist, but not in a form I want at a price I'd pay.

If someone looked at how I hack it and made a game to cover it all, well, there you go.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
Not really. Some of them haven't played in years, but they still know the hobby. I've talked to a few of my kids' friends about RPGs when they had questions, I guess. They've all ended up playing RPGs, sometimes running them.

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