X is for XP #AtoZChallenge

+rpg_think_of_the_experience_points_teddy_bear40672854Of course X stands for XP. That’s a little bit of cheating, since it’s really “experience points.” Experience points are the method in Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons (and other games, I’m sure) for increasing in skills and abilities. We get points for killing monsters, completing quests, and various “story awards,” depending on the gamemaster.

As players, we certainly don’t want our characters to remain static (just like in real life). As we adventure, fighting monsters, taking their stuff and negotiating with non-player characters, we learn and grow. I think most roleplaying games have some method for advancement.

If you’re interested in the origins of experience points, I found a useful video on who invented them. And more than you ever wanted to know about them can be found in this thread on Role-playing Games Stack Exchange. Another thread at RPG Stack Exchange refutes what is said in the video, saying that Chainmail had no XP system, that it began with the D&D “white box.”

Wherever it came from, experience points provide a way for the gamemaster to focus players’ attention on a particular quest, and allow characters to improve their skills so they can fight meaner and more über bad guys.

Do you feel you’ve gained a level from reading this post? Share in the comments below!

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W is for Worlds #AtoZChallenge

Dresden Files RPG

Dresden Files RPG

As you can see from my previous posts, my friends and I enjoy creating worlds. Most of the time it’s not really collaborative in the broader sense; that is, the gamemaster creates the world and the players create characters that imply certain things about the world and expand its borders.

An interesting approach is that of Evil Hat’s The Dresden Files game. In it, the players collaborate with the gamemaster to create the city that’s the setting for the game. We tried it once, but most of the players were not inclined to participate, or didn’t have the time. So it ended up that the GM and I did most of the creation. Each player has the opportunity to contribute locations, people, myths and monsters to the city. Character creation in DFRPG also relies on cross-pollination. Players include previous adventures with other characters in the group, so there’s a natural reason for them to associate with one another.

Borders of Despair was another collaborative world. Scott and I worked on it together. The intention, I believe, was for us to trade off running the game and playing in the world, creating a truly shared world.

I like the idea Dave commented back on my Borders of Despair post, that of modular world planning, and CD Gallant-King’s idea of starting small and only building out immediate surroundings as the players proceed.

These days I do my world-building in my novels, but it’s always fun to see it in action in our games.

Tell me about your world-building in the comments!

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U is for Unknown Armies #AtoZChallenge

Alexandra "Lexa" Valentine

Alexandra “Lexa” Valentine

Unknown Armies may not be widely known, but it’s a fascinating—and very dark—roleplaying game that may not be to everyone’s taste. The second edition was published in 1998 by Atlas Games, designed by the multi-talented John Tynes and Greg Stolze. Players strive to become avatars, channeling powerful magical archetypes in society, such as the hunger, the demagogue or the mystic hermaphrodite. They usually begin play ignorant of the mystical world, but quickly learn that things are not as they appear.

I ran a game based on the book Flicker by Theodore Roszak using the Unknown Armies mechanics, where players were film students in the 1960s who learn the truth behind the disappearance of a “forgotten genius of the silent screen,” according to the Amazon book description. This game, where I heavily indulged in equal parts realistic props and player railroading, was not really very UA.

Not until we played it with Scott running the game did I find out how scary the game could be. I played Alexandra “Lexa” Valentine, a college student with a personality like Angel-era Cordelia (“Tact is just not saying true stuff.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 2, episode 18), who goes to live in a house with two strangers after her bank account is mysteriously drained. One of the strangers, Fiona, is a professional dominatrix. I forget who the other character was (played by my husband, who dropped out of the game after one session). Lexa finds out along the way that her aunt created clockwork creatures, and that she has the same skill. They investigate a series of very disturbing happenings (yeah, Scott had been reading Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles), which I won’t go into here for lack of space, but here’s an excerpt from Lexa’s diary:

I was in a good mood walking home, thinking about Mrs. Rosemont's friend and what she might tell me.  Maybe I wasn't quite as attentive as I should've been, but it wasn't even dark yet.  As I passed by an alley a couple of blocks from the bookstore, a hand clamped over my mouth.  I tried my tae kwan do, but it's not the same as it was in the gym.  He dragged me into the alley, fingers pressing my lips into my teeth so hard I could barely breathe.  I've always heard the expression “cold steel”–the knife blade at my throat sent an icy wave shuddering through me, and would've started my teeth chattering had they not been clenched beneath his hand.

His breath on my right ear was like the hot summer air before a lightning storm.  He rumbled in a gravelly voice, calling me filthy obscenities and threatening to use his knife on me in places my boyfriend hadn't seen.  At that point, his grip on my mouth was all that kept my knees from buckling.  Every horror or detective movie I've ever seen about women dismembered by serial killers flashed through my mind.  Through the roaring in my head I heard him demand to know where Michael [the owner of the house where we were staying] was.  He took his hand away and I protested that I hadn't seen him since last Thursday. 

Then he asked the weirdest question–if I saw Michael when he left the house that morning.

I reiterated that I hadn't seen him since Thursday, which didn't make him happy.  He ordered me to find Michael and that if we didn't, he would kill all of us in the house.

As I was realizing that he wasn't going to Jack-the-Ripper me right then and there, he shoved me in the small of the back with his foot and was gone.  The feel of his hand and the knife burned my face and neck as I picked myself up from the ground and ran.

We later found out his name. To this day, if someone mentions “Mr. Lake,” I get creeped out. It was a genuinely frightening experience.

Fascinating game, though. I think I’d like to play it again. Maybe.

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J is for Just Do It! #AtoZChallenge

I’m sure many other people chose “Just do it!” as their blog subject for the day, but probably none of them mean it in the context of gaming.

Yes, you can game and hold a baby at the same time!

Yes, you can game and hold a baby at the same time!

Before I proceed, though, I have a confession. I was really stuck on a topic for “J,” so I crowd-sourced. My brother Rick helpfully contributed with, “J is for June–the month Roger Dungeon and Darryl (not that one) Dragon sat down in their basement one fateful rainy Saturday and invented their famous fantasy game.” This revelation would come as a surprise to Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, but I felt it deserved sharing. Thanks, bro!

Scott gave me the title for this post. It’s my plea for you to try out gaming just once. I’ve greatly enjoyed hearing from those of you stopping by for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and so many of you say that you’ve never gamed (in the sense I’m talking about). So why would you take it up now? Here’s some reasons:

  1. It’s a great way to relax with friends. (If your gaming group doesn’t break out in laughter frequently, you probably need new friends.)
  2. If you’re a frustrated, wanna-be or closet actor, roleplaying is a fun way to submerge yourself into the part of another character. For an hour or two once a week, you can be the hot Asian chick wielding dual katanas or the dour yet fierce dwarf whose axe is the downfall of many a bandit or the dashing singer who doesn’t need a weapon to intimidate or charm her opponents.
  3. Through gaming you can blow off steam in a socially acceptable way, especially after a tough week at work.
  4. You can find an outlet for your creativity. Paint miniatures (more about that on M is for Minis), write an intricate backstory, draw a picture of your character, knit a scarf just like your character would wear.

I’m sure I’ve left out some reasons. If you game or have played in the past, why do you enjoy it? Comment below!

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