Some Questions Answered

The excellent noisms made a post with a bunch of questions for RPG bloggers and even though this’ll wind up being the third post on the blog, anchors aweigh!:

Book binding. (I can’t be the only person who bemoans the way new rulebooks tend to fall apart like a sheaf of dry leaves after about 5 seconds of use).

The only books of mine that are falling apart is an original Unearthed Arcana that I got second-hand and the binding was failing well before it was passed on to me. All of my modern books are in pretty good shape; this is because I generally use pretty hacked-together systems and discourage use of books for anything other than looking up prices for things.

This is a general problem as books have been more and more crappily bound as they’ve become more mass-market (and because a lot of the old book-binding glues were toxic to work with and now we have some sort of workplace protection for people (this also applies to shoes, my uncles know the exact year cut-off for when Chuck Taylor All-Stars went from “the canvas will go first” to the soles constantly flapping off)).

“Doing a voice”. How many people “do voices”? Should they? How do you get better at “doing a voice” if that’s your thing?

GM does voices (badly and with no shame). Players are welcome to do voices, generally they don’t, although apparently playing a sociopathic and extremely overconfident halfling means sounding like a munchikin with a slight Jersey accent and a meth problem.

Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions?

We have breaks if one of the kids wakes up and needs to be dealt with. There’s also mini-breaks for if one of the players has baked something for the group and it gets brought out (this happens pretty much every session because we have players who like to bake). Generally though we have a short enough window to play in and set deadlines (we can only play after the kids are in bed, people have to work tomorrow, one player takes public transportation home, etc.) that we try and have a single coherent session.

Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions?

I try for minimal while still giving some flavor. I tend towards the visual and I’d like to get more auditory and olfactory description in there without being totally over the top. Having grown up mocking the Henry James-esque room descriptions in modules like Temple of Elemental Evil, I always try and err on the side of less and since I’m trying not to be an overly-helpful DM, I will leave out fine details unless the party specifically asks about them, i.e. that weathered carving on the floor? Not gonna mention it unless you search the floor (or a “search the room throughly”, I’m not outright evil).

Where do you strike the balance between “doing what your character would do” and “acting like a dickhead”?

I try not to play characters that I know will only be fun for me and not for the rest of the party. The worst I’ll be is “obstinate” which usually leads to some heated discussions without anybody not having fun with the situation. Although if you asked the group, they’d probably say that the “weird” characters were pretty aggravating as well, although I thought the diviner who checked with the bones before every single decision was far too much fun.

PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?

Anything goes and usually doesn’t. Everybody in the group has been friends for decades and while this doesn’t preclude the raising of voices and declarations that a plan is “about as stupid as your face”, I can’t think of a single incident where a PC has willingly attacked another PC. I think there’s been last-second tackling before somebody slots the Arcane Key into Giant Pulsating Wall with Suspicious Hole; it’s never come down to actual loss of hit points though.

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? (Real life example: my friends and I were playing in the local M:tG club space. A M:tG groupie teenage goth girl came over and asked, “What are you playing?” “[We answered.]” “Sounds kind of gay.”)

I generally refer to it as “improv acting with dice” and if that doesn’t get any traction, I demur.

Alcohol at the table?

Kind of. Alcohol, yes. At the table, no. We’ve lost too many character sheets to a knocked-over beer over the years and as such, you have to place your adult beverages elsewhere. This leads to a lot of kicked-over beer; however, since everybody who hosts at this point has kids, those carpets and floors have seen much, much worse.

What’s acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?

Generally we have non-active PCs tag along, watch the donkeys, guard the door in the back, that sort of thing. They’re generally played by the DM until it comes to combat, where one of the other PCs will do double-duty (this has been enforced by the DM forgetting about the extra character in multiple combats, which although he doesn’t mind, the players apparently do). In these cases, I do my best to keep that character out of harm’s way, although not to extreme measures. (There was an instance of somebody’s character dying when they were out of the adventure, the player’s husband was taking charge during combat and lot their last hitpoint when they were knocked into a campfire and wound up burning to death before anybody could get them out. There may have been some recriminations.) We also play it by ear, as last session we had an absent player who specifically requested that his character do “at least two extremely reckless actions”, which was understandable as it fit with the character and we had just started out, so rolling up somebody new was no big loss. (He wound up surviving; no thanks to the actions the rest of the party picked for him though.)

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