Friday, January 27, 2012

GM Questionnaire Answers

Answers for Zak:

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be? Fate cards. Players earn them by giving particularly dramatic descriptions of their actions or backgrounds and can then play them at any time to take over the game, either literally swapping places with the DM, giving the DM (highly-weighted) suggestions about what should happen next, or invoking some kind of deus-ex-machina event. It saves me some time on planning (since I can count on the players to give me ideas) and empowers the players to create the story they want to be playing.

2. When was the last time you GMed? Yesterday, lunch-time game at work.

3. When was the last time you played? Last Monday.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to. The PCs are hired onto a whaling ship, they discover that life at sea is mostly boring, and whalers have a short expected lifespan. Captain Ahab is not involved.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things? Typically roll to see whether a wandering monster shows up, a nearby monster hears them, or something else calamitous happens while they are dithering. We even has a special 10-sided die with 9 blank sides and one side that reads "FWP" (F*ck with Party). Delay of game by player's being indecisive or getting side-tracked with out-of-character table-talk usually results in someone dying.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play? Thai or Chinese take-out.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting? No, I tend to be a physically passive DM. I find the comfiest chair in the room, grab my laptop, and leave the excited jumping up and down to the players.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing? In a recent, fairly high-level 3e game, a bard armed with Timpani of Building (as the lyre of building) being kept awake and playing by the party for 5 strait days to erect the equivalent of Notre-Dame Cathedral in a week. Yes, I do play bards and I like it.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither? This depends on the players. Some comic relief is expected in any game, but some players certainly take it to extremes (such as buying thousands of livestock in place of gear and insisting on taking all of their sheep into the dungeon with them). In my experience there is at least one of these in any group of players...sometimes its best to just roll with it.

10. What do you do with goblins? Mess with PCs. Goblins in my games are highly-magical and have a tendency to explode with random magical effects when killed...

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)? Most of the religions in the world I am currently running are based on the writings of Mircea Eliade, especially on The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion and The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History. The campaign also borrows heavily from Dickens' Pickwick Papers.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now? I honestly don't know...I'm usually too caught up in what is happening in the game to notice what is going on at the table.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it? I can't think of a game book that I looked at without using it in a game shortly thereafter...

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator? I don't really think illustrations are necessary for RPGs. Like miniatures and maps, I tend to think of illustrations as crutches for the imagination. My apologies to all of you great artists out there, RPGs do include a lot of nice artwork, I just don't think its necessary for the game.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid? Regularly. I tend to be rather graphic (and anatomically accurate) in my descriptions of torture, violence, sexual encounters, nightmares, and what the various creatures do to their characters. Even the most light-hearted games I might run (My Little Pony?) include strong elements of horror.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? Currently running Way of the Wicked from Fire Mountain Games with a group from work. So far everyone agrees that it is the most fun they've had playing a pre-written adventure ever...

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in? A dimly lit room with several large comfortable couches and plenty of outlets to plug laptops into.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be? Zak's Vornheim: The Complete City Kit and the Burning Wheel Character Burner. The former gives the DM lots of tools to run a city-based adventure on the fly, with very little planning, using lots of random tables. The later allows a player to very systematically generate a character's entire background, from birth to old age (if necessary) in a very strictly planned, step-by-step manner.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be? The Book of Enoch and the Gunslinger Girl anime.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table? I like players who are willing to do their homework. Players who will sit down and do some reading and research to flesh out their characters (I expect someone playing a sorcerer to keep a copy of the Lesser Key of Solomon as handy as their Player's Handbook or character sheet or the player of a cleric to read some books on theology, philosophy, and cosmogony). The player doesn't have to be an expert on the topics that their character focuses on, but they should be able to "fake it" convincingly.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms? in 2007 I went backpacking in the mountains and rain forests of Costa Rica during the rainy season. My players have been complaining about their gear blowing away ever since.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't? I'd like to see the plays of Pam Mandigo converted into a world/adventure supplements for D&D. Since no one else is likely to do this, I might see if I can get her permission to do it myself...

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go? My wife. She used to play, but has other interests that she'd rather spend her time on. She's always a useful sounding board for plot and character ideas though (her two Masters degrees in Shakespeare probably help with that). I do occasionally get some serious eye rolls when I get to excited about a game though.