Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Miniatures- Barbarians

So now that you have all these monsters, you're gonna need some PCs to fight them.  
To start it all off here's a pair of barbarians. 

You can grab the figs here. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Z is for Zombie

Z is for Zombie

Out of minions? Not a problem.
Just swing by the local cemetery, and whip yourself up
a batch of the these desiccated dynamos.

You can grab your figs here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cross-Gender Characters Revisited

As I reach the end of the alphabet, I've started looking for new ideas for Monday Miniatures, so I asked for some ideas from my friends as to what they would like to see on my blog, and one of the responses was this:
"I'd like for a revisit on the cross-gender playing (from the 31 January, 2011 post). Why is it when an author pens characters in both genders it is considered normal, but if a player wants to explore a character that happens to have the opposite sex they are looked at funny? People used to show up to local cons wearing shirts that read, "I don't play with guys who play CHICKS". I still get grief from my fellow PFS players who have yet to play with either of my male characters (I have two female characters, 12th & 10th level, and two male characters, 7th & 3rd level). Next character is going to be female (largely because I found a picture I like and imagined the character from there)."

The article he is referring to is "Sizing up the Cattle" in which I discuss warning signs of potential problem players. Since I've written it, I have had several discussions on the topic, and the point which is consistently brought up is my listing cross-gender character choice as an indication of a problem player.

I don't retract my statement. The initial article was not meant to be a hard and fast set of rules to determine the worth, or ability of the player in the long term, but merely an early warning system for potential problems. Think of it as a Tornado Warning, sure you don't have to get into the cellar when you hear the siren, and nine times out of ten its probably a false alarm, but when you find yourself in the land of Oz you'll be kicking yourself for ignoring it. 

I am not opposed to people playing cross-gender characters, but it does require a level of skill and maturity that most players don't possess. Sorry, guys, but it's true. With so many factors that need to be controlled to maintain a stable game, allowing a player of unknown skill level to jump in with a potential game-breaking character does not seem like a smart move.

Now in response to the question posed. 

I believe the issue here is one of play style. PFS(Pathfinder Society) is an organized play society based in the Pathfinder world. From my experience, organized play tends to focus heavily on mechanics and less on role playing. Gender in the pathfinder system has as much impact on mechanics as eye color, which for those of you reaching for your books, is none. So, from the perspective of someone who is playing the game from a mechanical viewpoint, playing an opposing gender is unnecessary, which means you are either doing it because you are a deviant looking to live out your perverse sexual fantasies, or because you want to slow the game down with dreaded role-playing, which may lead to there not being enough time to get all the rewards the module has to offer.

As for why it is so readily acceptable to put on a female voice in fiction and a little unnerving at the game table, well that's because in a work of fiction you aren't having interactions with the female characters through the medium of your buddy Phil. This level of suspension of disbelief is difficult to achieve even when dealing with trained actors, so it is asking a lot of the other players to go along without flinching from time to time.

The rest I would put up to immaturity and the homophobia of those with little to no security in their sexuality who are afraid they may jump over the table and start making out with you because your roleplaying is the closest thing to a woman showing interest in them that they have ever experienced. Sadly, this is one of those things that falls on you to be the bigger person, if your group is uncomfortable with the concept of cross-gender characters then you may be S.O.L. and have to shelve the character till you find a group that isn't so skittish. The needs of the many, yadda, yadda, yadda....Them's the breaks

So GMs, when a player shows up with a cross-gender character, you need to understand what he/she is looking for in his gaming experience and compare that expectation to the game being offered. 

Players, remember to set your expectations to the level of the venue. You wouldn't show up to a game of Battleship and expect an existential journey exploring the futility of war, so don't show up to a module looking for a deep exploration of character. I know first-hand that it is frustrating when your only source of gaming is organized play, but the key is to scratch the itch you can, and keep looking for your game of choice.

Good Gamin'

Monday, July 4, 2011

Y is for Yellow Musk Creeper

Y is for Yellow Musk Creeper

The perfect centerpiece for your dungeon's greenhouse.
No green thumb? No problem, just supply it with a steady stream
of unsuspecting adventurers, and it will do all the work.

Grab your figs here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

He-man and one-shots

I’ve been watching too much He-man recently, (Thanks Netflix!) so, of course, I started scribbling, and those scribbles turned into a bunch of gaming figs resembling the Masters of the Universe. These figs then led me to start contemplating writing a He-Man themed one-shot. And the idea of writing a one shot got me thinking about how much I loathe one-shots.

Okay, loathe may be a bit strong, but they do rank only slightly higher in my book than Play by Post gaming and organized play modules. Personally, I’ve only played in a handful of one-shots that I found enjoyable, and that enjoyment was largely due to the players working with the DM to make the game enjoyable, go fig. But this perfect storm of great players, and a great DM is a rare recipe and one that is easily soured.

From the get-go GMs running one-shots are fighting an uphill battle. The unfortunate truth is that these games require a bit of railroading to turn 4-8 random strangers, with characters they have never seen before, into an adventuring party and still finish in the allotted time. Add in the fact that the players have little need for the usual rewards of adventuring as treasure and xp don’t matter a whole lot when your character’s career ends with the session. This leaves the GM extremely vulnerable to a player who is only there to “win” the game by derailing the story; the player’s equivalent to a TPK, and just as worthy of praise. Oops, I misspoke; replace "praise" with "a swift kick to the windpipe."

So what is a lone GM to do when on the prowl for a new set of players? What are some ways to mitigate the pitfalls of this format of game? What the hell is a one-shot?

I should probably address what a one-shot is and is not with regards to this discussion. When I say "one-shot," I am talking about a game written to be played at a convention or meetup in an alotted time slot (usually 4-6 hours in length) with a group comprised completely or mostly of strangers, using characters you created ahead of time. 

This is not how to run pre-made modules, organized play events, or even one night stand adventures with your pre-existing group.

Now that we know what I’m talking about, what can we do to set our game on a path to success?

Parody and homage

The biggest stumbling block for most one-shots is that the players are expected not only give a crap about the character they are playing, but also to understand how they fit into the world and the group dynamic. The easiest way to get past this is by using characters the players already know. 

Next time you are at a convention, take a look at the list of games and you will notice that 3/4ths of the games offered are either based around TV shows, comics, or a parody of a subculture. This is not an accident, but an evolutionary trait. Games based on pop culture are more approachable, and attract the pre-existing fan base, which leads to players who want to connect to the characters, and your game.


The one-shots that I personally remember fondly are light-hearted and have a sense of humor to them. When crammed in a room full of sweaty screaming fat beards, it is hard enough to be heard let alone develop a somber and serious mood. Keeping a game light and with an air of humor allows the players and GM to relax a bit and to ignore the occasional interruption or misstep that can occur when people are unfamiliar with a character, system, or GM style. Besides, if you are at a con, odds are good you are either drunk or hung over, which tends to tip the scales to humor by default.

Micro-Character Creation

Most systems require several hours just to generate a character and several additional hours to assemble a cohesive group, which is why pre-generated characters are a must for one-shots. There are systems out there that have boiled character creation down to a few minutes, (QAGS by Hex Games being my all time favorite, which allows players to create characters at game time) but they are extremely rules light, and not eveyone’s cup of tea.

So, what's a GM to do when he wants to run a rules heavy system, but wants to give the players the feeling of ownership of their character? You can do micro-character creation, which is where you stat out the characters as normal, but when it comes to back story you make a list of questions for the players to answer about their character's history, physiology, or psychology, including leading questions that will tie them into the plot of the story.

What is a leading question? A leading is question is where you determine the what, and let the player determine the why. For example, instead of asking a player, “What is your character afraid of?” You would ask, “Why is your character afraid of snakes?” This allows you to insert facts about the character that are required for your story to make sense, but still leave room for the player to create something personal. 

In addition to open back stories, you can save a few points from character creation to beef up areas of the character the player seems to be focusing on. If the player really wants his bartender to be a History major, well then toss those floating points into his history skill. The key is to do most of the work, but leave the finishing touches up to the players.

Like I said when I started, one-shots are not my drug of choice, but they are a necessary evil when you’re looking to expand your stable of players, so hopefully this advice will be the Novocain to your gaming root canal, and you will be back to gaming in the sandbox soon enough.

Good Gamin’