Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Keep Your GM Happy!

Okay, so, for a second, think of your GM like a Pokemon. You need to care for it so it’ll battle for you. In this context though, “battle” means to create awesome stories for you and your gaming group. Your GM has needs and from personal experience on both sides, if a GM gets those needs fulfilled, you all will have a much more enjoyable time.


Here’s some tips to keep your GM healthy and happy:


1. If there’s a problem, nicely bring it up.
Nothing makes me happier in a game when a player brings up a problem they have with something that is going on, or why that wouldn’t make sense in the universe. It shows that you care what is going on.


2. Appreciation
Remember, GMs take time out of their lives so you can game. Often GMing takes prep before, whether it be plotting or statting out NPCs. A simple “thanks” makes GMs want to keep doing that prep. A “I really enjoyed session” is even better.


3. Player Investment in the Story
Try to get invested in the story if you can. Nothing makes me want to go home and plot more than hearing a few days later from a player a new theory they have about my game. Another player in my campaign writes down notes, so she can know exactly what happened and what her character saw last session. Not only does it help her game, but it also shows that she cares about my story.


4. Player Investment in their Character
GMs love when you go to them asking for things. It shows that you want to help create the world and make the story more interesting. You want your character’s arm ripped off? Cool. Done. You want him to end up happily ever after? Maybe. GMs love when their players are invested in their characters, because then events in-game, whether tragedy or happy events, matter to the players.


5. Build a Camaraderie and Help out Other Players
The last thing you can do to make your GM happy and want to keep GMing for you in to build a camaraderie and help out other players. Did a player make a stupid decision that might have doomed her character? Reassure her out of game. Someone can’t make session without a ride? Offer them a ride. This the most important part of making your GM happy, because helping out other players shows them that you understand that a good session is not only dependent on them, but on all the other people around you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Resources Every Player, GM, or Newbies Should Know Exist

So, today we’re taking a break from offering you all advice and making a list of the resources we think everyone GM, player, and newbie should know is out there on the internet.


Places to Learn More and Find Advice:
The most complete resource on this list. It has a list of games to try, info about the community at large and why people play RPGs, advice for newbie players, and tons of newbie GM advice.

RPG Stack Exchange
A great question and answer site for players and GMs. There are questions about system issues, in-group conflict, newbie help and more.


Useful Tools:
It’s an online dice calculator. Great for figuring out probabilities of certain dice rolls.




Great place to find NPC ideas and share your NPC ideas with others.

Great online ambient music. It’s great and they are constantly expanding the library


Books about RPG:


Videos about RPG:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Immersion: Is it Essential?

Hey everyone,

This post comes to you from a recent problem we've been having in an RP with some of the players, that they tend to get into out-of-character talking kinda easily. I don't get that annoyed by this, but my co-GM hates it.

One of the most recent things I've seen around the internet is lots of discussion surrounding whether tabletop RPG requires total immersion into the world. Though I know a lot of people, including my co-GM, who aspire for complete immersion, with everything either being in-character talking or out-of-character explanation of actions and the world around them, honestly, tabletop RPG is difficult to totally immerse oneself in. Most immersing experiences are with yourself, whether it be watching a movie or a tv show, playing a video game, or reading a book. It's about you and whatever media you are consuming and interacting with. Since, tabletop RPG is, at its core, about interacting with others, this is a bit more difficult.

Also, tabletop RPG is at its core, a game. There are rules and other players to worry about. This might be one of the reasons I find combat less interesting, as a player and a GM. We have to worry about the rules and who does what, and everything slows down while everyone tries to figure out their actions. We get pulled out the immersing world and realize, "Oh wait. It's just a game."

Not that I don't like the not immersion aspects as well. I really enjoy the asides and inside jokes that come out of any tabletop RPG, and I do not think a session of the current campaign we are running would be complete without at least one. Some of my closest friends are people who I've bonded with through tabletop RPG, when we were in and out of character.

Like almost everything else I talk about here, immersion and not immersion are things you should try to balance when you play tabletop RPG. Also, as usual, figure out what works with your group.

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If you have any questions or comments, email us at support@blackhatwriting.com

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New Campaign Syndrome?

So, recently much has been happening at Black Hat Writing. We’ve been revising and playtesting developing themes with new rules, playtesting a LARP, and playing in lots of games (but that’s sort of normal for us). In the midst of all of this gaming, with our group of gamers - which has grown beyond the size of one normal gaming group - we are being faced with multiple LARPs, campaigns and one-shots.


Just in the last week, I’ve been asked if I can join another campaign, someone thought of a new one-shot idea, the idea of a LARP, and I know of two one-shot ideas that will be played within the next couple of months. Add to the campaigns we already play and it’s a little nuts. Not that I’m not excited to play in these new games or one-shots, since they are new systems, interesting ideas, and people who haven’t GM-ed for me so far. And then I ran across a blog post about New Campaign Syndrome.

What’s New Campaign Syndrome, you ask? New Campaign Syndrome is when a gaming groups or groups constantly starts up new campaigns, while abandoning old ones, with new GMs having to work with limited time and players.

I don’t think my gaming group has this problem. Usually, we schedule our games around a type of seniority, For example, the oldest campaign has precedence followed by another campaign and then one-shots. However, is this mentality fair to new GMs? And does this allow for a mix of genres or systems?

Usually the way our gaming groups end up working is a new GM tries a one-shot and if the group likes it enough, it becomes a campaign when we have space. (One of the current campaigns I’m running, as well as two previous campaigns started this way.) We don’t switch campaigns that much, but it’s always fun when a new system is brought it to test out or a new GM tries their hand at GMing.

Honestly, the fact remains that we all don’t have endless time to roleplay. As usual with my advice, I think a balance is nice. Long campaigns are great, but variety is also wonderful. Do what fits your group.


Any thoughts? Email us at support@blackhatwriting.com

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Rules Lawyering: How Much Do Rules Really Matter?

So, if you were to ask anyone in a forum, what is the kind of RP player that is known to annoy a GM the most?; most people would say the rules lawyer. For those of you who don’t know, a rules lawyer is a player who always insists that the rules must be followed to the letter, and don’t have any problem telling the GM that they broke a rule or two (or three or four). The caricature of the rules lawyer is a know-at-all, someone who will disrupt a game and annoy the GM and all the other players, all to make sure the rules are followed. However, one unwritten rule of classic RPG is the one they ignore, the GM is always right.


Is this caricature fair? In the world of RPG, rules are how the players interact with the GM’s world and it is what keeps the GM from having too much power over the world. They are why we use dice and add the third element of chance, to GM and player decisions, which create the game and its world. Therefore, changing the rules too much can be confusing and overwhelming to a player. I was once in a game where the combining of systems and types of characters led to constant questions about whether various mechanics still applied. Our questions of “Is her werewolf pregnant if he’s technically dead?” or “Can this potion you thought up really affect us in this way?” were never explained, and it made it hard to focus on the game.


However, can we sometimes forgive GMs who deviate from the rules? Is it possible to move away from the rules if it makes the game more exciting or interesting? I think this works best when the GM makes the changes exist within the world they are creating, and there is an explanation given to the players. My co-Gm for the game I’m currently running supports this, throwing out some rules when they slow down game.


I think, as usual, how much rules matter really depends on the gaming group. And there is always a kind way to say, “You missed this thing,” and not be a stereotypical rules lawyer. Because, here’s a secret: GMs miss things all the time. We forget continuity. We forget rules. We mess up. And if you can help us out, while not embarrassing us, that’s not annoying. That’s awesome.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Motivating Players and How to Avoid Common Pitfalls

So, recently, I've been thinking about motivating players. One of the most important things I could tell a new GM is: make your players (and their characters) care about the world you are setting up. If your players don’t care about the world you have created, they won’t care about where the plot is going. Some ways to avoid this are:


1. If you are going to have NPCs, make sure your players, and their characters care about them. I’ve seen way too many GMs fall into this before, and there are easy ways to avoid it. First, if you are going to have an NPC, make sure there is plot significance to why they are there. Second, have a reason for the characters to care about the NPC. If there’s NPC conflict, what do the PCs have to do with this? As my co-GM says, the easiest way to make a PC care about an NPC is to make them do battle with them. However, NPCs can also be allies and other important parts of sessions.


2. Fit the genre, and its plot with what everyone wants. Again, it is important to know what your players want out of a game and what they are capable of. (I know this is harder in one-shots.) Don’t suddenly stick a mystery session into a political game unless you run it by your players first.

3. Remember that your PCs are the main characters in the story you are trying to tell. Think about an session of RP as a novel, a movie, a television show, or a video game for a second. If RP were any of these things, PCs would be the main characters, the ones the cameras follow, the ones who get the spotlight. They should be the one changing the world and events, whether they succeed or fail. If NPCs are getting too much spotlight or too many events are happening behind the scenes, where PCs can’t see it, that may be a problem.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mysteries and Failure

Since we talked about failure and its limits last week, I thought maybe this week we could talk about somewhere where failure might be problematic. Does failure work in the mystery genre?

I've been considering running a game based on Murder on the Orient Express (but steampunk). I ran across a post that brought up a point about the mystery genre, in RP. What happens when you fail?

Honestly, when you look at the mystery genre in other places, the main characters "win" because they solve the crime. They figure out "who done it". They save the day. However, what happens if the dice just don't roll in favor of your players? What if they don't connect clues? On the other hand, if the clues are too obvious, then there's really no challenge or game aspect to the mystery RP.

First, I think for a mystery game to work, like any genre of game, you need to have a group who enjoys working out clues. Some groups don't like puzzles. Perhaps the way to solve this problem is to have clues be found if they get through the obstacles (a difficult social situation or a physical obstacle) but make the connecting difficult.

Also, your characters don't have to solve it. Perhaps they miss something and the criminal strikes again next session. Maybe they follow a red herring. Maybe there's a time limit before someone else gets killed. I was recently in a game where our PCs ran away in horror, rather be murdered or solve the mystery. We still don't know what was going on in that house, and I think in RP that can be okay.


Like to GM in Theatre Noir? If this discussion about inspiration has spurred new ideas, perhaps you want to playtest GM Theatre Noir. 

If you have any questions or would like to help us in any way, email us at support@blackhatwriting.com.