Wednesday, November 10, 2010

YouTube Fantasy Theater: "Journey Quest"

I'm a big fan of the new trend in YouTube videos for wacky/fun, fantasy/sci-fi series--the more gonzo/zany, the better since live-action fantasy can rarely be done with a straight face. Favorites like Spellfury and Multinauts come to mind (there's another one that escapes me at the moment....). Add to these, the latest addition in the comedy/fantasy genre: JourneyQuest, about Perf, a cowardly wizard in a yellow pointy hat and his adventuring companions.

The website, as polished as it is, is surprisingly sparse on story info, but the episodes are under 10 minutes long, so it shouldn't take long to get the gist of it.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ready, set, roll your save for National Gaming Day!

So what are you doing this Saturday, November 13? Hopefully getting out to your local library and doing some gaming, because it's National Gaming Day, sponsored by the American Library Association! Board, traditional, and video gamers are invited to find a participating library in their area (link goes to list and map) to join in the event. From the ALA's website:
Libraries will offer a variety of activities throughout the day, including modern board games, traditional games (such as chess and checkers) and two national video game tournaments that will pit players at dozens of libraries against each other for bragging rights to the ultimate Rock Band and Super Smash Bros. Brawl crowns.

Although it doesn't explicitly say RPGs, I'd just like to point out that big, beautiful, blue dodecahedron in the logo. :)

North Star Games, makers of Wits and Wagers is a cosponsor and will be providing copies to libraries to let attendees try out the game. Library supplier DEMCO is also a sponsor.


/Hat tip to Boing Boing for the news!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Setting the Scene: The Votes are IN!

Here are the results to the completely unscientific poll I conducted last week regarding how DMs convey setting to their players. The results aren't too surprising given the audience of this blog is heavily weighted towards those who like homebrewing their own campaigns. (If I'm off base, please speak up!). I'm quite surprised though at a few things.

First things first, here are the results (click to enlarge):

Before we go further, it's worth noting that I let people check "all that apply" so there's not a nice round statistic here, but I think that's okay, because I'm really looking for gut reaction.

Imagery Vs. Text
From the looks of it, imagery (10) is the winner over flavor text (8), when taking both original and borrowed sources. Not surprising since imagery has such an immediate effect and is relatively easy to procure.

However, I was surprised that so many people draw/illustrate their own setting. Since I didn't specify (and likely should have) I'm guessing a few people are actually talking about sketching out maps--which is a completely fair assumption. That is, after all, the setting from a spatial perspective.

Were I to ask again, I suspect that there would be greater separation between those who draw their own maps and those who actually draw up characters, monsters, landscapes, etc.

One thing that's not surprising is the number of people who use their own flavor text. I attribute the number of people who bought/borrow text from those who might take to borrowing ideas from comics, pulp stories, and other gaming material. Again, an unscientific assumption, but then it's my unscientific poll and I'm free to misinterpret!

Video and Music
Anyway, at least one person used a movie or video--that's quite brave I'd say since it lends itself to being something so concrete in the mind's eye, but perhaps that was the intended effect. Music also made the chart, I'm guessing that given it's subjectivity, it's likely for atmosphere rather than direct, lyrical reference (but who knows).

Jumping to Conclusions
So apart from painting with broad strokes of big bucket categories, one of the things that got me curious about this question about methods is I think a question about style.

The more I thought on it, the more I wondered how GMs/refs/DMs are able to communicate their imaginings directly to their players. Since RPG games are an exercise in shared imagining, it's fascinating to me how that process takes place. I get that it's part theater, part game, etc. in a very improvisational way, but how much of the referee's imagination is understood. Phrases like "she's holding a ysalamiri so you can't do that" only work if I tell the players what a ysalamiri is or how it effects the players and/or environ. (And yes, that's a hokey example, but you get the idea.)

Sci-fi More High Maintenance?
I'm also willing to venture that sci-fi settings likely need a little more explanation since fantasy (not always, but often) has that whole mythological collective consciousness going for it, which means most people who paid attention in grade school readings are going to get the references. Science fiction can entail everything from how a tiny planet has small gravity, to try to explain how a tidally locked world might effect the local wildlife.

I'm guessing it's not too wild to guess that this is why play reports are many times dullsville. Unless all the readers have been following along, a recap post can come off as complete malarkey. A gap in understanding can lead to a deficit in interest--and hopefully, not also attention in players.

Thoughts? Rude gestures? "No duhs"?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Still Time to Vote!

Last week I posted a poll asking how DMs convey their settings to players (using pictures, music, etc.). I'd sort of wondered out-loud over at Swords of Minaria what techniques referees employ in order to help their players "get" their references during play.

Poll ends at 8:00 p.m. (CST), Monday so get your votes in now!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

POLL: How do you flavor your settings?

Evan over at Swords of Minaria, has a nice post on using actual historic locations as campaign settings rather than fashioning one. The benefit is saving yourself a lot of work in the process (other than research of course).

I myself love both (research and the creative part) but I certainly get how time consuming world building is. What got my brain ticking was Scott's comment about how he'll pull key elements out of historical and fictional sources to build something new--something, I'm guessing, most DMs and GMs do.

So here's my question: How do your players "get" the references you use to create your homebrew setting? In other words do the players recognize that you taken something from a historical culture, pulp comic book character, etc.? If you mix Vikings and Aztecs--do people get it's a mix of those two civilizations? Or is it all in the DM's brain?

Do you use illustrations? Are they borrowed of the interwebs? Are they original (yours or do you request from a friend) because there is no drawing of a high-ranking warlord with Viking/Aztec aesthetics?

Do you say "this looks like... (the rock formations at Cappadocia, a fire hydrant, a back alley in Tokyo's red light district) when describing to players?

Or are your players "up" on all your references and they just get what you're saying?

Since RPGs are a collective/shared imagination game--how obvious is it to the players about what influences are in the referee's brain? Does it take them out of the situation if you're constantly referencing things in the real world?

It boils down to this: how much work do you do at the table to bring the setting to life?

I set up a poll at the top, right column to see what's most popular, but I'd also like to entertain comments.