“The First Amendment does not cover MERPing”

I’ve previously mentioned that over the years I’ve lost an awful lot of my gaming books. I’ve misplaced at least half of my ADnD books somewhere and of all my other systems only my Rolemaster books seem to be in any fit state and that was only because I bought new copies on Ebay a few years ago.

Anyway I was intent on rebuilding my old collection any way that I could and whilst hunting down the Dark Sun campaign books that I’d misplaced over the years I remembered a system that I bought when I was 15 years old. It was quite famous at the time but if I were to ask almost any of my fellow gamers in my home town about it they wouldn’t have a clue. That game is of course MERP or Middle Earth Role Playing to those that don’t like acronyms. A lot was said at the time about how it was a handicapped version of Rolemaster or that it was too complex for beginners but we loved it. I was never a fan of the books when I was younger purely because of the size of them but I loved the setting and the half finished movie by Ralph Bakshi.

Over the years I picked up a few modules for it but it was never a game we could get much material for what with it being in the days before the internet and online shopping. We would spend whole weekends just working through complex back stories for our characters before we even thought about starting game but we’d always hit the level limit and want to go further. As time went on we ended up moving all our characters over to rolemaster anyway and keeping the campaign setting but to this day I miss the MERP books. There was so much history in the rulebooks that was not easily digestable from the novels that even after we moved systems we still used the MERP books as our number one resource for the campaign.

I miss those books. I’m really beginning to wish I.C.E. didn’t lose the rights to make LotR games in 1999 now.

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Coming Of Age

I said it at the beginning of 2008 that I was going to seriously get my head into blogging. I meant it and despite only posting half as many entries in 2008 as I did in 2007 I’ve learned far more than I ever have on the subject.

So with that in mind 2009 is lining up to be a far more productive year. My colleagues at work have finally caught on to what I do during my lunchtimes and whilst some have been really interested others have questioned the point. It’s not as if I’m going to end up with an audience the size of say Perez Hilton or Darren Rowse over at Problogger. That’s not why I do it though. I write because I enjoy writing. I’m completely inept when it comes to written English though despite it technically being my first language. I am gradually getting better though thanks to things like this.

During my years at school I was never encouraged to write. I was told to write but thats an entirely different thing. We had the usual book reviews and structured critiques of plays but we were never encouraged to write for the sake of writing. Actually that’s a complete lie as we had a supply teacher for 3 months that did exactly that but that’s a story for another post. Other than that one teacher the only time we were allowed to just write was when it was short story time and even then we had limitations put on us. No less than 500 words and no more than 800 words put a huge limitation on anyone that wanted to just keep going with a story in their head and no matter what your chosen subject was you had to have a twist. It could be the robber getting away like Robin Hood or the unlucky gambler finally hitting big but you had to have that in. You couldn’t have more than one twist though as that wasn’t allowed and if your story didn’t have any and actually worked without it you were forced to include one or pick another subject to write about.

As the years went on I stuck to my maths, tech drawing and computing and lost almost every skill I ever gained in the English classes. So much so in fact that I had to rely on a girl in class to help me through my final round of English modules before I left school. I did the video production, editing and graphics whilst she did everything else. As it was a group mark we all passed but only just. These days though I have stories running through my heads from all the roleplay campaigns I’ve played in the past as well as those I want to play in the future. I also have the need to write on topics that interest me other than storytelling. Again it’s not my forte but I enjoy it. My wife encourages me and has gave me a huge boost by telling me exactly why she enjoys reading my writing when I put my mind to it. She says it’s like having a conversation with me as I lay things out in exactly the same way as I would when going on at length about something I care about when I talk to her. If just on person other than myself thinks that about something I’ve written then I’ve won a watch.

I don’t write for anyone but myself but I will admit to being a stat junkie but that’s more down to my years of playing computer games and having to get a higher points total than your mate. My wife has a few blogs herself so there’s a constant battle with that side of things. She has more subscribers but I get far more daily viewers… usually.

The only other piece of advice is taken from Wil Wheaton. Don’t be afraid to suck. It’s going to happen and if it does and noone reads what I have to say than so be it. As I’ve said it doesn’t get written for anyone other than myself anyway so if I get it right and people do like it then it’s something to learn from and to try and replicate in future. For every post that I get a new reader from I’ll have ten that will only ever be read by close friends and family so it’s no use it effecting my writing.

That was a bit of an aimless ramble though so I’ll leave it at that and get stuck back into tidying and coming up with a new tructure for my blogs for 2009.

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Equipment Lists

You will always find a character within the group turns themselves into a walking hardware store. Most DM’s I’ve come across in the past do not really care just how much a player carries until it gets to the stage where they are trying to walk away from a battlefield carrying the King of Jobrovia’s personal security teams power armour in their rucksack.

Rope

What has always amazed me is that they go into so much detail in what they are carrying, what it’s stats may be and how it looks that they completely ‘forget’ how heavy the item is or for that matter just how big it is.

I’ve seen players trying to go dungeoneering whilst carrying a ladder and two ten foot long poles each and then conveniently forget about them the moment they get attacked or they start off down the tiny side tunnel that leads them to the gold.
So what normal items have you found your players trying to hide upon their person or get away with carrying lots of in your campaigns?

Over the years I’ve managed to get a Top Five list of items that I cannot go a game without a player at some point trying to get away with carrying them.

  1. Ten foot pole. It’s self explanatory really. I mean how many people can walk through a forest, go into a dungeon or even wander about town with a ten foot long pole in their hand or attached to their pack and not have a great deal of difficulty? There is a reason why most players do not pick pole arms as a primary weapon and it just so happens it’s the same one as why people don’t walk about with poles!
  2. Ladder. For the exact same reason as the pole except that its even bigger. Unless your player is a window cleaner then he’s not going to be carrying one around with him where ever he goes.
  3. 50′ Rope. OK so it’s far more portable than the pole or ladder ever will be but if they claim to be carrying it on their person you need to remind them just how bulky that rope is. You also might want to remind them that 50′ isn’t really that long once you get down to it. By the time you’ve found something to tie it to as well as tie a decent knot they will be left a lot less than the initial 50′ they thought they had. They might catch on to this though and pick up an extra length of rope. That’s when you remind them again just how bulky that stuff is. It’s a whole other ballgame in sci-fi campaigns.
  4. Ammo. It doesn’t matter what your setting is at least one player will always try to find space to take 50 arrows in to combat or 1000 rounds of ammo for their assault rifle. That’s a hell of a big quiver in anyone’s books and an normal combat loadout is usually more like 250 rounds with the rest being left back at home as those bullets are heavy!
  5. Sorrell Nuts. This one is actually a personal peeve from years ago whilst I still regularly played Rolemaster. One of the players favorite healing and resurrection methods involved a sorrell nut. They were expensive and hard to come by but over the years in game one of the players learned to cultivate and grow the plant needed for this item. From what I recall the weight and size were negligible and so no figures were ever given in the rule books. This meant that the player had a stash of several thousand nuts on him at any one time and sold them off to the local townsfolk. The DM read the ruling as they were that small the player could hold as many as he wanted and the only limiting factor the player ever had was on how much gold he could carry to his tavern at night after selling them that day.

So what has been your bugbear over the years with your players equipment lists?

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System Update

With WordPress 2.7 being released last week I’ve spent the last few days updating the software and trying to update my theme to take advantage of the new features. Unfortunately it beat me but I’ve found an update from the designer that has included the comment upgrades. The downside to this is that the designer has completely rewritten the code and so it’s taking slightly longer than I hoped to get everything working.

I’ve gave up for now as over Christmas I’m doing a major overhaul of the site to fix the bits that don’t really work that well. Hopefully I’ll have the time and skillset by then to get through the new code quickly and get back to writing more posts.

*Edit – 1 hour later*
Somehow the current theme got deleted so I’m having to use the messed up version just now until I can get access to my offsite backup tomorrow. Hey ho :(

*edit – 16 hours later*

It seems my backups are useless for the personalised content so please bear with me while I cobble something together to do me until the update.

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Mupit Is A Desert Planet In A Binary Star System

Something I’ve been thinking about recently actually cropped up in a Darths & Droids strip I read recently. Why is it when it comes to roleplays set on outer space 99% of the time the planet will have one environment and probably only one or two exports? Where is the diversity?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/viewerblur/193463941/

Back in the days of my youth our games were very simplistic. If we were not using a pre-existing setting like Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms or Star Trek our locations were always very simple and generic. It was until I hit my late teens that my maps became anything other than a amoeba shaped blob with badly drawn mountains and trees on it. When it came to space settings though it got beyond a joke.

Picture the scene. You’ve spent two months playing in Waterdeep for a solid three nights a week and maybe a day at the weekend. For a nice break you decide to run a Spacemaster campaign for a few weeks. You throw together some characters with the players and pull out your binder of hand drawn and very detailed ships and get them to choose one from the ‘cheap’ bundle. And what planetary system do you let them loose in? The one who’s entire chart can be described as an A4 sheet with 20 circles drawn on it with generic environment and chief export details written beside it.

It was my one bugbear with the Firefly TV series and Star Wars is famous for it but it still drives me nuts. So why do we keep doing it? I can understand that to populate countless worlds in the same detail as you would a normal one world fantasy campaign but something has to give. The one method I’ve came up with that works is to pick two places on a planet and treat it like a city on a fantasy map. Give it enough detail to play it well and use generic work for elsewhere on the planet and over time the players will much prefer the places you’ve worked on. they’ll keep returning to those same places and this allows you to slowly add new areas on planets that attract interest. So your generic sea/space port kicks off thanks to your characters falling foul of the law and having to make a sharp exit from the gaming area you had prepared. Next time they come back to that planet you’ll have had time to expand on the new location and every bit of work you do fills the game world as a whole.

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Hello My Old Friend

I’ve neglected you for a while but I’ll be back and give you a spring clean soon enough :)

The reason why I’m here is that I noticed something last night that depressed me slightly. My son is no longer a baby. It’s quite obvious to see that when you look at him but you know what I mean. He’s the biggest in his nursery class despite being the youngest but he’s always been a baby. that was until last night. He’s came on in leaps and bounds since starting nursery but last night was the first time I looked at him and seen a wee boy staring back at me. You could see the intelligence working overtime behind those eyes of his.

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Like Toy Soldiers

The kids in my street are worrying me. I think it is a general thing worldwide but I’ve just started to notice it now in the UK. Kids just have no concept of money.

I caught the kids playing with D&D miniatures in the street last night on my way home from work. Nothing wrong with that you might think. And you’d be correct in thinking that. What gets me is how they were playing with them though.

When you buy miniatures you realise they are expensive and take care of them. If they are bought unpainted you spend hours painstakingly painting every single individual link in it’s chainmail and personalising its livery. You carry them about in a lined carry case or at worst wrap them in toilet paper and put them in amongst your dice. Even the prepainted models you look after because you know how expensive they are in the long run.

These kids were throwing them off walls, chucking stones at them and generally doing everything a child would do with toy soldiers. The obvious problem with this is these are not your £1 green plastic soldiers. They weren’t even the slightly more expensive £5 for 20 model soldiers from the local model plane/boat/tank shop. These were from the £8 D&D blister packs and they had about 50 of them all over the street in various states of disrepair.

A few of them are possibly a bit young for roleplay games but some of my stepsons friends might be about the right age to start getting into it. They already play the collectible card games so the step up might not be that big for them.

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The Dice Bag Goes Back To School

Do you know the last time I had to learn a completely new gaming system? I’m not talking about jumping between editions of games here but proper separate systems. The last time was fourteen years ago when I had to learn the WOD system after a ten hour shift and several cans of lager. Thankfully WOD is basically a very simple system but it would have been a totally different ball game if the system was any more complex.

As those that follow this blog may know I’m coming out of retirement as a gamesmaster very soon to run a Shadowrun game. Now those systems we play I know off by heart but I’ve only ever played SR once and it was as a player 18 years ago.

I’ve read through the rules several times now and its a fairly simple system but I cannot for the life of me retain any of it in my head. Have I reached my limit? Have I got to the same stage as Homer Simpson and for every new bit of information that goes in two bits fall out?

How do you go about learning a new system? Do you just go with a brute force attack and sit through your evening reading and rereading the rules and playing games regardless with the books in front of you or do you have a way of remembering the differences between systems and using those as hooks for learning the new rules?

At the moment I’m going with the brute force idea but it’s failing badly. I usually go through the character creation on my own to pick up the basics and repeatedly build the same generic character over and over again. Normally this will highlight those few areas I have trouble with or can’t quite get correct in my head but I’ve drawn up three characters so far and you’d think one was from WOD, one from D&D and the other from a completely homebrew game that is based on playing germs and living with the bleach under your kitchen sink.

I wonder if you can get any nanotech that make learning gaming rules easier?

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That Was A Practice Roll!

I was looking through my computer desk drawer the other day for my long lost dice that have never really fitted into my dice bag. At one stage I would fill my dice bag up before each game with the specific dice I might need for that session. If it was a WOD or Rolemaster game then I’d throw every D10 I owned in there where as if I was playing ADnD it would be a handpicked mix of die for whatever the occasion required. These last few years though has seen very little need for anything other than a D10 in my dice bag.

Now my kids have got to the age where they are into everything. The eldest seems to be amazed you can get dice with more than 6 sides and the babies constant mistake them for the eldest’s GoGo Crazybone’s. So as you can guess there are dice everywhere in my house these days which could be classed as a safety hazard considering how many D4 seem to have been lost.

The desire to own the worlds entire supply of dice in gamers has always confounded me. Yeah I like to have my fair share but once you get to the stage of having more than you can actually use it just gets silly. As you may be able to work out I’m not your kind of player that will sit and whittle down his bag of 80 D10 in order to find five that roll high at that particular time so that I can pass one particular skill check.

Other than OCD why do people need so many dice?

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Just A Player

So this months blog carnival is about transitions and transformation and within seconds of putting my thinking cap on I realised I’d already started writing a post that would fit in perfectly with this subject.

They say our tame GM eats dice for breakfast and that he built his home from worn out copies of the 2nd Edition Dungeon Masters Guide. But how did he get there?

I don’t really know how I got here but I seem to be the groups gamemaster for most of our campaigns. In recent years both Mark and Willie have taken their turn and ran great campaigns but most of the time it’s me that will be sitting with the rulebooks in front of me telling the story.
When i first started out playing we had a couple of players and our GM was a friend’s cousin who would run games for us when he was visiting from London. It meant we could only ever play short campaigns maybe twice a year but because of this we savoured every moment of it. That was until one day my childhood friend Joe was given a copy of the Basic Dungeons and Dragons rules. He sat up all night reading over them until he knew them off by heart and then we sat up all the next night so we could get used to the rules. As players we were used to using the Rolemaster rules even if we didn’t understand them that well at that point so something this basic was actually a huge leap forward for us. We actually understood how the game worked for a start.

For the first year my friend was the GM. It was a no brainer. The rulebooks were his so it was his game. After a while though he soon grew tired of being the one to make up the story and wanted to play a character again. We all still wanted to be a player rather than the GM so we drew straws and I lucked out and so it would be another year before I ran my first campaign. It was not long after this that we purchased our own copy of Rolemaster. I say purchased but I’m sure a few of the Companions were pilfered from the local second hand book store. One of the group insisted that if you bought a boxed set they never checked inside so they filled the main boxed set with as many Companions as they could. I could never prove it though. Anyway we soon got to the stage where we were just lining up encounters and throwing the dice rather than actually roleplaying and I go bored very quickly.

I was never one for writing stories in English class. In fact I’d usually struggle to write a 500 word short story while I was at school and my written English skills haven’t really increased over the years if I’m being perfectly honest. With this in mind you can understand that running my own games didn’t come naturally to me. I could devour a rulebook in an evening and be able to quote back to you complex combat ‘what if’s’ or spell descriptions of even the less well known spell lists but if you were to ask me to write down what I planned for a game session I’d struggle. I still do to an extent but over time I manage it. I’m perfectly happy with an idea in my head but when it comes time to formalise it for a campaign I have real trouble.

From all this came my GMing style. I improvise. I push and pull stories until they match in game and I steal ideas from everywhere. I’ll have scribbled down a bullet point list of whats going to happen or how things are laid out but that’s it. Everything else stays in my head until it’s needed. It’s better for everyone that way.

The change over from player to GM was a very smooth process for me. I’m not sure if it’s like that with everyone but once the initial worries were shoved out of the way I gradually grew to enjoy it far more than just being a player. When your part of a group of characters you can easily get stuck concentrating entirely on your character and forgetting about the players and characters around you. It’s only natural that you’ll spend more time on that one ‘person’ than on anything else and its like a child or a favourite pet. You nurture and grow them from being a few scribbles on a bit of paper to a well rounded character than is far more than just the sum of its stats and skills. As a GM however you get that exact same feeling when you look out at your party as each and every single one of them grows and your world carries on it’s day to day routine as well as growing in the same manner as the characters. That feeling of success you get after running a successful game that has everyone talking about it can never be beaten by that you might get from just taking part in it as a player.

That’s why I can never go back to being just a player. No matter how hard I find it to succesfully GM.

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