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Alone, restless, breakfast table in an otherwise empty room

Roleplay Stuff

Some people (mostly non-roleplayers) have odd ideas of what roleplay is. For a start they automatically assume that it's live roleplay; running about in forests and hitting each other with fake swords and stuff. Now, fun though this is, some of us find that dice rolling is definitely the way to go. Admittedly, great dangers rear their heads when dice roll under the sofa and some poor sod has to delve into the year-old sweet-wrappered depths to retrieve the errant object, but aside from that it's pretty safe stuff.

I've also found a lot of people have visions of adolescent male Metallica fans with an inclination towards physics huddled round little metal figures in the darkness of their cellars...
I hate to tell such people that they're wrong, but they are. Admittedly, the majority of roleplayers are male, but women do do it. More to the point, I only know a couple of dedicated Metallica fans: most people like almost any decent music, really. Then there's the age thing: well, I'm 23 and I've been roleplaying since I was 17: I know several people who have roleplayed (or still do) well into their 40s. As for physics, well I have to confess a certain inclination that way myself, but it's not that strong an inclination and my friends vary quite widely in their talents. The current group I play with are historians, law students and an engineer (we're not proud).

When I was a lass, there were rumours of a ban of AD&D in America: something to do with teenage suicide rates. The ban just went to show how misunderstood roleplay really is. It's no different from acting a role in a regular TV show; the longer you do it, the more the character takes on a life of its own and by the time it dies (or the series ends) it's often someone you've grown attached to. Anyone who kills themselves because of roleplay obviously has serious problems not brought on by the roleplay: more often than not the game is there to take the reality of life away.
How morbid.

Recently, I took the opportunity to investigate more thoroughly the reasons behind the 'ban' I heard about. For a start, there was no ban - only an unsuccessful cry for one to be imposed. It seems that there is quite a bit of opposition to the game in certain quarters, especially the religious ones. Certain Christians feel that roleplaying games encourage one towards Satanism and witchcraft. From the research I have done, it seems that the main reasons they think this is because of a basic misunderstanding about the structure and nature of the game - and not a difficult misconception, either. The problems seem to arise from the difference between the player and the character, and some people believe that players actually try to cast spells while playing rpgs.
I'll tell you something, I nearly laughed till I cried when I read that one.
Although it would be fun to support the 'Satan-worship' theory, I am forced to admit that roleplayers don't do anything more worrying than swear at the roleplay table, and sometimes they don't even do that. Still, it worries me that there are radical anti-roleplayers out there, claiming that there are demon-summoning incantations in the PHB and recipes for poison in many RPG guides. If there are any anti-roleplayers out there reading this, who think that roleplayers do ultimately open themselves up to eternal damnation, I advise you to read the transcript of a roleplay session that is linked at the bottom of this page, which quite accurately shows that most of the time we talk about food and which door to go through. And if you are not convinced after that, drop me a line and I'll be happy to talk to you at great length because this sort of a misunderstanding ought to be set straight.
There is a good roleplaying website run by a Mark J Young, who is a roleplayer as well as devoted Christian, which may be of interest to anyone wanting to look into this further. I will be publishing some links regarding this subject soon.

General Information About Our Roleplay Sessions:

They usually last about 5-6 hours, although this is never as long as we would like it, but with us all having early starts in the morning and the sessions not being started until the evening, it's the best we can do. We do about 8 hours if unchecked but this is really about 10 hours as breaks for food have to be inserted to ensure survival of the players. We always start with a session summary, as we get together once a week and it is almost certain that the players will have forgotten what happened from one week to the next. I prefer to make the gamers do it when I am running it, because I'd rather hear what they thought happened. I do interject with points of interest and corrections now and then, though.

A feature I have recently added - stolen off Blade, to be honest - is to write the names of the characters on a whiteboard at the beginning of the session in an order based on a feature of the character, such as Dexterity, Height or even where they're from. The players then get to guess what the list represents, and whoever gets it right wins 100 XPS for their character and the honour of selecting who does the session summary. It's also a nice way to warm up the players while they're getting their dice and pencils out.


I do GMing because I enjoy it, and I don't seem to enjoy playing nearly as much any more. It's good fun and very satisfying, even if it is far more taxing than playing ever is. Players who have never tried to run anything often underestimate how tough a job it can be - the number of times they complain about the fact that you ignored them when 5 people were talking to you can testify to that!

Everyone has a different style of GMing: I'm nice and lenient: a 'yes' DM more than a 'no' one. I believe the game is about everyone having a good time, and bend the rules accordingly. I like giving people the freedom to choose their own way, even if that means they choose to do what I want them to do. Unfortunately, this method can leads to a lot of disappointment for me as the characters are never as enthusiastic about exploring cool stuff as I want them to be.

A few years ago now I bought Everway, a Wizards of the Coast roleplaying game based around tarot instead of dice as a means of resolving situations, and this has had a profound effect on the way I GM now. I use the tarot deck whenever a dice roll cannot help me resolve a random query. For example, if someone asks me if there are any pretty barmaids in the inn, I will draw a card and see what that tells me. Sometimes there will be, sometimes there won't be and sometimes there will be altogether something else more interesting. I also use them for NPC opinions on matters such as the road going south, the weather, their wife/husband or indeed the party. I find it a fantastic improvisation tool and don't know how I have done without it all these years. For those of you who are into pure roleplay, rather than the hack-and-slash aspects of it, Everway is the game for you: it's all about character development and imagination in a way that other games have not even come close (that I have seen, at any rate). It's a good game if you have a concept to explore, rather than a burning need to play a warrior - you can be anything or anyone and the rules are more social than physical. Not a game for inexperienced players, I would say. One of the other good things about it that I have transported across is the character generation procedure: as part of the generation of a PC, the player has to answer a volley of difficult questions from the GM/other players in regard to his/her character. This provides a well-rounded character to begin with and means you can dispense with problems answering questions like 'so what were you doing before this, then?'. I know some GMs already use such methods, and I strongly approve as they improve the game and the attitude towards the game immensely.

An aspect of the game we have recently had cause to modify is languages. Due to racial diversity, the party I am running has four native tongues, at least three of which can be used to hold conversations so that some of the characters do not know what is being said. We used to say "I say to Morwen in Dwarven..." and carry on from there, which would at some point be interrupted by the player being excluded saying to me "Can I hear all of this?" and then for me to have to check which language they were speaking in if I didn't notice when they started talking. All this is a bit long-winded and just slows things down, so instead we have started using accents for each of the languages. Common is spoken with a normal accent, Elven requires a French accent and Dwarven a German accent. This means that people can avoid the lengthy explanatory blurb around the actual conversation itself and get on with it. Unfortunately, I am bad at accents and can't wait for us to find the language that requires either Somerset or Russian, which is all I can realistically manage.


Players are the best and worst thing about a game. They always bugger up your well-laid plans but without them you'd never have had to lay the plans so well in the first place...
And there are always a dissident few who try to mess up your plans (like they need to try!) without telling you what they are up to; who try to sneak things past you without you noticing. Usually they are foiled (it's hard to go along with a plan that no one is telling you), and usually they just confuse the other players who are trying to find a more obvious way out if there is one. So often they do something you never conceived of, or do the thing you would least expect them to do (no one would feather fall off the edge of a bottomless pit to see if it really is bottomless, would they?). In one session, the characters were taken to a dream world and told that what they did there might well affect the real world, but it was uncertain how. So what did the characters do? Hack innocent dreamers to death, shoot innocent ferryman and feather fall into bottomless pits!

Alternatively, they completely miss the obvious clues and run around trying to prepare for the wrong conclusion. I have a friend who was telling me about his bunch of roleplayers who, upon finding a ship with it's cargo hold filed with boxes of dirt containing long-toothed bodies, assumed they were werewolves and set about preparing for a fight with silver bullets. They even found a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula and didn't get the message. According to him, they had to find a note with 'We are Vampires' written on it before they figured it out.

But they don't always mess about with the finely-crafted scenario: they do go along with it most of the time. But we always remember the exceptions and the challenges they put us through. Like the NPCs we have to create on the spot that they then suspect of evil deeds, or the characters that go on a rampage in town when they were only meant to be picking up supplies.

Examples of the latter are wide and varied. One GM I know had to deal with a barbarian that didn't like a merchant so killed him: the town guard were called, the character was arrested and in the end he was executed. Scrap one character. Another friend of mine was running a character that could turn into a bear if he urinated in a circle and then stripped naked while standing in aforementioned circle. One time in a pub, while the other were chatting to the various denizens therein, this character decided to turn into a bear: he urinated on the patrons, then took all his clothes off and lo and behold the town guard were called. I've even had it happen to me: Angor one time decided to start a fight with the young men of the town: he challenged them by saying that they'd never be able to take him down. Naturally, they accepted, for they outnumbered him 12-1. Unfortunately, Angor was not holding by the rules of the bar brawl and attacked them with his sword. He was lucky that they ran away and he only injured one. Later the same character killed the barman of aforementioned pub. Aargh!

If you'd like to read a transcript of some of one of our sessions, I have recently managed to record about an hour of one and, with the help of Blade, succesfully got it nicely HTMLed and onto the web. It's a bit odd, and incredibly large (who would've thought we could say so much in an hour?) and it's not yet all of it (there's about 15-20 minutes yet to come) but it might give you a better idea of what I'm going on about. Or some of it at least.

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