Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Dungeon Master, Game Master, Storyteller, Story Guide, Hand of Fate… Whatever you call the position, it’s an important and powerful one.  You are, in effect, the world.

This position, subsequently called “DM” for shortness though it does not exclusively indicate Dungeons & Dragons, is the one that is the hardest to fill.  It’s the one many people will never fill.  It’s the one that many of us end up filling permanently, never truly returning to being a normal player.  There are many ways that one becomes a DM and many ways on acts while a DM.  I will try to talk about a few brief examples I’ve seen before, and then end up with what I think is what I do (or what I’d like to think I d0).

The Rules-and-always-Rules DM:  This is DM has a counterpart in players as well.  This has been in mostly D&D from my experience, but can happen in nearly any system.  This DM, and the same type of player, know everything about the rules and how to exploit them, without breaking them, to the fullest.  They are the masters of min-maxing and power-gaming.  I am not fundamentally against this sort of play, I just don’t enjoy it.  This can, in fact, be very challenging, since it  is two parties utilizing the rules as best (and creatively) as they can to get things done.  The world is (often) as canonically close to the game setting as possible, within the rules.  All parties always understand what sorts of things to expect.

The “Rule Zero” DM:  For the games run by this DM, Rule Zero is supreme.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, “Rule Zero” is either “the DM is always right” or “the only rule is the DM’s will.”  This is a very autocratic sort of game where things cannot be expected to go according to the system’s rules.  To give an example, I had a DM in several games of D&D that would have extremely difficult puzzles.  That the DM had no solution for.  Oh, and often themselves had no solution.  After so long of floundering around trying to do things, we’d get the saving graces of Plot Device to get us out of the situation.  Some players are fine with this, but I don’t like not having any vague stability.

The “for the lulz” DM:  This is really popular among some “roleplayers.”  They do any and everything that seems funny at the time.  There is a significant, if not a majority, player base for this sort of game.

The Canon DM:  A DM who plays by the rules of the setting, but in a lore-based rather than mechanics-based way.  They know a ton about the lore and want everything to fit.  They probably even know how to make everything fit.  They don’t often look kindly on those who slaughter lore.  I will admit to occasionally being part of this category.

The Co-Author DM:  The DM who does what the players enjoy, adapting to the changing nature of the party.  They really like when players help create parts of the story, and facilitate roleplaying between players.   I try to be in this group, but I’ll admit I don’t always do it perfectly.

DMs have to do a lot of work (some more than others) to get things ready for a game session.  They generally love it when players are willing to take an active part in the story and making the world a living, breathing, evolving thing.  Players are co-writers of the narrative of the game, giving significant parts of the direction of the story.  A DM, as much as anyone else, is there to have fun.  In a very real way (though many players and DMs will disagree with me), DMs are also players.  They just happen to play the part of NPCs, of Fate, and Story.  The DM does a lot of the heavy lifting of story-planning and world logistics, but that doesn’t mean they want to bear all of the weight.  Players who create characters, towns, plots with their history and (desired) future are great to have.  Everyone gets to throw something into the world/story and everyone gets something out of it.

Game play is, to beat the dead horse, a collaborative effort.  A DM should thus think of everyone in those terms.  The DM may do more logistics than anyone else, but everyone is doing some work.  Everyone should be respected for it.  As the DM, you have to be the arbitrator for disagreements and for chance.  It is important to keep valuing player contribution.  If players aren’t feeling engaged, they’ll not enjoy the game.  Talking with players outside of group sessions is great for this.  Figure out what their past/family/dreams/hopes/aspirations are like.  Reward roleplaying even outside the session.  I give XP for character backstories (at least one page) and little bits of XP for what amounts to in-character journal entries.  Both get players thinking of the game in a broader sense.  They also provide great sources of continuing inspiration.

In effect: Foster the sorts of behavior you want by offering people carrots, and resort to the stick only in extreme cases.  Make players love to come and roleplay.  Make it so they love to talk about their characters and the sessions outside of those sessions.  Have fun with the party and the party will have fun with you.

Next week I’ll talk about gaming leadership in relation to being a friend/member in a group and being a significant other of someone in the group.  This latter will be more from the “member/member” or “GM/member” and “DM/member” side of the relationship.  Check out Cynthia’s next post for the “member/GM” and “member/DM” side.  I might talk about PAX a little next week, too.  We’ll see.

 

Always remember to roll for SAN.

~ Mr. Pacman

(William/Raparth)

 

The Other of Two Posts About PAX

Posted: March 15, 2011 by Cynthia 心雅 in Uncategorized

May I first say that Boston is a very interesting, and pretty city, though I didn’t see as much of it as I’d have liked.

The greatest things I got from PAX were:

A Lot of New Amazing Friends
A LOT of Free Stuff
New Favorite Games
—Werewolf (like mafia, but hilarious, and awesome)
—Dance Central (Like Just Dance 2, but harder/cooler)
—Portal 2 (didn’t actually play the demo, but I know it’s awesome)
—Bioshock Infinite (see above parentheses)
A Few Neat Pics (should have taken more!)
Enjoyment of Lines (Who knew?)
Some Great Info from Panelists (You were all amazing)
—Online Gaming Communities and “Real Life” Relationships
—Winning the PAX East Game
—From Background to Center Stage: Building Worlds as Main Characters
—Penny Arcade Make-a-Strip Panel
—Geek Parenting
—The “Other” Us: If We’re All Gamers, Does Our Gender Matter?
—One of Us
—Penny Arcade Q&A #2
Tasty Boston Food (tasty and pricey…)
A PAX Tshirt and Scarf
VIP at the Gamers Gone Wild Party, and an invite to a private Irrational Games Party
Many, Many Great Memories.

As per the theme of our site, I should spend a moment talking about what makes PAX cool, from a couple’s perspective, in case any of you out there were thinking it’d make a good date 🙂

Travel is always more enjoyable with a companion, of course, as is staying at a hotel. The convention itself has many many opportunities for couples (and anyone) to enjoy time together. William and I scouted out for new games to play together, and it was really nice to have someone always willing to watch after our coats and bags when the other wanted to use the restroom, take a picture, or do something else random. Some games we’re both excited about are Bioshock Infinite, and Portal 2. We’re also going to try out a couple new MMOs this summer, including Rift. I didn’t stand in line to try the 3DS, but after hearing that some people can’t see the 3D, I wish I had. I would hate to buy one only to find out that it’s basically useless to me.

William and I are starting to play WoW again this week after a long but much needed break. This brings a point to mind, however, which is… being the GMs girlfriend. If you’re interested, that will be the subject of my next post this Saturday.

~Ms. Pacman

Cynthetic

One of Two Posts About PAX

Posted: March 12, 2011 by Cynthia 心雅 in Uncategorized

This is the first of two posts I’m going to write this weekend regarding PAX East in Boston. The second will be after the farewell tomorrow so it can encompass all of the awesomeness of the weekend.

However, it is Saturday, and therefore I will be posting something. That something happens to be about PAX panels regarding relationships, parenting, and gender.

For those who are unfamiliar with PAX, here’s a brief sum-up:

– It’s a geek paradise
– It’s run by Penny Arcade
– There are two PAXes every year: One in Boston, and one in Seattle.
– It’s the best way to spend 3 days.
– About 50,000 tickets are sold (So the crowd is this plus exhibitors, special guests, panelists, crew, staff, and enforcers)
– It’s target audience is gamers and geeks of all ages and backgrounds.

Some of the exciting things for William and myself at PAX are the panels that relate (vaguely or directly) to couples.

Yesterday we attended a panel called Online Gaming Communities and “Real Life” Relationships, which isn’t couple specific, but had a lot of great points that applied to couples. These had to do with meeting people online via gaming, staying in touch by gaming together, and strengthening relationships (both platonic and otherwise) through gaming.

There is an increasing percent of people who are meeting significant others online, and a percent of that percent are meeting specifically through games. Honestly, what better way is there to meet someone then starting with a basis of common interest in a particular game? Of course, complications with this arise because it is probable that this other person doesn’t live anywhere near, and they may even be in a different country. (Luckily, it’s early enough in history that this doesn’t include the possibility of being on different planets… just continents.) Starting a relationship with a large distance between you has it’s obvious difficulties. There is, however, an added level of personal depth that you can develop with someone online that is much harder with individuals you know in “real life.” People show more of their true nature on the internet. They’re relatively anonymous, and have the opportunity to present themselves however they choose, and so people will be who they want to be, rather than how they think they ~should~ be in order to get what they want (like a certain social status, level of respect, career, etc.) Another benefit to this approach to dating, through games as opposed to dating sites, is that, although both start with common interest, gaming gives you a chance to actively participate in that interest together. It’s hard to take a “long walk on the beach” together on the internet.

On another hand, gaming can be a great tool for couples who, for one reason or another, have to spend time apart. Gaming in long-distance relationships can really help to ease the “missing you” feeling. The first example that comes to mind is high school couples whose post-graduation plans don’t send them in the same direction. Granted, a very small percentage of high school couples will even survive through the college years, but from my observation, the couples who game together do seem to outlast those who don’t. When William and I end up spending holidays or summers apart, World of Warcraft, Minecraft, and other games make the distance seem to shrink for a few hours.

Gaming also brings us closer together when we’re only a few feet apart. Interacting together in a community of in-game friends gives an opportunity to learn about other sides of people, again because people tend to let more of their true self show, protected by the relative anonymity of the internet. William is the Guild Master of our guild, The Lost Gods, on World of Warcraft. I hadn’t previously experienced his leadership capabilities, and am continually impressed and interested in getting to know this side of him.

I would love to talk more about PAX and all the exciting things that happened so far, but this post would just become irritably long, and I would likely lose readers half way through (if I haven’t already). So, as I mentioned earlier, I will post tomorrow evening after PAX ends to sum up the weekend in an few words as I can bare, because there is a lot to be said, but I don’t want to kill anyone with a text-wall.

~Ms. Pacman

Cynthetic

Why GMs Quit – Part 1 of a Leadership Series

Posted: March 10, 2011 by Raparth in Uncategorized

I’ve decided to split what I’d planned to accomplish into 4 sections:  being the  Guild Master (video games), Dungeon Master (tabletop games), Friend, and Significant Other.  The latter two I will collapse into a single week’s post, giving us 3 weeks for this “leadership series.”  It may seem like I’ve pushed back what I majorly wished to talk about until the end, but upon further mental organizing I determined that it would be best if I explain my experiences and general take-on GMing, DMing, and being a Friend/Member, all to give context and meaning to my eventual talk about being the Significant Other (whether I or Cynthia are the GM/DM/Friend).

This week we’ll deal with Guild Masters, guild officers, and why both groups generally stop wanting to do what they do.

I will first say that much of this post will be related to World of Warcraft.  That happens to be where the largest chunk of my experience is, but by no means does this mean that this discussion cannot equally apply to other games/groups/scenarios.  If you haven’t played WoW, you should still be able to understand 99% of everything here.  If you have played WoW, particularly in a guild-heavy style of play, you’ll have a much faster and intuitive understanding of how these dynamics that I’m describing work.

Mini-Disclaimer: I am not claiming universal-truth or even comprehensive-WoW truth.  I am merely describing how I think GMs, officers, and guild members should behave in relation to one another.

First thing’s first: People expect too much from their Guild Masters.  They often expect too much from their guild officers, as well.

My time in end-game WoW has been spent towards raiding.  A small, if always growing, proportion of WoW players engage in that sort of activity.  I have not, nor do I wish to be, in a raid-only and only-raid guild.  There are hardcore raiders that do the cutting-edge content, be those edges world-wide (e.g. Paragon) or server-specific (e.g. Pantheon, on my server of Fizzcrank).  I really respect their abilities, but, for me, the game is not only about the content I can burn through or the dps I output.  It’s about the social environment.  I would not, hands down, play WoW if it weren’t for the social environment.  I’ve made great friends there, some I’ve had for a couple years and have heard (via Ventrilo) me go through various ups-and-downs in my life.  This is largely due to my experienced big mind-body separation (sorry, I’m a philosophy-major, and I just think of myself as a mind, not a brain and especially not a body), but I consider some of my online friends (in and out of WoW) to be some of the best friends I have, for various reasons.  That said, I am not into the solely-social or wholly-leveling guilds.

What I look for in a guild is a combination of the two facets.  I want a guild where I can raid, with a group of other competent people, and do well.  I want a guild that’s populated with my friends (though not everyone needs to be my friend), raiding with a group of people I really get along with and mesh well, and do well together as a group. Back in the late-Wrath pre-4.0 days, I was mainly a DPSing Unholy Deathknight.  Quantitatively, I was a damned good one.  On a young, medium-low population server, I was doing 10k+ dps on dps-centric boss-fights.  It was really fun for me to be able to get really good at my class, to know it really well.  I would never, however, join a raid-only and only-raid guild, (1) because I’m not that good and (2) because it was fun when I was excelling with my friends.  We did well together.  We learned mechanics and got bosses down together.  When we were stuck on Sindragosa for … 4 months, because of various real-life complications one after another and changing membership in our 10man, it was the (I think) 4-8 of us that stuck it out together that made the suffering bearable.  And when that bitch finally died, it was a group of friends that celebrated, not just a group of really-great-gaming individuals that happened to band together.

These were the results of the raiding environment I was “raised up” in.  When it comes to raiding, I’m a middle/late Wrath baby.  I’ve watched my dad play WoW since late vanilla and raid since early Burning Crusade, so I had a great resource to learn things from before I had to enact them myself.  I was originally part of a 10man group.  We had no strictly defined leader.  To unpack that sentence: We had someone who scheduled for us, some people who knew their classes a little better, some people who knew the fights a little better, but we worked together as a team, in a very democratic way, to overcome our obstacles.  I can be a bit of a loudmouth (it must be a philosophy-major thing), so I would generally say more than some others, but I was the newbie, and I listened to people who had more experience.  That didn’t mean that my observations and insights into what seemed to be the fight mechanics went unrecognized.  We were a great 10man for figuring out strategies that worked well for us.

We had no autocrat for a leader.   I’ve seen guilds, of various sizes, that autocracy has worked well in.  When I ran 25mans, as I ended up doing, I had requests from some people to be more autocratic.  And, in that context, I admit that I needed to be.  25 voices are just too many to progress well via equal weight of voting.  As someone who vastly prefers 10man, and who plays with people who vastly prefer 10mans, I don’t like dealing with people that way.  When I’m talking to a raid or guild member, be it as the raid leader, guild master, or guild officer, I don’t think of the dialogue as an unequal one.  I am an adult having honest and fair discourse with another adult.  When someone tells me something, I respect their right to hold that opinion, take it into careful consideration, and interpret it as charitably as possible.  (Side note: the Principle of Charity is a big deal in philosophical thought.  You read someone as if they are saying something interesting, something cognizant, and something reasonable… or, at least, try to read them as nicely along those lines as possible.)

And here’s why GMs quit.  People ask to be dealt with fairly, like adults.  People also ask to be treated like children.  Favored children, but children nonetheless.  Many guild members want their officers and/or GM to find them a group of their best friends that are the most competent, a time that works excellently for themselves and that everyone else in the group can be counted on to show up at that time, and that they be asked to do nothing more than whatever they wanted to do anyway.  I do not mean to turn this into a “oh, look how Raparth can whine about people” contest or a “oh, my experiences as a GM are sooo much worse than yours,” but rather to point out the division between how I believe relations should be constructed and how others often construct them.

An autocratic leader can be counted on to make those sorts of decisions.  A democratic leader or, as I often like to term myself a “facilitator,” engages his/her subjects based on equality.  When I engage another guild member (for I, even as GM or member of the officer council, am a guild member), I do so on the basis of equality.  We are both gamers, both adults, both paying $15-a-month to get a social- and gaming-based enjoyment.  (I would like to say that, even with someone as young as 15 {and perhaps even younger} I expect this level of adult responsibility and respect.)  We come together, as a pair, as a 10man, as a 25man, as a guild, to have fun and to have that fun together.  I should not and cannot rightly expect others to be perfect, mood-less, mistake-less automata.  They should not and cannot rightly expect the same of me.  It does not matter whether I or the other is the GM; that relationship of equality remains the same.

The next time you approach a guild officer or a guild master, please remember that, despite the fact they take up extra logistical responsibilities (and may even, if they are so psychotic as myself, enjoy a lot of that logistical arcane), they are still fellow guild members and fellow players.  They, too, come to the game expecting to get their $15 worth of socializing and dragon-slaying.  We come together as friends, Azerothians, fellow gamers, to do this thing we love.  And that is: game.  We can do this in a civil, adult, responsible, and, most importantly, FUN manner.

Let’s have fun together, guys.

See you on the flipside of PAX East 2011,

~ Mr. Pacman

(William/Raparth)

Cool people, that’s who!

Penny Arcade’s awesomeness was a HUGE inspiration in starting this blog, so you better believe we will be there. I decided that this Saturday, AND next Saturday’s posts will pretty much be all about PAX. Since this is my anticipatory post, I will let you in on the events that I am definitely NOT MISSING. 😀

We’re flying down Thursday morning, and staying @ the Seaport Hotel with a friend… who’s blog is here: http://masansgaard.wordpress.com/

He’s a cool guy.

So Thursday evening we are going to the PrePAX Dinner and then I am staying at Fanuiel Hall for the PrePAX Pokécrawl (bar crawl). I might stop by PrePAX Game Night afterward if I can still stand on two feet.

Then it’s off to bed, and an early morning standing to wait to get into the BCEC. The keynote should be awesome, but I’m thinking about missing it (and watching it on youtube later) to be one of the first one’s into the expo hall. I haven’t made up my mind on panels just yet (I really need to get on that), but I think my main focus is going to be on swag and demos. I’m hoping for some awesome twitter meetups as well.

Friday night I’m going to the most Epic Party. Saturday I’ll probably go to the concert, if I don’t find another awesome party, and then Sunday I’m going to the Girls Meetup.

We aren’t leaving Boston until Monday @ 6am, so I don’t know what we’re doing Sunday night until then… we don’t have a hotel room though, so probably something sketch.

I’m going to take pics, and maybe some video to put up next Saturday, so be on the lookout for awesomeness. 😀

~Ms. Pacman

Cynthetic

The Inevitable Introduction

Posted: March 2, 2011 by Raparth in Uncategorized

Greetings, fellow citizens of the ‘Net.

I’m the far-less-chipper left-brained half of this “Just a Couple of Gamers.”  I’ve gone by the unique (insofar as I’m aware) gaming handle of “Raparth” for the last 8+ years.  Anymore, though, I also give out my first name of “William” to be a little more personable.  This post will both serve as something of a getting-to-know-me introduction and the beginnings of what should be at-least-weekly posts about my struggles, lessons, encounters, anticipations, and general experience as it pertains to gaming.  The posts will, if I turn out to have any self-control whatsoever, be put up on Wednesdays, to offset Cynthia’s Saturday posts.

I’ve been a gamer for, essentially, all my life.  I’m a solid second-generation gamer, something that I know not everyone has experienced.  Some of my earliest memories are “playing” Zork “with” my dad, though, really, it was more just looking over his shoulder and making suggestions of what we should do.  I’ve been a roleplaying gamer since just before the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons game out.  (Wikipedia tells me this was in 2000, so I’ve roleplayed since approximately age 10.)  I started doing a few years later (2003-ish), but had been doing your more general computer gaming before 10.  My life, as it is, has always included gaming.  It is an excellent way to have a little escapism, a little catharsis, or some socialization.  With my undergraduate college career nearing it’s end, truly free time is not a common luxury.  What I do have tends to go to gaming, both for the raw fun-factor and the casual social environment.  Most of my closest friends are gamers, as a result of this.  When the opportunity presents itself, gaming allows Cynthia and I to hang out in a constantly-changing environment that both entertains and challenges us.

When it comes to games, I’ve played a great many, and almost every genre I’m aware of.  Roleplaying games (from Morrowind to World of Warcraft to Dragon Age to Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines) are almost always at the top of my most-played list, but I’m a big fan of Strategy Games (Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri to Supreme Commander to Age of Mythology), First-Person Shooters (Half-Life to Prey to Serious Sam), Board Games (Arkham Horror to Settlers of Catan), and tabletop roleplaying games (Dungeons & Dragons to Mage: the Ascension to Exalted).

I tend to be a Game Master (or Dungeon Master or Storyteller or Storyguide or…) in more games than I play in, but I thoroughly enjoy both roles.  Right now I’m running a sandbox-y Mage: the Ascension (pre-Reckoning/Week of Nightmares for those of you White Wolf fans) and am going to be starting up a Scion game (a newer White Wolf game where you play literal demigods in the modern day {e.g. one Player Character is the daughter of Hermes, while another is the son of Hel}) in two weeks.  This later one Cynthia will be in as a player, which I thoroughly look forward to as it’s been nearly a year since we were in a tabletop game together.  I am also currently a player in a friend’s Shadowrun game.

As a side note, I’m the GM (in name, but we’re really an officers’ council of currently-3 members who make decisions) of a small raiding guild in World of Warcraft (on the Fizzcrank server, Alliance side, name: The Lost Gods).  We’re taking it a little slow right now, but at the end of Wrath we were easily the best raiding small guild on the server.  Cynthia and I play it often together and really enjoy the community of friends we’ve developed in it.

Well, I think that’s it for this week…  I’ll post next week more in-depth about running games and leading guilds and more about dealing alternating-ly with your significant other and the players/members in your game/guild.  I’m far from an expert, but it’s a big thing to have to deal with and I always appreciate any stories/hints/tips/feedback in relation to it.  Eh, I’ll probably talk a little about the games I’m running too.

 

“May all your hits be crits,”

~ Mr. Pacman

(William/Raparth)

 

A Brief Introduction: 

I’m Cynthia, the Ms. Pacman of this duo of game-loving nerds, and I will be signing my posts as such (or Ms. P for short perhaps). The Mr. and I (we’re not married quite yet, but will be come August) decided to start this little blog after a brief conversation about how our relationship wouldn’t be nearly as strong if we didn’t both play video (and tabletop) games. I proposed the idea after a quick google search showed that there wasn’t any sort of main stream, big name blog already doing the same thing.

What is it we’re doing, you ask?

We’re going to be writing a semi-weekly blog discussing our favorite games to play together (and why of course), events, and just generally anything nerdy we feel like talking about. In the mix, we might through a pointer/tip out here and there to other couples on how we’ve dealt with various issues (like being into different games, getting over WoW addictions, etc.)

What are our credentials?

I’m currently second in command of our university’s gaming organization, and we have both previously held office as Treasurer. What I’m saying is, that gaming is a big part of our lives. It is both my and William’s primary hobby.

What are my favorite games?

My favorite PC game is World of Warcraft. I love the community aspect the most. My favorite console game is (currently) Mass Effect 2, but Halo probably comes in close second. Mass Effect is just a great story, complimented by great game play, while I love Halo for very similar reasons to WoW. I love being able to play with my friends no matter where they are, which is great considering how far some of them have moved from our home town (including myself). My favorite paper game is Vampire: The Masquerade (No NOT because of Twilight. I don’t care for Twilight.) I like pretty much everything White Wolf has made, though, so really they’re all very close in terms of favorites. Why I choose WW’s WoD (White Wolf’s World of Darkness) over D&D most of the time is because of the roleplaying that WW requires. I like the combat style of D&D, but too often I end up in parties of people who only like combat, and never want to think any more about their character than their stats. I know that’s not all, or even most players of D&D, but typically that’s where you find those players, not in a WW game. My favorite table top (non-paper) game might just be a 3-way tie between Settlers of Catan, Risk, and Cranium. I like Settlers and Risk for their strategy and planning aspect and I love Cranium as a party game, because it is guaranteed laughs. And last and… well, probably least important… My favorite flash game is Peggle. I have an add-on in WoW that lets me play Peggle while I travel (via flight point, or autowalk) and I love it. It’s ridiculously addictive.

I’ll try to post every Saturday, to keep this relatively regular. I’m also considering embedding a vlog every couple of weeks or so. Now I’ve just got to remind William to make his first post.

Tah!

~Ms. Pacman

Cynthetic