Thursday, 10 August 2017

#RPGaDAY2017: Day 10 - What part or parts of a session do you look forward to the most?

The official question for today is "where do you go for RPG reviews", and I don't really go anywhere. It's unusual for me to be specifically looking for a review; more often I'm reading a review because someone who's blog I follow is writing a review. So, check out Mark Knight's RPG Knights, Sophie Lagace's The Reef, and Matt Bramley's No Games No Glory (although he hasn't blogged for a while - I must poke him). Otherwise, it's the same answer I gave on the 3rd: social media, especially G+, especially the G+ Tabletop Roleplaying Games community.

Which makes for too short and boring an answer for my taste, so I'm going to answer one of the alternate questions instead - it's the one on the list that most excited me and I think it's a shame it didn't make the main list: it encourages discussion over what makes us passionate about our hobby, the whole point of RPGaDAY.

So, what part or parts of a session do I look forward to the most?

There's two things I particularly enjoy: one isn't very roleplay'y, and the other is deeply so.

Firstly, I love puzzle-solving. It doesn't come up very often, but I enjoy it when it does. I have a cryptic crossword app on my phone, which Husbit knows is what's absorbing me if I ever go quiet. The bit of my brain that seeks puzzles is the same bit that's why I'm damn good at my job - it's why I even have the job, because we got to do aptitude tests as part of the interview.

That being said, I'm not always good at puzzles. I have a tendency to over-complicate them (which is something I have to watch out for when I'm coding). For instance, I was playing TIME Stories with Husbit and Matt (of No Games No Glory) and his wife Em who also loves puzzles, and we got to a bit and we worked out what the answer would be by common sense, but we couldn't understand how to reach that via the puzzle. The boys made us drinks, and Em and I sat together debating and scratching our heads and sketching things and shaping things and writing random letters down until it was long past midnight and we went home and returned to finish a couple of weeks later and sat down and the boys glanced at the cards and showed us the answer...

And then we went to an escape room, The Macguffin Project (steampunk circus theme? Sold!), and Husbit called me over to the puzzle he was looking at - we need someone good at maths - and I went, oooh, algebra! Yay! Ok, so we don't have enough information here to just solve it, so we're going to have to do some simultaneous equations, which is cool - don't very often have a reason to do those any more, and with nothing to write on I have to do them in my head! Even better! Can't be lazy... oh wait. Suspect most groups aren't going to include someone who has this much fun doing something this complicated. Quick! We need someone who's bad at maths!

And sometimes the puzzle is solved really easily because you and the GM happen to have the same favourite film, so when she describes an endless corridor you instinctively describe running your hand along the wall and thus find one of the hidden side paths...

Oh, and the shiny puzzle boxes I've bought for Husbit the past couple of Christmases. Though I know how they all work, now, so we can't use them in game any more. But they're fun and if we get new ones that I don't know - you can give them to your players and let them try to figure it out, and if their character's stats suggest they'd have an easier time, you can give hints on successful rolls, or something.

That's rather more on puzzles than I intended. Story puzzles - where you pick up on and figure through the clues - are probably the most common kind. I think it's a lot harder to include physical and mental puzzles in roleplay games and it hasn't happened often, but I enjoy it when it does (except when I can solve it really easily and am informed my character wouldn't be able to even though they're meant to be better than me. That's ... frustrating).

Closed puzzle box: the others are packed in hopes of moving house

This one is still out, because (as shown here) we're using it to store power-point tokens for Deadlands

The thing I love, love, love is inter-character interaction and, particularly, relationship building. So Chrissie's relationship with her parents (as much as it upsets my GM to be so emotionally mean to me!) and realising she's in love with Steve have been highlights in Aberrant. The reason Kella is so dear to me (besides the fact she got a fantastic, high-story ending to her campaign) is that I got to interact so much with the other player characters, Kyann, Rax and Reisha. And similarly Plays in Shadows, who had her pack protecting her (albeit sometimes with exasperation). And the Buffy game that started it all for me made it easy by having us play ourselves.

I love playing with Bells. Especially in Aberrant and Exalted where it's just the two of us playing, we build these incredibly tight connections between our characters that makes them a real pleasure to play. I read a piece recently titled 6 signs your novel may be pretty damn good and while I felt it was badly written to the point of undermining its intent to provide writing advice, I thought the point on "close and intense relationships" was compelling, because that is what I enjoy playing. (I'm not claiming to be a better writer than the author of the piece, but I'm also not a professional writer nor selling writing courses.) My friend Rowan, who played Reisha in the Final Fantasy game, is the one who most often runs games for us when I revisit uni, but when he gets to play, we often end up playing characters who are close friends or connected in some way, and in the past I've played with other people where that just falls into place naturally, but it's Bells I most often get to have that with these days and I love it.

I'm going to tease you with a few more bits of our Exalted game by way of example.

We're playing twins, as I've mentioned before, and his character (Kito) is 10 minutes older than mine (Taji) - but mine's a lot bossier and more spoilt. So normally she'll take charge and expect her own way, and every now and then he'll pull rank - by pointing out the age difference. It's a small thing, but fun.

Kito had a relationship with the daughter of the ruler of one of the Satrapies. This was back when we were Heroic Mortals, acting as official representatives of the Realm. Kito kept it secret from Taji because they were only there a few days and it was his first love and I'm not sure if he was a little embarrassed or didn't know how she'd react, but either way, he didn't want her to find out and she had other things on her mind - like proving how amazing she is at diplomacy and negotiation (and, crucially, learning that she wasn't as good as she thought, but that she could learn). Fast forward a couple of years (time gets a little spongey sometimes), and they're Solars - Lawgivers - Anathema and hunted by the Realm, but Taji sees Sondar, the ruler, as a potential ally, and wants to test that, because if he proves to be an enemy then she needs to know so she can prepare to take his city: it has resources she wants. So off they go to visit, and Kito asks for a private moment with the daughter, Lady Ena. Taji thinks it's a bit odd, because she'd got on well with Ena - they're both artists - but doesn't think about it until after, when Kito returns looking harried. She asks what's up and he says nothing, so she leaves it until they're alone. And he explains that he really likes Ena but because they're Lawgivers now it wouldn't be fair on her to stay together because she'll be hunted too, and also because once they find his Steward (Lunar) mate, that'd complicate things even more. And Taji listened and understood. And we roleplayed that walking back to the car because we'd got sidetracked and timeskipped the moment of the conversation in game. (Normally we'd try not to play things away from the GM, because a lot of GM's like to know what the characters are up to, but we both wanted that conversation - we really like the sibling moments.)

The solar/lunar bond is something I'm looking forward to exploring! Part of the long term story will hopefully involve us both finding our partners. It'd be less work for the GM if there were more players who could play them, but I've got suspicions we may have already met mine, and if I'm right I love the way the GM plays him; I've become attached to that representation and anyone else would do it wrong.

That's another cool interaction, even if I'm wrong about their bond (and I might end up using wrong terminology, a friend has been lending me Sarah J Maas's A Court of Thorns and Roses series - the second is much better than the first - and there's a similar concept there). When Kito and Taji exalted, they were quickly spirited off to another Creation to be trained, before being dropped back to start taking over the world... And the first order of business was to contact allies. And the first ally Taji wanted to contact was Undying Fury. He terrifies the entire party because of his power and the way they met (they may have accidentally slaughtered his village - something Kito and Taji will never forgive themselves for) but this was the moment Taji realised what was rotten in the Realm and knew which side she was on (it was pretty cool - I look forward to telling you about it). Kito wasn't sure Fury would respond, but he was actually the first to arrive, and on seeing Taji he gave her a deep, scrutinising look - almost enough to intimidate her in its intensity. Her heart pounded and she invited him in to break the tension. She'd heard about the bond by this point and wondered, but wasn't ready to ask.

Since then, he's talked to her more than anyone else, accepted her pestering questions, carefully changed topic when she's pried to much into her previous incarnation or his mate's previous incarnation (she thinks he hasn't noticed she's noticed him doing so), and saved her life. He's also accompanied them on most adventures whether invited or not - which Kito's become used to, even if he's still a bit afraid of Fury. It's reached a point where she assumes his presence and protection the way she does Kito's. She's finally got him to talk a bit more about his mate's previous incarnation and his past, and was hurt when he talked about looking for his mate and how things would change for him when he found her - because she was, by this point, basically convinced that he was her mate, but he was using the future tense. But when she asked the mate's name, he gave her birthname, not her Exalted name, which has given Taji a quiet hope again.

I'm scared to ask out of character because a) he's a powerful ally and I don't want to presume and b) it'll be revealed in due course and I'm looking forward to the story. And Taji's scared to ask in character because she knows how deep Fury's bond was and how much his mate meant to him, and she doesn't want to insult him by trying to claim that if it isn't hers to claim. But she does wonder...

And that sort of interaction and mystery, that's what I look forward to the most!


RPGaDAY was started by Dave Chapman and is currently curated by RPG Brigade. To join in yourself, follow the questions in the graphic and blog, vlog, tweet, or otherwise share your responses with the hashtag RPGaDAY2017.

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