The RPGrrl's Blog

{November 9, 2010}   Old-School TSR Ad Makes My Day

At some point during my largely unproductive Monday, someone in my twitter feed retweeted a message from Gold, the series which contained a link to this YouTube video:

An original TSR television commercial!  I love the tag line: “Products of Your Imagination.”  I guess I’ll out myself as not truly oldschool if I admit I have never seen this or any other TSR ad before.

The part of this ad that most interests me, though, is the fact that there are two girls playing at this table.  I love it!  And I’m not talking “token female gamer.”  There are two of them.  Not counting the DM, they’re 50% of the party.  They appear to be playing a cleric and a ranger (if the female cartoon characters are their counterparts.)  Now, I admit, girl-in-braids seems pretty overwhelmed, but girl-in-glasses seems cool as a cucumber.  These two are doing a great job of looking like they’re really into the game.  I take this image to heart: it’s proof that D&D was meant to be enjoyed by both guys and gals.  Always has been.  How it came to fall out of girlie graces, or perhaps how its star rose faster among the male set, will probably require more research.  Still, as a girl gamer struggling against stereotypes, this blast from the past gives me hope.  What this 30 seconds of hilarity (come on, admit it!) says to me is,”Girls are supposed to like and play this game and it’s OK if we do!”  It’s part of the original design.

Girls at your table means D&D is “working as intended.” 🙂


{October 31, 2010}   Happy All Hallow’s Read

Last weekend, Neil Gaiman suggested to his readership that, in honour of Hallowe’en, we begin a new holiday tradition: the gifting of scary books.  He says that there aren’t enough traditions that involve the giving of books, and I, for one, agree!  I’m not the only one, either.  A fan site for All Hallows Read was put up during the week, detailing the “rules” of the exchange, and providing links to articles, suggestions, and resources to help people celebrate this first official year of the new tradition.

I resolved, as soon as I heard about this on Twitter, that I would participate.  I knew I wanted to give away a scary book, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.  In the end, I decided on a multi-media approach.

Firstly, as I am out here in the blogging universe specifically to talk about RPGs, it seemed only absolutely appropriate that I give a Role-Playing Game to my readers.  I wanted to be equitable, so here is a gift for everyone: Psychosis.  This is a Role-Playing game of shifting reality played without character sheets or dice, but using tarot cards as character indicators and also to determine the outcome of challenges.  Full disclosure: I have not played this game, but I intend to; as soon as I manage to unearth my tarot deck.  Also, I did not find this game all on my own: the helpful folks over at the Free RPG Blog added it to their collection.  The link above is theirs.  I’m just pointing you folks to it 🙂

Secondly, I want to share something I love with you: audiobooks.  As a busy human being, I frequently find I don’t have the time to sit down and read a hard-copy book (or even a digital-copy book!)  There have been periods in my life where, if I wanted to get any reading done at all, it was in short snippets while grocery shopping if I thought far enough ahead to bring my iPod and earphones.  I have cultivated a great appreciation of audiobooks for that reason, in part.  (The other part is probably because I’m a rampant audiophile!)  Last spring I stumbled across the absolutely amazing, entirely volunteer efforts of Librivox.  I was instantly in love.  What they do is, through the efforts of volunteer readers and audio editors, they record the chapters of public domain books for the audio-enjoyment of the general public.  Their goal is to record every book available in the public domain.  (That’s pretty lofty!)  I’m even signed up as a volunteer, though I have not worked on any completed projects yet.  (When I do, I’ll link it in this blog, though!)  In the meantime, in honour of All Hallow’s Read, I present to you, precious readers:
The Collected Public Domain Works of H.P. Lovecraft
Ghost Story Collection 6
(chosen ’cause I like Virginia Woolf.  Yes, I admit it.)
Horror Story Collection 5
(chosen, mainly, because it does not contain repeats of any of the Lovecraft stories above, though I encourage you to download the other collections, anyway!)
Download, listen, and enjoy!

Many gifts of horror for my blogosphere friends!  I sincerely hope you enjoy these, and any other goodies you discover along the way while further investigating the Free RPG Blog or Librivox.  Ok, now I feel better.  New tradition duties discharged!  But wait, there’s more!

I’m a sucker for a blog-comment give-away.  I fully admit that I snagged this give-away idea shamelessly from Strange Ink, who is much braver than I.  Once upon a time, I embarked on a quest to read every Stephen King story I could get my hands on.  I was unsuccessful in completing the task, but very successful in learning that I really like his work, and now I at least own most of it, even if I haven’t read it all yet.  I used to consume a novel a day while working on my father’s salmon troller, and picked up anything I could find at the free book exchange bin at dock in Port Hardy (which is where I got my hands on my first Stephen King, Salem’s Lot.)  This is how I came across the most traumatizing horror novel of my young reading career: John Saul’s When the Wind Blows. I still shudder to think about it. I really gave up reading horror when I was 12, because I couldn’t handle the nightmares horror left running through my over-active imagination, and that book was the main catalyst.

So, the contest is this: comment on this post telling me the scariest book you’ve ever read.  I’ll leave this contest open for one week (until November 7th at 11:59pm Pacific Time)  and on Monday the 8th I’ll randomly select a commenter as winner. Edit Nov 8: Contest Closed. Like over at Strange Ink, the winner will receive an agreed-upon scary book (“in print, paperback or e-format, because seriously, I am a writer, not an independently wealthy book collector.”)  I’m also going to send the winner a copy of NewbieDM‘s super-popular RPG Kids game (which can be just as scary as you figure your munchkin can handle, if you want it to be!)  The winner will also get a free copy of my husband’s RPG when it’s available (we’re currently in beta testing.  Feel free to contact me for more info about it!)

Best of luck! and Happy Hallowe’en!

{October 22, 2010}   My 15 Games meme

In recent days I have seen more “15 Games in 15 Minutes” posts floating around the RPG Bloggers community than I can count, and I wanted to get in on the action.  So far as I can tell it started out on Facebook, and was, perhaps originally aimed at video games, but I wanted to list RPGs only, so I decided to make a list of 15 RPG one-off games or campaigns that I have played that have stuck with me as a player.  This list was rattled off in the requisite 15 minutes, but the blurbs about each game (so I can explain my list to you) were added outside that time frame.

I should mention that this entire list was played under a grand total of three absolute GM Gods.  I adore them all for introducing me to role-playing and providing such rich games to encourage me to stick with it!

1. Legend of the 5 Rings
I hesitate to admit this, since it sometimes feels like the “real veteran gamers” have been playing since they were 8 years old, and I most certainly have not, but this point refers to my very first ever structured, published with rules RPG.  It happened when I was 17.  (Though, with Shelly Mazzanoble, I would argue that, like most girls, I had been role-playing nearly my entire life, I just didn’t get around to using books to guide it ’til this game.)  I played an orphaned girl who was a member of the Crab Clan.  I remember investing absolutely hours creating this character, with a seriously detailed back story and could even recite little vigniettes from her life to the GM.  She had a “dark secret” that, had it been revealed, would have forced her to take her own life, and to this day the only other person who knows what it was (because he had to know, how else would he have known if it was revealed?) is the GM.  And no, I’m not telling you now!

2. Rifts (40K)
This game was played with my then-boyfriend’s crowd of friends in Victoria, BC.  They all had history together, and I was the new member in the bunch.  I played a male character (a first for me) in a campaign where everyone else was playing characters based on themselves, but the GM never got confused.  (I had to play someone else.  My “self” character was elsewhere. Read on.)  This game was loosely based on Rifts, and it began with a hoard of 40K Space Marines crossing over into our reality and decimating Sooke (where the GM lived at the time.)  Our task was to escape his house and ultimately travel up-island to meet with the other group of real-life gamers playing parallel in this campaign.  Highlights I remember: Richard successfully rolling to find leather pants, while I was absolutely denied the discovery of any gause or first aid supplies of any kind.  My character died just outside of Goldstream park, at an ice cream stand next to the highway at the beginning of the Malahat. (All those place names are real places, folks!)

3. Rifts (StarCraft)
This game was the other half of the campaign described above, except it was played in Ladysmith, BC, with my high school crowd.  We started the game out at my friend Tami’s house, in the heavily-wooded Cedar area, and our task was to somehow travel up the highway and connect with the other real-life gaming group from Victoria.  (We really intended to bring both groups together for a massive meet-up session, probably in Duncan, at some point, but the campaign never made it that far.)  The Zerg had crossed into our reality and infested my home town of Ladysmith!  We had to battle our way past the aliens using only what weapons were actually in Tami’s house.  My “self” character was in this game.  Highlights include: critically failing an attack roll weilding a sledge hammer, which resulted in me overswinging the weapon and breaking three of my own ribs when trying to beat back the aliens coming up the stairwell.  This was also my first experience with in-game chainsaws (but not my last!)

4. White Wolf Mashup
This game was under the second GM God, and was my first experience playing with him.  It was a completely impromptu game, held in darkness, many bodies lounging on the kitchen floor of my house (of all places) by candle light on New Year’s Eve.  We had no books, nor any dice, but the game was brilliant.  Players played alter egos of themselves (pre-existing characters that they were already role-playing online, for example,  mostly, though I did not) based on White Wolf rules for games such as Vampire, The Masquerade (that was, specifically, my friend Tami, playing Sinistress, a character who has endured for more than a decade now), Werewolf (Mike’s character, among others) and Changeling (yeah, I was a fairy; what’s it to ya?)  With no character sheets or stats to dictate our actions, the entire experience was role-play rich, based on vivid mental pictures of our characters and our ability to act out as they would.  “Dice rolls” were completed by stating our desired action and then picking a number, which the GM would then narrate the success or failure of based on how close that number was to a number he had in mind for each action.  I know it sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it was beautiful, really.  Memorable moments include: when Tami’s character Sinistress the vampire, without anything to do in a boss engagement, stated that she “walked over to” another character who was at that moment channelling Gaia, and critically failed at walking, resulting in her not realizing the Gaia energy was diametrically opposed to her Vampire-ness, and damaging herself to the point of entering Torpor.

5.  D&D 3.5 (Townsend)
This was the first game under the 3rd GM God; this is how I met my husband.  I was new to town, and had headed straight to the Friendly Local Gaming Store (Wizards, at the time) to find out if I could be connected to a local group.  Shaun (to whom I owe a great debt) scribbled a name and a number on a piece of paper and said, “This guy is really good.  He might be running a game you can join.”  That guy is now my husband, but at the time, he designed the amazing Townsend Campaign for me, two girl friends I brought with me, one of his guy friends and that friend’s girlfriend.  (I have a long and distinguished history of playing in girl-rich gaming groups!)  The Townsend Campaign was centered on the adventures of the three Townsend siblings: a pair of twin elves (myself and Brian) and their adopted halfling sister (Shannon.)  Memorable moments include “the pink room,” “Splash” the incredibly not-stealthy rogue, sleepless nights drawing the likeness of a golden dragon, and storing the sub-zero HP bodies of my companions in a magical, airless room (much like a bag of holding) so I could get them to a cleric.  I moved out of town before this campaign could come to an end, and Suzuki “The Mantis” Townsend (my monk) was last seen being spirited away on the back of a golden dragon.

6. D&D 3.0
We were playing this game at the same time as the Townsend Campaign, but with a different, less girl-dense, group, and at someone else’s house.  My leaving town meant that I had to be written out of this campaign (which continued after I left, unlike the Townsend Campaign, which ended when I left).  On my final night with this group, my Paladin, burdened by his heavy plate armour (failed his dex check), was crushed to death by the falling corpse of a Chimera which had been slain in the air by another party member.  The druid successfully performed a reincarnation spell to raise his fallen comrade, and my character awoke in the healthy and not-at-all-jam-like form of a Centaur.  Needless to say he had some things to work out, and parted ways with the adventuring party.

7. Changeling: The Dreaming
My first time playing with the actual rule book for Changeling, and my last time playing with the second GM God, this game was solo (just me and the GM), also conducted by candle-light, over a very long night in Portland, Oregon.  Sleep deprived and caffiene spun, we whispered this adventure to eachother until we both passed out.

8. D&D Pathfinder (Redshore)
My return to Whitehorse, evil city of mostly snow, brought me back to the fold of my 3rd and Enduring GM God.  Here I was willingly and immediately incorporated into an already-existing campaign on a continent called Redshore.  My character, once a torch-bearing NPC cleric, was adopted by the party mid dungeon-delve.  This character kept a journal (which I still have) entitled “The Great and True Adventures of Hector, God of Retribution.”  Hector was a member of our party.  I became his cleric and converted NPCs to his worship.  The fighter became his paladin.  Memorable moments include the one (and only!) time Josh threw his sword and struck the killing blow (with a critical hit) on a boss who was otherwise kicking our butts, and the door trap that disintegrated our lazy rogue.

9. D&D Pathfinder (Sasserine)
This game was run just for Josh and me, though Alex participated in one session.  He quit after his character was slain by city guards when he pulled his weapon and attacked someone within view of the guard house.  (It really was the logical thing to happen, the guards coming to arrest him for committing murder within their sight, but he resisted, and was ultimately killed, which he felt was unfair.)  That left just Josh and me (and my character’s gargoyle familiar) to figure out how to escape the quarantined garbage island in the archepelligo of Sasserine.  Memorable moments include intentionally distracting a rooftop courrier who slipped and broke his leg and then taking over his job, holding up a local pawn broker for a gem, and “nobody here but us chickens!”

10. D&D 3.5 (Creature Catchers)
I know I’m not twelve, but this adventure was really enjoyable!  It was based on the idea of collecting magical creatures and battling them, rather than the PCs fighting.  (Yes, that does remind you of something.)  I successfully caught a chameleon, served me well in my battles, and whom I dubbed “Bloodmaw.”  Josh got his butt whooped by a snake during his first attempt to capture a creature.

11. Witchcraft (Nick & Lelani)
This was the most role-play rich game I’d experienced since that night on my kitchen floor.  Our first session included exactly one die roll, which resulted in the incredibly satisfying demise of the bad guy (who had been abducting and ritually sacrificing children) at the business end of a chainsaw.  That session was easily four hours long.  I loved this campaign and these characters so much I almost ache because we never finished the campaign.  Josh quit gaming and left us in the lurch.

12. D&D 4e (Count’s Carnival)
This was another campaign that died on the vine when Josh quit gaming.  The world was magic-limited in that most fantastic creatures were rare and hard to find, most magical races had been hunted or bred out and so were also rare, and it was hard to find magic users at all.  I managed to come up with a plausible back story and was rewarded with the opportunity to play a half-orc who started out with a name, but later came to be known only by his nickname: Thug.  Thug was extremely distrustful of “tricksy magic users.”  His travelling companion held absolute sway over him, and was the only magic user he ever trusted.  The purpose of the campaign was to travel the world to collect a carnival full of fantastic creatures for the Count to keep as his own personal menagerie.  Memorable moments include the completely unscripted fight with an owl-bear (the GM hadn’t intended for us to engage it), and continually knocking said owl-bear unconscious in order to pack it home and cage it up to add it to our collection.  This game was so much fun, my husband has given me permission to ressurrect it for one of the groups I’m GMing.  I’ve taken his concept of a magic-limited world where creatures are rare, and we will be hunting for them to create our own little zoo, but everything else will be of my design.

13. D&D Pathfinder (Orphanage)
This was a rather epic adventure on several scales.  First of all, it occurred in a world entirely of the GM’s design.  Secondly, it was comprised of 4 parallel storylines happening simultaneously, in which each player played one character.  A different player was the leader for each of the four groups.  I played a monk (in a group that ended up with a total of three monks.  Wow, we did some serious damage!), a rogue (who ended up fowling up her task in the boss fight), a cleric (she was my leader character), and an orc barbarian.  We have this great little book that gives rules for playing orcs, and because all the characters were orphans, we were able to justify a full-blooded orc in the mix.  I’d been wanting to play one for years.  This was the return of Thug (though it hadn’t started out to be), who was easily influenced by his leader, Riley (who looked a lot like James Marsders… I’m just saying.)  Josh returned to gaming to play in this campaign, but we never finished because he moved out of town.

14. Pirates of the Spanish Main
Although this was only a one-off game, it sticks with me not because of anything in particular that happened in-game, but because of the prep I put in before game.  I wanted very much to play a girl, but this girl was to be participating in a boys’ world of adventure and become a pirate.  I had to come up with an incredibly detailed and realistic backstory to explain why it was that everyone my character knew at the start of this game was completely under the impression that she was actually a “he.”  She was going to be loads of fun to play.

15. D&D 4e (Return to Redshore)
My husband put so much work into creating Redshore, he wasn’t about to let the campaign setting die.  As has happened in our life more than once, we have somehow managed to acquire a large group of people who want to play RPGs in our social circle, and so we have returned to Redshore.  It’s seven years after the original party adventured here, and this new group has no clue.  This game is current, but will stick with me because it was my introduction to GMing as “co-GM” for the table.


So, that’s my list!

{October 12, 2010}   What monster are you?

I couldn’t help myself. For as long as I’ve been into RPGs I have loved flipping through monster manuals and enjoying the art!

D&D Home PageWhat Monster Are You?D&D Compendium

{October 9, 2010}   All RP, All the Time!

So, I am currently involved in two all-girl D&D groups. Girl Game 1 (which I will probably rename, or let the players come up with their own team name) met for our first session this weekend. We were down one player, MIA, but the other three were there and raring-to-go!

In the week leading up to the beginning of this game, I e-mailed several resources to my mostly-new players. Before I detail what I sent, I have to thank the large and incredibly talented RPG blogging community for the helpful hints and tweaks they have released into the wild gaming world. There are so many of you out there, sharing and doing your bit to make gaming better!

I had decided early on that, since all the gamers wanted to learn the D&D 4th Ed rules, I needed to direct more focus on the role-playing aspect of the game, and deflect it from the roll-playing and combat.  I really wanted the girls to invest a lot of thought into their characters: their back stories, their personalities, and how they were going to play them at the table.  I sent them all a pre-game prep e-mail which explained that all they needed to prepare before the first session were elements of their back story, and included a link to Your Character’s Old Job from The Sorcerer’s Skull, to help them understand how whoever they were for the first 20, 50, 200 years of their lives can and should influence why they decided to become adventurers, and what sort of adventurer they became.  Also, I took a page from Gaming Brouhaha, who adapted Mouseguard‘s BITs for 4e.  His house rules really spoke to me as a useful thing to include in my campaign.  After the links and explanation of why I was including them, I copied out an old back story from one of my previous characters.

I was really pleased with the response!  We had some slight technical difficulties and two of the players didn’t get the message until very late in the week, but we managed.  When we sat down, each player took a turn telling her back story, which was loads of fun!  Then we took a break from personal narratives and explored the borrowed BITs in more detail, each player explaining how and why they came to have these beliefs/instincts/traits.  After that, I explained to them a little more about the world we were playing in, and told them the next part of our character building exercise was that they would do some shared story telling for me.  I wanted each of them to tell me how they had met one of the other party members.  Before I could even finish explaining the exercise, they launched into a raucous retelling of the bar fight during which they all first laid eyes on one another.  We had a grand time!

All in all, with a little bit of visiting, but a whole lot more character exploration, we were at it for three hours.  Not a single die was rolled.  In fact, I found out all their races and classes ahead of time and printed off randomly-generated character sheets for all the players so we wouldn’t have to take the time to roll up their characters.  I often find that players, especially new ones, get really hung up on all the numbers on those sheets (especially when they’re the one that fills them out).  I was a little worried the random sheets wouldn’t go over well, but to my surprise (and relief!) all the players were happy to adopt them, and even glad I’d printed out full sheets so they didn’t have to do all that page-flipping!

I do have to say, though, that the random character generator of the demo version of D&D Insider regularly spits out characters with one 20 ability score, usually one 8, and mostly 10s.  This caused a little discussion around the table — our cleric was “randomly” rolled with a 20 wisdom and an 8 intellect, for example.  What’s more, with that 8 for intellect, that meant her religion skill was at a minus value!  “So you’re worldly-wise, but not much for the book-learning,” I offered, which she laughed at.  “More specifically, you’re a do-er.  You learn by watching and doing, and you’re naturally inclined to be good at herbalism and spiritualism, but not dogma.  You can commune with your god wherever the moment dictates; you don’t need to go to a specific building or recite a specific prayer.”  We were all pretty happy with that conclusion.  I’m planning on buying a subscription, and hoping the full version has more customizability built in.

All in all, I felt it to be one of the most constructive character-generating sessions I’ve ever been involved in.

et cetera