Reverb Gamers 2012

I decided to try doing the Reverb Gamers thing, but all at once because I’d rather do one big post than 31 tiny ones.

#1: What was your first roleplaying experience? Who introduced you to it? How did that introduction shape the gamer you’ve become?
In middle school my friend Alan got us into Palladium’s Robotech RPG. From then through much of high school various Palladium games dominated my gaming, and I think the fact that every other RPG I looked at had better rules made me appreciate good game design where some people seem inclined to gloss over it on the basis that the GM can fudge a bad game into submission.

#2: What is it about gaming that you enjoy the most? Why do you game? Is it the adrenaline rush, the social aspect, or something else?
It would be hard to narrow down to just one time. I guess I like the in-the-moment creativity of it.

#3: What kind of gamer are you? Rules Lawyer, Munchkin/Power Gamer, Lurker, Storyteller/Method Actor, or something else? How does this affect the kinds of games you play?
I ended up being the GM a lot, especially in the “middle” phase of my time as a gamer (early in my college years), so I like having a big picture perspective and not being tethered to a single character for too long. I have a love-hate relationship with immersion because while it can make a game more intense, it also means that if my character is having a bad day I kind of am too. This doesn’t translate well to any particular rules preference, and I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of games over the years.

#4: Are you a “closet gamer?” Have you ever hidden the fact that you’re a gamer from your co-workers, friends, family, or significant other? Why or why not? How did they react if they found out?
Along with being an anime fan, I’ve never hidden being a gamer. I don’t jump at the chance to reveal it to people, but it’s one of those things where if someone thought less of me for it, I would lose all interest in gaining their respect in the first place.

#5: Have you ever introduced a child to gaming, or played a game with a young person? How is gaming with kids different than gaming with adults?
The closest I’ve gotten to that is playing in a D&D Game Day session at the FLGS where one guy brought his elementary school age son. The lesson I took from it is that a 7-hour session of crunchy paragon tier D&D is a bad fit for a little kid, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. I don’t normally have contact with children these days, so it’s kind of a moot point for me, and will probably continue to be until one of my sisters gets around to having kids.

#6: Describe your all-time favorite character to play. What was it about him/her/it that you enjoyed so much?
Without a doubt that would be Octavia Vasconcelos, my human warlord from D&D4e. On the mechanical side, the warlord is the D&D class I didn’t know I wanted all along, able to wade into melee while influencing the entire battle through charisma, tactical acumen, and lots of shouting. Personality-wise, playing Octavia was cathartic for how she was boundlessly confident and always quick to cut through the bullshit.

#7: How do you pick names for your characters?
I use a mixture of generators and lists like the Story Games Names Project and Seventh Sanctum, obscure references, and stuff where I just like the sound of the name. I have enough hobbies that involve making characters that I like to think I’ve gotten fairly good at that.

#8: What’s the one gaming accessory (lucky dice, soundtrack, etc.) you just can’t do without? Why?
A printer. Any time I run a game I end up running off a bunch of stuff that’ll be critical to smoothly running the game. Combining said printer with basic cardstock is also incredibly useful at times.

I’ve mostly set aside superstitions about dice in favor of using GameScience dice for maximum fairness, and I’ve stopped using soundtracks because it leads me to excessively plan out scenes I want to force to happen when I should be playing to find out what happens.

#9: Have you ever played a character of the opposite sex. Why or why not? If yes, how did the other players react?
In the two gaming groups I’ve been a part of playing opposite sex characters is pretty normal, and no one even blinks when I or any of my friends play a female character. I usually end up doing so because I have an archetype in mind that to me becomes more interesting when it’s a woman. The warlord is a great class, but a warlord who’s a woman who wades into battle wearing silver chainmail over a white dress is too awesome to pass up.

#10: Have you ever played a character originally from a book/TV/movie? How did the character change from the original as you played?
I don’t normally do that kind of thing on account of it’s hard to find anything that everyone in my gaming group is sufficiently familiar with, but I did once play in a Firefly con game at Gen Con SoCal. The whole group was doing a really good job of being in character, and I like to think I role-played Shepherd Book pretty well. I don’t recall him ever cross-dressing to avoid enemies in the series though. It was also the game where Nathan Fillion visited our table, which was pretty insane.

#11: Have you ever played a character that was morally gray, or actually evil? Why or why not? If yes, did you enjoy it?
In D&D terms my PCs tend to range from good to neutral. Octavia is Unaligned because her priorities don’t quite align with normal morality (she values loyalty and dignity above all else) for example. I don’t really see the appeal of evil per se, though I like to think that as a GM I’ve managed a few good villains on occasion. Xian, the charismatic and amoral interdimensional trader would be a good example, and he was fun to have around.

#12: Do prefer collaborative or competitive games? What do you think that says about you?
I definitely prefer collaborative games. For the most part I’m just not a very competitive person, and when I catch myself going that way I don’t really like what results. It’s part of why RPGs are the only kind of tabletop games I really like.

#13: Who’s the best GM/storyteller/party leader you’ve ever had? What made him/her so great?
There’s a certain old-school style of GM who’s incredibly good at presenting a world and placing you in the middle of it where your actions have consequences. My brother-in-law Chuck is probably the best of those I’ve encountered, on account of my high school friend with similar skills had the problem that he never quite seemed to get that his complex intrigue games were basically aimed at a group of clones of himself rather than the people he was actually playing with. I’ve had some really good times with other kinds of games, but Chuck’s fantasy pirates game would be the one where the GM added the most.

#14: What kinds of adventures do you enjoy most? Dungeon crawls, mysteries, freeform roleplaying, or something else? What do you think that says about you?
I think my favorite overall is lighthearted improvisational comedy type games, which is probably part of why Maid RPG looms so large in my gaming career. I can and often do enjoy other kinds of games (including tactical dungeon crawl type stuff), but I think laughing and making it up as I go along are my favorite things in gaming.

#15: People often talk about the divide between what happens “in game” and “in real life.” Do you maintain that divide in your own play, or do you tend to take what happens to your character personally? Why?
I think there was a time when I did take stuff a little too personally at times, and it goes back to that thing about why I’m ambivalent about immersion. There have been times when Saturday rolled around and I found myself thinking, “Well shit, I have to be Hikaru today.” I’ve come to take more of an author/director approach to role-playing (which comes naturally from GMing so much), and that works better for me and keeps the game from being emotionally draining.

#16: Who was the most memorable foe you’ve ever come up against in a game? How did you beat him/her/it? Or did you?
The one that sticks out in my mind is the sand dragon we found on an airship in 4E, on account of the damn thing kept blinding everyone and we kept failing our saving throws. We finally beat it, but it took a good long while.

#17: What was the best reward you’ve ever gotten in a game? What made it so great? How much do you need tangible rewards (loot, leveling, etc.) to enjoy a game?
I can’t remember the exact name of the item, but Octavia got that holy chainmail artifact from the 4E DMG. Getting a gift from the God of Battle further reinforced her conviction that she’s awesome, and it was an incredibly useful item to have, what with being able to grant Resist 5 to basically any damage type in the game amongst other things.

#18: Have you ever “cheated” on a die roll/random chance outcome, or looked up a quest solution on a fan site? Why or why not? If yes, was it worth it?
I have fudged die rolls on occasion. Not really worth it. I’ve never looked up a quest solution online for a tabletop game though, in part because we’ve never done much in the way of playing from published adventures. I have looked up solutions for puzzles in video games, but that’s more because I’m pretty bad at the kinds of puzzles video game developers like to make and it’s better than stopping playing a game entirely.

#19: What’s the weirdest character you’ve ever played? How did you end up with him/her/it?
It’s hard to pick, since my PCs tend to have a certain baseline level of weirdness and not go too far above that. I guess Tasha, my vestiges pack warlock would be about the weirdest. She was training as a wizard, but made contact with all these ancient spirits that kind of broke her mind a bit. Portraying a character not quite in touch with reality was a challenge.

#20: What was the most memorable character death you’ve ever experienced? What makes it stick with you?
We haven’t tended to have very lethal games (I still maintain that death is one of the less interesting bad outcomes a PC can have), and my PCs that have died have tended to be decidedly non-memorable ones.

#21: What’s the best bribe you’ve ever given (or received as) a GM? What did you get (give) for it?
I can’t really think of anything like that ever happening in my gaming groups. The GM tends to be either impartial or already more or less on the PCs side.

#22: Describe the worst game you’ve ever played in. What made it so bad? Did your fellow players help, or make it worse?
I can’t really think of anything like that. We’ve had stuff turn out to be kind of lame and not work out, but I can’t think of anything that was just horrible.

#23: Have you ever experienced Total Party Kill (TPK), or been close to it? What effect did that have on you personally? On your group of players? Have you ever used retroactive continuity (retcon) to save yourself? Why or why not?
I’ve only ever experienced a TPK in one-shots and con games, where it was maybe kind of disappointing but not something I’d ever get bent out of shape over.

#24: Have you ever been to a game convention? What was it like to be surrounded by so many other gamers?
I’ve been to Gen Con Indy twice, and Gen Con SoCal once and one or two other gaming cons. There’s a nice energy any time you have a lot of people in one place for something they love (which you find at any good con, not just gaming cons), but I’m also enough of an introvert that I have a low tolerance for big crowds of people.

#25: If you game enough, you’re bound to run into someone being an ass. What’s the most asinine thing someone’s done in a game with you? How did you react?
The only thing I can think of is that a friend of mine twice threatened to leave our D&D game, while grinding things to a halt for over an hour. I tried to be conciliatory for as long as my patience held out.

#26: Who or what was the most memorable NPC you’ve ever encountered? Why?
As a player, I’d probably say Sir Leo. He was a ridiculously over the top shiny-good paladin in our D&D4e game, who came off as a buffoon but apparently was actually quite intelligent. Him colliding with our band of weirdos was always entertaining.

#27: If you were an Ent, what kind of Ent would you be?
What kinds of Ents are there? I guess an Ent who was of some unusual kind of tree who played against type a bit, like a willow tree whose flexibility made him quick and relatively interested in human affairs.

#28: Do you have any house rules when you game? What are they, and why do you use them? If not, why not?
I tend to either play by the rules (if at times in a fast and loose way) or go right past house rules and into designing new games or very extensive hacks of games. I think my tastes in game rules are broad enough that I seldom find anything small I’d want to tweak, but my tastes in content are eccentric enough that there’s a ton of things I want games about that no one’s done.

#29: What does the word “gamer” mean to you? Is that different than what other people seem to think it means?
A gamer is someone who puts some serious time and energy into gaming. There might be someone looking for excuses to withhold the title, but that would be dumb.

#30: What lessons have you taken from gaming that you can apply to your real life?
People stuff matters, a lot. Also, it’s important to be able to look at things from other people’s perspectives. Just as a game designer, GM, and player have profoundly different perspectives on an RPG, an applicant, HR person, manager, and employee all have very different perspectives on hiring.

#31: How would your life be different if you’d never gotten into gaming?
Through gaming I’ve done some really neat things (like publishing the first Japanese tabletop RPG ever in English) and met a ton of really amazing people. Maid RPG was part of why I have my current day job, and the gaming I’ve done and people and projects I’ve been involved with have enriched my life tremendously. Without gaming that same energy would have undoubtedly gone somewhere else (and I do write prose and comics), but I don’t know that I would have gotten as far as I have.


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