Game the Game: Roll vs Role: Know Your Role

The game was Shadowrun, I have no idea which edition.

I wanted to play a man of few words. A tortured soul, who rarely spoke. I had him envisioned in my head, playing out in cinematic moments.

Sadly, my gaming group got the best of me.

As players, we tend to gravitate towards certain roles, not in-character, but in terms of group dynamic.

Likely, a group of friends who play together will have a dynamic all sorted out. Con games can be wonderful opportunity to try on a different role hat.

My character was not able to be stoic, because we needed a leader, to plan, and talk to people, and no one else really wanted to grab those reins.

So, my man of few words became the mouthpiece.

It happens.

Some player roles:

  • Leader- bringing everyone together
  • Planner- likes to come up with detailed schemes
  • Talker- enjoys speaking to NPCS
  • Quiet One- some people enjoy gaming, and have an internal reaction, this is fine
  • Violent One- some folks just want to roll initiative
  • Punny One- you know this friend
  • Contrarian- in a scifi setting they want to be a halfling thief, in a fantasy setting….

There are more I am sure.

Know your own strengths.

In one of the best con-games I played in, last year, a Changeling: The Dreaming game, I fully admit I don’t know the game that well, and assumed the role of the Quiet One. My other players were all over the setting and rules, and were happy to assume other roles.

In my group dating back the longest, I used to assume the role of “asshole,” you know the type, likes to pick fights with other PCs, plays to their alignment, etc.

Time has changed me, when we got together for the greatest reunion game ever, I took on some planner and even leader duties.

A group doesn’t need to decide who will be who. It happens organically, and some groups will have repeats and will have archetypes not listed, and will be lacking some, and players will take on multiple roles.

But, the lesson is, be true to yourself, play to your strengths and…

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Game the Game: The Con Game

Whether you will be running games, or playing games at a con, I think there are some things to look for in a convention game, assuming the game is designed for newcomers to the game and system.

  • Make the PCs competent.
  • Allow each PC to have a niche.
  • Design your game for the minimum and maximum number of players. I have some great ideas, sometimes they require X number of players to really be successful. I end up scrapping these ideas. I design games that can handle 2-X+1 number of players. I usually always welcome players to my table, even if it is “full” (assuming I have a character ready for them. I have run a superhero game with 14 players, a Monsterhearts game with 18 and about 10 spectators.
  • Design a scenario that allows the setting and system to chine, without having to rely too much on prior knowledge, or long moments of exposition.
  • Give the players a taste of the core mechanics of the game early on, so they get comfortable. In most games, this means starting out with a combat. Make this opening be consequence-free.
  • Help the players. Give them a hand with the game mechanics. they all want to kick-ass and take names. Assuming you designed characters that can do this, help them with gentle suggestions of what might be a cool thing to try.
  • Don’t kill anyone. It sucks to pay for or at least sign up for a game and be out before the game is over.
  • Manage time. This is an area I consider a strength. I keep my watch visible as a clock and work to always have the game end on time and in a satisfying fashion. You don’t need to rush things, know your system, and plan accordingly.
  • Don’t be offended if someone leaves. It sucks. Maybe the game wasn’t for them. maybe they are meeting someone. Maybe con-fatigue has set in. Thank them for coming, assure them it’s all good. Everyone at the table is there to have fun, including you. If it is not fun, it is best if we all move on. No hurt feelings.
  • Let players keep their character sheets. Not everyone wants to, but some people definitively do. If i have to hand my character sheet back, I feel ripped off.

Game the Game: Powers High Playtest Session 2

ebeed27865860f095e21fdbcb6a52b61--high-school-girls-punk-disney-princessesI have some pretty solid ideas what I want Powers High to be.

It will be not just a set of rules, but a setting, because the mechanics and rules are integral to one another.

I am not sure folks who desire Superhero RPGs will dig it. It will likely not be at all what they are looking for in terms of crunch.

Because, one of my design goals is to have the high school element be more significant than the superpowers.

Because I think this kind of transparency can be fun, here are some of things I am working on with the game:

  • It is an idealized vision of high school, but not G-rated. Heroes and Villains go to school together, and learn to use their powers.
  • Learning to use powers is done in The Arena, where they can be used without any actual harm coming to the students.
  • Each session is roughly 3 weeks long, 12 sessions in a school year. Each session will have multiple “tests” that will be mapped to the different tropes of high school. In the last session, characters participated in Homecoming and the Homecoming Dance. There was a very unlikely king and queen, which made it even more memorable (the roll of the dice!).
  • Some of the tests are known beforehand, just as in school (mid-term exams are coming up, a big party off-campus, etc), others are generated by the players as things they want to do and are dreading.
  • The game is mostly about relationships, and how we, as high school students, are not necessarily attracted to what outsiders might think we should be attracted to, both as friends and as crushes.
  • Characters have to be careful in their relationships, but because of the fickle nature of high school, sometimes being careful or callous doesn’t matter.
  • Every die roll has several different outcomes: on the first level, it is pass or fail. Second level  it is Pass with an acceptable grade, Pass with Needs Improvement, and on a deeper level every roll gets a grade. Characters record their grades.
  • Rumors are a big part of the game, as they were in high school. Rumors can occur about anything from prowess on the sports field, to sucking up to teachers, to dating. There will be a mechanic to help GMs determine how and why rumors come to be.
  • We ran two combat simulations, and so far there is a clean, simple way for characters to help one another, and combat was quick and flavorful.
  • On-the-fly, I had one character make a morale check, it worked well, and will be part of the game, when characters flake out, or choke under pressure.

Z0004093Who knows what will become of the game, but we are all having a blast playing it and trying out rules. It’s really more the equivalent of a board game like Mystery Date (I have never played MD, I am just indicating it is not at all about punching, it’s about relationships and High School drama).


Imagine If, Batman Begins, Release Date 1976

Imagine if Hollywood had released tent-pole comic-book movies starring their iconic characters around the time of the source material’s release date. For the purposes of this experiment, we will say that a movie would be released 5 years after the introduction of the character, and only movies that have been made would be made.

12 years had passed since Batman & Robin. It was indeed a film of the time, but the 70s heralded some filmmakers pushing Holywood’s buttons in ways never pushed before. With these Easy Riders and Raging Bulls leading the way, producers felt like they were ready to reinvigorate Batman, bring him darker.

They had good intentions, but were unable to let a director and screenwriter have complete creative control. Ultimately, they made some inspired casting choices, but the overall product brought with it too much baggage.

Ryan_Oneal_-_1968Batman-Ryan O’Neal

He was the male star of the 1970s, who could lead a romantic film and drama.







3af7f2c1ebf8f9f4e6b41bedd01ee587Alfred-Sir Ralph Richardson

One of the most distinguished actors of all-time!






jaws1Jim Gordon-Roy Scheider

One of the decade’s favorite supporting men/ everymen.




5d1fccb6ff8c665cc1b8d4e8aca6d157--toshiro-mifune-japanese-culture.jpgRa’s al Ghul (false)-Toshiro Mifune

Toshiro Mifune was incredibly significant as an acting icon, and had second-billing, all in an attempt to mislead the public.






Omar Sharif captain nemoHenri Ducard/ Ra’s al Ghul-Omar Sharif

Picking up the & credit, Sharif’s role was as a wise, kindly associate of Brice Wayne’s. Only in the final Act, is his true identity revealed.



6a00e54ecca8b9883301901bd15ff8970b.jpgTalia al Ghul-Cher

Bruce Wayne +Batman’s love interest, introduced as the daughter of Henri Ducard, Cher was a big star, but not for any of the right reasons, but producers saw within her an ability to act. She did not disappoint, picking up several award nominations.




dc-in-tseScarecrow-David Carradine

Trained dancer, film and TV star, Carradine brought some of his patented charisma to the role.



d22b072d4841eafcaaad29046ed28a0a--baseball-movies-bad-newsBarbara Gordon-Tatum O’Neal

Already an Oscar winner and movie star in her own right, producers threw an Easter Egg in introducing Babs, setting the stage for her introduction later as Batgirl.


Wow or Woe, Release Date 8/9

709938_secret-empire-8-js-campbell-variantSecret Empire #8 came out this week.

I am sure many of you have given up, and I also know people who think this is the greatest, most important comic event for our current state of affairs in America. I am seeing it through to the end, so that I might be able to offer up a fully informed analysis.

This was the issue narrated by Morgan Freeman.

Is the story getting any more coherent> Is there any more clarity how this event is going to transition to Generations and Legacy, which has already started!!!


It gets a very frustrating WOE from me, on so many levels. If they went for it, really went for it, if the repercussions of this were felt 2 years from now, that might be interested. It isn’t even relevant in most of the titles being currently being published by Marvel.

Also purchased this week: Generations: The Phoenix, Riverdale, Hulk, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Old Man Logan, Ms. Marvel, Defenders, Wolverine.

Crisis of Comics: More Hanna Barbera!

Crisis of Comics takes a weekly look at some of the recent publishing woes by the Big Two, offers up theories and concludes with suggestions about what might be missing.

Scooby Apocalypse, FutureQuest, Flintstones, Wacky Raceland, reimagining classic cartoon properties with a more edgy spin. Snagglepuss as a gay, southern-gothic playwright.


c160b5c08e1fea1ee84d0209fc90ade7I enjoyed Wacky Raceland quite a bit, the art was so very dense. FutureQuest was great fun, but keep these titles coming DC!

  • Captain Caveman. Make him less goofy looking, make him a hulking brute, keep the female sidekicks sexed up. Joe Jusko doing the art.
  • Hong Kong Phooey. David Aja art.
  • Space Ghost. He was great in FutureQuest, but really deserves his own title.
  • Yogi Bear. Draw him realistically, make him an eco-warrior.
  • Jabberjaw. Cybernetically enhanced shark designed for war, breaks free, and joins up with young twenty-somethings who have a band on a cruise ship.
  • Grape Ape. Godzilla/ Kong style shenanigans.
  • Speed Buggy. Fast and Furious meets Knight Rider style adventures.
  • Quick Draw McGraw. Gritty old west tale.
  • Scooby family. Genetically engineered dogs revolt, and are pursued by a group led by Scrappy.
  • Blue Falcon. This needs to happen.

The Pull List, Release Date 8/9

703088_e4525c673b49f6e32162dd171e4d9bc243f5e829.jpgThe Jean Grey solo book has been dropped from my pull-list. Marvel’s Generations is starting, not with a character like Thor, rather with Ms. Grey. I’m curious to see how they address this one, a character whose connection to…. herself, seems complicated. An odd choice to start off this non-event/ soft-reboot.

If the goal is to bring in lost fans….


Game the Game: Powers High Playtest

I ran a playtest of a teenage superheroes (and villains) in high school game this past weekend.

Buy-in was easy with my players, as they kept their characters from my long-running supers campaign, just reverted to high school age, so they knew all the NPCs already, and things in the regular game had gotten very grimdark, so something different was a welcome change of pace.

Many newer games, of the indie persuasion, discuss how we play a game to find out what will happen.

In the most literal sense, that is what this first playtest was, I wanted to see what would happen, and how the game mechanics would work.

What we discovered, is that a game about high school kids, and their relationships, and all the drama and shenanigans that come with it, is a lot of fun.

200252438-003Not a single punch was thrown, no one even clenched a fist. There was a Tetris tournament, there was chest-puffing, several young female students sat in the bleachers and watched the boys’ sports practice, and it ended with a Sadie Hawkins dance.

And it was a success.

Because of all these things.

The game, both as played, and as designed, encouraged these activities as much as anything.

Will people be interested in a supers game that isn’t about punching?

We were, and for right now, that is what mattered the most.

Future design additions will include a system for holding hands.

Not joking.




Game the Game: Role vs Roll: What Color Is That Dragon (and How Much)?

Game the Game: Role vs Roll will be a regular series approaching gaming questions through the wisdom of memes, delivering unto you, “wisdom” and “advice” about roleplaying and roll-playing.


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True Story: GM is running a game of D&D.

Describes a dragon, using lots of adjectives

Player asks what color the dragon is.

GM gets upset, talks about immersion, and what a stupid question, and etc…

But, we are playing D&D. in D&D, the color of a dragon is significant. We, as players know this info. If a GM wants to ignore or change this, they need to be upfront during the planning stages of a campaign, and they need to find more in their bag of trikcs than anger.

GMs- if you want us, the players, to be immersed in your world, immerse. If you want us to ignore certain conceits of a game world or game rules, you need to be clear about this from the start.

Players- yes, it is ok if you ask what color the dragon is. A GM cannot take away player knowledge, but you might also consider immersion. Allow yourself to be engaged in the moment.

I would argue that when playing D&D, there is so much inherent baggage, situations like this are bound to happen. If you want to bring back the awe, try a different system.