Game the Game, Roll vs Role, The Gazebo

One of the classic folk-tales of gaming involves a gazebo:

Screenshot 2017-12-11 09.43.08.png

Instead of clarifying, the GM just let it go.


The GM’s job is to immerse the players in the game world, because the characters live there and are likely highly competent. If the players don’t know what a gazebo is, tell them.

Additionally, if you’re playing in a sci-fi world and nanites are a thing, and the PCs are investigating something, you might want to remind them of nanites. Don’t punish them because they did not expressly state they were looking for nanites.



Game the Game: Roll vs Role: Expectations

A GM wants to start a campaign.

They want to do their take on a Star Wars game, where the PCs are the heroes.

They change enough stuff, but the core remains, the force, and an evil empire.

Trouble is, as soon as the twist shows up, the player characters decide they just want to roam the stars. Like Firefly.


The cmapign stalls, the GM clearly wanted the PCs to be the heroes.

They wanted to be the rogues.

So, perhaps the more appropriate pic would be:


Pregenerated characters can help this situation, but once in the hands of players, a GM cannot do anything but react.

The bigger picture is being clear with what is expected, and what is desired:

“I want to run a Star Wars game where over time we will explore many of the same themes of the original 3 films, and truly it will be an epic story of good versus evil. Do you want to play?”

If players agree, and then flake, the GM can talk to them, or end the campaign, but will not have to be frustrated that the players had different expectations… on paper.

Ask players what they want, ask specific and general questions. Do what works for you.

That GM could have forced their hand, but what was obvious was that when trouble showed, they wanted to run away, not toward.

That was not the type of game I wanted to run.


Game the Game: Roll vs Role: Rock, Paper, Thunder, Death: Thor!

Screenshot 2017-11-06 09.35.15I remember poring through the official writeups for characters with the old Marvel FASERIP system.

Watching Thor: Ragnorak, made me revisit them.

Was Hela stronger than Thor? Sure seemed like that, right?

But that is the mistake?

Apples and Oranges. Rock, Paper, Scissors. Neither is the way fiction works.

Arguing that Hela could not have kicked Thor and Loki’s ass because she wasn’t as strong as them, canonically, is the wrong, wrong way to approach the situation.

Traditional statistic based systems would support the strength vs strength argument.


Trait based systems support a different set of rules.

It doesn’t matter what Thor’s strength is.


Game the Game: Roll vs Role: Superheroes

I love superheroes. rather, I love comicbook superheroes.

So much so I designed a game to play them.

I made some very specific choices.

I played in a game once, we were superheroes, and we were faced with a sentient AI, who we stood no chance of shutting down.

We threw it into the sun.

Not our most shining moment.

But…. I would argue, a necessity, as the system did not allow for another form of resolution.

Many games have rules for subdual damage. But they lack teeth, literally and proverbially in terms of mechanics.

So, if a GM wants players to NOT KILL an NPC, don’t put hurdles in their way.

If your default damage system is killing damage, guess what… you’re playing a game about killing.

Screenshot 2017-10-11 08.52.49.png

Game the Game: Non-Traditional Stats

Screenshot 2017-10-11 08.57.45The first edition of 7th Sea had 5 stats, and they all related to combat in some way, which was very cool. The stats themselves were not that different from the standard array of stats and variants (SDCIWCh or SIWDCCh if you will). The use of each stat in combat was innovative and very cool, and assured that characters could focus on just one or two stats leaving the rest as dump stats.

In a specific non-combat situation, you likely know which stat you would use based on your action.

Some systems come up with clever stats, leaving their use much more open to interpretations. I loveslashhate these.

I love them because they can be very flavorful.

My hate derives from implementation and over-usage.

A fast character will always want to be fast, because that is their best stat.

A sneaky character, will always want, and always justify, how they are being sneaky.

I know a GM who once came up with an interesting meta-system for a large social encounter. There was pushback, because, the players who created social characters felt stuffed, and those who cared not for such activity, just wanted to continue being fast or stealthy, with no care for society.

But, neither the GM nor the players are wrong.

Non-traditional stats can be subject to interpretation, if I am fast, i imagine my character always being fast. In some games this means I have the best chance to accomplish things by being fast.

It can, and often does, become boring for the other players and GM, because every action is done…. FAST.

There are times when players hold onto this application of traits when it is not as appropriate, and many GMs acquiesce to them, because arguing at the game table is never fun.

Some of my own game designs utilize game mechanics that do not allow characters to continue using the same trait over and over again. getting players and their characters outside of their shells and trying new things is interesting. Having them approach a problem in a different way is interesting.




Game the Game: Roll vs Role: A Blank Piece of Paper: RPGs as Fiction

Are rules part of how you create a character? Do you look for optimal builds? Interesting builds? Do you ever try and recreate or emulate a character from fiction? Is it safe to say that many RPGs are thinly veiled attempts at emulating fiction of some kind?

There is the whole GNS school of thinking. It is too simplistic and to complicated for me.

Let us look at making a character.

You’re playing some version of 3x/ Pathfinder.

Elves are a certain thing. As are dwarves. Both get special abilities to tie them to fictional counterparts.

350px-SpikedChainThe in-game abilities they have reinforce the tropes from whence they come.

And then, there is this a$$hole? Where did she come from?

Yet, there she is, inhabiting many gaming worlds.

Because she doesn’t come from any popular fiction, her abilities are almost godlike in how broken they are.

Be that girl. But ask yourself why?

For the comicbook superhero game I wrote, I made many choices. I wanted players to be able to create whatever character they wanted. If that seems too broad, allow me to clarify and peel back the curtain… does your system of choice allow you to create Lex Luthor? As a significant threat for the Justice League.

2791937-994719_dc_universe_online_lex_luthor_power_armor_superWithout Power Armor.

If the answer is yes, please roll the dice and pass go.