Intimate Stories

10830942_10205690726013357_1901445715553360783_oOver the weekend I had the pleasure of catching Ant-Man. This was a bit of a departure from what we have come to expect from Marvel’s normal storytelling. Ant-Man focused more on the characters and a tiny (like ant sized) story in comparison to what else is going on in the MCU. The movie didn’t hop about the globe and this story just felt more intimate.

As I have been digesting the film in my mind, I was reminded of some advice Sean Preston gave me. At the time I was working with some friends to write an Agents of Oblivion adventure. I had come up with a storyline that, at one point, included a massive earthquake that decimated a large city. To me this represented the power of the bad guys. They had a device that could cause the ground to shake apart buildings.

In delivering the bullet points of the module to Sean he replied that the earthquake was too much and the story should be more intimate. I wanted more feedback and Sean, being his normal generous self, gave me the following bit of advice:

“The game is about the player’s characters and not about some massive event. By taking the focus of the players and placing it on a city being leveled you have, in a way, removed the players from the story. Make the story more intimate and about the PC’s experience.”

That was all paraphrased, of course. I cannot do credit to Mr. Preston’s delivery of words and wisdom. But the advice stuck to me. Why did the earthquake have to destroy a city? Couldn’t have been just as effective if the players were in a cavern and felt the earth move? Then down the adventure path they discover what caused that minor tremor, a device that could do more damage.

Since then I have done my best to focus all attention to the tale of those player characters right there in the thick of adventure. From time-to-time I bring in tales from outside the PC’s scope, but that is only to hint or hook players into more thrilling events for them to partake in. Isn’t this what we all want? To create a story right there at the table?

Backstory is important to the character and adventure, but it shouldn’t overshadow what we should all be crafting while we sit together rolling dice. I could have a game take place in a city that was destroyed by a doomsday device, but that should be it…the game’s backdrop is the ruined buildings for the actors to perform in front of.

Don’t get me wrong. Every now and then I want to run an Avengers sized game, but weekly I am just fine being the Ant-Man.

Game on!


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Episode 37: Let the Player Play

AlbumCoverWe talk our most recent gaming, Justin’s fight for charity against the Babyface, reminder about our D&D actual play contest, our thoughts on the state of gaming at Denver Comic Con, Allowing a player to adjust their character or story without destroying the balance or game plot.

Myth and Legends Con – Justin is running three games here

Tacticon – The entire crew of RPDNA will be there running games and we will be hosting a panel on Saturday afternoon of the con.

The Babyface Podcast

Ravaged Earth

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Episode 36: The Good Ol Games

AlbumCoverWe catch up on what’s new with us, talk Conclave of Gamers, Derek’s game with his son, ending an epic campaign, running games for kids, Justin and Ed talk their regular games, Justin started up a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game at his Tuesday night game, we discuss retro gaming and those who are trying to re-skin old games in new systems.

Also…RoleplayDNA wants to run Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition for its next actual play recording and we want your help!

Create a concept, outline, module for a convention length session (2-4 hours), create pregen ideas or full characters, and determine who you want to run the game; Ed or Justin. Submit your game to by June 6th. If we select your game to play we will give you a $10 gift certificate to!

Have fun with this!

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Shake it Up

10830942_10205690726013357_1901445715553360783_oMy Tuesday night game has been suffering a bit. The games have been unfocused, distraction filled, and just (for me) not that fun to be in. The group has been going through a transition as we finished playing our Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign and decided to try other games. We tried Gamma World 4th Edition for a while, but it just wasn’t working. We couldn’t get our gaming mojo back, and the blame could be spread around the table for sure. I decided to do something drastic to get our gaming fun back on track. Something bold needed to be done. So tonight’s game we will be rolling up characters for Palladium’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness.

TMNT was a milestone in my gaming as a young lad. I had grown fond of the comics and ITMNT_and_Other_Strangeness purchased the TMNT source book on sight. I played the game mostly through character generation. It was my first experience being more concerned about what built the individual character first and not the class. We played TMNT a few times, but we just weren’t grasping the rules. I think we were just too influenced by D&D and assumed most games went the way of THAC0. It did get my group into Robotech and then, of course, Rifts.

Why go back to such a classic game? Mostly because I am the one at fault for the games going the way they were on Tuesday nights. I had gotten lazy as a GM and not challenging myself to be more creative with my game concepts and what I fed to my players. With TMNT I will now be forced to work some GM skills that I have stopped working: session design, fully stated NPCs, etc. I have a feeling TMNT will keep me from flying from the seat of my pants so much. Not that I will give up my improv style, but I do need to put some planning in to my games.

I can already feel the creative juices flowing through my brain. Mutant animals living in the normal world feels so interesting to me. Guessing how my group of Tuesday night gamers will respond to this kind of world feels intriguing. Will they be heroes? Try to survive in a world that doesn’t understand them? Or go back to their murder cult ways of the Dungeon Crawl Classics days? I would be murder cult if I were you.

Either way, it is time for this GM to get his head back into it.

Game on!


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You’re Doing it Right

10830942_10205690726013357_1901445715553360783_oWhile I was at Conclave of Gamers I played in an organized play Dungeons and Dragons game. Ten minutes into this game I had realized how much my gaming style had changed and I was sitting in my version of gaming hell. By design the game was firmly on the rails, it has to be as there are outcomes that alter one’s character and it has to be done in a way that is fair to everyone else who participates. Mind you the GM is someone whom I like and I think he isn’t normally the type to run a game this rigid. The players were more concerned with loot and XP as this determined a lot about their character as they progressed through other sessions. One player had actually been through the module we were in and despite his assurances he wouldn’t spoil the game for us, led us through the adventure making sure we hit all the milestones. I was in hell. However, was the game being played wrong? Nope. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

I could sit here and critique the game and players all day long, but in the end it means nothing because they are enjoying the game as they play it. The event I was at always had full tables of the D&D Adventures going and there were smiles all about, so they are doing it correctly. I will never play again in an “organized” event like this, but that is because I enjoy playing in my own fashion.

While at CoG I heard another tale of someone I know who sat in on a home game. This home game was played in a setting that the guest, we shall call him Tim, is familiar with. Tim wasn’t expected to play beyond the single game, and was just there to fill in and be shown what this group of players had built. It turns out Tim wasn’t impressed and sent pages of notes about how the group was playing the setting and game incorrectly. They had been left with the feeling that their game was crap and seriously considered dropping it completely. Luckily they realized that was nonsense and went back to playing their game “wrong.” Good for them.

I tend to run games off the cuff. Some notes with a lot of improv tossed in. I like a good story over all else when I run or play in a game. I expect that if the players come up with an entertaining storyline to follow that the GM will go along with it and adjust her game to suit the new ideas. Confession time…I HATE LOOT. I get the need for awesome equipment and money, but I cannot stand it as the single motivation behind adventuring. I would imagine if you placed some of the D&D Adventurers in my games, they would not have the best of times, and I would understand why. Different styles of play.

What is important is that you and the group of people you choose to game with are having a good time. If you find yourself as a player or GM in a group where you aren’t enjoying yourself, then I would suggest you do not game with them. Don’t chastise them for daring to enjoy something you don’t. Or if you think your style could help them in some way, communicate that in a non-critical way. You aren’t going to change what people enjoy, but you might be able to introduce them to a new concept. No matter what, you should not be negative in your communication with those players. Remember, they will look at you like a space alien if you start shouting about how they are having fun in an incorrect manner.

Game on!



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Accept the Premise

10830942_10205690726013357_1901445715553360783_oI remember going to see Superman Returns in the movie theater when it came out. While waiting for the film to start I overheard a conversation with a guy who flat out hated Superman. I’m not sure why he came to watch a movie featuring a character he so disliked, but during his rant he basically complained about everything Superman. The strength, the ability to fly, how no one could figure out who Clark Kent was, etc. The case he stated was what made the Superman story what it is, so really he just hated the premise and not the quality of the story. You can’t enjoy a story or a game if you don’t accept the premise that it is built on. There is a common issue between players and Game Masters: either side not accepting the premise presented by the other.

Once I had a player complain to me about a great GM I know. I was shocked as the GM in question was a person who I would say was one of the best in the area. When I inquired further the player complained that the GM, “…had an obvious concept for the game and wouldn’t allow me to alter it completely.” I didn’t have the heart to tell this player that the issue might have been with him not accepting the premise of the game and rolling with it. That or he has a horrible ability at picking games he might enjoy.

This also appears in games where the GM lays out a hook that one player just simply won’t take, because they feel it isn’t something their PC would do.

GM: “In this wasteland where food is scarce you are told a tale of a stockpile of provisions to a settlement to the north.”

Player: “I don’t want to do that. It sounds dangerous. Can’t I grow my own food?”

Maybe this is a logical questioning and thought process in a world of reality, but in a game session I find this to be a less than productive line of thinking. It is assumed this game is an action game set in a apocalyptic setting, that is the premise one must accept in this session.

It happens to players as well. In the same scenario a player might come up with a concept of a PC that fits the setting. I have seen GMs not accept a PC simply because motivations or builds don’t fit into a well structured game story. This, in my mind, is just as bad to do to someone. If the PC fits into the overall puzzle of the concept of the game then it should be accepted and allowed to be a part of the overall story.

In all the previous examples you are just upsetting a potential for a lot of fun to be had. Should a game be on the rails completely? No. But nor should a game about survival be turned into a police procedural. Should the player character’s background, that fits into the overall story of the setting, be ignored in favor of allowing the GM to easily push her story onto the players? No.

Don’t play Superman if you can’t accept that your secret identity comes out with a pair of glasses and a healthy dose of pomade. You just won’t have fun. And if you, for some odd reason, find yourself at this game don’t spend the entire session trying to make everyone as miserable as you. I would also suggest not trying to turn the game completely on its head. Politely excuse yourself from the game and try something else.

Game on!


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Episode 35: Minis

AlbumCoverWe talk about our recent gaming, Leonard Nimoy’s passing, using minis and other game enhancements.

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Actual Play: Dread Part 2 (Explicit)

20150124_153632Derek, Ed, and Justin are joined by guests: Ayla, Jacob, and Wendy for the actual play of Dread.

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Gold – The Lazy Gamer’s Motivation

Justin Suzuki

Justin Suzuki

“This creature is the scourge of the region. It threatens the very way of life for everyone who lives here. If a band of brave adventures doesn’t do something soon I fear we all shall perish. This is the kind of event that you live for, surely. The bards will sing songs of you for generations if you succeed, and you will have saved the lives of those you live amongst!”

“Yeah…How much does this job pay?”

I have witnessed this scene play out so many times at my and other’s game tables. So much that I wonder if we it is appropriate to call a band of PCs “adventurers.” I think it is more accurate to call them, “profiteers.”

Even players who claim that they have a vow of poverty or that honor drives their actions, seem to look for ways to ensure they can alter the character sheet slightly to bump up the treasure to higher levels.

I get it, to a certain level. Money is the key to making improvements to a character that don’t involve leveling up. Games are designed to make sure characters don’t get too powerful before they should. But if a PC has some extra coin in his pouch then they are off to the weapons shop that sells weapons that will offer pluses to hit and damage. But does this make for a good story?

How many books have you read where the protagonists stop and haggle over how much money they will get paid? Obviously there are tales where the main characters are of questionable morals, but I would label those as the exception. Frodo didn’t decide to stroll into Mordor because Gandalf promised him 1,000 GPs up front and more if he destroyed the One ring. Frodo took on that quest to save the world, he lived in by the way, from evil.

We as gamers love role playing. We enjoy having motivations that spur a character along that belong to that individual PC. Sure, money can be the motivating factor to the more roguish of the spectrum. But do we as players need to lean on the crutch of money to be our character’s spark to seek out danger? And even if we do a job for free, it is a good bet that the adventure will result in treasure being handed out. Shouldn’t a character’s motivations be as strong as their background? I would wager that money is to PC motivation as being an orphan is to a back story.

Just a quick thought on a Monday morning.

Game on!


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How I Found My Gaming Groups

WendyMy 8 year anniversary at the Denver RPG meetup is on March 1, 2015 and so I’ve been reflecting on how joining up has impacted my (gaming) life. Since convention season is starting soon, it seems like an opportune time to post. I am currently gaming regularly twice a week in 4 every other week games and have been playing in all 4 for about a year and a half. Here is my story about how I found my game groups….

I discovered the Denver RPG group while I was in the midst of a gaming dry spell. My significant other (now husband) is not a table top gamer and the RP group I had been playing with had dissolved due to life getting in the way. I had joined a board gaming meetup but that wasn’t scratching the itch, I just don’t find most board games as satisfying as RPGs. I needed more and I needed reliability.

What it came down to was that I really just had to put myself out there. Finding the right gaming group is a lot like dating, there has to be chemistry among the players, the style of the game play has to be a good fit (rp vs. combat, table talk vs. serious, rules heavy vs. lite), and the scheduling has to work out. I lucked out on my first try and found a group that was the right fit for me. In fact 3 of 4 groups are derived from the group I went to meet on March 2, 2007–I still play in two games run by the GM I met that day (yes, the one in the plaid shorts with the original Jurassic park t-shirt that was more than a decade old when we met). I also play in a game run by one of the players that I met in my original group, though that group has split off and I’m the only one who regularly attends both groups. In fact, that original group contained all three of us Organizers/co-Organizers that still run the meetup to this day, so it was a great way to get connected to the gaming scene in the Denver metro area.

I met my fourth group because, yet again, I put myself out there and started role playing at the local gaming conventions. I’ve been role playing for decades, but doing so at the conventions was both intrguing and intimidating. It’s a great, no commitment, way to try out new systems and break out of my normal group dynamics (rut). I know the meetup is a mixed bag young and older, experienced players and neophytes, rules lawyers and players sipping beers and making Monty Python jokes—but the conventions are all that turned up to eleven. There might be an 8 year old kid with a parent showing up to play a night game that was advertised as edgy horror. Then there is the person who is extremely sleep deprived and slap happy sitting with their head rested on the table for the whole game and yet makes that into the perfect character. There might be a GM who is so stoked about the setting they spend half the game gushing over the book plot. All this and then you get players and GMs of every regular flavor put in an unfamiliar location in less than ideal conditions with the goal of having fun with complete strangers for 4 hours. That is a tough mandate for those GMs and the majority of them exceed my expectations and in 4 hours leave me with a game experience I’ll remember for years.

Conventions are a gauntlet of gaming that, if you can handle the crowds and the uncertainty—the risk can bring a great reward. My fourth group I met through the gaming conventions. I had played with a certain GM over several years and always tried to get a seat at one of his tables, but in a round about way I ended up being the catalyst for him to meet his best friend, then when they set up a weeknight group I was called to join in. (Additionally, there are also a few every-so-often games I hop into with convention friends either at their homes or special game day events–they’re lots of fun and I love seeing the convention friends more than twice a year. )

Through the meetup and the local conventions I have been able to connect with much of the gaming scene here in Denver and I totally feel the love, from having great friends to building a strongly interconnected community. I take great pride in the Denver RPG meetup and I hope our members get as much out of it as I have, but the moral of the story is in order to “get the experience” you have to put yourself out there.

How did you find your gaming group? What was your best or most unexpected “win” in finding a great convention GM or group you had gaming chemistry with?


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