The Unicorn

10830942_10205690726013357_1901445715553360783_oNot too long ago I came in contact with a unicorn. I had no idea I was in the presence of a unicorn, nor did I go out seeking one.

I was at a local geek con (I say that with a lot of respect of course) to run some games. I was setting up my table and just hanging around waiting for my first game to start. A woman approached me and struck up a conversation. At first we discussed Cthulhu and all his glorious ways, as I was going to run Realms of Cthulhu. I then asked how many gaming conventions she participated in. She told me a just a few and then said something that I still haven’t fully processed.

She said, “I’m a unicorn. I’m the rare female that is actually a real gamer.”

I took half a beat to process what she had said to me. I responded with a, “What do you mean?”

The unicorn then went on to tell me how all the female gamers she sees are just there to socialize and gossip. All the females she runs into are “fake” gamers. Uni then told me about all the games she plays and how it consumes her life. This never impresses me, by the way. I love football, but I am not a huge fan of those who let it consume their lives. It should be a fun diversion, a hobby. I think one’s life should be a balance. This is a discussion for another day.

I looked around for the hidden cameras. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from this, seemingly, intelligent woman.

Since then I have posted about this on my social network accounts, I’ve talked to other people about this, I’ve heard back from friends who also happen to be female gamers. I wondered if I am surrounded by unicorns and I just didn’t realize how lucky I am.

It would have been easier for me to accept the statement the unicorn gave me if she had been male. Then I could have chalked up the ignorant comment to sexism. But to hear a woman stand in front of me and say these things, well it broke my mind. The first sanity check of the night was made by me.

Most of my friends chalked up the stupid comment (yes, I’m calling it as I see it) to just being that…stupid. But Derek pointed out something interesting to me, he likes to game and have it be a fun social event. Does this make him a non-gamer? My thoughts then turned to other gamers I see call out others for not being real gamers. These gatekeepers (aka assholes) of the hobby who decide who is worthy of the title. Perhaps this all this unicorn was, someone who had a distorted view of what a gamer is? But why single out just the female gamers?

I think we could delve into the psychology of this individual for a long time. The self-hating, attention seeking, behavior that isn’t so much a commentary on other female gamers but of herself. This humorous tale takes a sad turn when you view it through the lens of analysis of the root issue.

How many times are we going to have to discuss how our hobby should be inclusive to all? I’m not saying you should invite a goofball into your heavy roleplay game, but be accepting of the goofball’s table and understand they are having fun? Yes, I am asking for a lot of understanding from the uptight brigade. Maybe we just all need to embrace the title of a “Fake Gamer.” Because if being a real gamer means I have to pick and choose who is part of this hobby, then I would rather be fake.

Game on!



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Episode 38: Of Denver Conventions and Open Games

AlbumCoverWe welcome Matt Rowles from Gamers For Veterans who are now managing the two big Denver, CO gaming conventions, Matt talks about changes and challenges to taking over an established gaming con, we then talk about making your public games open and fun for all.

Just a reminder. RoleplayDNA will be hosting a panel at Tacticon 2105 on the Saturday afternoon of the con.

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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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