Episode 30: To Kill a Player Character

AlbumCoverToday we talk about the highs and lows of player character death. We then talk news about the Microsoft Deadlands TV Show, Engine Publishing’s release: Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters! If you want to know where the cast of RPDNA will be: Free Comic Book Day, Spring Giving, Denver Comic Con, and Gator Con. 

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Episode 29: Crazy Concepts

AlbumCoverWe talk about Ed getting kicked out of his regular gaming group, how to write an effective blurb for your game, we spend some time crafting a blurb for Justin’s upcoming game, how do you know when a game concept is too weird to work, and in the news we discuss D&D Next.

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Episode 28: Getting Real

AlbumCoverWe welcome ThanksGaming auction winner Jake to the show and talk about his gaming background and art, What do you do with the player who wants to change his character out every session, How real is too real in a game, the Dark Dungeons movie is being made.


Spring Giving registration

Jake’s FB Page

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Player Advice: I Hate My PC

A friend and fellow gamer, Ed P, sent me an email asking if he could change his character in our regular Deadlands game. He is running a gun-toting Nun and he just isn’t getting into the character. I couldn’t deny him the chance to have fun, so I gave him the thumbs up. He also suggested that a player not enjoying their PC might make for an interesting RPNDA topic. Maybe it will make it onto the podcast, but I had some thoughts about it right now that I want to share with everyone.

Playing a character has to be interesting to you for the game to be fun. The Player Character is your tool to interact with the plot and what allows you to be that grandiose version of your psyche. When designing this character you should provide it with the aspects which you find interesting, warts and all. Figure out what do you want to spend hours doing in a game. I tend to make a mental image of the character in my head, and imagine a single scene of him or her doing something breathtaking. But that’s me. I want my characters to be larger than life.

But let’s say I do what Ed P. did with his character. Make an interesting concept, I’m sure the shotgun Nun sounded fun to him, but it just falls flat. What then? I’d say give it a few sessions. Maybe you just need to find your characters “voice.” You never know when you just might find your PC’s niche. If after a few games you aren’t feeling a connection to your PC then do what Ed did and talk to your GM/group about changing things up. No harm, no foul.

What about a convention or one-shot game where you just grab a character out of the pre-gen pile? This is tough one. Let’s face it, even if you grab a character that you find to be made of pure awesome and dolomite, you might find yourself in a game where that PC isn’t useful in the ways in which you imagined she would be. It’s time to find how that character can be interesting in the situations placed before you. This is your opportunity to flex those creative muscles and make that square peg fit into the pentagon shaped hole! If you are playing the tough guy and the game is more diplomatic, here is your chance to use intimidation as a diplomatic strategy. If you picked up Loki and the game is made for Thor, time to use your tricks to help others (even if it is the enemy) in combat. Have fun with it!

Here are some of my personal tips in making a character you will enjoy playing:

  • Make someone who will interact with the group, for the positive or negative. This means you shouldn’t make the loner who doesn’t like to talk. Try to imagine how your character will be able to interact with a team of PCs. I get you want to be Batman and sulk over your glass of milk, but even Batman talked to the Green Lantern when the Justice League came together.
  • Your character must make sense in the genre you are playing. If the GM says you are going to play a setting that involves a lot of political intrigue, don’t roll up the village idiot who has lots of points in blowing things up.
  • Don’t play the angry loner.
  • Challenge yourself to play different character types, but there is no shame in sticking close to what you know and understand.
  • Talk to the game master and the rest of the group. Help figure out how your character will work best. If you have a concept you are in love with, communicate it with everyone to see how they might think it will work best.
  • Never, ever, play the angry loner!
  • Mix 4 parts awesome, 2 parts dolomite, and a pinch of cinnamon to make the perfect blend of character.
  • By the way. The angry loner is the obstacle to the GM and table giving you the spotlight. Think twice before you play the foul-tempered soloist.

What tips do you have about making and running a great PC. Do you have any stories of running something that just fell flat? What did you do?

Game on!


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Justin Suzuki

Justin Suzuki

How much information do you need to get involved in a session of a Roleplaying Game? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I need to know as the Game Master and as a Player. The reasons I have been pondering this important question can be summed up in two separate examples I have experienced.

I have been asked to run a semi-regular game for a group of friends and acquaintances. After some discussion a game system was settled on and character concept emails started flying. Now, I want to be crystal clear that I am a fan of character backstory and players who are passionate about their PCs. Got it? Good, let’s continue. This group of excellent people started sending me all sorts of information about their characters. Most of it is really good stuff, but there are stories that are complex enough they could be made into an entire campaign. There is nothing wrong with this much information, but with the limited amount of games I can commit to running, a lot of the awesome tales will be ignored. That doesn’t make anyone feel good. I look forward to running games for them, however. If they are this creative outside of game I can’t wait to see what they come up with in a game!

In my other experience I was a player in a one-shot game. The game in question was one I couldn’t wait to play. The GM, another nice/creative person, had other plans it would seem. This GM spent the first hour and a half telling us about the setting, past gamer stories, and other topics I couldn’t tell you about. I zoned out about 30 minutes in, and my brain checked back in once in a while to see if we had gotten to the game. We then played, a little, and I got zero feeling for the actual game. I wasn’t playing my character, I was rolling dice for an NPC.

In both of these cases you have examples of information overload. In the first example I have players who are trying to create the story of their characters before they ever interact with the actual game and in the other you have a game master who wants to tell a story, rather than run a game.

I believe that around 90% of the GM’S and player’s story should happen during the game sessions. Why else would we play these games together? What makes a memorable session of gaming is those actions taken while we all sit together at a table. Will you care that the GM’s game world has a continent of Dwarves who worship an octopus if you aren’t anywhere near said continent? Nope. Nor should you. Does the GM really need to know your PC’s kitten’s name? Not unless it has something to do with the PC’s existence in that moment of the game.

None of this is to say you shouldn’t make those stories for yourself. If a 30-page backstory helps you play the part of your character, then write it with all the creative power you have! Game Masters, you should keep working on that dream setting of yours. Just because you aren’t using what you write at the moment, doesn’t mean it won’t be featured in a future game. But to both parties in question, do not try to present it all in one massive information dump. It will be like tossing a handful of glitter on a page with a glue outline of a unicorn, most of it won’t stick.

The fond memories we will walk away with will be those wonderful things that happened at the table, nothing else.

Game on!


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Episode 27: Player Creator

AlbumCoverIn today’s episode we remove Derek’s probationary title and make him a full fledge RPDNAer, we talk about our experience at GenghisCon 2014, Justin discusses a difficult player, and we talk about the different ways you can create a character for a campaign or series of games.

Derek’s new podcast, Tales Around the Campfire

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RoleplayDNA U: Bill Keyes and Eloy Lasanta

RPDNAU400x400In this episode of RPDNA U we got a chance to interview Bill “Teh Ebil Bunneh” Keyes from Blackwyrm Publishing and Eloy Lasanta from Third Eye Games.

Eloy talks about his Amp Year One Kickstarter and his other projects. Bill tells us about his current projects. We then discuss how to promote a game at a convention and other game creation topics.

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Don’t Trust The DM

Justin Suzuki

Justin Suzuki

My friend Andy’s wife, Sheri, asked me to do her a favor. Run an RPG for six kids (average age around 10) so she could observe as part of a presentation she is doing about creativity and problem solving of gifted children (I’m sure it is not so simple as I put it but alas I am not a gifted anything). As someone who is a strong proponent of passing on the traditions of gaming to anyone willing to learn, I jumped at the opportunity.

I decided to run the kids through a Dungeon Crawl Classics game I am running at GenghisCon. I had just finished it and needed to try things out, and it has plenty of traps, puzzles, and ways to get around the obvious combat situations.

Out of the six kids three had played some form of tabletop gaming before. Andy and Sheri’s eldest son, Robert, was the most experienced player. He is a smart kid (obviously) and had a firm grasp on what it is to be a gamer. Robert is well on his way on becoming a Game Master himself if my hunch is correct. Three of the kids had no previous exposure to a Roleplaying Game. These are clean slate minds that I have not run across since I was ten.

After a brief explanation of what the game entailed I started the adventure. I gave them a fairly typical introduction: a village is being terrorized by the horrible creatures from the ruins to the north. I would go into more detail but that is boring and,like I said, I am running this in a few days. No spoilers.

The inexperienced kids looked at their character sheets and started tossing out suggestions. One child, the Cleric, announced he had the spell Protection From Evil and that he would simply cast that on the village. Problem solved! After explaining how that spell worked and that the idea just wouldn’t quite do what he thought it would, they went back into troubleshooting mode. It wasn’t until I had an NPC suggest that perhaps these brave adventurers could go to the source of evil to solve this problem. They all took to this unsolicited advice and set forth! This is the last time they trusted a word out of my mouth.

When they entered the dungeon they came across several obstacles, that secretly held an assortment of traps and gotchas. The child playing the thief read on his character sheet that he had skills to check for traps and disable these dangerous pitfalls. They immediately went into the classic, “Don’t trust anything here…the DM is trying to kill us.” mode.

Let me back up a moment to explain that I had used parts of older games to build this current one. Rooms, traps, creatures, etc. This game is a spiritual sequel to another game so there was some recycling. This means I had already playtested parts of this adventure for adult/veteran gamers. And most of the adults (whom are not stupid people, just ask them) set off a lot of traps and did a lot of damage to their own party.

These kids (aka our future overlords) took their time, thought things out, and blamo! They avoided and worked out how to get by a lot of the devious devices I put into play. Not a single trap was sprung.

Sure some of the kids had been through an RPG before, but none had been through this kind of situation I presented them. This was old school dungeon crawling. The experienced children in this group were used to the GM being a friend and the guy who just made a cool story. And the new players? They were acting like they had been in the Tomb of Horrors several times and they knew not to trust the very walls of the dungeon.

The entire session was recorded for the presentation. I have since listened to it and tried to pinpoint the moment that they became typical gamers who knew the DM lies. It started as soon as they hit the first room of the dungeon, it’s like a switch flipped on. I was happy to witness it, for it is rare to get a chance to truly introduce someone to gaming and these concepts within. And it was wonderful to see these kids have so much fun and just get it. I truly hope those kids had enough fun to get into the hobby themselves, much like I did when I was that age. I also hope to get another opportunity to see a brand new gamers step foot into that mysterious dungeon and just get it.

Game on!


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RoleplayDNA U: Phil Vecchione and Chris Sniezak

RPDNAU400x400Phil Vecchione returns with friend and writing partner Chris Sniezak to talk about collaborative storytelling games. This is the first part of a series of RPDNA U episodes regarding this topic.

One correction. I said Phil was a guest on RPDNA U before, and actually he was a guest on Episode 23

Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management

Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Session Prep

Encoded Designs

Misdirected Mark Podcast

Gnome Stew

Fate Core

Cosmic Patrol


Kingdom of Nothing

The Peaches and Hot Sauce Podcast Network

Fear the Boot

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Happy Birthday Dungeons and Dragons


Original D&D

I am not the first person to wish a joyous 40th to the most well known brand in our hobby, but I did have some thoughts about Dungeons and Dragons that I wanted to share.

Back in the summer of 1985 a good friend of mine, Brad (one of the greatest GMs I know), introduced me to the game of Dungeons and Dragons. Brad had the basic red box version of the game, and took to this game of the imagination and funny dice like a White Dragon to a blizzard. From that point on I was a gamer, at that point I still thought of myself as just a kid as I hadn’t found a need to label myself as anything.

Throughout my life D&D has been central to my gaming existence. It was the sun in the solar system of my geekdom. All other hobbies, interests, and social activities seemed to orbit around Dungeons and Dragons. Even as I learned new games I always found myself drawn to graph paper maps and pewter miniatures of D&D.

My closest friends are all gamers and I find it hard to relate to someone who doesn’t own a sack of polyhedrons and spends quality social time dungeon delving.

“How is it possible you don’t spend your Saturday night’s roleplaying?! You go out to a club? That’s crazy! What do you talk to your friends about on Monday morning?”

During my teens I felt the sting of being a social outcast from the popular kids and the adults who came to believe that playing D&D was akin to sacrificing puppies to a dark overlord whom would teach me how to use evil magic. It was a shame that never panned out, I could have used some evil magic to get a date. So gaming and my gaming friends welcomed me when others would not, I found my place in society.

After graduating from high school I found that my game group gamed more than ever. We had cars and time on our hands. Gaming once a week, for six hours at a session was the minimum to keep us happy. It was also the beginning of a D&D campaign that would last nearly two decades. The bright light of Dungeons and Dragons sun shown down on me like a light from the heavens as I took the first steps into adulthood. I wondered to myself if I was getting too old for these games? I even had a few people I talked to about gaming say things like,

“Dungeons and Dragons? I loved that game when I was ten. People still play that game? You do? Are you teaching kids how to play or something?”

I pushed through the societal shame and continued to play D&D and the occasional other RPG.

D&D eventually helped me find a lot of the people I am good friends with today. In episode 26 Ed and I talked about how we met playing Dungeons and Dragons Encounters at the local game store. It led me to attending gaming conventions and getting to know Ron, Vern, Lee, and Derek. Which means it led to RoleplayDNA.

A game has had so much influence on my life, that it almost seems silly. But I wager D&D or another game has had just as much of an impact on your life. I know married couples who met gaming. I’ve seen families who game together. And despite what your feelings are about Dungeons and Dragons as a game or brand, it is the giant sun in the center of the gaming solar system. We all owe a big thanks to it for its impact on society and our lives.

I don’t orbit the bright sun of D&D as closely as I used to. In this gamer’s humble opinion 4th edition was a planet that exploded and knocked my orbit further away from the sun (Which makes 4th edition Ceti Alpha VI). But I grow hopeful that D&D Next will pull me in again. Either way thank you, Dungeons and Dragons and happy birthday.

Game on!



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