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Be A Thief, Not A Jerk

November 9, 2012 Leave a comment

No, that’t not me.

I have played a rogue so often in games that, at this point, I refuse to take any rogue skills on my character sheet: I can hide and sneak and steal and beat-feet with the best of them.

I end up having to give a lesson on being a thief/rogue that people don’t hate A LOT.

The biggest problem with being a successful rogue is that you are doing things that are going to make people mad.  You are going to be thieving and lying on a regular basis.

Sadly, this tends to make you enemies.  Having enemies IN-GAME is a good thing.  Having enemies OUT-OF-GAME is a bad thing.

You want to avoid being a dick.  I am sorry for the frank language, but it is true.

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Lying

You are going to lie as a rogue.  It just happens…

Don’t mistake being a rogue with HAVING TO LIE.  You CAN tell the truth and still be in-character.

Be smart.  Does it actually do anything for you to lie about where the main villain went?  Then don’t do it.

Unless you can actually make bank or have a real reason to have to lie, don’t do it habitually if you want to be a successful rogue.  People won’t ever believe you, and then how can you get them to look in the wrong place for the Treasure Of MasterGoldEnStien?

(Being a habitual liar for BAD reasons is an entirely different character concept.)

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Thieving

If you are going to steal, NEVER STEAL EVERYTHING.  This is a HUGE rule.  Yes, I know that your character would probably steal everything that is not nailed down, but then you are going to make out-of-game enemies.

There is psychology behind this that may make so called “role-play purists” mad, but if you think that no one is going to be mad at you for stealing their shit, you need to go home.  Understand that people spend a lot of time gathering up their money, components, items, etc.  If you take all of it, they will become disheartened, angry with you, and may even not want to play anymore.

You can still steal things!  But you have to use good judgment so that you can be a successful thief without making players mad, or being a jerk.

Here are some good rules of thumb:

10%

Only ever steal  (at most) 10% of what people have.  If they have 10 gold, steal one.  This means you have more money, and they can’t really be too angry.  It’s only one gold!

Never Big

If you see a bunch of items that someone has, never steal their coolest, best item.  They probably spent a lot of time getting that, and it will dishearten them Out-of-Game if you take it.

Yes, I understand that your character would take it, and I know that you think that they are bad role-players if they get upset, but you are wrong.  You, not your character, are being mean if you take someone’s favorite toy.  Take something else!  If you see a Staff of Blasting, a Pendant of Dodge, and The High Gift Of The Gods To Magey McMageinstine: take the staff or the pendant.  Leave them their awesome toy, so that they don’t get mad at you out-of-game.

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You want to be a rogue who can thieve and such, and you can!  Just make sure that you don’t alienate the other players at the game.  Get yourself a reputation as a good rogue, but also as an awesome player.

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Do It Yourself Campsite: A few simple prop ideas

November 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Heylo, folks!  Let’s talk a little about the in-game look to your camp area.

Not everyone thinks to decorate their in-game area, and I fully believe that an in-game campsite adds BUCKETS to the feel of a game.  Sure, you don’t NEED to, and the people running the game will decorate certain buildings where you can hang out.  However, I feel that if everyone puts a little effort into their area, you can have an entire WORLD to play in, rather than go to bed in your out of game area after playing in the one decorated building.

Lighting

Lighting is a really simple way to make your site look in-game, especially at night.  A really few simple and cheap fixes include:

Replace the light bulbs in your cabin with red, blue, or green lights.  This immediately makes the building seem different, without having to hang things all over the walls.

Candles are super-useful, but always make sure that the game and the camp allows them.  Even if they do, make sure your candles are in safe glass/metal containers.  While tapers that are loose are neat looking, they are more likely to catch things on fire.  Try to be sure that all of your candles are safe.

Battery powered lamps can fix up things like tents, but make sure that they are covered with some sort of colored-clear tape.  This way it is not harsh white light, and it looks more like candle-light than anything.

Flags

A few well placed flags outside of your campsite make the place look more like a war camp than a girl-scout cabin.  These are easy to make and do worlds of good for a site.  Simply take a long cloth and fold it in half.  Cut a hole in the center of the fold so that a PVC pipe can fit through it.  Then get yourself some PVC and make a lowercase “t” shape, so that there is a tiny piece that sticks out the hole (this way the flag doesn’t fly off).

Decorate the flag with whatever you want (paint the PVC!) and stab it into the ground somewhere in the camp!

Wall Hangings

These can be as simple as a 5 dollar sheet from Wal-Mart, to as elaborate as a lovely wall hanging that you “borrowed” from grandma.  Tacking or stapling this up on the walls of your tent/cabin/pavilion will change the look of the place enough to help it feel in-game and period.

You can even paint something on your Wal-Mart sheet to make it more in game! Or leave it unpainted and sleep with it later!

Pens

I love my cheap feather pens, and I leave them EVERYWHERE.  They are really simple to make, and having them around a building adds just a little extra detail that will make people feel in-game in your camp, and think you are just super cool.

Simply take a regular, cheap pen and tape a feather to it.  Then take yarn and carefully tape or glue it to the pointy end of the pen (make sure you can still write).

I like to take the point and ink cartridge out of the pen, stick a small part of the yarn in the plastic tube, and then replace the point and cartridge, so that I don’t have to have tape.

Then simply wrap the yarn around the pen until you get to the top, where you tie it off around the feather.  If you want to reverse some tape on the tube of the pen so that the yarn is more stable, you can do that, too!

You can get detailed, like tying intricate knots all along the pen, but since I give these out like candy, I don’t have time.

Cups

If you don’t have your own cup for your camp, simply buy some clear plastic ones.  Make the effort to avoid Red Solo cups, because they just look red and out of game.  The little detail of a clear (and therefore glass-like) cup goes a LONG way towards making your camp not look trashy.

Plastic Water Coolers

Take one of those big orange water coolers and wrap it in fabric.  BAM!  Now you have a water cooler IN YOUR CAMP, and it doesn’t look trashy.  Thus: people want to hang at your cabin and drink water (yum) and it doesn’t look trashy.  Win-Win.

Bottles and Cans

Step 1: Don’t have them.

Step 2: If Step 1 fails, wrap them in duct-tape.  Then you have no red-bull cans sitting around, and it makes it a little more in-game.

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Believe it or not, it is the little details that can help put someone into the in-game mindset, and the little things that can jar them out.  (We had an article about immersion earlier, so I won’t harp.)  You don’t need large, expensive items to add to the in-game feel of the camp: the devil is in the details.

Hiding Logos on In-Game Gear

November 6, 2012 3 comments

To continue the multi-article topic of immersion, today I would like to talk about brand names and sneakers, and the damage they do to your in-game image.

When you are an NPC, the occasional jeans or sneakers is quite all right.  Sometimes you just forget to pack black slacks and boots.  Everyone has done it, no harm-no foul.  We just kind of assume that NPCs are going to be in the less detailed costumes anyway, as they are probably working out of a bin, and someone already snagged all the good armor.

However, for players, the little things like seeing a brand name on your shoes can make someone forget that they are talking to an impressive mage.  Your image is everything, and you want people to know what you are.  If you have a football helmet on and have made no effort to make it look in-game, I am going to have a lot of trouble taking you seriously.  I just can’t bring myself to be afraid of someone called “Brigard the Barbarian” in Nike Hockey Gear.

Thus, today I have a few quick fixes for gear to make it look more in-game!  If you have any additional ideas, please add them in the comments section.  I love new things.

Armor

Sports padding, sneakers, jeans, and even gloves often look incredibly out of game, and there are really quick, simple fixes for all of them.

The answer, almost universally, is spray paint.  If you want it quick and dirty, hang your armor on a fence post two days before the game, and douse it with spray paint.

Ta-da!  No more Nike on your lacrosse pads (those are a thing, right?).

If you want to get a little more detailed, cut out a neat design from fabric, and glue it onto the armor.  If you do this with pleather, or perhaps even a shiny, metallic fabric, then your armor suddenly looks much less like padding and much more in-game.

Glue/sew some spikes on there.  Maybe cut and shape some cheap metal siding from Home Depot to fit over the bigger parts, so that the shoulders don’t look so rounded and foot-ball-y.  (Be careful with this.  Later I will have to post a tutorial on making safe metal additions to your armor.)

Shoes

As for shoes, try to get yourself some boots/sandals/moccasins that match your costume.  Most can be gotten cheaply at a local large-chain store.  If you can’t afford crappy 10 dollar shoes, or don’t want to WEAR crappy 10-dollar shoes, take a comfortable pair that you have, cut the sleeves off of a tee-shirt, and then tape the edges down to the sole of your shoe.  Wrap the top around your ankle, so that the sleeve covers the entire shoe, and tape it a little around your ankle, or tuck it into your sock.  There, you have hidden your sneaker, and at the low cost of a tee-shirt that probably has a stain on it anyway.

Jeans

There is no useful fix for jeans.  Try to remember your black pants.

Gloves

A lot of people like to wear sports gloves, because we are swinging pipes at each other in the dead of winter, and that hurts your hands sometimes.  Again, cover the logo!  If you can remove it without ruining the gloves, wonderful!  That takes a few minutes, and no money, and thus your outfit looks even better.  If you cannot safely remove it, slap some tape over it.  Sure, it is a quick, dirty, sort of ugly fix, but at least your gloves won’t have a football on them.

Slightly more detailed fixes include sewing patches on the gloves, painting over the logos, or adding pieces of metal.

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Your character stats can say that you are the Lord High Grand MurderFace of Death-ville…  Your outfit, however, says Adidas, Nike, and Hot Topic…  I have a few things to say about that…  First: brand-loyalty, dude!  Second: remember that other players don’t know what is on your sheet.  They can only see how scary you are by your appearance and your actions.  If you want to advertise that you are awesome, make sure that your costume reflects this.  There are very cheap ways of doing so, and you will be that much more badass.

Immersion Therapy: Keeping the In-Game Atmosphere

November 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Hey there, friends. This is JoeFro, with a little friendly advice on gaming in an immersive environment. I have been to my fair share of games, run by all manner of people, in a variety of settings, and with a multitude of rules. And if there is one thing I have noticed, one beast that can turn any game sour like milk under a heat lamp, it is the creature known as immersion.

To explain a little more, Immersion, in a game setting, is going through the motions to make a game feel less like nerds in costumes, and more like a world where Elves, magic, and knights are real. It is the ambiance of a setting, the little touches that make the world seem to come alive, that make some people truly enjoy they experience of crawling through a tunnel to the heart of a dragon’s lair. And this can all be ruined by the person in back, wearing a pair of Adidas and making “That’s what she said,” jokes.

There are some more egregious examples of breaking immersion, like the above example. These are usually offences made by people who either don’t care about the environment, who are only there to swing a boffer and call numbers, or by people who might not know better. First time LARPers may slip up, and make some statements that can break immersion, or might not have the proper costuming or phys-reps for the character or environment. Other times, stress or environmental factors can cause people to begin to lose their character, immersion, or motivation.

He could just be writing at a table, drinking Redbull and talking about football… But that defeats the purpose of LARPing, now, doesn’t it?

It is important, when dealing with situations where somebody is severely breaking the game’s environment, to assess the situation before deciding on a course of action. Is this a first time LARPer, who might only need a little guidance, advice, or a simple push in the right direction? If so, setting the example is the most important step you can take; make your resurrection ceremony have a little extra flair, or  break out the full tool-kit when engineering up some guns. Let the players see you going the extra mile, or take a minute out of your time to tell them where they can get an awesome pair of boots for an affordable price.

Now, let’s say that the person has been coming to the game for a few months, yet is constantly guilty of breaking the game environment. I know, from personal experience, how frustrating it can be when your character is having a great scene, and somebody stumbles up to you and says something as shattering as, “Whaddup, brah?” It’s enough to make you want to scream, and you are completely justified in feeling this. However, it is important that you handle the situation in a civil manner. And if the player still doesn’t get it, approach a member of your game’s staff. They are there to help.

Before I wrap this up, there is one more thing I would like to touch on regarding immersion. It might not seem big, but there are little things that can help make a huge difference. Seeing an empty Red Bull can sitting on a table of the Inn, people making a pop-culture reference to a scene or character, or somebody singing a modern song, while all innocent infractions, are just as removing as the other examples given. Little steps like putting your drink in a cup, or putting duct-tape around the can will help keep an environment just as much as somebody in $300 worth of garb.

Take some time, at your next event, to look around your game, and see if you notice anything that might help immerse your game even more. Something as simple as turning the bic pens floating around the Inn into feather quills with costume feathers and yarn, just helps the game that much more. And the better your game’s environment is, the more likely everyone is to enjoy themselves.

Until next time, friends,

JoeFro

Categories: Player Advice

PCs: How to Handle Down Time

November 3, 2012 Leave a comment

So, the necessary evil of every game is Down Time.  Every game has it, and some events are worse than others.

Don’t blame your GMs for downtime: revel in it!  Sometimes things take a long time to put together, and you have to find something to do in the meantime.  I find that I use downtime for crafting in most games that I attend, and sometimes I don’t even have enough!  At the game I run, when I PC, I feel like I barely have enough time to craft items before I am whisked away to something else.  Even if I have two hours, I like to put so much into my crafting that it takes a while to set up.

I bring tools to make my scrolls, pre-write them, and then spend my downtime lighting candles and incense, and painting pretty pictures on my scrolls, before sealing them with wax.

I know a player who takes his downtime to write in his journal.  Note, his journal is written in a language that he made up, and no one knows what it says, but it keeps him busy.

When you make your character, make sure that it has some depth, and does more than just smack someone.  Pick up a hobby that you can do in between mods, and try to make it something interactive, if you can.  A woman I know draws pictures of other players during downtime, and it leads to great conversations!

Fetch firewood and make a game of it.  Draw maps!  I used to love drawing and painting maps during downtime.

If you find something to both keep you busy, and involve others, you will never notice the downtime.  One girl used to wish that downtime was LONGER, because she kept a record of what happened at events, and liked to interview PCs in-game, but found that she ran out of time quickly.

Heck, even bringing crafting that you need to do OUT of game is useful.  Did you want to paint your armor between events?  Do it at the event!  Make spell-packets at the event, work on your spell-book.  All of these things are useful to do DURING game-play, and will keep you busy and happy while the NPCs scramble to put the next mod together.

Remember, you are the one at fault for being bored!  Sure, the GMs could get things out faster, but maybe one of them fell off a cliff.  Maybe they all fell asleep.  No matter what, you should be able to find ways, in-game, to still have fun!  All around you are friends and people who share your hobbies.  Interact and get stuff done.  Go make a friend… Well, really, you are better off going and making an enemy.

Enemies make downtime disappear.  Just use it to try and kill each other!

Categories: Player Advice