Friday, August 19, 2011

My Roleplayer Credentials

Since I'll be writing tons of articles, tips, and other bits and pieces, I figured I should let you know my background. That way you can see for yourself if I'm a total n00b who probably doesn't have much to say or if my interests in games are so different from yours that my advice probably won't even apply.

So, what's my background?

I, like most kids, LARPed without knowing it. There weren't any dice or systems but there was an over-arching world and I ran around in it with my friends, defeating monsters as Magic Cats, or even playing around with television worlds like Sliders. I once brought mum's remote control to work (minus the batteries) and used that as the Sliders remote. I played these games longer than most kids, however, and stopped in Year 8 only because I was home schooled for a couple years and didn't have other players.

I started gaming again at the late age of about eighteen by being an assistant Dungeon Master with my then boyfriend. I'd discovered Dungeons and Dragons at his house one day and suggested we should run something. That game only lasted a couple sessions but it opened a whole new world to me. I didn't game again for awhile but I did start researching a bunch of different games systems and spent hours reading mostly Dungeons & Dragons books and World of Darkness books. I also discovered Kult and Call of Cthulhu at around that time.

It wasn't until I started my university degree that I gathered together a bunch of gamers who hadn't played in years and ran my first game. A sprawling Demon: the Fallen (old World of Darkness) game set back at the start of WWII. It was a real zoo crawl where the players got to poke all kinds of things. There was no central theme or even goal but there didn't need to be. The players were happy enough to just run around the world exploring things and pushing red buttons. I even managed to groom a self-confessed hack-and-slasher into a roleplayer. This game went weekly for about a year and a half, though only a month of actual in-game time past. I don't know how we managed that trick, but we did.

I started playing, and running, Play by Posts for a few years in a wonderful Call of Cthulhu forum and I learned a lot about the methods behind making that work.

I also had a spot of roleplaying as a player in Dungeons and Dragons, twice, under two different Dungeon Masters. One lasted for a single session and was pretty cool though I was a terrible influence and when the party was split by a steel grate, I convinced my half of the group to go have a picnic. True Neutral rogues, huh? Gotta love them.

The other lasted for about four or five sessions where I played a 12-year-old psion from level 1 who leveled up to about level 3 with another player before joining the party of level 6 or 7s. That ... was a learning curve. It is very difficult to play in a game where everyone else is of significantly higher level.

Later, in my third year of university, after my Demon game ended, I started going to a Camarilla Vampire LARP (where I met my fiance). I played a fairly popular, albeit quiet, Daeva called Holly Jenkins and had a bit of fun creating a bidding war for my new foster sire. I also tried my hand at the Camarilla Mage and Changeling games. The latter effort lasted longer than the former but my attendance has been spotty at best.

I started playing Dungeons and Dragons weekly again with my new boyfriend and his friends. I learnt a fair bit about how to make battles sound suitably dangerous and exciting from that Dungeon Master (hello Chris!).

After a year or so of LARPing, I ran the Camarilla Vampire LARP of about 30 players as an ST. That didn't work out too well. I had difficulties with the realities of a global game, dropped out, and started my own Invite Only Vampire LARP with a smallish group of about 12 players. I ran that for about a year and a half. It was incredibly fun. I made a big cardboard coffin for an ancient to climb out of. I created a forum to streamline the IC conversations between sessions and to make it easier to deal with downtimes (creating a resource-based section of the game that enthralled some players but, unfortunately, irritated a few others who dropped out).

Eventually, after about two years, my Vampire LARP drew to a close due to a slow but steady player attrition that eventually beat my ability to attract new players. So I created a new World of Darkness version of Demon: the Fallen that was part-LARP, part-TABLETOP, part-PLAY-BY-POST, for six players (one is now my co-ST) that was designed to handle my busy player lives and thus allow a fortnightly game regardless of if five or only one player attended.

Later on I'll spotlight these games, where they went right and where they went wrong.

I'm also a psychology honours graduate and a budding novelist so I have (or at least think I have) a solid grasp on characterisation, particularly what makes people tick, and I like to apply both those skill sets to my NPCs and the ripple effects of player actions.

I have a writing blog that I'll sometimes link to from here as I've found that a lot of the advice that works for novelists on plotting and characterisation also works with storytelling. Of course, you have to be aware that your plots are more guidelines than true plots and you have absolutely no control over how your player's perceive or react to NPCs, but so long as you bear that in mind, you can apply a lot of the tools of the trade.

Wow, so that's a fairly long biography so if you bothered to read this far, here's a cookie.

I promise I won't be so long-winded next time. Or at the very least, I promise that I'll break up long-winded posts into multiple posts and call each piece of the rant something trendy like Part 1 and Part 2.



  1. Shannon,

    I love how you mention some of the older games (I haven't heard about Kult in years, brings back memories). It's great to see that others who have played for years haven't "outgrown" it. Great to see you in the field :)

    Robert (BPTC)

  2. Thanks! I'm pretty sure I'll be bringing gaming into the retirement village.