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SlamDance

It's Okay

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I have a problem when it comes to tabletop RPGs. Worrying. Worrying and over-thinking. Well, I have two problems: worrying and over-thinking. And scheduling. Okay, three problems.

 

This posting, which originally went up on my personal web log, is about the first two.

 

I want to try getting back into the hobby of tabletop roleplaying games again, and it’s okay. For a good while I thought that it wasn’t for me, but for a good while I’ve been trying to force myself into being things that I’m not. It feels like the right time to try this out again.
 
I want to try game mastering the Deathwatch RPG again, and that’s okay. I’m sick of second-guessing myself about the things I want to try, or telling myself that it’s wasting time that should be put toward other things.
 
It’s been years since I seriously tried an RPG, and that’s okay. It’s good to let some enthusiasm come through, and the idea that I’m too old – or that others will think me as too old – is a sad, crippling idea.
 
I’m second guessing myself and worrying about it, and that’s okay. This is something new, or at least, something I’ve not done in a while. Of course I’m going to fear the unknown.
 
The Deathwatch game has a pretty complex set of rules that I don’t fully understand, and that’s okay. In the end, I want to have a good time with some fun people, and everything else needs to serve that. Playing with the mechanics of a roleplaying game is entertaining in and of itself, sure, but it’s definitely not everything.
 
I only have a few players, and that’s okay. I reckon that starting small is no bad thing, and will help build my confidence. Just dealing with a few personalities, especially folks I know, is good.
 
I’m already thinking I’d rather be GMing something else instead, and that’s okay. It’s good to be interested in more than one thing, and maybe playing a few games of Deathwatch will convince me that I’d rather be doing something a little more optimistic, like Star Wars, or more adventure flavoured, like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. But I won’t know that until I try, and something more unfamiliar to me may well be more rewarding.
 
I sometimes think I should be playing instead of GMing to get a better idea of what being a player is like, and that’s okay. No one’s expecting perfection (and anyone who is, I don’t want to share a table with) and sometimes, to play a game no one else you know has tried, ya gotta give GMing a go. Especially if you own the book.
 
We’re having trouble working out schedules, and that’s okay. It tells me that I could do with discussing times and options with my wife more.
 
I have no ieda for a campaign, and that’s okay. I’ve followed advice, come up with character charts and got all invested in NPCs and settings and wound up hating the play experience, which is what matters. I’d rather jam with folks and see what we come up with, even for something as complex as Deathwatch.
 
I’m intending to DM a game all about Space Marines, genetically-enhanced, powered-armoured warrior priests who serve a massive interstellar society for which the word “dystopian” seems like a criminal understatement, as they undertake special missions against the aliens that threaten that society, and that’s okay. it’s a setting not quite like any other out there, and sometimes it’s good to fight for hope when there isn’t any easy source.
 
I keep thinking of silly character beats for Space Marine characters in a Deathwatch game, and that’s okay. It’s good to know that the game has got my imagination running, even if it’s not in the tonal direction you’d expect.
 
I’m giving up my personal time to do this, and that’s okay. It’s good to be investing in having a good time with cool people than driving myself nuts trying to build a freelance career.
 
I’m playing with folks I don’t know all that well, and that’s okay. Previous attempts to play with folks I know didn’t work out – in part because of my own worries sapping the joy out of what I was trying to do – and maybe this will be a good way of getting to know some cool, local people.
 
I’m aiming to get my players around a table rather than play online, and that’s okay. I think people prefer face to face anyway, and as much as online might seem more convenient, especially in the face of changing schedules, not everyone has access to solid Internet.
 
I’m already juggling availabilities, and that’s okay. Organising any group is tough, and gamers are notoriously hard to organise. Sooner or later, I’m probably going to have to tell someone who’s interested that we can’t make the times work; it’s going to suck no matter what, but it’s better to be clear and honest and respect each other’s time.
 
I’ve let me own worries sap the joy out of previous attempts to GM a game, and that’s okay. I just had something to learn about the process of shared creativity and the people I was trying to share with. I still do, but at least I know that there’s something I don’t know instead of expecting it to all work properly the first go.
 
I only have the rulebook, and that’s okay. I reckon there’s plenty of stuff in the main rulebook to go on, and I’d prefer to resist the urge to spend money on more stuff that I might wind up never using.
 
There are only three enemy “races” in the core rulebook, and that’s okay. Each one makes sense within the themes of Deathwatch, and while a Warhammer 40,000 faction that the players may have been looking forward to putting some bolt shells into mightn’t be present, I reckon we can have a good time anyway.
 
I don;t know what’s going to happen, and that’s okay. It’s time I let this hobby really draw me out of the “studying the rulebooks in the name of preparing the campaign” not-really-comfort zone I kept finding myself in whenever I bought big series of RPG books (like Heavy Gear) and learn what works and what doesn’t through trying it myself instead of living vicariously through others’ actual play reports.
 
In the end, it’s all okay; my hopes, my doubts; my strengths and weaknesses; my friends and those folks I don’t know yet.
Edited by SlamDance

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Disclaimer: If any of the below is wrong/illogical/not applicable, ignore it and blame the cold medication and shall apologise that this all is useless.

 

I sympathise with the majority of the above and one of the biggest issues for any GM which puts people off it is the anxiety and the constant battle in your mind of whether you're prepped for it or whether what you have gone with is good/bad or just whether you made the right call. I for example detest public speaking in any way, shape or form so opting to DM something was to me, a nightmare and requires me to basically step out my comfort zone and hope that what I propose to the players and portray is even a fragment of the colourful and chaotic maelstrom that is going on in my mind and sometimes it doesn't come across like that. Some of the ideas could probably be made (with some tweaking) into a blockbuster movie and others end up as something which should be sealed in concrete, stored in a bomb proof safe and dropped to the bottom of the marinas trench before being buried under more concrete never to see the light of day again and yet I still potentially think "hmm, I could make it work" until finally realise that it's terrible. I have some splendid ideas I can use and then I then doubt myself about running with it and lack the confidence to play it. Small groups, very good. Big groups, very bad. I tend to find my limit is around 5-6, any more than that and you might struggle to find something to keep everyone entertained or give everyone sufficient spotlight time. Even better if all those are friends or people you know since they can be more sympathetic if/when you do mess up, he says talking from experience...

 

Deathwatch is perhaps one of the easiest games to run off the bat because of what it is (closely followed by Only War). The entire function is killing/fighting Xenos and you can easily make a meatgrinder of a campaign or just nick the plot of Dawn of War if you're bored. That's not to say you can't do games of subtlety and intrigue or social skills with it and that's also not too hard to do, but games like BC, RT and DH1 and 2 tend to focus (usually) around influence, manipulation and an actual plot so you will be really hard pressed to get something that badly wrong as long as your players know from Day 1 what they will expect and how it will play out. I haven't done that on occasions and have fallen foul of it with entire games losing steam as a result of it to the point of complete collapse. Basically

 

Running a campaign then, if you hate the idea of plotting it all and you're creative enough, throw it out the window and go with a reactionary sandbox. Have some vague A and B points in mind but how they choose to get there is entirely up to them and just have some random NPC profiles or events on standby in case they crop up. Meanwhile, and this ties in with the above, be prepared to throw the rulebook out the window. In my view, plot should always come first over the rules and if a rule interferes with the natural progression of your intended story it should be open to change so that your idea can continue without stipulation as long as the group know this is coming.

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Nice play on the Spanish Inquisition scene.

 

That aside, well, basically what the Slaneeshi Visitor said: have fun. From your other blog entries it looks like you managed to create a suitable environment for that, and that's all what matters, the rest is just technicalities. It's kind of hard to offer specific advice on a stream-of-consciousness piece, but if there's anything we can help you with, ask away.

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Thank you for the comments, folks! Yeah, that was a bit stream-of-consciousness, musingu, so thanks for indulging me. :)

 

Musungu and Q: I've found that having fun in an RPG can be a bit trickier than it seems. I sat down with my two players on Thursday night for character creation; out came the rulebook and the rolling for stats and the choosing options - and it rapidly got dull. I dunno. I like crunchiness when it's in a book, but not when I'm trying to use it live. (I honestly found playing XCOM; The Board Game afterward a lot more involving.)

 

Was I silly to expect otherwise? I don't know. if I do another character creation / campaign prep session, though, I think I'll actually tell my players up front that the stats can wait; this get-together is about all of us creating an imaginary place we can't wait to check out and some imaginary people that we can't wait to be / interact with - and also tell them that what I really enjoy is unironic ham. I'm looking forward to playing GMCs who, to a lesser or greater extent, chew the scenery, giving the players the opportunity to chew the scenery too.

 

(I keep thinking of the recent series of Doctor Who as an example: the world's in peril and everyone involved is turning it up to eleven.)

 

Now, my two players are Deathwatch veterans, so they probably have a greater awareness of / trust in the process than I do. So, what I'm focusing on between now and next session (in a little under a fortnight) is, instead of worrying and second guessing, coming up with some Jericho Reach GMCs whom I'm going to enjoy playing.

 

We'll see how we go!

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Thank you for the comments, folks! Yeah, that was a bit stream-of-consciousness, musingu, so thanks for indulging me. :)

 

Musungu and Q: I've found that having fun in an RPG can be a bit trickier than it seems. I sat down with my two players on Thursday night for character creation; out came the rulebook and the rolling for stats and the choosing options - and it rapidly got dull. I dunno. I like crunchiness when it's in a book, but not when I'm trying to use it live. (I honestly found playing XCOM; The Board Game afterward a lot more involving.)

 

Was I silly to expect otherwise? I don't know. if I do another character creation / campaign prep session, though, I think I'll actually tell my players up front that the stats can wait; this get-together is about all of us creating an imaginary place we can't wait to check out and some imaginary people that we can't wait to be / interact with - and also tell them that what I really enjoy is unironic ham. I'm looking forward to playing GMCs who, to a lesser or greater extent, chew the scenery, giving the players the opportunity to chew the scenery too.

 

(I keep thinking of the recent series of Doctor Who as an example: the world's in peril and everyone involved is turning it up to eleven.)

 

Now, my two players are Deathwatch veterans, so they probably have a greater awareness of / trust in the process than I do. So, what I'm focusing on between now and next session (in a little under a fortnight) is, instead of worrying and second guessing, coming up with some Jericho Reach GMCs whom I'm going to enjoy playing.

 

We'll see how we go!, so I wouldn't feel that

 

Deathwatch has one of the most detailed character creation systems I have come across.  The first time I rolled up a space marine with a player it was kind of fun.  Now it is quite boring.  So don't feel bad in that regard.  It is a small mercy that PCs are at least difficult to kill in this game.

 

Two suggestions if the rules side of it are kind of dull for you generally;

 

1) Don't use the Deathwatch rules but seemthing with less 'crunchyness' and just use the setting. (HERESY! BLAM!). 

 

Or as a variation of this just strip out/simplify any rules which are getting in the way.  For example all the rules about Power Armour and Marine Implants can generally be summarised as Power is Environmentally sealed.  It has good targeting and makes the user stronger.  The implants basically make the player immune to posions and gasses.  Therefore just give the players a flat +10 to Perception and Makes PCs immune to all gasses and toxins unless at GMs discretion a Toughness test is needed.  Obviously this is really emphasising speed over specificity. 

 

2) If you trust your players let them roll up their characters independantly, submit them to you for review and go from there.

 

There is also something to be said for pre-generated characters.  At least early on.

 

Also I have noticed a real tendency for people to obsess a bit over the rules.  I have always thought that one of the main advantage of pen and paper of RPGs over thier computer game counterparts or wargames was that the rules could be as flexible as the GM and the players wanted. 

 

(As for big ham, I love this too.  I'd suggest watching Mad Max Fury Road for inspiration if you want the perfect merging of WH40K craziness with Huge Doses of Ham.

 

'WHERE ARE THEY TAKING THEM!!!!!?'

 

MEDICORE!'

 

'THAT'S MY PROPERTY SPLENDID!'

 

That's enough Immortan Joe. Ed.)

Edited by Visitor Q

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[...] if you want the perfect merging of WH40K craziness with Huge Doses of Ham.

 

Ham comes easily to 40k, provided nobody's fixated on extreme grimderp. Now I'm imagining Brian Blessed as a Space Marine, and it is glorious. CHISWICK! FRESH BOLTER CLIPS!

 

 

Now, my two players are Deathwatch veterans, so they probably have a greater awareness of / trust in the process than I do. So, what I'm focusing on between now and next session (in a little under a fortnight) is, instead of worrying and second guessing, coming up with some Jericho Reach GMCs whom I'm going to enjoy playing.

 

We'll see how we go!

 

That's a good idea, let it rip! Also, encourage your players (especially the new ones) to pick Chapters where hamming out comes easier - a larger-than-life Wolf or Scar or even a Dougie McIsaac-type Storm Warden can let go of the seriousness easier than a dour-faced Fist or Dark Angel.

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If worried about complexity - feel free to 'boil it down' and just use the level of rules detail in the 'starter game' adventures, Final Sanction and Oblivion's Edge.

 

If you're more worried about fun and role-play than micromanaging combat tactics, you won't loose too much.

 

It’s been years since I seriously tried an RPG, and that’s okay. It’s good to let some enthusiasm come through, and the idea that I’m too old – or that others will think me as too old – is a sad, crippling idea.

 

Ain't no such animal. If it's fun (and legal), it's fun - and bugger anyone who tries to convince you otherwise.

 

If you want some good inspiration, try and get a hold of a copy of the following books - all published by Black Library:

  • Deathwatch (Graphic Novel)
  • Deathwatch by Rob Sanders
  • Mark Of The Xenos (short story collection)
  • Mission: Purge (Audio Book)
  • Vengeful Spirit (a Horus Heresy book)

All of them have lots of really good material looking at deathwatch teams or similar equivalents - the sort of missions they undertake, the banter between kill-team members (which tends to be a lot more refreshing given their different heritages), and so on.

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