Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Zak's GM Questionnaire


Zak posted this questionnaire. Despite this being an obvious ploy to get people to report their play preferences and experiences for some nefarious scheme, I will comply and join the herd. Here's what I've got:

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
Kurlamek's band—a kobold chieftain and his warband that I developed for a 2E campaign in the early 90s.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
January 13, 2012. Who else started a new game on Friday the 13th?

3. When was the last time you played?
I played Pathfinder on January 2, 2012.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
The characters are trapped in an inn while it is menaced by the ghost of an ancient dragon.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Read and review notes, answer their questions, make rolls to anticipate expected player actions, or flip through my gaming books and make notes of things I want to develop later. If they take too long, I start rolling wandering monster checks.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Pizza, chips, popcorn, pretzels, veggies, grapes, whatever munchies happen to be available. For drinks, whatever people prefer. I generally go with iced tea or wine when I play. When I DM, I stick with the tea, coffee, or caffeinated soda. I used to be bothered by players drinking alcohol during games. Now, as long as they can handle it, I don't mind.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Sometimes, especially if we play late in the evening or for more than four or five hours. I almost always find it mentally exhausting.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
My character used a bellows, a bag of holding, and a lot of holy water to trap and destroy a vampire that had been forced into gaseous form.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
Sometimes the players make more jokes than I think fit the setting, but it hasn't really broken the setting or the game yet. I've played in a couple of Paranoia games where the party took things way too seriously. For the most part, though, I prefer pretty casual play, so I haven't seen a lot of game-breaking behavior either way.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Pester player characters or use them as harassing flankers. Skirmishing archers can't take a charge, but they're hell on an unguarded flank. In D&D games I normally use them as low-level wilderness raiders and opportunistic scavengers.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
Mrs. Coulter from The Golden Compass. I love the idea of an incredibly charismatic, well-connected lady that uses no magic, just personal charm, grace, and vicious political skill to abduct children for experiments, manipulate government and church resources, and advance herself, while appearing totally innocent and well-meaning to most of the world.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
Nothing that would make sense outside of the particular group at the table. Game humor usually takes too much explanation to be funny to anyone that wasn't there.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
Fantasy Wargaming. I played it and stole things for my D&D game from it years ago, and I'm thinking of posting about it on my blog.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
Dave Trampier. Others that I like, depending on the game and the material, include Erol Otus, Darlene, Jeff Dee, Angus McBride, Zak, and Terese Nielsen.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
Usually, no. I normally run a more heroic and less horrific game.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
Running an entire party of new players through the Sunless Citadel using 3E rules. Not knowing how the game mechanics worked, they couldn't math their way out of situations. They just described the crazy stuff they were trying and had fun.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
I'm running all of my games online at the moment, so one good computer with a solid internet connection and twin monitors, my paper gaming library close at hand, Google+ hangouts for video conferencing, and a professional shared whiteboard space for drawing maps and notes.

If I were running face-to-face, a good computer to use to access my electronic books, my gaming library at hand, gaming paper and terrain tiles, minis, and a small whiteboard for me. Comfortable chairs, good light, and plenty of table space for the players.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Avalon Hill's Rise and Decline of the Third Reich and Microlite74.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
CS Lewis and Bolt Thrower

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
I prefer to play with people that follow the rule of Fs—forget fighting, fun first. Whatever else your style is, if you don't come to the game to play and have fun, it's not worth it for me to run the game for you. If all you want to do is prove you can crunch numbers, use tactics, or roll dice better than the other players and I, go get an army and head to your local Games Workshop store.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
The closest thing I can think of is being able to describe what is involved in primitive camping like most D&D characters do.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
I'd love to see a Traveller expansion that detailed Frank Herbert's Dune setting.

I'd also love it if WotC would rescan all the old edition material, produce properly recognized, layered, and bookmarked PDF files and release them. I'd love to see the old gaming magazines—Dragon, Dungeon, White Dwarf, Imagine, etc.—get the same treatment. I'd like it even more if they released all of that old material with conversion notes to make it work with the most current edition in print.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
I talk to my girlfriend about my games. She doesn't really understand what I'm talking about.

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