Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jumping on Zak's Q&A Wagon

Twist my arm. Here's my entry in this meme-thon.

I've actually enjoyed reading through others' entries, interesting windows into how and why people run their games.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

I invented false modesty—and it worked! I also rather like the pointcrawl thing I stole and adapted from brighter lights.

2. When was the last time you Gmed?

Tuesday evening I ran a HC session on Google Plus...well...sort of, it was a case of ludus interreptus.

3. When was the last time you played?

Last Thursday night with my dwarf Xhomar the Contumelious in “Keep on the Carcosan Borderlands” run by Roger Burgess.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

The players are in charge of a train of humongous land-barges (big giant-wheeled wagons with sails and the whole business), a caravan or group of refugees, and must cross this vast piece of virtually unknown land akin to Vance's Planet of Adventure. It's all about picaresque travel but with an edge of raw survival to it. Explore foolishly or without enough rigor and the group perishes bit by bit.

Either that or a Black Ziggarut. Dunno. 

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Make up just-in-time details or bliss out. 

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

Face-to-face: sweet and salty things. G+: eat nothing, but sweet, sweet wine.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

Actually the total opposite, I almost always get an adrenaline buzz after I get over the pre-game stage fright thing.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Trying to sell his party-mates into slavery in order to get access to the Keep. Or maybe it was convincing the local peasants that rubbing a dwarf's head was good luck—and that they should pay good money to do so.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

My campaigns run the seriousness gamut with the Domain Game being perhaps the most serious—but they all have big, heaping platefuls of the seriously unserious. The players tend to amp up both ends of that spectrum.

10. What do you do with goblins?

Re-skin them into something wholly else. I guess I don't do standard monsters other than giant animals and the undead anymore, nothing doctrinal about it just part of my creation fun.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

I do a crazy amount of reskinning of non-fictional sources below all the gonzo. Just read a dry-as-toast but useful-as-all-hell monograph on the logistics of Alexander's army for figuring out the real nitty gritty on how an army would actually move and what it would look and feel like for the Domain Game.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
This incident of player vs. player violence under the streets of Jakalla. But only afterwards.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

Microscope by Ben Robbins (the West Marches guy). I've been trying to wrap my head around a mini-game in which players (or outsiders from the Internet ether) help co-create world-building parts of your campaign and was picking through it for inspiration.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

Tough one, probably a dead Russian like Ivan Bilibin or Nicholas Roerich or in other moods Frazzeta and Jeffrey Jones (see above). But of those actually living and breathing maybe Justin Sweet or Jon Hodgson.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

No, come on. Suspense and a few chills maybe, but who has real fear in a make-believe game?

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

Castle Amber back in the day. We didn't know Clark Ashton Smith from shinola, but damn did that ambiance click for us. A nice long mini-campaign with the Averoigne sandbox part too.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

It would be like on the Hindenberg, yet without all the burn-up-in-a-fiery-explosion hydrogen and the Nazis. And like The Sword would be playing there, but all quiet so the group could hear me.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

TSR's Conan and Pendragon (perhaps the Gloranthan variant Pendragon Pass really). One makes me want to see players wrestling giant serpents with their mighty-thews and pissing their riches away before the next entirely non-chronological order; the other makes me want the steady and deep “long game”. One day I will reconcile these distant urges.

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

The Hussite wars in Bohemia plus Vance, CAS and Leiber. With a touch or two of the Darklands rpg, Wodehouse, and Jonathan Swift. Lathered on with the big sweep of those grand old campaigns of miniature wargaming like Tony Bath's Hyboria and the Castles & Crusades Society.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

Clever, imaginative, easy with the laugh, who doesn't get hung up on gaming probabilities rather than just enjoying themselves explore. And must like long walks on the beaches. And dogs.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

My years living in northern Slovakia as a direct inspiration for parts of the Hill Cantons.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

A big-ass thick hardbound volume of never-published (or rarely seen) letters and behind-the-scene notes and other primary documents from all the OG pioneers: Arneson, Barker, Gygax, etc. That and the Jakallan Underworld for Petal Throne.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

I am generally in the closet, except with those I know who read speculative fiction. Game of Thrones was a good opening for those conversations.


  1. I almost said Jeffrey Jones, good one.

  2. > “Keep on the Carcosan Borderlands”

    That sounds stupendously awesome!