29. If you could host a game anywhere on Earth, where would that be?
Some place where I could afford to have my very own convention for my gamer friends from all over the world, in low-key, comfortable, and friendly surroundings. It would probably be in a lodge at a National Park, sometime in September or October, with beautiful views we could walk to in-between games. Bonus points for historic sites to inspire game ideas. We’d commandeer the entire lodge and geek out all weekend.
28. What film or novel would you be most surprised that a friend had not seen or read?
Because I move between various game groups both in person and online, as well as play at conventions and game days, I have a lot of people in my gamer circles. They come from diverse backgrounds, a spread over decades in age, so there is a lot of variety in favourite movies and books. I’m generally slightly surprised when a role-player says they have not read The Lord of the Rings or seen Star Wars, but it’s not exactly shocking, especially with younger players.
27. Describe the most unusual circumstance or location in which you have gamed.
First week of January 1995. I’m moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Arcata in Northern California to start grad school at Humboldt State University. My future husband Edmund, my friend Paul and I moved my furniture and now we’re on the return drive, six or more hours to the Bay Area, so Paul can go home and Edmund and I can clean my apartment in the hope of getting the security deposit back (spoiler alert: it never works.) It’s the middle of the night, very dark somewhere between Leggett and Laytonville, and it’s pouring rain.
I drive a 1991 Volkswagen Golf, a car I love for its lovely handling but which is actually a lemon. I bought it as a used demo from a dealership and it has an intermittent ghost problem in the electrical system. Several times it has been pronounced “fixed” only to recur later as a short-circuit.
The rain seems to be a factor, right now, and the car loses all electrical power. We can’t get it to revive. We’re stranded on a two-lane highway, dark, windy and wet, late at night. We have no cell phones and if we did, there would be no signal so we can only hope someone will drive by and stop.
What else are you going to do? Edmund ran a superhero game for us, one of those where some people mysteriously start getting powers all at once and for the first time.
(If you’re wondering, that was only the beginning of our adventures that night but we were left with plenty of stories and strengthened friendships!)
25. What makes for a good character?
In your opinion, what do you need for a satisfying character?
Obviously, this will vary tremendously. A player character that is satisfying for me to play has to have enough drive to action, enough personal involvement in the story and with the other PCs to be moved to act. I have to be able to see clearly what she would do, rather than have to evaluate a collection of stats first. Some tensions are great, motivations to act in clear but divergent ways: divided loyalties, relationships, obligations, rivalries, codes of honour, etc.
A non-player character that I find satisfying to interact with has to have hidden depths, complexity, and both good and bad traits. Villains, in particular, are most interesting to me if they can almost convince us that they are the heroes! Almost. A good way to build that in is to use the “passions” (rage, noble, and fear stimuli) from Unknown Armies. In fiction, examples of good villains include Hans Grüber (Die Hard), Mr. Morden and Alfred Bester (Babylon 5), Mags Bennett (Justified), “Nucky” Thompson (Boardwalk Empires), etc.
24. What is the game you are most likely to give to others as a gift?
It varies a lot with the person and their tastes, of course! But in the past my husband and I have given several copies of Jonathan Tweet’s Everway to friends. I love that beautiful, innovative game! More recently, I gave several copies of the book I wrote for Evil Hat Productions, War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus.🙂
23. Share one of your best ‘Worst Luck’ stories.
Shadowrun 4th Edition, 2006. Big handfuls of six-sided dice for everyone.
We’re operating in the northern part of the Free State of California, south of the Tir Tairngire. We’re coming to the climactic act of the adventure, and we’ve staked out a spot where something is amiss but we’re not quite sure what to look out for. There’s four players at the table and we’re not stupid, we all have sunk points in Perception; the lowest of us has eight dice and the highest, with all bonuses, has 15.
The game-master calls for a Perception roll, and we all fail.
No problem, we have Karma points up the wazoo! We re-roll.
Nope. Nope. Nope. We can’t see our own feet.
So a squad of Elven spies from the Tir successfully gave us the slip and we missed the big finale. Effing Elves!
22. How does your group like to start a session?
(Alternate question from BrigadeCon’s list. Today’s default question was “22: What are some random events in your games that keep happening?” but it didn’t inspire me. I’ve been gaming for too long, randomness has had a chance to show its true face!)
We pretty much always start with the news, the chit-chat, the general buzz friends make when they get together. You know it has to play itself out anyway, and it’s makes for a relaxed, convivial atmosphere. We often use the time to eat a pot luck meal or some snacks, read the recap from previous episodes, and so forth.
21. What was the funniest misinterpretation of a game rule in your group?
We’re rarely hung up on rules interpretations, and I can’t think of any hilarious examples. But back a decade ago we started an Ars Magica (4th edition) game and we went through the Covenant creation, with dismaying results.
In this game there are tiers of characters: the all-important Magi, hero-level Companions, and the ubiquitous, disposable “grogs” that serve them. The characters form a pool; in any given adventure you normally have one player using their mage character, one or two playing their Companion characters, and the rest of the group playing the lowly, short-lived but balls-to-the-walls grogs.
While wizard and companion character creation has lots of options, grog creation is usually done based on random ability rolls. To speed up the creation and bookkeeping we use the Metacreator software package, which allowed to roll the stats automatically, and we all agreed that for grogs we would take these stats rolled as-is.
Months of play later, we were discussing one player’s favourite grog, who had simply astounding (positive) ability scores. The player cheerfully explained that the scores were “as rolled”, but he had used the software to roll hundreds of times until he had a grog he liked! To this day, I’m at a loss to explain how this could have been a misunderstanding.
20. What is the most challenging but rewarding system have you learned?
Fate (Evil Hat Productions) — not because it’s inherently complicated, but because it required shifting mindsets altogether. I’ve described in a previous post how I played Fate-powered games for several years without “getting” it, and how things changed when I tried the Fate Core edition.
Essentially, I had to learn to switch from a pass/fail mindset (choose a skill and roll to see if you succeed) to a fictional positioning mindset (this is what a character would do, roll to see what direction the story takes, create mechanically reusable little bits of fiction.) Not only do I now adore the Fate system, it has also changed how I approach other games.