hADES:Odins Fall the after thoughts.

‘This will get complaints’

That is my general thought process when i write something for Hades. I genuinely spend the weeks running up to Hades terrified i have crossed a line. I actually asked a friend ‘Does dealing with the use of financial slavery in the sex industry cross a line if i use it in a game?’ I mean i only ask people who will enable me, but the thought is still there i suppose.

Well that or worrying that the spectre of nihilistic existentialism is probably not going to make the most charismatic villain.

‘Woooooo i’m the works of Sartre, fear me.’

Not that terrifying, unless you are a first year philosophy student with an assignment due or in your mid forties staring down mortality.

So the second Hades ran, it ran well i think, so i may as well put my thoughts down.

Straight off the mark i have a fantastic crew and players. The thing would not work if they didn’t get it. The crew is amazing and as a writer i’m not so precious that i won’t just let them make stuff up. It works. I trust them. Some of the encounters that went out were just crew riffing off stuff the players did and more importantly Saturday night there were crew suggesting encounters based off what they had seen or that gelled with the world and the things in it for the next event. One idea left me blown away at how clever it is.

I think this organic growth is really  important to the game and has changed my attitude to writing, the next one will be more collaborative. Previously my attitude is i’m writing it so if it falls over it’s on me and if it works it’s on all of us. Certainly the creativity in the crew room was amazing and felt as if anyone could just pitch something without anyone being rude, but also i could still say no and no one would be offended. It was almost as if a bunch of adults were collaborating.

no-ghost

And to be clear some stuff didn’t work, or at least not the way i wanted. One bad brief by me was very noticeable. The cool thing is i know that’s on me and i know how to fix it. That along with some narrative and tonal issues stemming from incomplete new ideas meant that i need to now build and scaffold around them in the next game.

I am pretty fatalistic in my post event analysis, not because everything is awful, but i think it’s very important to acknowledge what you need to improve rather than brush it off. I’m always faintly amused when people say stuff like ‘it’s the players’ or ‘crew didn’t do it right’. Rather i see it as poor briefs and not enough signposting to information. After all people can only work with what you give them.

Huh just read back over that lot and it reads like everything was on fire. Actually, other than the toilets, everything was incredibly smooth. It ran well and was a good game (I say that now, but i didn’t count the players or crew off site so one of them could be dead in a bush…) That’s down to an amazing team of crew that carry zero drama, work hard and are trusted to just do stuff while i flounce around being a creative.

The next bit that will be important is the feedback, i like feedback. It helps me develop stuff. You kinda have to be thick skinned and be able to say to yourself ‘well that’s what i wanted from the game and will stick to my vision for it’ but it highlights important stuff you may miss. Maybe that’s the teacher in me. Not all feedback is valid. For example if running a fantasy game the feedback ‘needs more spaceships’ is probably not something you are going to use. However for me it highlights stuff i might miss, if the game is running along the lines i want it to and stops me from assuming that i’m right about everything. 

I mean i am right about everything, but it’s nice to pretend to be humble. If you assume feedback is constructive criticism you are all good.

 

All of this sounds like hard work, and on one level it is. It’s really hard graft to run games. But it’s not bad hard work.

The reality is i’m bloody lucky. I get to write and run games. I get to pour out what’s in my head and other people act it out. I get to have an idea and put it in a field. You can’t really complain can you? I have people who come as volunteers and crew for me. How cool is that? I have people who pay money to make events happen and want to play in the thing what I made. I mean that’s amazing isn’t it? I mean how many people in the world actually get to say that? The idea that crew or players are a burden seems alien to me. They are literally giving me an opportunity to do something I couldn’t do without them.

Mind you that might be because I’m running small stuff i love or it could be because I would actively discourage people from playing if i felt they wouldn’t enjoy it. I mean Hades may not be for you, certainly the low combat, minimal rules and heavy emphasis on role-play is not for everyone.

And that’s okay. There is no perfect lrp that will fit everyone, I mean it’s okay to have lammies, it’s okay to have complex rules. As long as it works within context of your vision and logistics. I mean everytime i see a lammie i want to engage in Saw like torture games with narwhales, but that’s my issue.

That comes back to not everything is for everyone and that we need to acknowledge that and take personal responsibility for it. Recently i was vaguely contentious in saying that bigger games are not necessarily better and that it was better to stick to your creative vision than change to chase numbers. But then i’m a monster that doesn’t think that every game is for everyone and that trying to be Empire or CP isn’t necessarily good unless you are Empire or CP.

 

So once that’s done it’s time to write the next one with a slightly bigger player number New player tickets after the old players and invited players have decided yes or no). But before then i need to put my feet up and plan the next project. Something something sci fi something something.

 

I’m proud of Hades, it’s a good game, it works. It’s not for everyone. But what is?

 

But I’m prouder of my crew that makes it happen, who leave me in awe. I’m prouder of my players who bring it to life. Because to be proud of Hades it means I am proud of the people that make it happen, they are so intrinsically bound up in the experience of making a game that it would be arrogant to not acknowledge that.

Like i said before. Good games run off good crew and players and I just need to do my job right to provide the tools, story and support for them to do it.

 

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Anxiety, Perveseration and Catastrophic thinking.

So I write these from time to time, partly because I’ve been told they help people, but mainly because its better than letting it bounce around my head like a .22 round. Its interesting since i started writing these how many people have said ‘Yeah I know, i thought it was just me.’ In many ways that makes me sad, i’d kinda be happier if it was just me, no one should really have to deal with it (well other than us folk with it, who half the time think we deserve it for some made up sin our brains have decided to beat us with).

Hmm that analogy was darker than it should of been. Perhaps running round your brain like an excitable puppy?

The thing with depression is you perveserate. Its a real word. You keep coming back to things over and over. Its stuck there, you can’t let go of it.

The rational part of your head knows all those little things are not true, don’t matter or can be sorted. Thing is the other bit eats at that rationality.  That bit of your brain where depression lives grins and dicks with you.

Catastrophising is a term they use in CBT.

You predict a negative outcome

The negative outcome is going to be a catastrophic.

Well its not that simple, or it can be. Good examples are things like i will fail at x, everything hangs of x, everything will be awful. I mean that’s the simplified version, the here is how it works version.

Thing is if it was that easy CBT and Mindfulness or the profound words of sky pixies would fix it. Its more insidious than that.

In short those thoughts that keep sticking in your head are the worst possible outcome and they wont go away. Everything ends up muddied by them, they force their way into everything.

And it goes round your head like a hamster in a wheel (see that’s cuter than the .22 isn’t it?). You see the patterns, you fight the assumptions, but in any given situation you are often struggling to enforce rationality on a brain that is running on past experience and a fear of hoping for a positive outcome. Its exhausting. Its easier to assume that everything will fall to shit than actually think things will be okay. You aren’t dissapointed if stuff goes wrong. Trust me looking forward to stuff is hard when your general outlook is you will be let down, fail or it will fall apart.

Problem is living like that fuels the depression and anxiety, you don’t have anything to look forward to so why bother. It feeds on itself, like a really gloomy serpent with a tail fetish. probably best not to google that….

And if you do bother you are fighting that bit of you that is telling you its going to go wrong, you are going to fail, you are going to be hit by falling satellites if you go out to the shops. All the time that bit of your brain is saying its going to go wrong and you are wrestling it down.  And that bit of your brain will tell say ‘yeah you might be positive, but how about this, the past evidence says its going to explode’ and it runs round your head. You having to reconcile what your bad guy is saying, the facts and an attempt at the positive.

You perveserate on it, like touching a sore tooth with your tongue.

So what does this mean day to day? Well other than being incredibly hard work to concentrate on anything at all, it means i’m working twice as hard to focus, function or human.

It means that i will over analyses evidence and over think, constantly. Every little thing is data that can fuel this anxiety and perveseration and worse when things do go wrong it just reinforces it.

There are tricks to deal with it, writing lists and actually writing down what the worst thing that could happen and then actually checking the likelihood helps. Certainly with the more irrational moments of ‘i’m likely to be kidnapped by Scooby Doo.’ But for the ones with history? actual confirmed disasters? Yeah those ones are a bitch. You write your list, use your CBT and come up with ‘Um, yeah its actually likely cause its happened.’

All you do then is act on faith and hope.

Us depressive types don’t work on hope, its impossible to play that game.

So is there an answer to this that is helpful? Not really. Its a work hard at it and make leaps of faith. Forcing yourself to actually trust things will be okay. Its hard, but its worth it. As for the things running round our heads? Well yeah they are still there, you just fight back against them.

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It cant snow all the time.

It can’t snow all the time to paraphrase The Crow soundtrack. I’m listening to it a lot at the moment.

The term snowflake gets chucked around in lrp like it’s a blizzard, but what does it mean and why does it matter. More importantly i’m gonna expand on a friends fb post that you wont have seen, but sums up a lot of the frustration game runners across the country are having at the moment, which at its core boils down to entitlement.

So every snowflake is beautiful and unique, I can spend hours staring at photos of them. And the reality is that every lrp character should be unique and different, after all we are portraying people not our stats right?

Riggghhhht.

My character might have a phobia or spiders, yours might be lazy. We might be in the same faction and both be knights, but you are a knight  of slaying dragons and I am a knight of the order of emo. We are different. Our portrayal of them and the actions they take make us stand out. More importantly personality and emotion will define our behaviour in the face of an antecedent.  Hard skill charisma is op as oft said. Character progression is not your xp it is your characters story arc, this arc will be unique because your characters unique personality and quirks will define their actions, those actions creating a unique story and person who develops over time. yes you are a snow flake, but a good one. Your magic powers do not make you unique and interesting, the reasons you went after them, the story of how you learned them, your training montage, the old wizard who taught you how to fart magic bubbles are the important bits.

Being a snow flake is not bad.

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Being a fucking snowflake is different however…..those words uttered in back rooms across systems with venom and tears.

You see the brief is a thing, is written so we don’t get time travelling fae space pirates in a low fantasy system.

But specifically I want to talk about the most amusing of things that came up, the bit my friend mentioned. Snowflaking for in game advantage.

See if you want the thing in lrp you normally have to fulfil the criteria. You want to buy the sword you pay for it (or steal lit and deal with the in character consequences). We pretty much agree on this, pay the godamn piper before you eat your maggot filled cake.

What are we talking about?

Elves and resources. Most systems you can play an elf (or analogy) and quite often it will be hit with a ‘Must have comedy ears and probably has one less hit, but you get extra magic and lie about being imortal’. All good? Yup except there is always one isn’t there. That guy. ‘But my character worked out as a child and is half dragon so I don’t need the ears and I am not missing that extra hit.

And that is when the words ‘Fucking snowflake’ are uttered. You are an anecdote at ref meetings, you are the thing we discuss when comparing the systems we work on. Yes you are the centre of attention. Just really not in a good way.

See what you are doing is walking up to the sword seller and not stealing the sword or paying for it, you are demanding it because you are special, because you are entitled to the sword. Because you are so much better than the people who have to pay for it.

You are so important, you matter more than everyone else. Those other people are nothing more than plebs before your rp majesty. You matter more than other people. And they understand, they adore you for it. The ref team agree you should be treated differently, they tell other systems how awesome you are,  that you are a more important customer. That you are a perfect example of lrp and thus your Half dragon elf with all the advantages and none of the disadvantages is important enough to break the systems continuity and rich background for.

Oh wait no, you’re a tosser.

In the same way that ‘if you give the bad person the keys to the kingdom they will give you immortality’ You don’t get to complain it’s not fair you can’t have immortality without handing over the keys.  You don’t get to throw the ring into Mt Doom without your friends dying and becoming obsessed with the ring.  I imagine some people in this situation arguing that they are being oppressed by the game team because they can’t just use the eagles to get there…..while poor old Gandolf sits drinking an energy drink in the crew room because Frodo told him to sod off when he rocked up to his door.

Pay the piper before your maggot cake.

I don’t use snowflake as a term anymore other than in jest aimed at friends.  I use terms like self entitled, man child and obnoxious instead now. Oh and some other words not fit to publish in polite society.

And if you are sad and offended? Feel free. I’m sure you will get over it.

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Probably a bad idea to discuss.

Your genitals shouldn’t define you, its a pretty simple concept. Its like innie and outie belly buttons. I have outie genitals by the way.

Writing this I am very aware that i’m a bloke talking about women in lrp, yeah I’m also aware that this could be shockingly patronising to. So my apologies up front if I say something stupid I’ve wanted to write it for a while but stopped short each time because in my head as a guy its me talking about women’s issues, specifically a man talking about men who relegate women to the back while the men folk talk.

But a conversation this week left me reeling a bit about this subject and by reeling I mean sad and angry.

I have spoken to a lot of folk over the years who feel that they are seen as second class citizens in lrp. That they have to work twice as hard to be recognised as game runners or refs because of their gender.

This is a weird state of affairs most lrps i’m involved in women ref, npc, write plot, run battles and skermishes, do make up, make kit (by kit i’m talking about masks, soft kit, props not just pretty dresses) and doing the same jobs as their outie genital colleagues. Yet a lot of them feel they have to work twice as hard to be considered to equal.

I have seen players double check ref calls a women ref have made with a guy ref, I have seen ref meetings where female refs have been talked over , I have seen female game runners being told how to run their games by imperious blokes, and I have spoken multiple times to people who feel that its testicle club that gets seen as the game makers. That the perception is women work god, npc the ‘female roles’ and make pretty clothes.

My personal favourite was however ‘people assume I’m just x’s partner and not a game runner/writer in my own right.’
That last one hit me very close to home. It’s the reason as a guy i’m writing about something that doesn’t effect me, because it should.

The testicle collective have a responsibility to stop this and challenge this, because if we do not we are part of the problem.

So what should we do? I don’t know really but we need to have a culture change. There should not be a situation where someone has to work twice as hard to prove themselves.

We need to not talk over people, recognise that there is a problem and not be part of it.

For my part i’m going to challenge it when I see it, listen when someone says there is a problem and not just nod my head and make sure I continue to check my thinking.

And we need to. To make statements like ‘just a…’ or to expect women to meekly put up with being relegated to being seen as support cuts out some of the strongest creative minds in our community and some of the best refs we have.

Oh and if you think this is hyperbole and you don’t know anyone treated that way, maybe you aren’t listening?

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Its all very meta.

Source: Its all very meta.

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Its all very meta.

Meta gaming, other than ‘bob didn’t take his hits’ is a crime worse than any other. I mean using OOC knowledge for IC stuff is awful isn’t it? Well yes it is and it is in my humble opinion is cheating, the kind of cheating that should end with the viking long walk for those involved. Personally as a game runner i believe that this behaviour should end I permanent bans and as a player after events it cuts of bits of the game for me I cannot interact with.

 

But first what is it and when is it okay?

 

What is meta gaming? It can be boiled down to using ooc knowledge in a game that your character doesn’t know to define your decision, using ooc resources ic or making ooc choices that to modify your ic behaviour. This is not awful all the time.

 

We meta game all the time. For example after reading about torture survivors I avoid going near that in lrp now, because that is something I am uncomfortable that other people are fine with. I modify my ic actions to avoid ooc issues and damage a game. I have a raft of stuff that I avoid that a character might be fine with. Poly armour is lighter than metal armour but is more expensive giving you an ic advantage for cash (or in my case saves on crippling back pain).

Every IC relationship I have been involved in has been meta gaming. No really. I have always checked OOC that it was okay and set ground rules. I have used ooc things to make sure those boundaries have not been crossed.

(As a side note just cause someone in an ic relationship it does not mean they are fucking in real life, seriously people if your emotional maturity need this sign posting may I suggest playing D n D instead? And I think you are a prick.)

 

Two moments of meta-gaming however jump to mind.

The first being a situation where a character I was playing who was renowned for a horrific temper, extreme acts of violence with little prompting, no decency and a despising childish behaviour was in a situation where he was about to hit his wife.  OOC I knew that the person I was roleplaying with was fine with this and knowing her was pushing towards that outcome because stable ic relationships are dull. However I was in the difficult situation of knowing if we went there it would could upset someone who had been through this if they found out about it and that within the culture of the system it would have become an ooc issue for the sake of drama which would leave us treated badly and any real victims of domestic violence dragged into the wake of the good ship lrp drama. I was not prepared for either of those outcomes.  I chose to change my characters actions based on this and a the scene became a lot more light hearted and a mate ended up having his face licked. To be clear I used OOC knowledge to alter my characters IC actions. This is meta gaming, but is fine.

The other time was when I was invited along to a meet to discuss a game and the logistics of running a faction. The conversation soon turned to discussing what to do about x group, how to organise stuff for political advantage in game and generally planning how characters would do stuff. i.e. sew up positions, deal with external enemies and make sure the right people were in the right position to hold onto power. Obviously I derailed it and left. As it was outright cheating. We were discussing how to ‘win’ at a lrp and doing things in a pub that were IC discussions.

Neither of these where the same as speeding up when you see a monster crew with their hands in their air or moving when a ref comes and stands by you (hint sometimes that’s cause a ref is fucking with you and seeing what kind f a player you are, there is judging going on there). Meta gaming can be more subtle than just the obvious and can be done for good reason.

However facebook is causing issues both accidently and purposely.

First up I intensely dislike unedited G/B/U’s. Note I said unedited, frothing is cool however they spoil games for me. I personally mention names and ‘the thing’ rather than specifics, I never discuss the secret things or stuff that might spoil info for others. Why? Because I make the choice to avoid plot I don’t know ic and know ooc to avoid accidental cheating. As a player every time I see a gbu with secret stuff in I get annoyed. It’s the same as saying ‘He can see the dead because he’s dead’ a week after that movie came out, or saying who dies in the new star wars. No really it is. As a player if you do this I will dislike you intensely as you have ruined my game experience, you have taken the surprise in the story from me. No ifs or buts you have done that, you have taken exploration, mystery and surprise from my game. You have taken the money I spent on a ticket and said ‘hey all the cool stuff you wanted to discover as a character in game, well here is the Wikipedia entry for it.’ I can firewall, but I find it can be hard to avoid making choices ic because of ooc knowledge. I make a choice to not play with folk who do this or systems where it is prevalent.

As a game runner it’s a nightmare, you just don’t bother with conspiracy or mystery plot because it’s pointless.  I am really lucky with Hades that my players are really mature (not in age, but mental outlook) and know it is a game of mystery so don’t post outside of their group. It means new players get to hit the system with the same blind lack of knowledge the original players did. It means that they can experience this mystery for themselves. I have also been lucky running a <redacted> plot where the folk on it kept the details to themselves meaning the game had an element of being super secret missions rather than just another skirmish. I have a lot of love for them.

 

But more insidious than this is how ooc info shapes games. The tragedy is we have facebook lrp now where people will use manipulation of information away from the game to manipulate a game before it hits the field. Sometimes this is accidental because they are enthusiastic and have the facts wrong, this then makes the game ‘truth skew’ to this new truth as it is repeated over and over.

 

Some people do this on purpose to gain IC advantage, even going as far as using ooc manipulation to damage ooc reputations to gain ic advantage. They are cheats, they are cheating and they need to go away. This is utterly unacceptable behaviour with no mitigating circumstances what so ever. I personally would ban someone over this with zero issues what so ever.

 

There is a lot more to meta gaming than this for good and bad. How as game runners we use meta techniques to manipulate and how techniques can enhance play. Go read about Nordic lrp and feel dirty about it.

 

Meta gaming is the use of ooc stuff ic, we all do it. Just some of us do it for evil with intention or not.

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Spirit of the game.

So kiddies I want to talk about the spirit of the game.

It’s not a 60 hit global creature that can only be killed with the blue sword; nope it’s the bit where fair play, expectations and the rules have a car crash while someone scream s ‘no scope is fine!’

I think in the uk the mindset that monopoly is a game so d and d is a game so lrp is a game and they are the same because the word ‘game’. I mean there is a whole raft of things about win conditions, how trying to ‘win’ actually is impossible in lrp, but that’s not what im talking about.

The bit I’m talking about is good play within the spirit of a game in regard to rules without slagging any systems off.

So what I have been pondering is, as a player do you have a responsibility to not break a rule set and play within the spirit of the game. In my elitist opinion, yes you do. There is something wonderful about shared writing and shared art that lrp hovers around the edge of. It’s a shared place, sure there is conflict as all good narratives other than my neighbour totoro has, but at the end of the day it’s a shared space. I genuinely believe that actively trying to subvert a system, trying to exploit loop holes etc is no different to not taking your hits. Yes it’s cheating.

BUT NO IT ISN’T! Yeah tell that to people who use exploits in mmorpgs, FPS’, etc. It’s the same thing. Shut up. You are the lrp equivalent of a teenager no scoping while talking smack about someone’s mum and maintaining an erection only cause they think they are hardcore. No really, you are.

There is, in my opinion, an implicit social contract that says while all the kiddies are playing in the nursery you don’t take a shit in the corner and announce you are clever for doing it.

What do I mean by that? Well first up the idea of balance in lrp is bollocks, there is none. You cannot balance hard skills like charisma, physical fitness or the fact some people are just smarter than others. It’s not possible, nor should it be. You cannot put a metric on how hot I am (literally set that one up for you lot.)

However there is a set of rules that you work within. And those mechanics can be exploited and used in ways that they shouldn’t be. Or certain power builds that skew game play arrive. Within table top, computer games and wargaming this is balanced on a regular basis.

Have fun getting your money back from GW cause they nerfed your thing that you were spamming like a twat. Just for you game team folk thinking about nerfing something and feeling sad about it.

Now its no secret I would be happy with the removal of mechanical rules from most games (that was very specific to a friend, note mechanical rules….). I believe that when you strip rules out, say ‘yes, but’ rather than no and set explicit expectations of what the game is and what its boundaries are you are golden. (Yes rule sets ar boundaries, but you know what I’m getting at…..shussh).

Certainly in all my time playing low rule set games people tend to stay within the boundaries because the of the social expectations are ‘Don’t be a fucking twat’ and there is nothing to hide behind such as ‘But the rules say I can.’

When we hit rule systems there is a subset of player that goes game on and will ‘game’ it. Now that’s cool and all, if you enjoy that. I’ve heard this called ‘playing hard’, ‘Playing the game’ or ‘hardcore role-play’. This is false logic, playing the mechanics is not role play. In the same way when I role dice and move the top hat I am not role playing a slum lord, I am using a mechanic. Mechanics can support role play, it is not the other way round. Unless it’s the 90’s, then it probably is….I’ll be over here with my katanna.

Problem is this is actually fine unless you are specific about the game you want to run. Yeah, this kind of behavior…..50% of it is on us game runners. You gotta name the spirit of your game, say what it is that you want. You know like in lrp rituals, if you don’t say exactly what you want someone’s gonna fuck with you.

So how do you get to a culture of players and crew to take responsibility for ensuring that the spirit of the game stays intact?

I’m not sure. I think the only thing you can do is set clear expectations, tackle issues head on and don’t be afraid to say ‘You’re taking the piss’ and remember it’s okay to say no (and if you get badgered or bullied remember this mantra ‘I hear x system supports the style of play you want.’)

Actually on bullying, I have seen players genuinely try and bully stuff out of refs while I’ve stood next to them my jaw slowly dropping to the floor (and refs act like conceited tosspots, but that’s for another blog) and it’s interesting that often when you talk about it in other systems the response is ‘Oh, yeah I know x, they are known for that here too.’ Yes sweeties, we talk to each other.

On the positive side reward good rp in kind, give failure a positive place in the heart of your system and pay attention to those players who actually take responsibility for not damaging a system and help it grow. (I can actually hear growling at that one, however I mean it.)

There is a cool thing around behaviour management that we spend more time and attention on the high tariff behaviours than on the positive ones because we have to deal with the high tariff ones as chairs flung at high speed rarely resolve themselves with tactical ignoring.

The people who are working within the spirit of a game? They don’t throw chairs. Once you have put the furniture back, they are the ones you want to give your attention to. And the chair throwers? Well they aren’t kids in a school who are doing it because of complex behavioural issues and you aren’t a teacher…… so it’s okay to burn their shit to the ground.

 

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