Cheat answer: LARPing, but a LARP is just another form of RPG.
Cheesy answer: the relationships I’ve made, people I’ve met. My entire network of friends over the last decade has come about because of gaming. Between the people who I met directly by gaming with them to the people who I met by partying with those people, I’ve made a vast network of friends across the world through roleplaying.
When I was in the Imperial Order (way way way back in the day), I could honestly say I was talking to people on five continents on a regular basis – the only ones I didn’t have covered were South America and Antarctica. Nowadays I’m getting name-checked with seemingly every second introduction at events (“oh, you’re the No Rest for the Wicked guy, right?”). It’s an odd feeling but it promotes the community feeling of the LARP crowd (as does small-world LARP syndrome where it seems that everyone knows everyone after a few years and you get the constant “how do you know X?” questions on Facebook).
And I’m going to let this be the lame answer with very little explanation: Wil Wheaton.
Actually, some explanation. Between Tabletop and other things he’s been involved in, he’s quite rightly been branded an ambassador for gaming – he does good things, and I follow what he does in gaming circles, even if I don’t keep up with what else he does.
Two answers for this one:
Dead.FM – not anything to do with RPGs in general, but home of the DG podcast which features updates about Demon Hunters: A Comedy of Terrors.
RPG.net – a useful resource I don’t use enough, except for the really handy legacy reviews.
A few candidates for this one, but I think I’m going to go with Created.
Promethean: the Created was a strange game that took some effort to understand. A game of monsters trying to be human by emulating them. In the Isles of Darkness, I played Rocker, a Frankenstein on the Path of Tin struggling to communicate with other people and lashing out with violent lightning when he couldn’t find any other way to let things out. Unfortunately, being one of the smaller games in the IoD, it suffered for want of storytellers and eventually all of the games closed, leaving Rocker’s story unfinished. Still, he got some good music and lightning in before he died.
Pretty simple, this one: song titles. When I was running my mortals game for the Camarilla UK/Isles of Darkness, I’d often use Lordi song titles to inspire plot.
Probably one of my best plots came from using “Forsaken Fashion Dolls” as the core premise and seeing where it went from there. I started with the idea that maybe abandoned shop mannequins came to life somehow and ended up with a mad scientist who had lost their daughter creating a doll replica of their child, bringing it to life, and then becoming distraught at what they’d created and running off. The doll, left to herself powered by a spirit bound into her “heart” and given the mind of an eight-year old, had reached out in her abandonment and brought friends to her in the form of mannequins she animated unconsciously. That was a rather emotional plot when players got involved.
This one I have a little issue with, as I may have said before, as every new game mechanic has a tendency to be proclaimed as revolutionary but there hasn’t been any real revolutions in gaming caused by any of them.
That said, I’m quite interested in the Mayhem deck from Planet Mercenary. They’re cards that add something interesting to the game, bits of story that can make your game better or worse either on a temporary or permanent basis. The game uses a 3d6 mechanic with one die being a different colour – if the odd die is highest, you get a Mayhem card.
Example cards can be found on the Planet Mercenary site, and I really like the ideas behind this game. Playtesting of the Mayhem deck indicates that it works well and encourages story coming from rolls as well as results, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it, and trying the mechanic out.
I’ve seen similar mechanics before – the most memorable of which was a storyteller who would draw a tarot card for some rolls and situations and the card drawn would influence how things went.
I don’t really have a roleplaying one, unless you’re going to count “don’t be a dick” which should be a staple of all roleplaying systems.
My favourite house rules pretty much all come from my days playing board games at Watt Gamers, where you got rules like “always gang up on Andy” where they weren’t “rules”, but were the teasing results of games where if you didn’t gang up on Andy, he had a tendency to create massive fleets and take everyone else out.
Honestly, depends what I’m doing and what type of game we’re playing, but I want a game I can get involved in, that I can engage in as I want to, where I can work to my own agenda, and/or to a shared one, and where I have OOC support in doing so.
I find all of that at Empire. I usually find it all in most tabletops I play in as well. Genre, system, and setting tend to matter less to the above criteria because I can usually find a hook into genre and setting I wouldn’t normally play in, and systems just take adapting to.
For my perfect gaming environment, I need to be comfortable. It doesn’t need to involve sofas, or cushioned seats at all (though they can help) – it just has to be an environment I’m comfortable in. I should feel comfortable enough to go and get a drink, or a snack, and ideally comfortable for the other people to do likewise. It doesn’t need to be a space that’s mine – neutral spaces or spaces belonging to other people are also good.
Most of my gaming is at Empire, or with the Isles of Darkness. The RAF Club where we hold IoD games is somewhere I’m comfortable – I’m on the Committee, I know the staff, and I have the run of the place. I very rarely feel uncomfortable because of the environment, no matter what’s going on. At Empire, there are over a thousand people on the field, and I know that no matter what else happens, I could duck into Mhorish and catch a friendly conversation with people in there and restore my calm or I can retreat to my tent for a bit and get away from people. These are environments that I am comfortable gaming in, and that means a lot for me.
Basically, perfection is an ideal you’ll never really reach, so I’d rather stick with what I know works – which is a friendly atmosphere where I feel comfortable.