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Jim Vassilakos (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It is some hours later that Jinx awakens from a nap, her quarters the very chamber which Nybotha used to occupy. Ashmnet is there as well, nudging her to consciousness. “Looks like your drow friends just woke up. I don’t think I need to tell you how my kind feel about drow.” “Probably the same way they feel about you. If I were you, I’d watch my step.” Jinx gathers her sword and things and heads with Ashmnet to the guest chamber where Sheetah, Malina, and Ilix were quartered. The three of them immediately prostate themselves upon the floor as Jinx enters, Ashmnet somewhat taken aback by this degree of subservience. “I’m still the same person you knew before,” Jinx quips. “We know,” Sheetah replies. “We’re just setting protocol for Ilix.” At this point both Sheetah and Malina get up, leaving Ilix on the floor looking rather confused. Jinx chuckles to herself, remembering the way that Ilix conversed with her on their first encounter, before the drow warrior discovered that it is was the granddaughter of Lolth who she addressed. No doubt she feels like she’s walking on thin ice, and indeed, the hesitant manner in which she extracts herself from the floor betrays her fear. “So how goes the war?” Jinx queries, taking a seat near the food which the servants had brought. “Well,” Sheetah responds, entering into a monologue on what battles they’ve fought and how the githyanki Jinx sent have contributed to their knowledge of the aboleth. There is also some discussion of the “disruptors of the peace with the surface-dwellers” and what Sheetah intends to personally do with them once they are captured. “No idea who they are?” “A few ideas, but until we catch them in the act, we won’t know for sure.” As she continues talking, Jinx looks toward Malina and, speaking mind-to-mind, says silently: “Lolth once told me that she desires to spread her influence to the human kingdoms. If ever a position of authority is to be held by one of drow descent, trust must be held between the drow, halfdrow, and the humans.” “Perhaps,” Sheetah continues, “they think the laws do not apply to them.” “Perhaps they only give the semblance of being drow,” Jinx counters. “What do you mean?” “There’s no shortage of humans and elves in the surface lands who oppose the peace treaty.” “There are pale elves in these parts?” Sheetah blinks. “Of course. In fact…” Jinx glances over her shoulder to see Ashmnet peeking from around the corner of the doorway, “you may get to meet one rather soon.” “Should be fun,” Sheetah says with an evil grin. “I hear they’re good barbecued.” “I wouldn’t know. The only barbecue I’ve had lately is hobbit.”
IgTheme: Plot Hooks
In my comments to Lee in A&E #363, I talked a bit about how I tend to run my games, putting the emphasis on “luck rolls” to dish out a night of varied entertainment. The upshot is that plot hooks are often generated on the fly as a result of the creative interpretation of luck rolls as they occur. The downside is that they often result in more loose ends (unexplored threads) than most players would prefer. Jinx’s player has complained to this effect, stating that there were all sorts of directions he would have liked to take Jinx, but unfortunately he had to pick and choose from among many available options. He even kept a running “To Do” list of things he wanted Jinx to accomplish, but, of course, the list just kept growing and growing faster than he could scratch items off it. Then, of course, once Jinx entered Hell, she was faced with entirely new and greater challenges, and instead of being a master of her own destiny, she became a pawn in the games of others more powerful than herself. In both cases, of course, being a relatively unknown planewalker and being the property of Hell…in both cases she had options. Stories are always about the decisions that the characters make. However, in the case of the former, she had carte blanche to create her set her own goals, whereas in the latter, she was more or less forced to choose a path between the goals and aspirations of others and thereby direct the outcome by these choices, often made at great personal risk. So, I guess what I’m trying to say, overall, is that at least in my way of looking at the game, the best plot hooks are those that evolve naturally from the events of the plot itself.
Comments on A&E #391:
RYCT Louis La Mancusa, wherein you wrote, “Could your zine be any more dull? Please spend more time on gaming and less on political trivia. At least the joke was funny, rather than, as usual, unfunny and offensive.” Unfunny, offensive, dull…such fighting words, Joshua. Whatever possessed you to write them? I have to admit that when I first read your comment to Louis, my jaw dropped perhaps an inch, and not in a good way. What you wrote made me very angry, and if I exhibit that anger now, in my reply to you, I apologize. I don’t mean to be mad with you. It isn’t something I enjoy, but it is something that I have no doubt that you caused. I would have thought such personal insults to be beneath you. In fact, I suppose that was my assumption, but this… this venom that you have…it’s not acceptable. It’s insulting to the point that I find it unfunny and offensive in the
extreme. That is not to say, bear in mind, that I usually find you this way, but on this occasion, in this one brief comment, what I read is not something that I can really, ethically choose to ignore. First of all, as for Louis’ jokes, I personally like them, but then I suppose that my sense of humor is somewhat warped by my many years as an occasionally evil-GM. In fact, to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think it would be reaching to say that my sense of humor might just be a little perverse and demented. That is to say, I may not be quite right in the head. So if I regularly turn to Louis’ joke of the month immediately following a reading of Ty’s political comments, I hope you’ll forgive me.1 I hope also that you will forgive me any offense that you might feel the right to take as a result of this comment. I do not mean to offend, just as I suppose you might say that you didn’t really mean to offend Louis (that you were just speaking your mind). I just want you to recognize that the road you chose, however momentarily, was…it was wrong. In my perhaps not so humble opinion, Louis deserves better than that, and so, honestly, do you. Secondly, as for political trivia, as far as I can recall there’s still a two-page rule, and as far as I can tell, Louis is staying within it. He’s not running on ad nauseam for eight or ten pages at a time (as I seem to recall myself doing once upon a time…I must have had way too much time on my hands back then). True, his zines are probably more politics than gaming much of the time, but he’s not exactly striking out into uncharted territory. Spike often stuffs a fair amount of politics into his zines. Paul Mason, of course, used to excel in this regard. And I enjoyed reading them both. Is the problem you have with Louis’ inclusion of politics simply that you disagree with his political philosophy? Because if you’d like to chop it down to a one-page rule, maybe you could suggest that to Lee. Personally, I’ve
Indeed, I would be interested to see you toss out a joke of the month in your zine. What precisely a person finds funny tells us something about them, and in the case of Louis, what it told me is that his and my senses of humor happen to coincide, at least to some degree. If your sense of humor, however, is so vastly superior, please grace us with some examples of what you find funny. I have no doubt that this effort on your part would probably amuse me, albeit perhaps not always in the way that you might have originally intended. And I say this to you only partly in jest, not because I find there to be something unfunny about your sense of humor, but because I want you to feel, for a moment, what it is to have one’s sense of humor essentially being called unfunny. I mean, I suppose if Louis were writing a book of jokes, and they all sucked, and you were the book reviewer…then I think you’d be justified. But that’s not really the case, is it? You’re opinion is one guy’s opinion. Granted, you have every right to it. But for you to denigrate another member of this APA…I’m sorry…I should contain myself. I’m just trying to get you to understand what it is that, in my opinion, is the line that I feel you crossed. You have no right to spit on people in the way that I feel you did in that comment of yours to Louis. It’s unacceptable. I’m sorry, but I just can’t let it pass. It was not necessary, and if it was, to you, necessary…then at the risk of drawing Louis into a conversation that I’m sure he’d rather not be a part of, please explain to me why. Please explain this so that my opinion of you might be lifted to where it was before I read what you chose to write to Louis. Either that, or do the right thing and apologize to him, however much pain this might cause you.
sometimes liked and sometimes disliked the political discussions in A&E (some grab me and others don’t), but I also see the point of view that this is, ostensibly, a gaming APA, although I’ll admit that sometimes I do suspect it of being a political APA is disguise, even with the two-page rule. But if that’s your real point, that there’s far too much politics regardless of political persuasion, then I think it would really be more fair-minded to simply petition Lee or the readership for such a change, rather than directing your objection toward a single participant of the political discussions that we’ve been witnessing. Having said all of this, I have to add that I appreciated what you expressed on my blog, where you said that talking politics in A&E for the sake of talking politics is off-topic, however, talking politics as it intersects with one’s personal life or talking politics as it intersects with gaming is ontopic.2 I think this is an intelligent distinction that you made, and if Lee and the membership would be in favor of adopting it, I would certainly be willing to adhere to it. However, in some ways I think it would diminish the APA as it would limit, to some degree, what sort of ideas we can express. Hence, I’m not 100% in favor of this notion that all off-topic politics should be banned, but neither would I oppose it if Lee and the membership were to adopt such a rule. What I really think would be the best solution would be for somebody to start an APA solely for the discussion of politics. That way, the people who want to talk politics could talk politics, and the people who don’t want to be bothered with it, wouldn’t be. But, once again, what we’re talking about here is a fundamental change in the rules, and so if it’s the rules you want changed, have at it and suggest some changes, but please don’t attack individual members who are obeying the rules as they are currently written. Okay…I think I’ve said everything I have to say. Tolerance & Forgiveness, my friend. I am sincerely disappointed in you right now, but I do hope and believe that you will remedy this, as I have faith that you are better than these comments that you directed toward Louis.
Louis La Mancusa:
Good joke, as usual. Please keep ‘em coming. I liked the whole zine, in fact…politics and all.
Regarding the Jinx Campaign: You write: “I notice that Jinx always seems to be able to get what she wants by being very powerful. Is that accurate?” Jinx is very powerful, but bear in mind that in these recent installments of her story, she’s on vacation…slumming, as it were, among mortal beings. Hence, in comparison to these humans and elves, she might as well be a god, for to a being as powerful as Jinx, the mortal realms are but a playground. This is being allowed not merely so that she may de-stress, nor merely as a reward for a successful
mission, but rather so that she may be examined, her personality and proclivities appraised by the powers that be in Hell, and also so that they may come to know who she associates with, which mortals she most favors, her personal ambitions as pertaining to the mortal realms, and thereby how she may be controlled beyond the usual mechanisms normally used to control planewalkers. Of course, Jinx does not yet realize this, but she soon will. You write: “Does the player spend a lot of time listening to you talk to yourself, as when Leothan and Ashmet talk to each other?”
Gaming in the Written Format
Modes of Play:
1. Delayed Correspondence (email)
Immediate Correspondence (internet chat/instant messenger) In Person (direct document editing)
When playing in a written format, we generally communicate in one of three modes: (1) Email, (2) AIM (or some other instant messaging software), or (3) in person while editing an MS-Word document. In the first mode, I am free to take as long as I want for any extraneous details, such as NPCs conversing with one another.3 In the second mode, even if Jinx’s player is waiting for me to finish my part, he can be doing other things on his computer, and vice-versa. In the third mode, we’ll often be playing chess while taking turns at the computer (while one of us is writing, the other is pondering his next move at the chessboard). An advantage of the third mode is that we can each peek over the other’s shoulder to suggest minor edits or to discuss various details pertaining to the wording or what might or might not come up in the dialogue or description. All-in-all, it works out, but I think that if the game included more players, playing in a written format using the third mode would probably be fairly difficult (not impossible, but difficult). As for the first mode (play by email or PBeM), that has been proven to work with large groups. However, multiplayer PBeMs involve their own set of issues, and I’ve talked with you about these before.4 These games can be a lot of fun, but they’re difficult to run for various reasons that don’t really pertain to your question, except insofar as players on the outskirts of the action may feel marginalized [this, of course, is also true in the spoken (traditional) format of RPGs]. As for using the second mode for running written format games for large groups, I’m to understand that some folks play by groupchat, such as on IRC5, and that this can work for some groups, and I’d imagine it might work particularly well for
groups where the participants already know each other faceto-face. There are also various other software packages 6, some of which include mapping functions and so forth. However, I haven’t personally tried any of these, nor have I even run a multiplayer game using group chat, so I can’t really comment from personal experience. Speaking for myself, I tend to prefer single-player gaming (particularly for this format). I just think you can get a better story from it, partly due to the continuity of action and also because there’s no conflict over which character is the ultimate protagonist. However, the one trick, I think, is that you absolutely must have a really good player, somebody who is top notch both in terms of their writing ability as well as in terms of their playing ability. And, as your question correctly points out, they also need to have a degree of patience, as the written format of roleplaying is always a great deal slower than traditional face-to-face play where everything is just spoken. Bear in mind that I’m not saying that there is a one preferred format (spoken, written, etc.) or one preferred mode of gaming or even that some format or mode is inherently superior to another. Each has its own pros and cons, and ultimately it’s up to the participants to decide which is right for them.
I liked your thoughts on Battle Scenes, particularly Rule 2, which now gives me a conscious rationale for why I always hated the old D&D rules which had players rolling for initiative every single turn, not to mention all the various mumbo-jumbo of figuring out exactly which segment something happens. In the campaigns that I ran, I went to great lengths to avoid all of this and to streamline combat as much as possible.
Wow…somebody who remembers me from Usenet. Now, that’s going back a ways. I think I was probably most wellknown back then for my participation in the TSR/Copyright debate of 1994-96 or thereabouts.7 Tales out of school sounds fun. Personally, I’d be down for any campaign that involves chasing down a demonic, 15-year-old girl’s corpse into the fantasy equivalent of Las Vegas.
For those few who might care…
My past A&E submissions are at: http://www.esnips.com/web/Alarums And my general/political blog is at: http://jim-vassilakos.livejournal.com/
This, of course, is not to say that every strand of NPC dialogue is actually worth writing. Some things are better summarized, and the campaign excerpt included in this issue shows an example of how I’ll often do this. 4 See my comments to you in A&E #353. 5 Inter-relay chat, the most common program for accessing this network being mIRC available at www.mirc.com.
See www.kloogeinc.com, www.fantasygrounds.com, and www.openrpg.com. And if anyone knows of others or has an opinion about these, I’d be interested in hearing from you. 7 See A&E #300.
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