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GM questionnaire

January 24, 2012

Zak S. asked some questions. Here, somewhat tardily, are my responses:

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

Hmm. Stuck at the first hurdle. I can’t think of anything mechanical. I like the sound of some of the place names I’ve invented, such as the Bitterlows (a mountain range), Coldcockle Harbour (an abandoned fishing village), and Pulvering Prime (the capital city of a strict Lawful theocracy). Let’s go with Pulvering Prime.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

Last week.

3. When was the last time you played?

About fifteen years ago. I hope to rectify that in 2012.

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

A thousand years ago Something Bad happened to the surface world, so the dwarves withdrew to their strongholds deep underground and never returned to the daylight … until now. (Shorter version: Gamma World for dwarves.)

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

I listen. I check my maps and notes. Sometimes I verbally nudge. Sometimes I put the kettle on.

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

We have a pre-game ritual involving a takeaway from the excellent Coral Reef chip shop two minutes’ walk from my flat. Mmm, chips! Sometimes later there are cakes, scones, and/or biscuits.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

No, I usually find it invigorating.

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

It’s been fifteen years, and I always GMed more than I played. But I remember I summoned a byakhee aboard a train from Boston to New York once. That was interesting.

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

Hell, yes. That’s part of the fun of RPGs. For example, on paper Call of Cthulhu sounds like a nerve-shredding game of cosmic horror. In practice, I’ve found that the unpredictable elements of play (dice, players) often make it hilarious. If that happens, fine. I don’t want to impose a particular tone any more than I want to enforce a particular narrative. They both arise from interaction at the table.

10. What do you do with goblins?

Give them Cockney geezer accents. Doesn’t everyone? If they’re friendly, it’s “Awright, guv’nor! ‘Ow can I ‘elp yer?” If not, it’s “Oi! You dirty scrote! I’ll ‘ave your guts fer garters!” That said, in my next campaign they might be musicians and shapechangers and look like these splendid fellows:

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

Not saw, but heard. The Mastodon song “Black Tongue” inspired a curse, which in turn inspired an adventure.

12. What’s the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

Spike the dog climbing up the inside of a TV aerial to reach the roof in a cider-fuelled game of Toon many years ago. It was the matter-of-fact way the player described it that made it so funny. As with many RPG anecdotes, you probably had to be there.

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

Carcosa. Because I paid good money to look at it. (Money well spent, I should add.)

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

The usual old-school suspects: Erol Otus, Dave Trampier, Bill Willingham, Jim Roslof, Jim Holloway, etc. These days, Peter Mullen and Stefan Poag. In an ideal world, my own games would be illustrated by Ian Miller, Kevin O’Neill, and Mick “Mike” McMahon.

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

No. Concerned, perhaps.

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

I’m having a blast running a mashup of Gary Gygax’s The Keep on the Borderlands and Michael Curtis’s Stonehell Dungeon.

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

Around a table in my flat, which is where we play. I only wish I had more space, a bigger table, and comfier chairs.

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

WEG’s Ghostbusters and LotFP’s Carcosa.

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

Jack Vance and Mastodon.

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

Relaxed, happy, unselfish, engaged with the game.

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

I go hiking and camping in wild and mountainous places. Sometimes those experiences inform the scenic backdrop of my games. Other than that, I can’t think of anything.

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

I wish Skyrealms of Jorune had been written for Basic Roleplaying so I didn’t have to convert it myself.

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

Yes, I have been known to let my enthusiasm override my better judgement, and tell thrilling gaming anecdotes to friends and colleagues. They usually nod and humour me, which is foolish behaviour on their part because it only encourages me.
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