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Role playing opportunities

The comments on my recent Defence of H/P/E  post got me thinking. ‘Roleplaying opportunities’ were mentioned twice, one saying there weren’t any, one saying how good they were. Can’t both be right surely? or can they! I think it depends on your viewpoint.

One of the many ways that 4e has changed my gaming perspective is in the way I now see roleplaying. I used to be quite the snob about it. If you weren’t adding in loads of description and being all extroverted at the table you weren’t a roleplayer in my book (I never went as far as using the term rollplayer, so give me some credit!) I was always wishing for more from my players, more colour, more energy, more engagement with the plots, more authorship of the plots, everything I called roleplaying frankly. You’d think that after 30 years of dissatisfaction I’d have wised up a while back, but no, it took 4e to show me what I’d been overlooking all that time. It’s this: people get their gaming fun in all kinds of ways, and all those ways are completely valid so long as they’re not cramping someone elses. Hell, even if it does cramp someone elses, it could still be worth it if the group benefits as a whole.

I know, I know, hardly a revelatory insight. Yet I’d gotten too caught up in what I thought was right. I’ve read all the GMing advice and I’ve always managed to make it fit my own theories and prejudices, thus making it a vicious circle (9th level Lurker). The 4e DMG finally put me on the right track, and my weekly gaming group really demonstrated the possibilities of  just relaxing a little and letting the game run the way it really wanted to. Let me give you an example. I’ll use Julio, one of my oldest mates and I think we’ve been gaming together for about 20 years now. We definitely don’t play the same way. I like being all chatty and intrigue-y, Jules likes being dead hard and dominating battles. For years now I’ve always thought I was the better roleplayer, but nowadays I realise that’s just bollocks. We’re just getting our roleplaying jollies in different ways. Jules is a sublime roleplayer and I know he values his character and his gaming. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have shown up all these times. From the same vintage, Marky. He’s pretty quiet. I used to worry he was sitting bored, but again, he votes with his feet every single week. These guys are absolutely roleplayers, but they are taking their RP opportunities from slightly different places that I do.

Here’s what I don’t believe is the totality of roleplaying: standing up at the table, speaking in an outrageous accent, adding lengthy and hyper detailed descriptions to every sword swing, having a page long character background, refusing to fight, being a dark, edgy loner. As for roleplaying opportunities in scenarios? I don’t believe that always means enigmatic NPCs, labyrinthine plots, politics, factions, murder mysteries, masked balls or even skill challenges. Trouble is, I think that’s what a lot of people do mean when they talk about RP. Combat? unworthy of real roleplaying. Magic items? flavourless mechanical devices. NPCs? Now you’re talking!

And that’s rot. Talky bits in scenarios are not the only RP opportunities, they’re everywhere. I can see the opportunity in taking an extended rest: with enchantments, bedrolls, watches, disease worries, spell books, martial practice, breakfast, inspiring words. Jeez, you could very easily get a decent chapter in a fantasy novel out of just that. And here’s the important bit, it doesn’t need to be acted out in minutiae in order to count. As long as it’s got the potential to be a memory, it’s roleplaying. I love the day after a game, it’s where I rerun the cool scenes in my head, at my own pace. I remember the visuals, even tough they weren’t necessarily described that way on the night. I smell the blood, I feel the cloth, I taste the danger. Yet at the time, it might occasionally sound like we’re talking purely in numbers.

I do believe it is every person at the tables responsibility to ‘colour in’ their character wherever possible, to advertise the things that are on their character sheets. But you know what? I’m fine with ‘I attack with my longsword’, honestly I am. It actually annoys me now when players try to Stunt every single bloody thing. It’s like they’re competing for the experience points. Here’s another example. My missus likes to say that she is not a roleplayer. She likens it to cringe making Am Dram at it’s worst, all self conscious and me me me. She gets quite passionate about it! Thing is, she’s a great roleplayer. She adores her character, and fights her corner at every session. She’s written a novel for Gods sake, and her next is a fantasy story inspired by our game. She’s even thinking about DMing for the first time ever. She has two different colours of dice and tries one set out at the start of each session to see who’s running hot. Her character has a well deserved reputation for looking after number one. She taunts people who hang back from the action. She plays her character, and when she can’t be there all the others know exactly what she’d do in every situation. Yeah, she’s a roleplayer alright.

So, these modules for me are packed with roleplaying opportunities. They might not be obvious from a read through, but they definitely come out in play. When steve’s character yells ‘Come and Get It!’, he’s just provided an opportunity, and everyone else grabs it. These mods might not have many ‘conversations with the mayor about trade embargoes’ but they put a skeleton for adventure in front of your characters. The opportunities are there, you just need to grab them, and stop sweating about the ways people do.



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Let me tell you about my character

Well, I’ll let Dan tell you about his anyway. This is his backstory for the character he used at the big one off Eberron game last weekend.

Aundair Gazetteer
18 Zarantyr 998YK

‘After the Mourning’ Where are they now?

In this regular article we catch up with some of the heroes of the great war and find out what they are doing now hostilities are over.

Kiera d’Lyrandar, youngest child of Brandon and Elahara Jean-Gris d’Lyrander grew up in the Jean-Gris family home in Aundair. At age 9 she had her first communion with one of the Sovereign Host, Arawai, and joined the monastery on her 13th birthday. At 16 she was sent to train with the “Flying Templars” on the island of Stormhome amongst rumours of unruly behaviour.
She’s grown into an attractive young woman and has joined us fresh from a training exercise aboard the Sky-galleon ‘Arawai’s Honour’, fully armed and armoured.

AG: Thanks for joining us, Miss d’Lyrander. You grew up in Aundair with five older brothers, how was it being the youngest and a girl?
KdL: It was great really. My brothers teased me something awful sometimes, hiding my dolls and pulling my hair, that sort of stuff, but they looked out for me too. Mother was always dressing my up in these little dresses and things but they’d always ended up torn and muddy, I was a bit of a tom-boy and much preferred Tabard and Trews and a pair of sturdy boots.
AG: Speaking of which, can you tell us about what you are currently wearing?
KdL: Of course, this is ‘Sky-Silver’ layered plate forged in Cyre, made for me by Elgrim d’Cannith and is enchanted for mobility. I’ve accessorised with this light jousting shield and matching tabard. As usual I am carrying my lightning sword ‘Ampere’, gifted to me by father when I went to study on storm-home. Last, and most precious to me is this (Kiera lifts her arm to show the rosary wrapped around her gauntlet and the delicate wheatsheaf hanging from it). Arawai is always by my side, but this makes that connection stronger.
AG: We know you first communed with Arawai when you were nine, pur readers would like to know how you got the honour of serving with the third wing of Arawai’s Templars AKA The Flying Templars. Any truth to the rumours?
KdL: (sighs) Well, it seems such a long time ago now, there was this beautiful young elf working the local orchard, all tanned and, ooh, wild. By the five, I can’t even remember his name, anyway, I’d just turned 16 and was rather naive. Sister Morodale caught us in the hayloft with a bottle of scrumpy, as you can imagine, as an earthly representative for one of the Sovereign Host and a Lyrander, such behaviour was deemed unseemly. We had a huge argument. The next day I received travel papers with a note from father just saying I was to travel to Stormhome to learn some discipline.
AG: Some would consider that an honour, rather than a punishment.
KdL: (shrugs) It’s been hard work.
AG: Moving on, what’s the political climate like on Stormhome? Is it true house Lyrander is mobilising troops to invade the Eldeen reaches?
KdL: I cannot comment on the policies of house Lyrander, I am Arawai’s vessel and storm-bringer.
AG: You served for three years during the war, you were honoured for your actions on the day of Mourning, can you tell us about that?
KdL: We’d been re-provisioning at the border keeps and were flying back abourd ‘Arawai’s Hope’ to support the Cyran troops against the invading forces. Our orders were to strike the Zelish wands at sunset but when we arrived the Brelish army was scattered. We weighed anchor and worked all night trying to help the refugees, most were sick from the mourning, whatever we did, even Arawai’s blessings, it wasn’t enough. Most of those few that walked out of the wasteland died within hours. It was dreadful.
AG: What’s next for Kiere d’Lyrander?
KdL: I’ve ten days leave so I plan to take passage on a sky-ship back home to see mother and father and then to volunteer at one of the refugee camps in Breland. I always try to return to that site we landed at once a year to pay my respects and do what I can.
AG: Thank-you for your time.
KdL: Arawai’s blessings be with you.

Next Week: Lord Major Bren ir’Gadden of house Medani talks to us about the Vital role of the Brelish Intelligence corps in bringing about the Treaty of Thronehold.


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Character booklets for 4e

As I’ve been prepping for the 4e games I’m running at Furnace later this year, I’ve been working on character sheets.

I wanted a simplified sheet, suitable for newbies to the system, but with enough detail for old hands. I wanted it to be small enough to not take up too much space at the table. I also wanted it to be colourful and tell the story of the scenario a little bit.

Given that my IT skills are basic at best I’ve gone with a Word document. Can’t get easier than that. I’ve done 4 sheets which I print 2 to a page thus making an A5 booklet. That means you see the pages in this order, 2,3,4,1.

I still have some tinkering to do, like adding in the flavour to the powers section, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with these.

Andraste Booklet

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

EDIT: My USB flash drive containing this and many, many more Mb of gaming goodness has just died. All data lost. At least I still have this sheet.


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Deej’s character

Henry “Hank The Tank” Dawson could have been a contender. In fact he was in 1921 during the inaugral year of the new WBA. He lost out to Georges Carpentier (who went on to lose to Jack Dempsey to be the first World Heavyweight Champion). Much later claims were made from both camps that Carpentier had had his bandages dipped in plaster of paris for Hanks’ fight.

Hank dropped out of sight and spent the next couple of years as Dempseys sparring partner before moving into the shady, but well paid job as enforcer for a group of alcohol smugglers running into Kingsport.

He is a large, intimidating man who has kept his strength, stamina and tactical mind. He knows a good many boxing and underworld related people around Arkham, although he is now out of favour with his Boston and New York contacts. He is barely literate, scrappy when not occupied, would rather talk his way out of a situation with his fists and easily flustered in social situations.

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G2’s character

Travis Hinds spends his whole life searching (impulsive). Not for fame, nor fortune (though the last has come relatively easily). Hinds is a prospector. And be it oil, gold or some other chemical romance, he frequently strikes it lucky (determined). A swarthy European (polyglot) of vigorous stature, he cuts quite a figure as his boundless energy pours over maps, geological data, or the ground over which he stands (physically adept).

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Pete’s Character


“His name is Neville Sinclair. He is an actor in the Errol Flynn genre. Women, drink and action are his favourite hobbies but he takes his work seriously as it affords him his flamboyant lifestyle. He realises that swashbuckling flicks can’t remain the movie of choice for long and is desperately searching for the next big thing to prolong his career. He is overconfident, handsome, dashing, sucker for a lady and ruthless in his pursuit of success. “

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