So today I was going to write about character creation, and that didn’t happen. Instead I ended up staring at my screen, my character sheet and my notes for the better part of an hour before I decided to save that for next week and instead look at how I managed to confuse myself. I’ve encouraged other people to learn along with me and if I’ve been confused… I can’t be the only one. I don’t want anyone to be discouraged to try this and I want everyone to be excited.
Thinking about gaming can be a little overwhelming for those of us new to this. That might be understated actually… I was feeling a little bit like Alice in Wonderland got dropped into Narnia to battle the Daleks with a light saber. This isn’t Trivial Pursuit where the rules don’t change and the biggest thing to remember is that sports questions should always be answered with Babe Ruth because sooner or later you’ll be right. It can seem like a lot. You aren’t opening up a box, you’re opening up your own imagination and there usually aren’t a lot of limits there. I guess I am the type of person that needs to spell it out.
I know you roll dice and … well… something happens, but up until recently I’ve been kind of fuzzy on the details and while I’m learning more and more all the time, there is still so much to learn. It appears that each system is a little different, every person I have talked to has something new to tell me about, and some of it conflicts with what I’ve been told by others so it’s time to break it down for myself and everyone else. Vocab is great, but until I can put it into context it doesn’t mean much right? Plus, if I’m WRONG you can correct me.
The best description of gaming that I think I’ve heard actually came up at one of our SGG business meetings. My marketing brain was trying to think of ways to explain it to people when it occurred to me that I didn’t get it and so I asked.
Gaming is like going on an adventure with your friends, only you can go anywhere and do things you might not be able to do otherwise…and you don’t have to leave the house and it doesn’t cost $10,000.
Ok good! I’m in! I can work with that. So how am I going to go on this amazing adventure? What am I going to do? It sounds like I’m going to:
One person will more or less run things based on the rules for the system we’ve chosen. That’s the GM. They’re in charge and guide things and enforce all the rules. One tip I was given recently by Clint Black was that when making a character, a good question to ask the GM is “What would be good to get my character involved in the story?” That makes sense to me, because they are the ones directing things and they know what’s going to go on! The rest of us are in for surprises. We are the players, collectively we make up a party. (Not to be confused with the streamers and balloons kind of party) It’s also up to the GM to run the NPC’s (Non-player characters) and to provide the goal.
Whether we (the players) know the goal or if it becomes clear as we progress seems to depend on the system, the GM and whether we are doing a one shot adventure or starting something that will run for a while. I don’t know which is better for a new player like me. Opinions vary. I’m leaning for something that’s start to finish at one time to get my feet wet.
Things that happen during a night of gaming might include problem solving, combat, puzzle solving, conflict, negotiations and anything else that can be thought up. Players take action based on their character, the situation and the setting. Whether these actions are successful are determined by… rolls of dice and statistics.
See? I knew dice were part of this! The GM uses the rules to determine what is necessary for your action to be successful and your roll determines whether or not you were. Statistics come into play, these are generally divided up into Skills and Attributes. This is where my head started to swim honestly…until I realized that the names aren’t consistent across all systems and that I need to focus on what I was going to play and not try to remember everything else. Attributes seem to apply to traits everyone possesses. Strength, Spirit, Smarts, Agility, Vigor. Skills are something that are only possessed by some characters and are often genre specific. IE: Magic, marksmanship, diplomacy. I’ll talk about more of this when I finish that post about character creation. All of these things are a deciding factor in whether your actions are successful.
You continue taking actions, along with the rest of your party until you reach your goal. Players can be lost, I’ve been told not to become TOO attached to my characters, and the outcome may or may not be what you expected. If it’s a one session you play to completion, if it’s an ongoing campaign you play until you reach a good stopping point or until everyone is tired and remembers that they actually have a day job they have to get up for in the morning.
And that… is my version of what gaming IS broken down. Accurate or not… well, I guess that’s up to all of you to give me feedback about.
What I have realized is that trying to learn too much at once is overwhelming, making sure I ask for clarification on things is key and that everyone is excited to help. Don’t read the books from several systems at once. Pick one, stick with that until you decide that you either do or do not want to play that. If you have friends that are gamers, ask them what they play, what they like to play and why. The community is excited to have new gamers join them. Don’t be afraid to ask them to slow down and define things for you or to demonstrate. Don’t be concerned if they start talking about things you feel like you should know, remember they’ve probably been doing this for a while. If you have the opportunity, an experienced GM is going to help a lot.
Now… next week I’ll introduce you to Sarah. She’s my first character.