Wednesday, January 18, 2012

GM Questionnaire

Zak S of D&D with Porn Stars posted this questionnaire for GMs, so while I am working on a long review of Isle of the Unknown, I thought I would take a crack.

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

I think Zak is talking about a monster, trap or magic item. To be honest, I guess I would say my re-working of Ramsey Campbell’s Great Old One, Eihort, for an unpublished Call of Cthulhu scenario.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

Last Friday, for my Old School Wilderlands D&D game.

3. When was the last time you played?

Gencon before last? On Sunday morning, I played a Godlike game. When my character was offered a choice between reading a secret report or studying maps, I quipped “Little Orphan Annie” and got a will point out of it.

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

Character are required to re-construct an ancient dirge to keep an evil God/Dragon/Great Old One from awakening, using clues found in various dungeons and other adventure sites.

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

Depends. If they are enjoying themselves through role playing I try to keep my mouth shut, and do prep that I haven’t completed. If they are bored or frustrated I’ll try to prompt them based on what their characters might come up with, like “Bob, doesn’t Zaffo the Bard usually visit Mona the Priestess while in town? Perhaps she knows where the McGuffin might be hidden...”

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

I try to stay away from food, cuz i can’t role play real well while I am stuffing my mouth, but a drink (usually root beer or fruit juice) is a must.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

More mentally exhausting, but after I stop I am usually tired. At a con, I start to lose my voice.

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

I assume Zak means what interesting thing one of my players did while I was GMing. To be honest, I am never very surprised by what players do. Some always seem to tinker with their builds (depending on the system) in order to freak me out by what they are able to beat up, but I am never very interested in this sort of thing. One of my players recently refused to go deeper into a Dungeon, because I described a cold, fetid air rising from a stairwell, stating “No Undead air-conditioning!” I thought this was funny, and am always delighted with players that role play fear, rather than mindless bravura or braggadocio.

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

All the time. All the time. Frankly, I end up encouraging them in this sort of thing through the use of funny voices. Nowadays I just let them go off, or try to riff off of what they are making fun of. I don’t remember a case where they took seriously a something I intended as comic.

10. What do you do with goblins?

Depends on the background. In Pendragon, they’re sly fey tricksters, who when caught, morph into feuding muppets. In my current D&D campaign, they’re vile, creepy little bastards, who cry out “Eat your eyes, eat your eyes!” in combat, and dangle little bits of fallen enemies from their weapons and armor.

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

I converted the Peter Watts novel, Blindsight, into a BRP scenario for a university project. Got an “A”.

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

I was in all-Drow mini campaign, and played a Drow seductress. One of the other characters complained about me not following orders, and I replied (in character) “I didn’t hear any complaints the last time I was under you.”

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

Death Frost Doom. I am re-reading it to run it at a local con soon.

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

David A. Trampier

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

Yessssss. Being a CoC Keeper forever will do that to you.

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

A series of Greg Stafford’s Pendragon mini-adventures, which were Old School before there was an Old School.

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

I vary in my opinion of this. Sometimes I want a full game room with a Sultan game table and a full set of resin dungeon pieces (along with fully painted minis) and sometimes I want the kitchen table and some maps.

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

Robin Laws’ Kaiin Players Guide and Bob Bledsaw’s City State of the Invincible Overlord.

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

For my D&D game? Tolkien and Moorcock, for literary influences, I suppose, and Bledsaw and Robin Laws for gaming ones. (Scratches head.) I dunno.

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

#1, A player who plays nice with others. #2, This quote from Luke Crane, "I want the players to take the character and do what they think would be cool for the character, not what they think the character would do."

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

Being accosted for money by indigents at Gencon. I turned that into a tournament scenario where the characters are indigents in the real world and who are heroes and monarchs in Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. I called it Kings in Disguise.

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

A couple: A faithful retro-clone of Gamma World, 1st and 2nd edition. A Middle Earth RPG with Pete Fenlon’s original MERP maps, a complete (and completed) version of The Enemy Within campaign. Gygax’s original Greyhawk dungeons and notes, Jorune with better rules, and 2nd edition of Empire of the Petal Throne. About 10 that I would like to write.

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

“Sorry, I can’t do X with you. I’ll be playing D&D that night.”


  1. What aspects of Mutant Future make it unacceptable to you as a clone of Gamma World? Note, I'm not all that familiar with either actually, but I have been meaning to check one or the other out. So I would be interested to know (from someone knowledgeable) what the differences are.

  2. My understanding of Mutant Future is that it uses the combat system from Labyrinth Lord rather than the combat system from Gamma World. I like the original GW combat system, and like the 'genotypes' as they are presented in GW. The class and level system in Mutant Future also hews more closely, I believe, to Labyrinth Lord.

    It would not stop me from playing Mutant Future, but if I were GMing it, I would prefer 1st and/or 2nd edition.

    That said, there may be OGL reasons for not doing a full clone, which is why I asked the question on your blog (I believe).

  3. That makes sense. In my case, I would probably be more likely to import aspects of either MF or GW into a D&D game rather than play it straight, so MF might actually work better for me.