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The Reverb Gamers blog prompts, from Atlas Games, have inspired quite a few game bloggers this month. The project offers thirty-one prompts for thirty-one days of January blogging. It’s a fine idea. Alas, without the time to devote to daily blogging, I’ve been working on the first 14 prompts slowly over the course of a couple of days. Here, then, are my first fourteen responses—some are serious, some are sass. All of these prompts got me thinking, though, and make me think I should write more about some of these topics.

Are you writing from the Reverb Gamer prompts on your site? Had any breakthroughs or realizations as a result? Point us to your answers in the comments.

On with it.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #1: What was your first roleplaying experience? Who introduced you to it? How did that introduction shape the gamer you’ve become?

My first RPG experience was ostensibly a game of D&D. It was a birthday sleep over right before I started sixth grade, it was right around my birthday, too, I think, and the DM was the father of the family hosting us. At the start of that night, one of the other kids was, in real life, a dreadful threat to my happiness and dignity (I was an easy target). We played with sketchy character sheets and a few ability checks made with the dice. We fed inputs to the DM and he fed us back images of giant scorpions, invisible thieves, and furious minotaurs. (My fighter slew the minotaur with one shot from his trusty crossbow, without any worry about AC or hit points.) By the end of that night, that kid I feared? He and I were laughing and scheming together about ways to get our loot out of the crumbling dungeon.

I started DMing after school later that week. I haven’t stopped yet.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #2: What is it about gaming that you enjoy the most? Why do you game? Is it the adrenaline rush, the social aspect, or something else?

Some days I game to visit other places, sometimes just to play with my friends, sometimes for the thrill of keeping a narrative aloft as long as possible—it varies.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #3: What kind of gamer are you? Rules Lawyer, Munchkin/Power Gamer, Lurker, Storyteller/Method Actor, or something else? (Search “types of gamer” for more ideas!) How does this affect the kinds of games you play? For example, maybe you prefer crunchy rules-heavy systems to more theatrical rules-light ones.

Storyteller? I guess? Ask me another day and you may get a different answer.
REVERB GAMERS 2012, #4: Are you a “closet gamer?” Have you ever hidden the fact that you’re a
gamer from your co-workers, friends, family, or significant other? Why or why not? How did they react
if they found out?
Sure, I’ve played down my gamerdom before. I don’t really do that anymore, though. For all that being a gamer is a major part of my life and career, I try to keep in mind a quote by my friend, Jeff VanderMeer: “Everyone you know is more than one thing.” I am a gamer, for sure, but I am other things besides that. Sometimes “gamer” is what I tell people first, sometimes it’s not—depends on the situation and the audience.
REVERB GAMERS 2012, #5: Have you ever introduced a child to gaming, or played a game with a
young person? How is gaming with kids different than gaming with adults?

I’ve introduced a few new gamers to RPGs, sometimes successfully. That said, I haven’t played an RPG with kids below 12 or 13 years old, I don’t think. Kids need wrangling and constant inputs—in my experience, they want new things to react to and build on at a fast pace. They want to see immediate reactions in the game world, so that every action gives back vital telemetry. And why wouldn’t they?

New gamers, regardless of age, also seem to trust the authority of the GM in a way that experienced players sometimes grow to question. For some players, this happens quickly, especially as rules are visibly engaged. “Why can that monster do that?” I might get asked. Or, “Why is the difficulty only 10?” Or a hundred other questions that suggest either a suspicion of someone else’s narrative authority or a curiosity about the wizardry going on behind the curtain of play. All that said, I think that’s more about hours logged in play and less about player age. In other words, I haven’t logged enough hours playing with kids to answer this question with confidence.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #6: Describe your all-time favorite character to play. What was it about him/her/it that you enjoyed so much?

Seriously, I don’t know. Some of my favorite characters to play have been NPCs in long-running campaigns of mine, whether it was the pious interstellar fighter pilot with the callsign of Avarice or the laid-back underground spymaster and benefactor who’s integral to the storyline of Always/Never/Now or someone else, I can’t say.

I don’t attach as strongly to my own PCs because I feel like I have less control over them, so often. I often engage with characters by showing how they change over time and the dice (or the collision of PC agendas) sometimes work against my vision for character progression on my own PCs. I don’t get too attached because what if they die? What if the dice suddenly conspire with the GM to declare my character to be inept or lax? Often I avoid getting attached to my PCs because the idea I have for who they are doesn’t last long—they have to adapt to the circumstances and tactics of the adventure. I don’t inhabit them the way an actor might, I write for them. This gives me greater adaptability and helps me avoid fighting back against compelling but unwanted inputs from other players and the GM. Otherwise, historically, I rail against challenges that diminish my character concept or keep me from playing the persona I had in mind.

As I’ve said before, the character you create for play often ceases to exist once play begins. You have to be ready to follow the character where the adventure takes him or her. Thus I tend to make characters who are at the end of one arc, rather than the beginning of one. I don’t have to prove that this character is an ace pilot, she should be able to start off that way. The question is, what is she going to be next?

I’ll write more about this soon, I hope.

All that said, I really liked playing Mr. Fishman, my first woeful and ill-fated Fiasco character. And I had a weird Western-themed D&D sorcerer named Early who got magic powers after surviving a cannon blast; I dug him.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #7: How do you pick names for your characters?
A combination of evocative sounds, pre-selected names I carry around in my head because I like them, and substantive or trivial allusion. And sometimes I just pick one out of the clear blue. Sometimes those elements get combined, so that Avarice intentionally contrasts the pilot’s characterization and apparent history, and sometimes I just use one method and get going. Some characters come with their names already in place, part of some great bolt of inspiration. So it goes.
REVERB GAMERS 2012, #8: What’s the one gaming accessory (lucky dice, soundtrack, etc.) you just can’t do without? Why?
Over time, I’ve learned to adapt. I don’t have lucky pencils, I greatly prefer to play with music but I can do without, and I’m not obsessive about people touching my dice or anything. I just want to play.
REVERB GAMERS 2012, #9: Have you ever played a character of the opposite sex. Why or why not? If yes, how did the other players react?
Sure. As a GM, especially, I play characters of all kinds. Whether I’m a player or a GM, though, I vary my use of first-person and third-person inputs to help everyone get accustomed to the fact that I’m writing for the character in addition to portraying him or her. That seems to simplify things—it establishes that the character and I may be different. I’ve been lucky, though, in that I seldom play with people who aren’t understanding or aren’t willing to forgive my occasional foot-in-mouth mistakes.
REVERB GAMERS 2012, #10: Have you ever played a character originally from a book/TV/movie? How did the character change from the original as you played? If not, who would you most like to play?
As a player, not that I can recall. As a GM, I’ve taken on the roles of Star Trek captains and Captain America and Radagast the Brown and others. Every RPG session is an adaptation and collaboration of multiple different materials and imaginations, happening in the moment. Every character changes a bit when someone else portrays them. I should write more about this.
REVERB GAMERS 2012, #11: Have you ever played a character that was morally gray, or actually evil? Why or why not? If yes, did you enjoy it?
I’ve certainly played characters of muddled morality and questionable ethics. Lately I try to keep my characters likable (at least by me) but the truth is that so many adventure stories involve behaviors that are ludicrous, wicked, fearsome, or lamentable, to say the least. My D&D 4E Warlord character thought of himself as a good person who would minimize the harm he had to bestow on strangers and friends alike… but that didn’t stop him from dishing out dice of damage in fight after fight to keep up with the narrative and facilitate play. I’ve enjoyed playing heroes, antiheroes, villains, and characters in different stages along those spectrums. Sometimes I get uncomfortable, too.
REVERB GAMERS 2012, #12: Do prefer collaborative or competitive games? What do you think that says about you?
I enjoy collaborative and cooperative games, I guess. I think that says that I’m a sensitive helper who just wants to be liked.
REVERB GAMERS 2012, #13: Who’s the best GM/storyteller/party leader you’ve ever had? What made him/her so great?
Agonizing, this one. Can’t say. I’ll point to Hell Yeah, Gamemasters, though, so you can see some accounts of other great GMs.
REVERB GAMERS 2012, #14: What kinds of adventures do you enjoy most? Dungeon crawls, mysteries, freeform roleplaying, or something else? What do you think that says about you?
It varies, especially based on my recent inspirations and whether I’m playing or running. I especially like adventures that combine two or three different types into something else. I think it says I’m equal parts adaptable and mercurial.