Derek Knutsen, co-host of THE ESTABLiSHED FACTS and the mind behind Palegain Press, joins us to talk about charitable activity happening at Fear the Con 8 and some tips on running convention games! Derek has run Fear the Charity events at Fear the Con for several years now, and this year he’s also running Fear the Fruit. He’s also running a canned food drive, an alternate reality game (ARG) for Fear the Charity donations, a charity dungeon crawl at Fear the Con, and more! In short, he’s very busy helping everyone at Fear the Con give back to the broader community, and he’s awesome. While we have him on, we also pick his brain for some advice on running good convention games—basic advice on handling people, play and preparation. Enjoy!
Grant and Peter are back to talk about making interesting conspiracies for your players to expose—or participate in! First, we plug the ongoing Fear the Con 8 Kickstarter—if you want to see us there, the con needs to hit its Kickstarter goal, so consider backing it if you haven’t done so yet! Then we get down to business, talking about the elements of a good conspiracy as an entity in your game, and only briefly diverting to talk about conspiracy theories. Like these, which claim the moon isn’t real.
Game designer, podcaster, and sometime pastor Josh T. Jordan joins Grant and Peter to talk about those less-than-epic games, and why they still matter! Josh is the main host of Tell Me Another and the creative force behind Ginger Goat Games. He brought us this topic, and it turns into a wide-ranging discussion about stories outside the traditional epic heroic journey, where personal concerns trump world-threatening story arcs. (We also mention Amagi Games’ “The Soap Opera” one-page game tweak.)
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26
I have an odd relationship with difficulty. Sometimes it just frustrates me. I play most shooters and other action games as well as most story-based RPGs on “normal” or “easy.” I tend to get annoyed when I’m playing a digital card game and the random number generator seems to favor the computer’s draws more often than not. But there are times when that falls away. I tend to thrive on a certain amount of pressure at work (even if most of it is internal), I love the feeling I get when I figure out a solution to a real-world problem, and I definitely like some more difficult gaming experiences.
I think the difference is that there is more than one kind of difficulty. One type represents being inadequate in some way I’m unable to overcome. This type of difficulty manifests in being shafted by a random number generator, being unable to twitch fast enough in a FPS or RTS to do anything but die, or even encountering an unexpected and unavoidable traffic jam on the way to work. I can’t control the random number generator, as I age, my reflexes aren’t going to get any faster, and there is no amount of good planning that will save me from the consequences of someone else, 20 minutes ahead of me, getting into an accident that snarls traffic in all directions.
The other type, however, comes from inexperience and invites growth. Some of my favorite gaming experiences have come from this type of difficulty. Way back in the late 1990s, Jagged Alliance 2 kept me on my toes and I moved a rag-tag squad of mercenaries around a map trying to liberate the oppressed country of Arulco. That game is really tough, but the toughness feels fair; enemies are subject to the same rules as you, and while they often have better numbers and equipment, they are seldom any match on a personal prowess level for your team. In addition, staying calm and using solid tactics will usually be enough to get you out of all but the thorniest jams. XCOM: Enemy Within plays out in a very similar manner, as do a number of other great turn-based strategy games I’ve played over the years.
Two more good examples are the entire roguelike and rogue-lite genre cluster and Lords of the Fallen, which I’m playing in preparation for taking a crack at a Dark Souls game. Like the aforementioned turn-based strategy games, they give you a consistent set of rules that everything in the world plays by, then puts you in a set of circumstances designed to test how well you can work within those rules. As you play, you can feel yourself getting better. When I first started playing Lords of the Fallen, a single rhogar marauder was more than a match for me. Now I can take on two at a time and usually come out victorious (if not unscathed).
Finally, there are deck-building card games, which I have very hit-or-miss luck with. I’m good enough at Magic: The Gathering for it to be fun in a casual context (and I love Commander/EDH) but I’ll never darken the door of a tournament. I tend to get my clock cleaned in Race for the Galaxy and Dominion, but I love those games anyway, I can feel myself getting slowly better, and the success I experience in all three is more satisfying not only for the failure I’ve experienced, but for the knowing why.
There is a parallel, I think, between the struggle to get better at some game and getting better at being a person and a Christian. The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of athletic competition often when he’s talking about the Christian life, and I think he’s onto something. Resisting my habitual sins and being more loving, more forgiving, and more learned in my faith isn’t effortless. It’s sometimes really hard, in fact. But I don’t think we’re supposed to look at the struggle as a futile one we can’t make any progress in. Much like a more experienced player or a strategy guide, we have Jesus, and Paul, and countless other scriptural figures to show us at least some of what we need to do if we’re going to overcome the obstacles in our path. And even with that help, we’re never going to succeed 100% of the time. But much like with those pesky rhogar marauders, if we keep at it, we’ll eventually find that things that used to seem insurmountable to us are now challenges we have a solid chance of overcoming.
Our Virtues & Vices series concludes with a look at humility! Peter’s published again in Sojourn Volume 2 and our fundraiser for The Bodhana Group is nearly wrapped up, and well past its goal! There’s also an ongoing discussion we’d like you participate in—essentially, we’re looking for suggestions and improvements for the coming year. After all that, we talk over humility in characters and at the gaming table, and conclude with a special thank-you to our listeners and wishes for a merry Christmas and an awesome New Year.
It’s only Grant and Peter this episode, as we head into the final pair in our Virtues & Vices series! First, we talk about our ongoing (and quickly wrapping up) fundraiser for The Bodhana Group, and give Innroads Ministries some much-deserved plugs as well. Then we explore what C.S. Lewis called “the complete anti-God state of mind”—Pride. Some theological and practical definitions of pride get discussed before we explore pride as a character trait, and its manifestation at the gaming table.
Also mentioned in this episode: Episode 33 of Saving the Game, “Our Origin Stories (with Mike Perna)”; Peter’s Evil Overlord Guide.
Devon Kelley from the Shark Bone Podcast joins Grant, Peter and Branden in a discussion of one of Devon’s favorite RPG topics: Non-violent conflict resolution! Devon plugs a game of his own—Threshold: Tragic Superheroes, available through DriveThruRPG—and we plug our ongoing holiday fundraiser for The Bodhana Group. Then we dive (har har—you’re welcome, Devon) into our scripture and our topic. We discuss why non-combat conflict resolution is often overlooked in RPGs; why it’s important; how to encourage it, as a player and as a GM; and plenty of real-world examples of this sort of play.
Grant, Peter and Branden are back with thoughts on monsters! Our brief news segment discusses our new online store (go buy a shirt or a mug, they’re awesome), a plug for the LIVE episode we’ll record Oct. 16th, and some comments on our completed backlog and our Facebook, Google+ and Twitter feeds. Then we get down to business and talk about monsters (reprising the topic for Crossover Nexus #2, which Peter appeared on.) Why are stories about monsters interesting? What makes particular monsters interesting? How can we and should we use monsters in our games and stories? And what are our favorite monsters? (Also, since we said we’d link it in the show notes, check out Extra Credits’ “The Beast Macabre”.)
Grant’s back, and there’s so much news! Our official store is open, Peter’s getting published again, Branden has a job, and our live Q&A episode is coming up. And all that’s before we get into our main topic, Kindness. After defining kindness and discussing its nature as a virtue, we dive headlong into its in-game uses and role as a storytelling trope. Finally, we wrap up with a discussion of kindness at the gaming table.
Peter and Branden will be holding down the next couple of episodes—Grant’s got some medical issues and can’t podcast for a while. But we’ve got extra STG-related content to make up for it! Peter was on Episode 2 of the Crossover Nexus roundtable podcast (as was Mike Perna of Game Store Prophets), so give that a listen too. We also have a new logo, courtesy of Ruben at 3d6 Design; it looks awesome, so thanks very much, Ruben!
After that news (and a little bit more), we get down to business: Talking about oaths and vows in games. We define oaths, vows and pledges; discuss the dangers of vows; and then explore the gaming and roleplaying opportunities such promises provide us as GMs and players.