Indie in Bielefeld

I’m sitting at home, having just returned from the regular gaming meetup in Bielefeld. While I did pack but not play Dusk City Outlaws, I did get to play two other games: The Skeletons by Jason Morningstar and Thorny Games' Dialect.

Both games are very much focused on story and emotions, less about high adventures, so this meetup has again been very much thematic for me. (There was a DSA 4.1 game that I was invited to, but, let’s say, even though I like the GM a lot, this isn't my cup of tea.)

So, what are these things about?

The Skeletons has the players all gather as undead guardians of a hidden tomb. The game asks them to map out the tomb together, to come up with the little details that give it a history.

And then watches on, as there are repeated incursions into the sacred stillness. Grave robbers, adventurers, monsters and others seek out the tomb, and the skeletons have to deal with them, rediscovering their own identities and memories while doing so.

A very fun game, but we sadly did not unlock it’s full potential. One reason was that the game got constantly interrupted, so we couldn’t really establish a flow. None of the interruptions were malicious (we got cake, new arrivals at the meetup wanted to say hi, and of course everything got paused when the infant kid of one of the players got carried in with a very nasty bruise on the forehead.), but a game that tries very much to evoke a feeling of loneliness and time passing suffers greatly from that.

The other was a result of this being our first time to play this game: The tomb we made was small. Basically one big room with just one corridor entering it. That way the skeletal guardians confronted each and every incursion in basically just one short encounter, not allowing for a lot of roleplay in those moments.

On top of that, I realized the actual point one probably should drive at only after the game ended, so the players felt a lack of agency. Discovering and making use of ones own personality should be much more important.

Still, I recommend this game a lot.

Dialect is a meta‐game, similar to Microscope, but instead of a deep history, this game has you develop a language. It comes in a rather thick hardcover, gorgeously illustrated and also hands you a bunch of cards with prompts. All of this enables you to form a tightly knitted group that has somehow isolated themselves from the rest of society — and thus forms their own language.

We had a merry band of gentleman thieves in early 19th century Hamburg that surely but slowly moved towards their downfall. In that time we invented slang that defines our marks, our celebrations and our hierarchy and actions. We saw how words slowly took on different, meaner definitions, as we moved from high stake cons to simply robbing and murdering people.

The phrase „before the cellar“, which we used to have as a code to reference our lofty gentlemanly standards became a curseword and then evolved into „to cellar someone“, a euphemism for plain murder. In the end, the cellar was all we had, and when our fearless leader walked up to the hangmans noose, her last words were „no one sings in the cellar“, refusing to give up her partners in crime.

A great game, one that I cannot wait to play again.

Playing at an open table

Harald runs his bi-weekly game in a slightly unusual fashion. It is an open table where he runs for whoever shows up. That in itself isn’t that unusual and the West Marshes style of running a campaign is based on a similar foundation.

The difference is that he treats the constant exchange of players and characters as a single continuous group. That means that if last week Clara, River and Amy break into the Holy Temple of Om, and this week Clara, Rose and Jack turn up at the game, the game starts with all three having just broken into the temple and are now facing the Dire Weresheep Guards.

But what about River and Amy?“ you ask. „And where did Rose and Jack suddenly turn up from?“

And to this, Haralds game group will answer: „What? uh.. we don’t care!“

The solution is that we treat this as just a cutting mistake in a B‐Movie. As long as the plot continues and is overall kept intact, we’re fine. So, we ended last week entering the temple and this week starts with the first confrontation inside the temple. Everything is fine. As long as no one draws attention to the fact that there are suddenly swapped‐out characters, no one really notices.

The other main reason this works is what kind of game we play at this table: There is no prepared epic campaign where we follow a carefully crafted set of settings and obstacles. Instead, Harald throws us into any one of the dozens of adventure modules he has collected over time and watches our characters try to cope with them, even if they are widely out of our level.

Then he takes whatever exit we take and uses it to throw us right into the next adventure. Example: When we decided to open a portal to escape the Servants of the Cinder Queen, that portal opened to the Broodmother Skyfortress. After having explored the fortress and finally managed to make it sort‐of‐land, we had to blindly jump from the anchor chain found ourselves on top of a structure on the Misty Isles of the Elk.

At the game table, none of this felt out of place. Harald cleverly chose the Cthonic Codex and a very rules‐light interpretation of the Adventure Fantasy Game as the base setting, and it works surprisingly well as scaffolding to hold up and connect all the different and slightly weird set‐pieces we visit. Things do not get boring, but stay mostly consistent, as Harald does keep track of when we change things in places or set something in motion that might have a world‐changing effect later on.

No, this isn’t something to play if you want to watch your character with their three friends evolve over 20 levels and find out how they save the kingdom. But if you want to have regular fun that still connects to a story worth re‐telling, this approach is worth a try.

That incel nonsense…

At some point I will write a lengthy explanation why prohibiting private cars in inner cities will become an inevitability. All the green folks will rejoice over all the newfound clean air and all and will conveniently ignore that it was the dreaded fear of terror that finally brought this to us.

This is not that explanation, it’s about something else: „Incels“ — People, specifically men who blame their lack of romantic involvement, specifically the lack of sex, on women. And then maybe drive trucks into people.

Matthew Graybosch on Google+ put my general opinion of those into pretty clear words:

As such, I’m about to lay some harsh fucking truth on you: if you’re truly involuntarily celibate, you deserve it.

But that is only my general opinion. Because, as usual, I also have a more specific one:

Every cluster of teenage kids will have a few kids that sit on the sides, not truly belonging to the main group. That happens, it’s highly regrettable, but it just happens. And if the broader culture where these kids live in puts a high value on being sporty, good looking, attractive, the kids on the sides will be what we commonly refer to as „the nerds“

I was one of those as a kid. Not truly outcast, but a bit on the fringe. Enough so that when a former classmate was talking to her kid about bullying she decided to contact me to get some „inside info“, because after 30 years, I was still stuck in her head as „the (slightly) outside one“.

I also distinctly remember a time when puberty acne, being awkward and ‚the computer nerd‘ while also seeing the surfer guy getting the attraction from all the right girls, let me briefly believe I might end up that way.

Privately.

In my own head.

Without having a word for it. Because, frankly, there was no 4chan or reddit or whatever where I could safely express that stupid idea and then end up in an echo chamber where I would reinforce that rough idea into a solid belief system.

Instead, after a few months of teenage angst and wallowing in private self‐pity, I eventually worked up the courage and asked that girl I fancied out for a movie. A few weeks later, the concept of me staying a virgin forever involuntarily was thrown to the ash heap of history.

Enough confession time, what is the point I want to make here?

I think that „incels“ are truly a creation of the internet, combined with the toxic concept of maleness . Without having that place to mutually reassure themselves in that stupid concept, looking at what they see „how things should be“ in media, they wouldn’t be able to construct that bubble for themselves. And without that bubble they would have a chance to get happier.

Brotopia, which I’m currently reading, points the very same thing out, although in a different frame:

When minorities are forced to self‐identify as minorities, their performance suffers. Sociologists even have a name for this: stereotype threat.

Incels“ are a very tragic example of a group of people that wished themselves into being a minority and then reaped all the negative effects that came with that.

The frightening thought is that a lot of those of us who nowadays look at them with scorn might have fallen into the same trap, if the tools of today would have been available to us.

Du willst also auch mal Rollenspiel ausprobieren?

Keine Sorge, es geht jetzt nicht um Cosmopolitan‐Tipps um Euer Sexleben aufzubessern, sondern um diese tolle Hobby von dem alle reden: Fantasy Rollenspiele, Erzählspiele, Pen&Paper RPGs..

err.. Moooment! Hey, JollyOrc, Dein Blog ist voll von Rollenspielbeiträgen. Warum erklärst Du das jetzt nochmal?

Ganz einfach: Das hier ist ein Beitrag zum aktuellen Karneval der Rollenspielblogs, diesmal zum Thema „Tipps für neue Spielleiter“

Ah.. ok, das klingt nach einem hehrem Ziel. Weitermachen.

Danke.

Du warst also gerade beim Gratisrollenspieltag oder hast ein Starterset zu so einem Rollenspiel zum Geburtstag bekommen und willst loslegen. Prima, leg los!

Nein, wirklich, leg einfach los, Du schaffst das schon, mich brauchst Du dafür nicht.

Ok, Du bist immer noch hier, also bist Du entweder sehr, sehr neugierig oder irgendwas hindert Dich, einfach anzufangen. Was könnte das sein?

Du hast keine Mitspieler

Frag einfach Deine Freunde und Bekannte. Wenn die nicht begeisterungsfähig genug scheinen, schau in Foren oder die Spielerzentrale. Oder besuch eine Convention.

Du hast keine Ideen

So gut wie alle Rollenspielbücher und  Startersysteme kommen mit einem Einsteigerabenteuer und einer kurzen Einleitung, wie man das anfängt. Von da ergibt sich alles andere meistens fast wie von selbst. Wenn Du das schon hinter Dir hast, schau doch zum Beispiel mal auf die One Page Dungeons zur Inspiration! Alternativ bieten gerade die „großen“ Rollenspielsysteme wie Das Schwarze Auge, D&D oder Splittermond auch eine reichhaltige Auswahl an fertigen Abenteuerbänden.

Du weißt nicht, ob Deine Ideen gut genug sind

Es gibt nur einen Weg das herauszufinden: Probiere sie aus! Nimm die Idee und fang an zu spielen. Im allerschlimmsten Fall stellt Ihr fest, dass das gerade keinen Spaß macht, und dann macht Ihr halt was anderes. Das ist kein Weltuntergang, und danach hast Du mehr Erfahrung und kannst es nächstes Mal anders — und wahrscheinlich sogar besser machen!

Du weisst nicht, ob DU gut genug bist

Ich möchte Dir jetzt gerne versichern, dass Du natürlich gut genug bist. Und um einfach mitzuspielen bist Du es bestimmt. (Hier ist die Frage eher: Hast Du Lust darauf und haben Du und die anderen am Tisch auch Spaß daran. Wenn ja: Mach weiter und lass Dir von niemanden reinreden!)

Wenn Du selbst in die Rolle des Dungeon Masters, also der Spielleitung schlüpfen willst, dann sieht das etwas anders aus: Es gibt zwar keine harten Richtlinien, und vorab kann Dir niemand sagen, ob Du geeignet bist oder nicht, aber es gibt definitiv gute und schlechte Spielleitungen. Natürlich ist das kein Job, für den Du eine langjährige Ausbildung brauchst, und niemand verlangt von Dir, erst einmal alle Regelwerke und deren Kommentarbände im Internet zu lesen.

Aber Du solltest Spaß daran haben, für andere etwas vorzubereiten. Sei Dir klar, dass es sich hier um ein soziales Spiel handelt, und Du mehr damit beschäftigt sein kannst, die anderen Spieler zu lesen und anzuführen, denn einfach das Spiel nach Regeln abzuklappern.

Nichtsdestotrotz: Probiere es einfach aus. Lass Dir nicht den Mut, und vor allem nicht den Spaß nehmen!

Du willst Dich erstmal so richtig vorbereiten

Mach das ruhig. Aber sei Dir darüber klar, dass es unfassbar viel Material zum Thema gibt, sich das meiste widerspricht, Du bei fünf Rollenspielern sieben Meinungen zu einem Thema finden wirst, und im Endeffekt beim eigentlichen Spiel alles anders kommt.

Das bedeutet nicht, dass Vorbereitung eine schlechte Idee ist. Mindestens eine Person am Tisch sollte mindestens einmal zumindest die Schnellstartregeln des gewählten Systems gelesen haben, und das kannst natürlich Du sein. Dennoch, übertreibe es nicht, denn sonst traust Du Dich unter Umständen irgendwann gar nichts mehr.

Was Du auf jeden Fall vorbereitet haben solltest:

  • kenne die wichtigsten Regeln
  • kenne die wichtigsten Nichtspielerfiguren — und hab zur Sicherheit eine Liste ihrer Namen bereit
  • habe eine Vorstellung von den Örtlichkeiten, die Du Deiner Runde präsentieren willst. Verstehe, wie sie zusammenhängen, habe ein Gefühl davon, wie es ist, „da“ zu sein.
  • Sei bereit, all das wegzuwerfen, weil garantiert eine Person in Deiner Gruppe jemanden anspricht, den Du nicht vorbereitet hast, oder plötzlich alle entscheiden, dass Dein dahingeworfenes „ah, Rum aus der Teufelsee, wo sich nur die besten hinwagen“ als Herausforderung anzusehen…

Du weisst nicht, womit man am besten anfängt

Im Idealfall hast Du beim Gratisrollenspieltag ja schon was bekommen. Wenn nicht, macht nix: Es gibt diverse Möglichkeiten anzufangen, manche kostenlos, viele günstig: