(Note this post also appears at Words Mean Stuff under a slightly different title…)
Well, I survived! Besides a family reunion, I spent a weekend at a live tabletop gaming event. I have to say it went well, but there are always interesting bits and moments.
(For those who might wonder I’ll call it ‘almost D&D’. The game ran using Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition open gaming license material and material from the world of my stories, so I’m not allowed to say it’s compatible with Dungeons and Dragons)
Here are a few thoughts from the big game
Plans vs what actually happens
When you’re doing a live game, you might (you should) have a plan. If you’re running the game, you should have that plan before the game starts. But people and dice just don’t do what you planned on them doing.
In our live event, the least experienced player at the table cracked a mystery that had the more experienced players stumped. She put together two honestly unrelated pieces of information and came up with an answer that sent the players in a completely different direction than I’d expected. As a result, two players used magic I’d provided to cope with other situations to go prospecting on the ceiling of a giant cavern!
In reality, it was at least partly my fault. I substituted a pair of vampire spawn for a pair of other monsters because I realized the initial encounter would be too tough. That got the new player thinking about the Twilight books, and that jumped to the actual purpose of an ancient machine. And that led to ceiling prospecting…
If you’re running the game, and usually as a player, it’s good to have a plan. But like they say, you make a plan so you know what won’t happen. But therein lies the fun!
The fun and growth are in what you didn’t expect
One of our players is trying to understand improvisation, comedy, and what makes things fun and or funny. I gotta say we had a lot of laughs during the game. Much of the fun and challenge came from players looking at things differently, finding their expectations challenged and finding novel (and humorous) solutions. We had a few laughs based on stuff I threw in too, but it took us working as a group, but not agreeing or seeing things the same way, to make it successful.
Things really get going when the unexpected stacks… First one player (who really gets into character) decided she had an ethical issue with killing orcish women and children. Then, the players decide (correctly) that the only way forward is through the heart of the orc lair. Then, one player forgets a few key points in the plan… The result is most of the party hiding in a bedroom laughing and cringing at the same time while our rouge/druid is running around pretending to be an orcish child throwing smoke bombs, ticking off the adult orcs and trying to figure out how to get past orcs that now surround her to get back to the rest of the party. All the while our fighter is trying to figure out how to get to an orcish smith on the far side of all the action and everyone’s ignoring the one door that would actually lead the party out of this mess.
There were more situations like that. Our player is analyzing recordings of the session trying to figure out what happened and what made it funny. I’m not sure what he’ll do with the information but I can assure him the humor was in the players succeeding despite themselves.
Shared creation and intellectual property
The adventure was fun. It was funny. It was also built in a world I created and recorded for one of my player’s research. But, that’s where we get into problems (or we can if we’re not careful). The world, the adventure, the characters, the research: it’s all intellectual property. Some of it is mine and some of it isn’t.
As an author and researcher, I’m big on intellectual property. It takes time to create quality stuff, and it’s not right for someone else to just come in and take it. For some players that might not be a problem. But, a lot of my players are also writers, researchers, and other ‘creative types’. How do we create together (as one does in roleplaying game) without stepping on toes or stealing ideas?
Well, first we make expectations clear. My players know that my world is the one I write my stories in, and that I protect my copyright to that world and materials in it. At the same time, I set out at the forefront that I will not use their characters or ideas without permission. For my comedy researcher player, that means he can come up with ideas and theories based on what happened but he doesn’t get to borrow my material or the other player’s characters without the permission of the creator.
Second, we practice what we preach. We actually enforce the rules and expectations we set up in the beginning. People learn and follow the rules. (Note: the worky-icky parts of intellectual property and copyright aren’t the point of the post so I’ll save them for another time). We teach and practice respect for each other and our intellectual property, and handle problems before they get big.
Do it again?
Would I do it all again? Yes, I want to. There’s much more to my world that one weekend’s worth of adventure, and more to my players stories than we covered. At the moment I’m passing the mantle of DM to one of the others, who also has a bouncing baby campaign to run, and taking a break from running the world while I get some other writing done. But I will be back. The live events will be back. And I’ll be talking about them here.
One reason I do games and not just books is that stories and storytelling are not meant to be a “one person in a room” process. Playing and creating with others helps keep me in contact with the human element.
Speaking of the human element… Now that I’m home I’d better give my lawn some attention so the neighbor can stop throwing fits… Good luck with your lives and creations dear reader. Stay strong. And, I’ll see you next post!
Postscript: less than 12 hours after the initial writing of this post the group was already working on dates for next year’s live event… (Told you it would happen…)