Role Playing Profile
My RPG Profile
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Origins of a Player
1. When and where did you first play a roleplaying game (could be a year or your age)?
I was first exposed to D&D at lunch in 8th grade by a couple of guys rolling up characters. I was really interested but they weren’t interested in letting me into their little group. Also, my parents got wind of the D&D thing and fell for the whole “devil worshipping hype” (Southern Baptist family) and banned me from playing it. I picked up Star Frontiers later that year, because I was more into sci-fi, but never could find anyone to play or explain it to me. I was a slow reader so I could not sit down and read the rules myself.
I didn’t play until freshman year in high school, with a group of guys I met at my golf caddying job – Jim McCrystal, Vince Bacon and Curtis White. These guys exposed me to a whole new world. I was already into sci-fi and horror through the movies I watched (or the book novelization of the movies my parents wouldn’t let me see) but they showed me stuff like Dragonlance, Lord of the Rings, and Thomas Covenant chronicles.
We played one or two sessions and I was ready to run my own game. I read more into Star Frontiers and started getting an understanding of how things worked but still could never get a game going.
Then I started working at Wendy’s and met John Tyler and Rob Hanson. Both were gamers and they invited me to play Perils & Powers (Avalon Hill’s knock off of D&D). It was way complicated but John (the GM) made it fun and easy.
2. Which game was it?
AD&D and then Powers & Perils
3. Did you know what the hell you were doing?
No way. The AD&D group was great. They really walked me through it and gave me a good understanding of the basics. The P&P group was less forgiving of my naivety but I still had fun. John Tyler and Curtis White were both the GMs that inspired me to GM.
4. What was the first published adventure you played through?
I have no idea. Most of the games I played in where homebrew stuff. If John ever ran a published adventure, I never knew it.
5. Did roleplaying capture your imagination immediately?
Absolutely. From the start, I was really into aliens and monsters – from Godzilla to the Universal monsters (Dracula, Werewolf, etc); from the Cantina scene in Star Wars to aliens in shows like Battlestar Galactica, V (mini-series) and Buck Rogers; from the dragon in Dragonslayer to the changlings in Krull… I liked anything non-human or supernatural. They fascinated me. RPGs opened a door to not only play against these creatures but also create my own.
Also, exploring new worlds and lands drew me to role playing. It was not only exploring published worlds but creating my own. I tend to play more licensed RPGs like Star Wars, Stargate, Farscape, and Babylon 5. There, the setting is defined by the show, but I like to explore beyond the show or the movie, while still having what is familiar in the background.
Today, as a GM, I am more into character development, character personal conflict and challenging the character’s loyalties and motivations. This can lead to a lot of interpersonal intrigue and mistrust within the party and in some cases too much, as I am discovering with my latest campaign.
6. Do you still game with some of the people from your first game?
No, I escaped New Jersey in 1987 when I was 18 and moved to Charlotte to go to UNCC. Here I found the UNCC Science Fiction and Fantasy Guild (The Guild), where I found gamers that I have since gamed with for 15 to 20 years – John Reavis, Chris Fisher, Chris Jarrett, Bill Barrier and Bill Boivin. The club is still around and I still meet new gamers through it … and sometimes let them into my campaign, if they are brave enough.
7. Did anything in particular inspire you or led you to playing RPGs?
As I said above, I really was into the movie monsters and aliens. I watched monster movies of all kinds – Universal, Hammer films and classic Harryhausen films. I loved monsters and the heroes that took them on. I got into mythological creatures thanks to Clash of the Titans and fantasy creatures thanks to Conan the Barbarian and Krull. Science Fiction was where my heart was, thanks to Godzilla, then Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica and V, the mini-series.
Mastering the Game
8. Have you ever been a game master (dungeon master, keeper, storyteller, etc.)? Which games?
I think I have been a GM longer than I was a player. I just never felt enough control as a player. Recently I have gone back to playing with my new Wednesday night games and found it is a great way to learn the rules better (which I am very weak on as a GM).
9. Do you currently referee, if so, which games?
I am running a Babylon 5 RPG (d20) campaign that is really getting intense. I was really enjoying things up until a point and now I think there is far too much intrigue and mistrust in the party. I am working on ways to fix that, but it’s taking a lot more work than I care to put into a game, I think.
I am being encouraged to start another short term campaign on Wednesday night but not sure what to run. I may fall back to my classic Star Frontiers.
10. What is your favorite thing about GMing?
I love seeing the story play out and the players react to story elements I throw at them. I also love challenging the character, not only challenging their numbers on the character sheet but also their loyalties, motivations and morals. I love having their backgrounds come back and haunt them. That’s why my players hate making backgrounds because they know I will use them against them.
11. What is your least favorite thing about GMing?
Knowing the rules better than my players. Most of the systems I have played are too lose and easy to exploit by my players or too restrictive and slow the game down. I want a happy medium somewhere. I have not found a good system for that yet, although I like True20 and some aspects of Savage World.
12. Do you prefer to be GM or a player?
I prefer to Game Master, absolutely.
13. What are your favorite gaming systems you’ve played?
I love aspects of many game systems, but not one single system. True20 has come close to what I like except it still has kept some of the difficult trappings of d20. Savage World is another system I like OK but it is meant less for long term campaigns that I like to run and more for short term games.
Before Savage World, there was West End Games d6 System and Masterbook. I really like both those systems although both kind of broke down as you played longer term campaigns as well.
14. What are some games you would like to play, but haven’t?
I have played a lot of systems. I have one on my shelf that I want to play but haven’t – Alpha Omega. The setting looks really cool. But the system looks entirely too clunky. I would like to play the new Supernatural game, which I just bought, also.
15. Rules light, rules heavy, or it depends?
It depends for me. I like a certain level of mechanics because I have a little simulationist in me. I like to see how the game mechanics work to represent interesting situations. I like to use the system to make things fun, and throw out the stuff that is not fun. True20 is one of those systems that did that. I liked the based d20 mechanic but all the complex tactical rules really bogged down the system. True20 has thrown all that out and made it much simpler.
16. Dice or Diceless?
No doubt about it… I love the trappings of a gamer. DICE!
Immersion and Setting
17. To homebrew or not to homebrew?
I fear homebrew setting because only the GM knows the setting well enough. It gives too much power to the GM and not enough to the player. A published setting gives some power to the players because they trust the GM to stay within the axioms of the settings. Those axioms can be fluid to some degree but there is a point where it does not feel like the setting the players expect.
However, I do a lot of homebrew stuff within the settings. I work hard to make sure whatever homebrew stuff I have fits well into the setting. Like right now, I am bringing a whole new ancient alien race into Babylon 5 during the Shadow War. I worked hard on a background to this race to make sure it fit into the background of the setting. If we can ever get to this part of the plot, I think the players will really like it.
18. What are some of your favorite settings?
I like anything sci-fi, just about. I also like most horror. Call of Cthulhu is one of my favorite settings. Fading Suns is also one of my favorite settings, although I have yet to find a perfect system for it. Star Wars was one of my favorites until George Lucas killed it for me with Episodes 1 thru 3. Shatterzone was another great setting that I would love to go back to.
19. What are your favorite genres?
In this order – Science Fiction of any form, Horror, and Fantasy. In between all that are sub-genres like super heroes, steam punk, and others. I do not like games where you play the monsters (World of Darkness, for one) because monsters to me are the bad guys and they are meant to be killed.
20. Do you prefer pre-published adventures/modules or original/tailored campaigns?
A little bit of both. I usually tailor a published adventure to fit a story arch I want to explore and eventually we go off the published plot and on my own.
Conventions, Organizations, & Societies, Oh My!
21. Are you a member of any roleplaying organizations? Which Ones?
Other than the conventions and clubs I am associated with, I am not a part of any organized play group. I have never been a fan of the RPGA, although I respect it.
22. Do you think RPG organizations are important to the hobby?
Yes, because it appeals to a certain group of gamers that might not otherwise find a group to play in. It encourages the hobby and gives people exposure to it in ways a home game might not.
23. Do plan on joining any RPG organizations?
I had thought about joining the Pathfinder Society but I really do not have time.
24. Have you ever attended a gaming convention, if so which ones?
Yes, I started by attending Science Fiction conventions that had gaming like Dragon Con and Magnum Opus con. My first real gaming con was Hexacon and then ROC 96.5. Because of my association with the Guild in those years, I was able to organize many GMs for ROC 96.5 and then MACE, as well as StellarCon. Eventually, StellarCon and MACE asked me to run games for them and the rest is history.
I started coordinating games for MACE and StellarCon in 2000. I stopped with StellarCon in 2006 because ConCarolinas was taking up a lot of resources for me. Since then, it has been MACE and ConCarolinas.
I love running gaming at cons because I love seeing the variety of gamers that come out and the variety of games – not only RPGs but board games, live action, card games and war games.
25. Do you think conventions are important for the hobby?
Absolutely! They bring gamers together and make them feel at home, like they are not the only people in their own little world. It also exposes people to other styles of gaming, so people can grow and mature in the hobby.
26. Are you planning to attend any conventions in the future?
Convention Promotion Switch ON! … MACE 2009, November 6th thru the 8th, in High Point, NC. It will be in the Best Western High Point, formerly the Radission High Point. See more information at www.justusproductions.com… Convention Promotion Switch OFF!
27. What conventions would you like to attend, even if you can’t, next year?
GenCon. I’ll be running gaming for NASFIC Raleigh that weekend but I would love to go back to GenCon.
28. Serious or loose?
A little bit of both. I love to make a collective story with the group, but we can’t always be serious. You need to break away and have fun sometimes.
29. Soundtracks and sound FX?
I used to do a lot of that but really found it to be more troublesome than it is worth. If I had someone else to run my sound board, I totally would do it.
30. Adversarial referee or wish fulfiller?
I tend to bounce between the two but in the case of Wish Fullfiller, my caveat is “be careful what you wish for?” There is always a ‘but’ with my wish fulfillment.
31. Should GMs have PCs?
I have tried that but found it hard to keep up with them.
32. Is technology welcome at your table?
I have recently had to put a strict ruling down on laptops in my game. Wireless networks encourage too much distraction and I suppose it is my failing that I can’t keep 6 or 7 players attention at one time, but it is hard to compete with World of Warcraft and Champions Online.
33. Are Terrain & Minis an advantage or a hindrance?
It helps but not always necessary. I use a white board or my map tiles and dry erase markers.
34. Do you like to LARP, if so, which systems?
I have occasionally. I played in a WoD LARP for a short time. I have run a Stargate LARP at MACE and ConCarolinas as well, using a system called EABAnywhere by BTRC.
35. Do you collect/paint Miniatures?
I have some and when I was single, I had a lot of time to paint them. Not very good at it. Not as much anymore.
36. Do you like Wargames/tactical miniature games, if so, which ones?
I have recently gotten into AT-43, a very cool game. I like it primarily because they are prepainted minis. The system is cool too but what I love about it most is the setting.
37. Do you play Collectible Card Games, if so, which ones?
Used to play Magic some when it first came out. I also played Babylon 5 CCG. Not much anymore.
38. What about Board Games?
I love board games – especially adventure board games and war board games. They are my other passion in gaming.
39. Do you play Video Games, what kinds?
No, I don’t have time. I do not feel as fulfilled with video games as I do with RPGs or board games.
40. Any closing comments you would like to add?
Gaming has been a passion of mine for years. I look forward to when my kids are old enough to play in some of the games I like to play. I enjoy sharing the time with my wife, when she gets the rare chance to play. I like the long term bonds I have made with some good friends because of gaming. It has also opened the door for opportunities for me, and if I actually take the time to really pursue them, these could turn into something. I love running these cons as well. I like meeting new people that are in the hobby and talking about gaming.
Gaming is a social thing and what I like about it most is that it helps some of the most socially challenged people to become more social. We all have to admit that us geeks are somewhat socially challenged. It is ironic, I find, that RPGs are generally social games and the people playing them are socially challenged.
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