Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Zak's DM Questionnaire

ZakHitsItWithHisAxe posted this questionnaire here.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
Probably my trap which is detailed here. Honestly, I don't invent a whole lot. I much prefer to steal ideas from many sources and just mash them all together.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
Two days ago (Monday)

3. When was the last time you played?
A few weeks ago.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
X2 - Castle Amber Cosby

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Start hinting at the bad things that are going to happen to them if they don't make a decision quickly.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Twizzlers, peanut butter cups, cookies, pizza.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
No, but it certainly is mentally exhausting. I'm usually pretty zombified after a session, especially if its a long one.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
Trying to figure out how I could backstab as a pig.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
I've had both happen. I used to try to make very self-important serious settings, but my players were always good at pooping all over those things and showing me the error of my ways (I was way too attached to my creations). Lately my stuff is more gonzo and built specifically for the purpose of having PCs poop on it, but I find a lot of times players can take it way more seriously than it's supposed to be taken - perhaps due to the deadliness.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Goblins are reserved for players to use as PCs, for the most part. Although I will happily use a goblin stat block and make them into something else for use as a monster. Evil garden gnomes are always fun.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
Panthro's (of Thundercats fame) poison-spraying nunchucks placed as treasure.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
My sister's PC saying, "I DON'T EAT BALLS!" It's a long story and I think you had to be there to appreciate it. Sorry!

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
Tunnels & Trolls. I've known of its existence for a long time, but lately a few things have been pointing me to it, like Fight On #13, and the fact that pro gamer Timeshadows has expressed she likes running it. I've only gotten about a dozen pages in, but it looks cool, and I'm interested in trying it out.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
Erol Otus, without question.
I'm also very fond of the work of Stefan Poag and Miguel Santos.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
I'd like to think so, but I'm not certain. They are genuinely afraid for their characters quite a bit.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
A tie between watching the players agonize over what to do in Death Frost Doom and watching the players perform the murder play in The Sixfold Trial.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
Gigantic table with a gigantic LCD TV laid down in the middle with huge library of sexy battlemaps. Here is an example of some cool ones. I've had this sort of setup on my wishlist for quite some time now, but it's hard to justify buying a better TV than we have in our living room to be used exclusively for miniatures battles.

There would also have to be big comfy chairs, ideally in a dark and comfortable finished basement, with an endless supply of Pepsi and Twizzlers nearby. Something about playing D&D in the basement just seems right.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Carcosa and TOON. Although maybe they aren't as disparate as they appear to be on the surface...

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
In a broad sense, I guess comedy and horror. I like my games to have both. Not necessarily at the same time, but both are very important elements of a good game to me.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
I like MacGyver types that come up with really creative solutions to problems using nothing more than a few household items. I also like players that take calculated risks. Super-cautious play can be quite boring to watch. Of course, the player has to also be cool about the bad shit that is inevitably going to happen to them as a result of their going off half-cocked. I want players that take action based on the situation at hand, with their decisions detached from game mechanics. Finally, I want players at my table that play their own characters and let other people play theirs.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
Don't be a dick. I'm sure I'm not 100% successful at practicing this, but I try.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
I wish there was a ruleset that I didn't feel like I had to tinker with. There are so many great games out there that are full of great ideas, but every last one has something I don't like in it. I don't know what the heck my problem is, but I am obsessed with tinkering with rules in search of the holy grail system that I never have to mess with again. This is completely absurd, because my tastes are constantly changing, and in play, the rules are so far in the background that it doesn't even matter, yet I continue to obsess about them outside of games.

Here is an example of my nit-pickery:
  • LotFP has unarmored AC = 12. Dude, it's supposed to be 10! Way to ruin an otherwise perfect game!
  • Basic Fantasy RPG has the same issue, but uses 11.
  • Labyrinth Lord uses funny XP numbers and did the reaction modifiers from Charisma backwards.
  • DCC RPG uses Fort/Ref/Will saves. WTF?
  • Sword & Wizardry was apparently made by someone with a similar affliction to my own, and it keeps getting changed all the time (in the case of White Box and Core). Plus, they are tied to Frog God, which seems to prefer making their products "limited" and "collectible" as opposed to "reasonably priced" and "available".
As you can see, my list of nitpicks is indicative of someone with mental issues, but there you have it!

Also, all of those games up there have a lot of good qualities. Too many to list here.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
I've never been able to verbally do justice to the RPG experience, so I generally keep it limited to, "It's awesome fun, you ought to try it!"


  1. Coll. Looking forward to your take on Tunnels & Trolls. :D

    I'm still hunting down my fave Alchemist. I think it'll be a 3.x one, from Iron Kingdoms, but I'm not certain.

  2. why do you like old-style saving throws? anything other than paleophilia?

  3. I found the unarmored AC of 12 in LotFP somewhat odd too. I suspect he chose that just for statistical reasons, so that a normal person would have 55% chance of hitting an unarmored enemy. But I don't really know. I guess you probably started with AD&D or 2E? B/X unarmored AC is 9. (I started with 2E and was surprised by the 9 AC thing when I first read it.)

  4. "Plus, they are tied to Frog God, which seems to prefer making their products "limited" and "collectible" as opposed to "reasonably priced" and "available"."

    S&W:WB is free on pdf, and all of it is for sale on Lulu. So, no "Frog God" stuff to worry about.


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