Here at Burn Everything Gaming, we try to give real honest answers. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are opinions. We think questions deserve good answers because people asking questions generally want good answers.
Ever ask someone that’s expecting a new kid if they are hoping for a boy or a girl, and they just answer with a YES or something about a healthy baby? These are not answers that address the question at hand, and thus are not really all that helpful. I’m not saying that complicated answers or a monk’s riddles are useless, but for most of us we like answers that feel like they will really help us with whatever we asked about.
So today we’re going to take a look at 2 common RPG questions that are very often given failed answers. Then we’d like to try and give some real answers. If you already know the answers, or have better wisdom than what we offer here, please share your knowledge with the RPG world. People need to know!
1) How Do I Play a Character of the Opposite Gender?
This is most commonly asked of male players or GMs that want tips on running female characters and NPCs that do not feel shallow or stereotypical. The general answer given: Try not to think about gender when building the character. Which almost sounds like someone telling you that your question is not one you should ever ask.
For character design, gender is mostly something you use to adjust your choices afterwards rather than before. Females tend to be more dexterous and agile, while males tend to have more upper body strength. For backgrounds, consider how society would treat a female differently than a male and use that to flavor what background you chose for your character.
For roleplaying, the societal view of gender is even more important. Your character should choose one gender stereotype (of the in-game world, not our world) that they accept and another that they do not. This should be a key part of their personality, tied to their goals and ideals.
Take for example a bar maid at a tavern hoping to save up to travel the world. She may accept society’s view of a woman’s work, but she rejects the idea that she should get married and settle down. So when a PC hits on her, she will probably turn him down in a way that does not risk her pay. But if a PC offers to take her on an adventure she is more likely to accept, especially if the destination is a fantastic location.
2) How Much Prep Should I Do For a Game?
This is especially common of new GMs trying to run their first game, or also often of a GM that’s trying a new system or coming off of a disastrous attempt. The most common answer to this game is: As much as you need to run the game. Don’t you love it when someone just turns your question into a statement as if that is a real answer to the question?
First, you need the basics for the adventure you are planning to run. There should be a story plan for the adventure, often divided into scenes or encounters. This should be detailed enough that you can run the entire adventure with just those notes. Names, stats, treasures, maps, secrets, descriptions, etc. Anything you need to ‘railroad’ the party from start to finish while hitting every necessary stop of your plan should be there for you to access.
Beyond the basics, you need an improvisational toolkit to help you when the players do not stick to the railroad (because they never do!). This kit will start out small as you start out the campaign and grow as you play. If this is a first adventure, it should include about 10 random NPC names, two random combat encounters, one interesting neutral NPC, a seed for a future adventure, and a map of a generic location (such as a building, a cave, or a dungeon room). In future sessions, you replace what you used with extra (so make 2 more random encounters if you ended up using one, for example).
Let experience help guide your prep. If you only get through half of the adventure you planned, try to touch up the latter half before you write up the next full adventure. If you have piles of maps that you never use, do not feel like you have to make any more for your prep. If your party is having more fun with NPC interactions than combat, dedicate more time to making interesting NPCs or fleshing out what they do in between sessions.
Answering Other Questions
I wasn’t kidding when I said that you should share the answers if you already know them. I see too many potential players and game masters drop out of our hobby early because no one is willing to help them with their questions. Or worse yet, the person they ask makes them feel like an idiot for not knowing the answer.
Sometimes it is hard to answer a question, especially if you do not consider yourself an expert on the subject. Still try to answer the question if you can, since there is a reason this person came to you for an answer. Use an example from your experience if you can. It goes a long way.
Here’s a list of basic questions that are often asked from new players and GMs to get you started thinking about how you would help provide some answers:
- How do I make encounters more fun?
- How do I make my character more 3 dimensional?
- What should I do when I’m not fighting?
- What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
- How do I get the other players to take my ideas seriously?
- Why do my players keep burning down my buildings?
- How do I make the story dramatic without making the players hate me?
- How do I get into gaming?
Real people are asking these questions, so hopefully you have a few answers of your own to share!