On the road

If anyone from the law is reading this, we are totally not drinking on route to the nationals. We have had some fun discussing what it takes to win in competitive role playing. The consensus seems to be that winning matters nothing when compared to having fun. There are too many criteria to be judged and no way of knowing what they will be, so just have fun.

Hell, if you’re having a bad game, don’t even feel like you have to stick around. Just be polite and do what you need to do to have fun.


Last night, it all went wrong…

From the street outside the figure was impossible to identify, until the neon sign flickered halfheartedly into life. Buzzing on for a second at a time, giving you a small chance to make out anything. Without the flickering glare it was just a human shape, a darker shade of grey against a dull light.

With the sickly green flashes from the motel sign, you could just about tell that it was female. Something about the face, but event then, you wouldn’t wager more than beer money on it. She was well built, with short cropped hair and a hard expression. One hand on the upper frame of the open window, the other on a hip that lacked any feminine curve. Wearing loose sports shorts and a grey vest that may in the past had more than a passing friendship with the colour white.

In this part of the City, it wasn’t healthy to advertise that you were a women living alone. True, being a man alone was far from risk free, but with softer targets out there, she felt reasonably safe. Picking on the weak was a popular past time here, and within a night of booking into this fleapit she had assured some not so friendly neighbours that she was not weak.

Turning her back on the street life, she sat on the ledge, enjoying the cool breeze on her skin, still slick with sweat from her exercise routine. Her night time activities required not only skill and athletic dexterity, but an upper body strength that allowed her to bench press a decent sized motorcycle. She had worked harder tonight, partly out of annoyance with herself, but also because it kept her occupied. And it stopped her eyes drifting once again to the front page story that no one knew was about her.

This City. Full of criminals doing despicable things every minute of every day, but you put a mask on and ‘bang’, you make the front page. Hers was no more than a black balaclava and existed for no other reason than to hide her face, but it had piqued the interest of the news vultures. The artist’s impression brought a sneer to her face, but in the long run was probably not that bad a thing. It looked like the Bugle had hired a cartoonist instead of an artist, and not a very good one at that. As long as the Big Man didn’t start getting interested…

All of this was because of one bit of bad luck. She had scoped the place out for weeks, sleeping – when she had to – on the stained mattress with its rusty springs that she was currently walking over to. Mostly during the day, when the summer heat was stifling and free running was an activity carried out for fun, not profit. The City was great for parkour, almost designed for it. Even Paris wasn’t a match, and she learned everything she new about free running a hundred feet above the French capitol. It was easy to see why He liked it here…

Every Thursday night, at the witching hour, there would two security guards playing cards in their office. There were cameras all over the place, but all the feeds went to this room, and putting two poker buddies on the night shift was a mistake that someone was going to regret.

So last night she had gotten ready to go out. Wearing dark grey, light clothes. Tight to her skin to stop them snagging on anything, and breathable to stop her getting to warm from her exertions. She had played around with some kind of body armour for a while, knowing how dangerous the City could be, but even a little extra weight was an inconvenience she could do without. And lets face it, if she was worried about getting shot or stabbed, she had clearly already screwed up the job in a big bad way. The best thing to do was just never get in the sights of a weapon, and in a close up fight? Well, Paris had taught her plenty about that too…

She knew her route backwards and upside down. Knew that just one camera needed to be knocked out before she made it to the security office. Knew that the two buddies would be at the table, paying enough attention to their hands of cards she could practically walk to their side and put them down before they knew what was going on.

The locks were good, and took about five minutes each to get through. Some were harder than others as she needed to hold her weight off the ground with either one arm or both of her legs to keep as much of self out of sight as possible. Awkward to say the least, but killing another three camera feeds was a lot more likely to get her noticed a lot soon than he would have liked. Plus, she had never cared for maintaining a womanly curve on any inch of her body, when raw power and athleticism suited her line of work an awful lot better.

Soon she was in the corridor, her small light club in her right hand and the left delicately testing the door handle of the security office. She only needed the night watchmen to go down for the count, and killing attracted far too much attention. Of course, some criminals in this City seemed to crave the attention. It was a wonder they ever managed to turn a profit. Not her though, with no hint of grandstanding she pushed open the door, and in half a second she was inside, swinging the club towards the jaw of the closest man.

The metal rod caught him squarely, and she felt the impact run up her arm. He was out for the count, and unless she was very much mistaken, he had not only lost a tooth, but also managed to bite his tongue with the ones he had left. Still, he was alive, and would hopefully have at least dental cover.

The second man had barely glanced over the top of his hand when the club whistled through the air towards him. The metal rang slightly as it connected with his skull and he slumped in his chair. Both were bleeding from her attack, but barring a headache and a lisp, both would be fine. For now though, she figured they would be out for at least an hour. She knew where she was going from here, and would be out the door within twenty…

Someone else was breathing in this room. Quick gasps, panicked. From her right.

She turned to see a third man. Sat with a beer can falling impossibly slowly from his slackened fist as he gawped at her like a confused fish, lower lip trembling. She had no weapon to hand so just started towards him, covering the couple of meters in no time at all, but his slow motion movement still continued as he rose from his chair. She lifted her left leg and placed the sole of her foot just above the kneecap before transferring most of her weight to it. At this he started to crumple, but not before her other foot shot skyward, connecting just below the chin and rattling his teeth.

For anyone else, that would have been enough. But he was built of stronger stuff this one, and as she landed she realised his face was familiar. Another guard maybe, come round to get away from a nagging wife or a bar tab he couldn’t clear ’til month’s end. He had the build of someone who traded on his physique too. Probably played high school football, and realised that after high school, nobody cared at all how many touchdowns you’d scored in that game against the local rivals. Right now though, he was a problem that needed dealing with.

She spun quickly back into a fighting position and continued the movement into a back handed punch, raking the metal spikes of her modified knuckle-duster cross his cheek before he finally dropped back to his seat, a second or two after the beer he had dropped. She had aimed for his jaw, hoping to knock him out as easily as she had done the other two, but he was quick too. Not too bright though, and it looked like his brain had finally caught up to his body, and even though the last impact had missed its mark, the combined assaults had obviously been enough. He slumped back, the four deep gouges already leaking blood down his stubbled jaw.

Alone in her room the next night, looking at the caricature of herself with ludicrous claws protruding from her finger tips, she gave a wry smile. Who on this planet would be foolish enough to wear such an adornment? They would offer no advantage other than surprise, and make everything else so hard, it wouldn’t be worth even considering such a foolish affectation. Even forming a hand into a fist would be risky, let alone using the fist to do anything…

Last night, she never even considered just getting on with the job at that point. Three unconscious men made no more difference than two, and she needed this score. It was not to be though. As she checked the pulse of the unexpected watchman, she spotted a flashing light on the security console he had been sitting in front of. He must have seen her on camera after being knocked out from a hand of cards. Why he hadn’t raised this with the other two was a mystery that may never be solved, but the silent alarm had been triggered. She had no idea how long ago the switch had been flipped, but sticking around would be at the very least, career suicide. She quickly deleted the last half an hour of footage to play it safe, and was gone.

She left the way she had arrived. Cursing under her breath as she climbed onto the roof and away. She had slept fitfully, not knowing how much had been seen by the guard and how much of it could be used against her.

She had awoken the next afternoon, already sticky from the heat. Before even showering she had had thrown some loose clothes on and made her way to the corner store. Picking up some cold cuts, coffee and a newspaper. She had gone deathly pale while handing over the few dollars to the kindly woman behind the counter when she saw the front page of the Globe. She hadn’t dared read anything until she was alone and could be sure of betraying nothing with her expression.

All day long she had poured over article. The sun had set on her and the City as she either exercised or re-read the front page. She couldn’t help but love this City. The guard had told the kind of story it loved. Either that or the hacks had turned it into what their readers expected. On paper she was lithe and sexual, ‘cavorting across the sleeping rooftops’ no less…

The scratches on his face had been caused by ‘razor sharp claws’, and the large blackening bruise had been ignored as it didn’t fit with the romance of the story. The skin tight outfit they had gotten mostly correct, but had added a push-up bra and stiletto healed thigh boots for some unfathomable reason.

All in all, it bore as much resemblance to her as it did the Indian lady who had sold her the paper. That had put her mind at ease a little, but it did open up a whole new world of potential problems. She had been in the City for over a year now after leaving Paris, and had been working constantly since she had arrived. She had avoided any unwanted attention by being very good at her job, and being thoroughly uninteresting, especially when compared to ludicrous rogues gallery that habitually operated here.

The front page meant that that could very much be over now. And once you got interesting, the Big Man started to pay attention. She crossed the tiny motel room once more to stand at the window as she thought.

In the sky, flickering across what few clouds graced to night, she saw that city was wanting him to come out and play. She would stay in tonight, and keep her distance from the Big Man. If she wanted to carry on working in the City, Celine would have to play it very safe from her on in.

For everyone who finds there way here…

I have moved I’m afraid. You can now find all my new posts as well as the stuff from this page over here. You may notice that there lacks a quick ‘Follow’ button; that’s because I am no longer a WordPress site, thanks entirely to these lovely people

If you want to keep up on the posts, there is an RRS feed link, but you can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Each of these places offer regular links to not only new content I put out, but updates on other projects, and links to fun RPG related stuff too.

Thank for your time and patience in this matter. To pay you back, I will offer you a free NPC. Just click here and follow the instructions

My new home

Good day one and all! Some interesting news over here at shortymonster, and the biggest is that I have a new place to call my home. Thanks to some awesome generosity from the folks over at G*M*S magazine, I have a shiny new domain. Please take the time to check out their site as none of this could have happened without them, and it’s all happened so fast that I don’t have a banner on my homepage directing you to them just yet.

From now on, you can find me here, and add to me your feeds here. I will still be posting new articles every Monday, with occasional mini blogs as the mood takes me. I hope to see all the people who followed me here at wordpress make the jump with me. Thank you all for the support so far.

A Call to Arms for Decent Men

This is not a full blog, as most of it will be a link that I was nudged towards this morning. Since I then had to work, it took me while to get around to a full read, and to get some thoughts together on it. First, here’s the link. The guy explains what’s going on very well, so I’ll just let you read it. I’ll still be here when you’re done.


So, I know that this isn’t the problem for table top gamers as it is for online gamers, I’ve mentioned as such already. I do however know that there are plenty of online forums out there that do afford those who desire it a little more anonymity. I would say that if you’re unlucky enough to see this kind of behavior, then the thoughts in the link above should give you some advice on how to deal with it. Big thanks to Mr. Adams for posting this, it was a great read.

How I managed to co-op run a successful game for three years. With a little help of course.

Before I start, I have to give massive thanks to the other half of the co-op GMing experience I’m going to be talking about here. That thanks goes out to Hoppy! The man was an absolute pleasure to work with for the three years we ran a game together. Whenever I think about doing something like that again, a big concern is whether or not I would find someone who I could work with as well as I did with Hoppy. I salute you sir!

So, that out of the way, why am I writing this? Turns out a couple of friends are planning on something similar to what we did, and running a game together as co-GMs. I say similar because they’re going to be running a pure table top game (using the Savage Worlds system, set in the Mass Effect universe) whilst Hoppy and I ran a live action game (rubber fangs, not rubber swords). Although that will present different challenges for the two friends – one of whom can be found here – there are a few things that were essential in making our game the success it was. These were general concepts of game play and style and Hoppy and I both thought were important. Luckily we happened to agree on all the points, making for a unified play session no matter which of the two GMs a player had running their scenes at the time.

To be fair, there was never a time when we sat down and discussed these ideas, and for the first couple of games, we may not have been as consistent. We were still finding our feet, and our voices. Looking back though, I don’t think we would have lasted three months if we didn’t have these things going for us.

  1. Feel and atmosphere. We were running a horror game, but sometimes, just that isn’t enough. For any movie fan, horror has many sub-genres. We wanted a dark feel certainly, but also one that wasn’t too overbearing. Think splatter-punk and you’re getting pretty close, but throw a bucket of dark humour over it to make sure. This does apply to other genres too; fantasy is more than just elves and dwarves. Do you want political intrigue or high fantasy questing? Magic coming out of every crack in the landscape, or mystical artifacts so rare and powerful they become world changing quest items? What about tone? In a sci-fi game, you could be all about the laughs, or gung-ho glory chasing. Both of these could be possible in the same game of any sub-genre, but it’s nice for players to know roughly what to expect. Get this right between the two GMs and there won’t be any awkward moments when the mood is completely broken when a player who expects a certain type of response gets another.
  2. What will the players get out of your game? A slightly trickier question, but well worth spending some time on. Will your players rock up to the table just wanting an evening of fun that they can walk away from afterwards? Do they want the political grandstanding that you as a GM you live for, or do they just want riddles to solve? I know this seems like a re-hash of the above the point, but it’s something the GMs have less control over. For us, we wanted the players to feel like they had made a real impact on the game world they played in, and they totally went for the idea, rewarding every hour of work we put into the game with some wonderful role-playing. . This meant a lot of work behind the scenes keeping track of what everyone was up to, spreading their influence and cash around, trying to get their characters ahead. If this isn’t as important to your players, that gives you the time to concentrate on what they want. You will need to work together on this to get the best results, and sometimes it might mean just deciding that one of you is better suited than the other in certain areas, and using that knowledge to spread the work load. A point carried on to the next item on the list…
  3. Combat. I know that this isn’t always the first thing in people’s minds when planning a game, but unless you’re specifically avoiding it, it’s going to come up. Spend some time contemplating the frequency of  the fights, and how best to handle them. Make sure both GMs know the rules inside and out; there is a never a good time for inconsistent rules calls, but in the heat of a combat is going to be the worst. This is doubly true if you make any changes to the combat system from the way it’s presented in the rule book. Take the time to talk about it, and run a few practices with each other. This is something that you can’t really do too much of. If it’s still a problem, split the work; have one of you in charge of rules calls and the other playing the NPCs in the combat, getting rules calls from the other GM just like a player. It might seem a  bit awkward, but it makes the NPCs look just like any other character, and helps pull the players into it more than if they were fighting a dice roll and an armour class.

I hope that some of the above is useful to other people thinking about joining Gming forces, but if there’s anyone out there with any other tips, or even other questions, feel free to comment below.

The Witcher 2, as reviewed by a table top gamer.

This review is based on roughly ten hours of game play, and will therefore have very little in the way of spoilers, but I will spoil something right from the get go; this is not a glowing review. If you have played the game to its conclusion and feel that my opinions are less valid due to only playing the start of the game, I’m going to have to side with Charlie Brooker on this one. If a TV show (in his case Dollhouse) doesn’t grab you in the first three episode, it’s failed. Saying that you should stick with it because it gets better later is so much poo; why would a TV show punish us by making us watch three hours of tripe before getting to the gooey center of loveliness?

This was very much how i felt about this game. A little background on it first I think. It’s based on the novels of Andrzej Sapkowski, as was the first PC only installment, and I have heard some very positive reviews of both books, and they have made it onto my pile of stuff to be read. Said pile is in fact an entire book case full of stuff, but it’s on there nonetheless.

In the game itself, you play the eponymous Witcher – named Geralt of Rivia – who is basically this big scary dude with scars, who has a couple of close combat weapons, some spells, some bombs, can cast runes and lay traps, throw knives at dudes, mixes potions to drink or rub on things and also exists in world where the NPCs have never seen a Hong-Kong action movie. because of this they don’t have the ‘run up and attack once at a time’ mentality most RPG gamers are used to (I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed).  For this reason they all to decide to attack on mass, which is much more effective and a bit more scary. So far so awesome, and I have to say I loved all the cool stuff you could do in combat to tip the odds in your favour, especially because if you don’t do them, the odds are stacked so high against you, death is inevitable.

Plot wise, from what I saw, is nothing too inspiring when considered from outside the game, but when playing it, makes for some damned fine writing. Kings and bastards, with traitors all around, and only the Witcher – whom no one seems to like in the slightest – being one of the few guys trying to right the wrongs of the world. As I say, doesn’t seem like much, but the details are in there and once you get into it, the rewards are some killer writing hooks.

I can hear my readers scratching their heads in puzzlement right now, since this seems like a much more positive review than they were led to expect. ‘There must have been something that made him take the disc out and go back to playing Skyrim‘, I imagine you all saying, a quizzical look making you all appear even more attractive than you already are, if such a thing is possible. The best way for me to get across my dislike of this game is to imagine it as an old fashioned pen and paper RPG (‘old fashioned‘? the kind of gaming I still do on a weekly basis).

This game is run by a GM with a near legendary reputation for running games. The world he has woven for you is beautiful, every tree he describes is fixed in your senses as a sight to behold. His NPCs are better rounded than some of the actual player characters, each with their own personality and full of insightful things to talk about, just as you walk past them! When he runs combat, it’s a joy. A challenge every time, with so many options, but all of them used so intuitively, they seem like the most natural things in the world. Added to that a genuine feeling of consequences if the combat doesn’t go your way. It’s quick, but immersive, and even the NPCs act like they’re playing to the same system as you, not just going through predefined moves set out in a GM’s handbook. As mentioned above the plot is wonderful, such a simple idea made wonderful through subtle twists and turns of characterization and larger social ideas. Why then, did I not stick with it?

Because the GM is a dick. harsh, I know, but by giving an example re-imagined as an interaction between the player essaying the character of Geralt and his douch-tastic GM, as the trail of some bandits leads them to a sinister hideout;

GM: You’re told that they hangout at a graveyard to the east of the village.

Player: Cool, is there a graveyard on my map?

GM: No.

Player: Oh. Well I guess I just walk out the village heading east then.

GM: You have no compass.

Player: Oh, but I think I can figure out looking at the few landmark son the map, and just head out until I find out.

GM: Good thinking. You follow the path you think is the right one, and keep walking for half an hour, eventually ending up in a swamp.

(there was about twenty random encounters on the way to this point)

Player: OK, is there a swamp on my map?

GM: No.

Player: I guess I’ll head back and try a different path then, they did say the graveyard was only just outside the village.

GM: It takes about forty minutes to get back to the village. You get lost twice and twenty bandits attack you.

Player: For fuc… OK, can I just ask someone for directions?

GM: Of course you can, they tell you it’s to the east.

Now, imagine over two hours of this kind of thing, and I eventually give up and go online, finding dozens of people who had the same problem, but that you can actually see the gate of the graveyard from inside the village, but have no way of telling that it is actually a graveyard.

There were a dozen such problems like this I encountered playing through the second quest I found (something about  a troll), far too many to bore you with here, but all of them left me feeling like the game was run by the douchiest of GMs in the world. I know that games shouldn’t pander to players too much, but it should go without saying that the character will know things that the players doesn’t, and a half decent GM will take this into account when running a game.

So yes, I stopped playing. I have since shared this concept of GMing dickery with people who loved the game, and stuck with it through the opening tripe. Every one of them has not only agreed with me – they were also pen and paper gamers too, to be fair- but have given me other examples of this kind of dickishness running throughout the game.

If you disagree (and I bet there’s a lot of you who will), please post underneath that I’m wrong, and why – you may even change my mind, but you’re going to have to try hard). On the other hand, if you have had the same reaction to me, please share your crappy GMing stories, they’re great fun to hear.

Women in gaming (tabletop edition)

Anyone interested in gaming culture this week will know that the biggest stories have been about the treatment of women within the hobby. It seemed to start with trailer for the latest Tomb Raider game, which contained a pretty damned lazy plot point that quite rightly had people up in arms. To be fair, a lot of them were pissed just because it was pretty shoddy writing; why does rape need to be alluded to, to show a women in a weakened state? A total cop-out and very poor short cut in this writer’s opinion.

Around about the same time, it was brought to light just how fucked up a lot of the comments posted on female gamers’ blogs could be. I’m not going to go into the details here, mainly because it’s just down right depressing, but also because people with a lot more interesting things to say on the subject have already said them with more power to their words than I could wring from mine. If you’re interested though, Felicia Day is someone whom I would point you towards.

My take on this is more as a tabletop gamer, console gaming being something I am relatively new to, having picked up a controller for the first time in a decade only a couple of years ago. So, does this same kind of ridiculous thinking pervade my hobby too? Sadly, of course it does. It’s rare – thankfully – but I have seen it with my own eyes.

My main socializing time spent with RPGers is thankfully devoid of such petty mindedness. The society actually has (as far as the hobby is concerned) an above average split of male/female players. It still comes out as close to a 5/1 ratio, but as I say, this is in a predominantly male hobby. With these numbers, with women drastically outnumbered by men, it seems like we do pretty well with the menfolk not treating their opposite number as anything other than respected equals. There are a few reasons for this.

Probably the most important is that there is no anonymity in the society, we meet up in a pub where everyone else can listen to what you have to say by just walking past, so anybody better be prepared to defend their opinion against some very rigorous arguments. Is there a chance that some of the guys I hang out with weekly are misogynistic twats the rest of the week? Of course there is. But when they’re surrounded by other people, everyone is nice as pie. There have been exceptions to this, but those people are swiftly kicked into touch by another reason there is so little sexism in HUGS. One of our longest running members – and most prolific participant on the executive board – is one fearsomely strong lady, in every sense of the word, and she brooks no nonsense on any such matters. She’s also a rugby fan, so kicking people into touch gives her great pleasure. (I’m remembering an instance of extreme racism with an ex-member of the society who was swiftly informed that he was no longer welcome at our weekly meetings, starting immediately. Whenever I think of this person I can’t help but paraphrase the great Garth Ennis, “Why is it the greatest champions of the white race are always the worst examples of it”?)

There is another fantastic side to the feminism story within HUGS, that involves a certain member, who for now shall remain nameless. They turn up fairly regularly in very fetching skirt and corset combinations as a way of highlighting their own opinions on feminism. If I can, I’ll get them to add something in the comments, as I would only be regurgitating their own ethos, instead of letting them speak for themselves.

That rules out HUGS for a lot of gaming based misogyny, but I have still seen it. I’ve been in a game when it’s happened in fact. It is annoyingly easy to let it slide occasionally and put it down to someone’s messed up sense of humour (my own running to the darker side on occasion), but that’s really no excuse. Especially when it’s not even funny, just misinformed, hurtful, outdated and frankly makes one wonder how these people ever formed a lasting relationship.

The comments I’ve overheard are just pathetic. Who the hell still thinks that it’s a given that if a woman wants to play a ranger, she will be all friends of the earth, with a cute little fluffy bunny as a familiar? Sod that, she had a hawk that was bloody useful for scouting and ripping people’s eyes out! I could go on here, but that would do nothing for the argument. No matter how enlightened the group you’re in, I’m sure any RPGers reading this have had similar experiences. Playing Vampire:the Masquerade? “So the girl will be playing a Toreador then”? Fuck off! This happens a bit too much for my liking.

All that considered, is there anything to be done about? Take the lead of our kick ass rugby fan for a start, and just don’t put up with it (like I have done in the past – to my shame). Choose not to hang out with that type of gamer; if they want to make those kind of comments, sod them. If enough people leave them to it, it has to be hoped that eventually a pattern will become noticeable and they’ll do something about it.

Here’s an odd suggestion, but one I’ve tried with some pretty good results in the past (and will be doing again this evening in fact). Make a bunch of pre-gen’ed characters for your game and give them unisex names/handles, with the most androgynous descriptions and backgrounds possible. Whoever picks up the character plays it as they like; so the big brute of a solo could be a six foot African man or woman hacking into people with a machete; the shy retiring medtechie might be a chap or a chapette who keeps away from combat and just tries to help people.

I know, that’s a limited solution, but hey, every little helps.

I would rather my comments on this didn’t end up as a list of shitty things people have experienced during games (but hey, not gonna stop you), but rather some good stuff that’s happened during your own games, or even ideas to try to lessen the impact of sexist twats on the hobby we love.

Looking for a gaming group?

Typing the title of this blog into Google, or any other search engine you might use, and you’ll get plenty of websites with people in a similar predicament to you. They might want to play a specific type of game, with a certain type of player/GM, or people within a certain geographical area, but what they all want is to play. The thing is, even people who play with others already, with a small group of friends say, who meet once a week to carry on their four year long Rolemaster game, should be looking at these kind of sites too.

I’m lucky enough to be part of a huge gaming society, as are lots of people who play (not sure on the international scale on this one, but in the UK, there are quite a few massive societies that all turn up for the yearly Student Nationals), but if you’re not, you might be wondering why it matters. Why worry about playing with anyone other than your usual gaming friends?

Probably best here to share my own experiences with the society we call HUGS. It’s a pretty big society based on what I hear from other people at the Nationals; certainly not the biggest, but definitely in the top third as number of members go. On an average week we have six to seven games running with a GM and roughly half a dozen players. Round that up and call it fifty people turning up to a small pub in Huddersfield, taking over all the back rooms, the two extra rooms upstairs and most of the main bar. Safe to say, the landlord of The Albert quite likes us. The games we play start just after the beginning of the university term and carry on until the following summer – as I write this most full games have wrapped up – with smaller ‘one-offs’ filling in any gaps. People new to the society get first dibs on games that interest them – usually decided in advance with certain society members offering to run and posting details online – with everyone else putting down a series of choices and getting allocated where ever there’s space.

Our reasons for doing it this way are pretty simple, but more often than not lead to a small handful of people getting disappointed. We try to avoid this wherever possible, but sometimes in a large group, not everyone gets exactly what they want.

Firstly, freshers are more likely to stick around if they have a great first year with us, and so letting them play whatever they want is in the interest of the society. The reasons for not letting everyone else do this get a bit more complex and potentially troublesome.

Most importantly, you just can’t please everyone. Sometimes twelve people want to play in the same game, and there’s rarely a GM who’s happy with those kind of numbers. Then there’s the people who only want to play with same GM/group of friends each year. I’m going sound mean right now, but I would be happier just breaking groups like that up. If they want to play together all the time, see above. Get round to a mates house, dust off the old characters and go crazy. I’ve done this myself and it’s great; I hold it against no one who wants to do it themselves. In HUGS though, what we want is for everyone to get to know everyone else and experience new games.

The society came damned close to death a few years ago because of the problems described above. Groups just started playing together as opposed to with society, and because of that it was easier to abandon a regular meeting in favour of just going round to a mates house, especially when finding a venue became troublesome. The society split into three little subgroups, with a tiny handful of people who would game with more than one of the groups. The social aspect of the society was almost gone, with no real way to recruit new member since there was little chance of anyone reaching a consensus decision on how to do it. Even if we did get new people, and they ended up with one of the groups, they could hardly call themselves members of the society if they didn’t even know two thirds of it existed.

It took a few people bridging the gaps to get everyone back together, to get us at the university again, meeting people who would otherwise have had no option but to miss out on their hobby unless they were very lucky indeed (this being a bit before the internet was quite so accessible as it is today). We found new venues – a struggle we now go through constantly as the society grows – and made friends with anyone who wanted to game.

Now for the important stuff – the reasons you should find a big ass gaming group to hang out with. The friends made are still friends today; some of them have moved on, outside of our huge little town, but stay in contact, some even rejoining the old team each year for the Nationals. They’re best men at weddings, godparents of children, or maybe just the house mate who leaves a bag of sprouts in the kitchen for months until they become a green slush (you know who you are), but no one cares because it makes for a damned fine story to tell. They are people you go to gigs with because you found out you have the same taste in music, or just form a band with for the exact same reason. With them, you talk about books, films, comic books, and computer games, because in a big enough group someone will have the same taste as you, probably a whole heap of them will.

Why else should you want to game with loads of people? To play loads of different games of course! In HUGS we have GMs who are working on the third draft of their own RPG, built from the ground up to include a whole new world and system. Not to mention that other people also discover great new games that they bring to the society to try out that could become regular favourites. A quick example here is Unhallowed Metropolis – a small, not very well known system that has been used repeatedly now as it fits so well with so many players in the society. I could list literally dozens more games and systems here, all discovered just because of being part of HUGS, that I would never have had the chance play otherwise.

So what can you fine people out there do about this? First off, there are all the websites you can easily find to help out. On top of that, if you live in a university – or college, for  any American readers – town/city, check with the student union to see if there any gaming societies looking for members (trust me, if they exist, they’ll be looking to recruit). Find a friendly local gaming store (FLGS) and go and meet people there, they are often on good terms with the local gaming scene, maybe even offering discounts to card carrying members of the society, and if not they will usually be more than happy to help put you in contact with other like minded people. And of course the final option; start your own gaming group. Get the word out to FLGSs, register with the university and make your own page on any number of websites. The effort will be more than worth it when you get to watch the society grow as new gamers flock to you who would otherwise be lost to the World of Warcraft. (shudder)

So, message of the day; get out there and meet more geeks. they’re good people.

Geeks are sexy! (now that I have your attention…)

So first a question; are geeks actually sexy?

I know what can only be considered as more than my fair share of people who are happy to identify themselves as a geek. I have been a member of my local gaming society for over seventeen years and almost all of my friends have been met through the wide and varied social interactions that are part of being in a large society. Within said society that are some absolute lookers. Chaps and chapettes who would knock your socks off (for the record I don’t consider myself as being in that number, resembling a skinnier, paler version of Tommy Steele – ask your parents, I had to). These pretty, pretty people do make up the minority of the society, but casting a quick mental eye over the rest, it’s not like I hang out at homunculii anonymous either.

No, what we have is just a cross section of normal people. That’s right, just normal people. So lets start this out right; being a geek doesn’t make you in any way socially awkward or less attractive, but neither does being socially awkward or less attractive make you a geek. Outside of any industry of lifestyle in which physical appearance isn’t a prerequisite for, you get people from all walks of life; does everyone at a yacht club have a chiseled jaw or a waspish waist? Nope, they’re made up of a group of people who are all individuals and look as such. And if you base your opinions on a group because of the way they’re portrayed in TV shows and movies; please, jog on.

So, why, you ask third paragraph in, did I title this blog in the manner I did if I disagree with the statement? Well first off, I have dated geeks all of my adult life. Not all of them are gaming geeks though. One noteworthy exception simply could not get her head around what I did as a hobby and kinda looked down on it. But she was a huge music buff and what she didn’t know about punk/two-tone/ska/ska-punk and countless other genres, simply wasn’t worth knowing. In short, she was just as big a geek as me, it’s just that her quirky little interest/obsession was a tad more socially acceptable. I did soon turn her round on the gaming thing though, once she realized it wasn’t what so many people thought of it as – small groups of loners poring over the latest players handbook checking if they prefer it to the last edition – but was instead about fifty people meeting up once a week in a pub and drinking it out of real ale on a far too regular basis whilst hanging out, gaming, talking and having a laugh.

When we weren’t at the weekly meetings, we were kicking back in other pubs, at metal gigs and fests, watching movies, drinking and playing in bands of our own. So, geeky? Yes. More than that? Almost every damned time!

So, what is it that can make a geek sexy? Owning it! That doesn’t mean walking round in cosplay outfits all the time, but just not hiding who you are because of societal pressures. You know tons of useless crap about Trek? Cool. But I bet you also just know loads of other useless crap that’s the staple of pub conversation starters simply because your mind works well when it comes to reading something and keeping it there, ready to be unleashed just as someone takes that sip Copper Dragon you’re about to make them shout out of their nose.

I have spent countless hours with my friends and have loved every bit of it, knowing that they’re all so damned sexy just because they can make me laugh while talking about the mini-map radar on Fallout: New Vegas.

Keep it up, keep it right up.