Professor Jimbles Presents: “I play to win, baby.” 

Okay, so this is over a year overdue. I’m terrible, I know.

But let’s see this as an example of time teaching you, and making a fool of your past self.

In this time, I attended another Phenomenon in Canberra (And took away their drama Triptytch award with a group of people I had never met before.) and even ran my first game for the greater Canberra roleplaying community. All in all, another fantastic year.

Why competitive roleplaying? This genre is built around making a story as a team! Guiding these semi-real entities through trials both emotional and physical! Wouldn’t adding a competitive edge ruin it? Wouldn’t the ever present thought of “Am I doing this well enough to get an award?” ruin your immersion?

Well, no. First of all, your GM is likely to be running multiple sessions of their game (Even I did, and it was my first year.) and with premade characters, there is bound to be a player or a group who has an interpretation that matches their inital designs. Us GMs do enjoy a bit of ego stroking; if a player can find interest in characters we created enough to perfectly encapsulate them in their performance then it is only natural to have a preference.

On the other hand, if someone takes a character in a completely new direction that surprises and excites the GM, this could also endear the player to them. Surprising someone who has run a particular scenario up to 11 times already is a feat worthy of recognition. Especially if this interpretation is better than what they initially envisioned.

Let’s get something clear, you are never competing against the people you’re weaving a story with. These competitive games at Phenomenon are collaborative, so you are building a story with the GM and the other players, usually-but-not-always using a rules light or no rules system. Unlike a more rigid game like Pathfinder, the ever present urge for optimization and survivability is absent. If you can’t fail because someone isn’t pulling their weight, then you’re without THAT form of competition against your fellow players.

Lastly; and most importantly comes the phrase I hear most often when describing the Perpetual games.

“But that’s rediculous, how do you score a “Winner” of rules-light or systemless games?”

Easy! These are drama or comedy games. You can use a very simple “Who made me feel/laugh the most?” metric. You could add points for anyone who has a highly quotable line, and remove them for anyone who keeps breaking character. As well as the interpretation idea I explored above.

This does mean that it comes down to more Romanticism than Enlightenment, but I’m okay with that. The kind of games that flourish under plot and characterization heavy settings don’t often come with a clear mathematical “Winner” anyway. You’re gonna have an emotional favourite anyway.

Picture of the winning team: Shiny Things and me, from Cardgames on Motorcycles. 


Photo made publically available. Please ask before reproduction. Names withheld on request.

What’s been going on?

Hey guys, thought I’d post a quick update on what’s been going on here. The answer is, irritatingly, not a whole lot. More accurately, there’s a lot going on, but none of it’s really helping me get stuff posted here. I’m going through one of my semi-regular bouts of writer’s block, and hating every second of it as usual. It’s a really irritating time for it to happen to, as I have five updates for The Unusual Suspects that I want to get written and posted ASAP. Normally I’d be happy to just put ’em on the back-burner and wait until I’m able to work through the block, but these ones are a little different, as each one is actually a character created by a member from the Paizo message boards. I’ll explain more about what’s going on with that when I get the first post up finally, but they’re some pretty cool characters, and I’m keen to get them out there.

Apart from those frustrations, I’m working on a few new campaigns I’d like to run at some point. My Project Helleborus and Urban Magic homebrew games have sadly been postponed indefinitely, because finding the time to work on such ambitious projects isn’t feasible at the moment. With Pathfinder, I’ve found it’s really just easier for me to run and play Paizo’s Adventure Paths, as they’re generally pretty solid and can be run with a minimum of prep. Urban Magic… well that required me to re-skin the entirety of Mage: The Awakening to run it, and I honestly just don’t have that kind of time. I may be able to resurrect the idea later on using Savage Worlds or FATE, but it won’t be for a while. Right now my focus is on trying to get an AMP: Year One group going, and possibly one for Part-Time Gods as well. As I work on that, I’ll be posting status updates regarding the system, putting the group together, and running the game. I’m also getting a few one shots ready for various systems to run my cousin’s group through, so that should give me some more ammo for Role-Playing 101 updates, but I’m not sure when the group will be able to get together again (while I’m sure the kids would be happy to play every weekend, I know they’ve got school work they need to do, so I’m careful to make sure all the parents are okay with the session times).

Continue reading

Professor Jimbles Presents! How to make a backstory.

I said it was coming, and here it is. The three steps I follow to make a workable and vaguely interesting backstory that will work for any game that doesn’t require extensive and detailed character histories. I’d pop in a little more detail if you were going to play in a social LARP or Sandbox (GM creates a world and unleashes the players upon it. Plot hooks, no railroad.) game.

Generally you make a character while considering the others in your party, and choose a class first (in the tactical games, at least.) so I suggest grab the rough outlines of your mechanics, and build the backstory around that.

I’m going to be using one of my new favourite characters. His personality and powers are best shown in a rules-light, “make up your own damned abilities” game, but he’s a great example of how my three steps turned a basic idea into someone that can entertainingly work with the others in the party. If more questions arise while writing, run with them.

Enter Karas, the Herald of Death.

Continue reading

Professor Jimbles Presents! Still dying a lot.

[Note from Tinkergoth: Sorry for the long silence. Jimbles has had this post and another one ready to go for almost two weeks now, just waiting for me to go over them before publishing. Unfortunately I’ve been letting things slide, haven’t been feeling great physically or otherwise, so it’s been a struggle to do anything other than curl up on the couch of an evening and binge on anime (on the plus side, I’ve been catching up on series I’ve owned for ages and hadn’t got around to watching), haven’t even really felt like gaming recently. Anyway, finally not feeling so ill anymore, and the other stuff will sort itself out sooner or later, so starting today I’m forcing myself back into the blog. I’ll publish this and Jimbles’ other post first, and then get back to work on my own stuff. I now return you to your scheduled ramblings from Professor Jimbles.]

I’m beginning to think it’s something personal, and maybe stacking resistances and AC would be better for me.

Now, where was I?

Learned the hard way that Black Puddings are not delicious.

Felled by the Orc Hireling in a single strike.

Crushed by a brainwashed dragon after a Sudden Maximized disintegrate missed.

Oh, right. I’m going to leave out the Elemental Plane of Fire, it’s pretty obvious, and has little in storytelling value, despite the gales of laughter from the table when it happened.

I’m playing in a World’s Largest Dungeon game specifically designed to let the players experience as much as possible from the tortuous place. We are on a 32 point buy gestalt (any, not base only) with all of 3.5 available subject to approval. I can imagine hundreds of monocles popping from outraged eyes, but in defense of the game I raise two points.

  1. Action Economy (Paizo Forums has information, but it’s not a perfect description.)
  2. I’m really bad at optimizing.

So I’ve got nearly countless options ahead of me. I make a fighter-ranger who wielded light maces in the lightning hammer style, giving me another attack whenever I threat. I planned to take adaptable scimitars eventually, and score additional attacks about a fifth of the time. His name was Parker. He was a part-time novelist. He made the decision to become a wererat once it became clear the party was trapped in the dungeon. His answer to fiendish troglodytes is to draw and charge. Technically, if the party leader didn’t tell him to hold off, his default reaction to anything threatening was to draw and charge. It lasted about 7 levels, until our crack team broke past a incredibly difficult lock on huge marble doors. Inside was a HUGE black pudding. It had scoured its prison for all life, and was desperately hungry for fighter/ranger flesh. Reasoning that dessert never hurt anyone, Parker charged with both maces drawn.

This was ill-advised.

Continue reading

Professor Jimbles Presents! Weird Situations

Hi there, Jimbles here again with a few more tales, but with a preamble first.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been writing posts that are just fluff entertainment, leaving all of the crunch to Keegan. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I think I can do a bit better. Due to my documented inability to keep characters alive (See Does anyone else die a lot?, Part two on those horrible deaths incoming.) I’ve gotten pretty good at creating new characters. I’m going to codify it and make it interesting; then show you my 5 step process for streamlining a backstory. It’s by no means perfect, but it works.

But today, I’ve got a particular subject on my mind.  A bunch of my friends and fellow players are known for coming up with twisted situations and bending the established lore in such a nefarious way that the players are left flat-footed. Once, I asked one of them how on earth they come up with their ideas. It may have been an outburst along the lines of “WHERE DO YOU COME UP WITH THIS STUFF!?”

The answer was interesting. She said “Well, for this game I thought “How can I make a player make a bad choice for the right reasons?”

Continue reading

Shattered Star: The Crew.

Our Blog-master decided my post was competent, and made him want to post here more himself. Perhaps in a manly “possession” sense. I can dig it. Because of that, it’s now my job to throw the occasional ham-fisted attempt at bloggery.

I’m playing in the Shattered Star game. I’ve played Aeros Rasta (Remember that guy who smacked himself in the face with a hammer?) finding a cool image and writing a simple fun backstory for him before we all died in the spider-holocaust. And yet… I wasn’t that upset when he died. Actually, I was a little pleased. It seems healing is not for me, or… Change is fascinating.

In an attempt to make this new party more permanent, evocative and interesting, I’d like to set out a small outline, and perhaps a brief description of each of the characters in our new party.

[Editors Note: having read this, it occurs to me that Jimbles has been adding a few flourishes to these characters that don’t exist in the personalities that the actual players have given them in game. And by a few flourishes, I mean he’s making stuff up out of whole cloth. That said, it’s pretty awesome… so I’ll allow it.]

Michael Best
Benjamin Dawson
Michael Aranda
Evan Radovanovic
Myself, James Woodman.

The paladin Gregor Roth, worshipper of the mighty god ____ known for his philosophy of “manning up” and “getting the fuck on with it, our paladin also exemplifies these traits. seeming something similar yo Sten the Qunari. on many an occasion, he has “cut the knot” by stating something similar to “It’s a devil. Kill it.” He fights with a massive falchion, given as a present from his order, the reward for being the strongest candidate in a year.

Zogalypse, Wildblooded Sorcerer of Umbra: A dark man, some say born from shadow, darkness and power, Zogalypse lives to prove himself and bring glory to the Pathfinder society. Collecting the Shards is a good start. Burning things to the ground is only just a means to an end. Dominion over the forces raging through him is a the only reason people can see past his dark heritage, and that used to hurt. Perhaps he can ride these idiots to glory.

Azaezel Blightblade the Magus: Another party member of demonic heritage, Azaezel has seemingly made a pact with a blade of dark, hypnotic metal. He’s found a way to cast some spells THROUGH the weapon. He makes devastating huge swings that crackle with Eldritch energy, lightning being a favourite. And yet, this power hides an even darker secret: Azaezel is not sure of himself. How should he react to hellspawn? Why does he feel uncomfortable in churches occasionally? And more importantly, why does Gregor seem less scary on some days?

Zamnil Blackaxe the spell-less Ranger:
Zamnil Blackaxe is a dwarf hailing from a century of trench warfare in the most brutal fashion possible. It has carved a name in his soul and mood. As a lead trail-blazer, the underground became his home and parade ground. While Zamnil can track smoother than an elf, he feels no kinship with the earth. He has learned the texture and feel because it was life or death… Mostly death. Zamnil wields hand axes with a talent borne of experience. He sees these companions as a way to earn a living without having to see Orcblood ever again.

Keira Strongarm, Human Archer: Keira lives in a world that was supposed to be denied to her. At first it was “You are too weak to use the longbow effectively.” When she drew the night watchman’s longbow at 8, it changed. “Your… Body makes true mastery out of your reach.” When she skewered an apple at 60 paces, the complaint changed. Father took away her weapon, and stated “You have duties at home, stop pretending to be a soldier.” She snuck away at night and carved her own bow, starting a life of a traveling trapper. It was only natural to come across the pathfinders.

That’s the basics. We’ve managed a few sessions without dying horribly, though Gregor came close. While we are relatively devoid of healing (PALLY IS FOR FITE) we are playing cautious.

Any questions?

Listening to: Hands Like Houses’ new album. I can’t place a genre on these beauties, but I do know they’ve matched the power and energy of the first album, avoiding the “Sophomore slump” like pros.

Introducing Professor Jimbles!

Well hello there. That’s right, I’m back.

I got stuck in China for a bit longer than anticipated, initially due to delays on equipment being delivered to the offices I was working in. Towards the end of my work there, I started to get ill. Woke up one morning running a fever, and decided that I had to push through it and get the job done. Unfortunately dosing myself up good and proper on ibuprofen and working through the weekend, I wasn’t doing any better, and the manager of the office I was in at the time decided I’d better see a doctor before flying home the next day.

Continue reading