Category Archives: reverb gamers master list

Reverb Gamers List: The Final Edition!

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #28: Do you have any house rules when you game? What are they, and why do you use them? If not, why not?

I can see answering this two ways.  First, table rules.  If a die does not land flat on the table or a character sheet, re-roll.  That’s about it.  But house rules can also encompass alterations that you’ve made to published games to better suit your group or style.  As previously mentioned, I’m working on some mods for Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes.  The game is fine as-is, but the mechanics are rather dated.  My main problem with the game is that it is incredibly lethal, which may be realistic, but it’s not heroic.  I want characters to be able to survive a firefight and not fall to the first goon with a .38 snub in his pocket when the real bad guy is waiting around the corner.  Also, the skills list is very dated as the game was released around ’83, so I’ve made some changes and changed some skill IQ requirements, I also merged some groups of skills together.  So this constitutes a form of house rules, and all of my players will have a copy of my changes and we’ll discuss them before we play.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #29: What does the word “gamer” mean to you? Is that different than what other people seem to think it means?

Simply put, a gamer is a person who plays games.  Card games, board games, role-playing games, LARPs, miniatures, computer games, first-person shooters, console games, dominoes, etc.: we’re all gamers and usually we play more than one type of game.  People who go to Vegas and gamble are playing games.  A game usually has a randomizer of some sort and hopefully allows the players to use skill to influence their fate.  There may be a ‘geek/nerd’ aspect to it as lots of gamers are not in to mainstream culture.  So what.  We’re all different as people, even if we are gamers.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #30: What lessons have you taken from gaming that you can apply to your real life?

Hmmm.  I’m very fast at counting Champions damage dice, does that count?  One thing that I do enjoy applying concepts in gaming to real life is dice analysis.  I’ve built spreadsheets looking at the curves of 2d6, 3d6, Fudge dice, etc., and I find that interesting.  Statistical analysis applied to gaming is kind of cool.  I’ve learned a lot about spreadsheets creating Champions templates and plugging all of my characters in there.  So I’ve developed some useful skills, but I wouldn’t say they’re terribly applicable outside of gaming.

Gaming can teach some good life lessons: winning and losing gracefully, patience, etc.  But it’s after midnight when I’m writing some of this and I really don’t have the brain power to dig in to it too deeply right now.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #31: How would your life be different if you’d never gotten into gaming?

I’m not a big fan of ‘what if’ questions.  What if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly?  Every decision is a branch, and some splits rejoin later.  For example, if I had gone straight to university from high school, I would not be where I am right now, but there’s no telling where I would be and whether I would be as content in that reality as I am right now.

Before I learned about role-playing games, I was heavily in to science fiction and fantasy literature before high school, I think it would have been inevitable for me to get in to gaming.  If I had not worked at Flying Buffalo, my gaming life would be different and my friends base would be different, but there’s no way to accurately project a ‘what if’.

More Reverb replies, this time 24-27

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #24: Have you ever been to a game convention? What was it like to be surrounded by so many other gamers? If not, would you like to go to one? Why or why not?

Game conventions are a blast.  The first ones that I attended were the LA Gateway series in the early 80’s.  I attended Origins 1984 in LA and it was definitely one of the more memorable conventions that I’ve ever been to.  First, my friend who traveled with me had a seizure.  He recovered quickly, but it was a very scary moment.  Fortunately some of our friends saw what was happening and were able to help him and find me.

Second, I was really looking forward to playing a convention Champions event, and I come to find out that not only did the person who wrote the scenarios not send them to the organizer, he didn’t even show up to the convention.  The committee had a lot of unhappy players with no game to play, so I stepped in and ran.

The first problem with con games, especially pick-up/spur of the moment games, is characters.  There’s no way that I could run a reasonably balanced game and let people run their own favorite characters.  I had with me the three Enemies books published by Hero, and I combed them looking for 250 point villains.  I wrote them down on character sheets, gave them 25 XP to spend, and made up my watchlist.

When game time came, I told them ‘You were all villains.  You were caught, you served your prison time, and now you’re all on probation being heroes.’  I had like a dozen character sheets for eight players, so people stood a chance of getting someone they’d like to play.  They had half an hour to spend the 25 XP on anything except dex, speed, or ego as I’d already written up the watch list.  They could buy levels, increase other characteristics, reduce disadvantages, buy new powers, whatever.

I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of the scenario — hey, it was almost 30 years ago! — but the basic gist was that it was a two-parter, there was a basic bank heist with a bunch of goons in powered armor that didn’t take the ‘heroes’ very long to put down, but it turns out that was a diversion for the real villains to kidnap the governor’s daughter or something and take her out to an island stronghold.  So the real mission was to rescue the kidnap victim.

And the villains of the scenario?  They were my player-characters from various campaigns, so I knew exactly how they worked.

The players were slowly winning the day, and everything came down to a climactic fight between my mentalist who had an ego killing attack (not strictly allowed by the rules, but it was only 1d6) and a high-speed martial artist.  The martial artist was slowly putting stun on the mentalist, but the mentalist, while slowly killing the martial artist, couldn’t stun him.  Eventually the martial artist KO’d the mentalist and the day was won by the forces of good.


Now here’s the weird thing.  10-15 years later I’m at a science fiction convention in Phoenix.  A bunch of my friends are talking to Mike Straczynski, and this one guy kept staring at me.  Finally he walks up to me and says ‘I know you!’  I don’t recall him at all.  He says ‘You ran Champions in L.A.!’  I had no memory of it at all.  Finally he started telling me details of a game that I ran over a decade previously, ending it with “That was the best Champions game that I ever played!”  Needless to say, I was happy.

One of these days I’m going to run the same sort of thing again at a convention, give the players reformed villains to run.  They really seemed to have liked it.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #25: If you game enough, you’re bound to run into someone being an ass. What’s the most asinine thing someone’s done in a game with you? How did you react? Did that experience change the way you game?

I had this happen last year.  A friend was running a new game that no one had played, and one of the players was constantly talking about “They wouldn’t do it like that!  This is lame!”  Finally I just started ignoring him and interacting with others.  He quieted down, but I can pretty much guarantee that the GM won’t invite him back and I would be reluctant to play another game with him.

So the take-home is: be good and respectful to your GM and the other players around you.  If you don’t like a game, no one is forcing you to sit at the table.  If you simply say ‘This game really isn’t for me, excuse me, but I’m going to go do something else’, chances are that no one is going to mind.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #26: Who or what was the most memorable NPC you’ve ever encountered? Why?

Sadly, none come to mind.  Too much dain bramage.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #27: If you were an Ent, what kind of Ent would you be? Or, what other NPC creature would you be? Why?

Yeah.  Right.  I had no idea there were different kinds of Ents, is this in some game’s monster companion campaign rule book or something?  Sorry, not my cup o’ tea.

The Return of the Reverb Gamers Master List, items 21-23

These are fairly short answers, so I’m combining them since I’m ten days behind.  Yes, I’m feeling much better, but a rush project came up that had to be addressed which further slowed things down.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #21: What’s the best bribe you’ve ever given (or received as) a GM? What did you get (give) for it?

Never offered one to a GM, never had one offered to me as a GM.  But let me modify that statement slightly.  In our multitudinous Champions campaigns and characters, whenever we created new characters, we wrote moderately extensive character backgrounds and origin stories.  These were by no means required, but the GMs always rewarded such with usually 5 XP.  Is this a bribe?  The player gives something with the expectation of getting something in return, in this case an origin for XP, the GM gets something that they can use to flesh-out the campaign or character introduction and gives XP.  I don’t consider it a bribe, even though there is an element of unfair advantage over someone who doesn’t turn in a background and doesn’t get the XP reward.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #22: Describe the worst game you’ve ever played in. What made it so bad? Did your fellow players help, or make it worse?

Two stories.  Story the first: The game was a GURPs Supers at one of the L.A. Gateway conventions probably 15-20 years ago.  The GM was local and provided pre-gen characters.  I’ve always liked martial artist characters as they are fairly simple to run and quite flamboyant, and I wasn’t deeply familiar with GURPs, so I went with a martial artist.  The GM then proceeded to throw powered armor against us.  My martial artist character couldn’t do a thing to the goons in armor, and the goons couldn’t hit me.  I was frustrated at my ineffectiveness until I decided to try Nerve Strike.  At that point I became effective.  I did not enjoy the game because I felt that the GM made a poor choice in the selection of pre-gens available to the player.  It is possible that if I had been more familiar with the rules system that I could have been more effective and had a better time, but that’s as may be.  It was not a good experience in my effort to learn more about a game system that I wasn’t very familiar with by playing a con game.

Story the second: Champions campaign run by a friend, I’m running a brand-new character.  The mission is part of a series and I was not a player or attendee in the previous missions, and tonight is the island assault on the villain’s base.  Island assault = boats streaking across the water just before dawn.  Myself, along with other player characters, are in the hold of the boat and not really knowing what’s going on.  The boat’s pilot, apparently having a little bit of chaos inside him, decided that he could get a tactical advantage by ramming the docks and thus surprising the guards.  Unfortunately he did not alert anyone as to what he was doing.  The others in the hold were able to get their defenses activated in time, I was not.  Before the combat started I was knocked to GM unconscious.  After the boat hit, everyone sprang out into the melee and no one checked on me for quite a while.

The worst part of this was that I did not drive that night, I’d ridden with others, so I was stuck.  I sat in the corner and read a book for most of the evening until someone decided to revive me.

I partially fault the GM for this.  In Champions, if you’re knocked to GM unconscious, the GM decides when you wake up.  With this happening at the start of the combat due to a bad die roll and taking me out of combat, it would have improved things (for me, at least) if later in the round I’d slid in to the water and woke up or something like that and been able to get in to the fight and done something.  As I recall, that character didn’t last long in that campaign before I retired him.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #23: Have you ever experienced Total Party Kill (TPK), or been close to it? What effect did that have on you personally? On your group of players? Have you ever used retroactive continuity (retcon) to save yourself? Why or why not?

Champions?  TPK?  It is to laugh!  A character death in Champions is a pretty rare event, I’ve never heard of a TPK outside of GM fiat.  Now, ask me that about World of Warcraft, and I’d give you a slightly different answer!

Reverb Gamers Master List #20

What was the most memorable character death you’ve ever experienced? What makes it stick with you?

I have had uncountable character deaths, but they were in Traveler character creation, so they don’t count.  Champions characters die very rarely and usually not in combat, they’re probably mostly from a combination of the player not wanting to run that character any more and wanting a dramatic exit, then add in a willing GM and you can engineer a pretty spectacular death.  I killed one character in combat, my assassin Nightshade who had been sent to kill the hero group Strike Force.  She had been abducted by a group called the Time Police, given powers and training, and conditioned to hate the heroes.  But she learned of the conditioning, subverted it, learned the truth, and eventually defected and joined Strike Force.  After many years of adventuring, Strike Force had a monster huge battle against the Time Police.  Powered armor everywhere, and we weren’t making progress.  Well, Nightshade needless to say had a bit of a hatred of the Time Police, and out of frustration flew up a fair distance and did a Power Dive Move Through into one of the suits of powered armor.  Straight down in to the ground.

It produced quite a crater.

I don’t remember how many dice it generated, I believe on the order of 30-40.

And it didn’t kill the powered armor.  It did knock the operator unconscious in to the next election cycle.  It did quite a number on Nightshade, and I declared her dead.  The funny thing was, that after I totaled up the dice, she actually survived the impact, and she regenerated, so technically she would have survived the blow.

But the Time Police fled the battle, so we won, so it was worth it and we had lots of good role-playing afterwards.

Being a true super hero, I resurrected her in a slightly different form as part of a different group that became The Greatest Firefighters In All The World And Canada.

Reverb Gamers Master List #19

What’s the weirdest character you’ve ever played? How did you end up with him/her/it?

Three come to mind that were pretty weird, all were Champions characters. One was a fox who had a pet girl. She could speak and was a great gadgeteer and martial artist. As I recall, I didn’t get a lot of mileage out of her, but she was kind of fun to run.  I think that maybe she wasn’t in the right campaign and might have done better in another.

Another was one of the few that I based on fictional or comic book characters. In the early 80’s there was a comicbook by Joshua Quagmire called Cutey Bunny. She was an anthropomorphic rabbit who had a magic amulet that let her change forms and gained various powers from them. A friend in the group made custom cardboard heroes for some of our characters, and he made a different one for each of Cutey Bunny’s forms. That was not my character. My character was a friend and an occasional nemesis known as Vixen, an anthropomorphic fox. She was an absolute blast to run. The campaign that we were in was very accommodating to anthropomorphic characters, so that was cool. I remember chasing a fellow hero player character into and out of the men’s restroom, him screaming. Good times.

Third and final, Damian Styx, whom I’ve previously mentioned in these Reverb Gamers list. He was a wizard who bore the inescapable stench of pure and utter evil, even though he was a good guy. I ran him as a player character in one campaign and as an NPC in another as a friend/traveling companion of another PC. In the second game there was another player character who was a vampire/demon hunter who would basically go berserk whenever he saw Styx and try to kill him. Fortunately Styx had dimensional teleport and had little difficulty escaping.

How did I end up with them?  No idea.  The actual fox with the pet human was just a weird idea that I had.  I’ve always liked the idea of an animal with a pet person and finally designed it.  The second was a combination of some design elements that I found interesting.  Another player had designed Vixen but wasn’t really interested in running her, he and the GM agreed to let me run my design and it was a lot of fun.  The third was based on a character in a book by Jack L. Chalker, And The Devil Will Drag You Under.  I found the concept interesting and had a lot of fun running him.

Some cool examples run by friends of mime: A friend of mine had what I think was one of the ultimate weird characters.  He was a warlord for a necromancer who led armies conquering the world, until he had a pang of conscience and ultimately was cursed with having to do good.  In one campaign that I ran, one guy ran a set of powered armor that did not have a body inside: he had been captured by cultists who decided that, since he had such a spiffy set of powered armor, that he didn’t really need a corporeal body.  And then there was the case of a Champions dependent non-player character who in the course of the campaign earned enough XP to become a player character.

We had a lot of fun over the years.

Reverb Gamers Master List #18

Have you ever “cheated” on a die roll/random chance outcome, or looked up a quest solution on a fan site? Why or why not? If yes, was it worth it?

I probably did once or twice when I was younger, and I’m sure that I’ve miscounted dice on occasion.  But I’ve resigned myself to the fact that sometimes dice don’t like me.  I’ve never had a favorite or lucky set of dice, for me the dice seem to be fairly random number generators and sometimes they favor me and sometimes they don’t.  I did it because I was stupid, it may have provided momentary satisfaction to succeed or something, or at least not fail quite so catastrophically, but no, it wasn’t worth it.  Part of playing RPGs is learning to roll with the blows.  I never turned a miss into a crit, or a critical fumble into a miss, just occasionally nudged them up or down a point or two to change a failure into a success.

Looking up quest solutions.  I do this all the time in World of Warcraft.  I play for fun, and I don’t play every day for hours at a time.  I might skip several days and just not remember where X is, so I’ll jump on to find out where to go to progress the quest.  I don’t consider this cheating.  I won’t use the ‘everyone does it’ excuse, role-playing games are not zero-sum games.  For me to win, you don’t have to lose.  We play for fun, and if we have fun, we win.  Minor cheats like this do not normally diminish the fun that others have with the game.

Having said that, grossly cheating can certainly ruin the fun for everyone.  The person who crits multiple times a session, or always gets a 6 on his killing attack stun multiplier, etc.  These people do diminish the fun for others and need to be dealt with, either by a talk from the GM or by forcing them to make all rolls in the open so that everyone can see them.

Reverb Gamers Master List #17

What was the best reward you’ve ever gotten in a game? What made it so great? How much do you need tangible rewards (loot, leveling, etc.) to enjoy a game?

The more that I read this list of questions, the more that I think it’s really oriented towards D&D/dungeon crawl gaming.  The games that I generally play don’t have an ‘item’ reward, and they also don’t usually have levels.  You get XP, you slowly buy new powers or increase characteristics or decrease disadvantages.  In Champions, if you want a +2 Sword of Muppet Bashing, you design it and buy it.

I have no problem with leveling/loot-based RPG’s, they’re just not what I usually played.

Thinking back to the early days of gaming and about today’s games, I wonder how prevalent leveling vs non-leveling games are.  A lot of the early games, D&D/Tunnels & Trolls/Top Secret were level-based.  But there were also a lot, the Hero systems games (Champions, Espionage, Danger International, etc.), I think the Runequest family (Call of Cthulhu, Superworld, etc.) were not level-based.  Now, we look at Fate games such as Dresden/Spirit of the Century/Bulldogs, Fortune’s Fool, Lady Blackbird, The Laundry, and w have XP and advancement but no levels.  I think the telling difference is the use of pre-defined character roles.  In non-level-based games, there’s a marked absence of these roles, or the roles are more open/vague.  If you want a fighter with a mystic ability to heal, you’re going to have to stretch some rules to plug it in to a fighter role in some games, in other games it’s no problem at all.

I like no problems.  Your limitations are what you can imagine and what your GM will let you get away with.

Reverb Gamers Master List #16

Who was the most memorable foe you’ve ever come up against in a game? How did you beat him/her/it? Or did you?

A friend of mine ran a Champions game and his favorite villain group was the Blue Oyster Cult.  Main villains were named after various BOC songs, such as Vera Gemini.  They were pretty good villains, and were directly responsible for one of my characters getting his powers.  I had a guy in college who was an extremely promising pianist, he got on a plane, and didn’t get off.  Later he found himself sitting in a Scottsdale resort parking lot in a cherry vintage Corvette with title and registration in his name.  And absolutely no memory of how he got there or how he got his powers.  He was a flying sonic blaster with perfect pitch and was a lot of fun to run.

Another GM, still Champions, had a group of bad guys called The Video Villains.  They all had powers based on classic arcade video and pinball games from the 70’s and 80’s.  They were a lot of fun.

And I have no idea how we beat either group.  They were both recurring groups, so it was more a matter of driving them off or capturing some of them, they’ll always be back in a few weeks.

Good times.

Reverb Gamers List #15

People often talk about the divide between what happens “in game” and “in real life.” Do you maintain that divide in your own play, or do you tend to take what happens to your character personally? Why?

A game is in a fantasy world, not the real world.  There is no reason to take something personally.  If circumstances are such that a bad series of rolls kills your character, well, sorry.  In superhero games, death is merely another side plot.  In other games, you’ll just have to see.

There is one exception that does bother me: guest GM’s.  GM B runs a session in GM A’s campaign and does things that break characters that GM A would not do, this bugs me and I’ve had it happen twice by the same GM guest-running.  Not that it’s likely to happen again, circumstances being what they are, but if B were to ever run in someone elsess campaign, I would definitely run a character from B’s game.

Reverb Gamers Master List #14

What kinds of adventures do you enjoy most? Dungeon crawls, mysteries, freeform roleplaying, or something else? What do you think that says about you?

I mainly prefer contemporary roleplaying games: superheroes, espionage, Dresden, etc., so dungeon crawls doesn’t really reply.  I would lean towards simple puzzle solving and investigation scenarios, figuring out a way to resolve the situation with panache and flair is very cool to me.  Cool is always fun, regardless of mission success.  Success is not always cool, and those frequently tend towards being pyrrhic victories.

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