|Al my characters - part 3 in 2017|
This year I started to play in English online – something I hadn’t done before. And since 78% of my RPG time was actually in English and also the majority of RPG conversations were in English in 2017 I will do these statistics for the first time in English this year.
My year in short2017 was very different from previous years (2016, 2015) for some reasons. Most importantly, my family relocated to Guatemala, Central America, end of 2016 and hence not only my Sieben Gezeichneten campaign had to pause but also the time zone difference of 8 hours made it harder to play with Europeans. One of my highlights in 2016 was visiting the Solmukohta / Knutepunkt larp convention in Helsinki (or better to say: on a ship on the Baltic Sea) and in the same manner I was eager to visit one of the exciting conventions the USA has to offer while living in the USA’s backyard. So I decided to go to the game design convention Metatopia in New Jersey, and to my own surprise I went there as a game designer with a game to playtest. The most important change in terms of my roleplaying experience in 2017 though was that I joined the Gauntlet Community which constituted 67% of my gaming in 2017. I kept up a bit with gaming in German through the lovely little circle of Indie-Freunde – a private community of gamers from all over Germany (and Austria), and by playing more and more games with my 5 years old son.
Statistics – the basicsGetting the basics out, the first thing to mention should be that I gamed much more than in previous years: 370 hours, around 50% more than in 2015 and 2016, in 142 sessions. The extra hours of gaming all went into online gaming which made up 85% of my gaming time. I only played 5% of my gaming time at conventions and only 10% at my home or other friends’ home.
Where I play
With how many I playThe majority of my games have been with four players (and a game master or facilitator). However, my most desired group size for classical GMed tabletop RPG is three players plus GM and I was happy to have significantly more such sessions. Generally, around 80% of the games I played had a classic GM plus players set-up, the other 20% were GM-less or like “Andersrum” had everybody but one player as GM.
Last Ride / First Ride. They have a bit of similarity with creative writing but if approached with a player and not a GM mind they are as much roleplaying as any other number of players RPG.
In 2017 I made the tough decision to stop being active in the Google+ community “RPG deutschsprachig”. I had been an active member since 2012, I found my first online gaming groups there and learnt a lot from people in the group. I would still highly recommend the community for its variety of topics and the discussions they have to others. For me though, I had to admit to myself that I valued the community not only on their average but also on its low points and there had been too many low points in there for me finally. I would like to clarify again that I don’t consider the community as toxic or anything. However, for my demands the community also didn’t show enough strength in cases where fighting toxicity would have been necessary.
Communities I play with
|Route Clearance - but with dragons|
Another community I gamed with in 2017 was the Indie-Freunde community, a private German community of like-minded indie gamers who play games together online. The group is small but full with highly creative and experienced players, so we often can play “with the official translators” or test our own games. I also collaborated on the Erzählspielzine, a young fanzine in German language with translations and own creations by Tina Trilitzsch and Thorsten Panknin.
Out of this community a series exploring one on one games with a friend came to life – something I enjoyed tremendously in its tight and intense format.
|5year old dungeon masters are the best|
I continued playing with my son who was five in 2017. We played a great variety of games together far from the “obvious children games” list. Among these games were 200 Word RPG contest entries and even two horror games with Dread and Murderous Ghosts. My son grows up with a rather low load of media consumption which mainly consists of “Sendung mit der Maus” – a German daily life science show but no Star Wars, superheroes and the like. So I find it quite exciting to see such a fresh mind in action who is not occupied already by all these visual pictures as is the case for many of his peers or even worse for us adults. For example, our haunted house in Murderous Ghosts was a strawberry – an idea I have to think of now every time when eating strawberries.
I had a couple of opportunities to play with old and new friends which I summarise under “stand alone” games. Also my solo games fall into this category.
Finally, Metatopia was a great place to be. Metatopia is all about playtesting and that mainly happens in 2 hours slots. Hence, I was literally running from game to game and I had my own game playtested twice. The hours I played with the Metatopia designer community doesn’t even include the board games I playtested there although some of them, like Wizards & Bazookas were actually as good as usually only RPGs can be for me. I will say more about Metatopia further below.
With the Indie-Freunde and the Gauntlet Community I finally found people with whom I could play all the fantastic indie games in my digital shelf which were waiting there for far too long to be played. Under story games I summarise everything what wouldn’t be considered a “Big Title” and has a precise focus on one type of story with mechanics mainly for driving the narrative directly. I have the full list of games I played further below but to give some examples I count Cthulhu Dark and Misspent Youth under this umbrella.
There wasn’t as much larping as I would like to have it in 2017. I had the opportunity to larp at Metatopia a bit and I’m keen to bring larping more into online gaming, something I would describe as “live action online gameing – laog”. What is not part in my statistics but could and probably should be considered as larp are the “Was sollen wir sein” stories my son and I play together while going for a walk (to school and from school every day for example). These are pervasive larps at their best: we play robots for example who pretend to be humans who try meet the mayor of town to stop him from banning all robots for a crime they didn’t commit.
|Stephen Deweys Annalers of the Skein|
Setting types and tones of games
In 2017, I equally played game sessions I classified as drama as I played “adventurous” stories. This year was actually the first year in which I played a horror game about the Cthulhu mythos. While I had played “Everyone is John” already before with the mythos, it wasn’t exactly horror what came out of it (and wasn’t intended). Compared to 2016 I had less adventure stories but more drama. Interestingly, while I would consider drama something I’m more interested in, in the end satisfaction I measured per session indicates I have on average a better time with adventure type stories, i.e. stories which are tending to be a more light-hearted.
The other classification I make of the sessions I play is by setting type. 2017 was finally the year in which I played some more Sci-Fi stories. Overall, I played nearly all types of settings more evenly, while the previous year’s dominating stance of fantasy melted down. The already in 2016 measured category fairy tales (then <1%) received some more recognition this year – thanks to the (German) 3W6 podcast to point out again the differences between fairy tales and fantasy stories. I didn’t follow the strictest definition of fairy tales though by also including parables and such in this category. For example, The Warren counted for me as a fairy tale.
Interestingly, Sci-Fi stories had the worst average satisfaction score and Urban Fantasy the best. It seems that Sci-Fi stories had a harder time with me creating stories which were great (best rating) while urban fantasy just happened to be always at least ok (third best rating).
When looking at the cross-sections of setting and tone there is a broad variety of combinations. Here, only the top 8 combinations are listed in order of their significance. The classic fantasy adventure leads by far. The best average ratings in this list received contemporary dramas and fairy tale dramas.
SatisfactionFirst and for all, I have to point out that the satisfaction rating isn’t as significant for me since there are so many dimensions it covers and doesn’t cover in the end. For example, all “bad” sessions, i.e. with the lowest rating were technical problem induced and hadn’t had anything to do with the actual story. Connection issues are unfortunately rather common for me in rural Guatemala, so quite some sessions suffered in terms of fun I had due to robot voices, the need to switch off video or sudden power outages missing half of the session etc. Fortunately, “bad” sessions by actual gaming were non-existent this year and also those where I for example had to drop out deeply sad for missing the game and leaving the others behind (once even as GM) were super rare (two).
|All my characters in 2017 - part 1|
Gauntlet Community is an international group of people interested in playing and discussing story games, indie rpgs and OSR. They run several podcasts (one general, one just for Dungeon Worlds, one to present new PbtA games and one for OSR modules), they produce a monthly fanzine called Codex, they have their own online software to organise curated online games and have - beside their public Google+ community - a Slack team for discussions. The organisers don’t make any money with it. All income from Patreon (4$ give access to the fanzine, 6$ to the Slack, 7$ one week priority access to games, 25$ to get personal support as a designer) go to contributors to the fanzine, improving the calendar software, contests etc.
The Gauntlet Community
The Slack currently has around 200 members and is the most valuable element of the Gauntlet to me at the moment. I really like the discussions in channels like “gm-support”, “design-feedback”, “feel-club”, “giving me life” or just “rpg-chat” and “need players”. It’s where 80% of my online thought exchange is happening since the beginning of 2017.
The online calendar brought me 246 hours of gaming, of which I ran 24 hours for others. It’s a neat tool for the way the Gauntlet organises gaming: open table, i.e. you don’t have to be around for every session and everybody can join any game. Games are planned if possible two months in advance but don’t have to be. To put up games you need to be known and trusted by the organisers or other regulars (it’s not that difficult but doing brings with it lots of trust). The X card is always on the table and the fabulous Gauntlet Inclusivity policy applies.
Currently, the Gauntlet calendar contains more than 230 games for January to March. There are people from all time zones in the Gauntlet (sadly not from all continents), so there is always something going on no matter if you are in Germany, Guatemala or Australia. I have played several times with four continents present.
I have started in 2018 to put up games in German on the calendar. This is a new series I started I called “Indie Schwarze Auge” in which I play indie games I love in the world of The Dark Eye: Fiasco, Deep Forest, Murderous Ghosts, Misspent Youth are in my head.
Another series I run is the “Gauntlet Wednesday Morning Drama” which is doing what its name says: games with a more serious or dramatic idea behind them, usually one or two-shots. In 2017 I ran for example Sagas of the Icelanders and Love the Time of Khvareneh under that umbrella. The latest game we played in that series is the live action online game (laog) Winterhorn by Jason Morningstar - a game about state terrorism and how to fight it.
MetatopiaMetatopia is an analogue game design conference in Morristown, New Jersey. I had heard that it has a great atmosphere, is very welcoming and brings exciting people together all around the kind of games I love. I wasn’t disappointed from what I got but quite the opposite. Usually, for environmental and financial reasons I would not fly for a couple of days long distances like crossing an ocean. This time, I already was on the “right side of the Atlantic” and I had enough time to combine visiting the conference with seeing friends in New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC making it a proper trip.
|Enlisting for games at Metatopia|
I was very happy that members of the Gauntlet community eagerly invited me their homes, so I could not only avoid unnecessary hotel costs but also spend some more time together with people I already know well from online play and discussions. It’s good to know that these virtual friendships extend so frictionless to real life. The goodness of the Gauntlet community transferred to Metatopia, too. There were around fifteen of us at Metatopia, I shared a hotel room with two Gauntlet friends, every morning we began with a joint breakfast, we took care for each, brought each other in touch with new friends and… well, I could go on forever about the beauty this community brought to my conference experience.
|My playtesters of Atitlan Riders|
Here is a link to a short racing game in the world of Atitlan Riders which works as stand-alone. The full game is still under development and more playtesting although the version under the link further above brings to a functionable version.
|A mini racing game for Atitlan Riders|
Players and DiversityIn 2017 I played with 113 different people. Of these, there were 104 people I had never played before, i.e. 92%. 67 people came through the Gauntlet (60%), 25 different players (22%) I met at Metatopia. The person who was with me the most with both of us as players (not GMs) was David LaFreniere (17 sessions), followed by Fraser Simons (14) and Rich Rogers (10).
|All my characters in 2017 - part 2|
That could sound devastating and to some degree it is indeed a step back. Still, I personally don’t feel thrown back into a gaming environment in which the overwhelming majority of men create a toxic atmosphere – something I tried to escape from in recent years. The Gauntlet as my main place of gaming has only had 8% of its gaming time for me filled with women, but there was at least one queer person on average in every game I played in. It’s a very welcoming community, they care for each other and I hadn’t had a single worrisome incident since I play and talk with them on a daily basis. The availability of the X-card is obligatory in all games they offer and their inclusivity policy is something which should be taken very seriously into consideration for other online gaming communities.
Interestingly, comedic and drama oriented games have a higher proportion of non-male gamers in my statistics.
FacilitatingI played 142 sessions in 2017 facilitated by 27 different people. I was the top facilitator with 90 hours followed by Jason Cordova who ran a whopping 74.5 hours for me. Rich Rogers and Lowell Francis come in third and fourth (38 hours and 29 hours). I would like to thank them all and put the whole list on here but I’m not sure in each case if they want to read their name publicly. But I thank you all so much for such a great time of gaming, for the work you have put into preparing the sessions, the love you run them with and how much you cared for your players.
For the games I facilitated I want to thank my players for the time they gave me, the passion in their play and how they made the world we imagined alive. I got some encouraging but also critical feedback this year which I value very much. My feeling is that I have learnt a lot as a player I can transfer back to my role as a facilitator. The two players who played the most with me facilitating were Tyler (27 hours) and my son (22 hours). I hope to play even more with you in 2018!
One thing I’m currently thinking a lot about is that Jason Morningstar’s most recent game Winterhorn which I facilitated for the Gauntlet end of 2017 as a live action online game, splits up the role of the facilitator – something I consider as a very useful idea since the tasks the facilitator has have grown a lot recently. For example, it would make sense to have the debriefing moderated by a different person or time keeping doesn’t have to be done by the GM necessarily.
Games I playedI played 74 different games. 14 games I gave more than 3 sessions / runs, 11 games I played for 9 hours or more. The top ten games I played all were Powered by the Apocalypse with Dungeon World on top with 50 hours.
Some of the sessions I was in got recorded and are publicly available on Youtube. I have a playlist where I collect all sessions I was in which is available here. The sessions I record are as well in this playlist.
|Masks in a zombie apocalypse by Lowell Francis|
For other systems I was confident that I could have a good time with two short sessions but didn’t have to commit for a whole month to it. So playing Dawgs with Rich Rogers and the Lowell Francis’ Fate Atomic Robo adaptation for Hellboy was just the right amount of time for a very satisfying story.
Then there are the very short games from the 200WordRPG competition of which some are played in less than an hour which make them perfect games for kids who have all the right reason to get up and do something else after a full hour of gaming.
|We Hunt The Keepers fan poster|
|All the games I played in 2017|
ToolsIn previous years I had collected details about tools I used for playing: battlemaps, background music, handouts etc. I tried this year but the way I gamed the categories from the past weren’t that useful anymore. I didn’t know that yet and hence don’t have statistics around the tools which actually would have been interesting to measure.
|rollforyour.party by Shane Liebling in action|
|An overlay for Tyler Lominack's Monster of the Week |
with two Gerrits
The third thing to mention is Youtube recordings. Many of the sessions I played in got recorded through Youtube, some of them published. I also record the sessions I facilitate. It’s a great archive. I use a service called huffduffer to extract the audio with a single click in my bookmarks in my browser (Chrome, Firefox). Then I can listen to the audio like a podcast. I do so for sessions in campaigns I missed and for sessions of which I’m curious about the system or the setting etc. I also listened to games I ran to see what works well and what not in the way I run.
|Our character keeper for Sagas of the Icelanders|
Obviously, we are still using Google Spreadsheets a lot as character keepers etc. – not much has changed on that regard. Same goes for Google Drawings. Roll20 was rarely used.
Characters I played and award ceremonyFinally we come to the people who are the real heroes in the hobby: our characters, PCs as well NPCs, protagonists, antagonists, side-kicks and saviours of human kind.
In 2017 I played 126 different noteworthy characters. That includes NPCs (34%) and characters with shared narrative control (9%). I played female and male characters to about the same frequency since I with the people I game with now I finally feel comfortable enough to play any gender I like to play. That wasn’t the case in the past and something I always missed.
There is an interesting element in my data: I didn’t think about it at all but it seems I was more likely to play a female character in a game without any women. Reverse, the average non-male percentage of games in which I played a female character was only 8.6% (average 11.5%) which is quite likely a statistically significant difference. My experience doing so though wasn’t always good – which I considered a valuable experience in itself.
To talk about the characters I played I picked the 42 characters which still excite me the most and created a private award ceremony in Gauntlet City for them. Each got nominated for at least one category. Then winners and runners-up were announced. We had a fantastic night together, stayed up until very late and drank pineapple juice and ate avocado chocolate cream as much as we could.
I close this article with the list of winners. But before, let's have an outlook into 2018.
What do I wish for in 2018All communities I gamed with were great. I hope to continue to play with Indie-Freunde, Gauntlet and my son and have as many great sessions as this year. I very unlikely will go to another American convention as Metatopia. My family currently plans to move back to Germany in May. That will also mean that all the games I currently play in the evenings will happen in the middle of the night due to time zones. Consequently, the people I can frequently game with will shift towards European times.
We already plan to have games in time slots which would make it possible to play with my Australian and my American friends also from Germany. That makes me very happy.
At the Gauntlet I hope to continue my two series: Gauntlet Wednesday Morning Drama and Indie Schwarze Auge. I really hope to excite some more German speaking players to "play the Gauntlet way": inclusive, with an open table, punctual and serious debriefing.
In Germany I hope to attend more events like "It's full of larps" again. These self-organised weekends just had a great feeling to me.
Some other designers in the community offered their help to finalise Atitlan Riders. A big dream of mine would be to bring this game to a point it can also be played in Santiago Atilan with teachers and students. But that it would also be of interest for people all over the world who like dramatic play, learn about the world and like to open their hearts at the table.
Most epic characters of the year1. Arcon Megalon, the Psion from Dungeon World We Hunt the Keepers, who is a Brogar dwarf based on a famous Dark Eye NPC and wants to learn about fear, empathy and friendship. He follows a faith into Colourful Creatures.
2. Vrak Goose Knight of Prain in Death Frost Doomed World of Dungeon who will stay in the dungeon as a last warden
3. Qaqbal Amidal The One Who Brings Fire - The Dragon in Urban Shadows from Lago Atitlan
• Silberschwert Leodwa is a skeleton in Skeletons which was the cruel bodyguard of the Pharao before he died.
• We are the People of As'Im in the Gather of the Tree of Life and we appear quite fundamentalist but just want the trunk to be strong.
• The Captain on a deadly mission to the North Pole who never believed in surviving in a Lovecraftesque world.
Best antagonists of the year1. Fig the fertile and immoral rabbit in The Warren who needs to make decision against her friends but for the warren a lot.
2. Mae Rika - the nerdy lovely traitor who might have her panties explode in a Tokyo Brainpop.
3. Gylda could have lived a peaceful life in the Sagas of the Icelanders but everybody considered her a witch.
• Adele is the Grey Haired Queen finding Love in the Time of Khvareneh
• Siaf the Owl in The Watch who has to learn quickly that powerplaying comrades invites the Shadow
• Sir Hayden who is a faithful soul with a dark Secret on his way to Lindisfarne - with a Witch
Most bad-ass characters of the year1. Sophie, the Dachshund who can really be a bitch in Dawgs
2. Genesis the Apparatus in The Veil on Darkest Friday who is the android into which Genesis P-Orridge wants to download their mind
3. Julia the Wyrm in Monsterhearts Mercy Falls 83 who is obsessed with seeing her friends close to death
• Dhama Da Kaldera a Lyre in SCUP who is the muse of the princess and drives her people's agenda with her whole body and voice.
• Messyahir, the Brown Elf Druid from Dungeon World Bay of Spirits who worships a worm which tells him to destroy the world
• Feridwen, the Goblin Elf Sewer Ranger in Dungeon World's Dragon Hoard who has moths as her animal companion and likes to stink
Most bleedy characters of the year1. My cold heartbroken obsessed alter ego from The Beast
2. Hanna - a grandmother afraid of dying alone based on my grandmother in Poutine
3. Sarah, the Nurse in Dead Scare who I based on my other grandmother I never got to know
• A heartless depressed foolish street racing driver who can't decide if he belongs to his crew or his family in Last Ride / First Ride.
• Monsieur Le Truc, the Magician and Expert Monster of the Week playbook in Charlottesville's prison, based on a version of myself I always wanted to be.
• La Coneja is The Clown in Gauntlet's WWWRPG and knows about her Latin American roots.
Most touching characters of the year1. Alex Hellmann, a young and optimistic student in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, who loves an older business consultant in Breaking the Ice
2. The Rat Kueengs Blue and Yellow, brothersisters leading a bike gang in Dream Askew
3. Aleydis The Radical from Velvet Glove who hates her violent uncle and loves her gang - too much.
• Anakin Glitterboy - Glamrocker in Spirit of 77 is Disco - who loves to give away his heart
• Kelly Perkins would have convinced the Mars Colony to find peace if it wasn't for the True Marsians
• Sofja Kowalewskaja, a Scholar / Lover in Alas for the Awful Sea, professor for mathematics and for a while living in the Paris Commune based on the real person under the same name who lived right in that time
Coolest characters of the year1. Aunt Annelie the Mundane was not the Monster of the Week in Appleton, based on the German actress Inge Meysel
2. Trini & Bini the Honeypot twins in Spirit of 77 Angel who never appear together in a scene.
3. Krrratz is a poet and a lion man in space trying to get the Impulse Drive running again.
• Gion Sappelstrap The Thief of Dungeon World's Ape City who can run fast when hunted by dinosaurs
• Freq the Fractal is The Nova in a zombie apocalypsed Masks Z.
• Momo is a pregnant super thief and found a way to steal the printing machines of the Bundesdruckerei in Caper
Most competent characters of the year1. Raphael Zapotek is a genius a bit Over the Edge 2E but he can burn things to learn about related stock market developments
2. Ingwar Jinsen - Online yoga teacher and carrier of the heart of Mooskat working at the Bureau for Paranormal Investigations in an Atomic Robo world
3. Gorgonzola the Vampire hunting Clown Helsing with a Pupskissen to steal the vampires' dignity
• Being the father of a family of cannibals it's your job to Welcome Guests
• Francesca is a Popular Kid in those Tales from the Loop and loves her skateboard.
• Alejandro is the most desperate Jefe of a Cartel you have ever met (honourable mention for being the most incompetent character of the year)