Video Game Collecting Episode.010

2683188-collection

Collecting things seems to be in our blood for the most part.  We keep things for nostalgia or investment, sentiment or obsession.  Although there are exceptions, generally when you decide on something you want to collect, chances are there are many others wanting the same thing.  It’s what makes things collectable.  Nearly no one collects grass clippings for a collection.  In the last ten years especially, video games of the 80s and 90s have skyrocketed in both price and scarcity.  If you’re considering to join the many others in seeking out games of yesteryear, there are a few things to bear in mind before beginning.

Ask yourself the following questions before you even buy a single game:

“Just how large of a collection do I want to build?”

“Do I have enough space to store everything?”

“Am I wanting to display these for presentation or storage?”

“What specifically do I want to go after?”

“How badly do I want to go after the most valuable things?”

These are just a few of the necessary questions needing to be answered by you.  Take the time to know what you’re going to seek out.  Otherwise you wind up much like many of those I see online who post “finds” at a garage sale that includes a complete hodge podge of games from numerous systems.  If you have zero focus, you are going to wind up with a bunch of random things that really don’t make up a solid collection of any kind.

The best way to start is to pick your favorite gaming system of all time.  Was it the 16 bit Super Nintendo?  Perhaps the elusive Atari Jaguar?  Or it could be the hard to find Neo Geo system.  Perhaps you are going after just handhelds made by Nintendo.  Whatever the case may be that fits your preference try to get as specific as you can.  Even more, you could break down that decision into sub-decisions.  For example,  after deciding you want to get a complete collection of Super Nintendo games, break it down into acquiring every Marvel and DC theme game that was made for the system, or collect the entire Mortal Kombat franchise.  It will give you good focus, help you develop discipline (as you will need it), and get you a good start on your way to reaching your goal.

1895159

You are going to find a lot of crappy games that you won’t ever want to own.  These typically include the sports genre as there are a LOT out there sitting on the shelves of pawn shops and thrift stores.  If you’re going after a complete set of a system, you can either get these over with or save them until the end.  There is no rush as they will always be around.

Don’t settle for a terrible condition game just to fulfil a goal.  Be aware of reproductions.  If the game is a steal and you’re worried it will be bought before you come back from your research, pick it up knowing if it’s a fake that it will act as a placement holder until you find the real one.  If the game looks like it was used and abused, unless you are a wizard at repairing (and don’t mind that your game won’t have original labels on it), pass on it knowing there are others out there.  Part of the struggle in game collecting is waiting.  These games are out there, but they aren’t everywhere and they aren’t abundant.  You may hate yourself for passing on the badly damaged copy of Chrono Trigger after waiting 6 months without finding another copy that isn’t outrageous, but you’ll be glad in the long run of your collection if you do.  Be proud of your collection no matter the size of it.  This is your baby.  These are your games.

If you’re going for presentation rather than just storage of your collection, consider expanding a bit in your field to include merchandise relating to the system or a specific game made famous within the system.  Plan ahead, however, on your available space as you will naturally be buying other things unrelated to game collecting that will also take up space.

Don’t be afraid to haggle.  Garage sales are a definite haggle place, pawn shops can sometimes be brought down, and thrift stores are generally ideal as many store owners are unaware (yet) of their value.  Many pawn shops are lazy and referring to the Internet to get their prices, and they often overshoot the value substantially by visiting ebay and looking at 2 or 3 high bids (ignoring the actual sale price).   You should always be able to get $5 knocked off any game, and sometimes more than that if you are willing to buy a few more games.  Don’t force yourself, however, to buy several crappy cheap games to get a better deal on the one you want.  In the long run, it probably isn’t worth it unless the deal is substantial.

SEGA-Genesis-Sprites-Wallpaper

From the very start, put money back each month for the big hits.  Each system has the ultra-rare games that you may need in order for a complete set.  Games like Super Nintendo’s Earthbound will run over $100 and closer to $200 as the nostalgia and interest continue to rise.  If you can’t justify spending the excessive amounts on video games, then reevaluate your ultimate goal and consider either narrowing it down or selecting a different avenue.

Don’t let the games just sit on the shelf.  There are quite a few games that I haven’t played in 20-25 years because they are either ridiculously overpriced in value or they are extremely hard to find.  I’m wanting them to actually play and experience again, but with the value continuing to rise on video games, fewer and fewer people are wanting to part with them, hoping to get a better deal if they hold onto them a few more years.

If you come across loose cartridges or (gasp) loose CDs, don’t walk away in disgust.  There is a website called the Cover Project, which is a database of original and user-created case coverings.  You can also buy blank, plastic game cases for the covers so you have a more professional look on the shelf.  For CDs, I usually buy large quantities of the cheapest movies at flea markets for a few bucks and swap out the cover and disc.

Whatever road you take in collecting games, don’t let yourself get discouraged.  Know that this is not a goal that will be accomplished in a week.  It may take years, but it will give you something to do whenever you are out with others, especially if you’re bored.  Going shopping on Saturday with Mom isn’t quite as bad as you are on your own mission of discovery.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew, both financially and quantity value.  Know your limits on both.  When you have any portion of a collection noteworthy done, journey over to the information site, Reddit, and post on their game collecting page with photos that you proudly took of your growing display.  This might keep you motivated through each milestone you reach.  Happy hunting and gaming.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Advertisements

Continuous Motivation Campaigns Episode.009

Time passes as you reside in your recently completed stronghold overlooking the beautiful, picturesque Sanitoba Valley where most of your kingdom falls upon.  Thoughts fill your mind of past adventures and close calls that should have been your end, but through luck, skill, and your wits, you have achieved your dream of reigning over your now peaceful homeland.  Yet, each passing day, as you gaze out across the green meadows and forests that dot across the valley, you feel a sense of emptiness that you can’t quite put your finger on the cause of it…until one day.  Despite your gift of leading a people into a golden era, you were and always shall be an adventurer.  To hell with your age!  You oil your sword and armor, pack your old gear onto the young stallion that carries on the lineage of your late, trusty warhorse, Smoke, and you ride through the castle gates in search of the adventure that feeds your blood.

One particular issue I see frequently when either playing in or running an RPG is Continued Motivation.  That concept may not be necessary for the lucky group who lands players who are completely invested into their characters (not just interested in them because they are new) and a GM who has endless creative ideas for stories.  Especially for me who has been mostly a GM for over 20 years now, it can become more challenging to come up with story ideas that don’t feel old and overused.  The players may be brand new to RPGs, and their excitement about a plot involving a kidnapped princess in a wizard’s tower may match how excited you were when you first discovered the game.  It takes more than just enthusiastic players to keep a campaign from ending prematurely.

bored

It’s not easy to run a campaign.  Unless you have absolutely nothing else to do every day that would interfere with your work, you have to find time to sit down and jot some notes, maybe sketch a map, draw out some handout visuals, paint some miniatures, etc., all while carrying out your normal daily routine.  Every week/month.  It can become taxing on anyone’s mind and creativity.  Some people are gifted at coming up with brilliant ideas, day after day, while others struggle after a certain time on thinking of “what next?”

First, once the outline of the campaign has been laid out, try making one-page one-shot adventures.  Keep them loose and simple with a general story arc for the plot, a few main NPCs, and perhaps a background.  Whenever you come up with a general idea or great concept, make a note on your phone or notepad or computer for later.  When you have time, sit down and type up the one-page, make a template if you wish for better organization, and file it away for a rainy day.  Continue building your archive.  These will be used when you are running dry later on in the campaign and you need a week or two “off” to rethink the main campaign.  Nearly everyone can write one page, which is why we keep these simple adventures that length.

Once we have built up a dozen or so mini-adventures, we can focus on the campaign itself once again.  Most notably mini-campaigns.  Comic books are typically the best place for the story-arc mini-campaign concept.  Few comic books have stories that continuously go on for more than a few dozen issues (yes, there are exceptions like Green Lantern’s War of Light trilogy).  The shorter arcs are easier to keep people’s attention, provide fresh plots more frequently, and allows for new readers to jump into a series without having to wait very long.  The same principle applies to roleplaying game campaigns.  By eliminating the mega marathon campaign and implementing smaller, 3-4 session campaigns, players may find themselves more attached and interested in the game for longer periods of time.  Despite the exceptions, many of us have shorter and shorter attention spans as the world moves faster and faster with improved technologies.  Keeping things fresh by rebooting the story every month or two will revitalize the energy of the game.

For those meeting frequently enough, rotating GMs may be another solution.  Some groups are capable of remembering and keeping track of more than one story as long as there is enough contrast between the two.  Don’t try running two fantasy RPGs.  Keep the genres apart.  As a GM, it is more critical with this method to have a recap before each session.  Chris Perkins, co-creating of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition (and an excellent GM) will always start his sessions like a TV series by saying, “Previously on —.”   He has stated in his blog that it almost always gets everyone’s attention and brings focus to him immediately.  Either provide key notes for the players or encourage them to take their own notes by providing each with small notebooks or pads.  Unless they are just completely irresponsible, they will always have the pad along with their dice and character sheets.  I have tried putting together small binders to each player that holds pencils, a spiral notebook, their character sheet in a plastic sleeve, and all handouts.

Dragon_Age_3_13508462251746

Another issue that can hurt a campaign is gaps between sessions.  This is one of the, if not the most, common reason for a group to fail.  We have lives outside of our game, and they often interfere with our nights especially when the sessions go for weeks or months.  Generally this happens more frequently if the group is larger than 4 or 5.  I know it’s tough to say no to your friends when you announce the beginning of a campaign, but having 8 players is only going to lead to disaster.  It’s inevitable.  Eight people cannot possibly keep the same open night every week for months at a time.  Keep the group small, and have each person look back in their calendars and find a day of the week they really don’t have anything ever going on.  Few kid’s rehearsals/games, no favorite TV shows, no late nights at the office, no chores, nothing.  And that right there says a lot.  We are busier than we realize until we try to find a day when we never have anything to do.  However, the decision should not be taken lightly.  Yes you look like you will be free for the next 3 weeks on Wednesday, but remember your favorite sport is about to start in 2 months that often plays Wednesday nights?  Keep an eye on the big picture to avoid any late-running scheduling issues.

Decide up front on how many people the group accepts to be absent before the game has to be canceled that night.  This applies to moments in the game that are critical (i.e. dragon battles).  Decide as a group how to handle moments like that.  Avoid having to miss a week because the next week another person may suddenly be busy, and now you’re looking at a 3 week delay between sessions.  When these moments occur, immediately get together where you all can talk at the same time (at the very least emailing as a group), and choose the next possibly night everyone is free.  There’s no difference in doing this than someone asking you if you’re free to go see the new movie this Friday.  Don’t be afraid to temporarily change your game night to make sure the sessions continue without gaps.  The only time a gap may be necessary is in between the mini-campaigns to prepare for another series.  Perhaps take this time to go out as a group and socialize together at a restaurant or a movie.

Participating in a campaign takes dedication just as if you picked up karate, yoga, tennis, or the piano.  Treat it as important as any other activity in your life because it affects other people.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Mastering as Game Master: Conventions Episode.008

The ring hovers in the air after you touch it, spinning methodically in an encasement of blue sapphire.  It resonates that chatter your teeth and make goose bumps on your arms.  The thoughts of the numerous battles, traps, and puzzles you’ve championed since you initially embarked upon this incredible journey months ago almost overwhelm your senses of nostalgia.  This artifact means so much to your tribe, however.  The spinning slowly comes to an end, and you take it into your possession.  No sooner than you do….Oh I’m sorry, everyone.  Our time slot is up.  Thank you for playing.

Playing a game at a convention just feels different than when you are at home with your friends around the table.  There is something unique, something special, that you can’t help but feel a better sense of awareness of what’s going on in the game.  Our minds are more focused, and we can ignore more environmental distractions.  Even a GM should approach a con game differently than when they are playing among friends at home.  More is at stake.

A minor digress.  Out of every convention I have attended to play role playing table top games, I can count the number of cons that required me to pay to play each game on one hand.  Most of the time, these are “justified” by the convention paying for their badge or a portion of a hotel room.  This is simply ridiculous and just a way of bringing in more money into an already profiting convention.  If attendance is reaching 40,000 to 50,000 attendees, and you give out 4,000-5,000 free badges, the amount of money brought into the convention by the other 35,000 – 45,000 attendees easily trumps the loss in earnings.  Moreover, a large reason those ~40K attendees bother to show up is because of the GMs who are willing to run a game.  It’s almost as bad as having to buy a membership to a store in order to shop there.  It’s the same concept though.

301497

  “Overgrown” by nilTrace

Back to the topic at hand, a GM should approach each convention game with the perspective of being a professional GM.  In a sense, you are paid to run your game.  There are people who not only chose to play in your game but were willing to pay additionally to assure a seat.  That really is a humbling feeling.  As a result, a GM should go above and beyond their usual methods of running a game in order to give these individuals satisfaction for the cost of the game.

Keep in mind that the players either regularly plays with a group at home or they never get to play except for conventions.  If the former, they are going to come in with experience from their games.  They sit around a table, they have nothing more than dice and their character sheets, and they game with the same GM.  If the latter, they come to the conventions in hopes of their experience to be so memorable that it holds their craving over until the next convention.  Either way, a GM has a duty to entertain to the best of their ability for the time slot.

First, you should have a practice run of your game with your usual group with a strict 4 hour time limit.  Just like we rehearse for a speech that cannot be longer than a certain period, GMs should prepare for their game to finish in the allotted time slot.  Even more, expert GMs should wrap up completely within 10 minutes before the end to give players enough time to make it to their next game on time.  Sloppy GMs will still be playing at the end of the slot, go over it by 15 minutes, and screw up the next game at that table as well as every other game each player is about to play next.  Keep a watch handy, keep an eye on it, and break your game down into intervals that are easily chewable.

For example, the first hour could be just roleplaying with townsfolk to acquire clues on the overall plot.  The second hour would be the first half of the journey to the destination.  A break is taken at the 2-hour mark, and then the third hour involves entering the destination and exploration.  Leave the final entire hour for the last confrontation.  Take the structure of the plot and practice running each segment, making notes on what slowed time down and what could be changed to pick up the pace (or slow down if it’s moving too fast).

Second, try to do a little bit more than just narrate the game.  Although role playing games are meant to stay in the mind, consider a few handouts for visuals to add to the realism.  Perhaps it can be an image of something that is difficult to describe (or important to show every detail).  Bring a map of the area.  If you wish, provide battle maps (preferably already drawn to save time) and miniatures.  Or just bring miniatures to have each player set on his character sheet to have a showpiece while they play.  Go all out and build terrain out of foam board.  Create, or have someone create, custom-made character sheets in full color.  Provide background music or triggered sound effects.  Any of these would be fine and bring your game more to life and unique for the players.  Sometimes it is unnecessary to be extravagant to raise the bar:  bring a second person to co-GM separated groups.  Whatever the case may be, it’s the added elements that can spice your game up to make it a bit more memorable.

105360

Third, and this may just be a pet peeve, but character creation at conventions is just wrong and a definite sign of a lazy GM.  If you are going to have players spend 30-60 minutes of their paid time rolling up characters, then it had better be stated in the description that it’s an introductory game to be run in an abridged timeframe.  Typically a convention game slot is 4 hours, and after late straggler arrive, then creating characters, we have burned up the first hour.  Never have players roll up characters at the conventions.  Take the time of making pre-gens.  You wanted to sign up as a GM, and you did so with weeks to spare.  If you have a regular meeting group, have them roll up characters before or after a game session so they are ready by the convention.  Players nearly always enjoy making new characters.

Finally, think about the games you played in as a player that you remember fondly at conventions.  Was the GM talented at speaking in multiple characters with different accents?  Did the GM bring 3D terrain?  Elaborately drawn maps?  Well painted miniatures?  Or was it something else such as keeping pace going smoothly, making sure everyone has equal time to speak up, or just having a well-written plot?  Just walking around conventions, it’s obvious many GM’s have taken this initiative and found their own ways of making sure the players have the best experience for their game.  Truly the goal is to have players remember your game the following year.

 

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

Being a Closet Nerd Episode.007

Darkness creeps across the calm prairie with a chill wind just cool enough to bring goose bumps to the skin’s surface.  You’ve been followed by an unknown for most of the day now.  You’ve seen a figure off in the distance pacing you step for step.  Looking around the campfire, your companions seem to have no interest in your observation of the pursuer.  It’s as if their interests are elsewhere.  Indeed, the conversations abound with current affairs of entertainment and not of rich, vivid adventures that you have partaken.  With the last glimpse of sunlight disappearing below the horizon, you wonder if it was all worth keeping the truth of your assailant a secret from your friends.  Too late, the follower arrives…

Recently I had dinner with a new friend to which my gaming experience came up in discussion.  I had vaguely mentioned that I played nerd games with my uncles on occasion, hoping to dodge the subject for at least until we knew each other more comfortably.  She pursued the vagueness more, wishing to know exactly what I meant by nerd games.  I confessed of playing Dungeons & Dragons despite my age, yet I was fortunate that she had also played the game…when she was 6.

I’ll admit I am a bit of a closet nerd.  When in my element such as a convention, I will throw back the veil that I wear while in public and talk lingo that only my fellow gamers would understand.  We debate hypothetical situations in role playing games on DM decisions or share tales of past games that were most memorable.  However, when I am with non-gamers in public, I seldom, if ever, bring up the notion I even play the game, let alone admit I have a few thousand rule and sourcebooks.  It’s not from shame or embarrassment because it’s really no different than watching sports, going camping, or grilling out in the backyard.  There is a stigma (not stigmata) of the concept of role playing games.  Long gone are the days when there was a belief that games had a connection with satanic worshipping.  People have moved on from that.  There is a stereotype that remains among gamers that can cause awkward silences and moments among others, however.

Castle_by_TinyPilot

 

“Castle” by TinyPilot

I’ve been to conventions many times before.  And although it’s not an overwhelming factor, there are some truths to the stereotypes that I see throughout.  The biggest factor is that there is a lack of hygiene among attendees.  It seems the larger the convention, the more abundant the funk is as the week progresses.  You would think that the majority of people who have access to deodorant and running water would take advantage of such basic necessities, but this would not be the case.  I have seen some conventions try to hand out free sticks of deodorant and watch as they all go untouched (except me!  You bet I want free deodorant!  Those are $3-5 a stick).

Another stereotype is that many who play the game are not “socially comfortable.”  The unfortunate truth is that the collective whole of this world can’t be in the same group.  We have different beliefs, behaviors, desires, motivations, and looks that cause separation.  Whether you feel this is right or wrong, it is what it is.  As a result, those who might not have the confidence in themselves to speak up, mingle with others, or become comfortable around strangers tend to either fall back in the crowd or find those who are like them.  Like conventions.

There have been so many individuals whom I have had the pleasure of meeting at gaming conventions that shine like a lighthouse at these events.  They will step up, show leadership among their peers at the gaming table, and act very comfortable and outgoing.  The second they return back to their regular daily lives, they revert back to their hesitancy.

For one, conventions and role playing games are incredibly powerful for people who struggle to find their inner voice and gives them an opportunity to be more themselves.  Yet they are only temporary.  Those who don’t attend the conventions or their local game night might never see the real side of these people.  Observers go on to feel they are just socially awkward, which can often lead to avoidance or limited conversations with them.

20f67d8e13ada178b3fcb1af72e909ab1407516418

It’s really no one’s fault for associating role playing games improperly.  I have introduced the game to people who would never dream of touching the game only to discover they love it.  On the other hand, I have seen many lose interest immediately.  It’s a lack of association with the game that brings up these various stigmas that people refer to at the mention of RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons.

There is no shame of playing RPGs.  And no one should ever judge or misjudge you when mentioning your enjoyment of the game.  However, also keep in mind that the game is not for everyone, and unless they have shown interest in playing, which many people do not, then don’t be discouraged by keeping the idea to those who are.  Your true friends will accept your interests and embrace the fact you enjoy the games, but when dealing with co-workers or associates that are just acquaintances, respect the fact it’s not for everyone and know that there may be misconception.

Having said that, if there is ever a chance to introduce them to RPGs, take advantage of it.  Show them the very general concept of the game.  Don’t get too involved or in depth.  Don’t have them create characters, provide them with pre-gen’s that are stripped down to the bare necessities.  These would include some kind of health measurement (i.e. hit points), a single weapon, some kind of protection, and a few skills to show what kind of character they are playing.  If you provide them with a spell caster, have a printed out sheet of the spells (limit to no greater than 4) with a 1-2 sentence description of what it does (ignore the tedious measurements of distance or time, just the effect).

And keep the game simple.  The party explores an abandoned church or windmill or two-room crypt with some minor role playing at the start.  Always keep in mind they know nothing of the rules and the concept of a roleplaying game other than when they were kids and pretended to be heroes in their backyard.

Although the perception of the game has changed over the years, it still remains to be a game that the majority of people in this world view differently than gamers.  They simply have no interest in hearing about it just as if you have no interest in hearing about quantum physics.  Perhaps, however, with more interest in various commonalities within the “nerd world” such as super hero movies, shows like the Big Bang Theory, and popularity in fantasy and sci fi books like Harry Potter and Hunter Games, the bridge will become shorter and the concept more acceptable and understanding among the majority.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.