Tag Archives: gaming

Lines and Veils

16 Dec

I recently came across someone outlining the rules of a game and doing something rather odd. He asked his group “what actions are off-limits?” At first, I dismissed this as overly touchy and sensitive, but the more he talked, the more he made sense.

The game is Vampire: The Masquerade (5th Edition), which I last played in college under the first edition, so I didn’t even know that they made four more since then. This was also called a “session zero,” which again, is another term I never heard before. That’s a way to explain the game to a group of people who have never played it, which I have participated in before, but never heard the term.

I was watching Dice Friends, which is a recording of folks playing an RPG up in Victoria, British Columbia. Their group–Loading Ready Run–is a brilliant group of internet comedians that I’ve followed for years. So to have them play an RPG is great to watch. However, they are UBER-liberal, so to hear them talking about lines and veils immediately struck me with the same disdain I have for “what are your pronouns” (which are on their Twitter feeds) and putting “x” at the words to make them gender-neutral.

However, I gave it a listen, and the more they talked, the more the concept made sense. I play Dungeons and Dragons regularly, so this issue doesn’t come up very much. You know what you’re getting into with DnD–you’re going to weapon-up and kill monsters. This is the way. If you have a problem with that, this is not the game for you. On the other hand, when my son (13) runs a game, he likes to be overly descriptive when it comes to finishing off a creature, and his sister (10) really doesn’t like that. That’s her “line,” and given enough “Asher! Stop!” he eventually listens.

When you’re dealing with a horror game, what you’re in for is… not exactly clear. If you’re used to DnD, you’d be surprised just how different another RPG is. Vampire does have combat, but it also has negotiation, mind control, sex… and that gets into some oogie areas. What if you’re a vampire who only feeds on dogs? The most blood thirsty barbarian player in DnD may be iffy about gory details about killing dogs.

So lines made sense, but some things are part of the game, like drinking blood. You’re a vampire. You can’t get around the fact that you suck blood from someone. So if you have trouble with this, you create “veils:” this where you just say, “Okay, you do that.” No description, just move on.

The more I heard about this, the more I liked it. Just tell your players, “If at any point, you don’t like what I’m talking about, just say, ‘Stop. That’s a line for me,’ and I stop.” I don’t have to go into as much explanation as this particular GM did, but then again, I’m not playing an RPG that people haven’t played in before. This may or may not work in everyday conversations, depending how comfortable you are with that person, but it’s good in this context.

How does making your lines in conversation/gaming work for you? Is this a new concept for you? Is this a bunch of touchy/feely clap trap? Let me know in the comments below!

Stepping Out of the Dungeon

2 Dec

I’ve been running a D&D game for two years. This has not stopped due to COVID, we just went online. The players have not remained the same, but the game continues. However, I’m beginning to worry–how do I get them off the screen and back at my table?

This is where “Your Mileage May Vary.” Not everyone’s at the same comfort level with social interaction as I am, and that’s true in my group as well as my life. I’m thinking about this now, even though my current campaign won’t run out for another couple months, because I’m getting REAL tired of playing online. My work is online, my games are online… I want to actually interact with people, not an image of them.

First off, it costs me–playing on Roll20 requires a monthly subscription ($5) and then the platform’s adventure cost an additional $25 each time I start a new campaign (every three months or so). When we were at Desert Sky Games, I actually got paid for running the game. Each of the players paid $5 per week, got $2 back in store credit, and I got $2.50 in store credit. It let the store get their money, players got credit, I got credit–it worked beautifully! I got all my D&D stuff for “free,” it was great. Now I have to ask my players to contribute and they do… somewhat.

Second, we no longer have a game store to come back to. The owners are on the extreme end of COVID scared, and after months of wondering, they decided to close their original shop and get into a smaller location–without a gaming area. Apparently, they got enough business to justify staying open, although they had to take a hit from not having people arrive. Magic cards was the biggest part of their business, and without people actually meeting in person to play…? Selling cards still pays the bills, I guess, although I can’t see how.

Third, as I said, we’ve changed some players. We have seven in our circle, which frankly, is amazing for any game. One is NOT in the Phoenix metro area, which I thought I could afford to lose, but now another is moving out in another month. That still leaves five core players, but one couple is taking care of their elderly father, so I’m not sure how hot they will be to meet in person again. So that leaves three I might get in person.

I’m thinking of a blended campaign–with half the group away, half in person–but my own experience with someone calling into a game has not been great. I can offer my dining room table and a friend has offered his house in the past, but that Zoom delay… it’s a killer. If everyone is on their computers, but half of them together, that might work… but then, what’s the point of meeting?

I’m torn. Have you run into this problem before? Do you have a solution? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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