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Time to round up my mini-series, and finish with the last of three gamer archetypes, namely the most vile, vicious and dangerous Spike!

To reference back to Magic once again, you knew that if you went to your FLGS that there be someone who would urge you to play a match against him. Most of  the time, these were fat, snobby kids who got far too much money for their hobby from their parents and who didn’t mind to skip gym class in order to get their favorite chair in the store.  This excess amount of money and time gave them the tools to build vicious decks with the most exotic of combos, and only another deck with the same degree of efficiency could stand tall against them. And should they meet such a deck and even lose to it, these overweight high school pranksters would break into tears and tell you that you cheated or that you had luck on your side. Enter the world of the Spike.

I just hate Spikes, especially when theyre gloomy, emotional vampires in some 90s teenie show

I just hate Spikes, especially when they're gloomy, emotional vampires in some 90's teenie show

Now, I will be dead honest with you: nobody likes a Spike, especially not in a “non-winner” genre like tabletop role-playing games. This is because of two things. One, a Spike ALWAYS wants to win. Two, should a Spike lose he will blame every other player at the table for his most terrible failure. Witty readers will have noticed that a Spike meets a basic problem in an RPG: you cannot win alone. The “victory” in a role-playing game is to experience a thrilling story together, and beat down some evil badasses. Should the party succeed in this, a Spike will claim that it was all due to his magnificent insight into the rules and the world. Should they fail, a Spike will declare his fellow characters AND players to be incompetent tools with the intelligence of a rotten hamster, annoying everyone at the table with his grim visage he keeps intact for the rest of the session.

Most groups will try to either change the attitude of a Spike towards the game, showing him that a role-playing game is more than a lone wolf endeavor. Luckily, most Spikes will understand this after some time, and will soon become more enjoyable fellows. It is not uncommon that a new player starts his “career” as a Spike, until most of his colleagues pull him down from his Throne of Duchebaggery, converting him into the environment-friendly Johnny. Sadly, this does not happen to all Spikes.

So, what do you do with a Spike who just doesn’t want to change his mind? Well, the only “true remedy” would be removing him from the game, for the sake of everyone else. A die-hard Spike in your group is like poisoning your village’s well: sooner or later the other players will stop to show up, infected by the more than irritating attitude of the Spike. And I guess you, my fellow GM, do not want to run a one-man show, right?

A few days ago, I took a look at the player archetype called Timmy. To continue the mini-series, I’ll discuss the second of three gamer “stereotypes” I present you in Labeled Boxes!

As you know, these stereotypes are derived from the trading card game Magic. A big part of every collectible game is the customization, and finding ways to tweak and improve your strategy. However, some players see that share of the experience as the most important one and devote most of their time in their “deck garage” to enhance their combos and their odds of winning. Back when I played, we called these guys Johnnys.

They actually devoted a card to him...

They actually devoted a card to him...

I guess every GM has met at least one Johnny. It’s the kind of player who creates forty different drafts of his character sheet before declaring one of them his “finished masterpiece”. Also, a Johnny likes to spend his time reading sourcebooks and online articles about the game he plays, and tweak his character based on the information absorbed from them. He’s the kind of player who has an Excel sheet on his laptop to calculate the odds of an exceptional success when firing his Beretta while driving a car and being gnawed on by dire rats.

This sounds like a Johnny is a kind of munchkin, trying to use loopholes in the rules to his on advantage. However, this is anything but true. A Johnny does not improve his character to “win the game”, as far as anyone can win in role-playing games. Instead, the Johnny devours rulebooks and forum discussions on his character’s class because he wants to improve his personal experience. Like the Timmy, the Johnny just wants to have fun. Unlike his brother archetype, he finds this satisfaction in rolling enormous crits and finally getting that +3 flamestrike bow.

The danger a Johnny presents is that his knowledge of the rules and the amount of specialization his characters went through might overshadow the other player characters. Sure, Timmy’s sorcerer knows some good spells, but Johnny’s multi-classed sorcerer / wizard / paladin knows about the same arcane mysteries, and can wield a magical sword at the same time. This might cause a feeling of redundancy in the other characters and their players, making them feel useless in comparison to Johnny’s well-tuned expert.

A simple pre-emptive remedy against this, is simply putting the Johnny and his character up against a situation in which his “killer combo” doesn’t work. So he thinks his well-trained gunslinger, fine-tuned with the necessary merits and equipment is the biggest mother in the Wild, Wild West? Let’s see how he’ll survive a buffalo stampede his six-shooter’s noise caused. These challenges should be moments where the other, not so “perfect” characters can shine, giving them the opportunity to see what they’re worth.

So, now you learned everything about the Johnny. Later this week, I’ll end this series with an article about the power-hungry Spike. Stay tuned, dear readers!

Finally I got my hands on a copy of Geist: the Sin-Eaters, and I have to say I am more than surprised by the awesome atmosphere of the game. Now, at first the idea of playing someone who returned from the brink of death by bargaining with an undead spirit didn’t speak to me. But as I read through the book, all the pieces came together and formed a most beautiful, yet morbid image in my head.

What enchanted me the most was the whole system behind sanctifying Krewes. To me, it feels like the Paradigms from the old Mage: the Ascension, mixed with a bit of Pack Totems from both Werewolf games. Also, Geist delivers an awesome description of the Underworld, one of the parallel dimensions that was short on accurate information. The upcoming Book of the Dead is all about that, so if you just want input about the Great Below, but don’t intend to play a Sin-Eater, you might want to wait for that product.

All in all, I can’t wait to run a game of Geist. Maybe I should start out with the introductory story? We’ll see. Of course, I’ll keep you up-to-date on Exceptional Success!