Saturday, December 15, 2012

Interview with Jim Harland - Part One of Nine

Me, in Chirine's armor; 38 pounds of steel, brass, leather, and paint.
There are 15,800 1/4" rings in the mail shirt.

Jim Harland publishes the "harlandski" blog [Link in the left column for you] from Central Asia, and contacted me last month to ask me some questions. I'm reprinting the conversation for your amusement, with his cooperation...

Jim's questions are in >italics, and my replies are in the plain text. In about a week, I'll save these posts as pages so they are available for you.

>Thanks for your mail. It's kind of you to offer to talk on the phone as I
>know from your 'house rules' that you don't like that way of communicating.
>To be honest I don't mind the telephone, but it's really difficult for me
>to use it for most of my day as I have two little ones to look after (I'm
>looking after the children whilst my wife resumes her studies and I wait
>for my work permit), and emails which I can half write and come back to
>later are much easier than phone calls.

    Understood; I hate the phone, as I get an incredible number of really annoying calls from people who really could have e-mailed.

>In any case I wasn't originally expecting a full description of how you
>used to play, and if it's too much trouble, please don't worry about it. I
>would be grateful for a reply about whether and how you used a 'caller',
>but there's no hurry. I was grateful for your quick replies whilst I was
>preparing my blog, but can wait for these matters of my own curiosity.

    OK, let me see how I can describe this in a short form; it's really about 'game management', as it' next to impossible to run a fun game for any number of people (over one) unless somebody is the 'voice' of the party to the GM. This comes out of the style of miniatures games we used to run, back in Ye Olden Dayes, where one person (who was supposed to be the 'expert' on whatever set of rules was being used in the game) was the refree / GM, and umpired / arbitrated the mayhem. The custom grew up that the senior commander on each side was normally the one who addressed the refree / GM, and once the contact was made then less senior commanders would ask their question and get a decision.

    Otherwise, we'd get six to eight people all taking at once, and nothing would get done because the referee / GM simply couldn't understand any of the players. This transitioned over into the RPG games, where *somebody*, usually the player who was most familiar with the rules being used in the game session, would be the one telling the GM what the group was doing; it was notmaly in our group for the players to whisper to each other or pass notes, so as to keep their intentions secret and to keep the noise levels down in the game room.

    When gaming with Phil or Dave, we had a variation on this where the player with the most experience with the particular setting would 'float to the top' and be in charge of the party or group. That person would be the contact point with the GM / 'caller', and the rest of us would try very hard to keep quiet and keep the noise level down. However, as you noted in the example of play from EPT, this system would collapse the moment combat or other desperate situation happened, and the 'custom of the house' for both Dave and Phil was that the 'caller' would stay in over-all 'command' of the party, trying to give instructions and orders, and the GM would simply 'go around the table' (from left to right, or something) and ask each player in turn what they were doing and resolve things as each player was polled. (Notepads! Lots of notepads!) This was also a survival from our miniatures game practice, as it made sure that every player got time with the referee / GM. Once the GM had gone around the whole table - hence the term of art, 'combat round' :) - the combat period / turn was over, and then the whole process would be repeated for the next period / turn / round. Repeat until done.

    Does that help, any?

>In the meantime I'm enjoying the adventures of Chirine baKal - it's a great
>way to share the memories of a roleplaying campaign, and I'm enjoying
>seeing the weird and wonderful Tekumel monsters in context.
>In short: no hurry, no worry!

    I'm glad you like the thing; it's basically a re-telling of Chirine's adventures over the 12 to 15 years I played out at Phil's, with some additional dialog to try and explain just who all these people are. I took notes every game session, which is where this all comes from; I've just finished some bit explaining / introducing people like Tsahul and her maid, who are both mentioned in one of Phil's "Imperial Dispatches" in the old 'Dragon's, and they are also still miniature figures in my collection - I did Tsahul's Livyani tatoos with a very, very fine drafting pen...

    I'm heading into te 'big battles', and I also have to fill in all the adventures in the Jakalla Underword that will be a very big part of Volume One.

    We tended to play the same PC out at Phil's for years, and we got to be a little careful; these were people we 'knew', after all... :)

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