Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Investing Beyond Books

by ryanrocketship
Investing Beyond Books
by Tobie Abad
Originally published last 2009.

There are many things that a Storyteller can invest on in making his games a more memorable experience. Too often, gamers find themselves spending loads of money purchasing expansion sets, supplements and other books with offer lots of game items and systems but fail to expand on the gaming experience.

In this article, suggestions on other things to purchase, try or use in a game are mentioned. These are things I have personally used in my own games with much success. I hope that you all find them useful as well.

Music CDs (and nowadays, mp3s)
Many have commented on the wonderful use of music to add mood and depth to the roleplaying environment. Here, I do not offer a list of CDs to purchase (simply because I know everyone has his or her own approach and personal taste).  That I will save in another post.

Keep in mind that music can be used in various ways:

a) Ambient sound in the game
Have the music be the sounds the character hears in the game. Is the plot set in a club? Then have the appropriate music running. Perhaps the game is in a forest? Try using nature sounds and the like. This approach can be very fruitful if done correctly, but is not the limit of the use of Music CDs.

b) Mood sound for the players
Notice how movies with wonderful scores can evoke emotional effects even if all you see on the screen is a shadowy figure against a window. Scores, with their rising cresendos and their ethereal quality can touch players and stir their emotions with the least effort. In fact, many movie directors use scores to highten the emotional drama of a scene.

The internet is a cost-efficient investment when it comes to research and information gathering needs of a game. Everything from maps to country notes, language tips to finer details of almost any topic possible can be found online.

Not surprisingly, everything listed in this article can, in one way or another, be accomplished or found in the internet.

City or World Maps
There are loads of places one can purchase such, and these can enhance the believeablility of a game. For those who travel a lot (or know someone who does) don't forget that free maps (with detailed street information) is offered by Airports through out the world.

From articles that house the information you need, to pictures to represent NPCs and locales, magazines (especially those sold in bargain bins with really low prices) can be a very good investment. Try looking for magazines with loads of pictures and images as well. The more obscure the images, the better, so players don't comment that the Prince of the City is Jennifer Lopez and the like.  Clip the pictures you need and paste them in index cards for easy reference.    When you need a new npc, draw a card with the look you want, scribble down the name and whatever notes you need and you got an easy visual reference to show your players.

Keep a diary. Each day, when one's real life unfolds, there is a story to tell. And from these stories, boundless possibilities exist that can be used in games that touch on life and the human experience.

Even if travel means simply going to and from school. Take notice of the people around you. Their mannerisms. Their manner of speech. Accents. Clothing tastes. Such "cheap" research can allow you to create more believeable NPCs and characters.

by Rosa Menkman
Movies and non-gaming books
Never neglect the fact that many memorable scenes and events and lines can be taken from a movie and extrapolated onto a game. "Vanity is my favorite sin," for example, is a line from the Devil's Advocate and yet can be used for any game genre.

Likewise, many books can offer new ideas and approaches that you might want to incorporate into your games in the future.  After reading Frank Herbert's Dune, you might want to create an NPC inspired by the Navigators.  Or maybe after indulging in Clive Barker, you realize you'd want an NPC inspired by the deadly Pie O Pah.

There's nothing wrong with buying loads of books of the game you are interested in. But realise that one can create a lot of original and unique ideas by investing on other resources to use for in a game. Avoid getting trapped in the mindset that the only good games are those based on what their creators wanted. Stealing from many, and shaping these ideas to something new is not plagirism. Think of it as research. Or world-wide brainstorming.

Of course, using music and others in a game are not as easy as it sounds. These take practice. In future articles, I shall expand on tips on using music and the like in a game.

Hope this article provoked new ideas. Never give up in trying something new!
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