31-37 of 37 Questions
The final installment of a quiz, lifted from Tumblr, about D&D, in the style of LJ
Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this quiz series, should you want context, inasmuch as there is context in a stream of unconnected questions. The next issue will be back to more straightforward writing-about-things.
(The town of Ghend, described below)
31. Best game snack/drink?
This is a serious question. Much like Brennan Lee Mulligan, I need to snack while I game, and suffer the same problem that where the food goes in is also where the words come out. It’s one of the major differences of running online games, I find; I can stop to grab a slice of pizza or something in an offline game, and that gap in interaction doesn’t seem to happen so much on Zoom. Also, you can’t eat crunchy foods, because they’re sometimes super-audible to other people, and they stop you from hearing what’s going on for a few seconds. So no Doritos. With most of my games running on Zoom, I’ve settled on M&Ms as the best available thing, preferably the peanut butter ones, although they’re sadly not often available here. Or failing that, anything that’s in small, not-too-crunchy pieces.
When I’m just playing, it’s a case of whatever’s to hand. I’d like it to be pizza, but most often it’s my default zero-effort snack of microwaved Lidl frankfurters wrapped in a slice of Johnston Mooney & O’Brien’s ‘Toastie’ sliced pan. Yes, I have it down to one particular output of the Chorleywood process, and no, please do not @ me about the ironies of a reasonably knowledgeable food historian eating at the pinnacle of processed crap; I already know.
Drink: Coke Zero or coffee if I’m running the game, possibly a beer of some kind if I’m playing (Hobgoblin, most often).
32. Do you have any dice/other mechanic rituals? Do you feel like you roll abnormally well (or the opposite)?
I line all my dice up in groups, with the highest number showing. So all the twenty-siders go together, all showing 20, and then all the twelve-siders, all showing 12, and so on. I’ve been doing that for so long that I will occasionally glance down at my play surface and find that I have done so completely without conscious volition. I do not build dice towers, because that leads pretty directly to missing dice.
I used to feel I rolled badly, but as is the way of my ASD people, I tracked my rolls for a few sessions, and observed that the medium-term average of my d20 rolls was 10.5, and am therefore satisfied that whatever it feels like in the moment, I am within the standard behaviour of physics.
But I still love magic missile, because a spell that never misses is absolutely godly.
33. If you can, post your favorite comment/note/line from your game prep or gm notes made during a session.
Most of my games notes are extremely prosaic. I don’t write description in advance, and only the most terse of notes about the characteristics of NPCs, because I like to vary my level of description depending on how much attention people are paying, and where we are in the game session, and so on. If my most-likely-to-zone-out player is paying attention and we’re in the first hour of a session, a new location might get six or seven sentences of description. Later in the game, when the aforementioned player is clearly blanking everything after the first adjective, it’s one or two short, pithy sentences.
So the best I can offer, having looked through some, is “Ghend: Cold gothic streets; warm peasant interiors, undead, demons, steps, occasional random violence compensated by gold” - because it’s one of the few times I’ve managed to summarise a town in one near-perfectly-accurate line.
34. Do you do anything adjacent to your games like make playlists or journal (in character or about the game)?
Oh yeah. I have playlists, mood boards, diegetic documents, collections of portraits, diagrammatic maps, NPC journals and communications (few of which are ever seen by players, but serve very well in establishing what NPCs are doing behind the scenes), and all manner of other stuff. Game-adjacent stuff is something I really, really like.
35. How do you wind down after an intense session?
I apply experience points to NPCs and level them up if necessary. I go over the notes I made during the game, and expand them to the point where they’ll be meaningful when I read them again. This usually involves turning something like a scrawled “Methis, alch, Bird St vendor, vs Havnagar” into “Methis Alehouser, alchemical street vendor on Bird Street, opposed to Havnagar” in clearer writing. Sometimes it involves considerable staring to establish what I meant, because my hurried writing is incomprehensible even to me. I look at the next level that player characters in the game are going to achieve, what new abilities and spells they’ll get, and what fun things I can maybe do with those, and I check in on what various NPCs might be doing in the background and move their plans and activities along a notch or two.
36. How do you gear up to run a session? Any pregame getting into character/setting moments?
I read over my notes, get owlbear.rodeo loaded up with tokens in place, think a little more about goals for more social NPCs and tactics for the NPC and monsters liable to get into combat, and sometimes poke at mood boards while listening to the relevant playlists. Of late, I also feed some stuff into Midjourney, and see what it gives me back to push the visual side of my brain into not-quite-expected directions.
37. Wildcard: any question you haven’t answered and want to!
Do you do voices for NPCs? I ask myself.
Sometimes. I find it hard to hold together an accent for long, and if I have to use multiple accents in a game, they’ll blend together too much. I like a Russian-ish accent for dwarves, I use occasional French accents for the peasants of the Beacon Kingdoms in the Utterbaum game, and I can do a vaguely upper class British accent for when I want a snobby noble. I have some voices for kobold/goblin types, and one phlegmy horror for ghouls, and a squeaky voice for a collection of animated stuffed mice. But I can’t really or reliably do different voices, or at least not the way the professional voice actors on Critical Role and the like can. Mostly I try to indicate through diction and word choice what an NPC sounds like, and it seems to serve.
There was a recent video on the CR Youtube channel, in which Matt Mercer, Aabria Iyengar, and Brennan Lee Mulligan were chatting about GMing. It included some bits about the work they put into developing NPC voices, something of which I’ve really done very little. I prefer to invest my time in diegetic documents, or working up new monsters or magical items or the like, and I’m mostly at peace with that.