I wasn’t going to write and publish this until later in the week, but a mis-remembered schedule means that there will otherwise be no article today, so this seemed the practical solution. After all, the odds of a late entry coming in grow vanishingly smaller with each passing day; the carnival itself has well-and-truly moved on to 6d6RPG, where the topic is garbage and sewers and, presumably, things that go “rot” in the night (sorry, failed saving roll).
NB: The following are not presented in chronological sequence of receipt, they have been grouped by subject matter.
The place to start is with the anchor post by yours truly, which spelt out the scope of the subject, “Ordinary Lives“, in addition to providing an unrelated article on the expiration of potions. It identified three major headings within the subject, and I’m pleased to say that between the contributors, there was something on each of those subjects.
All links will open in a new tab/window.
The Ordinary Life of the GM
The first major topic dealt with how the GM manages his work/life/gaming balance and the compromises that have to be made – and how to cut corners and not have it show.
1. Campaign Mastery
Campaign Mastery led the charge in this area with “The Everyday Life of a GM“. In this somewhat omnibus post on the subject, I looked at how my ordinary life had impacted on my ability to prep and my capacity to run RPGs through different periods of my life, and some of the unexpected impacts on things like GMing style. These things always happen more smoothly if you consciously accept the consequences to your gaming instead of blindly trying to maintain business-as-usual, so I expect the greatest value of this article being how GMs can alter their gaming to fit in with changes to their real-world commitments. I consciously tried to offer as much practical advice as possible for that reason.
2. Renaissance Gamer
Brent Jans, aka the Renaissance Gamer, also found the topic to be one to his liking, and led off a trilogy of posts with “The Ordinary Life of a GM: Getting Lost“, which is full of great advice on how to get things back on track when you get entangled in your own plot webs and lose track of who’s doing what to whom and why.
3. Tales of a GM
Phil Nicholls provided “Mixing Gaming with Life” late in the month, and really deserves the last word in this section for his deeply introspective piece on how gaming informs and influences every other area of his life, and vice-versa. If ever you find yourself struggling with fitting gaming into your work-life balance, this is the article to read for inspiration and motivation.
The Ordinary Life of the Players
The second part of the subject dealt with player interactions with the game and how their ordinary lives could impact on it. This probably posed the hardest questions to get to grips with, and so unsurprisingly, there were relatively few entries.
4. The Watch House
Leading off my listing of contributions in this category is The Watch House, with Ordinary Life, which talks about how differing levels of player interest defines the approach that the author, Craig Oxbrow, takes to the subject.
5. Renaissance Gamer
Brent Jens offers a second post for the Carnival, “The Ordinary Life of the PCs: Making Magic Magical“, in which he first laments the absence of the “magic” in D&D 5e’s item creation subsystem, then plugs the gap in an interesting way – by integrating the item creation process into the character’s ordinary life. An excellent article for even GMs and players of other editions and genres to read. This article is about transferring a player-reality activity into game reality, and as such, it could go in either this section or the next.
6. Renaissance Gamer
A third submission from Brent, in which he answers a metagaming question that I posed in the anchor post – “If one of your players has had a bad week, do you consciously twist the game in a direction they will like to get them ‘in the mood’ or permit them to blow off steam – rather than letting it interfere with the game in some more substantial way?” This was an intentionally-loaded question, and I was very much hoping that someone would pick up the issue and run with it. In “The Ordinary Life of the Players: Feeling Happy?“, Brent does exactly that. He describes the results as feeling a little disjointed as thoughts on the subject crowded in on him, but I would actually consider this the most inspirational of his three submissions, because he ends by turning the question on its head and asking what the GM does to deal with a bad week without becoming a feral killer-GM. I was left thinking that the whole subject was something that should be chatted about at far greater length, that the surface of a far deeper conversation had only been scratched. Definitely food for thought for every GM.
The Ordinary Life Of The PCs
The third article dealt with questions of verisimilitude and the incorporation of a character’s day-to-day existence into the game.
Clark Timmins created this blog at RPGGeek purely to participate in the Blog Carnival. His article, “The Real Life of Heroes“, asks why PCs should have to suffer any form of Ordinary Life and raises some very valid questions along the way. While I disagree with his conclusions (as you’ll discover later in this list), I agree with everything else he’s written on the subject, and recommend it as food for thought for any GM designing a new campaign – or running one already.
8. Board Enterprises
Board Enterprises found that this topic really resonated with them, leading them to submit three very diverse articles to the Carnival. This is the first of them, “Ordinary Life in RPG” in which he/they realize that “Ordinary Life” touches on almost every product they have have published and at least one that is still mired in development, and in which they argue that “an adventurer’s down time needs to be split between working, training and living, and those takes hours and money. Balancing that is the trick.” I’ve always felt that the economics of adventuring and adventurers were a fascination topic (right behind the sociology of adventurers as a social class) – is dungeon-bashing a hobby, a crisis intervention, a part-time job, or a profession that can support a decent lifestyle as the sole source of income? What are the social, political, and economic implications? This article only scratches the surface of these topics!
9. Board Enterprises
Most people would be content with a single submission (I go the extra mile when I’m hosting), but Board Enterprises went further, as I said a moment ago. In their second submission, “(Prior) Ordinary Life in RPG“, they look at a character’s backstory, which is often the only “ordinary life” component they experience. Creating a backstory with strong links to the diverse cultures and locations within a campaign binds the character to the campaign and makes players more invested in the lives of their characters, a tenet with which I heartily agree.
10. and 11. Campaign Mastery
A two-part article primarily focused on Fantasy PCs but applicable to all genres with a little adaption, which proceeds from the same foundation as the above-mentioned Board Enterprises article. The first part, “The Ordinary Life of a Fantasy PC“, describes a new campaign planning tool, most effective with new campaigns but viable even with long-established games, for working out what the ordinary life of a PC should look like, based on their backstory. This tool is rather more abstract and big-picture than every other character “survey” that I’ve seen, and designed to ensure that each PC has equal opportunity for an equal share of the spotlight.
The second part, “The Extraordinary Life of a Fantasy PC Pt 2“, is about using that tool to develop encounters and subplots and incidents with which to populate game play with interesting times.
12. Campaign Mastery
My fourth submission under this blog carnival’s banner dealt with the very soap-opera approach taken to PC lives in my “Zenith-3” superheroes campaign. “Ordinary Lives in Paranormal Space and Time” is mostly about campaign planning, and the principles and techniques work with any genre of campaign where this is your chosen approach.
13. Campaign Mastery
The 5th and final submission from Campaign Mastery on the subject, “Ordinary Life in an RPG“, is half rebuttal, sequel, and reply, to Clark Timmins’ article, listed at the start of this section, and half about how the “Ordinary Lives” of the PCs are handled in the Pulp Campaign that I co-GM because that proves the perfect example and illustrative mechanism for dealing with the problems raised by Clark. ‘This is obviously some strange new definition of the term, “Ordinary”.’ And, thematically, it brings us full circle leading back to the advice offered in the first article listed in this wrap-up.
Wrapping up the wrap-up
What strikes me, on reviewing the blog anchor and list of possible topics under this umbrella, is that only about half of them have been dealt with – there is still so much untapped scope within the subject.
The “ordinary lives” of the PCs in any game should be extraordinary by any mundane standard. Events within the “real” lives of the players and GM can have a definite and measurable impact on game-play and, while they can force compromises on a campaign, the changes don’t have to be detrimental and can even be harnessed to improve both campaign and GM capability. Between them, the articles that came out of this blog carnival offer you all the tools you need to make real life a positive force within your games.
Now, where’s the wrap party? In the sewers at 6d6RPG? Ohhhkay, where are my torch, leather boots, and broadsword?