Feb 172017
 

pic2993325_mdPublished by Strawberry Studios, 3 Wishes is a quick and extremely simple card game for three to five players and a play time of 5 to 10 minutes.

Imagine you find an old lamp in the beach and manage to summon the genie who lives in that lamp. Of course now you and your friends argue about who discovered the lamp and the genie gets annoyed.

It will only grant three wishes, but only to the person who makes the best three wishes.

High stakes for powerful wishes!

3 Wishes comes in a pocket size box that will easily fit into any bag. With an absolutely adorable cover and a box built to withstand travel and quite a lot of play.

Inside, 18 cards, 10 wooden tokens 5 player aid cards and the rules have plenty of space to coexist. You see… this has some clever and very simple design not many other games think about: Enough space to put all the cards back in the box when you sleeve them.

The illustrations on the card are truly lovely. Each one reflecting a wish the players can ask for and they fall into three different categories: Gifts, Super Powers and World Harmony. Icons to define what type of wish each card belong to and a number or a multiplier to determine how good the wish is.

Those points will determine the winner at the end of the game.

Playing the game is extremely simple. Firstly, all cards are played face down. Two cards are placed in the middle of the table and each player gets three cards, all of them faced down. During their turn, players can take two out of three actions: Peek at any card in front of the player or one of the cards in the centre, switch any two cards or shuffle the three cards in front of you and peek at one.

Once at least four rounds have taken place, any player can decide to end the game rather than taking an action.

At that moment, players will reveal the three cards in front of them. If they have one of each type of wish, they count the points on the cards and the player with the most points is the winner. If they don’t have one of each, then that player loses.

Conclusion

For a game that plays in just a few minutes and needs about two to be explained to players, 3 Wishes has a great deal to offer.

What usually starts as a peek a card game, soon becomes a vicious game in which players try to keep ahead while messing the other player’s combination of cards.

Play time of 5 to 10 minutes – depending how many players –  is accurate, so don’t expect this game to keep you amused for hours. However, as a mega-quick filler to take with you and play anywhere with friends is just perfect.

Tremendous good fun and very, very good value for money.

Feb 162017
 

clichesHow many times have we seen the same clichés in RPGs? How many more times will we have to endure them?

Truth is that clichés have a reason to exist because they make life easy for the writer or player, so it is not surprising that we see them so often. However, overuse and simplification have made those clichés to become really tired and boring.

Even though they do have a place and a time, usually it is not the correct place or time when they are used and we find too many of them in our games.

In this episode, Jim and I discuss what clichés should never be seen again in our games and why.

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Feb 142017
 

gay_characters_2Let’s concentrate on the people who don’t know how to deal with characters who are non-straight.

I am prepared to believe some don’t know how to deal with that because there are people who live in areas where it is less accepted, there are less outed people or whatever other reason. I am going to think they are not homophobes, just ignorant. It happens… nothing wrong with that.

So, blessed as I am by knowing a lot of LGBTQI people, I went to my social network circles and asked around. And I got a lot of really good advice.

To start with, my friend James Pisanich said: “For people at your house I recommend you just forget their sexual identity and treat everyone as a friend”.

And this is sound advice. Just imagine those player characters are your friends. To some degree, they are an extension of the player friend who is playing them. Does it matter to you if your friends are LGBTQI? If it matters to you, then you are part of the homophobe group, this part of the article doesn’t apply to you. No part of this article applies to you.

Otherwise, treat that character as you treat your friend. Don’t make their sexuality an issue. Just let it be there as and when your friend decides it should be. It will probably be less often than you might think.

Someone I do respect a great deal, Erik Scott de Bie  said: “…it’s all about casual inclusion. The male bartender whose husband is the cook. The snot-nosed noble heir who has both male and female prostitutes hanging on him. The beautiful elf lady who dotes on an elderly matron who has been her lover for fifty years… You just have these characters show up and don’t treat it as strange or unexpected.”

The point made by Erik also makes perfect sense and it works well: Just let those things be, just not be the centre of anything. And drop them in as if they were the most natural thing in the world. In a fantasy world – and all RPG worlds have a very healthy dose of fantasy – it could easily be the most natural thing in the world.

Erik also goes out to point that “A lot of people confuse “sexuality” with “sexual,” thinking that including non-straight people is tantamount to including sex in a game.”

This is probably the strongest fear a lot of people have: If I have gay characters, I will have to have gay sex. Establishing as part of the social contract around a table a “no graphic sex scenes” game – either straight or homosexual – will solve that problem. You can then concentrate on having fun with the characters.

Avoiding casual homophobic language is also something you can do and it is a lot more important than you might think. Questioning their manhood for being gay or likening them to women will only help make people feel uncomfortable, even if it is something that socially accepted.

I know this can be hard, specially if you know the person and ar used to joking with them, so ask them for help. Ask them to point out when you have inadvertently overstepped the mark. You will find out it is a lot more often than you realise.

Which leads me to the next point: Ask your players. If you are unsure about how to deal with a character from the LGBTQI spectrum, check with your player and ask what they need from you as a GM, or as a game companion. It is unlikely that person will chastise you for asking. It depends how you ask, but it is unlikely.

Of course you could also turn the whole adventure into an LGBTQI issue, as suggested by both Erik and Jessie Foster. How about a princess who asks your help to bring her lover back who has been sent away by her homophobic father? Why not have a prince who wants to be smuggled away to be with his knight? And why not having a prince asking you to gather some components for a spell that will transform her body into a female body so she can feel complete?

However, if you are going to go with this, do check with your players. They might be dealing with similar issues in reality and need the game as a means of escapism. Shawn Harris made a great point that “LGBT people know more about homophobia and transphobia than cishet people, so either leave it alone (‘cuz you’d be surprised what went on historically) or ask for tips from the player.”

Also, make sure that homosexuality is not the enemy. Don’t use any NPC’s sexuality as the reason why they are in the wrong, or the antagonist.

Overall, the safest bet is to, simply, not make a big deal of it. Remember you are playing a game, not a life-depending reenactment that will cost you anything.

Just have fun and let people have fun.

Feb 122017
 

images-18[1]Oftentimes I have found people complaining that LGBTQI characters don’t fit in some games. Somehow, having a non-straight character at the table could destroy the fine veil of historic believability a fantasy world has to offer.

Needless to say, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the real reasons are nothing to do with history or believability. There are many reasons behind this behaviour. That is an excuse I will concentrate on for this article.

However, I was given a genuine reason and it is a reason I want to concentrate on today: ignorance.

People who feel uncomfortable either having a character at the table, or playing a non-player character when they direct a game, because they are worried the portrayal of the LGBTQI character will be flawed.

To say that LGBTQI people have existed since the dawn of time is to state the obvious. Numerous records point at people with homosexual tendencies, transexuality, intersexuality, etc, from ancient times to today. It really doesn’t take too much to find serious studies on the topic from very specialised viewpoints.

You can easily find photos of people in same sex relationships in the 1800s USA, and 1800s and 1920s in the USA and the United Kingdom. And those were times when being out was far more dangerous than today.

If we can find people who were ready to have their photo taken, imagine how many more there were hidden. And those people were entrepreneurs, doctors, nurses, policemen… actors, directors.

Hence, even though the American government decided the first amendment did not apply to movies for a while and decided it was illegal to depict LGBTQI characters in movies, there were numerous references and appearances of gay characters during this period.

Even during that time, some creators found less plausible to have a world without gay characters and face fines than completely shut us down.

Because there were gay people. There were private clubs where people could go to have same sex encounters without being prosecuted or vilified. Or at least run a lower risk of being found out.

In short, there were Gays at times when we believe everything was soooo hard for them to be alive without being killed on sight.

Of course that extends to the middle ages with numerous studies showing different levels of tolerance towards LGBTQI people. We can also find LGBTQI people in the Middle East through the ages, or India, Japan and Native American Culture.

Therefore, to say that a Gay character doesn’t fit in the setting can only be a product of homophobia or ignorance. Because people were there.

So how can this be applied to RPGs?

Well, firstly it is a matter of deciding to what extent the historical background of the game matters. You, as a team of players, must decide if having Elder Ones in a game is OK but LGBTQI people are not. If having knights with magical swords is OK but having a Transgender NPC is too much. If seeing dragons or throwing fire balls is fine but a Lesbian Cleric is just not possible.

If you want to decide that LGBTQI has no place around your table, well… so be it. You are probably a homophobe.

I would also say you are doing a great disservice to RPGs. You are not playing them right.

Yes, I am saying there is way to play RPGs incorrectly if you think there were no LGBTQI people in ancient cultures, there were.

The application of the historic background and attitude towards LGBTQI people are optional. Nothing stops you from having an Inquisitor who is more interested in the mission he is going to entask the group with than one particular character. Nothing stops you from having a police officer in the 1920s who has better things to do than hassling an character for being gay. Nothing stops you from having a Shogun who has decided that a Samurai’s bravery is worth more than the rules about homosexuality. Nothing stops you from having any excuse to let your friend play a LGBTQI character.

Because the fact is that it doesn’t matter if someone wants to run a gay character. If it is a problem, then you should wonder if the problem is you. It probably is you.

By now I have already proven that they were accepted at times and places where we believe they weren’t. And that there was a support network, sometimes hidden. And people willing to risk their lives to show that we were there.

So, please, no more “gay people don’t fit in the system”. It doesn’t work.

Jan 312017
 

orphan_characterRPGs are home to too many orphan characters. Characters with no past, no grounding or no substance.

Often we see people who create characters and have no background whatsoever, or want to have the “mysterious” character with no past. A character that will take as close to zero as possible effort to play because they don’t have to justify their actions or add some sort of congruence to their personality.

Even if there is nothing wrong with playing a character like that, the chances are that the player is missing out on some intense gaming experience.

What can be done and why is not a good idea to play an orphan character?

Jim and I talk about it for a bit.

And for those of you interested in the Story Forge cards, you can fine them here.

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Jan 242017
 

x-cardI recently discovered the X-Card thanks to Jim. I had no idea it existed and it was a truly fantastic revelation that will grace my table from now on.

For those of you who don’t know, the X-Card is an invention by John Stavropoulos that aims to stop discomfort at the table.

As part of the social contract around the game, the X-Card is introduced at the very beginning as a means to seek help from everyone in order to take away from the game anything that make people uncomfortable and stop a bad situation from escalating into something worse.

The trick of the card is that it also says that explanations are not needed. If you don’t want to say why something makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to say it. Simple as that. Privacy comes first.

This card is specially useful around a table where people are strangers, where unexpected situations and unknown circumstances can make life hell for some people.

And yet, it has a huge number of detractors who prefer to put the game ahead and above people’s safety.

Jim and I discuss the use of the X-Card and make an effort to have the worst possible to a podcast ever.

I think we succeed!

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Click here to download this episode of the G*M*S Magazine Podcast.

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