Life Lessons I Learned from a Cosplayer Jun09

Life Lessons I Learned from a Cosplayer...

A short video popped up on my newsfeed today and I’m glad I decided to watch it. Yaya Han, a professional cosplayer, shares her journey “from amateur to cosplay queen”. As a cosplayer myself, I found Yaya Han’s story inspiring. Here’s a few things I picked up from her video. 1. Be dedicated It has taken her a very long time and lots of dedication to get where she is now. It did not happen overnight and It means that I can take a breath and go at my own pace. Like any sort of art form, cosplay takes time and practice to get good at and there’s always room for learning and improvement. 2. Do it because you love it We are so used to instant gratification that I often find myself getting impatient with my own lack of “cosplay fame.” I can get discouraged when only a few people like or comment on a new photo I post, or when no one asks to take my photo at an event. I compare my creations to the professionals and feel inadequate or that I can never measure up. Yaya’s story reassures me that cosplay is a journey just like anything else worthwhile in life. I don’t have to produce super-intricate folding wings, light-up helmets, or doorway-defying ballgowns in order to be a good cosplayer. I don’t need 5,000 likes and my own YouTube channel. I just need to love what I do and have patience. 3. Find confidence in who you are I can identify with Yaya’s story of growing up an outcast and finding cosplay as a safe place to express herself and build confidence. Yaya says, “I can dress up as a character that is stronger than me, that is more...

Seven Ways to Mess with Your Party Jan13

Seven Ways to Mess with Your Party...

So you’ve been running a few sessions and have a pretty good handle on how this whole DMing thing works. However, your players are also getting a good handle on how the game works. In the routine of gameplay, you have lost the element of surprise and can no longer catch your players off guard. They’ve started to predict your every move! While I disagree with the “DM vs. Player” mentality, I do enjoy messing with my players from time to time. This is a fun list of strategies I have used in my Dungeons & Dragons games to make things more… interesting. There’s nothing wrong with freshening up a stagnant session and adding some surprises. 1. Conduct early planned skill checks. There are two kinds of skill checks in D&D: spontaneous and planned. Spontaneous checks are in-the-moment actions that your players initiate without prompting from you. Planned checks are ones that you, the DM, initiate and don’t require action from your players in order to happen. These planned checks are where your control lies. You have prepared for them and the players don’t need to know why you ask for them. The results do not need to be immediately obvious. For example: You know that a monster will attack one of your players at night. Ask all your players to make a will save well before nightfall and then continue through the day as though nothing has happened. It hasn’t… yet. 2. Hide the results. Most of your players will get to the point where they start predicting the results of your skill checks. It’s obvious whether a player leaps across the chasm or falls to his death, but whether the thief noticed the treasure in the corner can be a mystery. If...

Determine Your Character’s Name with a D20 Oct28

Determine Your Character’s Name with a D20...

One of my greatest struggles when making a new character for roleplaying games is coming up with a good name. There are two factors that I always look for in a good name; it must sound cool and it must have a significant meaning for my character. The Bible is a treasure-trove of interesting names that should not be overlooked when considering a name for your latest character. These names are cherry-picked for their amusing meanings and peculiar pronunciations. Roll your D20s and enjoy! D10 Name Meaning D20 Surname Meaning 1 Chedorlaomer Roundness of a sheaf 1 Nicanor A conqueror 2 Cilicia Which rolls or overturns 2 Raca Good-for-nothing 3 Dabbaseth Flowing with honey 3 Abagtha Father of the wine-press 4 Epaphras Covered with foam 4 Ira Watchman of the city 5 Vopshi The fragrant 5 Pethuel Mouth of God 6 Uphaz Pure gold 6 Abida Father of the judge 7 Haahashtari A runner 7 Baal-Tamar Master of the palm tree 8 Gaddiel Goat of God 8 Shaashgaz One who shears the sheep 9 Shashak A bag of linen 9 Elika Pelican of God 10 Trophimus Well-educated 10 Beneberak Son of lightning 11 Halah A moist table 11  Epaphroditus The handsome 12 Sennacherib Bramble of destruction 12 Reelaiah Shepherd of the Lord 13 Bithynia Violent precipitation 13 Onesiphorus One who brings profit 14 Puteoli Sulphureous wells 14 Ahimelech My king’s brother 15 Homam Making an uproar 15 Jidlaph He that distills water 16 Telabib A heap of new grain 16  Zeruah The leperous 17 Tabrimon A good pomegranate 17 Gallio Who sucks on milk 18 Josabad Having a dowry 18 Archippus Master of horses 19 Og Bread baked in ashes 19 Philemon One who kisses 20 Diblaim Cakes of pressed figs 20 Elymas A...

Confessions of a DM: Assuming the Enemy May16

Confessions of a DM: Assuming the Enemy...

In Dungeons & Dragons, it is very easy for players to categorize the beings they encounter into “us” and “the other.” “Us” are often seen as the playable races of Dwarves, Humans, and Elves, and are usually good-aligned individuals who are friendly and easy to get along with. “The other” consists of the races typically characterized as evil: Drow, Orcs, Goblins, and anything else classified as a monster or described as ugly. This concept is further aggravated as the book that contains the stats and descriptions for these “other” creatures is called the Monster Manual. Upon encountering one of these monsters, most players’ first reaction tends to be kill first, ask questions later. In a typical fantasy hack-and-slash game, this kind of thinking and method of gameplay can be expected and accepted as the way things are. As a Dungeon Master (DM), this binary trope is often the easy way to let the players know what I want them to do. I recently set up an encounter where a human merchant was being attacked by a band of hobgoblins. It was easy to predict what my players would do; they assumed the hobgoblins were evil, attacked them, and saved the merchant. After this encounter, I realized that I could continue this trend, but it would morph into a predictably boring game. The cycle of attack, loot, and ask questions later is easy, but not very interesting. There’s a whole lot of hidden fun that is left unexplored and ignored. I don’t have to hide in the safety of my bubble with other like-minded people. I could blame this tendency on my players, but the responsibility falls equally on my own shoulders. The players will often react in the ways that I train them. If...

Confessions of a DM: Player vs. Character Apr22

Confessions of a DM: Player vs. Character...

The thing that sets Role-Playing Games apart from other games is—surprise, surprise—the focus on role-playing! Role-play happens when a player assumes the attitudes, actions, and discourse of another person. Instead of moving a pawn across a board to accumulate points and win the game, the player creates a character, steps into their shoes, and interacts with an imagined world. A player does not lose the game if her character dies; she can create a new character and continue contributing to the shared story. There are quests and goals to achieve, but completing them does not automatically end the game, it propels the story forward. Creating a believable, life-like character can be one of the most delightful parts of RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. Aside from optimizing stats and customizing a build, the player also gets to create a personality and back story. Often, a player will begin with a set of ideals and traits in mind for his character that will evolve as the game progresses. Being true to your character and role-playing is one of the rewarding challenges in D&D. Players are encouraged to make decisions through their character’s eyes and can be called out for using information that they possess but their character does not. Just like their players, characters have diverse personalities and goals that don’t always match up with the rest of the party. The Chaotic Druid will call down lightning on anyone who threatens his way of life while the Lawful Fighter is reluctant to kill anyone who is not first proven guilty. The Sneaky Rogue wants to hoard all the treasure for herself while the Compassionate Cleric wants to give it all away to orphans. And the Neutral Bard just wants everyone to sing a song and get...

NPCs Are People Too Feb29

NPCs Are People Too

One of my favourite parts of being a Dungeon Master is creating and playing the characters that the players interact with. An NPC (Non-Player Character) can be a person, creature, deity, or any other inhabitant of the world who is not represented by a player. It is part of the DM’s job to not only create a world for the player characters (PCs) to explore, but also to fill the world with living beings for them to interact with. The nature of the game puts the PCs at the center of the story. For all the players know, the world appears to revolve around their characters. Players can become conditioned to see NPCs as either quest-givers, loot fodder, XP farms, or final bosses. The world ends up being a vehicle to carry the heroes to fame, fortune, and victory. I am no more special than any of them, I just happen to be the one playing me. Very often, players are surrounded with NPCs that pop in and out of existence based on whether a player chooses to interact with them. All the shopkeepers in a market are glossed over unless a player wants to buy something. The beggar on the street is ignored unless the players think she has a quest for them, or is somehow significant to their story. Hundreds of guards can be killed and looted without a thought, but if a PC’s life is endangered, no power in the multiverse is going to keep his friends from trying to save him. Usually. If he brings snacks. This perspective can lead to a very black-and-white view of the in-game world. The people are immediately divided into two categories upon meeting them. The first is “useful.” This NPC is identified as friendly and...

Confessions of a DM Nov27

Confessions of a DM

I had what I thought at the time was a brilliant idea. To solve the conundrum of adding a fourth player into the party midway through a campaign, I would make the new character a spy. He would be offered a substantial amount of money to keep an eye on the original three characters. Then the agency he worked for would betray him, and he would end up working with the three as a double agent. I had high hopes for this plan, and was rather proud of it. The day of the session rolled around and I put my scheme into action. Everything was going fine, until the dice betrayed my spy and the other characters found out he was following them before I’d had time for his employees to betray him. The other players’ characters—a wary paladin, a druid with guarded emotions, and a warlock with a penchant for distrust—were, naturally, suspicious. The poor new character was caught, searched, interrogated, and tied up by the others. The session ended with him sitting alone in a tavern, unsure what to do next, and the other three players leaving town. If I see my life as a tug-of-war, I will always lose, wishing I had put more points into my strength attribute. Things certainly did not go according to plan. If there is one thing I am learning as a Dungeon Master, it is that whatever plans I make, the players will find a way to spectacularly ruin them. I try to plan for how my players will react to what I throw at them, but I cannot prepare for everything, and they will most likely pull something that hadn’t occurred to me. The consequences are often interesting or hilarious, but it means that...