Episode 166 – the effect of minis on RPGs

* Reviewing reviews.  The website we mentioned is Spill.

* The odd obscurity of (or at least our ignorance regarding) LARPing rulebooks.  You can find the Fallout LARP pictures here.

* The effect of minis on tabletop roleplaying games.  In case you’re not familiar with the annoying Wilhelm Scream, here’s a compilation of them.

Hosts: Chad, Dan, Pat, Wayne

Comments (13)

Jan KarellOctober 15th, 2009 at 5:43 am

On the subject of LARP books the ones I’ve seen are usually not published by the game companies (or major game companies) but instead are fairly general and sometimes published by LARPing associations. I know I’ve seen a bunch of different “The LARPer’s handbook” by all kinds of people in all kinds of languages in different gaming stores. But none of them have really been by any of the established tabletop companies.

In a way I think that LARP and tabletop is so radically different that it makes more sense to have a “fantasy LARP” than a “D&D LARP” to me.

Not that I’ve ever LARPed…

FaraOctober 15th, 2009 at 10:33 am

Re: miniatures availabilty/time investment to paint minis – there’s a lot of nice coloured paper miniatures available nowadays… ;-)

SurfPenguinOctober 15th, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Someone on the LARP portion of the show was yelping about how they’d love to play in a sci-fi LARP, but didn’t know how it would work. Well, the answer is very simple: Laser Tag! A crew of LARPers in the UK reverse-engineered the laser tag technology and use it to simulate modern and sci-fi firearms. At DropZone (An annual event for Laser Tag Larpers) they run themed games, most featuring popular TV/movie series, some more ambitious, such as a larp about a trip up the amazon. You can find more info here: http://www.dropzoneonline.org/

IanOctober 16th, 2009 at 6:45 am

Oh man, the gallery for DropZone is awesome.


I mean, how could going out into the woods and shooting people dressed as dinosaurs not be cool?!

Ryan GrahamOctober 16th, 2009 at 11:27 am

There was a really good podcast dedicated to LARPing called Gamer: The Podcasting.


They stopped recording, but their archived episodes are still full of useful tips you could use to improve the table-top experience.

MikeOctober 16th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

All’s Faire is a web comedy about some dudes who work at a Renn Faire. There is an episode where a robot and a Romulan show up. Pretty hilarious stuff. I was reminded of it when you guys were talking about the Traveler LARP.


DonnovanOctober 16th, 2009 at 10:52 pm

The Call of Cthulhu live action is a separate book called simply Cthulhu Live. It’s licensed by Chaosium, but not produced by them. And I’ve seen it in several RPG stores in Texas and Wisconsin. I can’t recall a live section in any of the Cthulhu RPG books I’ve had, but there are editions I haven’t seen.

I know there’s a semi-regular Serenity/Firefly live game here in WI, but I’m not sure how often they meet. That one would be pretty easy to prop/costume.

I’ve seen the Starfleet away team at a Ren Fair, it’s hilarious.

DanOctober 18th, 2009 at 2:57 am

I remember Gamer: The Podcasting quite well. It’s a shame they podfaded. They had a great show, and since we’ve traditionally given LARPing so much grief, we were hoping to do a crossover show with them. Before we got around to extending the invitation, they had closed down shop.

AdamOctober 18th, 2009 at 10:41 pm

I agree with Dan when he says that newer RPGs feel more like wargames, but with the notable exception of out of combat. No matter how “video gamey” the combat mechanics are, the fact stands that they only apply to combat, and the RP stands alone.

Trampas WhitemanOctober 19th, 2009 at 5:22 pm

There was an L5R book on LARPing.


As for minis, I’m torn. On the one hand, these are “games of the imagination,” right? Yet on the other, minis help everyone understand where they are and how far they can move. I’m horrible at visualizing distance, but I can do squares easy.

They can be fun, but I believe they should be optional.

SimonOctober 20th, 2009 at 3:47 am

Could you guys go back to incredibly practical format of looking for the advantages and disadvantages at the gaming table of doing or using the thing of the main topic subject rather then going for pro or anti stance like there’s an absolute truth?

And, actually, going a few podcastst back too, quit with the back-seat gamedesigner stuff? I’m thinking of the class imbalance podcast specifically where there was a lot of talk about class balance in the game design but nothing on how to best deal with it when it turns up during play.

Sorry for the negativity, but there might be a sense of too much security and certainty about the quality of the podcast leading to an actual drop in the quality of it’s purpose.
For instance, remember when there was an effort to keep the rambling before the main topic in check whereas now it’s often more then half the length of the show? Or when Chad’s diversions were kept curtailed rather then allowed to completely derail the whole conversation? Not only that, now he hasn’t been called on those disruptions much at all he’s been letting himself go so much that this episode Dan had to try and start the main topic almost 5 times.

Guys, just ’cause you’re not any longer a starting podcast doesn’t mean you don’t have to be on the ball as much anymore.

On topic:

Minis; might make for a big break in the roleplaying when you have to get them out but in tactics or crunch heavy games they avoid tons of little breaks again and again as, Dan has pointed out with his Narnia example, everyone imagines things diffirently. Which can be a bit of a problem when an exact consencus reality becomes much more important. As it does in combat. Also, I have found that minis with the right group can lead to much more unexpected results. With minis there’s less fudging so things quite often turn out diffirently from the way anyone expected them to. Also with minis (and a good map) there’s a constant reminder of the enviroment and players can come up with actions they might not have otherwise thought of because without the map they’d have forgotten where the brazier was, or that there were some tapestries over there or that the car has it’s windows rolled down, etc.
In some groups when you don’t pull out the minis the game could in fact become like a Final Fantasy game not because of the screen transition but because no-one makes use of enviroment or position but just seems to line up an take a turn one after another to attack or be attacked.
But you’d be silly to break out the minis for a game of Trail of Cthulhu or inSpectres or a small combat encounter in Savage Worlds.
Then again, if you’ve got a big(-ger) combat encounter in Savage Worlds it’s well worth it to make some space for a battlemat and minis.
(To link it back up top, there’s no right or wrong about using minis, but there is a time during play or game where the use of minis enhances or obstructs fun).

D&D nowadays; is much more a boardgame then a wargame. And being like a boardgame is from this europeans point of view a very good move as it’ll make it easier to draw in new people. And it grew out of a wargame anyway, when it tried to be both true to what D&D is supposed to be as well as like other ‘proper’ raleplaying games is what got us the mess that was 3rd edition which combined the worst of both worlds.

Mark M.October 20th, 2009 at 1:44 pm

LARPer shame exists. It was mentioned that even their friend who is an RPG gamer who goes to conventions sees LARPers as freaks. When an RPGer, who normal society sees as strange, sees something else strange – well LARPers are two wierdos removed. I’ve been working with LARPs for over 20 years and the hobby has been slowly emerging into the ‘mainstream’ of the US. The movie “Role Models” that was recently released is set partially within a LARPing group. There are many boards out there that focus upon LARPs just as there are those that focus on RPG’s. I am on a board of directors of what is called the LARP Alliance – a group of US LARP creators working on furthering the LARP hobby.

In the UK, LARPing is an accepted form of entertainment and, in fact, they have events that have thousands of participants. Their weaponry looks realistic and their reenactment costumes and events are incredible. I don’t like the Vampire games because of all of the random numbers. However, fantasy based games with foam weapons is fantastic. Although the rules help, it is more about your own ability that decides whether or not you win.

There are books for LARP on sale, but not in gaming stores. Hit Amazon.com and look up the International Fantasy Gaming Society – IFGS http://www.amazon.com/IFGS-Fantasy-Rules-Version-7/dp/0962206326/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256063497&sr=8-1 There is the Alliance LARP – http://www.amazon.com/Alliance-Rule-Book-Michael-Ventrella/dp/0966984498/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256063607&sr=1-2 Both companies having dozens of chapters throughout the US.

Sci Fi can be LARPed in many different ways. Most of the time it takes place on a station or on a ship itself – there aren’t dog fights. You can use laser tag, airsoft guns or even use NERF. The in story reason that you are using such guns as NERF is that such weapons as lasers would wind up putting holes into the walls and destroy the entire ship so they use low velocity but high impact weapons. Any genre can be turned into a game.

geminigreyOctober 20th, 2009 at 9:49 pm

BTW, on the White Wolf LARPing thing.. I think you’re right in that a lot of it is community driven. There’s only 2-3 Mind’s Eye Theatre books that have been put out with the nWoD, but it’s made in such a way that any of the tabletop books can be used, pretty much.

They have their own fan club based LARP that’s all over the place, the Camarilla (camarilla.white-wolf.com) and I want to say that there is still the older One World By Night LARP organization that plays in the oWoD setting, but I’m not sure.

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