What’s going on in this podcast?
Each episode is one session of us playing a role-playing game, typically GURPS (see the Links section).
What that means is that we are playing a game in which we construct a story together. One of us is the game master or storyteller who comes up with a basic outline of a story and provides the context for the others to play in. The storyteller acts out the roles of any character not played one of the others and determines the consequences of the group’s actions.
The other players each take the role of one character, making up the protagonists of the story.
The game master is also in charge of the rules, because we’re not just doing Improv theatre, we’re playing a game. When there are obstacles to overcome, whether that is enemies to defeat, an actual physical obstacle or even a social encounter and it would be dramatically interesting to fail, we roll dice to determine success and failure of our actions.
A simple example for how this could work is this: Roll a six-sided die, and 4+ is success. That’s a 50 percent chance of success. Of course, if everything had a 50 percent chance of success or failure, the characters would not feel very competent and things would go wrong a lot, so most game systems are a bit more complicated and provide for different levels of difficulty. These are both circumstantial and tied to the characters, so that one character may be competent at something, while another is good in other things.
We try to keep talk about the mechanics to a minimum, so that for you, our listener, the story is in the foreground while the clatter of dice (and the joy/despair of a particularly good/bad roll) is simply a part of the atmosphere.
GURPS is the system we play most frequently. Other systems will be linked in the respective show notes. GURPS stands for Generic Universal RolePlaying System and it is a highly customizable system, often called a toolbox to create your own system. At its core, it is very simple, however: Roll 3d6, three six-sided dice, under or equal a target number.
Rolling a 3, the lowest possible result, is often particularly good, while an 18 is particularly bad, and you’ll hear us react to such rolls and close ones. If you want to learn more about it, there is a free “Lite” version.
Don’t be disheartened if it seems very complex - GURPS requires some work up front, to make it the game you want it to be, but is very streamlined once you’ve done that.