Friday, September 13, 2013

Vampire 30 Day Challenge: Day 5 Favorite Set of Dice

Talking about dice might seem a tad odd for a list of Vampire topics. See, unlike some other RPG’s, Vampire players tend not to be quite as fixated on the dice they use. Heck, there are probably a good number of dedicated Vampire players who have never even seen a ten sider. Yet, when I first saw this topic, the image of my “favorite set” immediately came to mind, and that set is—

The first set of dice that my players buy.

I like playing with as many different kinds of people as I can. I have my normal troop of veterans that I play with on a regular basis, but whenever I can I enjoy gaming with people outside my default circle. My favorite people to play with, though, are those who have never played a table top RPG before. You know, those people who think dining room tables are meant for supper, that using a pencil is “weird” since they’re not in school anymore, and never considered that dice might have more (or fewer) than six sides.

Unlike some of my friends, I don’t go out of my way to keep my hobby a secret. Most of my casual friends and acquaintances know that I play “D&D” (which stands for role-playing games much the same way as Xerox does for copiers); some think it’s “cool,” some think it’s a tad “odd” but most, I assume, don’t give it much thought at all. Every once in a while though, a few of them want to try out this whole “D&D” thing, and I’m generally someone they come to. Occasionally I’ll meet up with them as a player, but most of the time I end up running the games.

When I run for new people, I try to give them a good one-shot experience. Some people can run pickup games really well, like in the middle of a party or other social environment, but I've never been able to do that. Generally I setup a roughly 4 hour block of time, with the intention that it’s just going to be a one-time thing. If they really like fantasy, I’ll run D&D (generally Basic/Rules Cyclopedia), but otherwise I default to Vampire. Regardless of rules, I find Vampire pretty easy for people to “get”—you play vampires, in the modern world, struggling against each other and other supernaturals, all the while hoping that mortals don’t figure it out. If they've read any contemporary vampire fiction, or seen shows like True Blood or the Vampire Diaries or movies like Twilight, this is pretty easy to understand. For those who haven’t, it’s like Harry Potter and muggles or any superhero with a secret identity—but you get to play monsters.

I pick these two for a couple of reasons. First, I know the rules well enough that I don’t need to spend time looking things up on my end, allowing me to focus on the players. Secondly, they are pretty “rules light”—one is just D20, the other is Attribute + Ability, difficulty 6.  I know some people claim that Vampire is “crunchy” and maybe that’s true with some of the later editions and the like, but I find it pretty light and fast as a rules set, and really easy to pick up. Thirdly, character creation is decently fast.

I prefer to have my players, even new ones, actually sit down and make their characters. It’s an activity I certainly enjoy, and I think it helps them get into the game and figure out their characters and what’s going on. Some people advocate using pre-generated PCs for new players, but I know that I hate playing those, and I've never seen a player really care all that much about a pre-gen; at least not the way they do about one they actually created for themselves.

Vampire is pretty quick, since pretty much everything you need is on the character sheet or on the one page handout I give them (I photocopy the back of the 2nd Ed Storyteller screen which has the character creation processed summarized on it). Between talking about what they want to play and coming up with concepts through assigning dots, picking disciplines, and spending bonus points, the whole process generally takes about an hour or two. Obviously, more experienced players can make a character MUCH faster, but with a group of new people who only have me and maybe another “veteran” to help, it can take some time.

Especially when I need to explain that “Drive” is not their characters personal desire to succeed, but rather their ability to drive a car. Stupid homographs!

Anyway, since these are all people who have maybe a couple of six siders laying around in a Monopoly box, I also tend to bring the dice for the game. I have one decent set for me, but then I just leave a group of about 15-20 d10’s in the middle of the table for them to use as needed. Like most people who have been playing for a while, I have a decent collection.

Naturally, some of the players fall in love with the game right away. Some realize that this isn't really a thing for them, while others enjoy themselves enough to go along with the more passionate folk and try to work out when we can play again. In that case, what started as a one-shot can shift into a regular or semi-regular Chronicle.

And it’s generally somewhere around the third or fourth session that one of my players shows up, grinning like the proverbial cat. Some are cool enough to wait for a dramatic moment, but most can’t wait to show the group what they picked up either on-line or at an actual local game shop. They eagerly reveal their new dice set to the party, often passing them around so all can see, and telling the story of how they got them--particularly if they had to go to game store. They are so excited and happy to be sitting around with a bunch of friends playing “let’s pretend” that it’s impossible not to share their passion with them. It’s often their first step to becoming a “gamer” and it’s awesome.

So, if you ever run for newbies, don’t spoil it for them by giving them a set of dice, or setting aside a nice set of your own they can use. Give them some mixed up ones you have laying around that are good enough, because the moment they decide they want something more and seek out a set of their very own is an amazing experience not to be denied.

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