5 New Ways to Introduce Player Characters

Here are 5 questions to ask your players that aren’t “Are you a male or a female?” These 5 introductory questions will provide a clearer image of the visions of your players without limiting them to the binary of “strong female characters” or “flawed men.”

How is your character dressed?

What someone wears says more about them to strangers than perhaps anything else ever will. Are their trappings more expensive than what they can afford? Are they excessively simple? Have they dressed themselves to hide something, or reveal?

What markings can we see?

Is your character tattooed? Ritually scarred? Striped, spotted, or painted? Body markings can speak to a rich connection to their past, a traumatic history, or evidence of a fresh fight.

How does your character introduce themselves?

A strong relationship to a higher power is often felt in the first meeting with a religious PC through their blessings, or curses as the case may be. Alternatively, a greeting might open the doors to quirks a character’s picked up along the ways. Do they timidly offer their name? Does their voice boom in jolly greeting?

What does your character notice first?

Inevitably, your story starts somewhere. Once establishing the setting of the opening scene, find out what’s important to your PCs by seeing where their eyes land. Lay plenty of objects and NPCs around to trap them into revealing something deeper about their character. Who notices the coin purses at the hip and who notices blasters? Does anyone notice just how alien the architecture is, or how cold the unnatural chill in the room?

What does your character smell like?

Maybe more character development than introduction, what a character smells like can also define them. The adventurer’s will be on the road (or in the ship, no board the balloon) for what may turn into a long time. Might as well find out now who will be attracting the fleas.

How a character smells can also let you know more about their job, their upbringing, and social class. Do they smell of expensive oils? Stink like mechanic’s grease? Have the scent of a long journey without bathing still on them?

Smell is also one of the first things we react to as humans, whether passively or actively. Maybe a character doesn’t like strong perfume, or only feels at home with more earthy travelers. Using this sense also gives other PCs a threat for constant interaction beyond planning who will hit the orc, and who might delay their action.

However you choose to have your players introduce their in-game personas, make sure to get the action moving immediately to encourage the players to begin interacting.

How do you introduce your PCs?

Kickstarter to Watch: Star Crossed

Star Crossed is a two-player roleplaying game of characters destined to love each other, but kept apart in-game by a world against the match, and in real life, by a tower of blocks and your imagination. The world is truly of your making: designed to support small fictions in a variety of settings, the goal is to build a world together to keep your characters apart, while also yearning for them to be together.

Pulling from the tower in Star Crossed signifies the risk of acting on their feelings. This game adds a level of complexity to your draws by making the number of bricks you’ve successfully taken build toward a “triumphant” love.

The creative use of the tower mechanic and beautifully queer art set this game apart, and while the Kickstarter has already been funded, you still have a chance to grab everything needed to play! Reserve your copy now!

Kickstarter to Watch: Spell the RPG

A play on words, and a fresh take on roleplaying game mechanics, Spell: the RPG is a magical system currently on Kickstarter. While already funded, the campaign runs until March 9th, 2018. Reserve your copy early!

Games publisher Whimsy Machine describes its mechanics best:

“Players roll dice to complete tasks using their character’s Impulses—twelve basic stats that describe a character’s motivations to act. Players can also draw random letter tiles in order to spell out magic for their characters to cast. This unique system balances creativity and potential with fair and streamlined mechanics.”

With colorful art by Nathalie FourdraineMariah CurreyChristina Gardner (Magic Moon Warriors), Carlos Aón & Jok (The Crystal At Skymouth), Kuropin (Hijinks At Huntsville High), Leland Goodman (Godqueen), and Fusspot (Wakeful In Reverie), the books are beautiful as well. The first two books provide everything needed to make characters and start playing a campaign.

Kickstarter to Watch: Trinity Continuum

Already well into its stretch goals, game publisher Onyx Path launched its kickstarter for Trinity Continuum January 30th, 2018. The initial two books, a core rule set and setting, present a near future ripe with the possibility of several narrative styles within a single timeline. One of the many attractions of the game is its ability to adapt to varying play styles and genres.

“I loved working on Trinity Continuum because it presents a multitude of possibilities in a single core book. I can play a story focused game that never falters from a failure to roll dice,” said Danielle Lauzon, Trinity Continuum Core’s co-developer. “The game encourages forward momentum even when blundering around.”

Built on the Storypath System by Onyx Path itself, the Trinity Continuum is narrative-centric. The mechanics rely on a dice pool like many other alternative systems tied to setting-specific games. However, the Storypath System gives the option of three “modes”, designed for specific story mechanics. A preview of the system is available for free on Drive ThruRPG.

The game was developed by Danielle Harper, Ian Watson, and the initial setting was developed by John Snead. A bevy of talented writers worked on both books, including Jacqueline Penny Hart, Danielle Lauzon, Matt Miller, Jack Norris, Craig Oxbow, Lauren Roy, John Snead, Monica Speca, Stephen Tasker, Ben Walker, Peter Woodworth, Tara Zuber, Christopher Allen, N. Conte, Topher Gerkey, Cassandra Khaw, Alex Melchor, Quinn Murphy, Clayton Oliver, Neall Raemonn Price, Chris Shaffer, Leath Sheales, and John Snead.

The Kickstarter will be going until March 1st, 2018. The game itself is definitely worth the money, but be sure to get in there and claim your rewards before all slots are filled! Did I mention the art is also beautiful?

What Do I Write About?

Since launching our submissions, I’ve had more than one person approach me to say “I love this, but what do I write about?” I tried my best to explain that I want to see lists and resources and personal essays and critiques, but maybe there is another way. To explain, I’ll write about myself.

I began playing Dungeons & Dragons with my mother and my brothers. After that we played Alternity until the game “lost the battle” (my mother’s words) to the Star Wars RPG. I remember listening to the CD introduction that came with 3rd Edition as a family and a 10 person game at my father’s where we all died and my wolf survived us, dragging our bodies out of the cave and to an Elven temple.

One of the scariest things I’ve ever done was entering the GenCon costume contest in 1999. I won for the youth category. I think there were 3 of us. I passed out on the convention center floor while we played a board game past 10 PM. I was 9 years old.

In middle or high school my brothers and I discovered Call of Cthulhu, which changed our lives forever. Kenneth Hite answered a historical question I asked on Twitter so that I could finish my then-stalled (now published) novel, and I am unreasonably grateful.

My first game outside my family happened when I went away to college. It began with the DM describing a Player Character crawling out of a vagina he had cast onto a wall, and ended when another player (a girl) told me I “just wasn’t very good at role playing.” After that, I launched Babes in Armor and started a Twitter account. It’s been nearly a decade.

In college, some Very Bad things happened to me. More than once. I failed out and moved back in with my mother in Milwaukee. While struggling to find some direction, I interned at two non profits focusing on rights for women in the workplace and nervously pitched to FemPop. I wrote a regular (always late) television recap for them and reviewed games and went to C2E2.

I returned to school a year after dropping out of college. Eventually I took a class where we created a world together and played in it as a Creative Writing project. We used the World of Darkness rules, and I excitedly went to an RPG talk that featured creators who worked on all sorts of games and only Will Hindmarch gave me his card.

I wrote a truly terrible application to Monica Valentinelli for the Conan RPG (I had and continue to have no games writing experience), and she turned it down in an unbelievably gracious way. Uncanny later published her essay, “We Have Always Been Here, Motherfucker” and it changed my life, again.

At some point I wrote, terribly, about my negative experiences at a local game convention for FemHype and it helped heal me a little to have a space to talk, and I will never get over the generosity I’ve received from outlets on the internet. There are so many bad experiences I’ve had gaming (like the comic book shop owner who played CoC with us after hours and called me “whore” for an entire session, in character). There are also so many good. The last time I played with my older brother was at a demo game for Matt Forbeck’s Shotguns and Sorcery, and it is still one of my favorite gaming memories.

There are things I have questions about. Did other people discover their sexuality way too young on text-based RPG forums? Was it just as uncomfortable? What resources changed the game for you? What RPG made you realize there was more to roleplaying than D&D?

In the end, I could write and write about myself, but I would rather read about you.

Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG Makes its Goal in 24 Hours

The Kickstarter for the highly anticipated Storybrewers release Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG has made 10 times its goal in 24 hours. But the funding is still going, so swoop in there to get your PDF or physical copy! The pair that make up Storybrewers are located in Australia, but the books will be shipped world wide.

While the game itself looks as inventive as it is immersive, the stretch goals and donor rewards are pretty spectacular. Another excited component are the play aids specially designed from involvement on the Kickstarter, and a beautiful physical book.

It is extremely cheering to me that a heavily narrative based RPG has enjoyed such immediate success, and I look forward to picking up my copy. While you’re dropping money on the campaign, don’t forget to check out Storybrewers’ other releases, like Alas for the Awful Sea, a dark RPG set in rural UK.

Submissions are Open!

Who We Publish

PanopLit is seeking nonbinary, bigendered, femme, queer, and women writers with experience playing tabletop roleplaying games. If you fit within the LGBTQA+ spectrum, or have a unique viewpoint on RPG culture or games, we want to hear from you!

What We Publish

Our vision for PanopLit is one that includes tabletop gamers who are often excluded from larger conversations about RPGs and tabletop history. We want current resources to make your games easier, more fun, and more diverse, and we want your stories, critiques, and suggestions to make tabletop culture more inclusive.

Reviews, Tips, and Lists

PanopLit publishes short articles (300-500 words) in list or heading format. These should be focused on current resources, innovative tips, and items of interest for Game Masters and Players.

Essays

A long term goal for PanopLit is preserving stories from gamers who may not have been recorded in previous RPG histories. We want critiques and essays on your experiences as a gamer and mechanics in games. The minimum word count for essays in 500 words.

If you have been gaming for longer than 10 years, please contact us for an interview.

How to Submit

Email info@panoplit.org with “Submission:” before the title of your article or essay in the subject line.

In the body of your email include your pronouns (and/or how you identify), any social media or website links you would like included if you are published, and a one sentence bio about yourself. Attach your article to the email in .rtf or .doc format.

Press Release and Promotional Articles

We will publish press releases and promotional articles you write about your game, artwork, or other RPG related content that you create and sell, but will not pay a writer’s fee for this content. A link to this type of content will also be put out on the PanopLit Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts.

Payment

PanopLit pays $20 for lists of RPG resources, reviews, and articles that range from 300-500 words. Essays or critiques over 500 words that are chosen to be published will receive $30. This can be paid out via Paypal or check.

Advertise with Us!

Advertising opportunities are available in the form of ads on the website, featured articles, and posts on the PanopLit social media network. Email info@panoplit.org to tell us about your project and get rates.

New Things Coming for PanopLit

In an effort to elevate as many voices in the RPG community as possible, PanopLit will begin accepting submissions (paid!) for short form essays (around 500 words), lists, and reviews. I will also be accepting write ups by creators of their adventures, games, or other RPG-centered products.

As part of this effort, the website will be undergoing a face lift. Please bear with us while we redesign and get ready to accept submissions! Submissions will open February 1st, and remain open unless we are overrun with articles.

PanopLit is currently paid out of pocket, so advertising options and donation pages will appear soon, as well, to support our content creators.

Looking forward to reading your work soon!

Where to Find Us

PanopLit now has a presence on social media to bring you updates on our player data collection, oral history project interviews, and RPG resources.

  • You can follow us on Twitter at the handle @PanopLit
  • Like us on Facebook for links to items of interest and immediate notification of new surveys when they launch.
  • Join our mailing list for emails on relevant content, the monthly newsletter, and more!

Looking forward to upping our content output and announcing some new projects after January 1st!

3 Questions to Ask Your PCs

Leona Vivalis towers over her party members, with sable hair and violent eyes…

We all remember our roleplaying first game and trying to come up with a way to quickly introduce our characters. Young Adult Fantasy, and many older adult titles, have us trained to describe them in terms of their looks: striking eyes, bold hair, maybe the glint of their weapon of choice. But does that really give the other players cues for interacting with them?

Below I offer 3 questions I use to open my campaigns that have nothing to do with elvish good looks.

What are your pronouns?

This one may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s all in how you ask. I remember the first time I was at a con so many years ago and a GM asked “male or female?” when I told them what class I’d chosen. It felt like a revolution had happened. I present femme, so before this point it was assumed by everyone I’d be playing a female character.

Similarly, when the 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons books dropped, my brothers and I immediately noticed how they switched off pronouns when giving character examples. It was new and unique, but all of that feels dated, now. Relegated to my preteen and teenage years.

Now when I run a game, I ask for the characters’ name, class, pronouns, and race (if applicable to the rules system). It also opens up my players to flesh out their presentation in-game. My RPGs are played first person, so when I address or talk about a character, I try to stick to those pronouns and use their names only.

These identifiers don’t have to come into your game as a point of interaction with NPCs at all, but as a collaborative experience, it’s important to understand and respect your players and their characters.

How do you enter the room?

The tavern is classic. It’s tried and true. You’re players are in the tavern. How did they get there? Leave the answers up to them, prompting where necessary.

Did they throw open the door, try to slip in unnoticed? Does everyone there know their name? Are they a stranger? Maybe they’re uncomfortable in bars, because they’re usually at home taking care of mom. This question easily leads to other character development and narrative questions.

Can they hold their ale? Does this lead to an adventure, or just the other players learning a little too much about each other’s backstories? Who else is listening to the conversation at their trestle table?

How did you get yourself in this situation?

When I Game Mastered a pacifast session of Dungeons & Dragons, all of the characters woke up in jail. My first question: “How did you get here?”

Just that simple. There may have been some edits necessary, and one character woke up completely hungover with no memory (“roll to remember” is a fun dynamic to insert here), but it immediately put everyone into their characters’ mindset.

Let me know what questions you ask to get your players ready to interact with each other as characters!