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Big Pear launched in early April of this year. Since then we've been hard at work letting people know we're the ones to get in touch with if they need an RPG run for them. Aside from strutting our stuff, we've been keeping busy is other ways.


After running a few sessions for folks and gathering feedback, we determined that we should add scheduled games to our list of options for potential players. So, starting in July, we will be holding seasons of RPG's that you can sign up for. The ESL games will be scheduled for Monday evenings. the general game will be held at every second Saturday at a cozy sandwich place in Chinatown called Wheat & Barley. (for information and registration check out the Eventbrite page)


The lovely folks at Wheat & Barley sure are gung-ho about making tabletop gamers feel welcome at their little eatery. Aside from hosting us for our RPG sessions, they've partnered with us to host a board game night every second Wednesday. We'll be on-site to teach a new game each board game night. Anyone who wants to participate can pay $5 to participate, borrow one of our games, or bring in your own games to play with potential players who show up. That $5 gets returned to you as $5 off of your tab for the evening.


We were at Wheat & Barley's grand opening teaching board games to folks!

Over the last month or so, we were able to get back to our roots as supporters of the local music scene. We ran a couple of stages for Car Free Day on Main st. and Commercial Dr. On both days we got a chance to hear some fantastic music from some fine musicians! Maybe you were at one of those events and you want to check out some of the tasty jams you heard? Well, look no further than the list below. Remember: If you like what you hear, tell the artist and maybe show your appreciation in the form of purchasing their music!


Main St.

Jesse Wark

Gerald Chan

The Off-Keyz

Zulu Panda

Minami

Rob Fillo


Commercial Dr.

Emily Paquette

David Saba

Sean Dales

Steve Cooper

John Michael Lind

Clarity


Big Pear has been providing the charity group Extra Life's Vancouver guild with d20 soaps (stuffed with a d20) to raise money for BC Childrens Hospital. Every time they appear at a show, they sell like hotcakes. So, if you've missed them at an Extra Life booth at a local convention lately, they are available for purchase here on the Big Pear site.

If you can afford to go to a convention, you can afford to take a bath. D20 soaps $7 each.

Speaking of Extra Life, their Tabletop Appreciation Weekend is coming up in August. Keep your eyes peeled here or on one of our social media thingies to see where we'll be, running games, raffling prizes, and looking forward to talking with y'all about how you can make a difference in the lives of sick children buy playing board games and RPG's.


Also, I'm going to try and blog more regularly than I have.


I think that's everything, for now. See y'all at the gaming table!

GM: Alright, Peter. You've split from the party and gone to persuade the druid to come down from the tower.


Denny: You've got this, Peter!


Johnny: Yeah, you have the highest Persuasion score out of all of us.


Peter: Thanks, guys. Alright. I approach the druid and try to appeal to the good within him.


GM: Before you can, the druid tempts you with some herbs to calm you down. Make a Wisdom roll.


Peter: (Rolls high on the Wisdom roll) Nice! Pretty sure I resist the temptation.


GM: You do. What do you say to persuade him to come down?


Peter: I'm going to confront him about his the deception against the rest of my party members.


GM: Alrighty. Make a Persuasion roll, please.


Peter: (Once again rolls very high) I am on a roll! So, does he confess to his treachery?


GM: (Hesitates, having expected this social encounter to be more severe than it's played out)... No!


Peter: Wait, what?


GM: The druid is offended that you would accuse him of such a thing. He attempts to grapple you. If you don't break his hold, he may throw you from the tower!





Peter: What? Is he nuts?


Denny: I did NOT see this coming.


GM: Make a Strength roll against the druid!


(Both roll dice, the GM for the druid and Peter for his character. Peter rolls below average. The GM glances at his dice. He's rolled extremely high.)


GM: You are flung from the tower and, after a few seconds, hit the ground with a sickening splat. I'm sorry, Peter, but your character is dead.


Denny: What?


Johnny: You must be kidding, aren't you!?


GM: Nuh-uh! Look! See? (lifts GM screen to reveal his high dice roll to the players)


Peter: What the hell, man? I resisted his herbs, rolled an awesome Persuasion roll, then he up and tosses me off the tower?


Denny: Yeah. And we sent Peter because the druid didn't seem to be a violent guy. We never would have let him go up there without back up if we thought the druid was going to want a fight!


GM: Well... uh... that's just... that's just the way it goes. I'm the GM, so there!


(Johnny, Denny, and Peter sit silently glaring at the GM. The GM pretends to shuffle some papers and arrange his dice, unable to meet the eyes of his players.)


GM: So... Johnny. What is your character up to?...



Sometimes, as GM's, we don't quite get the outcomes for which we plan. Actually, that's an understatement: very often we find that despite all of our planning, our clever players concoct a plan that totally bypasses all the hard work you put into planning the session. All we can do in response is roll with it. However, there are some times when you're counting on a certain turn of events to occur and, despite the meticulous planning and otherworldly luck of your players, you decide to use your GM powers to inject your machinations artificially.


In the above example, the GM is hoping for a more severe confrontation than the way it is playing out with Peter's character. In an attempt to have things go his way, the GM artificially injects drama into the scene by causing the druid non-player character physically assault Peter's character, despite the fact that the druid has not exhibited violent tendencies in the past. The result of this encounter is that Peter's character is unceremoniously tossed over the edge of the tower and falls to his death.

It is good player etiquette to respect the GM's ruling and decisions. However, in this case, the players are right to call into question the events on the tower. As a result of being called out, falls back to the good old because-I-said-so defense: a defense that should never be accepted by anyone under any circumstance. If the GM (or any other authority figure) is unable to back up their decisions with a reasonable explanation, that person is unsuitable to uphold that decision. Heck, even an unreasonable explanation would be (marginally) easier to swallow than the non-answer of "because I said so."



The GM's position is further compromised when he reveals to the others that he did indeed roll high enough to beat Peter's Strength roll, feigning impartiality. The players are not so easily satisfied though. After the revelation of the dice roll, Denny points out that the druid had not previously acted violently towards them, implying that the act of violence was not planned and dispelling any ideas of impartiality.

His poorly hidden attempt at railroading revealed, the GM has an important decision to make, as only he has the power to make it: Do we retcon the previous scene and have the druid quietly and come down from atop the tower or do I put my foot down and tell my players that it is what it is? While, as the GM, it's totally within his rights to tell his players to suck it up or not play, and certainly there are reasonable arguments for such a decision, the former is likely the best course of action. It may, however, be the more difficult of the two, for it requires one to do something quite difficult, especially for a person with as much responsibility as the GM: admit to being wrong.

If the GM is strong enough to admit to having made a poor decision, the benefits are significant. First of all, he has begun to regain the trust of his players.This breach of trust may not be fully repaired, but at least the players know that their GM is able to admit to his mistakes and is willing to take the steps necessary to rectify them. Secondly, the GM is able to see that he is not infallible. This potential introspection can teach the GM how be a better GM and how to better act should a similar situation present itself in the future. Thirdly, the game is, once again, cooperative storytelling. One of the core aspects of playing an RPG is chance to come together and create and participate in a story. If the GM were to just shut down any and all attempts from the players to move the story in a direction other than that envisioned by the GM, it is no longer cooperative storytelling and the GM may as well be telling the story to the players, now relegated to listeners of the GM's tale. As a result, if the GM is lucky, his yarn will be half as entertaining as it would have been with the input of both the players and raw luck (or lack thereof).


Accountability at your game table can potentially lead to you being more accountable in your everyday life. People may more likely to see you as responsible and trustworthy if you are willing to admit that you goofed instead of just pretending like you're doing fine and others just have to shut up and put up with your crap. Being able to admit to yourself that you've messed up can make you more aware of your mistakes and, therefore, hopefully less likely to repeat them. Instead of thinking you can accomplish what can be done with a team by your lonesome and wondering why the end result is so lackluster, accountability can help you and your collaborators get back on track to making something truly noteworthy.


Maybe some times, we feel we know everything and that we have a great and grand story to tell and that we don't need other people telling us how it should be different. Some times the dice beg to differ. And some times, when it's all said and done and if we're sensitive to others and willing to admit our faults, we can step back and behold some damn good stories that dwarf any sort of tale we may have come up with on our own.

GM: The party enters the shop. The burly half-orc shopkeeper stands at the counter with their guard dog. How do you guys want to go about getting those flowers?

Johnny: I'm the shopkeeper's favorite customer. I will just go to the counter and ask for a dozen red roses.


Claudette: The party doesn't have enough gold to buy them at full price though. And, Johnny, your Persuasion skill is really low.


Johnny: You must be kidding, aren't you! Does anybody have any ideas?

Mark: We could always just fight the shopkee-.


Lisa: No! I think we should avoid combat here. I can use Disguise Self to pretend to be Johnny, then use my high Persuasion skill to maybe get a discount.


Johnny: (laughs) You think of everything!


Mark: (sighs) Okay.


Lisa rolls a mediocre total for her Disguise Self roll. She enters the shop and the DM rolls a Perception check for the shopkeeper.


Lisa: (as Johnny) "Hi. Can I have a dozen red roses please?"



GM: (as the shopkeeper) "Oh, hi Johnny. I didn't know it was you."


Lisa: (exhales in relief) Success!


Lisa rolls a ridiculously high Persuasion roll and thus haggles the price of the flowers down to something affordable. She says farewell to the shopkeeper and her doggy and leaves before the ruse is discovered.

The GM notices through Mark's words, tone, and actions that he is itching for a combat encounter. The GM also notes that there hasn't been a combat encounter this session and sees this scene-change as an opportunity to rectify this.


GM: You arrive at the inn and hear a struggle coming from the roof. What are you kids up to?


Mark: I head to the roof, weapon drawn!


Johnny: I'll go with you.


DM: You burst through the roof access door to see your friend Denny the halfling being grappled by a thug! Roll initiative!


Mark: Aww, yisss!!!



It's important to remember when we're playing RPG's that we're playing with other people and not just interacting with their characters. While it's the responsibility of everyone at the table to be respectful of each other and ensure everyone has a good time, the game master often bears the brunt of this responsibility. One can know the rules inside and out and be prepared for every possible deviation from the adventure's path, but without empathy and the ability to appropriately react, a GM may soon find their players shopping around for another game to join. Here are just a few things you may want to keep in mind:


Hearing AND listening: There's a difference between listening to someone and hearing them. When people speak make sure you're really listening. In the above example, the GM noticed that Mark's tone of voice conveyed that he was looking forward to a fight. Using that as a cue, and taking into account that there had yet to be a combat encounter this session, the GM was able to engage Mark's interest and, as a result, bring him back from the brink of boredom.


Listen with your eyes:

Mark may have been showing other signs of disinterest or dissatisfaction: maybe doodling on his character sheet or looking at his phone. Of course, what may be perceived as boredom or disinterest may not always be the case and sometimes it's not always easy to tell. Make an insight check on your player to try and determine whether it is or not. If you still can't tell, and you don't think they'd feel too put on the spot, ask them if they have any input in the current scene. If the answer is apathetic, think of how you might be able to work in something that might engage them soon.



Control the cross-talk: One thing that can make it difficult for a GM to really listen and a player to feel that they are truly being listened to is the presence of cross-talk. Playing RPG's is a social activity and when folks are together having a good time there's a good chance of digressions stealing the attention of the table. While these can be fun, make sure these side-conversations don't interrupt another player who is trying to get in a word that's actually meant to move the game along. Especially try to ensure that if a player hasn't had much to contribute, as soon as they open their mouth they have the attention of you and the other players. Even if the side-conversations aren't disruptive, if a player is finally getting a chance to contribute make sure the others are listening. Not only might they miss some input that's vital to the game, but it may come off as disrespectful to the player who is speaking which can lead to a disinterest in engaging.


Encourage your players to practice empathy: Empathy requires practice and everyone could use that practice. Some, though, may need a reminder. In the example, Lisa cuts off Mark as he's suggesting to fight the shopkeeper. By not allowing him to finish his thought, she invalidated Mark's opinion. This may have been a one-off instance, done in the heat of the moment and not meant to be rude. However, if she interrupted Mark again as his character rushed to the roof, it might have been a good idea to step in and encourage Mark to finish his thought or action and reminding Lisa to give Mark a chance to do so. Even if Lisa disagrees with Mark's choice to rush into battle, listening and giving him the chance to speak and participate is an important part of practicing empathy and respectfulness and cultivating camaraderie.


Everyone could use some extra practice in empathy, so why not try implementing these tips away from the gaming table? Next time you're at work and your peers are speaking to you, try really listening and you might gain a greater understanding of who they are, how they work, and how happy they are with working conditions. Perhaps next time you're in a group of friends or peers and you notice one or more people can barely get in a word edgewise, try encouraging the others to give them a chance to speak up. It might be that it's come to your attention that one of your co-workers is inadvertently making another feel disrespected or ignored. You could pull them aside and let them know what you've observed (using "real" listening to determine how to articulate your thoughts to them without inadvertently being disrespectful).


It isn't always easy to be aware of the feelings of others or to know how to react in each situation. However, you'll find that really listening and the constant practicing of empathy will elevate the level fun of your games and improve your personal and professional relationships.


More on GM'ing and empathy to come in the future probably maybe. Check back soon for more!