Friday, February 19, 2010

Game Table Interview: GM Tobie

And rounding out this batch of Game Table interviewees, we have GM Tobie. GM Tobie is one of the local GMS who has been very active in promoting the hobby here in Manila -- he used to hold short campaign runs geared toward new players, and at one point juggled two or three regular campaigns (if memory serves). He also dressed up for the kids at the New Worlds conventions to get them to roll huge stuffed dice as an introduction to gaming.

I've been in a couple of his campaigns -- his short-lived "The Art", a riff on the nWOD Mage (one with the cacophony of factions and conspiracies WAAAAY in the background or even non-existent) with PCs with different backgrounds and talents drawn together against a shadowy extremist plot; and of course, his DC Heroes-powered Legion of Super-Heroes campaign.

Here are the responses of this tireless GM:

What was the first RPG you remember playing?
My first RPG experience was Dungeons and Dragons.  I was an elementary student in Don Bosco when some upper classmen were playing in our schoolbus.  Being me, I nagged them to let me play and they let me play an elven ranger whose story can easily be summed up this way.
"Where am I?"
"You are on a mountain.  The ground is shaking."
"I look around, what do I see?"
"You see a tree."
"I climb the tree.  What do I see?"
"You see you are on a volcano.  It erupts.  Game over."
Clearly, they had hoped I would not get into this hobby.

What was it about the hobby that made you want to continue playing?
The biggest draw for me about gaming was the endless possibilities the game offered.  While I love videogames as well, only table top roleplaying games have ever truly offered an unfettered experience each time.  No being forced to simply talk to the NPCs.  No being forced to do mindless quests that don't really affect the game world.  And this bottomless well of potential resonated with me as well with my desire to craft stories that touch people, a desire born from my love of film.

What was it about the hobby that made you want to run RPGs?
While playing was always fun, running them meant being much like a film director where you can craft scenes, come up with memorable casts of characters, and emotionally touching events.  You can ask anyone who has played in my games and they'd tell you there's a certain cinematic quality that I always use in my games -- that very quality is what I always wanted to achieve in filmmaking, but due to financial (and other) constraints realized I probably wouldn't be able to do as frequently.  So running games became the closest thing to making movies for me.

What 3 novels have most inspired the games you run? Why?
Numerous books have inspired me to run games, but if I were to select a top three that influence my approach to gaming, I would have to cite Clive Barker's Imajica for always making me want to have tales that have a grand scope yet a personal focus, Christopher Golden's Strangewood for the interplay of real and fantastic and the power of the imagination, and William Gibson's Idoru for having interesting technology and environments which never overshadow the uniqueness of a human being.  These books have in many ways become key seeds in shaping how I tell my tales in gaming.

What 3 TV shows have most inspired the games you run? Why?
Millennium and The Twilight Zone are two of the biggest influences to my approach to gaming.  Having dark somber moments intercepting ordinary family scenes... having the lines of real and dangerous blur too closely... these things are staple in my games thanks to these two shows having left me such an emotional impact.  Lately, Lost has become a huge influence, with its use of flash-forward, backward and sidewards.  As well as its approach in dialogue and the slow revelation of secrets.  I was never a fan of quick resolution of questions the way X-Files or Heroes did things.

What 3 movies have most inspired the games you run? Why?
The Flight of Dragons was a huge influence. I loved how it "explained things" at the same time while moving forward in the narrative.  So totally new to gaming people can "grasp" the system without having to learn it before playing.   Another huge inspiration to the games I run was the movie American Beauty, because it helped me realize one can have scenes of totally normal every day moments and still find them interesting and meaningful.  The last movie I would have to cite is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  That movie launched so many games for me as well as gave me ideas on how to approach combat, more so than say Matrix did.

What is your favorite published RPG of all time, and why?
This would have to go to White Wolf Gaming Studios.  Their World of Darkness line remains for me the best developed and expanded universe for people to run games in.  Their system is light on crunch and yet heavy enough for those who want their dice to be meaningful.  And their latest approach, with a much more toolkit focus to books, allows you to practically run any kind of game using their system, be it one set in the past, present or future, with humans, mutants, or Gods.

What is your favorite published game supplement or adventure of all time, and why?
In terms of actual play, I would have to place my vote on Wraith: the Oblivion.  The concept, the use of the Shadow-Guides, and the approach to the powers was down-right a perfect fit to what they wanted to achieve in a game about life after death.  The game was not an easy game to play, however, with truly dark and disturbing issues tackled directly.

In terms of concept, I loved this game called Psychosis (I think) which I vaguely recall wanting to play way back in the eighties.  In that game, each game session you are given a blank character sheet and you have to work with the storyteller to figure out who you are and what you are doing where you are, since each game you are lost in someone else's body with no idea what you are supposed to do.  I can't recall if that was really how it was played, but that's what I recall and it sounded like a game I'd love to play in.

What RPG have you always wanted to play, but never got a chance to?
I guess this was answered above.

Assuming that game didn't exist, however, I would have to admit I would love to play either a full fledged Cthulhu based game or a truly over the top Wuxia game.  Of course, the problems there are, I'm not really well-versed enough in H.P. Lovecraft's stuff to appreciate it, and in terms of a Wuxia game, I haven't seen a system that seems to capture how I want the game to feel.

What upcoming RPG releases are you looking forward to seeing?
The World of Darkness has an upcoming supplement called Mirrors which even pushes the toolkit nature of the new World of Darkness to its limits.  The book supposedly expands on the rules to allow even further changes to the game, with everything from different time periods to having something less horror and more fantasy or science fiction in feel.

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