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Gamers and the Real World

Down and Dirty Reality

by Josh Epperson
Nov 27,2003


Down and Dirty Reality

Love it or hate it, reality shows are constantly surfacing. Which in my mind can mean only one thing, people watch them. I know it sounds simple but it must be true, right? Maybe you enjoy watching gads of people make fools of themselves in front of millions of people. Maybe you're like me and even the mere mention of reality enough to make you projectile vomit. Either way, I'm going to make some new suggestions on bringing non gamers over to our side. Reality T.V.has been with us for a while now. The earliest one I can think of in their current incarnation is, MTV's the Real World. Then again I'm not sure you can even call it reality T.V. Something about model types living in huge apartments and spewing awful one liners just doesn't seem real to me. However if you were hoping on gaming ideas involving this do not despair, my next column will tackle Soap Operas.

This column is focusing in on the competition-based reality shows, Survivor, Fear Factor, that stupid Real World versus Road Rules Challenge show and so on. At this point I must however admit a guilty pleasure of mine, I enjoy Surviving Nugent. As soon as they tried to make an animal rights activist skin a wild boar, it became an instant classic in my mind. Feel free to flame me entirely for this by the way. I welcome it.

The premise of these shows is simple. To let all you gamers out there understand this I'm going to quickly compare it to your typical fantasy Dungeon Delve. Ready? Then let's begin.

Reality shows are corny simple ideas, requiring little creative ability and minimal scripting. The network leaves it up to the cast to make it dramatic. Dungeons are often corny simple adventures requiring little creativity and minimal N.P.C. Dialog. The game master leave is up to the players to make it dramatic.

At one point a member of the cast always plots against another cast member to get them kicked off, making it easier for them to win the prize. At one point a player will plot to take out another player thus insuring that the +2 short sword of goblin bane is theirs.

The Cast has physical and mental obstacles to overcome such as climbing walls, beating each other with padded sticks and solving riddles. The players have physical and mental obstacles to overcome such as climbing walls, crushing zombies with clubs and disarming traps.

Teams try to play to their members strengths letting the athlete climb the wall and the old man solve the riddle. Players try to play to their characters strengths, fighters poke things and clerics heal fighters who have been poked.

At the end the cast celebrates and triumphantly walks away with their fabulous prizes. At the end the players leave the dungeon in triumph and walk away with a sack full of treasure.

I'm hoping that this has opened your eyes to the similarities between the world of reality T.V.and the very basics of the R.P.G.. I'm also hoping that the next time your Game Master runs a typical dungeon crawler that you all are laughing so hard that the game master has to scramble to do another quest.

Maybe you have a friend or loved one that is completely addicted to these shows, yet still they mock your chosen hobby. If you would like to get them into a fantasy game, use the above examples. As silly as it is, there is always the chance it will work. In all honesty those same examples can easily be switched to any genre of game. The basis of these reality shows is to outwit and defeat your opponent to win the big prize, and the basis of R.P.G.'s are to outwit and defeat your opponent to increase your wealth and experience.

Of course I wouldn't expect someone to hear your examples and want to jump right into a game, which would be too easy. Well, my fellow role-playing Missionaries (R.P.M.'s), I have developed a list of possible questions and answers that might spring up while you introduce them to the joys of Role Playing.

Question 1: Role-playing games, isn't that the tool of satanic covens to lure innocent virgins to their doom?

Answer 1: On the contrary, most games are much less violent than the latest action blockbuster or blood filled video game. Role-playing games help to build social and creative skills, literacy and mathematics. (As a side note if you are a player of Vampire the Masquerade just trick them into a blood bond and bend their will to your liking.)

Question 2: I've seen those books, they are like 30 bucks! Why would I spend that much money on a game?

Answer 2: Name a game less than $30 anymore! Most board games are $30 or more. And new video games cost anywhere from $40 to $60+. And you will get many more hours of entertainment out of a single role-playing supplement than you will from any video game.

Question 3: How am I to remember all those rules? Most of those books are like 200 pages!

Answer 3: Destroy them if they ever threaten to memorize all the rules again! Seriously, tell them they don't have to know all the rules, that is what the books for. Furthermore not every rule in a book is going to pertain to your specific character. Explain that a lot of gamers are more than helpful to the new guy, and will explain the rules as they play. (On another side note as tempting as it may be for some people don't say the following. Of course it seems big when you have intelligence rivaled only by a cup of pudding!)

Question 4: Fantasy (or insert specific genre) stuff sucks, why would I want to play?

Answer 4: This one is simple. Let them know that there are as many genres to play as there are flavors of ice cream.

Question 5: Does this mean I have to stop showering and smell like you?

Answer 5: If they actually say this, I will laugh at you. But you should probably do an armpit check then head for the nearest shower. As my R.P.M.'s you must all appear clean and approachable. (At least to the audience your trying to attract.) I personally bathe at least twice a day. I like to stay soggy. Second, laugh and tell them despite popular belief gamers are usually just as clean as everyone else. Then ask them how the contestants on the reality shows smell after a couple weeks!

Now finally down to the introductory adventure for reality show junkies

Last One Out is Gator Bait!

This unorthodox game takes place in the savage jungles of The players will be competing directly against each other instead of working together. Be sure to tell new players this is usually a rare circumstance in games.

Players, 2-8: This adventure gets a bit more detailed in character creation than Killer in the Corn Field did. Every column I'll try to cover a different aspect of character creation for you to introduce to new players. This time we are covering the bare minimum for point-based character creation. As before, each player should write a short paragraph describing their character. Hit points will not be calculated this time. It doesn't really go with the setting. Now throw the twist at them. They get 6 points to customize their characters in three abilities. The abilities are athletic prowess, manipulation and endurance.

Athletic Prowess- How fast you run, how well you can climb, how long you can keep your balance

Manipulation-The top dog isn't always the strongest or fastest. Flirting, crying and accusing is always helpful.

Endurance-How long you can stay upside down, or how much rotten fish you can eat before you pop.

Game Master: Role play the host, and film crew. Create the challenges for the players to overcome. If there aren't very many players you may want to run a few N.P.C. contestants. Explain that 2 points are average in a stat and players must at least have 1 point in every ability. Players will compare dice roll's pus ability modifiers against each other.

Example 1:Player 1 and Player 2 are racing each other through a muddy bog. Player 1 has an athletic prowess of 3 and rolls a 3 on a 6 sided dice, his total is now 6. Player 2 has an athletic prowess of 1 and rolls a 4, his total is 5. Player 1 wins the race.

Example 2: Player 2 mad about losing, tells Player 4 and Player 5 that Player 1 is a cheater. Player 2 rolls a 5 and adds his manipulation bonus of 4, giving him a total of 9. Player 4 and player 5 roll totals of 6 and 3 respectively. Player 2 has succeeded in getting the other players to believe him. The Game: The characters are the lucky contestants chosen to spend a grueling week in the dark jungle. The last person standing wins one million dollars (or some other bloated prize). Every time a player wins an event give them one point. Every time a character's reputation is tarnished do to manipulation subtract a point. The character with the most points at the end of the seven days wins the bloated prize. (The others are free to write tell all books about the show)

This game may throw the average game because it has a clear winner and losers. Then again it just may be the single most satisfying gaming experience of your entire life, as you smite the other players.

Examples for athletic prowess events include races, wall climbs, padded stick battles, tight rope walking, swimming, etc. Manipulation shouldn't have any events linked to it. Players should feel free to manipulate each other as much as they want between events. Endurance events would be eating strange food, sitting on blocks of ice, sitting in boxes of bugs, etc. The characters should go through 2 or 3 events per day for the full 7 days. The game could actually be very entertaining if you encourage players to role play.

Where do you go from here? Once again lets assume the players had a good time and are interested in exploring the world of R.P.G.'s. This one was a little tricky. I don't think I've ever seen Survivor: The role-playing Game. But try out Paranoia, HOL, or maybe a fantasy game with a gladiator twist (After all wasn't the arena the ultimate reality show?) On the other hand this could add an interesting twist to your current games. Maybe a city blessed with lavish wealth has set up a dungeon or labyrinth with exotic monsters and magical traps. They advertise within the kingdom for parties brave enough to face it. Anyone who can make it through alive will be showered with chests of gold. Of course if you lose your monster chow.

Well that's all that I have this time fellow R.P.M.'s. Next time you can look forward to Soap Operas and what they have in common with R.P.G.'s, if anything.

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