Thursday, April 26, 2012

[RPG][WOD] Playing with people smarter than yourself

I’ve been playing WOD for a while, and depending on the genre, done very well or been totally overwhelmed.  Right now, I’m  having fun, but I’m petrified that I will mess things up.

I completely admit that while Werewolf SEEMED fun at the time I was playing it, and it offered me a sense of liberation and freedom, it was wrong for the kind of player I am.
Werewolf relies a great deal on the ability to make decisions, and expects a strong sense of self from the player. At the time I was playing Jak, I was emotionally lost and had no idea who I was personally. Jak certainly knew himself, but I as the player squashed many of his impulsive choices for fear that indulging them would be doing something “wrong” or due to a lack of confidence in my own decisions. 
(example: Jak was without an alpha or direction for a very long time. In that time, he took two new Uratha into his home and taught them Uratha rules and culture, offered them spiritual advice while providing  them shelter and food.  Jak’s patience was wearing thin and he wanted to push to be declared alpha. I didn’t pursue this because I didn’t want to be “too aggressive” or too demanding of my ST.  My ST later revealed to me that he responds well to decisiveness; and especially so when that decisiveness comes from a werewolf player.)
Changeling was much more my speed- it was very oriented towards a social personality, which is definitely more like my own self. Eile was an intensely social creature, dependent on interactions and emotions to survive and prosper. At the time, I was playing with people who were easy for me to be social with, and with whom I had many ties that helped me touch on emotional responses. Despite playing a character that was “disconnected” and without a home or family, I was able to build those elements inside the game for her, based on my personality and understanding of how the system was supposed to work for Changelings.  Changeling seemed “natural” to me, and I strongly miss playing in that environment.

Vampire is a system I played previously and strongly enjoyed. I felt confident based on previous experience and general interest that I would do well as a Vampire this time around.  I found out through trial and much error that the  NPC Vampires in this makebelieveland are the power brokers, movers and shakers; and thus, are MUCH smarter than myself.  
I have discovered that I don't think in the same way as my ST. He thinks in very divergent ways, and I think pretty directly. My ST's ideas and imaginations are far more creative, hidden and agenda-oriented than mine, and I "miss" many of the hints and plots that exist in the game. 
I have been kind of lucky, because I have been playing with a guy who has incredible knowledge, wisdom, insight and understanding of both the game and the themes in it. His talent has shielded me (and my character) from my own lack of anything remotely like ability. This was made obvious during our last game session, when a ruse that had been perpetrated against all the Vampires for a very long time, and he was the only character (or player)  to see through the illusion. 
Playing with those smarter than yourself is a tricky thing. You have to be able to offer enough "something" to be seen as worth keeping around, but you have to (and should) use their preeminence to your advantage (mostly so you don't die). 

Making allegiances in game is usually direct (except as Vampires, who are strongly encouraged NOT to trust each other) and easy. Not so with Vinnie, who has an agenda and isn't telling anyone about it. This game is full of consequences, and the consequence of not directly making allies is you don't have the support network that other players might. 

The events of last session were a culmination of several sessions' worth of back work; and a lot of hammering out things in character so that the PCs involved would not kill each other. There was a time when Vinnie actually had very strongly worded suggestions to kill another PC, and he had the plan to do so, but that time has passed. Getting Vinnie to a point where he either had faith in or trusted said PC took a lot of roleplaying; with a guy that is a million times smarter than me. 

I forgot to take notes for a lot of it, which stinks, because I know he gave me information I can use. I also forgot to do any kind of defensive work (plausible deniability is a wonderful thing) and it will come back to haunt me very soon. 

But that's the joy of playing with (and sometimes against) those that are just more talented at the game than you; you learn what your failures are and maybe learn how to grow past them. 

Any of you out there have people in their groups that are smarter than you? If so, how do you deal with, learn from and encourage them? How do you fail? What helps you not feel so bad? 

Monday, April 23, 2012

[Review] GW's How to Paint Citadel Miniatures Book/DVD

I am probably the perfect customer for this product. I'm a casual painter with absolutely no real training. I taught myself, but I have a notoriously heavy hand and I find my work to be sloppy, grungy and just plain messy. If anyone needs help learning to paint, it's me.

A sample of my work. 

I love products like this, with step-by-step PICTURES of how those guys behind the curtain accomplished their magic. I bought the Privateer Press DVD as well, and watched it several times in the vain hope that talent would be transmitted through the screen to my feeble self.

I really enjoyed the P3 video, but I thought it went a little fast and missed some vital "up close" materials a NEW painter would want to see. Not so with the GW book. I've only browsed through it a few times and quickly gone through the DVD, but I can tell you that I will be checking both out over and over again.

So here's a look at the actual book:

It's got a "kickstand" or easel that's intended to help the book stand up right in front of you was you paint. The pages are magazine thickness and glossy, and spiral bound to make flipping to a specific page a breeze, with no worries about breaking your binding or pages falling out.

There are several sections of the book that I found super helpful, and others were "meh". The only issue was sometimes these were on the same page!

Warning! Blurry Pic. 

This example is from the "Shades" page. They show 3 examples of using their shades products. Example 1 is super clear about what they used and where. Example 3 is also perfectly clear- what shade was used, how much, and why. Example 2? VAGUE AS HELL. It also had a small box of text about "how much is too much" that I found to be counter-intuitive for a beginning painter, advocating a "laissez-faire" attitude on washes. For a beginning painter, this was not helpful. However, it's countered by two great samples, so it works out to be a "meh" for me.

I have only checked out two sections of the DVD so far. One was the "Basecoating" section, and the other was the "Glazing" section. The Basecoating section has been super, super informative for me already. Just by watching the demonstrated watering down technique, I can see where I have room to improve. (Uh, that would be everywhere, folks!) I also saw how OTHER people hold their brushes and their approach to the model that has given me a hint that maybe more is NOT better after all.

The glazing section was incredibly cool for me. I truly enjoyed seeing ways to add depth and intensity to models- it was sort of like watching someone get their hair glazed... but with models. (Dudes, ask your lady people about hair glaze. It's awesome.) I want to try it (someday).

The DVD comes right IN the book- no weird sleeve or taped in envelope to lose. 

I've had a couple people in the store balking at the price. I can understand the concern, as it IS spendy. I did (and will) point out to those that are concerned on cost that I GLADLY spent $25 for the P3 video, used it over and over and over; and find the GW Guide to be FAR superior. It is well worth the money to me, especially with the well designed format and obvious THOUGHT that was put into how someone might want to use something like this.

The breakdowns and sections on each step of the modeling process inside the book are full of tips that I found very helpful (along with an interesting outright admission that FINECAST products are prone to warping and bubbles from the injection process), making the book more than a "painting guide". It's a great primer and starting point for a beginning or inexperienced hobbyist.

For the more advanced model enthusiast or painter, this product is a little tougher to see as useful. I didn't see anything "to write home about" unless the start-to-finish army guides are your thing.

Just having this book out and open ALMOST makes me want to break my models out again to start painting... which could well be worth the $50 price tag if it means my procrastinating streak is broken and I get SOMETHING done!

So there you have my take on it- I found it useful and will use it a lot, assuming I get back to painting. It is intended for a starting or inexperienced painter, but it's a well made product with thoughtful touches throughout to make a good, solid and useful tool for someone without a good painting background.