Creativity via roleplaying backstories

We are all, in some way, trying to be more creative.  Creativity influences numerous things from hobbies to our job.  It is easy to talk about being more creative but, in practice, it is often difficult.  However, there is something out there that can help you.

Tabletop roleplaying.

Specifically, I am going to talk about how character generation can help spur creativity.  Playing the characters you create will also help develop creativity, among other things, but that is for a post at a later time.  For the sake of this post, any references I make to a system or setting will be limited to Dungeons and Dragons and/or Pathfinder as those are the systems I have the most experience in.  However, the system you are playing does not limit the creativity boost you can get.

Typically, for me anyways, I already have an idea, a concept if you will, of what kind of character I want to play.  With the concept in mind, I will pour over any source material I have, or can find, and go over what kinds of classes are available that my concept fits into.  However, this is not always as straight forward as you would think.

A five page backstory I wrote for a character of mine seven or so years ago
A five page backstory I wrote for a character of mine seven or so years ago

Once you have your class figured out, many DMs (Dungeon Masters; they control the flow of the story, combat, etc.) will want you to come up with a backstory. This is where the meat of the creativity comes from.  The backstory is everything your character has done up to this point.  You get to flesh out their motivations, their family, their associations, their journey, etc.  The idea is that you are becoming this person (you are going to play them).

You aren’t going to simply say, “Paladin Bob grew up in a convent and now the church has asked him to help the town of River’s End with their problem.”  Even if that is the case, there’s room for so much more.  How was it growing up in the convent?  Did you pursue the path of a Paladin or did a god call out to you?  The key to making a good backstory is writing it as though you lived it; become Paladin Bob.  This will get the creativity flowing.  You are now a different person living a different life.  What are your goals, your dreams?  Why do you do what you do?  The possibilities are boundless.

Now, take this same idea and apply it to your life.  How would Paladin Bob tackle that problem as work?  Does Paladin Bob have a better way to test something?  How does Paladin Bob react to a new situation, be it at a social gathering or at work?  Does he have an idea that could greatly improve a process or make a process more efficient?  It might seem silly, but being able to get into the mindset of someone else, who doesn’t do what you do day in and day out, can get you thinking very creatively.

Do you enjoy making backstories for your roleplaying characters?  Are you like me and almost require a backstory before you really know your characters?  Please tell me what you think by leaving a comment below and/or by sharing on Twitter.

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Knowing your audience

Cards Against Humanity is a popular and fun game.  A similar game, that is also a great deal of fun, is Apples to Apples.  While the ideas behind these two games are different, the lesson they can teach you is the same: know your audience.

41164wOO6ZLWith Cards Against Humanity the idea is to be as inappropriate as possible.  With Apples to Apples, the general idea is to play a card that most closely relates to the one played by the person whose turn it is.  Both are pretty straight forward.  However, depending on who you are playing these games with, how to win can change.

While playing, it is a good idea to pay attention to how your fellow players are picking their Apples to Appleswinning matches as everyone will have a different theme they prefer.  With Cards Against Humanity, it is generally who has the most absurd and/or disgusting match, but it could also be the match that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever that wins.  With Apples to Apples, a game can quickly change from a “what goes with what” to “who can have the most ridiculous matches.”  In order to be competitive, you must pay attention and follow the flow of the game.

This same idea plays out every day in the real world and in your professional life.  You talk to your co-workers very differently than you talk to your boss.  When a friendly co-worker asks for help, you can get away with sarcastic remark if you know that’s the kind of relationship you have.  With your boss, you would most likely skip the sarcastic remark, and would often be wise to do so.

When giving a presentation to fellow engineers, it is acceptable and expected to use a lot of detail and to use engineering terms.  When giving the same presentation to your boss, or high level managers, more generic terms and less detail is expected and appreciated.  In this case, going into such detail only serves to confuse your audience and they might stop listening.

Therefore it is crucial to know who your audience is and to cater your interaction with them accordingly.  This is not always a simple skill to learn.  Thankfully, there are games out there, like Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity, which offer a fun way to start learning this skill.

Have you played Cards Against Humanity?  Have you played Apples to Apples?  Are there other games out there that you feel teach this skill?  Please leave a comment below and/or share on Twitter.

Becoming more social

There is a good chance that you will be nervous and hesitant the first time you try tabletop roleplaying.  I know I was.  The very first time I “tried” tabletop roleplaying was my freshman year in college.  I quoted the word “tried” because the campaigns never manifested.  All that happened was talking about ideas and concepts for a campaign and throwing together a couple of characters and maybe attempting to play them once.  However, this short experience did offer me a couple insights: I am not alone in the extent of my nerdiness, and there is a wide range of options when it comes to tabletop roleplaying.

Finding out that there were others that played these tabletop roleplaying games was a big release.  Tabletop roleplayers from the perspective I used to have were always considered the pinnacle of being a nerd; the kings and queens of nerdom, if you will.  I had always liked video games since I was a kid, but I never thought that I would ever get into tabletop roleplaying; it was even too nerdy for me.  However, I decided to see what it was all about.

I cannot honestly say exactly how it came about.  I started talking to the guys who lived next door to my friends in the dorm about getting a campaign going. We were going to be joined by their friend who lived just across the hall.  The campaign they wanted to start was a Vampire campaign (I cannot remember which flavor of Vampire it was, but it was in late 2000, or early 2001, if that narrows it down).  One of them had the books and we all spent several hours throughout the week coming up with ideas and using the books to build our characters.  However, the campaign never got off the ground due to everyone’s differing schedules.  dsc08172-e1287723519881We would try again later to run a Council of Wyrms campaign, but that one also failed due to scheduling.

What did occur was that I made three new friends.  At that point in time, I had gone through my first few months of college only hanging out with the friends I had made in high school.  I hung out with them all the time.  I never really wanted to venture out of my comfort zone.  However, this activity, that I had previously looked down as being too nerdy even for me, allowed me to make some new friends.  I believe that they were the first friends I had ever made that I didn’t know from a class or from sports (pretty much all friends I had up to that point I met in class in high school, in one of the sports I played in high school, or through a mutual friend).  They also helped open my eyes a bit that there are people out there that enjoy tabletop roleplaying, and I was now one of them.  They also showed me that tabletop roleplaying was a wide, wide world with many different systems, lore, game play, and characters you could play.

When did you first start playing tabletop roleplaying games?  Please leave a comment below or share on Twitter.

Board Games: They’re not just for kids

I have played board games since I was a kid?  Who didn’t?  However, the board games I played when I was young are completely different than the board games I play now.  Everyone has played games like Monopoly, Sorry!, and Clue when they were young, and they were all a lot of fun.  However, they are all fairly simple games to play.  Once you have played them once, you know how to play and a general strategy to employ to try to win.

The board games I play now, however, are on a completely different level than those I played as a kid.  When I blog about board games now and in the future, I will not be referencing those games from my childhood.  I will instead be referencing board games like Le Havre, Power Grid, and Arkham Horror just to name a few (card games like Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity will also be considered board games for blogging purposes).  These games are much more complex and have numerous strategies you can employ when trying to win.

Game-Collection

I used to think board games were used as simple distractions for kids to keep them occupied while having fun.  It wasn’t until I was exposed to these more complex games that I started thinking that these games could actually teach you useful skills that you could use in your everyday life.  The shear amount of things that you have to keep track of, the various strategies available, the strategies of your opponents, these are just some of the things that these games require you to constantly pay attention to while playing.

Board games also offer a variety of play styles.  Several are every person for themselves, but several are team versus team, or everyone on the same team versus some big evil.  So, no matter what play style you like, there’s numerous games to choose from.

As I continue with this blog, I will call out specific board games that I feel provide a good concept or lesson that is useful in everyday life.  Sometimes I will write about board games that offer more than one valuable concept, other times I will write about a couple different board games that offer the same valuable concept.  I will do my best to mix it up a bit and try not to reference the same games more than once.

What’s your favorite board game from your childhood?  What’s your favorite board game now?  Please feel free to leave a comment.

Tabletop Roleplaying Games: An Introduction

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Tabletop roleplaying offers you complete control over who and what you are going to play.  You are responsible for their backstory (what they have done, leading up to now), their appearance, their physical and mental stats, and what class they are.  In most other gaming platforms, most of these options are presets that you select from instead of building them from scratch.  This is one of the allures of tabletop roleplaying; the character you play is 100% from your imagination.

Tabletop roleplaying is unlimited in what the world you are in is like and how your characters interact with that world.  There is no set dialogue, no set quests, no set events, and everything can change on the fly.  It is a very adaptable system.  The only limits are within the class you decide to play and what system you play.  You can play a charismatic bard off with a group of friends off on a fantasy adventure.  Or you can be part of a squad of marines trying to liberate an alien world from the ravages of space creatures.  Whatever interests you, there is a tabletop roleplaying system for it.

Perhaps the biggest draw of tabletop roleplaying is the fact that you play it with a group in person.  This separates it from other games that you can play together online like World of Warcraft or Call of Duty.  While those games are indeed fun, and you do have to interact with others while playing, that interaction does not come close to what tabletop roleplaying provides.

Tabletop roleplaying requires a group of people to set aside a good amount of time, regularly, in order to get a campaign going.  Depending on the size of your group, you may or may not be able to have a gaming session if one person cannot make it.  There’s no way to randomly pick an extra person up.  Therefore, everyone in the group is dedicated to everyone else in the group.  This is a fairly unique experience in the world of gaming.

I participate in a session of tabletop roleplaying every week.  In fact, it is what I look forward to most throughout the week.  I am able to sit down with a group of friends, forget about any stress I had from work, and just enjoy the fantasy world we are all a part of.

Do you play tabletop roleplaying games?  Are you possibly interested in starting?  Please feel free to leave a comment.

The Social Benefits of Gaming: How gaming can help you in everyday life

The goal of this blog is to share with you the story of a nerd.  A nerd who was initially unsure of himself but was able to come out of his shell through gaming.  Not just video gaming, but board gaming and, my favorite, tabletop roleplaying.  Gaming taught me valuable lessons that are applicable in everyday life.

Before we dive into these lessons, let me share a little bit about myself.

I cannot say with certainty when I realized I was a nerd.  Perhaps it was in high school, perhaps sooner.  However, in high school is definitely when I started associating myself with being a nerd.  I did play varsity sports, but never thought of myself as a jock; wrestling was the only varsity sport I participated in where one could say “that’s a jock sport.”  I associated more with the “nerdy” things I was into; things like Anime, video games, math, and physics.  Needless to say, whenever I was out of my comfort zone I became incredibly closed off; you could even have described me as brooding (I did always have a scowl on my face).

The biggest change in this uncomfortableness started in college when I was introduced to tabletop roleplaying games; specifically Dungeons and Dragons.  This is where the shell cracking started.  You could be anyone you wanted to be in these games, these adventure paths, and no one would criticize you, no one would question you, no one would wonder “what is this person doing?”  Everyone there was there for one thing; to have fun.

The largest crack in my shell occurred in my last semester of my undergraduate career, fall 2005, when, during lab, I mentioned, as an aside, to my lab partner that I like tabletop roleplaying.  Unbeknownst to me, a classmate, who I did know, but only through a couple of classes, overheard me and struck up a conversation about tabletop roleplaying.  He mentioned that he was trying to get a group together for a Shadowrun campaign and wanted to know if I would be interested.  I said “sure” and the rest is history.  I still game regularly with this classmate and he and his family have become some of my closest friends.

Looking back over the years of gaming, I started to pull out lessons that gaming has taught me.  Throughout this blog, I will share with you the lessons I have learned through gaming and how they are applicable in your professional life.

If you are a little unsure of yourself, have issues adjusting to new situations, or are a nerd looking for new gaming ideas, then this blog is for you.  For if I could overcome my awkwardness through gaming, then anyone can.