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Notes from experiments on RPG optimization (Standard Non-therapeutic/education settings)

by Hawke Robinson published May 25, 2017 12:45 PM, last modified Jun 27, 2017 12:04 AM
Here is a summary of many observations I have made over the decades through various experiments in trying to optimize the RPG experience.

Much of this document begins with preludes of personal experiences and observations of gaming since the 1970s onward, then later focuses on more semi-formal and formal research efforts (though not the fully formalized IRB research).

Use the table of contents to jump to the sections you are most interested in.

The information posted in this document is based both on personal and others' observations (most of which include thousands of hours of recorded RPG sessions), verbal feedback, and formal assessment forms from participants.

Scores of variables were taken into consideration and repeatedly tweaked to try to find some level of causal changes, but at this stage are probably only at best correlative, in the enjoyment levels of participants.

There are plenty of potential confounds here, and so every statement should have that taken into consideration that these should be further researched with more rigorous techniques.

However, implementation of these observations does seem to have lead to consistently higher assessment & observation scores.

I hope others find this useful for trying to optimize your own RPG setting. This was a non-therapeutic and non-educational setting, it was only for standard leisure activity of tabletop role-playing games.

Though some educational settings, and some therapy-related issues are mentioned in this article, while other articles focus on those topics, they are not the focus of this article.

Some of these considerations in this article include some higher functioning Autism spectrum participants, social phobias, disruptive personality types, etc.

While there are more scientifically rigorous studies listed, under way, and planned in the future for The RPG Research Project, this page is var more variable in formality, but may still have some useful data and insights to help others trying to find ways to maximize the RPG experience for participants.

Since this comes up pretty much every month, I will try to fill in the blanks to the huge amount of data gleaned over the decades. This article will hopefully, over time, provide many answers to people trying to optimize the experience for their players. This may eventually be merged into the FAQs section of the site.

Of course there are so many other variables, not the least of which includes the person that is the Game Master and the personalities of the players, which are just a few of the many confounds in trying to systematically narrow down correlative and causal effects from changing a key variable to try to maximize the results in the enjoyment reports/observations from/of the participants.

 

Optimizing the Experience for Maximal Immersion and Achieving Maximal Flow State

Throughout this document I am constantly referring to "Immersion" and "Flow" as two separate though directly related experiences. I am open to adjusting these terms, but they are what I have been using for some time. I am using these terms in the following ways:

Immersion (Hawke's short definition)

The degree to which the RPG participant is engrossed in the activity.

This is measurable on Likert-style scales using a wide number of TR/RT assessment tools.

 

Flow (Hawke's short definition)

An optimal state of immersion that can lead to maximal performance by the participant.

This is trickier to measure, while there are degrees of flow, it is somewhat binary in different areas. The more one experiences each of the areas as "on" versus "off", the more intense the flow experience.

When the participant experiences all aspects as "on", they are most likely in the most productive and maximal performance state possible, with the highest enjoyment levels.

 

Can't Experience Flow in RPGs?

Apparently there is some debate about whether role-playing games qualify for achieving Flow state (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)#cite_note-Finding_Flow-9 ). This is news to me. I only recently heard that there even was such a debate in a Facebook discussion with Darrin Coe https://www.facebook.com/groups/roleplaytheorystudygroup/permalink/1417935211583687/

My personal experiences, repeated observations, discussions with others, and formal assessments of participants, seem to indicate not only a strong sense of immersion, but intense flow state experiences. However, there are a LOT of variables that can prevent participants from experiencing this flow state.

Flow (Standard, though lengthy definitions)

Therapeutic Recreation / Recreation Therapy specializes in using recreational activities to achieve therapeutic and educational goals for clients. Immersion, and optimizing the experience for clients to increasingly experience flow state are core components for achieving these goals.

If you aren't familiar with flow, you may know it as "being in the zone" in sports. The main proponent of the flow concept is Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

The key is to balance challenge, environment, participant abilities, intrinsic motivation, and many other variables, so that the participant has an intense, distinctive experience, and is at their optimal state of performance.

The core components of Flow Theory, as quoted from a summary on Wikipedia:

"Jeanne Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing an experience of flow.[2]

  1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2. Merging of action and awareness
  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5. A distortion of temporal experience, one's subjective experience of time is altered
  6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

Those aspects can appear independently of each other, but only in combination do they constitute a so-called flow experience. Additionally, psychology writer Kendra Cherry has mentioned three other components that Csíkszentmihályi lists as being a part of the flow experience:[3]

  1. "Immediate feedback"[3]
  2. Feeling that you have the potential to succeed
  3. Feeling so engrossed in the experience, that other needs become negligible

Just as with the conditions listed above, these conditions can be independent of one another."

 

The image below is the most common model used to reflect all the variables that need to be perfectly balanced to get into the ideal flow, hitting that "sweet spot" in the center for maximal flow experience.

Quoting from Wikipedia's summary:

"Flow theory postulates three conditions that have to be met to achieve a flow state:

  1. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.[14]
  2. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.[14]
  3. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills. One must have confidence in one's ability to complete the task at hand.[14]

However, it was argued that the antecedent factors of flow are interrelated, as a perceived balance between challenges and skills requires that one knows what he or she has to do (clear goals) and how successful he or she is in doing it (immediate feedback). Thus, a perceived fit of skills and task demands can be identified as the central precondition of flow experiences.[15]"

Related to role-playing games, I have found a lot of variables can improve the likelihood of participants (including the GM) experiencing Flow more frequently and for longer durations. That is what most of the experiments from 2012 through 2014 were focused on. There are a lot of things that can "take a person out" of flow, or prevent them ever experiencing it. But based on the many leisure experience assessment tools I've used for RPG participants, everything listed for qualifying as flow experience was experienced repeatedly by all participants at one point or another. Sometimes everyone in the group experienced it simultaneously, while more often individuals experience it during key points on their own at different intervals than their fellow participants.

 

Key RPG-related Variables to Optimize Immersion and Increase Likelihood of Flow Experience

The list of variables is quite lengthy. If there are just a little "off" the participants can still have good flow experiences, but if they are considerably off mark, then it can completely prevent anyone from experiencing flow in the game.

Again these experiments focused primarily on tabletop RPG, but are to various degrees applicable to LARP as well.

Key variables to address:

GM Variables

  • Experience
  • Overall competence
  • Verbal skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Social/empathic skills
  • Narrative style
  • Acting style
  • NPC richness
  • World richness
  • Multiple sensory adjectives

 

Adventure/Campaign Variables

  • Background depth
  • Sensory richness
  • Sense of connectedness
  • Logic of environment
  • Physics

 

Players Variables

  • Cooperative attitude
  • Willingness to suspend disbelief
  • Kinds of sensory "visualization" tendencies (some people can't visualize, but experience immersion through other senses)
  • Interest in genre
  • Interest in setting
  • Interest in game complexity
  • Interest in game style (combat vs. narrative vs. exploration, etc (Bartle))
  • Group/Camaraderie Building Tools

 

The above is so subjective and difficult to specify (many papers unto themselves), but assuming a qualified GM, and cooperative players (though that wasn't always the case during these experiments, there was a little bit of a "weeding out" process of the most disruptive players that were unwilling to follow the code of conduct consistently), most of the experiments focused on environmental factors to increase the likelihood of flow experiences, that is what the majority of this document covers.

Environment & Game Variables

  • Group Size
  • Game Session Length
  • Game Session Frequency
  • Keeping party together vs. splitting up the groups
  • One-shots (1 session to completion), short-shots (a few sessions to completion), campaigns (many/unlimited sessions).
  • Game Setting
  • Game System
  • "Alignment" of characters
  • "Alignment" of campaign
  • Sandbox vs. semi-structured vs. "rail-roaded"
  • Camaraderie building techniques
  • Technology use/misuse
  • Facility temperature
  • Facility lighting
  • Facility walls (color, maps, posters, etc.)
  • Facility cleanliness
  • Facility noise levels
  • Public vs. private settings
  • As above, but specific considerations for convention settings
  • Other facility distractions (people coming-going, street traffic, sunlight beaming in, etc.)
  • RPG Accessories
  • Sound effects & music
  • Costumes & props
  • Pre and post game processing

 

Different Interaction Patterns

Different activities interact with people and the environment in a variety of ways. These interactions have different effects on those involved. Role-playing games come in several different interaction styles. Generally tabletop is cooperative, combat LARP competitive, computer-based competitive, and SAB/M introspective. Elliot M. Avedon detailed 8 interaction patterns related to recreation and therapeutic recreation, from the behavioral sciences perspective, in his 1974 book "Therapeutic Recreation Service - An Applied Behavioral Science Appoach.".

Here is a summary diagram created by W.A. Hawkes-Robinson on those 8 interaction patterns, and how different RPG formats apply.

 

 

 

 

 

Intake Process

 

 

Signed Paperwork / Waivers / Releases

 

 

 

Agreement to Audio/Video Recording, Photos, Photo Releases, etc.

 

 

 

Signed Player Code of Conduct

 

 

 

Contact Forms

 

 

 

 

Documents & Discussions Addressing Client / Parent / Caretaker Concerns

 

 

 

Options to Observe Video or Live Sessions to Prepare Prior to First Session

 

 

 

 

 

Assessment Tools

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intake Assessment Tool: Leisure Interest Measure (LIM) (licensed)

Created by Jacob Beard and Mounir Ragheb.

Cost: ~$1 per form (bulk pricing lowers cost, typically I bought in bundles of 25 for $20).

Reliability: .87 (overall alpha)

Not used to measure outcomes, helpful for gauging new participants background and interests as a starting point to reference for which program plans would map well to their existing or possible interests.

 

 

Leisure Diagnostic Battery

By Idyll Arbor, Inc.

Reliability: .80_

Assessment of leisure functioning, determine areas to improve, impact of services on leisure functioning, facilitate research on the structure of leisure programs to determine efficacy of outcomes.

 

 

Beck Depression Inventory

 

 

 

Children's Depression Inventory

 

 

 

 

Brief Cognitive Rating Scale (BCRS)

 

 

 

Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale

 

 

 

Functional Independence Measure (FIM)

 

 

Global Assessment of Functioning scale (GAF)

 

 

 

Rancho Los Amigos Scale

 

 

 

Range of Motion (ROM)

 

 

Perceived Locus of Control 

 

 

 

Sedation Scale

 

 

 

Visual Disability Rating Levels Scale

 

 

 

Cognitive Age / Functioning Assessments for Best Game System Complexity Match or Adaptations

 

 

 

Emotional age / functioning assessment to gauge "safety" of certain story types / tropes/ circumstances

 

 

 

Cooperation and Trust Scale (CAT)

By: Idyll Arbor

Reliability: .75+

Validity: .76+

 

 

Leisure/Recreation Interest Assessment Tools

 

Drawing upon Therapeutic Recreation / Recreation Therapy methodologies, and using some of their assessment tools, including some with better ratings in Reliability and Validity.

 

 

Leisure Satisfaction Measure (LSM)

By: Jacob Beard and Mounir Regheb

Reliability: .85 - .96

Purpose: Measure the degree to which a client perceives their general "needs" are being met through leisure. Includes scales for:

  • Psychological
  • Educational
  • Social
  • Relaxation
  • Physiological
  • Aesthetic
  • Total Overall Scale

 

 

 

 

Immersion / Flow Experience

 

Flow State Scale-2 (which measures flow as a state) and the Dispositional Flow Scale-2 (designed to measure flow as either a general trait or domain-specific trait). Jackson and Eklund created two scales that have been proven to be psychometrically valid and reliable.

 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1569186113000442

 

 

Other tools coming soon...

 

 

 

 

Demographics Information

The intake process does include a significant amount of useful demographics information, including income, marriage status, ethnicity, gender, parental/sibling status, career information, residence locations, and much more. However, since we didn't go through an IRB process, we have to be very careful about what, if any, of this information is shared publicly. I will try to use more general numbers to play it as safe as possible, while still trying to provide some useful information.

 

 

 

 

Prior Gaming Experience Assessment

Further building on the leisure/recreation assessment tools, using our in house assessment tool to determine what kind of gaming experience the participant has in all formats: computer-based, live-action, tabletop, solo books, etc.

 

 

 

Genre Interest Assessment

In house assessment tools.Building upon the leisure/recreation interest assessment, based on their interest in existing media including books, movies, television, online shows, youtube, audio books, graphic novels, etc. Based on their interest in which genres they like from those media, while it is great to expose them to new things, it is a helpful starting point to know where they are coming from.

 

 

Play Style Assessment

In house assessment tools. Drawing upon the Bartle Taxonomy of Players, assessing what combinations of play style the participant is likely to enjoy the most.

 

 

System Complexity Assessment

An in-house tool to determine if the player would derive more enjoyment from a complex system, a more detail oriented system, a system with more choices, or systems on the rules light, more free form, or with more defined but fewer choices (some find too many choices overwhelming), etc.

 

 

 

Tabletop Role-Playing Gamers Are Some of the Most Paperwork Friendly People I Have Ever Seen!

This is more true with gamers that cut their teeth on more complex systems than the very rules-light systems (doesn't seem to be generation/age as much as what they have become used to, though there is some cohort effect possibly there).

 

 

 

 

Group Sizes and Recommended Modifications

 

 

Solo

 

 

 

1 GM + 1 GM

 

 

 

 

1 GM + 2 players

 

 

 

1 GM + 3 players

 

 

 

1 GM + 4 players

 

Depending on player experience and maturity, 4-5 players is the "sweet spot" for sufficient party size, variety of characters, intergroup dynamics, intragroup interaction, duration of "rounds", resolution of action in combat scenarios, availability of role-playing time, opportunities to create new out-of-game friendships, etc.

 

1 GM + 5 players

 

 

 

 

 

1 GM + 6 players

 

 

 

 

1 GM + 7-10 players

 

 

 

 

1 GM + 11 to 20+ players

 

 

 

2 GMs + 4 to 5 players

 

 

 

2 GMs + 6 to 10 players

 

 

2 GMs + 11+ players

 

 

3 GMs + 6+ players

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping the Party Together vs. Splitting Up the Party

 

 

 

 

Running Multiple Simultaneous Groups in the Same Campaign

 

 

 

Hearing Rumors of the other Group(s) (and not knowing it is another PC group)

 

 

 

Convergence of all groups into one mega-group to achieve major goals

 

 

 

 

Game Session Length

 

 

Old days - 6 to 8+ hours per session

 

 

In the 1970s/80s/90s my sessions were typically 6 to 8+ hours. During the mid 1980s I ran 3 8 hour groups each weekend, 2 on Saturday and one on Sunday.

 

 

Shorter Session Experiments - 30 - 45 - 60 minutes

 

 

Only effective if meeting several times per week, at least twice per week. Works well if meeting 4-5 days per week.

If only meeting weekly,too little progress. Not enough time for immersion, shaking of the thoughts of the rest of the day, getting in the groove with everyone else, doesn't allow for real role-play, tends to allow only enough time to be much more mechanically focused, and doesn't relationship build as well.

With very few rare exceptions, if only run once per week, participants did not report developing out of game friendships. This held true with only 2 sessions per week as well.

At 3 to 5 sessions per week, some participants did report developing out of game friendships, and much higher enjoyment levels. At 4-5 sessions per week, some began reporting "flow state" experiences, albeit relatively brief compared to those reported in longer sessions.

 

 

 

Shorter Session Experiments - 90 - 120 minutes

 

If meeting at least twice per week, this is do-able. At once per week, it is noticeably better than shorter durations, and can slowly build camaraderie, and does allow for shorter role-play experiences instead of just mechanical RPG sessions. Requires a lot more rigid discipline to get everyone focused on the game as quickly as possible, and everyone needs to be very efficient in their responses. While more useful/effective than <90 minute sessions, pretty rare for participants to experience true "Flow state", and not at all consistently.

While sometimes out-of-game friendships developed from these sessions, this usually only happened if they were having at least 2-3 sessions per week. When run only once per week, there really wasn't time for out of game socializing, so few-to-none reported developing new friendships that lasted out of game.

 

 

 

 

Shorter Session Experiments - 3-4 hours

 

This appears to be the best "sweet spot".

While longer sessions can increase the opportunities for more flow state experiences, the 3-4 hour session length seems to be "just right" for pretty consistently experiencing flow state at least once every session. With younger groups this may need to include 1 or 2 short 5 minute "physical breaks" to get up and move. This movement can still be related to the game to keep them focused, but doesn't have to be.

Also, after about 3-4 hours, most people need a longer (15-30 minutes) break to continue, but you don't want too long a break, else it will take longer to get back into the game.

 

 

Shorter Session Experiments - 5-6 hours

 

This begins to get into the area that more "hard core gamers" seem to cherish, from about 6 to 8 hours or more. Some of the long term gamers felt disappointment with any sessions shorter than this. These longer sessions allow more time to socialize, get to know each other both in and out of game, and over time build some potential friendships that may continue outside of the gaming group.

 

Longer Session Experiments - 7-9 hours

 

 

 

 

Longer Session Experiments - 10-12 hours

 

 

 

Longer Session Experiments - 13-16 hours

 

 

 

 

 

Longer Session Experiments - 17-24+ hours

 

 

 

Extra-Life (16-24 hours non-stop gaming)

 

 

 

 

Self-generated Characters vs. Pre-generated characters

 

 

Pretty consistently, people playing pre-generated characters had far less "buy in" for the adventure, and thus usually experienced far less immersion and were far less likely to report any flow experiences.

This was not a hard and fast rule however, some people grew into their characters with longer campaigns, even when it was so completely different from the type they would normally have made themselves.

Generally though, the best immersion experiences are from the players that were able to create their own characters. The least immersion was from players that didn't get to choose which pre-generated character they used.

So, there were multiple levels available:

  1. Randomly or automatically assigned pre-generated characters, the players have no choice which PC they get.
  2. A small pile of pre-generated characters, a number matching the number of players, from which the players could choose
  3. A large pile of pre-generated characters that the players can pick from, so players had many different choices to pick from, more closely fitting their preferences.
  4. Players generating their own characters (under GM oversight).
  5. Players generating their own characters, without GM oversight. These unfortunately had a high number of errors/omissions and or outright fudging/cheating.

 

 

Simpler characters (little to no background)

Simple characters just fill in the key fields of the character sheet, and do not develop any intricate back story, any connection with other characters, etc.

Sometimes it is fun to just play a very basic, archetypal, straight-forward character, that isn't overly complex, and more of the focus is on the adventure story than on the character's background and connection with the campaign world.

Immersion and flow showed mixed results with simpler characters. Player type may have been the key component (needs further testing) determining which players experienced more/less immersion or flow using simpler characters.

 

 

Richer characters (rich background)

Richer characters typically have a half page or more background information about their character's history, connections with the campaign world, other characters in the world, etc.

Results were also mixed regarding immersion and flow with these character types. I think this once again has to do with the Bartle Player Type. However, overall, reported immersion and flow experiences were noticeably higher than with the simpler characters.

 

 

 

Campaign Duration - One shots, short-shots, and long-running adventures

 

 

 

One-shots (1 session to completion)

 

These are more common at Pick-up Games (PUGs) in public areas such as hobby stores and conventions.

They can be a good (or terrible) introduction to the basic mechanics of the RPG process, but are typically lacking in many areas compared to the multiple-session adventures and campaigns.

These sessions were the most difficult for participants to experience deeper immersion, let alone flow. Usually the players are using pre-generated characters, rather than characters they made themselves.

For groups that we used characters they made at a previous session, the likelihood of immersion and flow went up considerably.

Using

 

 

Short-shots (a few sessions to completion) (need a better term?)

 

 

 

Campaigns (many/ongoing sessions)

 

 

 

 

 

Game Session Frequency

 

 

Intense Marathons / Retreats / Events (Extra-life 24 hours, etc.)

 

 

Daily (7 days per week)

 

 

Weekdays (5 days per week)

 

 

3-day Weekends

 

 

 

2-4 Sessions per week

 

 

 

Weekly session

 

This is probably the ideal for most groups. The interval allows for most people's busy lives, but is frequent enough that with just a short recap, most people remember the prior events fairly well.

Ideally the sessions at this interval should be around 3-4 hours.

Less than 3 hours is possible, but less likely to achieve

 

Every-other-week

 

This is a tolerable distance between sessions, if the session length is at least 3-4 hours.

However, having to cancel a session, or a participant unable to attend, means an entire month will have passed, which leaves the group much more susceptible to dissolution. Very critical to not miss any sessions at this interval.

A longer recap of events is necessary to help refresh and get everyone on track.

Immersion is still pretty high, and chances of flow experiences still moderately achievable.

 

 

Every-three-weeks

 

 

 

Once per month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evaluated Game Systems

 

 

Original Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D)

 

 An easy, simple game system. The basic rules are very easy to pick up, make a character, and start playing within 15-30 minutes (5 minutes for more experienced players).

A very rules-light system initially, with the first 3 core booklets. Later add-on booklets increased options for possible complexity and choices, but by todays standards are still very simple.

The only big negative is there is a distinct lack of organization, and it can be difficult to find different parts of the rules quickly, until you have done so many times.

The current trend has been for RPG systems to focus on "rules light" approach, but they all seem to forget that the very first RPG was originally a very rules-light system, that although originally derived from wargaming, is completely open to narrative style ROLE-play, and is not a "crunchy" ROLL-play system.

This began to change with AD&D, and thus some people wanted the original experience, with some improvements, and thus BECMI was also created in parallel.

With the simplicity and abstractness of OD&D, it is very easy to use for any targeted goals, entertainment, education, therapy, etc.

 

AD&D 1st Edition

 

A much more complicated evolution from OD&D, but also a much more organized and better logically linked system. A moderate-to-light rules heaviness, depending on how many optional rulebooks you add from later years (UQ, DSG, WSG, OA, Dragon Magazine, etc.).

Still a personal favorite of mine, it still gets a lot of flack for the charts, inconsistencies, and game "balance" issues.

 

 

Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters, Immortals D&D (BECMI)

 

For those that didn't like the added complexity of AD&D, and missed aspects of the simplicity of OD&D, as well as specifically targeting bringing in new players, the Basic rules are definitely that, very basic.

The Red Box , "...." version, has excellent solo tutorials for individuals to learn the system on their own, and then progress to running their first group.

Over time, additional rules and options are added as they level up through Expert, Companion, Master, & Immortal abilities.

I still very much like using BECMI. I tend to go many years between using it, but every time I do, both I, and those participating report experiencing a lot of the original "magic" of the experience of role-playing we all experienced "the first time".

Initially a very rules light system, it does (slowly) build in complexity, all the way to become a deity! But this gradual pacing is very accessible to participants and does not overwhelm most.

It works very well with a wide range of populations, including cognitive impairments. The step-by-step guides on how to play are very accessible.

 

 

 

AD&D 2nd Edition

 

I have to admit to only occasionally running or playing the 2nd edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. While it is much closer to AD&D1 than subsequent versions (D&D 3 onward being very different creatures), it really went into a high level of increasing complexity of optional rules. Of course, those are all OPTIONAL rules, so you can keep it to the basic core, and add only what you wish (as is true with any RPG system of course).

This is a system deserving of more research, but I have found a dearth of DMs wishing to run it.

Further research is recommended. 

 

 

 

 

D&D 3.x

 

A whole new generation of players "cut their teet" on 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
Personally I never cared for this system, but it became the lingua franca in many areas. I found it sometimes impossible to form new groups with other systems, so had to start with 3.x to gather the people, and then I could slowly transition them to other systems and settings.

From 3.x onward, D&D becomes increasingly Anima/Comic-book/Super-hero like, and less like the old classic fantasy earlier versions of D&D were based on.

The concept of "Game Balance" constantly a motto for this generation of systems onward.

3.x is infamous for their "splat books". A long line of

 

 

 

Pathfinder (D&D 3.75)

 

 

 

 

 

Open d20 3.x Variant - Thieves World

 

 

 

 

Open d20 3.x Variant - Midnight Chronicles

 

 

 

Open d20 3.x Variant - Iron Heroes

 

 

 

The Babylon Project (Babylon 5)

 

 

 

Open d20 3.x Variant - Babylon 5 d20

 

 

 

Mongoose Traveller Babylon 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open d20 3.x Variant - Stargate SG-1

 

 

 

 

Open d20 3.x Variant - Gamma World

 

 

 

 

 

Open d20 3.x Variant - The Wheel of Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition (D&D 4)

 

 

 

 

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (D&D 5e)

 

 

 

Eä d20 AD&D1 (AD&D adapted to Middle-earth)

 

 

 

Eä d20 d20 3.x (D&D 3.x adapted to Middle-earth)

 

 

 

Eä RPG (Community created Tolkien-based RPG system)

 

 

 

Arda Marred (Community created Tolkien-based RPG system)

 

 

 

Hither-lands (Community created Tolkien-based RPG system)

 

 

 

..... (Community created Tolkien-based RPG system)

 

 

 

 

..... (Community created Tolkien-based RPG system)

 

 

 

Iron Crown Enterprises Middle-earth Role-Playing + Rolemaster 2nd Edition (ICE MERP/RM2)

 

 

 

Iron Crown Enterprises - Robin Hood

 

 

 

Peter Pan RPG (Home Brew - Pending)

 

 

 

Decipher Lord of the Rings RPG (Dec LotR RPG)

 

 

 

 

Cubicle 7 The One Ring RPG (TOR RPG)

 

 

 

 

Cubicle 7 Adventures in Middle-earth (AiMe)

 

 

 

AiMe Custom Merging from TOR RPG

 

 

 

 

 

A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) RPG

 

 

 

 

 

No Thank You Evil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savage Worlds

 

 

 

 

 

Pendragon RPG

 

 

 

Boothill

 

 

 

 

Twilight 2000

 

 

 

Paranoia

 

 

 

 

Star Wars d6

 

 

 

 

FASA Star Trek

 

 

 

Cryptomancer RPG

 

 

 

 

Icar (science fiction)

 

 

 

 

Firefly RPG

 

 

 

 

 

Serenity RPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generic Universal Role-Playing System (GURPS)

 

 

 

 

Basic Role-Playing system (BRP)

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare RPG

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Pan RPG (Homebrew)

 

 

 

 

World of Darkness - Vampire, Werewolf, related variants

 

 

 

 

Robotech

 

 

Mechwarrior

 

 

 

Rifts

 

 

Shadowrun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game Settings

 

 

 

Blackmoor

 

 

 

 

 

Greyhawk

 

 

 

 

Faerun

 

 

 

 

Oriental Adventures (1st Edition)

 

 

 

Other D&D Setting(s)

 

 

 

 

Thieves' World

 

 

 

 

 

Middle-earth & Beyond

 

 

 

 

 

 

Babylon 5

 

 

 

 

 

Cthulhu

 

 

 

 

Terry Prachett's Discworld (GURPS)

 

 

 

 

World War 2 (GURPS)

 

 

 

 

Homebrew - Worlds of Beru

 http://www.spokanerpg.com/worlds-of-beru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

" Alignment", Heroic, Chaotic, and/or Evil Characters/Campaigns

 

 

 

Heroic vs. more Chaotic Groups

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Campaigns Overview

 

I rarely allow running evil campaigns, due in part to the fact that they almost always devolve into PvP situations. A few more mature groups have handled it well enough that they lasted up to a year before the "authorities" managed to hunt them down.

 

Evil Campaign - Middle-earth (2015)

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/rpg-group-discussions/248207091?b_start=0#224074808

 

 

 

Evil Campaign - ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Campaign - ....

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Campaign - ....

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Campaign - ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Campaign - ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Campaign - ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Campaign - ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Campaign - ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pure Sandbox vs. Semi-structured, vs. "Railroaded"

 

 

 

 

Sandbox

 

 

 

 

 

Railroad (highly structured)

 

 

 

 

Semi-structured (balance between sandbox and railroad)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Camaraderie As Quickly and Strongly as possible

 

 

There are a wide number of "ice breaker" techniques available in Therapeutic Recreation / Recreation Therapy (TR / RT) that all Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (TRS) are trained in. These help speed up the process of camaraderie building within groups for recreational activities.

Many of these techniques can be used prior to sitting down at the table, and after a game session, to build player relationships faster than the RPG segment might normally allow for.

Tuckman's Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing (& and optional Adjourning/Mourning) stages of group development definitely apply to RPG groups, but there are a number of "artificial" factors that can be implemented in a gaming context to accelerate the process, though be careful about skipping over too much of the storming process.

That is a lengthy topic of discussion, covered by many books, and not the purview of this section of this document.

There are a number of techniques in the RPG segment, however, that can be used to help facilitate the group cohesion and camaraderie building. This section elaborates upon these RPG approaches.

 

 

If unlimited time/sessions, follow typical Tuckman Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, +

 

 

 

Tools to Accelerate Camaraderie Building

 

 

 

Heroic Game Play, TOR RPG / AiMe, Fellowship & Fellowship Focus (Very Helpful!)

 

 

 

A Song of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones) RPG - House Building Mechanics (Most remarkable Ultimate Group Bonding Tool!)

 While rumors, bonds, background stories, etc. are all very helpful for facilitating bonding of new groups, the ultimate RPG mechanic I have found is the House Building Tools from The Song of Ice & Fire RPG (Game of Thrones RPG). This takes some time, it can easily take 1-2 hours for all new players, but I have now repeatedly observed, quite astoundingly, since it is a very group involved process (and if handled correctly, so everyone has buy in), creating even before anyone has started any of their own character creation, their own "House" that links all of their to-be-yet-created characters. At the end of this process, the bonding and in-group vs. out-group (The rest of the campaign world) formation is remarkably formed. I would say that this process easily jump starts the group bonding anywhere from 3 to 6+ sessions in about the time of just half a (3-4 hour) session. They create a party sense of identity, history, home base, political placement, etc. It is quite an involved process.

This is similar to Pendragon's mechanics.

The downside is though is it is designed only to work in the Game of Thrones setting. However, I have successfully modified and tested in a World of Greyhawk D&D setting, and had similarly remarkable bonding success. This was with a group of particular unruly teenages, 2 with formal ASD diagnoses, and 1 other likely on the spectrum though undiagnosed, and 2 others without diagnosed disorders, but being 15 to 17 year olds, riddled with many of the challenges of that age group.

I hope to next try to modify it to somehow work in a Middle-earth setting with the Adventures in Middle-earth (AiMe) Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (D&D 5e Open license) expansion.

 

 

 

 

Experiment - Greyhawk Setting, using Game of Thrones Housebuilding Approach (Success!)

 

With a juvenile group, some on the Spectrum, that had been having repeated group cohesion problems, and repeated TPK's. I was asked to see if  I could help improve.

Took classic AD&D 1st Edition Greyhawk boxed set, and AD&D 1st Edition characters/rules, and merged House Building rules from Song of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones (GoT)) RPG to try to build camaraderie up front.

Then ran them through U1 - The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. The party had considerably better cohesion and cooperative play, and functioned far better.

 

 

 

 

TODO Experiment - Use House Building in Middle-earth Setting, and other regular D&D settings

 

 

 

 

 

Impact of Technology on all In-person Tabletop RPG

 

This section includes general observations over decades of experience with RPGs, as well as more specific measurable information from the 2012-2014 experiments.

I have completely different information regarding using online technologies to join disparate players.

We modified our various Codes of Conduct and participation rules based on those experiments, and had consistently higher scoring based on those many modifications, Including discouraging use of "disruptive" technologies.

Now, things like overhead/underboard dynamic digital maps, sound effects, music, that is a whole other story.

Those had mixed results, but often favorable (though very inconsistent, so needs more exploration). Sorry can't give a more formal report, but hope the high level is useful feedback for future consideration

 

 

Allowed/Responsible Use of Supplementary Technology during game sessions

 

Regarding technology in face-to-face-in-person tabletop RPG, even for the younger groups that liked tech, they generally consistently scored somewhat lower on sessions satisfaction when smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. were allowed.

Even if they were strictly used for game related uses (look up rules, character sheet management, mapping, journaling, etc.), not only were the scores lower for the participants using the tech, it also generally was lower for the other participants in the group that were not using the tech (though less dramatically so). Looking through the videos, they tended be much more distracted, and not following the game play as well as their non-tech-using peers.  

 

Non-relevant use during game sessions

 For those that were less disciplined, and kept texting, or Facebooking, etc. with their smartphones/laptops/tablets, assessment scores plummeted not just for the "offending" participant, but more consistently for the other players. For older players (30+ years old), technology had an even great disruptive impact, than those in the 12 to 30 year old ranges.

 

 

 

 

Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality (VR & AR) Supplementation

 

 

 

 

EEG Monitoring / Bio-Feedback / Neuro-Feedback / During Gaming

 

I have been experimenting with these technologies. Of course one significant problem is people being able to focus on the game at the same level, when they have all those wires hooked up to their head, fingers, chest, etc. I am hoping less obtrusive wireless options will make it easier and less invasive. For now, I've been using open source based hardware from Europe, such as the OpenEEG projects, and related open source software.

I hope eventually to have the funding for full implementation of this monitoring, then correlating with the audio/video recordings, and the enjoyment/flow assessment tools, to tie all the data together with the events in the game, and try to further optimize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Impact of Technology on Tabletop RPG with Remote Players (Private Sessions)

 

 

 

 

CuSeeMe

 

 

 

 

Skype - Group Meetings

 

 

 

Google Hangout

 

 

 

Impact of Technology on Tabletop RPG with Remote Players (Public Broadcast Sessions)

 

 

 

 

Google Hangout / Youtube Live - Worlds of Beru

 

 

 

 

 

Google Hangout / Youtube Live - The One Ring Role-Playing Game (TOR RPG) - The Marsh's Bell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitch - Adventurer's League: Worlds of Beru

 

DM'd by Hawke robinson, run on The Spartan Show in his facility. All participants (Except audience) were in one face-to-face location: http://www.spokanerpg.com/adventurers-guild

 

 

Twitch - Legends: Through Shadow

 

 

 

Observations of the "Legends: Through Shadow" D&D 5th Edition Cos-play Live broadcast group on Twitch, hosted and DM'd by The Spartan Show: http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/trpg-in-online-format-1 

Participants were in multiple locations, rather than a single face-to-face location.

 

 

 

 

RPG Accessories

 

 

 

 

Battlemats

 

 

 

Map Tiles

 

 

 

 

Counters / Miniatures

 

 

 

Whiteboard/Chalkboard/Flipboards

 

 

 

Tokens

 

 

 

 

Dice

 

 

 

Cards

 

 

 

Spinners

 

 

 

Lots & Other Analog Randomizers

 

 

 

Digital Randomizers

 

 

 

Amber Diceless System

 

 

 

 

Adventure Archetypes - Dungeon Crawl - Tomb of Horrors style

 

 

 

Adventure Archetypes - City Adventure - Thieves World style

 

 

 

Adventure Archetypes - Wilderness style

 

 

 

....

 

 

 

....

 

 

 

 

Simulated GM Archetypes

 

 

 

 http://www.spokanerpg.com/archives/game-master-types

 

 

 

 

Simulated Player Archetypes

 

 

 http://www.spokanerpg.com/archives/wil-wheatons-role-playing-dickery

 

 

 

 

 

Music, Sound Effects, Audio Ambience

 

 

 

 

 

Costumes & Props for Tabletop RPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facility Variables

 

 

 

Facility - Accessibility

 

 

 

Facility Temperature

 

 

 

Facility Colors

 

 

 

Facility Visual Distractions

 

 

 

Facility LIghting

 

 

 

Facility Noise / Auditory Distractions

 

 

 

 Facility Parking

 

 

 

Facility Neighborhood, Safety and related considerations

 

 

 

Facilities - Packing / Hauling / Carrying / Storing Supplies

 

 

Facilities - Location, Transportation considerations

 

 

 

 

 

 


Personal RPG Background

Detailed background: http://www.rpgresearch.com/about/staff/hawke-robinson

Related to tabletop RPG:

  • Role-playing gaming since 1978/1979.
  • DM/GM since around 1981/1983.
  • Occasionally recording game sessions since 2004, and fairly consistently recording sessions since around 2010.
  • Organized and ran a number of small RPG conventions since 1985, including 2 RPGA events in Salt Lake City, Utah around 1985-1987, and Tolkien-based gaming conventions annually since 2005, in Spokane, Washington.
  • Founder: Other Minds Magazine, MerpCon, Tolkien Moot, RPG Research, RPG Therapeutics
  • Creator: SuiteGM, GamerFinder, MerpMaker, Ea d20 RPG, Ea RPG, Worlds of Beru.
  • Game Master at WorldCon 73
  • Accessibility Advocate for SpoCon 2017

 

Didn't Really Self-Identify With "Geek Culture"

Until very recently, I really didn't identify with the whole "geek culture" sub-culture. Though I did "geeky things" like computer tech/programming and role-playing gaming, and liked fantasy and some science fiction books and shows, I wasn't at all into comic books, or super heroes, or cos-play, etc.

Most of the people I gamed with in the 70s, 80s, & 90s came from a broad array of backgrounds, only some of which anyone would automatically identify as a "geek" or "nerd", etc. There were various "jock" types playing football, basketball, hockey, etc. and others that went on to become doctors, lawyers, welders, construction workers, cashiers, auto mechanics, race car drivers, career military from various branches, retired military, miners, etc. The ratio of female to male players was typically about 1:4, though we sometimes had groups that were half-and-half.

It wasn't until I moved to Spokane in 2004, and tried to form new groups, that I started to learn about this whole Geek Culture thing. A lot of my introduction to Geek Culture has been from my long term girlfriend since 2008, as she introduced me to Firefly/Serenity, the Whedonverse (Buffy, Dr Horrible, etc.), Felicia Day's empire (The Guild, Geek & Sundry, etc.), and much more.But I always feel like I'm playing catch-up with most of those that self-identify as "Geek" and part of Geek Culture.

While prior to 2004 I was somewhat of a "closet gamer" at work, due to concerns about the bias an stigma associated with gamers, I have since fully embraced the activity, including a license plate, "RPG", and bumper stickers, and of course creating websites and businesses focusing on the topic.

 

 

1982 - 1986 Experiments, Essay, & RPG Education High School Courses

 

 

 

Realms of Inquiry - A School for Gifted & Talented Children - Utah

Around 8th, 9th, and part of 10th grade, I attended a school named "Realms of Inquiry - A school for gifted & talented children".

http://www.realmsofinquiry.org/

This was a terrific school, a vast improvement over Saint Ann school of the previous years ( http://ksaschool.weebly.com/ ), which in turn was a huge improvement over the deplorable Howard R. Driggs elementary experience ( http://schools.graniteschools.org/driggs/ ).

Realms really encouraged students to maximize their learning potential, had incredible recreational activities tied in to building self confidence as well as learning, and many other exceptional aspects.

This school may have further cemented my broad range of interests that would later lead down a path toward becoming a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist.

It was at this school that I had the opportunity to "teach" role-playing games 5 days a week as a regular class for around a month or so!

For more details see:

http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/anecdotal-experiences-of-stigma-as-a-tabletop-role-playing-gamer

http://www.rpgresearch.com/documents/rpg-research-project/archives/rpg-tr-handbook-of-practice/wiki-version/roots-of-the-rpg-research-project

http://www.rpgresearch.com/about/and-so-it-begins

 

 

Realms - Lost Essay (8 pages) & Public Reading

As is detailed in the overview for this section (the links listed), I wrote an 8 page essay for the English course, on current events, covering the growing backlash against role-playing games and gamers in the media and society. I scored an A, and the instructor liked it so much, she asked me to read it aloud to the whole upper class. Unfortunately this essay was probably lost long ago, I am searching through all my old boxes, "Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore", I fear it might never be found. At the time, though I had Internet/DarpaNet/ArpaNet access through friends at the University of Utah, research required using actual books and libraries, and I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find whatever (little) research was available, as well as media representations about Dungeons & Dragons and role-playing games in general. One notable piece is that in the 1982 movie "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" by Steven Spielberg,  one of the opening scenes shows a group of teenage friends enjoying a role-playing game. There was no stigma attached to it, it just was kids having a pleasant social time around a game. The kids weren't stereotyped geeks/nerds either.

I recall being frustrated that there was very little research available on the topic of role-playing games, mostly just media hype, and the beginning efforts of Patricia Pulling and her organization Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (B.A.D.D.).

I remember including a portion on a depiction of Donahue conflating devil worship groups and role-playing gaming, and a kid they had on the show that did a very poor job trying to explain things, only further exacerbating the issues.

I am keeping this section as a place holder in case I ever find the original essay. I don't expect it is any masterwork of writing, but I would love to see what sources I was able to dig up at the time.

 

 

Realms - RPG Education Classes (5 days per week), Temporary Drama Course Substitute.

 

Many of the girls, and a few of the guys in hough I ran into similar issues later at public schools as well) began mocking us during gaming sessions we had during lunch or other break periods. I thought they were ridiculous and just misinformed, generally didn't really care what they thought (though a little annoyed at their interruptions). I offered to show them the game (they of course refused). Later though, as the media became worse, the initially light mockery became more serious. Accusations began being made about "spells", "witchcraft", and "demon worship", etc. I became disgusted with their ignorance and wrote an 8 page essay on the topic for my AP English course. The teacher then had me read this to the entire school since the issue was getting especially heated in various communities. After that, some of the girls and boys that had been mocking before, took me up on the offer to let them watch or try the games. Some became casual or even avid gamers, others did not, but as as I know, most no longer harass those who game.

Later (either that year or the following, I forget which), as this was a small private school, we were temporarily without a theater class instructor, so the school converted the time slot to a study period until they could find a replacement drama instructor. I had the "crazy" idea to make that a role-playing gaming period that could fill the slot, especially since I saw a reasonable relationship to the theater period and role-playing gaming. I wrote up a formal proposal and met with the Headmaster, proposing to run a course on role-playing gaming during that time for anyone that wished to attend, until they had a new teacher. He tentatively agreed.

I was allowed to use the biology classroom (since it had the most large tables instead of just student desks, or floor space as the theater room only had), and setup several tables with different genres of games and systems. If I remember correctly they were:

  • ICE MERP (Iron Crown Enterprises - Middle-earth Role-playing) - Tolkien-based fantasy
  • Boot Hill - "Cowboy western".
  • AD&D 1st Edition - Advanced Dungeons & Dragons fantasy (I believe the Greyhawk setting was used)
  • Twilight 2000 (had just come out) - Post apocalyptic military RPG.
  • FASA Star Trek - Science fiction
  • Call of Cthulhu - 1920's horror based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft (I'd forgotten this in the earlier original post)


We only had about 44 students from 9th through 12th grade (more in the lower grades), and during that month almost all of them joined us in the "class". I was overwhelmed by the response at first, and so had to learn to delegate to those that already knew how to RPG, to help run the other tables.

Everyone took turns as players and GM's (Game Masters), while I went around providing pointers, guidance, and demonstrations. It was such a blast! It was a shame when they hired the new instructor and I had to end it after only a month. As far as I know, no one in the school had anything negative to say about role-playing gaming afterwards. 

 

Durango, Colorado - Colvig Summer Camps

 

When I was 13, I attended this summer-long camp, with a lot of horse-related activities as part of the draw. I went on many 5+ day cross-country horseback trips through mountains and more.

I also had the chance to introduce my cabin mates and camp counselors to role-playing games. It is also where I learned to juggle, which later had a ripple effect at Realms of Inquiry, and my teaching juggling there leading to Bobby going on to become a professional juggler.

... more details pending ...

 

Experiments in "Binge-Gaming"

Okay, maybe "Experiment" is too formal, it was definitely trying out different approaches at intensity levels of gaming. From around age 13 to 16 the time I spent gaming significantly ramped up. Somehow I still had time for the school (or working at the Lost Packer Mine during the summer), the school basketball team  (I was always "center" due to my height), hacky sack, skateboarding, BMX biking, going to the local video game arcade, writing software programs, hiking, survivalism in the High Uintahs and out in the Utah desert, swimming, and much more.

For more details on the 3 AD&D World of Greyhawk groups I was running, see the section under Groups of this document titled: "Running Multiple Simultaneous Groups in the Same Campaign".

One-on-One Bing-gaming

During one summer month, I had a friend staying with us (he was about 3.5 years older than I, most of my friends older than I). In addition to the multiple regular groups on the weekend that I ran (AD&D, MERP/RM, Twilight 2000, Thieves' World, Call of Cthulhu, Star Wars, ...), or the occasional groups I played in during the week (FASA's Star Trek, Doctor Who, Elfquest, Robotech, Car Wars, Paranoia, ...), this friend and I were running one-on-one sessions, sometimes with him as GM, other times I was GM. We started to wake up, have breakfast and begin gaming, and nod off gaming, to the point where it was something like 16+ hours of gaming on some days! We were having a blast.

It was also very different with the intensely long one-on-one sessions. Since they were almost daily, there wasn't much time to prepare ahead, so we were both greatly enhancing our improvisational DM skills, while still keep long-term coherence through an ongoing campaign. These skills were extremely valuable with regular groups, but actually much more intensely tested in one-on-one ongoing "binge gaming".

Besides using my own several campaigns with my own worlds (that would in later years merge into the "Worlds of Beru" multiverse setting, a favorite for one-on-one was the Thieves' World boxed set. The TW book series was still actively cranking out books, and we very much enjoyed the setting. While it worked fine with a gaming group, it really was an ideal setting for one-on-one gaming, with a rich setting of NPCs to draw upon.

Arena of the Gods

At some point in the past, I had come up with the concept of "The Arena of the Gods", and had playtested it myself, but not with others. The concept was pretty straightforward. Your character arrived at this special arena on the Prime Material Plane (in the Greyhawke manifestation of the multiverse). And the PC could challenge any entity that was listed in the Deities & Demigods (at that time I still had the original with Cthulhu, Melnibonean, and other pantheons that were later removed due to copyright issues, unfortunately someone stole that book some time later).

The summoned entity would appear in their physical form this plane, with the specified stats.

The PC and entity would bandy words, allowing for some ROLE-play fun.

Sometimes they would come to an agreement other than fighting, but most of the time, it would sooner or later lead to them duking it out.

If the PC was victorious, that entity could no longer manifest their physical form on that plane (I later added a time limit rather than all eternity, anywhere from 1 year to 1,000 years, with 100 being the most common).

As for consequences to the PC, it depended if this was part of an ongoing campaign, or just a, "Hey, let's fight some gods just for some hack and slash fun for your high level character". If the former, then the PC could definitely die, or have many other consequences at the whim of the victorious entity. The the latter, then usually it "didn't count". They neither gained nor lost anything, it was just for fun.

 

 

 

1987 - 1990 Experiments

 

 

 

Utah

 

Experimented with various group sizes, locations, multiple groups in same campaign, merging groups into one mega (20+ players) group, multiple DMs at same table, LARP, SCA, egg-timers for round duration control, ....

 

 

Idaho - Lost Packer Mine

 

The Lost Packer Mine ( http://www.idahogold.net/tag/lost-packer-mine/ ) is a gold mine in the central Idaho mountains. It is a family-owned mine and I grew up working summers there, as did my uncle, & cousins. My grandfather (James Ivers III ) and great-grandfather (James Ivers II) worked year-round there, from a long line of mining, with my great-great grandfather a blacksmith and miner as well (James Ivers I).

The mine is located deep in the United States' second largest wilderness, the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness, near the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, with the mine around 7,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level, accessibly only by very rough remote dirt roads during a narrow window of the Summer/Fall, snowed in the rest of the year.

Because of the remote location taking at least half a day to get to any civilization, we worked 10 days on and 4 days off, often around 12-16 hours a day of hard physical (though rewarding) labor. One year, the crew wanted to see the Grateful Dead in Boise, so we worked 25 days on to get 10 days off. This is where I learned how cabin fever might have lead the "old-timers" to kill each other off. By the end of second week people were getting a bit snappish, but the end of the third week, most conversation consisted of short grunts.

At some point, around 1986/1987 or so, when my uncle (James Ivers IV) took over running the day to day mining operations from my cousin (Matt Ivers), on some slower days (sometimes after blasting there would be a good even lull since we couldn't go back in the mine until the next day), I proposed running the crew through a role-playing game session. I wanted to see how this population responded to this activity. I was heavily into Iron Crown Enterprises Middle-earth Role-playing, and most of them had read the Hobbit and/or the Lord of the Rings, so it was an accessible setting. Though 1 of the miners I think had not graduated high school (Woody?) and so reading was problematic for him.

I walked them through making their own characters and then for several nights, I GM'd them through a few hours of RPG fun. My uncle seemed both especially mocking but also especially into it, he (at 6'4" IRL) had chose to play a hobbit and he decided to use an extremely high-pitched voice when speaking as his character.

At the end of the ongoing adventure, while I don't think I converted any of them into becoming regular gamers, they had a better understanding of the game, and they admitted they did have fun, which after all is the whole point.

I think I still have the characters and notes from that adventure somewhere, so if I come across them, I will update this section with more details.

 

1991 - 1993 - No Time for Gaming?

I could be mistaken, and this may be corrected later in consultation with friends of the time period, but as far as I can recall, I was either too busy, or too much in dire straights (homeless, broke, etc.) and didn't have any time for gaming during these years.

 

 

1994 - 2000 Experiments - Utah

 

 

 An entire (large) family of in-laws and their friends in a MERP campaign .... details pending .... observations of sibling and parental dynamics, religious preconceptions (Mormon), and more....

 

See the section under technology and using CuSeeMe to have a remote player join a local face-to-face tabletop RPG campaign regularly.

 

 

 

2000 - 2002 Almost No Gaming - Bay Area / Silicon Valley / East Bay, California

 

In October 2000 I moved from Utah to accept a job as Chief Technology Officer for a tech company in Santa Clara, California.

I was working 90 to 120 hours, so I didn't have any time for gaming, except for a short few months when it things were down to "only" 50-60 hours a week (it felt like a vacation), so had very limited time availability, but still managed to fit in a little bit of RPG play time. Some things interesting about the Silicon Valley population and gaming .... details coming ....

 

 

2003 - No Gaming?

Due to many variables, including severe back injury working on one of my Internet radio towers during a snow storm in Malad, Idaho, leading to being bedridden for about 2 months, and catching severe Strep to compound things.

 

2004 - 2012 Experiments, Washington & Idaho

 The early part of 2004 was spent mostly in rehabilitation from the events of 2003, but I did manage to run some games with my very young boys (ages 4, 6, & 8), using MERP.

In 2005 I started trying to form new RPG groups, and found it very difficult because everyone in Spokane only wanted to play wither Warhammer 40k wargaming or D&D 3.x (which I had never played).

I eventually caved and bought 3.x

 

 

 

The 2012 through 2014 Experiments (12+ groups)

 

Back around 2012-2014 I ran 12 groups for over a year with various controlled changes.

All groups completed various self-report assessments after each session. No therapeutic or educational goals were attempting to be accomplished. The primary focus was trying to figure out how to maximize player enjoyment.

These experiments did not go through any kind of Institutional Review Board (IRB), so though we have found the data extremely useful internally, it continued to be problematic publishing anything specific about any individuals. We learned a significant amount of information about how to get higher Likert style scale of their enjoyment scores. These scores seemed to impacted fairly consistently by changes in environmental factors, among others things (duration of sessions, frequency of sessions, game play style, game aides, etc.).

This time period was all in-office groups at the Monroe Street offices.

 

 

 

Formation of Groups

 

 

 

Old Days ( < 2004)- Library, Game/Hobby Stores, Gaming Magazines, BBS, Web forum, GamerFinder.com, Word of mouth

 

 

 

 

 

Since 2004 - Hobby/Game Stores, "Social Networks", SpokaneRPG, RpgResearch.com, Meetup

 

 

 

 

Gamer Floater Hypothesis & Group Formation

 

 

For more details on this hypothesis:

 

 

 

 

2015+, Research and Publications

 

 

 

 

 

 

Muscular Dystrophy Association

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RPG Research Primary Locations

 

 

 

The Wheelchair Friendly RPG Trailer (mobile facility - Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington)

http://www.rpgtrailer.com

 

 

 

 

The Wheelchair Accessible RPG Bus (mobile facility - Greater Spokane & Couer d'Alene Area)

http://www.rpgbus.com

 

 

Hawke's House - Overview (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Hawke's House - Game Room 1

 

 

 

 

Hawke's House - Game Room 2

 

 

 

 

 

Hawke's House - Game Room 3

 

 

 

 

 

Hawke's House - Game Room 4

 

 

 

 

 

Hawke's House - Game Room 5

 

 

 

 

 

Hawke's House - Game Room 6

 

 

 

 

 

Hawke's House - Game Room 7

 

 

 

Hawke's House - Backyard

 

 

 

 

Monroe Street Offices - Overview (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Monroe Street Office - Room 1

 

 

 

 

 

Monroe Street Office - Room 2

 

 

 

 

Monroe Street Office - Room 3

 

 

 

 

 

Public Locations - Overview

 

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Merlyn's (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Other Locations

 

 

 

Public Location - Gamer's Haven - Post Falls Location (Post Falls, ID)

 

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Gamer's Haven - Spokane, Pines Road Location (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Uncle's Downtown (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Uncle's Spokane Valley Mall (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Hobbytown North (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - The Comic Store, North Town Mall (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Spokane Battlegrounds (Hillyard, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Spokane Falls Cafeteria (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Spokane County - Hawthorne Library (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Spokane Country Library - Argonne (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Spokane Shadle Branch LIbrary (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Eastern Washington University PUB (Cheney, WA)

 

 

 

Eastern Washington University - Other Areas

 

 

 

 

 

Public Location - The Spark Central (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Post Falls - Lightning Comics ? (Post Falls, Idaho)

 

 

 

Knowhere Comics & Games (Post Falls, Idaho)

 

 

 

Saint Thomas More Elementary School Playground (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Gonzaga Preparatory High School (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

 

Shari's Restaurant - North Spokane (Wandermere) (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Shari's Restaurant - Spokane (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Hawthorne Park (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Manito Park (Spokane, WA)

 

 

 

 

Public Location - Sugarhouse Park (Salt Lake City, UT)

 

 

 

 

 

Other's Locations - Wheelhouse Workshop Overview

 

 

 

 

Eastern Washington Center for Deaf & Hard of Hearing (EWCDHH)

 

 

 

Camp Dart-lo, Spokane, WA

 

 

 

Pend Oreille Campground, WA

 

 

 

Camp Twin-low, Rathdrum, ID

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hutton Settlement, Spokane, WA

 

 

 

 

Spokane Community Center

 

 

 

 

Spark Center, Spokane, WA

 

 

 

 

VA - Spokane

 

 

 

 

VA - Seattle/Tacoma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whitworth University

 

 

 

 

Bozarth Mansion

 

 

 

 

Millcreek Library, Utah

 

 

 

Holladay Library, Utah

 

 

 

Fremont, California

 

 

 

 

 

Wheelhouse Workshop - ..... Theater, Seattle, WA

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma City, OK

 

 

 

Tucson, AZ

 

 

 

Duluth/Embaras, MN

 

 

 

Dallas, TX

 

 

 

Convention Settings

 

 

 

1980s RPGA AD&D

 

 

 

MerpCon

 

 

 

 

MerpCon Changes to Convention Gaming Session length and total duration

 

 

 

MerpCon III Article Review by Joe Mandala -

 

 

 

Tolkien Moot

 

 

 

 

Tolkien Moot Changes to Convention Gaming Session length and total duration

 

 

 

 

WorldCon

 

 

 

 

SpoCon

 

 

 

 

 

ZoeCon

 

 

 

 

ZoeCon II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/what-is-question-hypothesis-of-the-rpg-research-observation-group-1

http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/approximate-group-demographics

http://www.rpgresearch.com/documents/primary/reference-material/to-be-sorted/dnd5-rpga-uncles-observation-notes-20150730a.txt

http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/biofeedback-and-rpg-research

http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/common-mis-conception-that-role-playing-gamers-are-also-avid-comic-book-fans

http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/gender-bias-in-gaming

http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/study-playing-rpg-for-5-minutes-alignment-impact-on-real-world-behaviors-computer-based-rpg

http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/trpg-in-online-format-1

http://www.rpgresearch.com/blog/why-the-popular-negative-stereotypes-about-role-playing-gamers-is-important-to-address

http://www.rpgresearch.com/documents/primary/list/2014-know-thy-avatar-the-unintended-effect-of-virtual-self-representation-on-behavior

http://www.rpgresearch.com/about/about-rpg-research

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/rpg-group-discussions/470390155?b_start=0#995057063

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/rpg-group-discussions

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/rpg-group-discussions/470390156

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/looking-for-gamers/961189118

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/world-of-beru

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/world-of-beru-group-6

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/worlds-of-beru-group-7

https://www.meetup.com/SCdA-RPG/

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/rpg-group-discussions/470390163/964522606

http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/rpg-group-discussions/470390166

http://www.merpcon.com

http://www.tolkienmoot.org

http://www.spokanerpg.com/archives/game-master-types

http://www.spokanerpg.com/archives/rpg-sessions-code-of-conduct-for-the-spartan-show

Babylon 5 Group Formation through Meetup - https://www.meetup.com/SCdA-RPG/events/207984092/

Tolkien d20 3.5 Group Formation through Meetup - https://www.meetup.com/SCdA-RPG/events/101647222/

MerpCon III Article Review by Joe Mandala -

Example Evil Campaign - http://www.spokanerpg.com/forum/rpg-group-discussions/248207091?b_start=0#224074808

 

Session Videos

 

 

 

 

Tolkien Moot & MerpCon Convention Gaming Broadcasts

Tolkien Moot XII Live Streaming

Session 1 of 3 The One Ring RPG - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4fkfdIkZvg

 

Session 3, Jul 16, 2016 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIwIy6sTNI4

 

 

Tolkien Moot IX Live Streaming - Palantir of Weathertop

Session 1, Aug 3, 2013 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLK2OastfLw

Session 2, Aug 3, 2013 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jShIZ4Di5GU

Session 3, Aug 3, 2013 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bn2nV-nI3I

 

Day 3, Aug 4, 2013 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDnKOkDNy80

Last session, Aug 4, 2013 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjWqe4MJAVU

 

 

Tolkien Moot VIII 2012 Day 1 table 1Gaming Session Long Excerpts - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHg05XN0jms

 

 

 Tolkien Moot 2007 MerpCon 3 Behind the Scenes and Miscellaneoushttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz_D1jShnaU

 Tolkien Moot 2007 MerpCon III Excerpts and Final Adventure https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8sLpyl5SV0

 

 

Tolkien Moot 2005 MerpCon I Adventure Introduction and Excerpts with Chris Seeman and Hawke - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Y6nrwfqKGc

 

The One Ring RPG Sessions (non-convention)

 

The One Ring Role-playing Game TOR RPG Tolkien Gaming Group:

 

 

Worlds of Beru Campaign broadcasts


 

D&D 3.5 with 2 Jet City Improv members (Google Hangout):

 

 

D&D 5e with The Spartan Show: Adventurer's Guild (Twitch):