October 4, 2011

GM Interview: Rory Klein

This week we interview Rory, a GM from Cape Town who’s a huge Greyhawk fan. If you have any questions about his campaign feel free to post them below.

Please introduce yourself

Hi, I am Rory from South Africa, Cape Town. I am 39 years old and I work as an IT Consultant. “Online,” I go by either Dark or Grey Herald.

Do you have a blog, website or campaign wiki?

Yes I do, http://www.greyhawk.co.za/ I am busy with a revamp of the site for my upcoming campaign for next year. (Coming soon 2012.)

How long have you been a GM?

Over 25 years. I started playing during our winter school holidays of 1984. I received my very own copy of the D&D Basic Rules (RED Box) as a Christmas present later that year. The January school holidays ended way too quickly for my liking … So started a life time of adventure.

I stayed with BECMI for many years and it was at the end of the 80’s that I finally made the change to AD&D and then to AD&D 2nd Edition a couple of years later. I settled on playing a hybrid mixture of D&D, AD&D & AD&D 2nd Edition.

When D&D 3rd Edition was released I was appalled at what they had done to the rules, so the books ended up laying on my bookcase never to be used. (To this day they were never used once).

I only recently converted to the d20 system, up and till 2008 I was still an avid AD&D and AD&D 2nd supporter. I always bought and kept up with the latest rules that were being released for D&D. It was only when I met Carl that he convinced me to play in his Freeport Campaign and got me to change to D&D 3.5.

Would I play the older versions of D&D? Without a doubt, in a blink of an eye.

What are your favourite games to run?

Dungeons & Dragons / Pathfinder. I love fantasy; it is that simple! I have played Werewolf, Vampire, Cyberpunk, Rifts, Dangerous Journeys, d20 Modern, Call of Cthulhu, ( to name a few) and I have played all the different versions of D&D, but D&D captured my heart from the beginning.

There is an exception to the rule – D&D 4th Edition is a big NO. In my opinion it isn’t D&D, but rather a hybrid system that looks like D&D but plays like a console version of it. The game is aimed at a younger and different market.

Currently my system of choice is Pathfinder RPG, although I still actively play in a D&D 3.5 game. I will also be running D&D Rules Cyclopedia game for my family; it was where I started after all.

There has only ever been one campaign world for me, “The World of Greyhawk.” Thanks Gary! Quoting Barry White, “My first, my last, my everything!” There are a number of other campaign settings that I really like, but with limited time these days you need to focus on what you want to play. That hasn’t stopped me from borrowing a few ideas from these other settings to incorporate into my game.

How did you first get into GMing?

I wasn’t really given a choice on the matter. If I hadn’t taken the mantle of DM on then, we wouldn’t have played. The moment I sat with those books in front of me I knew that I was meant to be a DM; being a player would always be second best.

How has GMing affected your life over the years?

That’s a tough question to answer off the cuff! I think it has taught me a few things over the years – to think things through, to be prepared, to be flexible and to think on my feet. You know that no matter how prepared you are there will always be the unexpected.

Section One: Your GMing Stat Block

What is your usual gaming schedule?

I currently play twice a week. I usually run a game set in the World of Greyhawk on Tuesday evenings from around 19:00. On Thursdays I play in a Freeport game that starts from about 20:00.

Both of these weekly games end around midnight. Our Thursday game is DM’d by Carl and has been running for just over 2 years now. It has been a great 2 years so far and I have learnt a lot from his style of DM’ing.

I plan to start a family game soon as my son has been asking to play. This will more than likely have to take place on Sunday afternoons from about 15:00.

Generally we get about 4 hours of play at each session, but that is if everyone is focused on the game. Gone are the days where we used start playing on a Friday afternoon and finished up late on a Sunday.

I have plans to get a few friends together for an “old school” get away weekend once a year. This is an idea that Carl and I have been speaking about for some time now.

Where do you play?

Generally, we play at my place in my lounge, which has sliding doors that gives us privacy from the rest of the house.

I built a custom gaming table that gives us ample room for everyone. The table (1800mm x 1800mm) and has a (900mm x 600mm) magnetic white board in the middle that is covered by a sheet of clear plastic.

Sometimes I use my projector for mapping, other times I print them out. Our Thursday game is played at my friend Jacques’s house in his bar area, where he has a table set up.

Do you use published material or create your own?

I use a mixture of both to be honest. These days I don’t have as much free time as I used to. So you have to maximize your prep time with what you have.

I am currently busy prepping my LEGACY: The Path of Heroes Campaign set in the World of Greyhawk. This campaign will take players from level 0-20 over roughly a 4 year period and is made up of a mixture of published material and my own.

In this campaign arc the players will start with Temple of Elemental Evil, then Scourge of the Slave Lords and finally finish with Queen of the Spiders. In between each super module I have inserted my own material to bring everything together, as well as a large rewrite of the original super modules and updating them to the Pathfinder RPG system.

What non-digital and electronic GM aides do you use (other than books)?

I will be using 0onegames for a lot of my maps for my upcoming campaign.

Hero Lab is great tool for generating and keeping track of characters.

I also make use of MapTool when using the projector, as well as TokenTool for creating tokens.

HexoGrapher is a great mapping tool and again very easy to use.

Google Sites is fantastic as a resource for a campaign website, as it is easy to use.

We have used Facebook very successfully for sending out invites to our weekly sessions. These invites are great for adding some depth to the NPCs that the players encounter as well as setting the tone for the that particular session and to the campaign as a whole.

Minis or no? What do you use for minis, and how do you use them?

Yes indeed. I have another friend, Jacques “HEY Jacques!” that makes custom miniatures for me.

Once the players have created their characters, I get each player to send me an email detailing what their characters look like, what they are wearing etc. and then I send it along with a picture for Jacques to work with.

For everything else I use paper tokens with custom plastic stands. Back in the early days we used use whatever we could find to represent a monster or player. Could I do that today … doubtful?

Section Two: Opportunities

What is your biggest GMing stumbling block right now? What could you do to fix that?

I would have to say TIME. I don’t like doing things half-heartedly and maybe I spend too much time trying to get things just right, but that’s who I am.

When was the last time you were a player? What insight about GMing did you pick up?

Thursday night! Smaller groups are definitely the way to go. Less of a focus on the rules and more on the role-playing and story development.

The advantage of smaller groups is that you get more face time with each of your players during the course of the evening.

Describe your perfect gaming session with you as GM

The players have to be focused as it is the final scene, where the heroes are facing off against their arch enemy; it has been months of hard work getting to this point and ACTION! The session runs like a well-oiled machine, rules are referenced behind the scenes and not noticed.

Section Three: GMing Style

What are the top qualities you look for or need in a player?

I need players to buy completely into my campaign. Most importantly, I need my players to arrive each week and actively be involved in helping me bring the setting to life. I am not looking for “Rules Lawyers” or “Chair Warmers.”

Describe in a few words each of your players and their playing style.

We have two types of players in our groups: long and short term players.

Short term players don’t like to play the same type of game or rules for long periods of time.

Currently we have a mixture of both types of players in our groups. In my last campaign I had a female rogue called Siam played by Darrel and a paladin of St. Cuthbert played by Carl. They were played so well that you could see the love-hate relationship building as the game progressed.

Describe in a few words your group’s playing style.

The 2 groups that I play in are very different from each other. One group Role-Plays and the other Roll-Plays. I recently read a good article on this subject, a worthwhile read for player and DM alike. I enjoy both groups as I get to spend time with people that enjoy doing what I like doing best. (Editor’s note: Which article? Happen to have a link you can share? –Silveressa)

Describe in a few words your GMing style.

I am a movie director with a “blockbuster” movie script, but most of all I am a long term campaign DM at heart. The players are my actors and the props my stage. I like to have rules available as a guide, as I generally run a rules light style game. I am more focused telling a tale, secondly on world development and then finally character growth.

What is your best GMing skill or ability? What advice would you give to a GM wanting to improve in that area?

I am able to improvise and think on my feet. Practice.

What is your typical session planning process?

I look at what my players want to achieve and what my goals are and I plan around those. I try and design my session around each of my characters so that each player gets his or her time to “shine.” The character’s background gets taken into account and definitely will play a role at some point in the campaign.

What are your favourite online resources for GMing?

Johnn, your site is invaluable as a resource for both players and DM. I always look forward to receiving your weekly mail.

Canonfire! is a great resource if you are a Greyhawk fan. Which I am, that’s if you hadn’t picked it up by now.

0one games excellent resource for maps and very cost effective.

Dragonsfoot has lots of free material if you are an old school gamer like me.

What tools or aides (digital and non-digital) do you wish would be created or invented to help you GM easier?

Although the electronic age is great and has made many things easier for us, I do feel that maybe we should step away from all the gadgets and get back to how we did things in the past.

Notebooks, cellphones and television need to be switched off and moved away from the table. Good old pen, paper, minis and dice should be all that is needed.

After working through these question and getting a 10,000 foot view of your GMing, what is the number #1 thing you’d like to learn about and work on next to become a better GM?

I would like to take a creative writing course to help me improve my writing style.

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