I, Me, He, She... Pen and Paper RPG Dilemmas

Order of the Stick
Well, I have to say that I'm rather astounded that in the past three-and-a-half months this blog has had 5000 hits. I'm sure that most of these have left immediately after realising what they have stumbled upon, but for those of you that keep returning I am genuinely grateful, it has added a whole new dimension to the hobby and the sense of community seems far greater than that on forums out there.

To business. I did state in my intro that this was also an "RPG blog" so I thought I had better deliver on that front before Trading Standards get on to me.

The real reason for looking at pen and paper (or tabletop if you prefer) RPGs is that this week I have been ambushed into acting as Games Master again.


I came in from work one night and my housemate said he had a few friends that were interested in doing some RPG-ing and knowing that I have dabbled in GMing over the years asked if I would be up for running it. I naturally said I would be happy to and removed my Serenity RPG rulebook from the shelf for his perusal. I am an unashamed Browncoat and think Firefly has (sorry, had...) some of the best writing on TV. And it's a brilliant setting, a Chinese-Old West fusion in space, what's not to love. I'll be posting a (rather belated) review of the system shortly.

Simple but effective rules that emphasise the story
Anyhoo, the issue was that some of the group was relatively experience in pen and paper games, others were not - I'm sure this is a relatively common issue out there, but not something I've ever dealt with before.

This led to the ever-present issue in role-playing: third person or first person? Should the players (and myself) describe the actions and speech of their characters, or should they speak as their characters in first person?

Each has their pros and cons, first-person can be much more "immersive" and third-person can be quicker flowing and allows the characters to do and say things the players may not be able to.

My intended approach (and I imagine is that of many), as per my last post on fluff is a "Middle Way":-

The Middle Way
My preference is generally for a casual mix of the two. This is common sense, but I think it comes down to whatever the player is comfortable with. I generally avoid po-faced gaming and Taking Things Too Seriously, so I try and keep a light hearted atmosphere but not to the point where it distracts from the game.

If players only want to describe their character's dialogue rather than speaking it then that's fair enough. I will generally try and encourage a little first-person dialogue with NPCs as I think it can be a little more fun, and will always award extra XP for any player at least willing to give it a go (as well as for characterful roleplaying in general). Likewise, I will not always speak every NPCs dialogue - mostly because my vocal range is somewhat limited and the Evil Goblin King tends to sound remarkably like the Obstinate Washer Woman and Remarkably Optimistic Miller from earlier in the adventure (that really does sound like an adventure and a half...)

Despite there being a balance of the two, I still like characterful table dressing and all-important gaming session food. For the Firefly gaming sessions any food on the table will be done in the style of the setting - a fusion of Asian and Tex Mex food (such as crispy beef strips in barbecue sauce ;) - but generally straight dishes in bowls that can be picked from) - and can be eaten with chopsticks (as per the TV series) or knife and fork. Next to the gaming table we will be hanging touches of oriental decoration and on the table will be a 19th century oil lamp etc. Nothing too much, just light touches, and done slightly tongue in cheek - it's not LARP...

I'm very interested to know what other GMs out there think about the First vs Third Person issue? Answers on a postcard.

What's on the modelling/painting table.... more 40k Celtic / Arthurian Space Marines

Cloak on the bottom-right chap is inspiration for camo-cloaks
Unfortunately modelling and painting work has slowed a little this week (real life and all that), but I do have a rather fun project on the table. I'm currently working on several Scouts, rather important to the Mawdryn army. Partly inspired by the "Welsh hill tribesman" on the front of Osprey's Arthur and the Anglo-Saxon Wars, the idea is to make them look as if they have been in the field for rather a while (even grubbier than the standard Marines), with various bits of field gear, plaid camo-cloaks (some in a "blanket roll"), and with one or two carrying rabbits and game birds strung from their packs - just to add to that "subsistence in the field" look. I know some purists will hate me for this, but I'm not a fan of the super duper space marines who find everything easy and can magically secrete nutrients from their implanted and probably imaginatively named "nutri-gland," which means they never have to eat anything on extended deployment, living only on pure awesomeness. No thank you. 

I also now have the parts for my first "Dwyrydd" (Druid) Chaplain-Apothecary for my Arthurian/Celtic Spears of Mawdryn Marines, so that shall be the next kit-bash/conversion project. I am currently camera-less, but photos shall be forthcoming....

Also tinkering around with some campaign ideas, including some rules for gaming in the Age of Apostasy (including expanded fluff). Again, watch this space.


  1. WOW 5000 hits! Nice work. I always enjoy your blog (and Colonel Scipio's Palladian Guard) despite the fact that sometimes I don't comment all that much. So just wanted to take the optionality to say Thanks guys for the entertainment, great work. ;)

    1. Thanks very much, I really appreciate that - I don't comment as much as I'd like to either, but I always enjoy your stuff also. And I'm always jealous of your Praetorian Lancers on your front page, I really can't add any more armies to the wishlist but they always tempt me lol

  2. Nice! I run a Rogue Trader game for the local group, and we've pretty much settled into the middle way, with the focus shifting from 1st to 3rd as the situation may warrant. If a player attempts a con or bluff or other such interaction and does so 'in character', I'll always make the difficulty of the task far easier. If they prefer to be more 3rd person simulationist that's totally fine too (and it keeps the game moving at a brisk pace) but the challenge ratings will be more 'by the book'.

    I'm interested to hear what you think of the Firefly RPG. I'm a big fan of the setting as well, but unfortunately we found that the system got in the way of the story - the mechanics seemed unnecessarily complex. The adventures our GM ran for us were a lot of fun, though!

    1. That's pretty much my approach too, where speaking to convince someone in a situation like that is more likely to get the player bonus XP points, or if I think what they said is imaginative I'll let them succeed. I like your way of doing it more by the book for third person though, I might start utilising that if you don't mind. Still not played Rogue Trader yet, but I keep threatening to run a campaign - would love to hear more about your games.

      This is going to be my first time using the Firefly rules, for the most part I thought they looked okay, but I'll let you know. I generally end up simplifying most rules to basic rolls whatever the system lol.


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