Advice for New (and Old) Players

Good citizenship
Temper all of your decisions and actions in the game with a thought towards what is good for the game as a whole, what is appropriate for the genre and setting, what is going to place undue stress and work on the STs, and what is going to be helpful and supportive to the other players and characters.

1.1. “My character would do this.”
Relying on what you say your character would definitely do, period, end of story in a given situation as a justification to egregiously violate good citizenship is a cop out and a no-no. Ultimately, you have control over your character, and you are responsible for finding ways to play your character without wantonly stomping on other players’ toes, kicking over their sand castles, and stealing their lunch money. Sure, I hear you saying that foiling other people’s ambitions just a little bit is part of the game, and you’re right. But there is a necessary balance between role playing indulgence and making the game work. Blatant, game-breaking ass-hattery is always unacceptable.

1.2. Don’t pick on the newbies
It can be very tempting, both in-character and out-of-character, to take new characters/players and bend them to your will. Exploit them for their resources. Manipulate them with their own ignorance. But players that have just joined the game are a precious commodity – the lifeblood of the game, really – and deserve more than an eensy bit of consideration. Most of the time they don’t know the rules, are barely familiar with their own characters, don’t understand the nuances of the game setting, and are in a state of near-helpless confusion. Give them a chance. Don’t take advantage of them. If you start feeling bitchy about this rule, refer to 1.1.

1.3. Stay in character
Everyone has to say something “out of character” from time to time. That’s ok, don’t worry about it. Extended conversations during game in scenes that are not in character, however, are impolite. You are holding the other players in that scene hostage. If they want to keep playing their character, they are kind of helpless to make things stop because they would have to break character in order to (politely) tell you to shut the fuck up.

1.4. Give more than you take
Every so often, it can be illustrative to think about your participation in Blood in the Sand as a balance sheet. On the plus side, you have things like creating plot, giving opportunities to other players, giving other characters something to work with, bringing other characters into plots, staying in character, being polite to the STs, generating links with other characters and players, contributing back stories and other useful information to the STs, etc. On the minus side, you have things like powergaming, metagaming, shutting other characters out, dominating a lot of ST time, pursuing self-indulgent plots unrelated to the thrust of the game, blocking other players from participating, whining, acting obnoxiously or impolitely to the STs or other players, shutting down plots others are involved in, using out-of-character manipulation to achieve in-character aims, etc. Both lists go on and on. On your personal UnMasqued balance sheet, those pluses would be income, and those minuses would be expenses. Is your balance sheet in the black? Good citizenship requires that you always strive for an overwhelmingly positive balance. Giving more to the game than you are taking away from it. Hello? Are you listening? This one is very important because it is how the game moves forward and gets better. Regularly check on what you are adding to the game, versus what you are doing to make the game worse for people. Did you find yourself disagreeing with the two lists of pluses and minuses? This probably means that your attitude and outlook as a player is incompatible with Blood in the Sand on the whole, and it might be better if you look elsewhere.

1.5. Listen to your conscience
Let’s face it. Deep down you know when you’re being a dick. If your eyes are open, and you have any kind of sense of how your actions are affecting other people, you know when you’re doing things that violate the tenets of good citizenship. If you take a second and ask your conscience if what you’re doing is bad, you will more than likely get a correct answer if you’re honest with yourself. Live action role playing is about taking risks – about living just a little closer to the edge of good and evil, right and wrong, and reserve and abandon – and so it’s full of choices that you know are tough. Dangerously close to the edge. When you’re coming up to one of those choices, just take a second and consult your conscience. Listen to it.

1.6. Use your power for good
Playing in Blood in the Sand, you accrue all kinds of power. As your character, you get more points on your sheet, make contacts, gain positions, status, and so on. You get greater access to the game’s plot, knowledge about the important things that are going on, and become familiar with the important people. As a player, you get more experience. You get to know the storytellers and can deal with them comfortably. You learn the influence system so that you can make the most of your downtime actions. You learn more about White Wolf’s elaborate rules and setting. All kinds of things that give you power.

Power puts you in a position where you can better help other people – in particular those people with less power – and also where you can more efficiently and effectively squish them. As a good citizen, you have an obligation to use that power to help those that are less powerful, make good things happen in the game, and make sure everyone can have a great experience. Don’t take this the wrong way; I’m not saying that you have to be a saint. Like all good things, using your power for good is best in moderation. I am saying that you should make an effort. Take people under your wing if they need it. Give them some tips and information from your store of knowledge. Help elevate them so that they have power too. Then you can screw the living hell out of them and not worry about being burdened with guilt.

1.7. No hammering your character sheet
Everyone who is experienced in creating vampire characters in LARP knows that White Wolf has provided plenty of opportunities for you to create bullshitty, cheap-as-hell character sheets. For example, I’m told that it’s possible to design a character sheet that allows you to bid 17 traits on a dominate challenge. Hardy har har. Don’t do it.

Look, I realize that for many characters, a certain amount of gameyness is necessary on the sheet. Characters that need to come in with a splash, for whatever reason, need to have one or two things in the back pocket (where presumably the character sheet is being carried) to give a little exclamation point. Ok, I understand. These things come up when dealing with a character creation system as imperfect as White Wolf’s. Just keep a handle on it. Keep it under control. If you find yourself thinking of ways that your sheet can put you on a power trip, you have gone too far. If you find yourself getting pissy about this rule, refer to 1.4 and 1.5.

1.8. How to screw other people
Pretty frequently the occasion arises to screw over other people’s characters. Usually, this is just a minor screw over: giving them a little setback, or taking something away from them, making someone dislike them, setting them up for a little fall, etc. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Here I am talking about when you do things that are fatal to other characters, or when you do things that make other characters wish you had done things that were fatal to them. In that situation, you have to tread lightly lest you become an asshole. The way to do that is follow these simple rules:

1. Gloat as much as you want in character. Out of character, do not gloat at all. Gloating about pretend victories in real life is on the border of being “pathetic”, and is fully-across-the-border, permanent-resident, green-card-in-hand, applying-for-citizenship-and-PTA-president, no-question-at-all of being a jackass. This includes that “I’m pretending to be nice and grateful to you while really just rubbing it in” maneuver of nominating the screwee post-game for something like “really getting reamed well.”

2. Give the screwed character a “before I kill you, Mr. Bond” moment. If the other character is anything like an interesting, worthy rival – and why would you bother to screw them if they weren’t? – then your character should want to enjoy the experience, or at least be curious enough about the other character’s thoughts to provide a little chance to talk about it. Yes, I realize that this can take some doing. It’s usually easier and safer to jump out of a corner, surprise! and be done with it. But you’re doing the screwing, you have all the advantages of initiative and (usually) surprise, so it really isn’t too much to ask to at least put in the effort to figure out a way to make it happen. And if it turns out not to be possible or doesn’t work out in the end, then oh well, at least you tried. Plus, it makes the scene more dramatic.

3. Don’t make like you’re hitting the delete button. People what their characters’ deaths to have at least a little significance. But from time to time, for whatever reason, people will take someone out, never give at a second thought or dwell upon it again, and the rest of the game promptly forget about them. This really shitty phenomenon kind of confounds me. It not only makes more role-playing sense, but it is also good citizenship to react to these things more realistically. Throw a voluntary humanity test (don’t wait for the Storytellers to force you to do it, because they often won’t) and reminisce about your victim when appropriate from time to time.

4. Pay especially close attention to your character’s flaws, failings, and values – especially especially those flaws, failings, and values that would make it more difficult for them to screw people. Even the most depraved, Machiavellian, asshole, uncaring sociopath characters will have lines they have a hard time crossing and people they are emotionally hesitant to destroy.

Character Creation
Choosing and developing a character concept, and then creating the character is one of the most important things that you do as a player. Don’t bite off more than you can chew with ludicrously ambitious character concepts, but at the same time don’t stick your head in the sand with narrow-minded one trick ponies.

2.1. Play your strengths
A good way to ensure a frustrating and miserable game experience is to try and play a character that’s really good at everything you’re not. Yes, I admit and agree that stretching yourself and testing your limits is one of the ways to make a role playing game enjoyable. But this is only true if you’re stretching yourself a reasonable amount. Let us say you really suck at speaking in front of a group. Actually, it terrifies you. It would be a bad idea to try to play a character that is incredibly dynamic, mesmerizing, and always able to say the right things when addressing a group. This will make going to game worse than going to work. You will hate it.

For example, I once decided that I wanted to play a character that was likeable, eloquent, and dignified. Unfortunately I am none of these things, and consequently the experience of playing this character was awful and unrewarding. I started to hate the game and other players, so I dropped the character like a hot potato and decided to take a little break from the game. On top of that, I’ve heard that despite my best (although inevitably doomed) efforts, the character came off to other people as a stuffed-shirt asshole.

Honestly evaluate yourself and what you’re good at doing. Also make an honest evaluation of your weaknesses. Then play a character that allows you to take advantage of what you are good at, and at the same time allows you to test yourself a little bit when it comes to things that are difficult for you.

2.2. Pick some influences
No, powergamers, I don’t mean the Background- although that isn’t a bad idea either. I mean influences from pop culture, literature, people you know, etc. Consciously choose these things and let them help inspire your character. Think about themes, character traits, speech mannerisms, and settings – whatever is in there that gives you some juice. Freely and liberally incorporate these into your character. I urge you, however, to guard against relying too heavily on any single source, creating a carbon-copy of a single character, or trying to live out the plotlines of some story in game. This will not work, and you will not be happy with the results.

2.3. Play within your domain, or learn it
You have a set of things that you are familiar with, a set of skills that you have acquired, a list of areas in which you have expertise, and a bunch of knowledge – your “domain”, so to speak. Your character has one too. One way or the other – and I don’t care which – you have to have a workable familiarity with those things that are in your character’s domain. Either play a character that knows what you know, or learn what your character should know. You don’t have to go into painstaking detail, but you should definitely have at least a basic competence.

If your character is (was?) a plumber and still does plumbing, you should know basically the kinds of things that a plumber can do and have some idea of how they are done. If your character is a writer, figure out the kinds of things that they have written up to a moderate level of detail. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is walk into a big conversation with a bunch of people, and when they find out you’re a writer, have to say something like “uh, yeah – I write books and stuff. I’m really good at it I guess. Want to read my latest book? Oh- ummm, I don’t know what it’s about or anything but here’s an item card.” Figure it out. Make it up. Steal Borrow it. This will help you a lot more than you probably think it will right now. Knowing how your character is doing the things that he or she does makes it far more rewarding to play. The more things that you do in the game that exist in some nebulous cloud of “somehow it’s happening” the less ability you have to really participate. Don’t write yourself out of your own character!

2.4. Play a person who had a job
I know that with the broad, masturbatory stereotypes that White Wolf often passes off as vampire characters, it can be difficult to imagine them ever being employed, or even having a normal conversation. But the fact remains that characters enter the game with years and years of experience in doing things for hours on end. Usually this experience is what we call a job’. You should figure out the identity of this mysterious job’ for your character. Once this is decided, you should figure out what sort of things that job entails, and what the experience was like for your character in a day-to-day, hands-on, nitty-gritty sense. Trust me; this will open up a whole world of possibility. Seeing as many people playing Blood in the Sand are college students, it is likely that it will take a bit of research to figure out what that job entails. That’s ok. Just keep it practical.

I do want to put in a word of caution. It’s probably fair to say that basically 100% of the players in this game are either students or are otherwise poor. This sometimes creates a great temptation to play a character that is fantastically wealthy to get away from it all. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. The problem arises when you say that the character got rich by doing some kind of vague “stuff that rich people do.” If you want to play rich, that is fine. In fact, when there is a player that can come in and play a rich, dignified, aristocratic character well it is really a wonderful thing to behold. But you have to learn about rich people and their money-making habits in considerably greater detail than the prejudicial, sitting-behind-huge-desks-making-lists-of-ways-to-oppress-the-poor caricatures of “the rich” that are the order of the day in Carson.

2.5. No one-trick ponies
All I can say is: you will regret it. And so will everyone else around you. If you put every point on your sheet, and every one of your character ideas into performing a single, focused task, it will all end in tears. These could be tears of aggravation from the STs, who are forced to pretend to be nice to you when you describe your narrow-minded, simpleton concept to them. These could be tears of pity from your fellow players, who will watch as you fumble around in a world that is far too complex for your character to handle. Or, most likely, these will be tears of boredom from you, as you sit around for hours waiting for the opportunity for you to do the one and only thing that your character can do.

Spread your character points around. More importantly, spread your ideas around. You’ve got a lot of time to fill, and that time will be a lot more interesting and fulfilling if you give yourself a lot of material to draw from.

2.6. Leave room for change
There are a few, rare individuals that are able to crank out a comprehensive, rigidly-defined character concept before that playing that character at all, and then faithfully and completely stick to what they decided as the character plays out. Actually, I am just saying this to hedge; I have never met any such individual. Like batting in baseball, with character concepts you are lucky if you end up even hitting the same side of the field that you aim at when you take a swing at it. In both the concept and in the character sheet, leave yourself plenty of room to wiggle and grow. Don’t make too many decisions before you’re forced to make them – those decisions will tend to create more interesting outcomes if they’re made in the heat of the moment. In other words, give yourself a basic outline of what your character is about, and expect that parts of it are likely to change as you start playing the character. And that is ok. Expect it, and leave room for it. I also suggest that you identify a few areas of your concept that you want to target for developing in-game first, and keep those in mind as you play your first couple of games.

2.7. Don’t ignore the often-ignored areas of the sheet
I know that it can be tempting to throw all of your extra creation points into disciplines, extra traits, high-level influences, and combat-related abilities. Hey, you say to yourself, this is stuff that I can get a quick return from. I caution you against doing this. Well, ok, do it a little bit. That’s fine. What you should not do is completely overlook the things that, in the long run, will make your character sheet (and by extension, hopefully your character as well) more interesting, versatile, and durable. What do I mean by this? Lots of things.

First, abilities. I think that every character that is worth a damn needs to buy up at least one of the big three lores (clan, sect, kindred) by at least one. Also, many types of characters will benefit from buying other lores as well. Wraith lore is one thing that springs to mind. There are also many other useful abilities that help expand your character. Some examples include: law (so many great possibilities), crafts, expression, stealth, investigation, drive (every caper needs a wheel-man after all), linguistics, repair (traditionally a very underused/underrated ability), etiquette, and politics.

Next, status. In my opinion, if you have less than 2 status you suck, unless you’re a character that was born yesterday or something or is not affiliated with a status-having organization. In Blood in the Sand, players get 1 status for free (Acknowledged), so getting up to 2 really isn’t that hard.

Finally; backgrounds. The retainer background can be a lot of fun, especially if you get outside the staid White Wolf paradigm of “my retainer is a little bitch who runs errands for me.” What retainer does that’s really great is that it gives you a powerful tool to develop how your character deals with others, or an opportunity to come up with something interesting that can help you through the difficult first few games. I also think the allies background is underused, probably because it’s hard to implement. If you want to buy it, work with the STs on how you could use it, and who the allies would be, and you will probably be happy you did. Of course, no discussion of backgrounds would be complete without a mention of influences. Think about getting yourself a few levels of one of the underused influences. Which ones are underused? You can probably figure out by just reading the descriptions, but I will give you a hint: they are not police, media, finance, health, or occult.

2.8. Killing machines suck
A killing machine is a character that’s primary or even sole purpose is killing things. To most Blood in the Sand players the belief that playing killing machines is a bad thing to do is almost a second-nature obvious idea. Most people feel this way, but not all. To the rest of you, I am going to say this in language that you’ll understand: playing a killing machine character is really fucking gay.

And no, you sniveling little shit, that’s not because you make the rest of us non-killing machine characters feel all bad and inferior because you’re going to kill us wah wah wah. It’s because we have to tolerate your nauseating role playing and tasteless behavior every time your aggressive mongoloid of a retard character is around. If you want to feel the cold ice of the personal enmity of each and every person around you – and that includes the Storytellers who are pretending to be nice to you – then continue bringing those worthless characters in. But really, don’t. Do not. Go play in a network game or something.

Your Character’s First Game
The first game does a lot to set the tone of the character for its entire run. You want this game to be a good one for your character, but at the same time you really don’t want to overreach and be too ambitious. Get your character out there, get things going, and start out slow.

3.1. Listen a lot
There is a rule about human nature that I think everyone in LARP should know: nobody cares about you. Well, that’s not entirely true. Some people care about you. But they certainly care a lot more about themselves than they do about you. This is true even in conversations. People love to talk about themselves and look good, and they love it a lot less when you do these things. It’s just how it goes.

When your character is making his or her first appearance, this is going to go double. The other characters don’t know you, and they are going to be especially more interested in themselves than they are in you. This is a good thing, however, in that it gives you a clear mission: to get them to do exactly what they are already inclined to do and talk about themselves to you. Listen a lot. Chime in if you think that what you have to say is interesting enough to the other person for them to care. Lay low, and let them give you the information on the ground that you need.

If you’re playing the character that just absolutely has to make a splashy, flashy entrance, then you have to use a modified version of this rule. That is, talk as much as you want, as grandiosely as you want, so long as what you say and do provides a good answer to everyone else’s implicit question: “what’s in it for me?” People want to be entertained, they want someone to make them feel good, they want to be recognized, and they want people to do things that will advance their interests. Aim to do these things, and you can be as loud as you want. Just don’t overextend yourself, or set too ambitious goals and pursue them too quickly. You start to really risk stepping on other people’s toes, and causing people to put up reflexive roadblocks in front of you. That is a no-no.

3.2. Make one friend
Among whatever other goals for the first game, I think that every character without exception should have the goal of making one friend or at least a good connection the first game. Pursuing this goal, even if it is not achieved, helps in numerous ways. It focuses your efforts and your thinking on something that is firm and solid. It is a strong motivator to interact with the other characters. It is a very realistic goal for any character to achieve. If successful in achieving this goal, it puts your character in a better position to pursue almost any other goal. It gets your character involved in the game, in the other characters, and in the plot. Even for virulently anti-social characters, this one is a real winner.

3.3. Take it slow Remember, you have lots of time. You don’t need to push yourself to grab that brass ring immediately. The first game is the time that your character will probably be in the worst position that they ever will be in to achieve large, important goals. Think about building that foundation before you start aiming for the roof-mounted Christmas lights. Pace yourself realistically, and break down the things your character is trying to achieve into smaller, manageable milestones. This way you won’t feel the pressure of trying to race after something that you haven’t defined, barely understand, and have no way of measuring your progress.

3.4. Don’t reveal much about your character’s back story and aims
I know that this may seem counter-intuitive, but you definitely do not want to reveal too much in your first game. Usually, you go into your first game with only a little bit of knowledge, if any, about your character’s big goals, why they’re in the city, what they did in the past, and so forth. Keep that little bit in reserve. Don’t put it out there, or, if feel you have to, put it out there in a way that doesn’t get you locked in to anything (i.e., lie about it or equivocate). Look, the fact of the matter is that people know that you are playing a new character. They believe that you don’t know much about what your character is doing. A little bit of a clueless look and some stammering will generally make them feel bad enough to back off of a line of questioning you don’t like or are not ready for. I know it could be considered “bad citizenship” for me to be suggesting this borderline metagaming, but let’s face it: new characters need all the help they can get.

For the more paranoid out there, I want to clarify one thing. The reason that I think it’s unwise to “blow your load” so to speak on the first game is not, as you might believe, because that gives other characters an advantage of knowing how to manipulate you or whatever. The danger of that is really overstated. The bigger danger is the danger of getting pigeonholed on your first game. Give up too much of your limited knowledge about what your character is about on the first game, and two things will happen. First, people will look at you as “that guy/chick who [insert simplistic thing about your character here].” Nobody wants that. The only thing worse than being “the guy/gal who” is to be given a pejorative nickname, which is also something to watch out for. Secondly, you will have committed yourself to the early, ill-defined and immature version of your character’s goals, habits, back story, etc. As time goes by this will become a painful straitjacket to your character’s development and you will be unhappy.

Now we get to the heart of the matter: playing that character in the game, interacting with other people, and developing the character. I want to say that I recognize and agree that this is a very subjective area with a huge amount of room for personal and style preference. That is fine. I am not going to tell you “how to role play” since you would just disagree and it wouldn’t work anyway. Here we are talking more about practical tips that most anyone can use. Also, everything in this section comes with a caveat. “The Universal Caveat” so to speak. I am going to tell you things that you should do. I may even go so far as to identify things as being “the best” things to do or even things you “must” do. Every time I say any of these things, there is an implicit little * which should be read to say “unless, of course, you are playing a character where you have made a conscious role playing decision that you wouldn’t do this kind of thing”. This leads us up to:

4.1. The character is king
The point of the game is to play your character. You have things that you want to do in the game, broadly, as a player. Generally it works out so that these things line up with what your character is about, but not always. Your character may be more inclined to do something that you as a player believe to be stupid, or take risks that you think are unwarranted. In the case of conflict between the player and the character, I say that the character trumps. Being faithful to your character pays huge dividends over time. I can’t prove this or really even make a convincing argument for it beyond what I have already said, so if you are unsure or even disagree with me all I can say is that you’ll just have to trust me.

This does not mean you should be some kind of robotic servant of your character’s whims. When there is a conflict, or especially if your character is starting down a road that is not going to be fun for you, you can always figure out a compromise or be creative and come up with some alternate ideas that satisfy everyone.

4.2. “My character would never do that”
Think long and hard before you whip out this tired, overused, and often bullshitty excuse. Yes, I know, I just extolled the virtues of fidelity to your character in 4.1, but everything needs to have a proper balance. I think more times than not when someone says “my character would never do that” or an equivalent they have taken fidelity to their character too far. To stay faithful to your character you just need to keep your pants on, but some people are strapping on iron-clad chastity belts.

Here are a few points to consider. First, you never know your character all the way. Never. It’s just impossible. There are nearly infinite subtleties to any character, and in the space of playing your character you will not discover them all. There is always more. Think about this a little bit before you throw up a stone wall to some idea. Second, more often than not when you say “my character would never do that” you are leaving out the second half: “- in quite that way”. Maybe your character wouldn’t do exactly what has been suggested, but would be able to do it slightly differently. Finally, usually when this line is getting thrown around, it is in response to someone who has offered you a helpful suggestion, perhaps even at your request. If you turn them down outright with this easy rejoinder without giving it enough thought to come up with any ideas on your own you’re kind of being a dick, aren’t you?

4.3. People lie
This is an important thing to consider both in and out of character. People lie all the time. Players lie, and characters lie. Storytellers lie too. In the charged atmosphere that is the World of Darkness, the lies are being doubly flung around. I can’t really lay out all of the implications of this to you as a player in Blood in the Sand, because there are so damn many and they all depend on the circumstances. I will, however, urge you to keep this in mind.

Think long and hard about your information whenever you are making a pivotal decision, taking a risky action, or drawing an important conclusion. What’s the source of this information? Is it a second- or third-hand rumor? (Warning! Warning! Danger Will Robinson!) Did a single person tell you the information without providing substantial back-up? Are you certain that the person is telling the truth, and all of the sources that he is relying upon are telling the truth? Before you get too complacent or confident about the things you think you know, think about one thing. The only way to get 100% certainty about something is to get down on your hands and knees, get your hands dirty, and grab the truth right off the fucking ground. (This is a metaphor. Weeding one’s garden does not literally reveal the truth.)

Without going into specifics, during my time as both a player and a Storyteller I cannot count the times that this rule would have been useful. Over and over again, complete and utter bullshit about characters, events, and major plots somehow gets spread around and becomes accepted as “the truth.” What often happens is that one person hears something, usually a rumor, someone else’s lie, or a wild-ass guess, and then doesn’t make even a token effort to check it out. That person tells a few people, who then tell some more people, until eventually everyone has heard this “fact” and it has become completely impossible to figure out where the hell it came from.

4.4. Knowledge is power
Information is a hugely valuable commodity, and arguably the most important currency, in Blood in the Sand. Now, you can choose to play a character that is ignorant of this fact. That is ok and a legitimate role playing choice. But make sure that it’s a choice. As a player, you should know the facts of life, and this is one of them. It means you should know things about what’s going on, who likes who, where important things are, and so forth. However, the knowing isn’t the most important thing, it’s the using. 32
Here is how it works. You first have to insert yourself into the exchange. You do this either by getting some good information that nobody else knows (preferable), or by getting some information that some people don’t know (acceptable). Starting out, you absolutely do not hold on to this information. You identify the best person or persons to receive this information, and then you pass it right on. Don’t even ask for anything in exchange. What’s that you say? The information is critically important, has huge effects on you, or some other such reason not to share the information? Ok, in that case parcel it out over time, but still pass it on. This will start getting you into the loop, and other people will start telling you things. Keep passing things around and holding them back strategically, and you will begin to be able to leverage power out of that.

4.5. Find out things about people
Knowledge is gold, but the best knowledge of all is knowledge about other characters. This helps you in many, many ways. It will help you to know how to talk to them, what kinds of things they might be interested in, where they are strong, where they can help you, where they are weak, and where they think they are going.

The best way to find out things about people is to sit down and directly ask them. I know that this sounds simple and obvious, but it really is astounding how few people actually do this. Want to know what a character’s goals are? Balls-out, John-Madden-Bam!, straight-up ask them: “so, what are your goals these days?” Sure, they might lie to you. In fact, they probably will lie to you. But no matter what they are going to tell you something that is interesting about them.

One thing that you might notice is that direct, penetrating questions will often get vague, equivocating answers. This will be for one of two reasons. Either the character is trying to hide something from you, or the player doesn’t know the answer. In either case, keep banging away. Ask more questions. Get clarifications. Go head-on with them. If the character is being deceptive, you’ll give the player a good role playing experience by having them play that out. If the player doesn’t know the answer, you’ll be doing them a favor by highlighting the areas of their ignorance and giving them an opportunity to make up something interesting on the spot.

4.6. Don’t worry so much about what is on your character sheet
I know that powergamers and White Wolf purists will hate this, but the simple fact of the matter is that things on character sheets aren’t that important. That is to say, they aren’t important enough for you to worry about them, or to straitjacket your character because of them. Relax, and liberate yourself. Follow your sheet when it’s giving you helpful things, and chart your own course when it’s not. (Note, by “helpful” I mean “helpful in your role playing and creativity” and not “helpful in achieving your character’s goals”).

4.7. Chase down plot like a god damn bloodhound Players sometime complain that there are not enough things to do, not enough interesting things going on, or not enough plot that involves them. This is a load of crap. There’s always a ton of stuff going on. Every game in the Harpy Free-Press there are usually at least 2 plot-related things that are begging to be jumped on. There are large plot issues being talked about by characters all the time. There are other characters doing something plot-related that are waiting for someone else to get involved. There are NPCs, independent PCs, people with secrets, and all kinds of other plot all around you all the time. Commonly, people will get discouraged or waved off plot by some minor obstacle. Maybe there is some information they need, or resources they need to access. This happens from time to time. Most of the time, frankly, the reason people feel like a wall is dropped in front of them about plot is because they have believed some lie that they have been told. Refer to 4.3 and remember that the amount of (benevolent) lying that you will get from Storytellers on plot-related matters is massive. If this is what you’re dealing with, track down where the lies are coming from and get your involvement in the plot re-started from there. It is often going to happen that you get some information that would seem to stop you or throw you off the path, and one or two things about the information just don’t fit. Something about it isn’t consistent, or the actions of someone don’t quite make sense. This is the pistol signaling that the chase is on.

The most important thing is to be absolutely relentless when it comes to plot involvement. Do not give up. Aggressively pursue whatever plot leads are available to you. Get help when you need it. Be creative and resourceful. I promise that you will never run out of plot again.

Interacting with the STs
Success in interacting with the Storytellers is very important to success in Blood in the Sand. Unfortunately this is also a common area for some fairly egregious missteps. For some reason, some people quickly forget that they are dealing with fellow, fallible, and occasionally wrathful human beings when they are talking to the Storytellers. These people bitch, whine, demand, make vague and useless complaints, and for some reason never express gratitude. Maybe it’s tunnel vision or something. Here is a rule of human behavior that, believe it or not, is just as true for our vaunted Storytellers. If you are rude to someone, if you piss them off, if you treat them unfairly, if you make their life difficult, if you are disrespectful, then they will dislike it and they will hold it against you. Subconsciously they will try to get back at you, and since the Storytellers hold your character’s fate in their arbitrarily powerful hands, they will probably succeed. It is patently idiotic to treat them badly. This is not to mention that since they are volunteering and working hard on your behalf, being shitty to them kind of makes you a douchebag, doesn’t it?

5.1. Ask for things
If you want something from the Storytellers, then ask for it. No vague complaints. No frustrated silence waiting for them to pick up on your needs. No angry demands. If you want some help, ask them for help. You have no right to expect things that you don’t ask for. If you want them to do something for you, ask them right out. Don’t mince words or dance around with chickenshit indirectness. Ask them nicely, but directly, for what it is you want. Be ready for a no. Be ready for a yes. Be ready for them to ask for some clarification. Also be ready to redirect things back onto your question until you get an answer.

As a counter-example, I am tempted to bring up a group of (now former from long ago) players who seemed to have persistent complaints about the game and things that the Storytellers were doing. They never told the Storytellers what their problem was, let alone asked for anything that would solve it, and consequently they bitched and whined amongst themselves to no avail. They made the mistakes of assuming that their problems were well-known to the Storytellers and of believing that they were entitled to a solution from the Storytellers by divine right or something. Well, no. Eventually this festival of passive-aggressiveness lead to a showdown and they left the game en-masse. Way to go, ex-players. Don’t be like them.

5.2. Make it clear what you want them to do
The problem with vague complaints is that they are worthless. If you are having a discussion with a Storyteller or the Storytellers and you want them to do something – and why would you be talking to them unless you do – it is your job to make damn sure they know exactly what that is. This means that you identify areas where there may be ambiguity down the road in advance, and plan ahead for them. If you’re taking an action that will then allow you to do some future action or cause other future things to happen, you should lay those things out. While it can be fun to surprise people, this causes stress on the Storytellers and they will resist you and be suspicious of things you do in the future if you surprise them with too many things.

5.3. Minimize their work
Complicated plots happen. They can come from anywhere, and it will often happen that players will want the help or cooperation of Storytellers when developing or participating in plots. That is ok. The important thing to remember is that however much work you are putting into your side of the plot, multiply that by 8 or 9 and that is how much work is being created for the Storytellers. Your goal in everything you send to the Storytellers is to require as few words and as little thought as possible for them to satisfy you. This means several things.

Don’t make them have to think of complicated things to make what you are doing possible. This means that ambiguous questions about how exactly you are accomplishing what you mean to accomplish are a no-no. If you don’t know how you’re doing what you’re trying to do, figure it out before hand or ask them for help with it, separately, beforehand. But definitely put some thought into it yourself beforehand. The Storytellers should only have to think about one variable: what happens as a result of what you do.

Minimize the amount of controversy in what you do. Most people know about what kinds of things are controversial things to be doing, but just in case I will enumerate a brief though incomplete list: killing other characters, using NPCs to affect other characters, doing things that require a large-scale response to be realistic, causing explosions or other damage, and doing broken things. If you can think of a way to accomplish what you are doing without involving controversy, you go ahead and do that. You’ll be better off, the game will be better off, and the Storytellers will be better off. It’s a big win all around.

Keep them apprised of what you’re doing, and give them enough information about it so they don’t have to put off the results, other people’s questions, etc. to wait for you to tell them something. As much useful detail as is practical is a good thing to have here.

5.4. Be cool, damnit
If you get angry at the Storytellers, you lose. Things are going to go against you. There are going to be swings that you won’t like. Rules calls might be problematic. A million things could happen. Now, if you actually want to improve your situation, do not get angry. Do not lay blame. Do not be accusatory. Be cool, period. I cannot count the times that players have fucked themselves over because some little thing goes wrong and they just can’t handle it.

Think for a second of the last five times some asshole has yelled at you. In any of those times, were you doing something for free as a volunteer that was meant to benefit them? How about in the last ten times you’ve been yelled at? I am willing to bet that most people were not doing anything like the noble work of the Storytellers in the last ten times they were yelled at. Probably they were doing something that deserved being yelled at. Now think about what sort of feelings you had when you were yelled at. Did this yelling make you more inclined to do what the yelling asshole wanted? Or, more likely, did it piss you off and make you want to tell them to go fuck themselves? Yes. The Storytellers are the same way. If you are cool to them, they will be cool to you. If you become a dick, then all I can do is wish you luck.

5.5. Never whine
This is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t be whiny. It’s not going to make things better for you, except perhaps out of pity. And pity is not the road you want to start down with the Storytellers, because it will be very difficult to get off and no one is going to take you seriously while you’re on it. If you have a problem, come up with a constructive solution, and go talk to the Storytellers about it reasonably.

Important note: there are many more Blood in the Sand players that whine than there are Blood in the Sand players that think they whine. Think it over and make damn sure that you’re not a whiner.

5.6. Say “thank you”
Storytellers deserve thanks now and again. Actually, strictly speaking they deserve thanks at 15-minute intervals during every game, but it’s not practical to have the whole game break character every quarter hour and line up to thank people. But Storytellers do deserve to be thanked by at least one person every game, and I always try to thank them any time they put in serious work on my behalf. I don’t always remember. But it’s the polite thing to do, it’s the considerate thing to do, and it’s the nice thing to do. Make sure they know that you appreciate what they’re doing.

(This article was taken from the Unmasqued LARP out of Oberlin OH, and was slightly modified.)


Blood in the Sand Bjorn_Thorson