Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What Makes a Good Player? with Johannes Oppermann


In today's What Makes a Good Player? feature we have an interview with Johannes Oppermann! Check it out below.

--

What do you try to do most often while playing games to enhance your experience and the experience of others?

As a player I listen for opportunities, for creative gifts that other players offer me, and then pounce and expand on them. I play generously and offer back gifts about my character that they can then expand on. I love to improvise and make up setting details on the spot, even when I'm not the GM. Also, I try to help out other players when they're at a loss for next steps or when they're confused about rules or expectations. 


Do you use any specific play techniques (narrative tools, improv tools, etc.) in your play sessions?

This is for sit-down, tabletop games, where I can take notes during the game. I play differently in LARPs, which I've just recently discovered.

Some techniques I've learned from story games I try to use in every game I play. They work both in traditional roleplaying with a GM (like in PbtA games or Fate), or in story games, where narrative control is more evenly distributed. Techniques I use regularly are: Asking loaded questions (stolen from PbtA games), cutting and framing scenes (from Fate and Microscope), and transparent minds / inner monologue (also from Microscope, and from With great Power).

Also, I use introductory scenes and epilogues per character as framing for a game session, to give every session a feeling of closure. During the game session I try and use re-incorporation heavily to help me conclude a story arc by the end of the night. I use index cards (like Fate aspects) to note down important story elements. I pace myself to not add any new elements after half the session has passed and conclude at least half of the story elements that were introduced on the table by the session's end. 


How often do you like to game, and what is most comfortable for you to maintain good energy in games?

I like to game at least once a week, and twice a week when I'm not too busy at work. I game online on the Gauntlet where there's all the cool indie stuff you could want, but sadly mostly on US evenings, which is in the middle of the night for me. I have founded a regular story games meetup in Vienna with my friend Daniel which has suffered badly from his moving to another part of the country and my discovering LARPs, so I need to split my time.

I maintain good energy in a game when I feel involved in the action and when I feel excitement from the group. This happens when the spotlight is shared well and when there is mutual giving and taking of cues and actions. Enthusiasm and improvisation beats preparation any day at my table. Also, I feel very strongly about creating a safe and inclusive space at my tables. I founded the meetup group to meet other gamers and to bring new people into the hobby, specifically women who I feel are under-represented. I feel most alive when there's enthusiasm at the table when we conclude a session and when people love the experience and commit to come back for more. 


What kind of games do you feel you are most comfortable with and enjoy the most?

Two types:
a) story games of all kinds that distribute narrative control in interesting ways and that have an element of story built into the rules. I gravitate towards GM-less games but I'll try anything once. I also lean towards one-shots as opposed to campaign games, just because of the scheduling hell that seems to come with every single group that needs commitment to a campaign game.
b) parlor LARPs and Nordic scenarios with a small group of players, 2-5 hours of game time and a strong theme, premise and elegant mechanics.
I enjoy myself the most when a concluding story is told and we get to see conflict, character change and emotional impact. 


Can you share a special experience in a game where you felt like you did a good job playing your part in the overall story and game?

There is this one game I still remember fondly. It was a campaign for two players and the GM, played with my best friends, over a few years of real life time and many years of game time, on a game world of our own creation. I was playing a high elf psychic vampire mage and my friend a merchant prince vampire. Our characters valued each other's personalities and accomplishments, but despised each other's affiliation. We had to cooperate to keep lethal threats from ourselves and the city, but also had scenes of deep alienation. There was enough time to deeply develop both characters.

The moment I'm talking about was the campaign's very climax and conclusion, when it became clear that my friend's character was hell-bent on bringing my character's mortal enemy and thief of his soul, a dark god of shadow and revenge, back into his world, by donning a possessed armor and offering up his body. Just before that happened, my character decided to summon lightning from the sky and destroy his enemy and friend together.

I'm telling this because for me it felt like the completely right decision. It did have an impact for our friendship, though. We were both very invested in our characters, but I felt that the story was told to its end. My friend, on the other hand, resented me for "backstabbing", and in the epipogue his character's ghost took it out on my character's eldest son, kidnapping him and turning him into a vampire. I was totally okay with that - revenge was a strong theme in this story for me.

What I'm saying is that this incident taught me about characters. Characters are only real within a story. Outside of that story, they're just empty husks. My friend wanted to keep their character's husk for later reuse (he never did reuse it, and never does with other characters). I wanted to play mine to the hilt and have them succeed or die trying. And I loved every minute of it.
--

Thank you so much to Johannes for participating in the feature! I hope you all enjoyed reading!



This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs.