Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What Makes a Good Player? with Alan Vannes

Today's What Makes a Good Player? feature is with Alan Vannes. Alan talks a little about experience in Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy, as well as playing longer sessions. Check it out!


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

I've found that one of the most effective ways to enhance the experience of both myself, and the other players at the table is to simply invest effort into my character, a well thought out character with a good back story brings so much more to the table than when all you have is numbers on a sheet. I've found that a well thought out three dimensional character tends to get me more invested in the role-play, and my enthusiasm often becomes infectious, helping to bring out the best in the players around me.

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

I tend to have a very improvisational style to my play, nine times out of ten even when I tell my fellow players that I have a plan I'm really just making everything up as I go (I guess you could call me the Jack Sparrow of gaming). That being said I don't really use any established techniques as such, but simply respond to the group and game as my own instincts, and experience dictate.

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

I generally favor weekly, or bi-weekly games, any longer between sessions and I tend to lose some of the feel for the game/character. As for comfort, I personally favor longer sessions in a relaxed atmosphere (such as one of the players homes), and I find that it's best to keep the group size between four and six people, it is possible to do larger groups, but it often becomes difficult to keep the focus on the game, and combat often drags out far too long (I recall a case where I was in a group consisting of the GM plus nine players using the 3.5 edition D&D rules and we had a combat that in game was only four rounds long, but took three sessions to get through).

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

I tend towards a more narrative driven play style so I favor games that support that, and of course I have deep roots in fantasy gaming, but with a little time to learn the game I'm comfortable playing just about anything. I have a particular love of dark fantasy, sword & sorcery, gothic horror, weird western, and cyberpunk settings.

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?

After over twenty years of gaming it's difficult to choose a single anecdote, but I asked a couple of my friends with whom I've gamed with quite a bit over the course of those years, and several of them recalled the same story as being one of their favorites so I'll relate that one.

I was playing in a Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy campaign (set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which is something of a dystopian sci-fi setting with strong fantasy elements). In Dark Heresy the players take on the role of agents of the Inquisition, ferreting out heresy, and other threats to the imperial doctrine, and any signs of corruption are to be responded to with absolute punitive action (a setting where having your character say 'cleanse it with fire' would not actually be all that ridiculous). 

Our group was investigating rumors of a heretical cult on a factory planet, and I was playing the part of what would essentially be the groups 'rogue' archetype, he was a skilled gunslinger, and an expert at infiltrating secured locations as well as having a glib tongue that often allowed him to con potential heretics into slipping up and revealing their true nature. As such the other players in the group often asked my character to slip into various locales ahead of the rest of them to suss out the situation, whether it be scouting an enemy base, or making first contact with a group of potential heretics in order to feel them out. 

In this particular case our tactic of having my scoundrel make the first contact with the enemy backfired, as I snuck into the heretic's supposedly secret headquarters to scout out their security only to find arrive just as they were summoning a demon out of the Warp (this setting variant of hell, and the dimension through which faster than light travel was achieved), and my character was temporarily possessed by the demon. The demon, having drawn information out of my characters mind about the nature of his mission, as well as the identities of his fellow inquisitorial agents (the other player characters) proceeded to attempt to rejoin the group most likely with the intent of corrupting them. My GM, being a generous individual, allowed me to roll to regain control of my characters actions at regular intervals as the demon progressed in it's intent. 

The rest of the group was waiting outside of the heretic's headquarters in a nearby alley way, as my demon possessed character was crossing the street to rejoin them the dice favored me, and I was able to regain control of my character. My GM told me I had time to take one action before the demon would regain control so I did the only thing that seemed logical within the settings rules and my own characters mindset. My fast-talking scum drew his pistol, put it to his head, and after locking eyes with his closest friend within the group (an assassin played by an old friend of mine) pulled the trigger. Even my GM was stunned by my chosen course of action, but my choice to stay in character, and do what a true servant of the Emperor would inevitably do ended up preventing what my GM later admitted would probably have been a total party kill, and allowed the other players to retreat, and deal with the threat appropriately.


Thanks so much to Alan for the interview! I hope you all enjoyed reading.

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