And I’ve decided to collect here the questions and answers thus far. At the end of the week, I’ll post up the rest of the questions.
But first, I was asked to submit a bio, so here it is:
Where to begin? I got my start in RPGs at about 15, learning the Star Wars d6 (Revised and Expanded) system, and from there it took off. I’ve played a lot of games over the years, usually as a GM. At the age of 18 I got a job at a board game store, Uncles Games, in downtown Spokane, and loved it. Following that, I worked at another game store, Getaway Games, where I really got into some great RPGs. After that company folded, I went back to work at Uncles until I enlisted in the Navy at 21.
A couple of years ago, I converted my secretly-geeky wife to RPGs, and started DiceMonkey.net, where I talk about RPGs and games. I’m now a podcaster on RPG Circus, a frequenter of Twitter, and have been getting myself involved more in RPGGeek and BoardGameGeek. I’ve got a game group that has collapsed under me, so if you’re in Northern Chicagoland and are interested in gaming, let me know! I put out a Fiasco Playset a few months back called Toil & Trouble which has gotten good reviews from people, and I’m deeply honored to be your Geek of the Week!
And here is the Q & A! These are questions from multiple people, so there is some overlap and redundancies.
How did you discover your wife was secretly geeky? I discovered she was “secretly geeky” when she said, in one of those little internet surveys that her “guilty pleasure” movie was Hellboy. From there, I soon discovered she was a huge Star Trek fan.
Do you usually try to find new gamers to play with from among your friends or from among the gaming community? Back in my last posting in Virginia, I found them amongst friends. I made about four people gamers from amongst my friends. Now, I’ve been searching amongst the gaming community since I don’t really have any friends from work interested in gaming at all.
If you’re going on a trip for a week and want one board game to play, which would it be (factoring in size and portability as well as entertainment value)? For just a week, and have to factor in the portability? Then I’ll go with The Settlers of Catan. I’ve got all of the expansions squeezed into one small box.
Similarly, for the same trip, which RPG would you choose (again, factoring in a realistic vacation for you, whether that means having internet access to use DDI or if it means just having a single compact book). I’d probably go with Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition. The ability to create all kinds of different settings in a single book is definitely a draw, as well as the ability to make a character in only about 15 minutes.
If you had to downsize your gaming collection, which out of print game would be the last to go? Great question! I’d probably go with War of the Ring. I’ve seen that going for a lot of money on Ebay.
If you’ve already downsized, are there any games you regret having let go? I actually ended up selling off my Space Marine army a couple of years ago, since, at the time, I couldn’t find any other players in my area. Now, I regret it, as I just had to spend about $600 to buy a new one.
If you had to spend forever and a day on a remote island (well stocked with food, shelter, pencil, paper, dice and 3-5 friends) what one reading (non-game) book would you take with you and why? I’d have to go with the Belgariad by David Eddings. It was one of my first fantasy series, and I absolutely love it.
If you had to spend forever and a day on a remote island (well stocked with food, shelter, pencil, paper, dice and 3-5 friends) what one RPG book would you take with you and why? Only one book?! Hmmm… I’ll probably respond like I did before with Savage Worlds due to being able to do almost anything with it. Perhaps I’d try to sneak the Super Powers Companion Explorer’s Edition onto the island. You can do a lot with that book.
If you had to spend forever and a day on a remote island (well stocked with food, shelter, pencil, paper, dice and 3-5 friends) what one game (non RPG) would you take with you and why? That’s a really tough one. Perhaps I’ll go with Small World. I think you could come up with a lot of variants to the game with your time on the island.
If you could play an RPG with any one fellow RPG Geek regular, who would it be and why? I’d have to go with DMSamuel (lorddillon). He’s good people, and I really enjoy his blog.
If you could play an RPG with any famous person (dead or alive… but not an RPG Geek regular), who would it be and why? Hmmm… I hear Dame Judy Dench is a D&D player… Though I’d probably have to say Wil Wheaton or Felicia Day.
If you were trapped at a convention and dying to play but all they had were pre-1989 RPGs (i.e. before AD&D 2e), what RPG would you play? I just got the original Traveller system. That looks pretty awesome. Probably that.
What’s your favorite monster?Would it be horrible to say one I’ve come up with? http://dicemonkey.net/2010/10/27/halloween-treat-jack-the-pu… I’ve never gotten a chance to run him, but I desperately want to. I’ll be writing up modified stats for him once I’ve got a DDI account set up again.
What’s your favorite beer or other drink? I love a good Rum & Coke. Mmmm… Rum & Coke…
Which boardgames do you prefer? Ameritrash all the way. The more components, the better. I love War of the Ring, Tannhäuser, Twilight Imperium (Third Edition) (which I actually played for my Bachelor Party), that sort of thing.
What’s your favorite meal? My wife makes fantastic brisket, using barbeque sauce, italian dressing, with a side of cheesy potatoes and rolls. She makes it only every few months, and whenever I’ve had a friend over to try it, it blows their mind.
Will you congratulate you’re BGG and VGG counterpart and ask him/her some questions? I will, once I get the chance. This evening. (NOTE: I still haven’t…)
What was the most strange character you’ve ever created? I had a character called Alden Vane. He was an Eladrin Swordmage, who was pretty cool, but not much to brag about. When the party split for a year (in order for us to take a two week break and level our characters up to Paragon Tier), he left for the Shadowfell, took charge of a band of Shadar-Kai, and became a dark reflection of himself. He had a couple of different magical items allowing him to turn himself into a flock of ravens. He was pretty awesome. He served the Raven Queen, and had a Raven familiar.
I like what I’m seeing with Burning Wheel so far. What would you recommend as a next step now that I’ve got the two core books? I would definitely pick up The Burning Wheel: Monster Burner. I’ve got it, and it’s great because you can not only make monsters, you get four more Lifepaths for your characters (Giant Spiders, Wolves, Trolls and Rat Men). Additionally, (I don’t have them, but I’ve heard awesome things) I would get The Burning Wheel: Magic Burner to make your own magical system for your world, and The Burning Wheel: Adventure Burner for designing campaigns. I personally own the Burning Sands: Jihad book, which I got at GenCon. If you want to play Dune, use this.
Fireball or Lightning Bolt? Fireball! Lightning Bolt is effective, but to precision for me. If I’m going to kill my enemy, I want to toast everything around them. Of course, I personally prefer Burning Sphere…
You’re doing a lot to spread the word about gaming, from your contributions here to running 4e with your family (great [thread=6157172]session report[/thread], BTW) to the podcast, etc. Is there anything you’d like to do along those lines that you haven’t had the chance to do yet? I started to work with some guys on an RPG magazine, but it didn’t get off the ground. It was supposed to be called Initiative Magazine: It’s what you roll, it’s how we roll. If anyone wants to help out, I’d love to get back to doing it!
Do you prefer minimal dice or bucket of dice? It really depends on the game. I’ve been finding more and more that you don’t need rules for a good game. I’ve found my Star Wars game I’m running online has gone completely free-form, and it’s great! On the other hand, I’ve got a lot of dice, and I like to use ‘em!
What is your most used RPG book? Hmmm… I’ve found myself more and more just using books for occasional reference, and running games completely off the cuff, including making up rules for monsters on the fly. so I’d have to go with the Star Wars d20 Revised book. I used that for years and years, running about 5 different campaigns off of it.
What is your favourite RPG related possession? I received one of the flashing d20′s from Think Geek from my dad for Christmas. It’s prominently displayed above my desk at home.
If you could visit any RPG world which would it be? As far as a licensed RPG goes, I’d go with Star Wars, most definitely. I’ve been a fan since the age of 5. But if you’re talking about an RPG setting linked completely to the RPG itself, I’d have to go with Eberron, I think. I like the High-Magic/Steampunk idea behind it.
What is your Twitter ID? You can follow me at @markmeredith. Pretty uninventive, right?
What RPG that you haven’t gotten to yet would you most like to play? Without a doubt, The Burning Wheel (Revised Edition). I know, I rave about the game, and yet, I’ve never played a single session. I’ve played a bit of Mouse Guard, but never Burning Wheel itself. I’ve read it extensively, and I’ve used core concepts (such as BITs) in my games. I’d love to get in on a game sometime.
You’re pretty heavy into the Internet side of the hobby – how do you think the internet has changed roleplaying? I think it’s allowed the roleplayers to really know what’s going on. I think that in the past, you didn’t have extensive discussions over currency in games, or how to properly beat your players down with traps and no-win scenarios. You used to have to glean that information from friends or listening around the game store. Now, you just to a quick Google search, and hop in on a discussion.
Having worked at a game store myself, I know how wonderful and dodgy they can be – what’s your experience like? Not dodgy at all, actually! We had some great guys who owned Getaway. They were a cop, a computer programmer, and a guy who was, apparently, independently wealthy. We were the place parents liked to drop their kids off, brightly lit, well organized, things like that. At Uncles, all of their stores are all very family-friendly. So, in my experience, I didn’t have a dodgy experience at all. I’d love to hear your experience!
Tell us about your corner of the Star Wars Universe when you were learning to game. I don’t remember much about my d6 days, since I played probably only about six sessions or so. But almost immediately following that, I got into my Star Wars d20 game. It was a Episode I era game, and we played every other week for hours. Using only the knowledge gleaned from the films and from the scarce information we could find on the internet 10 years ago. They dealt with the seedier side of things, not so much dealing with the Hutts so much as Black Sun and a crime syndicate I came up with, the Gemini Syndicate. Jump ahead 10 years, and I got the group back together on RPOL.net, where we run our game. The storyline jumped ahead 10 years, so they’re in the middle of the Clone Wars at the moment. Our themes are more mature than they were 10 years ago, with much deeper characters. I like what we’ve done with it.
What was your first RPG? My first was Star Wars (WEG 2nd Edition), which I played with my friend during theater practice when I was 15.
What was your second RPG? My friend also owned the Usagi Yojimbo Role-Playing Game, so I ended up playing a Dog Bounty Hunter in that. I had a really fun time with that, and, a year or so ago, I found a copy and bought it. Now I just need to get a copy of the old Star Wars d6 (Revised and Expanded) and I’ll have both of my first two RPGs.
Player, GM or both? Both, definitely. Unfortunately, I usually am the GM, due to necessity. When I get the chance to be a player, I live it up.
Do you have a favourite die? e.g. d4, d12 etc. My favorite is probably the lonely d12. It’s very under-appreciated.
Do you have a preferred group size? I don’t, really. My table comfortably seats four, but I have had groups of up to six gathered around the table. I’ve ended up with a table of 10 during last season’s D&D Encounters, and I found it went surprisingly well.
If you have been involved in a campaign, what’s the longest running one you have played in or run? Actually the one I’m involved in now online, with my old Star Wars group. We played for about a year and a half back when I was 16, and now we’ve been going for a year after a 10 year hiatus. Otherwise, I’ve got a short attention span. In the course of the two and a half years my group was together in Virginia, we played three different campaigns.
Minis for combat? I love minis in combat, depending on the system. I like to see where everyone is located, but I never limit my players to what they can see.
What other types (e.g. board, miniature etc.) of games do you play? I’ve got a ton of board games, mostly Ameritrash. I’ve also got a ton of the Star Wars minis, quite a few CCGs such as Spycraft and Battlestar Galactica, and I’ve got a 2000 pt. Imperial Guard 40k army that needs constructing. Speaking of, I should get back to that…
Have you found a use for d30s other than rolling the day of the month on four months of the year? I haven’t. It seems like you’ve found the secret reason behind it! I think you could probably use it for Funky Dice in Risus…
Have you ever role played at a convention? I have! It was actually my introduction to Savage Worlds. I played a mind-controller in a party of villains, sent behind Nazi lines by the US Government in exchange for our freedom. We took on Nazi Zombies, I personally killed a spy working for the US after gleaning the important information he had for the Allies out of his head, and our plane exploded over Paris, destroying the Eiffel Tower. While the rest of the group earned points towards their freedom, my character had the information they needed, and bargained for his freedom and release to Switzerland. At the end of the game, the players all told me that if it was a campaign, they’d all be happy to be my minions. It was a fantastic game.
Tell us about your most memorable character death or exit. Probably that one. It was only a one-shot, but we determined that he retired to his mountainside villa in Switzerland, and began using the information he got from the spy’s head to begin building Super Soldiers. After the war, when the villains were free, they’d all ally with him, and he’d attack.
Other than RPGs, do you do any other sort of gaming? Oh yeah! Besides the board, card and minis games mentioned previously, I also own a Wii, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, PSP, PlayStation 2, Genesis, and Atari 2600. I’m a big fan of Shadow of the Colossus. And I own a ton of games for my Mac.
What do you look for in the RPGs you play? I look for a compelling system with rules that are easy to grok. If the game is too complicated, I lose interest. On the other hand, I really, really want to run HackMaster (4th Edition) someday, incorporating all of the complicated rules.
Assuming time and money were not a concern, what one thing would you dedicate your life to? I would love to write novels for a living. I’ve got a ton of ideas going through my head, and a book I’m working on. But progress is slow to non-existant, with life getting in the way.
What is your favourite colour when playing a boardgame? Blue.
Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter? I love late Spring/early Summer, just when it’s warm enough to go outside, but not overbearingly hot.
Do play an instrument? If yes, which one and for how long already? I used to play Alto Saxophone and the Piano, but it’s been a long time. I play guitar, but don’t own one right now. I’ve played guitar for about 8 years, but haven’t ever had formal lessons.
Having fun? I am! This is a lot of work, answering all these questions, but I love it!
What would have been your name if your parents didn’t name you Mark? I heard that if I was a girl, it was going to be Caitlin. My mom named me Marcus because she likes “Marc with a C”, which she didn’t tell me until after I started going by “Mark with a K”. I changed it at about 14, since no one could spell my name right, always spelling it with a K. I decided to let everyone spell it correctly.
What is your favourite snack? I have a serious sweet-tooth, so I’m not sure. Probably Jujubes.
What character would you be in a Star Trek setting? I’d want to be the science officer who doesn’t take crap from anyone, shooting down people’s hair-brained ideas.
What is your favourite time of day? I love twilight, just before the sun has fully set.
What is your favourite non-alcoholic drink? I’m a Coke addict. No, really. I love Coca-Cola or Pepsi. NOT DIET!
What’s your best RPG purchase of the last year or so? Why? Probably Mouse Guard. It’s a fantastic little game, and so beautiful. I’ve run three different one-shots with it, and it’s great. The structure for missions is something any RPG could use.
What RPG item is next on your purchase list? Why again? I’m trying to get my wife to get me Game Master’s Toolkit, because I’m going to be running a campaign coming up.
Is Burning Wheel your favorite Lifepath system? Any other Lifepath systems you recommend? I’ve looked over Traveller (Classic), though never played it. I like the lifepath system there. Also, MechWarrior (2nd Edition) has a lifepath mechanic that works really well. But Burning Wheel is definitely my favorite. There’s a lot there to enjoy. I don’t envy anyone who decides to actually write a lifepath system. There’s so many things to take into account, and so many possible life choices, it’s a ton of work!
And that’s the question’s I’ve gotten so far! Check back at the end of the week for the rest of the questions!