331 Being a Tourist

do you do anything special if you know you’re going to play a system or genre you don’t usually play or even have that much exposure to? How do you play a space opera game if you’ve never seen a space opera show? How do you play a supers game if you’ve never read a comic book or seen an MCU movie?

The above was asked by @JimFitzpatrick

We’ll talk about this on tonight’s recording of episode 331.

LIVE: http://twitch.tv/gaming_and_bs Monday, March 1st at 8pm CT

Future: http://gamingandbs.com/331

Interesting question and kind of a difficult challenge. As a player I love getting those bullet point lists like “seven things you need to know about the world.” Last time I remember seeing one of those was in the front of the Vaults of Vaarn zine, issue 1. When approaching another genre, one that you as a player don’t connect with either from lack of experience or exposure or interest, it is really helpful to get a handful of tropes and big ideas down right away.

Let me try this off the cuff. Say the genre is noir/gumshoe. Here are 3 things I would tell you.

  1. Investigation isn’t about thinking things through from a cozy armchair. It’s about beating the bush. You walk the scenes, talk to people, poke your nose in where it doesn’t belong, and catch a few punches. If you are lucky, you solve the crime and live to collect a paycheck - which just might cover the rent.

  2. You don’t have to talk like Boggart or come up with Raymond Chandler style language like “It was humid outside. Wet and stinky, like the inside of a dog’s mouth.” That kind of voice-over works in movies and books, but it’s internal. So you can sort of get into character that way, but no one expects you to play that kind of smart cookie character. At the same time, people do often carry around a gruff or wary exterior – often to paper over their real problems. No one wants to appear weak.

  3. We are going to set it in the 1930s. WW1 is over, except there are still people who are hurting from it. Rural America doesn’t always have electricity. There is no interstate system. Phones are scarce and often in a public spot, even within a home (e.g. a main hallway). The stock market crashed in 1929 causing the Great Depression. But America and Americans are tough. Good things are happening. The government is involved in public works and creating national parks. The Empire State Building was just erected. But owning a car and a good suit is still a status symbol.

Ok. Those are a little belabored. I was really hoping to come up with three pithy things like 1. You’ve got to mix it up to find things out. 2. Being cool and witty is a pose that most people can’t hold onto for very long. 3. America is reeling but we are survivors. Maybe those should have been the headers with the details following.

This is a mess. I shouldn’t type stream-of-consciousness thoughts. LOL

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In Random Encounter for this episode, Matt wrote in about an alternative way to use the X Card. I’ve also seen it used that way–I think it’s even in the details of introducing the X Card to the table to use it for something silly, like to take back a joke description, or something. I’ve seen the facilitator/gm ask “do I need to use the X Card here?” in a game that everyone had agreed to push the line ahead of time. That’s fine, but does also lead to some of the problems which you two brought up. Especially because the X feels like a big “NO” for what happened; like you answered wrong on Family Feud.

That’s why I like to use Script Change, by Brie Beau Sheldon. It is a “content, consent, and safety tool for all games”. It uses the terms “pause, resume, frame by frame, rewind, fast forward, and instant replay”. I find that everyone is familiar with these terms, and therefore it’s very user friendly. There are explanations for each of the terms that elaborate and give some nuance to work with too. What is especially great about this tool, is that it encourages checking in with the pause button.

For example, “Pause. Hey y’all, we just heard a child’s scream from upstairs and we’re talking to a witch that may be way out of our league to battle and we might get TPK’d, but my cleric isn’t going to take time to verify if the witch is just baby sitting the neighbor’s kid; he’s going to assume the worst and smash her in the face. You cool with that, or should we let the scene play out a little more before I smash her?”

The table then knows the potentially party killing move I’m going to make.

I mean, I think these tools could used less if we also shared the thoughts of our characters more as we narrate action, but that’s a different subject.

In the episode, Sean said “I don’t ever want to use the X Card”. And I’m sure that was more about not being an Edgelord player or GM, but I think any introduction of potential hesitancy at the table isn’t great. And that’s why the X Card isn’t for every group. If we are worried about making mistakes with the tool, or worried about mistakes in general, our fun make 'em ups aren’t going to be very fun. And a tool which the group is afraid to use isn’t much of a tool for the group. Maybe Script Change would work better for this group.

Here’s a link to the Script Change Itch

Thanks for the BSing about games!

Jeremy Mahr


I’m a huge fan of Script Change. I have my own cards laminated to bring along with me, or I did bring them back in the old days, when we played face to face.

Another thing that I would like to point out is that you can implement Script Change pretty easily if you are using Zoom, because if you click on “participants,” the tools in Zoom includes the following:



yep sure do

If it’s a one shot i will google or youtube a few things, eg overview of 1920s if its Call of Cthulhu, see if there is a Noobz guide of Symbaroum etc

If you can add a detail to a scene or two, it helps everyone there, and encourages to GM that hey, this player gives a crap.

I’ve played and run games where a player or 2 rock up with no research at all, like were not even sure what game it was, it’s just rude.

If a GM is putting 3 to 9 hours in, depending on their prep level, 30 mins is not much to ask for, bottom line is read 1/2 page the blurb they send you/post before the game.

@Fafhrd I too think KISS is mediocre and wildly over rated. But that also carries Sean’s point. They were WILDLY well MARKETED. They didn’t have to be the best band in the world (which by that point, being post Led Zeppelin is probably Queen) because they SOLD that they were the best band in the world, truth be damned. Avalon wouldn’t have to be the best setting in the world, you just have to market it that it is.

I want one of those bean bags.


Thoughts and comments from a Tourist. I thought I needed to be well versed in the rule system and mechanics before I rolled any dice. I read and studied everything I thought I would need to play 5E, and then I get asked to play in a DCC game. When we sat at the virtual table, I had almost no idea what I was doing. Luckily good people like Laramie and others helped me and made it fun to learn in the process. Then Edwin ran a COC game with some of the BS’ers, and the same thing, they nudged me in the right direction and helped teach what I needed to know during the play itself. That group has continued with Hobbs running OSE and NOLAbert running his five torches deep zine.
I guess what I am trying to say (and sorry it took so long) is I agree with a lot of what was brought up in the Podcast. People like to help other people, and when you are passionate about something, you want to teach it, and you want people to love what you love. I think our group is close to calling each other yahoos, and I feel that I am no longer a tourist but a resident. I like the idea of the google sheet and signing up for games, it looks like many of us will enter into unfamiliar territory, and I have no doubt that we will need to pull our map out of our fanny pack and ask for help.
I know this was a different topic but I enjoyed it! Thanks again to all the BS’ers! Now Donde es el Bano!
Mike from Idaho!


Makes more sense in that presentation. Thanks @Jeremy!


This is an essential piece of life advice I try to share with people, doubly so now that we have the internet to connect people. You’re probably all heard me say this, but about 20 years ago, a good buddy of mine talked me into trying out his gym. I walked in, and I’m at this point built like a 20 year old gamer, and the place is full of people who LIFT. Not people who go to the gym three times a week, but people who spends more than 10 hours there a week. And what I found out real fast was: relax. No one is judging you for lifting less than they are. Yes, they want to spot you if you need a hand. Yes, if you are doing something wrong, they might come over and offer to show you. This is thier passion and they want to share it with you. And I’ve felt this holds true through SO many interests. Cars, books, exercise, hunting, fishing, gaming, sports, whatever. So when people have questions about those things, I recommend they get on the internet and ASK people who are passionate about them.

Unrelated news @Eric_Salzwedel , I might be asking questions in the near future about the resin printer I might have bought.



Finding that right balance is key for not only the table, but for the GM’s approach to gamemastering in general. Having played in a few games with people from The Gauntlet’s podcast community and also at Breakout con in Toronto, safety tools are serious business because they’ll play games that deal with serious topics. In those communities, the X-Card is not to be taken lightly and it’s there to put hard stops on things because some of the subject matter in those spaces are serious and potentially triggering. And as moderated communities, that firm line must be established as a policy.

Personally, that’s the approach I share with the X-Card. It’s the pull cord on the bus or subway - no, seriously, someone needs to get to fuck off at this stop. Using Script Change (or similar tools provided with a game) is something I’ll be casual about and even keep the terminology to myself. I find implementing safety tools via the use of specific terminology can intimidate or distract instead of the other players simply knowing that you’re cool with revising and fixing stuff along the way. It’s possible some of my players don’t know we’re using some of the safety tools because I just ingrained them into the play experience.

However, sometimes they must hard and fast rules to play. Seeing more and more games provide baked-in safety tools in the core rulebook (not just an expansion) allows them to show some creativity in their approach where they blend right in with the rules. For The Tower (a Powered by the Apocalypse simulation), we created moves triggered by a physical action at the table and these included safety moves also triggered by a physical action. For example, if you want your character to hide, cross your arms over your chest or cover your eyes if we need to stop immediately and take a break. Each move was displayed on their playbook with an image of a mannequin performing the move for reference and the feedback so far is that these moves really help enforce the strong level of safety tools needed to play that simulation. Because it’s very much needed in that one.

As time’s gone on, I find myself using them in everything I run, even for players I’ve known for years. We don’t know everything about everyone we play with and you’d surprised what dark secret can suddenly pop up without that person even knowing it was there. Whenever I hear people say they don’t need safety tools because they’ve never needed them in 20/30/40 years, I ask if that means no one’s ever stormed out of the room, called someone an asshole for real at the table, or had a player who suddenly stopped showing up. Because if any of those examples ever applied, you could have used safety tools to address and fix those issues. Maybe then they’d have that perfect record they’re bragging about.


As a bit of levity, the last time in my game the needle scratched the record and I stopped running was a player got up from the table, walked to the other side of the same room, made a phone call. I overheard the topic:

Game stops, mid sentence…
“Dude. Are you order pie in the middle of the damned game?!?”
“What? I like pie and I’m hungry.”

I miss in person gaming.


@Akodoken , regarding the Chaosium forum :wink:

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