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Roll Perception Plus Awareness: An Introduction

Roll Perception Plus Awareness is a new column by Paul Weimer designed to introduce modern Role Playing Games to the readers of SF Signal.

Many readers, perhaps like you, remember Dungeons and Dragons. You may remember the 1980’s cartoon, or the movie in the 1990’s, or even played it yourself back in the day, in someone’ s basement, perhaps at a high school or college club, or in the back of a local, small FLGS–Friendly Local Gaming Store.

Sure, the craze and phenomenon of D&D has passed its high water mark in public consciousness, but roleplaying games have evolved and changed and adapted since the days of rolling up clerics, fighters and thieves to explore dungeons. Roleplaying games today range from White Wolf’s big lines of Vampires, Werewolves and more, to independent small press “story games” that both narrow the focus and expand the boundaries of roleplaying. Heck, there are games out there that don’t require a dungeon master at all! And, lest you worry, Dungeons and Dragons itself still persists in its divisive and controversial Fourth Edition.

The first and pertinent question you may ask is, why should you, SF Signal reader, care at all about roleplaying games? You may not have picked up a twenty sided die in fifteen years, or may never have, and may have little propensity (or time!) to do so. Even so, there are good reasons, as a connoisseur of fantasy and science fiction, for you to pay attention to roleplaying games.

Many Fantasy and Science Fiction writers writing today have played or still play role playing games. Charles Stross, for instance, created some of the monsters in the old D&D supplement The Field Folio. Ari Marmell, author of several novels, still does some work for Dungeons and Dragons game supplements–in fact, that is where I first came across his name. Authors like Ed Greenwood have transitioned from writing game books to writing media tie-in novels set in Dungeons and Dragons worlds. Patrick Rothfuss, author of the Kingkiller Chronicles, is currently working his way through a computer roleplaying game, Dragon Age 2.

And many other authors, especially fantasy authors, bring their history and experience of having played roleplaying games to their fiction and their created worlds. The complex, complicated and baroque world of the Malazan novels of Steven Erikson and Ian Esselmont derives from a long running roleplaying game that Steven has run. Thomas Harlan’s Fifth Sun novels are set in the future of an online play-by-post game that he still runs.

While there are many original games with original universes, there are a fair number of roleplaying games that allow you to explore and create stories in the world and the vein of fantasy and science fiction universes. Roleplaying games based on TV series include Leverage and Battlestar Galactica. There is a well-received RPG based on Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones is on its second iteration as a role playing game. There is a GURPS roleplaying book that allows players to take on the world of Lois M. Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan novels. There are numerous role playing games that play in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu universe, ranging from supplements mixing Ancient Rome and the Mythos to a game set in the late 21st century.

And in terms of sheer attendance, gaming oriented conventions such as Gencon and Dragoncon draw thousands of people every year, and savvy science fiction and fantasy writers (and even publishers) attend these conventions to meet with readers and fans. They know that gamers are genre readers.

The title of this column, Roll Perception Plus Awareness, refers to a skill roll in a set of games created by White Wolf. When I as a GM ask my players to get out their ten sided dice and roll Perception Plus Awareness, I am letting them know that their characters might soon be made aware of opportunity, or perhaps danger. There is something out there that the player characters need to pay attention to. The rolling of the dice is their opportunity to get a drop on it, if they roll well.

I have been playing roleplaying games for over two decades, run a long running play by mail email game, and play an assortment of “indie games” with a local group as well as GM an infrequent game for a few friends. I have an extensive collection of role playing books and supplements that I peruse for fun. In this column, I am going to draw on my experience and knowledge to make you, the reader, more perceptive and aware of the world of role playing games.

About Paul Weimer (366 Articles)
Not really a Prince of Amber, but rather an ex-pat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota, Paul Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for over 25 years. Almost as long as he has been reading and watching movies, he has enjoyed telling people what he has thought of them. In addition to SF Signal, he can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, Skiffy and Fanty, SFF Audio, Twitter, and many other places on the Internet!

8 Comments on Roll Perception Plus Awareness: An Introduction

  1. Great! The D&D craze may have passed years ago, but RPGs are very much alive and kicking. I’m a recurrent player and I think the huge world of role-playing games needs more exposure, so I’m eager to read this column.

  2. Stross’ critters in the Fiend Folio are some of my favorites.

    And I wonder if it wasnt for the upsurge of “fantasy” gaming in the 70s-80s if fantasy literature would have had such an explosion of popularity…or maybe it is a chicken and egg scenario?


  3. Great starter.


    RPGs have always “tipped the hat” to world building as that process often appears in SF and Fantasy.  As players and GMs have become more sophisticated readers and audience for games, so the RPG worlds have become more complex and challenging.

    Now we are at a point where gamers write fiction based on long tested ‘virtual worlds’ and that makes for some sophisticated reading.


    Looking forward to this column.

  4. I remember playing D&D in the back room of a book store in the early 70’s when it was still all on those little pamphlets. My fastasy and SCI-FI reading started just about the same time I discovered gaming so it was just a matter of the right time for both.

  5. I am, so far as I’m aware, the only person who ever turned a <i>Changeling: The Dreaming</i> campaign into a non-tie-in novel. πŸ™‚  (Do I win points for obscurity?)

    Anyway, I’ll be over here shouting “preach it, brother!”  I love playing RPGs, both tabletop and LARP; I studied them in graduate school (no, I’m not making that up); I’ve even run a few in my time — though not many, since I’m unfortunately inclined toward campaign ideas that involve way the hell too much research and prep time.  The interaction between that and my writing goes both ways, to the benefit of both.

    (Me, I roll Perception + Awareness *for* my players, without telling them.  That way if they fail the roll, they don’t know there was something they overlooked . . . .)

  6. I am, so far as I’m aware, the only person who ever turned a <i>Changeling: The Dreaming</i> campaign into a non-tie-in novel. πŸ™‚  (Do I win points for obscurity?)

    The only thing I know that comes even close, Marie,  is the fact that some of the characters in John C Wright’s Chaos trilogy derives from player characters from an Amber DRPG campaign of his.  

    And I let my characters roll the dice themselves for Perception plus Awareness, because they have learned that high rolls sometimes inspire me to have them see something they’d rather not have noticed. Ignorance can be bliss…


  7. Up until about a year ago, I hadn’t picked up a die in almost 25 years. I don’t remember exactly how I quit playing (Navy and life in general, maybe) but I was anxious to get back into it. Even my Mom had forgotten. She called me during a game the other night and when I told her what I was doing I got silence on the line. “Yes, Mom. You’re 42 year old son still plays that damn game.” But these games in general are great social tools and help people use their creativity. I was watching something on the news the other night and started wondering how I could weave it into my campaign. I can’t afford to go to the big cons, but you can find a truck load of them across the U. S. if you look. In fact, we’ve got next month in Ft. Worth. Granted, it’s not GenCon but it’s still the perfect opportunity to find out-of-print or obscure games or just meet new people for those of us that can’t travel far! And with the internet, websites like this are invaluable! I look forward to having someone help me weed out the wastes-of-time!

  8. Hi Paul. This topic certainly has generated a lot of great discussion, both here and elsewhere. People have a wide range of emphatic opinions, both pro and con gaming as an aid to writing, and gaming itself. To me, this is a good thing. I’ve always thought it sad to see very little interaction between gamers and readers/writers at conventions (not none, of course). All too often, the gaming rooms are stuck off in a corner, gamers don’t attend writing/literary panels and writers/readers don’t attend gaming panels. If we can listen to one another, that’s the first step in learning to appreciate the value in seeing things another way, and we’re all richer for the experience.

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