Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice

Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice! is a podcast by Roger Bell_West and Michael Cule, in which we pontificate on role-playing games.

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Merely an Engsvanyáli Garderobe 01 January 2019


This month, Mike and Roger search for secret doors, are intimidated by some but not all "large" campaign settings, and consider how to do cultural appropriation with respect.

We mentioned:

Warhammer FRP at the Bundle of Holding (alas, it doesn't include the Sorcery book, but all of The Enemy Within is there), Doctor Who at the Bundle of Holding, The Queer Feet, Glorantha, Tékumel, Malaclypse the Younger, King of Dragon Pass, Uresia: Grave of Heaven, Harnmaster, Traveller, the Esoteric Order of Roleplayers and two separate runs of Bluebeard's Bride, the X-Card, the Elven Politics thread and the discussion of Vampire society.

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Music by Kevin MacLeod at

  1. Posted by Jason Bradley Thompson at 12:15am on 11 January 2019

    I too own Bluebeard's Bride but haven't had the chance to try it out yet. While it's definitely a kind of game that calls for some kind of "safe word" rules, I have to say I'm generally uncomfortable with the idea of X cards or other "safety mechanisms" in RPGs in general. Perhaps it's just my "it's good to endure gross and scary things to prove how tough you are" traditional male upbringing, but when I'm playing a RPG, particularly a horror RPG, I want to "test myself" against whatever horrible and scary stuff the DM and the other players come up with. At the same time, clearly players and DMs can be real jerks and really make games uncomfortable for other players, particularly the all-too-common case of men harassing women, whether subtly or overtly. Essentially I guess (1) I feel the DM needs to be attentive to the individual players' limits and needs and to respect them but also (2) as both a player and a DM, I prefer a traditional "the DM is ultimately in charge of everything" approach and I don't like it when the DM's ability to shock and surprise and declare fiat is replaced with more collaborative roleplaying systems.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:16pm on 13 January 2019

    I think the virtue is that it allows a player who might otherwise be unwilling to play to give it a go, because they know they have a safety valve.

    In the UK I think many players don't like to give negative feedback (until they get annoyed enough to leave the group). I've certainly done that to one player by accident; that wasn't unwelcome subject matter, it was the character arc that was happening more or less spontaneously, but I'd have been happy to do something about it if I'd thought it was a problem.

    The problem with a "only use the card if you are seriously squicked by something" approach is that then it's a Big Deal to use it - you may get other players saying "man, we were enjoying that, then you ruined it". So I can see why it's intended to be used often.

    I dunno. I haven't actually done this; my regular games are with groups who know me, but I might try it next time I run at a convention. And then amp up the horror because I know it can be cut off if it's upsetting people.

  3. Posted by Zyg at 05:55pm on 23 January 2019

    Tekumel's extensive background is one of the reasons you believe potential GMs are reluctant to run it. And yes, each time I think about running Empire of the Petal Throne (regardless of actual system) I think to myself that I would have to be really on-top of all the source material for this to work. And yet ... Roger and I have both run WW2 games, where the volume of source material, or background is far greater. I might have a shelf for Tekumel, and that is most of what was ever published, but I have book cases for WW2, and that is before the interwebs.

    So why is that? Perhaps for a WW2 setting, the GM and players have enough shared experience (films, books, TV) that context is easy for both. British boffin - check. British Army officer - check. New York banker - check. German party official - check. For Tekumel, even the shorthand (e.g. a wandering priest of Ksarul) requires knowing the stereotypes for 20+ temples, 5 empires, 10+ races and then some. Does the would-be Tekumel GM have to start by writing her custom guidebook? "Stereotypes and Tropes for Players in my Tekumel".

    Thinking about it, a campaign guidebook does sound like a good idea. Is it? How best to do it? And, how to ensure the effort required doesn't kill the campaign before it starts?

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 01:36pm on 26 January 2019

    With Lovecraftian games, there's a fair amount of source material, but after one's read a bit it's clear that Lovecraft started from roughly the same place each time; there's a hard core of things like the Elder Gods, the Necronomicon, and Miskatonic University, but beyond that he seems to have felt free to make things up as he went along. So that certainly makes it easier for a GM.

    A Thing I Always Say is that many players don't want to have to absorb more than about a page of background, and I suspect any introduction to Tekumel that left one able to play a character in it would take more than that.

    Over on the forum we're talking about how to introduce new players to Valued Listener Brett Evill's Flat Black setting…

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