My good friend Douglas Larke is the epitome of the storytelling game master. Whether he’s running Vampire: the Masquerade or Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition or Golden Sky Stories, his games focus on the fiction and the characters that live within it. His Canadian sense of hospitality and generosity makes new players feel welcome, while those of us in Malaysia who’ve known him for nearly two decades always remember him for his quirky sense of humour.
Douglas Larke: Katanas and Tea Parties
What was your first RPG as GM?
My first RPG as GM was Marvel Super Heroes! I was 12 at the time, not even out of Elementary School yet. It wasn’t too long after though that I got the famous red D&D box! 🙂
What RPG sessions do you run?
Right now, mainly Golden Sky Stories and Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. Although I am itching to run Legend of the Five Rings or Vampire: Dark Ages again. I also am working on my own RPG based on the anime series Pretty Cure.
What is your favourite RPG?
Giving a favourite RPG is like saying your favourite song – unless you’re a very stilted person, it will change from time to time. Some of my personal faves include Golden Sky Stories, 13th Age, Vampire, Doctor Who, IronClaw, Exalted, Delta Green and a Chinese Martial Arts one that no one else seemed to like. I also am among the rare few who liked 4th Ed D&D. I prefer story driven over rules driven.
Saints and Sinners
Among the characters you have created, which is your favourite? Tell us about the character.
I’ve had quite a few I was close to. Really it’s quite difficult to choose one…and for me, when I make a character I put my heart and soul into them. I do regret that some I didn’t get a chance to go as far with them as I would have liked…but that’s how games go. Among some of my favourites are:
Diana Barrimos – A Vampire Nun, who was so high upon her personal path that she was immune to crosses and holy water. The interesting thing about her was that in order to let her keep her powers, I had to know the 10 commandments very well..and make sure she never broke any…which is very hard when you’re a vampiric elder running land areas in the dark ages.
Daidouji Tomoyo – my longest running Legend of the Five Rings character. She went from being a girl straight out of a gempuku ceremony to a temporary Daimyo of the Mantis Clan and a primary guard to the Emperor. She went through a lot of betrayal and loss to get to that point…but she managed to make it through – with her true love no less.
LaRue – We were playing a game where we were all supposed to be criminals…I usually play goody two shoe characters, but when asked to play a bad guy, I came up with the most cruelest person I could…and LaRue is the result. Much like Count Olaf, LaRue was an arrogant self-absorbed character who hated women in general and the whole world as a rule. He actually tried to sell one Player Character off to a group of guys for ‘fun night’ and watched a ghostly re-enactment of a bloody murder while drinking soda and eating popcorn and laughing at the worst parts. He could make other players laugh at one moment, and then make them all want to kill him in the next. My only regret was…we never got a chance to explore what made the man what he was….I had a backstory for that.
Kanoveig – A lovely, caring but strong-willed Viking housewife who maintains the manor of her husband. Everyone believes he is dead, except Kanoveig, who never gives up waiting for her love to come home. I really like her…and hope to play her more soon.
There are more…but this is enough…for now 🙂
Who is Douglas Larke by day? Who is Douglas Larke by night?
Douglas Larke is the Academic and Communications Manager for a large Language Centre chain by day. By night, he’s a homebody – watching anime, writing stories and songs, and playing games when he can. He lives with his Mom and four dogs he refers to as his ‘kids’ – Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Kirara. He’s always creating something…or enjoying a creation.
Tell us the most awkward scene/gameplay situation you had to GM.
Hmm… I would need to give serious thought…but I think the worst I can remember now were two times in L5R I had to have Player Characters executed. To be fair, this is a samurai world of honour and respect, and in both cases, the player character in question was showing zero respect for the ruling family. Still, it was rather disappointing to have to say “Your character was executed.”
Ironically, BOTH players took it really well (especially one who found out a major game secret earlier than everyone else – before his character died). And their next characters did much better in fitting in.
Still…I don’t like killing PCs.
What advice would you give to RPG newbies?
When Tom Baker retired from being the Doctor, Peter Davidson asked him in a bar for some advice on being the Doctor. Tom said. “I can’t tell you how to be your Doctor. Only you can find that out. I only know how to be MY Doctor.” (at least that’s how I remember Peter telling it)
My advice is simply this. It’s fine to go to experienced GMs and get their thoughts. It’s fine to read long articles on advice and theories. These people have experience and ideas that have come from years of experience and trial-and-error. However, the only way to really know how to be a good GM is to do it and learn from mistakes and successes. Just play – if you’re having fun and your players are, that’s what matters. You can read advice, but you must follow what’s in your heart. Their rules need not be yours.
When I first started roleplaying, there was no internet or RPG groups. There was just you and a few special friends. You opened a hardcover book and/or a box set and argued over who was running first. You then sat in a dingy basement for hours on end, and weaved a tale, tested your adventurer’s skills and bravery and rewarded the survivors. But most of all…you had fun. That’s what matters. Not the Rules Lawyering, not the accuracy to historical evidence and not performing better than another GM/DM.
Have fun…and make sure the others are too. That’s the best advice I can give.
Oh…and don’t ask players to engage in tricky, important dialogue at 1:00 am. it doesn’t end well.
“Yeah, you all laugh at me right now because I’m so young. But one day I’ll be older than all of you. No Benzaiten, don’t write that in your book!” – Mitsuo Hirasha.