Ben Chong is one of the Good People. If you’ve been to a major tabletop gaming event in the last couple of years, there’s a good chance he was there. From Kotakcon 2.0 in 2016 to the #KakiTabletop North Tour and Free RPG Day, and even at the Maelstrom LARP, Ben Chong is a (literally) towering presence on the gaming scene.
Who is Ben Chong?
What was your first RPG as GM?
I ran a session of Trail of Cthulhu for a Halloween party with some friends in the Sunway Board Games Society. My first game was total chaos condensed into a three-hour murder mystery in 1950s New Orleans; there were gunfights, arson, and a player dropped a brick on themselves. It was fun, and I learned a lot from my first time as a GM.
What RPG sessions do you run, and what is your favourite game?
I’ve run many games in a lot of settings including conventions, public meetups, online chat groups, and in private with one-shots and campaigns. Over the years, I’ve played through a lot of genres but I still have tons of love for horror games like the Chronicles of Darkness series. Recently, I’ve delved more into Cyberpunk games, and my current favourite is The Sprawl – a Powered by the Apocalypse game which generates hard and fast Cyberpunk scenarios to play.
Among the adventures you have created, do you have some favourites?
I have two! All The Good People was a D&D5E campaign, and my first experience GM-ing a full multi-session game in public with a rotating cast. ATGP was run with a simple premise: each session translated to a full year passing within the setting, and player choices from previous sessions affected the course of history. There was lots of focus on storytelling, drama, and creating lore together at the table. I’m so fond of the world we created that I still use its notes to inspire current games.
Another favourite of mine was my first Mage: The Awakening campaign with friends back in 2014. We settled on a more lighthearted premise about magical cops working in Boston. Although we hit a lot of obstacles along the way with using the system, we had tons of fun learning the game, and interacting with a ridiculous world of magic.
What characters, settings and situations are you most proud of?
My sessions always have a focus on character development and drama. I’m happiest as a GM when we get to see characters change motives, reconsider perspectives, create drama, and etc.
Tell us the most awkward scene/gameplay situation you had to GM.
I can be super squeamish sometimes when running romance in my games even when I’m a big fan of the shoujo genre since childhood. Imagine a table where everyone’s gushing and blushing too hard to roleplay a horribly flirty scene between PC and NPC.
Gamer on a Mission
You’ve been involved in “evangelising” RPGs around Malaysia. Tell us about where you went and what you did there.
I’ve been involved with promoting and demonstrating RPGs in the public via RolePlaying Gamers of Malaysia since 2015. My activities started off with running games at conventions and cafes, before I created OneRudeFlowers which includes a YouTube channel and other social media platforms for me to upload session recordings, podcasts, writings, videos and etc. focused on RPG and game design.
Most recently in 2017, I started working with Gray Ham – who heads the development of multiple local tabletop communities – to grow the tabletop scene in Malaysia. Our biggest effort was the #Kakitabletop North Tour, a road trip through the northern states of Malaysia to connect with other tabletop gamers, communities, and creators into a larger community.
The trip was a lot of work, but it let us meet up with several passionate advocates for the hobby, and exchange notes. We have also collaborated in designing new tabletop games inspired by Malaysian heritage and culture, and I currently design my own RPGs as part of the TableTop Game Designers of Malaysia.
What games do you use to introduce the concept to new players?
In most conventions with new players, my go-to introductory RPG tends to be D&D5E due to its flexibility and popularity. D&D5E is also the easiest to learn system of the franchise insofar, and can help you cover a wide range of concepts in RPGs very quickly; combat, roleplay, table manners, and when to roll your dice.
What have been some of the highlights and lows of introducing RPGs to Malaysians?
The greatest moments I’ve had while advocating for RPGs in Malaysia have been when players leave a table happy, and interested. I have a strong belief that RPGs, or more widely tabletop gaming is a hobby beneficial to all of its players; it allows people to connect through conversation and play, and create fun memories.
As for lows, I have never been more aware of how difficult it can be for Malaysians to gain access into playing RPGs consistently. After years of running games, it’s become clear that Malaysia has highly restricted access to RPGs in comparison to other regions of the world so it can be disappointing to know an interested player may never get their chance at the table. Some of the largest obstacles for RPG as a hobby in Malaysia also stems from the community; a lot of groups are still scattered and might not be aware of a larger community to play with, have no access to a Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS), or get blocked by gatekeeping behaviours for being younger or having different mindsets about RPGs – indie vs mainstream RPGs being the most familiar topic. The RPG scene of Malaysia is also no stranger to discrimination based on race, sex, and gender which bars the entry of many new players.
Despite all this, the progress I’ve seen in Malaysia’s RPG scene over the years gives a lot of hope; communities have become more interconnected, awareness and interest in RPGs is rising, and community involvement is becoming a more regular occurrence.
All photos were taken from the extensive social media accounts of Ben Chong, Gray Ham and various groups Ben is associated with. You can find Ben online on just about all the social media platforms such as Youtube, Twitter, Instagram…
At the time of this interview, Ben is getting ready to run a full day of D&D5E sessions at Kaijucon, Day 1 (9 June 2018). If you want to join his adventure “Big Monster Hunters,” be sure to arrive early at Kaijucon – his 4-hour game sessions start at 10am and 4pm, respectively.
Contact Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In addition, Ben’s friend Samwise Mui will be GMing on Day 2 (10 June 2018), including a test run of Ben’s new microgame, Hello World, about robots learning to love!