Prankster Illusionist

Surren Starr's page

Organized Play Member. 69 posts (71 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 12 Organized Play characters. 4 aliases.


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The Exchange

Claxon wrote:
Do you regularly try to describe how magic spells are cast or how the martial characters swing their weapons?

A fair chunk of the time, yes.

We try to make it a requirement of our gaming group that actions are described either by the player or the GM, our table would find it a bit dull if we went through the game without flexing our imaginations.
When a player rolls under the enemy's AC, rather than simply missing the target we normally explain how the enemy is going to deflect the blow or meet the character's swing with their blade. It adds a bit of immersion into the game and gives the enemies a bit more credit than being meat-bags that aren't as skilled as the heroes of the story.

Magic that has uses a roll to hit mechanic (e.g. scorching ray) is sometimes a bit more difficult to describe how/why they missed, the first couple of times we can say it was down to not compensating for the kickback of the ray. After so many times they'd be used to it, so we tend to go down the lines of the player not having a clear shot and dispersing the energy to save from hitting their ally.

For a rogue spotting and disarming magical traps, I give the rogue a more specialised set of thieves tools with something akin to a specialised tuning fork and focus gem to allow them to see the magical traps.

The an example of the kind of narration I'll give as a GM:
"You catch a glimpse of arcane energy sparks emanating from a suspiciously concealed location near the door, unsure of the origin of the energy source you draw your tuning fork to pinpoint the source and discover a magical trap. You peer through your focusing crystal to see the arcane swirls moving in an almost clockwork motion and spot the epicentre of the mechanism."

I'll then let ask the player how they want to disarm the trap with the information they've been given.

The Exchange

Pan wrote:

Id caution "in-game" bonuses in my experience they always lead to secondary problems. Players will engage because it gets them a treat, not because they want to. Not in every instance, and not at every table, but in my experience it comes up too often to make it a viable strategy.

Id try and plant the seeds through campaign and/or players guide. You could also simply say to the group, "I'd like to see more of this at the table." I find folks usually respond positively to player/GM requests when they realize what they happen to be.

Good luck.

You definitely have to take caution when considering using rewards to encourage players to perform and interact, I find it best to not have a set in stone "you'll get x for doing y" but rather go for a more random when the situation seems appropriate boost.

Bigger rewards, I'd only ever do once or twice in a campaign when the players have taken the story to a whole new level with the way they're playing as a group.

With temporary bonuses, I sometimes won't event tell the player they have that bonus.
For example in a stealth situation in a town/city where the player needs to steal from a target, I may reduce the DC by a fraction and say something like "because [player] is from this region and told you about the local customs, you find it easier to blend in with crowd as you stealthily close in on the mark".

The player making the check might then see that as encouragement that anything they learn from another player has the potential to benefit them later in the story.

The Exchange

As above, one of the simplest ways would be to have an NPC try to initiate a conversation between the characters.
That should ease the players into the practice of talking about each other, then they may start doing it naturally over time.

Another method, though not to everyone's taste, is to have the players taken prisoner somewhere where they know they'll be interrogated and asked about each other.

Most of the time I'll give out little rewards for good interactions... normally something small like a temporary bonus to knowledge or other skill checks (sort of as if they learnt something from the other player).
If the players really get into the characters and excel as a group with their roleplay then I'll consider a permanent boon or a chance to find something rare in our world.

The Exchange


Have you considered using the donjon calendar tool to fill that part of your needs?
It's very quick and simple to make a custom calendar with lunar cycles.

As for a dedicated management suite, I currently use Aeon Timeline which has the option to make a custom calendar so might be of interest as an alternative.
It's a bit of a multi-purpose suite for writers, project managers and people who do a lot of event/meeting planning, so doesn't have dedicated features for gaming campaigns... I personally picked it up for storyboard work and planning for novel writing but I've started to use it for developing a customer world for D&D and have found it to work quite well.
Might be worth trying the free trial to have a little explore.

I'm unsure how it would compare to Realm Works as I've never used a gaming-specific tool like that, but at a brief glance it appears to share very similar features.

The Exchange

I'm fairly interested in the Switch, I may end up picking one up nearer to October/November time.
Depends if I move house though as I need more space for my entertainment station to accommodate another console.

Fake Healer wrote:

Is there a list of games that are going to be available on it yet?

Eurogamer did a fairly good list of launch titles and post-launch titles that have been announced: d-games-list-launch-titles

The Exchange

In no particular order:

Zen Archer

When it comes to Pathfinder, I've probably played Oracle more than any other class but combining all of the iterations of D&D it'd either be Bard/Sorcerer as my most played class.

The Exchange

DrDeth wrote:

What do you do then, ask the player to leave the game?

As I posted before:
For all those complaining Raise dead is too easy:Oh yeah.
Players: “Hey Bob, we have to go on a quest for about 4 nites of gaming in order to raise you, so I guess you can just stay home or you can play my Mount.”

Bob: “yeah, sounds like real fun. Look, instead- here’s Knuckles the 87th , go ahead and loot Knuckles the 86th body. He's got some cool stuff."

The whole idea of “death should mean something” becomes meaningless when we all realize that D&D is a Game, Games should be Fun, and in order to have Fun you have to Play. Thereby, when a Player’s PC dies either you Raise him or he brings in another. Raising is preferable story-wise, and costs resources. Bringing in another costs continuity and actually increases party wealth. Not to mention, instead of an organic played-from-1st-PC we have a PC generated at that level, which can lead to some odd min/maxing.

The third alternative is “Sorry Bob, Knuckles is dead. You’re out of the campaign, we’ll let you know when the next one is starting, should be in about a year or so.’ Really?

I'd say it depends on whether the players have all agreed on a house rule before the first session or not.

My group goes on the premise that you have to pass a skill check to resurrect someone, each time they die that difficulty increases by 2 points until it becomes a point where only a 20 on the dice will succeed... we find it helps to reduce the risk of mindlessly rushing into combat.
(when we have a new player join part of the way into the campaign, I'll often ask the group if they want to continue with the house rule or change it from that point on-wards. Nobody has wanted to change it yet though)

If a player's character falls during a session, I'll always have a bank of NPCs that the group could possibly cross paths with (they're all written into the world so they're not completely random people) in their current location. When a player chooses not to go through with resurrection, I'll let them choose one of the NPCs to inject into the story which they can control for the session... unless they particularly want to watch and think for a session.
The group tends to enjoy being the NPC every now and then as they get to add a bit of side story to the campaign through that character, it makes me have to work a bit harder to tie it all together but I enjoy that work.

The Exchange

I do all of my dice rolling behind a screen, however if my players ask to see my dice roll (e.g. if a result seems too good to be true or an enemy is consistently hitting a highest AC player) then I'm happy to let them peer behind the screen to witness the results.

My hands are in clear view so they're always happy that there's no way for me to change a roll before one of the group can step across the room to check.

The Exchange

Unless you're looking to do extreme bench marking or are a professional video editor, a lot of the parts in that 'Supreme Dream Machine' are absolutely pointless and will just be wasting electricity.

Before picking any computer parts, decide what screen you'll be using.
Will it be a regular old High Definition TV? A cheap 1080p monitor? An ultra-wide 34" or 4K monitor? With or without G-Sync/Freesync technology?

The screen your using is a fairly important starting point as you don't need nearly as high-end parts for a 1080p screen compared to a 4K G-Sync screen.

The Exchange

I'd say I'm Lawful Neutral, but from completing that survey/quiz it appears I'm more baseline neutral. I think the stats turned out pretty decent as well.

You Are A: True Neutral Human Paladin/Sorcerer (2nd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength- 11
Dexterity- 15
Constitution- 14
Intelligence- 17
Wisdom- 15
Charisma- 12

I could also be a Ranger as that scored the same value as Paladin and Sorcerer:
Paladin --- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Ranger ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Sorcerer -- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)

Seems my score was also quite close between my estimate of LN and the results of TN:

The Exchange

Skype is nice and simple to set up for bringing an external player to the table.
I'd suggest having good speakers for your computer and that the player who is connecting has a decent microphone (preferably a headset to prevent any noise feedback) so that everyone can hear each other clearly.

As for the camera to show the physical map on your table, a webcam on a cheap tripod will be the best solution as you can mount it above the map and also raise/lower it if needed to change the zoom level.

The Exchange

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I wouldn't consider these particularly embarrassing but:

1. I've completely obsessed with collecting dice to the point that I'll never be able to sit down and count them all...

2. I have half a bookshelf filled with rulebooks that I've never read and likely won't ever get around to reading.

3. My characters are often more of a danger to the party than the most powerful enemies.

4. I often roll dice to pick my spells.

5. I buy roughly 10 miniatures for each of my characters so that I can visually equip them with different gear (or sometimes I'll break off limbs to represent damage).

The Exchange

Playing off of the thought that Cevah shared, I'd possibly go down the route of an item based around a pair of spectacles that had interchangeable lenses...something akin to what opticians use at eye tests.

You could store each spell within a single lens which you can insert as a move action (or half of one).
I'd possibly go one step further by having it so that the right lens is the spell slot and the left lens is made available for a meta-magic enhancement.

There's also an option to make the lenses tinted with different colours to indicate the school of magic they belong to.

I would say that you'd require some form of craft: jewellery or craft: glasswork to successfully transcribe the spell onto the lens without damaging the fragile material.

The Exchange

I started pen & paper roleplay fairly later in life, around the age of 19 I believe. Before that I'd done a bit of live action stuff when I was 17 but the total obsession of collecting & rolling dice came after that.

World of Darkness (Mage: The Ascension) was my first pen and paper, followed by Warhammer Fantasy.
Now I play a mix of Pathfinder, D&D 5e, World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds.

The Exchange

We've done quite a few different styles of gaining hit points, the most common methods are either accepting the fate of the dice or simply taking the average number on the hit dice +1.

A few other methods that I've liked in the past are:
Roll 2HD then half the total, rounded down/up (GM's choice).
Roll 1HD + number of party members.
Roll a heal check with DC 15, on a success you gain 2HD that level (only usable on every 3rd level).

The Exchange

Based on the above advise of using the person's names, you could combine the results from two generators to create fitting business names:

Pathfinder name generator (Varisian names for people):

Fantasy Name Generator - Shop Names:

The Exchange

At the moment I mostly play a lot more than I GM, currently involved in three campaigns as a player.
I'd like to hop into the GM seat a bit more, but as my groups are all somewhat tied into campaigns I may have to drop out of an existing game first.

The Exchange

I've had a similar situation arise in one of my games, this is the gist of how I ended up playing it out...

You could set it up by making his character have a dream in which he follows the raven on a journey, a dream would make it feasible for him to be communicating with the raven without knowing he has magic and doing something out of the norm without being overly concerned with dangers. Throughout the journey, you mention a phrase that can be heard ever-so faintly in the wind.
The dream then leads to either a cliff, tower or somewhere else that is high up where the players character is blown off the edge by a gust of wind... it's at this point he wakes up to find he had been sleep walking and is now falling from a height to what he can only imagine will be his death.

Then during the free-fall, he could have a moment of clarity where he recalls the echoing phrase that followed him throughout the dream (which will later be revealed as the verbal component for Feather Fall) and as he speaks the words aloud his descent slows to a soft pace and guides him to the ground safely.
If you want to spice it up a bit, you could even give him a very low DC to recall the phrase that he kept hearing in his subconscious. If he's an unlucky roller, maybe give him the equivalent to three combat rounds to pass the DC.

The Exchange

1) Gnome
2) Hobgoblin
3) Suli

I probably like creating Gnomes more than anything as I share a sense of familiarity to them from being short. :D

The Exchange

It's a tie between the Druid and Oracle for me.

Oracle (Usually a variation of Life Oracle) because of the access to some decent damage spells but then the ability to switch into powerful healing on a whim. Being able to do Cure Serious Wounds as a swift action a every now and then later on is an added bonus.

Druid has some of the more fun spells in my opinion.
Two of my favourite gaming moments came from playing as a Druid... one instance involved summoning and dropping a Froghemoth from a height and the other one had us raising a wall into a dragon's flight path as it swooped at us.

The Exchange

Tusk the Half-Orc wrote:
Summon Instrument is a cantrip, right? No Bag of Holding required.

Sadly that wouldn't work for a full drum kit, as the spell description states that you can only a single handheld instrument. It can't be too big to fit in two hands either so that adds to the limitation.

The Exchange

As long as they have a bag of holding, have small enough drum parts to fit (if the Bard is a Halfling or Gnome that'd help justify a smaller drumkit parts) and they are willing to spend time to setup & dismantle the kit I would say it'd be an accepted instrument choice.

Perhaps a simple hand percussion set would be more appropriate as it'd supply instruments that could be pulled out and used in the heat of battle?
I don't think anyone wants to stand around guarding the party bard while they spend a few minutes setting up while a band of Orcs cut into them.

The Exchange

I don't believe there's any comprehensive database of player's contact details, as Pathfinder is global and it would be a complete nightmare to maintain. Your best best would be to see if they're on this website and drop them a private message.

If they're registered on Paizo with their character's alias, then you may be able to find them by doing a search (using the search tool on the left of the site and setting it to look for Users).

If they're not registered on the website, then you should be able to get Society ID numbers generated which you can give to the player the next time they turn up for a session to allow them to link their character to that number.

The Exchange

Two books you may find of interest in the Paizo store (or elsewhere), if you don't have them already they're absolutely excellent reads!

Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding
Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design

The Exchange

An example of a blog for a PnP RPG having it's development shared in a blog would be the one for Cairn:

The game was a KickStarter project that completely folded due to the original owner of the game being poorly organised and making too many mistakes, it was then picked up by the guy who runs SoulJAR Games who is working through getting it all completed and published.

Also Onyx Path Publishing do a sort of blog style website with news and updates about the various projects they're working with:

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
A few worthwhile general questions about your blog & roleplay:

1) Who are you trying to share the information with?
Knowing who you're directing the content to will really help in deciding what types of content you want to share and how detailed it needs to be.

2) Is you blog going to be just a resource for providing information, or do you want to engage with the community and get people talking?
Just putting up information for public viewing with no other reason to put it out there can sometimes lead to you later feeling like there's not much reason to keep it up. Getting people involved, asking them questions about your content will help spark more desire to do more and share additional info.

3) How often do you plan on posting on the blog, do you have a schedule?
Having a routine is almost critical to a successful blog, not only to help you know when you need to make a post but also to let your readers know when they should be visiting for the latest update (for those who don't subscribe to updates).

4) Will the blog be purely about the RPG or will it contain general life stuff?
People who want to read about the roleplay may get put off by general life updates, however some may find it nice to know that you're a person with a life as well as someone who's making a game... so that's a decision that could take some thinking.

5) Do you plan on producing the RPG as a professional product, or is it simply a hobby-work?
If there's any scope of it going professional, then you'll want to make sure you don't put out anything core that could potentially get stolen without copyrights in place.

6) Is it just you working alone, or do you have any friends/colleagues who are involved in writing content or creating art?
If there's others involved, then coerce them into sending you the occasional bit of content... or better yet, tell them to join the blog and add posts to it themselves.

The Exchange

UK Games Expo have made their current list of role-playing tables live for the public to view:

Lots of PFS tables on offer over the weekend.
I think there's more games to be added over the next month or so as well.

The Exchange

Hi Sharaya,

Many thanks for sorting out the cancellation so quickly.
Email confirmation received. :)

Thanks again,

The Exchange

Please could a staff member cancel my order #2956042.

The order should be a pre-order for:
Pathfinder Dice Set: Council of Thieves by Q-Workshop.

Many thanks,

The Exchange

This is what I've seen so far in the South-West of England:

Cleric - 3
Wizard - 4
Sorcerer - 3
Rogue - 3
Paladin - 1
Barbarian - 2
Ranger - 2
Witch - 1
Oracle - 1
Gunslinger - 1
Monk - 2
Alchemist - 1
Magus - 1
Bard - 4
Inquisitor - 1
Druid - 1
Cavalier - 1
Summoner - 2

Oddly, I've never seen anyone playing a Fighter in my locale.

The Exchange

Listening to some Pain of Salvation at the moment:

Pain of Salvation - Stress

The Exchange

Thank you for chasing that up Justin, most appreciated. :)
Looking forward to handing out my Pathfinder goodie bags to the players.

The Exchange

I dropped the customer service team an email about this order, but haven't heard anything back a week later so thought it would be worth giving the forum area a try.

I ordered five of the Pathfinder Lanyards from your store back in October but only got around to opening the package when I met with my Society group recently.
Upon opening the package, I discovered that I was missing one lanyard from the pack so unfortunately couldn't provide all my players with one.

Would it be possible to have the missing lanyard added to my next scheduled order, either one of my subscriptions or one of the other orders I have in place?

Many thanks,

The Exchange

Congratulations on the 5 Star status!

I believe it was you who ran our table at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham last year, we were playing Lhir... is that spelt right?

It was a fantastically planned game; even with our out of control party almost causing all manor of disasters with those idols and the local natives later on, you managed to keep the story flowing and kept the enjoyment at a consistently high level.

The Exchange

Yes, still playing and very much enjoying the experience.
The fact that all your characters are open to explore all classes and jobs allows for it to be very easy to stay interested with trying new things out.

It becomes a bit of a grinding game when you've completed the story quests and start levelling up other classes; you'll find yourself constantly rushing around in large groups to the semi-random FATEs) as most other activities don't come close for experience point values.
Though the game is still young so there's plenty of rebalancing to be done for the various methods of levelling a character.

Thankfully I've found a lot of the repeatable content to be be enjoyable.

Having done a few characters now, if you're someone who's after an optimised multi-class levelling experience then I'd highly recommend only doing the main story quests in your first class and levelling the rest of that class with dungeons, exploring and FATEs.
The reason I say this is because once you have one class to level 50, all other classes get a bonus to experience gains when completing quests and killing creatures... so by leaving the non-story quests to those alternate classes you are able to level them up a fair bit quicker.

If you're after a roleplay group, Shiva is another good server (European) for roleplay. I've easily met in the range of 70-80 people who actively act out their lives in the game.

The Exchange

As already said, the main reason for seeing negative topics about gaming groups, GMs or players is because when things aren't going so well people want to vent their frustrations.
Most of the positive experiences don't get talked about much, partly because it feels like bragging sometimes and also because I don't think people tend to even think about sharing their good experiences all that much. I often find most of the positive reports of gaming experiences to be in the Campaign Journals forum area.

I don't think I could say I've ever experienced any problems with the various roleplay groups that I've gamed with.
Though I am often fully immersed into the characters and the story when I roleplay, so I could possibly just not be noticing any bad things in the groups...

The Exchange

Surren Starr wrote:
and one other of which I can't recall the name for some reason (I'll dig out the name when I get home).

The Great War of Magellan.

It's a strange one, the game itself is pretty darn good but the system and the complexity of the rulebook (that special dice is odd) ruin it a little.

The Exchange

Which table top RPG games have you played in the last two years?
D&D 3.5 Forgotten Realms, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, D20 Modern, World of Darkness and one other of which I can't recall the name for some reason (I'll dig out the name when I get home).

When you've switched to a new table top RPG in the last two years, how did you decide which new game you switched to?
Usually by popular choice in my gaming circles, someone will simply suggest a game and ask if we want to play it for the next month or so.
Either that or one of us will advertise that we're going to run a specific game somewhere down the line, and then people who want to give it a go will register their interest.

Which table top RPG game genres do you enjoy;
I like roleplay systems with a dark theme, but prefer it not to be a full on murder-fest.
I'm quite a huge fan of Science Fiction so love the whole culture, but am very picky about what I like when it comes to playing a game about it as I find most systems tend to use an old Fantasy game's system as a template.
Depending on the story, I quite enjoy something set in present day or not too far into the past. I find them quite good for immersion as you can build a story around something real so the players can visualise what they're doing.
The standard run or the mill, D&D style, adventure in a fantasy world is always a nice theme to fall back on when you want to play something simple that most anyone can find a part they enjoy.

The Exchange

Have you considered the World of Darkness?
In particular, if you're after something revolving around magic then you could possibly look at the Mage series(The Ascension for a most medieval feel or The Awakening for more modern themes).

WoD isn't to everyone's tastes but in terms of something that is heavy on story/character development and contains a decent selection of magic, it could be worth looking into.
One of the great things about the magic in Mage is that it uses a very open-ended system so there are some nice possibilities for adapting characters and their abilities.

You have the option of medieval/modern (if you're willing to spend a bit of time converting bits, you could even have people jumping back and forth through time).
The system uses locations and times from the real world so you can create stories that have tie-ins to real historic events to develop a balance of realistic atmospheres to fit the level that you're after.

It uses a fairly simple D10 skill system, so number crunching is somewhat minimal.

The Exchange

DeathQuaker wrote:

I'm not really sure what you mean. I've never seen a view that looks like that. I know there's a subforum view, but it shows the sub-subforum names to the left of the thread title. Maybe there's a browser difference. Anyway, I realized I sounded like I was criticizing and I'm not, the whole thing just struck me as odd, but if it looks different on other people's browsers that would explain it.

Well, then what tends to catch your eye?

I just tested the forum on another browser and saw the sub-forum names to the left of the topics like you said.

I guess I've set something on my main browser that alters the page view.

The most recent ones that have caught my eye were:
Rogues: Issues 1-4
Executive Assistant Iris
Ballistic: Issues 1 & 2
Thorgal: Vol 10
Sleeping Moon: Vol 2
Chronos Commandos Dawn Patrol
Slaine: The King & The Killer
Suicide Risk: Issue 1

The Exchange

DeathQuaker wrote:
Terquem, you realize this is in the comics subforum, right? Why do you have it open on your page if you don't read them?

Terquem probably just has the Gamer Life page open.

All of the sub-forum content appears directly on the main Gamer Life page so you can't always instantly tell which area a topic is from.

e.g. while I'm replying to this all the top of the page says for me is "Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo Community / Gamer Life"

No mention of the Comic sub-forum there.


I haven't had a comic subscription in a while, these days I like to just browse and pick-up whatever catches my eye on the day.
My only subscriptions are imports that aren't normally on the shop-floor.

The Exchange

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74. Let's just say that it isn't a great idea to cook and eat an Axe Beak if one of the party members seems to be missing and you're in a region where that particular animal is very uncommon.
I will say in my defence that a Polymorphed Halfling-Axe Beak tastes exquisite when fried over an open fire.

The Exchange

I first got into role-play when I was 12/13 (1998/99) with the World of Darkness system, after that I started playing Traveller when I was 17 (2003) and then eventually started on D&D with version 3.0 when I was 19 (2005).

The Exchange

I'm on the same page as most here with that you handled the situation fine and the other players just missed an opportunity to further advance the personalities of their characters.

Our group would have definitely wanted to use that prompt to build on the party's bond (what better thing to bring a group of misfit adventurers closer together than a shared experience of grief and realisation of the cost of their quests) and have an interesting creative role-playing session with the aftermath of the event.

The Exchange

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65. Due to a major accident while using a teleportation spell, me and my party are no longer on the same plane of existence.

The Exchange

MC Frontalot - It Is Pitch Dark
A song relating to the old text-based roleplay adventure Zork.

He's mixed game references into a few of his videos, like D&D in his song Critial Hit.

Marcy Playground - Cloak of Elvenkind was a song written about the magical item.

Lastly, Owen Pallett's "He Poos Clouds" album (it's not as bad as it sounds) has songs based loosely on the eight schools of magic from D&D.

Almost forgot! Blind Guardian - The Soulforged is a song about The Soulforge from the old Dragonlance campaign setting in D&D.

I can't think of any others at the moment, but I'll list them if they come to mind.

The Exchange

Kerbal Space Program
Dishonored + DLC
Borderlands 2 + Season Pass

I wasn't paying attention to values and am too lazy to check, but it's probably not much.

In previous sales I used to spend massive amounts, mostly because I'd buy all of the publisher packs not looking at what was in them... so naturally have a bucket load of games that I've never even looked at on my list still.

The Exchange

I'd say in our region's (South-West England) table-top gamers are somewhere in the ratio of 75% Caucasian, 20% of various Asian backgrounds (mostly Thai and Vietnamese) and occasionally African.
As for gender, our club has four females in a group of 18/19 people, so a bit less than 25% female players if I use that as a basis.

Though at the UK Games Expo this year, from what I saw there was a fairly good mix of race and gender, so there's definitely diversity in the culture.
I'd say it's just a matter of who you know; most people tend to stick to their set social groups and quite often you'll find that your social circle is dominated by one ethnic group.

The Exchange

I thought it was fairly clear you were talking about computer games by the mention of Thief and Mount & Blade, RTS and first person action in the first post.

Anyway, just thought of another RTS game... fairly old one but it's on offer at the moment on Steam.

Knights of Honor
It's fairly popular among die-hard RTS fans, but might feel a little dated depending on your view on older games.

Looking at the games in the genre, It's quite shocking that the majority of games in a medieval or renaissance settings seem to require the inclusion of magic. It's sounds like a lot of developers think it won't be fun without magic to add a special element to the gameplay/story.

The Exchange

All that comes to mind at the moment are three options:

Age of Chivalry, which is absolute madness but has good fun medieval combat. If you enjoy Mount & Blade, you'll likely enjoy the combat style in Chivalry.

The First Templar... it doesn't have magic in the traditional sense but it has prayers which can do fairly mystical things.
It's somewhat linear and the story isn't too spectacular, but overall I enjoyed it.

The King's Crusade which is primarily an RTS (fairly good one) with elements of RPG. It's set during the 12th century in the Middle-Eastern crusades near Jerusalem and is historically authentic (not necessarily accurate)... as in names, locations, weaponry, combat tactics and general details, also other than being able to use relics to add some bonus abilities it doesn't use magic.

The Exchange

One of my old groups used to have a similar issue where players would often start chatting about the local shows, other games they're thinking of doing next and general life topics.

Eventually me and one of the other players got a bit fed up so we had a secondary roleplay that we'd start doing while the others chat.
The group caught on pretty quickly when they started to wonder why they weren't getting involved in any combat rounds. After them feeling a little left out, they all started to pay more attention to the roleplay.
From that point on we arranged it so that there would be set intervals where the game would pause for a 10 minute refreshment break so they could have short conversations.

Unless you know that they won't react badly, I'd advise against just stopping and doing nothing while they chat... or even packing up and walking off.
Most often, that just results in the group's commitment lowering and the activities gradually falling apart.

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