Abraham Lincoln

Episode 36: A Scuba Diver Walks Into an Ice Cream Shop

April 26th, 2013 | Robin

Ken and Robin hit a bare and blackened stage to bring the improv concept of “yes anding” to the Gaming Hut.

In Ask Ken and Robin, they answer Kevin J. Maroney’s question about picking a game for roleplaying newbies.

In its return appearance, How To Write Good tackles the basics of short story structure.

And finally, listener Falko Sieverding proposes a mission for Ken’s Time Machine. Is maintaining the Vice-Presidency of Henry Wallace past 1944 the way to stop the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

10 Responses to “Episode 36: A Scuba Diver Walks Into an Ice Cream Shop”

  1. Legume says:

    Good job on getting Wallace replaced with Truman, one can only hope Time Inc. gets around to replacing Reagan. After all, tools of dictatorships are tools of dictatorships; Time Inc. can’t really keep getting the tax breaks it does if it considers one group of dictators “our bastards” and the other group so toxic that being in anyway associated with them makes you an irredeemable tool.

  2. Thank you, gentlemen! A lot to chew on in your answer–things that seem obvious in retrospect but which I’ll confess I managed not to think of. I’m right between your two ages, but I stopped actively playing in the the late 1980s, so ecause of the generation in which I spent my RPG time I still tend to focus on system before activity, and of course the right question to ask is not “what game should we play?”, but “what would we like to do when we play?”.

    That said, I mentioned in a follow-up comment later in the thread that my question also assumed a novice GM. A lot of the existing commentary on how to RPG for beginners assumes a relatively experienced GM who knows enough to take onto herself most of the burden of managing the system–or lack thereof, in the case of your recommendation of a basically systemless session. I’ve said before that one of the reasons that I admired Greg Costikyan and Eric Goldberg’s Star Wars RPG was that it probably came as close to the “anyone can pick this up and start playing within a few hours” benchmark as it was possible to get before the story games started coming out–even a GM who has never done any RPGing probably has some sense of what a Star Wars story should feel like.

    I liked Joshua Kronengold’s suggestion of Fiasco. Listening to the Hillfolk play on NYERD makes me think that really would be a good start for any group, even with a novice GM.

  3. Steven says:

    There is nothing I love more than a good book list, thus I would like to Ask Ken and Robin–or more specifically, Ken–what are some good books for a burgeoning consulting occultist? Knowing where to start is a bit overwhelming, so what do you believe are the most influential works, and what books give a good overview of European and American occultism?

  4. Leó Páll Hrafnsson says:

    so Ken what is the deal with the “lost” Romane legion every one keeps talking about are there any cool role play storys to be made?

  5. RogerBW says:

    As a Man in Black, I end up running quite a lot of GURPS for new players in one-shot games at conventions. I regard pre-gen characters as pretty much essential for most games that have to be played in a four-hour slot; the only exception would be something where character generation is an enjoyable collaborative mini-game in itself. It’s a frequent pleasure to see players who feel a bit edgy about “complex” GURPS (particularly people who saw some of the more obscure books and fanatical players of 3rd edition and regarded them as representative of the game as a whole) realising that, in play, it’s quite often just as light-weight as other games. I very much agree that the key things are to have fun and show off the game (both system and setting): in GURPS terms, the system side usually means showing off some skill and attribute rolls, and demonstrating how the combat sequence works. For setting, I often pick one that’s easy to get to grips with – for example, Aliens with the serial numbers filed off – to show how easy it is to implement a technology base and play flavour by using the right bits of GURPS. (There are plenty of people who still think of it as being about realism and nothing else…)

  6. John McMullen says:

    In some ways (not all), the difference between short stories and novels are like the difference between movies and television series. (I use this analogy because a frightening number of writers are more familiar talking about those media rather than printed fiction.)

    A short story is, like a movie, concerned with one (set of) characters and how one event plays out. A novel, like a TV series (either miniseries or ongoing), has more space to concern itself with how different characters respond to a series of events.

    An RPG is different from all four in that you can elide where the bathroom is in fiction but a player will eventually ask.

    And perhaps that’s part of the difference as well: a short story is focused and everything that does not contribute to the effect gets tossed (ideally). A game session is rambling and contains many digressions; it’s (in my experience) a picaresque experience while the modern short story tends not to be.

    I had hoped for more about structure (see also my previous question about Mr. Hite and the Decipher Star Trek guide that includes the seven point structure) and bouncing off the topics of writing fiction versus gaming it.

  7. Tom Vallejos says:

    Prior to Pearl Harbor the conventional naval theory was that once war was declared the Japanese fleet would meet the US Fleet in decisive battle in either Philippine Sea or the Sea of Japan. The outcome, according to the Japanese, is they would win.

    Aircraft carriers and underway-refueling canceled that scenario.

  8. Gerall Kahla says:

    After reading this article on the Tunguska Blast and learning of the missing finds from the original Kulik Expedition in the 1930’s, my mind buzzes in an eliptonic fit.

    Care to riff on the potential for historical gaming?

  9. Geoffrey Nelson says:


    I have only recently begun to listen to your podcasts, which I am enjoying immensely. All of them seem to be running together and now I am formulating a Day After Ragnarok adventure called Black Herman Must Die! which pits the players and the KKK in a race against time to stop Black Herman the Ghoul King (and master showman, hoodooist and tunneler) from sacrificing the twin albino daughters of an eminent Arkansas Lord Mayor for the purpose of giving the free black communities of the Deep South a permanent edge against the hated hooded mob. Basically a save-the-princess dungeon crawl with moral conflict and lots of ghouls and goons to gun down. Using the structure presented in DAR, Savage Worlds and the life of Black Herman as the structure, the motivations and tactics of my antagonist become much clearer much faster.

  10. Jeromy French says:

    This episode was big on information, but light on sources other than specific role-playing games. The only one I got was a shameless plug, but still a great source.


    Robin D. Laws – Hamlet’s Hit Points

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