Features > Tell Me About Your Character > Martin Ralya

Your name: Martin Ralya
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Age: 28
Sex: Male

Family: I live with my wonderful girlfriend, Alysia, and in lieu of kids (yet!) we have a neurotic beagle named Charlie. I'm an only child, and my parents divorced when I was younger -- my Mom and Stepdad live in Florida, and my Dad and Stepmom live in northern Vermont. Most of the rest of my family lives in England, Scotland and Michigan.

Pets: I grew up with cats, but became allergic to them a few years ago. My favorite was Rusty, who I had for 17 years. He used to throw up several times a week, often in the middle of the night, and it got to the point where I could wake up, pick him up, deposit him just outside my room -- on the hardwood floor -- and be back in bed and on my way to sleep before he'd gotten out his first "hhrhrhk."

Now my girlfriend and I have a beagle, Charlie, who is afraid of rain. And sneezing. And in our new house, something random that we can't figure out, which may be the furnace. He's a very cool dog, though, and I wouldn't trade him for anything.

Education: I went to Stuyvesant HS in New York City, and then moved to Michigan to go to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Instead of a major, I essentially had three minors: English, art history and film theory, with Asian studies in all three.

Hobbies/Activities: Apart from gaming, I love to write -- I'm a part-time freelance writer, and I also write a regular blog for GMs, Treasure Tables. I read a lot, too, both comics and books, and I'm a huge movie person. I also spend a fair amount of time on the computer -- so pretty much, if it's sedentary and geeks do it, I'm probably into it.

Just to test the stereotype - Have you ever lived, or are you currently living, in your parents' basement? Nope. I have gamed in plenty of basements though -- and my current gaming area is set up in my basement. I grew up in an apartment in New York City, so the basement wasn't really an option there.

What is your favorite word? Zinfandel, as in the wine. I have no idea why,
except that it sounds nifty -- it'd be a great name for a magic sword.

How many languages do you speak? Just English. I've studied
French, German and Japanese, and I remember a total of maybe twenty
words from all three of them. I absolutely loathe learning languages, which
is probably a character flaw of some sort.

What is your favorite time of year, and why? My least favorite is
Summer, because it's too hot. I like Spring, Fall and Winter about equally,
but for different reasons -- with a gun to my head, I'd pick Fall. Apple cider,
Halloween, turning leaves, crisp air -- Fall rocks.

What is your most prized physical possession? Defining "prized" as "the thing I'd miss most," I'd have to go with my computer. Picking something based on sentimental reasons would be much too hard -- like a lot of geeks, nostalgia is a powerful force for me.

What was your favorite toy as a child? GI Joe figures, hands-down. I had oodles of these, and my friends and I used to stage elaborate battles with them -- which later turned into free-form wargames in the gaming sense, around the time that I became interested in RPGs.

What is your favorite section of the newspaper? On the rare occasions that I read the newspaper, I prefer the New York Times on two particular days of the week: Tuesday, for the Science Times section, and Thursday, for the Circuits section. I get my news from NPR on my commute, as well as online, so I don't see much point to reading the newspaper.

Do you have a useless talent that no one else that you know can do? When I was 8, I taught myself to wiggle my ears. Not only can I wiggle them together, I can do either one independently as well. Nothing gets the ladies like a good ear wiggle.

What are three things you can't live without? (Besides food, water, shelter, and air) If my girlfriend, my family and my friends aren't also givens, then those are my three! If they are givens, though, then it would be books, gaming and the internet. My books and my computer are the two things I set up first when I move somewhere new, and I don't feel quite right unless I'm involved in an ongoing game.

If you could be one superhero, which hero would you be? Too Much Coffee
Man. His superpower is that...um...he can build really fancy coffee machines, I think.
Or maybe he just has a really fancy coffee machine, I can't remember which.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An astronaut, and then later a
marine biologist. Sadly, I hate math and chemistry, so I'll have to settle for
watching big shark movies and hoping space tourism becomes affordable in
my lifetime.

What is your favorite mode of transportation? My car. I grew up in New York
City, so I didn't have a car or even learn to drive until I was 25. It's not a badass
or anything, but it does have a HASTUR license plate (which I love).

Tell us about your favorite RPG character that you've ever played. My all-time favorite PC was Hwang-se Li, a 900 year-old martial arts master that I played in a Mage chronicle back in college. I often enjoy playing oddball characters, and Hwang was the only non-mage in a party of mages.

He was modeled on the B-movie archetype of the wizened kung fu master who can survive on a grain of rice a day -- and kick your butt six ways to Sunday, despite his apparent frailty. Hwang was a curious soul, which tended to get him into trouble, and even though he was only 4 feet tall his attitude was at least 6'5".

The best part was that in a year-long game, the rest of the players never found out that Hwang wasn't a mage -- I got to reveal that after the chronicle ended, which was a lot of fun.

What are your favorite RPGs? I have two: D&D and Call of Cthulhu. I've been into medieval history and fantasy since I was a little kid, so D&D has always been a pretty natural fit for me. When the rules were less coherent (2nd Edition, for example), I had fun making them better -- or making up my own.

H.P. Lovecraft, on whose work Call of Cthulhu is based, is one of my favorite authors, and I love the way that CoC turns traditional gaming elements on their heads. I especially enjoy one-shots, since I look at dying or going insane before the end of the scenario as being one of the primary goals!

What was your first RPG session like? My first formal gaming experience was an OD&D session run by a friend of mine. We were both about 10, and I was the only player. If memory serves, we were on vacation with our parents and we played on the beach, which was pretty cool.

I'd been doing some almost-gaming for a year or so before that, picking equipment from the lists in my copy of Avalon Hill's (terrible) RPG Lords of Creation and doing collaborative storytelling with friends. I'm pretty sure that's one reason that I love to improvise as a GM -- because I got my start in gaming doing just that, before I knew what gaming actually was.

What was your WORST RPG session like? This exchange came from a Game of Thrones event at GenCon Indy 2004, and I think it speaks for itself:

DM (and I use the term very loosely...): "Okay, so these two pens are the edges of the path, and the cliff is on that side. You guys are these dice, here, and the bandits are these dice, here."
Friend of the DM: "I jump onto the side of the cliff above us, draw my daggers, and ninja-kick one bandit as I slit the other one's throat."
DM: "Cool. See, in Game of Thrones we have this awesome feat where you can use Intelligence instead of Strength to do that. Both of the bandits are dead, that was awesome."
My friend: "I move up to the next bandit and stab him with my spear."
DM: "You can't do that."
My friend: "Why not?"
DM: "Because the path isn't wide enough for you to get past this guy in front of you."
My friend: "There's like an inch of extra space between him and that pen."
DM: "No, it's not wide enough."

[Much later.]

My friend: "I kick down the door and start stabbing the peasants!"

Who is your all-time favorite person to game with? I'm not sure how I would even begin to answer this one -- all of my friends are great to game with, but in different ways. This is like the Sophie's Choice of gaming questions!

Do you have anything gaming-related to plug? Absolutely! I'm a freelance writer for the RPG industry, and you can view my published work online (at
http://www.treasuretables.org/published-work). I also write a weblog for GMs called Treasure Tables, which I hope you'll check out. (http://www.treasuretables.org).


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