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Friday Faves: 2014-10-31

October 31st, 2014

Happy Halloween to those of you partaking in the day in whatever means fits you best! For me, it’s heading into a suburb (we live pretty remote where houses are a quarter-mile or more apart) where we have friends with kids about my son’s age. We’ll team up with them and trounce around the neighborhood snagging treats while looking at the fantastic decorations that people put up. My wife and I swap out years between staying at the friends’ house to hand out candy and going with the kids themselves. I forget who pulls house duty this year, but we’ll figure it out.

Now for some links!

Roleplaying Character Weakness and Vulnerability

In a Space Opera (the game itself, not just the genre), I had a character that was a collection of nebulous numbers and not really any good “meat on the bones.” That was until I rolled one of the last stats to be generated: Bravery. I think the scale was 1-100 for this stat. Either way, I had a 3. Yep. Single digits. Low single digits. At that moment, my character concept was born. My GM told me that I could re-roll that stat if I wanted to, but I refused because that one number gave me a character concept. My guy would do what was necessary to cover his cowardice (including hacking security camera footage, which worked about as well as you would expect), but his main thing was fear of being lost in space due to an astronavigation error. I dumped SO many points into his already high intellect and the astronavigation skill it was ridiculous. Our ship had a navigation officer that was slightly better than me (it was his job, after all), but I double and triple checked his numbers and still curled into a ball of tears and snot at each jump. It was a hoot to play this character. You see? I took his severe weakness and turned it into a role playing opportunity.

I’m Your Number One Fan

As GM, I’m always on the side of the players. I want to see them succeed and have fun while doing so. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m no pushover. I don’t give away things and I don’t nerf the Bad Guys just to make it easy on the players. There’s always a way to survive an encounter (including running away.) It’s just up to the players to find that way to win. With me having one brain (pretty normal), the player brain mass outweighs mine, so they’ll always find a way around whatever devious plans I have for them…. and I’m happy when they do so.

[Tuesday Map] Cliffstable on Kerstal

This is a kick-ass map of a city! This is how I want my city maps to look. Well done!

Rolling Is Fun, Too Much Rolling Isn’t

While developing my own (still hidden away in a dark corner) RPG, I learned this lesson early on. Someone fighting with two swords went something like this: Roll to see if you can use both swords. Roll attack with sword #1. Roll defense against sword #1. Roll damage for sword #1. Roll attack with sword #2. Roll defense against sword #2. Roll damage for sword #2. I think I’m leaving something out in there like a soak roll or something like that, but you get the point. It was too much rolling for one character. It really bogged down combat quite a bit and left the rest of the players bored, and the GM and the active player exhausted. Rolling dice is fun, but don’t go overboard.

Super-heroics as an FRP Combat Planning Tool

While reading Mike’s article, I couldn’t help but think of the forge scene near the end of Terminator 2 where the T-1000 was eventually dumped in the molten metal to be slain. This is a fine set up and case where the environment can be put to use by the players. Of course, if this were an RPG, the GM would be responsible for ensuring such a possibility could come about by placing things just right. If you have the Elemental Ice Lord that can only be damaged by fire, set things up by making sure at least a few (if not most or all) in the party have some sort of fire-based damage. If you don’t do this, then the players will wonder what the heck you were thinking when dropping the Elemental Ice Lord in their path. Think about the larger picture and figure out what Cool Stuff you can put into your games to allow the PCs to pull out all the stops and go super-heroic!

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Friday Faves: 2014-10-24

October 24th, 2014

I’m finishing up this post on Friday morning because I’m heading up to Denver for the weekend for Mile Hi Con. If there’s anything that came out after this goes live, I’ll catch it on next week’s Friday Faves. Because I’m busy packing and getting my stuff together, this week’s comments are probably going to be a bit brief.

Now on with the links!

Adding a bit of Culture to your Roleplaying Campaign

Villages and other settlements are more than just places to sell loot and buy gear. Bring them to life! Paul has some great advice on how to do this.

Hot Button: Rejecting Canon

I once played in a Star Wars game (one game, not a campaign) where Han Solo showed up, was being an ass (more-so than what you would expect), and I decided I’d had enough of his lip. I pulled my blaster and tried to shoot Han. The GM declared that I couldn’t do that. Not that he’d dodge it or anything. I just was simply not allowed to pull the trigger because I might kill a canon character. I called bullshit and rolled my dice. Before the GM even heard my result, he declared a miss and glared at me. I took the hint and packed up my stuff. Canon is nice and all that. It lends to world building, scenes, structure of the game and such. However, when it impedes storytelling, the canon needs to take a step to the side.

Race To The Moon – a lesson in story structure

My take away from this article is that the PCs are the heroes of the communal storytelling effort. Let them be the heroes. Let them do awesome stuff. Let them do things that are downright memorable. They’ll talk in glowing terms about your GMing skills for years to come. Of course, Mike delves deeper into the concept than I do here, so click through and see what he has to say!

Don’t Describe Combat

I do this. I describe all of the killing blows. Now that I’ve read this article, I realize I shouldn’t do that. It takes some small part of the agency away from the players (in the storytelling, not the action), and robs them of some of the fun they could be happening. Allowing players to describe the death throes of the Bad Guys after the fatal strike lands is something I’ll do from now on. However, I probably won’t take this to the extreme of allowing them to describe every strike and every blow. That’ll just slow things down too much. Critical hits and abject failures on the other hand….

There’s Something About Undead – Blog Carnival Oct 2014

I love me some undead. I don’t know why, but they fascinate me to no end, and there’s plenty to pick from! Mike’s post does a deep dive into what it would be like to be undead, their motivations, how we (the living, that is) treat them, and kind of what to expect from undead critters. It’s a great essay that’s opened my eyes to some of the neater things about undead beyond just their abilities and stats.

A Case for Multiple Game Masters

I’ve never tried to co-GM a game. It just feels… well… wrong to me. However, this post makes some good points on the benefits of doing something like this. I still don’t know if I’ll give it a try, but it was a good read that was well worth my time.

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Friday Faves: 2014-10-17

October 17th, 2014

Another week has come and gone, and I have more links for you. I’m sorry again, but it’s just links again this week. Yeah. I know. This is the second week in a row I’ve done this.

Last week, my fellow software engineer (there are only 2 of us on the team) committed a ton of code for a new feature. Well, it turns out he only implemented about 10% of the features, and of what he did implement, about 90% was so buggy, I had to yank the changes and rewrite them from scratch. I think I left 3-4 lines of his code untouched and wrote another few hundred more on top of that. I also had my own deadlines from my own projects to get done. During this time, I’d read and bookmark articles to let me brain (and temper) cool off between the unending hours of coding frenzy. This means I have links from the week (and one from last week that came out after my post was scheduled,) but that is all. As it stands, it’s almost 6PM on Friday, and I just now finished up with his stuff, and I still have 4 more items in my list of things to do before I can call it a week.

Of course, you didn’t come here to hear me lament about the craptacular job my fellow engineer (and I use that term loosely) did and the hole he left me in.

On with the links!

[Friday Map] New Orlep
RPG characterization wisdom from a 5yo
Abandoned Islands – Iconic Adventure Settings
Troy’s Crock Pot: A Player Race for Your Table
The Hunt 107: Your Tools Are Only As Good As You Are
Memorials To History – an ‘a good name’ extra

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Friday Faves: 2014-10-10

October 10th, 2014

Sorry for the lack of comments this week. It’s been a crazy week at work at home and in my health. Don’t worry. The health stuff isn’t life-threatening, but it does make it harder to manage what I can do with my energy. I managed to collect the links, and each time I went to write some comments, some part of my life would explode on me. I thought I’d have time to “play catch up” later on in the week, but it just never seemed to happen.

Enjoy the links!

The Boy Scouts and Dungeons & Dragons
The Wandering Spotlight Part One of Two: Plot Prologues
Do You Re-Skin Monsters in Your Campaigns?
Troy’s Crock Pot: Hey Pop! Where’s the Treasure?
Mega Dungeon from 5RD example
The Wandering Spotlight Part Two of Two: Shared Stories
Review: How to Be A GURPS GM

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Friday Faves: 2014-10-03

October 3rd, 2014

Not much to say this week other than we have a great collection of links! So let’s get to ‘em!

The Expert In Everything?

Mike’s post hits the nail on the head. When the players gaze lovingly over the GM screen at you, they expect you to know everything. Not just the rules or the world or the flavor of the game or the monster stats. They expect you to know physics, magic, law, government, history (even the made up stuff), biology (especially the made up stuff), sociology, the history of tattoos, chemistry, music, genetics, alchemy, etc.. They know you’re omnipotent. You’re the GM after all. They also expect omniscience as well. How do you pull it off? Mike has tons of tips in his post. I’m going to echo two of them here: 1) Read, read, read. Even if it’s in little tid-bits, the more breadth of your reading experiences, the more of an “expert” you’ll appear to be. 2) Wikipedia is your friend for gaining broad, general knowledge, and then hit the references at the bottom to see what the true experts (most of the time) have to say on a topic.


I’ve used this technique in the past. I’ll let John’s article speak for itself on the ins and outs of the approach, but I need to say something he didn’t. If all of your breadcrumbs point to a single person/item/location, then it will come off heavy-handed. I thought I was being subtle once by having different NPCs give different bits of information about a monastery I wanted the group to visit. Of course, the common theme was the location, so the players almost didn’t go there just to spite me. Fortunately, they were a good group of people and went along with it.

Lost Mine Near Old Phandelver – Regional Map

It’s not often that Dyson does a regional map, and he’s got a great looking one here. I love the paper he used for the “old world” effect, and the stylized mountains, hills, and forests. I realize the map isn’t done yet, and I can’t wait to see the finished product!

random city charts for chase/exploration

These random charts aren’t the typical fare of “let’s create a city at random.” It’s a high-speed method of creating features on the fly during a high-action chase scene. It’s one of those times when you don’t want to sit down and figure out the “miles-to-feet” conversion of a large city map to figure out how long it takes to from from the door to the alley, etc.. Very good work here, and can be put to good effect. It reminds me of the random car chase “directions” mechanics in Top Secret S/I’s High Stakes Gamble expansion box set from back in the 1990s.

An Experimental Failure – 10 lessons from a train-wreck Session

If you’ve been running games for any decent length of time, you’re going to have a train wreck. It just happens. We’re human after all. I read Mike’s post and felt very sorry for him. He had set up something that could have been a wonderful piece of narrative storytelling, and it turned into a decent piece of narrative with little interaction on the part of his players. Ouch. I’ve been there before. The upside of this experience for Mike is that he learned from it. You can to. Read through what went wrong in his gaming session, but make sure to stick through it until the bottom where he gives some great GM lessons that can be applied by everyone.

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Friday Faves: 2014-09-26

September 26th, 2014

I’m back from Paris, and alive… barely. I came down with a very nasty head cold last Thursday which wiped me out on Friday and damn near ruined my plans for the weekend. I ended up back in the United States Wednesday night, took Thursday off work, and I’m mostly recovered today. I had some time to snag some links, but not really read them and comment on them as I normally do. This means I’m falling back to my “old style” of adding the links and comments all in one fell swoop for the week. This means the comments may be a little on the short side this week, but they’re there!

The Keys to the Kingdom Of Literacy: Stylish Narrative Part 6

In this post, Mike links to the PDFs that include everything from the 5-part series he posted about The Secrets of Stylish Narrative. If you don’t want to consume the intense wisdom of Mike Bourke in chunks, you can get it all in the PDF form. The overall grade that I give Mike for his long-running series is a solid A+. I wish I had time to write up a complete review of the entire series, but that would require going back to each part and digging in deeper. That’s something I just don’t have time for at the moment. These PDFs (or the series on his blog) are well worth your time if you’re the word-slinging creative type.

RPG Mechanics: Don’t fight the system

Different systems have different styles of play. This is why it’s the #2 question to be answered by the group when firing up a new campaign. The #1 question is “What genre?” because that will weed out systems that don’t fit the genre. I doubt anyone is going to run a sword & sorcery style game using Traveller as the system. Yes, it can work, but you’ll be “fighting the system” the entire way through. Once a genre and style of play are established, the system should lend itself to support those decisions. This will keep for a more seamless and streamlined role playing experience.

Behind the Gear-spun Curtain: A Purely Steampunk Look at Game Design

Con season is pretty much over, but there are a few straggling cons this late in the year. I always love the Do/Don’t style of advice because it’s incredibly easy to ingest and put to use. In this case, the Do/Don’t advice focuses around running con games as a GM. These can even be applied to a serial or regularly scheduled game.

Game Props Part 5: Files & Photos

I love using photos and illustrations of locations and critters that I can drop on the table in front of the players or quickly flash above the screen for a “glimpse” of the Bad Guy that is currently hunting them in the darkness. I can use 1,000 words or a photo. I’ll tell you now that the photo will have more impact.

Review: Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe

Peter has pointed me to a book that I think must add to my library of historical military information. I, of course, have plenty of books on arms, armor, castles, tactics, battle plans, etc., but I don’t really have much in the way of something like this. I think this is a great find to add to my collection. Thanks for the pointer, Peter!

Thatch and Confusion – creating a village

If you name a city-building book that focuses on the RPG market, I probably have. Maybe two of them. When it comes to world building, focusing on cities is my favorite thing to do. It’s amazing to see a civilized (or maybe not-so-civilized) collection of people unfold before me. Mike’s article about building out villages is top-notch. It’s full of little details, hooks (important!), vital NPCs, and things that will make the location memorable beyond, “Was that the place we bought the rope or the place we bought the rations?”

Game Props Part 6: Music & Sound Effects

When I’m running a fantasy game (which is the norm for me, but I do run the occasional sci-fi/cyberpunk game), I love having soundtracks on that support the theme and mood of the game I’m trying to run. Great orchestral soundtracks like Conan the Barbarian, The Hobbit, or Lord of the Rings work best, but there are plenty of other options. I also have a “Conan the Barbarian” Pandora channel that I keep handy for gaming, but I keep an eye on the music. Sometimes (for some freaky reason) it likes to wander into 80’s Pop Radio without warning.

Using Backward Design in Game Prep

This post is awesome. It shows quite well that you need to have a goal in mind and prep toward… or rather… from that goal to where you are now. It’s good stuff. In my rush to get this post done, I’m not explaining it as well as the article behind the link does. Go check it out!

Control-Alt-Delete – A Modern-day SciFi Campaign

Hey, Mike! Will you run this for me and my group? This sounds awesome. I love this campaign idea and arc. It looks like a rockin’ good time that will keep the players at or near the edge of their seat for most of it. I love the dystopic seed the campaign grows from and the arc it has. Well done!

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Friday Faves: 2014-09-19

September 19th, 2014

I’m lucky to get this post out. I’m in Paris on work duties, and we’ve been putting in 9-12 hour days all week long. On top of that (or, most likely, because of that) I’ve come down with a massive head/chest cold along with a raging fever. I have a doctor appointment this afternoon that my boss’s boss lined up for me (he’s a saint!) but until then, I’m pretty much stuck in my hotel room without anything to do but surf the web and see what kind of trouble I can get into online.

I have the time for some comments on the links, but not the energy. Sorry folks. You’ll just have to click through and see what kind of greatness I’ve discovered this morning from a week (or so) worth of items in my RSS feeds.

Blank Check GMing
Game Props Part 1: Tarot Cards
The Impact Of Polished Text: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Part 4
A Mobile Base of Operations
Pearls Of Spontaneous Prose: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Pt 5
Technical Longsword: GURPS gets it right
Why You Also Need To Be A Player

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Friday Faves: 2014-09-12

September 12th, 2014

It’s been a hectic week for me. I’m going to be in Paris on business all of next week and most of the week after. I have no idea if I’ll get a Friday Faves out the door next week or the week after. We’ll see how much downtime I have to myself. I might collect the links and post them with no comments. I may not even have time for that. I’m just not sure yet.

Now for the links for this week!

Mashing Genres: Medieval Superheroes

I’ve seen this done exactly one time. It was a Pathfinder game, and I was playing a cleric of Abadar. One of the traits I took landed me 300 extra starting GP. I used that money for some good armor, a shield, and a horse. The paladin in the group (also a worshipper of Abadar) did the same thing. When we rode into the various towns we encountered, we were treated almost like royalty. People stopped and gawked. Many removed their hats. Some bowed or knelt. It was a great set of moments for me and the other player. I loved being treated like something special even though we were really low level at the time. We just looked uber-powerful…. which did lead to some troubles for us, but they were fun troubles.

How Balanced Should Encounters Be?

I despise games that give me (the GM) a mathematical formula for “balancing” encounters. If I want to “program” something, I’ll do it at my day job. I do present balanced encounters, but I do it with my gut. I’ll glance at the challenge ratings of the creatures I’m using, but nothing more than that. I’ll make sure that the cool critter I want to use doesn’t happened to be overpowered. If I’m dead set on using the critter, and it’s still overpowered for the group, I’ll strip it of (or just not use) a special ability that it has. There are also micro-balance things I do during the encounter to either amp up the difficulty if things are going too smoothly (or the dice have dictated a lopsided victory) or if the PCs (through no fault of their own other than bad dice rolls) are getting their asses handed to them.

Exploring HP variations in D&D

I love this post because it delves into various systems’ mechanics on how hit points, disabled, unconscious, dying, and death (including instant death) work, but without getting all judgmental about it all. Each system has its own approach for various reasons, and each one is “right” for itself. Yeah. I know that HP causes loads of confusion because of the fact that a troll with 3 HP does as much damage as a troll with 30 HP. It’s one of the weirdnesses in our gaming history (and present day) that’s just accepted, hand-waved, and we move on to the more exciting parts of the game. Are there solutions to this weirdness? Yeah, but they involve heavy math and lots of tracking of stuff (think Battletech) and this really bogs down the game… unless that’s the point of the game (again, think Battletech).

Bullet To The Point: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Part 2

Narrative, or what we like to call in the gaming world “box text,” has long been disliked. Perhaps it’s been reviled by a few people over the decades. This is usually because the box text is, well, poorly written, or just packed with too many details, some of which are unimportant to the current situation. Players love to think (I think it’s an ingrained human condition), “Oh! The blue book was mentioned on the shelf, but none of the others were detailed, so that blue book must be the important thing in the room, so I’m going to grab the blue book and see what’s in it as soon as I can!” Yeah… That’s normal for a player. More well written narrative will help prevent that as smoother transitions between details are given. Go hit Mike’s post and see what he has to say, but make sure you have some time and a fresh beverage as the post is rather lengthy. Well worth the time, though!

Troy’s Crock Pot: Sensory Overload

It is entirely possible to throw the PCs into a tizzy without a physical assault. Just overload their senses with something to help disable them. Have you ever wondered why police shine their 80-bajillion-mega-watt flashlights in your face? It’s not just so they can get a good look at it. It throws you off balance, makes it harder for you to see what they’re doing, and gives them a huge tactical advantage. You can do the same to your players…. especially if you pack in multiple senses in the overload and amp up the difficulty scale of things.

Why Rush Character Generation?

I love making characters. It’s one of the most fun parts of the game for me. I really enjoy a first full session of character generation. Not just the rolling of dice, choosing of abilities, and number crunching. I like the back-and-forth with my fellow players to figure out how we all know each other, how well we get along, and what we have in common. I’ll admit that I don’t do that second part nearly as much as I should, but when ideas and things click, it makes for a more cohesive party. If I lose a character mid-campaign (especially early in a session), I’ll crank out a new character in record time in order to miss as little of the game time as I can.

Rule of Cool (Improvised Weapons)

I always give a “cool bonus” to players that think of neat stuff for their characters to do. It encourages thinking outside the box and can lead to some great role playing scenarios. I highly encourage other GMs to do the same.

Words, Like Raindrops, Fall: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Part 3

Mike continues his work on educating people on the writing of narrative in this post. See the link above for Part 2, and last week for Part 1. These parts of the article are great reads, and I’m looking forward to Part 4. I just hope I don’t forget to read it when it comes out while I’m in Paris. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks for the great words and excellent advice, Mike!

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Friday Faves: 2014-09-05

September 7th, 2014

It’s been a pretty good week for me. Tonight is my monthly Pathfinder game, and I can’t wait to put ideas from this post from Mike at Campaign Mastery to use while the group crosses a lake during stormy weather. Gonna be a hoot! (I hope).

On with the links:

EDIT: I completely forgot to click the “Schedule” button (again) and just now (it’s now Sunday morning) realized that my post didn’t go through. You figure as someone who has specialized in web development for the past 20 years (crap, yeah, 20 years), that I’d know how to run WordPress. :) Ah well….

Now! On with the links!

Mercy Me, The Fantasy Ecology

This is a very interesting take on creating fantasy ecologies. There are so many options out there to us. We just don’t seem to take advantage of it. Yeah, the random charts can result in some silliness, but it can also spur greater thought and wonderful results!

A Population Of Dinosaurs and the impact on RPG ecologies

Hey! Another ecology post. This one delves a little more scientifically into the process than the previous post, but I feel they are a good pairing. Check out both of the links and merge some ideas. You’ll come up with some fantastic ideas. If you do nothing more than search for “Jaws may drop at will.” in the post and check out the number presented there. Perhaps my assumption about the “silliness” of the previous post is unfounded. With that many different combinations of creatures…. Wow! It’s blows my mind.

Create a One Page System Today

I’ve seen those “one page RPG” efforts, and I’ve always wondered how to go about it. Now I know! There are some great tips in this post about how to go about creating one of those mini creatures of role playing excellence.

[Tuesday Map] The Ruined Necropolis

This is a another great map, but I think I like the brief backstory behind this area more than the map itself. Make sure to read the text around the image to get some ideas on how you might use this in your own game!


I’ve always missed a knockout mechanic in my games, so when I set out to create my own RPG 20+ years ago, I made sure there was a rule system around being incapacitated with a single blow and how long that knockout effect stayed in place. Of course, it had to be tweaked and refined, but I love what I have. Perhaps I’ll reveal it some day if I ever get off my ass and actually publish the damn thing.

Target Mapping your Monsters: Worldbuilding via the “Monster Manual”

I’ve used concepts similar to this one. My approach is to figure out the Main Big Bad, and then give him weaker minions, and then give those minions weaker ones, and so forth until I reach the “goblin level” where the PCs will start. There’s a whole tree of minions. It’s not a linear line of goblins-to-orcs-to-ogres-… and so on. Some of the minions on the same level may be pitting their power against a “sibling” in the tree to take over their sibling’s sphere of control. I love how Lyndsay sketches out spheres of control. I think taking it another level with some overlap in spheres can result in some damn fine role playing experiences. Great work!

Polished Loquacity: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Part 1

I’m a “medium prep” type GM. It seems that when I do “heavy prep,” the players blow my plans out of the water and move on about their own agenda. That’s fine. That’s actually preferred, but I’ve learned a long time ago to just prep for some preplanned settings, characters, and critters, and then let the game flow around them as the PCs want it to. I have run a few “no prep” games, and those were a hoot. I may do something like that again someday, but it does require the right style of group at the table to pull it off well. Mike’s post touches on many techniques in that “medium prep” area that I mentioned earlier. It’s a way to land some great ideas for you to draw from, but you won’t spend so much time on your prep that you’ll feel burned when the players sideslip by it.

Storium – The Best Little Game You Might Not Know About

I’ve heard about Storium through a few different avenues now, and it’s reached critical mass in my brain. I’m going to have to check it out now. It looks like a great way to get some “slow paced” but still “high action” role playing in while I’m between games.

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Friday Faves: 2014-08-29

August 29th, 2014

Another week! More links! More great links, that is!

Yep. That’s all I have this week. Just some links.


Goodman Games to Reprint Classic Judges Guild Products at Archival Quality

I picked up a few Judges Guild products back in the day, and I loved every single one of them. I found them incredibly useful. I think I might still have some left in the collection somewhere. If I don’t, this is my chance to pick them back up!

a D&D player’s advice to DMs running mystery games

Lots of GM advice comes from fellow GMs and their experiences. This particular post is also for GMs, but from the player’s perspective. What does this mean? It means, pay attention! Your players are your audience. They are your consumers. They are your customers (they tend to pay more with their time than their wallet, but that’s a more valuable resource in my book.) Check out what Paul has to say on how to run a mystery game to help your players, keep your players engaged, and not to “leave them in the dust” with the brilliance of your convoluted plot lines.

Sharknado, the Unofficial Fan Game.

I love this post because it shows how easily a new rule set can come together from a simple concept. Is it perfect? Probably not. Would it be fun to play? Looks that way! If you’re looking to adapt your favorite commercial property, you can either create a splatbook for a good generic system (GURPS, Hero, Fate, Savage Worlds, etc.) or if the concepts of the property are way out there, you can run with your own set of rules like is outlined in this post.

Storytelling, Life, and RPGs: Pacing in RPGs

C.S. brings up two opposing approaches at pacing a game. The first is event-based triggers in which nothing happens until the PCs arrive on scene to witness it. The other is a timer-based trigger in which things happen no matter what the PCs are doing (unless they’re in the right place at the right time). Both of these approaches have their ups and downs, but I’ve had good success with using events that start a timer that then trigger the events. This means the PCs can usually be nearby when something happens, but if they start the timer (often without knowing it) and then meander away to chase a squirrel and miss out on the fun action, so be it. The aftermath will be there for them to clean up when they come back.

Seven Circles Of Hell – Creating Politics for an RPG

I’ve never seen such a wonderful description of how politics truly works, and Mike does a fantastic job of tying it into how politics can impact an ongoing game. I’ve run a few political games in the past with mixed success. When I get my most bang for the buck, I’ve used more than just government factions. There are a wide variety of groups that can come into play to sway the players’ decisions. Don’t just limit yourself to “good” and “evil” groups. Groups (by definition) are made up of a collection of people. Within this collection, there is undoubtedly going to be variations of opinion and desires. An “all evil cult run by the even-more-evil master” is cardboard cut out. It’s weak. Don’t do that. If you have a group that wants something for its own best interest, present the world (and the players) with an opposing group. These factions (or groups) can be governmental, mercantile, magical, societal, religious, cultural, foreign, domestic, support a common cause, etc.. Take a look at how our real world works, twist it a bit to add your own flavor, and run with it in your game. Politics can be more fun than just fast-forwarding past the “elect me” (or more closely “don’t elect that other guy”) commercials on the DVR.

DIY GM Screen For Better Play

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. If you really want to learn a new system, make your own GM screen. Don’t copy/paste from the PDF into your own document before printing. Don’t scan/print/copy/paste from the book when you find a cool chart. Type out the information yourself. This is the proper way to build your own screen. By typing out the information, you’ll see the flow of the numbers. You’ll see the patterns. This will deepen your understanding of the game. When I created my own RPG, I came to the point when I needed a GM screen. I started typing things out (even though I had created the game), and that’s when I realized some of the ranges, patterns, flows, and curves of the numbers didn’t quite add up despite my deep mathematical analysis of the game when I created it. Huh. Well, it let me go back and fix some things.

[Friday Map] Three Hillside Tombs

Sweet map! So many opportunities to make use of some quality adventures lie in wait within the confines of these lines and artistic representations that I can’t stand it. Full stories flourish in my brain from look at Dyson’s maps. Great work!

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