Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-07-18

Another week. More links!

Sorry this one is so late. I went to our local renaissance fair on Saturday with some friends. I managed to step in an unseen hole and tweak my left knee to the point I had to leave early. Apparently, even though I left early, the heat had gotten to me and getting back into the scorching car didn’t help matters any. The heat drained me to the point where I couldn’t really form coherent words/thoughts yesterday, so I called it a “lazy day” and did lots of nothing.

The knee is getting better, and I’m over the heat exhaustion…. so it’s time to get the post put together.

PS: After looking at the links, I came to realize this week is the “Gnome Stew and Campaign Mastery Show”! Sorry for the lack of diversity in the links going to other places, but this are, quite honestly, the articles that caught my eye the most. I’m not sure if that says more about me or the RPG blogosphere.

The GM’s Principles, and the First Session

The first session of any campaign is probably one of the most important. I’d argue that the last session is the most important (mainly because that’s what most folks will remember and talk about for years), but starting off on the right foot is right up there. Tracy dives into his approach for jamming with an Apocalypse World game start. While this post is specific to that game system, there are plenty of gems in there for any GM running any system.

A Heart Of Shiny Magic: Spell Storage Solutions Pt 2

In my own homebrew RPG, magic energy can be stored up in a specific elemental metal. My ideas for this elemental metal crossover quite a bit with Mike’s ideas in this post, but he has some things in there (like the Reluctant or Eager) that I’d not pondered just yet. Thanks for the brain food, Mike! I have some new things to consider with my homebrew.

Ginger Hall

Apparently Dyson can draw maps while drunk better than I can while sober. Maybe that’s his trick? Perhaps I need to imbibe some scotch before delving into map making? I don’t know. Either way, this is a fantastic map!

It’s Not The Size That Counts (It’s How You Use It)

Woah! A five-minute RPG? Yeah. You read that right. Not five pages. Not five booksFive Minutes! Senda must be the master of lightweight RPGs to manage to pull this off. I’m impressed and bow to her prowess. This actually sounds like quite a bit of fun. In my writing life, I love doing improv writing where you get an idea token (or two or three) and hastily scribble down words for 5-10 minutes. I can see this being very similar… and quite a bit of fun. I hope to run into Senda at a con someday and see this live and in person!

All Wounds Are Not Alike V: Narcotic Healing (part 2)

I once had a doctor tell me that addiction is not a medical problem but a social problem. I’m not sure I 100% agree with his statement, but I did see his point. It was this: Addiction to a substance is not an issue until it affects society around the addict in a negative way. Thus, it’s a societal problem. Again, I’m not 100% on board with this assertion, but there is some truth to it. Why am I talking about society and addiction? That’s because Mike does the same (but with more words and clarity than I am right now) in the link above! It’s a great read. I love it. Well done, Mike.

ESTABLISHED MEDIA CHARACTERS: PROS AND CONS

But Han Solo would never do that! — Actually heard at a game when a player, playing a Han Solo character, did something nice for someone during the “A New Hope” timeline. The rebuttal was, “But this is my Han Solo!” Both were correct, but the person playing their Han Solo was more correct. This is a problem with appropriating media characters (for PCs or NPCs) in gaming. At some point, the group has to cut ties with the established canon and move on from there. Use the canon of the universe you’re emulating as a jumping off point, and never look back. John’s article has some more details than what I’ve let on here, so go check it out!

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-07-10

Another week. Another day late. Ah well…. Not much to report in the life of J.T., so here are the links!

Basics For Beginners (and the over-experienced) Part 7: Adventures

Mike touches on megadungeons, railroad plots, intro dungeons, and more in this post. It’s a great boiled-down look at adventures from a fairly high level. Lots of excellent food for thought here. The section that really leaped into my brain and laid a worm was the “Lurking Plots” because I love having those expose and examined when I’m a player. I suppose my players are in a similar boat, and I would love to do more of that in my own games.

2016 ENnie Award Nominees and Spotlight Winners

This is not a blog post, but an announcement that the ENnie Award nominees were announced last week. I usually don’t link to this, but I am this year because Gnome Stew is up for an ENnie, and I’m part of that crew now. I’m not going to ask or beg for a Gnome Stew vote, though. I am, however, going to encourage everyone to click through, look at the nominees, check out their body of work, and throw down your thoughts and opinions in the form of a vote. As I write this on Sunday, the voting opens up on the 11th (that’s tomorrow), so this is an excellent time to jump in and check things out!

Emberpike Hall

I’m linking to this particular map because the giant hall on the right-hand size reminds me of a time I was doing a freestyle map (no grid) of a dungeon we were adventuring in. I drew my map based on GM description and would not adjust it based it on what he actually drew on the battlegrid where the minis were at. The map came out all skewed and warped (yet still useable) because he threw down a description of “a giant cavern stretching out into the distance beyond the reach of your torchlight.” I took it upon myself to fill the entire right side of my paper with a giant cavern. Well… the cavern wasn’t quite as large as I had drawn it, which lead to the skewing and compression of other rooms. It was still quite fun!

All Wounds Are Not Alike V: Narcotic Healing (part 1)

In a novel I’m working on, I have a character addicted to using her magic. It’s odd to write about that, but it’s also fun. This article has really helped me out in that area. I now know places in my story to amp up descriptions and how to go about it. It’s going to be a fun ride through the story. Thanks for the excellent advice and reference article, Mike! PS: I love the idea of being addicted to being healed. That’s a great spin on things with many implications at the personal and societal level.

Ways Out Of Prep Slump

The more years I have under my GM’ing belt, the less I want to prep. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not young anymore and have many more responsibilities than I’ve had in the past. I’m not going to bother to try and pinpoint why I’m down on prep these days. I just need tips on how prep less. This is one such article. I like it quite a bit. Excellent article, John!

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness

I’m trying to get back on the horse for comments and reviews of blog posts, but it’s been rough for me lately. I’m not entirely sure why. I’m fairly productive in other parts of my life. This blog seems to be the only thing slipping through my grasp right now. This upcoming week is going to be fairly normal for me, so I hope that normality will drive me to get this post up on time next weekend.

Anyway…. On with the links!

Map-A-Monday: World Mythology…

I love maps! I love mythology! I especially love world maps. The image linked to in this blog post is fantabulous! I wish it were more interactive and clicky instead of a static image, but there are some great insights and details in there that I’d never known before. If you share some interests with me, I highly recommend checking this out.

A Sampling of RPG Podcasts

I listen to quite a few podcasts because of my lengthy, daily commute. Here’s my list of what I listen to. I’ve added some of the ones in the Gnome Stew post to my iTunes list. If and when I become a regular listener of a podcast, then it’ll get dropped into the list on my other web site.

Ask The GMs: Many Hands, Mild Insanity: Large Groups Revisited

The largest group I’ve been in consisted of 2 GMs (main and assistant), 12 players, and 15 characters. It was unusual for a single person to miss the weekly game, unless it was “band camp time” and then we’d lost a handful of players during the summer. The largest group I’ve run a game for was about 8-9 players and that same number of characters. I gotta say that if I ever hit that number again (or more!), I’m going to have to scour my permanent bookmarks for this article and re-read Mike’s wisdom. He breaks down his advice by genre of game, and has some exceptional ideas in there. This is highly useful even if you’re getting 6+ in the PC count.

To Absalom, And Beyond: Interviewing James L. Sutter About Starfinder

Starfinder cometh!!!! Paizo has announced a new sci-fi game coming to the shelves in the future. It’s supposed to be compatible with the ruleset of Pathfinder, which really jazzes me. As a collector and consumer of RPGs, the best sci-fi RPG I have on my shelves (my opinion only) is Alternity. It’s a great game, but there are some points lacking here and there. I know Paizo can fill the gap. Want to learn more about this effort? Darcy has a great interview with James L. Sutter on the topic.

Dugan’s Hold

There’s something about the curved hallways and straight lines of this map that really catch my eye. I wish I could put my finger on it and give a better description of how I feel, but this just strikes me as a really cool map from Dyson.

Consequential Expertise: A Neglected Plot Opportunity

I object! Mike’s taken an article about how to run a courtroom scene (or set of scenes) and actually makes it look like fun. I’ve been in courtrooms before (never as a defendant before you go there with your imagination). The proceedings are, well, boring as hell. I think they do that on purpose. Mike’s tossed out some ideas on how to move through the motions of a courtroom with ease and enjoyment. Well done!

Troy’s Crock Pot: Take it outside, kiddos

I’ve only tried playing RPGs outdoors a few times and never with success. It’s not because I wasn’t prepared (I was a Boy Scout, after all) but because the games, dice, pencils, etc. were confiscated by the aforementioned Boy Scouts for the duration of the camping trips. We were there to “experience nature” and such instead of sitting around in a tent (or under a tree) playing “some stupid game about orcs.” *sigh* I get it now, though. When camping with the Boy Scouts there are other things to focus on than your critical hits. Now that I’m the adult in the situation, I can take my games outside if I feel like it. With summer weather here, I can see our gaming taking place on the back deck, in the back yard, under a tree, or other great location like that. Troy’s got some excellent advice on what to take with you when venturing outside for an RPG session.

The Darkness Has Risen

As my regular readers will have noticed by now, it’s been a while since I’ve done a post.

It’s going to be a while longer.

I’ve been eyeball deep in my CISSP studies. I’ve been skimming articles and capturing links, but have had zero time (less than zero, if that’s possible) to write up comments and compose the post.

I also have a family vacation starting this Saturday and it will run through the following Saturday. This is going to mean I won’t have time read skim the posts, let alone give them the time they are due, create the links, make comments, etc.

The weekend after the family vacation is a writing retreat, so no time for a post there either.

Sorry.

I plan on getting back on the horse in July, and we’ll see if my time management skills can let me stay astride.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-05-21

I started my studies for my CISSP exam that will be happening in September. This involves me reading studying over 2500 pages of very dense, sometimes technical, information security materials. Even though I’m only a week in, my brain is already mush.

As such, the comments below will probably be brief. I hope they’re coherent. 🙂

PS: For those of you not sure what the CISSP certification is, it’s like landing a PhD in information security… but without the college debt and a higher failure rate.

The Online Edition: Ensemble Play

I’d honestly never head of, or considered, ensemble play outside a gaming con setting. This is actually quite brilliant. Unfortunately, these days I’m having a hard time getting more than 3 people together at the same time. Perhaps shifting some gaming efforts to online play would alleviate that issue since I could draw from widely different geographic regions… Food for thought.

When Genres Collide: Using Non-Genre Sources

This was a timely post for me. My twice-a-month Friday group just shifted to Savage Worlds for our game system because we (mainly me) wanted to give it a swing. None of us had played it before, but the system is super easy to learn and create characters in, so we’re giving the “old college try.” We knew we wanted some horror in the game, but didn’t have many parameters set outside that one genre. I wanted to drill deeper into the concepts and themes of this game, so I ran my group through this process as closely as I could. We ended up settling on gaming in 1850 in San Francisco during the United States Gold Rush era. Lots of scraggly folks moving about a large city holding most of the Gold Rush wealth in a central location. We’re playing up the supernatural, but not every person in the world is aware of it. I think this is going to be loads of fun. Yeah. It’s quite a bit like the Deadlands setting for Savage World. This was not intentional, and I didn’t have the Deadlands books until I hit Gamer’s Haven earlier today to purchase the Player’s Guide and the Marshal’s Handbook. I can’t wait to dive into them and see what gems I can borrow from those source materials.

White Crag Fortress

Another beautiful (and very useful!) map from Dyson!

Fun in all the right places

The question sparking this post is, “What’s Your Best Tip for creating a memorable character?” I love Mike’s response and post, but my answer is pretty brief. Give them a major flaw (even if it’s outside the rules) to role play. In a Space Opera game, I had a character with a 3 bravery (that’s on a scale of 1-100, so really low.) The GM offered to allow me to re-roll that one stat. I refused, and ran with it. I loved that character! He was a hoot to play, especially during a firefight!

The Wages of Fame

In the RPG I’ve created, I use a similar state to “fame,” but I call it “social status” to handle the high ends and the low ends. This stat can shift up/down based on how society views the character’s actions. One thing I’d never considered was what happens if a famous (or infamous) character dies? Will statues be erected? Will his death grounds become cursed (for the infamous)? Hrmm… Food for thought. Great post!

Top signs adventurers have been here already

I love this idea! Populating a dungeon (or part of one) with the remnants of someone already been there. Kind of like a Goldilocks dungeon crawl. 🙂 Very cool concept, Peter! Thanks for the ideas.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-05-13

Sorry again for missing out on last week, but this is a double dose of greatness for this week. There are tons of links to go through for this post, I’ll just jump right into it!

In The Footsteps Of Footprints: how to document game events

Mike’s put together a great post outlining various methods of creating a “campaign log” or “adventure journal” of sorts. I used to do this (as player and GM), but I found it to be too tedious to do at the table, and too time-consuming to do after the game. I guess I’ve become more overloaded with Real Life that the time I need to create a log or journal just isn’t there anymore. I see a great value in them, but I’m no longer the guy to sit down and write/type everything up.

Forget It’s a Playtest

Having a group of people play your game can be better than people testing your game, but I still assert that the playtest group needs to keep in the back of their mind that they are going to be giving feedback on the game after the session is over with. They should at least jot down notes on the fun and not-fun parts. The critical piece of information, however, is not the fun/not-fun moments, but the why of the fun/not-fun moments. This will help the designer(s) amp up the fun and fix the not-fun areas.

Limits of Stericksburg’s “Safe” zone

Towns have almost always been the safe area to retreat to after a dungeon delve. This is usually a given in any fantasy-based game. (For sci-fi, it’ll be the spaceship or other PC-controlled area.) Shaking things up a bit and making towns a little less safe can really amp up the action and make things a little less controlled by the players. It’s a great chance to twist the story plot around some.

Mod It, Change It, Twist, Adapt It

I’ve tried to adopt a setting for Game A into the rules of Game B before with limited success. However, I think the main reason I failed is that I took it on all on my own. I didn’t involve the group or get their input. I was really hoping to surprise them with a “different take” on a classic setting. It didn’t go over well because of many different aspects of Game B mechanics that didn’t quite inter-operate well with assumptions about Game A’s setting. The approach here by Tracy (with the whole group involved) sounds like a much better way of going about things than what I did.

All Wounds Are Not Alike IV – Accelerated Healing

Delving deep into the realms of magical healing, Mike takes on a long-time point of contention that many people have with clerics (or playing the cleric) in the fantasy game. Most of the time, clerics are relegated to the role of “heal bot” that just keeps the fighters alive long enough for the fighter to do his job of killing the Bad Guy. Not much fun for the cleric, to be honest. There are plenty of alternatives to the cleric casting another healing spell, and Mike talks at length about many options. Check them out. Play with some of them. Take them into consideration. However, think deeply about the far-reaching affects of each change to the system. Many of these changes Mike talk about can drastically change the nature of the game play.

Gaming Groups – Keep or Build

I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of static groups. I love the regularity of gaming with people I enjoy spending time around. I love knowing the dates (usually well ahead of time) of when we’ll be getting together, and I like knowing that we’ll be gaming instead of watching TV or some-such. However, I still need the game-oriented (or dynamic) groups from time-to-time to challenge me to think outside my well-constructed box, play a new game, meet some new people, and generally have a blast with a one-shot or short campaign.

Playtesting – what do you look for?

Another link about playtesting! As a tangent, I just sent my first novel out to beta readers, so I can get their feedback (and do edits) before sending it to my publisher when they ask for it. I gave clear (I hope) instructions to the beta readers on what I’m looking for in the way of feedback. Without this guidance, I have no idea what level or quality of feedback I’ll receive. The same thing goes with playtesting. Designers have to give direction to the players on what kind of feedback they’re looking for. This direction can even change and morph as the game becomes more mature and closer to a publication or release date.

The Tomb of Eight
Exploring the Tomb of Eight in 3D

Two links for one map! The first link is to the wonderful Tomb of Eight map by Dyson. The second link is a great video of someone creating a walk-through of the map on YouTube. That’s fantastic. I love checking out the map and then the video visual. Very cool stuff here.

Not Like My Tribe – Sophisticated Primitives, Part 1
Not Like My Tribe – Sophisticated Primitives, Part 2

Two links for one topic! I’m glad I got to read these back-to-back. The first part left me wanting to know more, and I got it right away. If you’re looking for input or advice on creating primitive (not simple) or indigenous cultures for your gaming or fiction writing, these two articles must be your first stop. I highly recommend throwing a permanent bookmark into your “research” folder (or similar) like I have because you’ll want to come back and check these out as you make your developments. These are great! Thanks for the wonderful insight, Mike.

What’s it Worth to Ya

There was a hubbaloo on the RPG blogosphere over the past weekend about how much are RPG materials really worth. There were a handful of posts wrapped around this topic, and this one from Trollsmyth was the best-stated post. I highly recommend you run over to the link and check out his words. They’re quite well put together. My thoughts? Like anything else, books will sell for what the market will bear. There is, of course, a certain minimum cost to produce a PDF or dead-tree version of a book, and publishers must make some coin for their efforts. This sets a minimum price, but how high do you want to go? Depends on the quality and reputation of your work, to be honest.

The Sundered Tomb

Another fantastic map from Dyson! I especially love the fracture/crevasse running through most of the map.

The Art of the Off the Wall Con Game

I think getting weird and wacky at a con game is perfectly acceptable, so long as the mood of the table and the other players want to go with it. As a GM, I’m there to support the players and ensure they have fun at the table. If it turns out my “grimdark adventure” had a funny turn of phrase I didn’t realize and it sends the group down a slapstick roller coaster ride of hilarity… who am I to argue? It’s like telling kids that are having fun playing Calvin Ball (of the Calvin and Hobbes fame), “You’re having fun in the wrong way!” That’s just pure asshole activity there.

Double-Sized Saturday Sweetness Coming!

I added some bookmarks to my “SSS” folder for the Sporadic Saturday Sweetness this morning, and spotted loads of bookmarks sitting there waiting to be published and commented on. Then it clicked. I hadn’t done my post for this past Saturday. I guess the extra work from the Day Job, all of the extra writing/editing I’ve been doing on my novels (and a friend’s novel), and just overall trying my best to stay on top of Real Life stuff pushed the blog aside without me realizing it.

Sorry for missing the post, but I’m keeping the links around for release on this upcoming Saturday.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-04-30

It’s been a nutty week. Editing two novels of my own while critiquing a friend’s novel…. This has all piled up on me, and I’m quite amazed I’m even getting this post out the door considering the Day Job has been hammering me quite hard as well.

All-in-all a good week for me, to be honest. It’s also been a great week for the links, so let’s get to it!

Developing A Plan on the Go

For those of you suffering from over-planning syndrome, this is a good post for you to read. If your players suffer from the same malady around the table, then point them to this post. As a GM, it’s a good read as well because it can help you present the right information at the right time in the right order to short circuit the analysis paralysis that some groups suffer from. I’m going to have to adjust my gaming style with my monthly Pathfinder group a bit now that I’ve read this article. I think it’ll help around the table.

The Eight Types of Fun

Chris has a great post that breaks down the 8 types of fun. I think his take is spot on and enlightening. It’s given me some food for thought on what kind of fun I like having vs. what my players like to do and where we can find some common ground.

Aging Through the Ages

Delta has a great list of the various aging rules from the generations of D&D. It’s a most excellent compilation of rules and styles of aging. If you’re building a game in which the age of the characters matters, you owe it to yourself to check this out and get food for thought.

Review Roundup: Three products of interest

Mike has three reviews here of three different RPG products. The reviews are very helpful. I had my eye on the Pythos game at one point, but it fell off my radar for reasons unknown. Now Mike’s put it back on my radar. He breaks down the pros and cons of the game, and I think the pros in his review outweigh the cons. I’ll have to check it out more in depth for myself.

Behemoth Lookout

The mix of background and information Dyson puts out with his maps really brings them to life. I see the events unfold around this beautiful location as I read the text. Very evocative. Thanks for the map and the background, Dyson. Well done!

Found Locations

I used to have a bit of source material called “Found Locations” way back in the early 90s. I think it was a Judge’s Guild bit of material, but I could be wrong on that. I used it quite a bit. Almost to the point of having the binding fall apart. I’ve since fallen away from using found locations, but I think I might get back to it with my Pathfinder game once the group gets out of their current dungeon delve.

Campaign Suspension

I feel your pain of campaign suspension, Angela. It’s a hard thing to do… and then come back to where you left off. At one point in my life, I had two roommates and a whole gaggle of close friends who were all role players. We gamed at our house, and I eventually had to run to an office supply store for a box with the hanging file folders. I marked the folders with numbers and then created a spreadsheet to track game system, campaign, GM, players, characters, and misc. notes to keep everything straight. We had nearly 30 concurrent campaigns going at once. Many of the suspended for long periods while the GM thought of next steps, but most of them were touched on at least once a month. This may sound nuts, but it was a rare day for us to not gather and role play. Out of a 30-day month, we probably gamed at least 25 of them.

10 Most Common Mistakes DMs and Players Make in 5e D&D

I’m not into D&D 5e. I probably won’t be. I’ve heard good things about the game, but I’m so heavily invested in (and incredibly happy with) Pathfinder, that I don’t see a similar game system in the same genre supplanting what I already have. That’s why you haven’t seen many (if any) D&D 5e posts here. However, when I read this post by Ameron, I knew it might be useful to some of my audience out there in the blogosphere. So… here’s the link to a great breakdown of some of the D&D 5e rules!

GURPS 101: Basic Damage, Penetrating Damage, and Injury

This is a great post for all GURPS players and GMs to read. It clearly and concisely explains the difference between basic damage, penetrating damage, injury, “lose HP” statements, and multipliers. Thanks for the clarity, Peter!

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-04-23

The Pikes Peak Writers Conference that displaced last week’s post went off very well. Everyone had a good time. Everyone learned lots (probably more than their brains can handle in 2 1/2 days of programming). Drinks were drunk. Deals were made. Friends were made and met and kept forever. I couldn’t have asked for more!

Speak of deals… I made one. I sold a novel to Strigidae Publishing! That’s right. A novel with my name on it is finally getting some forward progress. You can find out more about it over at my author web site. I’m caught somewhere between “is this real?” and “holy crap!” in my reactions.

Of course, you came here to find out what cool stuff I found in the RPG blogosphere in the past two weeks or so. Here are the links!

RPT#693: HOW TO ROLEPLAY NPC MANNERISMS

If you have a throw-away NPC, maybe adding a mannerism or trait to them will make them more important to you and to the game. Even if it doesn’t, that one detail thrown in will make the world more immersive to your players.

The Incremental Art Of Escalation

I have an issue with escalation when I run the game. I go from “minor threat” to “major threat” to “end of the world” very fast. It’s a flaw in my planning and outlining of the game progress. I’ve known about my issue for years. Mike has an article here that really helps me out. The next time I run a non-improv game, I’m going to put his words of wisdom into play and see if that helps me out. I bet it does.

Crypts and Sewers

I love this map because I can see all sorts of creepy crawlers lurking about in the minor details of this wonderfully drawn piece of art. This is evoking some creative ideas in me, and I feel that is what maps are supposed to do.

Who Owns Your Campaign?

I love this article because it sums up the collaboration in an RPG quite well. I especially love the closing out summary because I’m always on the look out for the folks on the other side of the screen. When I’m a GM, I feed into the players’ desires. When I’m the player, I love throwing hooks and plot ideas (in character) to the GM. If you’re having some contentious times with your gaming group, I bet this article will be of some help to you.

30 Top Sites for Storytelling GMs

How meta can we get? I’m linking to a post of links. There’s some great stuff in Phil’s list. Go check it out! I haven’t made my way through everything yet, but I’m working on it.

An Amazing Ancestry

I’ve thought about doing ancestral charts for some of my vital NPCs (or groups of related NPCs), but I’ve never pulled the trigger. It just seems like so much work and effort, and I wasn’t sure of the gains. Mike’s article here has enlightened me into seeing the benefit of doing this for a few key NPCs (and maybe a PC or two?) in order to increase the historical and world immersion for the players. Will they care? Dunno. Maybe. Either way, it sounds like a fun exercise.

The Fevered Caves

I love how Dyson layers maps. The ups and downs and tunnels over the top of others always amazes me. It’s actually the clarity of his maps that brings up my level of amazement. Anyone (almost anyone) can draw a map with overlapping tunnels, but Dyson manages to pull it off in a clear manner.

The Problematic Ranger

I’m with Rob here. “Why is any class necessary?” People bash on bards and rangers and druids and other “support role” characters as being cruft in games. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of class-based games. I would much rather go with the skill-based games, which frees me up to attempt to emulate characters from the fiction that I read. That’s another topic, though. In this case, some players need a pre-built template handed to them, so they can wrap their heads around the “correct build” for getting to being a ranger or whatever. These are training wheels to help new players around until they can get on their own and ride for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with it at all.

The Gilligan Tools for better characterization

I love this post because it delves deep into the motivations of the characters for Gilligan’s Island (great show!!!), but as Mike calls it, these deep dives into the hows and why-fors of a sit-com are “pretentious twaddle.” That phrasing made me laugh because my reaction to the deep inspection of “Gilligan’s motivations” invokes a more vulgar response from me. However, Mike’s words sum things up nicely. The entire post illustrates how character creation in a group dynamic can lead to something wonderful… or something potentially disastrous. This is why I love for my players to sit around the table and chat about their players before any dice are rolled. It leads to better group cohesion, and not just to make sure all character classes are used to “fill the gaps.”

Return to Durahn’s Tomb

I love this post for two reasons. The first is seeing Dyson’s progression as a map maker. He shows us the older, original map he’d drawn along with the beautiful, current version. It’s awesome to see how people improve over time! Of course, the second reason is the artwork he’s presenting today in the form of the new map.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-04-09

Before I jump into this week’s post, I have a scheduling announcement: There will be no post next week. I’m president of Pikes Peak Writers, and our annual conference is next week. This means Monday/Tuesday will be focused on the Day Job and getting my personal stuff together for the big event. Wednesday is our prep day for the conference, and Thursday-Sunday is the conference itself. I don’t plan on doing much in the way of blog reading during these times. I will do my best to not click “Mark All As Read,” but no promises at this point. This means the SSS post for April 23rd may be super-sized. I just don’t know yet.

Speaking of super-sized! I have a ton of links for this week. It’s more than my usual count, but there have been some fantastic posts hit the RSS feeds this week. Great work everyone!

Time to jump into those links!

The Dungeon / Town Mirror Image

Peter’s post about dungeons and towns being the mirror image of one another as far as results and narrative goes is absolutely brilliant. I’ve never really thought about this concept before now. He’s totally right! In town, the PCs drive toward results and the GM narrates out with the player the results. However, things are flipped for dungeons. This article really opened up new perspectives for me in gaming. Thanks, Peter!

Pop-up Roleplaying Games

This is an excellent post from Darcy, but the part that hit me the hardest was the “whirlwind demos” section of the article. I’d really never considered the “skip a rock” technique (see the post for more details on that concept) when it comes to demoing a game or teaching a world or running a quick game for folks that may or may not be immersed into the game like I am. Go check out the link for more details.

Small Motives and Personal Activities

I’ll admit that for “throw away” NPCs (shop clerks and such) I don’t go too in depth in their motivations and desires. There’s so much to do as a GM and so little time to do it in. However, for recurring NPCs, I put in some more effort. Not too much, unless they are a key NPCs. Mike’s approach here at adding some depth to even the “throw away” NPCs is right up my alley. This is something I’ll have to put into practice and see if it increases the immersion in my games for the player while not costing me too many precious minutes of prep time.

The Velvet Hood – A Svirfneblin Bridge Fortress

Another admission: This map confused the hell out of me! Then I spotted the side-view illustration in the upper-right corner. The main “eye draw” for this art (maps are art, dammit!) were the top-down view of the main levels of the floor plan. The arrows guided me to where things link to, but I still had issues…. Once I puzzled it out after seeing the illustration in the top-right corner, it all clicked. Then I fell in love with yet another of Dyson’s maps!

The Crusty Old Gnome: A Taste of the Game

Another post about demoing a game and immersion and skipping that rock across the pond. However, Walt has a different take and some extra details of his own on how to throw together a proper demo for a game or world or setting. There is one thing I think Walt may have left out, though. He talked about events within the mini-story highlighting “unique or interesting rules in the setting”. I love this idea, but I would also like to add that there needs to be at least one event or challenge that highlights unique or interesting abilities of the characters. This will allow the players to do “something cool” with their characters, and this will create a deeper level of attachment to the game and world. Other than this one small thing, I think these are words of deep wisdom from a great writer.

The rule of 14 for passive abilities

This is a very cool idea. I’ve used pre-rolled lists of numbers to compare against skills in secret before, but that’s so cumbersome. I like the idea of using a static die roll (even one less than average) for a passive ability check. Of course, I’d break out of the passive roll when a player declares their character is going to slow the march to inspect a copse of trees or a hollow in the ground or a particular wall or some such. This is just for the “regular routine” type checks when no one is focused on anything. Now to play with some numbers and see if I can adopt this for my Pathfinder game. My gut tells me that the PCs perception check plus a “passive roll” of 8 or 9 would be best. Something for my analytical brain to chew upon.

The Beginnings Of Plot

We’ve all had those cool plot hooks leap into our brains during mental downtime. That’s just how our human brains work. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, taking a shower, doing the dishes, or some other mundane task. When the body is engaged and the mind isn’t, cool things happen. Now… you have this plot hook. Probably lots of them. What do you do next? Well… you click on the link above and read Mike’s insightful article on next steps. Then…. you apply them to that plot hook! (PS: This is also a pretty good approach at outlining novels, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

A Matter of Perspective – Who’s the Bad Guy?

This is brilliant! What a great perspective on two sides of the same events. This should be required reading for all fiction writers, many GMs, and some players. Seeing the dual perspectives is wonderful. Thanks for the post, Ameron!

Negotiating with Monsters in DF

Kick in the door! Kill the orcs! Loot the corpses! Yeah… That’s pretty typical. What happens when the players need the orcs alive, but still need to get something from the orcs? Stuff like information, guides, guards, etc.? Well, then it’s time to negotiate. Having the right skills, advantages, traits, etc. in GURPS is vital for this type of interaction. Peter has a good breakdown of how to go about putting these things together.