Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2015-11-23

I’m a few days late with this. My in-laws are in town, so my weekend was pretty packed up with family stuff and car maintenance stuff and rescuing a friend from his house for a few hours of chatting over dinner.

In the end, the weekend escaped me. Now that I’m back at the office, I can relax and get some things done… like this post!

Yrisa’s Nightmare and other goodies

Mike spends some time getting all sorts of excited over several products, kickstarters, and other cool stuff in the RPG realm. This isn’t along the lines of his usually awesome advice articles. This is more in the vein of “look at this cool stuff!” Indeed, there is some really cool stuff in there. The Blackclaw Gnoll has me intrigued, and the image accompanying the critter is downright chilling. No way I’d want to meet that thing in a dark alley… or in a sunlight field of flowers, for that matter.

Dungeons & Dragons Tabletop Comes To VR Through Partnership With AltspaceVR

Here’s another /. article on D&D, but this time about WotC teaming up with AltspaceVR to create some virtual reality goodness for the D&D game. I’m a little hesitant to get very excited about this announcement for a couple of reasons. The first is the expense of VR gear. I know it’s getting cheaper, but it’s not quite at a price point where you can have a GM and 4-6 players around the table in an affordable manner. The second reason is that not everyone can enjoy VR tech. One of my friends gets horrible motion sickness from VR-style interactions. Another has no depth perception (despite having both eyes functioning) because of a disconnect in his brain. He can’t fully immerse in VR tech either. I think it’s cool that this is being worked on, but it’s not something that will replace my imagination anytime soon.

Lessons from the Literary Process

Mike is proclaiming this post to be the first in a 13 part series. (My money is that he’ll extend it to at least 15 or 16 posts. Sorry, Mike. Just being honest, here.) Even though it looks to be an extensive read, I’m incredibly excited for this series! I’m a writer (short stories, novels, game materials, etc.) in addition to being a gamer, so I want to see how the collision of these two worlds will impact me. The segment on the confident writer really struck home for me. I grew up with piles of insecurities. I got tired of living life that way, and adjusted my outlook to become more confident over the course of a few years. I’m now a person that knows I can do anything I want to set my mind to… except with my writing. I still have my childhood insecurities wrapping me up when it comes to my writing. I still put it out in the world, but I’m never “certain” it’s going to be accepted or published or will make it. This segment of the first post really struck home for me and helped me unwrap some of those layers of insecurities. Thanks, Mike!

5+1 Things to consider when hosting a game

Ace has a pretty good post about how to host a game. This doesn’t relate to running the game, but targets the hosts of the group for those folks where the gaming occurs at their house. I gotta say that the people hosting my monthly Pathfinder game have nailed the ambiance with a good space, great themed music in the background (the key here is that the music is background sounds, not the primary), and cooking take ‘n’ bake pizza for the group where the group pitches in to offset the costs of said pizza. Go check out what Ace has to say about the environment, and see what adjustments you might be able to make to your gaming space.

Paraphrase Third-Party Conversations

This post by Roger brings up some great points. I’d been GM’ing for decades before I made the mistake of having NPCs talk to each other while the players became an audience watching a horrible skit. I’d planned it, even. I thought the PCs needed to know all sides of a story, from different NPC’s points of view, but I didn’t think about the time it would take (about 20 minutes) for me to infodump all of this on the players. Since that horrible experience for my players, I do my best to have them meet NPCs independently and have close interactions with the NPCs to gather the information I want the PCs to have.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2015-11-15

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve made a post. Sorry about that. Life and all that. I’m finally able to sit down and dedicate some time to the blog, so here goes… It’s two weeks (maybe more) worth of links, so this will be a slightly longer post than normal.

The Embarrassment of Riches

I’m in this boat right now. I have so many ideas to play with, but so very little time to actually execute them. I’ve been itching to run the Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition since it came out. That’s been a few years now. I have everything I need for it (book, pawns, maps, player’s guide, etc.), but I just haven’t had the time to get to it. I also have a whole notebook packed with scribbled ideas for campaign settings or arcs or one-shots. It’s just nuts. I used to have time to execute most of my ideas, but now I don’t… but the ideas keep coming!

All Over Bar The Shouting: Fantasy Tavern Generator Pt 6

Part 6! Yay! This one helps you take into consideration things like: What’s upstairs? What’s outside? How densely packed are the people? How many can actually fit inside? How long will it take to get a meal? How many folks can comfortable (or uncomfortably) pack into the common room for a night of sleep? So many details about a tavern that I’ve really not considered. I really need to go back through all 6 parts and read them back-to-back and make my own notes now that the series appears to be at a close.

How Many Shades of Gray?

John talks about shades of success/failure. The obvious one is a straight pass/fail, but that gets rather boring unless you’re running a game for newcomers to the hobby. Then you want to keep things simple and ease them into the more complex systems that have critical pass, pass, fail, and critical failure. I think Fate Core does a good job of this and allows an incredible amount of story telling with their ladder. For Fate, I do my best to allow the players to describe the effects of their slot on the success (or failure) ladder. It gives them fiat and room to really get into character. My personal preference is a 4-step tier: Critical pass, pass, fail, critical fail.

Dungeons & Dragons and the Ethics of Imaginary Violence

Hey! Lookie! It’s a /. article about D&D. This pop up from time-to-time, and I always link to them here when I can. In this case, they are talking about the ethics lessons that can come out of imaginary violence. The /. article is a nice summary, but click through to the main article. It’s worth a read!

Give Your Village Meaning and Purpose

Marty’s got some good ideas here on how to give a village a reason for existing other than “it’s a dot on the map for adventurers to resupply.” I wholeheartedly agree with him that these concepts are needed when building out a hamlet or village. I wouldn’t stop there, though. Town, cities, metroplexes, and so on all need a reason to be. Keep in mind that London didn’t start out as a sprawling city. It landed as a “dot on the map” as a hamlet and grew from there. Perhaps the reason the place exists changes over time as well. Don’t forget that.

Mapless Combat & Retreat

I ran RPGs for a long time before I incorporated maps and minis into the mix. My method of retreat was left up to situational logic and a series of die rolls to see if you actually make enough distance between you and your opponent to make good with an escape. I don’t recall the exact rules I used. Probably a dex check (for AD&D) or something like that. Now that I’m using maps and minis, things are much more clear on who can get away… or not.

The Unexpected Neighbor: Portals to Celestial Morphology 1/4

Mike has a fantastic article setting things up for talking about portals to other locations and times. I have to say my favorite invocation of portals comes from fiction in Lawrence Watt-Evans’s Ethshar series. Tapestries can be woven to depict a precise location (including time of day/year if shadows are incorporated) and when you touch one of the tapestries, you end up in the location. If the time isn’t right, you’re more-or-less stuck in a limbo situation until the shadows get just right. He used them in The Misenchanted Sword and in With a Single Spell and mentioned them in other books as well. Back to the article: The part that got me the most excited about this series was the teaser at the end where Mike promises 15 more nasty tricks for use with portals. I’m sitting here rubbing my hands together in eager anticipation.

[Friday Map] Warrek’s Nest

It’s been a while since I’ve linked to one of Dyson’s maps. This one caught my eye because of the mixture of natural caverns and formed tunnels. These types of maps are always ones that excite me the most. I don’t know why, either. They just do.

Ask The GMs: The Great Handouts Question

Mike talks in this article about the various levels of game prep GMs go through (as it concerns itself with handouts). He covers everything from “The Tolerable Minimum” to “Extreme Excess” and a few points in between. While I’m not a huge handout person (as I’ve discussed in the past), I see the wisdom of his words, and I should probably up my game a little and prep a wee bit more for doing some handouts.

Why do RPGs have to give permission for changes?

Peter poses a good question here. Haven’t we always changed the game rules, campaign arcs, story lines, or details of an adventure to suit our needs? Why do books still give us permission to do so? I think it’s partially out of adding an extra level of comfort for the GMs out there to get them to give themselves permission to make changes. It’s also a fallback for the GMs. If a player has read the rules/adventure/campaign/whatever and then rakes the GM over the coals for a minor “infraction” the GM can then throw the book at the player (sometimes literally) and point out the clause that tells the GM they can change anything.

Destination Incognita: Portals to Celestial Morphology Pt 2/4

Mike dives into the portal series with ideas six through ten for how to do portals. I loved #10 because I used that in a game once. To sum up: Psionics were unknown in the world (and I explicitly told the players that psionics didn’t exist, so no picking those character types). Once the characters hit around 12th level or so, I started opening up purple rifts in the world. These were “wounds” (as I described them) in the veil between worlds. Creatures never seen before by the populace filtered through. The longer these wounds were there, the larger they got and eventually entire armies of creatures poured through. The PCs had to figure out what was going on, kill of the invaders, and do their best to go to the “other side” and heal the wounds as best they could. Oh. The kicker? The creatures from the other side were all skilled in the use of psionics. It was a hoot! Go check out Mike’s article for some other ideas for your own games.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2015-10-31

I’m actually getting one of these out on a Saturday! Go me! Today’s Halloween, and we successfully ran the kid around a friend’s neighborhood (we live remote and trick or treating is more like hiking than anything else.) I’m hanging in my late-night diner, eating some french fries and drinking too much coffee.

It’s been a good day.

… and I can’t wait for NaNoWriMo to start in roughly 70 minutes.

Time for some links!

Ask a Dungeon Master: How can I make my games scarier? – Empathy

I great piece of advice I learned about writing horror stories is quite simply stated, “Put the care into scare.” If the characters don’t care about the scary thing, then the readers… or players… won’t either. If you can tie something the characters truly care about, then the players will be dragged along for the emotional roller coaster as well.

Troy’s Crock Pot: Make the room fit the monster

Troy makes some great points in here. If a creature doesn’t fit in the environment you’ve set up in the area, then the suspension of disbelief shatters pretty quickly. If you find the players asking, “Why are the toad men in the driest room in the cave?” then you’ve probably not thought things through… or you should have a really good reason for breaking things down like that.

To Every Creator, An Optimum Budget?

Mike starts off talking about Hollywood blockbuster budgets ($1 billion on the next Avengers movie. Really?!?!) and then brings it home to RPG prep based on time budgets. At one point in my life, I had oodles more time than money, so I created pretty much every world/campaign/adventure/setting from scratch because I could. These days, the inverse is true. I’d much rather spend an hour or so searching the Internet for something that is “close enough” for what I need, and then adapt it for my needs. This saves me dozens of hours of time at a relatively decent monetary cost. Regardless of which boat you’re currently in, I highly recommend Mike’s article on how to prep and how to do it in a tight timeframe. Pay close attention to the section under the “The Lesson for Beginners” header. It’s spot on.

Newbie friendly games – using probability

Andreas has a great post with an excellent list of quality games here. These games all can all be very newbie friendly if approached in the right manner. Dropping two dozen GURPS reference materials on the table in front of someone who has never played GURPS (even a veteran gamer) is daunting. If you can, start with the bare bones of the rules, and as the game progresses, introduce additional rules. I’d even say Pathfinder is a newbie friendly game. Leave out flank and other advantage bonuses for the first few combats. Drop things like attacks of opportunity and leave them aside for a while. At each session roll in 2-3 new rules as they come up and explain the intricacies of each rule. This is so much easier for newbies to digest than looking at the two-foot tall stack of books and options.

Underpriced GURPS disadvantages

Speaking of GURPS, Peter has a short list of disadvantages that really don’t pay off in the point scale. I’ve taken each of these for separate characters at some point in the past because they fit the character concept I looked for. Yeah, it made the game harder on me (they’re supposed to), but I agree with Peter that the bonuses I gained elsewhere didn’t fully offset the harsh realities of these disads.

A Stack Of Surprises: Blog Carnival November 2015

Surprise is the state of mental lockdown when you know you should react to something, but just can’t seem to get the rest of yourself to cooperate. Can you be more surprised by some things than others? Should surprise get worse depending on the situation at hand? Mike delves into these questions (and more) in this post. My take is this: Surprise should never rob a character of more than one action because that means the player is sitting there, quite literally, doing nothing to push the game forward. Even with a single turn passed over, the player can get upset, insulted, derisive, and even to the point where they are disruptive to the game. Sometimes this is out of boredom. Sometimes this is out of a desire to strike back at either the game or the GM. If you really want to emphasize a “powerful surprise” have a character sit out one round, and then apply some penalties on the first round of allowed actions and slowly “bleed off” those penalties until the character “returns to a normal mental state.” That’s how I handle it, and I rarely impose a “powerful surprise” on a character (and thus, the player) all that often.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2015-10-26

Con season has drawn to a close for me with the end of this weekend. I attended Mile Hi Con over the weekend. They have an awesome gaming area that I walked through a few times to catch glimpses of the games being played. I was there primarily with my “writer hat” on, so I didn’t spend too much time in the game area. There were wonderful panels, loads of old friends around, and some new friends made through the con.

Now that’s I’ve recovered a small amount of my energy from the con weekend, I’m dropping my links from last week. The comments are going to be a bit short this week, though. I can’t seem to type straight this morning, and the typos are driving me crazy.

The Breakdown of Intersecting Prophecies

I don’t trust a prophecy until after it comes true. However, I trust Mike’s words on how to use them in your game. Check it out!

A Structure For Convention Adventures

John has 5 acts where he breaks down how a structure of a convention game should be put together. I’ve come up with something similar on my own, and it works quite well. His image implies that the Intro section is the larges time commitment, but I would argue that it’s one of the smallest. In a convention game, you want to get into things fairly fast. There’s only so much time around the table for the fun stuff to happen.

Ask The GMs: Parting is such a frayed plot thread

Wow! This is a phenomenal post that breaks down what to do when a player, a character, or a player-character drops out of the game. There are many options as to what to do with the character within the game setting or the campaign arc. Mike’s put quite a few of them in this post, so if you’ve hit this wall in your story line, it’s time to check out this post.

What I like in a good disadvantage

Peter has a good breakdown of what a good disadvantage in a “build system” game looks like. All players in all “build the character” (as opposed to “roll the character”) systems should be required to read this before delving into where they’re going to put (or gain) their points.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: Monday Edition: 2015-10-19

I was largely offline for most of the weekend with some D&D 3.5 on Friday night (nice bait ‘n’ switch in the plot from the GM), volunteer work on Saturday morning, a new project planning meeting on Saturday afternoon, relaxing (finally) with some Magic: The Gathering on Saturday night. Sunday was football watching time, and rearranging my office to clean up the clutter a bit, and playing with my son, and puttering around the house doing general clean-up stuff to surprise my wife when she returned home.

I’m finally back at the Day Job today, so I get to “relax” (as compared to the weekend) and get some posting and RPG reading done. It’s rare that my Day Job gives me the time to spare for this, so I’m taking advantage of it.

Here are the links!

Hireling Generator

Nick’s put together a darn good hireling generator. I love this thing. Some of the hirelings that drop out of the random ether are hilarious, some are spot-on, and all of them are thought provoking. I’m not sure I’d ever take one “as is” from the generator, but that’s true of pretty much any random thing… even the ones I’ve written. Getting a good “food for thought” vector is always a good thing, and that’s what this is.

The Challenge Of Writing Adventures for RPGs

Where to start on commenting on this? I’m a writer. I do poetry, flash fiction, short stories, novellas, novels, RPG adventures, campaign worlds, etc. I’ve touched almost every form of writing there is, except for scripts for television and movies (I’ve co-written two plays, so I’ve done the stage thing as well.) Mike’s assessment on the difficulty of writing RPG adventures is spot on. He’s nailed it. Perfectly. From uncooperative characters to unknown session length to writing 50 new plots a year (yes, that’s a thing) to being an expert in everything to trying to figure out why you put so much work into being a GM, this post puts everything into perspective. Having experienced everything in Mike’s post (including the rewards), this post struck true and struck home for me. Well done!

The Online Edition: Is It More Work?

I think it is more work for the GM. The “during play” section of time does run (usually) much more smoothly (especially with new players), but there are some limitations on the lock-down of technology. If you wanted to do something not quite centered on a grid line, some systems breakdown and don’t allow this. The “preparation” section of time is incredibly time consuming (for me) because every map (Every. Single. One.) must be prepared ahead of time. Drawing something “on the fly” (from my experience) just doesn’t work. It either halts the game while the GM wrestles with the tech, or can’t effectively be done at all. The same thing goes with tokens, furniture markers, etc.. Because the prep work is an absolute must, it’s rougher on the GM. I’m usually the GM, and this is one of the reasons I’ve avoided online gaming to this point.

The Conundrum Of Coincidence

Is it a coincidence that I like this post? Perhaps it’s the face that Mike mentions paranoia (the mental state, not the game)? I’ve tried to use coincidence in the past within my games and it always comes off as heavy handed. Perhaps I’m not being subtle enough? Perhaps I need to tie some threads together better and let others fly loose? I’m not sure, but this post certainly gave me food for thought that my brain is still digesting.

Giving D&D Zombies some bite

I love this post quite a bit because I’ve done this before. I’ve taken “normal” undead and crammed them full of new and unusual powers. Everyone seems to expect the “flame-wreathed demon” to have some form of fire ability, but drop that on to a zombie (or, perhaps, the flames don’t appear until the zombie is at half HP), and suddenly the zombie is a “scary thing to be run from.” I love taking various templates and add-on abilities and putting them on the mundane things in the world to amp up the level of uncertainty in the players’ minds. This works especially well with the more experienced gamers at the table. They think they know everything, but they really don’t recall seeing the “flaming, giant zombie” in the book before.

Starting a New Player

My approach for a new player coming into an established group/campaign is similar to what Tim does. I ask them for their gaming experience and how long it’s been since they’ve gamed. I also ask them what they enjoyed about past games and what they didn’t. Lastly, I ask them about their favorite character. All of this gives me a flavor of what they’ve done and what they like in a game. I don’t drastically change things to cater to the new player, but there will be subtle shifts of stuff to get the player more comfortable with the gaming group.

Resting in my DF Game

Peter makes some good points here about allowing (or not) resting in his games. I pretty much run resting in my games the same way. I also might adjust how much I interrupt the PCs rest based on the players attitudes at the table. If they’re getting used to “no rest for the wicked” gaming, I’ll give them a full night of relaxation. This will actually put them on edge because they’ll meta-game and wonder what I have in store for them that they’ll need their full complement of spells/HP/FTG/whatever. Shifting the pace around helps keep the players engaged and trying to guess at what’s coming up behind the next closed door.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: Tuesday Edition: 2015-10-13

It’s the 703rd anniversary of the destruction of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon by the order of King Philip and his lackey Pope Clement V. Yeah. I’m that much of a history buff, and love all things Templar-related (truth and mythos). I figured today is a good day to clear out my bookmarks for this irregular column and drop a post with some comments.

Getting Into Character pt 1: NPCs

Mike offers up 7 techniques for getting into your NPCs heads and presenting them in a manner that engages the players, makes the world more interesting, and keeps things moving along. I especially want to call out the subheader, “The Difference between GMing and Playing.” This is one of the hardest things to do with NPCs. I’m not going to steal Mike’s thunder by summarizing the section here. You gotta click through and see what he has to say.

Tips for Game Masters Who Want to Welcome New Players

Clave, a guest over at Gnome Stew, has four points about how to treat players in general, and especially new players. You’re inviting someone into your hobby, your imaginary home! Treat them like a house guest expects to be treated (even if you’re gaming in the library’s basement). Clave hits on some important points, especially the patience one. You, as the GM, know the rules inside and out. You weren’t born with that knowledge, and neither was the new player. Allow them to learn the rules at their own pace.

Getting Into Character Pt 2: PCs

Mike has a multi-step process laid out before us on how to focus the spotlight on a PC as part of a story arc. It’s a really good plan, but I’m going to speak up here and say something that I hope supports Mike’s article. When spotlighting one PC, don’t let the rest of the group fall into utter darkness. I’ve made this mistake. I found a wonderful story line for one PC and managed to tie in several other characters while I was at it… except for one. I just couldn’t find a way to bring her into the fold, and when I made my weak attempts to do so, she gave a little bit of resistance. The tenuous reach I had into her PC broke with each little mental struggle. In the end, she “tagged along” for the adventure with her PC, so she could at least roll some dice while at the table. Now that I’ve written this, I’ve come to realize this same player has done this several times with me and other GMs around the table. So, I’m going to sum up with a point to the players reading this: Go read Mike’s article and think of things from the GMs point of view to make their life a little easier.

Bored Soldiers, Bandits, and Brigands quote

The only soldier more ineffective than a bored one is a bribed one. I love this post from Peter because it shows what bored soldiers have historically turned into… Not lazy. Not ineffective. Not fat slobs. They turned their martial training and organizational skills to banditry. In effect, they bribed themselves with loot they found off of other people in the countryside. Thanks for this post, Peter! It’s fed some ideas into my brain for upcoming encounters along the road outside the fort the group is using for a home base. <Smithers>Excellent….</Smithers>

A Long Overdue Catch-Up Post

I’ve been reading and saving links for the past two weeks. I have ten of them in the backlog. It’s time to clear that backlog. (PS: I already have two links for this week ready to go, so here’s to hoping Saturday allows me to make a post.)

Going down to the pub: Mike’s Fantasy Tavern Generator Pt 4

The first three parts of this series concern themselves with what’s inside a fantasy tavern. This post helps with some of the descriptors and attachments that with those items.

Oh, the prettiness of maps!

Dyson has it right when he calls these maps pretty. They certainly are! Make sure to scroll to the bottom and check out the 3D-ish effect of the overlays on the final photo. It’s fantastic!

The Backstory Boxes – Directed Creativity

In my junior year of high school, my English teacher did a free association writing exercise at the start of each class. I did some very powerful writing in that 5-8 minutes at the start of each class. I really enjoyed it, and it allowed me to get thoughts out of my head that really shouldn’t belong in anyone’s head. I’ll admit that I’ve only done a little free association since that time. Mike’s approach here starts with some organized free association, and then turns everything into a very cool approach at typing together disparate thoughts and ideas into a very cool thing. I may see about creating some homemade booklets from folded, printed graph paper and staples to carry around with me when I need some idea generation to happen.

[Friday Map] A Green and Pleasant Map

This is a cool view of a garden area. I love the softness of the plans, the edges to the stairs, and the overall feel of getting lost among the trees and bushes… while waiting for something vicious to leap out at me.

Why Fan Outreach Is Critical to D&D’s Success

Marty makes some fantastic points about fan outreach. WotC seems to be withdrawing into a secret cave that new gamers must seek out and explore on their own to discover the wonder of Dungeons and Dragons. On the flip-side, Paizo has a huge community outreach for Pathfinder, and the wonderful Steve Jackson Games has always had their MiB crew to extend the friendly hand to new gamers. Let’s face it. We’re not going to be gaming forever. Eventually, each of us will cease gaming (for me, it’s when I cease breathing) for a variety of reasons. If there’s no one left to carry the torch on, the thing we love in our lives will be dropped to the ground and die a sputtering death. I don’t think any of us want that.

Putting the MAGIC back into ‘magical items’

I love the ideas put forth in this article because it’s what I try to do in my games. It’s not always successful. Some players are cool with the steeped lore and mysterious past of an item. Others just wanna know how it’s going to help them kill the next ogre they run into. I’ve rarely been the recipient of a “special” magic item with backstory and history. I’ve handed out quite a few in my time, and some were game changers. The rest were stat blocks with a “cool story” attached. I should send this article to my players and have them read it. Maybe that’ll change things?

Draw Another Pint: Mike’s Fantasy Tavern Generator Pt 5

Mike’s put together a post to assist folks with general layout, design, and positioning of what’s been generated before in the earlier installments (see above) of this series. This is a pretty good approach at tying it all together. It’s way detailed, though, and unless a tavern is going to be the focal point of a series of adventures (or campaign), I’m not sure I’d go through this much work. It is very cool, though.

Planning Well

This is more of a Gnome Stew post targeted to players (rather than GMs, which is their norm), but GMs can garner some wisdom from it as well. This is the kind of post every player needs. I know for a fact that my current group suffers from analysis paralysis. They can’t make up their minds to save their butts, and I always have to tell them “tick tock” to remind them that they’re usually on a clock to get things done. Wandering monsters anyone? Yep. I do it all the time, and it’s not random. They’re there to press the adventure forward. This is another link headed to my players’ inboxes.

What is An Adventure?

In this post, Mike delves deep into the concept of the word “Adventure” and tries to determine what it really means when the PCs “go on an adventure” or “have an adventure.” He’s right. It’s a nebulous term in pretty much every game book out there. There are assumptions made on the publishers’ side of things, and they’re hoping the players (and GM) can instinctively agree with the unwritten words in the book on what “adventure” means. It generally works out, but I wonder if many of the “I quit this group” moments I’ve had could have been avoided had there been a more clear-cut definition of “adventure.” Thanks for the great post, Mike!

Game Mechanic Preferences: Target Numbers & Formula vs. Tables

I’m with Peter. I prefer target numbers to tables. There’s a reason “Rolemaster” is called “Chartmaster” by so many people. Some really cool results could come from the long sequences of die rolls, but it always took forever (and a very long pause in the game) to determine what the single swing of a sword did to the target. However, if target numbers are hard to calculate (see Space Opera, the really fun game for the mathematically insane), then you may as well fall back to tables.


As many of you (yeah, all 6 of you that read this site these days), have noticed…. I’ve been horrible lately with getting Friday Faves out on a Friday. It’s usually Saturday or Sunday (with the occasional Monday) before the list and comments get published.

There are so many worthless reasons for this, but I’ve done some checking of my schedule. I think (maybe, hopefully), shifting “Friday Faves” to “Sporadic Saturday Sweetness” will do the trick to actually make it less sporadic.

So…. Starting this week, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll tag them in the “Friday Faves” category because when I renamed “Friday Five” to “Friday Faves”, I was hit with so many 404 errors it made me realize I probably blew up quite a few peoples’ RSS feeds and probably lost some readers in the process. I’ll also be tagging them in the “Sporadic Saturday Sweetness” category as well.

Here’s to hoping that this subtle shift in my schedule will allow me to continue the posts without losing all hope.

Friday Faves: 2015-09-11

Say a prayer for lost souls today. You know why. If you’re not sure why, then I bless your youth and hope the history books teach you the truth, not a slanted message.

It’s been a light week of posts that I spotted this week. I was also uber swamped at work this week, so that could have led to me missing a few things. Here are the things for the week!

The Lorica Project – setup and trials

This is sweet armor and made for a really good reason. I love the craftsmanship Douglas put into what he’s making for his daughter. As a point of practicality, I’ve worn leather Lorica Segmentata before in the SCA. The second-hardest blow I’ve ever received in all my days (decades, 3 of them) of doing martial arts happened on a day I wore a borrowed set of Segmentata. The shot slammed into my ribs. I saw it coming about 0.25 seconds before it hit me, and I honestly had no chance to do anything about it but mentally brace. The impact of the sword against my ribs… well… Let me put it this way. I had just enough time to guess that I was going to come away with 2-3 broken ribs. Instead, I came away with a small surface bruise. The armor is highly effective, very light (for what it does), and is quite comfortable.

The Spotted Parrot (and other establishments)

More excellent tables to roll on for determining more details about a tavern. Great work, Mike! I can see so many fantastic possibilities pouring out of these. I especially love the barman personality profile portion of things. Excellent!

Tales From The Front Line: Critical Absences – an unresolved question

Mike has a slew of great suggestions here for how to handle the logistics of an absent player, but with a present character. There are so many ideas in there, I’m not sure which one I like best. An idea that Mike tossed out was to ignore critical hits and fumbles. I could see that working… Treat the worst roll as a “almost worst roll” (so if ‘1’ is the worst, treat all natural 1s as a ‘2’). On the flip side, you have to balance the game and not steal the spotlight of the players that are actually there. Treat the best roll as the “almost best roll” (so if a ’20’ is the best, then treat it as a ’19’.) However, the convert-20-to-19 breaks down for things like D&D 3.0/3.5, Pathfinder, etc. where some weapons threaten a critical based on a number other than just 20. (e.g.: Longswords threaten on a 19 or 20). In this case, I would just allow the player running the character to add up the numbers like normal, but ignore the possibility of a critical success. There are plenty of other ideas in his post, so make the with click to see what he has to say!

[Friday Map] The Ruined Ha’Tak Temple

Sweet map! I love the details of the crumbled portions of the outer walls. Well done!

Friday Faves: 2015-09-04

I’m actually typing this intro up early, and had the comments (more or less) done as I found the links during the week. It feels good to be ahead of schedule. Tonight is game night. We’ll be doing board/card games instead of RPGs because of two members dropping out and a third being absent for the session. It’ll be good to play some board/card games as a brain refresher, though.

Now on with the links!

Everything’s a Ritual if you have the time

I’m not linking to this because Douglas and I drive the same car (mine’s the STI variant, not sure if Douglas’s is as well). Like him, I do gobs of thinking (and listening to podcasts) while in the car on my lengthy, daily commute between home and the Day Job. The reason I’m linking to this is I really like the idea of turning the casting of a spell into a ritual to preserve a spell slot. I would even go so far as to allow a caster access to any spell within their allowed list, even if it wasn’t memorized. I agree with the chart near the end of the post as far as timings. I might see about incorporating this into my Pathfinder game.

Don’t Think Too Big!

Stargazer makes some fantastic points here. Start with what matters to the PCs and then grow out from there. If a PC was involved in the Eurowars from 25 years ago, then pinpoint exactly how and put the development of the rest of the wars aside. My step-father is a Vietnam war combat veteran. I have quite a few friends that are combat veterans of both Iraqi/US wars, and in the anti-Taliban efforts in Afghanistan. In talking with all of them, they didn’t care much about the politics or history that got us involved. Sure, they were aware of it, but when hot lead is flying, you can give a crap about the 30 history of French-IndoChina that eventually dragged the United States into conflict in Vietnam. If the world building (or city building or back story or whatever) matters to the PCs, it’ll matter to the game.

The Palomino and Fox (and other establishments)

Holy detailed tables, Batman! This is a great set of generators for ideas for taverns, the contents, the qualities, the walls, and so much more. I’m very tempted to crack open my considerable software engineer skills to automate the various tables into a quick-n-easy to use web page. (Of course, before I did so, I’d request Mike’s express permission.) I do want to add one thing that’s true of all random tables. They are idea generators. Sometimes, silly things can come out of those dice+table combinations. If there contradictory results, strange results, silliness, or just plain “huh?” coming out of randomization, think about it. Sometimes you keep the results because the story around those results are just too awesome to walk away from. Sometimes, you abandon what the dice “demand” and just come up with some tweak or change to the results to fit what you need. It’s all idea fodder, not a holy text to be followed.

Building Fantasy Cities

Thoth breaks down the formation and structure of cities quite well. This is one of the most thoughtful posts I’ve seen about cities in a long time. Good work!

[Tuesday Map] ReQuasqueton

Dyson has a fantastic way of merging in the “human built” sections and the naturally occurring segments into single maps that sparks the imagination. Very good work on this one!

The Secret Arsenal Of Accents

Mike opens this post with the question, “How do you work accents into your speech patterns for voicing NPCs?” My answer: I don’t. I can’t do an accent to save my life. Ain’t happenin’. However, I do change speech patterns within my own natural “American*” accent. I’ll slow things down, draw out certain words, talk real fast, go “Southern Boomhauer**“, or change things up a bit. I can do a decent Yoda, I guess. Mike calls this approach “Locking Phrases” which is exactly how I approach things. I don’t mangle every bit of speech. I just pick out some parts to change up to give the dialogue some easy identification. Click through and read on for more advice from Mike on this wonderful topic.

* — I’m originally from Texas, but have lived in Montana, and now resided in Colorado. I’ve worked very hard to lose my “southern twang” for a wide variety of reasons. Most people guess that I’m from Chicago (been there once), Arizona (never been there), northern California (been there a few times for work), and so on. In other words, my natural “accent” is “American”.

** — Hit this WIkipedia article if you have no clue what I’m talking about.