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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.

SESSION ORGANIZATION: BREADCRUMBS

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!

Knockout

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.

Enjoy!

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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Friday Faves: 2014-08-22

August 22nd, 2014

Lots of GenCon news this week. I barely make it to conferences and conventions (there is a difference) in my own area, so I tend to blank out the GenCon (and others) news, so I don’t get jealous. That’s why there’s no links to the GenCon greatness.

Apparently, there is also a release of some new RPG product from Wizards of the Coast. I have negative interest in this product because of the previous version. I was burned. Burned bad. I dropped close to $400 on that piece of crap RPG that claimed the same name as one of my favorites. I just kept hoping that the “next book” would “make things better.” It didn’t. Each book made things more and more like a video game, not a tabletop role playing game. I won’t make the mistake of spending money on this version. It looks like to even play that game at its base level (PHB, DMG, and MM), the GM has to drop $150. Ouch. No thanks. Not when Paizo makes Pathfinder at $50 for everyone at the table (GM included) plus another $40 for the Bestiary. That’s $90 vs. $150 as a starting point. I also happen to love Pathfinder, so I’m not about to drop another $150 into WotC’s pocket just to see if their most recent version is better. They get enough of my money from Magic: The Gathering as it is.

Okay. Phew. I feel better. Now you know why you won’t see links relating to GenCon (or other conventions) or to the newest (and most expensive) pile of steaming crap from Hasbro Wizards of the Coast.

On with the links!

Shades Of Suspense Pt 1 – Eight Tips for Cliffhanger Finishes

I suck at cliffhangers. I can’t seem to do them right in my writing. I certain miss opportunities to have them happen in my games. It’s just not how my brain is wired. I have to put special thought, consideration, effort (loads of effort), and some luck to use in order to nail a cliffhanger well. I have a buddy in my fiction critique group that just hammers home with a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter (and sometimes at a scene break). There are also plenty of authors out there that do it well. I’ve improved my cliffhanger execution a wee bit by studying their works, but I still have a long way to go. Mike’s article really helped propel my education forward! If you’re in the same boat as me, drop a click on the link and check out his words of wisdom.

Troy’s Crock Pot: Patrons make sense

I love this idea. I’ve done this in several games. I guess I’m kind of doing it now in the Pathfinder game that I’m running. I especially love the “dirty money” angle. What are the PCs going to do about it? What if the bard finds out the truth before the paladin? What if it’s the other way around? There are so many angles to play with in a patronage-based game. Just don’t make the players feel like their characters are only tools of the patron. Give them free choice, and freedom of thought/action. Let them decide the how of doing the what the patron has asked for. Let them make the plans. The patron just gives a goal, a payment, a deadline, etc.. The PCs are going to have to figure out how to best make the objective happen.

Who rolls damage, the GM or the Players?

I’ve always been a firm believer of “the active person rolls the dice” unless it’s a resistance roll. In the case of the resistance (or saving) throws, it could be argued that the person now rolling the dice is actively resisting the effects that have potentially been placed on them. It just feels like, to me, that having the GM always roll damage steals some agency (and therefore, fun) from the players’ side of the screen. I once had a GM that tracked all PC HP in a D&D 3e campaign… even the players. As a matter of fact, when we leveled up, he rolled our HP gains for us, and wouldn’t tell us how many HP we had at max. That sucked. He piled on top of it that he wouldn’t tell us how much damage we actually took. He had some sort of scaled words (grazed, hit, slammed, massacred, etc.) that told us, in a general sense, how hard we were hit. It took the heroics out of the game and turned it into a thought process of, “Well, I’ve been hit twice, slammed three times, and massacred once. Time to run.” We leveled incredibly slow because most of the party spent their time running away from combats. It devolved into a Monty Python movie, really. Sorry to be so harsh on my disagreement, Peter, but there are some things that shouldn’t be taken from the players.

Alexander the Great looted 5000 tons of gold

Wow. 5,000 tons of gold in Great Alex’s hoard? That’s awesome. I love this little fact. Now that I know this, dropping a few thousand coins into a dragon’s hoard (or whatever the creature is) doesn’t seem too excessive. Very cool bit of information. Thanks for finding and sharing this!

Shades Of Suspense Pt 2 – Fourteen Types of Cliffhanger Finishes

Holy cow! Mike’s put his “Part 1″ (see above for link) of cliffhangers to great use, and come up with fourteen (fourteen!!!) ways to approach and implement suspenseful endings. Phew! I enjoyed every single one of them, and now I have some practical applications for how to hang the PCs from a cliff (or spider’s web or tall tree or floating castle). Of the fourteen items listed in the post, my favorite was “ominous sign” technique. That can easily get overplayed, but it feels… powerful… to me. Very powerful. Thanks for putting together the post, Mike!

Put In Place Your GMing Space

I’m going to twist this around a bit and talk about creativity space in general. I’m a writer. I’m a role player (typically the GM). I’m a software engineer. I would love to say that I do artwork, but I don’t have the natural talent to do it. Same thing with music. For my three main creative endeavors, I have to have a particular type of space within 3-5 feet of me. I need my own bubble of sound. It’s usually music. If I can, it’s through speakers, but if I’m in public (coffee shop, diner, whatever), it’s earbuds. Around me must be a mostly clean surface in case I need to fill it with a notebook, scrap of paper, pen, dice, whatever. I abhor moving item A, so I can put item B in its place. I should just be able to put item B down on a table/desk and put it to use. It really breaks my train of thought more than a person walking up to me to chat. I know. Weird brain gears grinding there, but that’s how I work. Lots of people try to emulate what I do, and I encourage them to try it. I also encourage them to try loads of different things. What works for me might not work for you. You’ll eventually migrate to how/where/when you work through a process of elimination.

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Friday Faves: 2014-08-15

August 15th, 2014

I never realized how many links I used to cull out of the list back when I limited things to just five links a week. I had quite a few links last week, and I’m up to seven eight nine ten links for this week!

Dice Shaming?

I have dice bits floating in an old dice bag from where I took a hammer to a pair of d6s that royally screwed me in a game of Battletech. I also have the d12 (and it’s d20 sibling) that I set on fire with lighter fluid and melted them into little puddles of plastic. When my current set of dice start to roll poorly, I don’t replace them or “dice shame” them on the Internet. I set them on the side table in my office and line them up so they are facing the same direction. Then I pull out the melted and fragmented bits of their ancestors for display. I’ll put the poor, maimed dice on the table and leave things like that overnight just to let my current generation of dice time to think things over. They tend to roll better for a few more months after this demonstration.

Stopping Short

If I can launch into the next adventure and get to a cliffhanger point, I’ll give it a shot. If I’m not sure I can get to such a point, I’ll drop hints to the players about what they might (or might not) face in a manner to get them excited for the next session. I always try to leave the players wanting more when we stop the session for the evening. Sometimes that happens well. Sometimes not. It’s a collaborative storytelling experience after all. I, as the GM, am not in full control of the pacing and timing of everything.

Some Myths of Megadungeon Play

Peter does a great job of dispelling some myths of running a megadungeon. I own every Undermountain (from Forgotten Realms) box set, appendix, extra, expansion, etc.. Even with all of this material in hand and things “pre-prepped” for me, it’s a ton of work to run a game in that setting. It’s lots of fun given the right group, but it’s still loads of research, reading, knowing what’s next, and being on top of your game.

New Rules of Fantasy #2: Action, Not Violence

Quinn over at Thought Crime Games has a very interesting and thought-provoking post about how violence may not be the best sort of action for your game. In most RPG books (if you remove the “spell description” section) the largest section of the book is probably dedicated to combat adjudication. This comes from our long and storied roots as a wargaming hobby in which that was the entire point of the game. As a fiction writer, I’ve learned there are different types of action beyond just two people trying to pummel each other. There is social “combat”. There are intra-party disagreements on the best (or most moral) course of action. There are chase scenes. Basically when two opposing forces meet, there is action, but this opposition doesn’t have to mean beating the brains out of one another. Though, combat is still a fun part of the game. :)

Troy’s Crock Pot: Signature monsters

I’ve done this a few times with great success. It can be the evil necromancer and/or lich and the undead horde. It can be the great dragon (or dracolich) and all of the dragonlings and/or dragon-kind roaming the lands. I once played in a campaign in which the GM loved throwing draconians (from Dragon Lance fame) at us. Some of them were grunts while others were shock troops. Having a theme to your story is a fantastic thing. Having a theme to the critters in your story can help out quite a bit as well.

Dungeon Trick Features: Sloping Passages

I hadn’ t thought about the 1:12 wheelchair ramp rule. Yeah. Those are very noticeable! Now I have to go back and rethink how I describe things. Also, is it really all that important that you hide the up/down travel to a group? I suppose in certain situations, it’ll work to increase tension or confusion, but as a general rule. No. I agree with Peter that it doesn’t factor into the enjoyment of the game all that much.

On the binding of Wounds – Everyday Healing For Pulp

Mike’s post is mainly focused on the Hero system, but he does bring it home at the end for gaming in general. He’s hit the nail on the head that Hero (and many other games) are either too deadly or not deadly enough. In one of my first forays into game design, it was impossible to kill someone (even with limbs hacked off) unless you reduced their chest or head location damage points to zero. Oops. I suppose I’d been playing too much Battletech those days and “mech damage” translated to “human damage” in the wrong way. Ah well… Design, playtest, and learn. My key take away from Mike’s post is that house rules are okay, so long as they are well thought out and fairly applied. They also need to be adjusted when flaws are found.

Characters to Grow Old With: Getting the Most Out of Your Pregens

My very first pre-gen character was a halfling thief in 1st Edition AD&D. A fellow was running a game in the back room of the FLGS. I must have been 13 or 14 years old. He had a whole stack of index cards, face down, on a table. Those were the characters we got to choose from, but we could only pull three at a time, and we had to pick one. The other two went back on to the table face down. I enjoyed that process of picking a character. I had so much fun with that halfling that I asked the GM if I could keep the index card at the end of the day. He smiled at my enthusiasm and told me to keep it. I ended up making him a fully-fleshed character for later games that me and my friends played. Today, many years later, I can’t remember his name, but I can remember how he would always use the larger characters as meat shields in combat. :)

Belkar on the Lurker Above

There just aren’t enough “trick monsters” these days. There are plenty with special powers, commanding presences, high HP, yadda, yadda, yadda. However, the true threat and fear of monsters in the “old days” (get off my lawn you kids!) was not what they could do during combat, but rather what special things they did to start combat, and possible end it before the players knew what hit them. I may have to dig up some of these older critters for the Pathfinder game I’m running. Muhahahaha!

Twelve Kingly Archetypes

The Land of Nod has a very in-depth article about the different kinds of kings. He has twelve of them. That’s right. An even dozen! Head on over and check them out. While you’re there see if you can make it a baker’s dozen in the comments.

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