Going Dark… For a While

Hey all,

I’ve been overwhelmed with too many projects, tasks, ideas, and needs for myself and my family for about a month now. That’s resulted me in going dark in a few different venues. I just hit my RSS reader where I had 100+ RPG-related articles to read. With great sadness, I had to scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Mark All Read.”

I need to learn to stop volunteering for tasks and projects. I need to learn to say “no” to certain things.

Until I build up those skills, I have commitments outside RavenousRPG to fulfill. There are quite a few things I’m cutting out of my life. Some of them are temporary. Some them are permanent.

This blog is one of those things I’m “going dark” on.

Will I return? I don’t know just yet. I need to see how things evolve in my life between now and several months from now. I’ll know by the end of April for sure, maybe sooner.

Thanks to everyone out there that’s read and supported me. I feel like complete shit-beast for letting everyone down, but it’s gotta be done for now.

If you don’t mind, please leave the blog in your RSS feeds. You never know when I’m going to come out of the darkness.

I hope everyone stays well and happy while I’m stepping away from RPG blogging for a while.

Reset

I always get down this time of year. My seasonal affective disorder is hitting me especially hard and is pushing me toward clinical depression. Don’t worry. I’m aware of what’s going on. So is my health care professional. We’re keeping close tabs on things and adjusting medication as needed.

The point of me telling you that is this: I haven’t posted here this year because of the depression. I’ve collected the links. I’ve read the stories. I’ve thought about comments, but when it comes time for me to actually put together a post, I can’t seem to gather the mental energy necessary to do so. It’s part of the depression.

I’ve also been stressing out over not posting, which leads to more ill thoughts.

All of this is has led me to reset things. I just deleted over 20 bookmarks for articles I wanted to link to from here. I’m resetting back to a baseline where I can hopefully keep up with things. I’m not promising anything at the moment. Things here might be on hiatus until March. It depends on my mood, which is largely out of my control at the moment because of how my brain works.

Don’t worry, though. I’m not suicidal from the depression. I just can’t seem to shake the “down in the dumps” and lack of energy I’m feeling lately. For those of you that know me on Twitter, Facebook, or in real life know that I’m struggling with things, but still keeping fairly busy. This helps me mood, but I’ve come to realize some things need to give, and this blog always seems to be the “giving point” in my life.

If I get a chance, I’ll see about doing a Saturday post… honestly, it won’t happen until Sunday at the earliest. I have a Friday night Pathfinder game I’m running this week and a local con is going this weekend, so I’ll be at the con all of Saturday.

Thanks for your understanding and sticking with me.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2015-12-28

Yep. Two weeks since my last post. I love supporting the blogs I link to, but with as random as I post, I sometimes wonder why I do this? I need to start generating more content for this site, but it’s just enough of a time crunch to prevent me from actually pulling the trigger on the “more content” action.

Ah well….

Time for some links!

Oddities Of Values: Recalculating the price of valuables

Mike has a post full of great information on valuables, weights, volumes, and scarcity. It wraps up everything that goes into the “How many GP can I carry?” question. This is a very good analysis of what’s going on with carrying all that cashola around. Having said that, I probably won’t use much of this since I hand wave encumbrance in my games unless someone is getting to the “really stupid levels” of carrying too much crap. I’ve only had one player abuse this allowance in all my years of gaming, so I think I have a pretty good track record of reasonable players.

WHAT A VIEW

What? GMs get to be players from time-to-time? Nah. Wait. Yeah? They do? Wow. Sorry for the sarcastic tone, but it’s been ages since I’ve been a player in more than a one-shot thing. I think I do need to jump to the “outside” of the screen more often to refresh my batteries, get a better perspective, and figger out what I want out of a game. This will allow me to feed that back into the games I run.

Wait… Why Exactly Do We Use Hex Maps?

I’m with Matthew on this one. I love open area maps over gridded or hexed maps for overland travel. The Forgotten Realms Gray Box Set came with a sheet (or two?) of clear plastic with hexes on them. This is one of my most treasured items in all of role playing. It allows me to build out a open area map with no markers, and then put those sheets to use. I can spin them, adjust them, and flip them around to measure distances in a more accurate manner. It works very well.

A Campaign Mastery 750th-post Celebration

Congratulations, Mike! 750 posts is absolutely incredible! For this post, Mike reached out to folks to acquire some quick in-n-out advice on gaming. I spotted it on Twitter, and jumped on the bandwagon to throw in my two cents. Go check out the post. There are gobs and gobs of excellent pieces of advice in there.

Hitting the Wall

Angela and I have “hitting the wall” in common. Her wall centered around scheduling issues. Mine wrapped around the fact that the group doesn’t work as a team. They’re just a bunch of powerful individuals that happen to be in the same place at the same time. Back to Angela’s post. I also have scheduling issues with my group. I don’t mind if people need to bail, but I hate the email coming in on the day of the game saying, “I won’t be there tonight. I leave in 20 minutes for a vacation to France.” What? Did you make the plans last minute? If you knew about the vacation, why didn’t you bring it up weeks (months?) ago? Now the plans I made for tonight’s game are totally trashed. Thanks. What I’m trying to say is this: Be considerate of your fellow players and do your best to hold up your end of the commitment to the game.

Poking at Lingering Wounds

Very few systems handle lingering (or even permanent) wounds well. The old World of Darkness did this with some decency. Fate Core does a fantastic job at this. As does GURPS, Hero System, and (from what I remember of my reading of the rules) Savage Worlds. I’m certain there are others out there with this baked into the core mechanics. I love this part of gaming because you can have the players kill the Big Bad, but limp away at the end…. or maybe they flee the Big Bad, but do so in a twisted and mangled manner. That’s just good storytelling there.

Transferable Skills From Bottom to Top and back again

I love games with long skill lists. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s that I love “skill based games” over “power based games.” With a power/ability, things are pretty well defined as to what the power can do. It’s all spelled out in the rulebook and bending/breaking that definition can unbalance or mess up a game. With skills, however, the application of a particular line item on the character sheet is really only limited by the player’s imagination and their ability to convincingly state that skill X should lead to action A, B, and G. Again, that’s how storytelling evolves around the table.

Wrong but fun? Is that okay?

The only “wrong” way to play a game is the non-fun way. Throw out rules you don’t like. Add new ones you do. Twist things around until the fun oozes from every minute of the time around the table.

I see with my little mind’s eye: The power of Visualization

In my mind, this post applies more to my fiction writing than it does to my gaming. It certainly applies to both, but the 6 steps Mike outlines in going from a concept to a visual are excellent! Thanks for breaking the idea into something my brain could ingest and do something with.

Megadungeon Best Practices XV: Themes, Knowledge, and Links

This is an excellent post here. I think the thing that turns me off about megadungeons is the fact that some (most?) of them are nothing more than a series of rooms, halls, stairs, and levels designed to set up “kill or be killed” encounters. Meh. Not fun. However, if extra work is put into themes, knowledge about the levels that could help (or hinder) the party, and linking it to the outside world, then the megadungeon can come off as epic!

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2015-12-12

Hey!

It’s been about three weeks since I’ve put one of these up.

Yeah.

That sucks.

I apologize.

Since I have quite a bit of typing ahead of me for commenting on the links, I’m going to jump right in!

I hope you enjoy my thoughts and the links….

Stat Yourself As A Character To Combat Anxiety

I’ve statted myself out in a variety of systems. Probably more than I care to remember. It’s fun. It’s enlightening if you’re honest about it. I never thought about it as a preventative action for avoiding anxiety, but I can totally see how that can work. When I read this post, I went in search of my GURPS (4th edition) version of myself, but couldn’t find the sheet anywhere. I remember being 350+ points in the end. Mainly from knowledge and similar skills. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and the amount of trivia (but little relating to pop culture) in my head reaches staggering levels. Useful in a dungeon? Probably not, but it landed on the sheet anyway.

The Shape Of Strange: Portals to Celestial Morphology Pt 3 of 4

I’m incorporating more portals into my current Pathfinder game, so these posts are especially timely for me. Mike adds five more ideas to how to make portals more interesting. He does an especially deep dive into “Variable-Difficulty Portals” and it’s given me plenty of food for thought and plenty more ideas as to how I can use these portals for the betterment of my campaign. Thanks, Mike!

Troy’s Crock Pot: When to Shaddup, Already!

Hearing a GM drone on about details of an area, NPC, world, table, magic item, tavern setting, or whatever is about as fun as listening to a sixth-grader recite the Gettysburg Address. The first minute or so is captivating because it’s cute or fun, but after that…. Well… the GM turns into an adult from the Peanuts cartoons and all the players hear is “WahWahWahWah.” The one major thing I have to add is from my fiction writing. If a detail is not personally important to a character in the scene, then it’s not important at all. When dropping details about something, make it personal to the players at the table. This will keep them engaged, interested, and even eager to find out more.

Blog Carnival: The Unexpected Reality

Ooohh… What a neat concept. Hide the metagame rules about an effect in the world until you drop the effect on the players. This will completely surprise them. I’ve never thought about this before. Mike’s got it right, though. There are some dangers to using this technique. Several of them even. However, they can be overcome. How? Well, I guess you’re just going to have to read the excellent article.

How Do You Learn?

Angela asks the question, “How many RPGs have you run without having played it first?” My answer: More than I can count. Too many, probably. However, I always make sure to have gone through the character creation process 2-3 times before launching into a game session “cold” with the players. By understanding how to create different characters, it forces me to at least read various sections of the book before trying to adjudicate the game. It’s still rough, but it can be done and done well. Improv is your friend.

When you roll the dice, make it matter

Douglas has a great article on making the dice matter. I’m certain I’ve told this story here before, at one point in a fantasy campaign a highly trained assassin (PC) tracked down a servant  (NPC) who had openly insulted the king in front of the entire court. The player, with a gleam in his eyes, found the servant and declared he was going to attempt to assassinate the servant. Before he could reach for his dice, I told him to describe, in as much detail as he wanted, how the servant dies at his hands. No dice needed. The servant wasn’t a threat (even remotely) to the assassin, so the dice rolling would have bored the rest of the players and played out the inevitable assassination. By allowing the player to control the narrative, he still had his fun with the servant’s death.

Feel The Burn: Portals to Celestial Morphology Pt 4 of 4

I love these last five ways to twist around a portal to make it more interesting. I’d never considered the “gaining energy in transit” concept before, and this makes great sense (and can lead to great fun!) I have use a portal before (activated with a button push) that cleaned the character of grit and grime before transit. The party watched in horror as the first character pushed the button and a pile of dust was left behind. I ask the player that pushed the button first to leave the room. I stayed with the group and asked what they did. Like good, bold adventurers they declared their friend to either be dead (in which case they would join him by pushing the button) or alive and in trouble (in which case they would rescue him by pushing the button). It was a good moment in my role playing history. Even though the group’s pause was brief, it made them stop and think before lining up to push the button.

[Tuesday Map] Hejmarko – Jando’s Arch

The top-down view of this settlement is pretty cool, but when you throw in the side view… Wow! Amazing work, Dyson!

THE DRY RUN

Like I said with Angela’s post above, I “dry run” with a new system by creating characters. If I have time (rare) I’ll run those 2-3 characters through a combat. Sometimes, I have the characters fight each other. If I have a bestiary or need of testing monster abilities, I’ll group them together, find some goblins (or other appropriate minor monsters) and throw them together in a mass melee to see how things go down. This does take quite a bit of time (at least an hour, sometimes more), but it helps me get mentally prepared for things. It also allows me to become familiar with the “stat block shorthand” systems use, and this speeds up the actual game play when the time comes.

Sequential Bus Theory and why it matters to GMs

I love how Mike can take something as innocuous as waiting for the bus to have his mind dive into how bus scheduling really works (vs. the flawed theory) and then take it into the gaming world and apply it to how GMs can make some long-term plans for their campaigns. I guess I’ve been GMing for so long (30+ years) that I do this kind of thing instinctively. Having Mike lay it out in such a clear manner really reinforced my approaches and gave me some new ideas to chew on.

The very-expected Unexpected Blog Carnival Roundup

Mike his own link galore post from the Blog Carnival. I’ve found some new RPG blogs to follow! Yay! Thanks for the link list, Mike.

Making GURPS More Approachable.

Rob has a fantastic post that breaks down Savage Worlds, Fate Core, and GURPS and how they (briefly) compare, and what GURPS can do to regain its top spot as a generic RPG system. This isn’t all in the hands of Steve Jackson and his crew, though. GMs have a role in this as well. If you’re looking to grow a GURPS group, you owe it to yourself to read through this post to see what you can do to make GURPS work well for your group.

Ask The GMs: The GMs Help Network

Looking for online resources to help you become a better GM? Need someone (outside your RPG group) to bounce ideas off of? Looking for an advice network? Well, Mike has a fantastic breakdown and list of many of the awesome resources the Internet can provide. Since you’re reading this, I’m assuming you have regular Internet access, so this post is for you!

[Friday Map] Temple of the Snake

I love this map! The winding hallway central to the map evokes serpentine imagery. That, in my opinion, makes this more of a work of art than a usable map. Don’t get me wrong, though! This is a great map that’s perfectly usable, but there’s something evocative about how things are laid out. Well done!

Backlog and Announcement

First, a note about the link backlog:

I’ve been busy prepping for a budget meeting for a non-profit I’m president of. That meeting happened last night. Things went well. We have money. We’re going to spend it on educating people. Life is good.

Unfortunately, this meant that for the past 2-3 weeks, I’ve not really had time to throw together a post. I’ve been saving links, though! At current count, I have 13 links to write up comments for. I hope to get that ball rolling today and get a post out on Saturday. From the looks of my calendar, I’ll be able to hit that target. From there, I’ll be able to stay on top of things until the next something or other rears its ugly head to consume my life.

Second, a note about my identity:

When I first started RavenousRPG in 2009, I had a tyrannical director who did her best to micro-manage the 40+ people under her umbrella. This included tracking their online activities, accounts, and (more or less) stalking her employees online to ensure they put in their 65-90 hours a week (not a joke) without being distracted by non-work concerns… even during their minimal off hours.

This meant I went under the name “Hungry” when I launched the site to attempt to hide my gaming efforts from her prying eyes. Yeah. Anyone with access to “whois” information on domains (which is anyone with half a brain) can find out my real name, address, etc..

To make a long story short, I fell into the habit of using “Hungry” with regards to my RPG online presence. My days with that job are long over, so I’m dropping back to using my name for this site, and pretty much everything else I do. I’m not going to go back and edit posts. That’s insanity. However, you’ll see me using my name, “J.T. Evans” from here on out.

Feel free to track me down on Facebook or Twitter if you’re so inclined. You can also find out more about me and my writing on my personal site. For a brief moment, I was tempted to merge my personal site and RavenousRPG, but I don’t think I have the time/energy to do that. This means my writing stuff will remain at the personal site, and the role playing stuff will stay here.

For those of you sticking with me through the lack of posts and the poor content, I thank you. I’m hoping to shift some things around in my life to make more time for reviewing games, not just blog posts.

We’ll see how that turns out, eh?

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.