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!
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!