Friday Faves: 2015-07-24

I’m actually on time this week with this post! You don’t know how incredibly happy this makes me. I took some advice Mike (of Campaign Mastery) gave me ages ago, and typed up comments as I found the links. This is a key factor that helped me stay on target for this week. That’s a good thing, too. The RPG blogosphere heated up this week with some really fantastic posts.

There’s quite a bit to chew on this week, so right into the links!

Does Post-Apoc need a sense of loss?

I agree with Peter on his answer to this question (hint: click through to see what he has to say in more detail). If a game is based around the destruction of something, then the PCs need to be, in some manner, attached to the thing that’s been lost. Perhaps they have a chance to regain/rebuild the thing that is now gone? I would hope so because this is the gleaming bit of chrome sticking out through the thick layer of rust of a post-apocalyptic setting.

Troy’s Crock Pot: Why does the dog bark II?

Troy throws some twists into the typical monster perceptions with his post. I’ve done this before. I’ve taken a gold dragon (that was once an ally of the group) and twisted his psyche when the mortal woman he loved died of old age. There was nothing to avenge. There was nothing that magic could do about the death of the elderly. The gold dragon completely lost his mind in his grief, and I put his insane rage in the path of the PCs. Much fun ensued.

Cinematic Combat Part 3 – The Absence Of Mechanics

First off, congrats on the one millionth page view! That’s awesome news. Secondly, thanks to Mike for the shout out to my comments in his article. Now on to my comments on the latest installment. Now that I’ve read the series, I guess I unconsciously do cinematic combat. If a situation arises where there is little-to-no danger to the characters involved, I ask the players to describe what happens in the sequence. After the situation is resolved, I tend to shift back to “normal” game mode, which usually relies heavier on the dice and math involved. Example: A highly-experienced, well-trained assassin’s master was insulted by a servant. The master subtly ordered the assassin to “tend to” the servant. The servant wasn’t anything special. Just spice and flavor in the game. When the assassin finally sneaked by the guards (requiring die rolls) and tracked down the servant, the player picked his dice back up. I told him to put the dice down and describe to me how he kills the servant. He did so in a grand and glorious fashion. That’s cinematic! Thanks to Mike for bringing clarity to the approaches and nuances of cinematic combat.

Three Game Book Writing Tips

This is brief, but on target, advice from Peter on what it takes to create game books. This advice also applies to writing fiction as well (though the outlining part is optional for some people.) There’s a “word” that is almost a mantra between me and my local writing circles: BICFOK. Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keys. If you’re not BICFOK’ing on a daily basis, you’re doing something wrong.

Why I Demand Character Generation Be Done at the Table

I agree completely with David’s assessment of doing character creation at the table, and his reasoning behind this requirement is very solid. I do have two exceptions, though. I’ll ask players to think about what kind of character they want to run once I feed them the genre, theme, setting, etc., but I won’t allow the actual build-out (or rolling of) a character until everyone is together and has agreed upon a cohesive group. The other exception is character replacement/addition mid-stream. Because the group is already together and (presumably) working well together, it’s possible for a player to make a character on the side and bring it into play. Here is where I have to trust my players to not do anything too disruptive to the flow of the party or story.

Convention Survival Tips – GM Edition

Angela has some fantastic advice on how to survive GMing at a con with your health and sanity intact. She’s spot on with everything she says here, but I go with a 3-2-1 rule, instead of a 6-2-1 rule. Sure, you want 6 (or more) hours of sleep when life is normal. However, at a con, I think that asking for 6 hours of sleep a night is a bit much. It’s only 2-4 days of your life. Get the most out of it! Get at least three hours of sleep while at cons. If you can manage more, fantastic! Also, go easy on the alcohol the night before you have to run The Big Game. I’m not saying completely abstain, but avoid getting completely schnockered at the bar.

Imperfect Imbalance – Personal Injury Law in RPGs

This is a highly informative post about the different aspects and phases of handling a personal injury situation and how it applies to RPGs. Some of the examples in there were from a fantasy setting. Take the “typical medieval fantasy” setting and throw in the concept of a personal injury lawyer… and I wonder if it’s anachronistic. Probably from the first time someone threw a rock and hit another fellow in the head with it, there has been some concept of “right the wrong.” I’m just wondering what the medieval equivalents of small claims court would look like, in detail. It’s a fun mental exercise, I guess, but not one I have time to run off and explore. Mike also brings up some points about superhero and futuristic societies where things can go horribly wrong in a very short period of time. If you think reading about personal injury is dry and boring, give Mike’s article a shot. It’s neither of those.

Suggested Readings for Running Fantasy Cities

Want to run an adventure (or campaign) completely in a city? Check out Chris’s reading list! It’s fantastic!

Never Look A Gift Orc In The Mouth

This is a great example of what GM improving at a con setting can get you and your players. Sure, you’re not always going to have that random orc wander up to your table, but when you do….

What Makes a Game Publishable?

In this post, Dave ponders the concept of what makes a game publishable. As I’ve never been on the “publisher side” of the gaming equation, I really have no idea. I suppose I could throw out some educated guesses based on what I’ve purchased in the past, but Dave’s post here pretty sums up (and then some) what my thoughts would be as well.

Fate Point Economy – Random thought

The style of Fate Point Economy Douglas is talking about is very close to the one used in TechNoir (which is a game I loved running while I had players interested in it). Basically, the players start with unlimited Fate Points, and when they spend them, the GM can use them by a mook, Big Bad Guy, NPC, whatever back at the players. This does change things up quite a bit, starting at character creation. If you’re going to give everyone infinite (or close to it) Fate Points, then the number of stunts and other specials the characters start with will need to be identical for game balance. Once past this hurdle… it’s not a half bad idea, and I may see about incorporating the concept in my Fate Core game to see how it goes.

Last Week’s Friday Faves: 2015-07-20

I’m finally getting around to posting this many days late. I can’t wait for my contract job to end at the end of this month! Nuf Sed Bout That….

On with the links!

Cinematic Combat Part 2 – Damage Mechanics

Woo Hoo! Damage and math all wrapped together in one post. This makes me a happy game designer as getting the crunchy bits balanced and “right” are one of the most exciting things I can do while making a new RPG. (Having said that, getting the flavor/feel/style/theme of the game is one of the most rewarding things.) Mike does a good dive not only into the math of the game mechanics (in a fairly generic manner), but he also touches on how this all can speed of the play of your game to allow for more “spare” time that can be used describing exactly how that damage affects the target character or creature.

[crafts] Crafting a medallion

More crafty crafterness from Matt. This time with medallions instead of maps! These look great, but it makes me wonder what you’d have to do to get yellows, blues, greens, etc. into your medallions without painting them after the fact? I wonder if food coloring would survive the baking process? Hrmmm….

Violent Resolution: And the Rockets’ Red Glare

Everyone loves a good explosion… unless you’re on the receiving end of it. Douglas does another deep dive into a handful of systems with regards to area effect weaponry and effects. After reading this one (and others in the series), I might have to pick up Night’s Black Agents to see what I’m missing there!

Aerial Maps and Your Game

This is a great idea. I’d never thought of scrolling to a random section of wilderness on Google Earth, snagging a screen shot, and then whipping out the handy GIMP to create some overhead views of maps. I might have to give this a swing sometime soon.

Traditional Interpretations and Rituals Of Culture

How do traditions get created? What do they mean? How have they changed over time? Are they still relevant? All great questions. The best one, for the purposes of this blog, is, “How do in-game traditions affect our storytelling of the events of the campaign?” Mike jumps into this topic feet first and comes up for air much later on. This is a great post and should be read by anyone that loves doing world building (either for fiction or gaming.)

Nature is Noisy

As a fiction writer, I have to use all of the senses I can pack into a story to really immerse the reader and bring the story home. A good GM can do the same with sensory details for the players to imagine their characters are experiencing.

Belated Friday Faves: 2015-07-11

Woo Hoo! Last night’s game as an utter success. We all had a blast (except for the player playing the fighter… but he was running on 2 hours of sleep and had been up for over 24 hours at the start of the game. Stupid Day Jobs.) Traps were triggered. Others were found and disarmed. Riddles were encountered, but none were solved (I was certain the bard spoke Draconian!) We all had a really good time.

I have some down time right now while getting an oil change, so I’ve put the polishing touches on the post and am getting it out the door.

However, you’re not here to listen to me chatter about my gaming session or my car maintenance, so I’m going to get on with the links. There are quite a few here this week.

Troy’s Crock Pot: Make it a hex-crawl summer

I’ve never liked the concept of “this hex is swamp” and “this hex is jungle,” but I understand the need for hexes for the ease of measuring distance and travel and placing markers and such. It’s a fine system, and it works. However, that’s not really the point of this article despite the title. Troy’s post can be applied to the “sandbox” as well. Basically, make sure there’s a reason the players are headed cross-country, maybe throw in a target for the travels, and toss out some fun new monsters while you’re at it!

Reading Tables, Not Rolling on Them

I love tables. Like Peter, I tend to read through them and use them for inspiration. If I can’t find something I really fall in love with (or too many things catch my eye), I’ll roll three times on the table and pick the one thing from those three that I like best. Then I’ll run with that idea for deeper thought and see where it takes me. Peter also has some links to some great resources, so check it out!

Cinematic Combat Part 1 – Attack Mechanics

When someone breaks out the statement, “Let’s play a cinematic game!” I always cringe. This (in my experience) usually equates to, “I want to play a character where the rules don’t apply to me!” *sigh* I know that’s not the case. However, it’s happened to me too many times that the phrase still hurts me. I guess when I try to limit someone’s actions with a reasonable obstacle or circumstance, the player response has been, “I thought this was supposed to be cinematic?” Ugh. Anyway…. Mike has a fantastic post that’s changing my mind about cinematic games and teaching me how to approach them. Since there’s a “Part 1″ in the title, I can only assume there will be future parts as well, and I’m really looking forward to them!

Violent Resolution – You’ve got to move it move it

Ya gotta move if you wanna get there. That about sums up movement in many games. Sure, it gets more detailed or technical than that for most games. Douglas drops a great breakdown of various systems on how movement works, is measured, and is limited. I’ve done the same maths he has done with Olympic sprinters and trying to figure out what a “reasonable” top-end speed for a human is, so that part of the post really made me happy.

[crafts] Aging paper for your games, part one
[crafts] Aging paper for your games, part two

I used to do crafts similar to these two posts when making handouts and maps (see previous mentions of handouts lasting 3 seconds… my maps were different), and the players loved it because of the “aged” effects I put on the paper. Matt’s taken the aging, preparation, drawing, and marking up of maps to a whole new level though! Go check out his two posts on the topic and learn some fantastic new skills.

The Power Of The Question-mark in RPG Plotting

I’ve always loved adventures that were written with questions in mind. This gave me, the GM, a level of agency in the execution of the game that a straight “scripted” adventure doesn’t. We always talk about the players having agency to make decisions that affect the game. We don’t want to take that away from the players. However, the GM needs some agency as well, and straight-up telling the GM that the NPCs/monsters will always do a certain action robs the GM of his/her agency. This is a good post from Mike along those lines, and I think it hits home more with me as a writer and game designer than a GM or player. Thanks for the info, Mike!

[Friday Map] Mapper’s Challenge II – The Deep Halls

Woo Hoo! Some fantastic (and HUGE) maps from Dyson. I especially love the level-based color coding he did to help clarify some of the things about the different layers of the map. Thanks for sharing that, Dyson.

Another Belated Friday Five…

I’m in my last meeting of the day, and am about to jet away from the Day Job to get on the road for my monthly Pathfinder game. This two-week-in-a-row occurrence has made me realize that I now have the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Friday evenings of every month books for role playing. This means I’ll most likely miss out on my Friday posts.

I’m going to see if I can find a better approach at these posts moving forward. If not, I may have to bounce these posts to a Saturday night when I’m normally working on my novels or something like that.

We’ll see how it goes.

Belated Friday Faves: 2015-07-04

Happy Independence Day to those of you in the United States. Be safe with those fireworks.

The holiday yesterday at work should have allowed me ample time to get this post up in time, but I spent a vast majority of the day with three friends playing D&D (version 3.5 for those that care), and it was a great time. Much fun was had throughout the day. However, the marathon gaming session (with a break for some grilled meats), ate up pretty much the entire day. That’s okay. The downtime from the stresses of Real Life and other responsibilities really helped me out!

Now on with the links for this past week!

 

Violent Resolution – Guns . . . Lots of Guns

Douglas is at it again with his comparisons of how various RPGs handle aspects of gaming. In this one, he takes on firearms. As expected, the GURPS section was the longest because that game has more details about firearms, bullets, and ranged combat than any other system I’ve come across. Of course, you don’t have to use all of those detailed things. They’re there for your enjoyment, not befuddlement. His breakdown of the various games he approaches is spot on, and really gave me some insight into how the rules wrap around the use of firearms.

Plunging Into Game Physics Pt 4: Better Campaigns Through Physics

Mike continues talking bout physics in gaming! Actually, this is his wrap-up post on the topic, and it’s a good one. The best part of this article, for me at least, was the “Campaign Consistency” section. I’ve house ruled before. We all have. Sometimes on the fly because those crazy players make hare-brained schemes that just aren’t quite covered in the rule book (these are the best times for me, BTW). This section of his post really helped solidify an approach and logic chain for me that will help me make better house rules and “on the fly” adjudications in the future.

Hot Button: The Moody Player

Walt has five great tips on how to handle that “moody player.” You know the guy/gal. They’re dragging down the fun everyone else is having through their attitude, grousing, and general grumpiness. I’d be willing to bet we’ve all been that player at some times. It happens to the best of us. Maybe by reading this article, you can self-identify and self-correct before it becomes a large problem for the others at the table.

D&D Firearms Damage – conversion musings

I’ve given a swing or two at doing something like this, and it’s always come out uneven, not quite on spot, and off in places. Douglas’s efforts here are much better than any I’ve seen in a long time. They’re also easy to understand how he got what he got, and how to put the rules to use.

A Helping Handout

Last week, I groused about my handouts not being all that helpful in the game because of lack of use by the players. Mike took my complaint to heart, and dropped this very helpful article into his blog. If you’re finding that your handouts don’t have the right punch or usefulness to the story being told, check out this article (and the one I linked to last week). Phil’s article from last week was very helpful in getting my thought train going. Mike’s article from this week is immensely helpful in drilling down into those ideas and assisting me in finding different purposes for handouts. Mike’s article reminded me of when I ran Top Secret S/I back in the early 1990s. I used handouts (dossiers, tactical maps [aerial and satellite image type stuff], photos of enemy agents) to good effect. Since then, I’ve mainly run fantasy-based games, and that’s where my handout usage falls short. Mike’s article has helped me realize the various purposes of handouts, and that’s given me some ideas for things to do with them in my fantasy games. Thanks for the great article, Mike! It’s just what I needed.

Friday Faves: 2015-06-26

This week has been filled with macros, formulas, pivot tables, and push Excel beyond its limits into “crash-every-thirty-seconds land.” It’s been rough on my mental energy, and I’m so looking forward to this weekend.

Of course, you’re not here to listen to me grouse about the Day Job. You’re here for some links!

… with comments this week. Woo Hoo!

Violent Resolution – As Three is to One

This post by Douglas breaks down morale in various games. I always thought having a “morale score” or something similar was a silly thing in the stat block. Should the GM be able to decide when the monsters surrender, flee, commit suicide, or fight to the death? This post breaks down a handful of games and how they handle this. Of this list, I have to say that Fate Core handles it (for NPCs/monsters and PCs) with the most elegant solution.

DF Secret Doors, secure doors, & my games

Want some cool/secret/special/interesting doors in your games? Look no further! Peter has a list for you! I especially love the door that only appears (no matter what you do) when you approach with the proper key. Good job!

Plunging Into Game Physics Pt 3: Tales From The Ether

More game physics from Mike! Don’t worry. There aren’t any formulae to memorize, math to learn, or experiments to perform. Well… that last one may not be true. Isn’t role playing an experiment at all times… on some level? Anyway, Mike ties physics into plot elements and vice versa. How do they affect one another, and what changes when physics changes? How does physics change when the plot shifts around? Can these two things feed off of each other? Why are you still reading my questions? If you want the answers, click through to the link above!

Lessons for D&D from the GoT season 5 finale

I’ve not read A Song of Ice and Fire (the name of the book series) nor have I watched Game of Thrones (the name of the TV series based on said books.) I want to read the books. Then I’ll watch the TV show. However, I will not read the books until George R. R. Martin finishes the last one. I don’t want to get done with what he has published thus far, and then wait another 1-3 years for the next book. I don’t have that good of a memory, so I’ll forget characters, plots, key events, etc.. It just won’t be a good experience for me. Having said all of that, I am not one of those people that feels Martin “owes” me a book a year. He’ll write quality work at his own pace. That’s fine. Now that all of that is off my chest…. This is a fantastic post that relates events in the TV show and how to tie them into gaming. It’s definitely a good post that gives great food for thought.

Getting Handy with GM Handouts

Handouts are awesome. I love them as a player. I hate them as a GM. I dislike making them. They take quite a bit of time to create, too much ink/toner to print, and the players admire them for all of three seconds before looking up at me with that “let’s roll some dice” gaze. If you’re on the other side of the handout fence from me (meaning: you like them), then check out Phil’s post regarding his approach at making them. It’s intrigued me enough that I’m reconsidering my dislike for them. Perhaps his approach will buy me three minutes (instead of seconds) of use out of the handouts.

Friday Faves: 2015-06-19

I have some seriously time-consuming plans for this weekend, and they start here in about an hour. This has been a crazy week of pivot tables, spreadsheets, database queries, and other eye-crossing messes at work, so I didn’t get a chance to do any comments during the week. I barely had a chance to read through articles.

I’ll be coming up for air sometime Sunday evening, but I didn’t want to make you wait until then for a post. Thus, we have links with no comments. I’ll probably come back by on Sunday and throw in an edit with some brief comments.

Here we go!

Plunging Into Game Physics Pt 2: Strange Mechanics
Pole Arms Through the Ages
Running Games For Kids: Some Tips and Tricks
FOCUSED REWARDS
A Vague Beginning
[Friday Map] Crypts & Tombs Beer Coaster Geomorphs

Friday Faves: 2015-06-12

What a great week of links! Tonight is my monthly Pathfinder game, so I’m scheduling this for release later tonight, but the post is being finalized earlier in the day. If I miss anything from later today, I’ll link to it next week.

Enjoy the links!

An overabundance of caution III; Fight them next time

Every time my players have retreated and stayed away for a lengthy amount of time, it’s never gone well for them. While they may come back stronger and more prepared, so are the Bad Guys. It’s rare for me to use non-intelligent “monsters” because giving my Bad Guys the ability to think their way out of a bad situation imposed upon them by the PCs makes for more interesting times. There are times when a “brute force” monster with limited intelligence come into play, but it’s pretty rare. Peter makes some great points and add additional insight into this concept in his post. I highly recommend it!

Violent Resolution – Time after Time

Douglas has a fantastic breakdown of time in various RPGs. However, the real meat of the article comes to fruition with the details about how to resolve time within a game system, encounter, event, etc.. It’s well written, thoughtful, and insightful. I love this post, and it’s given me food for thought for my own game development. I’ve done gobs of martial arts (armed and unarmed) during my life, and I know from personal experience that sub-second decisions can play out and resolve in a second, or less. However, I tend to stick with 10-second rounds for my games that I develop because there are many other things that can happen during a “round” and I want to allot for those actions. I tend to “hand wave” things a bit. That Judo throw that only takes 2 seconds to go from start to finish? Yeah. I “pad” the action by 8 seconds by describing a struggle between the two parties that ultimately resolves into a successful throw to the mat. I love GURPS, but those 1-second rounds are hard to get “dramatic” in because of the short time frame involved.

Dwellers in the Forbidden City – The City Map

This is an awesome map of the Forbidden City. If I had any plans to drag my current campaign into an underground setting, I’d be using this right away! As it stands, I’ve bookmarked it for later use.

We lost a great Paranoia GM

My heart goes out to Peter and his friend’s family. It’s hard to lose a friend. Especially one that impacted your life. It may seem a bit strange to see that difference someone made while playing a silly game like Paranoia, but it’s true. I’ve lost some gaming friends over the decades, and it’s hard. It’s almost like every character they played with you passed away as well, which adds to the loss. This is a great tribute to Peter’s friend, Ed. Running a game is no small or easy task. Running Paranoia and doing it well is doubly so. Fare thee well, Ed. I didn’t know you, but you sounded like a cool guy.

Plunging Into Game Physics Pt 1 – What Is a ‘Game Physics’?

One of my favorite software engineering books is from O’Reilly Press called, Physics for Game Developers. It’s on my shelf alongside AI for Game Developers. Both of those books are fantastic! While they are aimed at computer games, there are some lessons to be learned from them for RPGs and board games and such. I’m really looking forward to Mike diving into this same topic to see what he has to say about applying physics (and related topics) to RPGs.

Taking a Popular Setting and Making it Your Own

Running established settings with a group that knows the setting well is a challenge. However, to reduce that challenge exponentially, I always tell the group. You know the world. I know the world. Collectively, we’ll get it right most of the time, but this is a fun-house mirror reflection of the established world. We’re going to bend and mold it to our needs, so let’s not get bent out of shape (get it?) over inconsistencies unless those inconsistencies are utter deal breakers. Case in point: I started up a Fate Core game set in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files universe. Yes. I know there is already an RPG (Fate-based, no less) specifically for that universe. I own it. However, Fate Core streamlined so many things, that we’re just converting it to our use. It’s me and three players. We all know the universe very well, and we’re okay with bending/breaking things for our needs. As a matter of fact, one of my players has interviewed Jim Butcher. Another has met him at a conference, and the third player is a good friend of someone close to Jim and has met Jim a handful of times. I guess I’m the odd man out in this scenario. :)

Troy’s Crock Pot: Why does the dog bark?

In fiction writing, it’s always best (or, at least, better) if the Bad Guy(s) have their own motivations that make them think they are doing the Right Thing, even if it’s apparent to the Good Guy(s) that it’s the Wrong Thing. This is a great post about giving some of those motivational characteristics to the “monsters” and other Bad Things in your world. When you decide that XYZ race is carnivorous and will eat only meat and drink only ale… also think about the “why.” This will add so much more depth to your world, system, and game sessions.

3 Adventure Starters for your D&D Campaigns

Here are three great ideas from Casey on giving the start of a D&D campaign a swift kick in the pants and getting things rolling. These are really good ideas, and I may steal some nuggets from them when time comes for me to fire up a new campaign idea.

Ask The GMs: On Big Dungeons

When I read the poster’s question about big dungeons, I immediately thought, “Bigger is not better. Coherent and inclusive of ecological concerns is better.” I was happy to see that in point #5 from Mike’s original answer addressed that. I was also happy to see him go into greater depth on his revised answer. There is some really good advice in this post for folks that are considering running a big dungeon. That’s not to say that big dungeons are bad. They just need to be done well in order to succeed in amping up the level of fun. I guess that’s pretty much true of everything, right?

Friday Faves: 2015-06-05

My nasty head cold from last week has tapered off to “mere sniffles.” This actually gave me a character quirk idea for a character in a short story I’ve been working on, so it all worked out.

This was a fantastic week for the RPG blogosphere! I have so many quality links here that it’ll probably take you quite a while to make your way through them. Because of this, I’ll do my best to keep my comments brief and on point. No promises on the “brief” side of things, though.

Time for the links!

There Is No Do, Only Try

My most recent failure as a GM is when a player complained (in a nice way) of there not being enough puzzles, traps, thinking, problem solving, etc. in the game. I took his input, swung the pendulum to the far extreme (oops) and created a room packed full of the above (oops, again). Instead of sprinkling traps and though provokers about the area, I put them all in one place. It turned out to be quite boring in the end, and the player that wanted more of what I had just given him was the most disgruntled about the whole affair. I guess the moral of my story is that input should be listened to and reacted to, but in moderation.

One Map Down… Time for a Kickstarter?

Yes! It’s time for a Kickstarter, Dyson! Dyson is contemplating a Kickstarter for some geomorph beer coasters. I think it’s a brilliant idea. He has a poll up on his site (click through and scroll down) where he’s asking folks for input on what they area looking for in such a thing. Do the man a favor and feed him some of your thoughts.

Overprotective Tendencies: Handling Player Risk Aversion

Mike has a great post here about players becoming overprotective of their well-developed characters. After all, if they’ve put in months, years, (decades? ugh) into building out their fine-tuned characters over the course of that time, they don’t want to lose the character because of a single die roll or a string of poor die rolls. Over analysis becomes the norm. Slow game play becomes regular. Boredom becomes acceptable. None of this is good. I love his ideas here for how to keep things moving forward, but I love the mockery one the best. It’s fantastic! What I usually do is that those of us at the table are doing collaborative storytelling. When the story arc is done and over with, it’s time to retire the characters from active play, let them fade into the background of the world, create a whole new set of characters, and find a new story to tell. This is a natural conclusion to a great series of sessions, and works very well for almost everyone involved.

An overabundance of caution?

This post is related to the one above, but takes a slightly different angle. This post by Peter covers the area of players being overly cautious in all situations, regardless of age/development of their characters. I have this problem in my current game. I know I’ve mentioned it here before. I’m not sure why all of my players think I’m out to kill their characters, but they really do try and close every loophole they can find before moving forward with a plan of action. I’m not the kind of GM that will capriciously kill off characters. If a string of bad luck or a series of poor decisions brings down a character, so be it. Peter’s post makes a great point that there needs to be a balance between absolute lethality and total success. There are middle grounds in there.

Violent Resolution – Home on the Range

Douglas has a great post that walks through a wide variety systems and how they handle ranged combat basics, ranged weaponry, and, in general, attacking people from a distance. This is a fantastic break down of a lot of different systems. If you’re planning a “shoot ’em up” type game, this is a post to check out and review before picking a system to run the game in to make sure you get the right flavor of what you want to achieve.

GM’s CHALLENGE: Don’t Be Dean Martin

I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that the most important person at the role playing table is the GM. No GM. No game. Period. However, the GM should rarely (and then only briefly) steal the spotlight of the game from the players at the table. NPCs, the world, the plot, the Bad Guys, the fellow Good Guys, whatever you use should rarely overshadow what the PCs are doing. Imagine reading a book where a character is introduced and we love the character, then 37 pages explain the physical geography of the world, and another 54 pages go into the political geography (with some back story) and then we get back to the character in their starting village tavern. Would you, as a reader, really want to suffer through 91 pages of cruft that doesn’t apply to the introduced character? Guess what…. neither will your players. If you steal the game away from them, they’ll start pulling out cell phones and tablets and such. The next thing you know, you’re wonderful NPC is competing with YouTube for attention. Not good.

An overabundance of caution, Part II – The Invulnerability Trap

Here’s a follow-up post from Peter about protecting your character… to the extreme. He uses GURPS examples on how to make your character damn near unkillable. I’ve had one player do this in a build out, and I missed it. I just completely whiffed as a GM and signed off on the character build. When Bad Things started to happen, the rest of the party would cower behind Mr. Unkillable. Then it became a fight of attrition, which the players usually won. No fun at all. Check out what Peter has to say about how to make your character invulnerable… and why it’s not such a great idea.

Gaming Stories: Cyberpunk 2020, a Tech versus a Solo

Somewhere in the CP2020 book is a quote that goes something like this, “It’s hard to lean on a RipperDoc when your spine’s frozen in place.” In a game of guns and advanced technology, I gotta say that ingenious use of that advanced tech will win out over bullets 90% of the time. This is a great example of that.

Compound Interruptions: Manipulating Pauses

I try to manipulate pauses in my gaming like how Brandon Sanderson does chapter breaks. Many authors (paragraphing here) do something like this: “Bob opened the door and gasped.” as the end of the chapter. That means you have to turn to the next chapter to find out what surprised Bob so much. Brandon’s method is something like this (again, paraphrasing): “Bob opened the door, and the stench of rotting flesh oozed out of his lover’s bedroom. A misshapen lump was hidden under a layer of blankets on the bed.” This is a better chapter ending, because it shows more, lets us in on the surprise, but doesn’t reveal the surprise. It also imposes questions (smell? lump? lover alive? etc…) on the reader. The reader will be more compelled to follow-through with the next chapter opener in the second example. I apply this to my gaming by exposing things that raise questions in the players’ minds just before we break the session. This allows them to mull things over until we get together again. I’ve often received emails with questions (some I answer, some I don’t) that the player just can’t wait to ask. It’s good fun.

Belated Friday Faves: 2015-05-31

I’ve been under the weather the past 4-5 days. I’ve barely maintained my energy levels after work to do what is needed around the house. I have collected links up to this point, but with the new Day Job network security issues, I can’t really read/comment on the articles during the day like I used to. With the illness keeping me down (it’s a nasty head cold, so nothing serious), I’ve not had the energy to really do much in the way of comments. I have read these articles, but when I try to put together coherent thoughts, they just don’t come to me. Sorry for the lack of comments. I was hoping to feel better today where I could do some comments, but it just ain’t happenin’. Sorry.

On with the links!

New Beginnings: Phase X: Beginning
Lessons from Memorializing D&D characters
Baseline of Narrative Systems
Violent Resolution – Armor Up
When Your Players Are Smarter Than You
Status Interruptus: Types Of Pause
Avoiding the Shiny
My Job as a GM