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

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

Getting Into Character pt 1: NPCs

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

Tips for Game Masters Who Want to Welcome New Players

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

Getting Into Character Pt 2: PCs

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

Bored Soldiers, Bandits, and Brigands quote

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

A Long Overdue Catch-Up Post

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

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

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

Oh, the prettiness of maps!

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

The Backstory Boxes – Directed Creativity

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

[Friday Map] A Green and Pleasant Map

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

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

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

Putting the MAGIC back into ‘magical items’

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

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

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

Planning Well

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

What is An Adventure?

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

Game Mechanic Preferences: Target Numbers & Formula vs. Tables

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

FF to SSS

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

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

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

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

Friday Faves: 2015-09-11

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

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

The Lorica Project – setup and trials

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

The Spotted Parrot (and other establishments)

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

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

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

[Friday Map] The Ruined Ha’Tak Temple

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

Friday Faves: 2015-09-04

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

Now on with the links!

Everything’s a Ritual if you have the time

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

Don’t Think Too Big!

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

The Palomino and Fox (and other establishments)

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

Building Fantasy Cities

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

[Tuesday Map] ReQuasqueton

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

The Secret Arsenal Of Accents

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

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

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

Friday Faves: 2015-08-29

Sorry for missing yesterday. The monthly Pathfinder game got in the way of my posting time. I did make it home in time to whip up a quick post, but it was rough and not up to my standards, thus it was deleted.

I’m finally free of my Saturday plans, so here we are! Links of the week!

Factions as Characters

This is a wicked-cool idea, and reminds me of the old Birthright campaign setting and rules for 2nd Edition AD&D. I think Mark has some excellent concepts and points here. It’s much more rules light than the Birthright setting, but still encapsulates the core ideas of creating factions and giving them stats. I’m not sure which I like better. I have some pretty heavy (though distant past) experience with Birthright, but I could see taking Mark’s ideas, expanding them just a little bit to add more crunch (which I like) would please me greatly. Even with modifying his ideas, this is a very useable idea!

Campaign Arcs: Less is More

Walt opens his post with the question, “Have you ever designed a long, intricate campaign only to have it fall apart before it ever came close to seeing fruition?” My answer: Yes, yesyes, a thousand times YES! Well, he has a fantastic approach to avoid this. Basically, you need to under plan. That’s an oversimplification of his simplified ideas, so make with the click and see what he has to say on the matter.

Map-A-Monday: Pangea

Too cool! I love this map. I’ve never seen current political boundaries on Pangea before. This really rocks out to my imagination. So many possibilities there….

making a city more like a dungeon level

I’ve applied Paul’s ideas to Cyberpunk 2020 settings before and it really enriched the environment and “world” we were playing in. I’ve done it a bit in “urban only” campaigns, and it equally rocked out in the game. However, I’ve rarely done this when folks are “passing through” or just using the city as a “home base” and the adventuring takes place elsewhere. I guess it’s a matter of the depth of use of the setting that determines the depth of detail.

Fantastic Flop: GMing Lessons from a filmic failure

Like Mike, I love (loved?) the Fantastic Four. It was through their comics that I discovered Silver Surfer (who I based my first Champions character on!) and fell in love with the character. I really wanted a good Fantastic Four movie. The trailers for the latest efforts left me cold, and then the reviews rolled in before I could plunk down my hard-earned money to see it. Those reviews convinced me that I didn’t even want to buy the DVD. *sigh* Anyway, on to Mike’s post. He deconstructs want went wrong when a well-respected, well-done franchise is thrown into a different media (comic to movie) in such a disastrous manner. Hollywood really needs to be pointed to this post. Especially the wrap-up segments under the header “The Lessons.” Mike nailed it!

DCC Occupations

Nick’s come with a wondermous Google Doc (I’ve linked to his blog post that links to the doc) that expands the choices for DCC’s (Dungeon Crawl Classics) options for starter occupations. Very well done list, Nick!

Artifacts of Play

In this post, Phil talks about artifacts in gaming. No. We’re not referencing the Eye of Vecna here. We’re talking about the physical elements of the game around the table. What’s created before, during, and after the game? How does one influence another? What additional elements can we throw into the mix? How can we shake things up to improve the game? There’s good stuff in this post, and I highly recommend it for players and GMs.

The Care and Feeding Of Vehicles In RPGs 2: A 2-part guest article

Mike has a guest poster by the name of Ian for this article. Ian knocks it out of the park with his ideas and thoughts on the care and feeding of vehicles. To best honest, I often hand wave this stuff unless it matters to the plot of the collaborative story. I do the same with rations, water, etc… unless it becomes a vital plot point. After reading this article, I have some new ideas, though. It may not be all that hard to track deterioration, damage, wear ‘n’ tear, etc. of various vehicles. I do it in Battletech campaigns after all (but then again, the system has very clear rules on how this works.) Good work on the part of Ian and Mike (on his inserts).

Absent For A Bit

Sorry for the late notice for last week…

I’m going to be at WorldCon this week (and into part of next week). The prep for the convention has been more intense than I expected (or maybe I’m just making it more intense?), and this has prevented me from doing much RPG blog reading, let along collecting links, and chatting about them.

I apologize to my few readers and to the blogs that I support with links to their site. There’s no way I can get last week’s Friday Faves up, and this week certainly won’t happen because of WorldCon.

The week after WorldCon? I don’t know yet. Depends on how badly the ConCrud latches on to my body and how much energy I have at the end of the day after playing “catch up” from my vacation.

Intentionally Late Friday Faves: 2015-08-09

Usually, when I’m late on the Friday Faves, it means Real Life has kicked me in the head hard. This has become more and more common as of late. However, this one was on purpose. I only found three links last week that caught my eye. I’d hoped more would pop up over the weekend, but it doesn’t appear to be the case.

There’s lots of grousing about broken Kickstarters (can’t we celebrate success instead?). There are some blogs that fell into the “RPG A Day” pattern, and most of the given topics don’t really excite me. Sorry. I’m not trying to be a downer, but it doesn’t really grab my attention. Gnome Stew fell off my radar this week.

Maybe this is a post-GenCon slump, and everyone is wiped from the con? I’m not sure. Perhaps things will pick up next week. Now on with the three links I found last week.

Why the five games chosen for Violent Resolution?

Douglas explains why he chose the games he did for the Violent Resolution series. It’s actually a pretty good breakdown of the games themselves, and can be used as a guide on how to go about evaluating a game system for inclusion in a group or for running a campaign in.

Basics For Beginners (and the over-experienced) Pt 2: Creation

Mike’s second article in this series is broken down into two parts: Creativity and Creation Guidelines. I’ve never lacked for creativity. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always had it. Could be that I was an only child until I was seven, and then by the time my sister was old enough for me to truly interact with, I’d found D&D and never really looked back. I remember a family reunion where I’d just purchased the Top Secret S/I box set, and I spent the entire time consuming the books, handouts, character sheets, etc. and coming up with adventure ideas for the spies. Yeah. I blew off family I rare saw for a game. That’s how serious I was about it. Anyway, back to Mike’s article. If you’re having trouble “being original” or “being creative” do not fear! The first half of the article dives into how to get inspired, find a creative compass, and go on from there. The Creation Guidelines section helps you focus (and rein in some of) that creativity in the form of character classes, monsters, maps, and places. It’s a really great article, and it’s made me even more excited to see the rest of the series.

Tales from the front line: The Initiative Conflict

Mike has an interesting approach at modification of the D&D initiative system to make it resemble a little more like the Hero system initiative/phase/action/turn/round system. I’ve always loved the Hero system of speed determining number of actions in a round. It’s intrigued me, and I’ve adapted it (in some form) in other game systems. I modified Cyberpunk 2020 to allow multiple actions (without penalties) if you got a high enough initiative score from boosted stats or a great (exploding dice!) roll on initiative. The way I worked it was that things went from the highest score to the lowest on everyone’s first action. Then on the second action (if any), we went from highest to lowest again. Repeat for third actions, which is where I stopped the scale. Of course, this meant that a really high initiative score could result in a player going twice in a row if they faced a mook that didn’t roll all that well, and then on the next round, if they went first in the round, that’s technically three times in a row that they went. Not entirely fair, but most of the time it leaned in favor of the PCs. They’re the heroes of the story, so I didn’t mind the slant of the system, and it kept things simple.

Another Late Friday Faves: 2015-08-02

The Day Job ate my soul this past week. I also (finally!) ditched the Contract Job with an overly-long handoff meeting on Friday night. I thought I’d be getting home around 10PM on Friday, which would give me ample time to finish off this post and get it up. Instead, I ended up getting home a hair after midnight from the meeting. I loved the Contract Job, but I’m glad it’s finally gone. This will allow me more time through the week for my writing efforts (which includes this blog), my family, and — quite frankly — me.

Now let’s get on with the links. I did collect a couple this morning, so it’s not purely stuff from last week.

Have I been playing my paladin wrong?

Douglas has a great introspective post on the abilities of D&D paladins and how they can possibly be played. I really enjoyed this post as it does a good job of covering what can be done, what should be done, and some tweaks that might make paladins work a little better with the typical image of paladins.

Basics For Beginners (and the over-experienced) Pt I: Beginnings

I’m really looking for to what Mike has to say about how to GM. He’s already off to a running start with this first installment of the series. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I know. There’s already a plethora of GMing advice out there, but Mike always manages to come into a topic with a great perspective and an excellent approach at describing his thoughts.

[Tuesday Map] Lady White’s Ruins

Pretty cool map from Dyson! I like it. I’m wondering if it’s something I can use in a future game?

Violent Resolution – His back was to me

Douglas knocks it out of the park again, but this time he does it from behind… or was someone sneaking up on him? Either way, he digs down into several systems and puts down his thoughts on the various rule systems he’s been exploring in this series.

A target of inefficiency: from Dystopian trends to Utopia

Mike delves deep into the breakdown of the infrastructure when “it all goes wrong.” He tells a few interesting and poignant anecdotes as setup, and then drops into his thoughts on how things will fall apart. It’s sobering. It’s educational. It’s definitely food for thought.

Adventure Writing Advice

There are six points of advice in Tim’s article, and all of them are spot on. It’s a quick read, but hits home for anyone thinking about creating an adventure. Before you convert that Word DOC to a PDF and cram it down driveThruRPG’s throat, check out this post.

Violent Resolution – The End of the Revolution

Say it ain’t so, Joe! I’ve loved this series of posts from the start. It gave an interesting insight into the various systems covered. If you haven’t been checking out the links, I’d recommend finding them all, and scouring them for information. The presentation is especially important to game designers everywhere.

D&D never went off the rails

Peter’s got a great post about the evolution of D&D, and how version X is right for some people, but not others. He’s right. 100% correct. I was incredibly disappointed by 4e. To the point where I gave away the books because I didn’t feel it was right to sell them because I didn’t want someone to spend their hard-earned money on them (like I did). I cut my teeth on BECMI and jumped into 2nd edition when it came out, but I have to say that my favorite flavor is 1st edition because of the free-flow and less limiting ruleset. Granted, it requires a higher caliber GM to pull off 1st edition than that others, but that’s okay. Having said this, I’m currently in a 3.5 game, and running a Pathfinder game. I’ve yet to touch 5e, but there’s still time to do that.

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.