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
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

Friday Faves: 2015-05-22

Not much to report this week other than a light collection of links for the week. I’m still adjusting to the new Day Job, and my non-profit Volunteer Job kicked into high gear this week as I prepare for a board meeting that comes up in a few weeks (I’m the president of the non-profit, so the board meeting prep is squarely on my plate.) Between the new Day Job and the Volunteer Job, I probably missed a few good links. If I did, please point them out to me in the comments. Thanks.

Resources – Found an Excellent Resource for Detailing Star Systems (and most anything else for all RPG Genres)

Tenkar linked to a great set of tools called Donjon. I’ve heard the name before, but never investigated the tools before. They’re great! Thanks to Tenkar for bringing these tools on to my radar. I spent wasted a great deal of time playing with the various tools that are on the site, and I barely scratched the surface!

New Beginnings: Phase 9: Completion

It’s time to put a bow on the present of a new beginning before unwrapping the present to see what you’ve given yourself. This conclusion (or almost conclusion… I suspect there is at least one more entry in the series) to the “New Beginnings” saga is very nice. It concludes things nicely, and lets you know where you stand with all of the grand ideas you’ve come up with along the way. Nicely done, Mike!

GMing Dead Games

I love GMing “dead games.” Why? Because you know what you have. There are no new splatbooks, expansions, versions, editions, etc. to come in and shake things up. It’s also liberating to know that I have free reign to tinker with the system, world, setting, characters, or whatever to collaborate with my players in storytelling without some future expansion or world book coming into the fold to “mess up” what I’ve created. I know. I know. I can do this exact same thing with “living games,” but there’s always that “cool shiny” thing that comes out in the next book that a player (or I) want to incorporate into the game, which always requires some extra work and may require a retcon or three.

New Theme

Because of Google limiting search results on web sites that are not responsive in nature, I had to change my theme. I’ll be customizing it over the next week or so, but this is what the site will look like for a while. If you spot anything broken or just completely out of whack, drop me a line.

Friday Faves: 2015-05-15

This was the first week at the new Day Job for me. It was a great week, but also involved a global conference for my department. It was a great way to meet new people, learn the business, learn the teams, and get acclimated to what’s what. However, I’m exhausted. Completely pooped.

I also learned that the new Day Job’s network doesn’t allow me to access BlogSpot, Blogger, and other common blogging platforms. Something to do with the InfoSec policy (which I need to learn since I’m on the InfoSec team.) This means it’s going to be more difficult for me to find the time to find posts. I’ll still do my best to get links up, but there may be fewer links, or a smaller variety of links. In the past, I’d do my RSS browsing and link gathering during downtimes at my job. This is going to be more difficult with the new network restrictions I’m working under. If you spot a link I’ve missed, and you feel it is important to get the word out about that link, please leave it in the comment.

Now… On with the links for this week!

Rules for Grappling Rules

Douglas has a great summary of how to write grappling rules in the general sense. His on-point breakdown of how rules should translate the apparent complexity of grappling and push it into a streamlined game mechanic really makes me want to pick up a copy of The Manor his rules are in. I will probably do that as soon as I finish up with this blog post.

How Do You Stay Interested During a Long Break?

I’m running a monthly game right now. That qualifies as a “long break” between sessions (for me, at least). In my every-other Saturday game, we often don’t play at all because of too many people out. It amazes me that people can’t commit to two Saturdays a month or “forget” something that’s been on the books for almost a year now… anyway…. That Saturday game has long breaks as well. If you’re true intent is to keep the story moving forward without killing a campaign, keep notes. Rough notes. You’re not writing a journal or novel about the events. Just scribble down salient points with key NPC names and dates. You don’t need to note every monster killed (unless it was a special story-telling moment or key monster). When the game resumes, go over the past session (or two or three) worth of notes and this will bring up the excitement level and refresh everyones’ memories about what was going on. If possible, keep track of quests/goals/missions/whatever in the log as well. This will give the players (and hopefully the GM) something to look forward to at the next session, regardless of when that next session is played.

New Beginnings: Phase 8: Enfleshing

With me taking off the month of April from reading the RPG blogosphere, I also took a break from this series. Nothing personal against the series, but I had to sacrifice some of my pleasure reading (which this series was one of them) for my sanity and hectic schedule during April. Unfortunately, I don’t have the mental energy (with the new Day Job) to go back and read the backlog. This means some of my comments here may be off base or covered in previous posts by Mike on this topic. Here goes…. It seems the parts that I’ve missed were the building of the skeleton, but I jumped right into this post and was on board. Perhaps I should go back at least one (maybe two) issues in the series and read them, but what I got out of this post was the various approaches into adding the fine details and layers of the world/environment on to a basic structure. This was a really great post, and I see that it’s the next-to-last in the series. I’m wondering how Mike’s going to wrap it all up.

Johnny’s Five – Mixed Messages

The first and fifth piece of advice are the best amongst these five bullet points, but they are all valuable. When communicating with the players, try to listen to what you’re saying from their point of view. It’ll help you filter out the crap they don’t need and give them more of what they’re looking for in tips and clues.

Anatomy Of An Interruption – Endpoints

This post reminds me of the “scene/sequel” concept I learned by reading Jim Butcher’s blog on the topic. Basically, you have a scene where the high action happens, then a pause (usually very brief), and another “scene” with the label “sequel” on it in which the protagonist (or in RPG terms, the players) stop, catch their breath (maybe) and figure out what the heck just happened to them before formulating another plan that launches into the action of the next scene. It’s a great structure for a novel, and I can see many tips from Mike’s post on how to approach writing a sequel to a scene to make it more potent. Sorry to bring my fiction writing angle into this comment rather than an RPG angle, but that’s where my mind went with it.

Friday Faves: 2015-05-09

Welp. The 10 days worth of non-stop rain we’ve had has suddenly turned into a snowstorm (a massive snowstorm). This means my gaming plans for tonight were canceled. That sucks. However, the good news is that I am now free to post what I should have gotten up yesterday.

On with the links!

PS: Thanks for sticking with me while I took my short break. It was a much needed extra bit of time that I recovered to get other, more pressing, things done.


I like this kit that John suggests, but I gotta have my rulebooks. At least the core book. All of the extras are just that, extras. I’ll use them if I’m gaming at my house (which is rare), or if I can narrow down the ones I need to schlep around to 3-4 books. This is one reason I love “single book” games like Pathfinder, Fate Core, Traveller (the most recent release), DCC, and others like that.

Fogs, Clouds and Confusion: A Battlemap technique

This is a pretty slick idea for how to handle the “fog of war” when laying out battlemap-style tiles for the players. I like this quite a bit. I think this would work very well if my prep area is not too far away from the game area (like the next room). I’m not sure how well things would travel, especially in my situation where they’d have to spend all day in the trunk of my car (probably in a bag of their own) while I’m at work (or running other errands) before heading to the game.

Hot Button – Brief or Eloquent

My fiction writing side is going to come out on this comment: The more important the character/thing/item/place/event is to the story you are telling the more detail you should provide to the players. If they are buying hard tack and a new saddle, I give zero description of the clerk/merchant that helps them out. If they are dealing with a contact that will be a recurring character, there is more description given. If they are interacting with something that is vital to the story arc everyone is involved in (such as their recently-stolen spaceship), then I may give them an abundance of description, so they have a firm grasp of what they are dealing with.

OPM – the problems running Other People’s Megadungeons

Peter sums things up nicely by stating that very few megadungeons are ready to play. It’s not possible to crack open a boxed set (or the ginormous book) flips through a few pages, glance at some maps, find an entry point and throw the characters into the game. It just won’t go well for the group. There are too many moving parts, too many things to stop and consider, and too many “what if?” scenarios for a quick glance of materials can prepare the GM for.

Six Alternatives to the Exposition Dump

This post by Roger offers up some great ways to give additional information over to players without beating them over the head with it. These are some great ideas. I’ve used a few before. I’ve had a few used on me as a player. They are much better than the… *deep breath*, “Ages ago, there was a great kingdom that stood on these……”

Pacing and the value of the Pause

This a fantastic post by Mike that all writers, GMs, and many players should read and absorb. As a writer, there are certain ways to create a special scene break that’s more enticing that some whitespace around “# # #” in the middle of the page. The same thing goes (and is even more important for), chapter breaks. A great critique partner of mine is naturally talented at chapter endings that really make the reader want more from the book at the end of each chapter. This is how you write page turners since it keeps the reader from finding it to be a handy place to throw in the bookmark and go to bed for the night. I’ve learned from this critique partner on the value of a good chapter ending and how to execute it. Mike’s post is chock full of advice that will help you with chapter endings. The same thing goes for running a game. You need to know when in the story to break, when in the narrative to pause, and when in the action to call a brief respite in order to leave your players wanting more from the next session. Head over to Mike’s post and learn! Once you’ve learned, practice and put it into play. Don’t get frustrated if you find that you’re not hitting it quite right immediately. This is something that does take some practice to get down.

Friday Faves Coming Back Soon

This was my last week at my old job, and the absolute crush of April is finally over. I tried (really hard) to get a Friday Faves up last week, but that didn’t happen.

I start my new job next week, so next Friday is a little sketchy on if I’ll get things up in time. For this week, though, I’ll probably have things up Sunday morning. Tonight was my monthly Pathfinder game, and tomorrow is slam-packed with goodies to run and do and participate in. This leaves Sunday morning for posting the links and my comments.

I can’t wait to get back in action on this.

No Friday Faves For A While

Hey all,

I apologize to the few readers I have. I’m under a tight deadline for my fiction writing. Edits have to be done within a week to get it to my beta readers in time for them to respond early enough to allow me time to get more edits done before sending it out. That means quite a few things (like sleep, Day Job productivity, some family time, and this blog… to name a few) have to be cut for a while.

I also have my brother’s wedding to attend (out of town, of course) next week. I also have my non-profit’s Big Conference hitting near the end of the month and prep for that and the actual execution of it is going to consume tons of time.

Things will calm down (for a bit) after April is over with, and I’ll return to my regular Friday Faves… I also hope to be posting new content starting in May.

Thanks for your understanding.

PS: To the great writers out there in the RPG blogosphere…. Keep up the great work!