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.

TRAVELING LIGHT TODAY: A MINIMALISTIC GM’s KIT

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!

Late Friday Faves: 2015-03-29

I had Friday off work, so I delayed writing up comments until then. I figured with the day off, I’d have plenty of time to get it done. The reason I had the day off was for a minor medical procedure, but I was up all night Thursday night “prepping” for the procedure and couldn’t eat at all Thursday or Friday. By the time the procedure was over and I was back home, all I wanted to do was sleep… so I did. Yesterday was a recovery day with a write-in with a friend. I suppose I could have written this post during that time, but it was more of a “work on your novel” kind of write-in.

One thing led to another, and now it’s Sunday….

BTW: The minor procedure went well, and things are good. Just something that has to be done every three years with the colon cancer family history (not personal history, just family) that I have. I’ll leave it up to your imagination on what was done to me on Friday. :)

Here are the links!

New Beginnings: Phase 6: Mindset & Underpinnings

I’ve always had a hard time coming up with themes for my stories, novels, role playing arcs, etc.. It’s just something my brain doesn’t handle well. The strange thing is, my theme is always there, but I just can’t see it or articulate it. I’ll show a synopsis or brief description of the story to a critique partner, ask them to find the theme, and they’ll spout it out within a few seconds of finishing reading the short piece. Then it’s incredibly obvious to me. The point of this? Now that I’ve read this article by Mike, I have more tools in my mental toolbox to try and tackle finding the theme (or creating it) than I did before. Thanks, Mike!

[Tuesday Map] Beneath Crovet’s Tower

This is a wicked cool isometric map by Dyson. Like I’ve said before, I usually don’t like them because they confuse my poor little brain. However, Dyson manages to create complex, yet clear, maps of this style.

Barrier to Entry

I am a very strong proponent of having everyone run at least one game session, preferably a story arc, or maybe a campaign. This will give them a chance to see what the entire gaming experience is like and enhance their ability to run as a player. People that are 100% players don’t know the struggle of the GM and the dire need for player input. This can inhibit the group’s role playing experience. In last nights, D&D 3.5 game (I’m a player in this one), the GM had us hunting down a wand that could create zombies. We found where the wand was reported to be, but no wand. Then I could tell (because of my GMing experience) that he wasn’t really sure where the wand was at because he didn’t give us any clues as to the actual location. It was a dead end. However, we knew there were gnolls in the area, and I decided that the gnolls must have snagged the “ooky wand” and given it to their “ooky shaman” in their tribal village. I loudly proclaimed my theory, and clambered to the top of a rock outcropping to search for signs of smoke or fire that would tell me where the gnolls permanent village was at. The GM smiled and nodded at me, and we ran with it. Sure enough, ooky shaman had some ooky zombies and he was wielding the ooky wand. It was a good time. Angela’s post talks about GMing for the first time from both perspectives of the inexperienced GM and what to expect, and from the experienced GM and how to help.

A Serpentine Slithering To Adventure

Mike has a review of The Snake’s Heart, which is an adventure for Swords & Wizardry. I normally don’t link to product reviews unless there is more to the review than just talking about the product. This is one such case. Mike lets us know about the good and the bad about the product, but he goes deeper. He explains why things are good and where things can be improved and why. It’s a great review to read if you’re making your own products to see what a consumer thinks about this kind of thing.

Multiple motivations for your D&D games

I love it when players create characters that are tied to each other and the world around them. This gives the GM excellent hooks to motivate the characters into forward action. This is almost always necessary at the starting points of a campaign, and can shift the mood/tone or even the theme (see what I did there?) of the game when certain strings are pulled. I’m not saying GMs should abuse the string pulling, but it can make for more interesting storytelling when the GM and player(s) collaborate on what should happen when a particular motivation is triggered.

The Lower Level of the MegaDelve

I’ve been waiting for a BIG MAP like this for a while. This is a great map. I’m not entirely sure what Dyson has planned as a “final product,” but I hope that it’s something that’ll be in print that I can use in my own games. Gonna be cool!

Friday Faves: 2015-03-20

This has been much more sane week. It’s been really busy, though. According to my calendar, Monday night was my only evening with nothing planned at all. All of the plans I had were good ones, and refreshing events, so I’m not complaining one little bit.

On with the links!

The Doomed City of Bethmoora

This is a really good city map with some extra info on background, current state of affairs, and similar information. I love the rich details of the city. So many adventure possibilities!

Hot Button: Mechanical Transparency

When a player asks me “Which power will be most effective?”, I usually respond with, “Go with the one you think would be best. Remember. You’re in combat. You don’t have time to ponder the math. Just go with your gut. Doing something is better than nothing, and if you think about it much longer, that’s what your character is going to be doing.” That gets players on their toes, and makes them pick something to do and run with it. Now, if a player is unsure how some particular power works (especially if it’s something they just received), then I’ll take the time to explain what’s what, so they’ll be able to make a fully informed decision.

New Beginnings: Phase 5: Surroundings & Environment

Mike has eleven areas to think about when developing a setting. This is a great list of items to check off as you think about a particular environment. I found his list very useful because there are a few I tend to gloss over or not concern myself with. I think the one that struck me the most was the “oddities” section because I don’t throw enough of those into my world building. This leads to predictable, bland, and sometimes boring settings. Shaking things up a bit is always a good thing.

Abandoned Characters

John has a good post about what to do when a player leaves the group and his/her character is left behind in the world floating adrift in the campaign. He has three great suggestions on what to do with the character. I tend to use the “fade away” option unless the character is pivotal to the story we’re telling. Then I’ll usually GM NPC the character until that thread can be resolved before attaching the character to something that won’t let them continue adventuring. The party can come back to the character for advice, boons, quests, whatever, and it makes it feel (a little) like the player never left.

D&D: Rewarding Creativity in your Players

I love this post by Duncan because it captures the real essence of a properly run game. Say “yes” some of the time. Say “no” when you have to. Use “yes, but” or “yes, and” most of the time. What the heck am I talking about? Well, you’ll have to click through to the article to see the details.

Rat On A Stick – In remembrance of Terry Pratchett

This is one of the best remembrances of Terry Pratchett I’ve seen on the Internet in the past week or so. Pratchett was a great writer, an influential creative, and taken from this world much too early. Mike brings it home to role playing games, as is his writing style, and it’s a very good post to go read.

[Friday Map] The Temple Complex Ruins

I think I found a map for a “finale” segment in an upcoming story arc in my Pathfinder game. I can’t wait to put this to use!

Getting your Sea Legs

I’m about to start up a Fate Core game in the Dresden Files universe. Yeah. I know there’s already the Dresden Files RPG based on Fate, but I love how Fate Core has cleaned up rules and simplified things (and explains some aspects of the game better.) I’ll be dragging the Dresden Files RPG books with me for flavor, and the Fate Core books with me for the mechanics. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I’ve played the Dresden Files RPG before, but I’ve never played or run Fate Core. This will be a new venture for me and the players, and I really t0ok Phil’s post to heart on how to approach the running of the game.

Very Belated Friday Faves: 2015-03-15

What a week. My childhood home burned down this past week. No one lived there anymore, and we had sold the property a year before. All-in-all, the loss was purely emotional, not in lives or financially. It was still hard on me for a few days. When Friday rolled around, I found a few posts to comment on, but just didn’t have the oomph in me to get it done. Friday night, my wife and I celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary. The official day is today, but we had a babysitter lined up for our son for Friday, so we took advantage of it. Saturday was a cram-packed full of stuff (including a great session of D&D 3.5).

Today is my day to try and decompress from everything that’s happened since Wednesday. This gives me time to put together additional thoughts on some of the links and get this much belated post out the door.

Thanks for listening to me ramble, and it’s now time for some links!

D&D Editions Timeline by Nick Wedig

This is a great timeline of D&D editions in visual format. There are some nitpicks to make with some details, but overall, the core of the information is accurate and helpful. Thanks for posting this!

New Beginnings: Phase 4: Development

Okay. So you have some ideas for your next project. Probably too many. Hopefully, you have too many. That’s a good problem to have. Trust me on this. If you’d followed Mike’s series, you should have gobs of notes, ideas, brainstormed tidbits on the white board (or index cards), and just things are overflowing in your brain. Now it’s time to sit down and develop some of those ideas into hard concepts. There’s no way I can do a proper job of summing up Mike’s post here without making a lengthy post of my own. Go forth and click! (PS: The idea of deciding your plot before your setting is key. Pay close attention to that.)

Some Lessons from a Noob GM

This may be lessons for a Noob GM, but we can all learn from other peoples’ experiences. Go check out some of the goofs and what Garrison learned from them. There’s some damn good information in there.

Canon vs. Original

This is a great post that really helped me out. I’m prepping to launch a Fate Core game set in Seattle, WA as part of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files universe. The three of us (two core players and myself [and maybe others later]) are all very familiar with the works of Butcher and the Dresdenverse. We had a great conversation about where in the timeline we wanted to set our game. There’s quite a few different options from the fifteen novels and numerous short stories he’s published over the years. We finally settled on a time during the White Council and Red Court wars. This is after Dresden started the war, but before he ended it. We felt that time period had the most “meat on the bones” for us to play with.

Real Steel: Fantasy Metals

This post echoes my thoughts that I’ve always had. There’s never been a “titanium sword” in D&D that I’ve ever encountered (thought I’m sure someone’s done it or published it). It’s always been mithril or adamantium or starfall metal or something like that. This is a great post that delves into the various metals that can be found/used in a fantasy setting.

Ask The GMs: Some Arcane Assembly Required – Pt 4: Cut At The Dotted Line

Mike (and gang) have some more great component ideas for you in this post that follow the theme in the series of posts about creating great, wondrous, mystical, and interesting spell components. Good work, guys!

The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time

Looking for some great, classic D&D gaming? Look no further than this list. By stepping through these adventures, you’re certain to have years (years!) of top-notch gaming ahead of you. Great list!