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Late Friday Faves: 2015-02-07

February 7th, 2015

Another week from hell at the Day Job. I had a few half-baked comments typed up, but nothing definitive. Last night was my monthly Pathfinder game, so I didn’t have time in the evening to full bake the thoughts. I’m finally getting a chance to get online for the first time in about 30 hours (which odd for me), and I’m putting things back together. Unfortunately (for this blog post), I have a dinner thing with a friend from out of town in about 30 minutes.

This gives me the time to remove the crappy comments I had, and just go with some links.

Munchkin Treasure Hunt: Review
[MegaDelve] Home of the Muck Dwellers
Dungeon Master Appreciation Month
New Beginnings: Phase 2: Baggage Dump
Megadungeon “best” practices XIV
Relationship Mapping and Complicated Stories
The Crochet Masterpiece: One-player games as Campaigns

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Friday Faves: 2015-01-30

January 30th, 2015

This has been a great week of slingin’ code for the Day Job, throwin’ out more code for the Contract Job, getting things organized for the Non-Profit Job, and poundin’ out the words for the Writing Job. Yep. You counted that right: four jobs. It’s been fantastic for all of them. Lots done for each.

I think part of my productivity is coming from a slow week in the RPG blogosphere. I think the hum of productivity after the holidays is hitting everyone, and folks don’t have the time or energy to post quite as much. I know I’d love to post more, but that’s not in the cards for me… at the moment.

On with the links!

How to keep your Players even MORE focused

This post has three great ideas, and one that I don’t agree with. The three I like are the first two and the last one. The “Hand Over the Dice” idea… Well… That doesn’t sit well with me. While I may be in the GM seat most of the time, I’m still playing the game. I want to be as involved as the PCs at the table. I want the excitement of rolling dice, doing math (yes, math is exciting!), and determining outcomes. Robbing me of that aspect of playing the game will make the work and effort of GMing a game no longer worth it. Then again, that’s just my personal take.

Superhuman Display Of Archery…

This video rambled around the Internet this week, but the first place I spotted it was at HeroPress. Do yourself a favor and click-through to watch the best display of archery I’ve ever seen. Make sure to stick out all 5:52 of the video. The final feat at the end of the video dropped my jaw.

New Beginnings: Phase 1: Inspiration

Ever been inspired to create your own game? I have. I’ve even followed through on it a few times. I usually have disastrous results because the ideas are half-baked when I start scribbling ideas down on paper. There’s something concrete about an idea on paper. Something immutable. Don’t do that to yourself. When inspired, take a few moments (or days or weeks) to examine that inspiration. See what other ideas can be baked into the whole with what just flashed through the creative parts of your mind. Don’t just take a single seed. Snag as many ideas as you can and see what meshes well, and what doesn’t. Both of those will inform your next steps. Want more than what I’ve given you here? Check out Mike’s article.

[MegaDelve] The Flooded Mines

More art (maps can be art, too!) from Dyson, and it’s still wonderful. Keep up the good work Dyson. I’m just wondering (and maybe he’s answered this question) if the entirety of the MegaDelve is going to be stitched together and published? I’d love a wall map of everything put together!

The Solitary Thread, Frayed: Plots in one-player games

I’ve never been a huge fan of one-player games. I’ve never been the player, always the GM when in these situations. I’ve run offshoot and one-shot adventures for a single player before. I guess the thing that bothers me the most is that the character must be the hero. They must not die. They must succeed… oops…. That last one! They don’t have to succeed! They can fail. Those are called plot twists and alternate story lines. Guess what? Mike delves into these ideas pretty deeply in this post. Go check it out!

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Late Friday Faves: 2015-01-25

January 25th, 2015

Sorry for the lateness. Crazy Friday led to a crazy Saturday led to a wild Sunday morning, and I’m just now coming up for air. I really need to get back into the habit of writing up my comments as the links come out as Mike suggested. Maybe I’ll get back on that horse next week.

Now on with the links!

How to keep your Players focused

Every GM needs advice like this. Play focus (especially in larger groups) is really hard to maintain throughout a full gaming session. I really like the idea of a “half time” to call a break to the action to let everyone relax a bit, cool off their brains (and dice) and then get back into the game.

New Beginnings: Introduction

Wow. Looking at Mike’s outline for what he has planned has me jazzed! This is going to be a long series of articles, and I’m looking forward to all of them. I’m really looking forward to the “Baggage Dump” section because that’s probably where I suffer most when creating something I perceive to be “new.”

[MegaDelve] The Hematite Mines

I love how the fingers of the mines stretch out just like they really would as miners follow veins of ore and gems. Well done!

Specific vs Amorphous Adjectives

This is more of a writing tip (for me) than a role playing tip, but it can go either way. If you stick with more specific adjectives in your prose (and GM descriptions), there is less room for mistaken assumptions, more clarity of picture, and more evocative use of imaginations.

Fake it like Chatty.

My main weakness in GMing is trying to remember what happened in the past. Not my backstory. I’m talking about events the PCs were actually involved in. It’s rough for me. This is where my jotted notes come in handy. Something quick. I don’t need to document every detail. I just need enough triggers to allow my memory to recall what happened.

On the Special Snowflake GM

Despite the title, the article is more about how to garner useful feedback from your players regarding the quality of the game. I did this recently. The questions I asked were, “What do you want to see more of?” and, “What do you want to see less of?” This gave just enough guidance and allowed them to focus on what they’ve seen thus far in the sessions, and what they wanted more/less of. It also couched the questions in a positive light. Never, ever ask something along the lines of, “What do you hate/dislike the most?” or “What do you want to never see again?” Those types of questions contain negative words in them and will color the answers the players give. They also come off as a bit confrontational, which will shut down any honest opinions the players may want to give.

A Singular Performance: Roleplay and General Principles in one-player games

Mike covers quite a bit in this article, and he does a damn good job of it. He’s covering things like tone, pace, intensity, and puzzles. They may not sound like those really fit together (which is my fault in a poor summary, not Mike’s writing), but he does a great job transitioning from one to another and getting it all to fit together. Thanks for the article, Mike!

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Friday Faves: 2015-01-16

January 16th, 2015

This has been a very long week for me. The Day Job has ramped up on a couple of large projects, and I’m the only engineer on the “team.” Okay. “Team” is a misnomer. My boss manages the users, and I manage the technology. We need a bigger team.

I’ve also been ramping up for a full-day board meeting on Sunday for the non-profit I help run. That’s sapped my energy as well.

I guess what I’m saying is that this week… it’s just links with no comments.

Enjoy!

Random Encounter Tables – my old-school way
Here are a couple of illustrations I did ….
Art that Inspires Gaming Thoughts
Reconceptualising the Morale Check
Me, Myself, and Him: Combat and Characters in one-player games
Three Approaches to Challenge Levels
Eight Years Of HeroPress!

… I will comment on the last link. Congrats to Tim for cranking out eight years of greatness. May you have many more returns!

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Friday Faves: 2015-01-09

January 9th, 2015

I hope 2015 is treating every well. My 2015 has started off better than 2014, so I’m very happy thus far. I’m also getting geared up for my Pathfinder game tonight. I can’t wait to see how the players handle the custom demons I’ve developed for their enjoyment.

On with the links!

The Final Twist: Dec 2014 Blog Carnival Roundup

Links, links, and more links! Mike does a great job of a Blog Carnival Roundup. I’ve discovered a few new blogs from the links he posted, so I’m checking them out over the next 3-4 days to see what new greatness I can discover.

The Art of Character Flaws

In fiction, a flawless character is called a Mary Sue or Marty Stu. It’s not a compliment. Trust me. In role playing games, a flawless character is called boring. Eventually, being perfect will get old and tireless. Example: During early playtesting on a role playing game I’d developed, someone got lucky enough to land perfect stats across the board. It really wasn’t all that lucky. It was a game design flaw that has since been fixed. After about 3 sessions of my friend playing Captain Awesome, he begged me (even got on his knees) to drop a ton of rocks on his character. It was too boring for him. When creating a character (for fiction or gaming,) try your best to toss in a flaw or two. Don’t go overboard or you’ll suffer from the other end of the spectrum: being helpless.

[MegaDelve] The Venomous Hall

Another sweet map from Dyson! Great work!

A New Sort of Garage Sale 2015

Need some seeds of ideas for a Fantasy, Modern, or Sci-Fi game? Look no further! Matthew has provided quite a few good ones. If you relax and let your imagination run free, you’ll see how easy it is to take a small something and let it become something greater. Good stuff here. Thanks, Matthew!

The Con Game

Con season is coming up faster than you know it. There are usually a flurry of posts along these lines, but Angela has a jump on the rush. Not only that, she has some phenomenal advice on how to a run a con game (er… game at a convention) in a manner that is different from your weekly sessions.

3-D Battlemaps for the financially challenged

Mike’s posts usually take some philosophical or abstract idea and boils it down into a strong, practical piece of advice. In this case, the post is practical from word one. I’ve always wanted to do 3-D props on the battlemap, but the trouble of buying, painting, assembling, disassembling, transporting, and setting up has dissuaded me from diving into this realm. Mike’s post really shows how easy it is to build out your own props, and if you do it right, they can break down into transportable sections. Since you’ve built them, theoretically, you should be able to put them together in rapid time.

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Friday Faves: 2015-01-02

January 2nd, 2015

Most of this week has been filled with retrospectives of 2014 or plans for 2015. They’re all great posts that I really enjoyed reading, but not much there to comment on. Here are the gems I picked out this week for everyone.

Enjoy!

There’s Something About Christmas

I love this post because it takes the concepts of mass-dressed Santas as covert (or at least, disguised) operatives working against the PCs, but not all Santas are the Bad Guys. What a hoot that would be to run. I gotta stash that idea away for later. It may not be Santa-specific, but the general concept will work. Good stuff, Mike. Thanks for sparking my imagination with this post!

How rumors spiral out of control

I love this post because it shows how players will go to great lengths to read into a simple statement and come out the other side with massive amounts of misinformation. Do you run with it as a GM? Do you correct them? Do you allow them to be incorrect? I love listening to my players plan and plot and take into account what they think is going on. Sometimes I change my plans to fit their ideas because, quite frankly, their take on what’s going in is so damn cool, I can’t resist running with it.

Don’t Be Clever

This kind of ties in with the post above it. If you’re being clever and making all sorts of plot hoops and fancy charts and mind maps of what’s going on and who is related to whom, then you’re going to lose your players. Period. Chances are that you’ll lose them down a path of their own making that won’t resemble anything you’ve created. Thus, you’ve wasted precious time creating something that won’t be used in this game… if ever. Don’t try to outsmart your players. They’re geniuses at the table, just like you are, and they have you outnumbered. They’re going to come up with just as much cool stuff as you will.

The Making of a 1980’s D&D Module

I think I came across this link on /. (That’s Slashdot for you folks that don’t read it.) I’m not sure where it came across my non-RPG RSS feeds, but it was a damn cool read. After reading through the process, I’m amazed any module ever made it to publication. Go TSR for making it happen!

Rules, Rulings and Making S#!t Up

I’m a big fan of making shit up when it comes to rulings. I hate stopping the game to look up a spell, skill, feat, ability, power, rule, circumstance, or whatever. There’s too much to remember. Get the core rules down, memorize some of the more common things, and take a fair (and consistent!) swing at the rest. If it turns out (after the session is over) you got something wrong, fess up to it, and correct it in future sessions. Don’t retcon something… unless the ruling mistake really screwed over a player in a long-term manner. The big take away here is to have fun with your games. That’s rule -1 in my book. (Rule zero is that the GM gets to change all following rules…. Note that -1 comes before zero, so the GM can’t take away the fun in the game. If he/she does, then find a new GM.)

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Friday Faves: 2014-12-26

December 26th, 2014

Merry Christmas to everyone out there in RPG-land. I hope your Christmas (or whatever flavor of holiday you celebrate) went well, is going well, or will go well. We had a good time here at the Hungry household with The Kid landing tons of great toys and too many Legos.

The week was a good one in the RPG blogosphere as well, so here are the links!

Troy’s Crock Pot: Make Those Monsters Legendary, Again

Troy makes some great points in his article about how to really amp up the lore and legend of a critter before (or if) it’s even encountered. I’ve done this before, and had GMs do it to me as a player. I fondly remember stopping at an abandoned village that had a covered (nearly sealed) well that had something thumping inside the well. We discovered near-ruined texts that alluded to the horror found within the well. My character was recovering from a disease at the time, so we spent close to two weeks at the village. The rest of the part hiked to and from the nearest stream for fresh water rather than risk what was in the well. We never did discover what was thumping away beneath the wooden cover. I have a feeling it was for the best.

Pieces of Ordinary Randomness: Random Techniques Of Chance

Mike has pinged me right where I tickle the most: math applied to RPGs. I love breaking out the graphing calculator (or Perl) during game design and checking the probabilities involved in the dice rolling, target number(s), number of successes needed, etc. I get all sorts of jolly and energized by crunching those numbers. However, I’d rather leave the calculator (and Perl) “at home” when playing a game because it’s rarely fun to sit down and do 3 minutes of math to figure out the result of a 10-second die roll. There’s a certain tipping point between the excitement of “did I do it right?” and the boredom of “can we just hand wave the rule and math and say I failed?”, and I think that the fulcrum lies somewhere in the 30-45 second mark once the dice stop tumbling. Thanks for the great post, Mike. Good stuff.

Timeliness is next to Godliness

I disagree with the Great Gygax on this point (see the quote at the top of the post.) Campaigns can certainly have meaning with and without time keeping. That’s about all I have to say on that matter. Jeff does a great job of breaking down his thoughts on the subject.

[MegaDelve] The Hall of Bronze

Great Dwarven order in this map!

[MegaDelve] Dead Dwarf Storage!

Great Dwarven chaos in this map!

Tips for getting started painting minis

Peter has an excellent post packed full of advice for someone like me. Thanks to the highly successful Bones Kickstarter that Reaper Miniatures did, I now have hundreds of unpainted minis. Add these to the dozens of metal ones I’ve purchased over the years, and I’m probably sitting around 400 minis that need paint to be applied. *sigh* Yeah. It’s that bad. I don’t need to paint them, but I do enjoy it as a sort of meditative process. The only problem I have is that it takes me right at an hour to paint one mini. I just don’t have 400 hours to dedicate to painting. It’s such a daunting process, that I balk at starting. Perhaps Peter will get me off my arse, and into gear on the painting of the minis.

The Art of Describing a Monster

I feel that in the RPG industry, we’ve lost the touch of beautiful descriptions. They tend to boil down to the mechanical, near ritualized, application of text to a mental image without evoking any emotion. I’m guilty of it in my own bestiary for my as-yet-to-be-published game. Perhaps I need to take a step back and apply my fiction writing muscles to the task of throwing down some evocative descriptions of the critters. Thanks for the post!

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Friday Faves: 2014-12-19

December 19th, 2014

Another week has come and gone, and I have more links for you! This has been a great week for the RPG blogosphere, so there are tons of links this week. Let’s get to ‘em.

You poured rules lawyer all over my fun

I can’t think of a single gamer I’ve played with in the past that likes rules lawyers. I’m not even sure the rules lawyers themselves like rules lawyers. When a cool thing happens in the game (regardless of how or why), it’s a complete buzz-kill to have the rules lawyer speak up, “… but on page X of book Y, rule Z says you shouldn’t be able to do that.” At this point, there are usually dice and curse words thrown in the direction of the rules lawyer. Brandon Sanderson has his Three Laws of Magic. On Writing Excuses, he recently announced Rule Zero, “If it’s cool, do it.” In other words, ignore the rules and allow plausible, cool actions to take place. We’re telling stories, after all.

Technically Correct – the best worst kind of correct

Another post along the lines of the first one. If you destroy the story being told or the fun being had by being “technically correct” in rules reading/interpretation, does this mean you win the game? Nah. It means everyone else around you loses. Don’t do it.

So, What Comes First? The Character Concept or the Characteristics

For me, I tend to have a vague concept of the character, make choices (where possible) toward that concept, and the rest of the character becomes fleshed-out and mostly realized over the course of 2-3 sessions of game play. However, there are times when I hit a new campaign as a player without a clue as to what I want to play. That’s when I let the dice guide my choices or let my fellow players pick something for me to play. I’m up for running just about anything… so long as I get to game!

Coincidental Complications; or, Side Quests Broadly Applied

I’ve never liked the wording of “side quest.” Mainly because the word “quest” heavily implies a lengthy trek, many tasks to overcome, and lots of focus taken away from the main plot of the story being told. I’m more a fan of calling these things “plot twists” and allowing them to tweak the players in sensitive areas for a short term engagement (that may or may not affect the main plot line in some manner.) Do these semantics change things? Yeah. In a way. It allows me (and my players) to realize the side trip is something that will be brief. Just because it’s brief doesn’t mean it’ll be painless or meaningless, though.

Dungeons & Dragons’ Legacy

Forged hits the nail on the head with this post. He’s right that the D&D legacy is thick in pretty much every RPG (and quite a few non-RPG things) these days. Does this mean we have to game today like Gygax and Arnreson did back in 1974? Nope. Things can change. Heck, things need to change over time to adjust for different (and sometimes more mature) outlooks on life.

The Thinking Man’s Guide to Intelligence for Players and GMs

Mike does a great job of dispensing advice on how to run (as PC and GM) various people/critters with a wide variety of intellects. Any attempt to properly sum up the post here would show a lack of intelligence on my part because Mike’s post puts everything out there for you. My favorite section has to be the GMing EHI NPCs. The sample dialogue elements are great exhibitions of how an EHI person might think/talk/act/react.

Gifts In Gaming: Overlooked Seasonal Plot Hooks

Mike takes the Christmas season to heart and gives us a great article on how to give other things to our players. It makes me want to give a trap as a gift to a player now… :)

The Art Book Campaign

Holy crap! This post by Martin is genius. Click through for photos of some great-looking and thought-provoking artwork. I may have to use this technique for the next campaign I start up. Excellent idea!

[MegaDelve] The Marble Hall (Dwarven City Level 2)

More great maps from Dyson. The broken bridge over the expansive chasm is especially evocative. Great work!

Mythical Creatures of Africa

I love learning about new mythological creatures, beings, entities, things, etc.. Africa has a wealth of mythos that is greatly overlooked. Thanks for the post. I might see if I can slip a grootslang into my game in the somewhat near future.

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Friday Faves Finally Posted: 2014-12-14

December 14th, 2014

Sorry for the delay in getting this out. Crazy work day on Friday combined with a sick kid sapped my time (and energy) near the end of the day. Then I had to race out the door to my monthly Pathfinder game. We had a good time, and I can’t wait for the players to meet up with more of my hand-crafted demons.

I intended to finish things up yesterday, but Saturday completely vanished for me. I’m not sure how that happened. Ah well…

On with the links!

Troy’s Crock Pot: Home Is Where the Exit Is

If you’re designing a multilevel dungeon, there’s more than just “stairs” or “ramps” to carry the players between levels. Troy has a whole list of the options presented in the post. I’d like to add the collapsing floor to the list. It’s a bit more violent and unexpected for the players, but that can really ramp up the tension and fun in the game. I recall the trapped floor in the original Ravenloft module that would drop the player into a slide and carry them down to the bowels of the castle. Good times….

Let’s Twist Again – Eleven types of Plot Twist for RPGs pt 2

More plot twist goodness from Mike. He delves into the final plot twists from the original post. I’m a big fan of Twist #5 where the players think they’ve defeated the Big Bad, only to realize the Big Bad is actually nothing more than the Big Minion of a Bigger Bad. I tend to only use this one if a campaign arc has played itself out, but we’re all still enjoying the game and the characters. It renews the energy of the game and allows us to all continue on with the fun we’re having.

GMing With Kids

My son just turned seven years old. I introduced myself to role playing at the age of ten and taught myself how to do it. Granted, I didn’t do a great job at it (it was more hack ‘n’ slash than anything), but I had a good time with. I’m thinking that with my guidance, I can introduce my son to gaming here in a few months. Angela’s tale of introducing three young women to gaming has inspired me to take that step forward and see if my son will enjoy gaming as well.

Gaming and the Busy Adult

Here’s the flip-side of the coin from the above post. How do you get a bunch of adults together in the same place at the same time to enjoy some gaming. We had set up a gaming group with five of us a few months back with the intent to play every other Saturday. We’ve met all of one time. Too many things have gotten in the way. I’m starting to wonder if we’ll ever actually play that game or not. The tips and tricks presented by Hunter in his post may help us out. I’ve already sent the link out to the group. We’ll see what happens.

Hatching and Detailing Video

This is a great video by Dyson on how he does some of his magic with his mapping. I learned quite a bit. I followed along as the video progressed. I gotta say the map wasn’t as good as his turn out, but it wasn’t too shabby. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Dyson!

Flavors Of Victory: Why do good GMs fail?

Mike brings up some good points in tiny detail on how a good GM can slip and fall during the course of running a game. I’ve been there before. I’m certain everyone has at some point. We all have off nights, or have planned poorly, or just didn’t quite execute a good idea in the proper manner. So long as a GM is willing to get back on the horse (or griffin or pegasus or whatever) and improve over the previous effort, I’m there for them. I have walked out on some games in the past, but that was immaturity on my part. I’ve learned quite a bit since those days.

[MegaDelve] The Morlock Retreat

More MegaDelve from Dyson! Great map in there. Keep up the good work!

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Friday Faves Delayed

December 12th, 2014

Hey everyone,

I’ll have the Friday Faves up tomorrow. Some coding duties for a non-profit I volunteer for came up with some issues that I had to resolve today. I was hoping to finalize the post today, but that just didn’t happen. I’ll get to polishing things up tomorrow and put up the post.

Thanks for your understanding.

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