Another Late Friday Faves: 2015-02-28

I’ve had a rough time keeping up with these posts. It’s partially because a ton of great posts are hitting each week. There’s also more raw content coming out of the RPG blogosphere than I’m used to seeing. It’s rough staying on top of things. Another partial reason is that my contract job has hit a tight deadline, and I’ve been spending most of my spare moments on that effort. It’s time that I’d normally be using to update this post.

On the lighter side of things (and barely RPG-related)… I finally got out to play some Magic: The Gathering tonight. I built a new deck a few days ago as a “brain cleaner break” from the contract job. The deck is 82 cards, which is a bit on the large side, so I was concerned it might not be effective. Turns out (at least for the 3 games I used it in), it is very potent. I’m quite happy with it.

Now on with the links!

Troy’s Crock Pot: Change that pace, gross them out

In fiction writing, or good storytelling, or good gamemastering, the more visceral the reaction you get from your reader, the better of a job you’re doing. Usually, most folks go for the strong emotions (anger, fear, happiness, loss, grief, etc.), but going for pure revulsion is a rare target. This is what makes it so effective. If you want some fine examples of how to go about this, click through to Troy’s post.

Signs and Signatures: An essay on uniqueness of style

Mike has a great post about how your stamp, or style, or signature can be telling in game design and running a game. Sometimes this is a good thing… sometimes, not so much. Our signatures in everything we do is so ingrained that it’s rare that we can recognize it in what we’re doing. It’s called “being too close to your own work.” This is why I’m part of a critique group for my fiction writing. This is why I have people playtest (with and without guidance, but always with my presence) games I’ve created. This is why I constantly ask for honest feedback (sometimes guided and sometimes open-ended) from my players in the game. It takes outside input to show you where you’re shining and where your flaws are at.

Light Consequences, Combat Consequences, and Noise Consequences in the Dungeon

Noisms has a good post that touches the tip of the iceberg about actions and the consequences of those actions. He talks about the dungeon-delving type things that can cause potentially bad things to happen to the group of characters. Go hit his blog and check it out. Maybe drop him a line in his comments about other types of gaming consequences that can happen and what can trigger them.

[MegaDelve] The Crypts

I love the intricate detail in this map. It’s so fine and beautiful that it takes my breath away. Good stuff here, Dyson. I can’t wait to see the final product!

Some Thoughts on Technoir

I also backed Technoir. To be honest with you, I’m so incredibly happy with the base game (and few other supplements that have been released), that I didn’t even realize that I’d been cheated out of additional material. It makes me sad to think that so much money went to the creator and he just couldn’t seem to pull through on the additional goods. Perhaps he burned out? I just hope nothing horrible happened to him to prevent him from finishing off the rewards.

You Can Totally Do That Thing (Or Maybe Not)

I hate it when a player starts describing an action and expecting a result and when I tell them that things won’t quite work out the way they want… well… it’s frustrating for all parties involved. I’ve been GMing long enough to have a “spidey sense” when the disconnect starts to happen. When that tingle goes off, I’ll stop and ask them, “What is the end goal you’re trying to accomplish with what you’re doing?” When they explain that aspect of things, I’ll explain to them the best course of action within the ruleset we’re using (or make up something on the fly if the rules don’t cover the action/result), and go from there. It’s incredibly rare for me to outright shoot down a goal or action, so long as it’s “reasonable” within the genre and rule set we’re using.

D&D: Shaking bad habits out of new players

I have to say that I’ve never run into this particular problem… The one where players show up with massive preconceived notions that directly conflict with the type of game we’re in. There are minor things here and there, of course. However, nothing major has cropped up. I guess I’ve been lucky. Just because I’ve not had the problem of that MMORPG or ComputerRPG person coming into a group with wildly differing expectations from what I was delivering at the table. However, if you’ve hit this problem, check out the post by Duncan and see what he has to say.

Ask The GMs: Some Arcane Assembly Required – Pt 2: Sourcing Parts

More advice from Mike and the gang on scarcity of spell components and other strange items found within the world. This meshes well with what was said before, so do yourself a favor and continue reading! I especially like the idea of Magical Institutions as Components just because of the massive worldbuilding, social, economic, cultural, and ally/enemy potential that idea holds.

Thoughts on whiffing in D&D-based vs. GURPS

Peter has a fantastic post that hits the nail on the head on why I prefer GURPS over D&D (or similar) games. I always feel like I have more control over the outcome of my actions in GURPS. In D&D, I’m always hoping for a “good” die roll to save my ass. He delves deeper into the details than I do here, and it’s worth the few minutes it’ll take you to read through it. Good post!

Off-Label Gaming

Phil has a great post on altering, repurposing, or flat out ignoring parts of a game. Honestly, all gaming is off-label gaming. Any non-trivial game is going to be nuanced enough that rules are going to missed, forgotten, or misinterpreted. This naturally leads to off-label gaming. However, Phil’s post is more about doing this intentionally, why you would want to do so, how to do so, and the ramifications of changing things up.

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Delayed Friday Faves: 2015-02-21

Here are the Friday Faves, though a bit delayed, and on purpose. Some articles came out yesterday that I wanted to read and comment on.

Here’s the links!

The House of Seven Larks

I love this post because I’m a big fan of isometric maps, but only if they are clear as to how everything links together. Dyson is a master at this. I also love this post because he shows the gradual steps between sketch and finished product. It’s very cool to see the progression.

Prepared!: Dungeon Props

Read about this bookshelf. Don’t use it directly in a dungeon. Grab some inspiration about how things can be different, unique, weird, and just plain baffling (sometimes) to the players around the table. This is a great example of creative thinking to liven up a dungeon crawl.

Incredible Truth and Improbable Stories: Oratory in an RPG

Mike takes some political happenings in his homeland of Australia and turns it into a great post about how convincing someone can be about, well, just about any topic. When I competed in speech and debate competitions in junior high and early high school, we were told that for each topic we were speaking on, we had to master three things: logos, pathos, ethos. We had to be logical in our delivery of facts (logos). We had to be passionate about our topic (pathos). We also had to be credible in all manners of our physical and verbal actions (ethos). If any one of those three are missing, then the speech (or debate) was surely to fail miserably.

[Tuesday Map] The Temple of Greed

Another great isometric map by Dyson. He’s knocking them out of the park!

It’s Rough Changing From Tactical Maps to Theater of the Mind

I never had the money (or sometimes space to a battlemat) for tactical maps in my role playing games until D&D 3.0 came out and I was a working adult with a healthy profession. That’s when I joined a new group that had used tactical maps since first edition AD&D. It was a real eye opener and changed the way I approached combat. Now that I’ve been doing tactical maps with minis and drawn terrain/walls/rooms/etc., I’m not sure I could return to the theater of the mind for D&D type games. For games like Fate Core, I can see using theater of the mind because it is very clear that if you are in the same zone as another character, you can physically interact with them.

Players Align Characters Through Actions

This is a great post that breaks down player alignments, and touches on the fact that players rarely stick to their character’s alignments unless they’re playing one of those archetypes where alignment is baked into the class (think of paladins and druids here).

Call of Cthulhu vs. Dungeon Fantasy

This post in comparing CoC and DF made me smile in places, snort in others, and nod knowingly in others. A great (and very apt) comparison of the two approaches to gaming.

Ask The GMs: Some Arcane Assembly Required – Pt 1: The Sales Pitch

Mike brings in some friends (Ian and Nick) to answer a question from “GM Roy” about how to create some cool and interesting spell components. When I read the question, my mental response was, “Why bother?” Of course, if the core of the game (not just the magic system) is finding, saving, prepping, using, and mixing these spell components, that would work. However, if it’s for flavor in the magic system, not many players are going to care…. That was my reaction. Of course, Mike (and Ian and Nick) crushed my initial reaction by delving deep into the concepts and needs of spell components. They put together some very valid points on why to have them, why not to have them, and how to approach their use. My favorite approach is to assume the wizard has his spell pouch with appropriate components unless the story had dictated that items have been lost/ruined, or if the spell component is especially rare or valuable.

10 Fates worse than Death in D&D

Please kill me before doing any of these 10 to me. They all suck, but they also make for fantastic role playing and story telling moments.

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Intentionally Delayed Friday Faves

I have rescheduled today’s Friday Five as there were a few articles that came out today that caught my eye. I’ve not had a chance to give them a solid read or throw together some quick comments. I want to give them the attention they deserve, and that will have to wait until tomorrow. I’ll get a post up sometime tomorrow between bouts of clearing the snow from my driveway.

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Rare Watching Wednesday: Epic Hero and Villain Feat Cards

The creators of this Kickstarted dropped me an email yesterday to see if I would check out their campaign for Epic Hero and Villain Feat Cards.

I did so …

… and I’m impressed!

My monthly Pathfinder group asked if there would be a way (XP, gold, treasure, magic, whatever) to reward players that come up with good ideas. I stole the “Bennie” idea from Savage Worlds, tweaked it a bit for our game, and put it to use. It’s a bit weak, though.

This set of cards is exactly what I’ve been waiting for! I can now hand out a card with some choices on it, some tangible benefit to it, and they’re really cool!

Will I use the “villain” side of the card? Maybe. I might pull one out for the occasional Important Bad Guy.

Right now, the Kickstarter has 12 days to go, and is ripping through some stretch goals as I type this.

Personally, I threw in 60 coin… er… dollars to the campaign.

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Friday Faves: 2015-02-13

Today is my wife’s birthday and we have gobs of plans this evening, so I’m putting this post together as the links come out. (Yep, Mike, I’m back on that horse. Thanks for the idea!)

On with the links!

Troy’s Crock Pot: Wonder of Chalklines

I love the idea of leaving behind evidence of magical happenings. We (at least, I) tend to think of clues that are in the physical realm, not the metaphysical one. Leaving behind the trappings, ingredients, results, or backlashes of magical rituals is an awesome idea!

New Beginnings: Phase 3: Reinvigoration

As most of you know, I’m a fiction writer. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen away from writing for the past 3-4 weeks. I needed a mental break from it after finishing my last novel. I’m not under any deadlines (though that might help keep me going), so I have the luxury of chilling out and relaxing. What I really needed was something to reinvigorate me. A new perspective. New input. New ideas. One Wednesday, I recorded a podcast in which a writer (me) presents a story idea to the host, co-host, and an expert guest writer. The two-ish hours I spent on Skype with these fine folks reinvigorated my passion for writing. Unfortunately, my schedule has kept me away from the keyboard, but come Sunday morning (my next free moment), I’m going to crank out some words. If you’re not lucky enough to have something like this happen to you, check out Mike’s article. He has some great ways you can reinvigorate yourself, or work with your group to do so. There are some really great ideas in there, so go check it out.

The Arrogance Trap

Are you an arrogant GM? You sure? I hope you’re not, but if you have any doubts at all, check out this fine article by Angela to see what she has to say. There’s a mini-quiz included that may help you figure out if you are or not.

The End Of The Adventure

Mike has almost 20 different ideas on the feelings you can (should) leave behind with your group at the end of a story arc. This also applies to fiction writing as well, so it’s a good read if you’re more into writing fiction than the collaborative storytelling process of role playing. He also has a solid dozen ideas on what to avoid as well. The post is packed with goodness on ending a story and what you should aim for. Great post, Mike. PS: My favorite good target was “A Chill Up The Spine.” Good stuff.

Curses for Your Campaign

The Kobolds have unleashed a dozen (anyone have a d12 they’re not using?) curses on the world! These are fantastic ideas, and offer much more flavor than the “typical” curse found in most rule books.

[MegaDelve] Giant Citadel – North

Wow. Dyson knocked it out of the park with this map. So many intricate details and layers in this one. I love the multiple levels, and (as usual) he depicts them with a great deal of clarity.

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: Introduction and DM’s Job

It’s been a long time since I’ve read the Mentzer books. Probably decades. This summary-style post by Lord Gwydion about the vital GM tips and ideas in the red box GM book reminded me of why I run games, and how to strengthen how I run them. Thanks for this post!

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Late Friday Faves: 2015-02-07

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

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

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

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.


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

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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