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!

Friday Faves: 2015-03-06

Another week of great posts by great people. Nothing much new to report here, so I’m off with some links!

The Gradated Diminishing Of Reality – Travel in FRPG

Mike calls this a “filler post” for lack of time to work on his regular series he has going, but there’s nothing “filler” about this one. Travel across landscapes (especially at lower levels [pre fly/teleport spells]) can eat up tons of time for the characters, but it doesn’t have to translate into tons of time for the players. I love Mike’s breakdown of the different depths of describing travel at the various levels. I think he hit the nail on the head. Once the “routines” and “marching orders” are established, then getting on with the game to the more exciting things is usually where I head. I will give details about new environments the characters encounter, and then tell the players something along the lines of, “… and you see that for the next 3 days while you travel across the landscape.”

Wiping the Slate Clean

I’ve restarted campaigns quite a few times. John gives some great advice on when to do it, why to do it, and how to do it. He hits a great set of points when he says that the new campaign should be geographically distant from the old campaign and involve new characters. Yeah, this pretty makes a whole new campaign, but that’s the point of wiping the slate clean.

The Tortoise Curse

I love this curse! It starts out with some good stuff for the player and eventually develops into something the character probably doesn’t want. This is much better than the “standard” D&D/Pathfinder curse that just inhibits player actions during eventful scenes. Good job!

Running a Roleplaying Game at Work

I used to run RPGs at school. We’d talk about it between (*ahem* and during) classes, and run the main session at lunch. I’ve never considered starting up a game while at work. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I never did accidentally run into a critical mass of players while at the Day Job. Perhaps I should start keeping an eye out for them.

Ask The GMs: Some Arcane Assembly Required – Pt 3: Tab A into Slot B

This is part three of Mike (and others) talking about spell components. This one focuses on a checklist or outline of sorts on how to develop mystical elements for use in spells, rituals, and the like. This makes coming up with some of these items a breeze. I love it. Thanks for the template on creating very cool things and for giving some very fine examples!

[Friday Map] The Summoner’s Lair

A summoner’s lair, complete with summoning circle in the back room. Excellent map, Dyson!

You … save??… a tavern??

Yeah. I’ve had players meet for the first time in a tavern. It’s useful, but boring. I’ve also had them save taverns (usually when they had a financial stake in the business), but I’ve never intro’d the part to one another in such a manner. Cool idea! I like it.

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.

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.

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.

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.