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Friday Faves: 2014-09-19

September 19th, 2014

I’m lucky to get this post out. I’m in Paris on work duties, and we’ve been putting in 9-12 hour days all week long. On top of that (or, most likely, because of that) I’ve come down with a massive head/chest cold along with a raging fever. I have a doctor appointment this afternoon that my boss’s boss lined up for me (he’s a saint!) but until then, I’m pretty much stuck in my hotel room without anything to do but surf the web and see what kind of trouble I can get into online.

I have the time for some comments on the links, but not the energy. Sorry folks. You’ll just have to click through and see what kind of greatness I’ve discovered this morning from a week (or so) worth of items in my RSS feeds.

Blank Check GMing
Game Props Part 1: Tarot Cards
The Impact Of Polished Text: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Part 4
A Mobile Base of Operations
Pearls Of Spontaneous Prose: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Pt 5
Technical Longsword: GURPS gets it right
Why You Also Need To Be A Player

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Friday Faves: 2014-09-12

September 12th, 2014

It’s been a hectic week for me. I’m going to be in Paris on business all of next week and most of the week after. I have no idea if I’ll get a Friday Faves out the door next week or the week after. We’ll see how much downtime I have to myself. I might collect the links and post them with no comments. I may not even have time for that. I’m just not sure yet.

Now for the links for this week!

Mashing Genres: Medieval Superheroes

I’ve seen this done exactly one time. It was a Pathfinder game, and I was playing a cleric of Abadar. One of the traits I took landed me 300 extra starting GP. I used that money for some good armor, a shield, and a horse. The paladin in the group (also a worshipper of Abadar) did the same thing. When we rode into the various towns we encountered, we were treated almost like royalty. People stopped and gawked. Many removed their hats. Some bowed or knelt. It was a great set of moments for me and the other player. I loved being treated like something special even though we were really low level at the time. We just looked uber-powerful…. which did lead to some troubles for us, but they were fun troubles.

How Balanced Should Encounters Be?

I despise games that give me (the GM) a mathematical formula for “balancing” encounters. If I want to “program” something, I’ll do it at my day job. I do present balanced encounters, but I do it with my gut. I’ll glance at the challenge ratings of the creatures I’m using, but nothing more than that. I’ll make sure that the cool critter I want to use doesn’t happened to be overpowered. If I’m dead set on using the critter, and it’s still overpowered for the group, I’ll strip it of (or just not use) a special ability that it has. There are also micro-balance things I do during the encounter to either amp up the difficulty if things are going too smoothly (or the dice have dictated a lopsided victory) or if the PCs (through no fault of their own other than bad dice rolls) are getting their asses handed to them.

Exploring HP variations in D&D

I love this post because it delves into various systems’ mechanics on how hit points, disabled, unconscious, dying, and death (including instant death) work, but without getting all judgmental about it all. Each system has its own approach for various reasons, and each one is “right” for itself. Yeah. I know that HP causes loads of confusion because of the fact that a troll with 3 HP does as much damage as a troll with 30 HP. It’s one of the weirdnesses in our gaming history (and present day) that’s just accepted, hand-waved, and we move on to the more exciting parts of the game. Are there solutions to this weirdness? Yeah, but they involve heavy math and lots of tracking of stuff (think Battletech) and this really bogs down the game… unless that’s the point of the game (again, think Battletech).

Bullet To The Point: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Part 2

Narrative, or what we like to call in the gaming world “box text,” has long been disliked. Perhaps it’s been reviled by a few people over the decades. This is usually because the box text is, well, poorly written, or just packed with too many details, some of which are unimportant to the current situation. Players love to think (I think it’s an ingrained human condition), “Oh! The blue book was mentioned on the shelf, but none of the others were detailed, so that blue book must be the important thing in the room, so I’m going to grab the blue book and see what’s in it as soon as I can!” Yeah… That’s normal for a player. More well written narrative will help prevent that as smoother transitions between details are given. Go hit Mike’s post and see what he has to say, but make sure you have some time and a fresh beverage as the post is rather lengthy. Well worth the time, though!

Troy’s Crock Pot: Sensory Overload

It is entirely possible to throw the PCs into a tizzy without a physical assault. Just overload their senses with something to help disable them. Have you ever wondered why police shine their 80-bajillion-mega-watt flashlights in your face? It’s not just so they can get a good look at it. It throws you off balance, makes it harder for you to see what they’re doing, and gives them a huge tactical advantage. You can do the same to your players…. especially if you pack in multiple senses in the overload and amp up the difficulty scale of things.

Why Rush Character Generation?

I love making characters. It’s one of the most fun parts of the game for me. I really enjoy a first full session of character generation. Not just the rolling of dice, choosing of abilities, and number crunching. I like the back-and-forth with my fellow players to figure out how we all know each other, how well we get along, and what we have in common. I’ll admit that I don’t do that second part nearly as much as I should, but when ideas and things click, it makes for a more cohesive party. If I lose a character mid-campaign (especially early in a session), I’ll crank out a new character in record time in order to miss as little of the game time as I can.

Rule of Cool (Improvised Weapons)

I always give a “cool bonus” to players that think of neat stuff for their characters to do. It encourages thinking outside the box and can lead to some great role playing scenarios. I highly encourage other GMs to do the same.

Words, Like Raindrops, Fall: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Part 3

Mike continues his work on educating people on the writing of narrative in this post. See the link above for Part 2, and last week for Part 1. These parts of the article are great reads, and I’m looking forward to Part 4. I just hope I don’t forget to read it when it comes out while I’m in Paris. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks for the great words and excellent advice, Mike!

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Friday Faves: 2014-09-05

September 7th, 2014

It’s been a pretty good week for me. Tonight is my monthly Pathfinder game, and I can’t wait to put ideas from this post from Mike at Campaign Mastery to use while the group crosses a lake during stormy weather. Gonna be a hoot! (I hope).

On with the links:

EDIT: I completely forgot to click the “Schedule” button (again) and just now (it’s now Sunday morning) realized that my post didn’t go through. You figure as someone who has specialized in web development for the past 20 years (crap, yeah, 20 years), that I’d know how to run WordPress. :) Ah well….

Now! On with the links!

Mercy Me, The Fantasy Ecology

This is a very interesting take on creating fantasy ecologies. There are so many options out there to us. We just don’t seem to take advantage of it. Yeah, the random charts can result in some silliness, but it can also spur greater thought and wonderful results!

A Population Of Dinosaurs and the impact on RPG ecologies

Hey! Another ecology post. This one delves a little more scientifically into the process than the previous post, but I feel they are a good pairing. Check out both of the links and merge some ideas. You’ll come up with some fantastic ideas. If you do nothing more than search for “Jaws may drop at will.” in the post and check out the number presented there. Perhaps my assumption about the “silliness” of the previous post is unfounded. With that many different combinations of creatures…. Wow! It’s blows my mind.

Create a One Page System Today

I’ve seen those “one page RPG” efforts, and I’ve always wondered how to go about it. Now I know! There are some great tips in this post about how to go about creating one of those mini creatures of role playing excellence.

[Tuesday Map] The Ruined Necropolis

This is a another great map, but I think I like the brief backstory behind this area more than the map itself. Make sure to read the text around the image to get some ideas on how you might use this in your own game!

Knockout

I’ve always missed a knockout mechanic in my games, so when I set out to create my own RPG 20+ years ago, I made sure there was a rule system around being incapacitated with a single blow and how long that knockout effect stayed in place. Of course, it had to be tweaked and refined, but I love what I have. Perhaps I’ll reveal it some day if I ever get off my ass and actually publish the damn thing.

Target Mapping your Monsters: Worldbuilding via the “Monster Manual”

I’ve used concepts similar to this one. My approach is to figure out the Main Big Bad, and then give him weaker minions, and then give those minions weaker ones, and so forth until I reach the “goblin level” where the PCs will start. There’s a whole tree of minions. It’s not a linear line of goblins-to-orcs-to-ogres-… and so on. Some of the minions on the same level may be pitting their power against a “sibling” in the tree to take over their sibling’s sphere of control. I love how Lyndsay sketches out spheres of control. I think taking it another level with some overlap in spheres can result in some damn fine role playing experiences. Great work!

Polished Loquacity: The Secrets of Stylish Narrative Part 1

I’m a “medium prep” type GM. It seems that when I do “heavy prep,” the players blow my plans out of the water and move on about their own agenda. That’s fine. That’s actually preferred, but I’ve learned a long time ago to just prep for some preplanned settings, characters, and critters, and then let the game flow around them as the PCs want it to. I have run a few “no prep” games, and those were a hoot. I may do something like that again someday, but it does require the right style of group at the table to pull it off well. Mike’s post touches on many techniques in that “medium prep” area that I mentioned earlier. It’s a way to land some great ideas for you to draw from, but you won’t spend so much time on your prep that you’ll feel burned when the players sideslip by it.

Storium – The Best Little Game You Might Not Know About

I’ve heard about Storium through a few different avenues now, and it’s reached critical mass in my brain. I’m going to have to check it out now. It looks like a great way to get some “slow paced” but still “high action” role playing in while I’m between games.

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Friday Faves: 2014-08-29

August 29th, 2014

Another week! More links! More great links, that is!

Yep. That’s all I have this week. Just some links.

Enjoy!

Goodman Games to Reprint Classic Judges Guild Products at Archival Quality

I picked up a few Judges Guild products back in the day, and I loved every single one of them. I found them incredibly useful. I think I might still have some left in the collection somewhere. If I don’t, this is my chance to pick them back up!

a D&D player’s advice to DMs running mystery games

Lots of GM advice comes from fellow GMs and their experiences. This particular post is also for GMs, but from the player’s perspective. What does this mean? It means, pay attention! Your players are your audience. They are your consumers. They are your customers (they tend to pay more with their time than their wallet, but that’s a more valuable resource in my book.) Check out what Paul has to say on how to run a mystery game to help your players, keep your players engaged, and not to “leave them in the dust” with the brilliance of your convoluted plot lines.

Sharknado, the Unofficial Fan Game.

I love this post because it shows how easily a new rule set can come together from a simple concept. Is it perfect? Probably not. Would it be fun to play? Looks that way! If you’re looking to adapt your favorite commercial property, you can either create a splatbook for a good generic system (GURPS, Hero, Fate, Savage Worlds, etc.) or if the concepts of the property are way out there, you can run with your own set of rules like is outlined in this post.

Storytelling, Life, and RPGs: Pacing in RPGs

C.S. brings up two opposing approaches at pacing a game. The first is event-based triggers in which nothing happens until the PCs arrive on scene to witness it. The other is a timer-based trigger in which things happen no matter what the PCs are doing (unless they’re in the right place at the right time). Both of these approaches have their ups and downs, but I’ve had good success with using events that start a timer that then trigger the events. This means the PCs can usually be nearby when something happens, but if they start the timer (often without knowing it) and then meander away to chase a squirrel and miss out on the fun action, so be it. The aftermath will be there for them to clean up when they come back.

Seven Circles Of Hell – Creating Politics for an RPG

I’ve never seen such a wonderful description of how politics truly works, and Mike does a fantastic job of tying it into how politics can impact an ongoing game. I’ve run a few political games in the past with mixed success. When I get my most bang for the buck, I’ve used more than just government factions. There are a wide variety of groups that can come into play to sway the players’ decisions. Don’t just limit yourself to “good” and “evil” groups. Groups (by definition) are made up of a collection of people. Within this collection, there is undoubtedly going to be variations of opinion and desires. An “all evil cult run by the even-more-evil master” is cardboard cut out. It’s weak. Don’t do that. If you have a group that wants something for its own best interest, present the world (and the players) with an opposing group. These factions (or groups) can be governmental, mercantile, magical, societal, religious, cultural, foreign, domestic, support a common cause, etc.. Take a look at how our real world works, twist it a bit to add your own flavor, and run with it in your game. Politics can be more fun than just fast-forwarding past the “elect me” (or more closely “don’t elect that other guy”) commercials on the DVR.

DIY GM Screen For Better Play

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. If you really want to learn a new system, make your own GM screen. Don’t copy/paste from the PDF into your own document before printing. Don’t scan/print/copy/paste from the book when you find a cool chart. Type out the information yourself. This is the proper way to build your own screen. By typing out the information, you’ll see the flow of the numbers. You’ll see the patterns. This will deepen your understanding of the game. When I created my own RPG, I came to the point when I needed a GM screen. I started typing things out (even though I had created the game), and that’s when I realized some of the ranges, patterns, flows, and curves of the numbers didn’t quite add up despite my deep mathematical analysis of the game when I created it. Huh. Well, it let me go back and fix some things.

[Friday Map] Three Hillside Tombs

Sweet map! So many opportunities to make use of some quality adventures lie in wait within the confines of these lines and artistic representations that I can’t stand it. Full stories flourish in my brain from look at Dyson’s maps. Great work!

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Friday Faves: 2014-08-22

August 22nd, 2014

Lots of GenCon news this week. I barely make it to conferences and conventions (there is a difference) in my own area, so I tend to blank out the GenCon (and others) news, so I don’t get jealous. That’s why there’s no links to the GenCon greatness.

Apparently, there is also a release of some new RPG product from Wizards of the Coast. I have negative interest in this product because of the previous version. I was burned. Burned bad. I dropped close to $400 on that piece of crap RPG that claimed the same name as one of my favorites. I just kept hoping that the “next book” would “make things better.” It didn’t. Each book made things more and more like a video game, not a tabletop role playing game. I won’t make the mistake of spending money on this version. It looks like to even play that game at its base level (PHB, DMG, and MM), the GM has to drop $150. Ouch. No thanks. Not when Paizo makes Pathfinder at $50 for everyone at the table (GM included) plus another $40 for the Bestiary. That’s $90 vs. $150 as a starting point. I also happen to love Pathfinder, so I’m not about to drop another $150 into WotC’s pocket just to see if their most recent version is better. They get enough of my money from Magic: The Gathering as it is.

Okay. Phew. I feel better. Now you know why you won’t see links relating to GenCon (or other conventions) or to the newest (and most expensive) pile of steaming crap from Hasbro Wizards of the Coast.

On with the links!

Shades Of Suspense Pt 1 – Eight Tips for Cliffhanger Finishes

I suck at cliffhangers. I can’t seem to do them right in my writing. I certain miss opportunities to have them happen in my games. It’s just not how my brain is wired. I have to put special thought, consideration, effort (loads of effort), and some luck to use in order to nail a cliffhanger well. I have a buddy in my fiction critique group that just hammers home with a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter (and sometimes at a scene break). There are also plenty of authors out there that do it well. I’ve improved my cliffhanger execution a wee bit by studying their works, but I still have a long way to go. Mike’s article really helped propel my education forward! If you’re in the same boat as me, drop a click on the link and check out his words of wisdom.

Troy’s Crock Pot: Patrons make sense

I love this idea. I’ve done this in several games. I guess I’m kind of doing it now in the Pathfinder game that I’m running. I especially love the “dirty money” angle. What are the PCs going to do about it? What if the bard finds out the truth before the paladin? What if it’s the other way around? There are so many angles to play with in a patronage-based game. Just don’t make the players feel like their characters are only tools of the patron. Give them free choice, and freedom of thought/action. Let them decide the how of doing the what the patron has asked for. Let them make the plans. The patron just gives a goal, a payment, a deadline, etc.. The PCs are going to have to figure out how to best make the objective happen.

Who rolls damage, the GM or the Players?

I’ve always been a firm believer of “the active person rolls the dice” unless it’s a resistance roll. In the case of the resistance (or saving) throws, it could be argued that the person now rolling the dice is actively resisting the effects that have potentially been placed on them. It just feels like, to me, that having the GM always roll damage steals some agency (and therefore, fun) from the players’ side of the screen. I once had a GM that tracked all PC HP in a D&D 3e campaign… even the players. As a matter of fact, when we leveled up, he rolled our HP gains for us, and wouldn’t tell us how many HP we had at max. That sucked. He piled on top of it that he wouldn’t tell us how much damage we actually took. He had some sort of scaled words (grazed, hit, slammed, massacred, etc.) that told us, in a general sense, how hard we were hit. It took the heroics out of the game and turned it into a thought process of, “Well, I’ve been hit twice, slammed three times, and massacred once. Time to run.” We leveled incredibly slow because most of the party spent their time running away from combats. It devolved into a Monty Python movie, really. Sorry to be so harsh on my disagreement, Peter, but there are some things that shouldn’t be taken from the players.

Alexander the Great looted 5000 tons of gold

Wow. 5,000 tons of gold in Great Alex’s hoard? That’s awesome. I love this little fact. Now that I know this, dropping a few thousand coins into a dragon’s hoard (or whatever the creature is) doesn’t seem too excessive. Very cool bit of information. Thanks for finding and sharing this!

Shades Of Suspense Pt 2 – Fourteen Types of Cliffhanger Finishes

Holy cow! Mike’s put his “Part 1″ (see above for link) of cliffhangers to great use, and come up with fourteen (fourteen!!!) ways to approach and implement suspenseful endings. Phew! I enjoyed every single one of them, and now I have some practical applications for how to hang the PCs from a cliff (or spider’s web or tall tree or floating castle). Of the fourteen items listed in the post, my favorite was “ominous sign” technique. That can easily get overplayed, but it feels… powerful… to me. Very powerful. Thanks for putting together the post, Mike!

Put In Place Your GMing Space

I’m going to twist this around a bit and talk about creativity space in general. I’m a writer. I’m a role player (typically the GM). I’m a software engineer. I would love to say that I do artwork, but I don’t have the natural talent to do it. Same thing with music. For my three main creative endeavors, I have to have a particular type of space within 3-5 feet of me. I need my own bubble of sound. It’s usually music. If I can, it’s through speakers, but if I’m in public (coffee shop, diner, whatever), it’s earbuds. Around me must be a mostly clean surface in case I need to fill it with a notebook, scrap of paper, pen, dice, whatever. I abhor moving item A, so I can put item B in its place. I should just be able to put item B down on a table/desk and put it to use. It really breaks my train of thought more than a person walking up to me to chat. I know. Weird brain gears grinding there, but that’s how I work. Lots of people try to emulate what I do, and I encourage them to try it. I also encourage them to try loads of different things. What works for me might not work for you. You’ll eventually migrate to how/where/when you work through a process of elimination.

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Friday Faves: 2014-08-15

August 15th, 2014

I never realized how many links I used to cull out of the list back when I limited things to just five links a week. I had quite a few links last week, and I’m up to seven eight nine ten links for this week!

Dice Shaming?

I have dice bits floating in an old dice bag from where I took a hammer to a pair of d6s that royally screwed me in a game of Battletech. I also have the d12 (and it’s d20 sibling) that I set on fire with lighter fluid and melted them into little puddles of plastic. When my current set of dice start to roll poorly, I don’t replace them or “dice shame” them on the Internet. I set them on the side table in my office and line them up so they are facing the same direction. Then I pull out the melted and fragmented bits of their ancestors for display. I’ll put the poor, maimed dice on the table and leave things like that overnight just to let my current generation of dice time to think things over. They tend to roll better for a few more months after this demonstration.

Stopping Short

If I can launch into the next adventure and get to a cliffhanger point, I’ll give it a shot. If I’m not sure I can get to such a point, I’ll drop hints to the players about what they might (or might not) face in a manner to get them excited for the next session. I always try to leave the players wanting more when we stop the session for the evening. Sometimes that happens well. Sometimes not. It’s a collaborative storytelling experience after all. I, as the GM, am not in full control of the pacing and timing of everything.

Some Myths of Megadungeon Play

Peter does a great job of dispelling some myths of running a megadungeon. I own every Undermountain (from Forgotten Realms) box set, appendix, extra, expansion, etc.. Even with all of this material in hand and things “pre-prepped” for me, it’s a ton of work to run a game in that setting. It’s lots of fun given the right group, but it’s still loads of research, reading, knowing what’s next, and being on top of your game.

New Rules of Fantasy #2: Action, Not Violence

Quinn over at Thought Crime Games has a very interesting and thought-provoking post about how violence may not be the best sort of action for your game. In most RPG books (if you remove the “spell description” section) the largest section of the book is probably dedicated to combat adjudication. This comes from our long and storied roots as a wargaming hobby in which that was the entire point of the game. As a fiction writer, I’ve learned there are different types of action beyond just two people trying to pummel each other. There is social “combat”. There are intra-party disagreements on the best (or most moral) course of action. There are chase scenes. Basically when two opposing forces meet, there is action, but this opposition doesn’t have to mean beating the brains out of one another. Though, combat is still a fun part of the game. :)

Troy’s Crock Pot: Signature monsters

I’ve done this a few times with great success. It can be the evil necromancer and/or lich and the undead horde. It can be the great dragon (or dracolich) and all of the dragonlings and/or dragon-kind roaming the lands. I once played in a campaign in which the GM loved throwing draconians (from Dragon Lance fame) at us. Some of them were grunts while others were shock troops. Having a theme to your story is a fantastic thing. Having a theme to the critters in your story can help out quite a bit as well.

Dungeon Trick Features: Sloping Passages

I hadn’ t thought about the 1:12 wheelchair ramp rule. Yeah. Those are very noticeable! Now I have to go back and rethink how I describe things. Also, is it really all that important that you hide the up/down travel to a group? I suppose in certain situations, it’ll work to increase tension or confusion, but as a general rule. No. I agree with Peter that it doesn’t factor into the enjoyment of the game all that much.

On the binding of Wounds – Everyday Healing For Pulp

Mike’s post is mainly focused on the Hero system, but he does bring it home at the end for gaming in general. He’s hit the nail on the head that Hero (and many other games) are either too deadly or not deadly enough. In one of my first forays into game design, it was impossible to kill someone (even with limbs hacked off) unless you reduced their chest or head location damage points to zero. Oops. I suppose I’d been playing too much Battletech those days and “mech damage” translated to “human damage” in the wrong way. Ah well… Design, playtest, and learn. My key take away from Mike’s post is that house rules are okay, so long as they are well thought out and fairly applied. They also need to be adjusted when flaws are found.

Characters to Grow Old With: Getting the Most Out of Your Pregens

My very first pre-gen character was a halfling thief in 1st Edition AD&D. A fellow was running a game in the back room of the FLGS. I must have been 13 or 14 years old. He had a whole stack of index cards, face down, on a table. Those were the characters we got to choose from, but we could only pull three at a time, and we had to pick one. The other two went back on to the table face down. I enjoyed that process of picking a character. I had so much fun with that halfling that I asked the GM if I could keep the index card at the end of the day. He smiled at my enthusiasm and told me to keep it. I ended up making him a fully-fleshed character for later games that me and my friends played. Today, many years later, I can’t remember his name, but I can remember how he would always use the larger characters as meat shields in combat. :)

Belkar on the Lurker Above

There just aren’t enough “trick monsters” these days. There are plenty with special powers, commanding presences, high HP, yadda, yadda, yadda. However, the true threat and fear of monsters in the “old days” (get off my lawn you kids!) was not what they could do during combat, but rather what special things they did to start combat, and possible end it before the players knew what hit them. I may have to dig up some of these older critters for the Pathfinder game I’m running. Muhahahaha!

Twelve Kingly Archetypes

The Land of Nod has a very in-depth article about the different kinds of kings. He has twelve of them. That’s right. An even dozen! Head on over and check them out. While you’re there see if you can make it a baker’s dozen in the comments.

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Friday Faves: 2014-08-08

August 8th, 2014

Today is a big day for me. It’s the 26th anniversary of the day that I almost died in a car wreck. It took three doctors a total of five hours to reattach my arm and repair other damage done to my body. Had I not been trained in wilderness first aid and survival, I’d not be here today. Only the tourniquet I made from my shirt and compress bandage from the remains of the shirt kept me from bleeding out in mere moments. I’m thankful for the doctors’ efforts to put me back together as best they could. I’m grateful to God for sparing my life in those moments.

Of course, we’re not here for me to pontificate about the gruesome and near-mortal wounds I received on the early morning hours of 1988 (yep, 8-8-88). We’re here to check out some great RPG links! Here they are:

Stormy Weather – making unpleasant conditions player-palatable

This is great timing for me! My next session in my monthly game will involve the party crossing a lake that is usually calm. Of course, I’m going to be a Big Meanie and throw a storm at them to challenge them as they cross the lake. I think it’ll be a good challenge, and Mike’s post has given me ideas on how to make the challenge fun as well!

What to do with captured PCs

If you game long enough, someone’s character is going to fall victim to the Bad Guys in a manner that means something other than death. The big questions are what are the Bad Guys going to do to the character, and what is the rest of the group going to do to save the character before the Bad Guys execute their plans? Peter dives into these topics and does a great job at covering them. Go check it out!

At The Mountains Of Madness…

If these images don’t evoke a sense of the wondrous supernatural in you… well… I’m not sure what’s wrong with you. :) Go check out these pics!

‘I Can Do That’ – Everyman Skills For Pulp

It’s rare for me to tell a player, “No. Your character can’t do that with a skill.” The few times it comes into play is when it’s an unknown language, something magical (and the character has no magical training or ability), or if it’s a straight up “do you know that?” kind of question. Even on the last point, if a player can make a strong enough point that they have a related knowledge skill, then I’ll allow it, but at a higher difficulty or increased penalty to the roll, depending on the system. When it comes to physical action, though, I’ll allow pretty much any reasonable extrapolation of how the rules around a skill are written. My system is pretty darn close to Mike’s, so I’ll let you check out what he has to say in more depth.

[Friday Map] Leeb’s Fortress

This is, hands down, the best side-view-to-top-down-view relationship map I’ve ever seen. I get a great visual of the fortress that I could crop out and show to my players, but I also get the overland/bridge tactical map as well as the layouts of the fortress itself and the caves below. You’re a genius, Dyson!

Rumors are Bite-Sized Backstory

The best piece of advice from this article is, “The best rumors are actionable.” There are several more gems in there as well, but I’ll let you go digging for them by reading the full article. Peter’s really changed how I’ll approach spreading rumors to my players.

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Friday Faves: 2014-08-01

August 1st, 2014

What an amazing week in the RPG Blogosphere! I’ve barely been able to keep up with all of the fantastic posts that have popped this week! I hope your week has been as good as mine has.

Now, on with the links!

On the drawing of maps

Want to know some of the tricks that the fabulous Dyson Logos uses to create his maps? Look no further than this link.

Fair or Foul? Playing Fast and Loose during Con Events

Fair, so long as the GM is fair and consistent. I actually like this idea because the point of a con game is first to have fun and secondly to have an experience you normally wouldn’t have with your regular gaming group. Time is limited (usually 4 hours) with zero chance of “We’ll pick this up next week.” Cracking a rulebook steals precious minutes from the game play experience. In the few con games I’ve run, if I space out on a rule (it happens), I’ll ask the table if they know of the rule. If the players are equally stymied, I’ll throw out a judgement and ask them if they think it’s fair. Usually they do because my off the top of my head ruling is generally very close to the published rules.

Adventure Creation Hacks: Two Methods

I’ve used this method in the past. What’s the method? Well, you’ll just have to click the link. I gotta say that it works very well for minimal prep. These days, I use Scrivener on my laptop instead of note cards. The way Scrivener (which is meant for writing, not necessarily note taking, but it works great) breaks out folders, files, and uses a hierarchical organization system works well with my brain. I can throw a folder of similar ideas full of files and fill in notes in each file to lay out what I’d like to have happen at certain points. It’s awesome! However, if you’re going more low tech (nothing wrong with that), then Chatty’s approach of note cards will work. Even if you think you have the “perfect” system for yourself (and you just might) still check out the link since he has some great ideas as to what to put into the notes.

A tabula rasa – focusing the mind before writing

I love this post because it closely echoes what I do when I sit down to write. It doesn’t matter what I’m writing. It could be a short story, part of a novel, RPG materials, poetry, whatever. I first have to clear my mind and “get the junk out” before I can dive into my prose. The first thing I do is make sure I have some good music going to drown out the outside world. What’s “good” music? Depends on your tastes, but I lean toward heavy metal and industrial. It just works for me, but might not for you. Once my tunes are going, I open up a file that I have name “Brain Bleach” and just type for 3-5 minutes about random things that pop into my head. Sometimes new story ideas hit me while doing this. Most of the time it turns out to be worthless drivel, but that’s okay. I’d rather bleach that out now than have it fall into my prose. Once my writing engine is warmed up after this exercise, I open up the file I intend to work on and get to work. A trick I learned (I think from Stephen King, though I’ve seen it credited to others, including Hemmingway) a LONG time ago is to stop in the middle of a sentence. This post explains the theory quite well. Now that you’ve seen my methods, hit Mike’s link to see what he has to say about it. His advice might very well work for you better than mine.

It’s Not Always What’s Behind The Door That’s Important…

If you can’t come up with a story about this door (or what’s beyond) then something’s wrong with you. It doesn’t matter the style, genre, execution, or theme of story. There’s something wonderful there! Perhaps what is behind the door really isn’t all that important as compared to the door. Run with it. Have fun!

[Tuesday Map] The Stony Recesses & Tower of Verrul

I love maps that include water hazards and multiple, intertwining layers. Guess what Dyson did here? Both! Go check it out!

The Indefinite

A figure stands at the end of a darkened hallway. It appears to be a great post by Roger on the vagaries of poor description and dropping hints as to what things look like when you don’t want to just come out and say it. This is a vital post for anyone writing description in RPGs or describing things on the fly. Good stuff here.

A Return To Prep-Lite

Another post about prepping, but this time it’s about how to prep for a campaign, not just a session. Of course, the advice here can be used at any level, but I’m reading this as “campaign prep” more than “session prep”. That’s just my take. Phil drills down deep into his methods, so you could probably learn quite a bit from him if you’re stretched thin on time.

[Friday Map] Howling Orc Bridge

I’m usually not a fan of “side view” maps because they’re hard to read, hard to implement on the battle grid, and just make for headaches for everyone involved. However, there are some (like this one) that are just immensely wonderful works of art. The Howling Orc Bridge here is packed full of story, action, and possibilities. It’s a great one!

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New Kickstarter I’ve Backed

July 29th, 2014

I know I’ve dropped my usual “Watching Wednesday” column because I found that I was spending too much money backing Kickstarter campaigns as I found so many cool things out there to take part in. Instead, I’ll just make a post here when I find something that I’ve backed, which is fairly rare because of financial restraints.

The campaign I just finished backing is Fate Tokens: Metal tokens for Fate™ games.

These coins look fantastic! The stretch goals look awesome!

They were looking for $5,000 AUD, and have crushed that goal with a current standing of $15,749 and 22 days to go.

I backed them at the $58 AUD level because I want enough of these coins to go around the table without anyone using a glass bead or pennies or a gummy bear or whatever. I’m hoping they nail the $20,000 AUD stretch goal because having a couple of Fate dice bags would rock. I could use one for the coins and one for the dice I got from another Kickstarter early last year.

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Friday Fives: 2014-07-26

July 26th, 2014

This week was the first week at the new Day Job. Training, corporate structure learning, finding where I fit into the puzzle, learning how technology I already know is being applied, digging through source code, getting assigned a few bugs to fix, meet & greets, and all sorts of the “new hire” stuff that goes on.

My brain is tired and full. I normally check my RSS feeds 2-3 times a day. I think I checked them once this week until just a few hours ago. I finally dug out of my RSS hole, and found some great posts to talk about.

However, I’m almost out of time before I have to run out of the house to move some storage unit stuff around for my Volunteer Job. That means you’re just getting links this week.

I’m hoping next week is less chaotic and leaves me with more brain juice at the end of each day.

[Friday Map] Conroy’s Confusing Caves
PASSING FAMILIARITY
The Best Hobby In The World…
Male, Female, and Everything In-between
House Rules – For Pulp (and other RPGs)
A Wiz Dice Review (With Pics)
[Maps for Heroes] Islands of Scarendyr

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