Long Hiatus

Hey all,

I’m going to have to put this web site on a long hiatus. It’s for good reasons, and I apologize to the blogs I regularly review and the few readers I have.

The good reasons are:

  • At WorldCon this past week, I agreed to sell another novel to a second publisher. This makes 2 novels (in 2 different series) sold in the past 4 months. These editorial efforts are going to consume a ton of my time.
  • I’m pitching in to help out someone layout eBooks as a subcontractor.
  • I’m gearing up to start working on support material for a popular gaming system. Perhaps launching my own company to sell/support these productions.
  • I’m learning eBook layouts (see above) and inDesign all at once.
  • I have a few other things going on at the Day Job that’s keeping me busy. A good kind of busy.
  • My son (now eight years old) is more active in Cub Scouts and gaming and school and family than ever before. He’s taking up quite a bit of my time and energy, and I love him for it.

Basically… Life has caught up to me, and things have to be shed. Unfortunately, this blog is one of them. I know I’ve taken breaks in the past, and I’ve usually stated a time in which I’ll return. However, I can’t specify a time-frame at this point because I’m not sure I’ll be returning. I’ll keep the blog alive and well, though. No way am I letting my domain lapse.

I hope everyone is having a great time gaming out there in RPG-land, and I hope to see everyone online here and there.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-08-13

This week marks the 28th anniversary of my first brush with death. My right arm was amputated in a nasty car wreck during the wee hours of 1988-08-08. Yeah. 88-8-8. Easy date to remember. Easy events to remember, too.

It’s during this week that I do quite a bit of reflection on where I’ve been and what I’ve done in those near-three decades since a much younger version of myself faced down death and walked away. Most of those reflections are for myself to keep internal, but I do ponder if I’ll ever take the various materials and game systems (maybe just one of them) and attempt to publish them. Know what I mean? Things are getting more serious along those lines, but I’m not quite ready to pull the trigger yet. I’m getting closer, though.

Oh. By the way. The arm was re-attached during a miraculous five-hour surgery. It works fine for me… most of the time.

Enough of pondering the distant past. Let’s look at that last two weeks worth of links!


I’ve done something similar to what John mentions in his post. My take on “creature roulette” is to shake up the veteran players who seem to have every entry of the bestiary memorized. I’ll grab a book or three (or five) and pick a random page/creature from each book. I’ll scribble a few basic notes of description or keywords down for the creature. Then I’ll combine them as best I can in a pseudo-logical (hard to be completely logical in a fantasy setting) manner. Then I’ll assign stats as I see fit to the description of the newly minted monster. The “fresh” idea always throws those veterans for a loop. Having said that, my approach is for creating new critters, and John’s approach is for fleshing out (or creating) storylines. I love his ideas as well and may very well incorporate them into future gaming sessions.

Just Another Pointy Stick I: Spell Storage Solutions Pt 3a

In this installment of the “pointy stick saga” (my name, not his), Mike delves into the use, misuse, alternate use, and general ideas of wands and staves. This is a really good article because it provides for a wide variety of options beyond the “my wand of fireballs has 38 out of 50 charges left.” My favorite advice in here is that wands found “in the field” should not be fully charged (without a good reason). I’ve been doing this for years because it makes sense that the former owner (perhaps the fellow that is now a cooling corpse at the PCs feet?) would have used up some of the charges during his adventures.

Custom Player Encounter Type Deck

This is a great idea for helping keep encounters focused on the PCs and shuffling around (heh. get it?) who gets the spotlight moments. I know that, as a GM, I tend to favor one or two particular PCs when it comes to spotlight because I know they thrive on it. This really isn’t fair to the rest of the group, and I openly admit and acknowledge it. I just get twitchy when forcing a player to exploit the spotlight when they don’t want to. This randomization technique would allow me to remove myself from the decision by using a tool and not be as weird about it. Good idea, Matthew!

Decisions Of Plot: Encounter Planning and Prep

I think Mike’s done more prep on this article than I usually do for a session (or even a few sessions) of my games. Then again, I’m mainly an improv-style GM. I love winging things. For those sessions that I do prep, Mike’s article is a huge help. My favorite part is the reminder to hit the critical beats within the encounter/session to match up with the overall campaign arcs.

The Grand Library of Coruvon

Great map of a library. I can see many different things happening here. This map appears to be pretty straightforward on the surface, but exploring ideas that can happen here has really sparked my imagination. Great map, Dyson!


What is “punk?” There are plenty of nebulous ideas wrapped around that single word. I, of course, immediately go to neon tattoos and spiked piercings in a cyberpunk environment. There are many different ways to go, and I think this article sets a great foundation for the exploration of the word.

Not Just Another Pointy Stick: Spell Storage Solutions Pt 3b

Mike delves beyond the standard wand and staff concepts of storing spells. When I break that mold, my first thought is arrows (and is the first major section of the article), but Mike delves deeper than that in this article. If you’re interested in different “pointy sticks” that can hold spells (lances!!!) then check out this article. PS to Mike: Congrats on the silver ENnie award!!!

Starting Your Adventure in Shackles

My current Pathfinder campaign (which is currently on hiatus because of work-related things) started out similar to this. Not quite in shackles, but the group started out in a jail cell without knowing one another and not really remembering how they landed in jail. I expected some backlash from the players on this, but they ran with it and ran with it quite well. I like how this turned out, but it’s tricky. There are some other examples of “starting in shackles” within the blog post, so go check them out!

Why We Game: An Ode to Friends

First off, congrats to the World Builder Blog on the gold ENnie! Yay! This article really helped me out. Not with direct advice on how to do something before arriving at the table or during the session, but to remind me of why I love this hobby so very much. Thanks for bringing me back to my roots and giving me new energy for my game sessions.

Lightning Research: Maximum Answers in Minimum Time

My fantasy trilogy (book #1 is under contract now… I’ll update more on that when I have more solid news of a release date, etc.) doesn’t require much research. It’s a world all of my own creation. I get to play in my own playground. However, my urban fantasy (set in modern day San Antonio and involving the deities of the ancient world) requires tons of research. Mike’s techniques on lightning research have helped me hone my research capabilities for my urban fantasy novels. His approach isn’t too far off from my own, but I love his advice of “skim twice.” I usually do a skim, then a read…. Going in for that second skim session might help me figure out if I’m in the right place before I dive into the reading portion of things.

Release the Kraken – The Three Tombs of Acker

Ooooohhhh….. This is an incredibly complex and beautiful map. I love it, and might yank it into use for my current Savage Worlds game… We’ll see if I can fit it in.

The Finer Points of the FrankenGame

FrankenGames are fun! They’re also time consuming. What’s a FrankenGame? Well… It’s when you smash together two, three, or even four (sometimes more!) games together and run with them. It’s a really fun experiment and a rewarding experience. I wouldn’t recommend every game or campaign be run this way, but if you’re an aspiring (or even experienced) game designer, this is a great thing for your brain to go through. You get to make up rules on the fly and see how they work. Learn from the results: good and bad. They’ll make you a better designer, gamer, player, and GM. You’ll learn tons of insight into the “regular” games you play and how they are structured.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-08-01

It’s been over two weeks since my last post. I’m not sure what happened to me on the previous weekend, but the most recent weekend was jam-packed full of stuff. I won’t bore you with the mundane details of the lengthy list of stuff I’ve been accomplishing (or trying to accomplish) while ignoring the blog.

Time to hit two weeks worth of links. It’s quite a list, but check ’em out!

Basics For Beginners (and the over-experienced) Pt 8: Depth In Plotting

This is a great chunk of advice on how to plot an adventure and doing larger arcs for campaigns. Mike’s included pitfalls (and how to avoid them), and how to guide your ideas through design and into the space at the table. The thing that really hit home for me was the concluding advice of, “The plot structure that you employ should always be the best one for the plotline that you are comfortable with as a GM.” I recently embarked into running a Savage Worlds horror-based game. I write some pretty mean horror stories, but I’m being vicious and cruel to things of my own imagination. I’m not really comfortable in doing that to characters my friends at the table control. I need either break through that discomfort (which can be a good thing for my creativity), or bail on the game and run something I’m more in line with mentally.

The Aesthetics of a Modern Cyberpunk

As we creep closer to 2020, the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG is become more and more a fallacy instead of a strange option for the future. I was born in the early 70s, and grew up as Cyberpunk did. I probably have one of the largest collections of CP novels, anthologies, collections, and RPGs in the world. If you pack it all together, it’s closing in on 100 books (if not over that.) However, the ideas of CP really haven’t evolved with the times. I can see the vision of the “modern cyberpunk” coming out as this blog post portends. It’s an interesting view to yank away all of the neon coverings and go with a more green outlook.

The Village of Kith

I love Dyson’s dungeon maps, but his villages really set my imagination on fire. He does them so well, and so sparsely, that I can see almost anything happening through here. Beautiful work, Dyson!

Working The Other Side Of The Screen

I’m like Mike. I tend to be the GM behind the screen. It’s always been that way for me, so I really don’t know the life of a player and only a player. I’m okay with that, but I do admit that I love being a player from time-to-time to recharge my batteries and cut loose. I filled in the scores in Mike’s blog post and came up with 26 in the advantages and 30 in the disadvantages. Looks like I might be okay where I’m at, but jumping into a game as a player certainly wouldn’t hurt! If you think you need a break from GM’ing, check out this post and see what you can discover.

The Group You Want

Did your players create a group that doesn’t fit in with the theme or style of game you wanted to run? Perhaps there was an up-front communication issue. What do you do about it? Perhaps you reset and start over? Maybe it’s time to alter the game to fit what the players want. There are lots of options here, and Angela does a great job diving into all of them. Go check out her post!

Gygax Regretted Clerical Turning

Wow! I had no idea that such an integral part of fantasy RPGs was a regrettable inclusion. Huh. It makes me wonder what clerics would be like (would they be even less popular as a PC class?) without the ability to crank some holiness into the unliving.

The Final Advantage

Like Mike says in his article, many different systems have some form of “advantage mechanic” to allow players to add bonuses, influence die rolls, reroll the dice, etc.. Should these advantage mechanics be tinkered with at higher levels to create an even more advantageous system for the PCs (or NPCs)? I really don’t think so. Once I read the premise of the article, I was already set against the idea of tinkering with the mathematical structures of the game in such a manner. However, I read the article with as much of an open mind as I could to see if Mike could sway me. In the end, it turns out Mike’s conclusion was the same as my gut instinct. Any game designer worth their salt will run the core mechanics through many simulations and playtests to ensure the math works out fairly. That doesn’t mean all systems are balanced and wonderful, and that’s where minor house rules come into play.



GMs: Never put yourselves on a pedestal

This article bothers me because I know there are kernels of truth in there about many folks running games. Things like “the GM is better” or “the GM rules supreme over the game” or “the GM deserves special treatment” or things like that just rub me the wrong way. I’ve never gone into a game as a GM with these conceits in my mind. Just the opposite. The players rule supreme over the game because it is their story we’re telling, not the GM’s story. The GM is just there to facilitate the telling of the tale, to adjudicate rules, and toss out worthy obstacles. The only time I see the statement of “the GM is better” being accurate and trustworthy is when it comes to rules knowledge. The GM should know the rules better than the others at the table, but it’s not a requirement. Even if this is true, this doesn’t mean the GM needs or requires special treatment. I could go on and on about this topic, but I won’t. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Cities Of Legend: Blueprints For Adventure

This post has changed the way I look at building cities. In the past, it’s always been about maps and locations and NPCs and government organizations and non-government organizations and a few mighty heroes in the area. That’s about it. Not much to it. Good bones. No flesh. This article has changed the way I flesh out my cities (and B-list cities and C-list cities). I can definitely use this in my world building for my writing and my role playing. Thanks, Mike!

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-07-18

Another week. More links!

Sorry this one is so late. I went to our local renaissance fair on Saturday with some friends. I managed to step in an unseen hole and tweak my left knee to the point I had to leave early. Apparently, even though I left early, the heat had gotten to me and getting back into the scorching car didn’t help matters any. The heat drained me to the point where I couldn’t really form coherent words/thoughts yesterday, so I called it a “lazy day” and did lots of nothing.

The knee is getting better, and I’m over the heat exhaustion…. so it’s time to get the post put together.

PS: After looking at the links, I came to realize this week is the “Gnome Stew and Campaign Mastery Show”! Sorry for the lack of diversity in the links going to other places, but this are, quite honestly, the articles that caught my eye the most. I’m not sure if that says more about me or the RPG blogosphere.

The GM’s Principles, and the First Session

The first session of any campaign is probably one of the most important. I’d argue that the last session is the most important (mainly because that’s what most folks will remember and talk about for years), but starting off on the right foot is right up there. Tracy dives into his approach for jamming with an Apocalypse World game start. While this post is specific to that game system, there are plenty of gems in there for any GM running any system.

A Heart Of Shiny Magic: Spell Storage Solutions Pt 2

In my own homebrew RPG, magic energy can be stored up in a specific elemental metal. My ideas for this elemental metal crossover quite a bit with Mike’s ideas in this post, but he has some things in there (like the Reluctant or Eager) that I’d not pondered just yet. Thanks for the brain food, Mike! I have some new things to consider with my homebrew.

Ginger Hall

Apparently Dyson can draw maps while drunk better than I can while sober. Maybe that’s his trick? Perhaps I need to imbibe some scotch before delving into map making? I don’t know. Either way, this is a fantastic map!

It’s Not The Size That Counts (It’s How You Use It)

Woah! A five-minute RPG? Yeah. You read that right. Not five pages. Not five booksFive Minutes! Senda must be the master of lightweight RPGs to manage to pull this off. I’m impressed and bow to her prowess. This actually sounds like quite a bit of fun. In my writing life, I love doing improv writing where you get an idea token (or two or three) and hastily scribble down words for 5-10 minutes. I can see this being very similar… and quite a bit of fun. I hope to run into Senda at a con someday and see this live and in person!

All Wounds Are Not Alike V: Narcotic Healing (part 2)

I once had a doctor tell me that addiction is not a medical problem but a social problem. I’m not sure I 100% agree with his statement, but I did see his point. It was this: Addiction to a substance is not an issue until it affects society around the addict in a negative way. Thus, it’s a societal problem. Again, I’m not 100% on board with this assertion, but there is some truth to it. Why am I talking about society and addiction? That’s because Mike does the same (but with more words and clarity than I am right now) in the link above! It’s a great read. I love it. Well done, Mike.


But Han Solo would never do that! — Actually heard at a game when a player, playing a Han Solo character, did something nice for someone during the “A New Hope” timeline. The rebuttal was, “But this is my Han Solo!” Both were correct, but the person playing their Han Solo was more correct. This is a problem with appropriating media characters (for PCs or NPCs) in gaming. At some point, the group has to cut ties with the established canon and move on from there. Use the canon of the universe you’re emulating as a jumping off point, and never look back. John’s article has some more details than what I’ve let on here, so go check it out!

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-07-10

Another week. Another day late. Ah well…. Not much to report in the life of J.T., so here are the links!

Basics For Beginners (and the over-experienced) Part 7: Adventures

Mike touches on megadungeons, railroad plots, intro dungeons, and more in this post. It’s a great boiled-down look at adventures from a fairly high level. Lots of excellent food for thought here. The section that really leaped into my brain and laid a worm was the “Lurking Plots” because I love having those expose and examined when I’m a player. I suppose my players are in a similar boat, and I would love to do more of that in my own games.

2016 ENnie Award Nominees and Spotlight Winners

This is not a blog post, but an announcement that the ENnie Award nominees were announced last week. I usually don’t link to this, but I am this year because Gnome Stew is up for an ENnie, and I’m part of that crew now. I’m not going to ask or beg for a Gnome Stew vote, though. I am, however, going to encourage everyone to click through, look at the nominees, check out their body of work, and throw down your thoughts and opinions in the form of a vote. As I write this on Sunday, the voting opens up on the 11th (that’s tomorrow), so this is an excellent time to jump in and check things out!

Emberpike Hall

I’m linking to this particular map because the giant hall on the right-hand size reminds me of a time I was doing a freestyle map (no grid) of a dungeon we were adventuring in. I drew my map based on GM description and would not adjust it based it on what he actually drew on the battlegrid where the minis were at. The map came out all skewed and warped (yet still useable) because he threw down a description of “a giant cavern stretching out into the distance beyond the reach of your torchlight.” I took it upon myself to fill the entire right side of my paper with a giant cavern. Well… the cavern wasn’t quite as large as I had drawn it, which lead to the skewing and compression of other rooms. It was still quite fun!

All Wounds Are Not Alike V: Narcotic Healing (part 1)

In a novel I’m working on, I have a character addicted to using her magic. It’s odd to write about that, but it’s also fun. This article has really helped me out in that area. I now know places in my story to amp up descriptions and how to go about it. It’s going to be a fun ride through the story. Thanks for the excellent advice and reference article, Mike! PS: I love the idea of being addicted to being healed. That’s a great spin on things with many implications at the personal and societal level.

Ways Out Of Prep Slump

The more years I have under my GM’ing belt, the less I want to prep. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m not young anymore and have many more responsibilities than I’ve had in the past. I’m not going to bother to try and pinpoint why I’m down on prep these days. I just need tips on how prep less. This is one such article. I like it quite a bit. Excellent article, John!

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness

I’m trying to get back on the horse for comments and reviews of blog posts, but it’s been rough for me lately. I’m not entirely sure why. I’m fairly productive in other parts of my life. This blog seems to be the only thing slipping through my grasp right now. This upcoming week is going to be fairly normal for me, so I hope that normality will drive me to get this post up on time next weekend.

Anyway…. On with the links!

Map-A-Monday: World Mythology…

I love maps! I love mythology! I especially love world maps. The image linked to in this blog post is fantabulous! I wish it were more interactive and clicky instead of a static image, but there are some great insights and details in there that I’d never known before. If you share some interests with me, I highly recommend checking this out.

A Sampling of RPG Podcasts

I listen to quite a few podcasts because of my lengthy, daily commute. Here’s my list of what I listen to. I’ve added some of the ones in the Gnome Stew post to my iTunes list. If and when I become a regular listener of a podcast, then it’ll get dropped into the list on my other web site.

Ask The GMs: Many Hands, Mild Insanity: Large Groups Revisited

The largest group I’ve been in consisted of 2 GMs (main and assistant), 12 players, and 15 characters. It was unusual for a single person to miss the weekly game, unless it was “band camp time” and then we’d lost a handful of players during the summer. The largest group I’ve run a game for was about 8-9 players and that same number of characters. I gotta say that if I ever hit that number again (or more!), I’m going to have to scour my permanent bookmarks for this article and re-read Mike’s wisdom. He breaks down his advice by genre of game, and has some exceptional ideas in there. This is highly useful even if you’re getting 6+ in the PC count.

To Absalom, And Beyond: Interviewing James L. Sutter About Starfinder

Starfinder cometh!!!! Paizo has announced a new sci-fi game coming to the shelves in the future. It’s supposed to be compatible with the ruleset of Pathfinder, which really jazzes me. As a collector and consumer of RPGs, the best sci-fi RPG I have on my shelves (my opinion only) is Alternity. It’s a great game, but there are some points lacking here and there. I know Paizo can fill the gap. Want to learn more about this effort? Darcy has a great interview with James L. Sutter on the topic.

Dugan’s Hold

There’s something about the curved hallways and straight lines of this map that really catch my eye. I wish I could put my finger on it and give a better description of how I feel, but this just strikes me as a really cool map from Dyson.

Consequential Expertise: A Neglected Plot Opportunity

I object! Mike’s taken an article about how to run a courtroom scene (or set of scenes) and actually makes it look like fun. I’ve been in courtrooms before (never as a defendant before you go there with your imagination). The proceedings are, well, boring as hell. I think they do that on purpose. Mike’s tossed out some ideas on how to move through the motions of a courtroom with ease and enjoyment. Well done!

Troy’s Crock Pot: Take it outside, kiddos

I’ve only tried playing RPGs outdoors a few times and never with success. It’s not because I wasn’t prepared (I was a Boy Scout, after all) but because the games, dice, pencils, etc. were confiscated by the aforementioned Boy Scouts for the duration of the camping trips. We were there to “experience nature” and such instead of sitting around in a tent (or under a tree) playing “some stupid game about orcs.” *sigh* I get it now, though. When camping with the Boy Scouts there are other things to focus on than your critical hits. Now that I’m the adult in the situation, I can take my games outside if I feel like it. With summer weather here, I can see our gaming taking place on the back deck, in the back yard, under a tree, or other great location like that. Troy’s got some excellent advice on what to take with you when venturing outside for an RPG session.

The Darkness Has Risen

As my regular readers will have noticed by now, it’s been a while since I’ve done a post.

It’s going to be a while longer.

I’ve been eyeball deep in my CISSP studies. I’ve been skimming articles and capturing links, but have had zero time (less than zero, if that’s possible) to write up comments and compose the post.

I also have a family vacation starting this Saturday and it will run through the following Saturday. This is going to mean I won’t have time read skim the posts, let alone give them the time they are due, create the links, make comments, etc.

The weekend after the family vacation is a writing retreat, so no time for a post there either.


I plan on getting back on the horse in July, and we’ll see if my time management skills can let me stay astride.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-05-21

I started my studies for my CISSP exam that will be happening in September. This involves me reading studying over 2500 pages of very dense, sometimes technical, information security materials. Even though I’m only a week in, my brain is already mush.

As such, the comments below will probably be brief. I hope they’re coherent. 🙂

PS: For those of you not sure what the CISSP certification is, it’s like landing a PhD in information security… but without the college debt and a higher failure rate.

The Online Edition: Ensemble Play

I’d honestly never head of, or considered, ensemble play outside a gaming con setting. This is actually quite brilliant. Unfortunately, these days I’m having a hard time getting more than 3 people together at the same time. Perhaps shifting some gaming efforts to online play would alleviate that issue since I could draw from widely different geographic regions… Food for thought.

When Genres Collide: Using Non-Genre Sources

This was a timely post for me. My twice-a-month Friday group just shifted to Savage Worlds for our game system because we (mainly me) wanted to give it a swing. None of us had played it before, but the system is super easy to learn and create characters in, so we’re giving the “old college try.” We knew we wanted some horror in the game, but didn’t have many parameters set outside that one genre. I wanted to drill deeper into the concepts and themes of this game, so I ran my group through this process as closely as I could. We ended up settling on gaming in 1850 in San Francisco during the United States Gold Rush era. Lots of scraggly folks moving about a large city holding most of the Gold Rush wealth in a central location. We’re playing up the supernatural, but not every person in the world is aware of it. I think this is going to be loads of fun. Yeah. It’s quite a bit like the Deadlands setting for Savage World. This was not intentional, and I didn’t have the Deadlands books until I hit Gamer’s Haven earlier today to purchase the Player’s Guide and the Marshal’s Handbook. I can’t wait to dive into them and see what gems I can borrow from those source materials.

White Crag Fortress

Another beautiful (and very useful!) map from Dyson!

Fun in all the right places

The question sparking this post is, “What’s Your Best Tip for creating a memorable character?” I love Mike’s response and post, but my answer is pretty brief. Give them a major flaw (even if it’s outside the rules) to role play. In a Space Opera game, I had a character with a 3 bravery (that’s on a scale of 1-100, so really low.) The GM offered to allow me to re-roll that one stat. I refused, and ran with it. I loved that character! He was a hoot to play, especially during a firefight!

The Wages of Fame

In the RPG I’ve created, I use a similar state to “fame,” but I call it “social status” to handle the high ends and the low ends. This stat can shift up/down based on how society views the character’s actions. One thing I’d never considered was what happens if a famous (or infamous) character dies? Will statues be erected? Will his death grounds become cursed (for the infamous)? Hrmm… Food for thought. Great post!

Top signs adventurers have been here already

I love this idea! Populating a dungeon (or part of one) with the remnants of someone already been there. Kind of like a Goldilocks dungeon crawl. 🙂 Very cool concept, Peter! Thanks for the ideas.

Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2016-05-13

Sorry again for missing out on last week, but this is a double dose of greatness for this week. There are tons of links to go through for this post, I’ll just jump right into it!

In The Footsteps Of Footprints: how to document game events

Mike’s put together a great post outlining various methods of creating a “campaign log” or “adventure journal” of sorts. I used to do this (as player and GM), but I found it to be too tedious to do at the table, and too time-consuming to do after the game. I guess I’ve become more overloaded with Real Life that the time I need to create a log or journal just isn’t there anymore. I see a great value in them, but I’m no longer the guy to sit down and write/type everything up.

Forget It’s a Playtest

Having a group of people play your game can be better than people testing your game, but I still assert that the playtest group needs to keep in the back of their mind that they are going to be giving feedback on the game after the session is over with. They should at least jot down notes on the fun and not-fun parts. The critical piece of information, however, is not the fun/not-fun moments, but the why of the fun/not-fun moments. This will help the designer(s) amp up the fun and fix the not-fun areas.

Limits of Stericksburg’s “Safe” zone

Towns have almost always been the safe area to retreat to after a dungeon delve. This is usually a given in any fantasy-based game. (For sci-fi, it’ll be the spaceship or other PC-controlled area.) Shaking things up a bit and making towns a little less safe can really amp up the action and make things a little less controlled by the players. It’s a great chance to twist the story plot around some.

Mod It, Change It, Twist, Adapt It

I’ve tried to adopt a setting for Game A into the rules of Game B before with limited success. However, I think the main reason I failed is that I took it on all on my own. I didn’t involve the group or get their input. I was really hoping to surprise them with a “different take” on a classic setting. It didn’t go over well because of many different aspects of Game B mechanics that didn’t quite inter-operate well with assumptions about Game A’s setting. The approach here by Tracy (with the whole group involved) sounds like a much better way of going about things than what I did.

All Wounds Are Not Alike IV – Accelerated Healing

Delving deep into the realms of magical healing, Mike takes on a long-time point of contention that many people have with clerics (or playing the cleric) in the fantasy game. Most of the time, clerics are relegated to the role of “heal bot” that just keeps the fighters alive long enough for the fighter to do his job of killing the Bad Guy. Not much fun for the cleric, to be honest. There are plenty of alternatives to the cleric casting another healing spell, and Mike talks at length about many options. Check them out. Play with some of them. Take them into consideration. However, think deeply about the far-reaching affects of each change to the system. Many of these changes Mike talk about can drastically change the nature of the game play.

Gaming Groups – Keep or Build

I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of static groups. I love the regularity of gaming with people I enjoy spending time around. I love knowing the dates (usually well ahead of time) of when we’ll be getting together, and I like knowing that we’ll be gaming instead of watching TV or some-such. However, I still need the game-oriented (or dynamic) groups from time-to-time to challenge me to think outside my well-constructed box, play a new game, meet some new people, and generally have a blast with a one-shot or short campaign.

Playtesting – what do you look for?

Another link about playtesting! As a tangent, I just sent my first novel out to beta readers, so I can get their feedback (and do edits) before sending it to my publisher when they ask for it. I gave clear (I hope) instructions to the beta readers on what I’m looking for in the way of feedback. Without this guidance, I have no idea what level or quality of feedback I’ll receive. The same thing goes with playtesting. Designers have to give direction to the players on what kind of feedback they’re looking for. This direction can even change and morph as the game becomes more mature and closer to a publication or release date.

The Tomb of Eight
Exploring the Tomb of Eight in 3D

Two links for one map! The first link is to the wonderful Tomb of Eight map by Dyson. The second link is a great video of someone creating a walk-through of the map on YouTube. That’s fantastic. I love checking out the map and then the video visual. Very cool stuff here.

Not Like My Tribe – Sophisticated Primitives, Part 1
Not Like My Tribe – Sophisticated Primitives, Part 2

Two links for one topic! I’m glad I got to read these back-to-back. The first part left me wanting to know more, and I got it right away. If you’re looking for input or advice on creating primitive (not simple) or indigenous cultures for your gaming or fiction writing, these two articles must be your first stop. I highly recommend throwing a permanent bookmark into your “research” folder (or similar) like I have because you’ll want to come back and check these out as you make your developments. These are great! Thanks for the wonderful insight, Mike.

What’s it Worth to Ya

There was a hubbaloo on the RPG blogosphere over the past weekend about how much are RPG materials really worth. There were a handful of posts wrapped around this topic, and this one from Trollsmyth was the best-stated post. I highly recommend you run over to the link and check out his words. They’re quite well put together. My thoughts? Like anything else, books will sell for what the market will bear. There is, of course, a certain minimum cost to produce a PDF or dead-tree version of a book, and publishers must make some coin for their efforts. This sets a minimum price, but how high do you want to go? Depends on the quality and reputation of your work, to be honest.

The Sundered Tomb

Another fantastic map from Dyson! I especially love the fracture/crevasse running through most of the map.

The Art of the Off the Wall Con Game

I think getting weird and wacky at a con game is perfectly acceptable, so long as the mood of the table and the other players want to go with it. As a GM, I’m there to support the players and ensure they have fun at the table. If it turns out my “grimdark adventure” had a funny turn of phrase I didn’t realize and it sends the group down a slapstick roller coaster ride of hilarity… who am I to argue? It’s like telling kids that are having fun playing Calvin Ball (of the Calvin and Hobbes fame), “You’re having fun in the wrong way!” That’s just pure asshole activity there.

Double-Sized Saturday Sweetness Coming!

I added some bookmarks to my “SSS” folder for the Sporadic Saturday Sweetness this morning, and spotted loads of bookmarks sitting there waiting to be published and commented on. Then it clicked. I hadn’t done my post for this past Saturday. I guess the extra work from the Day Job, all of the extra writing/editing I’ve been doing on my novels (and a friend’s novel), and just overall trying my best to stay on top of Real Life stuff pushed the blog aside without me realizing it.

Sorry for missing the post, but I’m keeping the links around for release on this upcoming Saturday.