Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2017-01-29 4

A day late. Probably a dollar short, too. That’s okay. Friday was a crazy day and I didn’t get a chance to finalize the post. Saturday was JAM PACKED busy with two different non-profit events. That’s okay. They were great events, and I had a good time at both.

On with the links!

Forgot My Cheat Sheet

John has some great advice for folks that forget to bring their rulebook, cheat sheet, GM screen, or notes to a game. The best advice in the column is to continue on like everything you need is at your fingertips. I also love the advice to jot down notes about what you can remember of the homebrew rules and then expand on those notes as the game progresses. This will keep things consistent.

With A Polished Pen

Mike’s post here does a compare and contrast of the advantages of electronic documents and hardcopy ones. When it comes to RPGs, I’m a huge fan of hardcopy. I can always seem to find the rule that I need faster in a book than I can in a PDF (even with search functions). Once I’m familiar with a rulebook, I don’t need to memorize page numbers. I remember where rule X is in relation to rules Y and Z. When I split open the book near the rule/spell/monster/item/whatever I need, I can easily see that I need to move a few pages forward (or back) and can isolate the thing I need very quickly. Even if I have the PDF of something, I tend to print it out (unless it’s heavy on the graphics or incredibly lengthy), three-hole punch it, and throw it into a binder. This results in my gaming bag being very heavy, but the extra back pain is worth it to me.

Identifying magic items in AD&D 1st edition
Identifying Magic Items in GURPS

This pair of posts by Peter are very interesting. His approach on identifying items in AD&D 1st Edition are almost identical to how I approach things as a GM and a player. It was a great read to see that someone else does what I do. The house rule to the GURPS Analyze Magic is a great one. If I ever return to a GURPS game, I’ll probably do something along those lines as well.


The five-point breakdown of what it takes to have a successful game session is pretty cool. I’d like to add two caveats: 1) Hitting all points will not guarantee success. 2) Missing a point or two will not guarantee failure. Hitting all five areas well simply ups the chance of everyone around the table of having a good time.

Basics For Beginners (and the over-experienced) Part 10: Rhythms

Having a steady (or even better, engaging) rhythm to a game is one of the hardest things to achieve as a GM. All of the prep and improv practice and knowledge of rules and experience in the world can’t really assist GMs in nailing down pacing and rhythms and flows of the game. This comes from experience as a GM and being mentally aware of what’s going on. Mike has some advice and tips in his post on how to better capture a good rhythm for your game sessions and campaigns.

Quantum Difficulty in the Sandbox

I’m doing this in my current Pathfinder campaign. I know the boss they’ll be fighting in the grand finale of the campaign. I don’t have a single stat for that boss NPC yet. I can’t because I can’t predict the level and powers the characters will have when they get done gathering support for their efforts and gaining levels while tromping about in the countryside. As they get closer to bringing the campaign to a close, I’ll start pondering what level to make the NPC and what additional powers and abilities he might have. I’ve also got to come up with a few appropriately powerful henchmen for the NPC, but I haven’t bothered to put down stats to paper yet for the same reasons. I know I’m setting myself up for a few late nights of prep immediately before the Big Battle with the Big Bad, but that’s okay.

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4 thoughts on “Sporadic Saturday Sweetness: 2017-01-29

  1. Mike Bourke Jan 29,2017 7:28 PM

    Hi, Hungry,

    Thanks for the support! I have to admit to being a hardcopy person myself, by preference. But I will also make a value call as to the utility and frequency of reference of any given item – and I do much of my gaming from home these days. So I’m in a complex situation where sometimes the benefits of hardcopy don’t outweigh the downsides, and sometimes they do. And, because my circumstances have changed in that respect over the years, that tells me real life is always complicated and messy and few answers are truly universal. In a way, that’s a good thing, because it permits a more Olympian overview of the entirety of a subject. But it’s never enough to have the potential of an omniscient perspective, you still have to take the time to look at the view 🙂

    I also wanted to pick up on something you’ve written about another article and about your campaign. Have you considered the benefits vs pitfalls of evolving the boss in your Pathfinder campaign as the PCs progress? They succeed in interfering in section X of his organization / operation, only to learn that whoever it is – and I can’t assume that they know that, yet – has gained an additional source of power from somewhere else and is a bigger threat than ever. This does three things: first, it expands the worldview of the campaign by showing that the villain is looking outside the PCs sandbox; second, it lets his capabilities evolve to match those of the PCs as they progress; and third, it gives you as GM, scope to vary that parity a little. If the PCs strike a major blow, he is weakened, and it may take a little while before he gets back on his feet; if they strike a blow that’s relatively inconsequential (for whatever reason), he not only recovers quickly but is even able to turn events to his advantage. You can sum all these up in one word: the boss, and the campaign containing him, has become dynamic, rather than being static (albeit undefined). And, as a bonus, it minimizes those late nights of prep 🙂

    • J.T. Evans Jan 29,2017 8:29 PM

      The way the structure of the lead-up to the final fight will go (at least, in my mind) is the players will have to lay siege to their former home city (they were kicked out by the Big Bad) to contain his sphere of influence. Then they have to find a way inside the city, to the palace, and into the throne room to confront the Final Baddie in the Final Battle.

      I figure, depending on how they siege and approach the infiltration of the city, that will adjust the powers and abilities (stronger or weaker) of the Bad Guy and his Henchmen. I do like your idea of other things they are doing sapping his power base… or increasing it.

      Of course, my well laid plans have yet to meet the players’ actions, so it may not play out like what I have in my head. 🙂 I’m fully expecting them to pull a fast one and use some power, spell, or ability that I’d forgotten about to shortcut their way into the throne room. That’s fine with me if that happens, but I need to be prepared for it.

      • Mike Bourke Jan 30,2017 6:10 AM

        The great unanswered question is what the big bad has been doing in the meantime. It might be worthwhile to drop in an adventure in which the players discover that he hasn’t been resting on his laurels but has been preparing some master-stroke to greatly increase his power – just in time for them to block it, maintaining the status quo to what you always intended (though they don’t need to know that!)

        • J.T. Evans Jan 30,2017 9:30 AM

          Great minds think alike! The culmination of the current arc should lead to something just like that. I’m really looking forward to the revelation at the end of this arc.

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