It’s been pretty close to a month since my last post. I’ve had the time to do a post. I just haven’t had the inclination or drive. I’ve been making lots of changes in my life to simplify things to allow me to refocus on the things I care about. This site almost didn’t make the cut, to be honest. However, I miss writing up my ideas and thoughts based on other folks’ posts and articles. Time to get back on that horse.
I have bookmarks dating back to March 28th. As a matter of fact, I have almost 20 bookmarks to go through. Thus this MEGA EDITION of the Sporadic Saturday Sweetness. It’s Friday morning, and I hope to get through most (if not all) of the post by the end of the day today. We’ll see how it goes. The work might bleed into tomorrow afternoon. 🙂
So…. Take a deep breath. We’re going into LOTS of links. I’ll try to keep my comments relatively brief to avoid writing a novel in a single post.
First off, to Mike: Sorry to hear about your spam attack. I get those on my various web sites as well. They suck and do turn into a time sink. Now on to the article: Even though the title hints that the article may be about undead critters, at its core, there’s something else going on. This is mostly about set up and run the end game for your campaign. This is a wonderful article for any campaign planner, adventure creator, and even some authors. There are tips that cross disciplines quite well.
Phil’s article on how to run a game with one GM and one PC hits the nail on the head. I like the idea of the Legacy Weapon quite a bit, but I think Phil’s strongest piece of advice was to keep the solo PC’s abilities in mind when creating obstacles. Don’t throw something at them that they can’t handle because of limitations in the character’s abilities. I’ve only run a few solo PC games, and they were all short lived because the player quickly realized that they had “Plot Armor” and started doing amazingly stupid things because if I killed the character then the game would end.
Here’s a podcast that I’m on with Chris and Phil where we discuss an article I wrote on “Player Intent.” I had a blast recording it (confession: I was a little nervous at the start of the episode, but it went off without a hitch), and we had some great conversation about player intent and a few other topics. Go have a listen!
I’m with Mike on how to represent reality. It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes a hastily scrawled map on the battlemat with dots and arrows and such to represent different elements of the area will suffice just fine. There are other times when a carefully drawn map that fits the scale of the minis is necessary, so the precise movement of the minis can come into play. For a very long time, I ran the game purely in the theater of mind, and I still enjoy doing that. The main two reasons that I did theater of the mind was that I couldn’t afford minis at the time, and I truly enjoyed the fluidity of situations. If a player asked, “Can I run over beside the mage and kill the orc attacking him?” I could just declare “Yes, you can do that.” and that was the end of it. With a grid and minis and such, it’s very clear if the barbarian can or can’t do that same action. It’s limiting in a way, but it also frees up my brain to focus more on the story than trying to mentally track where all of PCs, NPCs, horses, and monsters are in relation to one another.
Look! Gnome romance anthology! If you’re interested in four short stories from your fellow gamers about gnomes and romance and adventure, look no further! Yeah. I have a story in the anthology as well. I had an immense amount of fun writing my story. The PDF is “Pay What You Want,” so there’s no reason not to check it out. However, if you throw a few bucks our way, we’re not keeping it. All profit made from the sale of this book will be donated to Planned Parenthood.
It looks like Peter and his group dove into White Plume Mountain (a great, classic adventure) using AD&D 1st Edition. He’s well known for his GURPS wisdom and experience, so I was kind of surprised when he posted that they’d gone with AD&D instead of trying to retrofit White Plume Mountain into a more generic system. He did have his reason, and he’s explained them all here. I agree with his approach and reasoning. Sometimes, there’s an effort that needs to be taken to put out a product or a conversation. However, they just wanted to sit down and play a game and have fun. That’s where the compromise comes into the picture, so the group can just play the game without too much effort or weirdness in the system conversions. Sounds like they had a hoot while they were at it!
I love the concept of megadungeons. I hate the reality of running and/or playing in megadungeons. They hurt me. They’re too broad in scope, too grand in plan, and too damn heavy to lug around (unless you have the PDF and computer with lots of RAM). They’re really cool, but horribly unwieldy. Like Johnn said in his post, they’re great for stealing ideas from or poaching sections of the maps for use in your own games. I think the only megadungeon I’ve run from start to finish was “Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil” in 3rd Edition D&D, and I’ve run that from soup to nuts twice. It’s very well put together, and not all of it is centered around the megadungeon. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been able to get two separate groups to finish it.
This post has a great list of tips and tricks on being mentally ready for just about everything the players can throw at you. I agree with everything here, but I think the most important piece of advice is, “Save What You Don’t Use.” You never know when that scrap of unexplored dungeon or the undiscovered treasure/magic/spell will come in handy for sprucing up an improv session. I would also add Never Unprepared to the list of reading that will assist in this area.
Wow. Another post about improv! There are, quite honestly, tons of posts out there on the Internet about improv in many different areas. That’s because it’s important and fun and surprising (even for the GM) and will always come up no matter how much you think you’re prepared for something to happen. In this case, Mike’s talking about how to describe the outcome of a die roll. This is pure improv, to be honest, because you can’t realistically predict the final result of a roll unless the modifiers are so insane (for or against) that the die roll is mere formality… and in that case, why even roll the die? Anyway, Mike talks about the various scales of success, failure, and the rare neutral result. Putting some words into your mind or vocabulary to pluck out and put to use when someone rolls that ’20’ (or ‘1’) is very handy. This actually reminds me of an interview I watched with one of the original QVC hostesses/saleswomen. (QVC is a 24-hour shopping channel where you really never know what products will come along.) She said that after two days on the gig, she’d exhausted her list of descriptors and really didn’t want to repeat them that much and didn’t want to go to really esoteric words that could confuse the 2AM viewers. So she started reading the thesaurus. I’m not saying you have to go to these extremes, but a quick trip through an online thesaurus may not be a horrific idea. 🙂
Who “owns” the game? I’m not talking about the owner of the physical product. Neither is Peter’s post. The concept here is the actual gameplay. Who does it belong to? I would argue that in decades past, the game belonged to the GM. That was the style back in the 70s, 80s, and somewhat into the 90s. However, a wonderful shift in the gaming community and product lines has moved more toward a collaborative storytelling nature. This collaborative nature of gaming means that the gameplay belongs to everyone at the table. I would say that the GM has the largest set of responsibilities, but the actual execution of the game falls on everyones’ shoulders.
It looks like Craig had great success with his players with using phones and texting and Facebook Messenger for private communications…. I’m far from being a luddite, but I guess I’m a bit stuck in my ways and a bit more “grumpy old man.” I’d much rather pass physical notes. I can see how texting would “hide” the fact that a note was passed, which is the whole reason for the note in the first place. Now that I’ve typed this out and thought about it a little more, I can definitely see some advantages over the old school “throw a sticky note at the GM” approach. Huh. I guess I just changed my mind here. Maybe I’ll give it a swing. Thanks, Chris!
Creating factions in my societies has always been a weak point, so I don’t do it much. I suppose I should do it more and simply do it poorly at first in order to get better at later stages of the creation process. I’m just hesitant to present a low-quality idea to my players. I’m not much sure they’d notice (and if they did, I they’d be forgiving). I do remember a box set for 2nd Edition AD&D a LONG time ago called Birthright. Had lots of splat books for nations and factions and such as well. It was a rockin’ cool idea where the players played a faction or guild or mercantile house or gang or small nation or whatever. They were more organizations than characters. It was a neat meld of board gaming and role playing, but it really felt more like a board game than a storytelling opportunity, so we didn’t play it long. There were great resources in those books for creating factions and such. Even with those books as reference (which I still have them on my shelves), I’m not that great at it. However, Mike’s article really breaks down the steps and necessary details at creating a faction very well. I’ve learned quite a bit about the approach to creating groups of people within a society, and I think I might bite off a larger chunk of this part of world building in my next efforts.
As a GM, this is a great fear of mine. I want to cheer for the PCs and have them succeed against most (if not all) odds. However, when they pull some crazy stunt, I pause. I’m not sure I should go along with it because I can see the crazy stunt being extrapolated or repeated to the detriment of the game. Even with that hesitation, I tend to let the players go for it. Of course, if a Bad Guy sees the stunt pulled off and lives to tell about it, then word will get around and the future Bad Guys might be prepared to counter the move. That’s the risk of going to the same trick time after time.
There are some great tips in this post for changing things up and keeping things exciting for the players (and the GM as well). I love ’em. I think the best experience I had with keeping a combat fresh was by leveraging the 1st Edition AD&D DM’s Guide. At the back are a whole slew of charts to create random demons (or was the devils?). My group at the time was in a 3rd Edition D&D game, and they pretty much had the Monster Manuals (all 3 or 4 of them) memorized. When I whipped out the old school random demons/devils for appearance generation (and then applied stats from “known” monsters) to face the party down with, they freaked out. Instead of knowing weaknesses, strategies, approaches, and “proper” techniques for bringing down the monsters, these high level PCs ran away and wanted to observe the demons that I’d created for them. It was a great success and wonderful fun for all of us!
Teasing adventure ideas from the players and their characters takes some practice and a little talent. It’s probably on the higher end of the “GM difficulty scale,” but it’s well worth it to everyone at the table to make an attempt. It’s also highly rewarding to the PCs and GM when it gets pulled off. Taking two separate character goals or concepts or backstories and weaving them together into a single adventure line or hook is really tough as well. Extrapolating that out to a full table of PCs is incredibly rough. Systems like FATE Core make it considerably easier. Systems like Pathfinder and D&D make it especially difficult. Mike’s article walks through how to go about exploring what the players want for their characters and how to weave in different desires into a common story. It’s a great article, and I’m glad I read it.
This is a pretty slick multi-level map by Dyson. I think it’s quite impressive, to be honest. I wouldn’t mind using this map as a lair or homebase for a Boss Bad Guy… or even the PCs if they wanted to make it into a home.
I’m not quite sure I agree with this approach. It’s really hard for me to build out an engaging story for the PCs without knowing the characters and the players’ desires for their characters. I love the Savage Worlds “interlude” system where you can get to know different characters and something about their backstory as things progress, but it’s not a huge infodump or alteration of the character. It just flows as a bit of storytelling during a downtime in the main storyline that’s being told. Of course, there are some campaigns that I’ve run where I start with a “big bang” and then get to know the characters, but the “session 0” will not happen later than the 1/3rd mark of things that I have planned for the campaign. In other words, I try to get session 0 into the game before the first act of the story comes to a conclusion.
Mike’s highlighted quite a few different projects from this month to go check out. The one that specifically caught my eye was the Hershey Family Support Bundle. It not only goes to assist a fellow creative in the game industry, the bundle looks fantastic as well. Go check out Mike’s post for more information.
Ouch. Yeah. There are problem players at some groups or at some times. Odds are, if you game long enough, you’ll be the problem player for a brief time… let’s hope it’s brief. How do you tell? Usually introspection, but sometimes someone in the group will call you out on it. Don’t take it personally. Figure out what you did wrong, acknowledge it, apologize for it, and try not to do it again. As usual, Ang goes into more detail than my summaries. For the sake of the other players in your group, you owe it to them (and your friendship with them) to check out the post.