Sporadic Saturday Sweetness 2017-06-03 (MEGA EDITION #3) 2

I think I figured out why I get so behind here. I started a new Day Job and we work through lunch or go out to lunch together as a team. My lunchtime has historically been my time to type up my comments and/or work on my novel.

Well… With no “alone time” during lunch, I’ve found that my current novel is languishing, and that I can’t quite keep up here either. Now that I’m out of the “training and orientation mode” and will start to work from home more frequently, I should be able to start keeping up with these posts on a more regular basis.

On the role playing front, I launched a new Dresden Files RPG campaign last night with a couple of friends. I think it’ll be super fun and super cool. All three of us are writers. All three of us are steeped in the lore of the Dresdenverse. However, I think I have the least amount of “Dresden knowledge” in my brain than the other two, so that’ll be a challenge.

Time for some links!


John’s article on when to avoid restarting a game or campaign is spot on. Yeah, there are times to kill off a game and move on to something new, better, different, or more exciting. However, there are just as many reasons to stick it out. Sometimes, all it takes is a few micro-adjustments to the game to bring life back to it and allow it to continue on. Go check out the article for the reasons John outlines in his article.

Creating New Magic Weapons

When I get deep into a campaign (especially at the higher levels), the boring “long sword +4” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Yeah, those are nice to have, but by this time, we all know the flavors and styles of the characters. It’s time to add some ornamentation to their weaponry and fits their style of running their character. This also runs true with their armor, miscellaneous equipment, and many other facets of the gear the PCs lug around. Mike threw out a few good ideas for starter material. Why not head over to his site and drop a comment or three with some ideas of your own? (My personal favorite is a song that sings ballads of the PCs lineage and culture when drawn for battle, giving a bonus to charisma when leading troops or trying to rout the enemy.)

Updated: Sample Plots for Heroic Growth

Phil has an article here that is similar to one I wrote for Gnome Stew a while back. Mine was about character arcs. While Phil and I wrote along a similar vein, it’s still well worth your time to check out his perspective. He has quite a few good ideas and approaches packed into a short article.

Four Truths about My Gaming

Peter peels back the curtain to expose his four personal truths about his gaming. After reading this article, I tried to come up with four truths of my own, but I quickly realized that my truths are identical to Peter’s. I’m not going to spoil what he has to say by repeating the truths here. Tap that link and head over to his site to see what he has to say.

Undercurrents Of Characterization

I’ve created plenty of characters — for fiction and RPGs — over the decades that I’ve been a creative person. I’d be willing to put good money down that I’ve created at least 5,000 characters (of varying degrees along the minor/major scale). Some are “flash in the pan” characters, while others are featured through an entire trilogy of novels. Some die in their first encounter (either on purpose or by accident or via horrid luck), while others somehow manage to muddle their way through the whole campaign. The larger the spotlight I shine on the character, the more in-depth I delve into the characterizations wrapped around that character. Mike’s article is a great one to kickstart things in the right direction. His article is focus on the skills that reflect the character’s abilities, attitudes, response capabilities, and so on. This is something very important to know about your characters to flesh them out and make them more real for your games (or fiction).

The Power of No

Ahh.. The careful balance of allowing players to have fun with a powerful “yes” and not allowing them to destroy the story continuity, game balance, or raw enjoyment of the others at the table with a well-placed “no.” It rough. this is probably one of the more problematic and difficult skills when it comes to GMing RPGs. I’m very much a “yes” style GM, but I do have to drop the occasional “no” to avoid trouble down the road. Honestly, I probably need to drop a few more “no” answers during the game, especially during character creation. (PS: There’s also an accompanying Gnome Stew Podcast episode that goes along with this article.)


I love the symmetry and style of this city. It works for me on so many levels. I especially love the large keep/castle overseeing the entry to the bay. This makes complete sense to me on its placement. Very strategic. I like it. Well done, Dyson!

Setting that moral compass

This is a timely article for me to review as I type this up. In my upcoming Dresden Files RPG game that I’ll be running, one of the PC’s aspects are all wrapped around lies and truth and such. That’s pretty much the theme of the character. Lies and truths are pretty much at the core of morality, and “testing the waters” with some proper encounters will allow me (and perhaps the player) to find which direction his moral compass points. Thanks for the article, Troy. I really enjoyed it.

Should GMs design a PC’s family?

Mike poses the question of, “Should the GMs design a PC’s family?” Then he moves on to answer (and explain) both the “yes” and “no” answers. There is, as his article points out, a middle ground. That’s where I like to sit. I allow the players to generate their characters’ families (if they want to), and then we have a sit-down where things are adjusted to fit the world and/or story that we’re working on together. I once had a fellow detail his family tree back four generations and each of the people in his lineage was a high-power hero of the realm. This was D&D 3.0/3.5, and the lowest level person in his family tree was 15th level (out of a possible 20). It was — to be honest — ridiculous. I had to use my “power of no” (see above for link to that article) to shoot down almost the entire idea. I told him that I liked the concepts of the family tree and the members of the family, but he needed to divide everyones’ levels by 5 or 6 to make it fit the campaign style more. He wasn’t happy, but when I pointed out two things, he accepted it. 1) His powerful family members were not going to come to the rescue. 2) If he achieved a higher level than his “heroic ancestors” he’d become the “true hero” of the family. He liked the second idea…. and that came to fruition as the campaign rolled to a close with the entire group being 19th or 20th level.

GM 101: Does Story trump Rules?

Yeah. Totally. Story is the king of role playing. However, we need the rules to provide the agreed upon structure by which we’re telling the stories. The #1 piece of advice given in this article (and it applies to fiction writing as well) is “Learn the Rules Before You Break Them.” Part of that learning process is to understand why those rules are there. You can’t just know the application of the rule, but you need to have a deeper understanding of them. Once that’s in place, then break them as you see fit for the story to progress in a satisfying manner. Just know that each breakage of a rule may have downstream consequences. These can be accurately predicted with the knowledge of the rules… or disaster can happen later if an un-learned rule is shattered to bits.

Let’s Talk About Containers: 22 Wondrous Items

I have two words for this post: Permanent Bookmark! That’s right. This post (along with many others) has earned its way into my permanent bookmark collection, so I can go back and reference it at will. Mike’s lists and styles of containers explored through the post are wonderful! I definitely need to put these (and similar) to use in the next fantasy RPG I run. Thanks for the wonderful creative work, Mike!

GM 101: Just Say No To Fudge

I fudge dice. Not lots. It’s honestly pretty rare. I never do it to punish, abuse, or do things to the detriment of the PCs at the table. When I do shift the dice around a bit, it’ll be to their advantage. It’s not that I want to avoid killing a character. I’ve done that plenty of times over the years, but never with malice. I just hate seeing a string of luck killing off a character. However, a string of bad decisions by a player can most certainly lead to a character’s death. I’m okay with that. When I start to see a string of bad luck lining up against the PC, I’ll nudge things in a different direction for a moment to relieve the pressure a bit. This usually works to keep the story (see above about story being more important than the rules) moving along smoothly.

The Impact Of Player Psychology

Mike has thrown down an in-depth article about the psychology of players. I’ll admit that I have limited background in this scientific field of study. Most of this article was a wee bit over my head, but my personal take away from the article is to say that as a player, I want to be in control of my character. It’s called “character agency” in the fiction writing world. If you want some more detail about agency and how it applies to players and characters, I have an article over at Gnome Stew about PC agency as well. It might dovetail nicely with Mike’s article. (PS: There’s also a Gnome Stew Podcast episode that goes with my article.)

Going to Your First Con

It’s con season! We’re getting close to the middle of con season. This means some have come and gone, but there are many more to come before 2017 rolls to a close. Tim has a great article about the DOs, DON’Ts, and generally having a good time at a con without ruining someone else’s fun. Here’s my basics that I think go well with Tim’s article. It’s my 3-2-1 rule. 3 hours of sleep (minimum) per night. 2 meals per day. 1 shower per day. The first two are for you and your health. The last one is for everyone else. Right? Enjoy con season, and may you be immune to ConCrud!

The Influence Of Distance Part 1: Near (the first half)

Mike explores 12 different aspects of what people (players, characters, whoever) can gain from living in near proximity to the “center” of a nation’s cultural/social/political areas. He’s promising 11 more in the next article, so we’ll see what he comes up with for those. He’s promised they’re a bit more gloomy than these original dozen. Despite having 12 points to make in the article, this is a quick read. I highly encourage the world builders and GMs out there to click through and take a read.


2 thoughts on “Sporadic Saturday Sweetness 2017-06-03 (MEGA EDITION #3)

  1. Phil Nicholls Jun 3,2017 1:38 PM

    Hi JT,

    Many thanks for including a link to Tales of a GM in your article. Thanks too for the kind words.

    All the best

  2. Mike Bourke Jun 4,2017 5:32 AM

    Appreciate the kind words, JT! Once again, for some reason, I didn’t get any pingbacks from the links. I don’t know if you’re using wordpress or not as the basis of your blog, but if so, I’ve found that it only generates them for the first couple of links in an article. I get around that by making a trivial change (a full stop on an otherwise empty line for example) and hitting the update button; wordpress then starts after the last pingback it generated and adds a couple more. Then undo the change and update again. It takes (almost) no time to generate a pingback for every link you’ve included.

    Glad you liked the magic item articles! I was a little concerned at running two of them so close together, but I’ve been trying to build up a little lead time because I’m away for a week and wanted to be able to schedule articles in advance and they looked like being the quickest to finish!

    I’ve never actually seen anyone ask the question about families before, anywhere. So it was very interesting to read your comments on the article. I would probably have let one or two of the members of your player’s family tree stay at the 15th level benchmark and applied a dumbbell curve with that as the high mark to the rest – then worked with the player to craft a narrative for the family as a whole, and how it would affect his character. Would he feel overwhelmed by the demands for success? Would the family have been progressing, getting closer to the mark with each successive generation, or would they have started with so much promise but seemed to have fallen under a curse of underachieving since? None of which is to say that your solution didn’t get the job done 🙂

    Finally, the article on Player Psychology. It’s not often that I write over your head, so it’s good to see that there’s still the capacity for growth no matter how long a GM’s been doing this! That said, I think it’s one of the most meaningful articles I’ve ever written, so I hope you still got something out of it.

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