Showing posts from August, 2019

RPGaDay 2019: 31 Last

I was hoping to stick the landing, here, but this word just…well, again, there’s too much real estate to realistically cover and I am tired. So, in keeping with my brand-new, just-made-it-up tradition of re-writing the 11’s to better serve my needs, Here’s my answers the previous year’s questions for Day 31.

#RPGaDay 2018 31 Why did you take part in RPGaDay 2019
I caught wind of this at the end of last year, when it was far too late to participate, and I vowed to do it up for real next year. This year, in fact. I think I did!
#RPGaDay 2017 31 What do you anticipate for gaming in 2018 2020?
We will know that the industry is out of ideas when Toon gets reworked for “the world’s greatest fantasy role-playing game.” I think more and more people are going to bring their campaign worlds to life using the D&D OGL. That model is what will keep the interest high and also keep the money pool shallow. A perfect cottage industry.
#RPGaDay 2016 31 Best advice you were ever given for your game of …

RPGaDay 2019: 30 Connection

Isn’t that why we’re all here? To make connections? I mean on the Internet. Not in real life, God, no. Meatspace is gross!
Only kidding. After all, what is tabletop gaming without the sights, the sounds, and the smells?
Again, only kidding. Mostly.
But I do want to point out that it’s not secret that gaming brings us together, over a shared activity, a shared vocabulary, a communal liminal space, written by committee on the fly, and managed through random arbitration. That’s gaming, in very clinical and not-sexy terms.
The magic of gaming is our ability to link up our neural networks to make that communal space. My narrative and your inner eye, bolstered by your fellow player’s comments, creates this amazing stage that you can see and also interact within. It’s a dream space, where you pull back to see yourself in the space, and then zoom back into your avatar’s head to speak words, engage opponents, and interact with other players.
There is nothing else like it. Video games can simulat…

RPGaDay 2019: 29 Evolve

Looking at the evolution of Dungeons & Dragons is pretty interesting. Forty years. Let’s be charitable and say there have been seven iterations of the game, with each successive edition being a zeitgeist of the times. That’s what makes fifth edition so interesting. Sure, in many ways, it’s everything that forth edition wasn’t, but in terms of tone and can-do attitude, it’s more like vintage D&D than any other edition. In this regard, we’ve kind of come full circle.

Likewise, the players have evolved with the game—sort of. I think that gamer larvae start out pretty much the same: “I kill it with my sword!” But thanks to the rich vocabulary that has developed to support role-playing as a cultural pastime, and the highest levels of engagement in the hobby to date, and also a proliferation of tutorials and op-ed YouTube channels and podcasts and all of it, gamer larvae grow into gamer butterflies much faster these days. Or they leave and go back to Grand Theft Auto. But most, I wo…

RPGaDay 2019: 28 Love

What do you love about gaming? I love the control and the instant story delivery system. I love taking what players do and spinning that into new developments for them to discover. I love the spontaneity of the table.
What do you love about D&D? It’s an old shoe. It’s comfortable to wear, to move around in, and is still surprisingly durable and resilient.
What do you love about this challenge?
It’s forced me to hunker down and work on content. I’ve got three large homebrew projects that are hanging around, half finished, that I want to put up here, and possibly develop as a pdf for the DM’s Guild. This has been a good reminder to work to completion. I also love the engagement that has happened between me and the readers.
How do you handle love in-game?
I don’t unless the players want it. In that case, I always let them tell me what they are comfortable with. It’s the best way to not overstep. It’s only come up a few times before. I am a big believer in cutting away when the lights g…

RPGaDay 2019: 27 Suspense

How do you keep a gamer in suspense?

I'll tell you tomorrow.

RPGaDay 2019: 26 Idea

I recommend keeping a notebook with you as a DM at all times. You never know when something cool is going to come to you and you will need to write it down. I know you don’t think you do, but trust me, you do.
There’s all kinds of studies about the positive effects of journaling—writing something down by hand—as an aid to increasing your memory and also in making connections, linking ideas, and so forth. Keeping a journal is going to free you up to create.
I would suggest you look at the Bullet Journal as a system. Here’s a great starting place to learn all about it, and of course, there’s this book right here. But before you go buy a twenty five dollar German blank book and expensive colored pens and all of that stuff, stop for a minute and think about if you even want to go that route first.
What I’m saying is this: start cheap. If you lose interest or come up with a better way to do something, then you’re not out a lot of cash. If you love it and want to do more, then you can easily…

RPGaDay 2019: 25 Calamity

This is a war story.
My group was on the second level of a classic module. They had been slogging through it for some time and had just gotten out of a major trap and were pretty beat up. Half of the party wanted to go back to camp, and the other half wanted to stay and clear more rooms. This turned into a longer-than-normal table discussion.
One of my players (we’ll call him Cain) was built for action, not talk. He routinely zoned out if a discussion ran longer than a few minutes. Cain was a druid, but he was about as druidic as a goblin assassin, which he probably would have enjoyed playing. He was in the “go back to camp” group. The other player (“Abel”) was a big, thick fighter and he wanted to clear more rooms. The four players were gridlocked at two and two.
While the rest of the group was yelling, Cain said to me, as quietly as he could, “I’ve got rope, right? Fifty feet?” We checked his character sheet and sure enough he had 50 feet of fine adventuring rope.
The party was …

RPGaDay 2019: 24 Triumph

Man, that’s such a weird word. Triumph. It’s weird because when I hear it, I bring two things immediately to mind: a famous card trick invented by Dai Vernon (and one of my favorite tricks to perform) and conversely, my least-favorite Devo song “Triumph of the Will” from the album Duty Now for the Future.  I know I’m supposed to think about overcoming adversity, but I don’t.
So, trying to bore down on what I am supposed to be talking about, I came to this conclusion: D&D games aren’t about winning. They are about triumphing over the forces of darkness.
Maybe not all the time, but certainly when it comes to those big, long, multi-level campaigns with a giant bad guy and massive conclusions.
“Win” is a decisive term. It sounds final. It implies that the game is over.
“Triumph,” on the other hand, is still positive, but it’s more open-ended. It implies that the battle is over, but not the war. The forces of darkness have been beaten back, but only just. I usually envision the word &qu…

RPGaDay 2019: 23 Surprise

Oh, what the hell.  It's Friday.

I wasn't going to do this just yet, but hey...SURPRISE! It's an archetype from my own home-grown campaign setting for you to peruse and swipe if you like. My world has a lot of complicated old gods, and this particular thief archetype is an exploitation of that very fact. Click the link below to get it.

Thief Archetype: The Divine Archaeologist

This is a spell-casting thief, with an emphasis on utility spells, such as hiding, running, and transporting heavy objects. That's why the Divine Archaeologist also gets a second fourth level spell, and a fifth first level spell at Level 20, unlike the Arcane Trickster.

There is also an "Indiana Jones" component to the Divine Archaeologist; the clever fellow who has read up on the temples of the blood god and knows that every treasure room has a pressure plate right...there...or, maybe it was there...? I wanted the skills to reflect someone who learned a lot about ancient history, but li…

RPGaDay 2019: 22 Lost

So, this is fun: Conan and Valeria encountering a dinosaur-like creature in the classic “Red Nails:”

Through the thicket was thrust a head of nightmare and lunacy. Grinning jaws bared rows of dripping yellow tusks; above the yawning mouth wrinkled a saurian-like snout. Huge eyes, like those of a python a thousand times magnified, stared unwinkingly at the petrified humans clinging to the rock above it. Blood smeared the scaly, flabby lips and dripped from the huge mouth. The head, bigger than that of a crocodile, was further extended on a long scaled neck on which stood up rows of serrated spikes, and after it, crushing down the briars and saplings, waddled the body of a titan, a gigantic, barrel-bellied torso on absurdly short legs. The whitish belly almost raked the ground, while the serrated backbone rose higher than Conan could have reached on tiptoe. A long spiked tail, like that of a gargantuan scorpion, trailed out behind. "Back up the crag, quick!" snapped Conan, thr…

RPGaDay 2019: 21 Vast

Here’s another term that probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but is too nebulous to adequately lock down into something meaningful, so I’m going to borrow from Day 11 and answer the previous year’s questions for Day 21.
#RPGaDay 2018 day 21: Which Dice Mechanic Speaks to You?
I have to give it to D&D 5e for Advantage and Disadvantage. It’s so easy, and so universal, and instantly translates to any part of the game. Plus, you get to roll two of the most exciting dice in the game. D20s are the Corvettes of your dice bag. Lots of people think it's d12s, but they are wrong. D12s are the Deloreans of the dice bag. What were we talking about?
#RPGaDay 2017 day 21: Which RPG does the most with the Least Words?
Godlike. It’s such a strong concept, stripped down to its essential components. Super Powers in war. No, make that, Super Soldiers in war. Yes. Your character gets one thing. It may not be impressive in the Marvel Universe, but in a world without super powers, the guy …

RPGaDay 2019: 20 Noble

As much as I love the Backgrounds system in D&D 5e, a few of the options are hit and miss for me. The most egregious misfire to me is the Noble. I can see why they wanted to include it in the Player’s Handbook but I think that as it is written, it tries to do too much in the limited framework it has and as a result, it doesn’t do enough. In a section with soldiers, local heroes, and urchins, the extra lifting and gymnastics required to make the noble work without setting one player high above the others is a little outside the scope of new DMs.
My solution to this was to split the noble background up into three distinct categories.
The Dilettante -Someone who comes from wealth but isn’t interested in being wealthy, or at least, do not want to live their life according to their family's expectations. This is for role-players who want lots of family interaction as the filial obligations of their upbringing can potentially clash with their adventuring career. I was specificall…

RPGaDay 2019: 19 Scary

I love horror movies, horror stories, monsters, aliens and all that kind of thing. In Internet Parlance, I’m what is known as a “Monster Kid.” Make of that what you will.
It follows, then, that I would be an early and avid adopter of games like GURPS Horror, CHILL, and my first-love, go-to horror game, Call of Cthulhu.
My games were always well-attended and with good reason: I was a great Call of Cthulhu game master. I wrote many of my own C of C scenarios and they were always a hit. I tried to keep the eldritch vibe but I also wanted “traditional” scares; zombies are a great palette cleanser when you stare too long into the Abyss and the Abyss stares back.
The first scary encounter I ever used was, it turned out, my best one. I re-used it with different groups, and even ‘ported it over into other games. It never failed me. I am now going to release it into the wild for your edification and/or swipe file.
The Set Up This needs to be under ground, either in a sewer, or a partially floo…

RPGaDay 2019: 18 Plenty

I have plenty of dice. If I never bought dice again for the rest of my life, I’d never want for any more dice. In fact, I’m going to say something that I never thought I’d say: I have too many dice.
This is tantamount to heresy and is punishable by excommunication. I know this, and yet, I would have you hear me out, for this is not a situation of my own making. It’s not my fault. I am not weak.
It’s the dice maker’s fault. Aha! J’ACCUSE!
Allow me to elucidate: The industry standard for a set of dice looks something like this, right?
Seven dice. One of each polyhedral: d4, d6, d8, d10, %d10, d12, and d20.
You buy those dice and you think, “I’m set! Now I can finally play D&D, just like my favorite movie stars!”
Only, the first game you play, you quickly realize that you need 2 d20s, because, let’s face it’s easier to roll two dice and take the higher number than it is to roll one die twice. 
Two sets, then. Probably way more dice than you'll ever need. But whatever, NOW you ca…

RPGaDay 2019: 17 One

I really wanted to keep this civil and upbeat, but I’m afraid that with the challenge halfway over, the gloves have to come off. So, here we go:
Hey, Dice Makers…please put all of your special icons on the highest number of the die. Thank you.
I have needs. They involve Skull Dice. And what I really like to do is make little lists that run from least terrible to most terrible, and if that most terrible result happens to coincide with my skull on the d6, then that’s an awesome thing and it makes me happy.
Player: What happens now?
DM:       (rolls a d6, shakes his head, shows the die to the player with the skull facing up).
Player: (shakes fist at sky) Damn you, Gelatinous Cube!

I know, I know, it didn’t used to be this way. Some games made you roll low. Some games made you roll high. Two of my favorite games, D&D and V&V were exactly opposite in this regard and it always took us a round of concentration to switch over. And these were just two examples.
Now it’s a differen…

RPGaDay 2019: 16 Dream

I use dreams a lot in my game, especially since now I have a sorcerer, a warlock, and a cleric in my group. It’s the best way to give my players an info-dump’s worth of information without grinding table play to a halt. The way I do it is simple: I make it a handout. Specifically, I write a letter.

Giving players something that’s folded up and printed out so that it looks fancy is like free topping day at the yogurt place. Yeah, it’s maybe not as good as gelato, but everyone changes their tune when the chocolate sprinkles come out, don’t they?
I have some skill at prose writing, so I always take this opportunity to put a little literature on what I want them to know. Mostly this is tied to the player and how he or she would process a block of information. But the nice things about making a dream a letter is that the player can keep it and refer back to it. No missing a clue because they took the wrong notes; the dream is the diary entry that stays with them forever. And my players ce…