Month: May 2014

Of Cabbages and Kings

Now that we have created the world, lets populate it with some countries and cities for those countries.  There are different things in city creation that in the games I have played in tend to be overlooked, but can make for a more interesting game. For example, in the First Edition AD&D DM’s Guide has a whole section on different social class and rank that takes up at least four pages, even describing various forms of government that could be in place in the cities and countries in the world. Check out this to see some examples, though remember, there are more options you can look at here, and in fiction such as in Ultima VIII Serpents Isle which had three cities run by different groups: Monitor run by the Knighthood, Fawn where the most beautiful person rules, and Moonshade where the Mage Council elect one of them to rule. This sort of thing was something that I hadn’t seen reproduced in the same sort of detail in the D20 line until some of the 3.5 and Pathfinder supplements with Cityscape and Ultimate Campaign and such. This thread touches on the fact some as well, with the lack of certain government types in fantasy works, giving examples of some, like the various governments in the Lord of the Rings. An interesting idea I’d like to try and see players deal is would be a Clan Ring style like in King of Dragon Pass, where you had seven people who would be of different skill levels in the seven different fields and then offer their advice on the situations that came up. Good way for people to influence things, because they could try different means of making the people vote their way.

With the article in the last post on Residuum which the writer uses an a sort of fictional stand-in for oil in their fantasy world, using it as a great reason to spur things in the campaign. Some people want it, others fiercely guard it. Deals can be made for it, people will kill for it, and so forth. As the article states, Eberron has Dragonshards in it, and there have been all sorts of things done to get their hands on that. What this allows is for the idea of have and have not areas and having to figure out how to get what they need. Let’s start with a city in the middle of a mountain range with lots of mines for gems and other things. They’ll need to trade those supplies for food, clothing, and other such things, such as in the computer game Dwarf Fortress. So, likely if this was a kingdom, probably a satellite city springs up at the base of the mountain to do farming and herding, perhaps another city at a forest to produce lumber and other such supplies. (more…)

Gamemastering School 1: Tell The Story Right

This is another mutli-part blog series I am starting to cover different topics that may be of use for those looking to get into Gamemastery or Storytelling or Dungeonmastery or Refereeing or whatever your system chooses to call it. Some may be old news to GMs who have been around for a while, but give it a skim, perhaps it’ll spark some new ideas.

My initial concept for this was an article talking about how video games had a lot of things they could teach GMs, even without going into the storytelling tropes to get various twists and turns for plots, just fundamental game design topics that would play into whatever story in whatever system you’re trying to tell, sort of in the style of these Revenge of the Gamer Chick  ‘Everything I need to know about GMing I learned From…’ articles on  X-Files and Babylon 5. However, as the writing went on, I began to find myself looking at other media for certain examples of things and with that brought about the idea of breaking it down into different genres but instead, I think I will break it down into different topics. Today, we’re going to look at some of the key fundamentals of storytelling.

The very first one I want to start with is one a friend of mine told me about. Always have something your players are striving towards, to keep them invested in the game. Now, this doesn’t mean always keep the players under the threat of death or failure but instead, always have it so they have at least one thing to keep working on. A perfect example of this is the video game Civilization. To quote Sid Meier when referring to the ‘One More Turn’ issue with his game, ‘There was never really a good place to stop playing. I’ve often found myself playing and then realized I’m late for a meeting.’

Dehydrated World, Just Add Water

This is the first in a series of posts I plan to write on some things to consider when making a campaign world, or using a published setting. I don’t know how many parts this will be, but each will focus on a different section, likely starting on the macro and work to the micro scale.

Whenever you run a game, you need somewhere to put it. A universe of sorts to run it in. It could be as simple as a single campaign world (or continent, country, city, even a single building depending on the stories you’re telling), or it could be something as complex as the mutliverse that comic books have or alternate timelines in Back to the Future style or a galaxy of planets like Star Wars and Star Trek and Spelljammer. Once you know how big you want it to be, you can then begin to populate the areas needed; don’t build any more than you need at the time however.

There are many different rulesets you can use to make systems, people and cities, each with their own pros and cons. Games like Traveller and Alternity have rules governing the creation of star systems and the planets in it while games like D&D and Pathfinder have rules for the specific cities you’ll find. There’s even some stuff like How to Host a Dungeon that creates the backstory to why the dungeon came out the way it did and who the players in the area are. You could even do a procedurally generated style like what goes on in Dwarf Fortress, or in pretty much any random table generated dungeon or overland trek you had with encounter tables. As a side note, even if you don’t play the game, I suggest you take a look at Dwarf Fortress world generation to see the sort of complex world histories that can be created, with the various connections. (more…)

Lest Dispelled Journal #3

I thought I had seen most things with the people in this city. But today when I awoke, the woman friend of the innkeeper was wanting to talk to me, asking me to help save the innkeeper. Of course, what could I say but yes to try and help calm the poor girl. I have found that since this whole thing started, I am… changing, somehow. I can see that not all the members of these cities are as… closed hearted and minded as the majority and maybe there is hope between a balance of nature and development. Maybe, but we’ll see. She did give me a good luck charm that she said was special, and so far I have no cause to say otherwise.

Of course, it doesn’t help that when I was leaving the inn to head out to try and deal with some of the weird stuff going on about the city that there was a small crowd of animals of all types just… watching the inn. Almost as if she was somehow reaching out to them. I think there was something said about how this could be a side effect of what is happening with he,r but I don’t know a lot about all this magic stuff. The way I look at it is that hokey religions are no match for a good weapon at your side, especially since the bears and wolves don’t care what god you worship. I’ve never seen them ask anyway. (more…)

Gorrilaz In The Mist

You think it’s fictional?
Mystical? Maybe.
Hero who appears in you to clear your view when you’re too crazy.
-Gorillaz, Clint Eastwood

I found myself watching Alice in Wonderland the other night and I saw an ad for the new animated Oz musical, and it got me thinking about a concept I’ve had for a while, adventures that just take place in your head. There are a few different kinds of adventures that way, so I’ll go over them all in turn. (more…)

About Six Inches

This title is a reference to a comment about the difference between being a dick and an a-hole.  The reason for it is because of something I’ve been hearing a lot lately regarding people’s perception of certain GM styles or writing styles or the like and they espouse this belief and share it to anyone who will listen. The problem with this when it comes to GMing especially is that we have no real frame of reference besides what works at our gaming tables and what works for you may not for someone else and vice versa.

For example, John Wick is one of the two big sources of what initially got me into writing these sort of posts. His approach to challenging the way people thought got him a lot of hate and a lot of love. If you look at the first article in his book ‘Play Dirty’, Hit Em Where It Hurts he is quite tought with some things and not afraid of it, especially if you start looking at some of his later works.

He states later in his collection that he is not a killer GM who seeks to rack up a body count for sake of a high body count, instead he is a dirty GM, throwing challenges at the PCs that are designed to be difficult and complex to make them have to work to win, and sometimes in telling the stories, all people see is how he was being unnecessarily hard on his players, but apparently at his table, that worked. (more…)

Evil – Just Do It

To followup on my post about making interesting bad guys, this post is about how to help expose your characters to those bad guys. After all, when the characters see the bad guy, their usual response is to try and beat them, whether that means to kill them or to arrest them or to trap them or whatever. They usually aren’t paying attention to your exposition, especially if it starts becoming long winded. They’re thinking about ‘when I get a chance to act, this is what I’ll do’. So, comic book style monologues don’t work for a roleplaying game. Instead, I want to provide a few tricks that may help with this.

Movies and TV shows, and some books and video games, will do a cut to the villain and let you see what they are doing. This establishes the villain for the audience, letting the audience see things from their side of the story for a bit. It usually serves to explain why certain things are happening to the hero, such as the challenges faced or even the reason for things. Usually, this happens a lot more in traditional heroic stories, where the heroic character goes charging into battle to topple the evil villain. It is a great alternative to the stories where you do not see the villain until the hero breaks into their throne room and there is the whole ‘Finally, we meet’ scene, usually trying to demonstrate why the villain is evil, usually as a way to justify why they are evil. It gets even worse in video games of that sort because you see the hero that may be killing everyone and stealing everything while this villain is just sitting in their throne room waiting for the hero to challenge them. (more…)

Bad Guys with a twist, and a side of lemon

Going to be starting a posting schedule for this, every Monday and Friday for roleplaying related articles, and there may be occasional random posts of flavor topics, like my Sketchy Characters post. That way, there’s a regular schedule for people to view the ‘important’ articles.

Good heroes need good villains. Batman has Joker, Superman has Lex Luthor, Luke Skywalker had Emperor Palpatine, there are so many good villains out there that do the villain thing great; challenge the heroes.

If you have not seen the movie Unbreakable with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, please watch it. It gives a lot of talking about what it takes to make a hero that I think is relevant to all this. One example being a quote that states: ‘in the comic you know how you can tell who the arch villain is going to be? He’s the exact opposite of the hero’, which is usually true of good villains in literature. They will cross lines heroes won’t, they fight in ways the heroes aren’t good at, making for challenges. Like with Superman, he couldn’t just punch Luthor when he was operating as a mastermind or when he was using the law and the public opinion on his side. Helps to have a good PR person. (more…)

Sketched Characters

I’ve had this concept kicking around in my head since seeing the following picture.


I had been toying with a video post of some characters that I felt fit Bard class roles, then the idea expanded into using ones for all classes, especially  when this picture made me think of some options. I used to do this a lot when I start making characters, find someone, or a group, and build the traits into a character. Like I had a Mutants and Mastermind mentalist thief character I based off Frank B. Parker from Seven Days tv series. (more…)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bard

I hear a lot of badmouthing of certain classes in the D20 system; usually it is about Paladins and Bards, the former for being Lawful Stupid and the latter for being useless.

I have already wrote quite a bit on my beliefs of how Paladins can be played without being completely useless, most of it being in the roleplay ability of how the character plays. You don’t have to immediately be the police and turn people in the moment they do something wrong, and in the end, the Paladin is not meant to be that. The Paladin is the shining example of what the others could aspire to be, if they only chose to give up that life of evil and follow your example, and don’t worry, you’ll be there to help them if they fall. You’re not there to force them to act a certain way, and you can even see the benefit of their actions. You’re just there to make sure they use their skills for good, not for their own pocket; ie: you may want to stop the thief from stealing in a populated area from innocent people, but what if you’re in another country when you’re at war? And if you’re in a dungeon or fighting the big bad in their home base? Well, I’d say let your thief run wild. (more…)