Month: August 2014

Gamemaster School 7: The Play’s The Thing

Non-combat encounters to some people comes across as an affront to their sensibilities. Who would want to do something like talking when you could be fighting and getting loot and XP, such as what you see in a lot of satire of the RPG genre. Those Munchkin style players are not wrong  in their own way, such as some of the great Knights Of The Dinner Table stories, but much like I explained how to use social skills, I want to talk about use of other skills for encounters.

Skills to perform or create something are simple enough to incorporate, such as someone using their skill as a cook to get into a place or making art to sell at a museum. However, beyond this, depending on how travelled and/or skilled the person is, it is possible they may have fans and critics who could bump into them. Also, some things can have whole contests designed around performance and craft skills, like the Japanese with tea ceremonies and other formal skills that they would even have things like poetry contests among samurai at court in times of peace.

Hamlet had the quote, as I used as this article’s subtitle, ‘The play’s the thing to catch the conscience of the king’, talking about how they may be able to use the play to send a message. Other times, performers have been cover to thieves, assassins or kidnappers, thus why people would fear gypsies as criminals. A sort of built in cover while you do what you needed to. (more…)

Gamemaster School 6: Use Your Words

In the last post I breached the idea of social plots being a large game event as opposed to small scenes, and gave some examples but it was mostly theory and some movie and video game references without a lot of in game system weight to it. This one I am going to talk about how to actually create a social encounter to take full advantage of your player characters abilities.

Primarily, you need to have some reason for the social event to take place. That will be the basis of your plots requirements, such as finding who killed a family member or where the money is hidden or how to get into the secure building. This determines how many interactions this will have, since an investigation into a secret society is going to take more asking around than finding someone who can get you out of town.

Next you need to know the type of interactions needed. It could be as simple as a social meeting between vassal and leige in a medieval type game or it could be an interview/interrogation type scene for a police character or it is an criminal talking to a mark or informant to gain information. There are any number of reasons that you may come up with socialising with people, so just find something that fits the story. These let you know the situational modifiers of stats and RP issues that you are looking at, so that you can keep the scene interesting. After all, you want to paint the image for them, so they can get a feeling for the scene and also they can take part in it as much as they might a combat, as opposed to it being busy work between encounters. (more…)

Gamemaster School 5: Aggressive Negotiations

I see a lot of plots where it plays out a lot like a video game, or a Hollywood Action-Adventure movie. Heroes get a mission and charge off after it, slaughtering various creatures along the way, come back to get rewarded, and then a new adventure is given (this would be a sequel for movies, usually another chapter in most video games). This continues for a while with the occasional break for shaking things up, like a boat ride or a desert caravan run, perhaps some sort of minigame.

This party has usually a similar distributon to a Gauntlet game, and usually the same mindset; kill everything and take their stuff. It’s why Munchkin card games are as popular as they are, after all. However, this normally leaves the more social type skills by the wayside and can completely eliminate some great options for games. I’m here to try and bring back the social elements, similar to some of the stuff in my Bard post, but I want to go further now and give GMs ideas on how to make the most of social encounters, so much so that it is possible to have a session where you never need to draw a weapon.

Now, some people may say Game system X uses rules that are better for social than system Y, and I agree, that is a problem in some ways. You can be a great liar (Bluff) but the moment you try to tell the truth (Diplomacy) you lose all your skills in being a social person. Or games have ‘Social Combat’ rules like Exalted and Song Of Ice and Fire, have skills that work better for it. That they do, sure. But it doesn’t mean any system does not have the possibility of playing a social character. (more…)