2019 was a year of firsts for me. My first time DMing for charity, my first time making bratwurst from scratch, my first year working freelance full-time, and my first time going to a convention. What did I learn from the experience, what insight can I offer to you kind people? Let’s unpack exactly what to expect as learned from my 2019 travels.Continue reading “Your First Convention and You: Is the ‘Con Life’ right for you?”
We’ve all seen it. Monsters who are sacks of seemingly endless hit points. Single attacks that drop you. It’s present all your favorite video games – Destiny, Diablo, Disgaea, the Division. How can you make combat a challenge without ballooning out the numbers? Let’s figure it out.Continue reading “Tabletop Gaming Advice: Handling Difficulty”
A dungeon has to serve a purpose beyond “is hard to navigate.” Let’s talk about what these heckers even are and how design dungeons that make a lot more sense.Continue reading “DM Tip: The Ikea Dungeon Principle”
There come moments in every combat scenario when your turn devolves into “hit it with a thing until it stops doing what it’s doing” and those moments are pretty rough on some people. If you feel that way – today we’re going to discuss the flow of combat and how your Actions and Reactions can change the entire face of a combat encounter to be far more fun*.
*Fun is subjective – not everyone’s fun will be the same. However, by focusing on the actions and reactions that give your character agency, it gives you more control over the fun you and everyone else enjoys at the table.
Before you break your skull open trying to figure out the stats for a quarter etter-cap drow or what stats would accurately portray a KATANA (the longest running headache in the D&D community other than encumbrance, I think), why don’t you take a minute to consider the ultimate power… the beating heart of all gaming since its inception: reskinning.
Let’s figure out the ins and outs to this fuster cluck and see if we can’t get some converts on the side of flavor over additional mechanics.
Due to some incredibly rainy piss-poor days and being a novice with a camera, I’ve been forced to push back my reviews. Oops.
However, something keeps coming up in my chats and mentions, posts and public conversations: Realism. There are generally three sides to this argument, people who want to calculate the air-speed velocity that human tissue begins to release from bone, people who let their PCs flap their arms hard enough to fly, and the poor players and GMs caught in the middle.
How can you best navigate the argument? How do you decide what stance you take? How can you defend your ruling against Rules Lawyers or Implacable GMs? Let’s dissect this thing for the world to see.
The point of the game isn’t to win or lose – but Game Masters can (and should) cheat. But there’s a delicate balance a game master must achieve to not be considered a total jerk.
Lets take a look at the how and why.
Metagaming, lone-wolf characters who never get involved, min-max characters, broken spell combinations, pocket sand, tucker’s kobolds, player hand-offs: All of these annoying and ceaselessly discussed topics stem from a single point – a patient zero of all problematic TTRPG roleplay: when players are trying to “beat the game” you’re playing.
Let’s talk about why this is a problem and how to fix it!
The majority of questions I’ve seen in my Tabletop Gaming history surround a single aspect of the game: The backstory. How much should a player prepare? How much should a DM use? Is there too much? Too little? Can a DM change it?
While the background generation is very important, I think we can tackle the vast majority of your questions and concerns in this one article – as well as give some tips to help you (or your players) make a more meaningful and memorable backstory! So let’s take a look.
I can’t even predict how controversial this topic is going to become, but we’re going to discuss it anyway. Your story crafting, world building, NPC generation – all of it pales in comparison to one key, critical, and immutable skill: Being a fan of your players’ characters.
Let us climb into the honesty igloo real fast… The entire hobby, all of it, is supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun, you are – in fact – ‘doing it wrong.’
Likewise, if you’re running a game, I’m sorry to tell you this – it’s your job to ensure as many people at your table are having fun as possible. But do not worry – I’m here to help you understand how to figure this craziness out.
We’ve all seen those thread-bare plots used in games and movies, tv shows and novels. But how to connect your “plot threads” into something strong enough to pull your story along is not so easy in a Tabletop Game where other people’s imaginations are involved in the creation of your story. Hopefully I can help shine some light on how to weave together your plot and keep your players from getting lost.
When you put in a video game, even a brutal one like Darkest Dungeon or Demon’s Souls, you are pitted against a faceless and brooding evil – mechanics. A team of developers spent years crafting that game to be beatable yet challenging, unforgiving but surmountable, hair-pullingly frustrating but rewarding in the end.
A Tabletop RPG, on the other hand, has a face, a name, and generally feelings to boot – we call them “Game Masters.” And when disaster strikes and you lose everything, you can throw your head back and shout obscenities at a videogame, but chances are your Game Master might feel a little cross after such a thing. So how do you work past a TPK as a Game Master or as a Player? Let me lend a helping hand with my Three-Step Program.
“Natural Progression of Threats” is a phrase I use a lot. Eventually, I’m sorry to say, the wheels will fall off of your game if you just keep throwing damage and hitpoint sacks at the players. Today, we’re going to look at how to challenge and threaten your PCs outside of bodily harm and injury!
“I run up to it and attack.” “I shoot it with my bow.” “Uhhh, I guess I run up and swing at it?” “I attack it.” “I’m going to create a ring of ice around it, that goes up 30 feet, and it’ll have to dive out of the way to keep from being trapped inside: Dex save.” “I poke it twice.”
Narrative combat should not be just flavor text for spells and abilities. It should fuel decisions and give each player a springboard to jump off of every turn. But it’s tricky to actually do in-game. Hopefully by the end of this article, you’ll have a better grasp on how to draw your players, peers, and friends into the combat!
The truest struggle of the DM/GM/MC/Keeper is knowing how to please as many players at your table as possible at the same time. What makes such a seemingly small goal a herculean task? Your players have no idea what they actually want. It’s your job to show it to them.
There is a very thin line between pissing off everyone at the table and an interesting, dynamic, and rewarding secret. Most, if not all, legitimate secrets are kept for one of two reasons:
- To keep the peace, keep things moving, not burden the group.
- Gain an advantage by others’ ignorance of the information.
How can DMs and players alike decide what is worth keeping secret, what is pushing the social construct of the table too far, and what is downright annoying?
Have you ever been in a game and things start to slow way down to the point players are losing focus and teetering out of the immersion you’ve built together? Chances are, the stakes have been lowered too far for your gaming experience. In this article, I’m going to show you an easy and time-tested trick to make those slow bumbling moments into something incredibly memorable that will fling the story forward – all with very little effort on your part.
Another week of sad postponement for a product review. I’ve got amazing stuff coming up, but due to weather and personal strife – it’s had to take a back seat. Instead, I’m going to talk to you about a very important aspect of Tabletop Gaming that I’ve finally felt adept at: Improvisational Roleplay. What it is, how it works, tricks to get into the mindset, and important information every player – new and veteran – needs to hear over and over again.
I see this quite a lot in tabletop games: a new player is introduced to the game and a Game Master says “Make a character, here’s the books.” No frame of reference, no suggestions one way or another, no way for the new player to parse the information avalanche that comes from a novel-length rules compendium.
Suddenly the 5’4″ thin blond girl who smokes a lot and wings her eyeliner like a champ is playing a 5’4″ thin blond elf girl who smokes a lot and has naturally perfect eyelashes.
There is a danger and disservice on the part of the Game Master in allowing this to happen. While new players should feel safe and secure, they should also be advised, not forced – mind you, to play a character that is different from themselves in a variety of ways.
Let me explain why.
Continue reading “TTRPG Advice: First-Time Players – Character Creation”