Short Takes 02/12/09

Things I’ve used lately:

Please enjoy the Primordial Changeling, a level 6 regenerative were-snake solo I’m looking forward to throwing at my players next session. You can find him, plus the swarm golem and lava elemental (both trans-role critters) in the Weekly Critter Crate. – Unnatural 20

Yes, I will definitely be grabbing a few of these to modify for my game. Giant Salamander? Moths? Sand Devil and Doppleganger Jelly? Very cool. I only wish they were either a) on posts of their own or b) all in one pdf for easier access. Each monster is on it’s own pdf you have to download to read.


Then, suddenly inspired, I fired up Googlism. This is a tool that lets you enter a name and spit out random facts associated with that name by Google. – Szilard

This should’ve been a no-brainer but it never occurred to me to use the site that way until szilard posted about it. The results to take a little filtering but this looks alot better than most random NPC personality or quirk generators I’ve seen. And it won’t even be hard to use the results in a fantasy game.


As a sort of recap, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten articles since the site began, rated by number of page views. – Jonathon Drain

When Jonathon Drain hands you a list of popular posts on his blog, you look for things to steal. In this case, I found 2.  The first is a complete list of Ioun Stones I’m going to convert over to d6 Fantasy. Of all the magic items ever published for the AD&D game in any of its incarnations, Ioun Stones are hands down my favorite. There is no way I can pass this list up.

The second is and an essay on how much a gold piece is worth. I’ve based many things in Project Valiant on my research into what 12th Century Europe was actually like and will be using what I’ve learned from this essay to help me on pricing items for my game.


War is a sad constant in human history. So it isn’t surprising that war is a popular feature of literature and it plays a major role in most fantasy campaigns. – Stargazer

Stargazer gives some really nice advice about war and fantasy gaming. Since Valiant is set in a realistic version of fuedal Europe, this article is something I’ll be referring to as I write games for my players. Even if the players are no where near a war, they’ll likely hear about. While much of what he says is common sense, it’s nice to have it all in one place with the thinking done for me. I just wish he’d learn to use space between paragraphs….


I created this powerful magical battle ax for a C&C campaign I ran about a year and a half ago. I’m presenting it again here, slightly tweaked so it’s a little bit more balanced. – Badelaire

I seem to have a fetish for picking up other people’s ideas for magical items as I found one more at Tankards & Broadswords. This one probably won’t show up for a long time yet, as it really is a doozy. The Battle-Ax wants a good fight though, and I love that. Not the most creative magical item, I’ve come across this idea before in books and I’ll probably change the name but oooo, the stuff it does!


…the next step in designing your adventure is the most fundamental:  the plot. – A Butterfly Dreaming

It’s a short quote but that post is an excellent read on story writing and adventures are at heart stories of some sort. There are some good details and building the basic conflict and I’ll be referring back to it often. Then I’ll go here and try following this outline. I think that outline could work well for more than an adventure script but also for a chapter, or entire campaign idea. Click here for the next installment of the series by Butterfly Dreaming.

That’s it for this post’s worth of ideas stolen! Yes, if you haven’t guessed, my favorite class is thief. Excuse me… Viriatha sneaks off into the dark looking for more good game content.

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Game Mastering and Leadership Skills: Part 6

Previous Installments:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

No one leads a party or a game like the Game Master will. His influence is by far the most pervasive on any gaming table. – Bard of Valiant

And one of the things the Game Master has a huge influence in is who is playing in the game. When I think of a campaign I want to run, the first thing I do is decide what system best suits it then I start looking around for interested players. Many GMs are in the same situation I am, the number of available people is fairly small. When I began collecting players for Project Valiant, my total pool of people was 6. Of those, 4 decided to join up.

This can cause a huge problem if any of those people aren’t any good at gaming or roleplaying. I don’t have any more options for players so I can’t very well tell Susy she sucks or that her boyfriend Zach is too disruptive. Instead I need to step up and do my part to make the party better.

painting.

Obviously, the first thing any GM faced with this situation should do is talk to the player in question and see if they’re willing to improve and what can be done. Complaining about them or their style behind their back will only lead to further disruption and more problems. And since you’ll need to talk to someone about your problems, you might as well talk to the people causing them.

Ok, social engineering talk complete. Other than that, suppose your players are already doing their best? No one is being deliberately problematic but somehow when you run an adventure, things just aren’t clicking together well? Here are some concrete things you can do to help them out while planning adventures.

1. Know the Goals. Make sure they know the goal of the adventure and the goal of the campaign, if any. Don’t be so mysterious with the NPCs that the players have no idea what direction to turn. So obscure with the clues they never see them. Early on in a campaign, you may have no idea what the long range goals are, you might be the type of game master who doesn’t use them or you might be revealing campaign goals gradually, but there is no reason to hide adventure goals.

2. Look at the Characters. Make sure they have the ability actually accomplish these goals. Obviously, for long range goals, the adventure goals will be gathering these tools but for adventures – do they have the skills? If they do, are the skills good enough to actually have some realistic chance of succeeding? Have you sent a bunch of bashing characters into a challenge that requires a magical solution? Worse, do you have a bunch of hack-n-slash loving players with a roleplaying challenge? Or vice-versa?

3. Give them Tools. If they don’t have what they need, can you find a way to give them access to it? Micro-adventures, or adventure scenes,  can be really useful here. If they need a magical solution they don’t currently have access to, can they buy it? Hire it? Can they learn the social skills to navigate Court? Perhaps an NPC is willing to teach in exchange for an item only found in a particular wooded glade protected by fierce treants….

4. Motivation. Just like you need it to keep up with this thankless job, your players need it to want to even bother chasing the goal you’ve set. If you’ve got a huge, epic story and the characters just aren’t biting the bait, stop and think. Why? Then ask the players! Talk to them about what you’re trying to achieve and ask them what you need to include to motivate their characters. Players are not your enemy and want you to enjoy yourself, too.

The huge tip here is communication. Communicate as a group so that everyone is getting what they want from the game and having a good time. Don’t be lazy or afraid to give a part of the story away if that’s what you need to do so that everyone is on the same page as a roleplaying group and everyone is having fun.

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Interlude: Character Death

detail from an 18...

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One of the hardest things about rpgs [sic] isn’t prep, or out-maneuvering fire-breathing dragons but keeping a group of players engaged in what you are doing on a long term basis. – Advanced Gaming & Theory

Part of the challenge of any game is that you can lose. People tend to be competitive in many endeavors, not just games, and they want to win. If they know they can win, most games, and roleplaying games are no exception, become boring and stale very quickly. The very real risk of losing keeps a game fresh and interesting.

While most roleplaying games are not the game master versus the players, they are the players versus the environment.The environment challenges Read the rest of this entry »