Friday, April 19, 2019


With both Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and the MCU (at least as it's been for the last 10 years) coming to an end this year, it has that concept on my mind a lot. Endings can be very good. They can be cathartic. They can also be disappointing, or leave people wondering just what happened or with questions unanswered.

I can already guess that in each of those series I mentioned above people will be unhappy with the ending. They will be upset things didn't play out the way they expected, or wanted. They will be upset that certain characters lived or died. They will be upset that questions they felt were central to everything never ended up being touched on.

The same can happen in your game. Only, with your game you should be trying to avoid it. Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and the MCU have thousands if not millions of fans. Your game has an audience of 4-6 players, maybe a handful more.

What are the major threads in your game? Identify them, and try to tie them off. What do your players really want to see before the end, or what is it they're really hoping to do? Try to make it happen. Be ready to answer questions about things that happened or were going on.

Ultimately, the game world by the end of the campaign is no longer yours alone. It belongs to the group.  It's the world their PCs adventured and lived in. It's the world they likely changed. You still have partial ownership, but there's no real reason to keep secrets from them...

Unless of course this isn't the end, and you intend to run further games in this world.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Improve Session Flow With Less Dice Rolls

One thing I see a lot of GMs do - both veteran and new alike - is call for too many rolls. I don't blame them. Most game systems are very clear about how difficult something is, and the concept of rolling for success/failure is easy to grok. What is harder to grok is the concept of when success/failure is meaningful, and this is where a simple way to improve the flow in your game - keeping everyone in character longer and keeping the game going - can come from simply reducing how often you call for dice rolls.

Monday, April 15, 2019

A Neat Little L5R Resource (Lore Information)

Short post today. Mostly I just want to link to and signal boost on this. Anyone looking to get into L5R but unsure about the clans and setting should check it out. It does a decent job of explaining the various clans (the ones he has done already anyhow).

So take a look, and enjoy

Friday, April 12, 2019

Not Every Session Will Be Perfect

One thing you have to be prepared for as a GM is that not every session will be perfect. Not every session will be great. Not every session will be as good as the one before it, or build on what came before. Not every session will be good, and that's ok.

A session can have any number of problems. The problems could be around you as the GM - maybe you're burned out, maybe you're feeling uninspired, maybe you're too busy with other things to prepare, maybe you just prepared wrong, or maybe none of these, or all of these. It could also come for other reasons. A key player suddenly can't make it. The players are all in a mood where they'd rather go off topic and joke then play - and maybe this is even worse because you're trying to have a serious session and they're cracking wise.

It doesn't matter. And it happens in everything you do. Some games are just better than others. Some games are just worse than others. Ultimately, at the end of the year, one session has to be the worst session of the year. And maybe it is horrible, or maybe it is not.

But here's the thing.

You can't let it get to you. What you think is a horrible session now, could turn out to be the key to the best session ever. What you think is a horrible session could be someone else's favorite. Heck, it could even be a great session when looked at later.

Some sessions will be good. Some sessions will be bad. Some sessions will seem good only to feel like maybe not so much later on. Other sessions will do the opposite.

There's nothing you can do about a session once it happened, it's in the past. So just take what you can and go forward. Try to make the next session as good as you can make it. Don't worry about being better or worse. Just try to make the game fun. It's all you can do, and in the end all that matters is that overall people had fun with your game.

You can do it.

I can do it too.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Don't "Create Challenge" By Negating Your PCs' Abilities

In a discussion about high level play in several games recently, it came up that a lot of games - and GMs - create challenge for their events not by confronting the players at the level they're supposed to be, but by negating options that the players can use so the challenge has to be faced a certain way. This feels like a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that the PCs can become "too powerful." I strongly disagree with that being a thing, but even if I acknowledge that the PCs can become too powerful...that is no reason to punish the players. After all, the only way the PCs become too powerful is if the GM gives them that power.

Today though, I want to talk about why you don't want to just say certain abilities can't be used and explore the symptoms and thoughts that lead to that conclusion.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Danger Level, Expectations, and Trust

Over the past couple weeks I've seen a lot of discussions online about danger level in RPGs and how it works. For example, a conversation about the Princes of the Apocalypse campaign posited that the campaign was set up so if players discovered they were in an area too difficult for them at the time, they could go somewhere else first. However, despite this option, most groups chose not to do this which led to disastrous results for the game.

The person making that observation was curious as to why it happened. To which Matt Coleville simply responded "because the players are there to play D&D." This sparked a huge discussion about danger level, the openness of game worlds, and whether or not it is ok to have a world where players can run into encounters and areas too dangerous for them.

The interesting thing to me though is that this conversation has very little to do with danger level or whether PCs should retreat and return to encounters/areas later when they're stronger. Despite what many people thought. No, this conversation is about two things: Expectations and Trust.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Discussion: Shadow, Sword, Spell, or Scroll?

Regardless of game or genre, certain play styles and character archetypes seem to permeate RPGs. It's ubiquitous enough, that there is even a game named Shadow, Sword, & Spell you can get. These archetypes show up partly because of their place in stories, but also because of how much people like them.

Taken out of the fantasy trappings you get: stealth, combat, magic/technology, and social.

The question for today is which of the four do you find yourself drawn to most often when playing games? Obviously everyone has different levels of pull to each. And you never know when you are going to really feel the need to play one more than the others, but in general where do you fall?

My traditional answer to this is Stealth. I love rogues. I love spying. I love sneaking around. And I love the fantasy of being a lithe, agile person navigating the world and its dangers by employing quick wits and that agility more so than just straight up tanking.

That's my traditional answer. However, the last few years - the last like 8 I guess? - I've also found a love for being the front liner. Taking the blows. Giving the blows back. Just the idea of being the unstoppable tank.

I think stealth is still my preferred, but sword is a lot closer than it was before. I tend to enjoy magic the least, but it does have it's place and moments. I enjoy my wizard I'm playing right now, but I also don't feel compelled to make another one. And even then, my wizard has a high dex and the bladesong subclass to be able to fight some.

What about you though? And does your preference change in SciFi games, Fantasy games, or more in between genres?