Monday, October 12, 2015

Presenting Alternative Cultures

First off, I apologize for how late this post is. I kind of forgot it was Monday today and not another Sunday because of the long weekend in the States/Canada.

Exploration is a key part of RPGs. Over the course of a campaign, whether it be Fantasy, Modern Day, or Sci-Fi it is likely only a matter of time before your players come into contact with a culture that is different from their own. Some games thrive on this. L5R, for example, is all about giving a "western" perspective on East Asian culture and mythology from their own middle ages. However, regardless of the cultures you are presenting, there are some things that are good to keep in mind.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Discussion: Enemy Within The Group

I don't know a GM who hasn't had a player want to do this. They think it will be fun to play someone who is working against the PCs, but secretly. It's an understandable desire. The hidden agent is a character trope with a lot of drama, flair, and looks very interesting on TV, in books, and in movies. Unfortunately, in game, it tends to be a bit messier.

My question to day for you is, have you let it happen in your games? If so, how did you handle it? How did it play out? Would you do it again?

Personally, I've only allowed something close to it to happen before. Less an agent against the PCs, I allowed some players in a game I ran to  play characters with big secrets they needed to hide from the other PCs because exposure could get them killed. In this case, the PC was a peasant with kolat leanings posing as a samurai, not directly against the PCs but against the way the samurai viewed the world and such. The secret didn't last long. The player exposed themselves, and a lot of work that had gone into setting them up was suddenly worthless.

Since then I've been wary about it. Even with groups I trust implicitly, it brings up a lot of tension and requires a lot of work I'm not always sure I want to have to put in just for one PCs story.

How about you?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Villain To Respect, A Villain To Hate

Establishing a recurring villain in a game can be one of the hardest things to do. You have to balance the villain to not go overboard with them, while simultaneously making sure the PCs think they're a credible threat, but you also need a way for the PCs to escape - and for said escape to not seem like you're forcing the situation. At least, if you want to do it right. Add in the tendency for PCs to insta-meep anyone who even looks like they could be significant opposition later on, and the tendency of dice to make your level 20 battlemaster badguy fight like a level 5 mage that is all out of spells, and weapons, and has a strength of 3 and con of 1, and the odds do seem to be stacked up against you. Today I want to talk about that, and some ways to help make your villains memorable and entertaining.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Books Are Heavy...

I was getting ready for my housemate's Star Wars game today and the thought occurred to me that gaming books are really heavy. A single gaming book isn't that big of a problem, but when you stack up 3, 4, 5, or the 10-12 that some systems build up to it gets quite burdensome. The books are large. Their size makes them awkward to carry. And then, well, there is the simple fact that all those covers and pages loaded down with ink and text and art gets very very heavy.

So what do you do?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Discussion: Do You Use The Seasons?

Fiction, of all types, has a strange relationship with the weather and seasons in that, namely, it doesn't. I mean, sure, you'll sometimes get a holiday special for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or some other big holiday. For the most part though, every day is in a weird nebulous state of spring/summer/fall where the weather is warm enough for t-shirts, cold enough for jackets, and nary a snowflake in sight...unless, of course, the weather is a part of the episode in some meaningful way.

This is also true in RPGs. Except, well, some games use them more than others. With that in mind, I am curious about you and your games. Do the seasons pass in your game? What about the weather? Does it come up excet when it is a key story point to be one kind of day or another?

The game my group plays most frequently is L5R, and there the world has rules for the seasons that keeps them in play at least in the broad sense. Summer is the war season, so many bushi are home - or specifically not at home but in the field - for the fighting and what not. Winter is the court season, where people stay inside and the talking and politics game really ramps up. Autumn and Spring are transition seasons for Samurai, but also important in their own way for the rest of the populace.

Beyond that though, weather seldom comes into play in our games. It is something I am working on addressing for my games going forward. What about you though? Do you use the weather? Do you track the seasons? How does it impact your game?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Reason To Be There

While this advice often applies to players, it is important to remember that as the GM it may also fall to you. Now, when I say a reason to be there for the GM I don't mean you need to figure out how and why the players go and do things. However, you do need to figure out a way for the players to get involved. This is often called the adventure's hook, and it can be anything from the promise of treasure, fame, and fortune, to something more personal. The smart GM varies the hooks they use, and today I want to talk about some of those hooks.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Even Batman Is A Team Player

Nothing in particular is prompting this post from my games, or from things I've read online, but it does seem like something that is good to say every now and then. One of the classic problems you get with certain players is their characters are the "go it alone" types who don't like being around others and definitely don't qualify as team players. It is easy to see where the desire to play those characters comes from too. In numerous forms of media those characters are portrayed as being awesome and regularly come across as being incredibly strong/powerful because they're able to handle problems on their own that otherwise take a team. The problem with this mentality though is that a loner type character can decrease the fun for everyone. Today, I want to talk about that.