Friday, September 13, 2019

Discussion: Character Quirks

Do you give your characters quirks? Little touches or details that help make them feel more real? Sometimes they just give a way to help get in character.

Do you even know what I mean by this? Some systems have quirks as part of character building, but I don't mean it as a thing you buy with points or that gets you points. Rather, I mean little touches, habits, or nuances to the character. A character who smokes, has strong preferences for a particular brand of whiskey, loves to go shopping for shoes, or is always on the market for some item or thing they collect.

Even more mundane things can be quirks. In the show leverage Parker has an obsession with money that is a small quirk that helps re-affirm her overall personality and is reinforced even more when you find out that Parker doesn't really spend her money on things. She just likes having money for the sake of having it.

If you don't give quirks, is there a reason? Do you just not think of it? Do you prefer them to come up normally?

I find quirks can be really useful, especially for grounding yourself in a character. They give a little hold on something not tied to the mechanics of the game that is almost pure character expression. If nothing else, it's worth looking into.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Mechanics Worth Stealing: Aspects

FATE Core came out in December of 2013, but the system has been around longer than that. It has done a tremendous job of revolutionizing a lot of parts of the RPG market, particularly the indy game scene, and is a solid core for a ton of different games and systems out there. Honestly, if you haven't tried FATE out, you should give it a shot. Maybe it won't be for you, but the system does a great job of making you think of the mechanical expression of everything in a different way. And one part of that is Aspects.

Today we're going to talk about Aspects, and how you can steal them for your own game.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Add A Dash of Spice To Your Encounter Bosses

One thing I've been doing a lot lately is adding a little touch of customization to the leaders of my encounters to both differentiate them and add some extra spice to the encounter. To be clear, I am talking about the boss in the encounter, as opposed to a boss-encounter.

For example, if my PCs run into a group of bandits, then I will add some spice to the bandit captain. You can do it for full on boss encounters too - in fact you should - but a boss demands a different level of playing around when you're customizing them.

With that said, let's talk.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Discussion: How Much Does Magic and the Supernatural Factor Into Your Stories?

When you run games - assuming the setting allows for it - how much does the bizarre, the impossible, the magical, and the supernatural factor as a major part of your stories? By this I don't mean spellcasters and wizards, as mechanically they have to appear, but stories that focus or revolve around supernatural events or other special occurrences?

I have a bunch of friends who as GMs tend to have it in all their plots. Players get sucked through dimensional holes, or into pocket dimensions, or interact with gods or become gods as key parts of their plots on the regular.

On the other hand I tend to have more mundane plots. Yeah, big powerful creatures may be part of what is going on, but the focus is on the motivations of the being as a character and how that drives their actions more than the supernatural events and exploration going on.

In L5R for example I'm a lot more likely to run a plot where if no one is playing a shugenja they - and magic - will barely show up. However, assassins, duels, warriors, and intrigue will be about everywhere.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Need A Plot idea? Dive Into The Lore

As I write this I'm on my third or fourth Mr. Rhexx video on lore regarding Dungeons & Dragons. Why am I listening to this? For much the same reason I've found myself seeking out documentaries when I want to watch something of late. And for the same reason my book shelf has a growing collection of non-fiction works on it. The reason has two parts for it:


  1. It's always fun to learn about things.
  2. This is pure seed, nutrients, and everything else needed to grow a story.
The thought goes like this: reading stories may inspire you to tell your own stories, but the ideas you take from a story are going to be copies of that story. Go to the lore that that story pulls from though and you get the root ideas and core concepts. Maybe you take a very similar idea, but since you're getting it from this 'purer' source (i.e. not through the lens of the other story) it can grow in its own way.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Matt Colville - Roleplaying

I don't normally do this, and I know I posted a different Matt Colville video on Friday, but this video on Role Playing is very interesting. I don't agree with everything he says, but as a rhetorical piece discussing Role Playing and what it means it is very good. I'd love to hear or read your thoughts.

As a word of caution, this video is 45 minutes long. It's worth it in my opinion. He goes over a lot of stuff. And he does it in a very judgment free way.


Friday, August 30, 2019

Learning From Others: An Important Retcon



The above video is the most recent Campaign Diary from Matt Colville's stream. You don't need to watch the whole thing, but watch the first five minutes. In those five minutes, Matt Colville talks about an important retcon he made between sessions. The reason why he made it is what is important.

For those unable to watch the summary is he ended a session doing something he thought would be cool. After, one of the players came to him and told him that the thing made them less excited to play because it didn't seem fun and in fact seemed boring and not particularly dramatic or interesting. Matt then fixed the problem in a way that didn't put anyone in the spotlight to keep the gaming going smooth.

The lesson here being two fold: First, when you're doing something 'cool' make sure you pick the right player. Some players are down for anything and love being turned against the other PCs as it can be a lot of fun. Others don't, because it is robbing them of their character (or feels like it) or for some other reason of theirs. Second, and more importantly, your game isn't just about you having fun. It is about the players as well. If someone comes to you with a problem because it is not fun, not interesting, and makes them less happy to play the game going forward? That's a real problem and one you should fix.

Matt explains everything, including his thoughts very well in the beginning of the video. It's worth checking out. Frankly, I find the whole Campaign Diary worth checking out for perspective on how he GMs and how he thinks, but if nothing else those first five minutes are a whole lesson in and of themselves.