Wednesday, July 19, 2017

PvP Requires Grace In Victory and Defeat

A group of friends I'm a part of meet up online on the regular for multiplayer games of Stellaris. It's a fun space Grand Strategy game where you can make your own custom races. One of the options for a custom race is to be a Devouring Swarm type hive mind, much like the Zerg of Star Craft fame or the Tyrannids of 40k. It's not a move normally done in multiplayer games because a devouring swarm really only has one win condition: eat everyone, and most players object to being eaten. In talking about the game with friends it reminded me of some thoughts of PvP in table top RPGs, and what you need for PvP to be a successful part of a game.

Monday, July 17, 2017

When It's All On The Line

Over the past weekend I watched a lot of Evolution 2017. If you're not sure what that is, Evolution is a massive fighting game tournament. In Evolution most of the big fighting games have major tournaments that give large amounts of ranking points in the leagues and circuits used to determine just who is the absolute best player at various games. It was a fun tournament and even for someone not into fighting games like me, a lot of awesome things happened with major clutch performances.

Watching the tournament also got me thinking. During the games the camera would show the players, and the different players were all going through the same emotions and tensions very differently. Some players were incredibly emotional, pumping hands in the air after major wins and needing a minute or two between rounds to calm down. Others were very stoic and plain faced. Most were somewhere in between.

It got me thinking about RPGs - like most things do - and about our characters. How we handle tension and stress in the midst of the big challenges of our lives says a lot about us as people, and there is a lot of room in there to make a unique character without changing someone's alignment.

So have you thought about it? Does your character get emotional and expressive? Cheering loudly when a fight that looked bad is won? Do they celebrate with the same abandon they fight with? Are they more calm and calculated the whole time playing odds and taking gambles but only after weighing out the risks? Does this impact the rest of how the character acts?

It's something worth thinking about. It's something I need to think about with the characters I have.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Discussion: Lessons from Other Games

I apologize for the lateness of this post.

A lot of games are filled with great advice for how to run games. You get the ideas and style of other GMs and designers there giving advice. Sometimes this advice carries over to other games. Sometimes it is very game specific.

My question for today is have you taken lessons from other games? If so, what lesson did you take? How does it play out?

For me, the big lesson I took from another game came from Mutants and Masterminds. Mutants and Masterminds uses Hero Points as a little boon the GM can give out for cool moments, and players can use to get bonuses to rolls or clear fatigue and do other heroic things. The thing is, one of the reasons a player might get a Hero Point was because of GM Fiat that was bad for them directly.

In other words, the game made it clear that the GM could shift things unfairly against you, provided they paid you to do it.

It was a big deal for me at the time, and it changed a lot about how I run games. I love being able to use it when I can. Generally it leaves everyone happy. The game gets a tense moment, the GM keeps things moving, and the PC gets a token to let them be even more badass. Good times.

What about you?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Vote in the ENnies!

It's award season again. If you're no in the know, Table Top RPGs have their own awards. They're called the ENnies and you can vote in them right now! Follow this link. Vote for your favorite in each category. Then, come GenCon, see if your favorite game won any awards.

I find myself pulling for 7th Sea this year, but Evil Hat always has a spot in my heart too - they just do so much good stuff. The big guys like Paizo and WotC are also there, and if something they did truly sticks out it is also worthy of recognition.

But don't let me tell you how to vote. Go out there and support the games you love!


Monday, July 10, 2017

Verbs! By Matthew Colville

I had an idea for a long post about some lessons I recently learned, but then I realized something. The biggest improvement I feel I've made as a GM lately came from this video. How often do you consider the verbs you use when giving your players tasks? RPGs are fond of "What do you do?" but that question can be daunting with its openness if a good mission isn't set before the PCs, and a good mission has a good verb.

Watch this. Digest it. Consider it when planning your sessions. You might be surprised how much better your sessions go when "Find information on the missing Count of House Antioch" becomes "Recover the Book of Fallen Leaves, a detailed History and Study of House Antioch."

But I'll let you watch for yourself below.

Friday, July 7, 2017

How Does Your Character Prepare For Battle?

Everyone has their pre-game ritual. Something that gets them in the right mindset. Something that amps them up for the struggle to come. For some people it's as easy as listening to heavy music or a specific tune. For others, the ritual is more involved and takes focus, introspection, and even hours of mental preparation. But what about your character?

Have you given it any thought?

I saw this question on a message board and it took me by surprise. For all the details I know about my characters, I don't know how they get ready for a battle they know is coming. I have an idea for some. I can picture them checking their gear, tightening straps, and trying to clear their mind, but I don't have all the details.

The more I think about it though, the more I want to know. Combat is a constant in most RPG characters lives, and their "pre-game ritual" is a big part of how they get through it because it is how they get ready.

So how does your character get ready? Have you even given it any thought?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

All Plans (Can) Fail

RPGs are a crazy medium for story telling. Not only do you not have one story teller with control over what is happening, but you regularly end up in situations where nobody has control. That means things go off the rails sometimes. When you factor in the supposed competency level of the people involved, it's hard to say if things go pear shaped more often in fantasy as they do in the real world. Still, if nothing else all this means one thing: no matter your plan - be you a GM or a player - there is a good chance it is going to fail, and it won't even be anybody's fault but dumb luck.