Friday, January 18, 2019

Cut Scenes and Interrupts

One of the concepts from videogames that quickly made it into RPGs - and may have just given a name to something already there for some GMs - is the idea of cutscenes. For those that don't play videogames, a cutscene is a scene in a videogame where the player has no control of what is going on and instead watches as the game sort of plays itself.

These are often done to move the story forward. They bring quests or arcs to an end, or transition big scenarios into the next scene. It's not uncommon for big set pieces in games to break up the action with cutscenes as the situation changes.

You can use these in your games as well. A lot of games - and purchasable modules - use them for transformation sequences, but also for the intro to scenarios or when listening in. They also show up quite often as dream sequences, or other special interactions.

If you keep them relatively brief, or otherwise stage them so the players know what is going on, they can work well to help move things forward. However, you need to be careful. By their nature a cutscene removes control from the players, and that can feel unnatural. Players don't want to just sit there while the bad guy monologues, they want to take that opportunity to start the fight. For that reason, you want to be ready to handle an interrupt if a player goes to throw one.

Dream Sequences and Quick Transitions
In general most players are fine with dream sequences and quick transitions. A dream sequence is a dream. People are used to being observers in dreams, and even someone who is a lucid dreamer knows that dreams follow different rules. Quick transitions are often ok as well. If you're describing how a monster transforms, even if it takes a long time for you to say the words, it doesn't necessarily mean it takes that long for it to happen.

Monologues and Longer Sequences
However, if you are trying to use this to deliver a villain monologue before a fight, or how the PCs go through an area, be prepared for the player to fight you for control. And by be prepared to fight, I mean you should be prepared to respond to the player giving input.

If the villain is monologuing, be prepared for someone to attack. If they don't attack, they're going to want to get something ready for when the fight starts. Both of these should be fine, and if the villain has taken precautions against being attacked mid-monologue then that is on them.

Narrowed Interactions
One thing I've seen some GMs use cutscenes well to do is to not wrest control of the game away from the players for an extended period, but rather to focus and narrow the range of actions. Instead of being able to run in any direction and go explore the world, the cutscene grounded us in the immediacy of the scene and carnage going on, guiding us to the next point, and using it to help keep things cinematic. It is hard to do - it can even look hard to do - but it is amazingly effective.

Showing the Players Things Their Characters Can't See
This is something I've only dabbled with, but it can be a lot of fun. You can use cutscenes to show the players things their characters can't see. For example, you can show them a meeting of the villains, hinting at threats to come, plans the BBEG has in mind, and how the villains are responding to their actions.

For some games and groups this isn't the best idea. But if you're not worried about your characters acting on OOC knowledge, or otherwise want to try to up the suspense, you can do it. Sprinkle them here and there, and it can be real cool.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Character Motivation: Achilles' Quest For Immortality

I've been thinking a lot about character motivations of late. Part of this is trying to find a motivation for one of my characters beyond simple survival - because let's face it, if your goal is to survive you're better off not being an adventurer. I've gone through a few different ideas, but then something popped into mind: Immortality.

Monday, January 14, 2019

D&D Beyond (

I want to start out by saying this is not a sponsored post. I have not been asked by anyone at Curse, Wizards of the Coast, or anyone else affiliated with dndbeyond to make this. I wish I was that big, but I'm not. I have, however, had several friends ask me for my opinion on dndbeyond and its usefulness to both players and GMs. It's happened enough times I figured I'd make this post. :)

If you are GMing 5e, or multiple 5e games, dndbeyond is probably one of the most useful tools I've seen released. There is a downside to it in cost. If you like paper books (and I do) buying the content twice can be a hassle, but aside from that I have to hand it to Curse. They had the opportunity to just make D&D 5e content online by way of looking through the books, and they went and did a lot more.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Happy Birthday Reality Refracted

Today this blog is 9 years old. We started back in 2010 with and then moved to blogger with Reality Refracted (silly me, art of gaming was taken because I am not as clever as I think I am.) We've been going ever since.

I am somewhat saddened I couldn't keep up the post a day model, but since I've barely managed to keep the 3 updates a week model it is probably good I stepped back. Some other fun facts:

  • 9 years of RPG talk has resulted in 661,445 page views, which averages to 73,494 page views per day.
  • Discounting Google (43,320) most people end up here from rpgbloggers (13,622) or Stumble Upon (1945).
  • The most common search that has brought people here is "how to frame someone for a crime" I hope my advice was never used IRL.
  • 33% of viewers use Chrome
  • 32% of viewers use Firefox
  • 276888 page views come from the USA. The next highest is the Ukraine (55586), and Russia (29868)
  • The most viewed post is from 2012, an RPG Blog Carnival post about backpacks
Going into this year, I guess we'll see what happens. With any luck we'll be here next year talking about a decade of Reality Refracted.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Combined Actions

Sometimes a task takes multiple rolls. Sometimes a task is actually three different tasks, and each one is governed by something different. In real life it would be a process that could take seconds, or even minutes, while one person took care of it and everyone else stood watch. However, at the table it involves five people watching one person make three checks before anyone can progress. Today I want to talk about a way you can simplify this.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Why Is Your Character Adventuring? (Goals & Motivation)

One of the things I'm really bad with when making characters is goals and motivations. I can make the stat line. I can make the character. I can make the backstory. I can put all those together. I can even probably give you a sense of who the person is. However, when it comes to what their goals are, or why they do the things they do, I struggle.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Discussion: Holiday Haul

Did you get anything gaming related over the holidays? Either as a gift or something you got yourself? Some of those prices can be too much to pass by, and why not indulge if you've already got the gift giving out of the way?

I feel like this holidays I spent a small fortune on miniatures. Mostly because, by my standards, I did.

First and foremost, in October I went in with a friend and we gifted everyone involved in our D&D games with a voucher for a Hero Forge mini and shipping. There was no compulsion on people to get a miniature for the game we played with them, but most people did, and it's been really cool to see everyone's custom representation of their character on the table. Even better with the new table topper we built to elevate the combat game.

Secondly, I found the Temple of Elemental Evil and Castle Ravenloft board games on sale and picked them up. Not to play the board games, but both of them come chock full of miniatures that are to the same scale D&D uses for its battlemats. They make good starters for collections, and I'm a big fan of the Young Black Dragon that comes from Temple of Elemental Evil.

I still need to pop out the terrain cards to see if there is anything in there useful for my tabletop games, but the minis alone have been more than worth the cost. Especially on sale where it worked out to being less than $1 per figure. Not bad when you are factoring in Large and Huge minis.

Finally, because I love dice, I splurged on some halfsies from Gatekeeper Games. I buy at least one set of these every GenCon, and decided to get some this Christmas too, because dice. They roll well and look neat, that's all I can ask for.

How about you? Get anything fun?