Monday, December 10, 2018

Less Can Be More When It Comes to Prep

Session preparation can be a big deal for GMs. I specifically started running a D&D 5e game, way back when, not only because I wanted to try 5e out, but because I knew D&D would make me work on my session prep skills which had gotten somewhat lax. For the most part it was working well, but then I read Sly Flourish's The Lazy DM, and the core idea there caught me off guard but intrigued me all the same.

The core idea behind The Lazy DM is two fold: 1) most DMs/GMs spend too much time on session prep doing unnecessary things. 2) You'll run a better session if you prepare less.

Today, I want to talk about this.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Running Combat With Battle Mats for Cheap

Games like D&D 5e and Pathfinder will tell you they're don't require being on a gridded battlemat, but combats tend to run a lot smoother - and take more full advantage of all the various combat mechanics - when they do. Things like the range for attacks, area of effect for spells, and whether or not someone can move without drawing an attack of opportunity or blocking a door all become a lot clearer with a battle mat. Heck, I find combats in D&D 5e actually run faster - and more interestingly - with a battle mat because you don't have to keep reminding people what is going on or what monster is where, nor figure out how far a given monster is from a given PC. It's all their on the mat.

That said, miniatures get expensive. Fortunately, there are some cheap alternatives.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Lazy World Building - Because It's Easier Than Learning A Setting

One of the places I disagree with a lot of GM advice I've read is the notion that using an established world is easier than building a world of your own. The thought goes that using a world already built, developed, and in place is easier because all that work is already done, and that building your own world is hard because, to quote the Angry GM whose advice I generally like: "a homebrew campaign setting is a great way to create a lot of work for yourself that your players will ignore and/or destroy."

I disagree with this. I think if you're looking to save time, building a custom world can be just as easy - if not easier - than using an established world. Today, I want to talk about that, and maybe share some advice to help you get your next game going fast.

As a warning, this is a bit of a lengthy post, but it has a lot of helpful links.

Monday, December 3, 2018

SEX! Now that I have your attention, let's talk about sex!

As a heads up, I'm not going to be going into any graphic depictions of sex in this blog post. I am, however, going to be talking about sex in your games and sexuality in characters. Also, nothing said here is meant to insult. If I make a mistake when discussing some aspect of sexuality, please let me know I am in error. 

That said, let's begin.

Sex has an interesting place at the gaming table. On the one hand, you can't go 5 steps into an internet community built around RPGs without getting some variation of "Bards seduce everything. EVERYTHING." On the other, a lot of people - with good reason - think that sex has no place at the game table or in gaming, that simply isn't the kind of content they're interested in. As always, the truth lies somewhere - generally towards the middle - in practice. Where exactly though is different from group to group. Still, done right - and maturely - sex and sexuality can add a lot to your game and your game world. So today I want to talk about it.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Discussion: A Character You Want To Play But Can't

Do you have a character in your head that won't go away? Maybe you started a game with them, they took root and you knew this character was going to be the one you remembered? Maybe they just grew and developed over time. Maybe it's just this idea in the back of your head. An idea that frustrates you, at least a little, because for whatever reason you doubt you'll ever get to give this character it's due?

In the near thirty years I've been gaming I only have one character like that, but I have several that I wish I could return to but can't. The ones I want to return to were good characters, perhaps even great, but they were also products of who I was at the time. They grew and developed, and as they did they changed me. Ultimately, because of them - and some other characters, plus just life, I'm not the person who made them and I doubt I could play them 'properly' if I were to try. I'm sure it would be a great tribute, but a tribute isn't as good as what it pays homage to, and I think that would bug me.

The character that won't leave me alone though was one I made for a Star Wars game a friend was running before life meant he had to drop the game and move even further away. I don't blame the GM, nor do I hold any ill for him. He made the right choice. But I regret how it left the character.

The character was a Chiss force sensitive named Cecilia. At creation she was made to match up with another player's character - an attempt to help make sure that character was pulled into the game and always had someone to bring her into the fun. Said player decided she wanted to do "Punk Princess Jedi" and so we did.

Cecilia was built very similarly to a paladin from D&D (she literally fought with a shield and training saber when she could :) ), and had a similar mindset. Just in the Star Wars universe where her existence was illegal. She had a unique perspective, was always trying to help people around her, and had a way of making the direct approach seem to somehow come from an unexpected angle. She was smart enough to take advantage of blowing out the lights to use her dark vision - meaning my Paladin pulled off a more Batman-esque encounter than any rogue I've ever built in any system - and social enough to make friends. She made "bad decisions" all the time, with the quotes because sometimes they were just very gutsy, and sometimes they were...very stupid. Like, going home one drunken night with an Imperial Officer stupid.

She was great, a lot of fun, and I've never found a place for her since the game ended. What's worse is that so much of who she was and how she worked came about not only because of Star Wars as a setting and parts of that built into her, but also that game in specific. Maybe someday I'll get to be in another Star Wars game and Cecilia will be the right choice, but I doubt it.

Still, I can dream. Right? How about you?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Do Heroes Have To Be Boring?

One of the common thoughts behind writing is that heroes are boring, it's the villain that makes them interesting. This is said in a lot of ways - usually to just to avoid calling people's favorite characters boring - but the idea is that villains are inherently more interesting, and part of that stems from the dichotomy of how heroes and villains work. Heroes are reactionary. Villains are pro-active. The villain has a goal, a motivation, and by god they're going to do it. The Hero on the other hand is, more or less, standing up for the status quo. Without a villain a hero has nothing to do, and thus it is through their villains that heroes become interesting.

Monday, November 26, 2018

We Built A Table Topper

I was hoping to have this post for Friday, but Thanksgiving went better than expected - and thus longer - and Friday was consumed with the actual building. I was also hoping to have some pictures, and I'll hopefully get to add some soon but I haven't had a chance yet as of the time of this writing.

On Friday we built a table top that can sit atop our normal table. The table we use for game is great, but when everyone has their character sheet, dice, notebooks, drink, and potentially food it fills up fast and that leaves little room for battlemats, miniatures, and other things needed to be on display for game. The solution? build a second table to sit atop it.

What we have now is just a rough proof of concept. We already had the tools (consisting of two drills) but everything else (including screws) came to less than $70 at Home Depot, which isn't bad for building a tabletop. With the table top deployed there is currently 15 inches (this is too much. We're going to cut it down to about 9-10 inches!) of clearance for people to use the table. LED remote lights are on the bottom of the table to provide light for character sheets.

Essentially this doubles our table space. The actual table can now be used for sheets, dice, food, notes, and everything else. Then the action can be on clear display on the second tabletop. You have to stand to comfortably move your mini for combat, but I also noticed that everyone got a lot more into combat once they were standing which was awesome. Combats also got to be a lot bigger because we got to use the large battle mat I have instead of making do with the half sized one.

All in all, I recommend it if you can. Maybe you don't have a table space problem - or a very large table - which is awesome. But this was a relatively cheap solution that made the game better in a lot of ways in my opinion.

I'll update or follow up with pictures when I have them.

I did find this thread of people doing similar things (if you want to see about how it looks) which has also given me ideas for how to make my own work even better!