Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Chaos is a Ladder

If you watched any seasons worth of Game of Thrones you probably heard Littlefinger give this line. It boils down to a pretty simple meaning: when everything is in chaos, you can climb. In peace, the line of succession for King is a set and known thing. In War who is King, who has Noble blood, and who deserves to lead can change a great deal just from the results of a few sword swings.

The interesting thing about this saying in fiction and RPGs is that it tends to be true for two categories of people: the heroes and the villains. In RPG terms this tends to boil down to the Big Bad Evil Guy/Gal, and the PCs. Of course, if you point this out to most players they balk. They earned their way up after all - and they did. But the opportunity for them to do so came out of chaos, and chaos is something that oft follows in the wake of PCs.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Everyone Has Needs

One of the aspects of gaming that gets poked fun at is where gaming approaches more serious matters. Everyone - more or less - has seen a video with a geeky teenager asking if there are any girls in the bar because he wants to do them. And a lot of games stray away from topics such as sex and such to avoid this. Sex makes us feel awkward. Violence is fine, but sex? That's a no go. This isn't something to make fun of, but just an aspect of our society. And one that is stronger in the U.S. than other parts of the world to varying degree. Still, what if you want those more mature elements in your game? What if you want your world to be a bit darker, a bit seedier. What then? Today I want to talk about that.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Last Kingdom - Good Inspiration for GMs

I've been watching The Last Kingdom on Netflix lately. I put it on as a distraction one day, but it caught my attention. It's not the most amazing show I've seen in the time period. It looks like another attempt to cash in on the success of shows like Game of Thrones and Vikings, but it is done well. I can't comment on the historical accuracy of the show, but it is almost a master class on how to use NPCs and setting to keep your PCs invested and moving. It's also a good example of how politics in games can work.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Benefit of Multiple Communication Streams

One thing I love about roleplaying online through sites like Roll 20 is the chat box for the game. All the games I'm in online - as a GM or player - use voice comms, and so the chat box presents an interesting opportunity. Along with things like leaving notes, sharing initiative order, and giving players the proper spelling for NPC names, the chat box provides an avenue for in character play that can happen without distracting the GM from whatever they're doing. Today I want to talk about it, and how it can help give a better feel of your character.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Discussion - How Vicious Are You In Combat?

As a GM you can have a lot of approaches to combat. The best GMs have several, and vary their approach depending on the enemies involved, the game they're running, and just who and what the PCs are. However, the level of visciousness a GM displays is often closer to a constant. Some GMs play the enemies out as if they were a separate group of players going for the win in a life and death situation. They use every trick possible, and a tactical approach that is easier for a single controller to execute than for a group of separate PCs. Others play more soft, the enemies engage the tanks first and if they can cut through them mayhem may ensue but otherwise the villains play into the way the PCs want to fight.

What about you?

I've been trying to up the viciousness in my own combats. I do not mean I am hunting for my PCs, but I want my enemies to be unique (from each other, not necessarily their kind) and to play and feel appropriately. I want my combats to be more than just rolling dice and applying stats to problems.

Finding the right level however is difficult. Too vicious and it will suddenly be a change in difficulty for my PCs that could be bad for the health of the game. Too little, and I won't hit the tone I need. Still, it is a goal and a lesson to find the right feeling.

But again, how about you?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Racing the Clock

Racing the Clock is one of the staples of suspense. The hero doesn't just have to accomplish some task, they have to accomplish the task before something else happens. Even if it is just a simple situation of a hostage dying when the sand runs out of the hour glass it can add tension because more than just the result of an action hinges on whatever is happening.

Race the Clock scenarios are common in all sorts of games, but I've always felt they were a bit clunky in table top RPGs. Time is just too malleable and too disjointed. 30 seconds can take 5 hours of game to resolve, and 3 years can go by in a heart beat. So how do you do it? Today I want to talk about that.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Xanathar's Guide to Everything - Character Questions

Over the Thanksgiving Week, Wizards of the Coast dropped Xanathar's Guide to Everything. This has been a well hyped book, and for good reason. Along with a slew of GMing tools that the book holds, it has expanded class options for PCs, clarifications and updates for older rules, and other options as well. However, my favorite part of the book are the groups of questions designed to help players flesh out their characters.