Posts Tagged With: Challenge

Twenty Questions

Per Brendan:

  • Ability scores generation method?  4d6-L, arrange as you like.
  • How are death and dying handled?  Unconscious and dying at 0, dead at -10.
  • What about raising the dead?  All it takes is the spell or payments to the right person (with the spell).
  • How are replacement PCs handled? They are generally introduced whenever makes sense, next town, rescued victims, random travellers. Whatever.
  • Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Individual, 1d10 modified by Dexterity to determine segment of action.
  • Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Yup. Nat20 is Double Damage (double everything) and Two Nat20’s is an instant kill. Fumbles are on a Nat1, use the old Runequest/Stormbringer Fumble Charts.
  • Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?  Normal helmets no, they are assumed to be part of the armour. Great Helms will give you a +1 to AC but tank your Surprise roll.
  • Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?  Yup.
  • Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? Running is probably going to happen sooner or later, if nothing else Wilderness encounter tables are not “leveled”.
  • Level-draining monsters: yes or no? No, but the traditional “level drainers” do cause a cumulative -1 penalty (To Hit Hit, Damage, Initiative, & Saves) that can only be removed by Restoration and the special abilities of Warrior-Monks, Healers, and Tantrics.
  • Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? Yup.
  • How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? Resources, certainly. Encumbrance less so. I have a system adapted from LOFP but I haven’t really put it into play yet – the whole idea is to be reasonable.
  • What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? Fighter and Thieves don’t generally have to train (but Thieves and other specialists often have dues for organizations and guilds), Spellcasters have to train when a new spell level is gained. Mage’s get a spell every level, plus there are a selelction of very common basic spells of each level. Clerics know all their spells. Experience is rarely awarded in media res.
  • What do I get experience for? A combination of standard AD&D (Treasure and Killing Things) plus additional XP awarded ala the Palladium XP table. This makes for relatively quick low level advancement, and somewhat more reasonable mid-level advancement – and rewards roleplaying and think in addition to killing things and taking their stuff.
  • How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? Dice are rolled as the final “check” – representing the sixth sense and “on the ground” knowledge of the thief that the player (and GM) do not have. Describe well enough at you might find it, no matter if you are a thief or not!
  • Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? Not encouraged exactly, and morale is generally ignored as long as you are treating them well and there is no major test (ala a dragon or a demon or something like that).
  • How do I identify magic items? Take it to the mage’s guild, or try to do it yourself via magic. Trial and error works as well. Potions often have some sort of label.
  • Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?  Sure, in the right place. There is rarely anything “big” for sale, but low-scale weapons and armour and most disposables are available in “the big city”
  • Can I create magic items? When and how? Yup, when mages and clerics can make scrolls (thogh I don’t use “scrolls”) and potions hit 7th level and want to take the time out to do so. Permanent items are potentially possible starting at 12th level for mages.
  • What about splitting the party? Knock yourself out, but don’t complain when you are not playing.
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Things Role Playing Bloggers Tend Not To Write About

Ganked from Monsters and Manuals and a handful of other places.

Book binding. I’ve had pretty good luck, while my original DMG and UA have duct-tape on the binding, those are the only two books that I’ve had that have ever even really come close to falling apart. I did have a copy of Wraith: The Oblivion that I had my father fix the binding on one year, but I bought it used like that knowing he could.

“Doing a voice”. How many people “do voices”? Should they? How do you get better at “doing a voice” if that’s your thing? I do voices, but mostly I do mannerisms combined with voices, plus specific styles of talking and word choice. I think that’s how I got better, but I’m not sure that would be the same for everyone.

Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions? I don’t. If someone needs to get up use the toilet or get a snack, they do so.

Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions? Eh, I’m a minimalist unless I’m in a bit of mood. The players will imagine things better than I can describe them, so I tend to give the important details, set a bit of tone or mood at the beginning of an encounter and run from there.

Where do you strike the balance between “doing what your character would do” and “acting like a dickhead”? I don’t. Or rather, I am very up-front with players that they can play any sort of character that they want, but that the world will react accordingly. People with high Charisma’s can be more of a dick and get away with it, good looking people can be more of a dick and get away with it. But sooner or later if you are enough of a dick something is likely to happen (duels, fights, overcharging, etc). It’s essentially the same thing with playing evil characters.

PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go? I am totally ok with it happening, it has happened, and it will likely happen again. This is one of those things that prevents players acting like dicks… It goes without saying that it also qualifies one as a dick unless everyone else kind of agrees that it was justified based on context.

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? Ugh, I don’t think I’ve done that in years.

Alchohol at the table? I’ve had it at the table in the past, not really at the moment. As long as people are coherent and don’t get pissy if they do something stupid while tipsy I really don’t care.

What’s acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits? In general my standing rule (as the DM) is that your character will not die if you are not there (it’s happened probably less than five times in 32 years of gaming). Somebody will play your character, it will likely be rather robot-like and risk-averse and the group tends to kinda decides by consensus what you character would do (with me as the biggest vote) if something comes up that requires that kind of decision.



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Intent and the GM

Reading this I find myself looking at the four words I have written on the inside of my screen – “Literal, Moral, Allegorical, Anagogical”. I spent a great many years thinking of my AD&D campaign as a sort of modern-day morality play for my players (I realized that it was equally so for myself, but that took some maturity to realize just how much). Over time, I realized that for my “big campaigns” there were constant themes that ran through them – both as a result of my own ideological and pedagogical stances as well as my players. My fantasy campaign revolves often around “What is the nature of evil” and my cyberpunk/Traveller setting as “What does it mean to be human” – either stance (indeed almost any stance) provides a touchstone or compass for what to do next what all else fails.

Now, some of this was greatly pretentious nonsense, but these are still things I return to over and over again. Good, Evil, Humanity, Responsibility… What makes great games are the same elements that make a great story – and this is what Lion Rampant figured out. Virtue and Sin, no matter if they are Christian, Buddhist, or some other socio-cultural construct are where our characters and players live, the microcosmic struggle of the characters reflects the projections of the player’s macrocosmic struggles in the real world – they also frame the twin streams of conflict and cooperation within the context of the fantastic in recognizable terms for the players and allow them to explore with greater ease.


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Building a Better GM Challenge

From Hill Cantons. Quite coincidently, I’ve been thinking about pretty much the same thing the past couple of days.

Name three “best practices” you possess as a GM. What techniques do you think you excel at?

1- Know the damn rules. You don’t have to have them memorized, but you have to know them well enough to be able to be internally consistent when you makes rulings on the fly – and those rulings really need to cleave to the combined spirit of the rules themselves and the campaign you’re running.

2- It’s a sandbox, not a sandpit or a litter box. I used to steal shamelessly from anything at the drop of a hat. Now, while I still steal shamelessly, I take the time to make sure it “fits” into both my DM-style and my campaign world. As a result, players feel free to run with their own concepts, knowing that I’ll work with them to make sure it fits rather than being stuck with a dead-end idea or concept.

3- I only just realized this a little bit ago, but I also think that what makes things work is being evocative. People are coming to play in your sandbox. Not just any old sandbox, yours. Make it your own, make it different, make it identifiable, give it a soul all its own. It doesn’t matter what that is, just let it be something you enjoy and are comfortable with.

What makes those techniques work? Why do they “pop”?

1- The players will trust you. The rulings will “make sense” and enhance the game rather than bog it down. Plus, when you understand the rules, it lets you understand why the world wants to act in a certain way – because you understand the “grand unified theory” behind it all.

2- Understanding that a sandbox still has conceptual boundaries. Knowing what they are (for me) lets me relax and let the world do some the work itself. For example, my world has firearms and magic (plus things in the middle like darters), I know that why they exist and how they both fit. I can extrapolate, on the fly, from my “base principles” and make things up that I don’t have to shoehorn in later and explain away with handwavium.

3- It aids in the suspension of disbelief that is needed for TT RPG’s. It also softens the blow of bad things happening to characters and makes the goods things that much sweeter. It’s not a “magic shortsword” it’s “The Sword of Kas”. Players feel like they are in a world that they can do things in, where they can have an effect on things – which is, ideally, a spur to their own activities.

How do you do it? What are the tricks you use? What replicable, nuts-and-bolts tips can you share?

I read a lot. Fiction and non-fiction.

I role-play – both as a player elsewhere and as the voice/face of all the NPC’s in my game world.

I let players win. Yes, you can win in this game. My current players can hear about the stories of old characters who have now passed into the myth and legend of the world. Some of my current players played those legends, some of them have had the opportunity to meet those legends. Some characters win by “failing” miserably, and having to be put down by the rest of the party – and as a result live on in infamy…

I’m not cheap. I don’t really care that much how much magic players have (either item’s or powers). There is always a bigger elephant. I have yet to give a player anything, in 32 years of gaming, that I couldn’t bypass, steal back, destroy, or otherwise render ineffective if I wanted to. Most of the time I don’t care, and it’s a great way to reward players for success at whatever it is that they have decided to do.

I have a similar attitude about character level. I really don’t care, I think that the process of leveling up is fun and important, but I’ve run really fun low-level games and I’ve run really fun high-level games – if people are having fun, who cares? I have yet to run into a character with a level so high I still couldn’t say, “You explode” in response to a comment of they made in passing regarding the NPC they were interacting with. (and I did that once running a BYOC game at GenCon – nobody else blinked, they just healed him up, and the game went on).

I make sure I’m having fun. If I’m not having fun, my game suffers. That means my players suffer. So I have to make sure I’m having fun. I can look and see the times in the past where this was not the case, and I can see the effect it had on my game…

I have a well-designed, well-balanced world with lots of detail but enough blank spots and fuzzy edges that I can always add something new if I need or want to. The world isn’t there to trap me, or trap the players, it’s there to give us all the opportunity to tell some great stories based on the actions of the characters and how the dice roll.

Yeah, stories. If you don’t want to tell stories, play poker. This doesn’t mean there has to be a pre-determined narrative arc, but everyone likes to tell the story of what happened afterwards and brag about what they did. As the DM, give them some stories to tell! And please, most people don’t want to spend lots of time talking about how many of their characters have died trying to survive in your world.

Heh, I may revisit this whole thing at some point.


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