As Stargazer mentions, the PDF vs printed book conversation comes up every now and then, and there is always a split between electronics junkies and tree killers. I can agree with both sides of the argument.
PDFs are cheaper and more accessible. Stick your PDF in DropBox and you can get to it from anywhere you have a screen. Forgot your laptop? Grab it on you smartphone, table, or media player.
Paper books, on the other hand, have a feel and access all their own. Unlike a PDF, where one curses the heavy graphics because of the slow-down, paper books with heavy graphical content are a joy. I have my big bookshelf of books, old and new. And there is a special joy when digging through a 20 year old RPG book.
In both cases, however, I find myself fundamentally frustrated. Let me explain.
In Pathfinder, I've been running gaming groups for a couple of years. A lot of my players are young and don't have the resources to buy all the books. I take the time to buy all the har…
Tracking NPCs in an adventure can be painful, especially if there are long periods of time between their appearances. Reality Refracted has a good write-up on some methods for NPC tracking.In my opinion, there is just no module that has a bigger problem of this than The Wormwood Mutiny, the first book in the Skull and Shackles adventure path. (SPOILER ALERT) In the Wormwood Mutiny, the PCs are shanghaied and put aboard a ship with no less than 23 NPCs. As the title suggests, the story leads to a mutiny. NPCs have to decide whether to support or fight against the PCs at the time of the mutiny. This is determined through the history of the PC's interactions with the crew.
Having a large number of NPCs in a scenario like this has a lot of challenges:
Each NPC has a specific relationship to be tracked against each NPC. With 23 NPCs and a party of 4, that is 92 relationships. Each NPC has different duties giving them different places to be on this ship. Each NPC needs to be memorabl…
In the keep, celebrating the recent victory, the party relaxes, having a drink. The party consists of:
Elven Ranger CorrailHalf-elf Druid / Rogue FelixVictaerrus Shieldheart, 16 year old girl fighterKhaleel, human cleric of DesnaHalfling Ranger RoderickPinnacle, a human sorcererAli, a catfolk monk
The commanders of the Thornhold's hired army comes to the party asking them for a flag to raise in celebration of their victory over the Chtulian star spawn and evil wizard. The party, in return for allowing her to stay on as part of the keep's staff, has a beautiful flag sewn by the bard Krisora. The flag is purple with a griffin and seven gold starts.
The bard returns to the party and says that she wished to record their deeds in song and story of the victory at hand, but she needs a name for the party. The party names themselves the Thornhold Guards, and Krisora is delighted at the name.
Victaerus's mother arrives at the keep with news. The army at Neverwinter has broken i…
The crew moved in through the junk yard. Vee took a couple more trashers.Void started hotwiring the crane.Mr. Black crit glitched, misjudging the situation, and ran into the melee near Loomis.The corporate guys take Mr. Black hostage and force the team to back off.Ender is checking out the comm links.Vee still takes out another trasher with knives, nice and quiet like.The team runs for their rides as the corporate guys take Mr. Black and head out.They use Mr. Black to force the team to stop following.Mr. Black gets ejected out of the corporate team's van.The team tries to track down the corporate team. They find an RFID tag at the scene of the firefight that leads them back to Shangri-La, a division of Horizon Music.The team heads down to the electronics junkyard to try to track down an optical disc reader.Mr. Black gets permission from the Boggard in charge to search for one. He also finds out that the Cathode glow bar is THE place to find old hardware.A search of the junk tur…
The party gathered their armies and placed them around and behind the keep, awaiting the arrival of the Zelbinion. Barbarians lined the ground behind the keep. Fighters with bows hid in the treeline overlooking the cliff over the harbor. Cannons were positioned in and above the cave. Archers and caster waited on the keep's walls and towers. Row boats carrying some 50 kegs of black powder were docked all along the harbor. Barrels above the cliff sat ready to soak the stairs need they require disabling.
The Zelbinion sailed just barely into range when a deep dense fog started pouring from it, filling the ocean within sight up 20, 40, 60, 80 feet, and higher until nearly nothing below the cliff was visible, not even the sails and masts of the great ship.
Casters took orders and sent a gust of wind across the scene, slowly pushing the fog away. The Zelbinion was revealed, perhaps 120 feet out from the keep, broadside toward the harbor. The wizard, scraggly and white haired appe…
As Stargazer points out, being a GM can be stressful, but it often is a combination of players wanting to be entertained and a perfectionist GM that brings about this tortured artist syndrome. There was a time in the beginning of my most recent phase of GMing that I, too, was a perfectionist GM, trying to make sure that every element of the game was perfect, from the detailed description and notes surrounding NPCs to intricate plots to having the perfect miniature for every monster, cyharacter, and NPC. I even had special props I would bring in.
Then life got busy. I have 4 daughters and a wife. I have a full time job. I have other hobbies. A week or two came and went with me having no time to prep for a game. And the world didn't come to an end: the game was fun, the players enjoyed everything, and I just made up stuff on the fly. Then I realized all my intricate plots points, clues, detailed NPCs were being lost on players that really didn't pay attention to most of…
The things that make the game are the twists that are unexpected. It's practically written into the rules of Shadowrun, but it applies in all good RPGs. Always, as a GM, have something hidden, the barely relevant just below the surface thing, that spins everything in a different direction at just the right moment.
A game, in its most basic form, is a model for successes and failures, for incentives and consequences. The interaction of the player or players within this model generates successes and failures that build the story of play. This is true for every game from solitaire to D&D to board games to video games. Specifically in RPGs, where players put themselves into the roles of other people, these models for successes and failures, become a mental model for what the character should or shouldn't do and for how things interact in the game world.
What never ceases to amaze, is that as soon as this model is put in place, the players, without mathematical rigor or even openly stated analysis, begin finding their way to the optimal configurations of characters for the types of interactions they want to focus on. Give the man some advice, and he'll ignore it. Give the man a puzzle with some rules, and he'll find the right answer every time. Struggling to fine the optimum? …
It was a big Shadowrun day with 4 of 5 players in attendance and the run underway.
When last we left off, Felix (aka. formerly Zephyr) had just switched on Nabo's comm link and Ender, the technomancer confirmed it was the right comm link. Unfortunately, it was in public mode, and all of Nabo's near and dear go-ganger friends that were providing security, also saw it come on. Two of the security guards burst in to the room with Felix, told him to stop, and opened fire. He barely was able to dodge the bullets and disappear up the HVAC vent.
Felix warned the rest of the group to stay put and not mind the bullets. He darted across the roof.
Mr. Black, the new face of the party, took the controls of the van. Void dove into the passenger's seat. Vee hopped in the back, and got the window down and her gun in place. The backdoor guard ran inside and then reemerged with 3 more. Vee layed down supressive fire and made them all hit the dirt long enough for Felix to rappel…
The party was facing down one last beholder. Victaerrus charged and attacked but missed. Calleel cast a spell and in a moment of great power, killed the beholder outright. The party went on to loot the beholder caves of many pieces of equipment. They helped the kobolds and several slaves as they looked for an exit. Below in the dark throne room they found a quickly fading portal. It took them back to the surface.
Above ground, they landed on the top of the temple. There was much rejoicing by the gnomes. Palarandusk and Elminster appeared, commented a bit on the new party, scared the new 16 year old party member, and took the mace. Word was that they were to return after a week. In the meantime they had other troubles.
In the local tavern, they walked past the hundreds of years old painting of the party that entered the temple. Few were left. The toll was high.
Ahkra, Corrail's cousin, was there, waiting on them. She brought word from Sheena. The mage had picked up an…