Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2015

Gaming with Suspense: Building the Jenga Tower

A lot of folks have commented on the difficulty of building suspense and even dread and terror in their TTRPG games.  Whether you are in the horror genre, the political saga, or even the cyberpunk realm, there is a lot that can be learned from a simple jenga tower, like that used in Dread to build suspense.

Starting a game of Jenga means building a stable tower, pushing the blocks together, clearing the gaps, making things straight.  Similarly, in a game with suspense, things usually start out OK for the PCs.  Everyone is pretty much happy with them and they are pretty happy with everyone.  The more important part of this stage is building the layers that will make up the basis of the jenga tower.  Someone is going to pull the first block out of that tower, usually the bad buys, and this is going to set the party in motion.  Once in motion, for vengeance, good will, fame, or fortune, the party needs to start pulling more blocks out, sometimes on accident and sometimes on purpose.

The …

Wednesday Drednaught Campaign: Baldur's Gate

The party had a bit of a quandry this week.  With two wagons full of treasure, a barrel of very valuable black powder, and a signet ring, they had to decide what to do.  They think the ring will get them into Baldur's Gate into the lair of the bad guys who stole the riches of Grievance and other villages.  They are worried the black powder will be dangerous is given to the bad guys.  They find themselves unable to remove anything from the wagons due to some sort of curse.  They also find they can't light anything in the wagons because of some protection.  They douse the 5000gp worth of blackpowder in water, making it useless and head to Baldur's Gate.

Upon entering the edges of the city, they find Flaming Fist guards watching the bridge.  Akag meets up with another dwarf from Mithral Hall, Sir Darno, Paladin of Moradin, sent to investigate a shipment of mithral.  The dwarves have learned to use Bullettes to pull their shipments of mithral to avoid problems, so this capture…

A Note for the Burnt Out GM

Every now and then, GMs get overwhelmed and burnt out, worrying so much about players and rules and games that it all spirals downword into desperation.  We all end up there.  A while back I wrote a brief note to one such GM, who was fighting character deaths and table chaos, and I thought I would share it for those days when we all need it.

We are our own worst enemies, piling on all these expectations. I think we all need to learn to do more of what we enjoy and less of what we don't. Make players be responsible so we don't get hit with everything. It helps a lot with burnout. Make players enforce rules. Find a rules lawyer who isn't doing it to min-max and let them loose on it. Let the characters die. Remind that some fights will be too hard for them, so they should always consider fleeing an option. Use more premade content. Rip stuff out of premade adventures and reuse it. Ban anything at the table that makes your life harder. If they need to check their cell phones, …

The Drednaught Campaign: The Road to Baldur's Gate

This week, the party from Grievance finished clearing out a set of caverns where some "cult" was hiding loot away stolen from local villages.  The party loaded the loot on wagons, only to be confronted by some upset kobolds.  Lesh jumped on to his favorite horse Tim and ran down a large number of them, while the partly quickly dispatched the rest.

Lesh and Anders then tied themselves to the bottoms of the wagons with Elmeren accompanying them in dog form.  Two guards turned to their cause drove them out of the caverns, through the encampment of enemies in the canyon, and out onto open roads.  Varn, the NPC investigator from Baldur's Gate, accompanied the others to meet them.

They returned with the goods to Grievance where they returned many goods to the town and still made a large amount of gold, set aside to help them further investigate treasures still being transported to Baldur's Gate by the "cult".

Varn had arranged for the party to meet up with a cara…

Port Wayne Revisited: Vampire Hunters in the Nest

When last we left our punk crew, they were hiding with their apparent vampire "friend", Orkbait, in a newly acquired warehouse.  This week the party was hoping to start planning a new heist, but activities were interrupted by three large troll vampire hunters.

The vampire hunters came in fast with elephant guns and large greataxes.  Halar engaged the first in melee combat, doing serious damage with his dual hammers.  Rikolv had less than stellar luck against the other two incoming hunters.  Eventually the two got in position, and despite a stellar performance by the crew (except for Kip, who slept through the whole thing), were able to knock out Orkbait and drag him out of the building.  The nearly dead hunter that engaged Halar made a run for a cloaked vehicle, and after a brief episode of Simon and Halar jumping onto the car, the hunter got the car to an exit where Orkbait was being dragged out.

The next series of events was truly amazing.  Rikolv got to the pickup truck a…

Obligatory Terrain Post

So quite a while ago we received our kickstarter package of caverns from Dwarven Forge.  Thanks to Stefan Pokorny's how-to videos, my wife, daughters and I were able to transform the indestructible pieces of dark gray dwarvenite into a magical realm of wonder on my gaming table.

D&D 5e Drednaught Campaign: The Road So Far

I am a bit behind on game summaries, so I though I would just do a recap, increasing detail as we approach the latest session.

So the party met in a tomb outside of Grievance during a spring squall filled with lightning.  After clearing some obstacles and gathering some treasure, they headed back to Grievance.  Grievance was attacked by "cultists" and a blue dragon.  The party was able to save many people and take out quite a few bad guys before the intruders fled with Grievance's wealth.

The party tracked the "cultists" (they seemed to be disguised as cultists) and kobold army back to a forward camp, that they ambushed.  There they gained some more gold and more insight into the main camp.

The main camp lie in a canyon with various groups of tents scattered therein.  A single lone watchman's tent lay on the land overlooking the canyon.  The party took out the guards and searched the main tent (the largest), finding a hostage.  His name was Varn, and he cla…

D&D 5e: The Falling Flyer Problem

From reddit: In a session recently my players asked for a ruling on fall damage when it came to flying creatures. RAW fall damage would be equal to the number of feet a target was from the ground no matter how fast they were travelling prior to that. The issue came up where I was attacking with a dragon that had a fly speed of 80 and one of my characters used his turn to paralyze it using a houseruled effect that is basically a copy/paste of hold monster. Since the dragon was paralyzed it couldn't continue flying and fell. It was strafing them at 30ft in the air so RAW it would have taken 3d6 damage, but he thought that was unfair given that it had moved (80ft) and then dashed (an additional 80ft) showing that it obviously was moving at 160ft per round, which if converted to fall damage would be 16d6. TlDR: Is fall damage RAI velocity and therefore equal to ft/round.

There were some very misinformed responses to this question.  The bottom line is that the horizontal velocity compo…

GM Things: Dealing with the Bad Week of No Inspiration

Whatever goes up, must come down.  That goes for inspiration, luck, and all the positive things that go into making a GM host good games.  Sometimes you are going to have a bad week.  Sometimes bad things are going to happen.  Sometimes you have to deal with it.  This week, we're talking about how to pick up the pieces when the inspiration isn't there.

I've had a bad couple of weeks, missing games I'm playing in and missing games I GM.  Snowstorms, sickness, internet outages, and a failed Windows Update that trashed my wireless driver all contributed.  Underlying all this, I am fighting a bad back that on bad days leaves me bedridden.  It's a tough recipe for cranking out compelling NPCs, plotlines, settings, and encounters.  Frankly, it's a tough recipe to do anything some days.

So how do you pick up the pieces and move on?  First, don't force yourself to do something you don't want to do.  It isn't going to be good for anyone.  You can't force…

My Sentiment Exactly