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Showing posts from April, 2015

Identifying and Defusing Player Frustration

Frustration in players is an important emotion that GM's need to observe and manage in order to run a fun game.  Provide a good challenge and things are fun, but go too far or hit the wrong trigger, and you can turn the game sour for your frustrated player.  It isn't always readily apparent when different people, especially strangers, become frustrated, angry, or annoyed, but it is a skill a GM should develop.  This article touches on what happens when players get frustrated, how to identify it, and how to defuse it.

The first thing to understand is that transitioning from annoyed to frustrated to angry is a non-linear process that can progress quickly with relatively little instigation.  Start off with a tired individual trying to unwind from a long day, throw in some real life stress, have them feel a little bit guilty for taking time a way to game, and you have a powder keg ready to explode under the wrong set of circumstances.  As a GM you may only have the intent of prov…

The Next Campaign: How to Invest My Limited Gaming Time

I'm distraught, trying to whittle down what my next investment of gaming time should be.  I tried to put together a GM's Pathfinder game with rotating GMs, but that fell through due to lack of interest.  I am still considering playing in a Pathfinder game or perhaps GMing a Pathfinder game.  I've considered putting together a Ponyfinder game.  I've even looked at a Dark Sun campaign in 5e.

I am distraught that Pathfinder has blown apart with so much bloat and so many classes that it is almost unplayable in some sense.  Maybe I will host a Pathfinder game with just a couple of core books and custom races.

I've been thinking of resurrecting an old project for a new world for Pathfinder.  This world would have all custom races from the start.  It could be interesting, as it engages elements of both Dark Sun and a small world type campaign.  The custom races is becoming a challenge, because I really need visuals of the races.  Maybe I should spend some time image searc…

D&D 5e Beastmaster Ranger

The beastmaster ranger is one of those classes in D&D 5e that has been proclaimed underpowered and that is generally avoided.  For giving up significant, attack, defense, and damage capabilities from Hunter, the ranger gets an animal companion.  The problem is that the animal companion doesn't scale very well, and the ranger has to give up his own action to command the animal companion to do anything useful.

I understand the philosophy behind the way this class was built.  The action economy doesn't easily accommodate having two character with a full set of actions without becoming overpowered.  However, having two creatures share an action economy is also a big problem, because it just isn't effective, especially with the underpowered stats of the animal companion.  Compare this against the druid wildshape, for example, where the animal and character stats effectively stack, and you can see why this combination is underwhelming.

Had the design focused on limiting eith…

The Mess of Pathfinder: How to Sort Out Character Creation Rules

Pathfinder has turned into a mess.  What is worse is that it is becoming harder and harder to sort through this mess and define a character creation ruleset that is reasonable.  Currently I am working through this very problem with a group of GMs and I thought it would be worth a post to address.

First let's address the history of Pathfinder and what makes up Pathfinder.  The first thing to note is that Paizo makes Pathfinder so they are the primary publisher.  Third party publishers fall into two categories -- Psionics and non-psionics.  Dreamscarred published books on the psionics extension and they are quite good and relatively balanced.  All of the other 3rd party context not dealing with psionics is of questionable balance and must be judged one piece at a time.  This includes options like Dreamscarred's Path of War that drastically re-balances martial classes.

Not even looking at Paizo stuff, there is a lot to cover.  They basically publish in one of five ways.  Hardcove…

The Charm of the Forgotten Realms

I don't remember much about my first games growing up when I was introduced to D&D.  The settings were always dungeons or crypts, and as the magic user, I was probably going to die.  I still loved it.  Magic missile was the coolest thing I had ever heard of.

As I grew older, my tastes broadened, but my awareness of setting didn't.  It was always some crypt, some dungeon, some thing in someplace that we had to defeat.  I started writing my own games, my own settings, and suddenly my world of Innsbruck came alive.  I ran the memory out on my Commodore 64 trying to program in a virtual GM to lead me on adventures.

For years, it was a dark age of gaming for me.  I had never seen a D&D book in a store.  I only knew a few friends that had the books and they wouldn't let me borrow them.  I wrote my own, recruited my nieces and nephews to play, and wrote computer programs so I could play.

Then one day my friend introduced me to Baldur's Gate.  The 2 CD set was incomple…

Channeling the Terror that is the Easter Bunny

With each of my daughters, I made the yearly pilgrimage to the mall to get the oh-so-desired picture of them in their cute little Easter dresses with the Easter Bunny.  Well, in advance, they were told of the wonders of the Easter Bunny, of how he would bring candies and gifts and hide eggs for them to find.  None of this ever caused a stir.  But, at the moment they were brought over in their tiny little shiny black shoes or handed over from mother or father's arms, there was a tremendous terror growing in them.  Screaming, crying, pleading, and begging erupted, with their poor mother or me left trying to coax an acceptable picture out of them with whatever bribery I could muster.

The bottom line is that words and deeds alone cannot prepare children for the horror that is a five and a half foot tall Easter Bunny with white or cyan fur, large glassy eyes, and teeth that seem better fitted to chomping at arms and legs than at the carrots left by children.  This creature is the epito…