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Showing posts from August, 2015

The Sandbox World Myth

GMs and DMs often like to formulate "sandbox" campaigns and worlds where the party can go and explore anything they like and do whatever they want.  This "bragging rights" aspect of a campaign is a myth, and I'm here to walk you through why I think so, and what we should replace it with.

The first aspect of any game is that it is about something, as determined by the mechanics used and the expectations of players involved.  Just like Dungeons and Dragons would not be the rule set to use for a game about investing in real estate, neither would Monopoly be a good ruleset for adventuring against monsters.  For this reason, the choice of "doing anything" has already been narrowed down when a ruleset is chosen.
Second, in games with advancement, there has to be a bit of the "quantum ogre" in the game, or PCs are just going to run into challenges way above or below their level 90% of the time, and end up dead or bored.  So even with the choice of …

Some Thoughts on New Mechanics

I like to experiment more than any other GM I have known.  I guess there is a simulationist game designer always in my head just ready to get out.  I thought I would throw these few ideas out, in case anyone has interest.

Pass Around Curse The idea with this mechanic is to pass around a boon or curse within the gaming group.  If a players rolls a natural 20/ natural 1 / whatever makes sense for your system, and they have the boon/curse, they get to choose to pass it to another player.

I like this mechanic because one person's luck becomes another person's luck.  Whether that luck is good or bad depends on how you use it.

The Confusion Maze In my online game, I have been struggling with a way to generate the realistic confusion that a party would experience in a labyrinth or maze.  The idea is to keep generating random shifts of the map while only allowing the party to see a small nearby area.

In my online game on roll20 this means making 4 copies of the maze, each rotated 90 d…

The State of Games: August 2015

Things always change, and occasionally I like to share how things are going, what things are going, and what things just aren't going.  Welcome to the state of games.

As a player, I am looking for a game now.  I quit my Sunday game.  The GM moved the game back because players were always late, so they all started showing up even later.  The GM let it slide.  I got fed up, after the last game was starting 45 minutes late, and quit.  Sunday night games are bad for my sleep for work anyway.  The lesson I learned is that pushover GMs are pushovers.

As an online GM, my Wednesday game is going strong, albeit with continuous changes in cast.  Real life pulls a lot of players away.  I am starting a 5E Horror game on Saturdays, which should have its first session this week.  I think it is going to be a lot of fun.

As a live GM, I tried to get a Tuesday game going at the local game store, but it crashed and burned.  The two players, besides my daughters, that showed up seemed to think they …

Finding Reasonable Players Online: Approach and Experience

When it comes to gaming, online is the wild west.  It is an endless sea of names and nicknames with no real way of telling who is going to be a good player and who is going to be a jerk and drop before the first session after asking a thousand questions.  To wade through this, I developed a 4 point system to find reasonable players.

When posting online games, I post my rules, a description of the game, and a description of me.  I think players should know what they are getting into.  Then I post "The Great Filter".

The Great Filter is a set of directions for how to apply to the campaign.  It is compact and precise and warns heavily against not following the directions, and usually looks something like a recipe with a bunch of warnings.  It tells exactly what information to post and warns about not posting additional or voluminous information.  It requires players to state that they have a good headset, a copy of the core players' book.  It asks for a quantitative explana…

Effective Combat Strategies for 5E

5E redefines a lot of major factors in terms of combat strategy.  Today we're going to walk through some of the new effective strategies and discuss how to use them.

What we're not covering is tactics.  Tactics are specific combinations of things you do in combat.  If this specific scenario emerges, this is the thing to do.  We might address that in another article.

First let's define a strategy.  A strategy is basically your character's plan for taking out foes (creatures, NPCs, other hostiles) in combat without death taking you or the rest of your party.  Let's divide this into two pieces -- doing damage and staying alive.  We'll also talk about healing, how to use movement and terrain, and finally how to deal with weaknesses.
Doing Damage Every class has a number of ways to do damage.  Melee and ranged weapon combat can now be strength or dexterity based, so pick one and use it for both, or use a combination, if you have a good reason for doing so.  Doing ef…

The Physics of Magic in the Realms

An excerpt from the "Physics of Things in the World", a scientific book written as part of the Volumes of Knowledge of the Chultan Empire of Gnomes, 1488 DR, by Tr. F. N. Bookerfeltendraftter

Magical energy, though seemingly misunderstood to most, is just another aspect of interaction within the universe.  In its natural state, magic is a zero sum chaotic force that can only manifest minute effects over short periods of time and space.  However, with the proper direction, magic can become the most powerful force imaginable.

The weave can be thought of as an ocean of magical energy, swirling in chaos, parallel to the dimensions of the universe.  This ocean, in the beginning, flowed back on itself, giving no currents large enough to manifest in discernible ways.  

First came Mystral, and later Mystra and other incarnations to bring order and direction to the magical chaos of the weave.  Much like Umberlee controls the flow of the oceans, Mystra brings order to the flows of magic.…

Exploring Genderless Society in RPG

In recent years, gender evolved in RPGs from a simple boolean choice of male or female to a plain text field with no limits.  Roll20 now directly defines this concept as direction for its community character sheet builders.  D&D 5e contains a direct discussion of this concept.  These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg on releasing old stereotypes on gender in gaming.  No longer is gender the defacto descriptor of every character.

Why is this important?  The interesting feature of gender in society is that it has become layer upon layers of meaning and stereotype.  The traditional definition of "being a man" contains multiple levels of meaning.  There is a invisible genetic layer.  There are the physical attributes, both sexual and non-sexual.  Even the definition of being physically attractive is different for a man.  "Being a man" traditionally defines what you like, how you relate to people, what behavior is acceptable, what jobs you do, what career…