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Showing posts from October, 2015

PinkDiceGM as Harry Dresden

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween

My home will be safe from candy-seeking adventurers tomorrow night.

Horror Games: The Evil Within

The horror genre in gaming is drastically different than the horror genre in movies and fictions. In a game where monsters are fought all the time and where the PCs are trained warriors of some ilk, monsters just aren't as terrifying. The lack of direct visual representation of the situation, combined with the lack of real-time pace, makes it more difficult to generate the wonderful jolt of being scared. To replace these elements, consider focusing on another great horror: the evil within.

The evil within is all about generating paranoia and fear within the party. By making the party a potential enemy, it makes combat more tense. Trust is broken. When your ally could at any moment become your enemy, it makes it hard to let them do the things they need to do, even like just standing behind you.

To bring out the evil within, we are going to use 3 different mechanics: sanity, disease, mental domination. Sanity mechanics allow us to use horrific circumstances to mentally break down th…

Planning for a Long-Term Campaign: When Sessions Turn into Years

It is the holy grail of gaming: to have a game that goes on for years, chewing through PCs and plot lines to build truly epic heroes.  Today's article is addressing how to plan out a long-term campaign and what to expect.

The first aspect of planning a long-term campaign is recognizing that things are going to change. Long-term campaigns only succeed when they can continue through the expected changes. The first thing you can expect is that real life is going to generate absences. To make a game resilient against absence, get a group size that is larger than what you need to play. For my games, I run with 6, knowing that most encounters will do just fine when only 4 are present.  Even with this, there are going to be times you just can't get together a quorum. Expect this to happen around holidays. Whatever you do, maintain consistency in scheduling. It is way to easy for a few skipped session to turn into the defacto ending of your gaming group.
Another change you have to be …

The Darkness and the Light: Using Foil NPCs

Without light, there is no darkness. In literature, we take this simple idea of contrast a step farther with the idea of a foil.  A foil is a character or object used in literature to purposefully contrast another character or object, in the process, emphasizing the contrasting characteristics. The use of a foil character is not just limited to literature. You can use it very effectively in a TTRPG game too.

A good example is the pair of Boromir and Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. Aragorn and Boromir both are fierce fighting men joining a mission.  However, the contrast between these two character is what is most emphasized in the telling in the story. Without Boromir's complete failure in resisting the ring, we would not be able to recognize how strong Aragorn really is.

Similarly, in the RPG stories we tell, we often want to highlight certain characteristics of both NPCs and PCs in the story. In these cases, adding a foil character can really bring out the contrast. For example, i…

Evaluating Homebrew and Third Party Options in 5E

There are a lot of questions always flying around in the community about the balance of third party and homebrew options.  Unfortunately, it isn't always obvious how to make this judgement and how to evaluate the options. In this article, we're going to look at some strategies for making the evaluation in 5E.  For a light example of this analysis, take a look at my thoughts on fixing the Ranger Beastmaster archetype in 5E.

The first thing to keep in mind, is that a well balanced option should be neither clearly better or worse than existing options in order to be balanced.  Unfortunately, this kind of comparison has to look at a lot of different aspects and try to compare them as a whole. Some of these aspects are easily quantifiable. Some of these aspects are hard to measure. Our first step is to try to get things into the same language.

Combat effectiveness is a definite consideration. A PC during combat causes damage against foes while taking damage from foes. Improving per…

Interesting Encounter: Goblin Canyon Ambush

Interesting encounters are short descriptions of encounters that GMs can use to build on.  They combine unique aspects of different types of foes, terrain, skill checks, weather, combat, etc in order to provide more unique challenges than hit monster; repeat.

The goblin canyon is an excellent whimsical "random" combat encounter to throw into a campaign for a change of pace.  For this encounter, you will probably need to break out your mass combat rules.  I had about 70 goblins in play.  This encounter is best used with non-flying PCs that are traveling with companions, mounts, wagons, and other non-worn supplies.  It can work for a caravan too, or a ship floating down a river with minor modifications.

The party in this encounter is traveling through a canyon with sloped sides and a lot of rock formations.  The formations and canyon walls are 20 to 30 ft up.  This is all pretty visible when the party enters the canyon. Because of the open layout, it doesn't seem that dang…

Player vs Player in Cooperative Roleplaying Games

Most of my readers these days are playing cooperative roleplaying games: Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, d20, Numenera, and other similar styles of games.  In these games, a group works together to overcome challenges set in place by the GM.  Today we're going to discuss player versus player in this domain.

In cooperative roleplaying games, players control characters.  The characters form their beliefs and take their actions based on player thinking.  Player thinking can use information obtained through the senses and experiences of the character.
So let's say a character walks into a room with a large creature.  The mechanics can be engaged (usually) in some form to tell the player what the character knows about the creature.  The player can take those facts and information about the context and form an opinion and then take an action.  This control of the beliefs (not facts) and actions (not consequences) of the character is player agency.
In cooperative roleplaying game, …

Interesting Encounters: The Ghost Ship

Interesting encounters are short descriptions of encounters that GMs can use to build on.  They combine unique aspects of different types of foes, terrain, skill checks, weather, combat, etc in order to provide more unique challenges than hit monster; repeat.

This encounter is inspired by the Zelbinion from the television series Farscape.

The Massive is a well know battleship, commissioned by a local wealthy city for its navy.  On its first voyage it was lost, but the years to follow, there have been multiple sightings of it as sea.  It remains a legend at sea and a prize if found, but the rumors also say it is cursed.  Specialized knowledge might give additional information about its mission when lost.

There can be a whole adventure had just finding the Massive, but we are going to skip that part. We will start with the party finding the ship.

The Massive is a huge hulk of a ship, found deep in the ocean, floating silently. The sails are torn to shreds, unable to sail.  A circular cu…

Interesting Encounter: The Canyon

Interesting encounters are short descriptions of encounters that GMs can use to build on.  They combine unique aspects of different types of foes, terrain, skill checks, weather, combat, etc in order to provide more unique challenges than hit monster; repeat.

The canyon encounter is all about the PCs infiltrating an enemy camp.  We're not going to make it easy though. The threats are numerous.

The canyon has one obvious entrance where the small creek flows out of it.  The creek flows in over a small waterfall on the opposite end.  The canyon is quite large -- 100 or more feet across and several hundred feet long.  It's 40 feet tall walls are impassable at first glance.

The canyon contains different camps of 10 to 15 tents each.  Each camp is a different group that make up a faction of the enemies.  It is assumed these groups are only loosely coupled by their common cause and so they don't mingle much.  Some of the groups may be heavily inebriated. Other camps will have loo…

Interesting Encounters: Mine Cars

Interesting encounters are short descriptions of encounters that GMs can use to build on.  They combine unique aspects of different types of foes, terrain, skill checks, weather, combat, etc in order to provide more unique challenges than hit monster; repeat.

In this encounter, inspired by Indiana Jones, we put the PCs in a mine car.  The mine car is traveling through a large open cavern filled with other tracks all connected together.  There are also several other mine cars and several rock platforms at the roughly same height as the tracks.  The tracks are old and rickety and may have sections missing.

Of all of the possible tracks that the PCs can take, only 1 takes them safely out of this cavern.  In order to reach it, the PCs will need to expend actions to flip switches to choose the appropriate tracks.  In addition, when a break in the track is present, all of the passengers in the car must lean to pull the car up onto two wheel to proceed safely.  Should a PC or the mine car le…