Archive | May 2012

Building a Better GM: Making Use of Your Experience (Part Two)

Part Two – Drawing from Your Play

Chances are pretty good that if you’re running a game, you’ve played one before. While it’s true that some people may actually start as a Game Master before being a player, this is comparatively rare—and a GM who has never played in another’s campaign is rarer still. If you’re smart, you’ll put your previous player experience to good use when running a game of your own.

One of the most important things to consider is what, as a player, simply didn’t work for you. Meandering plot may have been a game-killer for you. Maybe it was a particularly brutal GM, who took pleasure in teasing and tormenting the players. (Don’t be that guy)

Also, when I talk about player experience, I’m not just talking about tabletop roleplay; computer- and console RPGs count, too—as do games that aren’t RPGs at all. Repetitive play and lack of a sense of progression are just as devastating to an action-platformer on the Super Nintendo as they are to your Friday-night D&D game.

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Crowds and Mobs

One challenge I have had as a Game Master in the past is how to handle dense crowds or mobs in the game. The idea that people stick to the one person per five foot square in a mob just doesn’t work for more then one reason. There is also a serious slow down of the game when you have to run more then 6 creatures in an encounter. Lastly, the creatures that you want to use in mobs are just too weak to run as individuals in a mob and end up being killed quickly before they even have a chance to deal any damage.

This is more of a workshop article then a clear cut house rule post. I haven’t yet decided how to handle this but I wanted to walk through the process in a blog post so that GMs could see how I write my stuff. In the end I will conclude how I will handle mobs, but I also encourage people to take what is found here to come up with their own rules. Read More…

Character is Plot and Story is King

Your personal story, the plot of your life, is driven by your decisions. Your decisions are driven by your past experiences and personal history. At the end of your life, you or the people you love will sit around and tell only the most memorable, interesting, and powerful stories of your life, and the kings of those stories will become the true inheritance to the generations that follow you.

The way you roleplay your character, and the decisions you make playing them, is going to be influenced by three things. The first is your own personal life experience, which for most players is the largest influence. The next one is the character stats, which some min-maxers use to decide most of their actions, but not necessarily most of their roleplaying. The last, and possibly the most overlooked is the character’s personal experience and past. In my opinion, this can be the most important factor in deciding if a character will be memorable or not. The reason has much to do with what I talked about earlier. The character’s plot is driven by decisions, the decisions are driven by experience, and at the end of your year long game only the most memorable, the kings of the story, will be remembered. Read More…

Whats Coming up this Week 5/13-5/19

Hello once again, Keith here giving you a preview of what to expect this week on the Sojourn Press.

  • 5/15/2012 a player article “Character is plot story is king” by Caleb
  • 5/16/2012 Carl releases part 2 of “Building a better Gm”  discussing using experence
  • 5/17/2012 Caleb is posting “Crowds and Mobs”
  • 5/18/2012  “Using board games and card games for RPGs” By keith
  • 5/19/2012  Carl is going to be posting “How to guide players without railroading”

This Weeks favorite RPG video of the Week

The Dungeons and Dragon scenes from the last episode of Freaks and Geeks are some of the best representations of table top games on television. Gaming for many years has had a bad reputation. Many times getting it confused with larping, “You nerds dress up right?”  In the last 10 years role-playing games have a better media presence.  Another positive representation is  the dungeons and dragons episode of Community. In the episode  the characters do no dress up and they actually don’t try to represent the game world.  Leaving the setting to be created by the imagination of the viewer.

What are some of your favorite references to Rpg’s in popular culture?


How to Overcome a Lack of System Knowledge.

Fear the Con 5 was the first convention that I have ever attended. I am not sure when the next opportunity would be for me to attend a convention (as much as Caleb keeps tempting me to go to PaizoCon). I am not getting more vacation time until after most of con season.  For Fear the Con, I wanted to run a game, but not just any game.  I have run Dungeons and Dragons in the past.  I wanted to run a game I have never run before, since d&d and it’s spinoffs are pretty easy games to sell since all you would need to say is ” Hey, you want to kill Dragons.” There are a couple of different systems that I own that I have never gotten a chance to run or play.  One of those was Savage Worlds. When choosing to run a system you are not familiar with, and that you’re going to run at a con, my first recommendation would be one  that has a light rule system. More rules and crunch can work against you, especially since you haven’t run it before. Nothing causes me to disconnect me more from a game like constantly checking rules in the books. Read More…

Change To Magic Item Crafting

Magic Crafting

Hammering away to prepare the sword for enchanting.

Pathfinder has changed in many ways from the OGL roots it started from, but one thing that hasn’t changed much is how magic item creation is done. While the system works, it doesn’t really allow for true customization and it isn’t very realistic. One of my complaints about it is that you need to spend a feat for each type of magic item you want to create, and because each type is vastly more or less powerful then the others, there really is only one or two feats that are worth the cost. Feats are a limited resource, and if you want to be able to craft rods or staffs you are going to be spending a feat to craft maybe two or three items. On the other hand, Scribe Scroll will be used a great deal and Craft Wondrous Item has nearly unlimited possibilities.

There is also a lack of actual use of the Craft skills. Yes, you can use Craft: Weapons for magical weapons, or Craft: Carpentry for wands, but Spellcraft can be used for everything. Additionally, the magic item creation rules have their own unique timeline. Because of the obvious choice of just using Spellcraft, and the unique timeline, the rules for magic item creation ignores the Craft skills and their mechanics completely. It makes sense to have both of them working together in some way, instead of making them almost mutually exclusive.

My house rules make adaptations that allow for someone to be more versatile in item creation, but still limited if they want to craft a broad range of items. It solves the issue that Craft Wondrous Item is a catch all and the best option. In fact, my house rule removes all of the craft feats and combines them into one. The house rule also puts more emphasis on skills, adds one additional step, and allows the entire party to assist you if you desire. Read More…

Building a Better GM: Making use of your experience (part one)

Building a Better GM: Introduction

When it comes down to it, the players’ experience of your game is channeled through a single point of entry—you. What you are able to present to your players—and how you do it—can be a deciding factor in whether, when the session is over, everybody wants to do it all again. This, of course, puts a bit of pressure on both the seasoned veteran and the rookie; let’s not forget that we are all doing this because it’s supposed to be fun! I hope, with this series, to take a little bit of the burden from your shoulders, and help you get the most enjoyment possible out of your game mastery.

With all of the gaming supplements and third-party modules currently, it easy to become overwhelmed: how do you decide what to use? In internet forums and cons, everyone has an opinion (some of them conflicting), and everyone is dying to share it with you. In this deluge it’s an easy mistake as a GM to forget the single greatest resource you have: yourself.
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