Tag: role playing (Page 1 of 2)

Selling Your Tabletop RPG Adventure to Players

Wild Hair RPG Tabletop Player Schemes

Game Masters deal with many problems during a tabletop roleplay session. Player issues become the highest percentage of problems. GMs plan and prepare for all sorts of paths a character can take. Yet players will do unpredictable decisions. Often based on little to no information, except for what the Game Master explains. Everything the GM utters players process and use to further make decisions. The decision to take the fork in the road or the tunnel down below comes down to player thoughts. Each fork, turn, tunnel and path becomes influenced directly by the Game Master.

If you want players to go down a path, don’t force them to go there.

Sell The Path To Your Players.

Salesmanship is one of many social tools a game master needs in her bag of goodies. You need to sell your players on the paths you want them to go down. This is not railroading. Players should always have a choice. The art of persuasion can lead to many great nights of gaming for the game master and the players. Along with improvisation this can turn an ordinary night of frustration into smooth sailing for both players and game master. Instead of creating a 20 hour dungeon that no one wants to go into, you create an appealing place both players and game masters want to explore. Below, you will find several tips on how to sell the game scenario you set up to player.

  • Understand your players.
    • You need to know your players. Game Masters who do not will have a tougher time creating a collaborative atmosphere and selling your players. It’s great to game with people you grew up with in High School. Old friends and family make for great player groups. Knowing what makes a person tick will help game masters sell new content.
    • For the game master getting a group of players who are strangers can bring lots of problems. If you don’t know the players, sit down and talk to them. Ask them straightforward questions about ethics, conduct and what they expect out of a gaming session. You should get an idea of who they are after the interview. Creating a social contract brings lots of value with unknown players.
  • Use your words wisely
    • What you say as a game master players take to heart. Do not mince words, or throw about harsh words casually. Make a habit of listening to players twice as much as talking. Ask questions about each player’s intentions. Ensure both players and game master talk in clear terms. Words are powerful and you can bring joy or ruin to a participant’s experience. Choose your words carefully.
  • Talk about the value in your proposed event, scenario, path
    • This is where you “sell” the portion of the game you worked hard on. Make sure you ask a few questions to yourself players would ask.
      • Why would I go there?
      • What is in it for my character?
      • Does this event, scenario or path match the player’s possible choices she would make?
      • If I was playing a character, would I go here?
    • If the answer is no to at least two of the questions, you might want to reevaluate the idea. Reconfigure how it shows up. If it’s a surprise, make sure it is one players would respect.
  • Create excitement
    • When you talk about the necromancer’s castle in the distance, do you say it with enthusiasm? Maybe hint at the untold riches lying in wait? Old art and valuables lying around? Talk to the player’s sense of excitement. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. Bring an extra oomph to your voice.

Closing the Plot Point

Presentation and wording will help your castle get discovered. Knowing your players and what they like helps to create the visuals, by words or props. It’s not recommended to railroad players into going towards the castle. But make a compelling case for your players to explore your hard worked dungeon. When you get done creating the weekend adventure, don’t forget to plan out how you will convince them the rewards is greater than the risk.

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Stay on Target: Keeping Distracted Table-Top Gamers Engaged

If you ever played a table-top role-playing game you understand about distractions. Endless diversions hampering plot, game play and flow. Sometimes you get together and it seems as if you might as well meet at a bar and get it over with. The game master and several players might enjoy a few straying conversations. But often too much conversation not related to game will dampen everyone’s fun. Lighthearted conversations and off topic jokes CAN kill game sessions, ruining the fun for everyone.

I have a few suggestions on how to keep everyone on target and working towards a fun night of gaming.

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Running a Con Game Like a Pro

Are you a Game Master for your RPG group? Good for you! You’re the backbone of the hobby! Are you thinking about running an RPG at a convention? That’s great too, but while GMing for your group of friends is one thing, running for a group of strangers you may never see again is something else entirely.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a few thoughts on what I think goes into running a good one-shot RPG session at a a game convention.

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Three Tips for New Game Masters

Darrell Hardy here! A while back, I had the privilege of speaking on a couple panels at the Fort Collins Comic Con. (Unofficial motto: “We’re bigger than you think!”)

The panels were all about running tabletop roleplaying games. Together with Bill Keyes, Sean Patrick Fannon, and Ross Watson, we answered questions from the surprisingly-large crowd about how to get started as a GM, how to keep your players happy, and how to keep a long-term campaign from catching fire, crashing through a line of school children, and plummeting into a pit of giant snakes far below.

We were thrilled at the number of new Game Masters in attendance. As Sean pointed out, the only way the hobby (and the industry) expands is by more people stepping up to the challenge of running RPGs; we can only have as many gaming groups as we have GMs. While the old guard can keep it going, new blood is what makes it grow.

Especially with the new GMs in mind, I’d like to share three recurring bits of advice from the panels:

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The Dice of Creation

Ever since discovering tabletop RPGs in junior high, I’ve been in awe of the amazing powers that dice can have, not only in determining the outcome of the story, but in the actual creation of the story’s world. I’m speaking here largely of random charts and their power to not only inspire, but to create reality on the fly.

In eighth grade, I created a solo dungeon-crawling game consisting of a sheet of graph paper, a fistful of dice, a pencil, and a half-dozen index cards with random charts on them. You enter the dungeon: roll to see if there’s a room or a hallway. If it’s a room, roll for number of exits and roll for contents. Is it is monster? Roll it. A trap? Roll it.

There was a system for combat and damage, of course, but the meat of the game was exploration. Only it wasn’t really exploration, it was creation. The world was created with every roll of the dice.

(During this time, one of my gaming friends made his own exceptionally-random system that perhaps took it a step too far. A classic line that lives to this day is, “You are attacked by a [clatter of dice] snake! It attacks you with its [clatter of dice] hooves!” That sort of old-school gonzo gaming would be a lot of fun today, but I was far too mature for it at the time.)

In college, I ran a year-long campaign of NightLife, which — since the players were running vampires and werewolves and other monsters with an insatiable appetite for disposable NPCs — inspired me to whip up another random table. With ten seconds and a single roll of a handful of dice, I could create a living, breathing person… at least, that person’s general appearance and personality. Before the players turned down that alley, that person didn’t exist — not even as a note on my Game Master’s idea pad. Most of them didn’t survive the encounter (“My, what big teeth you have — oh no!”), but some had such a spark of life that they went on to become allies and recurring NPCs — a spark of life given them, like Frankenstein’s lightning, by the dice.

As I’ve grown older and my gaming time more limited, I find myself using dice to create the world before the game rather than just on the fly. I made a number of charts myself: What’s that magic level? Roll it! The core theology? Roll it! What are the key imports, exports, and trade agreements? Roll, roll, roll!

While I might end up just writing about these worlds rather than actually playing in them, the thrill from eighth grade is still there: I’m creating worlds, people, and stories with nothing more than a pencil, a chart… and a handful of dice.

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Four Tips for Running RPGs for Kids

I love gaming with my kids. I especially love playing tabletop roleplaying games with them. Over the years, I’ve come up with a handful of tips that keep the game smooth and fun, even if your players are still in grade school. I’m posting them here, both as a public service to gamer parents, and as a reminder to myself: this, future-self, is how you have fun.

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Faking It – The Art of Game Master Improvisation

Game Masters need to be able to adapt quickly. When the players zig when you expect them to zag onto the trail you’ve painstakingly laid out before them, you need to be able to just go with it, rolling their detour into your game story like you’d planned for it all along.

Here are some quick tips for doing just that. (Old pros will probably nod and say to themselves, “Obviously that it how it should be done,” but new GMs will hopefully find some value here.)

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Should PCs Act Responsible in a Fictional World?

When you escape into a game, should you escape all responsibilities as well?

Escapism is a HUGE part of our culture. Everyone wants to soar with the eagles, surf the volcanic moons of Jupiter, or dive deep into the bottom of the ocean. Unfortunately our lives turn into moments of waiting in lines, going to work, and paying bills.

Being responsible.

When the gang gets together to “escape it all” on the weekend, be it for a round of Call of Duty or a night of 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons (he said 4th edition!!!), do you throw down your sense of being responsible for anything, or anyone?

Heroic adventuring takes gamers into fantastic worlds. When you enter those worlds, another facet of your personality comes out.

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Tommy’s Take on D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual

Monster books for D&D and D&D-like games are kind of a thing. No real surprise, then, that the second core release for D&D 5e proved to be the Monster Manual.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Retail price is about $50, and the book is smidge over 350 pages. It provides the monsters for your D&D game, though you can check out the free DM Guide to get a selection of monsters, and all the stat blocks you need for Tyranny of Dragons are either in the respective adventure books or the free supplements.
So really, you have a lot to work with, already…but you can download and read those for free. The Monster Manual costs money, so I’m going to talk about that.
The production values are fantastic, as should be expected. I like the art direction for Fifth Edition, for the most part, and several of the art pieces look fantastic and evocative, like the Slaads (I love the Death Slaad), the vampire layer, most of the dragons…special props go to The Death Knight which, if it isn’t Lord Soth, it certainly evokes him, and the Werebear, which spells out the difference between a bear and a werebear by brandishing a battle axe.
There’s not a ton of surprises here for the  D&D faithful: Orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, chromatic and metallic dragons, drow, mind flayers, beholders, nightmares, demons, devils, the various giants…even The Tarrasque. Honestly, I’m not sure there’s anything I expected to be here that’s missing. A couple of things have been renamed (Titans are not Empyreans, for instance), and some (like Drow and orcs) get multiple statblocks to show off the variances within the race.
Stat blocks are a bit more streamlined in some ways, one of the most notable being that creatures with reams of spell-like abilities have been greatly reduced (this may have happened in 4e, I honestly do not know)…with dragons, demons and devils standing out to me as having reduced (or missing altogether) spellcasting capabilities. Monsters do keep Ability Scores, however, something I approve of greatly.
The bigger and nastier monsters get Legendary actions, which often give them extra attacks after other characters have gone, and some get Lair Actions, which make them even deadlier if you fight them on their own turf (lookin’ at you, dragons). Fight a red dragon in its lair and it may start a spontaneous earthquake, or take on a lich and find that it can summon the spirits of the those that passed in its lair and use them to tear away at a target. Another awesome touch is that creatures with lairs actually impose their will on the surrounding terrain, twisting it to reflect their temperament (like creepy fog that grip the land when a vampire takes a lair, or people within a mile of a copper dragon’s lair becoming prone to fits of giggling).
The monster entries typically provide about three plot seeds/lore tidbits per entry (sometimes more, sometimes less, but that’s probably a fair average), though some (like liches) get more, but the Monster Manual infamously omitted indexes by environment or challenge rating, as well as the guidelines for actually creating monsters (all of which were found in the DMG).
It’s a good book but not strictly necessary, especially if you are running the Tyranny of Dragons pretty much as written, or if you are comfortable looking at the free monsters and extrapolating from there, and while I do enjoy the book, for sheer utility the 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual trumps it, in my opinion.

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Tommy’s Take on D&D 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide

I have reviewed the Player’s Handbook, the Monster Manual and the Hoard of the Dragon Queen…but I got sidetracked before I reviewed the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Honestly, I think this review is going to be a bit better than it would have been, because the first impressions have washed away, and I’ve been using the book in play since it was released.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The book retails for $50, but you can get it for less all over the internet. It’s a stocky 320 pages that contains no *essential* rules, but tries to act as guide to unlocking 5th Edition.
Part 1: Master of Worlds is all about setting up your campaign, even if you are using an established campaign. Yes, they say in plain English that if you are using Forgotten Realms, that it becomes yours from the moment you start running it and the adventures affect the world. This chapter attempts to look at campaign creation from both the top down and the bottom up, beginning with the overall world concept as well as just beginning with a small settlement. Guidelines are provided for advancing up in factions, random charts for massive, world-shaking events, and even a breakdown of the tiers of play (based on character level) and how they are envisioned to interact with the world. There’s even a section breaking down various “flavors of fantasy” (like Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Wuxia, War, Intrigue and so on). Forgotten Realms examples are prevalent in this section, seemingly cementing it as the unofficial baseline for D&D.

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