First Encounters of the Nerd Kind

The following is a brief insight on how to gauge and balance your games for your current group. The example given is based on the Pathfinder system.

You’ve started a new campaign. Your players have brought their new PC sheets with them. And despite knowing your players sheet by heart (or not, some of us work long hours). There really is no guarantee to know if your players will be engaged and challenged enough during your first encounter. Keep in mind however, that not every player may use their PC to it’s full potential. Despite them possibly being a horrible min maxer. It doesn’t matter if the PC is a potential boss killer if the PC isn’t played right or even dies cause of bad decisions & tactics. On the flip side, another player in the group may be a horrible min maxer and play that PC to terrifying effect. Leaving the other party members in their shadow.
You will need to rely on knowing your group and appealing to them during creation to keep things balanced as it is. Like most things in life, good communication is required.

Now that you have a ‘somewhat balanced’ group, you are still confronted with that first encounter. It’s easy to go overboard and have them fight a murder machine, thinking everything will be ok. At the same time, most GM’s will fear wiping their party during the first game and will end up with weak mobs that can’t hit to save their lives.

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Customisation – Houserules and Flavor

“You can play however you want and be whoever you want”

That’s how roleplaying games were once described to me. And to an extend that’s true. With the right GM you can play any sort of setting, from Game of Thrones with the serial numbers filed off to a setting where you can fly through space on the back of dragons shooting lasers at storm troopers.

And as a part of that, the players will work together to make create a world, intricate lore and compelling characters. However, what most people will do is use a standard set of rules and everything that comes with it. And that often results in a game that has an amazing backstory and awesome lore but whose mechanics have no way of representing that awesome lore.

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Megadungeons – Hubs and Bases

As I mentioned in my previous post  on mega-dungeons, it’s vitally important to have the dungeon seem like a living space that the adventurers. Monsters need lairs, locations where they hang out, places even they avoid and so on.

Similarly, the PCs also need a lair; a location to hang out, sell their treasure, purchase new gear, get healed from the horrific injuries sustained within the dungeon and so on.

In video games these sorts of location are commonly referred to as hub location, because they function as a central location that the players can return to periodically. These are places like Dark Souls’ Firelink Shrine, Mass Effect’s Normandy (and the Citadel to a lesser extent) or the eponymous keep in the classic adventure ‘Keep on the Borderlands’.

The key to a good hub location is making it feel safe, making it feel welcoming and making it feel useful. I’ll be going over some of the things I’ve figured out and providing you with a few tips and tricks here to make your own hubs feel alive.

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Racism in an RP setting: Part 1

The following post concerns a sensitive topic and may discuss unpleasant things in order to understand them better. This post is intended to analyse a trend in roleplaying games and provide some insights into what it may mean for the hobby.

Please keep it civil if you wish to comment.

Racism is still a much discussed topic these days.
In a time where terrorism and virtue signaling are rampant and the word ‘Nazi’ gets thrown about like its going out of style, it’s only natural for some people to get conflicted over the idea of excluding anyone and merely thinking about excluding someone (over prejudice) can get you branded as a social outcast.

So much so, that even with regards to fictional worlds, the idea is floating around that we must include our real life ideals into our games or risk being an outcast at the table.
Example given: In this vid (I normally find his advice to be top notch btw)

So how would that translate to fictional property and worlds?
Let’s break down what that would mean.

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Dragons, Gods and Liches and why they can be fun to play

This post was inspired by a discussion I had with another GM on the topic of a player who seems to always want to either play a dragon or play something thematically close to a dragon.

I’ve had players in my groups that had similar fascinations, some with undead, some with dragons or a totally awesome character they saw in an anime or movie. And let’s be honest, we’ve all been there at some point. Hell, I had a pretty big fascination with playing a Deathknight when Exalted 2nd edition’s Abyssals supplement came out. (And can you blame me? They were both cool AND overpowered!)

So why make a post about something so common? Because there are many, many ways of dealing with it. Most GMs won’t indulge in these sorts of fantasies, citing reasons such as ‘Dragons are too powerful’ or ‘make up something original instead of playing another clone of Wolverine’ or ‘undead don’t fit into my setting’ (this one makes sense). I’ve been one of those GMs, getting snippy at players who, in my eyes, can’t come up with something original.

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Dealing with a GM: Part 1

We’ve all been there. Morbo the destroyer, the party’s Barbarian, is down. The Cleric is being strangled to death by an animated chain, unable to heal the rest. And there you are, in dire need of a good roll.
You roll a 19 and still you cannot make that critical check.
Meanwhile the GM is giving you the nastiest, shit eating grin you’ve ever seen.
And you start to wonder. ‘When and where did we fuck up so hard that we ended up in this situation in the first place?’

Well, let’s be honest. If you look back, there’s likely to be dozens of things you could have done to avoid all of this. You could have thought about asking your GM about some extra lore about the area. Maybe living chains are quite common here. Maybe you shouldn’t have jumped the gun and grab that floating ruby that was auspiciously left on a central pillar. At least, not without checking it out first. Maybe that group of Orcs just had no way in hell swimming after you in all that heavy armor a session ago.

All good options, surely. But how would you go about this?
Well, some players might simply tell you to ‘Git Gud, Scrub!’.

A good player will tell you that everything depends on your clever interaction with your party and above all, your GM.

So the question can be asked. “How can I, as a player, interact with my GM, in a way that is beneficial to the story and the game?’

It’s actually easier than you’d think.

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Dungeon Delving

This will be the first post in a series on game mastering dungeons and specifically mega-dungeons.

First, a definition. A mega-dungeon is, in my eyes, any adventure that takes place in a boxed-in environment (such as a dungeon, cave, virtual maze) where the player’s primary goal is interacting with and exploring said boxed-in environment.  The environment is a set environment, usually with some random encounters mixed in for variety but it generally acts as a walled-off sandbox.

This definition is intentionally fairly broad and many adventures could be described as a mega-dungeon. To me, the most important aspects of a mega-dungeon are the set environment and the focus on exploring that environment.

It’s also something that, until recently, I had never run. I’d run D&D before. I’ve run games focused on exploration and games that were heavily combat-focused. But having read the 5th edition D&D rules and having seen the discourse online on this new edition, I figured I’d give it a try.

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