Bosses, alpha’s and memorable NPC’s

Aka, We meet again, Mr. Bond…

In games, we often see waves upon waves of minions (or often called ‘Mooks’). Even in tabletop and roleplay or even movies, we see a lot of unimportant faces creating an obstacle for our heroes. At times though, we notice a few characters standing out above the rest (even if they are still minions at the end of the day). These individuals may be slightly taller, larger, don’t wear a helmet, have a name, or are equipped better than their standard rank and file allies. Here we could immediately recognize these individuals as not simply standing out in presence but also in ability when compared to their comrades.
These characters have a much bigger chance to be remembered, depending on just how memorable they were. How much they stood out.

Memorable Friggin Catchphrase! Mr. Powers…

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What’s in a name?

Names. Names are everything. Names are a part of your identity and with the right name you can compel a demon to do your bidding and in some settings reshape the world.

Names are also really hard! Giving a character or NPC a name is a very tricky task indeed and requires you to carefully consider just what that name means for a person in your world.
Names tend to have meanings attached to them, implied characteristics and cultural baggage and choosing the wrong name for an NPC is worse than not naming them at all.

Discussed here are a few examples of doing this right and doing it wrong. Of course these aren’t hard and fast rules but I hope I can teach you a thing or two with regards to naming.

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Pop culture in games

Aka, Being Geeky is cool now!

I think it’s safe to say that we’re all geeks here (in our own way).
Or at least, our society is now more accepting of all that is geeky.
With the rise of the internet and with people like Felicia Day, Will Wheaton, Adam Savage, Christopher Perkins or groups like ‘Penny Arcade’ appealing to a broad audience, ‘being Geek’ (or the term ‘Geek’) is now seen in a more positive light.
Hell, its become so mainstream now that people have tried distilling it into a television format (Looking at you, Big Bang Theory….). Even the typical hot girl on the internet would now openly cling to her identity as a geek. Something that the wizards and warlocks of old (70’s-90’s) could only dream of.
(I doubt Gary Gygax would have as many fan girls as George R.R. Martin.)

Geeks today…..You MAD bro? Martin beyond the wall. The real ‘Tyrion’.

So we’ve talked a bit about geeks in pop culture.
But what about pop culture for geeks?

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Location, location, location

You know what I really love about Roleplaying games in general and pre-published adventures specifically? Maps! I really like a well-drawn map of a fantastical location. There’s something about a map that makes a place a tangible, real location instead of just some place in the mind of the game-master.

Other pieces of artwork can have the same effect but maps are special to me. You see, a map provides the thing I value most in roleplaying games: Consistency. You can look at a map and compare with the location the PCs are at and know that if you go left, then right at the fountain, you’re going to end up in the room where you fought the bugbears.

However, a lot of people seem to have issues using maps well in their games. Speaking with a friend about this topic, I noticed a few things that almost everyone can easily incorporate into their games to enhance the experience. I’ve also got a few tips and tricks to get you started using maps.

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The Home base

Aka, Welcome to my volcanic lair!

Batman has the Batcave.
Superman has his fortress of solitude.
Deadpool has his appartment.
Wolverine has the X-men Mansion, despite roaming about and being a loner.
Robin hood has a glade in Sherwood forest.
Smaug ‘had’ Erebor. (Spoilers…)
Spawn has his alleyways.
Neo had that small ship in the first Matrix movie.
SG1 has the Cheyenne mountain complex.
The list goes on.

Regardless of your players wanting it or not (or even realize it), they will likely end up with a base of operations. A place to rest their heads and call home.  To sell their loot and buy their gear. Where they can gather information for their next mission, and store their hard earned currency etc. If only temporarily, before moving on to the next.

This could be anything from your typical inn or tavern, a district or even an entire city. A flying airship, an airplane or a star ship. A mansion, a castle, the local YMCA or their employers Volcanic Lair. (See Evil villain, fire lord or Red Dragon)
Hell, it could even be the RV from Breaking Bad.

NetDragon HQ in China.

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The Empty Room

Aka, Is the room actually empty though?

As a GM, you will find that no matter how much you tend to prepare and how well you manage to recollect every rehearsed dialogue and hints for your players to react to, there will be points in your game where you find yourself ill prepared for a situation. Why? Easy.
Because there are players involved in your perfectly crafted world.
(And honestly, over-prepping only leads to headaches and railroading, avoid it!)

Players tend to walk off the carefully placed path you’ve set out for them. They will miss hints and obvious (to yourself, perhaps) elements of your story in order to progress.
In which case, they will start to think outside the box and ‘mill around’, trying to find things to either progress the story, or line their own filthy, near bottomless pockets. (Bag of holding anyone?)

Hence, there will always be moments where you must improvise.

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Megadungeons – Treasure

One of the challenges I’ve been encountering in my D&D game is the placement of treasure. Even in 5th edition, D&D still thrives on a steady drip of gold, gems, artwork and magical or semi-magical items. And placing those items in a natural-feeling way is hard.

Sure, you could just roll on the treasure tables for every enemy the PCs search but that will quickly get weird. As an experiment, I rolled on that table for every feasible encounter in my game so far. (That is: I didn’t roll for creatures like wolves or rats, but I did roll for everything that was at least smart enough to recognize that gold = value).
Had I used those results, the PCs would’ve entered an abandoned mine and gotten out with a magical scale mail (resists fire damage),  6 paintings, each worth a good chunk of cash, a small pile of gens, a few hundred gold pieces along with whatever weapons and armor they stole from their enemies. That would be for first level adventurers.

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