Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Con Gaming 1001 - The meet and greet

Ed. Note: Since when have we had a 100 level course in college? Honestly.

As a veteran con-goer and attendee of the most of the major Con-circuit (DragonCon, GenCon, etc) I get a lot of opportunities to play/run con games. I'd like to take a little bit of time and just go over some rules that i'd love to see set in place to facilitate convention gaming and help the limited table time run a little bit smoother. As i'm trying to bring a wider landscape of gaming to my local area, I plan on trying to utilize a lot of this information in the upcoming 'demo' games I run.

I'll start with the easier side - The DM side of the Meet and Greet

1. Introduce yourself and the purpose of the game. Ideally, you'd be able to give a 10 second CV in this window. "Hi, I'm X. I've been running/playing con games for Y amount of time and I'm all about my players having fun, but we do need to make sure EVERYONE is having fun. I just want to remind everyone that this is a pulp style, high adventure, fantasy epic where the heroes can pull off some crazy stunts!"
-This allows you to break the nerd ice and establish what you're looking for in a group. In a perfect world, people will read the 5 word blurb about your game in the 1500 page con guide and only people who exactly match what you're running the game for will show up. If you want everyone to remain somber and serious for your Cthulhu game, now is the time to remind them.

2. Lay down any and all ground rules. I don't have a ton of pet peeves when I DM, so I try to be flexible on this point. The things I see coming up most often are:
-the distinction of in/out of character. I can never gauge where GMs stand on this rule at a glance.
-if you have a new player, can they engage the rest of the table for support? I've seen people get very upset when they think 'conversation' is taking place on the other side of the screen. It's frustrating to find out that it's just a sheepish player who doesn't know a rule he's looking for
-any off limit areas. Language is a big one here. Also any content you don't want to come up at your games (PC conflict, heinous acts, etc.) I will generally hit on this point to address opposite gender roleplaying and how if a character thinks that they can trade breast grabs (true story) for ammunition then the gender swapping fairy will visit them quickly.
-roll/roleplay. Nothing saddens the performer gamer like getting to your first diplomacy 'scene' only to discover that your DM doesn't want you to talk, just pick up that dice, roll it to the DC, and move on.

3. Allow the players to introduce themselves and their characters. If the players miss anything (race, class, etc) or skip a bit (brief description, etc), feel free to draw them out but don't push them. I like to allow 30 seconds to a minute per player.

4. Remind everyone that this is a co-op experience. This can never be overstated at a con game. There is no winning the module.

5. If you're playing an organized play module (I'm staring at you Pathfinder Society!) remind everyone that there may be some handwaving and there is a plot they will need to stick to. Player creativity shouldn't be punished, but you've got to understand that module play is designed to be vastly different than freeform gaming...

Anyways, those are just a few pointers from my side of the screen that I'd like to share with any and other con GMs out there. Anyone else have anything they find that works for them?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Standard ADD response included in letting the blog lapse. I think my biggest problem was a lack of focus and not really knowing what to do with this medium.

Then I realized it was a blog. It doesn't have to be groundbreaking, it just has to be what I put into it.

If anyone has stuck around, I look forward to trying my best to entertain you from this point forward!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

After Action Report

Last night we had the chance to try a new module: Kingmaker v1 from Paizo.

First impressions:
One word - Sandbox. I know Paizo was striving for something completely different by allowing a completely free-form adventure where the players aren't railroaded into a single chain of events. This is a bit of a misnomer as they actually ARE railroaded into the over-arcing path, but they are free to put the pieces together as they want.

On the good side this gives your players a lot of freedom. That's a plus right? They have the illusion of control. Quests are doled out from rumors or wanted posters at your leisure with separate rewards listed for each one and they have plenty of random events to explore and flesh out.

Some players may find the grid by grid exploration (one of the larger goals of episode 1) a bit tedious, but as long as you can drop some descriptive text and space out the random encounters you should be able to keep them interested.

The downside to all this "control" is two-fold. As a player, especially those used to modules/set play, the free form may confuse or lose them. Also, it can drive them into the final part of the adventure fairly early if they are stubborn. This puts them way out of their league. Quickly.

As a DM the downside to this was not immediately apparent to me. Since the players are free to explore the 30+ encounters almost at their whim you have to be very familiar with the entire adventure to keep the game running smoothly. I would suggest pre-planning the 'random' events and then set yourself to guessing as best you can to the general direction of the PCs path to smooth everything out.

Content-wise the adventure is solid. It's a fairly straightforward "kill the badguys and move on to volume two" fair. There is ample opportunity to flavor the numerous NPCs as they are introduced.

Overall i'd rate it a solid B+ on the initial encounter and set up. Next week we are trying the first opportunity for exploration and i'm hoping the group enjoys it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Outsourcing: Justified

As a side effect of being the chronic DM of the groups I travel between, I find myself constantly trying to "outsource" material to include in my games. I don't want to make it sound like my games become episode of the week, but I think that DMs do benefit from an incredible library to pull from in the form of popular entertainment.

This week i'd like to take a look at FX's new series Justified. I think this has a lot of interesting potential for a modern game of any genre.

Setting: If you're setting is/requires a rural locale, these episodes give you a great close-up of the scenery. From seedy motels with buzzing, flickering neon and tacky carpet to Boyd's church on the edge of town with rotting boards and cobbled together interiors, a few lifted details from one of these episodes can intensify any description.

Characters: The show is still developing a lot of the secondary characters, but Waylan or Boyd could both be dropped into any campaign as ready made villains/antiheroes. Need a stone-cold killer or iron-handed peacekeeper? Just watch a single 'showdown' scene with Waylan (the opening of the pilot is a great example for persons not wanting to invest in the series). Boyd could easily serve as a psychopathic killer. Obviously you can magnify these traits or combine them with another element of your setting to suit your needs - I'm personally thinking of Boyd as a backwater preacher serving the Old Ones, gifted once or twice in their graces.

Theme: Instead of listing all the episodes and how you can pull out their story elements, i'll try and keep this brief - Long in the Tooth [s1e4] shows how to pace a chase session. You could put your PCs on either side - fugitives trying to escape detection from the authorities or law enforcement hunting a rabbit heading down the hole.

Hope this helps. I'll start to flesh out more of these in the future for you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

After Action Report

So another interesting night of Wild Talents. It looks like that this is going to be our last week running it for now (PCs are slavering for the new adventure path).

Observation from last night: How do you handle an off-kilt moral compass for the party?

Not to imply that the GM should be the behavior police for the party (unless it's somehow a factor in the story/characters), but what do you do when part of the party is clearly more ready for evil deeds than others in the party. Case in point - the group catches up with a set of individuals who have what they need. They overpower them and get the plot device. One of the players simply states, "Alright - we got what we need, space 'em." This was clearly not the intention of one of the players as he left out a shocked "BWA!?" and the group was then forced to re-work a plan of action or draw lines in the sand.

As the DM do you offer a set of non-lethal compromises? Do you just let the players fight it out? It was an interesting dilemma and luckily for me the PCs settled without resorting to murdering each other....for now..

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wild Talents - A review

A few days ago I posted up my first impression on the Wild Talents system, but I'd like to take a slightly more in-depth look at it now. For a basic overview, it's a superhero rpg based without a specific world setting.

-simple core mechanic: The base mechanic is dice pool. You roll the applicable pool dice and match numbers. The higher the number matched equals a better success and the more times that number comes up the faster you succeed. See. In one sentence i've explained the core of the system. I hope I don't get yelled at for that.

-flexible character creation system: Although the book supplies a pre-made "miracle cafe" of powers and skills to use the player is free to build their abilities from the ground up through a point buy system. This allows the player the create any possible combination of powers.

-loyalty and passion: I have to give +1 point to any system that has motivations built in for character creation, so this system is no exception.

-System flaws: Due to the way the system is built the player can take set dice to build up powers and skills. This means by spending a small amount in character creation gives the player the ability to set a power to always come in sets of 10. In short, the player can critical headshot with every attack action. Again, this is easily addressed during character creation between you and the players, but still it's a shame to see a built-in flaw in the system.

-flexible character creation system: See what I did there? The free-form building system can be a bit daunting for newer players or less advanced gamers.

-Poorly defined combat mechanics: Not a deal breaker for all players, but this system doesn't seem to easily fit a hack and slasher.

Overall, it's a good system but I don't see it replacing our weekly game system anytime soon. We will run a full campaign in it and it's a great exploration into a future-set 'super power' game.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New up on the PDF front

Just a reminder that part 2 of the Kingmaker series is now out (my copy is in the mail) and the PDF version will be out 4/28. More details here:

Hooray for opening up the digital vein!