Wednesday, May 16, 2018

GM 101: Quick & Dirty Memorable NPCs

Pathfinder Face cards or similar NPC artwork
can help imprint NPCs into your players' memories
There is a plethora of great advice on the web on making a memorable NPC, but often that advice assumes that NPC is one you have hand-crafted for a campaign as a spotlight character. Sometimes, you need an NPC on the spot, and you don’t want your players to regard him or her as “Random NPC #5”.

In a vibrant campaign, the potential should be there for the party to create a relationship with any NPC met along the way. Often times, the most surprising role playing can come out of a chance meeting with a random NPC.

There are a couple quick and dirty tricks I use which I call the “Quick & Dirty NPC Generator”. It's basically a sheet of paper with some notes to have nearby during your sessions. Here's how it works.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

D&D/OSR: Encumbrance Made Easy Redux

Ridiculously Encumbered PC
OK, but do you come with a cork screw?
Encumbrance is a bit of a pain in the rear, and has always been a tug of war between players and DMs, which is why most DMs hand-wave it. Players rarely track their weight, and PCs end up carrying all kinds of ridiculous equipment that apparently takes a single object interaction to get out of who knows which hole on the PC’s body.

In a previous article, I attempted to come up with a solution to the Swiss Army PC, but my players pretty quickly found the holes in the system, and I did not enforce its restrictions as I should have. Working on my BX-5 home brew rules, I’ve attempted to come up with a simpler, improved solution which can be more easily enforced.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Origins Registration Crapfest... Again

Every year, it's "Next year will be better!"

And then it isn't.

UPDATE 7:00 PM - The single event cart bug just got fixed, but the search is awful, since you need provide the date AND category along with the event name or number. Lots of small press RPG events appear to be missing from registration even though they are listed on the event grid csv.

UPDATE 05/03:  Missing - Every event from 9th Level Games, Most (about 20) from Pelgrane Press, and several others missing events from the registration portal (Steve Jackson, Green Ronin, etc). Of the roughly 6000 events, only about 3500 are present in the registration portal... an absolute sh!t show.

I hate being the Debbie Downer, but this absolutely preventable poop-storm just pisses me off. Again, this year (and just about every year since about 2010), Origins Game Fair registration arrived with yet another server or code catastrophe (or both)... because you can't always anticipate the unexpected, right?

Monday, April 30, 2018

D&D 5e: A Slower Healing Variant

For many who have played D&D over multiple editions, especially those from the TSR days, the rate of healing and recovery in 5th Edition may seem a bit fast. PCs come into every fight feeling fresh and energetic, which is a bit counter to the old school play style.

I wanted to be a healing and death to be a little more gritty than standard 5th Edition. I also wanted falling unconscious to be more dangerous and the possibility of instant death more likely. My desire was to removes some of the pop-tart effect of constantly letting the fighters drop to 0 hit points only to spring back up 6 seconds later. The healers should be doing their jobs before the front line falls unconscious.

When considering the changes, I thought the 7-day long rest variant as outlined in the Dungeon Master's Guide was overdoing it. While want healing magic to become a more important resource to be managed, I did not wish to alter other long rest recharge powers. In that vein, I wrote up a slower healing variant for B/X-5, my own home brew homage to Old School D&D. I think this modification strikes a balance between seemingly fast default healing and  overly slow variants I've seen. Healing works essentially the same as in 5th Edition with some minor changes highlighted below.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Star Wars Wrasslin' Wroundup

This is a bit of a diversion from the regular blog, but I decided to just have a Star Wars conversation with two RPG luminaries... for no other reason than because I wanted to.

Join me, Marty "Raging Owlbear" Walser, Tom "Dungeon Bastard" Lommel, and Chris "King Torg" O'Neill (All Hail King Torg!) for a fireside chat minus the fire, about all kinds of Star Wars adjacent topics, from science fiction and fandom to prequels and sequels.

I want to thank Tom Lommel (@DungeonBastard) and Chris O'Neill (@AllHailKingTorg) for humoring me in this effort. The conversation was tangential, unruly, unexpectedly weird at times, and funny.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

D&D 5e: There's No School Like Old School

Artist: Bill Willingham
A recent post on Facebook got me thinking about Old School play again, and how Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition can be adapted to imitate the feel of older editions.

The gist of the post was that a DM had his players roll 3d6 in order to determine their character's ability scores and the now 5th level Rogue was concerned about his exceptionally low hit points (which they are also rolling for) due to a low Constitution and some bad die rolls.

Of course, there was a combination of "Your DM sucks!" and "This is old school... Suck it up and have fun with it." responses, which all somewhat miss the point because Session 0 should have set the expectations for that game...

But I digress... because that's not what this post is about. It's about B/X-5.

You see, a couple years back I had actually started to compile a list of rules for an 5th Edition compatible "old school" game based upon the D&D 5th Edition System Reference Document (SRD5). But, you know how life can sometimes get in the way of shit you want to do.

Anyway, after seeing this post, I took some of the pieces of my original idea and crafted a document for anyone who wants to try their own version of Old School 5th Edition. You can view the Google document here.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Episode 7: Humor, Mass Combat, Foreshadowing - Running Storm King's Thunder

In Episode 7 of Running Storm King's Thunder, I discuss humor at the table, the good and the bad, and what can be done if it is getting out of hand. Also, how to involve PCs in a mass combat (or run it "off screen"). Lastly, I talk a bit about my player's progress to Grud Haug and how it has given me some challenges in game.

(2:20) Humor vs. Disruptive Humor at the table
(4:00) Setting expectations with Session 0
(6:15) Talking to disruptive players about the tone
(8:00) Does the DM want a heavy tone and the players wants something lighter?
(12:00) Stop passive-aggressive bullying “humor” 
(16:35) Using DM humor to set a different tone for a scene
(16:55) Meta Humor in Storm King’s Thunder
(18:30) Heartbreak Old Tower
(21:00) Mass Combat options
(23:45) Building a PC encounter while running the mass combat “off stage”
(25:00) Focusing on the character actions in a “narrative” mass combat
(27:45) Setting up a set-piece encounter as a part of a mass battle
(31:10) Creating tension in a mass combat by ratcheting up the encounter challenge
(35:00) Using NPCs as a buffer against a TPK in a dangerous battle
(38:00) Foreshadowing important NPCs (redux)
(43:00) Player Motivation prior to the Eye
(43:45) Assault on Grudd Haug
(49:31) Giving the players “the objective”
(56:00) Sewer pieces I’m 3D printing for an upcoming session

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