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Tips For Gaming With Kids

Over the last 4 years I have looked into running games for my kids frequently. I have tried a few times and I have learned a bit about running games for young kids. The first rule to running games for kids is they just want to have fun. 

Knowing that all kids want to do is have fun you have to know a few other things about kids. So here are some questions to ask yourself about the kids you are going to play with.

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Gaming Conventions for 2019, and This Weeks Video Ideal # of Players

With Dungeons and Dragons being played in a Castle oversees I have loved seeing the short video clips and pictures of the festivities. There are so many great events going on out there. I really love that they are doing things like this.

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Making Combat Encounters More Than Filler

A lot of game masters when running games use combat encounters as filler between giving you story. I have played a lot of games where an encounter was used just to change the pace of the game and give the players something to do to pass the time. It can feel like being railroaded sometimes when this is the case too.

Most encounters should have a meaning or purpose. Do this to...

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Master the Game - A New Channel D&D Optimization

I have started working on a new YouTube channel called Master the Game. It is a channel all about optimization. If you are a player and want to know the most efficient ways to build a character type this channel will have you covered. This channel will also teach game masters/dungeon masters how to optimize encounters. We hope to fill a need in our community that isn't discussed much.

Players often are looking for

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Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Is Here To Stay

I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition since the play test. I've loved almost every aspect of the system and how they implemented new options. By doing the play testing in the Unearthed Arcana articles it is just wetting our appetites as fans of the game. Plus the fact they aren't releasing tons of books at an alarming rate it making it more digestible. The one concern I do have though is the open gaming license and DM's Guild seems to be over saturating the 3rd party market. Ultimately though Wizards of the Coast is doing things right.

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Problem Players Discussion

This past week has brought up the Power Gamer discussion again. Your Main Man Ander Wood from WoodWWAD on YouTube had messaged me a few months back after watching a video I did a few years ago which you can watch here. He followed up last week with a video of his own which you can watch here. Once he did that video many others began to debate whether or not power gamers were killing the hobby. I decided to weigh in once again with why I think people even bother debating this. Now this has all had me wondering more about the various types of problem players. 

Power Gamer - Many don't agree to the definition of what a power gamer is and I find that is why people don't always agree with Main Mans point that they are destroying the hobby. Everyone agrees that a disruptive player hurts the experience though. Power Gamers aren't to be confused with optimizers, min/maxers, or hack and slashers. Some view power games as people who try to optimize their character and some view it as more than just that. I used to think it was just someone who optimized. My idea of what a power game is has changed though. I personally think a power gamer is someone who tries to sneak a combination of abilities, powers, spells, or multi-classing by a game master and group of players.  By this definition since they are using a mechanical advantage at the expense of the group they are a power gamer and I think they are bad for the hobby. If you have a power gamer you need to speak to them and explain what you and the group are striving for. If the player just wants a strong character that is ok as long as they know they need to work within the style of game you the game master and the rest of the group are striving for. If they can't change their disruptive behavior it is time to let them go.

Loner Character - The player who is playing this character can be very disruptive. They force the game master to split their time between the one character and the rest of the group due to splitting the party frequently. RPGs are a group activity and if you are playing a character that doesn't fit this model then they probably are best not being played. If they can still work in the group though then they may be ok. I recommend avoiding the loner characters though. If you have a player like this talk to them and tell them it is ok to be that character but they need to find a way to work within the structure of the group. If they can't do that then they will need to make a new type of character to fit within the group.

Rules Lawyer - The rules lawyer can be very disruptive by cutting off other players or the game master. Whether they are wrong or right about the rules they can be really obnoxious. I know because I tend to do this sometimes as a player. I am working on fixing this! Anyways the rules lawyer may have good intentions. If you let them know your house rules up front and also if you establish when it is ok for them to say something this can help with this player type. Another thing you can do is have this player write down any rules you or the group got wrong on a piece of paper. At the end of the session they can give it to you and you can review the things before the following session. At the next session before starting go over these rules with page numbers for reference to help the whole group.

Thespian - The thespian can be a fun player but can also be very distracting at the table. A lot of times they can demand a lot of attention. They may also stifle a session with the dreaded phrase "that's not what my character would do." In a game where it is collaborative storytelling if the group is trying to do things but one player refuses to do what the other want to do it can ruin a game night. It can cause a lot of problems for other players who want to seek out a specific adventure or quest. Sometimes you may need to pull them aside and ask them to compromise at times for the benefit of the group. You can also ask this player to help you share the spotlight with some of the players who get less "screen time" than the rest.

Multitasker - This is the person always on their cell phone, drawing sketches, knitting, sculpting with clay, or generally doing other things. This can be distracting to them or other players even. Some people don't mind this as much as others. I find that if it slows down play or is ruining anyone elses time at the table then they need to be talked to and asked to stop. Ask this player to take notes on the session so you have a timeline of events for example.

Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
$27.51
By Wizards RPG Team

Spotlight Hog - This player wants all the glory whether in RPing with the NPCs or being the best in combat. This player can be all of the above problem player types or even none of them. They just require a lot of attention or they get bored. Give this player a job whether it is keeping track of events by taking notes much like the multitasker or something else.

Sometimes the problem isn't even that they are a bad player. It might be that everyone can't agree on a play style whether that is hack and slashing, investigations, or some other type of game. A majority of people for example don't want a hack and slash type of player in a Call of Cthulhu game. The type of player that is good for that type of game is someone who enjoys puzzles and investigations. There may be a time with the right group of players and game master though where a hack and slash player could play a fun game of CoC though. Point is though really think about what the problem is at your table before throwing around labels at people. Don't confuse combat as non RP and social interactions as RP. I have played in games with great combat RP and terrible social interaction RP. You can RP everything in a game. If you like to get past encounters with social interaction that is great but that doesn't mean the other players who enjoy combat don't like RP. If you find that your group has styles that clash talk to them to see if both sides can compromise at times for the better of the group.

These are just some of the types of problems/problem players and potential ways to handle them. Keep in mind at all times it is a group experience and if anyone at your table is making it less fun for others then they may need to be talked to. Try to think of ways to make them help the group though before talking to them so you have some constructive suggestions. I hope you found this article helpful. If you did you can help support this blog by purchasing something from my Amazon links on the side or by subscribing to my channel on YouTube. Would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

How Do You Handle Technology In Fantasy Games?

Here in America the past few weeks fireworks have been going off every night. If you live in heavily populated areas you probably haven't been getting a whole lot of sleep as the blasts go off into the middle of the night. Last night while trying to fall asleep between the firework blasts I was thinking about explosives and gun powder in my Dungeons and Dragons games.

Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding
$16.65
By Scott Hungerford, Jeff Grubb, Michael A. Stackpole, Chris Pramas, Keith Baker, Steven Winter, Jonathan Roberts, Monte Cook, David Cook, Janna Silverstein

I don't usually have gun powder in my games but why not? Is it too game breaking? Is it too powerful? I don't really think so but again why don't I have it in my games? This is something I am going to start having in my games only it will be extremely expensive to buy. Anything that can do as much damage as a gun or explosive should be expensive. In turn it really shouldn't be practical to use.

Gun powder should also be very rare. Whether it is a concoction only some know how to make or if it is a natural resource it should be hard to come by. If it wasn't hard to come by technology will advance really quickly with things like vehicles, or other things that come with combustion.

It's going to be hard to find any guns or know of people who know how to adequately design explosives. It would take a lot of trial and error to figure it out. Just experimenting would lead to deaths and disfigurement. Could make some interesting NPCs in your campaign though. The richest man in town could be missing his arm or hand and be a little wacky. You would have to be a little quirky to risk your life like this right?

These are all just thoughts for my own home brew campaign. If my players want to try and seek this stuff out they can. It isn't too powerful because guys can summon lightning bolts and fire out of their finger tips without consequence. It could add to some fun. Imagine Kobolds or Goblins evening the odds by hurling explosives at players. They could deal better damage and for some extra entertainment you can even have them blow themselves up to show how dangerous it can all be.

So don't be afraid to add some technology into your games. It could add some fun or even give you some interesting encounters when you are struggling to come up with a good idea for that session.


Free RPG Day 2015

Free RPG Day 2015 has passed us by. This year the store I pick my stuff up from was having a Magic the Gathering Tournament which meant that no RPG events were happening. They had the stuff laid out on the counter though for anyone to just come up and get what they want. I had taken my 4 year old daughter so she could get something and she chose the Pathfinder Card Game Cards, the Pencil, and Valiant. I picked up the Coin, Munchkin Bookmark, 13th Age At Lands Edge/Nights Black Agents The Harker Intrusion, Castles & Crusades Shadows of a Green Sky, Atlantis Second Edition, Fifth Edition Fantasy Into the Dragons Maw, Through the Breach Recruitment Drive, Dungeon Crawl Classics Judges Screen, Pathfinder Module We Be Goblins Free. 

13th Age RPG Core Book
By Lee; McConnell, Aaron; Heinsoo, Rob; Tweet, Jonathan Moyer

Last year I picked up just as much but ended up giving most of it away to people I thought would enjoy the things I had. There is a lot that people can try out for the first time and that is the beauty of Free RPG Day. I highly recommend people go out and pick up whatever they ca especially if they are new to RPGs or looking to try them sometime.

The thing I always do first when I get all of the free stuff is look through the products and cherry pick ideas for the games I am currently running. Then anything that stands out I will tend to use. If everything seems good like a full adventure then I may consider converting it over to the system I am currently favoring. This year that would be 5e. So Fantasy products are the go to for me.

This year the things that really stood out to me were the Goodman Games Fifth Edition Fantasy Into the Dragons Maw, Atlantis, and Castles & Crusades Shadows of a Green Sky. The Dungeon Crawl Classics Screen has some useful crit hit and fumble charts I like and I like the artwork too. The coin is really high quality as well.

Into the Dragons Maw is perfectly compatible with 5th Edition D&D. The adventure is solid, and has a really cool monster that I want to use pretty bad. They also have some new magic items in the back which are decent. I am planning how I can use this in one of my upcoming games. This would be something I would use in my family D&D game.

Atlantis is a really nice product that I have only skimmed over. The system seems interesting and actually looks like it may be pretty simple. If I gamed a lot more I would probably consider picking up the core book for this game even.

Castles & Crusades is a good game and there product last year gave me a lot of inspiration. This year I have skimmed through it but haven't felt too inspired yet. I am hoping once I read it I will get a lot of great ideas. 

All of the products are great and they are FREE! They lead to great chances to try new games and I am surprised more systems don't participate. For example Dungeons & Dragons could have taken their FREE PDF and made a print version for this event. Wouldn't that be great? I will wrap this up by saying next year don't miss out! Get out to your local game store and pick up the items they are giving away for free if you like RPGs.

Last Minute Prepping

Here it is Wednesday and I am supposed to run a game on Friday night. This post will be my thought process and my prep notes for Fridays session because I haven't prepped it yet. I have some ideas for what I would like to do though.

Step 1: Where did we leave off?

The players had just walked into the base of the Cult of the Dragon and witnessed a negotiation between the Necromancer (Leader of the Black Hand Army) and some Half-Dragons leading the Cult of the Dragon. The players found out that these two factions are 2 pillars of the 8 Pillars of Death. Once the players found this out they left by way of the Valley of Endless Caves. They fought a Manticore in one cave and two Owl Bears in another. They then camped as the Cult of the Dragon marched through the valley. The players seemed interested in exploring more caves though instead of chasing after the Cult of the Dragon.

Step 2: Where might the players go?

I think there are three strong options here. They may follow the Cult of the Dragon or as they began to talk about go to the Dwarven City to warn them and possibly get reinforcements. They might continue to explore the Valley of Endless Caves.

Step 3: Random encounters for each of the choices.

If the players stick around the caves I have some potential Orc raids as random encounters. If the players follow the cult I have some random wildlife encounters of either spiders, or wolves attacking. If they go up to the Dwarven City they will be ambushed by bandits.

Step 4: Prepping the different scenarios.

Scenario 1 - Exploring the Valley of Endless Caves

So for this I am going to keep it simple. I have some cave modules that I can plug in as any of the caves I want. I will use some of those to reduce the amount of prep needed here. I can also just pick monsters I would like to use and craft caves on the spot to reflect how those monsters may live adding in interesting terrain that can be used for or against the players. Stalagmites that could fall at random. Blood bugs (Stirges) are a favorite to use too.

The players will be expecting some interesting treasure by doing these so maybe I will throw them a bone. So far most treasure has been martial character heavy. So time to throw in some things for our magic users. Possible items Pearl of Power, Deck of Illusions, Wizards Staff, Magical Necklace (increases spell DCs), Bracers of Defense (Our Wizard and Sorcerer don't wear armor and everyone else is heavy armor wearing).

Scenario 2 - Following the Cult of the Dragon

If they follow the Cult of the Dragon they will lose the trail. Being a day behind will make it tough especially when the storm begins. The players will enter a swampy area with dark storm clouds constantly hovering overhead. The road they are on will have rune symbols that get brighter as they walk along it. If the players look off to the sides of the road in the distance they will see bright lights. Those are Will-O-Wisps and they won't approach the road due to the warding on the road but if the players go out and attack they will enclose on the players. Players would be smart to avoid them at all costs. Eventually traveling on the road the Wisps will disappear and the rune symbols will fade. The players will enter a really bad swamp though with Bullywugs which the players have fought before, but these ones worship the 3 Hags of the swamp.

Scenario 3 - Going to the Dwarven City

Doing this will lead to what I envision being a fun encounter with a Red Dragon. Yes, a Red Dragon! When the players arrive the gates will be opened and as they walk in the guards will freak out when they see the Large Red Dragon flying in about to douse them with flames. The players will join in to defend the city for a bit and eventually the Dragon will flee. During the battle or after the players will notice that a lot of the Dwarves Armor and Weapons look to be made of the highest quality imaginable. A DC15 check will uncover that it was forged with Dragons Fire. The players can investigate and hear rumors of a Red Dragon being held hostage deep under the city.

Those are the 3 things I have so far. There is still a lot of improv left but the ideas are down in writing now. There is still some flavor to add before the game on Friday but now I have a clear idea of what MIGHT happen. Would love to hear your feedback. Not bad for just writing this up in about 45 minutes.

So if you have any ideas to add to this or fun ways to make this even better feel free to toss me some of your ideas.

Tabletop RPG Tip For Players And DMs (Taking My Own Advice)

I have been into RPGs since 1997. When I first found my love for RPGs I didn't game very often and struggled for years to find a steady group. I tried play by post, play by chat, voice chat and webcam on Yahoo Messenger, and even in store games like D&D Encounters and Pathfinder Society. It was an endless struggle and one that made me appreciate what I have now. When I look back at the struggle it makes it even harder to say no to games today. Due to me having a hard time telling people no to games I think I get burnt out often.

Much like anything in life if you do something too much and stretch yourself too thin you can get burned out of it. It is important to take a break and recharge your batteries every now and then. This is something I am learning at this time in my life because I have never found it as easy to find a game as I do today. A year ago I was struggling to find people to game with even.

The debut of the Tabletop RPG One Shot Group led to a lot of online games happening. I've played in tons and tons of games. I believe as of January of this year I had played in about 30 online games in just a few months. The Provokers Campaign has led to a lot of people asking me to play in their games too. It is a lot to keep up with and I don't even play in a lot of online games compared to some of my friends.

In person I run two home campaigns (as I have said before), and I run D&D Encounters at GrandLan Gaming Center here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On any given night I have something going on that is gaming related or work related and it can be taxing. I have friends like Matt Click and others who have said they take breaks from gaming altogether for a couple weeks every now and then. I never thought I would want to but lately it seems like I should.

I took some time off from Encounters for Christmas but not from my home games or online games. I took time off from my home games, and Encounters when my son was born in March but not from online games. So I haven't really taken a break from gaming as a whole for any period of time since August of 2014. Gaming is a true passion of mine and I want to continue doing it for a long time but I have found myself at times just going through the motions in some games and that isn't fair to other people.

What are you saying Juce? I'm say that if I have one tip for anyone out there it is to take a break from gaming every once in awhile to give you that spark of energy and enthusiasm again. I am still excited about running and playing games but I want to give it the proper attention it deserves when I sit down to play or run a game. Plus taking time off from your hobbies is a great chance for you to focus on your family or career too.

Do you find yourself needing to take a break from RPGs every once in awhile? Maybe it is some other hobby that you need to take a break from? I would love to hear about it below. Leave a comment and if you like what you read today please share this blog post.

Also check out that sweet Skeleton Dragon Tankard! That would be awesome to have at the gaming table.

RPG Prep Road Block

I have been trying to prep for my Saturday home game of Dungeons and Dragons for awhile. I've had ideas but felt stumped which is a frequent problem in this campaign for some reason. Been analyzing why it seems so difficult for me and I can't quite put my finder on it. A lot of sessions I have had to improv because I couldn't come up with anything ahead of time I felt would be good. So tonight in a chat on G+ Hangouts that was posted by Chepe in the Tabletop RPG One Shot Group I asked people for feedback. Some of the potential reasons for my road block that were suggested were as follows...

  1. Maybe I haven't made my story personal enough to the characters.
  2. Maybe I give too much info at times.
  3. Maybe I should focus on the little things more.
  4. Maybe I should invest more into individual NPC's and let those interactions drive where the players take the story.

So I began to think about if my story has been personal enough for the characters. It clearly isn't. The story of the campaign is about a Long Forgotten God who has his body parts scattered around. There are rumors that he can be brought back to life. The players also know he may have suffered split personality disorder which also explains him being a Cleric and a Wizard. The players have stated it doesn't make sense that they would want to bring him back to life yet they have retrieved some of the body parts. There is a personal side quest I tried to get the players involved in but they didn't seem very interested in that either. Maybe this campaign is lacking that personal touch and I need to give them that.

If I am going to add some personal inspiration to the game there are many ways I can do this. Bring character family members into the mix. Get some background info from the players about their characters. Ask their characters in game why they adventure and what their characters life goals are.

Is it possible I info dump at times? Sure this is possible but I think the real problem with this is I can be quite vague or general about it. If I am going to info dump I should give them more info right? Give them the bits that will make it fun or interesting. Not just the info outright. Maybe make it a plot hook to go retrieve something.

I've played some great games that focused on the little things and I don't do this much in this game on purpose. Sometimes going on a quest to clear an area of bandits or goblins is just what the party needs. This can be a fun session and give some ok loot. It might not advance a story but it can lead to some fun interactions with an NPC as you build up a relationship between PCs and NPCs.

There is a great website by Johnn Four called Roleplaying Tips. You can go to the site and subscribe to his newsletter. Some of the things he recommends is always introducing a new NPC or two in a session as well as a plot hook or two a session. When he talks about the NPCs all NPCs should have a secret, and a descriptive trait. These NPCs should provide plot hooks for future games or the current one. NPCs can be the lifeblood of a campaign so focusing on them is a great way to get players invested in the story.

Some campaigns write themselves and prep is easy. Others for some reason or another seem more difficult. This group is awesome and I love my players. They are great people that I always look forward to getting together with so I want to provide the best experience possible for them. I want to thank Philip Posey of Maps & Dragons, Mike the Piper, and "Lumi Jo" Joseph Becker for helping me come up with some interesting ideas for my game Saturday.

Have you experienced RPG Prep Road Block? How did you overcome it? Where do you usually get caught up in prep? If you found this helpful be sure to leave a comment and share it with your RPG friends.

Why I Craft Terrain For D&D

I have had many people ask me why I craft terrain for Dungeons and Dragons games. This seems like a simple answer but there are so many reasons that I do it. The number one reason is I get personal enjoyment out of the act of crafting. The second reason is I get personal enjoyment out of seeing players reactions to the crafts. A third reason is it is relaxing actually crafting things. A fourth reason is that it can add some nice dynamics to a game that otherwise aren't there.

The personal enjoyment I get out of crafting is the best part for me. It is awesome being creative and getting ideas out there. When I begin a project I don't always know how it will come out. When I am finished though it is neat seeing what I could do. While I know I am not the best at crafting and am certainly not the most patient it is still pretty awesome seeing what I can do with some glue, cardboard, and paint.

The first time I slapped down some things I crafted on the table with my wife and my gaming group gave me a lot of motivation to do more. The first time I crafted anything it was for a 1 on 1 game with my wife. She had said before that she wasn't into miniatures or terrain but that game changed that. I incorporated a puzzle into the terrain too which she loved. The first time Nate from WASD20 (CLICK FOR HIS WEBSITE) saw my crafts he began to take photos of it all because he loved it. I love seeing their reactions to really cool things I have worked on.

Crafting can be very therapeutic. When I sit down to paint whether it is terrain or miniatures I feel at ease. It allows me to clear my head and not worry about anything else in my life. When I spend hours crafting the same thing happens. My focus goes to what I am making and the game I am going to run. It is the best way to escape reality I think. It is also a fantastic hobby that you can do with friends, children, spouses, or anyone really.

Painting Wargaming Figures
$23.43
By Javier Gomez Valero

My fourth reason and one of the better reasons is it allows players to visualize everything on the battle field. You don't have to worry about them not hearing your description of the boxes in the corner or the balcony they could swing off of because they can see it the whole time. This can help make for some really cinematic play if your players are adventurous like that. Plus changing up things like room shapes and sizes I feel has more impact in this scenario.

Those are just four of the reasons I enjoy crafting. I posed the question in the DMs Craft Facebook page and got some interesting answers like "chicks dig it" from my good friend DMG on YouTube. Go check out his amazing crafting channel. Also go join the DMs Craft Facebook page to see some excellent work by some of the best crafters I have ever seen.

If you want to see some of my crafts you can subscribe to me on YouTube as I post videos every now and then of things I have made. Hope you enjoyed this post.

The Buckler Shield in D&D5e

One of the things I have been thinking about ever since Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition came out was different types of shields. Due to standard shields being AC +2 it leaves a lot of room to use small shields like the buckler and also larger tower shields. Both of which I have come up with some ideas for how to implement them mechanically. This post is about the two common types of buckler shields.

The one handed buckler shield should be an AC +1. It also should be a shield you can use as a reaction if you aren't armed with it and using a single handed weapon. This will allow players to use long swords two handed and encourage it. Most players will still choose to use a greatsword or long sword and standard shield. 

Then there is the buckler shield that straps to the forearm or is part of the gauntlet. This one allows players to still use a greatsword, maul, spear, polearm, or any other two handed weapon. This one will be an AC +1 shield but it will also be a -1 to hit using two handed weapons. The reason for this is because without the -1 to hit everyone who uses a two handed weapon would want a buckler shield. With this rule I would even entertain the idea of a character having two of these for a AC +2 and a -2 to hit. 

I hope to start testing these out in future games ran in the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook. What do you think of these potential home brewed items or rules? Are they over powered? Do you think they are balanced enough? If you end up using them in your future games please share your results and opinions of them.

Here on my blog there will be more home brewed things like this so continue to check back for more.

Inspiration From Easter

***This is not a post about religion. ***

The story of Jesus is that he was sentenced to death on the cross and then rose from the dead 3 days later. This was to signify the forgiveness of our sins. Thinking about this has made me wonder how this could be used in an RPG today.

While thinking about this I was considering how I would implement this into an NPC for a fantasy RPG. They would need to be a polarizing figure with many very dedicated friends/followers. Maybe they are a Cleric or Priest but they could really be any class as long as they have many people who believe in their cause. 

A huge Government or Faction would need to oppose this cause. At first it shouldn't be much of an issue but as the NPC gains influence it should become more and more of a problem. Eventually this will need to blow up. The NPC will need to be caught and imprisoned or sentenced to death. 

Make the imprisonment or death sentence a huge event. This will get the importance of this NPC across in your game. His followers could try to help him escape but maybe this NPC refuses and thinks it is his destiny to carry this out.

After death he could ascend to being a diety in your campaign. Maybe he just comes back from the dead by resurrection spell which depending on your games could be a common occurrence. If it is common though this may not be as impactful as you would want. Personally I like the idea of this person becoming a diety.

Obviously you could change the story at any point however you want. The character could be battling for freeing slaves, or equal rights for a certain race for example. Maybe he wasn't sentenced to death and was murdered instead by an assassin. This story could be modified to be a really fun background story over a large campaign.

I would love to hear how you have used holidays or stories from the bible for inspiration in your Tabletop RPGs. Feel free to leave a comment in the comments below.

How Do Video Games, and Movies Inspire Your Tabletop RPGs?

Lately my wife and I watched season 4 of Game of Thrones, and I have been playing Dragon Age. I beat Dragon Age Origins, Dragon Age II, and am currently playing through Dragon Age Inquisition which has had me thinking a lot about my Tabletop RPGs. I told my gaming groups I was taking the month of March off from running any games due to my wife and I expecting our son on March 17th. Taking time off from running RPGs has given me time to play video games a little more than normal.

For me watching a Game of Thrones makes me want to give my players the type of emotional immersed feel that the show has made me feel. I have loved and hated characters only to find my opinion changing within a few episodes. That show is great! The different factions also inspire me to put some more though into my home brew world as well. A Kingdom that is allied with Dragons, Giants and Barbarians aligned, a fire Sorcerer aligned with a Lord. Then the political jockeying for position. So many ideas I have been looking to pick from this show and place in my world.

While I was playing through the Dragon Age series not only am I always thinking about adventures I could use from the game at my table. I also think about what I can cherry pick from the main themes to place into my home brew world. Mages vs Templars, Grey Wardens vs the Blight, and the Qunari in Kirkwall. The Qunari for me almost seem the most intriguing at the moment. The thought of creating a complete rip off of them for my world seems like such a fun idea. Taking the Qun and revamping it in a way that I could enjoy it more would be the way to go though. I think it would be simple enough to take the Dragonborn race, and swap out the breath weapon with a horn attack maybe? Placing them in a Desert would work I think.

The things I will be stealing from these things and other movies like Lord of the Rings, or the Hobbit I will not just pick it and place it exactly as it is in the movies, books, or tv shows. I will make it my own because I don't want my players to feel like they are in those worlds interacting with those characters. I want my players to think my world is amazing. If they notice a thing or two that is fine. Ultimately though I want them to feel like this is all fairly fresh ideas and themes.

Some of my favorite things to steal are magic items, and locations. When I steal a location I take inspiration from something I thought looked amazing. Then I change it up some. When I switch most things up I feel like I do a good enough job that nobody notices where I got my inspiration from so that is a plus.

Don't be afraid to steal things for your table from movies, shows, video games, or even other tabletop rpgs. It can help you with your prep, and make the games more enjoyable for you in the process. I always encourage new game masters to steal from as much as they can. When I am getting ideas from these different sources it rejuvenates me for my tabletop games.

Do You Use A DM Screen For Dungeons and Dragons?

Last night at Dungeons and Dragons Encounters I had a player bring the new Fifth Edition DM Screen which I was able to use. That thing is absolutely beautiful! Feels very durable and I felt as though it had some very useful information on it. Too many times a DM Screen is packed with information you will never use or beyond the 1st or 2nd time you won't ever use again. I loved the low profile of it allowing me to see over the screen.

Recently in video responses on YouTube many people have discussed their own thoughts on using DM Screens or not. I am surprised at how many people choose not to use any. For me I find them useful because I like to have all my miniatures hidden behind the screen especially the bigger encounters.

Having the screen also allows me to keep my notes and maps hidden from the players. Players eyes will wander down and look in a lot of cases which can ruin some surprises. One of the greatest things about this hobby is the randomness and surprises of the game. Isn't that why we use dice?

Speaking of dice I have seen a lot of people mention rolling in the open. When you roll dice in the open there is no denying that the players around the table begin to meta game. They will start figuring out the to hit bonus of the monster and things like that. I sometimes roll in the open and have noticed this happens all of the time. When I run D&D Encounters the players there seem to do it a lot more than my other groups. While that is fine I can't imagine as a player it would be fun knowing these things.

Speaking of the 5e screen the things I would have liked to see on it would be XP for Leveling. The CR/XP by offense and defense of monsters from the DMG. Also quick rules on how to make an encounter with modifiers based on # of enemies and such. This would have helped with being able to run the game on the fly but it is still a very good screen.

The highlights of the screen for me are the conditions because those will be used pretty frequently. I like the name generator, NPC generators, and random things on the far right section of the screen like random events.

If you run games primarily online there is no need to use a screen but if you run games in person I highly recommend it for the reasons above. I will be picking up my own 5e screen very soon because it is really well done I think. Even though I feel they could have added more to really make it great this screen is one I could see myself using for other games even. The system neutral things are the main reason for that.

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