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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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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.


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.

The Tower Shield in D&D5e

I don't think there is any reason to up the AC above 2. Armor class is very powerful in the scope of how Fifth Edition works. I felt that if I upped the AC it would make it a no brainer to use the tower shield over a standard shield for all builds. Giving up your action for a huge bonus to AC by way of 3/4 cover was the way to go in my opinion. This is a bit better than using the dodge action during combat. 

Movement being halved is because you have an extremely large shield that is hard to lug around a battlefield without it getting in the way. It is also pretty heavy. Losing half your movement isn't a major thing but it certainly can be inconvenient. While I don't think this will turn too many people off from using a tower shield there will be times in game that this could become a problem. For example a player involved in combat away from you may really need some help. If you can't get there it could mean death for that character.

If someone in your party has a reach weapon this is when the tower shield is at its best. If the pc with the tower shield gives up his action to use it for cover another player with reach can also benefit from the 3/4 cover as long as they are right behind that tower shield pc.

So overall I don't think this is too over powered but I also don't think it is too under powered. This is intended to give another option for a shield but not be the only option. Much like the buckler shield I wrote up I think that these could be fun options for people to use in their own games. Obviously anything I suggest on the blog like this you must run by your Dungeon Master first to see if they agree with how these can be used.

AC +2
Movement Halved
As an action can declare 3/4 cover
Party Members can stand directly behind you and use you for 3/4 cover as long as you give up your action as well

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.

D&D Princes of the Apocalypse or Temple of Elemental Evil Pre-Release Thoughts

Being someone who has never experienced the classic Temple of Elemental Evil this is something I am pretty interested in. Now I won't know much about any references to the classic and if there is any overlap it won't be a spoiler for me either which is nice. Due to word of mouth though I have heard the original ToEE is great and worth trying out. If this version lives up to my expectations by what I have heard it, will be fantastic and well worth the $49.95 retail.

When Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and Rise of Tiamat came out I will admit I was apprehensive about picking them up. I heard about typos, and some story issues with HotDQ but once I actually picked it up and thumbed through it my mind changed quickly. Since that time I have purchased it and have used it for ideas in some of my current games to great effect. It has helped provide me with some great moments in my campaigns. That is what I am expecting out of the Princes of the Apocalypse.

Princes of the Apocalypse is going to be set up for levels 1 - 15 and will have extra content for the online MMORPG which is free to play. That is also expected to be on XBox Live here soon. The book will include a new race, spells, and other great things to use with Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition. Personally the digital content for the MMO doesn't do much for me but if the book is going to provide as much in the way of ideas for my games that I expect then it will be worth every penny.

Princes of the Apocalypse (D&D Accessory)
$34.33
By Wizards RPG Team

Everyone who knows me realizes that I am full on 100% behind Wizards of the Coast and Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition. This edition of the game has really made me into a huge fan unlike any other edition of D&D. Never would I have thought that I would be so excited about a WotC game like I am about 5e. While they have had some mistakes here and there I do think that it would be hard for them to have done much better with this edition of the worlds greatest role-playing game in my opinion.

Now as I said above I am not sure what to expect from the Princes of the Apocalypse compared to Temple of Elemental Evil. I am open to hearing your thoughts on the old class Temple of Elemental Evil below but also your thoughts on the new Princes of the Apocalypse. Let me know by commenting here and when I pick this up I will be sure to share my thoughts about it.

Your FLGS is expected to be charging $49.95 for this book but you can help support my Blog, and YouTube Channel by purchasing the book through my Amazon Affiliation Link above. Purchasing this book for between $34.33 at the time of this post is as simple as clicking that link and ordering it. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Once I pick this up I will probably be running it through the Tabletop RPG One Shot Group on Facebook which can be found here

RPG Pet Peeve When Players Meta Skill Checks & Abilities

Red Dice Diaries does a video series called RPG Bugbears and I love that series. Those videos have been inspiration for a lot of videos I have done and now I am going to give my "Bug Bears" on my blog. I run a lot of games and one thing that comes up often is players not explaining what they are doing but they ask if they can make a (insert skill) check. I then ask them how are they using that skill. What are they hoping to figure out. The other thing they may do is request to use a certain ability that they know they have a higher score in because they don't want to be forced to use the lesser score.

Pound-O-Dice
$21.49
Chessex

You may be asking why would that bother you Juce? I think it bothers me because they are not thinking like their character. They are thinking by the numbers on a piece of paper. This may be a shock to some out there that know me but I do want my players to play in character. Yes I am ok with players optimizing their character and running whatever they want. When that guy is made though I want them to do things that they would normally do. Players shouldn't just play as though this is a game that they have to beat. This is a role-playing game and yes it should also have some tactics as well.

When players ask me that I always ask them to describe what they are trying to do and I will tell them when to roll a skill check. Sometimes I may not have them make a roll for it and will give them the information. Do players ask to do this because they want to just roll some dice? Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Off topic now but I adjusted some things with my Patreon account today so if you are interested in supporting my YouTube Channel, Website which hosts my Blog, Podcast, and Downloads please think about supporting me by becoming a Patron today.


Ways To Deal With Too Few Players

This morning I saw a post on Facebook in the Tabletop RPG One Shot group about a DM asking if he should make a GMPC for a group of 3 PCs currently. He expressed that he wanted to play too which was part of why he wanted to do a GMPC that would cover what they don't already have in the group. Personally I think 3 players is a good enough size to not tamper with things too much. I gave some suggestions on how to handle small groups of players that may work for them but wouldn't fix the want to play along side of his PCs. In this article I will offer some of the same tips for various potential solutions to small groups.

Remember as the GM/DM you get to play more than anyone else at the table. You control every single character in the world besides the PCs. You also control the setting, weather, and everything else! 

First it is important to figure out why players chose the races and classes they did in order to figure out the type of game they want to play in. The next step is to figure out if it is important that they satisfy the typical 4 classes Fighter, Healer, Rogue, and Magic User. For example if the group as a whole wants a low magic game you may not need the Magic User. Before starting the game talking to the players about any potential ideas can be pretty important.

Next up if you decide it is important to fill all of basic party rolls there are ways around that. Below is a list of ways to do that without forcing a GMPC with the group. Some of these can be used with others too. Not all solutions will work for everyone either.

  1. You can allow all of the players to dual class. Example at 1st level they may take Fighter/Cleric. So at 2nd level they would be 2nd level of each. This would give them a lot of power as a single PC but make it easier to cover various needs.
  2. You can let each player control 2 characters. This can be a lot for newer players but just make sure they know that they don't need to RP for both of them. The GM/DM can RP the ones the players don't want to in a lesser role.
  3. Let the players recruit NPCs at times if they choose to but at a high cost. This is one of the better ways because it also allows you to sometimes make it not feasible to recruit an NPC tagalong.
  4. Substitute items to make up for things. More potions of healing to make up for the cleric. Better weapons and armor to make up for lack of a fighter. Scrolls, and Wands plus the ability for everyone to cast magic from them can fix the need for a Magic User. Some creative thinking here can create ways to fill certain roles the party doesn't have.
  5. Max HP each time they level up.
  6. The DMG for D&D5e has some good solutions for short rests and long rests to adjust the feel of your game. A lot of these can make it easier for small groups to handle things. For example adjusting short rest to 5 minutes and a long rest of 1 hour.
  7. Healing of any type from potions, short rests, or spells always do max healing.

There are many ways to cover things the party is lacking. In my opinion the worst way is adding a GMPC because it is easy to step on peoples toes that way. Players want to feel like the heroes as they can blame a GM/DM for stealing the glory when they are also the ones running the game and presenting the situations in the first place.

1 or 2 PC's are usually where you would want to use some of these alternate ways to help them without taking away their spotlight. 3 to 5 players is just the right amount of players and shouldn't need too much adjusting but occasionally you may want to try the items or other means to help your games.

If you think of any other potential solutions please let me know of them in the comments below. Hope you find some of these helpful for your games. Some of these may be useful in your groups that do cover the basics.

Thanks,

2014 Wraps Up and 2015 Begins!

2014 has been an amazing year. When this year began I never would have thought it would end the way it has. When the year started my family was in a transition phase. We had moved to the other side of the state and were staying in my wifes parents basement until we found our house. It took a little longer than expected but in the end we found a home and are very happy here.

When it comes to gaming much like the year before I made a game transition. At the start of 2014 I was getting into Pathfinder pretty heavily. Struggled for a long time to find a group to play Pathfinder but when I did the new D&D5e had come out. So I switched over to Fifth Edition and it was awesome! I couldn't be happier with where I stand on the games I enjoy. Don't think I will ever run Pathfinder again but may someday play it again. Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons is my favorite game right now and for the foreseeable future.

Currently I run two campaigns of D&D5e. I also run D&D Encounters at a local gaming store. This has given me a lot of experience in a very short time. One thing I have learned is the importance of campaign notes because trying to keep track of things happening across multiple games at the very same time is difficult. I had to drop out of a Savage Worlds Campaign due to how busy I am with work and not being able to plan far enough in advance for gaming sessions. It was unfortunate because they were awesome people. Maybe down the line I will get back to being able to play with them.

The YouTube channel had a little over 130 subscribers and I set the bar high I felt at 500 subscribers by the end of 2014. Little did I know that I would hit that goal in November and I'd hit about 750 subscribers. It is funny because it reminds me of a class I took this year where they ask you what your goals are but then make you cross it out and double it. So I would probably say my goal is 2,000 for 2015 but if I cross it out and double it you know what that makes it. No matter how many subscribers I get over there though I will always try to reply to as many comments as possible.

Content is still key with YouTube and there is a lot I want to do in 2015. Crafting is something I want to get back to. Haven't done any crafting in a few months now. It is something I enjoy doing and I think people like to watch it. I would say Flip Through Fridays but I don't buy enough books to keep up with that every week. My D&D Basics Series has been on hold for a few weeks but I plan on bringing that back until I finish it and move on to a more advanced D&D series. One of the things I enjoyed doing early on with my channel is discussing ideas for campaigns and stuff so I want to do that again. Also World Building and fleshing out my current world is on my list. The video ideas I have are many and looking forward to doing them.

When it comes to this website, blog, and podcast it is still new to me. The positive reaction it has received has been great. We have had some guest blog posts that people liked too. I want to bring you new posts at least every other day on average. I'd also like to get more downloads up on the website with monsters, characters to use, tables, and more. The podcast is going to be bi-weekly but every now and then it may be once a month. We don't have an actual release schedule for it. We are always interested in your questions, or show requests though.

The Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook began around August and already has hit 750 members. That is amazing! Right now there are 17 games scheduled in the next two weeks to be played because of the group. Again that is fantastic! When we started the group I never expected this type of success with it. I still plan on running games for mainly new members when milestones are hit. For instance when we hit 1,000 members I will run another D&D5e game.

Some things I would really like to do in 2015 is get more people making videos, playing games, and interacting with others. The Live Chats I have hosted on G+ Hangouts have led to some great friendships and helped me learn a lot as well. If I make half as many friends as I did in 2014 it will be a good year. The friends I made this year are people that I think will be life long friends. There are so many awesome people out there and I want to say thank you to all of them for their support this whole time.

As you can see there is a lot of great things going on heading into 2015 and we here are  planning for a huge year. Growing the hobby is something I have always been passionate about and I feel like I made some progress towards that in 2014. 

Your DM Feels Worn Out? Then He Is Inspired Again!

Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
$29.95
By Wizards RPG Team

This sort of describes how I was feeling this past week. I was a little worn out and wanted a break from running and playing Tabletop RPG's. You see I run a game at home, a game for my wifes family that changes locations, D&D Encounters, and one shots online every once in awhile. Seems like getting burned out would happen frequently for me but it doesn't.

This past week at Encounters I was really not feeling it. Had one player who kept dropping being the only guy to rush into combat as a Barbarian. Seeing his frustration and the fact I was tired I know I brought the energy level of the group down. Hate feeling guilty about it but it is the reality of it. I didn't bring my "A game" this week. It didn't help that I was feeling under the weather. Luckily I have two weeks off from this and I plan on returning better than ever. 

A couple weeks before this I ran the game for family and was feeling worn out then too. That group sometimes makes me stress out a little due to their arguing over treasure, tactics, and one player who blatantly rushes in usually. Not sure how to gauge their interest level either. Feels like 1 of the players doesn't really care about the game and is only playing to hang out with the group. Another player gets really stressed out if they get hit and if anyone is low on HP. To me it is just a game and shouldn't be something that causes stress at all. Should be fun for everyone and it shouldn't at times feel like a chore. This group has gotten better with each session and I really hope it continues to get better. Just not sure if I could handle it falling back into the constant bickering and drama at the table.

Then there is the group I ran for last night which always comes out to my house to play. It consists of my friend Nate (WASD20 on YouTube), Dustin and his fiance Nicole, my wife, and we welcomes a new player last night Steven. Going into the session I was a little nervous about bringing a new player into the group. This is normal for me because you never know how it will throw off the balance of the group. Will they be a disruptive player? Will they be an awesome player? Well he came over and was very open to talking to and getting to know everyone. He handled himself well. There were times when I think he wasn't sure how I handled something but he went with it. Also coming from Pathfinder to 5e there were some questions that he had which is to be expected.

So playing with my at home group last night truly rejuvenated me! Got me excited to run games again. The new guy fit in well I think and the rest of the group has been getting along great for some time now. On top of that the players brought the game back into focus for me without me having to push them on the rails and that is a good thing because I try not to railroad anything. Going into the session I was worried my hooks were weak (they are to be honest) but now I feel like the campaign has its vision again. The players look to go after the big plot hook in the next session with the Temple of Elementals and I couldn't be happier right now.

What is this blog truly about? I think it is about the fact that when you have a good group of players they can breathe life into your gaming when you feel worn out. Good groups in general can make for good gaming. That energy will carry on to other games and sometimes can pick those games up as well. So go out and find a good group for you!

Busiest Time of Year!

It is the busiest time of the year for a lot of people right now. For me I am busy preparing for the new year in my career. Then with the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook, this website, YouTube channel, this blog, podcast, and potential merchandise for all of this on top of that I can say this is the busiest I think I have ever been! It is fantastic though. So many things for me to feel optimistic about.

The Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook is over 600 members now! I know of people who have played/ran in over 20 games since its inception back in September. That is amazing to me! There has been a lot of Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition played but surprisingly the next most popular system has been Palladium Books with Rifts, Ninjas and Superspies, and Heroes Unlimited being played more than any other games. One thing I can say is that we always need more people willing to run games. Really looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings for this group.

With the launch of my website I relocated my blog from Wordpress to here. This was a really effective move because I am getting more views than I ever did over there. I enjoy posting blog posts more than I did before as well. I probably enjoy it more because I have much more interaction here since moving it. If people have learned from my YouTube Channel and this Blog I love interacting with people. Hearing others opinions and sometimes opposing views is interesting to me.

Then there is the Podcast which will be recorded later on tonight actually. I will be editing a couple things into it before posting so that should be up this week sometime. Been looking forward to doing this and couldn't be more excited about it. Andrew aka sr2joker will be my co-host which is awesome! He is an awesome guy with an excellent YouTube channel. The guy is very smart and brings a lot to the table. I trust that you will enjoy our Podcast that we will try to bring you monthly and possibly twice a month at times.

The podcast will talk about the games we currently are running or playing as well as anything else that has us excited. Right now we both are playing a lot of D&D5e and Palladium Books too. Most of our discussions will probably be about 5e in the near future but I am sure we will cover a lot more.

Planning on getting some stuff up in the store for the YouTube Channel, Tabletop RPG One Shot group, the Podcast, and so much more. If you have any suggestions feel free to let us know. 

As you can see there is a lot going on around here. All of it good! 2015 looks like it will be a crazy year from the start but that is a good thing. I love being busy and hope you will all be coming along for the ride. Again if you have any suggestions feel free to contact me with them.

Tools for Getting People Invested (Guest Post)

There is a question that burns in the minds of many gamers: How do you get so and so to role-play? Many times GMs and players alike resort to instructing someone as if with a child, bribing them with mechanical incentives, or just plain forcing role-playing situations on to a person they are just not comfortable with.

As someone who among their favorite hobbies have included improvisation and a lot of freer forms of role-playing without systems....

As someone who has been in the spot of no gamer friends and have had to introduce several people to role-playing who of all kinds: strangers,  friends, online, and offline....

As someone who has heard all the excuses of “It seems weird”, “I am not good at it”, or “That seems too nerdy”...

I want to say to you who are using social pressure. STOP!  You don’t need to these kinds of things. It is a person’s own choice if they want to role-play or be immersed into what is going on. It is a player’s or GM’s choice to be invested in a narrative, scene, or world. You need to do things that respect that person’s choice. It boggles my mind how GMs reward role-play with mechanical power and then are surprised when newer players get the idea mechanical power takes precedence. So many of these tactics of extra experience or ganging up on the person in a conversation is at worst hobby-destroying and at best belligerent. There are other ways.

There are things you can do to turn a player from being someone who eats out of your hand into someone of with their own sensibilities and proactive reasons to want to be involved. Why not have players who want, by choice, to work with everyone for the good of the experience? Why not have a GM that is equally invested in the characters as the players are? No matter what role it is, the trick is to help the person find their own reason for role-playing and their own reason for wanting the welfare of the session.  So here it is...

7 Subtle Ways to Help Someone be Invested in the Story

1.       Leave Blanks to Fill. Players and GM’s alike do have one thing in common: they will be engaged by what they helped create. Depending on what people are used to, this can seem counter to your habits. Letting a person decide a fact about the plot, the setting, or any given character is not as bad or as difficult as it sounds. They save the Tavern, so why not let them name it? The person has a previous relationship with your character’s relative, why not let them make that NPC’s appearance and personality?

Doing this does require you to trust the players. If that bothers you, I would advise gaming with people you do actually trust, since it is unhealthy not to. Regardless, you can test the waters of with a person by just letting them name something. Depending on how they respond, you know whether or not they can be a cool contributor to that part of the game. It’s simple; but one of the quickest ways to build attachment to a world is having done something to it and named something in it.

2.       Make things open to interpretation. Not every single aspect of a world or plot needs to be fully explained. If an event happens and there isn’t an immediate explanation, then there is a sense of curiosity to draw on. What eyes are looming in the dark? Was that a real conversation or a guise to mislead us? People will be motivated to by their own needed to fill in the canon. On top of that, letting others interpret an action or thing will allow you to know what assumptions their making about  the plot, characters, or setting. This will often times tell you more about what was actually communicated than they say was communicated.

3.       Play off assumptions. Once you know someone is thinking a certain a way about a situation, you can make a story out of it. Someone thinks its a trap when its not? Why not, mess with their heads and let them wander off into interesting territory? Someone interprets a character to be different than their cannon? Why not let that misunderstanding factor in the role-playing of their conversations? If you know what a person assumes, then you know what they will do. Knowing what a person will do opens up opportunities to create interesting situations. They will be invested by confronting the reality that this story, world, or character really isn’t what they thought. They were responded to.

4.       Give simple, meaningful choices. You can give someone an input that matters and break it down to 2 or 3 options. A person who is shy can be brought by asking if you should go left or right on a path. Giving choice means they’ve determined the path that is being tread upon. It was their choice and it has consequences attached to it. People are invested in things they have a choice in.

5.       Reward with Climax, not power. People have tried a “carrot-and-stick” method of manipulating GMs and Players alike. This can work but it doesn’t mean a person is interested in the world. The behavior x is a reward to y bonus to my character. That’s not what you want the table to think. The trail of bread crumbs will not work on every person and many can see through it.

The key is to reward people with their interests. What parts of the story do they want? Airship Mechanics? Flashy Moves? Large Combat? Long Slugfests? Words of grandeur? Interesting Environments? Whatever it is, let the getting to know the characters of the world and each other be the means by which they get that Climax they enjoy. Why not have a Bartender also be the organizer of a fighting ring that he can hookup things with? Why not tie in negotiation with allies into the massive combat strategy to have elements for everyone? There are plenty of ways for people of different intent to have middle ground. It turns into a positive feedback loop. The more involved everyone is, the more they get what interests them; consequently the more they are getting what interests them narratively, the more involved they are.

6.       Let them describe. A simple way to reward a really good roll is to acknowledge they succeeded and say to them, “How do you do it?” They describe their finishing blow, their massive revelation, their clever plot, their roaring speech when they choose as they choose. They have a window of agency and spotlight to properly get to display their character, plot, or setting as they wish.

7.       “In World” or “In Character” Jokes. People like to laugh and its one of the easier emotions to invoke in another. Turning an in character mishap into a slapstick mess involving the other player can lead them to realize the world has an emotion attached to it. Bring the GM’s NPC in on a gag. Make funny voices or lines within character rather than pop culture references outside of dialogue. Save the references for the what a person is doing in character and use them as simalies: “He failed his role and weeped in a deep voice like that Girl Scout from Dodgeball.” Laughing with a character attaches an emotion to them and people will be more engaged by what have an emotional value of.

There is obviously more to it than a list of simple tricks. There isn’t a one size fits all solution to get someone interested. But I can say from experience, that these ways help others at the table to get invested. Consider them tools to use rather than solutions to a problem.

As with anything this amateur writes, I hope this helps.

FaunTrodden

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When Did Gaming Become About The System?

Recently had a discussion with a guy who was citing the "rules as written" or RAW as people refer to it these days. Now luckily this kid isn't one of my players at my table but he was showing signs of a stage 3 rules lawyer. This got me thinking when did the power leave the hands of a dungeon master and become all about what is written in a book? Why can't people function if something isn't spelled out clearly in the book for them?

I have a tendency to point rules out for people running games if they seem to be unsure of something. It has got a group calling me a rules lawyer before but I am ultimately ok with whatever the person running the game says. I do have an issue when players at the table cite the incorrect ruling as how a book is written but I think they knew that. It was clearly a joke because now they have me running our campaign of Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition. So what is it about people that they feel it is ok to argue with a person running the game?

Then I was speaking to my friend sr2joker about this mentality and it made me think when did players begin doing this? Is it a new concept? I've heard people blame 3.0/3.5 for putting so many rules into the game that are clearly spelled out. Is that when people became so tied to the books and what they say? Please let me know your thoughts on this?

Almost every day I see people consulting forums with questions that could easily be ruled on in game and also that are clearly written in the books. Then everyone fights over who is going to answer the question to show who is the all knowing. I have offered to help people on forums and quickly had those people jump all over it and tell me I didn't know what I was talking about unless I cited all page numbers that say it. That happened today and then finally someone cited a specific thing because my mentioning of the book saying it is up to the DM for other things not mentioned. I even ran the debate by other people and they all thought that even though the book didn't spell things out specifically that it should be up to the DM.

Sorry that this blog post sort of became me complaining but I do truly want these questions answered because I don't understand the mentality. There are a lot of great things in the gaming community but this isn't good for it. We are lucky to have amazing people in the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook because nobody acts like this from my experience. Hope we can continue to spread the joy that actual gaming does. Seems like the more people talk about games and don't play them the more drama takes place.

Thanks,

What Is The Tabletop RPG One Shot Group On Facebook?

The Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook is hands down the best place to go in order to find games to play in online. Within hours of posting what you are looking to run or play you will probably have a full group. This group has only been around a few months and is near the 500 member mark. The group could hit 600 members by the end of the year and as more people grow comfortable running online games it will only continue to grow.

Right now there are more than 8 games scheduled to be played in the near future. Some people have campaigns running because of the Tabletop RPG One Shot group. I have ran two Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition games so far. I've played in at least three Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition games,  Call of Cthulhu d20, Ninjas and Superspies, and a Heroes Unlimited game.

I am scheduled to run a Heroes Unlimited game and may run some D&D games soon. I am supposed to play in in a Heroes Unlimited game coming up soon as well. Really hoping someone runs Mutants and Masterminds soon because that is a game I have been curious about for awhile. The Dragon Age game might be fun to try out in the near future and I hear that someone may run it soon.

The amount of friends I have made from the group has been amazing! Everyone there has been great and there hasn't been any drama. Everyone is on the same page about being there to play games and just have some fun. Never before have I been part of a community that was so nice and appreciative of each other.

Looking forward to seeing how the group grows and the types of games that get ran there. Don't be afraid to try and play or run a niche game because there are a lot of people who always want to try something new. The group formed out of people wanting to try new games. You can play the same game over and over again or try that game on your shelf that your home group refuses to play. That is the true beauty of the One Shot Group. It is there for everyone and their interests!

Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Dungeon Master Guide PREVIEW Downtime

Wizards of the Coast supplied this preview of the Other Downtime page in the new DMG set to release on December 9, 2014.

Wizards of the Coast supplied this preview of the Other Downtime page in the new DMG set to release on December 9, 2014.

Wizards of the Coast has been giving us previews of the books before released and this time they gave us a preview of the Dungeon Master Guide with an excerpt of Downtime Activities. It is only one page but on it you can get a glimpse into building a stronghold, carousing, and the intro to crafting a magic item.

The first thing covered under Other Downtime Activities is Building a Stronghold. Personally I have never had an opportunity in a game to build a stronghold or even have players that chose to build a stronghold. It has always been interesting to me as a DM because it would open up all new types of sessions. Some of the things you can buy are extremely expensive and I am not sure how the players would come up with all of that money. Either way I am glad this was included and I am looking forward to one day either doing this as a player or having a player do this in one of my games.

Then there is the Carousing section which is actually quite favorable it seems. You have a 60% chance of making a profit from the random table. The premise behind the carousing section is your player partakes in parties, gambling, and/or heavy drinking. Once again though this section offers the DM good seeds for campaigns. Not sure if anyone in my current campaigns would be willing to try out a carousing type of character. Still though this is pretty good.

What would a Dungeon Master Guide be without Crafting a Magic Item rules? We only get a short glimpse into the intro but it does remind everyone that it is up to the DM what is and isn’t allowed. Players will need to get approval for their crafting of magic items. That is how it should be though. One problem I have always had with magic items is if everyone can craft them then they become common. What fun is it if magic items are common? Personally not a fan of magic items on every corner. It makes them not magical for me. Still glad they give us these rules even if I won’t be using these and will only let a player use them sparingly.

There you have it the Dungeon Master Guide Downtime excerpt covered in my personal opinion. Really excited to get this book. Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition is shaping up to be my favorite game to run and play. As someone who runs the game frequently this is a must have for me. If you run a lot of D&D5e then you should consider picking it up too. Remember on Amazon you can get it for a huge discount at $30 so click the Amazon link and order yours today.

Running a One Shot Tips

As the creator of the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook people have come to me about how to run a proper One Shot. Well first of all there is no correct way to have fun. If the One Shot is fun then you did it right. A One Shot is not much different than a normal night of gaming. With a One Shot though you do want to try and give the players a little bit of everything for the game. Let the players do a little RP, Roll some Dice, and test out the various mechanics for the game. The last thing I recommend trying to do is give the players a conclusion at the end.

Let the players RP. Personally at the start of a session I try to let the players feel each other out and RP together. This usually gets at least one of them to step up and lead the path I have noticed. Then the other players tend to follow the lead when it comes to RP and get more comfortable. If you sense that nobody is stepping up and RPing then move the show along. You just might have a group that isn't as RP heavy as another group might be.

Let the players roll some dice. Give the players some random checks or dice rolls related to the game and system. Sometimes the thing to help players come out of their shell is having them roll dice. In some instances it can refocus a player that isn't paying much attention. It can wake the group up and make them start thinking more. Making it related to the system gives the players some insight into how the mechanics work for the game being played too.

Give the players a conclusion. This one I try to do because leaving a cliff hanger on a One Shot can be agonizing for some. In the Tabletop RPG One Shot group many games have led to campaigns because they didn't have a conclusion. This isn't a bad thing at all but if your goal is to run a One Shot then I suggest giving the group a satisfying conclusion.

Hope you enjoyed these tips for running a One Shot. If you are interested in running or playing in a Tabletop RPG One Shot head on over to the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook and join today. Once you join, there are over 400 members willing to play and run almost anything. Great group of guys over there.