Blog

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.

One On One, Solo, and Duet RPG Adventures and Campaigns

For many people it is very difficult to find a group that some would deem a full party of adventurers to play Tabletop RPGs. When I got into gaming this was the case for me. I struggled to find people to play Heroes Unlimited which for me this was the game that I loved when I was 12 and loved up until recently. My first RPG group was 2 players and a GM. When the GM moved it made it near impossible to game because we had it in our mind you needed multiple players to play the game properly. If we only knew about the possibility of playing with 1 player and a GM our RPG experience would have been drastically different.

The 1 player and 1 GM format I have seen called different things. I have seen it called 1 on 1, solo, and duet campaigns. What the actual correct terminology is I am not quite sure. What I do know is that this is a great way to run and play games for those of us who may struggle to find groups to play with. Some people use these types of games to help players catch up after mission a session. Some people use these types of games to teach a new player how the game is played. Either way it is a great way to game and can provide a vastly different experience than you may be used to.

A few years ago I attempted to run a Heroes Unlimited game like this for my wife. Our first session was a lot of fun. She played a Mega Hero that we rolled a lot of the stuff randomly. That character ended up being very similar to Thor which was pretty interesting. The idea of those first few sessions was that she had no idea how things worked on Earth. She broke an elevator door and beat 2 guys into a coma when they tried to kidnap her. Unfortunately the campaign didn't last very long because we ended up moving.

We tried again to do another duet campaign using Pathfinder when I was really getting into that system. The idea was that my wife would make and control a few characters. Her party was an Aasimar Sorcerer and an Oread Barbarian. We played a couple games and this was fun but we wanted enough players for a full party. This game died off but only because once again real life stepped in and we moved again.

Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
$36.03
By Wizards RPG Team

There are many ways to play a game with one player. Maybe that player controls only a single character or they control a whole party of characters similar to how they would play a video game like Baldur's Gate. Maybe they handle all of the groups social interactions with NPCs or maybe they only control their single characters social interactions while the DM controls all of the other members of the group in social environments similar to Dragon Age for example. In the latter example the players choices could lead to some members of the party leaving the group. No matter how you choose to play this can be an extremely fun way to game.

This style of play is one I wish I was able to try sometime. I would love to play both as just a single character without a party and also a campaign where I play as a single character but in combat I can control a whole party. If I had a DM who was good at improvising I think this could be one of the most enjoyable ways for me to play a game.

On YouTube there are at least 2 channels that cover this style of game. Matt Click's afistfulofdice on YouTube and has recently started running games on his channel for his fiance. He is also my DM for the Provokers campaign and is a very good DM. Andrew Armstrong known as DawnforgedCast has a couple games in this style on his channel. One is with his wife, and the other is with one of his viewers. To see how these games can be played go and check those channels out. If you are interested in running or playing a game in this style feel free to join the Tabletop RPG One Shot Group and seek it out.


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.

Can Gamers Change?

I have seen people say on Facebook, Blogs, Google +, and in their YouTube Videos that if you have a problem player just kick them out of your game because once a problem player always a problem player. I never wanted to believe it but until recently was starting to think this may be true. Then something happened this past weekend that could not have made me more happy. Before I go into that though let me say that the people I am going to mention here are great people and I enjoy hanging out with them. Also if you read the whole post you will see that gamers can change!

When we began gaming as a group together it was 2nd edition and I was a player in the game. 3 of the 5 players felt we needed the core roles magic user, healer, tank, and rogue but we had a ranger, 2 fighers, a druid, and a cleric. We lacked in the eyes of most the players a magic user, and a rogue. We managed to hire a rogue to come along with us which made most of us happy but the other fighter, and cleric really felt we needed someone to cast spells. Now if you know me well I am adamant that you don't need a balanced party in any game. Also the players were very cautious about a lot of things. I would leave sessions sometimes and see the DM frustrated but he rewarded slow and cautious behavior and penalized anyone rushing head first into things. Me for instance playing a fighter would get tired of the discussion about who should open the chest or the door so I would just do it. This campaign went on for awhile and after about 8 sessions or so we quit playing because the DM was tired of it.

Then Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons came out and I was talking about it. This managed to get the group interested in trying to play again. I told them I wanted to run the game but apparently the player who was the ranger wanted to run Second Edition D&D for us. Luckily they remembered I said a year before that I really wanted to run the game.

We came together to create characters and the amount of questions the players had who had never played anything besides Second Edition in the last 25 years was amazing. I did my best to answer all of the questions in a clear and concise way that they would understand. When we were done only 1 of the 5 players had a finished character. I told them I would meet with them individually because I could tell the amount of questions others had about their class was confusing others. It was much easier when I was able to do it one on one with them.

The 1st session had some difficulties with the former DM rushing into combat constantly. He did the same in our 2nd session. The 2nd session actually had some very uncomfortable moments between him and his wife which was the cleric. He yelled at her saying it was her job to keep him healed up so he could be on the front line constantly.

Our 3rd session was a bit better but the players still struggled with knowing their spells, weapon damage, how to use skills, and other things along those lines. This session though was the start of the improvement I wanted to see though and gave me a little bit of hope for this group. They still didn't understand short rests and how they effect them.

I had my apprehension going into this session on Saturday night because we hadn't played since Thanksgiving weekend. When we arrived to play though some of the players who had just got the 5e PHB for Christmas were asking me some questions about short rests and things like that. The comprehension of the rules were quite a bit better and I took a moment to answer any further questions before we began playing.

The game ran really smooth finally for this group. Players were getting along and not arguing about tactics. The fighter wasn't rushing into everything head first. In fact the only thing I will say that was sort of a problem was the wizard (former ranger in 2e campaign) didn't know any of his spells and would wait until his turn to look them up. There was a point where he was wrong on his magic missile damage and I corrected him by telling him each blast did 1d4+1 damage. He said oh then last round I did 4 more damage. I said "no, I am not going to retcon that." He came back with something to which I said "know your spells."

The cleric was my biggest worry because she felt this huge sense of urgency to heal people when they were getting hit instead of playing her character. She felt that it was her duty to be a combat medic first and foremost. This past session though she used some of her offensive spells and wasn't trying to run around healing people the whole time. It was nice to see her actually having a good time too.

The game ended with the players coming up with a good way to divide treasure. They had debated how to split treasure for 2 sessions so this was a big thing. The way everyone played was so much better this time that I was very happy. For the first time in this campaign I am extremely excited for our next game. Hoping they continue to get better.

The lesson of the story is sometimes you just need to talk things out which I had been doing with them between games. It may take some people to come around but when they do it will feel like your greatest victory. In the coming months I will keep you posted on if things continue to get better like I expect.

If you like this blog post please consider checking out our Patreon or our other social media sites.

 

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,

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.

House Rules for Dungeons and Dragons

Lately with the release of the new Dungeon Master's Guide it seems like the talk of house rules has come up a lot more. Personally I do try to run my games by the book but some games are more fun with some minor changes here and there. For instance Lloyd of the Tabletop RPG One Shot group on Facebook began asking about initiative the other day. This has started a whole conversation about this and how other games handle it. 5e even has some variant rules for it in the DMG.

Some things I have thought about house ruling personally are critical hits and critical fails. We have talked about creating our own tables for our games to help with this in future games. If I do this you better believe I will have them up for download here on the website too. What sort of things would be on this? Well I would probably have things like max damage is dealt on a critical hit. Other things might be disadvantage for that enemy in the next round. Obviously this is using 5e's system too. Then critical fails could be things like slipping and hurting self. Could also break your weapon on a critical fail.

Some other common things to house rule are things like downtime activities. Personally I will always allow my players to learn more skills if that is how they choose to spend their downtime. I am also only going to allow multi-classing based on backstories before a game, and downtime studies.

I try to make it possible for my players to make the concept they want. If I have to bend some rules for that then so be it sometimes. If I feel like the concept is just for power gaming reasons and them taking advantage of how flexible I am though I will not allow it. Sometimes I just won't allow things based on principle alone.

There are a lot of things that can be house ruled to make a game more fun. So with this blog post I would love to hear more about your thoughts on house rules. Leave a comment below please.

Best Part About Online Gaming

Back a few months ago I decided to try and do a live chat on YouTube which led to some fantastic times talking to other gamers I had never met before. There was one chat that will go down as a life changer though. It is the one that founded the Tabletop RPG One Shot group. In that chat the forefathers of the group were FaunTrodden (Chepe), AJ Pickett, Sr2joker, Robert Ogre, Tenjou Mitchell (Grubbs), and Frank Frey. Since that day I feel privileged to call these guys friends.

On that night I never would have thought we would have came up with a group concept which now 500 people are enjoying on a daily basis. Games like Splicers, D&D5e, Cthulhutech, Heroes Unlimited, Stalker, and so many more are being played there. We still need more people running games but that will come in time I think as people get more comfortable.

Onto the best part about online gaming. Since that night I have been able to play in numerous games with these guys (and more) and I think it has only brought us closer. Every time you play in a good game with people there is a bond or connection made it seems. You have stories of these great memories that you created as a group and nobody can take that away. Isn't that what makes gaming in person so great? Really there is very little difference in my opinion between the two.

If you are interested in making YouTube videos gaming with people online leads to a lot of good video ideas as well for your channel. If you have a blog you can come up with great content for that. The positive vibes around the RPG One Shot group are fantastic and it makes me so proud to be part of such a fantastic community.

So go out and jump into a game or run a game when you can. Personally I am running a D&D5e game next Thursday for the One Shot group. Decided to bring in mostly newer members that haven't played yet. Then invited my friend sr2joker to play in it and help the others along. Should be a really fun game. Then in January I am starting a Heroes Unlimited campaign which is all because of the One Shot group as well. That game is full but should be a fun watch on YouTube for the masses.

If you feel a little nervous or apprehensive about  running or playing in a game online it is ok. We have all been there at some point but once you do it you will begin to wonder why you ever had any doubts about it. Then you will wish you got into this much sooner. It is fun and you make great friends. What more could you ask for?