Confessions of a Newb GM: The Forever Fight

A few weeks ago I was in a Dungeons and Dragons 4E combat that lasted an epicly long time. The sad part, in retrospect, is that it will not be remembered by anyone who fought in it. The reason being is that nothing substantial happened. Let me repeat this, after an 8 hour fight nothing of value happened, no useful loot was to be had, we didn’t go up a level, no characters came close to being killed (one did get reduced to below zero health one slot in the turn order before being healed). Continue reading “Confessions of a Newb GM: The Forever Fight”

Episode 95 -The Menacing Villain Tale

We start with an impossibly powerful villain and try to figure out interesting fashions to make them feel menacing without having them feel staged or forced.
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Confessions of a Newb GM: Played to Death

As a GM, am I out to kill my players?

In a way I am, but it’s more complicated then a yes.

Every role playing game I have played has opportunities for players to die. In campaigns, I have had very few of my characters die since I’m normally very conservative in how I play. When I’m in one-shot adventures I’m not expecting to play the character more, so I try to play to the archetype of the character and choose characters that are different from my normal support styles. Continue reading “Confessions of a Newb GM: Played to Death”

Episode 94 – The Bar Brawl Tale

David and Ben talk about how you can get a brawl happening in a bar without your players going murder happy.

From how to split a scene into two encounters to why it’s okay to do so we dive deep into brawling in public.

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Confessions of a Newb GM: Calmly Adventuring

An RPG is about people telling a communal story and having fun while doing it. If all that people do is get together to get in fights and kill things there is Warmachine or that other, more expensive, one. Players and GMs get the fun of a common goal that they work towards, the players slowly chipping away, up and down action, the GMs frantically trying to spin a story from whatever cliché they can think up in that moment. The putty to fill in the gaps between expectations and what is delivered comes from everyone buying into the premise of having fun together doing the same thing. This is the same reason why people get together to do various sports with friends, play board games, play cards, watch movies, or even just to have a few drinks together.

The difference with RPGs is that while there is a game, there are also roles to play; I mean it is right there on the book jacket. During setup everyone gets their role, depending on their desired outlooks for the game: the face, the muscle, the tinkerer, the sneaker, the mob of other people. This make up requires communication. If you’re playing a random Lord of the Rings derivative RPG and your players all have fighters, as the GM you shouldn’t spend time with a with a rogue based sneaky portion to save the party from a massive fight. Everyone ends up feeling frustrated at not being able to use their fun abilities.

To help facilitate group creation the GM can give an elevator pitch for what type of adventure is going to be happening. Even a list of a few movies or books you’re going to riff on is a good idea. A blank page can lead to anything, one person wanting to do cowboy horror and the next to create a werewolf teen basketball star, guidance is needed. Everyone sitting down at the table needs to say what their intentions are for their character.

The Long Campaign

As has been said before a miss-matched group of characters leads to inevitable headaches. I normally want to talk over with the players ahead of time what sort of campaign we all want. I may have my own ideas for the campaign, but I may be spurred on by a cool idea that a player has.

Party creation can be done in its own session and usually it helps with setting expectations for everyone. If it’s with old friends it allows for a nice relaxing time, if it’s with new people you can size everyone up and the emergence of a table leader starts to happen. This isn’t throwing away a session. You’re gathering ideas and honing them into a larger notion of where you’re going with it. It allows for the players to decide what they’re taking and to make sure that any particularly visible holes can be dealt with.

The holes matter in a long campaign, especially if you as the GM want to play around in one of the areas that the players are weak in.

Party balance is a weird beast depending on the RPG system you’re in. If you’re in a more narrative system where people are able to do pretty much anything and it’s the story that matters it isn’t as crucial. With narrative games it does still matter when considering the “odd one out.”

When I was in the playtest of @Fiddlebacks Mask of Ordo (a great module, I cannot recommend it more) we had two to three combat orientated people and a sneaker, the GM tried to let the sneaker get ahead and do stealthy things, but the rest of us didn’t let him because it wasn’t in our character’s natures.

If you’re in one of the d20 alum games it matters an amazing amount. If you are chronically without a healer that means slower going due to natural healing, no one to control the enemies for more than a round, and your damage dealers are having to evade without dealing damage. Not enough damage dealers and the fights take too long and people get bored.

One Quick Shot

One shot adventures are a completely different beast, whether it’s at a convention or wanting to try out something new. These don’t always require a balanced party, as @wood-jasond rightly points out, but it depends on what people are trying to do with it. You need to be aware of the experience you want and what you’re trying to accomplish. Is it a convention game with a bunch of hardened players for the system? Are you doing pregen characters? Can that adventure be used to welcome new people to it? Do you really want to do that one and only time you GM a zombie adventure now?

Making sure you know what you want out of the adventure allows you to give the players an idea of what is coming up and how it will affect them. Knowledge of the adventure paths allows you to also decide if player party balance matters to you or if it’s more advantageous to have a completely tilted play group. Can three fighters and a mage slay that dragon or does it need to have the rogue and cleric as well?

Adventuring Together

I’ve gone through my two types of adventure thinking here for both campaigns and one shots. I hope it helps with figuring out how much you want to know about the party before starting to plan an adventure. Planning ahead is wonderful for a campaign, but a series of independent adventures that focuses on each player can  allow for greater enjoyment.

Episode 93 – The Tale of Fear

We talk of fear checks and how some really dislike them, bringing a full top to bottom examination while giving a few ideas on how to make them much more awesome than a pit trap.

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Episode 92 – The Herding Players Tale

This week Joshua asks David and Ben why his players are floundering after giving them an open sandbox to work with.

Discussion erupts around ways to move the story along and ways of presenting story that players care about.

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