We talk about the wonders you can find in the background of a scene. From the rolling conveyor belts of a factory to the people in a bar the extras you bring to the scene in description will be paid back in fun for your whole table. Continue reading “Episode 137 – The Active Set Tale”
I came across an article about the Yucca Mountain waste facility and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) when the warning labels that they are trying to put in place for radioactive waste jumped out at me. This could be the label sitting over the enclosed domain of a lich or a warning for a great evil. It’s started to make me very interested in these ideas of how to best keep people out of an abandoned, and dangerous, facility. This is a very realistic but grim view of how people design these facilities.
Here’s something I’ve been dealing with lately that keeps jumping to the front of my mind. How can I deal with a published adventure that has significant problems with it but has a single diamond in the rough that will drive some great sessions?
GMs have to strike a weird balance in ongoing campaigns. Don’t do too much preparation; so that when players go off the blazed trail you aren’t starting the nights campfire with your notes. But, also have enough structure so they aren’t just spinning on the log flume again and again going nowhere. All while having a little bit of fun while doing it. Many people look to random tables to solve the preparation issue to avoid burning out from creative fatigue. The problem with that is many of the encounters I’ve seen using encounter tables have been horrible; worse than just throwing a dart at the index. There is little life to the encounter and the GM doesn’t understand how the monsters are to be utilized in the scene.
You need direction at the table. If you’re reading this I’ll assume you aren’t trying to flesh out your Imperial Assault or Descent games just for that little extra bit of story. I mention this because the standard villain of the week approach is boring. It’s boring on TV and it’s boring on the table. A campaign has structure. A campaign needs structure, even if it’s loose, otherwise you and the players will spin your wheels after a while and people will drift away.
Never talk to me about adventures, because if you are trying to it’ll be a book in length and I’m going to be bored, or it’s going to be a about something that isn’t all that long but I’ll be wondering where the rest of it is because I’m expecting the whole novel. Adventure is a meaningless term that could be anything from going and building a snowman to throwing some jewelry into a volcano, or even following the adventures of a Naboo ship-repair droid as he goes through the galaxy orchestrating the overthrow of an evil empire.
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”
While listening to potelbat Ep. 18 I was introduced to Obsidian Portal, I looked at it and thought, “This is kind of cool to use as a repository for all things campaign related.” Working with Obsidian Portal proved both easier and harder than I expected.
I created my one free campaign to see how things would work out from the GMs side of campaign creation and to see how quickly I could break it. I’m glad that the programmers linked to a textile help page so I could start muddling with how I can get tables and different things to display properly.
Dealing with Obsidian Portal is a bit of a bear, especially for the uninitiated. I’m going to give a few examples of what I do for player characters, NPCs, and general wiki entries. I’ll also show a basic layout that allows for quick reading while getting across as much info as possible.
Today’s article is going over the basics of the character wiki pages. In the next article I am going over how Slugs are used, how links are created and modified, and how tables can be used to simply create a quick character sheet without CSS.
The first two things that are needed are what you’d need on paper. Generally I’m copying off of scratch pad or filled character sheet anyway. Obsidian Portal provides a Description and a Bio; both are useful though I’ve mentally separated them into crunch with leading flavor text in the Description, leaving all of the fluff that you and the player want.
Since this is about the character sheets specifically, I’ll touch on a few of the entries that come up only on character pages. For all examples I’m going to be using Draeks from the Lepskin Council.
What it says on the tin. This is what the character is called and what will be displayed at the top of their page. This also will become the slug seed if a slug isn’t chosen.
The slug is the most important thing you can adjust. This is how everyone for this campaign links back to the character. Preferably this is something simple such as first name, last name, nick name, or generic description. It is important to keep it short and unique since other people will use it and can use it when not mentioning a character by name, such as Gands.
Han1, Bothan3, itswhomnotwhat, or Fettissarlacfood
This is the way to order your characters and wiki entries. This works just like the ones on The Mad Adventurers Society, click on them and you get taken to a page with all of the things tagged with this. Usually this is done at creation, but anyone who has access to the page can add tags. Again, this calls for brevity in what is put in. I can put in
Lepskin Council as a tag, but
The Council would be preferable, unless there is more than one Council. Normally I toss in everything I can come up with, for Draeks I put in tags to show his links and where he can be found. It’s not crucial, but it doesn’t take long and it’s quite recommended to do at the time of character creation since it is so easy to forget.
Examples for Draeks:
Bothan, Council, Commander, Rebel, and Catiwhinn
This section is a small description that everyone who is browsing the character section will see. Leaving this description blank is an option, but one that should be exercised rarely since it just becomes a list of names without anything for context. Even short three word phrases work and can be enough to spark some imagination for what the character is.
This section has two uses. One is a description of how the character is and acts and should be short, manageable paragraphs to keep from painting people into corners when thinking about the character. The description is also for putting ‘the crunch’.
The crunch is the hardest part to do since all it contains is numbers and simple descriptions’; making it readable is near painful. Obsidian portal is putting together a series of Dynamic Style Sheets that use Cascading Style Sheets and information skimmed from the description section. Sadly the one for Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion is nonfunctional and ends up overwriting existing information in spots.
For this I have thrown together a table that looks okay and is fairly serviceable for putting things in an organized fashion.
This is where the fluff goes, even if you don’t put anything in this section the vestigial section still shows up for everyone. Character history blurbs are great but a new character or NPC doesn’t need a long one since the character is at the start and everything before should be more boring than what is about to happen, or the character is about to die. A slowly growing journal adding a paragraph or two after each session or adventure is a good idea and gives a bit of history to an established character, this also allows for people to remember what happened a year ago in a fast moving campaign.
The Check Boxes:
Check those that apply. Having people constantly e-mailing updates to other members or their GM can quickly lead to either ignoring notifications from Obsidian Portal all together, or cause the one receiving the notifications to take a negative view of the one causing them.
At the time of writing this I don’t know CSS and haven’t played around with it much beyond fixing other peoples pages. It is something I hope to get good at since it seems to be easily learn-able.
We talk about The Force Awakens and how you can take several of the lessons from it and put it at your table. From how to deal with a Big Bad to how to move time along in a believable fashion.
Organizations are fun to come up with, so we came up with 9 new ones, each with a different bend.
David takes criminals, Joshua goes all forcey force, and Ben is doing odd military applications.
We interview Sam Stewart, RPG Manager for Fantasy Flight Games, about the Force and Destiny Core book.
We talk about how the specializations were designed and how to use Inquisitors and high level Nemesis characters in your game.
We saw the Rogue One preview. It was amazing. Then we started talking about running a campaign like that and asked ourselves how we would do it. One thing leads to another and suddenly we’re discussing how to make a decent war based campaign that doesn’t feel like an Edge of the Empire campaign.
We were lucky to get in contact with Andrew Fischer (@Etheral_Fish) of FFG games to talk about Stay on Target. What follows is a decent first discussion of how the book came to be and of how an FFG developer was able to get into such an interesting position.
We talk about how and why to use published adventures.
Then we expand from there to how to make them more useful to your game. Continue reading “Episode 10 – Making Adventures Usable”