Episode 146 – The New In Town Tale

We welcome Beka Black to our podcast to bring an artists perspective to our show. In interviewing her we find out about her deep history with Star Wars, her ability with art, and the way she jumped in with both feet to being a Game Master. Also, there is talk of Twi’lek lekku. Continue reading “Episode 146 – The New In Town Tale”

Confession of a Newb GM: Heroism at the Table

When we sit down at the table we tell tales of daring do larger than we think we could normally accomplish. I saw a tweet the other day that makes me wonder how we can encourage heroics at our tables. This brings me to musing about what makes a hero. Why are characters that would normally be the epitome of heroics be so hard to play in practice? Continue reading “Confession of a Newb GM: Heroism at the Table”

Eyes Up – Starting to the Side of Things

Something weird happened with the last Eyes Up, people asked questions and commented. Here’s one that I knew would take me longer than a 5 minute response to have the answer be any sort of use.

Continue reading “Eyes Up – Starting to the Side of Things”

Confessions of a Newb GM: When the NPCs Aren’t There

In the last article we looked at the basics of why an NPC is in a scene. Today we’re looking at where an encounter is taking place. I know I’ve covered it, @Brometheus has covered it, and @theangrydm has covered this before. Here I’m going to be looking at it a little differently. What happens when an NPC isn’t in the room, but you still need to get information across to the players. Continue reading “Confessions of a Newb GM: When the NPCs Aren’t There”

Confessions of a Newb GM: Making NPCs That Care

Getting a group together and sitting down to play can be fairly nerve wracking for a GM. Building the world that people are living in is a weird sort of skill to expand. I see the expectation time and again in many RPG products, GMs are expected to be able to go create something and make it wonderful for players off the top of their head. Continue reading “Confessions of a Newb GM: Making NPCs That Care”

Confessions of a Newb GM: Disinterested Interest

Player Engagement is a precious thing. If you lose a player to an outside distraction it takes quite a while for that player to come back and be fully engaged. When players are bored they show it in a multitude of ways, from glancing at their phone, to planning out their next level, to looking up arcane uses of their current skill sets. The ability to be distracted gets heightened online when you have a browser in front of you, it’s so easy to slip over to twitter, to a chat room if you’re on Twitch or any number of other things the giant calculator can do. Continue reading “Confessions of a Newb GM: Disinterested Interest”

Confessions of a Newb GM: Through the Dark Glass

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.

Character Creation:

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.

Character Name:

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.

Slug:

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.

Examples:   Han1, Bothan3, itswhomnotwhat, or Fettissarlacfood

Tags:

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 Council or 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

Quick Description:

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.

Description:

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.

Biography:

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.

 Note:

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.

Confessions of a Newb GM: Learning From Mistakes

Finding the right way to go back:

I have had the Lepskin Sector bouncing around in my head for a while. The creation of it sprouted from my offline Star Wars: Saga Edition campaign. The crew was a little down on their luck, the rebellion was disappointed in them, and they needed a place to go to recover their good name and their confidence. I came up with a sector of 25 named planets, I have no idea how the names came about, and a big McGuffin, a deep space manufacturing facility.

Based on my past experience with this group I had expected it to go with a bit of investigation and branch out into a sneaking assault on the facility causing it to either explode or for the group to pull a ‘Red October’ and steal it. The party had a history of stealing ships and repurposing the captured ships as their own so I was betting heavily on them going straight for the facility and taking it over leaving time for me to develop a plot. This bet backfired to the dismay of everyone.

I had it in my head that I could wing it completely, my problem was I didn’t have a series of goals for the players.

I didn’t give hints leading to the bread crumbs to take them to the next piece of the plot because I hadn’t thought through what the meta-plot should be. My players, being players, upturned my plans and decided they wanted to go on a tour of the sector and try to start a business. Due to the lack of planning I wasn’t able to herd them in a direction closer to a plot and from there it turned into Star Wars Tycoon.

Since that time I have played in games outside of my little group as well as coming to realize that there are some good people out there in these forums and a few other places. By absorbing as much as I can, from how to plot out books, adventures, and TV, I’ve learned how to make something more cohesive than just “I have a great idea” and have started to put it into action.

I am now approaching the Lepskin Sector in a dramatically changed fashion now that I’m going back. I really like the idea of an open sector where almost anything the players do has an effect and creates ripples. The problem I had with my first implementation was that I was using the sector as the campaign, not as the backdrop. This blinded me to what the players were doing and the failings of what I wasn’t doing. The campaign setting can be a very living and cool thing, but it isn’t the campaign; the campaign is the adventures that go towards the goal and I had lost sight of this. My plan for the first campaign in the Lepskin Rising saga is to blow up, or steal, the same deep space facility. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on the characters and archetypes chosen by the players.

Actual entry into the campaign is always dependent on the players; they need to choose what type of group they are and how they react to each other. A great method of doing it is the introductory session which, for this campaign, will be an explanation of how they get in the sector and to the secret rebel base that’s ‘cleverly’ hidden. After this, it shifts to one of two methods, if there is enough interest I’ll do a prologue event in the style of Executive Decision, otherwise, I have several bread crumbs already worked into the cast of rebel characters that will provide the first adventure inside the sector. From this beginning I can create incremental adventures leading to the harrowing resolution.

It’s this focus on incremental adventures and planning that is different for me. Before, I had a large plan and thought that it would hold out over many sessions, and that my players would want to follow with me to the end, because obviously I thought it was awesome so they would as well. On reflection I have found the grand idea was exciting, but the session to session was boring. Session to session is where game groups live, if it is boring from time to time it’s okay but consistently boring will kill a group.

Having a one or two part adventure that solves a portion of the puzzle without having a true idea of the final picture is a much better idea than having the picture of the puzzle and not realizing five pieces are missing.