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Showing posts from May, 2011

Why I'm Afraid of Game Masters

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In my 19-odd years playing RPGs, about 90-95% of that time has been as a DM/GM. For me, getting to run a character is a treat because the world on the opposite side of the screen is so strange and mysterious. In fact, I find the relationship between the two roles so strange that I don't know how more games don't break down into fistfights.

As a GM, I often joke about killing player characters and how I'm going to screw them over and make their lives miserable. But it's just that - a joke. I don't remember the last time I actually killed a player character, let alone achieved the feather in my cap of a TPK (Probably because I've been playing a lot of 4E. It's much harder to kill characters in 4E), so I never imagined they would take my threats seriously. But you know what? Actually running a character is scary shit.

A buddy of mine recently started a Battlestar Galactica game. He's only GMed a few times, so he's pretty excited and so far he…

ROBOTECH on Netflix (and Memories of the RPG)

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I wrote awhile back that I believed Star Wars by West End Games was the best RPG ever. While I really do believe that, it's not necessarily my favourite game. My favourite game (well one of my favourites) is actually one of the worst-made games ever, because it uses the Palladium rules system.

Of course, I'm talking about ROBOTECH, which to my pleasant surprise is now available on Netflix! Though all 85 episodes are listed on the program, only the original Macross story arc is currently available to view (at least here in Canada). That's okay, it is the best part anyway, though I haven't seen the other parts in a long time and wouldn't mind checking them out again.

I have loved ROBOTECH since I was 5 years old. I may like it even more than Star Wars. The original series, even though it had cheesy dialogue and was poorly edited, is still a brilliant example of sci-fi storytelling, and its way of showing how the characters develop and grow over time is, in my l…

How to Write A Bad Climax to Your Adventure

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I've written a few RPG adventures in my day. I don't claim to be good at it, but if nothing else I've learned what doesn't work. Sometimes, I would probably have been better off just writing the damn thing based on the lyrics of random songs, since it can't be much worse than some of the shit I'm about to share with you.

From my experience, here are five things that just do not work to end your adventure:

1 - Too many threats/villains/monsters

I don't mean like fighting against a hoard of zombies. Fighting a hoard of zombies is cool. What sucks is fighting the boss, his two bodyguards, his pet hellhound, his wizard adviser, his ninja daughter and a half-dozen thugs. This complaint is directed primarily at D&D 4E: Just because the XP Pool says this encounter should work, doesn't mean that it will. Adding more baddies does not make an encounter more epic, it just makes it longer. There are already so many special abilities, effects, auras, etc. fo…

Learning from the Enemy

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I've heard it said that the MMO is the single greatest threat to pen-and-paper roleplaying. In all frankness, I find this a little hard to believe, having played a fair number of online RPGs, but then I'm no industry analyst and you can't deny the sway that 12+ Million (Capital M!) gamers and their monthly revenue have over even the big leaguers like Wizards of the Coast and Paizo.

So I guess it isn't entirely unreasonable to call MMOs an "enemy" of traditional RPGs, but then it wouldn't be entirely accurate either. After all, MMOs and traditional roleplaying games are clearly two separate beasts. If you don't believe that, try playing both in one day. There's little comparison mechanically, socially, and, for me at least, they each fulfill a different gaming need.

But, is there anything we can take away from MMOs and bring to our own table? I think there are at least two key things that we can incorporate more into pen-and-paper gaming.

Instant G…

The 5 Most Despicable Things Ever Done by Player Characters

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Player characters in RPGs are generally supposed to be heroes. Many games and game masters insist their players only choose "good" alignments to enforce this assumption. However, despite everyone's best intentions, whether through accident, greed or sheer boredom, players and their characters often end up doing horrible, horrible things. I mean, in D&D alone, the "heroes" make their living by robbing graves, murdering intelligent creatures and stealing their life's savings. And that's when they're on their best behaviour.

I'm not here to preach about the morality in gaming (that's a post for another day). Today I just want to share some despicable, shouldn't-be-funny-but-they-kinda-are stories about nasty shit I've seen players pull off in the name of a "game." Without further ado...

The 5 Most Despicable Things Ever Done by Player Characters

5.In a post-apocalyptic zombie game (Dead Reign), the players were being ho…

Three of Swords

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I will preface this Saturday Sorcery by saying that I am of the old school mindset when it comes to magic weapons. I feel a magic weapon should be reasonably unique, reasonably powerful, and possibly dangerous to the wielder. They should be strange, wondrous, and have some kind of backstory.

I dislike the sort of throwaway magic items that proliferate in D&D these days. It turns a powerful arcane force into a trinket to be sold when not in use. There is little to no personal attachment to a specific weapon or set of armor, no lofty ideal of contributing to the legend crafted by a enscorcelled blade, no sign that these supposedly powerful artifacts are anything other than flashy glitz you might find in a local department store.


In here, somewhere, are seven +1 swords, eight Wands of Levitation, and a dozen Boots of Fleetness.

So when I create magic items, I try to imbue them with a sense of purpose and history, perhaps even a seed for a plot or two. What follows are three different ma…

How I Put Crazy In My Game (Sanity Levels for d6 Horror)

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Friday night I ran my players through our first "D6 Horror" game. To my surprise, they all survived, though they came out with some physical scars and with their grasp of sanity somewhat shaken (I imagine it's how people feel after a night out with Ke$ha).

For D6 Horror, I used the D6 Adventure rules as a base, with one major change: I added a Sanity-level score, in addition to the Wound-level score. Yes, this idea was "borrowed" from Call of Cthulhu, but I only did it out of love. It's flattery, really.
Cthulhu is so happy and friendly, it's hard not to love him.

Sanity levels work much like Wound levels. For Wounds, when you take physical damage, you roll your Strength/Physique score to resist it. Depending on how many points of damage remain after the resistance roll, you suffer increasing levels of Wound damage. For Sanity, I've given each creature or horrifying experience a "Horror" level, rated approximately 2D to 4D. The charac…