Ten Links in the Chain: Gaming (7-DEC-2012)

Yes, I’m a bit behind on these. My apologies. Unfortunately the stomach flu knocked everybody at my house out for a few days. Thankfully, we have all rebounded nicely. 🙂

That said, it’s time for some new links don’t you think?!

Because I’m a few days behind, these ten “links” are overflowing so we’ll see how far we get!

(1) ‘Tis the Season for Giving

Ho ho ho everybody! If you’ve been looking for some gift ideas for the gamers in your life, a few sites have put together some solid suggestions… Dave Banks @ GeekDad (Wired) put together a great list that includes some games like Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Command from WotCThe Midgard Campaign Setting from Open Design, Rory’s Story Cubes (always useful if you get in a bind for plot ideas), the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, and more. If Santa Gamer dropped a few of those goodies off at my house, I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Or if you’re looking for 4th edition D&D ideas, Mike Shea @ Sly Flourish has a great buyer’s guide that offers plenty of suggestions for people just starting with 4e. The “Red Box” (D&D Starter Set) is a great place to start, but where do you go from there? Maps, books, minis, and more of course!

(2) Recruit the Next Generation!

Most of us have at one time or another done battle with finding players for our various games. And many of us have started training the next generation (i.e. our kids) to not only play with us but play long after we’re gone, hopefully passing the passion for the hobby on to their next generation and so on. It’s a great way to keep our hobby alive and vibrant while also ensuring we get some quality time with our children.

Along those lines, the great folks at DriveThruRPG have once again launched “Teach Your Kids to Game Week.” Not only do you get folks all around the interwebz talking about getting kids involved, but there are many cool deals at DTRPG on games and supplements for kids of all ages.

Matt Forbeck @ GeekDad (Wired) kicked things off on a positive note with a short overview… Ryan Carlson (also @ GeekDad) then offers a six step process for running a great introductory RPG session for kids. Simple steps that quickly get to the heart of the matter – making sure the setting is appropriate, the rules are simple, you tell a good story, and allow the players to “win” the day. (These are but two of the MANY articles floating around the internet and I’m hoping that the DTRPG folks will post a collection of them all soon!)

I’ll add one more tip to the mix and suggest that you keep the group size small (5 or less) so that everybody stays involved from the beginning as much as possible. Having run a game with kids and adults recently with 8 players, I can say from experience that it’s easy to get lost when you have that many players and kids will lose focus quickly. 🙂

Ultimately, I think that the goal of getting our kids involved should really be a year-round event as much as possible. 🙂

(3) Giving Thanks and the Perspective offered by Aging…

I know Thanksgiving is over, but I was happy to see folks all over the web offering thanks to gaming. The folks at Dungeon Mastering wrote several articles on the subject, but I think Darkwarren put a finger on a big one – the camaraderie. I have played with many groups over the years, but that bond between players at the table has been amazing when things go right.

On the other side of the equation, Zachary Houghton @ RPG Blog II has returned to the gaming fold after some time away and gained some perspective during his absence. Ultimately I think the more things change, the more they stay they same. That seems to be his conclusion as well.

Even with the playtest of D&D Next, 4e still in play, and Pathfinder causing some folks heated discussions over “which edition is best” – ultimately it’s all D&D. Sure, there are a ton of changes since the 1970s, but they’re all D&D at the core. I’m having nearly as much fun today as I had when I started playing in 1982, so I don’t care for the edition wars at all and will have fun no matter what.

If we’re having fun, it can’t be all
bad. 🙂 (Although the whole concept of the edition wars is still probably going to rage on long after D&D Next is out if you read Louis Clark’s article @ Heromeblog despite multiple rounds of playtesting. Is there anything we can do to stop it?)

(4) Rules, Rules, and More Rules

Speaking of rules discussions… There have been quite a few of late.

Frothsof @ Frothsof 4e has been working on how to integrate classic “Stronghold” rules into 4e for a bit… You can never have enough minions hirelings and henchmen, right? Well, he’s listed out some of the problems with adding Retainer rules and hasn’t solved them yet… Anyone have any ideas to share?

You know that good old initiative system some folks have been trying to drop out of some games these days? I don’t get that. And Dennis N. Santana @ Spirits of Eden pointed out three very good reasons to keep it around – including the fact that it’s easier to play online when you have order; order keeps things organized; and planning is easier with organization. Now why are people trying to get rid of initiative again?

d6ideas @ Teutonic Blogging on the other hand raises some good points about leaving wiggle room in the rules for modding an RPG a bit. Do we really want perfect, elegant, closed-loop rules? Honestly I go both ways on this one… For some games with a limited scope, I love the elegance. For others, with broad rules that cover a wide array of situations, I like having the room for interpretation or modification.

(5) GMing Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry?

Sometimes life gets in the way of gaming. As a GM, if you’ve been running a campaign or been playing with the same group for a long time it can be tough to deal with the fallout when someone leaves. Vanir @ Critical Hits is dealing with that now, wrapping up a campaign and figuring out how to move forward. Though it’s a part of gaming (even as kids, people would sometimes move away), it’s never easy. Have any of you dealt with this recently and used virtual gaming (or Google+) to keep them in the group?

But even when things don’t change in a gaming group, sometimes you have to say “No” to a player’s request even if you want to say “Yes.” I’ve seen some folks suggest that you should always say “Yes” – but that doesn’t work with kids and I can’t see how it would make life as a GM any easier either.

The Angry DM has a suggestion. “Don’t Always Never Say ‘No’.” Except for the hellish mix of triple negatives, I totally agree… I think. 🙂

Part of that article is a response to Mike Shea’s DMing advice @ Sly Flourish. I think there are some great tips in the list, but learning to say “yes, and” is just as tough as sometimes saying “no” – so I think I’ll continue to do “no, but…” where Shea suggests “yes, and…” with similar results.

Lastly have you ever had a player with a character who always seems to find themselves without the party or with only a subset of the party for some reason? Shannon @ ST Wild has some great suggestions on how to deal with these “lone wolves” without interrupting gameplay too much. As a player who sometimes has had characters that do this, I think Shannon’s advice is spot on.

If I’d simply been told (a time or two) that it would be bad for the game (i.e. the other players would just sit there idly for too long) then I probably wouldn’t have done it as often. However, as a GM if it happened I might give the other players something to do in the scene (perhaps play NPCs) so they stay involved. I saw a friend of mine do this at one point in a campaign (thanks Mike G!) and it worked great – offered a fresh perspective on a different part of the world than my character was a part of.

(6) You Can Never Have Too Many (Random) Tables to Turn

Random tables are a weakness of mine. Ever since designing my first dungeon using the random tables in the DMG appendix way back when, there’s a magical attraction I can’t ignore. So I don’t fight it any more!

John @ Wandering Gamist raised an interesting point recently. Sometimes random tables don’t solve the problem they intend to. For example, if you roll on a table for random magic items you may end up with nothing your PCs really want or they may end up with something that may really unbalance the campaign. So why not create a table that suits the purpose for your specific campaign? He has some fun ideas in the bulleted list at the bottom of the article that may offer inspiration to other GMs. 🙂

If you need some ideas, Chad Rose @ Roll to Carouse! has a one page random description generator for magical blunt weapons that you might find useful.

If you’re not looking for magic items at all, but need some ideas for low-level monster encounters in a dungeon, G.S. Smith @ Discrete Dice has a list of 100 that may keep your PCs occupied for a while! Not sure I’d want to run across an Ettin or an Otyugh any time soon though…

Maybe you just need an interesting statue or idol to put in a room somewhere? Mobius @ Ennead Games has 10 for you to ponder – from a small limestone idol to a colossal white marble one – each with a bit of description and possibly a trap or helpful ability…

Now I’ve designed quite a few things using randomness to do it, but I’ve never created a city’s layout randomly before. John Carr @ Age of Ruins has taken the Vornheim City Kit and adapted the layout using a mind map technique… Quite brilliant actually!

And if that wasn’t enough, Carr then built a random table to determine who the toughest warrior-like person was in a particular area. Quickly determine how tough they are and what form that “toughness” takes and maybe you’ll end up with a seasoned mercenary with a heart of gold!

(7) A Monster for your Troubles?

I think that Blanca Martinez de Rituerto and Joe Sparrow over at Dungeons & Drawings are brilliant artists. They can take a traditional D&D monster and give it a new face. Recently, Blanca took the Quasit – a monster I used to love when I was a kid – and drew it in such a way that I want all my evil wizard NPCs to have one as their own. Plus, the skull reminds me of “Bob” from The Dresden Files.

If you’re not into green magical creatures with nasty teeth, maybe you like beetles? LS @ Papers & Pencils has devised the Kolera. The Kolera have a well-defined backstory (a race of beetle people), who would be equally at home in a Fallout-esque world or one with evil sorcery needing to be put in its place. With complete stats! What I really like is that these aren’t an evil race – probably just a misunderstood one.

Jon Schindehette @ the WotC D&D blog on the other hand has a problem with the fey. No, not all of them. Just dryads and nymphs. How, as an artist, do you show the differences between them? He did some research and has some interesting ideas (and almost NSFW art) and is looking for feedback. Can you help?

Lastly, we have Chase @ Intwischa offering an interesting way to
make any monster new again by simply changing them a little
. He has some great suggestions on how to change the look or feel of a monster to better fit the situation or setting. It can be a big change or a minor one, but sometimes it doesn’t take much at all to make an encounter go from “yay, another X” to “what the heck is THAT?” Have to love the power of words…

(8) Setting the Tone…

How do you set the tone for your games? Is it through the descriptions of the world you’ve set the adventures in? Chris McDowall @ Sooga Games suggests that settings can be used to help the player figure out the core ideas of the campaign. He’s designed Into the Odd‘s setting to offer all sorts of signs about not just the tone of the world, but what the world means.

Meanwhile, Mike Nystul in a guest post @ Gnome Stew suggests that game mechanics can also offer clues as to the tone of a game. After all, it isn’t money you lose when you encounter a monster like Cthulhu in Call of Cthulhu – it’s SANITY. That’s probably an important thing to remember.

(9) It Adds Character, Right?

Mike Bourke @ Campaign Mastery continues to bring up interesting ideas for making mundane things a little less boring. This week he suggests that a character’s motivations may not have to be something big or earth shattering, but may simply be regrets or mistakes we’re ashamed of. (Anyone out there raised in a household where guilt trips were a regular vacation? I know I did.)

So why not use those to help define the values or morals of a character to help flesh out their backstory? He offers all sorts of great examples and different ways to approach the question of why a particular event was shameful in the character’s past…

(10) A Splash of Inspiration

Michael @ Neuroglyph Games wants you to make your hard monsters harder. How? By adding Achilles-like resistances. Achilles was invulnerable, unless you hit him in the heel. Why not use the same idea for a 4e solo? Perhaps the myths about monster X are true and you can only hurt it with a weapon doused in an oil made of a particular rare plant? Nice!

Need a map? Check out the Riverton town map from Starbright Illustrations. Or the Desert Tomb from Dyson Logos @ Dyson’s Dodecahedron. Or a few steps showing how Alida @ Savage Mojo is creating some new maps


As always, if you feel I missed something (and it would be impossible NOT to), drop me a quick note via the contact page or drop me an e-mail at news(at)gameknightreviews(dot)com and I’ll add it to the list for next time!


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3 comments to Ten Links in the Chain: Gaming (7-DEC-2012)

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