Friday, January 31, 2014

What do you like in a RPG? part 1

Imagine you could tell you game master what kind of game you wanted to play. Not just what rule set but specifically what parts of the RPG session make you think to yourself "now this is fun!" You have not thought about it? Well, think about it now. Think about what items in a session keep you coming back. Below I've detailed a few for consideration.

Combat: Do you feel a jolt of energy when the GM says "roll for initiative!"? Are you into the tactical situations that occur within the group? Can someone lay down suppression fire? Can you flank the enemy? Will the rogue stay out of trouble?

Maybe you view combat more as an individual achievement. Your character going toe to toe with the ogre barbarian while the rest of the party deals with the goblins. Your mage's perfect use of the Rock to Mud spell to stop the charging behir. The rogue's perfectly timed back stab that spoils the evil sorcerer's spell. Just to name a few.

Puzzles:  Maybe you like it better when the GM gives you something to figure out. A treasure map missing some details. There could be a series of statues that need to be moved in some sequence. Perhaps a magical fountain that only works when a special cup is used and there is a table full of cups next to it. It could be something as simple as a murder mystery.

This is one of the more difficult things to add to a game. You can make the puzzle too hard for your players to figure out and end up rolling a skill check for the character to figure it out. The puzzle can also be too easy and the discussion and teamwork you imagined for the party never materializes.
to be continued....

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The saga of Games Workshop

Full disclosure, I do not play any Games Workshop miniatures games. I have some of their miniatures which I use for other purposes like Pathfinder and such. I do not paint and play armies for Warhammer or Warhammer 40K. I just wanted to say that I don't have a dog in this fight.

Last June(2013) the miniatures giant Games Workshop made some changes to their trade policy which affected the vendors that sell their products. These changes actually prompted some stores to close or stop selling GW products rather than deal with these changes. GW touted these changes as securing the future of the hobby. The specifics of these changes are all available online for review. They were drastic to say the least. 

Fast forward to January 2014, based on earnings reports that earnings were trending down by four million pounds from the previous year the price of GW stock has plummeted over 37%. It seems that eliminating distribution channels does not increase you sales after all.The price has been hovering at around 520 p for two weeks now after months at over 800 (830 high). Looking at the 52 week chart of the stock price is pretty amazing.  The price is way up there one day then boom, 199 point plus drop. The price has not been this low since February 2012.

I would not go pronouncing them dead, yet. They are essentially a global monopoly in the table-top miniature games niche. There is some competition now and they are way more interested in selling by any means possible than funneling all of the sales to their own site, The next few weeks will be interesting. Does GW respond by opening up trade and allowing online sales of their products? Does the stock price drop some more on silence from GW? I am not a financial analyst but I do believe in taking care of your customers. Is this just karma tapping GW on the shoulder?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Adventure Design Brain Dump

I have been game-mastering Dungeons and Dragons in some form or another for over 35 years. At first it was easy. I would draw some rooms on graph paper, label the rooms and populate them with the monsters I thought were cool and then we were ready to play. Ready to play only until the party actually encountered something and I had to look up the monster statistics and write down the basics for the encounter.

I get to game-master a lot less now so I try to make the adventures playable in one night and be a part of a larger story arc. Now when I start a game session I have a map and several printed pages of descriptions with decision trees and even monster statistics for encounters. The problem now is that this process takes much longer.

I have been running adventures that are all loosely related through a fictional town called Crossroads for the past few years. I have decided to end the campaign and I figure it’ll take about four adventures to end it. I started by outlining what I want to see happen before the end. Then I broke it in to chunks that will play through in about four hours and give the feeling of a continuing story to the group.

Now I am starting to put together the pieces for the individual adventures. I wonder what elements will be most appreciated by the players. The final villain is someone the party met in their very first adventure so there will be familiarity and a sense of accomplishment if and when they are able to defeat him. What else should be added? If you were playing in a game that was working toward a finale what would you like to see? Accustomed locations destroyed? Old friends return?

Encounter creation is also part of this equation. I usually design each encounter with a feeling I am trying to create in the players. When I created an encounter with the automatons from the Cult of Nogad I wanted the party to feel both awe and fear towards what the cult had created. When they encountered archers across a chasm with log bridges trapped with druidic magic I was trying to make them question whether they were on the correct side or not (they were, damn evil druids). Now I am trying to create encounters that generate feelings of nostalgia with the twist of determinism as they work toward ending the campaign.

When I have all these elements I will put them together in what I hope is a cohesive narrative. I want there to be some doubt as to what will happen next but still know that the climax is coming. I also need to make sure that I don’t answer all the questions because sometimes the answers that occur during the course of the session make more sense than anything I could think of.

Hopefully I can pull it off. If not everyone will at least know what I was thinking.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

More old minis

More of my old minis.
All season Ninjas
Local tough guys
Mind Flayer!
Pirate and Swashbuckler
Squire and Barney
The Boogie men
Snotling with saw and dwarf on stilts
Assorted Orcs
Dalkos, painted circa 1983
Doom Bunny, Elephant Man, Ratling, Rabbit Spear, Jackal Centurion, Lizard Rogue and Wolf Knight

Really old Mini; The Evil Wizard

Greg's old character Zaph. There was more to the name but my memory can't seem to recall it. This mini is really showing its age as it was painted in about 1979.

Old Mini; Tiger Man or Rakshasa

Circa 1989. I used an animal calendar to get the face as correct as I could.  I remember being very proud of the job I did on him at the time. He still looks pretty good all these years later.