Monday, November 21, 2016

Should I Save Them?

I recently presented my party with a situation that could have led to a total party kill (TPK). The situation was this: The party was being followed by two assassins who also had rudimentary spell use. One of their spells was Charm Person. They tailed the party as they returned to a large city. The party keeps a watch at night as they travel, to protect against any attackers that might come upon them while they camp, three four-hour shifts, usually two characters per shift.

Now I, as DM, would have no qualms about the assassins trying to charm the two characters on watch, as success would likely leave the rest of the sleeping party open to fatal attack. It is my job to have the killers, who are smart, do smart things, like wait for the best chance to use their spells, then slay the sleepers.

It is happy for the party that saves were made and the threat did not materialize. It was at this time that one of my players tried to re-assure the other players by saying that the DM would never let the sleepers die without a chance to save themselves. That I would have an assassin step on a dry branch and give the PCs a chance to hear it. Or that one of their animals would make noise and cause a ruckus. I denied this. I made it clear that the threat of death was real. In this case, their chance to escape the TPK was in making the saves that they made. The Assassins were good enough to not step on a dry twig and capable enough to deal with common animals. It’s not my job to save the party in this or any other instance.

Moreover, it IS my job to instill dread and fear. The threats they face must be real.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

How Much Realism is Too Much?

YouTube is lousy with videos showing plain details about the efficacy of armor and steel weapons. Is it better to continually try to match your game up with reality, or should a lot of gaming concepts get a pass? Endurance rules, for example, are often abused but if it gets a pass, then is that okay? As a DM I recently had to explain why a character carrying a 2-handed sword could also climb a rope. I was able to do that without just saying, "Because she can," but does it matter? I don't mind that some things get a pass. It is the people that want to break the system that I am concerned with. When their focus turns away from role-playing, turns away from personal story-telling, turns away from the interests of their fellow players, in order to brake game mechanics, I become concerned.
Reality is great as a guide, but it can get in the way of a smooth flowing game.

Some Awesome Reality

Friday, October 7, 2016

I. Have. The. Power.

Recently one of my players disclosed that I, as DM, have the power to destroy the party of characters at my whim. His words taken from the conversation were, "...send in a few more dragons,'Cuz that's the kind of power you wield."

I guess he's right. I could arbitrarily destroy the party. Every week, the moment after my players make new characters... Their dead.

I suggest that I don't really have that power. It's like having power to nuke the entire world. Then what? If you want to have a game, then you can't use that power. If you want to keep your players, and want to have a growing, positive experience, then start with respect. Their characters are an artistic expression. Let them pursue their stories. I digress.

Some people (I won't call them players) enjoy having their characters killed by their crap DM in clever new ways. That's not playing. That's idolizing a clever bastard. Do what you want to do, but I hope someday you will respect yourselves and each other better than that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Afraid? Now what?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I ran a Call of Cthulhu game for 14 years. I guess I depict a pretty scary world in my D&D game. I think to some extent it should be scary. This is dangerous work, stopping powerful, evil creatures from doing their worst. More than stopping horrific monsters but killing them. Perhaps with the seriousness of the situation, fear is able to grow.
In any case, the party in my game is tending toward avoiding danger lately. I honestly did not expect this as the party has regularly gained power itself. But, that's not really my concern, is it? Any suggestions to discuss?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Supposed To...

In this week’s game, the party briefly met a powerful dude on the road. I won’t go into detail but let’s just say that the party had every reason to believe that the person was powerful.

The party greeted him warily. The man replied, “I have killed many people today, so leave me alone.”

The party of 7th and 8th level characters did so, giving the man a wide birth. The man wore religious symbols of an unrecognizable faith.

The party went on into a large city and asked around at their various temples to see if anyone recognized the symbol the man wore. One popular, legalistic group, one that follows the sun god Atura, did recognize the symbol. They even recognized the description of the man. The Atura group notified the party that the man was “a killer of innocents,” and that “they should have killed him.”

After our gaming session ended, I had two players tell me that they were supposed to kill the disreputable man. I didn’t quite understand this. Their characters didn’t honor Atura so why were they supposed to do anything?

In my game the players aren’t “supposed” to do story elements that I lay before them. They do or they don’t on their own. There is the potential for death and reward in most things that they decide to do. They are adventurers after all, having chosen to be killers of evil creatures and robbers of graves. What they are “supposed” to do, in order to move “my” story forward, doesn’t enter into it. It’s their story.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Some of My Kit

I have collected and constructed quite a bit of stuff that I use regularly in my game. This is the dice tower I use to publicly display my die rolls:

Here are two very inexpensive cases I got at a super-store, and an expensive case actually made for minis:

My friend Hillary got me this, the most luxury item I own, a symbol of my greatest pride: my dice box. Salivate if you will, but it's mine:

I have posted my travel case before but, it's still awesome:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How Often Do You Play?

Serious question: How often is not often enough? Say you play in a weekly D&D game. Sometimes things come up, so let's say your group meets 44 times in the 52-week year to play. That's greater than three sessions per month on average. If a player wants to play, and commits to play, how many sessions a month should he or she play? Is it up to the player? Say a player commits to play but plays only 2 sessions a month on average. Is that enough? Should there be a house rule regarding participation?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bad Rolls

The party came upon a Froghemoth last session, and as all 16 HD monsters, it had pretty good saves against the Magic Users spells. That didn't stop me from publicly rolling bad and having my 116 HP creature be polymorphed into a small turtle. I don't think anyone thought that would work, but why not? By the stock chart there is a decent chance of success. Anyone think I should have fudged to prevent such an anti-climactic end?

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Chopper, still in good shape.

I have used my Maciejowski chopper to cut wood, cut logs, fake wooden shields, thickly rolled newspaper, and enough water bottles.

The handle is still tight. The blade has very slight waviness to it now, not really visible in the pictures. It's still very sharp.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What is going to happen?

It's odd going in to Saturday's game and not knowing what my players are going to do. I'm not unprepared, I must state up front. I just don't know where they are going to go. I have endorsed the sandbox game so much that I wonder if the players are holding back their ideas on purpose, to catch me unprepared. I can understand the desire to test the boundaries of my prep-work. It's all good. Bring it.

Enough for now. I am going to try to post more often. Just because I think it would be good if I did. I want to look at this in five years and say, "I was such a fool back then." So that means having a record. If you folks would also like to respond, feel free.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Evil Inspiration

As much as I am a fan of DMs inventing their own stuff, drawing on the endless resources of their minds, eschewing modules and sourcebooks, I, nevertheless, could possibly dig a game set in this world.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Free Chapter from Book Two

This is a stand-alone chapter from my up and coming sword and sorcery novel, the second in Marlaya's storyline. It is spoiler free and told from the point of view of a character who will not be returning.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

What does playing in a sandbox actually look like?

Imagine two kids in their backyard, playing in a large sandbox under a jungle gym. One of the kids pushes a bunch of sand together into a big mound, then starts to form that mound into a castle. She uses the good damp sand to help hold her structures together and uses tools to compress the sand. Her toy shovel lets her castle walls have a certain smoothness that is very appealing. She builds four towers, each of which has a flat top upon which she can set plastic figures. In the end, she is very happy with her creation, one born of her own mind.
Her friend isn’t quite sure what to do in the sandbox. He has played in sandboxes before but was always unsure. He looks to his friend for guidance. His friend formed a pile so he copied her, building his own pile. Then his friend started forming walls, and so he tried forming walls. Every step along the way, he looked to his friend for guidance, to show him how to play in the sand, and what to build.
It is often similar in D&D. Players want the freedom to play in the metaphorical sandbox game but often don’t know what to do when they get there. This is why so many are content with being railroaded. They learn that the right way to play is to see what is offered by the DM, and to respond instead of create. They wait for input, from the other players and the eager DM, before deciding what their character will do, or even WANTS to do.

Think about how your players approach the game.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

So, what wouldn't you allow in your game? What Top Ten things would you as DM not allow in your game? Think about it. Make a list. Then when you are ready to start DMing, throw that list in the garbage.

I should stipulate that I didn't say "who" but "what."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Finishing the Dungeon

Your players skip one door on the first level of a dungeon, for whatever reason. They proceed through the dungeon, level by level, defeating monsters, surviving traps and finding loot. They defeat bosses along the way, and finding the entrances to the new levels proves not particularly difficult. So why do they stop their progress on level four to go back to that level one door? What is it about dungeons that call for a complete cleanout?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

What do Evil Temples Look Like?

This is the Luciferian Church, "Seeds of Light" in Colombia. How does "Evil" translate as part of religion in D&D? Is it accepting with a mind for expansion?

Are they pugnacious? Then how would they fit in? This isn't necessarily a hard thing. Just separate the "good" from the "bad." We have the Ogre Kingdom here and the Human Kingdom there. And they fight. 'Nuff said.
Or is it more interesting than that?