Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Tricks" - Appendix H From the Dungeon Masters Guide

"Most experienced Dungeon Masters will probably already have a proud repertoire of clever and innovative (not to mention unique and astounding) artifices, deceptions, conundrums, and sundry tricks which will put to shame the humble offering which follows. Nonetheless, this enumeration might serve for those who have not yet had the experience and seasoning necessary to invent more clever devices to bring consternation to overbold and incautious characters" (Gygax, 1979, p. 216).

Most often I feel that tricks are not my responsibility as DM. I am not big on traps either. I have had terrible experiences, terrible, where the neat thing had to be figured out by the players before success or progress could be had. The DM does not help when he or she chides the players for not getting the right or desired answer. What is that chiding good for? Is it my job to teach the players to be careful, with real-world advice? Shouldn't my description of an area or thing be enough to suggest that something is dangerous or difficult?

But JoMo, what about the monster's point of view? Surely the monster wouldn't want characters to get through certain areas. Well, it seems to me that such contests of wit would be as difficult as guessing someone's email password. Unless figuring out the oh so clever trick can be resolved by brute force, there does not seem a good use for the monster's point of view regarding tricks. Even then.

I also think it is lazy to say that puzzles and such are there because the boss monster at the end of the dungeon only wants the smartest minds to get through. Yes, the Mind Flayer sits waiting for only the juiciest brains to come. That's great, thanks. Let's just face that the DM wants to give the game a twist that is different from combat and traps. I challenge my fellow DMs to do better.

Gygax, G. (1979). Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: dungeon masters guide. T.S.R.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Admitting My Mistake

I really want to be right. A novel concept I know. Last week I confused two different rule structures during my game session and it led to me making an ass of myself for fifteen minutes or so. Fifteen minutes of precious game time that none of us will ever get back.

My monster had 50% magic resistance and I was adamant that there was no chance for my player's 9th level Magic User (MU) to break through with his spells. This wasn't a misunderstanding of the rules regarding magic resistance, as clearly spelled out in the Monster Manual (p. 5-6). It wasn't me trying to save my monster. This was a confusion of the rules for the spell Dispel Magic and the math involved in that. I applied the Dispel Magic formula to Magic Resistance. I figured that it starts at 50%, then I added 10% to the difficulty as the MU was two levels under the arbitrary 11th level plateau, making it 60%. Then I added the monster's 50% resistance and came to over 100%. Very confused was I.

The worst part was that I was adamant about it and wouldn't let it go. One player thought I was making a new rule. Another was ready to give up and accept my confusion as the way things would be. Then another actually read the Monster Manual entry and my brick house came tumbling down. So certain was I.
I apologized to all of my players, more than that, I begged them to keep me honest and to help me in my efforts as DM. In the end I think I gained their respect as a person, if not as a DM.

Looking forward to this week's game!

Monday, November 13, 2017

My Tarot Deck of Many Things

I use the Aleister Crowley tarot deck for my Deck of Many Things. The definitions of the cards are here. Here are some of the images from my deck.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

Thank You Mr. Gygax


The only good thing about the Gygaxian framework is that it reminds you that you need a framework.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fun for Halloween

I'm not sure how much value this video has for a long term campaign, but looks super fun for parties.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mystery

A note on my style of DMing: I appreciate how not knowing something is valuable to role-playing. If the party has not known or experienced something, I keep that information close to my chest. In this sense, the players may genuinely not know what is going to happen in a new situation. A beautiful thing about RPGs is that there are many of these new situations. There may be a temptation to let Mr. Gygax decide the truth of things going in, but I don’t trust him. Additionally, I would not want my players to count on Gygax in dealing with a situation they have not encountered in game. I would rather be wrong in my own decisions, guided by player input, than to let Gygax be wrong for me. That is my philosophy.

Friday, September 8, 2017

A Recent Prop #1

This journal entry was found in a dungeon laboratory not too long ago. I think my players have forgotten it. Oh well. They have their own stuff to consider, and that's all good.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

To Fudge or Not to Fudge

I put together this response video rather impulsively, so I might come off a little stringent. That said, I think I make my points.

The video is here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Does Romance Really Work in RPGs

I have only seen romance work in very personal, one-on-one games. I normally (and by that I mean weekly) DM a group of adults, yet for us romance is kept on a very surface level. Players note that they have a loved one awaiting their character's return. Those loved ones have names, so the players can occasionally reference them during role-playing. But when the reunion occurs, that's about it; the reunion occurs. Then we move on.

Is that enough? Surely this does go player to player, with some players being more comfortable with romantic play. Other players are not going to engage, being comfortable with personal relationships staying on the surface. Still others are not going to engage and are going to model playing styles that discourage delving into romance. As much as I want freedom in the game, it is not my place to press one way or the other. Right?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Review of "Twilight of the Solstice" (Full of Spoilers)

Five friends and I recently went through Twilight of the Solstice, a Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) holiday adventure from Goodman Games. We were not new to DCC, nor to fantasy role-playing in general. Even the “tournament style” of play (a one-day slog) was familiar to us. I was intrigued from the start, and I liked the DM a lot, and so my girlfriend and I signed up. Massive Spoilers from this point on. It turned out to be the second worse rpg experience of my life.

The real intriguing part was the scratch-off character sheets; as our characters had lost their memories, all of their attributes, levels, abilities, and even starting equipment was hidden from us. It was usually only under character stress moments, like combat (or running away from combat) that these scratch-offs could be scratched off — revealing one aspect at a time.

That’s all fine and good, really hard but interesting, except that at the end of the night, we found that the characters sucked. My 3rd level Dwarf was proficient in club and leather armor. My girlfriend’s 4th level Halfling had, I think, 13 Hit Points. Understand that we remained interested in the game only because of the possibility that something hidden on our character sheets would help us in the seemingly impossible adventure. I don’t blame the DM here as he didn’t know about the horrid characters either.

But before I move on to our adventure details, I must continue to complain about the characters. Quoting the website, “…this module comes bundled with six random scratch-off character sheets.” That was true, I guess. That would explain why both pre-generated Dwarves in our party were exactly the same, exactly. So were the two Halflings, exactly the same. I thought it strange that the character sheets had different serial numbers but were still the same for both of these pairs. Never fear, there was also another fighter that actually had metal armor, and perhaps the weakest Druid wanna-be I’ve ever seen. The fact that the information was hidden from us, in the end, became meaningless and only the greatest practical joke. Ha-ha! Goodman Games apparently doesn’t care that this stuff poisons me against their products.

So now that we have our cool-looking, scratch-off characters, we start the game. We faced off against a pack of weird wolves, unarmed, and as we hadn’t necessarily uncovered our possessions, unarmored. We found bric-a-brac in the snow to fight with. I found a pewter mug to hit wolves with, and attacked like a 0-level. We almost lost several characters to the wolves as we couldn’t hit or harm dick. The DM actually said that he “didn’t want any of us to die at the beginning” so he had the wolves run away. We did manage to kill two of them but we were outnumbered. I was worried after getting this DM help. I detest the philosophy that says the DM should EVER help the players, this way or by fudging dice. I would have been better off leaving my friends high and dry and going out to dinner with my sweetheart. But I’m a nice guy. Note that this would be the first of a nearly constant helping of DM interference to give “us” any chance at all. I put “us” in quotes because if it is the DM that solves the problems then what are we doing there?

So next was a straight-forward path with a handful of caves on one side. We had caves to explore so we didn’t bother looking for the secret door, which would have made the next seven hours of game play slightly more bearable. Had we found the secret path, we would have had more equipment and answers to some of what was going on. So, bad on us for not looking right?

No.

I detest adventures where the only good way forward is to ask NPCs for literal help. It was like before, the DM solving our problems. There is no mystery, risk or fun if the DM’s awesome NPC characters are providing us what we need to succeed. So the scene with the helpful Dwarves is only an example of poor writing. But we didn’t get this help anyway, so… more fun for us.

We spent a few hours real-time looking through a network of meaningless caves, where the neatest thing we did was find means to build a fire so we wouldn’t freeze to death. Eventually we faced off with another foe, you know Orcs and Goblins. HA! No, they were Frost-type Giants armed with ballistae. I thought long and hard… No I didn’t. I didn’t even consider what use my beer stein would be against a giant. We all ran. Fun stuff there. Oh, and it turned out that some of the giants were, like, super tricked-out giants, not just normal giants. I am not the type of player that gets hard thinking about the amazingly awesome monsters that are killing me.

It didn’t seem the first cave was leading anywhere that didn’t have giants in it so we went to the next cave. It was filled with giant piles of guano, so, we avoided what we assumed would be giant killer bats, and we were right.

Next was a room that was essentially a trap. It killed time, hours of in-game time, which was bad because the game was on the clock. We had to finish in a certain number of game days or we would lose. We considered using aspects of the trap, weaponizing it to use against the giants, but as we didn’t know our attribute bonuses or classes, we only ended up getting trapped ourselves, over and over. I guess we weren’t smart enough to play in this adventure. The fun never stops.

I think I may have passed out from all of the fun we were having, because I don’t remember which cave we were exploring when we met the snake-lizard monster. The room had a pond in it, with passages on the far side. We had to find a way across the water to get to those passages. It was that or face the giants so… In the water was a giant snake-lizard thing which was just beyond all coolness for a real party to fight. It swallowed I think three members of our party, and only through the genius, unwarranted help from the DM did we all escape—even those who were swallowed.

We went back to the first cave because there were still passages that, perhaps, didn’t lead to giants. We couldn’t map the passages because our characters didn’t have pen and paper. We marked the walls and that worked well. Still I wonder if the DM just gave up and let us find the room we were apparently supposed to find hours earlier. This room was a puzzle-room with twelve different rooms randomly leading out from it via passages. It was random because each of the twelve target rooms changed every time you chose even the same passage. Why there were twelve doorways instead of one, I don’t know.

We avoided fighting a lot of giants there, got chatty with another, picked up a lot of tools that we feebly tried to wield as weapons, and finally found the final room. This room had a contraption in it, one that I figured we could figure out to lead us to victory. Obviously we were not supposed to do any fighting this game, so we must needed to use our minds. Nope. Just another sucker punch. Just another place to get frustrated, learn nothing, and waste time.

In the end we used up all of our luck, literally used it all up, to get to the final scene. I had ideas, but the three massive giants working there had others. As we had been playing for the better part of ten straight hours, we went with the full frontal “Please kill us now” assault. Our DM, seeking to have an ounce of fun himself, relished the critical hits the giants leveled against us.

There’s nothing like it, after a full day of frustration, when the DM tells you what you “should” have done, emphasizing again that we just were not smart enough to play through this adventure. We couldn’t figure out the keys to unlock the easy paths, paths designed by the writer of the adventure. Did you see what I did there? I’m expressing further frustration that the adventure was written with very specific “paths to success” a chronic problem with a lot of published adventures.

I said this was the second worst rpg experience of my life. The first was a similar 10-hour slog, that because we went right instead of left at the very beginning of the adventure made it so that we could never win. Yet, we played anyway.

Reference
Bruner, M. (2016). Twilight of the Solstice: Order Now! Retrieved January 09, 2017, from http://goodman-games.com/blog/2016/12/19/twilight-of-the-solstice-order-now/ Dungeon Crawl Classics.