Thursday, April 28, 2011

Modern fantasy feat. Harry Potter and WoD (A-Z part "M")

I watched all the Harry Potter's in order I had access to. From first to sixth. And I have to say, I enjoyed them! Even though the first is old, and Harry Potter is young and the whole movie is like overly long introduction to the series I liked it a lot.
When I first time saw the movies, I didn't find them that fascinating or interesting. I started to watch them the second time, because I enjoy boring movies in the night. Helps me to fall asleep. Still, even though I thought that Harry Potter's would be perfect sleeping remedy, I was wrong!

Why Do I Like Harry Potter Movies?

They are magical. There's magic everywhere, and I like the real world in it. It's normal, like ours, but slightly different. And behind the curtains of this normal world is this fantasy world with wizards, strange plants, mythological beasts etc.
Harry Potter, when in summer break, comes to our normal world and basically tries to live like any normal kid. But when his semester starts, he enters this world of magic and wonders.

I like the special effects. They are good enough. And there's some magical stuff happening all the time, even though it is not relative for the plot of the movie. I thought, if I watched the movie and pushed "pause" button and wrote down every time some strange or magical was on the screen with all the six movies I have seen, I'd write a pretty decant sourcebook of magical items, creatures and spells. Seriously, I have thought about that!

Secondly, I think that the main characters are quite neutral. Even though Harry Potter is the chosen one and everyone is like "OMG POTTER", he's quite modest guy. He doesn't brag, and earlier in the series he is not the best wizard in main characters (Hermione Granger is). Hermione was first pretty annoying know-it-all, but well, she's a girl who knows-it-all thanks to reading a lot. Still, she is good friend with Harry and Ron and doesn't try to show off with her knowledge mere than help. Ron... his sympathic. Not annoying at all.

Dumbledore is boring, otherwise other characters work well.

Huh, Harry Potter movies are something that I shouldn't like at all, so I have no idea why I find them so fascinating. Haven't read the books, and I think I never will. Movies are enough...

But, how does this relate to roleplaying games?

Mage: the Ascension

Mage, after watching Harry Potters and heard good about Mage and that I knew how versatile the spell system is, I though that it could be cool to run World of Darkness version of Harry Potter universe. I don't know if I ever will, but it would be cool. Harry Potter could be easily turned into World of Darkness setting, just add a bit more dark, and that's it. Also the school of magic could be in remote location, or somewhere at Umbra. That's how they access the school like in Harry Potter walk through a pilar at train station to get to the "other" station platform.

Could it work, Mage: the Potter? I don't know. I started reading Mage: the Ascension 2nd edition and I have to admit, that the beginning of the book bores me to death. I am not interested in Umbra and all the planes. That's why Werewolf (both Apocalypse and Forsaken) are a bit turn off in that aspect. I do like werewolves, but all the spirit worlds and that? Noooope. Well, maybe for certain tribes etc. but not in general.
So, when Mages share these extra universes, and almost all the pages I have read this far are about it, I am not that pleased.

But I think, when you master the idea of Mage or Werewolf, it's easier to approach the other. This far I have been mainly playing Vampire: the Masquerade, and they don't have to worry about that shit.

Levels versus no-levels ("L" of A-Z)

Levels or no levels... I personally don't mind levels even though I prefer systems where character's experience is determined otherwise. Two most common systems determining character's power and achievements are level based advancement and experience point based advancement.

Level Based Advancement

Usually you gain experience points what stack. When you have enough of them, you step up to next level. After leveling up, you assign new points and powers to your character, what are usually pre-determined based on the new level achieved.

Usually you cannot develop your character between the levels. The reward of experience comes stacked. After assigning the new points and benefices, you start collecting experience points for the next needed amount of experience to gain new level.

This is really simple in the cost of free customization of the character. You get certain packet of new things, like everyone else does. You might assign some points in pre-ordered places, some you might spend where ever you want to.

Advantages are, that it is easy to see how powerful the character is. Just check his level, and you have a idea of characters capability, so it is easy to design quests and adventures.
Also quick resolution of new powers after leveling up is relatively fast. You know what you get and where to put those extra points and powers.

There are also disadvantages, for example no free customization or linear advancement.

Experience Points Based Advancement

Other is, where experience points you gain can be converted any time to points to spend on character advancement. There might be some restrictions based on character, or some attributes and stats might be more expensive than others and usually more higher stats get, more experience they need to be spent to rise further.

This system is really versatile and you are quite free to advance your character to the direction you want to. Also it is non-linear, so you don't need to wait for next milestone to advance your character.

Problems are, that it's hard to determine different characters' power levels, as there is no guide how to compare them. You can write down total spent experience, but still there are differences how those points are spent. Both characters with exactly same amount of spent experience might be totally different. Another might have spent all his experience points to powerful but specific skill, when another has got much more attributes with lower cost. So which one is better?

Also as there is no guideline of power levels, it's slightly harder to make quests not too hard, but not too easy either.

How To Get Experience Points

Well, in both cases doing stuff. Usually level based experience systems have more strict guidelines how, when and how much to award experience points based on tasks, kills, loot etc. when free experience point systems give guidelines based on what happened in one session. Differences are easy to measure with an example:

Level based system:
Killed 10 goblins á 25 EXP
Got 1000 Gold loot á 0,1 EXP
Reported successful quest 250 EXP
(Random bonuses from cool stuff or achievements = ? EXP)
= Total 600 EXP

Free experience points system:
Experience after every session 1 EXP
How well did player roleplay his character? 1 EXP
Did player character or group achieve or advance in adventure? 1-3 EXP
Was player in danger and survived it? 1-2 EXP
= 1 to 7 EXP depending on this and that

What Do I Prefer

I like free character development of experience converted to character points systems. You can make your character what you want to. Problem is, that usually I just forget to give EXP after sessions, and otherwise give them randomly. It's easier to just say first experience points value you come up than start to think what happened when you don't have got a real guideline.

In level based guidelines are great and the fact you know how powerful your (or player's if you're GM) character is. Problem is, that even the experience based changes can be small in exp to pts development, you might need to wait longer to level up without any advancement.

Both systems get thumbs up from me, even though either of them are not flawless. Still, if I have to choose between them, I think level based experience looses.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Knowing the players AND A-Z challenge thoughts

Yeah, I know. I am at letter "K", what should be 13th when it's already 27th and there are only four posts of this challenge left (if you count today in). Yes, A-Z challenge. I did fall from the bandwagon and never could climb back. Of course, this month has been busiest ever.
Fortunately, I have had time to play roleplaying games once or twice a week and also got a new product this tuesday (will read it, then talk it).

So, basically I just continue now handling the letters in order. I am glad if I get time to do them within this month! Let's see... 16 entries/letters to blog, four days left including this one. So it's "only" four by day? Not that bad, but problem is, do I have time or endurance. Let's cheer me to end this challenge my own way!

Phew, got that out of my burdened heart. So, for today's "challenge" topic which is letter "K", which stands for...

Knowing The Players

How to be most efficient Game Master? Well, there are many tricks to be good GM, obviously experience is one even though unexperienced GM's can run great games as they might be more open minded and not so rules- or setting focused as older GM's.
But how will knowing your players help you be better GM?

High-Fantasy For Cyberpunkers?

If you want to play your gaming session safe, pick a game and genre what your gaming group likes. If your group likes cyberpunk games with guns and style, they won't necessarily be that fascinated about and idea playing elven in magical green forest. If they in the other hand want to play said elven, they wouldn't necessarily find space ship pilots that fascinating.
If you know your gaming group, and know what kind of games they like, it's the safe bet. Most certainly when you guys know that you are playing next Friday, but the game isn't chosen yet, take the safe one. You might take another game for option, but don't rely on it too much.

But sometimes it might be good to try out something totally different for a change. You don't have to run dozens of sessions to complete a game, but it could be one-shot or last for few sessions. Game what lasts for 1-4 sessions I think adult gamer can bear and see through, even if the genre doesn't gratify him. That's the only way to know for sure, to try it out.

And if whole gaming group finds some game totally unbearable, there is nothing that forces that group to continue playing it. You gave it a try, didn't like it, not a big deal. Go try something different, and go back to the game you do enjoy gaming.

I personally remember when I was 11-17 my gaming group liked fantasy genre. I did want some variety to that, but other's didn't warm-up for my ideas. I did run a few short campaigns, but my gaming comrades never were as excited, as with fantasy genre. (Side note: Luckily I got one friend who enjoyed gaming. What game we did play was not that important. If the story was great, he liked it. Usually we played one-on-one with him because of that.) But today, fantasy is possibly my least favorite genre. Or it was.
I have always liked Praedor, but it's not this fantasy with elven folk and magical beings and such. It's more down-to-earth, where your character might die in one bad blow of opponents weapon or catch wound fever.
Still, when I last year tried Dungeons & Dragons 3. with my girlfriend, I was positively surprised! We both don't fancy fantasy that much, and D&D's been in my personal hate list since D20 started to eat other systems (new prints of fascinating older games all in D20 roar). Still, we liked it. Basic adventuring, with a big A. Still, fantasy is not my favorite, but I can play it and even find it fresh change every now and then (after gothic-punk cities with Vampires).

Know What Your Players Want Adventure To Be Like

Even though you know what genre your players like, or what game is absolute no-no even though genre is right it's good to ask your players what kind of adventure they would like to have before you start to spend time writing it.
This scenario is an example, but I think it has happened all over the gaming community numerous times. Your player want fantasy, and you suggest D&D what is fine with them. Then you fix day for the first session what is few weeks from now. You start to write your adventure for those players. You write background story, draw maps, write stats... you do this awesome dungeons with monsters, puzzles, treasures, trap doors, traps... Then the gaming day comes and you start to roll characters. You notice, that players do these characters and describe them all wrong. They don't suit your dungeon, they get killed there!

At the above examle there were few problems. First, even though genre and gaming system were decided, Game Master forgot to consult players about their characters. GM should know or have a idea, what kind of characters players are planning to write. Or players should know what kind of adventure player is going to write before they start planning their characters.
If players have no clue about adventure plans, they don't know what kind of characters they should do so they might do what they like to do and it's sheer luck them to match the adventure.
Also, if players don't have any idea what kind of characters fellow players will write, the character party in worse case scenario could be totally unworkable.

Few good things starting a new game is to tell players what kind of idea your next adventure will have in general. You don't need to detail it too much. It's enough if you just tell, "it's going to be a high adventure traveling all around the world", or "OSR Dungeons" or "political scheming amongst the elite". Now players will know what to except, so they can plan their characters better.
Another way is to ask players what they want, or what kind of characters they want to do and build the adventure around them.
Or you could sanctify the first session to roll characters, so whole group is planning and taking part in first steps of creating the upcoming game.

So, in my opinion it helps things a lot, if players know what your plans are and you know what players want.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A-Z: J for Joy roleplaying games give for me

J for joy, not very imaginative. But it's the first word came up my mind, so I'll use it (oh and late in schedule for this challenge, as usual).


I think I breath and live roleplaying games. I think about them a lot. When I am bored or have free time but nothing special to do, like for example downtime at work, waiting for something etc. my mind really often wonders to roleplaying games. And I enjoy it. Time flies, well, actually I don't mind waiting or something, thanks to imagination. It's really refreshing just to be able to be and let your mind wander.
Naturally, I do think about "real" things also, but roleplaying games are an escape away from real world problems, schedules and so on.


It's not just playing, or preparing to play. If I see a good -or even not so good- movie, I usually think what kind of rpg adventure it could be, how it would be ran, would it be easy to do or would it need modifications? Would player's find that plot or adventure more fun than the movie is?
I have usually found, that even horrible movie could work as roleplaying game adventure or plot. Don't know how, but somehow it seems to be more fun to actually re-create it to play than just watch on tv. Actually, how many of your regular roleplaying adventures would be worth a movie, but still you and your gaming group have enjoyed them? Or how many commercial fun adventure could be a good movie? Yes, some, maybe even most, but most definately not all. Next time you see a bad movie, think about it how it could still work as rpg advenure. You could be surprised.


When I get myself new rpg book, I usually have to order it because where I live here are no stores what supply rpg products. But it is exciting. I find a rpg book, want it and buy it. After I have decided to buy it, then starts the waiting part. There is day or two after ordering when I can start to wait the product to arrive based on postal office, but there are varieties, how fast did the seller post it...
When I get the packet, it is cool to unwrap it. First I check the cover, then read back cover and after it shuffle the book .Usually it ends up with other rpg books I have never read, but sometimes I do read them.
It's not that I don't like the book that I don't read it. I don't have got time. But I like them, I like to shuffle them and own them. Collecting them and shuffling them and owning them is as satisfying as playing them. Of course I have few games what I usually play all over again even though I could play every new campaign with a new game for years to come.


I am happy gamer. Or am I happy as gamer? Would I be as happy even though I wasn't a gamer, or would there be something instead making me feel the same? I don't know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A-Z: Ink rune magic

"Spells, I know as many spells as I know runes, but I am limited to cast them, and be really, really sure when to cast a spell or not. My space is limited."

Ink rune magic is rune based magic, where you tattoo runes to your very own skin to wake the power of the rune and direct its power from your body and mind.

Rune is the formula and knowledge.
Your skin is the arbiter.
Your mind is the discharger.

If your character practices Ink rune magician, he learns runes as others learn magic in setting. His magic is more ritual type, than casting. He can tattoo the runes in advance, and cast them later. When tattooed rune is cast, it wears out leaving no power, but only a tattoo behind.

Basically (in Dungeons & Dragons) instead of resting to gain spells, Ink rune magician prepares spells by tattooing them. The spells he can tattoo per day might be the same as wizard can cast and memorize a day. There is a flaw though, every spell Ink rune magician prepares and casts, leaves a permanent mark on his body and takes space. His skin is not endless canvas, there will be a day there is no space for new runes to be tattooed clearly enough.

Other problem is that all cast and prepared runes are visible. At some point, his skin will be so tattooed with runes there are no hidden places to use, but he must start to tattoo more visible places. If Ink rune magic or tattoos are a taboo, that can be a real social problem later.

Another problem is, the more you cast the less you can cast later as every rune takes space from your skin.

Rules Ideas For D&D (3.X)

Ink rune magic is a skill you can learn. Basically it is available for every character class as a multiclass when character has possibility to learn it. It cannot be only class. Ink rune magic (class) uses same statistics as wizard.

Tattooing a rune is Intelligence + Ink rune magic skill difficulty of 5. After every rune over character's Constitution the difficulty to successfully tattoo a working enchanted rune is +1. After every 5 tattooed runes above character's Constitution gives -1 negative to roll Charisma based rolls.

Casting successfully tattooed runes is +5 easier than casting normal spells as the body and skin of the caster is already enchanted with the rune, and the rune is successfully charged with the power to be released.

Final Words

Even though there are major flaws in rune magic, they are easier to cast for multiclass characters who aren't into wizardry from the beginning of the character creation.

A-Z: Handouts for players

Wow, lots to update to keep in schedule.

So, handouts, those extras game master hands for players to make gaming more intense. My opinion in handouts is, that they are really cool, but actually unnecessary. I mean, you can easily just describe things or give a scratch about something. Still, if you dedicate time to make a cool realistic handout, it makes way better immersion for players about what their characters see.

Some possible handouts I have used:

There are maps in roleplaying games, but usually in fantasy settings these maps are tailored to suits GM's needs. To be frank, these maps are nice and comprehensive but if you think about game world, was cartographing so advanced that realistic and precise maps could have been developed? No.
For example distances can vary a lot for what they really are. Also some unknown or for the purpose of the map unimportant locations could have been excluded. So, hand drawn map for the players about the location as the game worlds inhabitant is more game realistic, than map what is made for the game material.
Instead of showing the map of whole game world for the players, draw a sketch how an inhabitant and cartographer of game world would have drawn it. It is more realistic than this full color sheet of precise mapping.

Instead of just telling what letter includes, I sometimes like to hand write the letter or use suitable font and print it. Sometimes if letter is older, or in bad shape, I might burn it's borders with a lighter or wrinkle it to make more worn out look.
It does not need much effort to write a letter instead of just describing the words. And if you draw, even a simple, seal it looks more fascinating.
Also for modern campaigns news paper clips, documents etc. can be easily made.

Usually a map of a particular location might be enough. Sometimes though I like to draw or show a picture of the place. It can be copied from internet, or even a drawn sketch but it gives more atmosphere. For example, if characters are going to this ancient temple, show them a picture how the temple's entrance looks like from the outside.
Also, you might provide players a city map, but a picture about entrance with walls, market place or palace makes it more like being in there.

NPC Portraits
Verbal description is good and I usually take few distinct features and quirks of the NPC to make them unique. Sometimes though, if the NPC is an important person for the campaign or characters, it might be a good idea to provide a portrait for the characters. You can draw it if you are a drawer, or find suitable portrait from the internet. If portraits are smallish, it is also a good tip to put the portraits of NPCs on the table who are present at the time.

You can also draw of find pictures for items. Of course, like all other handouts you can describe this ancient witch lord's crown or magic sword of lightning, but giving a picture of item makes it more "real".

Basically, anything player characters see, you can make a handout about. Usually handouts might be related to present adventure, like letters or other important hints characters might find, but you can basically make a handout about everything characters see.
Still, don't overwhelm players making every single object and thing in game world to appear on paper. Just the most important and noteworthy ones to keep things simple.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A-Z challenge: G for Grimworld and game worlds and settings(oh the schedule)

I think that this blog challenge for me is a failure. Still, even though I don't keep up like the rest of participants, I decided to hang on. For my own amusement.

So, G for Grimworld. Grimworld was basically a fantasy setting/project, but when I thought about it I found that it's mere a toolbox. Or a synonym for my own fantasy toolbox.

I mean, I won't ever write any detailed information about Grimworld. It grows and advances when I add items, or when I Game master it (if I ever will, that is). So, what's the point about this Grimworld, what is a fantasy setting but isn't?

Here are key points, I think make Grimworld what it is and make it useful for myself.

If player knows, that his character is in this mysterious fantasy world and you tell the player, that it is a mysterious place to be, even for an inhabitant (character). You can easily explain this by making character someone, who has been only in one place for his entire life. Farmer's son whose fate lies in heroism, city guard who has to venture to unknown lands to rescue his lord, mage's apprantise who has to show his worthiness to his master...
So, when player starts the game, he knows the location where his character is from. Actually, as Grimworld is a toolbox, player character could if he wanted write his own past including his village or tribe he lived in. It's Game masters job to approve or fix the background story.
But the point is, even players can make additions to the world via their characters and I can take notes thus making the world and setting larger.

Same goes with me as GM. I need a forbidden swamp? Yep, there it is and someone from game world knows where it is, so it has always been there. Tribe of cannibal hobbits, done.
The world has as many aspects, adventures, races, tribes, monsters, magical items as I want. That's the key of Grimworld. My ideas are not restricted in any way by setting, nor my ideas kill canon or logic of any particular game world/setting.

That is the reason why I usually like my own settings. I can do what ever I want to do, without actually changing pre written setting. I know, that games are made for you for your amusement, and no one is telling you that you cannot change settings. But somehow I feel like violating the original author if I make too many changes (that is the reason, for example, why I always in Vampire: the Masquerade games use fictional city, not city based on real life or city which is presented in V:tM sourcebooks).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A-Z: F for Fading Suns, my science fiction favorite

Here are few reasons, why Fading Suns is one of my favorite science fiction roleplaying games.

Rules Are Good
If I have understood right, some guys behind Fading Suns have been working with White Wolf before (Mage, maybe Changeling too, but most definitely mage...) And you can see something from oWoD in rules.
Basically, you add attribute with skill to get target number, similarly like in oWoD. Difference is, that range in Fading Suns is 1-10 instead of oWoD's 1-5. In oWoD, you roll numbers equal to your attribute called dice pool (roll dice and all results that meet target number are considered a success) when in Fading Suns you try to roll below the target number with D20 to success.
But there's a trick. Even though you try to roll below, higher number is still better. There is Victory Chart, where higher number gives more "successes" than lower. For example:
If your character's target number is 13, and you roll 4, you do success but get less Victory Points than rolling for example a 10. Really cool system, but basically you have to refer every roll to Victory Chart (included in character sheet).

One problem there is though, damage is rolled as dice pool (Victory Points + weapon damage = dice rolled against target number of 13). This might be a bit confusing, because system is different for different kinds of things. Also, dice pool is rolled using D20, what is a lot of uncontrollably rumbling dice on the table.

Even though I like the system, it works smooth, I think that it could be a bit smoother. Still, I haven't have problems using it, so it's good enough.

World Is Really Interesting
I like the background story of the game. Basically, it's year 4996 (notice, that the game was published in 1996) humanity has reached the stars and had it's glory in advance, but then it descended back into middle ages and now world is mix-up with middle ages, priesthood, laser weapons and space technology. Cool isn't it.
There are so many possibilities for adventures. You can run basically anything between middle age fantasy to space opera.
Also, there are aliens, but not too many of them. Few basic alien races, one mysterious and one hostile (not sure if there are more in source books, but this is enough for me as you can design mutants, human-animal hybrids and animal aliens still being loyal to setting).

Good Experiences Of Play
When I got this game, my gaming group was not very interested in it (fantasy-heads). Had few test runs I guess, but cannot remember any details. I only have had two Fading Suns campaigns, but both of them were over 100 game sessions (last over 150!) So, even though I have had basically only two campaigns, they were really long and rich in incidents (I have to look back those with my player, and write about them later). I don't lie much, but those two campaigns were easily worth of double the campaigns. This game for me and my player is the one, that when you pop you cannot stop. Once Fading Suns starts, you don't dare to stop.

Newer Editions?
I know, there are newer editions than my ancient first edition, but frankly, I am not interested in them. I like my first edition, it works fine. I don't want to read my game once again with a bit different twist, because this is what I am used to (same with oWoD to nWoD, or for OSR players 4th edition... I guess) play. I could want some source books though, just for additional ideas (this far I have used my Agent Valerian encyclopedia, Farscape and other science fiction for inspiration). Oh, and an extra copy of Fading Suns 1st edition core rules book would be nice, my print looks like it's been in a barbarian war of space.

A-Z: E for Elements of magic

Yet again a bit late, but next title is standing for elementals. Usually in roleplaying games elements are basics in magic and types of elemental entities. There are four basic elements; water, fire, earth and air used in both magic and elementals.

But there might be additional elements and elementals in addition to those basic four. These might be for example light and darkness and more exotic ones.

Elements tell the nature of magic, for example. Fire could be damaging, earth protecting, water healing and air for statuses. There might be different schools in magic (good example of this is Dungeons & Dragons) when elements aren't in that great focus.

Still, how elements could work? If designing a game system where elements are present, you could consider relationships between the elements. For example same element against same element won't necessarily be that powerful, but opposite elements can be powerful over others. For example water element could be powerful against fire element, and fire element against earth.

I think, that if magic system is based on elements, you could design it the way that each element covers different kinds of magic, but some elements are more powerful or have more access to certain type of magic.

For example, even though water is healing element, it can also bear powers of damaging and protection. But it's main focus is in healing. Similarly even though earth is focused and good on protection, it can also be used to damage but it is not that effective.

This focus of elements can be easily carry out in spell lists. In fire spell list majority of spells are of damage, few of protection and only minimally for healing. Water could be focused in healing, can also damage but minority of spells are about protection.

I could also determine, that all in one element mage is more powerful than mage using two or more elements. Reason is, that mage focused on one element knows it best, when mage focusing on multiple elements doesn't have similar intensy as he has to divide his time and learning to two or more elements of magic. One element mage might be more powerful, but mage who knows more elements is more versatile though weaker.

To determine power over different elements, you could give a value for each element in character sheet. When mage gains a new level, he can share points to his elements. It is clear, that if he uses all his new points to one element, he will be more powerful than if he would share the points between elements. Points in elements could mean mage's level in that element or magical power in that element. More points he has in one element, better he is casting them or he has wider access to spells in that element.

Element Magic In D&D

Basically, if you want you can turn D&D into element magic system. Just take spell list, share spells in elements and make four schools of magic, earth, fire, water and air. Each element mage is it's own class. This way you can multi-class to other elements and it works fine with other rules. You know more spells in wider range, but aren't as powerful. Even though your character is level 10, but is level 3 fire mage, level 3 water mage, level 2 earth mage and level 2 air mage he is more versatile than level 10 fire mage, but level 10 fire mage is way more powerful in his spell range.

Summon spells could be accessed to every element mage, but what creatures they can summon could be element tied.

In my opinion there are no element sorcerers, as sorcery comes within, not learned.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A-Z: Don'ts for GM

Yeah! In schedule.

Don'ts For GM - 5 GM's Shouldn't Do During Get Together Gaming Evening Based On My Personal Experience, As A GM

I love the headline... But let's get down the business. 10 don'ts GM's shouldn't do, but what I have done and know I should have done it better.

1. Forget food, snacks and drink. People get hungry. Also in game sessions if they are long enough. It's also unwritten custom to eat snacks for fun, and maybe to keep that bigger hunger off. And drinks, of course you need to keep your throat moist as a GM you usually talk alot.
What if you forgot them all? And there is no shop available nearby. Well, that sucks. You could promote yourself as gaming groups that evening's special charity subject to donate drinks and pizza slices, but usually that is not accepted. And I have to admit, not that comfortable.
But you could order pizza with lemonade, usually though, for some reason that is not possible (no money available, don't want to loan).
This is not fun situation. With good friends way more easier than with new or stranger gaming group.

But always remember your supply or money. Don't remember both.

2. What happened last time? Yes, for some unfortunate reason I have really bad memory. I do remember what game I Game Master. I do remember who the character's are (mostly), I know what I want from the campaign but I have no single idea, where game was left previously.
I nearly always have to verify before I start, that what happened. I could take notes (basically I do take them) and could try to clear out what happened myself.
But for my defense when I hear what's going on I get the grip back and game can start.

3. Music is for mood and atmosphere. But sometimes, I have to admit, that tune what I wanted Nosferatu night club or fight against Dark Overlord sound like, takes me with. I love music, and sometimes I cannot resist it, it hypnotizes me and makes me party!
I love using music in games, and will never stop (Youtube + MP3 library + occasionally CD's) using it, but I could pick up more carefully in advance what I do play. I am Game Mastering, not a DJ of a rave club.

4. You know how annoying it is when some player quits earlier than others? Yes, it is. Don't be the GM who ruins others fun by leaving. Luckily, I only did this as younger when I had school and some other bad excuses to leave before 3.00 am in Wednesday.
Anyways, there is a good part though. If GM leaves, rest of the player party can continue with another game and another GM from the group. And no one misses you. They just think that you are the campaign ruiner and party pooper for leaving early.
Funny thing. If player's leave earlier, or come later than the rest of the people, it can usually be fixed by for example putting that player character in automatic NPC mod, let other player play the necessarities etc. tricks. But if GM leaves, it's hard to... well... put game world in automatic NPC mode. And it could result horrible mass murders by vile players when you next time play, as your gaming group has destroyed your entire campaign setting for experience points...
So, GM, plan your time. You are needed there.

5. One major don't for me is that don't try to read 10 rpg books at the same time. Because it won't work out. It always results not a single book read.
Decide what book you will read. And read it. Then decide what book you will read after it. So simple. And what, rpg's got like 100-400 pages, I can read at least 10 pages a day (not much, I know, but I am busy) and propably more. So let's say, one rpg book per month? Even faster. Still, how many rpg books I have read fully from cover to cover in past 12 months? Let's see... Cover to cover? One. How many have I started or partly read? Dozens.

A-Z: Combo for combat

Ooops, I did it again... posted yesterday Saturday's post but forgot to post yesterday's, so today I am posting yesterday's and now I wont stand up from this PC before I have written also today's so I can catch up the schedule.

Sheez, so much trouble.

Yesterday's Letter C Today Stands For...

Combo for combat. In many video games there are combo meters, what grow or gain points when you do special feats giving your character access to higher and more powerful actions and attacks. I have do admit, that I am not sure if there is roleplaying game system using some combo system already, so this is just a quick idea how I would do it.

So, if you know there is some system or mechanics that uses linked actions to access more powerful actions or similar, let me know!

Simple Way To Do It

Some actions, for example feats or similar have combo value. You do that feat, you get tick in your combo meter.
When you have ticked these feats enough you can perform a powerful attack or action. These might need different values of feat ticks to perform.

Easy way to keep account is simply using pen and scrap paper. You can of course make it more fancy, but it doesn't need more complicated method than tracking down magic points, health points or what ever.

Second method is using die. Just turn die to show how many ticks you have at that moment.

How Did It Work Again?

Special moves, actions, feats or what ever grow your special action or attack meter. Basically doing special moves, you get points or ticks to use on more special moves. But there are different variations.

Combo attacks are attacks you get to link or chain together to perform long multi-part-attack.
Special actions are what need to build power doing other actions before can be triggered.
Limit attack is when you build your ticks enough and perform really powerful, character specific attack (oh well, this I ripped from Final Fantasy series...).

Combo Attacks

There could be two ways to do combo attacks, but I use one method. It is easy to modificate for your own needs though.

With each attack, you get ticks. Ticks are points used to do combo attacks. You need fixed amount of ticks to start your combo, called trigger, then after that amount you need ticks left for combo.

For example character Spike trigger might be 5. Spike needs to build ticks to 5 to launch, or trigger, his combo, but he needs points to perform combo attacks also.

Combo attacks might be special moves you gain ticks from, or specific combo moves. If you use moves what grow ticks, performing them should use 1 - 1½ or even 2 times more ticks than they are building thicks up.

For example, Spike has attacks:
Swirl building 1 ticks,
Thrust building 1 ticks and
Thunderblade building 2 ticks.

Spike's trigger is 5, what means he has to perform 5 times Swirl and/or Thrust to even trigger combo (but he has no ticks left to perform combo) or two times Thunderblade and Swirl or Thrust, or any combination of those attacks to build trigger.

But 5 is not enough. It works this way. Spike has used 3 times Swirl (worth 3 trigger points), 2 times Thunderblade (4 trigger points) and Thrust once. Spike has 8 points to use for his combo. He triggers the combo costing 5 points (what his trigger is) and has 3 points left for combo.

3 left over points from triggering combo can be used to perform multiple actions. For example, if performing combo actions costs as much as they build ticks, 8 trigger points equal triggering combo and leaving 3 points to perform combo attack. If combo attacks are same as normal attacks (let's keep it that way for this example) Spike can perform Swirl three times, combine Swirl and Thrust 2 to 1, or perform Thunderblade with Swirl or Thrust.

Special Actions

Special actions are some powerful actions what character can access getting ticks. For example, healer's special action could be that he can heal more than an individual of party members. Or spell damage or effect can be doubled, even damage could be automatically critical.

These are really specific actions.

How Characters Access Combos And Special Actions?

It must be included in game, of course. It needs small special game related rules to be made. But these are easy steps. They could be made more easy as character specific personal powers, what characters can access during play via experience (similar to Dungeons & Dragons feats).

GM should only basically determine how ticks are accessed and how much it should cost to trigger combo or special action.

And After Combat?

If there are any ticks left, you could decide that they are lost. Combat heat is over, adrenaline is not rushing, action seized. So all ticks are gone and must be build up in next action paced action scene.

Project: J-Tacchi

Yes, I might write this down, with Final Fantasy-ish limit strikes (what basically are just Special Actions, sounding just more... eh... special).

Monday, April 4, 2011

A-Z: Beehive, random challenge dungeon

Wow, again, schedule sucks! Why am I so busy now? Well, I'll get to right schedule. This is actually post for 04/02/2011 what should have been Saturday. But well... this is how it goes now. So, today it will be Saturday's post for letter B for A-Z blog challenge...

What Is Beehive

Beehive is repeatable challenge quest in Perfect World mmorpg. I have to admit, that I have never attended it, so what I know about it is just what I have heard about it. But anyways, this blog is not about the beehive challenge quest in Perfect world mmorpg, but what inspiration it could give for roleplaying games.

It has nothing to do with actual bees, but I think that the structure of this challenge quest as random rooms is why it is called a beehive. Side note.

Beehive is a dungeon with random rooms. Different rooms have different tasks to do before you can move further to next random level. There are, don't know... 50 or so (at least) of these challenge rooms, and if you are lucky, you could skip most of the rooms to get into the end and prize, or you might have to go room by room all of them.

I am not 100% positive how it works. I know you need these Mirage stones to enter it, and if I remember right, you get to roll dice in game to determine the next room you are going...

What ever the case is, the point is, that you take a series of challenges in rooms in random order to get the prize. How would it work in a rpg?

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition And Beehive

Gotta say, never played, never read the game. But what I know about D&D 4th Edition is that basically the structure of campaign is made of challenges. Challenges might be not only fights, but also for example social or puzzle type. So, if you think that D&D is encounter after encounter, doesn't beehive work well for it?

Would beehive just be some random quests, or could there be a in game story for it? Yes.

There is this magical labyrinth, where you need skill, power and sheer luck. You enter the room, when win it's challenge enter another room where your magical dice teleport you (I am quite sure, there was dice involved in PW in this manner). Some rooms are simple puzzles, some traps, some contain monsters. Some are deadly what only the skilled can conquer, some need next to nothing to pass.

Why should character or character party enter this beehive then? Because it is good excuse for repeated encounters and experience points and loot. Oh, and those who get through beehive to it's last room, will be rewarded generously.

Basically beehive is just excuse to run random encounters room after room with some meta plot thingie there. It's not rocket science, but if your players are in the right mood for D&D (loot and experience) this would be perfect. No long story, every encounter what seems random serve a purpose for an adventure and prize in the end.

Also other D&D versions, D&D like games, old school games etc. work very well for this kind of campaign. I just used D&D 4 as an example, because never actually wrote about it before.

Beehive, How Does It Work

You need to determine the rooms, how many there will be. Would be easier to randomly determine the next room, if the number of rooms equals to some number possible to roll with dice. Possibilities are, for example 3D20 (3-60), 1D100 (1-100), 1D100/2 (1-50) etc. It would be better to have more rooms than less of them. To keep things simple.

Writing rooms should be easy. Just take random ideas and random monsters and write them down. Roll that number, that's the room character or character party enters. Some should be extreme challenging and feel very unlucky to enter, some might be easy. Some might be monster or monsters, some traps. One or two rooms might be just empty where you have to roll dice in the middle of it. Could be fun, if character's have encountered dangers. Would they take this innocent looking (and perfectly innocent) room suspiciously?

When entering rooms, you could enter with room "1" what is the entrance, first room of the challenge. From there, party rolls magical dice in the middle of the room (every room might contain similar dice rolling teleportation place, but it should be activated only after the conditions of the room are met) and sees where they are teleported according to the dice result.

If you want to make it easier, those rooms already entered are "used", and cannot be entered again. Use next available higher or lower number what closest is available. Lower number preferred. If you are a harsh DM, you can enter to same room twice and if you are extra hard, the room has reseted and it must be won again.

You might also want, that group can enter only higher room next, rolling dice as long as next result is higher than previous room, but that is way too easy.

Prize For Winning The Beehive Challenge

Remember, there is luck involved. Lucky roll, character or party could go to the last room of beehive challenge from the beginning (should last room be also challenge, or just finishing line is up to you). But the journey there could have been extremely rough (multiple rooms, multiple same rooms). But that is the trick. With luck you might win the challenge easily, but you might get yourself stuck there, wandering same rooms again and again waiting dice to favor you.

What ever the case is, reward should and could contain experience points, fixed number for the party, shared, solid, what ever suits you. Gold of course, or other valuables like diamonds are good. Also could be good if every character could choose one special item what suits his character. Better part of armor, pendant with magical powers, powerful weapon. It was a quest after all.


Could beehive work with some other games? Yes. Have you seen the movie Cube, or Hypercube (Cube 2)? If you haven't you should. In Cube the "beehive" is more like prison with deadly traps, but it will work fine with your science fiction, or modern world Warehouse 13 type game.

In Call of Cthulhu reasons might be many for investigators to get stuck in strange rooms with strange monsters and challenges. It could be in dreamworld, another dimension or even ancient mystical ruins. Similarly could work with pulp adventure in Indiana Jones fashion.

Be creative. Take the game in your hands, and think what kind of variation beehive could be in that setting. Might be easier than it sounds. To be frank, in my opinion Dungeons & Dragons styled game could be the easiest to run beehive, but I bet that in other games the use of it could be more creative.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A-Z: Animal companions

This is my first entry for Tossing it out's A-Z blog challenge. Read more in the website, if you don't know what it's all about.

Anyways, for some reason I totally forgot to do this 1st of April, so I do today in this post the first entry with letter A what I should have done yesterday. And I will do today second entry with letter B to keep up to date. So, here it is, yesterdays post today!

Animal Companions, Just Buffs For Characters?

By animal companions here I mean fantasy games, where some character class might obtain an animal companion to aid him. It might give benefices being kind of a living skill or feat, or it could be even a small animal NPC for that character.

Even though animal companions are just buffs or skill set, should it just be it? I mean, that character has chosen to be that class of animal companions for a reason. Also that character has chosen his animal companion. Particularly that certain animal. How much player's character should give attention for this animal companion?

Roleplaying With Animal Companioned Character

So, character doesn't necessarily have all the skills and equipment himself, but within his animal companion. Games technically it is just a way how that character classes skills are handled a bit differently, than others. But how to flesh out the animal companion? It is a big part of character concept, so should it be roleplayed?

Of course, character class with companion or not is not as important as the character himself. But as the class might have companion, the companion is part of the character as his history and motives are. Player should not give all the attention for the companion, because it might interrupt the game. Even though player can give his character's companion a soul instead of just rules, the game or character is not about animal companionship*.

Still, player might concider playing or taking in game small parts about his character's and his companions relationship. These can be small acts, like:

- when party is eating, just telling for storytelling, how he shares bread crumbles, meat or veggies
- when character is acting, take the companion aspect in it. For example, if character could see far away with an eagle, player can describe when eagle gives the information, he pets it giving small treat and then shares what information he gained with the party

*One Player Games

One player games are different. Instead of group of people and giving them all shared time and their moments equally having fun together, in solo game it can be easier to make story for one character. If character has animal companion, all game could be about their relationship. It could be great drama from finding the companion, adventuring with it and finally loosing it (if companions are mortal). But it doesn't have to be all drama. One player character game could be also adventure, but because there are no other players one player can give everything playing character-animal companion relationship.

Might be good to experiment, and see how it changes companion from just rules, skills, stats and mechanics to something more, as it should be in character's view. True companion, not just additional powers set.