As a Gamemaster, sometimes it’s more important to just pull the strings.
In the right hands, an NPC can be a brilliant addition to a campaign’s narrative. Interactive, fully fleshed out and generally dynamic – NPCs represent the world the PCs are
murdering their way through adventuring in and are their best method of interacting with this world in ways not provided by the set pieces and enemies they commonly experience. A good NPC can give the party a trusted ally, a daunting nemesis or even just an adorable Goblin they can claim as a mascot. Whatever the purpose or goal of the NPC, it’s important to remember that important NPCs need to feel alive. The GM needs to play the role of the NPC, not just control it. Good NPCs have no strings and are as alive and organic as the players themselves. It should feel as though a new player dropped their way into the campaign, complete with their own unique goals, talents and flaws.
However, it’s also important to remember that some NPCs are allowed to be fairly inconsequential.
Too often a GM will try to fully flesh out every. single. NPC. This is incredibly dangerous, especially in Urban campaigns where PCs may encounter a LOT of NPCs. I find this especially taxing when the party needs to interact with merchants. One member of the party needs weapons, so here comes a blacksmith. Another member needs potions, so I better come up with a potion seller. Oh hey, this guy needs some provisions, better whip up a different general merchant. Oh look, the Paladin is off to the temple…. time to slap together some monks. Oh hey, the person at the blacksmith is now asking about anyone who might know the value of stolen jewelry, better concoct myself a fence. And so on.
And so on.
AnD sO oN.
Whether you’re playing Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons or Shadowrun or Mutants and Masterminds or any other system, it all begins with making a character. Before setting out on any adventure, you’ll define the specific set of abilities, personality traits, historical prejudices and various other traits that will guide you through the world created for your arena of play. While it’s important at this point to make sure you build a character you’ll be happy with as the game proceeds, the main thing is focus on building a character you’ll be able to have fun playing.
As the game progresses, it’s normal for players to build attachments to their characters. Just as people build attachments to their favorite characters in a movie or TV show, it’s understandable to become invested in the actions and safety of these characters. On the extreme, this can result in players getting VERY emotionally involved in their characters, letting the connection bleed into the real world.
And that’s okay.
Things I am thankful for:
- Fallout 76. Thank you for reminding me that even things that I love will one day disappoint and betray me.
- Donny Cates. For showing that sometimes the best way to create something new is by simply cramming two old things together and going with whatever the result is.
- Netflix. Thanks for doing that jumpscare intro for a month or so around halloween. It’s good to know my heart is still healthy.
- Leftovers. A month from now I will have something to do when I open the fridge, see the dozen or so tupperware and say “oh, ew, we still have leftovers.”
- The 2018 Election. Thank you for showing that we live in a country where a state that is very evenly split between two parties will receive mockery and ire from the rest of the country instead of being praised as a prime example of democracy at work.
- Keyforge. Randomly generate names for decks in an incredibly random card game? Cool idea. Who knew it would be the source of such simplistic comedy.
- Food Network Cooking Challenges. Thank you for the opportunity to sit and be loudly judgmental of someone else’s culinary abilities and choices. It’s the perfect accompaniment to my microwaved Spaghetti-O’s.
- Sony’s Spider-Man. Not really anything funny to say, just thank you. The whimsy and joy this game gave me was remarkable. I felt like I kid again the whole time. I can’t wait to play the DLC.
- My three cats. Honestly, that whole desire to have a clean home was just getting in the way anyway. Good lookin’ out, cats.
- Bradley Cooper. Thank you for making the bar of attractive male so incredibly high. Seriously, I was worried it would be too easy to be considered attractive. Handsome, funny, great beard, Well educated, multi-lingual, talented actor, talented voice actor and, thanks to A Star is Born, musically talented both on an instrument and in voice. Awesome. Thank you SOOOOO much, you ass.
- The Haunting of Hill House. Thank you for bringing the hidden ghost concept to mind so now I can’t watch any show or movie or even walk through my own home without looking for subtle ghosts hiding somewhere.
- White Barn 3-Wick Candles. It’s nice to have an addiction that at least smells good. Still an addiction, though. Seriously. This is a cry for help.
- The people of New Orleans. I thought I knew what drinking was, but you guys showed me there is just like a whole other tier of drinking I didn’t know existed.
And of course, I am thankful for my awesome friends, wonderful family, and my lovely wife. Thank you to all those people for being in my life.
Now I better start cooking or those friends are going to beat me.
Horror in roleplaying games can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s sometimes tough for people to fully deliver on. It’s shockingly simple for a session that was intended to deliver plenty of spooks to become incredibly dull. However, with careful planning and a few simple tricks, the terror can be real and can shake your players’ nerves in incredibly ways.
Here are some tips that have worked for me.
One common complaint I hear from GMs is the burden of having to collect a ton of various minis in order to represent characters and monsters on the table. Reasonably, it can be a bit of a pain, what with painted minis from WizKids only being available in randomized boxes. You can by them individually, but then you may be looking for upwards to 5-10 for a mini or even more if it’s a rare one. It’s true, many GMs actually enjoy the hunt for minis and building a solid collection, but for every one of those people there are one or more that either a) don’t have the means or b) don’t have the desire to through down $50 on a beholder just to move their campaign along. So real quick, let’s talk what options you have as a GM for physical representation on your board.
One thing to remember is that everyone is going to have their own opinions and preference as to which miniature style works best for them. By no means am I touting any one option as better than others, far from it. Like many things in this hobby, it really boils down to what works best for both the GM and the Players. My goal her is to just shed light on some other alternatives for tabletop representation.
Pretty much the industry standard for minis, these come in boxes of 4 randomized minis. They are pre-painted, which is nice for people who need their miniatures ready to use, but different sets have varying levels of quality when it comes to the paint job. Also, being that the boxes are randomized, they have rarity levels for the different miniatures available, meaning that beholder you just absolutely need may never come from one of the boxes without buying a hefty amount, and even then there’s only a chance you’ll get what you’re looking for. You can buy them in singles from various sources, namely eBay or websites like this one, but depending on the specific miniature, they can get fairly pricey, up into the $50+ range for one mini.
- Sold in boxes of 4
- Lots of sets to choose from with different themes
- Sometimes poorly painted
- Random boxes
- Single minis can have high cost
When playing tabletop games, it’s understandable that people might not get along. Different people have different ideas of what a game night means. To some people it might be “hey, let’s get some brews and pay half attention to a game.” Others might see it as a focused and quiet experience, while others still might see the game as a background activity to something else, like conversation or watching a movie. It’s reasonable that a group of friends might not agree on exactly what sort of reverence should be put toward a game. As such, when they come into a session or an RPG or board game, they may be more or less focused than others at the table, more or less sober than others or generally doing something that is a pet peeve of someone else without them knowing.
The way around this is to establish some house/table rules when playing tabletop games. Now, your first reaction might be that this sounds too strict. Afterall, they’re just games. That’s definitely fair, and if your group is the type that meets to game once in a blue moon, then by all means, let people run rampant. However, if you are regularly meeting with your gaming group for more adventures in tabletopping, then you’ve gone beyond just games: this is now a hobby and your group is a club of individuals taking part in that hobby. You are a crew. A squad. A gang of nerdy droogs. As such, everyone at the table has some level of passion for the hobby, so it’s reasonable to have a discussion of what sort of parameters the group may need to put in place to ensure nobody’s experience is stifled. It might not be easy, getting people to agree, and then one of two things may need to happen.
I finally got around to playing Gloomhaven, after purchasing the behemoth game MONTHS ago and not touching it (a common theme for me, I have a problem).
This game is seriously impressive. For those not in the know, Gloomhaven is absolutely MASSIVE:
(Cat in box lid for scale)
I tried a weird experiment this past weekend. On Friday, I assaulted 6 of my friends with a random, cryptic series of gifs and then asked them to pick characters, namely teachers at a school somewhere in Michigan. I had them choose strengths and weaknesses, had them describe their relationships to other characters and had them come up with a fear for their character. This all built into the culmination of the experiment on Saturday, which I’ve dubbed “Golden Hills” after the name of the school they work at.
This year is the 40th Anniversary of the Star Wars franchise first launching back in 1977. I feel it’s only appropriate that I make a million Star Wars posts this year.
Or at least one. Let’s talk about my love affair with the Fantasy Flight Star Wars RPG. Continue reading
I have been playing tabletop RPGs for a while now. I have read through many different systems and have tried even more. Over the years, I have gotten many of my friends involved in this hobby, one which I personally feel is immensely valuable and enriching. Because of my experience, my friends who are joining or even building new campaigns will often ask me for advice on starting up. Of all the advice I can give, there is always one that I consistently make sure to give: Use skill checks whenever possible. Continue reading