GM Pitfalls: Master of Puppets

As a Gamemaster, sometimes it’s more important to just pull the strings.

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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.
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Roll Call: Miniatures

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.


 

Tyranny of Dragons #008 Human Paladin (C)

Pre-Painted Miniatures

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.

SUMMARY:

  • PROS:
    • Pre-Painted
    • Sold in boxes of 4
    • Lots of sets to choose from with different themes
  • CONS:
    • Sometimes poorly painted
    • Random boxes
    • Single minis can have high cost

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Roll Call: Table Rules

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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.
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Roll Call: Skills to Pay Bills

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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

Roll Call: Avoiding the Dreaded Tavern

Whether you play RPGs or not, you have more than likely heard the standard cliche of how an RPG commences: All the players just happen to be in a Tavern, either at their own accord when something eventful goes down, or summoned there by some benefactor with a very special quest. The heroes then bound together to accomplish goals, slay monsters and loot the bejesus out of any poor sap that gets in their line of sight.

For real, though…. That scenario sucks ass. Continue reading

Roll Call: Woes of Character Creation [The Backstory]

Backstory for a character is an aspect of Tabletop RPGs that is often misrepresented as one of the weirder/dorkier elements. Though it can be very detailed, it is also a staple of the game, so much so that companies have actually created full guides or generators to help players create a cohesive story.

However, many people disagree with the necessity of the backstory. They see a detailed backstory as frivolous. Essentially, many GMs don’t care where your character is from as long as they are motivated to the adventure and stick to the campaign. That’s their prerogative, so fine, let them run the game the way they want, but I personally feel this approach to a key aspect of character creation comes from a vast misunderstanding of the importance of backstory.

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The Loser’s Dogma

I don’t understand people that act out when they lose.

I get competitiveness and the urge to win. It’s more the people that play a harmless game with friends and get moody when they lose or even think they’re losing.

I say this knowing full well I have been that person numerous times, but that’s mainly because my wife is supposed to love me and not SCREW ME OVER WHY ARE YOU PLAYING THAT CARD I WAS ABOUT TO WIN I CANT BELIEVE YOU WOULD DO THIS TO ME YOU BI-

ahem

sorry.

Seriously, though. Some of the most fun I’ve had playing games, board or video variety, have been when I no longer have to worry about winning.

Let me tell you about the first time I played the game Talisman.

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My Favorite Games Right Now

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Not a creative title, I know. Look, sometimes you have to sacrifice wit for SEO.

Well, fine, I didn’t know you felt that way. Then go! No one’s stopping you!

Sorry you had to see that, guys. They’ll be back. They always come back.

Anywho, imaginary conversations with invisible people aside, I wanted to today share  some of my favorite tabletop board/card games that I have played so far. I’ve been addicted to games lately and working in a gaming/comic shop hasn’t helped. I have collected a bunch of games over the past… year… wow, it’s really only been about a year or so that I’ve been buying up games… I have a problem…

I don’t necessarily own all these games and some I’ve only played once but had a great time doing so. I’ll list pros and cons of each and give a brief review of my experience.

Here goes. My Top 6 Games I’ve Played (in no particular order):


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