World Building: Ancient history of the Fell Met Sea

First off, if you’re playing in my Fell Met Sea game please don’t read this yet. It’s 100% full of spoilers for my current thoughts on setting background that you haven’t learned yet. If you’re not playing Fell Met Sea, I’ve put together some ideas about how the previous civilization(s) that preceded my PCs’ present world fell apart. Check out the consequences of sacrificial blood magic!

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Using 3 Pillar XP in D&D as 5 Questions

I posted in February last year about using XP awards to train your players, and the problems of various methods of XP accounting. I mentioned in that post that I would experiment with rewarding players for telling me more explicitly where they wanted to go in their next session. It turns out, that particular group of players never developed the habit of telling me explicitly what their characters’ goals were despite my repeated encouragement.

I also mentioned the reddit thread about Improved 3 Pillar XP, and said that I didn’t want to use it. I didn’t want to use it because it seemed like it would require more accounting than I was interested in doing. But since Covid-19 has moved all my gaming online and I’ve made more quick reference materials for myself in google docs, I decided that I’d try building a spreadsheet to run the Improved 3 Pillar XP calculations for me.

I think the golden moment for me—the moment that convinced me to throw together the basics of the Improved 3 Pillar XP categories in a spreadsheet—was seeing that I could simplify all XP gain into a series of questions at the end of a session. Those questions:

  • Did the PCs recover any notable treasure?
  • Did the PCs explore, defend (suggested by my sibs), or takeover an important location?
  • Did the PCs ally an important NPC, or align them towards PC’s causes / away from foes’?
  • Did the players interact with each other in character?
  • Did the PCs circumvent or defeat any foes?

When I shared my quick and dirty first notes with my sibs, they rapidly made a separate interface that I’m actually quite happy with.

Now I have a spreadsheet that will take direct input from me about how much I want to reward my PCs as a proportion of their next level, with input categories spread across exploration, social interaction, and combat. The best part, as far as I’m concerned, is that this is also flexible and easy to expand.

If I want to try adding other categories of behavior that I wish to reward, I can either include those as expanded qualifying cases for the above questions (by changing an existing question) or I can add another question and reward category. As someone who enjoys tinkering with spreadsheets, that isn’t a scary prospect… though I can understand it not being your cup of tea. Ideally, I’ll have all this put together in a good-looking easily-read format at some point. For now though, I’m trying it out and seeing how well it works. Do it bad quickly first, etc.

The first idea I had about expanding this was to try rewarding players for telling me about their characters’ plans and then having the PCs act on those. I realize that this doesn’t necessarily work with PCs who are too in-the-moment to plan ahead, nor does it work as well when the PCs are too busy reacting to every new garbage fire to forge their own path… but I think it could be useful in a more sandbox game, especially one with a more relaxed pace.

If you want to try building your own, I suggest copying all the various tables in the Improved 3 Pillar XP post into a spreadsheet first so that you know what you’re working with. If you’d like to try using what I’ve got so far, tell me so and I’ll look into sharing something that you might be able to use.

Building Engagement in RPGs, Quick Thoughts

This pulls lessons from all over, but especially from Apocalypse World.

Roleplaying games are a conversation. Like any conversation, they’re at their best when the people in them are engaged and present, not distracted. Playing an RPG means sharing a collaboratively created world and holding that mutual fiction in your mind; thus, the conversation suffers when people disengage.

So how can we keep each other engaged, and avoid Continue reading

Why Roll Dice? Two Misconceptions

Maybe some of you have seen something like this before:

Player: “I want to see what’s behind this bookshelf. I hit it with my axe. I get a 3 on my attack roll.”
Storyteller: “Well… that doesn’t seem very effective. The bookshelf doesn’t move.”
Player: “Okay, I swing at it again. 5.”
Storyteller: “…”
Player: “Not good enough? I try again. 1.”
Storyteller: *Sigh* “The bookshelf falls on you. You take 6 damage.”

These rolls are boring, and this scene is a clear failure in my eyes. Not on the part of the PC, who can’t get a break with that bookshelf, but on the part of the storyteller and the player. It plays into two misconceptions that crop up in RPGs, either of which can Continue reading

Binary Success and Failure in RPGs, Quick Thoughts

Many popular RPG systems measure success (or failure) as a simple binary. For example, by a strict reading of D&D 5e’s rules, either your character is successfully sneaky or they’re not: there’s no middle ground. There’s no benefit for being exceptionally stealthy, and there’s no real penalty for being exceptionally not-stealthy. Thus, there’re no degrees of success or failure. Every test is pass or fail.

This streamlines resolution of tests, and has the benefit of being fast and simple. But it also misses Continue reading

News, and presenting on That Cat Series

You know the one I’m talking about, Warriors: The Prophecies Begin. Yesterday was the class presentation, which means that I’m now done with it. Finally. Things were sadly rushed, so we didn’t get as much time to talk about the series in finer detail as I would have liked, but I think we got our point across. The series is mediocre, but effective at getting large quantities of unchallenging words in front of children.

This did mean that I was distracted and didn’t post here yesterday. That pattern of not posting is likely to continue this upcoming week (and maybe the week after) as I focus on my final paper and visiting with family. I’ll be back soon, and will likely post more things at random rather than according to a prescribed schedule. I have some sweet role-playing setting tidbits to share with you too, so stay tuned!

Depth-Based Adventure Sites

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Originally posted on Monster Darlings:
Many of us know the joy of describing a complex dungeon and watching our friends studiously attempt to chart it out on graph paper, in many cases distorted by the “picture-telephone effect.”  And mapping out a dungeon can be serious fun for a DM.  But sometimes, adventurers want to explore…

Fiction Experiment 2/17/2016

The following tidbit is the result of me trying to come up with what it might feel like to fly on a magical skyship in the setting that Mattias, Wendell, Frisbee and I came up with last Sunday.  It’s a setting that we’re hoping to use for RPGs, and at some point soon you’ll be able to enjoy it along with us!  More about that later.

For now, have fun with this…

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Zombies in the Vineyard: a DitV hack

Dogs in the Vineyard is an indie RPG created by Vincent Baker; it has an unusual set of dice mechanics for its conflict resolution, and as part of that it encourages players to take turns shaping the game’s narrative.  While it certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I have had a lot of fun with it.

It’s also highly moddable, much like other Vincent Baker games (Apocalypse World being a prime example).  While the DitV sourcebook describes a Wild West setting full of civil and religious strife, I’ve heard or seen others using the system to play in mafia-based story lines, Star Wars settings, feudal Japan, or even The Matrix.  And Baker hacked his own system to tell horror stories, in Afraid in the Vineyard.

So of course someone decided to modify things a little further to turn it into a storytelling system that would allow you to play in a classic zombie movie.  Sadly, while they’ve playtested their zombie hack, the ruleset that I was able to find online is nowhere near final.

I’m going to cobble something together from those notes as best as I can, and when I’ve done that I’ll share the result with you.  If you’re already familiar with DitV and Afraid, maybe you’ll enjoy taking a look too?

A Glance at Shadowrun’s 5th Edition

I’m busy getting ready to run the seventh iteration of my Call of Cthulhu scenario, Temple in the Sands, and I probably won’t have anything for you this Wednesday due to traveling.  But last weekend I had the chance to play a game of Shadowrun again, something I don’t often have an opportunity to do.  I had a good time, but I think I realized why it was that I play it so infrequently; Shadowrun looks like a chore and a half to run when compared with all the other RPGs that I play.

Shadowrun reminds me a bit of a glamorous ass.  You know what I’m talking about: one of those people with so much style, and with so many good stories told about them, that you forget just how frustrating they can be in person.  If you spend enough time hanging around them the aggravation (mostly) disappears into the background noise, but there’s a lot of settling in and acclimatizing that you have to do first.  And every so often (usually right in the middle of something that is pretty cool) you get a reminder of why you thought the person was an ass in the first place.  But because it’s so glamorous, because it’s practically oozing cool, I keep wanting to come back to it like the sucker I am.  I can explain, I swear. Continue reading