Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category


My Advice for Running Convention Games (August Blog Carnival)

29 August, 2015

Creative Mountain Games is hosting this month’s Blog Carnival on Convention Gaming and here is my contribution:

I have been working GenCon for AEG since 2000, missing two years along the way, mostly demoing games, and most recently back to Games Mastering.  I have run per-packaged modules before but for the last three years, I have been creating and GMing the adventures for GenCon.   So, this advice is primarily for GMs.

Be Prepared, have what you need (books, dice, notes) ready, but also have the minimum the players need as well: character sheets, dice, pencils, paper for name tents, and whatever else they may need for the adventure at hand.

For example: Legend of the Five Rings (L5R), which I GM, requires a fair number of D10s, so I have a bag of 30 for my own and the players’ use.  (Though I do usually manage to forget something, this year it was extra pencils.)

Let the Players Make Informed Choices, player do not know your style of play and (in some cases) the setting and rules, so do not be afraid to stop the game to explain the situation, risks and rewards to the players.  Start with making sure that the players are able to make an informed choice as to the characters they are playing, for something like Pathfinder Society where they build their own, this is not so much of a problem but when providing pre-generated characters it can be more of a challenge.

For example: Here are the cover sheets to the characters I used for my introductory L5R game, note especially the “Play this character if” section, that all of the advantages, disadvantages and school techniques are defined (so the player does not need to look at the rulebook), and, lastly, there are brief roleplaying hooks for the other characters.  The “Play this character if section” and defining the Ads/DisAds was new for this year and very well received so I highly recommend a similar build for other GMs as it allows the players to find a character they want to play easily and then have to tools to do so immediately.

Let the Players Set the Tone, now, my default mode for games is drama to action movie, trying to move the plot along and playing a fairly serious game.  But at a convention, you need to adapt to what the players are interested in, I start with my default setting and adjust from there.  If people want something light, play up the absurdities of the situation and let fun coincidences happens.  If they want something dark, the brutal combat system of L5R -for example- will help provide that.  Roll with the mood of the table and the game will be better for it.

Be sure that you have eaten before hand and have drinks to hand, being hungry will throw you off your game, so eat, and not being hydrated will be rough on your body and your voice (which you will be using, a lot, as a GM at GenCon, as it gets noisy), so have water or other drinkable to hand.  Throat drops can also be helpful.

Well, those are the big things that I have learned and that I think have made my games pretty successful over the years.  I hope they prove helpful to you as well.


Sean’s GenCon Advice, 2015 Edition

9 July, 2015

The start of GenCon is only three weeks away.  So, I thought I would share my hard-earned experience and try and help out people who are going.


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TPK Avoided . . . so why am I depressed?

20 January, 2012

So, we were playing Pathfinder last night and we got to the final battle, our four 5th level characters (barbarian, cleric, sorcerer and alchemist) against the Frost Rider -the big bad-, his ghoulish thug and four mephit minions.  The sorcerer is my character, more charming than combative but not useless in a fight.

All dressed up like an open grave

Better off dead?

Things started out rough as we were pummeled by an ice storm and then had to climb out from the snow and ice to close with our enemies.  The barbarian went down paralyzed by the ghoul, the alchemist was entangled by the frost riders horned helm and was being brutally stabbed whenever he used a fire bomb.  Both of them were only not brutally killed because the GM choose not to inflict the damage the villains should have.   The cleric and the sorcerer mopped up the mephits while the alchemist was allowed to burn the Frost Rider to death.  Not sure what happened to the ghoul.  Somehow, were were victorious, but for the life of me, I am not sure how in game we could have survived.

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Genre Resources I (Early Modern, Modern Horror, Science Fiction)

10 August, 2011

Various things I have found inspirational and useful, organized into broader themes.

Early modern, general:

Organizing information without computers, the Mundaneum of Paul Otlet.  It shows how difficult organizing masses of information before computerized storage systems.

LIFE’s pictorial of the Golden Age of Train Travel.

Why it is difficult being an adventuress in the Victorian period, the clothes are against you.

For modern(ish) horror:

Maundbury, an experiment in shared worlds fiction: an open-source, crowd sourced Gothic Horror setting for use in fiction and gaming.  A small New England town in 1968, filled with secrets and shadows.

Gun Street Girl, comic about the ‘gun’ (bodyguard/hitter) of a modern occult investigator and the problems they get into.  Excellent example for one or two player and a GM sort of game.

Science Fiction, Near Future

Vertical Farming, growing food -at high density- in cities.  Useful for cyberpunk adventures and on colony worlds.


Sean’s GenCon Advice

22 July, 2011

GenCon is less than two weeks away, sadly, I will not be attending this year.  But I want everyone who is going to have a great time.  So, I thought I would share my hard-earned experience and try and help out people who are going.


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Geek Culture and Self-Image

23 April, 2011

The RPG Corner links to this interesting post over at Dave Ex Machina where he talks about being a nerd and a problem he has, to wit.

That problem being, I am sick to death of “nerd culture”.

Go and read the article, it is quite interesting, the important thought that he brings up is:

[Y]ou can be into a thing without having to be into being into a thing.

Now, I work in a game store.  I deal with people who are . . . committed to various points of view.  People who live Magic, people who hate D&D 4e, people who love Pathfinder, people who can recite the history of the Clans in Battletech, people who dispise Magic, people who are Clan Loyalist for the Legend of the Five Rings setting and so on.   I get to interact with them all.

Now, I have opinions on games, comics, movies, which may not align with those of the people I interact with.  But unlike so many people I deal with, I do not feel the need to defend my choices or (more importantly) the need to denigrate theirs.

My self-image is not so fragile that it will be shattered by someone who, for example, does not like Joss Whedon’s work (Dollhouse was not his best effort after all), who prefers Magic: the Gathering to the Shadowfist CCG (where I am in the opposite camp) or who loves zombies (which I feel have been very overplayed).  Different people like different things and to different levels, I am entirely cool with that.

People need to be accepting of other peoples views and not defensive when their own opinions are challenged.  I try to be curious instead, for I do want to understand what people liked about, say, a movie I disliked or a game that did not grab me.  Dialog is far more valuable, and less destructive, that reflexive defensive hostility.

Anyway, just my thoughts on this subject.

Edit: L of Geek’s Dream Girl puts it much more eloquently in Amicable Disagreement 101.


Game Theory – Moral Dilemmas: Playing Evil

21 October, 2009

The RPG Blog Carnival for October 2009 is Morality: In-Game and Real Life.  I have taken the easy way out, discussing playing evil characters.

First, my (simple) definition of evil: To desire the ends is to desire the means.

In other words, evil is a willingness to do whatever is needed to achieve your goals.  Remembering the maxim that everyone is the hero in their own story, evil character may have noble goals but the costs they are willing to pay will make them be viewed by most as anything but a hero.
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