Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

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Game Theory – Charming Morals (or the Morality of the Charm)

19 May, 2020

Is it charming?My, it has been a while since I did one of these.  I was reading a discussion on social media where it called out the original designers of D&D as essentially bad people for having included charm spells in D&D.  That seemed . . . well wrong to me. As I believe charms were included as part of the long tradition of such magics in myths, tales and legends not for any other reason.

Thus this discussion which is focused on the GM’s use of charm magic:

To start with, Charm spells and their variants (love potions, suggestion, dominate, and so many more) are troubling, deeply so in fact because they take away one of the primary aspects that make playing roleplaying games fun:

Agency/Autonomy, when your character is under the effects of such a spell, you (the player) are not getting to play the character you signed up for.  You are being forced to act against your will and it is just not enjoyable.  This is an extremely important point, such effects basically steal the character from the player for the duration and is very likely a “you do not have fun” moment for the player.  Do not do that, it is rude and will stress the social bonds of the group.

Now, some people will say, well just get rid of Charms all together.  This is an option but using magic to subvert peoples’ control / emotions / will has a long tradition in myths and legends and is a good indication that anyone doing so is evil.  Arguably, fear of such control is one of the reasons people have historically been so afraid of the idea of magic, if it can make you do things you do not want to do or want to do something so much that you violate laws and morality, it is something deeply terrifying.  Again, depending on your group, these may not be subjects they people wish to explore but they can be interesting and terrifying to encounter in a game setting.

Now, there are still ways to use Charm effects successfully in a game, but you need to warn the players and get them onboard first. For example:

The Big Bad has enacted a powerful ritual that gives them control over the Royal army, the characters are part of the army so . . . If the players agree, they get caught up in the spell.  Montage of autocratic control over the land and then the character end up somewhere that breaks them from the spell.  Now, they have to try an free their home from the Big Bad, possibly while being concerned with the safety of their former comrades, possibly (if people want to) grappling with the terrible things they did while controlled.

Or:

The Evil Noble wants to get the Royal to marry them and slips them a love potion . . . it works!  And the characters have to free the Royal from the induced false love before something terrible happens.  Or, the comedy approach, thing go wrong and one of player characters now has a Royal in love with them or has fallen in love with the Evil Noble (or both!).  The humor version requires a light touch on everyone’s behalf though.

Some players will still not be be willing to let their characters be charmed (or love potioned).  Do not force them, it is impolite and not being a good friend.  But others will enjoy the chance to try something different with their character.

As always, communication is king.  Talk to your players to learn what they want to see and try in your game and what they definitely do not want.

Notes: Another in my occasional discussion of game theory.

Image A strange portrait from “Spring-heel’d Jack: the Terror of London. A romance of the nineteenth century. From the The British LibraryPublic Domain Mark.

 

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Words and Whimsy (A to Z)

27 April, 2020

Whimsy and WordsIt is known that words (and names especially) contain power, wizards are perhaps the most well known users of words of power but others have been known to tap into such magics as well.  The Empress is rumored to be a powerful worker of word magic but then, that is said about the Empress and just about every sort of magic.

Wizards comb ancient libraries for particular lost or hidden magical words but they are rarely found, it is one of the ways the Library-Towers of Borusa make money, providing their libraries for perusal.  The Imperial libraries are also sought after but more difficult to acquire access too.  Caches of lost lore when found are often subject to bidding war or even outright theft!  So ventures might be hired to find such information, protect it or even steal it.

Whimsy, as in the sense of the purely fantastical and perhaps bizarre, must be introduced carefully into a game, as sometimes the mood needs to be lightened or . . . changed.  But too much whimsy can irrevocably change the tone of a campaign, so, like any spice, use in small amounts to enhance not overwhelm the existing tone and themes of your game.  Whimsy is also one of the hardest things to put back one you have let it out, so, be careful!

Notes: An adventure seed and some games mastering advice.  W is always a challenge.

Image By Sir John Tenniel – “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865), found on Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

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Sean’s GenCon Advice 2019

11 July, 2019

GenCon!GenCon is about three weeks away (where did the year go?), so, I thought I would (again) share my hard-earned experience and try and help out people who are going as I do every year.

Preparation:

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Sean’s GenCon Advice 2018

19 July, 2018

GenCon - An Epic Level EventGenCon is just about two weeks away, so, I thought I would (again) share my hard-earned experience and try and help out people who are going as I do every year.

Preparation:

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Sean’s GenCon Advice 2017

2 August, 2017

GenCon is about two weeks away, so, I thought I would (again) share my hard-earned experience and try and help out people who are going.

Preparation:

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Sean’s GenCon Advice 2016

14 July, 2016

GenCon is about three weeks away, so, I thought I would (again) share my hard-earned experience and try and help out people who are going.

Preparation:

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Tuesday Magical Item – Celestial Compass (for Pathfinder and D&D5)

31 May, 2016

Where do you need to go?“Are we on the right path?” asked Voddick.

“I believe so, unfortunately, the path is barely worth the name,” answered Gollaon looking at the compass.  “But north-west we need to go and this trail is leading that way, more or less.”

Voddick drew out a axe from his backpack.  “Well, time to make the trail a little wider, agreed?”

Gollaon drew his second best short sword.  “Agreed.”

Celestial Compass

These compasses are works of art usually made of brass and decorated with silver or gold, except for the compass needle, they are complex with multiple moving parts combining into various celestial patterns.

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Encouraging and Inspiring Players

18 February, 2016

Though that I should make an attempt to contribute to this month’s RPG Blog Carnival “How do you inspire your players?” hosted by Roleplaying Tips.

Inspiring players is often a challenge and part of the answer for a GM has to be:

GM something that Inspires You.

If you are excited and involved with the game and its world, it will be easier for the players to become inspired and involved in it.  If it is your passion, people will feel that and respond to it, just do not become too proprietary, no vision of the perfect campaign survives contact with the players; The world will both shape and be shaped by player action.

Communicate and Share what Inspires You.

Part and parcel of the first point, but let your player know what inspires and excites you about the game you are GMing.  If there are movies or music that communicate ideas about your world, share them, put together a Pinterest board (or use some other site) to share images (I have one for the Sea of Stars, another for Petrichor and for other games and genres including the Noir Revolution campaign).  Anything that helps put you all in the same mental landscape for the game.

In my experience, communication between GM and players (and between players) is what makes  or breaks campaigns.  So, talk, share, debate, build castles of the imagination together.

Not a long post, but I hope helpful.  Now, go and inspire people.

 

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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.

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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.

Preparation:

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