Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

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Styles of Game Mastering, this is mine.

24 July, 2022

Always in progressOver at RPGGeek, there is a discussion about GMing styles (which you can find here) where I replied but I thought that I would share it here as well.

So, my thoughts on how I run a game.

My World, I have the final say about how things are, how they work and how it all fits together. That being said, I love for players to add, adapt and build off of things in the setting. Just because I have the right to veto something does not mean that I want to use it, I want the game to be fun for the player and something they are willing to buy into and make their own as well.

Let the players lead, there are things going on in the world that will happen in certain ways if not interfered with but it is up to the players to decide what their characters do and if they want to get involved in plots larger than “let us earn so money to buy drinks”. I do not use end-of-the-world plots (except in my superheroes campaign where the characters stopping such things is an underlying assumption of the genre) and while the world may get “worse” if the characters do not stop certain things, they will always have a chance to correct course and make things better laters, if that is their wish.

Light Preparation, I rarely have more than a page of notes going into a game, sometimes I highlight people, places or things I want to make sure show up (or at least get referenced) but usually I just have an opening scene and a handful of threads and off we go. I have been trying to be better at taking notes and these days I almost always have a google doc open as I am playing to add notes to as things happen and get mentioned.

There are Consequences, which is why note-taking is important! If the shadowrunners piss off Manawave Technologies and leave clues as to who they are, if the venturers insult a Draconic representative, if our teen heroes foil a plan by the Puzzle Master, these will lead to consequences . . . The games and the adventures do not take place in a vacuum, what the player characters do effect the world, usually in small ways but sometimes in major one and, in turn, the world will affect them.

Naturally, all these interlock, because I know my world(s), I am able to work out how to fit in player ideas and suggestions and to extrapolate the effects of their actions will have on and in the world.  I can start with minimal notes and work outward because I have a strong idea of how things fit together and what the general currents are in the campaign.

Notes: photo [Construction Site] Louis Lafon, found on the Met and is in the Public Domain

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Sean’s GenCon Advice 2022

18 July, 2022

GenCon!GenCon is about two weeks away!  Time flies.  I am hoping this year will seem a little more normal even if masks are still required.  So, I thought I would (once 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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A Superheroic Theory of Time Travel

23 December, 2021

prague-astronomical-clock-112917440026rDOr Time Travel on Earth-H!

The best works of time travel fiction generally have a clear and compelling structure for time travel, perhaps it is:

Linear Time, time moves in a straight line and where changing the past will change the future (such as in Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol stories or, mostly, in the Terminator movies).

Branched Time, where changing the past causes an entire new timeline to appear following the branch, but the events (and timeline) of the original version still exist as the original starting point for the time traveler who changed the past.

Parallel Timelines, infinite or limited, usually this means that travel in “time” is just traveling to a different timeline that seems identical to the past of the person traveling.  With enough Branched Time and you get close to the sme effect.

Immutable Time, the past is fixed, either you cannot change the flow of history or anything you did is alreadt accounted for in your present.  A variant of this is, you change the past but someone/thing steps into that hole and make the the future turn out pretty much the same.  Immutable time can be good for fiction but not much fun for roleplaying games.

There is also what might be termed “Monkey Paw” Time, which has been showing up in time travel stories recently.  Where any change to the past will cause increasingly disaterous alterations to the time traveler’s present (“the darkest timeline”) and further attempts to fix the timeline will just accelerate that downward trend.    Again, good for fiction, not so much for roleplaying games.

So, setting aside those last two, which form of time travel do the comics usually use?  Read the rest of this entry ?

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Time Travel in the Sea of Stars

19 December, 2021

Temple_of_Time_(1846)_editMy friend Brandes posted about Time Travel stories for RPGs on Tribality.  Which got me to thinking about Time Travel in the Sea of Stars, or, perhaps more precisely, the lack there of.

Time Travel, as it is usually thought of, is just impossible in the Sea of Stars.  People cannot travel back into the past and interact with it.  There is no way to change the past and cause changes to the present. It is quite simple, the past is past and thus immutable.  If there ever was any way to travel into the past, the acension of the Empress shut such a doorway, completely and irrevokably.  Yes, it is impossible, no loopholes, no debate, no time travel . . . into the past. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Sean’s GenCon Advice 2021

2 September, 2021

GenCon!

GenCon is about two weeks away!  Yikes!  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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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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