Wednesday, November 26, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Temporarily out of things to say.


No, I mean it.

If there are any topics you'd like me to weigh in on, shoot me a pm or a reply.

In fact, if there's anything you'd like to see on the site, shoot me a pm or a reply. That includes art.

In the meantime (totally not game related)...

I've been preoccupied with my girlfriend and household improvements. We've got most of the rooms painted but we a craft room that needs kitting out and then there's the loft. The loft that I get to choose how to decorate.

Originally I thought it would be a great man-cave, but unfortunately it doesn't fit the bill. A man-cave is aptly named - it needs to be a windowless environment with a door to seal away the outside world. Our loft has four windows and three walls (so no door to shut). Hasta la vista man-cave.

It will primarily be used for video games and I want a sci-fi theme. Do you have any idea how hard it is to decorate a sci-fi theme with store bought furniture. It's next to impossible. Ooohhh there's a lot of designers who post designs that would be perfect, but those designs have either no identifiable way to purchase them or cost $5000 for an end table.

The style I want is "retro-modern" or "retro-futuristic". Think 1960's-1970's idea of what sci-fi furniture would look like. All of the good images off of Google are copyrighted so I can't re-post them here. I want to avoid "square" furniture as much as possible and if it's made of plastics then that's a bonus.

We were considering decking it all out like a starship interior, but the windows to the outside world would destroy that illusion and my gf didn't want the windows covered up. So now I'm shooting for a sci-fi lounge.

Unfortunately it looks like we'll have to build some of the furniture ourselves and save our pennies for the stuff we can't build. Ikea isn't going to cut it for this job.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mojo Ramblings - Play Unsafe!

I just reread Graham Walmsley's Play Unsafe. It's helping soothe my fractured Mojo.

I recommend it, but if you figure the worth of a book by its page size and count, you will be disappointed. As noted by the first reviewer on DrivethruRPG- the pages are digest-sized and there's only about 80 of them, and the product is $8.00. 

If however, you choose to judge a book's worth based on its content then it might be for you.

Are you GMing, but find yourself dreading the next game?
Are you fighting to keep your players on your storyline?
Do you love reading books about game mastery because your as weird as I am?

Then this book is worth your time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Public Speaking

A good GM has a grasp on the rules and the plot-line of the adventure.

A great GM can present the game in a manner that energizes and focuses the attention of his/her players. This skill in public speaking is invaluable.

Like any form of communication, information can be hard for the listener to follow if it isn't clear or if it becomes jumbled by white noise. In this case white noise is the words "uh" or "um". 

Example from a game I played last week:

" you guys see a statue and it' two...hundred feet tall. can tell that...uh...the head used to have a crown... but has been worn away by time."

That's hard (at least for me) to listen to. Here's that same info again without the white noise.

"So you guys see a statue and it's two hundred feet tall. You can tell that the head used to have a crown but the crown has been worn away by time."

Yeah, I know. It's easy to type this out versus actually saying it. However I have trained myself to avoid the white noise words whenever I talk. Every day. No matter who I am talking to or what I am saying. Sure they occasionally slip out, but they don't punctuate a sentence more than once.

But the above examples should illustrate how these white noise words can suck the momentum out of your game. So what can we as GMs do about it?

The biggest step would be to enroll in some public speaking or even acting classes. If that's not an option then consider this. White noise words slip out to fill the gap between our mouth and our brain. The remedies for this are knowing what we are going to say before we say it, and confidence.

When the heroes come to the clearing of the statue, I know that I am going to give a description of the statue and this is the description. After that is clear in my head (it really only takes half a second) then I begin speaking. A lot of the white noise words are generated when a person starts talking but then stops because they haven't thought that far ahead or they don't have a clear idea of how to present the information. So don't rush yourself. Take that second or two to compose the thought before rushing in.

As for confidence, it's not just the confidence in talking in front of other people. It's the confidence in what you are saying. It's knowing that what you are saying is what needs to be said and that you will say it correctly. I know that sounds strange but it's true. 

As long as you believe in what you are saying, you can deliver it clear and with an intensity that your players will pick up on and feed off of. A lack of confidence in the words will give rise to white noise words and/or you will sound bored as you read it, which is another thing that can kill player momentum.

So go forth! Practice! And believe me that this one skill will make a huge difference in how players enjoy your games.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday's Child Is Full Of Advice

Always eat the Fortune Cookie first, ...

...because assassins like to brag.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

GM Wednesday! - The GM PC

I can hear fingernails scraping across desktops right now. Their are few things that a bad GM can pull on his players that are worse than the GM PC. When players see one, they want to kill it with fire.

I'm here to say that a GM PC can work....wait for it!.....under a very specific set of circumstances.

First, for those of you unaware of why a GM PC can be a bad thing, I'll explain.
A GM PC is a character played by the GM and is a part of the party. However, when done wrong (as it usually is) the GM PC is an annoyance because he literally has god on his side. God will fudge his rolls, make rules exceptions, and give plot protection to his beloved character resulting in the GM actually stealing the spotlight from his other players.

This type of character should be murdered on sight.

So why am I advocating that a GM PC can work?

Rule #1) The GM PC should only be considered when there is an apparent weakness to the party dynamic, where the lack of that knowledge or skill will result in the death and failure of the party. 

And before adding that GMPC, make sure to try and get one of your players to fill that roll first by adjusting his character.

Example: In D&D, a party needs a cleric or someone that can cast healing spells. It's a necessity for the PCs to be able to survive the multiple encounters they are likely to face. However, not every player wants to be a Cleric. Most often, this is the GM PC I end up playing.

Rule #2) The GM PC must ride at the back of the pack. 

That means he isn't there to be the star, or even to share in the glory. The GM PC can and should only exist to shore up a weakness in the party, and that weakness should be a supporting roll. The GM PC should never, ever be the one casting offensive magic of great power or standing on the front line with his mighty battleaxe.

Example: Using the example above of the cleric, healing and other clerical abilities that no other party member can do are the only things he will be good at. He must never outshine a PC in a skill that the PC is capable of.

I will say that the only times I have really felt obliged to use a GM PC was in class-based games where PC roles were strictly defined and segregated. This is because these game almost always require a good breadth of character classes to make a survivable party.

Classless games like Savage Worlds typically don't require a GM PC under any circumstances, only the occasional Guest Star who exists only to provide a specific and obscure knowledge skill need for the adventure. And in the event of combat, these "academics" usually run and hide. If the are combat capable, then a player controls that PC during combat, not me.

So in short, a GM PC can work as long as he stays in a supporting role.

BTW, I suggest reading DM of the Rings to see what a GM PC (Gandalf) looks like.

GM Wednesday! - Deleted.

I was letting my stupid do the talking.

Have you ever done that? Basically this post was written a couple of weeks ago and it seemed like a good idea. I reread it this morning and realized that what I had written was insulting and patronizing.

They can't all be winners and if anyone felt insulted by what I had written, I apologize. Sometimes I'm too busy thinking I'm clever to realize that I'm being a jerk.

Monday, November 10, 2014

More Mojo - But I Think I Have a Handle On It.

I think I figured out what my problem is... too many conflicting voices.

So first up, my usual gaming group. They aren't fans of Savage Worlds and vocalize it every time I suggest running anything other than Pathfinder. So as a GM who is trying to work towards keeping his players happy, this becomes a nagging voice. The solution is to run Savage Worlds with a new group of course.

However I have been carrying those nagging voices with me. Then there is the prospect of running this game for a bunch of strangers who may or may not enjoy the system. Trying to make a fun game for people I haven't met yet is a path to madness, and the void of information is getting filled by those nagging voices I have been carrying with me.

Finally the biggest mistake I made was going to RPG.Net as a first stage in my therapy. I'm not knocking the site, but by seeking opinions from the internet I got exactly what I wanted but not what I needed. The conflicting opinions only added to the nagging voices creating a choir that I have been carrying around and that has been tugging my mind in a billion different directions.

So my creative prescription is as follows:

1) Build a loose campaign setting that I would like to run. Ignore the opinions of others and the nagging choir. Keep it loose and plan only for a first introductory adventure. Then trust that the story and the uniqueness will come from and be inspired by the players.

2) Find a group and run it, either at an FLGS or on Hangouts, but run it.  If the setting doesn't garner any interest then weigh whether or not the group is worth continuing with, whether the campaign setting needs tweaking, or if it's time to pitch a new campaign setting.

3) Every day do one of the following: write an adventure seed, come up with a campaign concept, create an interesting villain/monster concept.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Therapy Friday! - More Mojo Ramblings

More stream of consciousness whining on my part, so if you're looking for definite answers, you likely won't find them. It's more therapy time.

So I am still slogging through getting my creative mojo back. Maybe the problem is that I am being too picky.

My issue isn't what rules system I would use: I plan to use Savage Worlds.

It isn't about customizing rules or gear: I can do that easy enough.

The issue isn't so much story: I created over a hundred different adventure seeds that I even shared with you.

I think the kerfuffle has to do with the campaign setting.

I want to do a sci-fi game, but it needs something that will hook me in (or does it?) and keep me coming back to it even though a story has run its course. Am I willing to run a typical space pulp game. I keep looking for that SOMETHING that will make it stand out. Something that will hold my interest for the long haul.

There's this little nagging voice in my head that says "Space pulp just isn't enough. Everybody has done that."

But I looked around at some of the homebrew Fantasy settings that some people have made. What I see is "new maps" but the same old setting. The heroes are adventurers and they'll go into the wild to fight monsters etc, etc. I think the last time I saw a D&D based Fantasy setting that had a hook was Eberron which asked the obvious question "Why isn't everything in the world being run on these low level magics?"

I'm still looking for my hook.

One idea I had was to run a game based on 1970-80's sci-fi. And while that visual really intrigues me, it's mostly visual and not much else. Maybe I should look at some of the themes of the 1970's life style and see if anything there colors the sci-fi setting beyond just bell bottoms.

So I'm wondering...
Do you ever have these problems running through your head, or are you fine with simply running a campaign in the typical tropes of the genre you have chosen?
How do you inject that something new, or is it just me? Is my brain just burning itself up looking for a corner in a round room?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Soaking Effects

I've heard Soaking effects described by several GMs as you get hit, damage is rolled, and if you Soak it then the damage never happened.

I've always hated that. It's a rewrite of what's happened that not only negates the damage but the hit as well. And if it really is undoing the fabric of space and time, then why is it based on a Vigor roll? Shouldn't a Tardis be involved somewhere?

To me, a successful Soak roll is a character's ability to keep going without feeling impaired by the wound they have just received (hence the Vigor roll). Here's an example of what I am talking about.

A Yeti hits Combat Carl with a brutal attack that scores a Raise! He deals 2 Wounds to Carl with his damage roll.

Combat Carl spends a Benny to Soak this horrible attack and rolls high enough to Soak both Wounds!

So the Yeti has raked it's claws across Combat Carl's back, ripping his shirt and skin. The bleeding look horrendous, but it looks worse than it is. Nothing vital has been punctured and Carl's adrenaline high lets him ignore the pain to keep on fighting.

Carl looks like he's been gored badly, but it's just a messy flesh wound.

If you want a cinematic example, look at the end of the original Die Hard. McClain is a mess of blood and bandaged feet but while he looks exhausted, he still seems to be operating at near peak performance. This is a man who has made a lot of Soak rolls.