Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Preparing the Purple Coast

My current 5th edition D&D game set in the Forgotten Realms and inspired by Narcosa has reached its third season and it is going really well. After two sessions that were partially devoted to character creation, we finally had a full session. Picking up where the group previously left off: leaving Beregost, heading south to Nashkell.

My strategy for making this campaign function is split into three general encounter types: road, town, location. Here is a brief review of these three forms and some notes on the "templates" I've adopted for each.

I've made up a random table of possible road encounters with descriptions of people along with their associated hooks. It has been a fun idea generating tool and I've continued to appreciate a "useful at the table" random table. After I've used up my current encounter list, I'll post it here. Don't want any of my players seeing what remains in-store for them.

For the main two towns, Beregost and Nashkell, I've written up a few key business names, people/homes, hooks for previous and new encounter types, and a few notes about how the Adventure League factions might be involved with local politics/current events.

I've implemented location based encounters as approximately single page, both sides. These notes include anything from maps, NPCs, descriptions, monsters w/ page numbers, random tables, and other necessary information. I also name all adventures with a (randomly generated) pulp title.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

New 5e game! "Purple Mists on the Sword Coast"

Last week marked the second session of my new 5th edition D&D game. I'm GMing for 5 players. The game is set in the Forgotten Realms along the Sword Coast. The setup for the game is that the players are travelling south along the Coast Way and are delivering mining supplies to Nashkell for the Iron Throne. At the same time, the characters are hearing rumors about strange goings on along the Coast Way. Strange things about lightning storms, purple/grey fog rolling off the coast, and rivers turning to ooze.

Just a few of the books I keep on hand mid-game.

I'm ripping off everything this game. Baldur's Gate and Narcosa are my primary inspirations. I've even give the player's Volo's Map of the Sword Coast that game with the video game. After buying it off of Volo himself! I've also sprinkled all the factions from the Adventure's League/Lost Mines of Phandelvar into the game. Before the characters had even met, I also gave them all a unique rumor about the strange goings on along the Sword Coast. Something like a name and location, or something about possible adventure. These are all secret, even from me. The final two finishing touches are the 2e Sword Coast map on the wall and the GM screen from Murder in Baldur's Gate

I'm trying to use a lot of my own advice in this game. I'm giving them maps. I've written out a few random encounter tables to spice things up between landmarks. I'm using the Sword Coast map as a template for a pointcrawl style encounter map. I've prepared a few adventures, one has a traditional map but includes a puzzle and the other uses a pointcrawl structure to represent an underground network. I'm throwing everything at them and I feel surprisingly prepared.

My setup behind the screen. Mini TWGS with 5e inserts.

The five characters are a very cool mix of races, classes, and backgrounds. I'm very excited to see them explore and experience the Weird Coast.
  • Jilany, fighter (towards eldritch knight), human, folk hero, NG, naive like Kimmy Schmidt.
  • Oliver, monk (towards ninja), tiefling, urchin, pet mouse named "Mighty," LG/N.
  • Verna, bard, halfling, charlatan, always looking for a new con, CG.
  • Sister Temperance, cleric of Thalos, tiefling, acolyte, chaotic.
  • Stuffworthington the Fourth, "Stuffy" for short, paladin, dragonborn, noble born, CG. Megan says he is based on Stuffy from Doc McStuffins.
  • MaKlodar, warlock (archfey), half-elf, actor, fucked up crazy CE.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Roundtable #5: GMing Weakness

Another month, another GM Roundtable post.

The Game Masters' Roundtable of Doom is a meeting of the minds of tabletop RPG bloggers and GMs. We endeavor to transcend a particular system or game and discuss topics that are relevant to GMs and players of all roleplaying games.

If you'd like to submit a topic for our future discussions, or if you're a blogger who'd like to participate in the Game Master's Roundtable of Doom, send an email to Lex Starwalker at gamemastersjourney@gmail.com.

This month's topic comes to us courtesy of Marc Plourde:

There are many different skills that come together to make up a GM. The ability to think on the fly, knowledge of the rules, plotting, etc. What skill do you think is your weakest? What have you done to try and improve that skill? What advice do you have to offer others trying to improve that skill set?

I will start off my response to these questions by saying that I've been racking my brain trying to figure out exactly what my GMing skills are in the first place, let alone which ones I'm weak at. GMing is the intersection between improvisation, story telling, description, and referee/arbiter. These categories can then be unpacked into a myriad of subtopics (e.g. improvisation of names and/or dialogue).

I guess my biggest flaw as a GM is that I have a limited range when it comes to campaign, story, or adventure "types." I always tend to run grim campaigns, punctuated by fun, which revolve around players "following" a series of encounters. These tend to be fantasy or action games. I do not/have not run straight horror (e.g. Call of Cthullu), never touched a White Wolf game, and I've never run a "story game." Though I've played in a variety of games, I tend to GM only a narrow range of structure.

The major reason for this style stagnation is that I tend to avoid games or styles that I've never experienced before. This tends to exclude a lot of games from being considered. I think part of this is GMing preference; I've spent a lot of time figuring out my GMing role/duties for principally D&D-like RPGs, so games that really mess with the PC-GM relationship can be hard for me to wrap my head around completely. This leaves me only considering more traditional games like D&D-likes, Feng Shui, Dark Heresy, WFRP, etc.

I've tried to break this habit many times. I own and have read a few "story games," but I tend to worry that I won't be able to capture that games "experience" correctly. Which is a fairly absurd statement to make, as I consider all RPG experiences where everyone had fun are "correct." My standard reason for not playing the game is that "I want to play in a game first and see how someone else runs it." I've found this a lot harder than expected as it tends to be that if you've found a system you want to play, 9 times out of 10 you'll be the one who has to run it.

I should probably consider reading blogs and articles that deal specifically with how to run these types of games. Topics similar to describing the nature of prep, rules specific considerations for spotlight sharing, example GM table notes, and set-up/experience buy-ins. These are my biggest concerns as they represent the basic design constraints inherent in my games.

Maybe this should be my project for the next month+. Pick a more avant garde RPG, read the rules, read some advice articles/blog entries, and run a one-shot. I'm considering Primetime Adventures as I got my Kickstarter copy a few weeks ago, though I'd be open to more suggestions if people have them.

Here are some other blogs participating in the forum.